Nikon D3s review

The Nikon D3s review by Lukas Gisbert-Mora (bientot en Francais)

The build quality:

This is a crucial element if you are a professional Photographer, there is no doubt that you will be banging your camera around, rush to change the lens on it, get under the rain and possibly have your kids to play with it, this will be by the way the best stress test for the camera.

The Nikon D3s is an all rounder magnesium build camera; it feels extremely well in your hand and solid. No wonder why so many sport photographers use it as it can be treated with roughness. If you could compare it to a human been, I will compare it to a professional rugby player. However I still refer to the camera as a “she”.
I have used this camera under terrible weather condition; the camera handled it without a problem and this in some way put your mind at rest and you can focus on the job.
Something that I also find great is the sound of the shutter;  the shutter sounds like a hammer eating a wall made of steal. It sounds like it could go on for a million releases before even getting tired, this issue with that is that it’s not a quiet one and can be a little tricky when I need to show some silence, the D3s has a quiet mode but it’s not great. The D7000 for example has a much better Quiet mode.


Image quality

Imagine the D3 or D700 but better, DXO marks place it in 7th Position with a score of 82. I don’t take much notice of this scientific result but some do and they do make sense. In the real world, this score will not help you in taking better photos but will give you a understanding of the sensor construction and how it compares to others. By the way as today date (8/12/2012), Nikon occupies the top 10 spot in DSLR on DXO Marks.
This camera has been the top performer in low light since is debut in 2009, nothing bits it and I mean nothing. Latest camera like the D4, D800 (2012) or Canon 5D mkiii come close but the D3s remains the king.

One of the good thing from his predecessor is that it now has the video feature, it only goes up to 720p but with a sensor that can handle clean ISO 6400-10000 images it’s a great tool for night videos and street light. One of the issue I have with the video mode is the design of the camera, DSLR are not the most comfortable camera to use when making videos if you don’t have a tripod.

But when it comes to still image, this camera will get the job done. If you take a bad photo with this camera, it will be your fault, not the camera.

Nikon D3s,  Nikon 70-200 vrii, ISO 200, 1/320s, f/2.8

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-70mm, ISO 3200, 1/40s, f/2.8

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-70mm,  ISO 3200, 1/20s, f/5.6 (handheld)

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-70mm, ISO 6400, 1/50s, f/2.8 (handheld)

Nikon D3s, Nikon 24-70mm, ISO 10,000  1/20s, f/2.8 (handheld)

Other Important factors:

The AF is very good and improved from the D3 or D700, AF sensors were too closely grouped on those models; this was an improvement.
With a possible 11fps burst, this camera can really capture motion and this can be useful in some situations, see that photo I took below:
I shot this at 9fs and was able to capture the bouquet slowly coming toward my face. I used a composite Technic to merge the photos together and give that motion of movement So yes, this is not only useful for sport photography.

Using this camera is an absolute pleasure if you can leave with the weight of it, holding this camera for 10h-12h+ at weddings can be difficult and finding a good way to carry it is essential. I have move on from the strap that comes with the camera to Blackrapid strap which are a big improvement and I am now using Spider Holster, it’s a fantastic system that never uses my shoulder or neck.
Dual Card CF: this gives you something you cannot buy but is essential ti any work you do, a piece of mind and this was what made me upgrade from the D3 and D700. Been able to back up your work as you’re working is great and really reassure you that if anything goes wrong with one of the card, the other is there.


The Nikon D3s is fantastic; I can push it to the extreme limit and still get amazing result. As I mentioned earlier, if you take a bad picture, don’t blame it on the camera. I will use this camera until she dies and possibly replace it wit the D4 or newest model but if I had to go back to it, I’ll have no issues. 12mp is more than enough, I print poster size prints that look razor sharp.If you are a professional photographer that demands a camera that can be taken anywhere, bang around, used under bad weather condition and in total darkness, this is it. If you cannot afford this camera, the D700 comes very close to it and will do must of what the D3s can do so if you don’t need to shoot in extreme condition, the D700 is probably the best option, it’s also a much lighter camera.

Bottom line, this camera is a great tool and will satisfy any professional Photographer

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