Published on February 23rd,2010 at 3:12 PM
By >Daimaou - G.G-B

[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style

Nikon D3s

Been taught by a pretty good photographer that using Flash with your camera was just not the most elegant way to get great shots, I had to really master well my camera to get the best picture possible even in the worst conditions. And yes, Low light scenery was among them… Despite the hard work of many manufacturers, shooting in low light without any means of image stabilization or tripod is something pretty much impossible if you don’t jump into your camera setting and try to boost your camera ISO… And depending on your camera, high ISO most too often has meant dead ugly shots up until just recently with the arrival of Nikon’s latest wonder the D3s.

Nikon D3s Specs
- Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 G ED + Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S
- Full-frame, 12.1-megapixel Resolution
- Nikon F-mount
- 3.0-inch LCD with 921,000 pixels, 170 degree viewing angle
- ISO range of 100 to 102,400
- Shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/8,000 second

First Impression:
If you have never had the chance to get a D3 or D3s in your hands, let’s just put it this way, take a Nikon D700, add to it a battery pack and then you may roughly get the shear size of this professional shooter, the D3s.
Made to resist to the worst situations and built for professionals who need a Camera capable of sustaining heavy shocks including thermal ones, the D3s is made to last long, a very long time. After all if NASA decided to order last year some D3s for its Space missions to shoot the most “outer space” pictures ever, there must definitively be some good reason behind this choice. NASA Orders D3S Digital SLR Cameras and Interchangeable Lenses from Nikon.

A true Photographer power machine, the D3s like the D700 is far from being the most friendly camera ever, with many settings at your disposal, the D3s needs good knowledge as to what is what in order to get your settings right, and even a tiny little mistake can quickly turn your photos into real disasters, but then again, the D3s is not made for my mum neither and if you are interested with this kind of DLSR you must be ready to take the time to understand it and learn how to use it.

Let’s Shoot Baby:
To get a good understanding on how amazing the D3s is, I decided to test our camera with the same set of lens that I used with the D700, the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8 G ED and the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-S. Fitted with lens I am used to play with, I was capable of getting the basic comparison ground I needed.

After a couple of shots, I was quite impressed by our camera. Focusing, swift and accurate, the D3s autofocus is an impressive and fast something that I had not always been used to get on lower models.
Once your subject is in focus, the D3s has a 51-zon AF mode, set your camera to the highest JEPG quality or on RAW mode. I just went totally nuts and shot like a maniac. Thanks to our camera’s incredible ISO range going from 100 to 102400, I did not feel the need for a Tripod during my week-long test…. Whether shooting at dawn, under direct sunlight, home at dusk or night, the impressive ISO range of the D3s always gave me the perfect “Flash”- or “Tripod”-less experience. Added to this, featuring a great and accurate exposure, the D3s will just shoot right what you need giving you a clear and sharp picture.

Now, being capable of shooting at high ISO like 102,400 does not mean that your camera is exempt from noise, whether you like it or not, noise will still be there, but just wait a sec here, thanks to Nikon’s impressive work here, you will be able to shoot up to ISO 8,000 and even to 12,800 and I assure you that you will still get impressive results. Offering twice as less noise as the D700 at the same ISO speed, the D3s is mind blowing! During my test I did not even bother setting the Noise reduction mode on, but hey, if you really insist, you can always turn it on.

Above IS0 12,800, well the noise really starts kicking on, but depending on your needs it still is pretty interesting to shoot photos in plain dark without bothering to carry a tripod along with you.

Once your Compact Card full, it’s time to see how good the pictures are. Just fired up Photoshop (in my case) and as usual Nikon worked its magic on the D3s, offering life-like pictures, sharp and keeping colors true to what mother nature provided us, even with “thought” saturated colors (Red for example).

You can access to more Hi-res sample photo of the D3s here on our Flickr Account

I was limited by my personal skills, but the D3s is for sure will give to a real professional or an amateur Impressive results. Now, no pain no gain, the D3s is not what I can call affordable. Sold in Japan at around 460,000 Yen, the D3s is not your average camera, and if you really give yourself sometime to master it well, the potential of D3s is limitless.
Finally, I have to mention it, but yep, the Nikon D3s also features a movie mode, the exact same one as the D90, D300s and D700. By that I mean the exact same unusable movie mode… But rest assured, Canon’s latest 1D Mark IV video mode is just a bit better. Canon 5D MK II and Panasonic Lumix GH1 video mode is still unbeatable if you cannot afford a RED.

Via Nikon
Category Review Cameras
[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style
[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style
[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style[Review] Nikon D3s, mastering low light shots in style
Related Articles



New MSI GE600 16” gaming notebook boasts ATI Radeon HD 5730, Core i5 and DirectX11 compatibility


CompactFlash 5.0 cards to offer up to 144 petabytes of theoratical storage


  • Shan

    No movie mode for D700 i’m afraid…

  • nethawk

    why do you think 1ds MIV video mode will not be at least like the one in 5dm2 or 7d?

    • daimaou

      The 1Ds MKIV & 7D has the same approche to video with the same poor quality, while the 5D MKII, a first generation has a different one… I tested the 1ds MKIV and will uplod the review this week I hope, but here you are a link where you can find the a screen capture of a video taken with the 1DS MKIV

  • shureiman

    very interesting review! Thanks, I think this is what I need (rover + d3s ^^)

  • vlad geller

    hi daimaou. just read your review. there is no mark iv of the ds model, just d, a.k.a 1d mkiv

    • daimaou

      Thanks ! I just get lost with all their D and S… Why both Canon and Nikon must have similar letters for their product name?

  • Lasse

    why is the D3s movie mode unusable?

    • daimaou

      Overall quality below than the Canon 5D MK II or Lumix GH1, only 720p24 video mode recording, can only record 5 minutes at a time… Honestly if Nikon really put some effort on this video mode I would immediately jump into the Nikon World

  • Rukes

    It’s a bit of the lens too, which helps. High ISO is more for generally f/2.8 lenses, while you can keep a last-generation camera at 1600 at f/1.4 or f/1.2 very easily.

    Canon is a bit better with low-light than Nikon at low ISO, since Canon has more low-light lenses (such as the amazong 85mm f/1.2) along with many more cross-type AF spots in the 1D series (as well as being spread out over the middle, rather than a column in the middle).

    Pretty much comes down to if you want to use a high ISO setting, Nikon looks better than Canon in the same situation, but if you have the right (expensive) equipment, Canon does a stallar job at even 1600 ISO with little noise.

  • Lasse

    But useless, I guess that’s the wrong word.

    • daimaou

      It is like everything, put a lot of post prod, get all the correct lighting, the crane, the staff the team and you will make great stuff, now however if you compare raw video footage things are different, and sorry I am not that rich or skillful in post prod to get the same result like the Pros… So this is why I want to get straight from the camera the best video quality and experience. And remember, Black & White always look better, even in Photo!

  • Lasse

    daimaou, I will not argue with u, except for the word useless.

  • Hugh

    Makes every photo look pro

  • Drgenephd

    Great! But you haven’t lived until you shoot with the D3 doing sports. I’m talking low lighting like high school ice hockey in some of the worst ice rinks in New Jersey. That is a true test of the D3 and it doesn’t fail you.



Panasonic - Massager that relaxes your muscles and warms them gently


World's lightest and thinnest circuits pave the way for 'imperceptible electronics'


Panasonic - Smartphone-sized portable full body massager


Nestlé - KitKat - 2013 summer seasonal special flavors


Turn your iPhone 4/4s or 5 into a real pocket camcorder thanks to Donya


Japanese Technology from the Future Friday!


LG - Pink-colored model will be added to Pocket photo


Sharp - Electronic handwriting notebook that can save 2000 pages data


LG - Ultra-wide LCD monitor with a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio


Panasonic – DMC-XS3 – Slim & classic designed Lumix camera


Panasonic - DMC-FZ70 - Lumix camera with the world's first 60X optical zoom


Japanese Robots: The Seemingly Least Cool Robotics Story of July is a Must-Read!


Sony - α58 - DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses


Thanko - 7.5mm biz card sized portable battery - Increased in battery capacity by 1200mAh over the previous model


JVC Kenwood - ADIXXION "GC-XA2" - dustproof, shockproof, waterproof, low-temperature resistant action camera


NTT docomo - Disney Mobile on docomo F-07E - Disney official smartphone