Jan 122010
 

Nikon D3s Real World Photo Review – Well, here I am again and this time it is to write my review about a camera that just a few short years ago I would have sold my spleen to buy. The Nikon D3s DSLR is Nikons most ambitious camera to date. With the ability to almost see in the dark, this beast of a camera is probably the most versatile camera I have ever laid my hands on. Yes, the Nikon D3s is the current LOW LIGHT/NO LIGHT champion and if shooting in non-existent light is your thing then this camera is a must “try” and most likely “buy”.

As most of you know by now, I shoot with a Leica M9 rangefinder digital camera. I love the compactness, the image quality, and shooting with high quality prime lenses that have ZERO compromises. Yes, I feel Leica makes the best glass in the world and I love the small size and hefty build of them as well. So it has been a while since I shot with a DSLR and I was not so sure I was ready for it. Being so used to my compact Leica kit, something like a Nikon D3s would be huge, cumbersome, and heavy. For me, not a formula for  the”take my camera anywhere” type of shooting that I am used to.

In any case, B&H Photo was kind enough to send me this Nikon D3s to see what I thought about it and to see if it could sway me from my Leica M9. Did it? Well, no spoilers up front. You are going to have to read on to find out! But be warned, I shot quite a bit with this camera so I have quite a few images to share. This review will be heavy on the “real world” images more than the text.

I will assume many of  you are reading my site for the first time with this review as I usually am a heavy Leica guy and mostly review Leica equipment. I have reviewed Nikon and Canon in the past but mainly just the ones that have passed through my hands…the ones that I enjoyed. I usually do not like to write about a camera unless I really enjoy it as my reviews are not like the ones you will find on the big review sites. I do not follow a cookie cutter pattern. I just write what I feel and it all comes out in real time as I type.

This review for the D3s will be more like a real world use “write up” rather than a review. I will write about and share my experience with the camera with text and photos. I will show my results with the images and there will be no charts, graphs, or boring BS that has nothing to do with photography. I mean, if you have to stress about the specs of a camera and wether it can resolve a hair on someones mole then you may be in the wrong place. :) Also, there are plenty of technical sites out there to get your fix for that type of review.

I am going to concentrate on the one big deal here. Since this is basically a D3 with some improvements, I am going to focus on that one big improvement. THE HIGH ISO CAPABILITY. With the possibility of going up to 102,400 ISO, this D3s may prove to be a DSLR I can seriously dig because me like to shoot in low light with fast lenses! Ugg! I think I was a caveman in my past as I always seem to be shooting in cave like light settings :)

Here is a youtibe video I made showing a couple of the features that I like about the D3s. In the video I show you how fast this thing can crank out the photos as well as demo the Q mode which is Nikons take on a quieter discreet mode. BTW, my new video intro graphic was created and sent to me by a reader of the site, Justin Johns. Thanks Justin! You can check out his website HERE.

The Arrival Of The D3s

Let me start by saying DAMN! THIS THING IS HUGE!

Yep, it arrived by surprise and when I opened the box from B&H Photo I was literally blown away by the size and heft of this thing. In the past I shot with a Nikon D2hs and LOVED it. It was one of my favorite cameras ever and it’s tiny 4MP resolution provided me with many beautiful 20X30 prints. The D3s is practically the same body as that D2hs but it has been a while and I seemed to have forgotten how big and heavy it really was! Next to my M9, it is HUGE. Next to the little Olympus E-P2 it looks like KING KONG. The E-P2 could be Fay Wray, ha ha.

Nikon D3s next to the Olympus E-P2


The only lens I received with it was the plastic Nikon 50 1.8 lens which is not a high quality piece of expensive Nikon glass. At about $120 it is a true bargain in the fast lens world. I was curious if I could get decent shots with this camera using cheap glass. I know some out here will be spending their life savings on this thing and may not be able to start out with  a $1500 lens. So all images (except one or two) in this write up were shot with the little 50 1.8 Nikon. :) Besides, any bigger of a lens and I really would not have wanted to lug this camera around. So that is my excuse, and I am sticking to it!

I am NOT a fan of big and heavy cameras but I am a fan of cameras that perform well, especially in low light. Will the D3s win me over? Will I sell my spleen to buy one? Not likely, but let me tell you about my first impressions on day 1.

DAY 1 Impressions: A: The D3s is huge and heavy. B: The build is exceptional and literally feels like  solid brick in the hand and C: Its FAST as lightning.

The Nikon D3s Specs:

ISO Range of 200 – 12800, Expandable to ISO 102,400

This camera is the Ultimate low light, night shooting camera to date. PERIOD.

Improved D-Movie Functionality

From B&H Photo: An enhanced D-Movie mode offers HD quality (1,280 x 720 pixels) Motion-JPEG movies at 24 fps. By controlling the aperture from the widest f-stop to the smallest, the large FX-format sensor renders low-noise images with beautiful ‘bokeh’ from a large selection of Nikkor lenses. High-Sensitivity Movie mode allows users to shoot at up to an ISO equivalent of 102,400 in the dimmest of lighting conditions.

Large Pixel Pitched 12.1-megapixel FX-format CMOS Sensor

The D3S’s image sensor has been completely redesigned from the D3. They claim its better and I agree.

Image Sensor Cleaning System

In the 3 weeks I shot with the D3s I never saw a spec of dust on the sensor or my images. Every camera should have a built in sensor clean these days.

Lateral Chromatic Aberration Reduction Ensures Edge-to-Edge Image Sharpness

The D3S corrects the color fringing like CA, PF, etc.

Picture Control

Basically this is total customization of how you want your images to look. The D3s comes with four built in presets and these can be customized as much as you want. You have control over everything.

Responsive and FAST

Start-up time is a blazing 0.12 seconds and lag is 0.04 seconds, exactly as fast as the D3, but with a buffer memory twice as large as that of the D3’s. Great!

9-fps in FX-format, 11-fps in DX Crop-format

The D3S is the fastest and most responsive camera I have ever laid my hands on. Not only with AF, start up and lag but also shooting. 9FPS shooting in full frame and 11FPS in crop mode. This is great for sports, action or whenever you want to catch blazing action.

3″ 921,000-Dot LCD with 170-Degree Viewing Angle

From B&H Photo description: The D3S’s large, high-resolution LCD monitor delivers bright, crisp image playback with up to 27x enlargement for immediate and precise image confirmation. Each LCD is covered with scratch resistant tempered glass and individually calibrated and fine-tuned at the factory to deliver consistent performance.

Easy-Access Live View Mode

The dedicated Live View button gives you instant access to two Live View modes: Tripod mode for accurate AF operation and Hand-held mode for more versatile shooting angles. The speed for Contrast-detect AF in Tripod mode has also been improved for enhanced practicality.

51-point Auto-Focus

The D3S’s strategically positioned 51 AF points deliver faster focus, even with quick and/or erratic subject movement. The 15 cross-type sensors in the centre of the frame maintain the same outstanding performance with any AF NIKKOR lens f/5.6 or faster. Basically, this means that this camera has screaming AF, and it does indeed.

Nikon’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II

The D3S improves over the D3 using highlight analysis from the Scene Recognition System and then carefully selecting from a database containing information from over 30,000 actual shooting situations.

100% Optical Viewfinder Coverage (Approx)

Durable, Tough, and weather sealed

Dual CF Memory Card Slots

Up to 4200 Exposures per Battery Charge (mine still shows full after hundreds of images)

Quiet Shutter Release Mode


SHOW ME SOME HIGH ISO!

As I previously mentioned, the big deal with the Nikon D3s it is amazing nocturnal abilities. This camera goes up to ISO 102,400! For all of you night owls, this is a camera that will deliver the goods, even in low light. WITH MINIMAL NOISE! I shot it up to ISO 16,000 because after that I found it to be to noisy and the files got flat really fast. The shot above was taken at night at ISO 5000. If I tried this with my M9..well wait, the M9 only goes up to ISO 2500! With the D3s you have crazy creative avenues open to you in regards to low light shooting. So to me, this is the main draw of the D3s and it really intrigued me.

Here are a few high ISO shots for you to check out:

D3s – ISO 16,000 – Nikon 50 1.8 at 1.8

Now, to me, this is pretty freaking amazing. This is ISO 16,000!!! Plus, wide open on a cheap lens at 1.8. If I had a high quality fast prime this shot would not only have been virtually noise free but also sharper. This was taken in my house, late at night with only one lamp on in this room. No problem for the D3s. BUT how about the M9? I did take a shot at the same time with my M9 at ISO 2500 with a 50 Noctilux at F1:

So you can see more noise with the M9 at ISO 2500 than the D3s at ISO 16,000. Nikon has really delivered in this area. Wow. I must confess though, I prefer the rendering of the M9 shot here BUT it is an exotic lens vs a cheapie :) I did this just to see if I could get the shot with the Leica at maxed out ISO and at F1. Here are a few more D3s high ISO shots…

D3s – ISO 8000 – F2.5

and a 100% crop from ISO 8000…

Again, the 100% crop…

What about ISO 102,400? Is it usable?

I did do a few test shots at the max ISO of 102,400 but honestly I do not  think I would use it at this ISO. Here is a small image followed by a crop…

Sure the 700 pixel wide version looks OK, and really for such a high ISO I am surprised it looks that good. But check out the 100% crop below:

While the 100% crop doesn’t look so hot I guess it is nice to at least have this option. Who knows, maybe someone will use it and get a great image from it.

How much does this thing weigh? Is it really THAT big?

I wanted to know the answer to that so I pulled out my trusty HUFF-O-MATIC scale and weighed the D3s. WOWZERS! It holds the record for the heaviest camera I have ever tested. This is with the battery and the plastic lightweight 50 attached which is about the lightest lens Nikon makes. 3 lbs 6.8 oz. But lets face it, those who are buying this camera already know about the size and weight as that is one of the features of the D3s.

and now without the lens. Yep, still heavy!

WHAT ABOUT LOW ISO?

As you can see, the Nikon D3s is a serious HIGH ISO machine with results at high ISO that you can not get ANYWHERE else (at the time of this writing). But what about low ISO? The D3s has a base ISO of 200 and yes, it does well with low ISO’s as well :) Click any image for a larger version.

D3s – ISO 200 – 50 1.8 t 2.5 – Click image for larger view and to see 100% crop.

IS THIS THE PERFECT “HOLY GRAIL” CAMERA?

Hmmm. Holy Grail Camera. I do not know of any other camera right now that can give you this kind of high ISO performance so the D3s is truly the new KING in this area. During my three weeks with this camera I loved it for its super fast operation and lightning response. I hated it for its weight and size. This camera for me is much to big and heavy but I am not a sports or action shooter and my Leica suits my needs just fine.

If Nikon could get this sensor into a small body it would be amazing. I am not talking a DSLR, but rather a small body like an Olympus E-P1/2 or the Panasonic GF1. Even M9 size! If this was done then I would buy it, but not to replace my M9 as I strongly feel the M9 sensor is one of the best FF sensors in ANY camera to date. No, not for high ISO but for everything else that matters. Color, depth, detail…the M9 just gives me the most gorgeous files I have ever seen from any digital plus I enjoy the rangefinder way of shooting. I’m a simple, manual focus kind of guy.

The sensor in the D3s is also super but it does not give me the same look that I can get from my M9 and many times the images appear somewhat “flat”. This may be due to the cheap lens but I saw this same thing with the 18-200DX lens attached (yes, still considered sort of a cheap lens by many and crops the D3s resolution down) As it stands I see this as a camera for pros who really need the speed, the build, and the heft who want great image quality and astounding low light capabilities. I can not see why a hobbyist would want to lug this puppy around on a daily basis. I know I wouldn’t and it is one of the reasons I switched from a D700 back to Leica over a year ago.

With that said, the D3s is certainly the most capable 35mm format camera I have ever shot with. It’s incredible actually, and if I were a pro I would but two of them. At $5200 a pop they are not cheap but with its capabilities it is worth the cash if a large camera does not bother you and you need the speed and high ISO capability. I applaud Nikon for creating this capable beast. With a great lens like the Nikon 14-24, 24-70 or 105 F2 I bet this camera would rock…the foundation that is, if you dropped it! Ha ha. Seriously, with a great lens the D3s would shine.

PROS AND CONS

PRO’s:

  • Extremely durable build and could easily stand up to daily pro abuse.
  • Weather sealed for harsh conditions.
  • Battery life is absolutely incredible. Nikon says 4200 shots per charge and while I only shot 800 or so, I believe their claim.
  • Full Frame FX sensor!
  • The amazing high ISO performance is the best there is to date.
  • Super fast AF that can literally lock on in VERY low light conditions. The AF never failed me.
  • Great ergonomics/button placement. Typical Nikon.
  • HD Movie Mode!
  • Big fat pixels help give great results. 12MP is also plenty for just about anything.
  • Love the dual CF card slots.
  • New Q mode for quieter shutter release.
  • Built in sensor cleaning.
  • Of course, superb image quality!

CONS:

  • Big and Heavy, but some of you will like it for this reason.
  • Color can get a bit odd at ISO 8000 and up.
  • Movie Mode seems awkward to use compared to Canon or the M4/3 cameras. Also only 720P and not 1080 like Canons 7D.
  • A bit pricey at over $5,000.

My final words on the camera, movie mode, and DID I BUY ONE?

So thats about it. There are a couple of things I did not talk about like the HD movie mode. I gave it a try but honestly feel that Nikon has some work to do in this area. It seemed awkward, clunky and not really intuitive. I feel a camera like this should have a dedicated movie button (like the Panasonic GF1) where you just press it and it starts recording your movie. Hassle free. I prefer Canons implementation of video in the 7D better than I do in the D3s but I ended up liking the D3s image quality over the 7D. Go figure.

But besides that the Nikon D3s is a world class photographic tool that can be used for just about ANY photo situation. Action, sports, wildlife, portraits, studio, low light, no light, and everything in between. It is the camera with everything in it, even the kitchen sink! If the weight and size does not bother you then this may be the camera of your dreams. Really, in my 3 weeks with it I found ZERO flaws, ZERO faults, and it was as reliable as any camera can be. Bottom line? It’s a tank. If you are a Nikon person and own Nikon lenses and have been wanting to upgrade, I see the D3s as the mack daddy of the Nikon world. The D3x can not even come close to the low light abilities of the S. This would be an amazing tool for a Yosemite trip with a few long fast primes. Imagine shooting at dusk with no noise.

Personally, I find my Leica M9 gives me better IQ (in the normal ISO range of 160-1250) but maybe it is due to the fact I use those great Leica lenses on it. Who knows? But, when its all said and done this D3s was sent back to B&H without a purchase. There is just no way in hell I would take this camera with me everywhere like I do my M9. It would always stay in the house until I had a job to shoot. My M9 serves double duty as I use it every day and for my paid work. It always comes through for me and its MUCH lighter than the D3s.

Like I said, a few years ago I would have sold anything to get my hands on a camera like this but for me its just too large. The M9 stays! To those who want the ULTIMATE DSLR, I can say without a doubt that the D3s is at the top of the heap for speed, responsiveness and high ISO. If I were a DSLR guy, I would probably have to buy one of these.

If you are wanting to buy a Nikon D3s for yourself I can highly recommend B&H Photo. They are taking pre-orders now and if you order one it should arrive within a week or two. You can check out their Nikon D3s page HERE. They are sending out D3s’s weekly to those who ordered them so when you pre-order you get your place in line. Basically B&H is the largest and best Photographic store ever in my opinion and i have been doing business with them for 14 years. Awesome company, great service, no hassle return policy. A+ to B&H.

BRAVO to Nikon on the D3s. Amazing high ISO capabilities push this one over the top!

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Here are a few more of my images from the Nikon D3s!  Enjoy!



  56 Responses to “The Nikon D3s Digital Camera Review”

  1. Hi Steve,

    Great review as always !
    I can’t access the D3S youtube video, a message says this is a private video…

    Cheers.

    Nicolas

  2. […] is the original: The Nikon D3s Review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS Tagged as: color-efex-pro, d3s-high-iso-samples, d3s-samples, high-iso, Inspiration, […]

  3. Sorry! Video works now.

    Steve

  4. Nice review Steve… glad to see you reviewing the Nikon line. Even though I have my M8, I would never get rid of my D3… Just love it…. It’s a low light monster with a nice 35 or 50mm f1.4……..keep up that great reviews.. Howie

  5. Now give me that 35mm f1.4 VR… Available darkness photography indeed :o)

  6. Wow. imagine a 35 1.4 VR on the D3s. THAT would be pretty amazing.

  7. Nice review, great pics. Nikon D3 has great low light capability and as you said taking it everyday with you would be cumbersome. Would you say that Canon 5d performs ‘better’ in highest ISOs?

  8. Hey Sergey,

    No, the 5D does not perform better at high ISO The D3s is the best in this regards right now. Thanks

  9. @Steve, while testing the D3s, did you focus manually or AF?
    I ask this, in order then ask you, how different is it to manually focus on Nikons DSLR viewfinder vs M9’s? This is the main issue that makes me wonder if I would go for a Rangefinder or not. How would you describe both focusing technics?

    @ Howie: I am a Nikon user myself, but as I am telling above, AF makes me fear of getting into rangefinder and do not get used to it. How do you feel that ‘crossover’ technic?

  10. LeDra, I used AF for those images but really, I prefer MF. I think because I am so used to it. I did try MF on the D3s but since its so speedy and accurate I decided to see how I liked AF for a while. The good thing is the D3s has the best AF I have ever seen.

  11. Hi Steve,
    Great review! You say you like video on the 7D better than on the D3s, so does that mean we’ll see your review on the 7D shortly? Any update on the Nikon D300s as well?

  12. Hey Peter,

    Thanks! I have been so overloaded here for the past 60 days I am taking it one step at a time. I have moved on to the 7D now full time so hope to have my review soon. Also, the D300s will be after that. Then I have 4 new Leica lens reviews and a few M4/3 lens reviews. I may also take another look at the GF1 vs the E-P2! Lots to come!

  13. Perhaps one day a company will make a compact full frame DSLR. Perhaps Pentax will make a digital version of their MZ-S. It’s become painfully obvious that neither Canon or Nikon have a desire to make a compact full frame camera (the 5D and D700 are far from compact). Seems like they think small cameras have to be made cheaply and out of plastic (D5000, Rebel). I’d love to have a full frame camera built like a Nikon F3, Pentax LX, Olympus OM, etc.

  14. Great review as usual Steve, one spectacular camera that’s for sure. :)

    Now I’ve been a Nikon man since I first looked through a camera shop window and lusted after a Nikkormat as a 13 y.o. but despite the D3/S/X all being superb cameras I have to ask whether in the year 2010 have they really thought it out? I mean, with all of the superb advancements made in technology over the years why is my old F2A almost half the size of the D3 – F3 even smaller. I sold off my F4 because it crippled me carrying it around so why with all the tech can Olympus make a top class & fully featured DSLR that I now fit in my coat pocket whereas Nikon won’t or can’t seem to reduce the size & bulk of their Pro body cameras ?!?

    Great camera for those that *really* need it of course, if you were a press sports shooter as you say it has to be camera of choice, no question – but one has to ask, how many photographers *really* need it? Not many I’d answer and a major reason why so many in 2010, myself included, are dropping bulky heavyweight offerings from the likes of Canon & Nikon and looking to cameras like the Leica M, Oly E-P2 etc, etc.

  15. Great review, as usual! I would be really interested in seeing a post discussing your experience comparing how anything might have differed from walking around shooting with that huge SLR versus the compact M9. Did you feel that you were being noticed more, did it make you *feel* more self conscious, etc?

    I shoot with a 5D Mark II and always feel like all eyes are on me… after much debate and saving I’m finally entering the Leica world tomorrow when the UPS man arrives with my M8.2 :) Very excited about it

  16. Daniel,

    Yes, I was not very comfortable walking around with the D3s due to the weight AND the fact that it seemed like every time I lifted it people stared at me like I was a paparazzi or something. When I use my M9 no one even looks my way. Strange but true. The D3s has a huge presence and people do in fact notice it.

  17. On that note Steve, last time I was in London a couple of months ago taking some street shots with my little Contax G2 in my jacket pocket I couldn’t help but laugh at a guy with a whacking great Nikon D3X + zoom also taking street shots – he may just as well been carrying an AK47, he stood out that much, as anybody walking in his direction spotted him a mile off and stared him down even after they had passed him whereas I know from experience most people don’t even notice a camera like a G2 or Leica and are certainly not threatened by them. Made me smile anyways. :)

  18. […] D3s Review Steve Huff hat ein bemerkenswertes Review der Nikon D3s geschrieben. Wie immer berichtet Steve von seinen Praxiserfahrungen und zeigt jede Menge Bilder und […]

  19. Woe…4 new leica lenses…care to elaborate which? Could these include the new 35 summilux?

  20. Hi Steve:
    I have just ordered a new M9. This will be my first Leica and I want to thank you for all of the advice and insite that you have provided since the M9 was launched. I am really excited about this camera and it’s lenses. Keep up the good work.Your idea to provide a daily update about the M9 is a stroke of genius. I can’t wait each day when I get home to check what is new. It would only take half the time if you could clone yourself.

    Bob.

  21. […] Lens Review The Nikon D3s Review STEVE HUFF PHOTOS I found some cool stuff here: The Nikon D3s Review STEVE HUFF […]

  22. Steve,
    Thanks for another great and real world review!!!!! Don’t think this Nikon is my cup of tea but it sure is impressive for those that need its capabilities. Am eagerly awaiting your 4 (!) leica lens reviews!
    Susan

  23. The 85mm f/1.4, or the discontinued (now a collector’s item) 28mm f/1.4, would be better lenses to try than the 50mm f/1.8 or even the 50mm f/1.4 lenses (AF or AF-S), if you wanted to see the D3s under good glass. Those two (85mm f/1.4 and 28mm f/1.4) are probably the best Nikkor primes.

    The D3s is actually lighter than the D3, which should help me when I finally get one (back-ordered).

    A smaller version of the D3s, say the D700s, might come out too.

  24. Leek, I agree in the lenses but a 28 1.4? Yea, that’s an easy to find lens, ha ha. I owned the 85 1.4 in the past (3 times) but as I said, all I had was the cheapie 50. That cheapie gave me great results though.

    As for a d700s, There will be one.

    Thanks!

    • Well, thanks for the awesome review. I do have this camera body and absolutely LOVE it. I don’t mind the weight at all. The old (collectors) 28 f/1.4 (which I also have… and will NEVER sell) is amazing on it shooting the northern lights and skies at night… You can find that lens, but it’s 2-3 times the original purchase price now as there are not many of them out there. Don’t know if the 24 f/1.4 compares but probably does and that one is sold new now.

  25. […] admittedly, we do not all need the astounding low-light capabilities of the Nikon D3S, with its 8.5 micron pixels. But it’s clear that pixels smaller than about 6 microns are […]

  26. Nice review.

    Personally, for about the same price as a new M9, the D3S plus a used M8 is a much more compelling package, at least for my way of shooting. I have the D3S and it is so much more versatile than my M8 in many situations it is not even funny…from shooting in really low light at parties with friends or family using my 50mm f/1.4 G, to shooting my daughter’s basketball games in a dimly lit gym with my 70-200 VRII, to shooting HDR landscapes with the 14-24mm….I am even finding myself shooting a lot of video which I hadn’t expected to, and it looks great.

    I love the M8 for when I want to travel light or go unnoticed, but upgrading to the M9 when I could have the M8 PLUS the D3S for same price made absolutely no sense to me at all. Of course, everyone’s needs differ!

  27. The 28mm f/1.4 is real, I’m not making it up!!! Of course you know that!!! You can buy it for $3000-4000 on eBay :) I’m not that desperate for 2/3 of a stop :) The D3s gives enough ISO sensitivity to offset the $3000 price :)

    I own: a D3 (soon to be D3s), a 24-70mm f/2.8G, a 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR, a 20mm f/2.8 AF, a 50mm f/1.4G AF-S, a 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6D Micro AF, an 85mm f/1.8 AF, a 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S, and a 200mm f/4s IF micro.

    If I could afford it (use it enough, that is), I’d also own a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II, an 85mm f/1.4 AF, and a 28mm f/1.4 AF. Since most of my work is indoors in low light and less than 30 feet away, I don’t need super-telephotos.

  28. “..all I had was the cheapie 50″.

    Just FYI, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 is considered an excellent performer. Don’t be fooled by the price.

    Jarle

  29. I wouldn’t say the 50 1.8 is an excellent performer. Maybe at 5.6 but wide open its soft and the corners are soft even at F2.8. For the price its wonderful. About $3400 less than a Leica 50 1.4 :)

  30. Leek, I know of the 28 1.4 and know its a gorgeous lens but they are not cheap and not easy to find. If I had a camera like this I would want my lenses to be as small as possible and I would personally go for the Zeiss line. I love those lenses on Nikon.

  31. You will be stared at even using a D90 + 18-200. And if I put in the 70-200 VR in the D90 for fast auto focus and with the pedal hood, your stared index will be 90% of D3S+70-200. The massiveness/attractionness just makes me nervous.

  32. Currently using the D3s with the original 70-200 VR lens. I must say, the low light capabilities open up many possibilities. I needed a camera like this for concert work. It delivers on its promise. Although in 10 years time I am sure folk will ask how we survived with such a basic camera ! ;-)

    Definitely gives you a heads up on what is to come….

    By the way, got my D3s from B&H…although it did arrive with fingerprints on the LCD screen and the language was already set. Not too happy about that….but they did allow me the option to return it ( I didnt because I need the camera now and a few weeks delay will cause me to miss a trip I have planned for some time )

  33. I would love one of these cameras. I wonder why it’s only 12 mp though? The D3X is double that, but the D3s is better than it? Is it because it’s new technology? I like the D700, not as big, but man, that D3s can really shoot. Only issues I have with it are its size and weight. Seriously, couldn’t Nikon make it any smaller? Would love to see this compared to The high-end Canon, D700, and such.

  34. Hi Steve,

    I love your reviews esp. because they are quite thorough and unprejudiced. However, this review of D3s didn’t do justice to the camera.

    Many places you tried to “compare” it with the Leica and that’s totally bizarre!! The whole purpose or market for the D3s is completely different from that of the Leica, and the Leica can’t surpass it (or any pro dslr) in that arena.

    I came across a video of D3s comparison/review on youtube and I would like to share it with you… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkg7pAxi4gE

    Thanks,
    Ali

    P.S. I do love your reviews though! ;)

  35. Thanks Ali,

    See, I do not shoot sports. I do not shoot action. I do shoot quite a bit of low light, and as I stated in the review…all I had with it was the cheap-o 50 1.8 lens. So, since I do not shoot the things where the D3s excels, I shot it how I would shoot it if I owned one.

    It is the ultimate DSLR, no doubt. Just not for my needs but for any pro who needs its power its simply amazing.

    As for comparing it to the Leica, well, that was for fun and I do that kind of thing mainly because of the M9 critics who say it sucks. My only complaint with the D3s was its size, and again for a pro who needs this kind of performance the size is a big NON issue. It’s actually a positive.

    When I write up something I do it from the point of view as if I owned it. So, since I am a rangefinder kind of guy I really would not buy a D3s but if I shot anything that needed a DSLR, I would but the D3s.

    Thanks for the comment.

  36. Hi Steve,

    great review – very clear and objective. I loved the low light capabilities of the D3s, but could not justify the expense. Funnily enough, I recently bought a used Nikon F80 (film SLR) and found your comment about accessing some of the controls on the D3s via buttons, rather than the LCD menu, quite amusing. My F80 doesn’t have a LCD menu on the back (just the small shoulder LCD), so most of the functions are accessed via buttons. “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” (translation: the more things change, the more they stay the same).

    I was equally impressed that you shot the video using an E-P2. Great images, I thought. More than good enough for occasional footage.

  37. Steve, I chuckled as you kept going on about the weight of the camera, considering I thought the D300 was heavy when I first started using it, but now when I go out shooting I carry all of my lenses and that camera with me with no problem :). I imagine some wrist twisting and convulsing the first month of continuous use of something like the D3s, but after that things would probably get easier :P.

    Oh man I’d probably use that Hi2 setting more than anybody in the western hemisphere. There’s just so much complaining about the quality at that setting, but every time I read somebody pick at the noise I think to myself, “Well at least they can get that shot.”

  38. Great review, Steve!

    I have been shooting with a Nikon Coolpix P5100 which has about the same resolution as the D3s, but I guess I’m the opposite as you, because I find that the size, as probably the Leica is as well, just too damn small for my hands!! I would LOVE the full size that the pro D3s maintains. I had the chance to take hold of a D700 here in my city (no pro shops around) and I must say that I probably shouldn’t have, because, I wanted it SOOOO BAD!!! I’m certain that the D3s would feel even more like a pro camera!
    I do have a question: Did you have the Noise Reduction function set when you took these shots? Did you shot in RAW or JPG? Also, have you ever tried any of the noise reduction plug-ins for Photoshop or as a stand alone program on any of your digital images (i.e.: Imagenomic Noiseware Professional, or Topaz DeNoise 4)? I would think that any unacceptable noise in the high ISO images would be cleaned up from the reviews that I have seen.
    Keep up the great reviews, and keep on shootn’!

  39. Nice review, your comments were much appreciated. Good work.

  40. This is very interesting. I actually enjoy your writing style and your word choice more than anything Smile

  41. Hi,
    Very nice review (goes for the other reviews I read).

    The size and weight is just right for this type of camera and makes it a great combination for
    balancing camera and lens especially with Nikons prof. lenses which are quite heavy.

  42. Hi Steve,

    Great review! I greatly enjoying reading your postings. I shoot with both an M9 and D3s and honestly love both of these cameras equally. While the D3s is large compared to the M9, it has great ergonomics and feels right in my hands, just like the M9. Even with the Nikon, I manual focus all my shots. On my D3s, a Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar f/2 is almost permanently attached. It produces stunning images when used for portraiture. It is my personal favorite lens that I own, even taking into account the Noctilux f/0.95 that I often use with the M9. In the end, the camera is simply a tool of the artist. It can be an extremely sophisticated and refined one, but the photographer is the artist and decision maker.

  43. I enjoyed the review of the Nikon D3s and was hoping to see a similar review of the D3X. I am a serious amateur photographer who is currently using a Nikon p7000 for a point and shoot (light) camera and a Canon 7D. I have the 21mm lens for the p7000 and have had good results with it but nothing like a Leica or Nikon D3s. I shoot landscapes, architecture, outdoor shots, animals and rarely shoot people other than my girlfriend as I just can’t not do that. She is just too lovely to ignore.

    Recently, my girlfriend and I went to a beautiful built home in the mountains of WA and I had permission to shoot the house and grounds. I used the p7000 with good results at ISO 800 and got the view of the rooms I needed but I would not published them as I did not think the quality was that good. But, for looking at a house and thinking about buying it or not, they are well suited. I tried the Canon 7D on that house and several others that same day. Even with the flash, ISO 800, I was having issues getting the camera at the Aperture mode to take pics in what was mostly natural light coming into the house with a high ceiling lamp. I discovered I needed my tripod and that was not practical when you have an anxious real estate agent pushing you from one room to another so I missed a lot of potentially good shots. Next time, I will try ISO 1600 or higher with the Canon 7D and p7000.

    But, that all got me thinking about a FF camera that would do well in low light. I like the D3s and I think for that purpose with a wide angle lens, it would good great as would the Leica M9 with its lens offerings. Shooting the p7000 through the viewfinder had so much barrel distortion, it was almost a pain in lower light so you need to use its screen and to me, that is like winging it.

    Any chance you can do a review of D3X and push up the ISO as I would like to hear the results before I lay out $5 to 8K for a camera body. I only have a small investment right now in Canon EF lenses for the 7D and can use that for shooting video etc.

    T

  44. hi steve:
    loved your review (actually read it AFTER i purchased my own d3s (as well as the 14-24 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 lenses) fab camera – upgrading my ‘kit’ from dx by the way (d300s) – a nikon man since birth (okay not that long but close) and yeah, yeah, as my daughters would say this sucker is the bomb!!! the weight bothers me not, not in the least, but then again i guess i’m still thinking of myself as charles atlas! great review, now if only i could find your review of the d300s . . .

    by-the-by (if i may) can seriously recommend for your uk readers, grays of westminster in london for nikon equipment and soultions to problems – b&h are terrific, but i’m not in the states as often as i once was

    • Thanks! You can see my VERY SHORT D300s review by clicking on the tab at the top of the site that says “Reviews & More” and then “Nikon”. Its there, but very short. Enjoy the beast!

    • Thanks for your comments. I am looking to purchase the D3s with the 3 mentioned lens. Great combo. There’s a great youtube clip that call these 3 lens the Holy Grail. Ha Ha

  45. Excellent article. Much appreciated, keep up the good review work

  46. […] res files simply because the quality drops off some when the lights get low. Besides, Nikon makes pro DSLR’s for pro work and Leica makes an M9 that works amazingly well for concerts and pro work as well. […]

  47. Why is it that reviewers insist in comparing the single link and not the whole chain.

    You have tried the D3S and you have been convinced of it’s abilities.

    You have tried and use the Leica glass and you are convinced by it’s quality.

    What is more simple than having a Leica R glass on the D3S and get the whole world singing.

    Try a Telyt 280/4 or a 180/2.8 APO or a 90AA or simply a 50/2 and your world will change.

    I did, and I do.

  48. […] about cameras. I would recommend for a really great review of this camera if you take a visit to Steve Huff’s review of the Nikon D3s. I think at his particular moment in time this is the best camera in the world. The Nikon D3s has […]

  49. Great review on the D3s.. hope you will do a review on Nikon’s new D4 and make comparison tests as i hear Nikon made many improvements and a few additions.
    Love the photos and is it me or does that monkey look a lot like the former Islamic leader
    Ayatollah Khomeini? lol

  50. Steve watched your review of the D3s, (first time viewer for your site) loved your style and really enjoyed that you used so many pictures with the review. Always good to see samples.

  51. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles.

    I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I’m quite sure I will learn many new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

  52. Great camera, but I am a canon fan
    :X

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