Nikon has just announced the new Nikon D3s, so I decided to post a quick comparison between the old Nikon D3 and the new Nikon D3s in this “Nikon D3 vs D3s” article.
The new Nikon D3s is in many ways a new generation camera. When Nikon adds a letter to a camera (such as “X” or “S”), it typically means that it is an update to its current line, most likely with the same Expeed processor. The new D3s, though, despite featuring the same physical processor, is a whole new world when it comes to sensor technology. Just looking at the images and comparing the ISO performance of the older D3 and the new D3s, I can conclude that the new D3s has a 1.5 to 2 stop advantage over D3, which is remarkable.
Here are the differences between D3s and D3:
- D3s can shoot ISO 200-12,800 in native mode and ISO 25,600 (H1), ISO 51,200 (H2) and ISO 102,400 (H3) in “boost” mode (D3 is 200-6,400 with ISOs 12,800 and 25,600 in boost mode).
- The Nikon D3s now features an “image sensor cleaning” technology just like in other lower-end cameras such as the D300s and D700 that vibrates the low pass filter and reduces dust on the sensor, without impacting the 100% coverage of the viewfinder.
- A new 1.2x crop factor @ 8.4 megapixels is added for a “telephoto” effect for those who need the extra reach.
- D3s can shoot 720p video (1280 x 720 @ 24 fps). The “rolling shutter” effect is greatly reduced, thanks to a new video recording algorithm in D3s.
- D3s sports a much larger buffer that can continuously record up to 48 RAW images and up to 130 JPEG images.
- A couple of new white balance and image parameters are added into the menu.
- A new release mode “Q” (quiet shutter-release) is added, just like in D300s.
- D3s is slightly lighter than the D3 (2.12 lb vs 2.7 lb).
- Just like the latest generation of Nikon cameras, “Lv” (LiveView) andÂ “Info” buttons were added to the back of the D3s.
- D3s is priced at $5,199.95, an increase of $200 over D3 when it was introduced.
Check out this amazing video that was shot with a D3s in very dim and challenging environments:
The Nikon D3s is ideal for professional news, sports, wildlife and wedding photographers and there is no equivalent camera on the market today that is capable of capturing such details in low-light situations. I can see this camera selling like crazy in the wedding photography market, which has been dominated Canon for years. If Nikon releases an equivalent D700s, I can see many wedding photographers switching from their favorite Canon 5D Mark II cameras to Nikon D700s, because it will feature a much better autofocus and low-light capabilities, which are both extremely important for event photographers. At the same time, it is a little disappointing that Nikon could not incorporate a true 1080p video mode into the latest cameras, but it is understandable, because the current Expeed processor is not capable of handling 1080p with H.264 codec. I believe the next generation Nikon cameras such as D4/D400/D800 will feature a new Expeed processor that will be able to handle higher resolution video recording capability, all the way up to 1080p.
So, the main question is: “Is D3s worth the upgrade?”. If you already have a D3, I would evaluate your needs for low-light photography and video. D3s is definitely not for landscape and studio photographers (D3X would be a better camera since it has much more resolution for print). But for true professionals that have to work in dim environments and cannot use flash, I would say that the D3s is definitely worth the upgrade. That 1.5 to 2 stop advantage makes a big difference in low light and I cannot even imagine what ISO 102,400 could do for news photographers and paparazzi. If you do not already own a D3 and are thinking about the upgrade, I would say definitely go for the D3s.
Update: I posted some real high ISO samples from both cameras in my Nikon D3 vs D3s high ISO comparison article.
I own a D500 / D750 / D7500 and D7100, but just because have heard a lot about the OLD flagship D3 I want to buy it for keeps sake. I don’t shoot for professional reasons but basically for myself. I use my cameras mostly for wildlife. I am getting lots of D3, shutter 40-50k in good condition available for about $700 in 2019. Would it be wise to get one? As I earlier mentioned, I just want it as its one of the flagship cameras and built like a tank.
Im an amateur photographer who usually shoot sports (Soccer and Rugby). I currently own a D800E and a Nikon afs 200-400 Vr as my primary set.
Do you consider buying a D3S a step forward or a step back?
I am Ahmad.I am landescape photographer.d3 is good or d3s?
Been losing sleep over getting a 2nd body and now that Nikon has the D4 and D800 it just made my choice even more difficult.
I now own a D700 which i use a lot shooting concert but i also wanna do wedding and indoor sports, my first choice was to get a D3S and keep on using the D700 as a backup but i would not gain much megapixels-wise and i sure love to crop :-)
Using my D700 as a back up still would you go for the D4 for speed (if it’s just as good as the D3s in low light) or the D800.
Best regards and keep on the great work!
hi nasim, i have been on a budget when beginning my photo business and the purchase of a nikon d-90 was, i thought a good idea, but am now finding i really should be looking into a d-300, d-700,d-3, and wanted to get your opinion. plus, the lenses i have with my d-90, what to do? thanks for your help, tom
Good day, I am an amateur photographer and have been shooting event photography for awhile now and learned that not all camera’s perform the same in indoor/low-light settings. I would like to branch out to wedding photography as well and I know that I will be shooting indoors.
By understanding how ISO works and how the Nikon D3+D3s can perform at high ISO with minimal noise(depending on level of course) I think that they are the most optimal camera for me. No more blurry pictures of dramatic shots. With that said, on the wedding portrait side will the D3s perform as well as the D700 or Cannon 5D MKII? I just want to make sure that the photo’s have good color and just look good when I snap them. I know it is about lenses but…if i can shoot flashless that’d be great!
Great article! I’ve been doing a lot of research on these two Nikon bodies lately (D3s & D3x). As a professional photographer I am really trying to get my equipment up to date and up to professional standards. As much as this is my career, photography is also my passion. I work in the lifestyle and baby aspect of the portrait industry. Just recently I ran into a situation of low ugly light…”shooting in the shadows” if you will, and I was very disappointed in the way my Nikon D300 handled it. At an ISO of only 400 I got the same grain seen in images taken by the Canon 5D Mark II at 1000 ISO. I hate being forced into shooting at 2.8 and not getting enough depth of field. I feel trapped due to the D300’s short comings. Especially when I have a 24-700 pro lens on there, I know the lens has great possibilities.
As much as portraits are my work, I love shooting landscapes and studio work as well.
I guess what I’m asking is firstly as it’s September 2011 should I be waiting on the D4? Or should I bite the bullet and just take a leap forward in quality now?
Also, what is the Nikon comparative to the Canon 5D Mark II ? Do you know?
It’s tough trying to stay at the top of your game when things keep evolving. With my career driving me into huge investments I want to make sure I am making an educated and wise decision with my next purchase!
I was given a Nikon D3 and a ED lens and flash… being a Canon User and only an amateur photog im looking forwards to seeing what the D3 is capable of for a Wedding and Portrait Camera… im sure the D3s and D3X are better upgrades but for me im thinking the D3 will do just fine…. i also use a Canon 5D Mk1 for portraits and a Canon 40D for sports photos and general use… as im only just getting back into photography after 25 years i think the Equipment i have is adequate for my needs
Steve, the equipment you have is more than adequate for wedding and portrait photography :) Nikon D3 is a superb camera!
Thanks Nasim, any information to help me get back into photography is much appreciated
Best comments so far are from Andi and Shin, I’m too gonna wait on “50mp for close up face shots”
Grant, that’s just brutal, LOL :)
So what you fellows are saying here is the D3s is a high priced D300s, with a full frame that is a copy of the D700 only not as good. Now given a D3s and sent to Norway while being paid I would brag up this camera as well. I even brag up my D300 and love it as this is what I can afford now. Me thinks the price of these machines is way over what they are worth like most of the stocks now days. And After charging the same $5000 + – for the D3. My reality is confusion here. After selling all those inferior cameras for the big bucks they get told now what a fine company they are for yet another inferior product just because it will take a few short video shots. So when are they going to hand out the camera that has full frame 50MP that can take two hour videos and shoot stills? Is this as confusing to others as it is to me? Other camera companies are putting out 18MP cameras for 1/4 the cost. Obviously it is about MP because the D3X has 24MP and claims it’ superior status because of this. I am hooked on Nikon but come on, What is up with this situation. If it is about MP then Why for the extreme high cost are they being so skimpy? So far from when i learned Photography from my step father in the 50s, and he had a 35mm with his own dark room, the cameras are still not as good other than you do not need film and can get a video that you can get with a $200 camera that only does video. Thats right i am jealous and do not have one but that does not make it a better camera, my old D300 could have gotten the stills with the same lens. Also if the D300s is actually worth all the hype it gets, Seems it is just as good as the D3s. Most of the proclaimed professionals I am reading about on these forms, claim to be still using their D2X cameras. So i guess the real question is which is the better camera that can take pictures that people will actually buy? Now for weddings i figure the D700, For close up face shots something with a 50MP sensor would work. Then for the out in the field Photographer that takes pictures at the race track, landscapes, wildlife and an occasional portrait shot. Now what is the best camera for this PRO in some real professional’s opinion?
Shin, where did you read that Nikon D3s is a high-priced D300s here? It is not and never will be. You are comparing apples to oranges here – cropped-sensor vs full-frame.
I personally use a D3s and a D700 and I ended up selling my D300 and my DX lenses.