Nikon has just announced the new Nikon D3s, so I decided to post a quick comparison between the Nikon D3x and the new Nikon D3s in this “Nikon D3s vs D3x” article. Both Nikon D3s and D3x are top of the line, very specialized cameras for different needs. The new Nikon D3s is a low-noise, high performance camera designed for professional news, sports, wildlife and event photographers that need the speed and low noise while working in challenging lighting conditions. The Nikon D3x, on the contrary, is designed for studio and landscape photographers that need the higher resolution for large prints. While D3x is identical to D3, except for the sensor, there are a few differences between the D3s and D3x.
Here are the differences between D3s and D3x:
- Very different sensors on both cameras. D3s features a 12 megapixel 36×23.9 full frame (FX) CMOS sensor, while the D3x has a 24.5 megapixel 35.9×24 full frame (FX) CMOS sensor.
- Having a lower number of pixels allows the Nikon D3s to have an increased pixel pitch and thus increases sensitivity of the sensor and ability to capture images at higher ISOs with low noise. On the other hand, higher number of pixels results in decreased pixel size and decreases sensor sensitivity in the Nikon D3x. Because of this, the D3s sensor by default can capture ISO levels of 200-12800, while the D3x’s default ISO is 100-1600. Both cameras also provide “boosted” ISO levels of 100, 25600, 51200 and 102400 (D3s) and 50, 3200 and 6400 (D3x) for challenging and extreme conditions.
- Nikon D3x is almost twice as slow as the D3s when it comes to frames per second (high speed continuous shooting). Nikon D3x is 5 FPS, while D3s is 9 FPS.
- 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. There is no such feature on the D3x.
- A new 1.2x crop factor @ 8.4 megapixels is added for a “telephoto” effect on D3s 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. There is no video on D3x.
- A couple of new white balance and image parameters are added into the D3s menu.
- A new release mode “Q” (quiet shutter-release) is added to D3s, just like in D300s.
- Just like the latest generation of Nikon cameras, “Lv” (LiveView) andÂ “Info” buttons were added to the back of the D3s.
- 5×4 crop mode on D3x is at 20.4 megapixels.
- D3s is priced at $5,199.95, while D3x is priced at $7,999.99.
So, which camera is right for you? The biggest differences in the above list are sensor type and camera price, again, because both cameras are for specialized needs. If you have the money and you primarily shoot landscapes or capture models in a studio and need the best DSLR in the market today, go for the D3x. Low noise is not an issue for you, because you would be mounting the D3x on a tripod for landscape and would have sufficient light in a studio environment. The extra resolution will make a difference for commercial work and large prints.
If you shoot in challenging lighting conditions and need a fast camera, go for the D3s instead. Nikon D3s is currently the king of ISO – there is no comparable camera on the market today that sports a similar sensor with very high sensitivity. Just take a look at the video that I posted on my “D3 vs D3s” article and you will understand why it is such a big deal for sports and wildlife photography.
This could be a long shot as I’m a few years ahead of the last comment!
I’m currently using the 5Dmkii.
I mainly shoot portrait (location and studio)
But have a love for sports photography! And want to do a lot more sports photography.
(Motocross, mountain biking, bmx etc)
I’m thinking the D3s could be a good upgrade for the iso amazingness! But I’m thinking the image quality of the D3x would be better!
I’m stuck on what to do!!
Is the image quality good on the D3s at 12MGP
Is it totally impossible to do sports photography with the D3x? (I can’t find any reviews of how the D3x handles sports) everyone just says……
D3x = landscape and studio portrait
D3s = weddings, low light and sport.
Maybe I’m worried coming from my 22mgp canon to a 12mgp camera that the image quality will be worse!?
Please help! I hope I have explained my situation properly
My hearts telling me D3x but my minds telling me D3s!!
Thank you! !
I need help to buying camera I normally take picture in church once while landscaping and wedding at our church only. please tell me which camera should i buy d4, d3s , d3x thanks
Hello and thanks in advance for all the time and effort including the time you spent on such wonderful write ups/reviews.
I am somewhat long overdue for an upgrade as I am currently doing a fair amount of studio work as well as weddings. I have gotten to the point or am at least getting to where I am looking for an increase in these 3 areas: 1, durability, 2, resolution and 3, high ISO performance (In that order). Based upon your most recent reply you have now made my decision even more perplexing. I am currently doing my work with the use of 3 D300’s (plural D300) with grips.
Up until I read your last reply, I have been debating between a D3s and a D3x from reputable sellers. Both of which would be 2nd hand models and somewhat near the same price. I have considered the D800 but am honestly concerned about the rumored chatter of the left focus issue and green cast to the display. I suspect that Nikon may have resolved this issue by now but none the less that is one of the reasons I have considered the D3s and D3x above the D800. In addition, I’m not sold (for lack of a better word) on 36 MP. Additionally, the build and rated shutter life on the D3s/x is also appealing to me. Unfortunately, the D4 is a little out of my reach in regard to budget.
Oh yes, I am prepared to make the jump to FX from my D300’s as I have been accumulating FX glass over the past several years (instead of buying more bodies).
I feel that since I’m able to function within the limits of what the D300 has to offer in regard to limited ISO and that is perhaps one reason why I am looking at the D3x.
Can you tell me how the D3x and D300 compare (with first hand experience if possible) at higher ISO’s? Personally, I try to limit my D300’s to an ISO of between 800 up to 1600 ( and that is where the consideration of a D3s begins). At the same time, I do receive requests for enlargements that push the 12MP limit.
I feel as though I am stuck and again, I realize that the styles of shooting for which I am getting paid (studio vs weddings) are the reason I feel this way. On one hand I have all the light I could use in the studio with strobes and on the other I am on the other end of the spectrum I’m inside a dimly lit environment. Lastly, my clients from both of those genres want photos that may require more detail than what 12MP might be able to offer on occasion.
Any suggestions/advice or input would be appreciated. Thanks again!
I own the D3s; as you stated, a great camera. I am planning a year of travel to Europe, South Africa, Tanzania, Paris in April and three months in Croatia. I want to photograph cultural events, people, sporting events, and an occasional landscape, although landscape photography is not my passion. I enjoy garden photography as well. If you look at my web page slideshow you will see what I like to photograph.
The idea of making large prints is very appealing, although I have yet to make a large print, I want to have this capability.
I am considering the new D800, but also the D3x. Which one do you suggest?
Robert, the Nikon D3x is now dead, don’t buy it – get the Nikon D800 instead! Pre-order now and you should be able to get it within the next 1-2 months.
Hi, its great for me to read these comments and understand how to improve my knowledge of NIKON D3.
I currently own the Nikon d3s which obviously is a great camera with fast shutter speed and a great ISO range but now I have second thoughts and was wondering if I should have bought the d3x. The reason for my change of heart is that I almost always shoot landscapes and always use a tripod and a remote for my shutter.
I like to blow these up quite large and have had the opportunity to sell some of my work. I realize this is a hard question to answer and has many variables, but how big a print can I get from my d3s without loosing quality. Most of the time my ISO is at 100 or 200 to keep the noise down and always on a tripod. Would I be better off buying the d3x to get maximum usage of the 24mp or just try and work with the d3s.
I sure would value your opinion in this matter. Thank you in advance
I just purchased the D3s, moving from a D300. I do mainly landscape work and environmental portraits. My worked has been published widely. Even with the D300, I was able to produce stunning prints at 20×30 or larger (similar MP on a DX body). Like you, I do a lot of work at ISO 100 and 200 with a tripod and remote. Of course, I purchased the D3s for nocturnal photography and environmental portraiture. But I also purchased it knowing the the base ISO quality would be excellent.
While the camera can play a big role in sharpness, the right lens and the right technique can be equally if not more important (along with good print output and proper post processing to include sharpening, etc.).
I have many pro colleagues who shoot landscapes with the D3s and find the quality to be superior. Unless you plan on blowing your prints up to billboard size or do extreme post process crops, I just can’t see any justification for putting down another $8K. You’re better off waiting for the D800 to come out in a few months, which will supposedly have 36MP. I think too many people only focus on the high ISO qualities of the D3s. But if you look at the entire package, it’s pretty darn impressive. In most cases, any limitations are within ourselves. Just my .02 ~Dan
Jack, as Dan stated below, you can print pretty large if you use lower DPI and some good plugins to increase the resolution of the image. For landscape work, the D3x is a better camera due to better dynamic range at base ISO and higher resolution, however, its steep price is not attractive and it is a camera that will be updated with a new version very soon. If you want large 150-300 DPI prints, the D3x is the best camera from Nikon. As Dan suggested, I would wait till a new camera comes out either later this year or Q1 of 2012.
If landscapes and wildlife are the primary targets can the D3s produce marketable prints and what limit would you suggest for print size?
Cecil, sorry for a late response – somehow missed your comment. Of course you can make marketable prints. You can stretch 12 MP over very large prints, as long as you decrease DPI and perhaps even enlarge the resolution through Photoshop and other third party plugins. I have 20×30 prints at home and people print billboard-sized promotion material shot with 10 MP cameras. If you want to print 150-300 DPI, then I suggest using a print size calculator (use Google to find it) to find out the exact size of the print.
I’m looking at both the D3X and D3S but I’m not exactly sure which way to go…… I’m leaning towards the D3X as I want to use it for landscapes which I would like to blow up into large panoramas, but saying that I would also like to use it for weddings, portraits and studio work. Can you please give me some advice?
Also I should have added I’m leaning towards the d3x also because the I can get the D3x for $400 more than the d3s which I’m finding hard to say no to. I also understand I’m wanting to do everything with this camera and maybe thats just asking too much
I am looking to buy a professional camera as I am hoping to set up a small photography buisness. I am trying to decided between either the d3s, d3x or the d700…..The thing is I need to be able to use the camera on the beach ( I am shortly moving to the gold coast, Australia from the uk) to get some action shots in the bush as well as studio for portraits etc… I am also wanting to go into wedding photography and new born shoots. I need a camera that is versitile in all weather conditions especially bright sunny conditions, but also low light such as dawn, dusk and night time, that also produces greats shots that can be printed in large size. I have read many reviews on the camera’s I have mentioned above and I am now as confused as ever.
If you could please recommend which of the above three camera’s would be the best buy for me.
Hi Nasim, you helped me a while back with a decision on a long lens – a Nikon 300f2.8 VRII – which I appreciate! I have used it a bit and am very happy with it – we took it to the jungles of Indonesia recently and the resolution & color, even in low light, is just great! Still getting used to the handling as it is big. I have another question for you if you have a minute.
I currently have two bodies – a D700 which I use with a 24-70 f2.8 and, a D300s which I use with a 70-200 f2.8 and now the 300 f2.8. I also have the TC 1.4II and the new TC 2.0III extenders.
I love the D700 and the images I get from it. I am not so sure about the 300s. When coupled with a longer lens shooting things that move around quickly I would like a brighter viewfinder, quicker shutter initialization, faster frame rate and, full frame resolution.
My shooting is primarily travel related with family thrown in whenever possible. From what I can tell either the D3x or D3s will do what I am looking – the x goes for maximum resolution at normal ISO and the s goes for maximum ISO at somewhat diminished resolution when compared to the x. However the s has sensor clean which is a must these days.
If I were do to something in the next six months or so, do you have any thoughts about either of these cameras based on what I think I am looking for or would you suggest waiting for the rumored D4, whenever that is.
Thanks for your help,
Peter, you are in the same boat as me – I used to have a D300 as my second body and after the D700, I did not want to use it anymore ;-) I eventually sold it and I am FX only now.
If I were you, I would sell the D300s while you still can and then wait for the D4 to come out this summer.