Concert photography and videography with Nikon D3s

During my last trip to Florida, I was fortunate to attend Carlos Santana‘s concert, during which I had a good opportunity to take pictures and video with Nikon D3s DSLR and Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S lens. As I have pointed out in my previous D3s articles, the performance of Nikon D3s in low light environments is incredible.

Take a look at the following shot of Santana:

Santana - Full Size

NIKON D3S @ 300mm, ISO 6400, 1/250, f/4.0

The image was shot at ISO 6400, 1/250, f/4.0 @ 300mm approximately 30 meters away from the subject.

Here is the 100% crop:

Santana - 100% Crop

NIKON D3S @ 300mm, ISO 6400, 1/250, f/4.0

There is plenty of detail in this shot and the grain can be easily removed using noise reduction software such as Neat Image or Nik Software Dfine (which is the topic of next article that I am currently working on). It is always better to have a grainy image that is sharp than a noise-free blurry image.

Here is a short video clip from the concert, using the same setup. I apologize for the camera vibration and bad sound – my left leg did not perform very well as a tripod and it was too loud to capture the sound using the built-in microphone in the camera.

I highly recommend checking out the 720p (HD) version. Although I really wish Nikon had 1080p on the D3s like most modern Canon DSLRs, 720p does not look bad either…


  1. 1) Tim Layton
    July 9, 2010 at 7:58 am

    I bought the D3s about 2 months ago and simply can’t put this camera down. I was in the market for a low-light fast camera. I looked at the D3s and the Canon 1D Mark IV. I read everything I could get my hands on and then I was lucky enough to go to my local camera store and they had both in stock. Probably a once in a lifetime scenario. Being a 20 year Canon user I naturally went for the 1D Mark IV first. Up until this time I had never put my hands on a Nikon camera. I then put the D3s in my hands and it was like a beam of light shot down from the heavens. This is the more intuitive and beautiful camera I have ever used. The layout and controls were so intuitive that I was able to navigate around the camera with ease.

    In regards to the low light performance and video abilities, all I can say is that I have a buddy with a 1D Mark IV and in challenging lighting situations I win every single time. I do think his video looks a little better most of the time until a very challenging lighting situation crops up, and then I win again. I use Noiseware Pro and Topaz Labs DeNoise to remove any noise from my images inside of Photoshop CS5. Both work perfectly for me.

    In summary, the Nikon D3s is a nearly perfect piece of professional equipment for a photographer that does both stills and video work. It is perfect for an event and sports photographer that doesn’t need high end 1080p video. The 5 minute limitation is also a little bit of a bummer as compared to the Canons. If it had 1080p video it would be the holy grail for sure. I survive with the 720p jpeg motion .avi footage, but my little Canon T2i ($800) shoots better video except in very low-light situations. If the D3x had 1080p video at its price tag of $8k, I would buy one today for architecture and high res studio work along with the 1080p video and use my D3s for event work, low-light situations and sports. If the D3s or D3x had 1080p video I would sell my 5D Mark II and T2i along with all the L-series glass in a heartbeat.

    Thanks for your incredible work here.


    • July 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

      Tim, thank you for providing such a detailed review of the D3s – it is always interesting to read comments from a photographer that decided to switch to another brand.

      I am certain that Nikon will incorporate 1080p in the upcoming Nikon D4 and Nikon D400 cameras (with the new Expeed procesor) scheduled to be released next year, so you will still have an opportunity to get rid of your T2i and 5D MKII, just wait for another year :) I just wish Nikon caught up with lens and camera shortages…the Nikon D3s is in such a high demand, that companies like B&H and Adorama are having a hard time keeping them in stock.

      Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment in our blog, we appreciate your visit!

      • 1.1.1) Tim Layton
        July 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm

        I will surely enjoy the D3s in the mean time and will be dreaming of the D4. I agree about the shortages on the equipment. I have had a very difficult time getting the various lenses I need but I am slowly getting them. I am still waiting on the 24 f/1.4 and my 300 f/4D IF-ED should be here early next week. I have the 24 f/2.8D, 50 f/1.4G, 85 f/1.8D, 16-35 f/4G ED VR right now. I had bought the 14-24 and the 16-35 at the same time to decide which one I wanted to keep. I ended up settling on the 16-35 and have been very happy with it. Now if I can just get my 300mm and 24mm I will be happy. I did test the 16mm f/2.8 and really liked it as well. I used it for some video work and some wide angle architecture as well. In the mean time I am going to use my 16-35 and when the budget allows I am sure I will circle back and get the 16mm. I have rented the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 70-200 f/2.8 and liked them, but I am trying to get all of my prime lenses bought first and then evaluate if I want them or not. I have all the L-series Canon glass that I use on my 5D Mark II until I can get all the lenses I need for my D3s.

        On another note, thank you for all your hard work and contributions here as you do an excellent job. I find myself waiting for the next email to see what you have been up to.


        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          July 17, 2010 at 2:14 am

          Tim, that’s a nice list of lenses you have there! :) The 24mm f/1.4 is one hell of a lens…the sharpest Nikon lens as of today for sure. I like your selection of primes, looks like we have similar equipment.

          Thank you for your feedback and for subscribing, I do my best to write more, but I have been so busy at work lately that I can barely keep up :(

  2. July 9, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Neat! What ISO was the video shot at? Is the D3s about a stop better than the D3/D700, or more?

    • July 9, 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Aaron, both stills and video were captured at ISO 6400 (Manual, Auto ISO Off). In terms of stop difference between D3s and D3, have you see my D700 vs D3 vs D3s article? It is more like 1.5 stops of difference…

  3. July 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Yes, I read that article (very good!), but couldn’t remember offhand what you’d discovered the effective difference was in real world usage. D4/D400 sounds very intriguing…

    I’m ordering a 14-24mm f/2.8 for real estate next week. Got enough demand now to justify/afford it. I was going to go with a 16-35mm f/4 for VR and filter threads, but I really want that 14mm! Maybe I’ll just have to get both down the road… :-P Can’t wait to try it out; your shots have been amazing with it!

    • July 17, 2010 at 2:09 am

      In real world usage, the difference depends on lighting conditions, but I would say at least one stop for sure. I never set Max Sensitivity to 6400 on my D700 (typically 1600, occasionally 3200), but I do on the D3s…

      Yes, the 14-24mm is a work of art…once you take one shot with that lens, you will immediately fall in love with it :) I really wish Nikon came up with a way to mount filters on it though, would have been a perfect lens!

    • 3.2) Ryan
      March 5, 2011 at 9:21 pm

      I’m currious how the 14-24 is… I was leaning towards to 16-35 for real estate and now wonder if the 14-24 would be a better option. Have you done any video with either lens.
      Can’t wait for D800 with 1080p

  4. August 11, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Impressive! It really is!

    And I completely agree about that 14-24 lens.. I am wedding photographer and it is not a typical wedding lens for sure, but despite that, I am using them even when shooting weddings more then the other lenses! It is just brilliant!!

    • August 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      Thank you for your feedback! Yes, the Nikon 14-24mm is superb…can’t wait to get it back on my hands!

  5. 5) Lal
    December 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Hi, any lens suggestion with recommended settings for concerts with stage lightning? Thanks!

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