Field Review: Nikon D3s (Day 1)

The Nikon D3s is a camera that I’ve been looking forward to testing out for quite some time and I’m glad to say that I finally have one in my hands. I’ve played with it before at Photo Plus and thought that it seemed like something full of promise. As a studio, event, wedding, concert and photojournalism photographer, this camera can suite most of my needs. Beyond all this, it is great for low-light because of the 12MP sensor and the fast frame rate makes it excellent for sports. My first impressions are after the jump.

Admittedly, I’m a Canon photographer. I use a 5D Mk II and have never regretted the choice. So using a Nikon is a bit different for me. I’ve done it before, but the D3s is so extremely feature-packed that there is a lot to get in that I’ve seen while at Photography Bay. As is standard, there is going to be lots of comparisons against Canon with this camera.

As the successor to the much loved Nikon D3, this camera pushes the limits in terms of ISO usability, adding an HD video mode and a couple of other features. New to the camera are some new crop modes. There is now the option of shooting full frame, 1.2x, DX (1.5x) and the 5:4 ratio. In Live View, this looks something like a 640×480 video ratio.

You should know that this camera is built like a tank. My mentor, John Williams of New York Newsday uses it. He’s got his own story to prove it in the previous link.

The Nikon D3s is being tested with the 24-70mm F2.8 ED lens. It’s quite lovely, but it’s something that I need to get used to as I’m so used to using my Canon 24-105mm F4 L IS, a lens that you can get from me when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

I’m going to get rid of the minor things before we start shooting and that’s what this posting is about. The D3s comes with a very interesting charger. It can charge more than one battery at one time but the way all the information is displayed is very different than what I’m used to. No matter, it is still effective. As is the toughness to ensure that your batteries could never fall out of the camera. Ditto for the CF cards.

The grip will take getting used to. I’m used to the more protruding grip of the 5D Mk II and other cameras like the 1D Mk IV. These are minor things though, it’s just a preference of comfort and this can change with anyone’s hands as well as adaptability.

The D3s has a big, bright, beautiful viewfinder. This will surely help whenever I’m shooting, especially since I’m a visually impaired photographer and part of Blind Photographers.

Something that I find a bit of an interesting choice is the placement of the ISO and White Balance buttons. I feel that I won’t be able to change them unless my eye leaves the viewfinder. Perhaps some muscle memory may change this, but the buttons are at the bottom of the LCD screen and below a smaller screen meant to display information.

The placement of the on/off switch is right by the shutter release. I’ve heard complaints before that it leads users to easily turn their camera off. So far, I’ve had no complaints. To be fair, Canon’s are placed on the back and towards the bottom so that no one will mess with it. Either one makes sense and I can see the logistical and design reasons in their placement.

Live View on this camera is wonderful. It’s done with the simple push of a button, but the way it just looks on the D3s is beautiful. To be honest though, I’ve been very critical of Nikon’s 24p video mode as I’ve seen lots of jello in it. Well see if that has improved or not with further tests.

Expect days and days worth of reports.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.