Field Review: Nikon D3s (Day 6)

The Nikon D3s coupled with the 24-70mm F2.8 ED is a combo that is most likely already popular amongst wedding photographers. If you haven’t seen weddings shot with it before, know that you’ll be in good hands. I took a trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City the other day and tested the camera out in the darkest area of the church. My findings are within the post.

There are a couple of things that a wedding photographer worries about when it comes to their gear: high ISO output, autofocusing, discreteness, reliability, and toughness. With the exception of discreteness, the D3s tackles all of these well.

My problem with the D3s is the obnoxiously loud shutter sound that I get from it. Despite the fact that it didn’t annoy the people around me very much, others may be. I’ve seen lots of people turn their heads when a photographer’s shutter is very loud. On top of this, churches are designed so that sounds will reverberate and echo. It sounds like a machine gun, we as humans are instinctively supposed to see what’s going on. I wish the shutter were quieter. The D300s has a relatively quiet shutter and is something that can be lived with for a photographer.

Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to the 5D Mk II’s shutter though.

Autofocusing on this camera could not be any better. Nikon is surely at the top of their game when it comes to this feature. You’ll be able to reliably shoot in horrible lighting conditions with near ease. I’m tempted to say that you’ll never miss a shot but I know for a fact that it does happen with this camera despite it being rare.

This also comes in handy when you’re shooting random objects of interest at the wedding that the clients will appreciate as filler.

Some of the hardest things I’ve had to photograph during a wedding were perhaps the people coming down the isle. Since this camera is meant for sports, the focusing system tracks subjects moving along very well. Otherwise, the lighting at a reception can totally mess with a camera’s focusing abilities. I didn’t get the opportunity to test it out in such extremes yet.

High ISO output is top notch due to the 12MP sensor. You’ll get little noise and you can breathe easy because your post processing will have one less step for some of it. Here are some samples down below.

D3s ISO 3200

D3s ISO 4000

D3s ISO 5000

D3s ISO 6400

D3s ISO 8000

D3s ISO 10000

D3s ISO 12800

In this case, there is once again no need to pixel peep. Unless you’re shooting a wedding for a photographer, I highly doubt that your clients will be looking that deeply into your photos. Most will probably just share them on the web or make small prints, the largest perhaps being an 8×10. This should be more than enough for such a task.

That leads me onto reliability and toughness of the camera. It can’t get any tougher on the Nikon front with the exception of the D3x. The D3s is built like a tank and my mentor can second that fact.

As this is the closest that I’ve come to shooting a wedding with the Nikon D3s, I can so far go into it saying that I would surely use it along with the necessary equipment. Despite the fact that it may put you back a couple (well, lots of) pennies you’ll have an investment for some time to come.

Coming up, testing out the cameras at PAX East.

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Chris Gampat

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