LIST PRICE: $5,199 (body only)
The new D3S’s powerful EXPEED processor accelerates camera performance, enhances image quality and makes HD video possible. As with the D3 and D3X, you can select 12- or 14-bit A/D conversion, and the processing pipeline is 16-bit. Like the D3, the D3S is super-quick, starting up in 0.12 seconds, with a mere 0.04-second shutter lag.
The new D3S features the same rugged build as the D3, with a magnesium-alloy body, external cover, chassis and mirror box. Comprehensive sealing provides excellent protection against moisture, dust and even electromagnetic interference. The shutter has been tested to 300,000 cycles and even re-calibrates itself as it ages.
Like the D3 and D3X, the FX-format (full-frame) D3S can take all AF-Nikkor lenses, even those designed for the smaller DX (APS-C) format. When a DX lens is attached, the camera automatically crops to DX format, producing 5.1-megapixel images (and upping the maximum shooting rate).
Also like the D3 and D3X, the D3S provides two Live-View AF modes: Quick, which uses the camera’s standard speedy phase-detection AF, but momentarily disrupts the live view during focusing; and Tripod, which uses contrast-based AF off the image sensor and doesn’t disrupt the live view. There’s now a handy Live View button on the camera back that makes it much easier to enter live view (and now video) shooting.
VERDICT: Move over D3 and D700, there’s a new high-ISO image-quality king.
For half the cost of the D3S, you can get the D700, which offers the same pixel count, AF and metering systems and excellent image quality in a smaller, lighter (albeit less rugged) package. You give up the video and some shooting speed (the D700 tops out at 5 fps), and ISO goes “only” to 25,600, but you save $2,500.
The D3X is Nikon’s top-of-the-line, “do-it-all” camera, with a 24.5-megapixel, full-frame sensor and a 5 fps top shooting rate. You get the same rugged body, superb image quality and shooting features as the D3S (but no video feature) for $7,999.