Nikon D3S

Nikon D3S front
  • 12MP - Full frame Sensor
  • 3" Fixed Screen
  • ISO 200 - 12800 (Bump to 102400)
  • 1/8000s Max Shutter
  • 1280 x 720 video
  • Nikon F Mount
  • 1240g - 160 x 157 x 88mm
  • Launched February 2010
  • Previous Model is Nikon D3
  • Replacement is Nikon D4
  • Read full specs
  • Alternatives
  • Lenses
  • Size Comparison
  • FAQ

Nikon D3S summary

Nikon D3S is Nikon's Pro DSLR digital camera first introduced on February of 2010. It houses a 12 MegaPixel, CMOS Full frame size sensor with a max resolution of 4256 x 2832.

Nikon launched this model in order to update the older Nikon D3 (Read Full Comparison) and then introduced the newer Nikon D4 (Read Full Comparison) in order to replace this model.

The D3S stands at #14 out of 35 in Pro DSLR cameras and over all #330 out of 1465 for digital cameras in our database. You should use our Smart camera finder to get camera listings based on your personal factors.

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The following is a graph of various factors used in the rating system.

Nikon D3S history

The Nikon D3S is part of a family of digital cameras. You can see the complete list underneath.

ModelVisualizeResolutionSensor SizeMax fpsReleased
Nikon-D6 front thumbnailNikon D6
D3S vs D6
21MPFull frame14.0 fps2020
Nikon-D5 front thumbnailNikon D5
D3S vs D5
21MPFull frame14.0 fps2016
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Nikon-D4s front thumbnailNikon D4s
D3S vs D4s
16MPFull frame11.0 fps2014
Nikon-D4 front thumbnailNikon D4
D3S vs D4
16MPFull frame11.0 fps2012
Nikon-D3S front thumbnailNikon D3S12MPFull frame11.0 fps2010
Nikon-D3X front thumbnailNikon D3X
D3S vs D3X
25MPFull frame5.0 fps2009
Photography Glossary
Nikon-D3 front thumbnailNikon D3
D3S vs D3
12MPFull frame11.0 fps2008

Nikon D3S Pros and Cons

Here is a checklist of pros and cons of the Nikon D3S based on aspects which are normally considered crucial in a digital camera.

builtin Top LCD screen
change lenses (Nikon F mount)
good battery pack (4,200 shots)
has dual storage slots
high shutter speed (1/8,000s)
includes HDMI support
nice clear screen (921 k dot)
nice screen size (3 inch)
provides tracking autofocus
sensor has phase detect auto focus
sensor size is great (Full frame)
supports RAW files
weather proof
you can focus manually
doesn't have external microphone jack
doesn't have headphone jack
does not contain selfie friendly screen
fixed screen
low video resolution (1280 x 720 resolution)
no image stabilization
sensor resolution not great (12 megapixels)
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Nikon D3S Sensor specs

The Nikon D3S features the Expeed processor. The sensor measurement in the Nikon D3S is 36mm x 23.9mm (Full frame). The 860 mm² sensor has the ability to capture 4256 x 2832 pixels with aspect ratios of 5:4 and 3:2.

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The CMOS sensor boasts 12 megapixels and delivers a standard ISO range of 200 - 12800. The ISO can also be extended electronically to 100 - 102400. RAW photos are supported therefore you have more room to maneuver in post.

The picture underneath illustrates the D3S's sensor size in comparison to other popular sizes. The D3S sensor comes with a crop factor of 1 and is shown in green.

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To get a sense of different aspect ratios, you should refer to the graphic below.

Camera sensor aspect ratios

Nikon D3S dimensions

Nikon D3S has a weight of 2.73 lbs (1,240g or 43.74 ounces) and features external size of 160mm x 157mm x 88mm (6.3" x 6.2" x 3.5"). The weight of typical Pro DSLR camera is 1,280g so the Nikon D3S is very much the same when compared to other rivals.

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Down below is a shot of the Nikon D3S next to a soft drink to help you have a feel for its size.

Nikon D3S dimensions scale

The top view just below will show you the button layout on the D3S.

Nikon D3S topview buttons dials

Nikon D3S Lens details

The D3S works with the Nikon F mount and has 315 lenses available to buy. Here is some of the lenses we have in our database that will work with the D3S.

ModelVisualizeFocal LengthApertureStabilizedWeight
Sigma-18-200mm-F3.5-6.3-DC-Nikon-F-DX lensSigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DC18-200mmf/3.5-6.3 405g
Zeiss-Milvus-15mm-F2.8-Nikon-F-FX lensZeiss Milvus 15mm F2.815mmf/2.8947g
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Tamron-AF-18-250mm-F3.5-6.3-Di-II-LD-Aspherical-IF-Macro-Nikon-F-DX lensTamron AF 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 Di II LD Aspherical IF Macro18-250mmf/3.5-6.3 430g
Samyang-135mm-F2.0-ED-UMC-Nikon-F-FX lensSamyang 135mm F2.0 ED UMC135mmf/2830g
Nikon-AF-Nikkor-18-35mm-f3.5-4.5D-IF-ED lensNikon AF Nikkor 18-35mm f3.5-4.5D IF ED18-35mmf/3.5-4.5 370g
Sigma-10-20mm-F4-5.6-EX-DC-HSM-Nikon-F-DX lensSigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM10-20mmf/4.0-5.6 470g
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Nikon-AF-S-Micro-Nikkor-105mm-f2.8G-IF-ED-VR lensNikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8G IF-ED VR105mmf/2.8 720g
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Nikon D3S Connectivity

The D3S has the following connectivity:

  • USB Yes
  • HDMI Yes
  • GPS Yes

Digital cameras that include NFC and Bluetooth connectivity are able to be used wirelessly via smartphones. You will be able to transfer images and at times adjust settings without connecting directly with the camera.

A few apps also provide a Liveview and hit the shutter whenever you are not close to the camera. If the camera includes a HDMI out, it can easily be attached to an external display. A good number of cameras enable you to charge the battery pack through the USB port.

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Nikon D3S Video details

The max video resolution in the Nikon D3S is 1280 x 720 and it can save in Motion JPEG file format. 720p is terrible by today's requirements. You should really strive for a minimum 1080p resolution for decent video. The body does not have a mic and headphone socket which means that you get zero control over your audio. It is probably best to consider an alternative model in case you need better audio in your videos.

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Nikon D3S Weather Sealing

Nikon D3S features weather proofing making it a very good option to use in tricky climates. This is particularly valuable if you are not sure about the elements you might encounter in outdoor photography.

Nikon D3S Screen and Viewfinder

The Nikon D3S is equipped with a 3" fixed screen with a resolution of 921k dots.

Please note that the screen offers no touch support. The D3S also comes with a Top LCD screen so its possible to instantly view camera settings.

Nikon D3S screen and viewfinder Body cameras now worn by bakery staff to deter stealing

The View Finder details regarding Nikon D3S are the following:

  • ViewFinder Optical (pentaprism)
  • ViewFinder Coverage 100 percent
  • ViewFinder Magnification 0.7x

Viewfinders can be very beneficial in sunny outdoor situations which might make the camera screen washed out and very difficult to view.

Nikon D3S Shutter details

Nikon D3S has the ability to shoot continuously at 11.0 fps. The maximum shutter speed is 1/8000 seconds.

Photography Glossary

Nikon D3S Flash and Hot shoe details

Nikon D3S has got external flash support but with no built-in flash. The maximum flash sync is 1/250 seconds.

Nikon D3S Autofocusing details

Nikon D3S has got both Phase Detect Autofocus and Contrast Detect Autofocus. Phase Detection autofocusing is more quicker and exact than Contrast Detect autofocusing.

It supports 51 focus points to select from. It also boasts Tracking Autofocus for subjects on the move. Nikon D3S has got manual focus when needed in low light conditions or you want to have more precise focus control.

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Nikon D3S Battery life

The battery pack (EN-EL4a) in the Nikon D3S is fashioned to last for 4200 images based on the CIPA benchmarks making it higher than standard in comparison to its class. The usual Pro DSLR camera battery life is 2438. Nikon D3X comes with the maximum (4400) battery life in this group of cameras.

Underneath is a collection of Pro DSLR cameras which have the highest battery life:

ModelVisualizeBattery LifeRAWNFCBluetooth
Nikon-D3X front thumbnailNikon D3X
D3S vs D3X
4400 yesnono
Nikon-D3 front thumbnailNikon D3
D3S vs D3
4300 yesnono
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Nikon-D3S front thumbnailNikon D3S4200 yesnono
Nikon-D5 front thumbnailNikon D5
D3S vs D5
3780 yesnono
Nikon-D6 front thumbnailNikon D6
D3S vs D6
3580 yesnoyes

Nikon D3S for various kinds of photography

The following bar chart gives a summary of the Nikon D3S for various kinds of photography. To see more, go to the specific paragraph underneath.

Nikon D3S Portrait photography information

The Nikon D3S receives a points total of 64 which is very good, and means the camera is a very decent pick to use for portrait images. Photographing portrait images favors greatly towards sensor dimensions, RAW support & potential to work with off-camera flash.

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focusing manually
sensor size is big (Full frame)
supports RAW files
sensor resolution low (12 megapixels)

Nikon D3S Street photography factors

Coming in at a moderate points total of 55, the Nikon D3S is somewhat suitable for street photography. A good street photography camera gives a good balance of image quality plus portability.

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large sensor size (Full frame)
saves RAW files
weather proof
screen does not articulate
does not have image stabilization

Sports photography with Nikon D3S

A above average sports photography rating of 66 means the Nikon D3S is a good fit for photographing sports. A camera needs to have excellent autofocus plus shutter speeds for sports photography.

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high shutter speed (1/8,000s)
big sensor size (Full frame)
supports tracking autofocus
weather proof
great battery power (4,200 per charge)
comes with phase detect auto focus
no image stabilization
low resolution (12 megapixels)

Nikon D3S Travel photography features

Portability is really critical in picking a travel camera. All things considered, the Nikon D3S gets a moderate 51 for a travelling camera which makes it fairly suitable to buy for your journeys.

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better than average battery (4,200 per charge)
weather sealing
resolution not great (12 megapixels)
doesn't contain selfie friendly display

Landscape photography with Nikon D3S

If you find yourself looking to pick a digital camera for landscape photography, the most significant factor is going to be image quality. The Nikon D3S and it's nice rating of 67 for a landscape camera is a respectable choice within the current marketplace.

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focusing manually
swap lenses (Nikon F mount)
decent sized screen (3 inches)
sensor size is large (Full frame)
supports RAW files
environment sealing
great battery pack (4,200 CIPA)
has dual storage slots
lack of image stabilization
MP count low (12MP)

Vlogging with Nikon D3S

A camera for vlogging preferably should offer a articulating display, mic input and preferably image stabilization. Considering all things, the Nikon D3S is not suitable for vlogging as it gets a lousy score of 15.

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does not have a selfie friendly display
lack of image stabilization
video quality not great (1280 x 720 resolution)
does not have external mic socket

Nikon D3S Alternatives

If you are interested in alternatives to the D3S, below is a range of the top placed cameras that fall in to the category of Pro DSLR.

The diagram listed below shows you an overview of the D3S vs it's highest scored competitors shown above.

These are some more cameras you may take into account as alternatives. To review a complete comparison, visit the "compare" link.

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General Information
Nikon D3S
Body design
Large SLR
Sensor Information
Sensor type
Sensor size
Full frame
Sensor measurements
36 x 23.9mm
Sensor area
Sensor resolution
12 megapixels
Anti aliasing filter
Aspect ratio
5:4 and 3:2
Highest Possible resolution
4256 x 2832
RAW support
Maximum native ISO
Maximum enhanced ISO
Lowest native ISO
Lowest enhanced ISO
Manual focus
Touch focus
Continuous autofocus
Single autofocus
Tracking autofocus
Selective autofocus
Center weighted autofocus
Autofocus multi area
Autofocus live view
Face detection focus
Contract detection focus
Phase detection focus
Number of focus points
Cross focus points
Lens mount
Nikon F
Amount of lenses
Crop factor
Screen type
Fixed Type
Screen diagonal
3 inch
Resolution of screen
921k dot
Selfie friendly
Touch functionality
Screen tech
Low-temperature polysilicon TFT color LCD
Viewfinder Information
Optical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage
100 percent
Viewfinder magnification
DXO scores
DXO Overall score
DXO Color Depth score
DXO Dynamic range score
DXO Low light score
Min shutter speed
Max shutter speed
Continuous shutter speed
Shutter priority
Aperture priority
Manually set exposure
Exposure compensation
Set white balance
Image stabilization
Built-in flash
Flash range
no built-in flash
Flash modes
Front curtain, Rear curtain, Red-Eye, Slow Sync
Hot shoe
AE bracketing
White balance bracketing
Max flash sync
Multisegment exposure
Average exposure
Spot exposure
Partial exposure
AF area exposure
Center weighted exposure
Video features
Video resolutions
1280 x 720 (24 fps), 640 x 424 (24 fps), 320 x 216 (24 fps)
Maximum video resolution
Video data format
Motion JPEG
Microphone input
Headphone input
USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
Environment seal
Water proof
Dust proof
Shock proof
Crush proof
Freeze proof
1240g (2.73 lbs)
160 x 157 x 88mm (6.3" x 6.2" x 3.5")
Battery life
4200 images
Battery format
Battery Pack
Battery model
Self timer
Yes (2 to 20 sec)
Time lapse feature
Type of storage
Compact Flash (Type I or II) x 2, UDMA
Storage slots
Pricing at release