Testing the Nikon D3s: Sample Images

Oct 21, 2009
By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

Nikon hosted over a dozen journalists at a dress rehearsal of the Big Apple Circus last night to test out "close-to-final" sample units of the new Nikon D3s digital SLR. I took part in the event and found the tricky, dimly lit conditions and fast moving circus performers (both human and animal) to be ideal for putting this speedy, high ISO (102,400 max!) DSLR through its paces.

Below are six full-resolution images from last night's performance. There's also a short HD video clip. (If you are using Safari and are having problems viewing this video, Option+Click here to download the video.) None of the images, which are all high-resolution JPEGs, has been enhanced though some have been slightly cropped. The same goes for the video.

According to Nikon, the D3s cameras we tested out were "finals" in terms of image quality though they were still works-in-progress "cosmetically." (I never could tell exactly what Nikon meant by that.)

During the circus, I shot with a Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, and the brand new Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II. (Of the three, that new 70-200mm was my favorite. Looking forward to testing it out some more at a later date.)

I deliberately shot almost all my images at ISO 6400 and above but used the ultra-high ISO 25,600, 51,200, and 102,400 settings only sparingly. For me, the real test of this camera was in the standard ISO 6400-12,800 range. (Yes, "standard.")

Where those sort of ISO levels might have seemed like a joke or a misprint in the past, with the D3s they produced very usable and occasionally spectacular results. The H1, H2, and H3 settings were, understandably, much more hit or miss. But to get any "hits" at those eye-popping ISO levels really is a remarkable achievement.

Click on each web-sized image below to open a full resolution JPEG.

ISO 12,800,1/500th, f/2.8, 135mm (click to enlarge image)

ISO 12,800,1/160th, f/6.3, 70mm (click to enlarge image.)

ISO 12,800,1/640th, f/2.8, 70mm (click to enlarge image.)

ISO 6400,1/100th, f/5, 48mm (click to enlarge image.)

ISO 25,600,1/6400th, f/2.8, 200mm (click to enlarge image.)

ISO 102,400,1/4000th, f/2.8, 70mm (click to enlarge image.)

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