Product Reviews: Nikon D3s & AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II

Nikon's latest pro DSLR and zoom lens are a winning combination.

Jan 8, 2010
By Dan Havlik

Prod Review Nikon D3s

Though Nikon's new 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens is shorter than the previous version, it's a couple of ounces heavier. We, however, preferred the more even profile of the new model to its predecessor.
When I first heard about the D3s—Nikon's highly anticipated follow-up to its well-regarded D3 digital SLR—back in October I was, to put it mildly, underwhelmed. Though Nikon claimed the full-frame sensor in the D3s had been redesigned from the previous chip, it still sported the same 12.1-megapixel resolution, while the camera itself had basically the same feature set and appearance.

The two "big ticket" items on the D3s were that it could shoot at ISOs of up to an unimaginable level of ISO 102,400 while offering a built-in HD movie feature with some much more imaginable specs: 720p (1280 x 720) and 24fps in the Motion JPEG format.

Ho-hum.

It wasn't until I paired a prototype D3s with a prototype AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 ED VR II during a memorable trip to the circus in late October that I really began to understand how effective this camera could be for a variety of uses: sports, photojournalism, weddings, celebrity photography, concerts, circuses (!) and a whole host of other applications.

Along with getting some very decent results at ISO 12,800 and somewhat usable images at the ultra-high ISOs—even 102,400—I found I could shoot comfortably with the D3s at ISO 3200-6400 with little fear of noise. Also, with the same 9 frames per second shooting speed but more than double the buffer of the D3, the D3s was easily able to keep up with the circus action.

When final camera and lens test samples came in, the first thing I did was loan them to a neighbor of mine, portrait photographer Jordan Matter (www.jordanmatter.com), who is an owner of both the D3 and the previous version of the 70-200mm lens. Jordan's been generally happy with his Nikon camera and lens but he's been in the market for new gear, and the new Nikons were at the top of his list.

As soon as Jordan was done shooting, I managed to pry the gear out of his hands and hopped on a plane to Seattle to shoot the final game of the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup with the D3s and 70-200mm VR II.

Here's what Jordan and I found out about this unexpectedly exciting new DSLR and lens from Nikon.



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