New ‘see-in-the-dark’ Nikon D3s

So Nikon announced their revised D3, the D3s yesterday, and although the response on some of the posts to the D1scussion forum (the calmest, most rational, and possibly least hyped photography discussion board on the web) was distinctly muted, I’m pretty excited – which isn’t to say I’ll actually buy one at this point…

D3s - photo from Nikon's website

D3s - photo from Nikon's website

Two and half years ago I was seriously looking at switching to Canon, as their image quality on the 5D and 1DMk2 were so far ahead of the D2X I was working on (still a great camera, just hopeless beyond 640ISO – bit like film in fact…).  I was a little wobbly about forking out £10k or more on a completely new set of glass and lighting, and thankfully was indecisive long enough for Nikon to bring out the D3 and D700, which were both, in their own way, game changers for Nikon users.  I’ve found I’m getting usable and sometimes stunning images from both these cameras (they basically use the same imaging technology in different size bodies) in near-darkness – certainly for conferences, round-tables, internal unlit portraits and my occasional weddings, they are both astonishingly good cameras.  They have their little foibles – I really don’t like the D700’s pop-up flash, as it makes the top of the camera feel much more vulnerable – I’d certainly have bought a non-flash version, as I often use it with just an ancient 35mm f2 lens as a rove-around, low-profile camera, and I’d feel a lot safer with a solid prism. And, despite Nikon insisting its normal, I’ve found the D3 the most dust-prone camera I’ve ever used. But, for the first time, I’m looking at holding onto these bodies for longer than my normal two year investment cycle on digital bodies, as there’s nothing major that I’m desperate to change or improve.

D3s/D3x microsite - from Nikon's website

D3s/D3x microsite - from Nikon's website

So, why am I still excited about the D3s? Well, its another step up in low-light photography – it adds (apparently) about a stop to sensitivity, so instead of shooting comfortably at 2000 iso, and often up to 3200 without any problems, I should be able to shoot at 4000 and up to 6400, and still be getting the quality.  Its not everday I want or need to do that, but it happens often enough that increasing the rate of sharp, correctly exposed and really usable images would be a real bonus. It also shows that Nikon are listening (at least a little) to what photographers doing the kind of work I’m doing are asking for and are interested in. I don’t think or feel that I need more mega pixels – no-one I work for is pushing for them, and I’m getting full double page spreads in glossies very happily from the D3 files. What I do want is (even more) quality from those files – and that’s what this gives.

The other thing that I just saw mentioned in passing is that there’s a quiet shutter release option. The D3 is a very noisy camera – the clunk is enough to turn heads in a quiet room – and in sensitive situations I’ll often switch to the D700 just for the quieter shutter, so this certainly sounds appealing.

I’m not so interested in video, though I know I probably should be, and I’ll get into it at some point, but its good that its there (probably) – it looks as though the Canon still has the lead on this for image quality though.

The reason I won’t be getting a D3s now though (apart from the £4200 price tag – only just less than I paid for the D3 and D700 together…) is that the D3 and D700 are just so good already. Which doesn’t seem like a bad reason at all…

There’s lots of comment and reviews around – dpreview is always solid in its reporting, and full of interesting technical insights.