No question, as the first camera with ISO 102,400 to hit the market, Nikon’s new D3S ($5,200, body only) is a groundbreaking achievement. Canon’s announcement that its upcoming EOS-1D Mark IV ($5,000, body only) will match that sensitivity only underscores the significance of Nikon’s accomplishment.
But the super-high ISO is only part of the appeal of the D3S. Its outstanding color reproduction, accurate and fast autofocus and AF tracking, fast full-frame 12.1MP CMOS sensor, and 9-frames-per-second burst shooting make it one of the most powerful imaging tools available. The results of our battery of tests in the Pop Photo Lab earn the D3S an Extremely High rating for overall image quality from ISO 100 through ISO 800. Why not Excellent? Its resolution score of 2330 lines doesn’t quite make our new standard, 2500, for the top rating. But it still turned in a great result for a camera with a 12.1MP sensor.
Color accuracy earned an Excellent rating with a superb score of 6.24. The lower the number the better on this measure, as is also the case for noise and autofocus speed.
The D3S turned in similarly impressive results in AF speed. In the brightest part of our test, it focused in 0.29 sec, gradually slowing to 0.97 sec in the dimmest level of our test, EV –2.
Noise didn’t reach Unacceptable until ISO 12,800. Even more impressive: It scored our top rating of Extremely Low all the way up to ISO 400.
Of course, at ISO 102,400 noise was quite heavy. But, because we test RAW files converted to uncompressed TIFFs at the manufacturer’s default noisereduction settings, there’s plenty of room to turn up the NR and bring noise down to acceptable levels at ISO 12,800. (This image, shot with a preproduction D3S, not our test model, was processed using more noise reduction than our test images.)