Nikon D3S: First Images

We took the Nikon D3S to the circus to see just how good it is in low light.

Nikon gave a group of journalists gathered in New York City for the annual Photo Plus Expo an opportunity to try out their recently announced D3S 12.1MP full frame DSLR by shooting a dress rehearsal of the Big Apple Circus in Lincoln Center. Here are some shots captured by Popular Photography's technical editor Philip Ryan.

All shots were captured with a preproduction sample of the D3S, so it is quite possible that Nikon will tweak the camera's firmware further before the final version is released to the public. Also, no post processing was done by Mr. Ryan after taking the shots, so while some resizing was done to make this gallery, the images are, otherwise, as they came out of the camera as JPEGs. These were not processed from RAW files.

Bello1

Bello1

Bello the clown loves to show off for the camera. Though the unique lighting situation in the aisle left Bello well underexposed, the powerful AF assist light of a nearby photographer with a D300s acted as fill light and creating a nice shadow of the water on his cheek. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 95mm at f/5.6, 1/30 second, ISO 6400, with VR enabled and elbows resting on chair back.Philip Ryan
Bello1cropped100

Bello1cropped100

ISO 6400 Cropped 100%Philip Ryan
BelloTrampoline1

BelloTrampoline1

Bello might look worried in mid flip, but he definitely knows what he’s doing. The D3S’s 9fps burst made capturing this shot much easier. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 135mm at f/5.6, 1/320 second, ISO 6400, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
BelloTrampoline1-100

BelloTrampoline1-100

ISO 6400 Cropped 100%
BelloWheelofDeath

BelloWheelofDeath

When walking in a circular cage that’s spinning around on a huge metal contraption, never let a clown get behind you. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 200mm at f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO 25,600, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
BelloWheelofDeath-100

BelloWheelofDeath-100

ISO 25,600 Cropped 100%Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus1

BigAppleCircus1

Before the show began, the delicate lighting gave a perfect opportunity to show the noise that comes along with ISO 102,400. Even at a small size, you can see it, especially along the edge of the ring and in the half-lit seats, but given how high the sensitivity is, we’re impressed. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoomed to 24mm at f/9, 1/320 second, ISO 102,400, handheld.Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus1-100

BigAppleCircus1-100

ISO 102,400 Cropped 100%Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus2

BigAppleCircus2

At the D3S’s top standard sensitivity of ISO 12,800, there’s surprisingly little noise, and an impressive amount of detail in this shot of the performer’s entrance to the ring. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoomed to 42mm at f/8, 1/50 second, ISO 12,800, handheld.Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus2-100

BigAppleCircus2-100

ISO 12,800 Cropped 100%Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus4.jpg
Wanting to get enough depth of field for the ringmaster and other performer, as well as Bello and the other clown named Grandma, I took advantage of the D3S’s high ISO to use a small enough aperture, while maintaining a fast enough shutter speed to stop the clowns as they bounced on the bungee cords. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoomed to 32mm at f/16, 1/250 second, ISO 12,800, handheld.Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus4-100

BigAppleCircus4-100

ISO 12,800 Cropped 100%Philip Ryan
BigAppleHorn

BigAppleHorn

Though you might not have noticed in the other shots, the big Apple Circus has a live band up atop the sign on the arch of the performer’s entrance to the ring. The bandleader sits near the front, while the rest of the band is hidden behind the sign. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 200mm at f/5.6, 1/320 second, ISO 6400, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
BigAppleHorn-100

BigAppleHorn-100

ISO 6400 Crop 100%Philip Ryan
DogSplit1

DogSplit1

In one of the stranger moments of the show, this woman kicked up her leg so that the dog could jump between it and the other leg, which was stretched straight out in front of her. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 70mm at f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO 6400, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
DogSplit1-100

DogSplit1-100

ISO 6400 Crop 100%Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus5

BigAppleCircus5

Panning along while bursting, the D3S’s 3D Focus Tracking did a nice job of keeping the horses in focus and led to an out of the ordinary composition (with the rider’s head cut off) that puts the attention on the word circus in the sign and, even more so, on the horses. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED zoomed to 48mm at f/6.3, 1/400 second, ISO 12,800, handheld.Philip Ryan
BigAppleCircus5-100

BigAppleCircus5-100

ISO 12,800 Crop 100%Philip Ryan
Grandma1

Grandma1

Providing plenty of comic relief through out the show, Grandma the clown kept the program moving along and kept the audience in good spirits. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 70mm at f/14, 1/100 second, ISO 12,800, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
Grandma1-100

Grandma1-100

ISO 12,800 Crop 100%Philip Ryan
RingmasterAndGrandma1

RingmasterAndGrandma1

Here, Grandma impersonates Bello while the ringmaster looks on amused. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 140mm at f/5.6, 1/320 second, ISO 6400, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
RingmasterAndGrandma1-100

RingmasterAndGrandma1-100

ISO 6400 Crop 100%Philip Ryan
Trapeze1

Trapeze1

This frame came from a long burst in which I panned along as the trapeze artist flipped through the air and his partner caught him. The D3S’s 3D focus tracking again came through for a reasonably sharp shot even at such a high sensitivity. Shot with pre-production Nikon D3S, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VRII zoomed to 200mm at f/5.6, 1/800 second, ISO 12,800, handheld with VR enabled.Philip Ryan
Trapeze1-100

Trapeze1-100

ISO 12,800 Crop 100%Philip Ryan