UPDATE: Read our full Nikon D3s review
As with all professional camera releases from Nikon, the weeks and sometimes months leading up to a launch can spew out all manner of conjecture about what new product the camera company is going to bring to market.
This is both a blessing and a curse for Nikon, as not only does it builds people's expectations up (obviously a good thing), sometimes the expectations are so high (definitely a bad thing) that even if they started giving their cameras away for free, some pro photographers will be left wanting.
Enter the Nikon D3S, possibly the most revolutionary camera ever when it comes to low-light shooting. But its movie shooting capabilities will have people wanting more.
From the off, the camera is built around the company's D3 chassis. This is no bad thing, as the company created something in the D3 which photographers love – both when it comes to its durability (it's made from a strong but lightweight magnesium alloy) but also the ergonomics.
It's a body which will take all you throw at it, whether it's the dust of a safari, mud of a football match or sweat of a pushy celebrity. And this can only be a good thing.
Tweaks have been made to the exterior, but these are mostly button related. You now have a dedicated Live View button, which gives access to two Live View modes. Also found here is a zoom function, adding that extra layer of functionality to an already fine feature.
There's also a Quiet Shutter release now available on the Mode dial, which allows for non-intrusive shooting, just in case you happen to be in a wildlife situation which demands quiet.
As for the shape of the buttons, the ASF-on button has been made much smoother and the battery changer has been re-designed. While these are undeniably small tweaks, they make a big difference. This is because they have been designed with the outdoor photographer in mind, and have been made glove friendly.
The majority of new features the D3S brings to the table are within the chassis. As we touched upon before, the Nikon D3S has upped the ante so much when it comes to the ISO range that it won't be long before cameras are able to see in the dark without the use of night vision.
The D3S holds an ISO range of ISO 200 to ISO 12800 (expandable to 102400 (Hi3)). This means that you can now take shots of subjects in near darkness. Essentially, the camera will pick out subjects the human eye can't see in the dark. And while this does bring about a fair amount of grain – though not as much as you would expect – it's a fantastic feat and one that has set a benchmark for other camera manufacturers to follow.
It also means that for the first-time with a Nikon pro camera, you will be able to shoot night-time photography without the aide of a tripod. This handheld night-time shooting option is something that Sony is also boasting about in its new Alpha range of cameras, so it would be nice to compare and contrast the two together.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to check out the ISO range ourselves, but looking at a specially shot video (yes you can shoot video on this ISO range) and some photography, the results were impressive to say the least.
The reason Nikon can broach such ISO levels is all down to the heart of the camera – its sensor. The company has decided to completely re-design the way this chip takes in light, adding new micro lenses which improves signal-to-noise ratio and widens the camera's dynamic range capabilities.
The sensor itself is 12.1MP. While this is nowhere near the dizzy heights of 24.5MP the D3X brought to the table it is the same as the more-than capable D3.