Shot in the Dark: Now possible with the new Nikon D3s / Real World Review – Part 1

The other night in NYC, Nikon took a bunch of us over to a secret location to have a few hours with the new Nikon D3s.
As we had a bite to eat in Mid-Town Manhattan, they kept the “test facility” identity under wraps.

We walked onto the street and only a few blocks from the restaurant was Lincoln Center, and the temporary home of the Big Apple Circus!

With an ISO range up 102,400, and and some of the latest, fastest lenses available, the Big Apple Circus under the big top at Lincoln Center was a perfect place to get our hands on the latest Nikon D3s and some awesome new lenses, like the latest 70-200, 2.8. Plus they had the added bonus of mics, and a redrock micro shoulder brace rig, to get a taste of the HD video capabilities

Not only would we get dramatic, extreme light swings, but the action would be quick and moving all over the center ring and way into the rafters.
No problem.
Using the best features of this camera, we were able to shoot action, like never before:

ISO 12,800 – 1/2000s-f/2.8, 300mm f/2.8

Detail: lots of crisp texture in the fabric, and an undistorted ball, in a frozen moment.

ISO 12,800 – 1/1000s-f/4.5, 300mm f/2.8


When you are shooting with a long lens, and trying to catch the action, of course you want to use a fast shutter speed and choose your aperture wisely.
Trying to follow some of this action, as we had telephotos lenses on tripods, was a challenge since it was the first time we were seeing these acts and had no idea where the action would move.
Using auto ISO, and going between a chosen shutter speed for the action acts, which were most of them, we were able to not only capture the moment but have a sufficient aperture to give us a space to place the action in.

ISO 4500 – 1/200s-f/2.8, 70mm (70-200mm- f/2.8)

But it’s not just about the action.
The latest sensor, processor and software from Nikon, lets you take full advantage of the extra bandwidth, so to speak.
The subtlety of tones and colors within an image, are separated and distinct, giving you a whole new depth to your photographs.

ISO 4000- 1/200s-f/2.8, 200mm (70-200mm f/2.8)


ISO 12,800 – 1/1250s- f/2.8, 300mm f/2.8


And when you do take advantage of the full 102,400 ISO you can get a image that maintains a crispness in the light and a subtle detail to the shadow. Check this shot out, including 2 additional crops:

ISO 102,400 – 1/250s-f/5, 300mm f/2.8


And even tighter crop

So you can see, that even with some intense reframing in post, you can get an incredible quality.
By the way, this is just a jpeg, converted for the web. NO adjustment other than cropping has been made.

And here is an image at straight up ISO 12,800 :

ISO 1250 – 1/60s-f/10, 95mm (70-200mm- f/2.8)

By the way, you see how much light is on those seats in the audience? Can you see those seats?

Here are some shots of the other reviewers shooting at the same time we were:

ISO 12,800 – 1/60s-f/2.8, 300mm f/2.8

With Rode mic on top, for some video shooting.
ISO 10,000 – 1/200s-f/2.8, 200mm (70-200mm- F/2.8)


ISO 2EV over 12,800 – 1/320s-f/2.8, 200mm, (70-200mm – F/2.8)

Of course lots of folks want to know about the extreme:

Here is a behind the scenes prep shot, as the next act was getting ready. It was pretty well pitch black except for some light bouncing for the spotlight act up stage.

ISO 102,400- 1/80s-f/2.8, 70mm ((70-200mm- F/2.8)

Yeah, we were pretty impressed, too.
Sure there is some noise and some banding in the blacks. We did barely any post on these images, and they are the converted jpegs.
No excuse, just a perspective.
In the dark.

So our only disappointment was that we only had 2 hours to shoot with this new unit.
We know that once we can really work it out fro a longer period of time, more of the features will come into play.
Yes, we did shoot video and will post it shortly. Short, but you’ll get the idea.

Have they eliminated the “jelly cam effect” in video mode? Well, it has been cut back by an approx. 50 %

But the truth is that no CMOS camera from any manufacturer will ever eliminate it. Unless they change the sensor.
It’s just the nature of how those sensors read light.

At $5200. list price this is not for the amateur, nor hobbyist. It has the weight and strength of the rest of the pro models in the Nikon line-up, so many of you may want to stay with a smaller body.
The pros will be drooling for this one, we guarantee it.

Please remember that the images above were shot in NEF format, and converted to jpegs, and posted to this site. The original NEFs are thick and rich files, which show a ton more depth.
But heck, this may be that kind of place you’ll be viewing files from the D3s anyway.

A video will be posted shortly walking you through a hands on look at the Nikon D3s.

Thanks for the time at the circus, Nikon. And big ups, to the Big Apple Circus and all of the performers! Thanks for giving us the time.
Plus, the clowns weren’t too scary.

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