Monday, October 15, 2012

Nikon D3s: Best Ever High ISO Camera?

Cairo & Alexandria, Egypt at night ~ taken with the Nikon D3s • 16mm lens • f/2.8 • 1/4 sec. • ISO 51,200
I am one of many photographers who believe the Nikon D3s may be the best high ISO camera ever made for night photography work, especially in its day. It set a benchmark that others have sought to achieve. And, I say this even though I'm currently a Canon EOS 5D Mark III user.

The above NASA photo, taken on 28 October 2010 from the International Station Science, is a good example of the amazing high ISO capabilities of the Nikon D3s. The Nile River and its delta stand out clearly. On the horizon, the airglow of the atmosphere is seen across the Mediterranean. Although a full resolution view of this image shows it to be a noisy photo (at ISO 51200), the image would not have even existed without the technology of the Nikon D3s. (My Canon EOS 5D Mark II had a maximum ISO of 25600, but even at that speed it would have been much noisier than the Nikon at ISO 51200.)

Nikon D3s
James Neeley mentioned in a recent blog post that he felt the Nikon D3s still had a slight edge over the newer Nikon D4. This is mainly because of the huge size of the pixels in the 12.1MP D3s sensor, compared to smaller pixels in the D4, D800, and D600 sensors. Despite the newer sensor technology, Sony (who makes the chips for Nikon) has still not been able to quite overcome the benefit that comes from bigger pixels, although it is getting very close. Today, there are at least half a dozen full-frame sensor DSLR cameras that rival the high ISO capabilities of the D3s, and saying which is the best for night photography is like splitting hairs!


  1. Now all I need is a rich uncle to die and leave me a million buck or two. Not likely to happen since I don't have an uncle still alive, let alone a rich one.

    P.S. Have you thought about getting rid of that word verification? It is really annoying. I found when I was getting occasional spam it was usually on older posts so I set mine so that any comment on a post more than 7 days old had to be moderated. Some people monitor every one.

  2. maybe in nikon kingdom, agreed, but for low light, i prefer the canon, although i use nikon

  3. Thanks for this. I really like what you've posted here and wish you the best of luck with this blog and thanks for sharing.