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Seven months later, the Nikon D3s is still a unicorn

Chris Ziegler
05.26.10
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B&H, J&R, Adorama, Amazon, the list goes on -- we dare you to find a US model Nikon D3s for sale anywhere among them (spoiler: you can't). What's remarkable about it is that the mighty 12.1 megapixel beast has technically been on sale since late November of last year, and yet some seven months later, many top-tier photography retailers still list the camera as a pre-order or "coming soon" as though it's never even hit retail to begin with. Well, it has -- sort of -- but it's been available in such ridiculously small quantities that your best bet has been to score a gray market unit off eBay (often at a price above the US MSRP of $5,199) that lacks a manufacturer warranty. On a precision machine this expensive and complex, that's not a very wise thing to wave off.

It's not at all unusual for new flagship DSLRs from Nikon and Canon to be backordered to the extreme (in fact, it's the norm), but the D3s' situation is pretty unprecedented -- and there's no letup in sight. We spoke to J&R this past weekend about the tight inventory and we were told that they receive maybe "one or two" D3s bodies every couple of weeks, but not on a regular schedule; they just get them when they get them, and naturally, they're sold out by the time the boxes roll into the store. Folks browsing J&R's website don't even stand a chance.

So, what's the story? Is there a manufacturing problem that Nikon is trying to correct? Is the camera's full-frame sensor being produced at insanely low yields? It'd one thing for demand to outstrip supply, but in this case, they're not even in the same league. It seems like there could be something afoot here, but a company spokesperson has told us this week that there's nothing more to blame than extraordinary demand, seeing how a single factory produces units for the entire world. Fair enough, Nikon -- but considering the rate at which DSLRs obsolesce, it's totally reasonable to think we'll see a D4 before supply catches up.

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