Being able to shoot in uneven lighting is both a blessing and curse, though: check out this ISO 12,800 picture I took of Paul Miller at Engadget's CES team dinner under extremely dim conditions, where the D3S picked up more light than my eyes were seeing at the time:
See that blue cast on Paul's face? That's the light from his phone, which is totally exaggerated by the D3S's jacked light sensitivity. Using a camera with hotrod ISO capabilities like the D3S makes you realize how quickly your eyes and brain adapt to and filter out subtle lighting and color differences if you're not looking carefully, and while you can take beautiful images in previously unthinkable lighting conditions, you're completely at the mercy of the ambient light. Surprises lurk within every frame when you shoot without a flash -- don't throw it out quite yet.
The D3S can also shoot video, although it maxes out at 720p. That means it's not quite as versatile a filmmaker's tool as the Canon 5D Mark II or 7D, but it can still hold its own -- especially if you knock it into full manual mode by selecting "Tripod" instead of "Handheld" in the video menus. Don't worry, you won't hurt anything shooting from the hip in Tripod mode -- Handheld mode is essentially an aperture priority mode for run-and-gun shooting. Talk about some poor naming, though! In any event, once you get it into manual, the D3S can make use of its full talents to shoot video as well -- here's a quick clip I shot at Battle of the Badges under the same type of uneven lighting:
I've only got a few gripes after using the D3S for a few months. First, it's massive, especially when fitted with the 24-70 f/2.8 that's perfect for grabbing quick shots on show floors and in crowds of people -- everyone is hugely aware of the camera, and that's not always optimal. You can't be stealth with this thing around. Second, while Nikon's general SLR control system handles great once you're into the groove, the D3S doesn't let you directly select every setting from the rear LCD and tweak it from there, a feature I love on newer Canons. You'll be richly rewarded once you memorize the slew of cryptic icons, control names, and menu locations, but getting there takes time. Lastly, while I use the video feature all the time, the five minute clip limit and 720p resolution cap make it obvious that video is an afterthought. That's fine, but the D3S is thisclose
to being the ultimate field camera, and some beefed-up video features would go a long way towards making it the only camera I have to pack at all. Oh, and here's a big gripe: you can't actually find a D3S to buy right now
. That's a problem -- let's hope Nikon is working on getting stocks back up.
Those are all pretty small gripes, though, and I'm certainly subsequent revisions of the D3S will address them. What I'm most excited about is watching the D3S's tech filter down to cheaper SLRs and point-and-shoots -- Gizmodo
's Matt Buchanan nailed it when he said ISO is the new megapixel in his D3S review
. Getting clear shots in low light without a flash will totally revolutionize compact camera photography, and I honestly can't wait to see what Nikon and others do with high ISO sensors in smaller bodies. Until then, I'll be carrying my giant D3S with a huge grin on my face.
In many ways, my shooting needs are the same as Nilay's. I'm a diehard camera enthusiast, and I tend to find an excessive amount of pleasure in bringing absurdly large bodies and lenses into national parks
, concert venues, sporting events and any other new place
that's just begging to be photographed. In most cases, these masterpieces-in-my-own-mind are just for my own personal enjoyment, but I do
find myself searching for the best possible shot for wall framing, and I'm about as anti-flash as they come. Give me natural light or give me death, as they say.