Exceptional Image Quality

Image Sensor — Nikon’s proprietary FX-format CMOS image sensor

D3S: 12.1 effective megapixels for peerless speed and ISO sensitivity performance
D3X: 24.5 effective megapixels for peerless resolution

D3S D3S CMOS image sensor

D3S CMOS image sensor

Sensor size: 36.0 x 23.9 mm Pixel size: 8.45 x 8.45 µm

D3X D3X CMOS image sensor

D3X CMOS image sensor

Sensor size: 35.9 x 24 mm Pixel size: 5.94 x 5.94 µm

Discerning photographers are known for testing the boundaries of their equipment, pushing it as far as they can to capture the most powerful images possible. For over 75 years, Nikon has dedicated itself to the development of equipment that helps photographers go the extra mile. The Nikon FX-format CMOS sensor is a reflection of that dedication. Measuring approx. 36 x 23.9mm, the FX-format sensor offers the familiar visual perspective and depth-of-field characteristics of 35mm film SLRs.

First used in the groundbreaking D3 and then further advanced for the extreme resolution requirements of the D3X, Nikon utilizes its proprietary FX-format sensor for striking tonal gradation and fine detail. Constantly reaching for higher levels of performance and versatility, Nikon engineers continued to refine the highly acclaimed D3 image sensor to further expand the boundaries of ISO performance in ways that were once considered impossible. The story, however, doesn’t end there.

In addition to maintaining the large pixel pitch of the D3’s 12.1 effective megapixels, Nikon updated its already highly effective inner structure and raised its performance to spectacular new levels. As a result, the new D3S’s FX-format image sensor captures the incoming light delivered by NIKKOR lenses with unrivaled accuracy. This in turn contributes to a significantly higher signal-to-noise ratio and exceptionally wide dynamic range, which translates into unmatched image quality throughout the broadened ISO sensitivity range for both still images and HD movies.

Both the D3S and the D3X address two professional demands — speed and precision. The D3S’s rich initial data is swiftly and carefully routed through a 12-channel parallel readout for 14-bit A/D conversion. With the D3X, each of its 24.5 effective megapixels has been specifically designed to carry a larger electrical charge for outstanding light transmission properties and a wider dynamic range. Its image sensor incorporates 14-bit A/D conversion on the chip, delivering fast conversion, high signal-to-noise ratio and low power consumption. In addition to the three formats available on both cameras — FX format, DX format and 5:4 — the D3S also offers 1.2x (30 x 20) crop, which allows you to take advantage of the telephoto effect while maintaining 8.4 megapixels.

While both the D3X and D3S offer an exceptionally high signal-to-noise ratio, each camera has its distinct advantages. The D3X uses its 24.5 effective megapixels to deliver extreme resolution and an extremely wide dynamic range, while the D3S utilizes its image sensor advantages to create one of the widest light sensitivity ranges ever seen in a digital SLR flagship.


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/1,000 second, f/4 • White balance: Cloudy • Sensitivity: ISO 12800 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes


• Lens: AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/250 second, f/8 • White balance: Color Temp. (4550k) • Sensitivity: ISO 100 • Picture Control: Standard
©Frank P. Wartenberg

ISO Sensitivity — Strikingly high image quality up to ISO 12800

D3S: Standard ISO 200 to 12800, expandable from ISO 100 to ISO 102400
D3X: Standard ISO 100 to ISO 1600, expandable from ISO 50 to ISO 6400

Natural-looking images with an amazingly low degree of noise, even with high ISO

Color and detail only begin to explain the extraordinary potential of Nikon’s FX-format sensor. With the D3S, photographers now have an astoundingly large range of ISO sensitivity with which to work. Capturing bold and remarkably noise-free images from ISO 200 to an unprecedented ISO 12800 obviates a host of photographic obstacles without sacrificing exceptionally natural tonal gradation.

For photographers whose assignments demand extreme resolution, along with the lighting control common to a professional studio environment, D3X ISO sensitivity begins at ISO 100 and extends to ISO 1600, delivering stunning commercial-quality low-noise image files.

Whether you are shooting indoor sports, stadium events at night, theatrical and concert performances, weddings, wildlife after dark, nighttime spot news, or in any other situation where light is limited and supplemental lighting isn‘t an option, the D3S will change how, when and where you shoot even more dramatically than the legendary D3. The D3S offers you ISO 12800 as standard, meaning that now more than ever, you can pursue creative images in low-light situations and still remain confident in their quality and printability. Imagine capturing tack-sharp sports and action images at even faster shutter speeds without worrying about excessive, image-degrading noise.

This exceptionally high ISO performance applies similarly to both still and movie images, so you can be sure that these improvements will give you more opportunities to capture winning shots. And with the D3S, the ISO sensitivity range can be expanded to Hi 3, which is equivalent to ISO 102400! Now even the worst low-light shooting conditions can be tamed. Even at this astounding ISO setting, image data reveals colors and details that open a new realm of imaging opportunities for various photographic genres, including wildlife, news reporting and law enforcement/surveillance work.

The D3X delivers its own set of incredible advantages: commercial image quality indoors and out. Simply put, the D3S and D3X will make you reassess how digital images can look. Consider the new possibilities.

High ISO D-Movie image


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR • Exposure: [A] mode, 1/400 second, f/4 • White balance: Cloudy • Sensitivity: ISO 12800 • Picture Control: Standard
©Vincent Munier


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/250 second, f/10 • White balance: Flash • Sensitivity: ISO 100 • Picture Control: Standard
©Frank P. Wartenberg

D3S SAMPLE PHOTOS with ISO 12800 and Hi 3 (ISO 102400)

ISO 12800

• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR • Exposure: [A] mode, 1/60 second, f/2.8 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 12800 • Picture Control: Standard
©Vincent Munier

ISO 102400

• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR • Exposure: [A] mode, 1/500 second, f/2.8 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: 3 EV above ISO 12800 • Picture Control: Standard
©Vincent Munier

Advanced noise reduction at high ISO for natural-looking results

Low-noise performance is an integral part of the core engineering of the D3S and the D3X. Long before you select the noise reduction function, the image sensors of the Nikon D3S and D3X are minimizing the noise and maintaining the integrity of every image you take.

Shooting dimly lit subjects is not a common scenario for high-end, extreme-resolution photographers. However, the D3X’s intelligent image processing allows them to shoot in low-light conditions while keeping visible noise to a minimum — all without sacrificing the exceptionally fine detail that the camera is known for. High ISO noise reduction is applied once the D3X is set to ISO 500 or higher, and there are four levels: Off, Low, Normal and High.

The D3S uses a newly developed image sensor, which has been refined from the D3 to further minimize noise generated by the amplified signals. This contributes to exceptional image quality and spectacular saturation, even at high ISO settings such as ISO 12800. High ISO noise reduction activates automatically when shooting over ISO 3200, minimizing mottling, color bleeding and shadow noise. The resulting images reveal natural tones without looking plastic or artificial like so many conventional noise reduction systems.

Whichever camera you use, you will hugely benefit from Nikon’s superior noise reduction technologies.

EXPEED — Nikon’s comprehensive approach to quality digital images


Superior image processing relies on one simple truth: no shortcuts. Nikon knows that in order to deliver the most practical and versatile performance possible, image quality, accuracy and speed must be treated as equal partners of equal importance.
Further refining these essential performance requirements is what brought about EXPEED, Nikon’s fast, comprehensive and energy-efficient approach to in-camera image processing. Thanks to this engineered intelligence for image integrity, your Nikon flagship D-SLR cameras will deliver quality images all on its own.



14-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit image-processing pipeline

Nikon’s FX-format sensor produces an incredibly wide dynamic range, with rich initial data that maintains its integrity through 14-bit A/D conversion. As professional photographers demand the smoothest tonal gradation and faithful color reproduction, no shortcut will do. So, to maintain impeccable accuracy, the D3S and the D3X use 16-bit data transmission throughout the image-processing pipeline. The resulting output reveals breathtaking details and subtleties, putting images taken by these cameras in a class of their own.

D3S’s 14-bit A/D conversion and 16-bit


Pleasingly saturated, faithful colors

The D3S and the D3X control color hue with unmatched accuracy, so specific colors that were previously impossible to achieve together in a particular image can now coexist in nearly any situation. Colors are faithful throughout the palette — skin tones are pleasingly saturated without blowing out the reds, while blues that were once difficult to reproduce can now be considered standard. Expect this throughout the spectrum, with less tone jump than ever before.


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/4,000 second, f/4 • White balance: Fluorescent • Sensitivity: ISO 400 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes


• Lens: AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/250 second, f/8 • White balance: Color Temp. (4550k) • Sensitivity: ISO 100 • Picture Control: Standard
©Frank P. Wartenberg

Improved tonal gradation

The dynamic range of the D3S and D3X has broadened to such an extent that you can expect finer tonal gradation in highlight areas — even with extremely bright subject matter, such as snow-covered landscapes or a bride’s beautiful white gown, shot in harsh sunlight. And thanks to more accurate treatment of data via 14-bit A/D conversion and a 16-bit image-processing pipeline, tone jump is negligible.

Edge-to-edge sharpness: Lateral chromatic aberration reduction

Another huge advantage you can rely on from the D3S and D3X is Nikon’s proprietary lateral chromatic aberration reduction technology. This function corrects the color fringes or chromatic aberration that would otherwise appear at the edges of your images. Unlike conventional correction methods that simply eliminate the colors of chromatic aberration, Nikon’s method compensates for the differences in the resolving index for each color, making it particularly effective for reducing the image distortion at the edges of a frame in addition to improving image quality throughout the entire frame. Moreover, because lateral chromatic aberrations are corrected regardless of lens type — whether telephoto, wide-angle, fisheye, non-CPU and other types of NIKKOR lenses — this feature contributes substantially to the sharper images that professionals demand.