Quick Response — More winning shots per second

D3S: Up to 9-frames-per-second shooting rate in FX format, up to 11 fps in DX format
D3X: Up to 5-frames-per-second shooting rate in FX format, up to 7 fps in DX format

In many fields of photography, reflexes and timing can make or break an important shot. That’s why Nikon’s engineers set out to continually improve the response time and overall speed of Nikon cameras. Indeed, the D3S and the D3X mark an incredible breakthrough. The D3S gives you options to master any shooting situation: approx. 9 frames per second in FX format (12.1 megapixels) and approx. 11 fps in DX format (5.1 megapixels). The D3X, with its 24.5 megapixels, leads the way for speed in extreme-resolution, high-end, commercial-level photography, offering photographers the chance to shoot up to approx. 5 fps* in FX format and approx. 7 fps* in DX format (10.5 megapixels). The FX format gives you and your editors the ability to crop winning shots as necessary and still be able to enlarge them into commercial-quality prints.

This empowers photographers to shoot more fluidly, knowing that the composition can be altered later while the DX format lets you shoot at a faster frame rate.

What makes the performance of these flagship cameras unique is their powerful stepping motors, which allow for a steady delivery of fast continuous shooting speeds at a wider range of aperture settings than conventional digital SLRs.

Because both the D3S and the D3X support high-performance UDMA memory card technology, recording speed gets an extra boost, enabling you to shoot more consecutive shots — pivotal to many professional assignments.

* When 12-bit recording is selected.

The reflexes professionals demand

A professional’s ability to consistently rise above the challenges that accompany each assignment depends on their ability to respond and shoot the decisive moment. That’s one reason why the D3S and D3X are built for readiness. Startup time is approx. 0.12 seconds for near-instant shooting, and the shutter-release time lag is an industry-leading approx. 0.04 seconds* (based on CIPA Guidelines). Generally regarded as the mechanical limit, approx. 0.04 seconds* gives professional photographers the ability to capture fast-moving subjects in desired compositions. In every aspect, both models deliver the reflexes and timing required by this demanding level of concentration.

* For further information, please refer to the D3X’s shutter release time lag on the specifications page.


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR • Exposure: [A] mode, 1/8,000 second, f/3.2 • White balance: Cloudy • Sensitivity: ISO 2500 • Picture Control: Standard
©Vincent Munier

Speed and readiness throughout the workflow

Nikon understands that for professional digital photography, exceptional speed means little unless it is supported throughout the entire process. That’s why Nikon has optimized the D3X’s and the D3S’s workflow speed and fluidity — from setup to shooting to data recording and image transfer. Autofocusing, image processing, buffer memory, memory access, memory card recording, USB interface and an optional wireless transmitter have all been optimized for a comprehensive approach that improves your creative flow dramatically. For example, D3X shooters on high-end commercial or landscape photography assignments can more easily rely on the richness and creative potential of NEF (Nikon Electronic Image Format) without worrying about the weight of the data. The overall speed of the D3X lets them keep moving and concentrate on capturing the moment.
Moreover, since the out-of-the-camera, lighter JPEG files have incredible image quality that needs little or no post-production, many shots will be ready for immediate printing or web publication — an extra edge for spot news shooters and sports photographers using the D3S who must work on tight schedules.

Speed and readiness throughout the workflow

Scene Recognition System — Enlightened accuracy and intelligence

Nikon engineers set their sights on expanding the potential of the renowned 1,005-pixel RGB sensor. Through this process, the Scene Recognition System was born. This amazing system provides unmatched detail analysis of any scene, recognizing both color and brightness to a much higher level of precision. Milliseconds prior to shooting, the Scene Recognition System recognizes a scene’s essential elements and then applies that information to the camera’s other analytic processes. As a result, AF, AE, i-TTL flash control and AWB have achieved an entirely new level of accuracy and performance that dutifully reflects the expectations and desires of today’s photographers. Think of the Scene Recognition System as an assistant with artificial intelligence, working tirelessly — and transparently — at your side.

Scene Recognition System

Enhanced AF accuracy

The Scene Recognition System enhances the accuracy of Nikon’s high-speed autofocus tracking capabilities. Using color and brightness information from the subject you target with a focus point, together with focus data from the auto focus sensor, the D3S and D3X are able to trace and track your subject’s path — even if it’s temporarily blocked or outside the network of 51 AF points. With Dynamic-area AF mode, the AF system continues to track your subject accurately, whether it moves toward you, away from you, or from side to side. Dynamic-area AF mode using 3D-tracking particularly benefits from the Scene Recognition System by keeping relentless focus tracking of your subject’s lateral movement using 51 points. In Auto-area AF mode, the Scene Recognition System recognizes skin tones of human subjects using the 1,005-pixel RGB sensor. It also applies distance information from a G- or D-type AF NIKKOR lens to determine your subject’s position in relation to the foreground and background and automatically focus on the main subject.

• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/4,000 second, f/4 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 400 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes

Sophisticated auto exposure with highlight analysis

Highlight analysis used for AE and i-TTL flash control is used to reproduce high degrees of brightness faithful to what you see with your eyes. Even when the scene has dramatic contrasts, Nikon’s highlight analysis is effectively used in Active D-Lighting.

• Lens: AF-S VR Nikkor 200mm f/2G IF-ED • Exposure: [A] mode, 1/8,000 second, f/4 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 800 • Picture Control: Vivid
©Vincent Munier

Accurate auto white balance in difficult lighting conditions

The auto white balance incorporated into the D3S and D3X is uniquely precise and reliable thanks to the light source identification information refined by the Scene Recognition System. Both the D3S and D3X calculate characteristics of the scene in-depth, cross-referencing them with 5,000 actual shot data examples from among the 20,000 images dedicated to auto white balance stored in the camera. This enables you to shoot with confidence, even in tricky conditions such as mixed light sources.

• Lens: AF-S VR Nikkor 200mm f/2G IF-ED • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/200 second, f/2.2 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 1600 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes

AF System — 51 AF points for inspired subject acquisition and improved speed and accuracy

The D3S and D3X cover the frame like never before with the world’s largest number* of AF detection areas. These 51 points create a dense net of focusing strength. This means faster focus acquisition, even with quick and/or erratic subject movement. The 15 AF points occupying the all-important center of the frame utilize cross-type sensors for even more powerful detection. Most importantly, all 15 cross-type sensors retain the same outstanding level of performance with any AF NIKKOR lens f/5.6 or faster — in other words, all of your AF NIKKOR lenses can take full advantage of cross-type accuracy. Choose between all 51 AF points or the classic 11, depending on the shooting situation or your personal preference.

* Among digital SLRs, as of October 15, 2009.

Cross-type sensors

Wide area coverage with 51 AF points.
15 cross-type sensors perform with any AF NIKKOR f/5.6 or faster lens.

Nikon’s classic 11 AF points are still readily available.

Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX

Nikon Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor module offers a network of 51 strategically placed AF points, for outstanding coverage.

Versatile AF area modes

In order to make the most of all 51 AF points, the D3S and D3X offer three AF area modes: Dynamic-area AF, Single-point AF and Auto-area AF.

Dynamic-area AF modes

Dynamic-area AF modes accurately and reliably perform its duty on fast-moving subjects, allowing you to choose from 9, 21 or 51 points. When shooting with 9 AF points, for example, once you’ve designated an AF point for focusing your subject, your selected point and eight surrounding AF points continue to work together to track your subject. When the subject movement is less predictable, or even extremely erratic, select 21 or even the full 51 points. Opting for Nikon’s innovative 51 points (3D-tracking) mode — which accurately pursues your subject by automatically shifting among focus points — is especially effective with lateral movements.

9 points

21 points

51 points

51 points (3D-tracking)

Single-point AF mode

Single-point AF mode is ideal for stationary subjects. Select a single AF point out of the 51 available and the D3S and D3X accurately pinpoint the focus subject in your intended composition. This is particularly effective in cases when you want to focus on your subject’s eyes in a character portrait or on your main point of interest in still life photography.

Single-point AF mode

Auto-area AF mode

In situations where you want to concentrate more on composition and not spend time selecting a priority focus point, use Auto-area AF. Ideal for shooting situations such as weddings, parties, crowded streets, this setting helps you capture more excellent images, even when you cannot physically see through the viewfinder. Auto-area AF mode enables smoother focusing on an individual’s face by detecting human skin tones. In addition to the color information, the D3S and D3X make use of distance information from a G- and D-type AF NIKKOR lens to determine the position of a human subject, comparing it with foreground and background.

Auto-area AF mode

Improved AF lock-on function

Using AF lock-on function, you can maintain the focus on your intended subject even when it is temporarily blocked, a common problem during sporting events such as rugby, soccer and basketball. After a set duration, the camera starts refocusing to detect the subject. You can even change the effective duration of the lock-on function by selecting from five different settings on the D3S (three with the D3X). This allows you to more flexibly adjust to your subjects’ movements and situations, and helps you capture more winning shots.

AF Fine Tune

Professional photographers have demanded a more refined AF accuracy. Therefore, the D3S and D3X let you apply the same amount of AF compensation regardless of which AF points or lenses you use. You can also make lens-specific individual adjustments for up to 20 registered lens models.

AF Fine Tune is easily accessible through the menus of the D3S and D3X

Auto exposure — Sophisticated 3D color matrix metering II

Nikon’s 3D color matrix metering II has long been praised by discerning professionals for its accuracy. The system analyzes scene conditions such as brightness, contrast, selected AF area, color, subject-to-camera distance and even the reflective quality of a scene. It then compares this with a database containing information from over 30,000 actual shooting situations for incredible precision. Combined with the Scene Recognition System, 3D color matrix metering II is now even more sophisticated.

The bright areas of your image are pleasing and precise, while intermediate tones also remain faithful to the original scene, even when backlit, under harsh frontal lighting or in other difficult lighting conditions. In addition to producing the best possible exposure, this advanced metering system gives you more satisfying results. For sports and spot news photographers on a deadline, the D3S’s AE can deliver JPEGS that need little or no retouch or enhancement.


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/1,600 second, f/2.8 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 320 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/30 second, f/10 • White balance: Flash • Sensitivity: ISO 100 • Picture Control: Standard
©Frank P. Wartenberg

Auto white balance — For a broader and further sophisticated range of lighting situations

Nikon's white balance detection systems have been internationally praised for their accuracy, but neither professional photographers nor Nikon engineers are easily satisfied. Even Nikon's earlier generations of white balance detection may have interpreted a green meadow under noonday sun and a table under fluorescent light as similar subject matter. Thus, Nikon's pursuit of even more intelligent white balance detection continued. And now, when Nikon’s Scene Recognition System works together with auto white balance, you can expect far more.

Milliseconds before shutter release, the 1,005-pixel RGB information calculates the characteristics extraction (see below) of the scene, cross-referencing it with its database of 5,000 actual shot examples selected from 20,000 images dedicated for auto white balance stored in the camera. So no matter what the light source — even notoriously difficult mercury vapor light — Nikon’s white balance can automatically detect the appropriate white balance accurately.


• Lens: AF-S VR Nikkor 200mm f/2G IF-ED • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/400 second, f/2 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 12800 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes

• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED • Exposure: [M] mode, 1/10 second, f/5 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 640 • Picture Control: Standard
©Bill Frakes


• Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR • Exposure: [A] mode, 1/160 second, f/5.6 • White balance: Auto • Sensitivity: ISO 400 • Picture Control: Standard
©John Shaw

Characteristics Extraction using Scene Recognition System for light source identification