Nikon’s D3 was a ground-breaking camera. When I switched from Canon to Nikon about 16 months ago, it was primarily the D3 that got me to take the plunge. It’s simply an amazing camera in every way. One of the reasons the camera is so special is that Nikon decided to limit the pixel count to 12.1MP. This means the pixels are large and gather light better than cameras with lots more megapixels.

Fast-forward to yesterday’s announcement of the D3s. Nikon decided to keep the 12.1MP sensor but refined it to provide even BETTER low-light performance. It’s the first camera in the world that can work well at ISO 12,800 and the ISO can be further expanded to a crazy 102,400. This is the big feature on the upgraded camera.

The camera has an expanded buffer, a new Live View mode button, and yes FINALLY dust reduction. One of the things that has absolutely driven me CRAZY about my D3 bodies is no automatic sensor cleaning. Nikon has been WAY behind the curve on this and I’m glad to see they’ve fixed it.

Lastly, Nikon has added video to the D3s. A smart move since in my opinion, convergence is one of the most important trends in the DSLR market. But what I don’t understand is why Nikon limited the camera to 720P. When you can buy a $1699 Canon 7D that shoots beautiful 1080p video, a $5200 camera body that doesn’t starts to look like a bit of a fail.

Over the last year I’ve ended up buying five Nikon D3 bodies for the studio. If you can find one, a new D3 will set you back about $4800. The new D3s will be $400 more and for that you get plenty of new features. So do I think it’s worth it? Assuming the image quality etc is the same, maybe. Expanded ISO alone will be worth it to SOME photographers. But remember, not everyone needs ISO 12,800. If you ALWAYS shoot in a studio under controlled conditions with strobe, there’s no need at all for ISO 12,800 or even ISO 800.

If I were just starting out with Nikon today, and was budget conscious, I’d seriously consider saving the $400 because MY photography doesn’t require ISO 12,800. That said, I am NOT budget conscious so I plan to replace two of my D3 bodies with the new D3s. :)

There’s no doubt that Nikon broke new ground with it’s high ISO capability. But it’s hard for me to look at this camera as revolutionary. Since Nikon is just now adding 720p video (something most high-end point and shoot cameras have had for three years) and a dust removal system (again something you can get on most camera bodies costing thousands less) I’d call the camera evolutionary.

I am disappointed in the video side of this announcement. I realize that roughly half of you reading this won’t care any more about the video than I do the ISO, 102,400 performance. But since I think video is going to be more important as time goes on, the lack of 1080p on the D3s as well as full creative control will be problematic.

Nikon’s says it’s improved its video capture engine in this camera. That’s good. Because in my tests with the Nikon D90, D5000 and D300s I felt the video just didn’t match that coming from Canon’s 5DMKII or 7D. I look forward to testing the video to see if Nikon has caught up. But even if the video is improved, the lack of 1080P and full creative control has helped me solidify my decision to shoot all my video with my new 7D. I wish Canon had followed Nikon’s lead and avoided getting caught up in the megapixel wars. The D3 and D3s’ secret is in that 12.1MP sensor. I applaud Nikon for being smart enough to stick with low MP high quality sensors.

When the new Nikon D3s arrives you can rest assured that I will provide a review right here.

UPDATE: I don’t know how I missed this, but I just learned that Nikon’s video is relying on Motion JPEG. Wow. That’s simply not good enough quality for pro video. I wonder if they simultaneously offer another codec? If not, then the addition of video on the D3s is even less impressive.

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