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Which battery does the Nikon D3S take?

The Nikon D3S is a professional DSLR that features a 12.1MP sensor. It is powered by the Nikon EN-EL4a, which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack. Lithium-Ion batteries offer a high energy density and low self-discharge, and are nowadays found in many portable electronic devices.

Battery Pack

The EN-EL4a operates at a voltage of 11.1V and has a capacity of 2500mAh. It can be charged from a standard electrical outlet via the Nikon MH-21 charger (that can be purchased separately, for example, at amazon). The battery pack measures 55mm in width, 35mm in height, and 81mm in depth. It weighs 113g. The EN-EL4a has been on the market since September 2004 and sells at good camera retailers, such as amazon, for about $150. Generic alternatives (see below) that are compatible with the Nikon D3S can be obtained at substantially lower cost.

How many shots can I take with a fully charged EN-EL4a?

The number of shots that one can get out of a battery pack depends heavily on the style and imaging practice of the photographer. For example, the extended use of the LCD screen for framing or reviewing will result in reduced battery performance.


The Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) has established guidelines (click here to download the pdf-document) that manufacturers are supposed to respect when reporting the battery life of their cameras. According to this CIPA-rating, the Nikon D3S can take 4200 images on a single charge. Given the relatively demanding energy usage of the CIPA procedures, this rated number should be achievable or be surpassed in most practical situations. However, if the environment is cold, the LCD screen is used heavily, or the camera is turned on and off frequently, battery mileage might drop below the rating. Also, as the battery pack ages, its performance will tend to deteriorate.

What about generic battery packs?

Nikon sells the original EN-EL4a pack at quite a steep price. This premium pricing strategy has left room in the market for third party suppliers to offer fully compatible battery packs at much lower prices. Savings from buying generic replacement batteries can amount up to 70 percent of the price of the genuine battery pack.

Nikon EN-EL4a Specifications

  • Battery type: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack
  • Compatibility: Nikon D3S & other selected Nikon cameras
  • Voltage: 11.1V DC
  • Capacity: 2500mAh or 4200 shots (CIPA) with the Nikon D3S
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 55 x 35 x 81mm
  • Weight: 113g

Indeed, one can easily find a variety of competitively-priced EN-EL4a replacements from different vendors at major online platforms (see, for example, here on ebay). All these generic alternatives should work fine with your Nikon D3S. So why would anybody then buy the more expensive original battery? Well, below are some arguments in favor of the genuine EN-EL4a, which can perhaps be summarized as "peace of mind":

  • Assurance that the warranty of the camera will not be rendered void if a battery-related failure occurs;
  • Assurance that the battery pack will indeed have the stated capacity;
  • Assurance that the battery will have low self-discharge rates and, thus, will hold its charge even when not in use;
  • Assurance that the power unit will not trigger any warning messages on the camera and can be effectively charged with the standard charger;
  • Assurance that the manufacturing process has respected the safety guidelines for Lithium-Ion batteries;

If you can live without these assurances, then you are in for some nice savings from buying generic replacements for the EN-EL4a. Unfortunately, the market for generic battery packs is rather fluid, with new trade names popping up regularly while others disappear. Hence it is difficult to keep track of all the suppliers and the quality of their products. That said, in North America, battery packs from Wasabi have gained a good reputation, while in Europe, replacement power packs from Patona have received many favorable reviews. In any case, the existing comparisons tend to find that the cheapest of the generic replacement packs score worse in terms of achieving their rated capacity, holding their charge over time, or allowing for a large number of charge-discharge cycles than somewhat pricier battery packs (or the genuine Nikon offer). Thus, the old adage, "If the price sounds too low to be true, it probably is" has some merit with respect to camera batteries also. You can check the current offers and prices for the original EN-EL4a and its clones by using the buttons below.

amazon.com ebay.com

Which other cameras use the Nikon EN-EL4a?

The Nikon D3S is not alone in using the EN-EL4a. Several other cameras from Nikon are powered by the same type of lithium-ion pack. The adjacent table lists some of them along with a selection of their headline specifications.

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Cameras using the EN-EL4a
# Camera
Battery life
Sensor Size
Launch Price
Street Price
1Nikon D2XEN-EL4a3800APS-C12.21252Sep 20044,999ebay.com
2Nikon D2XsEN-EL4a3800APS-C12.21252Jun 20064,699ebay.com
3Nikon D3EN-EL4a4300Full Frame12.11300Aug 20074,999ebay.com
4Nikon D3SEN-EL4a4200Full Frame12.11240Oct 20095,199ebay.com
5Nikon D3XEN-EL4a4400Full Frame24.41260Dec 20087,999ebay.com

Nikon EN-EL4a FAQ

The EN-EL4a is the standard power source for the Nikon D3S. As such it is an indispensable camera accessory. Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular aspects of the battery pack and Lithium-Ion power units more generally.

Is there a car charger available for the EN-EL4a?

Nikon does not offer a travel charger, but third party suppliers do (see here on ebay).

Is the EN-EL4a available in colors other than black?

No, Nikon supplies this battery pack only in black. However, some generic alternatives from third party providers might be available in other colors.

Can I use the EN-EL4a in any of my other electronic devices?

No, the battery is specifically designed for use in the Nikon D3S and other selected cameras from Nikon.

How should the EN-EL4a be stored?

Lithium-ion batteries can hold a charge for a long time. However, these battery packs have a safety mechanism built-in that disables any re-charge if the voltage drops below a certain minimum level. To avoid this safety-trigger to be activated, the battery pack should be charged at least once every few months.

How should I discard my old battery pack?

The contents of Lithium-Ion batteries is under pressure and the packs can explode if exposed to extreme heat. Lithium-Ion battery units should therefore never be incinerated and should not be thrown into the household trash, but put into the recycling stream. Most places that sell camera batteries will also accept them back for recycling.

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