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Nikon D3S vs D3X

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D3X are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2009 and December 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D3S has a resolution of 12.1 megapixels, whereas the D3X provides 24.4 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3S   Nikon D3X
Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
720/24p Video no Video
ISO 200-12800 (100-102400) ISO 100-1600 (50-6400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 921k dots 3.0" LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
11 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
4200 shots per battery charge4400 shots per battery charge
160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g 160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1260 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D3X? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D3S vs D3X

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D3X. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D3S vs Nikon D3X
Compare D3S versus D3X top
Comparison D3S or D3X rear

In this particular case, the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D3X have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. However, the D3X is slightly heavier (2 percent) than the D3S. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

As can be seen in the images above, both cameras have a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D3S» 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D3X« 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
 
Canon 1D Mark IV« » 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 1D Mark III« » 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
 
Nikon D5« » 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
 
Nikon D4S« » 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
 
Nikon D4« » 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
 
Nikon D300S« » 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D700« » 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
 
Nikon D2Xs« » 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 35 percent) than the D3X, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D3S vs D3X

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D3S and Nikon D3X sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the D3X offers a higher resolution than the D3S (12.1MP), but the D3X has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 8.43μm for the D3S). It is noteworthy in this context that the D3S is a somewhat more recent model (by 10 months) than the D3X, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3X implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3X for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inch or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inch or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inch or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3S are 21.3 x 14.2 inch or 54.1 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inch or 43.2 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.4 inch or 36 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D3S has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-102400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3X are ISO 100 to ISO 1600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-6400.

D3S versus D3X MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D3X has a markedly higher DXO score than the D3S (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.2 bits higher color depth, 1.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D3S» Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D3X« Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
 
Canon 1D Mark IV« » APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
 
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
 
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
 
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
 
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
 
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D3S indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the D3X does not. The highest resolution format that the D3S can use is 720/24p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D3S vs D3X

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D3S and the D3X are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), as well as the same magnification (0.70x). The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3S, the Nikon D3X, and comparable cameras.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D3S»optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D3X«optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
 
Canon 1D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
 
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n Nikon D5
 
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
 
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D4
 
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D3
 
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D3X both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the D3S and the D3X write their files to Compact Flash cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

 

Connectivity comparison: Nikon D3S vs D3X

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D3S and Nikon D3X and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D3S»Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D3X«Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3X
 
Canon 1D Mark IV« »Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark III
 
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
 
Nikon D4S« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D4S
 
Nikon D4« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
 
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D700« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
 
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the D3S and the D3X have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3S was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the D3X does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.


Review summary: Nikon D3S vs D3X

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3S or the Nikon D3X – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3S:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/24p movies.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (35 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 10 months after the D3X).


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3X:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 42%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.2 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.7 EV of extra DR).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in December 2008).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (5 points each). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

D3S 05:05 D3X

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D3X place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3S and the D3X in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews: Nikon D3S vs D3X

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D3S»-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
 
Nikon D3X«-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
 
Canon 1D Mark IV« »-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »---o- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
 
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-+ +4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
 
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
 
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
 
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
 
Nikon D300S« »+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D700« »89/100+ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3« »-+ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
 
Nikon D2Xs« »---o- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (-) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Nikon D3S:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3X:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D3X

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date October 2009 December 2008
    Launch Price USD 5199 USD 7999
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 23.9 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 860.4 mm2 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixels 24.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4256 x 2832 pixels 6048 x 4032 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 8.43 μm 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 1.40 MP/cm2 2.83 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/24p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200-12800 ISO 100-1600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-102400 ISO 50-6400 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 82 88
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.5 24.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0 13.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 3253 1992
    Screen Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.70x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 11 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy300 000 actuations300 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL4a power pack EN-EL4a power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)4200 shots per charge4400 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    Camera Weight 1240 g (43.7 oz) 1260 g (44.4 oz)

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