PW

Nikon D3S vs D5

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D5 are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2009 and January 2016. 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 D5 provides 20.7 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their sensors, their features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3S   Nikon D5
Nikon D3S Nikon D5
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 20.7 MP, Full Frame Sensor
720/24p Video 4K/30p Video
ISO 200-12800 (100-102400) ISO 100-102400 (50-3280000)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 921k dots 3.2" LCD, 2359k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed touchscreen
11 shutter flaps per second 14 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
4200 shots per battery charge3780 shots per battery charge
160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g 160 x 159 x 92 mm, 1415 g

Body comparison: Nikon D3S vs D5

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D5. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Compare Nikon D3S and Nikon D5
Compare D3S versus D5 top
Compare D3S or D5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D5 is somewhat larger (1 percent) than the Nikon D3S. Moreover, the D5 is markedly heavier (14 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.

Concerning battery life, the D3S gets 4200 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the D5 can take 3780 images on a single charge of its EN-EL18a power pack. 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. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

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 D5« 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 158 mm 168 mm 83 mm 1530 g 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
 
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
 
Nikon D7500« » 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
 
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 D3X« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
 
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

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. 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 somewhat lower price (by 20 percent) than the D5, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D3S vs D5

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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.

Technology-wise, the D5 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 5) than the D3S (EXPEED), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Nikon D3S and Nikon D5 sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D5 offers a higher resolution of 20.7 megapixels, compared with 12.1 MP of the D3S. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 6.44μm versus 8.43μm for the D3S). However, it should be noted that the D5 is much more recent (by 6 years and 2 months) than the D3S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

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 D5 are ISO 100 to ISO 102400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-3280000..

D3S versus D5 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D5 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 1.6 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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 D5« Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
 
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
 
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
 
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 D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288Nikon D3X
 
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 cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D5 provides a better video resolution than the D3S. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the D3S is limited to 720/24p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D3S vs D5

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3S and the D5 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%), but the viewfinder of the D5 has a higher magnification than the one of the D3S (0.72x vs 0.70x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3S, the Nikon D5, 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 D5«optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n Nikon D5
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 1/8000s 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
 
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
 
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
 
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 D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D3X
 
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

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The D5 has a touchscreen, while the D3S has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D5 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.

The D3S writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D5 uses Compact Flash or XQD cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

 

Connectivity comparison: Nikon D3S vs D5

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 D5 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 D5«YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
 
Canon 1D Mark IV« »Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
 
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
 
Nikon D7500« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-YNikon D7500
 
Nikon D4S« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D4S
 
Nikon D4« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
 
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D3X« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3X
 
Nikon D700« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D700
 
Nikon D3« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
 
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs

It is notable that the D5 has a headphone jack, which makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process. The D3S lacks such a headphone port.

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

The D5 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. In contrast, the D3S has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3S was succeeded by the Nikon D4. Further information on the two cameras, as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.


Review summary: Nikon D3S vs D5

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D5? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3S:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 175g or 12 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4200 versus 3780) on a single battery charge.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (20 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2009).


Advantages of the Nikon D5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.7 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 31%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 5 vs EXPEED).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 720/24p).
  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.72x vs 0.70x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 921k dots).
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 11 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D3S launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D5 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 5 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

D3S 05:14 D5

Do the specifications of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3S and the D5 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews: Nikon D3S vs D5

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).

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 D5«-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
 
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
 
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
 
Nikon D7500« »++86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
 
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 D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i Nikon D3X
 
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 are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Nikon D3S:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D5:
Check Amazon price

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

~

    Specifications: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D5

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Nikon D3S Nikon D5
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date October 2009 January 2016
    Launch Price USD 5199 USD 6499
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D5
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 23.9 mm 35.9 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 860.4 mm2 858.01 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.1 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixels 20.7 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4256 x 2832 pixels 5588 x 3712 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 8.43 μm 6.44 μm
    Pixel Density 1.40 MP/cm2 2.42 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/24p Video 4K/30p Video
    ISO Setting 200-12800 ISO 100-102400 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-102400 ISO 50-3280000 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED 5
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 82 88
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.5 25.1
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0 12.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 3253 2343
    Screen Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D5
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.72x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.2 inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 2359k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D5
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 11 shutter flaps/s 14 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy300 000 actuations400 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XQD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D5
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 3.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Microphone Port no MIC socket External MIC port
    Headphone Socket no Headphone port Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D5
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL4a power pack EN-EL18a power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)4200 shots per charge3780 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    160 x 159 x 92 mm
    (6.3 x 6.3 x 3.6 in)
    Camera Weight 1240 g (43.7 oz) 1415 g (49.9 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

    You are here  »   »