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Nikon D3S versus Nikon D600

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D600 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2009 and September 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The D3S has a resolution of 12.1 megapixel, whereas the D600 provides 24.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D600

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D600. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3S – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon D3S vs Nikon D600
Compare D3S versus D600 top
Compare D3S and D600 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D600 is considerably smaller (37 percent) than the Nikon D3S. Moreover, the D600 is markedly lighter (31 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 find an overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D3S gets 4200 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the D600 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack.

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)
Nikon D3S» 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D600« 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 1D Mark IV« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 43.4 oz 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i
Nikon D7100« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i
Nikon D3X« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 44.4 oz 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999- i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i
Nikon D3« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 45.9 oz 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999- i

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 D600 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 percent) than the D3S, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D600

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 D600 sensor measures

With 24.2MP, the D600 offers a higher resolution than the D3S (12.1MP), but the D600 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 8.43μm for the D3S). Yet, the D600 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 11 months) than the D3S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

D3S versus D600 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. 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 D600 offers substantially better image quality than the D3S (overall score 12 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 2.2 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.1 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D3S» Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
Nikon D600« Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
Canon 1D Mark IV« » APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
Nikon D7100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.7125683
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
Nikon D3X« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-24.713.7199288
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959
Nikon D2X« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.110.947659

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the D600 provides a better video resolution than the D3S. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/30p, while the D3S is limited to 720/24p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D600

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3S and the D600 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3S and Nikon D600 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D3S»optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D600«optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n
Canon 1D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D7100« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n
Nikon D3X« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Nikon D2X« »optical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n

Both the D3S and the D600 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3S was replaced by the Nikon D4, while the D600 was followed by the Nikon D610.

Review summary: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D600

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D600? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3S:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 5.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4200 versus 900) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2009).


Advantages of the Nikon D600:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24.2 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 41%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/24p).
  • More compact: Is smaller (141x113mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 390g or 31 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (60 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the D3S launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D600 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

D3S 04:10 D600

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3S or the D600. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D3S»-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i
Nikon D600«HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 1D Mark IV« »-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i
Nikon D7100« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i
Nikon D3X« »-86/1004/55/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999- i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i
Nikon D2X« »-HiRec-rev- Sep 2004 4,999- i

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. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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