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Nikon D3S vs D700

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D700 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2009 and July 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12.1 megapixels.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D3S
versus
Nikon D700
Nikon D3S   Nikon D700
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor 12.1 MP, Full Frame Sensor
720/24p Video no Video
ISO 200-12,800 (100 - 102,400) ISO 200-6,400 (100 - 25,600)
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 8 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
4200 shots per battery charge1000 shots per battery charge
160 x 157 x 88 mm, 1240 g 147 x 123 x 77 mm, 1074 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D700? 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

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D700. 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 dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D3S vs Nikon D700
Compare D3S versus D700 top
Comparison D3S or D700 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D700 is notably smaller (28 percent) than the Nikon D3S. Moreover, the D700 is markedly lighter (13 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 D700 can take 1000 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D3S has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D700, Nikon provides the MB-D10 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D3S 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199i
2.
 
Nikon D700 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999i
3.
 
Canon 1D Mark IV 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999i
4.
 
Canon 1D Mark III 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499i
5.
 
Nikon D5 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499i
6.
 
Nikon D4S 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1350 g 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499i
7.
 
Nikon D810 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299i
8.
 
Nikon Df 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749i
9.
 
Nikon D4 160 mm 157 mm 91 mm 1340 g 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999i
10.
 
Nikon D800 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999i
11.
 
Nikon D300S 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 938 g 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799i
12.
 
Nikon D3X 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1260 g 4400 Y Dec 2008 7,999i
13.
 
Nikon D3 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999i
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs 158 mm 150 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D700 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 42 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

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D3S and Nikon D700 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 12.1 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the D3S and the D700 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the D3S is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 3 months) than the D700, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

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 D700 are ISO 200 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.

D3S versus D700 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Nikon D3S Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382
2.
 
Nikon D700 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2230380
3.
 
Canon 1D Mark IV APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074
4.
 
Canon 1D Mark III APS-H 10.1 3888 2592none22.711.7107871
5.
 
Nikon D5 Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388
6.
 
Nikon D4S Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489
7.
 
Nikon D810 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
8.
 
Nikon Df Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280none24.613.1327989
9.
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
10.
 
Nikon D800 Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
11.
 
Nikon D300S APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770
12.
 
Nikon D3X Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none24.713.7199288
13.
 
Nikon D3 Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832none23.512.2229081
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959

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 D700 does not. The highest resolution format that the D3S can use is 720/24p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3S and the D700 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 viewfinder in the D3S offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D700 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the D700 has a higher magnification (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 D700, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/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
1.
 
Nikon D3Soptical Y3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
2.
 
Nikon D700optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
3.
 
Canon 1D Mark IVoptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n
4.
 
Canon 1D Mark IIIoptical Y3.0 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 n n
5.
 
Nikon D5optical Y3.2 / 2359 fixed Y 1/8000s 14.0 n n
6.
 
Nikon D4Soptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
7.
 
Nikon D810optical Y3.2 / 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
8.
 
Nikon Dfoptical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n n
9.
 
Nikon D4optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
10.
 
Nikon D800optical Y3.2 / 921 fixed n 1/8000s 4.0 Y n
11.
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
12.
 
Nikon D3Xoptical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
13.
 
Nikon D3optical Y3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n
14.
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y2.5 / 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D700 has one, while the D3S does not. While the built-in flash of the D700 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The Nikon D3S and the Nikon D700 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 D700 write their files to Compact Flash cards. The D3S features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D700 only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

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 D700 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Nikon D3SYstereo / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Nikon D700Y- / ---mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon 1D Mark IVYstereo / -Y-mini2.0---
4.
 
Canon 1D Mark IIIY- / ----2.0---
5.
 
Nikon D5Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0---
6.
 
Nikon D4SYmono / monoYYmini2.0---
7.
 
Nikon D810Ystereo / monoYYmini3.0Y--
8.
 
Nikon DfY- / ---mini2.0---
9.
 
Nikon D4Ymono / monoYYmicro2.0---
10.
 
Nikon D800Ymono / monoYYmini3.0---
11.
 
Nikon D300SYstereo / monoY-mini2.0---
12.
 
Nikon D3XY- / ---mini2.0---
13.
 
Nikon D3Y- / ---mini2.0---
14.
 
Nikon D2XsY- / ----2.0---

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

Both the D3S and the D700 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D700 was replaced by the Nikon D800, while the D3S was followed by the Nikon D4. 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

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3S or the Nikon D700 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D3S:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/24p movies.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 8 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4200 versus 1000) on a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 3 months after the D700).


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D700:

  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.72x vs 0.70x).
  • More compact: Is smaller (147x123mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 166g or 13 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 (42 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in July 2008).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3S emerges as the winner of the contest (8 : 6 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. 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 08:06 D700

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3S and the Nikon D700 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3S or the D700. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon D3S5/5....89/1004.5/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199i
2.
 
Nikon D700..89/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999i
3.
 
Canon 1D Mark IV5/5....89/100.... Oct 2009 4,999i
4.
 
Canon 1D Mark III............ Feb 2007 4,499i
5.
 
Nikon D5....4/589/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499i
6.
 
Nikon D4S5/5......4.5/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499i
7.
 
Nikon D8105/5..5/586/1005/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299i
8.
 
Nikon Df4/5....81/1004/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749i
9.
 
Nikon D4........4.5/54.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999i
10.
 
Nikon D8005/5+ +..82/1005/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999i
11.
 
Nikon D300S5/5+ +..82/1004/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799i
12.
 
Nikon D3X......86/1004/55/5 Dec 2008 7,999i
13.
 
Nikon D3......+ +5/54.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999i
14.
 
Nikon D2Xs............ Jun 2006 4,699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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 D700:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Nikon D3S vs Nikon D700

    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 D700
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date October 2009 July 2008
    Launch Price USD 5,199 USD 2,999
    Sensor Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D700
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 36.0 x 23.9 mm 36.0 x 23.9 mm
    Sensor Area 860.4 mm2 860.4 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixels 12.1 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4256 x 2832 pixels 4256 x 2832 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 8.43 μm 8.43 μm
    Pixel Density 1.40 MP/cm2 1.40 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/24p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 12,800 ISO 200 - 6,400 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 102,400 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    Image Processor EXPEED EXPEED
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 82 80
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.5 23.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.0 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 3253 2303
    Screen Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D700
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.70x 0.72x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 921k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D700
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 11 shutter flaps/s 8 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy300 000 actuations150 000 actuations
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D3S Nikon D700
    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 D700
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type EN-EL4a EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)4200 shots per charge1000 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 160 x 157 x 88 mm
    (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
    147 x 123 x 77 mm
    (5.8 x 4.8 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 1240 g (43.7 oz) 1074 g (37.9 oz)

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