Nikon D3S vs Pentax K-1 II
The Nikon D3S and the Pentax K-1 II are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2009 and February 2018. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.1 megapixels, whereas the Pentax provides 36.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3S and the Pentax K-1 II? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3S and the Pentax K-1 II is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The K-1 II can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the D3S is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-1 II is considerably smaller (40 percent) than the Nikon D3S. Moreover, the K-1 II is markedly lighter (19 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
Concerning battery life, the D3S gets 4200 shots out of its EN-EL4a battery, while the K-1 II can take 670 images on a single charge of its D-LI90 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 K-1 II, Pentax provides the D-BG6 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D3S||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||Y||Oct 2009||5,199|
|2.||Pentax K-1 II||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||670||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark IV||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|4.||Canon 1D Mark III||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499|
|5.||Nikon D5||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|6.||Nikon D4S||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||Y||Feb 2014||6,499|
|7.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|8.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|9.||Nikon D3X||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||Y||Dec 2008||7,999|
|10.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|11.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|12.||Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|13.||Panasonic S1R||149 mm||110 mm||97 mm||1016 g||380||Y||Feb 2019||3,699|
|14.||Pentax K-1||137 mm||110 mm||86 mm||1010 g||760||Y||Feb 2016||1,799|
|15.||Sony A7R III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||Y||Oct 2017||3,199|
|16.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|17.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
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 K-1 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 62 percent) than the D3S, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
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, 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 36.2MP, the K-1 II offers a higher resolution than the D3S (12.1MP), but the K-1 II has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 8.43μm for the D3S). Yet, the K-1 II is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 4 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. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the K-1 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Pentax K-1 II implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the K-1 II for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D3S are 21.3 x 14.2 inches or 54.1 x 36 cm for good quality, 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.2 x 28.8 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.4 inches or 36 x 24 cm for excellent quality prints.
Unlike the D3S, the K-1 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
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 Pentax K-1 II are ISO 100 to ISO 819200 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Nikon D3S||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|2.||Pentax K-1 II||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||..||..||..||..|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|4.||Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|5.||Nikon D5||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|6.||Nikon D4S||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|7.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|9.||Nikon D3X||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|10.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|11.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|13.||Panasonic S1R||Full Frame||46.7||8368||5584||4K/60p||26.4||14.1||3525||100|
|14.||Pentax K-1||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60i||25.4||14.6||3280||96|
|15.||Sony A7R III||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|16.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|17.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the K-1 II provides a better video resolution than the D3S. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D3S and the K-1 II 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D3S and Pentax K-1 II along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|2.||Pentax K-1 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||full-flex||n||1/8000s||4.4||n||Y|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|4.||Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|15.||Sony A7R III||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
One feature that differentiates the K-1 II and the D3S is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The K-1 II reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D3S offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.
The Nikon D3S and the Pentax K-1 II 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 K-1 II uses SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.
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 Pentax K-1 II and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Pentax K-1 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Canon 1D Mark III||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|15.||Sony A7R III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|16.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
It is notable that the K-1 II offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D3S does not provide wifi capability.
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the K-1 II has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
The K-1 II is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Pentax. In contrast, the D3S has been discontinued (but 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 (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Pentax websites.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3S and the Pentax K-1 II? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Nikon D3S:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 4.4 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 670) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2009).
Arguments in favor of the Pentax K-1 II:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 73%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i 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 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 (1037k vs 921k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More compact: Is smaller (137x110mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 230g or 19 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (62 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 4 months of technical progress since the D3S launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the K-1 II is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 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. 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D3S and the Pentax K-1 II 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D3S and the K-1 II 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.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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.
|1.||Nikon D3S||5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2009||5,199|
|2.||Pentax K-1 II||..||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|3.||Canon 1D Mark IV||5/5||..||89/100||..||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|4.||Canon 1D Mark III||..||..||..||..||..||Feb 2007||4,499|
|5.||Nikon D5||..||..||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|6.||Nikon D4S||5/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||6,499|
|7.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|8.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|9.||Nikon D3X||..||..||86/100||4/5||5/5||Dec 2008||7,999|
|10.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|11.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|12.||Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|13.||Panasonic S1R||4.5/5||..||89/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2019||3,699|
|14.||Pentax K-1||5/5||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2016||1,799|
|15.||Sony A7R III||..||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2017||3,199|
|16.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|17.||Sony A850||3/5||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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.
Specifications: Nikon D3S vs Pentax K-1 II
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 Model||Nikon D3S||Pentax K-1 II|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2009||February 2018|
|Launch Price||USD 5,199||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3S||Pentax K-1 II|
|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|
|Sensor Resolution||12.1 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4256 x 2832 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.43 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.40 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||720/24p Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 819,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 102,400 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||EXPEED||PRIME IV|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||82||..|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.5||..|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.0||..|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||3253||..|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3S||Pentax K-1 II|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fully flexible screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3S||Pentax K-1 II|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||11 shutter flaps/s||4.4 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||300 000 actuations||300 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3S||Pentax K-1 II|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3S||Pentax K-1 II|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||4200 shots per charge||670 shots per charge|
160 x 157 x 88 mm
(6.3 x 6.2 x 3.5 in)
137 x 110 x 86 mm
(5.4 x 4.3 x 3.4 in)
|Camera Weight||1240 g (43.7 oz)||1010 g (35.6 oz)|
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