Nikon D3S Viewfinder

Like the D3 and D3X, the D3S's optical viewfinder is big, bright, and beautiful. The pentaprism design features 100% frame coverage, 0.7x magnification at 50mm and -1 diopter, an 18 mm eyepoint, and diopter adjustment range of -3 to +1. If you just look at the specs, you might think that the D3S's optical VF is a step backward from sub-frame bodies. After all, the D3S's viewfinder is rated at only 0.7x magnification factor, vs. the 0.86x of earlier pro models like the D2Xs. You have to stop and take into account the fact that that's 0.7x relative to a full-frame sensor though, so the net effect is something like a 70% bigger view of the world. This is immediately apparent when you look through the D3S's viewfinder: The view is very wide, and if you wear eyeglasses, you'll likely find that you need to press your lenses against the eyecup in order to take in the entire frame at once.

A built-in eye-piece shutter is provided for self-timer or live view mode. The Nikon D3S ships with a Type B BriteView Clear Matte VI focusing screen, but also accepts a Type E screen with etched grid-lines. (There's no provision for grid lines to be projected onto the viewfinder screen, as with some prosumer Nikon SLRs.)

Unlike Nikon's prosumer and consumer models, focus areas in the D3S's optical viewfinder are always displayed in red. Non-selected ones are very faint red (hardly visible), and the selected/active ones are bright red, with programmable brightness (Low, Normal, High or Extra High). It's very quick and easy to determine which focus area is in use.

The graphic and table below shows what information is displayed in D3S's viewfinder. It is unchanged from the D3.

12-mm reference circle for center-weighted metering
"K" (appears when memory remains for over 1000 frames)
AF area brackets
Flash ready indicator
Focus points
FV lock indicator
Spot metering targets
Flash sync indicator
Focus indicator
Aperture stop indicator
Battery indicator
Autoexposure (AE) lock
Electronic analog exposure display
Exposure mode
Exposure compensation display
Shutter speed lock icon
Tilt indicator
Shutter speed
Exposure compensation indicator
Aperture lock icon
Exposure and flash bracketing indicator
Aperture (f-number)

Aperture (number of stops)

ISO sensitivity indicator

Auto ISO sensitivity indicator

ISO sensitivity

Frame count

Number of exposures remaining

Number of shots remaining before buffer fills

Preset white balance recording indicator

Exposure compensation value

PC mode indicator


Image Areas

The Nikon D3S is unusual in that you can not only use it as a full-frame SLR, but also as a reduced-frame one. In fact, there are now three cropped-frame modes available (up from two on the D3 and D3x), one with a 5:4 aspect ratio (corresponding to an area on the sensor of 30.0 x 23.9 mm), another with a 3:2 aspect ratio, but with the frame size reduced to match that of Nikon's DX-format cameras (a 23.5 x 15.6 mm frame, vs the full "FX" format size of 36.0 x 23.9 mm.), and a third, new 1.2x format (30.0 x 20.0mm). The 5:4 ratio is useful for the popular 8x10 print size, while the 1.2x mode offers a slightly increased 35mm-equivalent focal length, avoids the very corners of the image (which tend to be the problem areas for lens-derived image defects), and yields slightly more manageable file sizes. The "DX" frame size is handy for taking advantage of Nikon's many excellent DX-format lenses. In fact, the camera can be set to automatically switch to DX mode when a DX-format lens is attached to it. You can rapidly select between crop modes by pressing and holding the Fn button on the front of the camera while simultaneously turning the main command dial on the rear.

When the D3S is shooting in a format other than full-frame FX mode, a translucent LCD in the viewfinder partially masks the inactive portions of the frame. The illustrations below show the viewfinder display in the various modes.

No VF mask (FX) VF masked for 5:4 mode
VF masked for 1.2x mode VF masked for DX mode


Viewfinder Test Results

Excellent accuracy with both the optical viewfinder and LCD monitor's Live View mode.

70mm, Optical 70mm, Live View LCD

The Nikon D3S's optical viewfinder and Live View LCD mode proved extremely accurate, with essentially 100% coverage when measured with our Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro test lens. The coverage in Live View mode is also 100%. Excellent performance.


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