Following in the footsteps of the Nikon D3, the D3S maintains many of the attributes that made it a must-have camera among Nikon pro and semi-pro shooters. But Nikon has outfitted its latest D-series model with a new sensor, an astounding light sensitivity expandable to 102,400, and 720p HD video recording, to name just a few new features.
My decision to shoot New York Fashion Week with the D3S was easy. I had shot previous NYFW shows with the Nikon D3 and the D700 with great results so it made sense to step up to the newest model (with the D700 as back-up and/or backstage). Shooting with the Nikon D3S at the Big Apple Circus during a press event clinched the deal when I saw how well the camera performed, particularly in low light.
While some may complain that the D3S is "only" a 12 megapixel camera, I've found that file sizes are usually more than sufficient. Since most of my Fashion Week shots are for the Web, images are downsized but the high res files are large enough to apply the kind of cropping that's standard for online runway shots. In print, most Fashion Week photos are often ¼ page or less, so the D3S also works for magazines and newspapers. There were plenty of photographers shooting at Fashion Week with the 12 megapixel D3 and a fashion photographer from Brazil (unsuccessfully) tried to buy ten D3S' for his crew before he left New York for London Fashion Week, so there's further proof that a really good 12 megapixel sensor provides ample resolution for this type of work.
As it turned out, the demand for the camera has been so high-and the supply so minimal-that I was one of the few photographers at Fashion Week to shoot with the D3S. The camera turned out to be a great conversation starter with other photographers, which made vying for a coveted spot in the always-packed photographers' "pit" a little more friendly, although no less physically difficult. If you have personal space issues, being a fashion week photographer is not for you.
A few other factors went into shooting with the Nikon D3S at Fashion Week, including excellent image quality, dual CompactFlash card slots and a burst rate of up to 9 frames per second in full-frame mode. The dual Compactflash card slots offer a lot of flexibility and I generally used the second slot for overflow so I wouldn't run out of space. However, I could have easily designated the second slot for RAW files.
Shows generally run about 15-20 minutes depending on the number of looks in the collection, but occasionally a designer will show a huge collection. A few years ago, the final show of the week had more than 50 dresses-about twice the number expected. At the time, 4GB capacity was the highest capacity card on the market and, if I remember correctly, the camera I was shooting with did not have dual slots, so I had to change cards in the middle of the show. Not an easy thing to do when you're jammed together with other photographers and don't have much (if any) light to see what you're doing.
This past season, although faced with many of the same space and time challenges as years past, shooting was much easier thanks to the Nikon D3S.
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