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Nikon D3/D3s burst buffer limits and settings

I wrote about this issue 3 years ago on Flickr when I first changed over from Canon to Nikon.
The problem hit me on Monday when I was shooting the A-League Round 20 match and I was tracking Robbie Kruse with my D3 and the 70-200mm. Robbie weaved around for quite awhile and my D3 started hitting the burst buffer limit of around 15 images. From the 30 images sequence below, the images are named seq_min_sec. The D3 was setup for 14-bit lossless compressed. At the 36-38 sec mark the D3 is going at about the full 9fps. As it gets to the 40 sec mark it’s down to about 2fps and notice the big lag between images 23 and 25 when the D3 was clearing out the buffer onto the card. Then between images 27 and 29 I wish I had 9fps as missed Ricardino tapping in the ball from the Kruse cross.

I don’t often hit this as the bursts are around 3-5 images at best. Thinking this was strange I checked the manual and for my settings – 14-bit NEF, lossless compressed, the manual said the buffer is 16 images. Pretty much what happened to me. The buffer size limits is shown below. I’ve now changed my setting to use 12-bit compressed for sport to get another 4 images, and if I know I’m going to need more buffer, a JPEG setting for maximum burst buffer size.

Here are the buffer limits for a D3s. Note how much bigger the buffer is. 14-bit isn’t much of an issue anymore for sport with 36 images. But if you want to maximize the buffer you’d set it for 12-bit and get 6 more images. Or shoot in JPEG and get up to 82.