In my previous articles comparing the Nikon Df to other cameras like D800, D700 and D610, I posted images from the D4 as if they were from the Df in the articles (note that I clearly pointed out that the images were from the D4), because I was pretty sure that the Df had the same sensor. Some of our readers criticized me for doing that, arguing that Nikon’s sensor technology and the imaging pipeline might have changed since the introduction of the D4. I received the Nikon Df last week, so one of the first things I did was compare its performance against the D4 to see if I could spot any differences. Below is a detailed comparison between the two, which shows that both cameras utilize the same or similar sensor technology. So my previous comparisons are still valid and can be referred to for comparing between the different Nikon DSLRs.
Here is a quick comparison of ISO performance (low ISO and high ISO) between the Nikon D600, Nikon D700, Nikon D800E and Nikon D3s. Please note that all of the images below were shot in JPEG, since Nikon D600 RAW support is not available yet. All images were also down-sampled to the Nikon D700/D3s resolution (cameras with the lowest resolution). Everything was shot in ambient light (lab results are posted in the Nikon D600 review here) with all camera corrections turned off and camera profile set to standard (default, no changes). Cropping and export was performed in Lightroom 4 and I used Photoshop to add the text on the bottom of each image.
1) Nikon D600 ISO Performance
I have just updated the Fuji X-Pro1 Review with detailed camera comparisons with the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800. RAW support has finally become available with the latest updates from Adobe for both Lightroom and Photoshop, so I was able to extract RAW files from all cameras to do a comprehensive analysis. My findings? The Fuji X-Pro1 RAW images look as impressive as the JPEG images. Despite the fact that I down-sampled the Nikon D800 and Canon 5D Mark III images, which should give them an advantage in terms of handling noise, the pixel level quality of the Fuji X-Pro1 sensor is still superior at low ISOs! At first, I thought that I did something wrong in Lightroom – maybe accidentally applied noise reduction to Fuji X-Pro1 images. However, after looking through the images in detail and resetting to RAW file defaults, I was surprised to find out that the Fuji X-Pro1 RAW files indeed looked cleaner. Here is an example comparison at ISO 200 between the Fuji X-Pro1 and the Canon 5D Mark III:
Take a look at noise levels on both crops and compare noise levels on the second DVD from the bottom. The output from the X-Pro1 looks cleaner!
If you have pre-ordered the Nikon D800, you will have a smile on your face after you read this. Remember my first post on the Nikon D800, where I said that it will take the #1 spot at DXOMark? Well, guess what – I was right on that one. DXOMark has just released their latest data for the Nikon D800 and it took the #1 spot away from the expensive Phase One IQ180 medium format camera. With an overall score of 95, nothing comes even remotely close to its sensor performance:
While most of us were expecting to see incredible dynamic range performance from the D800, many photographers and critics out there were complaining about small pixels on the sensor and their implication on low-light performance. When I saw the negativity about the pixel size, I published an article on the benefits of a high resolution sensor. For some, the concept of “down-sampling” was quite new, while others strongly disagreed with me and kept on repeating the same old tune on how smaller pixels negatively affect high ISO performance. Well, those who doubted me can now take a look at the data that DXOMark has published today – the Nikon D800 pretty much matches the Nikon D4 in terms of high ISO performance. Wait a second, how is that possible, you might ask? After-all, we are not only comparing two completely different cameras for different needs, but also two cameras at completely different price points – the D4 costs twice as much as the D800.
While I have not yet received my copy of the Nikon D4, I had an opportunity to test it today and perform some comparisons against the original Nikon D3 and D3s cameras, thanks to my new friend Michael Sasser, who was kind enough to let me use his D4. The purpose of this Nikon D4 vs D3s vs D3 ISO comparison is to show how the new professional D4 compares to the older-generation Nikon cameras in low and high ISO performance. I will start working on a full Nikon D4 Review once I receive it and hopefully will finish it up with plenty of image samples and my analysis sometime in early April (planning a couple of big projects for the Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras).
Some background information for the below crops:
- All photographs were taken in a controlled environment, with a single studio light (octabank, modeling light), placed on the left
- All cameras were set to 14-bit NEF / RAW format, Active D-Lighting, Noise Reduction, Vignetting set to Off
- White Balance: Auto, changed to 3300 Temp, +6 Tint in Lightroom 4 (Process Version 2012)
- Lightroom Settings: Default
- Due to the difference in resolution (16 MP on the D4 vs 12 MP on the D3 and D3s), images from the Nikon D4 were down-sampled to 12 MP for a fair comparison
Here is the full image and the cropped area:
Our Russian friends at Ferra.ru have published the first Nikon D800 High ISO image samples. I am providing them here, because their website might get too busy and go down due to the high number of requests, just like Nikon’s websites did yesterday.
Preliminary analysis: the high ISO samples look really good. As expected, there is some noticeable noise at very high ISOs (see the ISO 25600 sample). But judging from what I am seeing, it looks like the noise levels are really good compared to what Nikon D700 produces. Down-sampled to 12 MP, the images look stunning (see the down-sampled versions below). Please note that the below images are JPEG, straight out of the camera. No noise-reduction has been applied and no image conversion took place.
If you have not yet pre-ordered the Nikon D800, now is the time to do it!
As camera manufacturers are continuing the megapixel race, with Sony releasing a bunch of 24 MP APS-C (1.5 crop-factor) cameras like Sony A77, A65 and NEX-7, and Nikon releasing a high resolution 36 MP Nikon D800, many of us photographers question the need for such a high resolution sensor. Some of us are happy while others are angry about these latest trends. Just when we thought companies like Nikon abandoned the megapixel race, instead of seeing other companies do the same, we now see Nikon back in the game with a new breed of product with a boatload of pixels. Why did Nikon all of a sudden decide to flip the game? Why does everyone seem to be going for more pixels rather than better low-light / high ISO performance? Does a high resolution sensor make sense? What are the true benefits of a high resolution sensor? In this article, I will provide my thoughts on what I think has happened with Nikon’s camera strategy, along with a few points on benefits of a high resolution sensor.
Pixel Size, Pixel Density, Sensor Size and Image Processing Pipeline
OK, this topic is rather complex if you do not know anything about pixels and sensors. Before you read any further, I highly recommend to read my “FX vs DX” article, where I specifically talk about pixel and sensor sizes and their impact on image quality.
Another frequently asked question from our readers is related to dead, hot and stuck pixels they encounter in images or on camera LCD screens. Since there is so much confusion about these different types of pixel defects/malfunctions (people use them interchangeably without understanding the terms), I decided to write a quick article explaining the difference between them to avoid any confusion. Please bear in mind that there is no consensus between photographers when it comes to defining the types of pixel defects. The below information is my way of categorizing defective pixels that you might not agree with.
1) Dead Pixels
A dead pixel is a permanently damaged pixel that does not receive any power, which often results in a black spot on the camera LCD. Since digital camera sensors have color filter arrays, also known as “Bayer filters” in front of them, dead pixels do not normally show up as a black spot, but will rather show up of different color than adjacent pixels, or will be slightly darker than adjacent pixels. A dead pixel is a malfunction that is more or less permanent and does not go away over time. Dead pixels are rare on digital camera LCDs and sensors – manufacturers typically take care of dead pixels during their extensive Quality Assurance (QA) process. Dead pixels might appear on DSLR LCD screens and sensors over time, which is normal.
Our first case study was submitted by our regular visitor Dennis, who lives in Singapore. Here is the description of his problem:
Hi Nasim, I have tried night shots using 35mm f/1.8G. It is a landscape shot with river reflecting street lamps. I do it handheld, aperture mode, f1.8, shutter 1/5sec, ISO 1600. Strangely despite a dark black sky, the shot came out reddish sky and the center focus point have some reflected light that shouldn’t be there. I tried to shoot other night shots on sky, it appeared to have this reflected light. The pattern is random, depends on what I shoot. I don’t understand why. Do I have to take out the UV filter attached on it? I have read through these tips, but couldn’t understand what causes this to happen. Yours look sharp!
Dennis sent me the following picture as an example, which was taken in a public park in Singapore:
Here are my comments on the photo, along with the solution to the problem:
In this Nikon D700/D3 vs D3s High ISO Noise Comparison, I will be focusing on providing information and image samples from the first-generation Nikon full frame cameras (Nikon D700 and Nikon D3) as well as from the current high ISO king – Nikon D3s. High ISOs are needed in low-light environments, where the amount of ambient light is insufficient for hand-held photography at standard ISO sensitivity values. While doubling the ISO number doubles the shutter speed to freeze motion or prevent camera shake, it also introduces noise into the picture.
All tests below were performed on a sturdy tripod, with timed exposure to prevent camera vibrations. Both Nikon D700 and Nikon D3s were set exactly the same way, shot in manual mode with Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G at f/8.0. Exposures were exactly the same on both cameras, depending on ISO value. I shot in RAW (Active D-Lighting: Off, High ISO NR: Normal), then imported into Lightroom, cropped and exported with “Camera Standard” camera profile. The rest of the data is available via EXIF in the files to those who are interested in technical details.
Here is the full area that I shot for these tests:
The first test is at ISO 800. The image on the left is Nikon D700 and the image on the right is Nikon D3s (click to enlarge). Both are extremely good at ISO 800, but Nikon D3s is a little cleaner in the background areas.