ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Let’s take a look at how the D600 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
The images look very nice with no noticeable noise between ISO 100 and ISO 800.
High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of DSLR sensor quality for low-light photography. Here is how the Nikon D600 performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 6400:
Every step up in ISO adds a slight amount of grain. Shadow areas start to get impacted at ISO 3200 and some noise is added at ISO 6400. Getting rid of noise at very high ISO levels would require a more selective noise reduction algorithm, so software like Nik Software Dfine would have to be used for best results. See my “Photo Noise Reduction Tutorial” for examples of selective noise reduction.
High ISO Performance “Boost” (ISO 12800-25600)
Nikon D600 has two extra ISO “boost” levels – ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 for extreme situations. Let’s take a look at these:
ISO 12,800 adds quite a bit of noise compared to ISO 6,400, but thanks to down-sampling, the detail level is still pretty high. Even at noisy ISO 25,600 there is still plenty of details to work with, although the shadows look pretty bad to me with large grains and artifacts all over the image.
ISO Performance Summary
The Nikon D600 yields very impressive results at all ISO levels, even at boosted ISO 12,800 and 25,600. Given how little noise there is, I would not hesitate to use it at ISO 3,200 and could even push it as high as ISO 6,400. Now bear in mind that these are down-sampled images at 12 MP – I had to normalize the output in order to compare the camera to the D700 and D3s. Noise levels are obviously higher at 100% pixel view due to smaller pixel size, but that’s not how sensor performance should be compared. I always normalize images to the smallest resolution for proper camera comparisons (which is the only proper method).
It is hard to judge the performance of the Nikon D600 without direct comparison against other professional cameras, which is why you should definitely check out the comparisons on the next page as well.
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