Nikon D700 vs D300s ISO Comparison at low ISOs
There is no such thing as a fair comparison when you put an FX sensor against a DX sensor. A larger sensor means larger pixels, which translates to cleaner images. I know FX vs DX is always a heated debate, with plenty of people defending each side, but for me – the low ISO performance of a full-frame sensor was something that made me permanently switch to FX. I was simply never happy with noise showing up even at base ISO on DX sensors. Everybody talks about high ISO performance difference between FX and DX, but people rarely show examples of low noise of the FX sensor at low ISOs. Below you will find comparisons at both low and high ISO levels between D700 and D300s. Please note that ISO 200 is the base ISO for both D700 and D300s.
Let’s see how the D700 FX sensor compares to the D300s DX sensor – take a look at the below crops at ISO 200, 400 and 800:
At base ISO 200, the Nikon D700 has very smooth and clean shadows, whereas the Nikon D300s has a little bit of noise that is particularly visible in the shadows.
At ISO 400, the D700 still has a clean and noise-free image, while D300s is already showing plenty of noise in the shadows.
With ISO level boosted up to 800, the amount of noise on the D300s is significantly higher than on the D700, but the details are not lost.
Nikon D700 vs D300s High ISO Comparison
What about high ISO levels above ISO 800? Let’s take a look:
ISO 1600 is very grainy on the D300s, while the image from the D700 adds a little bit of noise. We are starting to see loss of details on the D300s.
The D300s image at ISO 3200 looks unusable to me, while D700 still has plenty of detail to work with. D300s lost a lot of colors and dynamic range too.
At ISO 6400 the amount of detail loss on the D300s is significant. Colors are off and lots of dynamic range is lost. See how much better the D700 looks in comparison.
Nikon D700 vs D300s Summary
It is hard to explain the difference between FX and DX until you see image samples at different ISOs, including base ISO. While D700’s full frame sensor produces very clean images from ISO 200 to 800 even in the shadows, D300’s crop sensor already shows some amount of noise at ISO 200. The difference between the sensors increases even more as ISO levels are increased. The ISO 6400 crop from the D700 looks slightly worse than the ISO 1600 crop from the D300s, so there is roughly a 1.5 stops of difference between the two. I was never happy with the image quality of D300/D300s above ISO 800, while I do not hesitate to use ISO 1600 and even ISO 3200 on the D700. Obviously, the difference between FX and DX sensors is much more than noise levels. There is a significant different in field of view, dynamic range, colors, etc. Again, see my Nikon FX vs DX article for more details on differences.
Nikon D700 vs D7000 ISO Comparison at low ISOs
For this test, I shot a target at a close distance without changing camera to subject distance (which is why images from the D7000 look slightly bigger in size). How does the newest high-resolution DX sensor from the Nikon D7000 compare to the D700’s FX sensor? Let’s take a look!
Just like the D300s, the Nikon D7000 is showing noise at ISO 200:
The difference is even more noticeable at ISO 400:
At ISO 800, noise on the D7000 is very similar to that of Nikon D300s and the D700 looks much cleaner, practically noise-free in comparison:
When compared to the Nikon D300s, the new Nikon D7000 has 4 more megapixels of resolution, but retains around the same amount of detail and noise.
Nikon D700 vs D7000 High ISO Comparison
Let’s see how the Nikon D7000 compares against the D700 at ISO 1600:
Once again, the difference is pretty clear – the Nikon D700 is much cleaner at ISO 1600. What about ISO 3200?
The situation at ISO 3200 is very similar to that of ISO 1600 – Nikon D7000 is showing plenty of noise in comparison, just like the Nikon D300s.
ISO 6400 is my threshold on the D700 for worst-case scenarios where I need to use a high ISO. D700 is still much cleaner than D7000 and it certainly retains a lot more details in shadows and highlights.
ISO 12,800 and 25,600 look better on the D700, but still unusable on both cameras as far as I am concerned. The amount of noise, detail and color loss on both cameras at these ISO levels is significant.
Nikon D700 vs D7000 Summary
Once again, comparing a cropped-sensor camera to a full-frame camera is never an apples-to-apples comparison. I decided to provide the above crops simply as a reference, for people to see how the new D7000 compares against the older D700 full-frame DSLR. Yes, the Nikon D7000 is a superb high ISO performer when compared to other cropped sensors given its higher resolution, but it still is not in the FX league in terms of noise handling, especially at low ISO levels. Even downsizing images to 12 MP on the D7000 does not result in the same clean look FX gives to images. Just like with the D300s, there is still more than a stop of difference between the two.
Nikon D700 vs D3s ISO Comparison at Low ISOs
What about comparing the D700 to the current low light king, the Nikon D3s? Let’s take a look. The Nikon D700 produces noise-free images between ISO 200 and 800. Here is a head to head comparison between D700 and D3s at ISO 200:
I cannot see any difference between the two. What about ISO 400:
Still the same story, the images look almost identical.
The same goes for ISO 800 – again, both cameras are excellent between ISO 200 and 800. Finally, here is ISO 1600:
At ISO 1600, both still look great, but the Nikon D3s image looks a tad cleaner in the shadows.
Nikon D700 vs D3s High ISO Comparison
The battle begins at ISO levels above ISO 1600. Here is ISO 3200:
Now the difference is clear – the Nikon D3s has less noise at ISO 3200, especially in the shadows:
At ISO 6400, the difference is significant – take a look at the shadows and the figurine on the right side. If my maximum workable ISO level on the D700 is ISO 3200, on the D3s it is raised to ISO 6400.
ISO 12800 is unusable on the D700 due to the significant amount of noise and loss of colors, while it still looks OK on the D3s.
And the difference is even more significant at ISO 25600 – look at the figurine on the right side and note how much detail is lost on the D700, while D3s still preserves most of it.
Nikon D700 is maxed out at ISO 25600, while D3s can push it all the way to ISO 102400. I never shoot at ISO levels above 25600 on the D3s, so the performance at these ISO levels is not important for me.
Now here is a bonus/fun comparison. What if we compared the Nikon D3s against the Nikon D300s? Take a look at these crops:
When I look closely, the image from the Nikon D3s actually looks sharper than the image from D300s, which means that there is even more than 3 stops of difference between the two. In addition, despite the fact that I used the same color profile, white balance and saturation levels on both images, the image from the D3s has better colors.
Nikon D700 vs D3s Summary
As you can see from the above image crops, the Nikon D700 is on par with Nikon D3s at low ISOs between ISO 200 and ISO 800. Starting from ISO 1600, the Nikon D3s shows better handling of noise in the shadows. The difference grows as ISO levels are increased. At ISO 6400 and above, the Nikon D3s shows roughly a stop of difference and this difference slightly increases at ISO 12800 and above. Take a look at ISO 51200 on the D3s and compare it to ISO 25600 on the D700 – the D3s looks better and retains colors. Obviously these kinds of extreme ISO comparisons are not very useful for most photography needs and I personally avoid shooting at ISO above 6400, but it is nice to know that the D3s could save a picture if the lighting conditions are extremely poor.
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