Nikon D810 vs Nikon D800E ISO Noise Comparison
First, let’s take a look at how the Nikon D810 compares to the previous generation Nikon D800E, starting from ISO 64. For this test, we will be comparing both cameras at 100% crop without any down-sampling. Since the D800E does not have ISO 64, the below crop was shot at ISO 50 (Low ISO boost):
There is not much to say about low ISO performance – both cameras produce superb results at low ISOs. Except the D810 does not have to boost anything at ISO 64, since it is its start of the “native” ISO range. I have not performed any dynamic range tests yet, but hopefully, this means more dynamic range for the D810.
Next, here is ISO 100 (Left: Nikon D810, Right: Nikon D800E):
Performance at low ISOs is excellent on both cameras, so there is no need to look here – let’s skip to ISO 800 and above.
Noise patterns look a little different between the two, but I cannot say that one is better than the other.
The same for ISO 1600.
At ISO 3200, we can see that the D800E starts to develop more patches of false color in some areas of the image.
As we push ISO higher towards 6400, we can now see that the shadow area on the D800E is clearly more affected with noise patterns.
And this is much more evident at ISO 12800, where the D810 is clearly better in handling noise throughout the image.
ISO 25600 is just too much for both cameras, but once again, the D810 appears visibly better.
And the D810 comes with a useless ISO 51200, which I personally would never use due to severe loss of details, colors and way too much grain.
Please note that all of the above are 100% crops from the center of the frame. No processing was performed on images, including sharpening, contrast, levels, etc.
Nikon D810 vs Nikon D800E ISO Noise Comparison Summary
Judging from the above ISO crops, the performance difference between the two cameras is between 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop at ISO 3200 and above. Although Nikon pushed native ISO a full stop higher, I do not see a full stop of difference between these cameras. Now I do have to say that the brightness difference that I noticed and showed above between the two cameras (the D810 being brighter) is actually in favor of the D810. If I were to equalize the brightness levels of both cameras by darkening the D810 images, noise levels would appear even better in comparison.
As stated before, it appears that we have hit the wall in terms of pure ISO performance for such a high-resolution camera. Soon enough, unless something drastically changes in sensor technology, such comparisons might become useless, since we are seeing less and fewer improvements with the newer generation cameras. It does not mean that we are done with innovation though – the primary factor for competitive advantage now lies with features and other technological advancements. And that’s where the D810 certainly does deliver, as highlighted on the previous pages of this review.
Nikon D810 vs Nikon Df
When comparing a high-resolution sensor to a lower-resolution one, it only makes sense to compare both at the same size. For the below comparison, I down-sampled the D810 images to 16 MP to match the resolution of the Nikon Df. Let’s take a look at the comparison (Left: Nikon D810, Right: Nikon Df):
At low ISO levels, noise characteristics of both sensors are very similar. However, the Nikon D810 images show more detail due to the above-mentioned down-sampling process. The Nikon D810 also renders colors a bit differently in comparison.
Up until ISO 1600, it is practically impossible to distinguish between the D810 and Df performance at a similar resolution. At pixel-level, the Df obviously looks a lot better.
At ISO 1600 there is a bit more noticeable grain on the D810, but the detail level is very high.
Similar behavior can be observed at ISO 3200.
Pushing ISO to 6400 reveals a little bit more grain and artifacts on the D810, while the Df seems to handle noise a bit better in comparison.
ISO 12800 is a bit grainy on both cameras, but the Nikon Df appears cleaner in comparison and does not seem to have as many artifacts.
Pushing further down to ISO 25600 makes things look rather bad on both cameras, as expected. Both cameras lose too much dynamic range and details. However, the Nikon Df still handles noise clearly better in comparison.
Finally, at ISO 51200, the Nikon Df still shows quite a good handling of noise in comparison, but it is too noisy to be actually usable.
Nikon D810 vs Nikon Df ISO Noise Comparison Summary
As we have seen before, the Nikon Df handles noise very well, thanks to its large pixels and superb pixel-level performance. While both cameras do very well at lower ISOs, it is clear that the Nikon Df’s 16 MP sensor performs visibly better at higher ISOs, particularly above ISO 6400 in both noise performance and dynamic range.
Nikon D810 vs Fuji X-T1
Let’s see how the Nikon D810 compares to the Fuji X-T1, which has a smaller APS-C sensor (Left: Nikon D810, Right: Fuji X-T1):
Just like with the Nikon Df, the image from the X-T1 appears a bit softer in comparison to the D810 image, since the D810 image is down-sampled. Noise levels are very similar on both cameras.
Pushing to ISO 400 does not change much – both cameras perform admirably with no noticeable noise.
The same thing happens at ISO 800.
Even ISO 1600 shows impressive performance on behalf of the Fuji X-T1, which shows just how good modern APS-C sensors have gotten. The D810 looks better, but not by a big margin.
ISO 3200 shows visibly more grain on the Fuji X-T1 and we now see patches of artifacts in the shadows. There is also visible loss of colors and dynamic range on the X-T1, while the D810 retains both quite well in comparison.
The last comparable ISO is 6400 since the Fuji X-T1 does not shoot in RAW at higher ISOs. Here we see that the Fuji X-T1 lost a lot of details and its noise is much worse when compared to the D810. In addition, there is a heavy loss of colors and dynamic range, which is expected from the smaller APS-C sensor.
Nikon D810 vs Fuji X-T1 ISO Noise Comparison Summary
The above comparison shows that the difference in performance between the Nikon D810 and the Fuji X-T1 is quite minimal at low ISOs and only becomes obvious once the cameras are pushed to ISO 1600 and above. The Fuji X-T1 demonstrates impressive performance at the pixel-level, with very little noise visible, even at higher ISOs. Where the D810 takes over is in sharpness, thanks to its massive megapixel count and the effect of down-sampling. It also produces visibly better images with more dynamic range, colors and details at ISO 1600 and above. Sadly, Fuji does not allow shooting in RAW above ISO 6400, so we could not show performance differences at higher ISOs.
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