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Nikon D3 NEF vs JPG
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December 2007

I finally loaded Capture NX to see if NEFs look any sharper than JPGs. Try this yourself; this is what I got on my first try.

These are crops from images at 100% shot with the incomparable Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS set to 70mm and f/8. I used a tripod at 1/250 of a second, and selected the sharpest from a burst of three rounds. All were as sharp. These are shot in the RAW + JPG mode, so each shot is identical. I opened the NEFs in Capture NX. None were altered, except as noted to see what extra sharpening applied might make them match.

Read the captions and roll your mouse over to compare. Of course these are at the same magnification as a 43" or 1.1m wide print; would you enjoy a print that big from this close?

OK, so the NEF is a little sharper than the JPG.

Let's sharpen the JPG and see what happens.

Whoops, now the BASIC JPG is sharper than the NEF. Maybe that's because I used the compressed NEF, shame on me. (Actually not; all the compression in the NEF is in the z-axis, not x-y).

Let's uncork the D3 and shoot an uncompressed 14-bit NEF to see what happens. The light changed, sorry.

The NEF is sharper again. Let's sharpen the basic JPG and see if we can get the 2.2MB file to match the 24.9 MB file:

Looks the same to me!

I've made over 7,500 shots already with my D3 in first 17 days I've had it. I would have filled 200GB worth of hard drive if I had shot 14 bit uncompressed. This is why I shoot JPG, and try to get it right the first time.



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