Nikon D3000 High ISO Comparison
September 2009 More Nikon Reviews
When I first started shooting the D3000, it seemed awfully grainy at ISO 1,600.
I knew my D40 was no star at ISO 1,600 (newer and more expensive DX Nikons like the D90 are a little better), but I was seeing such yucky results at ISO 1,600 from the D3000 that I thought something was wrong.
By really yucky, I mean that a normal person like my wife would not find them acceptable. If I posted shots of my kids shot this way, she'd ask me why they look so bad, and would think I was shooting kid pictures on film again.
I've already compared the Nikon D40 to the D5000, D300 and D3 at all the high ISOs. Here I am going to compare the D3000 to the D40; if you want to compare the D3000 to other cameras, use the other comparison with the D40 as your starting point.
How I did this
I set each camera on the same tripod, set them both to manual exposure and turned off Auto ISO, and then made the same manual exposures with the same lens and the same battery on the same card. The only thing that changed was the camera bodies.
I used the same manual settings on each camera deliberately to be sure neither one was cheating. Often cameras can be 2/3 of a stop different than the marked ISO, which lets them cheat elsewhere.
In this comparison, luckily each camera worked at the same actual sensitivity at each setting.
Each crop below is taken from the same part of the image from each camera. On most computer monitors, each crop below is 4.5" (115mm) wide, in which case each complete image would be 12" (30cm) wide printed at the same magnification.
These are not huge blow-ups; the ISO 1,600, this noise is visible on normal-size prints.
D40 at ISO 1,600 vs. D3000 at ISO 800
Summary analysis top
The D3000 is the worst DSLR I've used at high ISOs. The D40 is better, and the Olympus E-P1 is better.
The D3000 is a full stop worse than the D40, meaning that the D3000 is as noisy as the D40 set to an ISO twice as high.
In other words, most DSLRs give results identical to the D3000 set to an ISO one stop faster. This is why the D3000 starts at ISO 100, while the D40 starts at ISO 200 for the same excellent results. At ISO 200 the D40 is deliciously clean, which the D3000 has a little noise.
The D3000 is sharp; it doesn't dull the image with much noise reduction, which is good, except that the D40 and D90 don't use much NR either, and have cleaner results with all their details intact, too.
Not shown here is that both the D40 and D3000 lose some color saturation, especially in the darker areas, at ISO 1,600. Each does it about the same amount in an attempt to hide noise.
All in all, I'd avoid shooting the D3000 at ISO 1,600. I'd consider setting Auto ISO to limiti itself to ISO 800 on the D3000, while the D40 at ISO 1,600 looks as good as the D3000 at only ISO 800.
I shot the same sample of 18-55mm VR at 55mm and f/5.6 on a tripod, VR off.
I shot in manual exposure at 1/20 at ISO 200, 1/80 at ISO 800 and 1/160 at ISO 1,600 for each camera. Auto ISO was off.
ADR was off on the D3000. The D40 has no ADR. ADR adds noise, which would make the D3000 look even worse!
Colors don't match between cameras because I left white balance on AUTO, and the color settings were a little different. The D40 was set to Auto-3 WB and Enhanced saturation in color mode IIIa, while the D3000 was set to Auto A2 WB and +2 saturation in Standard Picture Control mode.
The D3000 is much noisier than other DSLRs. I would avoid it because you can't really use ISO 1,600.
All other DX DSLRs are about the same, with the D40 being a tiny bit worse and the D90 being the best by a small margin. The D300 looks like it has less noise, but that's because noise reduction in the D300 is also smearing over image details.
This comparison is with the ADR of the D3000 turned off. ADR makes noise look even worse.
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