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Nikon D3X, Nikon D3 and Canon 5D Mark II ISO 6,400 Comparison
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January 2009         

Nikon D3X Review      Nikon D3 Review    (The D700 is identical to the D3)

Canon 5D Mark II Review     (the Canon 5D only goes to ISO 3,200)

More Nikon Reviews       More Canon Reviews

ISO 3,200 Comparison       ISO 25,600 Comparison


Here are the full images from each camera:

Nikon D3X

Nikon D3

Canon 5D Mark II

They all look identical at this size.

What look like sensitivity differences aren't really, since I found that the highlights stayed reasonably the same as below. Everything was shot manually, with the same Nikon manual lens on every camera.

Now let's zoom in for the hackers.

These are below are equal-sized crops from the middle of much larger images. If each complete uncropped image was printed at this same high magnification, each would be 40 x 60" (100 x 150cm). You can click each image to get to each camera's full review.

Nikon D3X at ISO 3,200

Nikon D3 at ISO 3,200

Canon 5D MArk II at ISO 3,200


Analysis      top

At ISO 6,400, they all look the same to me. It's astounding just how similar the noise looks between brands and models of same-format cameras.

Sure, there are slight differences, but the differences are negligible compared to what you'd see comparing to a half-frame (DX or 1.6x) camera. Would I call any of these three full-frame cameras significantly cleaner than any other? No.

All three have about the same color mottling (low-frequency chroma noise).

The D3X has a little more grittiness (high frequency noise), while the D3 has a little less, and the 5D Mark II uses more noise reduction to smudge it all over.

The D3X is significantly sharper, if you're printing five feet (1.5 meters) wide, so the added noise comes along with the sharpness.

I'd take the D3X image any day, since applying a little noise reduction in software can duplicate either other camera's noise level, but nothing can replace the added detail of the D3X.


Nik Masked


Clearly, if noise bothers you, just use a tool like Nik Dfine.

The second example uses a layer mask so I can apply NR only to the places it's visible, and not to the places where I want to retain detail. Cool, huh?


Technik      top

These are crops from the center of each image. The full image at this magnification would print 60 inches (1.5 meters) wide.

Why this self-portrait? This is actually a very sneaky test: the fur on my face and eyes lets us see texture to look for the horrid effects of smudging from noise reduction, and the out-of focus wash behind my head lets us see noise at various levels on flat parts of the image. The out-of-focus transition behind my head is very deliberate.

I used the 105mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI from 1980 because it's an ultra sharp lens, especially at the 1:8 reproduction ratio used here, and because it doesn't use floating elements or zoom. Its optical core is locked down solid, so nothing changes as put on different cameras with kludgy adapters. Newer macro lenses and zooms would all change their optical properties with floating elements as the flange focal distance varied slightly with the silly Nikon -> Canon adapter I used.

I left NR and sharpening at defaults. These are the actual images (JPGs) created by each camera. If you prefer to shoot raw, your results will vary all over the map depending on which software you use to anneal the raw files into actual images.

The 5D Mark II was running firmware version 1.0.7.



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