Nikon D3100 Gordon Laing, November 2010
 

Nikon D3100 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise


Nikon D3100 vs Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i High ISO Noise (default settings)

 
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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Nikon D3100 and Canon EOS 550D / T2i within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings. Scroll down for a comparison against the Canon EOS 1000D / XS.

Both cameras were fitted with their respective kit lenses: the D3100 with the Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR and the 550D / T2i with the EF-S 18-55mm IS. Both were set to f8 and focused on the target area using magnified Live View.


The image above was taken with the Nikon D3100 at 100 ISO with an exposure of 0.6 seconds and with the lens set to 24mm f8; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 4.99MB. The Canon EOS 550D / T2i metered a slightly shorter exposure, so we applied +0.3EV compensation to match the exposures from the D3100 – so below you're looking at images taken at the same ISO value, aperture and shutter speed, so any difference in brightness is due to a difference in actual sensitivity.

The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%; the 550D / T2i crops show a smaller area because of its higher resolution. High ISO Noise reduction was set to the default Standard on both cameras, but the Nikon's Active D-Lighting and the Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer were both disabled as they can artificially introduce noise.

Both cameras start their sequences delivering very clean and detailed results as you'd expect. You may notice a small difference in brightness though, with the Canon EOS 550D / T2i crops appearing a little darker. Since both cameras employed the same aperture, shutter speed and ISO values below, this implies the Canon sensor is a little less sensitive than the Nikon – by approximately 0.25EV. In terms of resolved detail, there's not much to choose between them, although pixel-peepers will spot a small advantage to the Canon.

At 200 ISO it's the same story with both cameras remaining clean and detailed. At 400 ISO, pixel-peepers may notice very faint textures appearing in the Canon's background, although arguably a tad more detail is retained. This is really minor stuff though and to all intents and purposes, both cameras deliver very usable and similarly detailed images at 400 ISO.

With the sensitivity doubled to 800 ISO, the background textures are increasing on both cameras, but again there's very little to worry about. We would however say the D3100 has become a fraction softer than the Canon at this point. The 550D / T2i appears to be applying a little more contrast and sharpening at this point for a slightly punchier result.

At 1600 ISO, both cameras are exhibiting more noise, although the Nikon appears to be applying a little more noise reduction at this point – as such its image avoids some of the background artefacts of the Canon, but it's losing a little fine detail as a result.

At 3200 ISO, both cameras take a visible turn for the worse with noise artefacts becoming more obvious and fine details gradually disappearing; the D3100's colour balance also looks like its drifting a little. At 6400 ISO, there's another big drop in quality and a difference in processing styles, although the D3100 has a small edge in resolved detail.

Finally at their maximum sensitivities of 12800 ISO, both cameras unsurprisingly look pretty ropey, although interestingly each has adopted very different approaches to coping with noise. Canon's noise reduction has become quite splotchy, while Nikon's left much of the noise patterns untouched for a grainy, but superior result.

From 100 to 400 ISO, we'd place both cameras – with their kit lenses – roughly neck in neck. From 800 to 3200 ISO, the Canon arguably enjoys a small edge, but at the maximum sensitivities, the Nikon claws it back. But look closely at the lower sensitivity samples and there's really not much between them, especially when processing styles and image brightness are matched. Their four Megapixel difference sounds significant, but it's actually fairly subtle in practice, especially when both are fitted with their kit lenses.

This is a good result for the D3100 as it roughly matches the detail of the 550D / T2i in our low-light tests at a lower price-point. Fit the Canon with a better lens and you can extract a little more detail from its high resolution sensor, but even then it's not a huge difference from the Nikon.

The D3100 falls roughly between the EOS 550D / T2i and 1000D / XS in price, so keep scrolling down to see how Nikon's body compares against Canon's cheaper entry-level model. If you've already seen enough though, check out a selection of HD video clips on our Nikon D3100 HD video samples page.


Nikon D3100 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
 
Canon EOS 550D / T2i (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS
100 ISO
100 ISO
     
200 ISO
200 ISO
     
400 ISO
400 ISO
     
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
Hi 1 (6400 ISO)
6400 ISO
     
Hi 2 (12800 ISO)
H1 (12800 ISO)

 

Nikon D3100 vs Canon EOS 1000D / Rebel XS High ISO Noise (default settings)

 
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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Nikon D3100 and Canon EOS 1000D / XS within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings. Scroll up for a comparison against the Canon EOS 550D / T2i.

Both cameras were fitted with their respective kit lenses: the D3100 with the Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR and the 1000D / XS with the EF-S 18-55mm IS 24mm f8. Both were focused on the target area using magnified Live View.


The image above was taken with the Nikon D3100 at 100 ISO with an exposure of 0.6 seconds and with the lens set to 24mm f8; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 4.99MB. The Canon EOS 1000D / XS again metered a slightly shorter exposure, so we applied +0.3EV compensation to match the exposures from the D3100 – so below you're looking at images taken at the same ISO value, aperture and shutter speed, so any difference in brightness is due to a difference in actual sensitivity.

The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%; the 1000D / XS crops show a larger area because of its lower resolution. High ISO Noise reduction was set to the default Standard on both cameras, but the Nikon's Active D-Lighting and the Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer were both disabled as they can artificially introduce noise.

In the comparison below, there's another four Megapixel difference between the bodies, but this time the advantage in numbers goes to the Nikon with 14 Megapixels to the 10 of the budget Canon.

At 100 and 200 ISO, both cameras are essentially noise-free, but the Canon 1000D / XS takes a noticeably softer approach to image processing – its crops at the same exposure settings are also darker than the Nikon, implying a lower actual sensitivity, and this all adds-up to a muddier-looking result. The D3100 is resolving visibly greater detail and delivering a preferred result overall.

At 400 ISO, noise is beginning to appear on the Canon, and its downhill from there. The maximum sensitivity of the 1000D / XS is 1600 ISO, and at this point there's no competition: the D3100 avoids the chroma noise and smeared details of its budget rival to deliver a far superior result, and don't forget it then goes on to offer 3200, 6400 and even 12,800 ISO options.

To be fair, the Canon 1000D / XS is using an ageing sensor which was first seen in the 400D / XTi over four years earlier. Sensor technology has moved on significantly since then, and Canon's entry-level DSLR is looking dated compared to its new rival from Nikon. Again to be fair, EOS 1000D / XS is cheaper than the D3100, not to mention two years older, but when comparing the quality of these two 'entry-level' DSLRs, the Nikon D3100 easily takes the lead.


Nikon D3100 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Nikkor DX 18-55mm VR
 
Canon EOS 1000D / XS (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS
100 ISO
100 ISO
     
200 ISO
200 ISO
     
400 ISO
400 ISO
     
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO

Nikon D3100 results : Real-life resolution / High ISO Noise



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