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Nikon D3x Gordon Laing, July 2009

Nikon D3x RAW results :
Real-life resolution / Studio resolution / High ISO Noise

Nikon D3x vs Canon EOS 5D Mark II RAW High ISO Noise

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Canon EOS 5D Mark II

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Nikon D3x and Canon EOS 5D Mark II within a few moments of each other using each of their ISO settings.

To place both cameras on a level playing field, we tested each body with their respective 50mm f1.4 lenses: the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.4 and the Canon EF 50mm f1.4, both set to f8 for optimum sharpness. As before, focusing was confirmed using magnified assistance in Live View.

High ISO Noise Reduction was set to the default Normal and Standard settings on the D3x and 5D Mark II respectively. Active D-Lighting and the Auto Lighting Optimiser were both disabled for this test as they can artificially increase noise levels.

Following our previous tests in this article, both cameras were set to RAW mode, with their supplied software used to perform the conversions here: Nikon’s Capture NX 2.2.0 and Canon’s Digital Photo Professional 3.6, both using their default settings.

Between 50 and 200 ISO, both cameras deliver very clean and detailed results when viewed at 100%. As we’ve seen throughout these comparative results pages, the default imaging pipeline of the EOS 5D Mark II delivers a crisper, slightly sharper result, which brings out the finest details with minimal compromise in artefacts. The D3x in contrast is again slightly softer using the default settings, but there’s little between them in terms of real life detail or noise levels at this point.

At 400 ISO, the EOS 5D Mark II remains clean, but becomes a little softer than before, more closely matching the default style of the Nikon. In the meantime, the D3x looks pretty much the same as before, although with the very slightest hint of noise textures appearing in the background – this is serious pixel-peeping though.

With the sensitivity increased to 800 ISO these noise textures become a little more apparent on the D3x, with the overall image softening slightly, but again it’s little to be concerned about. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II sample looks cleaner and again a little crisper, but real-life details remain similar.

At 1600 ISO onwards, we see more of each manufacturer’s approach to processing and noise reduction. On the D3x, noise patterns are more apparent, although hardly obtrusive, while on the Canon, they’re absent, although at the cost of a slightly softer image. Increase the noise reduction on the Nikon or reduce it on the Canon and you’ll see similar results.

At 3200 ISO, noise levels have again increased on the D3x, while remaining pretty much hidden on the 5D Mark II. Look in the background of the 5D Mark II’s sample though and you’ll see patchy evidence of noise reduction in action.

The Nikon D3x tops-out at 6400 ISO, where noise speckles have become the most apparent, although to its credit the graininess remains very fine and chroma artefacts are avoided – it’s more reminiscent of a fast film than an electronic sensor. In contrast, the 5D Mark II’s RAW conversion is doing everything it can to avoid visible noise speckles, although obviously at the cost of smearing and a loss of ultimate detail. The D3x arguably has a slight edge in recorded detail in these last two sensitivities, although again the difference is mostly down to their default processing options.

The Canon then bravely goes on to offer 12,800 and 25,600 ISO options, both of which suffer from significantly increased noise levels and processing artefacts.

Ultimately while there are clear differences between their default RAW processing strategies – also reflected in their in-camera JPEGs – both cameras are recording similar amounts of real life detail. Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II starts off with crisper processing, which at higher sensitivities is switched for greater noise reduction with slightly softer results. Meanwhile, the D3x, as you may expect for a professional camera, remains fairly hands-off throughout its range, with less sharpening at lower sensitivities and less noise reduction at higher sensitivities. Stick to the defaults and the Canon 5D Mark II’s images are more ‘cooked’ and ready for use, whereas the D3x expects a little tweaking.

We know from the previous page that the Nikon D3x is technically capable of recording finer details than the Canon EOS 5D Mark II when it comes to resolution charts, but there’s little difference between them when it comes to real-life detail. What’s remarkable is the degree of detail recorded, and the cleanness of the images even at high sensitivities. Both full frame bodies are capable of delivering superb results, and we look forward to seeing some of the D3x’s quality filter down to a more affordable full-frame body.

Now let’s see more examples throughout its sensitivity range in our Nikon D3x Sample Images Gallery.

Nikon D3x
with Nikkor AF-S 50mm f1.4
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
with Canon EF 50mm f1.4
LO 1 (50 ISO)
Lo (50 ISO)
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
HI 1 (3200 ISO)
3200 ISO
HI 2 (6400 ISO)
6400 ISO
12800 ISO not available
H1 (12800 ISO)
25600 ISO not available
H2 (25600 ISO)

Nikon D3x RAW results : Real-life resolution / Studio resolution / High ISO Noise

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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