Nikon D600 Ken McMahon & Gordon Laing, Nov 2012
 
 

Nikon D600 vs DX Noise RAW

We chose the D3200 to represent possible future 24 Megapixel DX models. See contents below for D800 comparisons.

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  Nikon D600 results
1 Nikon D600 vs DX Quality JPEG
2 Nikon D600 vs DX Quality RAW
3 Nikon D600 vs DX Noise JPEG
4 Nikon D600 vs DX Noise RAW
5 Nikon D600 vs D800 Noise JPEG
6 Nikon D600 vs D800 (down-sampled)
7 Nikon D600 vs D800 Noise RAW
8 Nikon D600 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions , I shot this scene with the Nikon D600 and the Nikon D3200 within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The D600 was fitted with the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR and the D3200 was fitted with the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f3.5-5.6G VR kit lens. This lens has a 35mm equivalent wide angle focal length of 27mm so the lens on the D600 was zoomed in slightly to give an equivalent field of view.

Aperture priority was set on both cameras and the aperture was set to f8 on the D600 and f5.6 on the D3200. ISO sensitivity was set manually.


The above shot was taken with the Nikon D600 with the AF-S 24-85mm f3.5-5.4 kit lens. The camera was placed on a tripod and the VR switch was set to Off. and the default settings were used; Active D-lighting was off, Long exposure NR was off, High ISO NR was normal. Additionally, Active D-lighting on the D3200 which is on by default was turned off.

In Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f8 the camera metered an exposure of 13 seconds at its expanded low sensitivity of 50 ISO. At its base 100 ISO setting the D3200 metered an exposure of 3 seconds at f5.6. As always, the red square in the image above shows the cropped area, which is shown below at 1:1. The 3200 crops for this page were also made at 1:1.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes - as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you're used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it's an approach that's designed to show the actual detail that's being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

As with the outdoor results, these RAW crops confirm what the JPEG noise results suggested - the D3200's smaller sensor is noisier than the D600's full frame one. It's marginally noisier at its base 100 ISO setting and the gap widens steadily the furhter up the sensitivity range you get. What these RAW results show is that the D3200's noise suppression does a pretty good job at keeping the noise in hand in the low to mid sensitivity range. Here, with no noise reduction applied, by 400 ISO the D3200 crops are starting to look pretty speckled. With the JPEGs I reckoned there was a one stop gap at 800 ISO, but here it's closer to two stops.

By contrast, the full frame 24 Megapixel sensor in the D600 has a very low noise footprint right up to around 800 ISO which means there's little need for noise processing. Even beyond the 800 ISO sensitivity level, the noise is low level, it's not until you get up to 3200 ISO that it starts to become really intrusive.

This is an unequivocal win for the D600 over DX bodies at the upper end of the consumer range with the 24 Megapixel sensor. If image quality and high ISO performance are critical factors for you, then making the jump to a full-frame FX body like the D600 will give you a significant improvment in 1:1 image quality and noise perfomance. Not only does the larger sensor area deliver lower noise and higher dynamic range, but it places less demands on the lens resolution, adding up to a cleaner, more detailed image.

Now head over to my Nikon D600 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions. Alternatively check out my Nikon D600 vs D800 noise results pages.


Nikon D600
 
Nikon D3200
50 ISO
50 ISO Not available
100 ISO
100 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO Not available


Nikon D600
results : Quality / RAW / Noise / D600 vs D800


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