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Nikon D600 Ken McMahon & Gordon Laing, Nov 2012

Nikon D600 vs DX RAW Quality

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

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To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Nikon D600 and the Nikon D3200, within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes.

The D600 was fitted with the AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-5.4G ED VR lens. To eliminate lens differences and concentrate on the relative performance of the sensors, I fitted the same lens to the D3200.

I shot this sequence in RAW+JPEG mode and you can find the JPEG comparison on the previous page; see the contents list above right for all my results pages.



  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

Both cameras were set to Aperture priority exposure mode, stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and tone enhancement and lens correction features were left on the default settings. On the D600 Active D-lighting is disabled by default whereas it's enabled on the D3200. Again, for comparison purposes I disabled Active D-lighting on the D3200. On the D3200, at its wide angle setting, the AF-S 24-85mm zoom lens has an equivalent focal length of 36mm, so on the D600 the lens was zoomed in to produce an equivalent field of view. Both cameras were manually set to 100 ISO.

The image above was taken with the Nikon D600 in Aperture priority mode with the aperture set to f8 and the sensitivity set to 100 ISO. The D600 metered an exposure of 1/100 at f8. In order to avoid diffraction and to produce broadly equivalent aperture sizes at the differing focal lengths, on the D3200 the lens was set to f5.6. The D3200 metered the same exposure i.e. 1/200 at f5.6.

I processed both 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.

In terms of the differences between the D600 and D3200 these RAW crops provide confirmation of what we saw in the JPEG versions. The D600 is resolving more detail with cleaner, sharper edges than the D3200. By comparison the D3200 crops all look a little soft, though I think the gap between these RAW crops is marginally narrower than with the JPEGs. The D3200's smaller sensor is noisier and that's largely what's resposible for the lower level of detail here. With noise reduction added to the mix and a lower level of sharpening, the in-camera processing on the previous page has produced a softer and less noisy result from the D3200, but also one that's less detailed. Note also that the 24-85mm lens isn't immune from chromatic aberration, which is ordinarily dealt with by in-camera JPEG processing.

Now it's time to examine their high ISO performance, starting with a JPEG comparison with the D3200 in my Nikon D600 Noise results. If you're looking for comparisons with the D800, please start at my Nikon D600 vs D800 noise page.


Nikon D600
with AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR
Nikon D3200
with AF-S Nikkor 24-85mm f3.5-4.5G ED VR
f8, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO

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

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