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Nikon D600 Ken McMahon & Gordon Laing, Nov 2012
 
 

Nikon D600 vs DX Noise JPEG

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 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 best quality JPEG settings 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. D-lighting was turned off, other than that the default settings were used; Long exposure NR was off, High ISO NR was normal. The white balance was set to auto as white balance can't be set to a specific colour temperature on the D3200. Image quality was set to NEF (RAW) + JPEG Fine and JPEG compression was left on the Size priority default setting. D-lighting, which is on by defalt on the D3200 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. The original large fine JPEG file size was 9.22MB. 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.

So, how do these two sensors compare in terms of noise? Just to reiterate, what we're comparing here is two sensors with the same 24 Megapixel resolution but different physical sizes - full frame 35mm in the D600 and APS-C in the D3200. The first thing to note is that the D600's extended ISO range starts at 50 ISO and provides H1 and H2 positions at 12,800 and 25,600 ISO respectively. The D3200's base sensitivity setting is 100 ISO and it has only the 12,800 ISO H1 setting.

The 50 ISO crop from the D600 is pristine, there's a high level of detail and you'd have to look very hard to find any evidence of noise. One other thing worth noting is that, despite the 13 second exposure there are no hot pixels nor evidence of long exposure noise, despite the fact that Long exposure NR was turned off by default.

The 100 ISO crops are the first chance we get to make a comparison, though, and the D3200 crop compares very favourably. Though both cameras metered the same exposure from 100 ISO up the D3200 ISO crops look a tad lighter. I think the D600 has a marginal edge, even at this low sensitivity setting; the D3200 crop has a very slight texture in the flat colour of the wall that isn't present in the D600.

By 200 ISO there's already a clear gap opening up with more graininess now evident in the D3200 crop, but the D600 is still looking very clean. By 400 ISO there's no doubt that the D600's full frame sensor is making a much better job of keeping noise levels to a minimum than the DX sensor in the D3200. One other thing worth noting at this point is that the D3200's crops look a little sharper than the D600's, doubtless due to slightly more punchy consumer-friendly processing.

By the 800 ISO mark I'd say there is a one stop difference between the two models and at 1600 ISO where the D600 is still producing excellent quality images with a very low noise profile the D3200's are by comparison, locked in a losing battle with brightness and colour noise. Which is not to say the D3200 noise performance is poor; despite its high resolution it compares very favourably with cameras fitted with sensors of the same size. But up against the D600's full frame 35mm sensor it just can't compete.

The D600 has strength in depth, even at 3200 ISO it's producing very useable images; it's not until you get to 6400 ISO that you begin to see the familiar 'carpet underlay' look of a processor struggling to cope with data that's as much noise as signal, but, even here, the image quality isn't bad at less than full size. The H1 and H2 positions provide 12,800 and 25,600 ISO options that don't look great, but might be useful for those must have under any circumstances shots.

This is what you'd expect, comparing these in-camera JPEGs, the bigger sensor of the D600 comes out on top. But how much of a role does processing play in keeping noise at bay in these crops? To find out, take a look at my Nikon D600 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or 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
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1600 ISO
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3200 ISO
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6400 ISO
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25600 ISO
25600 ISO Not available


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


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