Nikon D600 Ken McMahon & Gordon Laing, Nov 2012
 
 

Nikon D600 vs Nikon D800 RAW noise

Results here using RAW files processed with identical settings in Adobe Camera RAW.

Support me by
shopping below


 
  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 D800 within a few moments of each other using their 14 bit losslessly-compressed RAW modes and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

Each camera was fitted with the same Nikkor AF-S 35mm f1.4 lens, set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode. Both were using their standard processing styles and White Balance was set manually to 3130K. Active D-Lighting was disabled.

The image above was taken with the Nikon D600 with the Nikkor AF-S 35mm f1.4G set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode. At its expanded Low sensitivity of 50 ISO, the D600 metered an exposure of 1 second for this composition. The Nikon D800 metered an identical exposure, so you're comparing like-with-like below. As always, the red square in the image above shows the cropped area, which is shown below 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.

If you're viewing this page in isolation I'd urge you to have a copy of my Nikon D600 vs D800 JPEG noise results open at the same time - and just to be extra helpful, you can click this link to open them in a new window.

With both sets of images processed using the same RAW recipe, the crops from each camera below are unsurprisingly similar in style and to my eyes, preferable to the JPEG versions, at least at lower sensitivities. The RAW recipe described above delivers very crisp and detailed images at low ISOs and really brings out the detail that both cameras are capturing. Interestingly despite processing them with the same white balance though, the D600 crops below look a little warmer and more saturated.

As with the JPEG comparison at their native resolutions, the D800 unsurprisingly resolves slightly finer details, most obviously on the flower stamens. It remains the resolution leader in this class of camera, but the D600 is certainly no slouch and it'd take some serious pixel-peeping to differentiate real-life images taken with both cameras.

For me though the interesting test here is not to reconfirm that the D800 captures finer details, but to compare noise levels with noise reduction completely turned off. What exactly is going on behind the scenes and does the lower resolution D600 with its larger pixel pitch enjoy a light-gathering advantage?

Looking closely at the crops below, the finest noise textures arguably begin at 400 ISO, with the differences becoming more obvious at 800 ISO. As with the JPEG comparisons, the D600 is a little cleaner than the D800 when both are shooting their native resolutions and viewed at 1:1. I'd say the D600 enjoys this small advantage throughout the rest of the sensitivity range which corresponds to approximately one stop.

But again this is for images shot at their native resolutions and viewed on-screen at 1:1. Down-sample the D800 images to 24 Megapixels, or reproduce images from both cameras at the same size and the noise artefacts from both become very similar in size and appearance.

So in terms of choosing a winner, it depends on how you judge the results. But the bottom line is both cameras capture a huge amount of real-life detail and exhibit discreet noise textures up to 1600 ISO which are easy to smooth-out with minor processing. If you really need 36 Megapixels of resolution to make huge prints or love to pixel-peep at 100% on-screen, then yes, the D800 has the edge at lower sensitivities, but for most of us the D600 will deliver very similar quality results at a lower price - a great deal for the cheaper model.

That's the end of my results, but before my verdict you might enjoy a selection of Nikon D600 sample images.


Nikon D600 (RAW using ACR 70/0.5/30/10)
Native 24 Megapixel resolution
Using AF-S 35mm f1.4 at f8
 
Nikon D800 (RAW using ACR 70/0.5/30/10)
Native 36 Megapixel resolution
Using AF-S 35mm f1.4 at f8

L (50 ISO)
L (50 ISO)
     
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
     
H1 (12800 ISO)
H1 (12800 ISO)
     
H2 (25600 ISO)
H2 (25600 ISO)


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


If you found this review useful, please support me by shopping below!
 
     
All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

/ How we test / Best Cameras / Advertising / Camera reviews / Supporting Camera Labs