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Nikon D600 Ken McMahon & Gordon Laing, Nov 2012
 
 

Nikon D600 vs Nikon D800 (downsampled) noise

Results here using in-camera JPEG files. If you prefer, check out my D600 vs D800 RAW noise results.

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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 D800 within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings. On this page I've downsampled the D800 images to the same 24 Megapixel resolution as the D600 using Photoshop's Bicubic Sharper algorithm.

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.

I shot this sequence in RAW+JPEG mode, so if you prefer, check out my D600 vs D800 RAW noise comparison.

The image above was taken with the Nikon D600 with the Nikkor AF-S 35mm f1.4G set to f8 in Aperture Priority mode; I apologies for the unimaginative composition, but it was all I had available during my initial D600 tests. 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. The D800 crops for this page were downsampled to the same 24 Megapixel resolution as the D600 using Photoshop's Bicubic Sharper algorithm, which Adobe recommends for reductions. If you'd like to see their original resolutions, check out my D600 vs D800 noise page.

A common criticism of camera tests online is the presentation of results at 100% or 1:1. This involves taking crops at fixed pixel dimensions, such as 367x367 pixels as seen on my results pages here. Crops from higher resolution images therefore show a smaller portion of the total frame.

The counter-argument is images should be compared at the same physical size - that is to say the crops should show the same portion of the frame, which means the higher resolution image will have a higher pixel density per inch. It also means any artefacts, such as noise, will appear smaller.

This is the argument you'll hear for presenting fair results from the D800 against lower resolution bodies like the D600. When the images are viewed at 1:1 without scaling, the D800 inevitably looks noisier due to its higher pixel density, but if images from both models were reproduced at the same size, then the D800's noise would appear more discreet and could in fact place them on a more level playing field.

There's pros and cons to each approach. If you're comparing printed images, then scaling is definitely the right approach. If the print is sufficiently large, or the process sufficiently fine, then the higher resolution image should benefit from finer details and smaller noise artefacts. But if you're presenting images online as I do, then scaling suffers from a number of issues. First is the fixed pixel density of monitors which means if I were to scale D800 images to the same physical size as D600 images, you wouldn't see any detail advantage of the former - and surely that's unfair.

I could of course print the results, but then how could I share them online? If I scanned them, we'd have all manner of additional artefacts to deal with.

This is why I, like most camera review sites, prefer the pure approach of presenting images at 100% or 1:1. It may penalise very high resolution bodies on the presented size of artefacts, but it will equally reveal the finer details captured, and is a pure approach which doesn't involve scaling, printing or scanning. And while many may argue against pixel-peeping, who doesn't zoom-into 100% for a good look at their images from time to time? The crops I present are simply a small window of that 100% view, untouched for appraisal.

I realise this isn't to everyone's tastes which is why I also always provide original images to download in my sample images gallery. This means you can download and print or rescale as desired.

That said, I know many of you want to see how the D800 compares to the D600 when both are delivering 24 Megapixel images, so in the spirit of fairness that's what I've done on this page. Below you'll find the same D600 crops as before, direct from the in-camera JPEGs, but this time the D800 images have been down-sampled to 24 Megapixels using Photoshop's Bicubic Sharper algorithm which Adobe recommends for reductions.

As you'd expect, the degree of real-life detail is now essentially matched between both cameras, although the D800 reduction has benefitted from the sharpening applied by Photoshop to bring out a little extra fine detail. Apply a little sharpening to the D600 images though and you'll achieve a similar result.

In terms of noise levels, the reduction has certainly brought the D800 closer in line to the D600. The noise artefacts you see below on the D800 may remain a little more apparent than the D600, but again this can be attributed to the extra sharpening applied by Photoshop.

As such in terms of in-camera JPEGs I'd say the D600 shares a very similar style to the D800 and when the latter is shooting at the same resolution, they deliver essentially the same quality.

But what's happening under the hood? Now it's time to check out their RAW files with noise reduction turned off in my D600 vs D800 RAW noise results!


Nikon D600 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
Native 24 Megapixel resolution
Using AF-S 35mm f1.4 at f8
 
Nikon D800 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
Downsampled to 24 Megapixels using Photoshop
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


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