Dynamic range versus ISO: from D100 up to D3

In a post at the Nikonians there is a comparision between all major Nikon cams: D100, D70, D50, D200, D80, D40x, D2X, D300 and D3, measured based on RAW files  Nikonians submitted. A good and easy way to compare dynamic range, e.g. from the D200 at ISO 200 the D300 is about 1.5 stops better and the D3 about 2 stops better.

John Harrington: Nikon D3 vs. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III

John Harrington, who bought both cams at the same time, did a comparision by uprezzing the D3 files to match the 1DsIII resolution – with interesting results.

For large commercial jobs, where I am thinking I want a higher native resolution, it’ll be the Canon I reach for. For low light situations, which are all too common, it will, without a doubt, be Nikon


Focus instead on the noise- or lack thereof. It’s absolutely amazing. The color is smoother, and, as you’ll see in the megapixel section, it up-rezzes better.

Jason P. Odell comparing D3, D300 and D2X

Jason P. Odell shared his impressions about D3 and D300 and compared it to the D2X:

“I was playing around last night making some test shots in my basement. I compared a series of images with the D3, D300 and D2Xs taken at different ISOs in horrible light (compact fluorescents). I shot in RAW, NR OFF, and processed using NX 1.3 with identical Picture Control settings. I turned sharpening OFF to minimize any sharpening artifacts in the base images.
I don’t have the crops to show yet, but here are my general conclusions:

1) The D300 does a better job with WB in this kind of lighting (cool fluorescents) than the D2X. Images from both cameras required some WB modification in Capture NX, but the end product looked better from the D300 and D3. The D2X images tended to have a yellowish color cast that required significantly more WB adjustment to remove.

2) With respect to ISO performance, I’d say that the D300 is about 1.5 stops better in terms of noise than the D2Xs. Luminance noise becomes visible with the D300 at ISO 1600, but is not pronounced until ISO 2500. I can get an image from the D300 shot at ISO 2500 that looks about as good or slightly better than the D2Xs shot at ISO 1000 (Hi-0.3). The D3 beats the D2X by about three stops— HI-2 images (3200) on the D2Xs look about the same as HI-2 images (ISO 25,600) on the D3!

My conclusions on D300 noise (qualitative, not quantitative):

With the D300, you can shoot confidently at ISO 2500 or lower and your files will require minimal (if any) noise reduction, depending on the final print size. Because the noise is primarily in the luminance channel, be careful with your NR routine so you don’t destroy image detail. I made a 12×18″ print of the ISO 2500 image from the D300– the grain pattern was noticeable if you looked really closely. However, from normal viewing distances, the image looked great and there was no loss of fine details. ISO 3200 on the D300 introduces significantly more luminance (and more chrominance) noise into the image, but again, images are very easy to clean up and they retain excellent color and contrast (something you can’t say about the D2X).

So if you are thinking about a D300 or a used D2X/s, this round definitely goes to the D300.”

D3, D300 and 5D studio comparision

Christian Handl has done a very interesting comparision between Nikon D3 and Canon 5D at lower ISO settings and in the studio with some interesting comments on dynamic range and the ability to boost shadows without noise:

“The propagated fantastic high ISO-performance is actually very good, but for a Canon photographer less of a sensation, with a maximum of 1 Aperture advantage over the Canon 5 D, I would say after the first comparisons. But in other words, for a Nikon photographer an improvement of 3-4 steps to the D2X, which is a very impressive difference.”


Most surprised me the far greater dynamic range, here are the differences in my recordings to the Canon 5D very large, the cameras were in similar light (same flash unit and similar ISO from 250 to 320) to allow a good comparison. While the black clothes of the model in the 5D were only partly illuminable, with the D3 even the seemingly blackest parts of the dress showed structure without disturbing noise. Very impressive, and in everyday life in many photographic situations more important than MP

Comparision D200/D300 and more D3 pics

To bridge the time until D3/D300 are delivered here is a comparision D200/D300 on a Czech site and some more photos made with the D3

The photographer answers some questions regarding his comparision at the Dpreview forum in this thread.