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A big "noise" test with 10 Nikon D-Slr's

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by AndyE, Apr 6, 2007.

  1. AndyE


    May 2, 2005
    Vienna, Austria
    Hi Nikoncafe members,

    I posted yesterday my first pics with the new D40X.

    One photo with my dog, taken at ISO 1600 raised many questions about the relative ISO performance of the D40X to Nikon model x or y (esp. D80 and D200). (here is the post)
    So I started yesterday night a comprehensive comparison of high ISO noise with all Nikon cameras I could find.

    The Setup

    To be able to compare every photo with every other one, I decided to take them indoors.
    A black background, a black table and some uninteresting stuff at the table (as proof of lack of creativity :smile:) .
    I mounted a AF-S 200mm/2 VR on a tripod to facilitate and easen the changes of camera bodies.
    It also helped to keep the same frame between all bodies.

    Lightning was set up with a Profoto D4 generator, one head and a 3x4' softbox.
    The D4 is nice as I can adjust it over 8 f-stops and it doesn't change color (reduced my WB setting effort)

    The Contenders

    All digital Nikon bodies I could find (sorry for the D70 and D100 folks - these models were out with friends)
    • From the old boys club - The D1, D1H and D1X.
    • With the D2X and D2H we had 2 sporty guys.
    • With the D200 and D50 two well established work horses came in.
    • and last but not least. The new kids on the block. The D80, D40 and D40X.

    The Process

    All bodies had been set up to:
    • WhiteBalance = flash
    • Timer delay = 2 sec
    • Lowest ISO setting
    • Noise reduction = off
    • File format = JPEG, large, fine
    • used a Pocket wizard to connect to the flash unit
    • Aperture = f11
    • Shutter = 1/125 sec (it really doesnt matter)

    I used the following settings on the Profoto flash unit:
    • ISO 100 = 600Ws
    • ISO 125 = 525Ws (all the best from the D1X ...)
    • ISO 200 = 300Ws
    • ISO 400 = 150Ws
    • ISO 800 = 75Ws
    • ISO 1600 = 38 Ws
    • ISO 3200 = 19 Ws
    • ISO 6400 = 19 Ws (and aperture set to f16)
    With those bodies which provide noise reduction, I did a second run. Starting at ISO 800 all the way up. Saved separately.

    Where are the files?

    I have posted all original and unprocessed JPEG files at www.pbase.com/andrease/noisetest.
    Please be aware about the 260MB, if you want to download ALL JPEG's.
    To access the individual original files, please check first the "Original" tab under the pbase picture before you download.
    All smaller versions (medium and large) are heavily compressed by the pbase.com servers (with all possible artefacts)

    There is a simple scheme for the filenames:

    D1-ISO-0200.jpg = D1 with ISO 200
    D2H-ISO-Hi2-NR.jpg = D2H with ISO 6400 (1600+Hi2) plus Noise reduction = On


    Disclaimer: I had only ONE body per camera type. There can be differences between samples.
    Your milage might/will vary. If there are any errors, please raise them. I try my best to fix them.

    There is progress - undeniable.

    So, what is now the state of affairs with ISO 1600?
    Looking at the original files, I would argue that there is a strong connection between release date of a specific camera and high ISO noise.
    Independent of the price level. The later it is released, the better the performance (generally speaking).

    and yes, the D40X is better than the D40 (and the D50).

    I've received many requests for a comparison to the D80 and D200.
    What shall I say? Ok, let it out.
    According to these pics, the D40X is better than the D80, which in turn is better than the D200.
    Please download the original files to check for yourself.

    That's the new one - D40X, ISO 1600
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    People are most interested in these two

    D200, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88795

    D80, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88796

    Same class

    D40, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88797

    D50, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88798

    The Professionals

    D2X, ISO 800 + Hi1 (= 1600)
    View attachment 88799

    D2H, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88800

    Old guys

    D1X, ISO 800 + Hi1 ( = 1600)
    View attachment 88801

    D1H, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88802

    ...this is the way ISO 1600 looked like 8 years ago: D1, ISO 1600
    View attachment 88803

    All the best (and enjoy an extended pixel peeping session at the link provided above)

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  2. MontyDog


    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
  3. Thanks Andy. That was great. I shoot a D2H and a D1x and I've always known that the D2H was noisy, especially in darker areas or underexposed areas. When I got my D1x, I was impressed right away by what I thought was less noise and truer skin tones. Your test, at least to my eyes, confirms that. I like my D2H for the speed, etc. But my D1x has become my everyday walk around camera.

    Thanks once again.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2007
  4. Tosh


    May 6, 2005
    Wow! Great work, Andy. Thanks. I'll be studying these when I get home later tonight.

    Do you have any sense of whether the cameras' noise performances would follow suit in Raw images?
  5. AndyE


    May 2, 2005
    Vienna, Austria
    Thanks, Glenn.
    Don't know if the ranking would be the same with RAW files. These are plain-out-of-the-camera JPEGs.

  6. AndyE


    May 2, 2005
    Vienna, Austria
    Same to you Paul.

    All the best,
  7. Thank you for taking the time to go through all of this effort. Something like this is long overdue and I personally thank you for the info.

    However, instead of these full frame, reduced size, images it would be much more helpful if you took 100% crops of small areas and put them next to each other so we can get a quick overview of each.

    Then a link to the full size images for those wanting more details.
  8. AndyE


    May 2, 2005
    Vienna, Austria
    Thanks Woody, appreciated.

    I did not want to provide 100% crops for the following reason:

    Covering cameras from 2,7 MP to 12,2 MP isn't that easy. If it would be true 100% crops, it would be considerable different in size and influencing the perceived quality. Scaling them to same size wouldn't be true crops and again impacting the perceived quality.

  9. Megapixel size doesn't matter.

    A properly exposed flat gray surface will reveal noise levels, so a 200 pixel square crop of a flat solid color object like a gray card would give a quick overview of noise performance on an apples-to-apples comparison.

    It wouldn't be an in-depth analysis, just a quick overview.

  10. Thanks for the effort.

    The D40x is looking interesting.

    I really wonder what the next pro body will be like in this regard.
  11. DABO


    Jan 13, 2006
    Andy -

    I know this took you an enormous amount of time to do. Thanks for doing it! Very well done.

    For my own curiosity, I only compared the D200 to the D40x. It looks to me like you get about an extra stop on the D40x. On my D200 I try not to go over ISO 400. It looks to me like I could go to ISO 800 on the D40x to get similar results.

  12. rsprouse


    Jan 25, 2006
    Encinitas CA
    One thing I am surprised by is the differences in color rendition between the various bodies.

    But something seems odd - The first and fourth frames are from the D40X and D40 respectively. Would you not expect the color rendition to be the same? The D40 shot looks considerably warmer.

    -- Russ
  13. Nicely done! Thanks for taking the time to do it. I too, like Rick, am both gratified and not surprised at the performance of the D1X, my favorite DSLR so far.
  14. fks


    Apr 30, 2005
    sf bay area
    hi andy-

    sweet work. thom hogan made the same claim that it's D40x > D80 > D200 fir JPEGs, and it looks like your tests bear this out.

    any chance of getting some canon bodies thrown into the mix?

  15. AndyE


    May 2, 2005
    Vienna, Austria
    Sorry Ricky,
    I don't own any Canon bodies - I am a pure Nikon user :smile:.

    Kind regards,
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2007
  16. Andy, Great post, thanks for taking the time.

    Ricky, I'd be more interested in seeing a Fuji S5 in the mix then a Canon
  17. SoCalBob


    Feb 9, 2006
    Riverside, CA
    This is really great, Andy, thank you so much for taking the time to do such an exhaustive test.
  18. WOW, Thanks Andy. I'll look these over before I get a back up from my D200
  19. Thanks Andy for doing this test. It's a lot of work! :eek:  And a well done one! :smile:

    From my quick look of the original sizes on pbase.com (I didn't pixel-peep in Photoshop...), there is a definite improvement in that department over time and the D2H (which I have) which is regularly put down as a noise machine is actually doing pretty well (up to ISO 1600).

    Also, I suspected that the D2X would do pretty badly at Hi-1 (ISO 1600), given that Nikon limits its official ISO range to 100-800 and the people here and elsewhere are complaining about its high noise (compared to Canon, I guess). From what I see in your tests, I would have no problem using it at ISO 1600: when viewed at normal size (or printed), the noise would just blend in and be no worse than my D2H (a bit better actually), and I don't have a problem using it at ISO 1600!

    Thanks for this eye-opener, Andy. Nothing beats real experience.
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