D3X vs D3 vs 5D MK2 vs 1DsMK3

Living at ISO 1600 requires knowing what the camera will produce for you in image quality. Better to have more pixel power punch? Or better to have cleaner files? Does size matter?

Here is a report where you can view some interesting comparison shots done with the Canon 1Ds Mark 3, the Nikon D3X, the Canon 5D Mark II and the Nikon D3.

Read more after the jump.

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So – what do you want to be when you grow up????
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BIGGER!!!

There are many comparisons of the most recent exciting cameras but still there is a strong desire to know what the cameras will do at higher ISO settings. The ISO 100 comparison shots have been done by lots of web sites, let’s do a higher ISO comparison.

Taking the 4 cameras and shooting them on a tripod with mirror lock-up at ISO 1600 and higher produced these results. Examine them yourself to make your own conclusions, I will add mine at the end.

First up, the full frame of the test shot:

All images were shot in RAW and developed in Light Room using the Camera Natural profiles for the respective cameras. Unless noted there were no adjustments made to the images. The 5D Mark II constantly underexposed so it was left this way. Light was overhead tungsten lighting and each camera was custom white balanced thru the lens with a ColorRight. Mirror lock-up was used  and a remote cable to fire the shots.

Each camera used the brand’s 85mm prime f/1.8 lens set to f/5.6 in Av mode allowing the camera to meter and set the picture settings for the light.

The first set is the 100 percent natural size of the camera in it’s native resolution.

Image below: 1Ds Mark III ISO 1600 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Nikon D3X ISO 1600 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 1600 zero processing 100 percent crop.

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 1600 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Now the same set using ISO 3200 with the same rules. The cameras were only adjusted by moving the ISO setting up and letting them meter their own light settings.


Image below: Nikon D3X ISO 3200 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Canon 1Ds Mark III ISO 3200 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 3200 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 3200 zero processing 100 percent crop:

The next set of pictures coming now are at ISO 6400. Again using the same set of rules, zero processing, convert LightRoom file to TIFF and then resize for the web and saved at level 11 JPG. No sharpening for the web was done – tough to refrain from doing as web sizes automatically need sharpening – but mission accomplished.

Image below: Nikon D3X ISO 6400 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Canon 1Ds Mark III ISO 6400 zero processing 100 percent crop:

(Canon 1Ds Mark III does not do ISO 6400)

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 6400 zero processing 100 percent crop:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 6400 zero processing 100 percent crop:

This being the 1600 Club, let’s have some fun and look at what our prints would look like if the images were printed out. Taking the same unprocessed files and sizing them out to a giant poster size image of 30×20. These prints are done by most labs and services and I do them in-house on an Epson 9880. For the sake of seeing what the print would look like, I used Fred Miranda’s SI software to size each image to 30×20.

Image below: Nikon D3X ISO 1600, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3X ISO 3200, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3X ISO 6400, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Canon 1Ds Mark III ISO 1600, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Canon 1Ds Mark III ISO 3200, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 1600, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 3200, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 6400, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 1600, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 3200, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 6400, zero processing, 100 percent crop, 30×20 inch file:

Now let’s look at a little bit of processing done to the images. The processing done was to bring each image to the level of being a good image for color and exposure. Using the eye dropper and my expertise in wedding workflow processing, I zapped each image into decent shape. The I resized each image to 24×16 which would be representative of a 24×12 spread commonly done in 12×12 wedding albums. The prints need to look good at that size as a general rule for wedding photographers, so let’s see what they look like.

Image below: Nikon D3x ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by LightRoom defaults. 100 percent crop, 24×16 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 24×16 inch file:

Image below: Canon 1Ds Mark III ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 24×16 inch file:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpnened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 24×16 inch file:

As can be seen, all the images are good at this size. The larger megapixel cameras look more like medium format prints from yesterday and the Nikon D3 looks like the best of 35mm film of yesterday. All are good.

One more little peak at some 12×8 print sizes. All ISO 1600 for the Club members, all using the same light processing I did for the 24×16 prints.

Image below: Nikon D3x ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpnened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 12×8 inch file:

Image below: Nikon D3 ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 12×8 inch file:

Image below: Canon 1Ds Mark III ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 12×8 inch file:

Image below: Canon 5D Mark II ISO 1600, processed lightly, sharpened lightly, chroma and luma noise reduction by Light Room defaults.100 percent crop, 12×8 inch file:

Conclusion:
People waiting for me to say what camera is best can expect me to say the Nikon D3X is king of the hill, and it is. The best of everything vectors here in this one camera.

The others though are pretty darn close. Rather than concentrating on which camera has the best of the files though, concentrate on what camera can GET the shot. These files are all pretty close to each other, size DOES make a difference and the quality of the pixels are good enough to put the additional noise out of the picture and make it a moot point.

Camera focusing abilities is THE issue here. We can all grab one of these cameras and shoot ISO 1600 till the cows come home and get better technical images than Ansel Adams could, getting the million dollar shot though is another story. But getting the shot in focus and controlling the camera to make it work with you seamlessly is the chore that the camera companies need to be addressing.

The Nikon D3X is the champ of putting all good things into one body. The D3 is the same camera so it too does the job just as well. Would I rather be working with a D3X or a D3 would depend on the level of print quality that would make me happy. I can have a great print or an exceptional print, the call comes from my wallet :)

The Canon cameras produce a good print too, but the 5D Mark II is much like the Corvette of the 60′s, great power if you are going in a straight line. Handling was not the Corvette’s best point and the same goes for the 5D mark II. Not that a pro cannot MAKE it work, they can and they do! The 1Ds Mark III is behind in too many areas for the price, but for those wanting the zoom zoom zoom of the car world in a camera and they want it to be a Canon – that’s your puppy – at least for the moment.

I will let each reader here determine what level and what company makes them happy. The images are here for you to compare and make your own final choice. I shoot both Nikon and Canon camera systems so hands on experience with both is spoken here.

Peter Gregg

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