Nikon D3x vs. Canon 5D MKII: Image Noise

High ISO Test Images:

All images were processed from raw at default raw converter settings with no additional changes. Please feel free to use the raw file downloads for making your own assessments in your preferred raw converter.

The Nikon images were shot using the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.8 using Auto White Balance.

All images below were shot with a single tungsten household light bulb. All Canon camera settings are identical using either the Canon 85mm (f/1.8 or f/1.2L) lens in aperture priority at f/1.8 or the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.8 with Auto White Balance on. A Gray ColorRight Target is included in the full raw file for setting white balance.

ISO 1600:

Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.

Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.

Download raw version of this image Here.

Download raw version of this image Here.

Download raw version of this image Here.

ISO 1600 Winner:
The Nikon D3x and Canon 5D MKII still exhibit the trademark differences in auto white balance performance. Canon AWB tends to run a bit magenta under tungsten lighting while Nikon tends toward yellow. Overall, the yellow is probably a slightly more pleasing representation of the scene, but is still far from accurate.

The images above again illustrate how clean shooting at ISO 1600 has become for both Nikon and Canon shooters. The latest high resolution entrants have upped the ante even further.

The Nikon D3x and Canon 5D MKII seem to be running neck and neck here. Too close to call. Everyone wins. It is incredible to me how both manufacturers continue to be able to add more and more photosites without sacrificing image quality at high iso settings.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.

Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.

Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.

ISO 3200 Winner:
Again, nice step up here! Too close to call again. Very small amount of visible noise here.  I think I may prefer the “texture” of the Nikon “grain” (noise).

But again, have a closer look at the original Canon 5D vs. the new Canon 5D MKII. Much less noise, but you now get 21 megapixels instead of 13 for approximately the same price point. Nice!

ISO 6400:

Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.


Download raw version of this image Here.

ISO 6400 Winner:
ISO 6400 is now immenently usable for many photo applications. This comes with higher resolution to boot.

It is hard to tell from this one image sample, but I will have to give the Nikon D3x a very small edge at ISO 6400. Why? Becuase the “pattern” of the grain starts to have a larger impact on the overall “pleasantness” of the image. Additionally, the Canon 5D MKII occassionally exhibits very light, but visible, banding at this high ISO. I have yet to see any noticeable banding at ISO 6400 using the Nikon D3x at 6400.  I’m a little perplexed as to why Nikon did not choose to push this sensor even higher.  I believe it would actually hold up as well, or better, than anything else on the market at this time.

Canon 5D MKII vs. Nikon D3x Image Noise Challenge
Conclusion:

Our two new entrants pull ahead of all of the current DSLRs on the market. This speaks well for both Canon and Nikon and the future of image quality improvements in the full frame format. I expect both manufacturers will be able to pull even more out of sensor designs at this size as technology continues to move forward.

Overall, this really is almost too close to call.

I have to give a slight edge to the Nikon D3x for stellar performance provided at ISO 6400.

However, the lead is not tremendous, and when you consider the sobering fact that you can acquire 2 Canon 5D MKIIs before you can buy one Nikon D3x, you have to give Canon a big hand for that simple feature called Value.

Of course, there is much more to making images than just final Image Quality. There are very serious reasons why the Nikon D3x would and should be preferred by certain photographers. It has a superior body build and a better autofocus system to mention just two.

In my humble opinion, you can’t go wrong with either of these cameras. These are two still cameras Canon and Nikon should be proud to have produced.

These cameras are available (depending on stock) from these trusted sources, and in our Pro Store:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II (Body Only) – Amazon

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Camera with EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens – Amazon

Nikon D3x 24.5MP FX Digital SLR (Body Only) – Amazon

You can also find these cameras at B&H Photo.

Special Thanks to everyone at Professional Photo Resources. You guys can’t be beat for specialty gear rental.

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave A Comment...

*