Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My First Real Peek At Nikon Noise Up Close And Personal

The way things are going with the Canon vs. Nikon, et. al. noise wars, I figure we will all be shooting at about 500,000 ISO in another year or 2. All kidding aside, the reduced noise we are seeing in the new cameras is truly phenomenal. I remember back in the '70's, I loved experimenting with how far I could "push" Kodak Tri-X in Diafine developer. Diafine claimed 2400 ISO, but my results were always way to "grainy" - that's "noisy" these days.

To make a comparison between the "noise" of today's cameras and the push-processed "film grain" of yesteryear, check out this link I found over at Flickr in the Diafine pool. It shows the "grain-noise" levels of Tri-X precessed at 2000 - 6400 ISO in six increments.

My observations - there "ain't" none. The new digital cameras blow film out of the water in the noise/grain department. We had arrived at Maeva resort on Saturday night and the first thing I did was grab the Nikon D3 and crank up it up to ISO 3200.

Nikon D3 at ISO 3200:
The images looked greater on the viewfinder and absolutely wonderful on my laptop as I viewed them on the plane coming home. I took a few more at ISO 6400 and found those very usable as well. Okay, okay, I know Nikon says you can take it up to ISO 25,600, so I did. Things were a bit dicey here. That is not to say that the images were not usable, they just looked like my old Diafine images of the 70's - grainy, but now I'm at 25,600 ISO, more than 10 times the best Diafine speed I got out of Tri-X!

Nikon D3 at ISO 6400:
I've been following the Nikon noise claims since the camera was introduced. If you missed it, here is my most recent article on the subject right here. Rob Galbraith published some hockey pictures he made last year (which, unfortunately, I have not been able to find) at the 25,600 ISO and on the surface they looked fine - all very high tonal values, hardly no shadows to speak of - it was impressive.

Nikon D3 at ISO 25,600:
When it comes to noise, they say "the proof is in the pudding." I'm talking chocolate pudding here - you know, low light values where noise can't hide. Check out the three images in the article, the first at 3200 ISO, the second at 6400 ISO, and the third at 25.600 ISO. Click on the image itself, and you will get a larger view for a closer inspection. I'm going to run the Nikon's through their noise paces this weekend at my wedding and I'll get back to you with the low down next week.


  1. Are you using less flash now for the actual wedding ceremonies?

  2. I only use flash for processional and recessional - A/L all the rest of the time. --David