Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s ISO Comparison

by on February 4, 2010

in Canon,Nikon

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s

The Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3s are the two latest powerhouse DSLRs from the respective manufacturers.  As a quick rundown on the spec sheet, the Nikon D3s offers a 12.1-megapixel FX format sensor, while the Canon 1D Mark IV features a 16.1-megapixel APS-H (1.3x crop) sensor.  Both cameras offer extreme high ISO settings, up to the equivalent of ISO 102,400.

Which one offers the best noise control at these crazy-high ISO settings?  Read on to find out.

I am presenting the images below “as shot” in JPEG format from each camera with 100% crops from the files side by side.  Both cameras were set to standard/normal noise reduction and auto white balance.  The focus point was the white tower of the courthouse just right of the center of the frame, which is also seen in the 100% crops.

The first set of images is a representation of the scene shot at ISO 12800 from each camera in order to give you an idea of what the entire image looks like in a small print format.  Note the differences in the crop-factor between the two cameras.  Both sets of images were shot at 24mm (using the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM and the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED) and used the same aperture (at f/8) and shutter speed settings for each ISO setting.

Canon 1D Mark IV ISO 12800

Canon 1D Mark IV ISO 12800

Nikon D3s ISO 12800

Nikon D3s ISO 12800

Again, this next series of several images are 100% crop samples taken from near the center of the frame.  The difference in magnification between the two samples is attributable to the 1.3x crop factor and increased resolution of the Canon 1D Mark IV.  We are still evaluating these images on a pixel-for-pixel basis.  Each crop is 300 x 300 pixels in size.

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 100

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 100

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 100 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 100 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 200

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 200

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 200 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 200 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 400

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 400

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 400 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 400 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 800

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 800

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 800 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 800 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 1600

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 1600

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 1600 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 1600 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 3200

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 3200

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 3200 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 3200 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 6400

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 6400

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 6400 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 6400 Sample



Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 12800

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 12800

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 12800 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 12800 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 25600

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 25600

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 25600 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 25600 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 51200

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 51200

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 51200 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 51200 Sample

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s – ISO 102400

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s - ISO 102400

Canon 1D Mark IV – Full-res ISO 102400 Sample

Nikon D3s – Full-res ISO 102400 Sample

Finally, I want to show you what the extreme settings look like from each camera as small, web-sized images.  The following are the complete images of the full scene at ISO 102400 from each camera.

Canon 1D Mark IV at ISO 102400

Canon 1D Mark IV at ISO 102400

Nikon D3s at ISO 102400

Nikon D3s at ISO 102400

These are both amazing cameras; however, I think it’s obvious from looking at these samples that the Nikon D3s is a cut above the 1D Mark IV on a pixel-for-pixel basis at higher sensitivity settings, and the rest of the DSLR field for that matter.  The Canon 1D Mark IV retains a lot of detail up to ISO 3200 (and even ISO 6400 to some extent) in spite of the presence of significant luminance noise; however, the Nikon D3s stays remarkably smooth through ISO 12800.  Even at the extreme end, the D3s shows superior control of chroma noise at ISO 102400.

While these JPEGs are untouched, I have RAW files from these same images that I plan on processing with in Canon’s DPP and Nikon’s ViewNX software, along with Lightroom 2.  I will post results from the RAW file comparisons in a later update.  (UPDATE: The RAW file comparison is now live – click here.)

Additionally, I am also in the process of printing several samples from each camera in order to take a look at final real-world results.  For a lot of us, that’s what matters the most – prints.  Due to the higher resolution of the 1D Mark IV, it’s going to gain some ground when we get around to making prints.  I’ll report back on my findings when all is said and done. In the mean time, you are welcome to print your own images from the files above for your personal evaluation purposes.

The Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3s are available from trusted online retailers like B&H Photo via the following links:

Canon 1D Mark IV at B&H Photo

Nikon D3s at B&H Photo

Comments are closed on this entry due to the excessive bickering and brand-bashing that these ISO comparison posts have generated lately.  I don’t have time to moderate all the cursing and ill-tempered responses from Canon and Nikon fans.  I am not posting these comparisons to try to persuade you to buy one camera over the other.  I am merely providing information based on my experience with these cameras.  I know that there are many of you who have intelligent and insightful comments to make, and I appreciate your doing so in previous comparisons.

If you would like to discuss this comparison in a civil manner, feel free to do so in the Photography Bay forum.  I’ve even started a thread to keep the comments together here:

Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s ISO Comparison Discussion

For now, the forum threads are not moderated. But keep it clean.

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Comments are closed on this post, but you can carry on the conversation in the Photography Bay Forum.

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