Extreme ISO Settings With the D3s, 1D Mark IV and Lightroom 3

by on June 25, 2010

in Canon,Nikon

I’ve been digging into Lightroom 3 for a couple of days now.  I’m a big fan of the improvements – happy to see my video files, love the tethered shooting capability, as well as the improved speed. Last night, however, I decided to dig up some of my photos from the Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3s ISO comparisons and take a closer look at the improved noise control that we’ve all heard so much about.

While I experienced a taste of what was to come in the Lightroom 3 beta, I was not prepared for the magnitude of improvement that I saw in the images as I wiped my Lightroom 2 adjustments and made new adjustments in Lightroom 3′s noise control panel.

I could go on and on about it, but you really need to see for yourself.

Here’s a shot from the Nikon D3s at ISO 25,600 processed in Lightroom 3:

I chose to look in close at images at ISO 6400, ISO 12800 and ISO 25600.  You can see the center portions of each image cropped to 100% view in the comparisons below.

You can download the full-res file (for personal use and inspection only) by right-clicking any of the links below the respective images and choosing “Save link as…” from your menu.

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

As you can see, the Lightroom 3 file trounces everything else – and somehow Adobe still manages to hold onto plenty of detail.  And this is ISO 6400 . . . at night.

Original Files

Nikon D3s Default JPEG file
Nikon D3s ViewNX NEF Conversion

Nikon D3s Lightroom 3
Nikon D3s Lightroom 2 +50 Luminance Noise Reduction

Canon 1D Mark IV Default JPEG file
Canon 1D Mark IV DPP CR2 Conversion
Canon 1D Mark IV Lightroom 3
Canon 1D Mark IV Lightroom 2 +50 Luminance Noise Reduction

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

Original Files

Nikon D3s Default JPEG file
Nikon D3s ViewNX NEF Conversion

Nikon D3s Lightroom 3
Nikon D3s Lightroom 2 +50 Luminance Noise Reduction

Canon 1D Mark IV Default JPEG file
Canon 1D Mark IV DPP CR2 Conversion
Canon 1D Mark IV Lightroom 3
Canon 1D Mark IV Lightroom 2 +50 Luminance Noise Reduction

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

Original Files

Nikon D3s Default JPEG file
Nikon D3s ViewNX NEF Conversion

Nikon D3s Lightroom 3
Nikon D3s Lightroom 2 +50 Luminance Noise Reduction

Canon 1D Mark IV Default JPEG file
Canon 1D Mark IV DPP CR2 Conversion
Canon 1D Mark IV Lightroom 3
Canon 1D Mark IV Lightroom 2 +50 Luminance Noise Reduction

Additionally, I went ahead and processed images at ISO 51200 and ISO 102400 for the sake of comparison.  Below are web-sized samples at these extreme settings, and you can see the full-size images by right-clicking on each image and choosing “Save link as…”

Nikon D3s at ISO 51200 in LR3

Nikon D3s at ISO 102400 in LR3

Canon 1D Mark IV at ISO 51200 in LR3

Canon 1D Mark IV at ISO 102400 in LR3

While these images at ISO 6400 and above are extreme examples from two state of the art DSLRs, the processing power in Lightroom 3 will push any other RAW files to the next level as well.  And, granted, the ISO 51200 and ISO 102400 are more of spec lines than anything else (but the D3s still weighs in pretty respectable at ISO 51200). Finally, I still think that ViewNX and Canon DPP hold detail pretty darn well (especially ViewNX), but neither deal with noise in as smooth of fashion as Lightroom 3 does.

The bottom line is that if you shoot weddings, events or other low-light situations, this capability of Lightroom 3 should be reason enough to get the software, or to upgrade if you are still using Lightroom 2.

You can get Lightroom 3 direct from Adobe, or trusted online retailers like B&H Photo.

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{ 5 comments }

1 Conrad Rowe June 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm

I have upgraded to CS5 & Lightroom 3 and I can’t say enough good things about them. There are plenty of good things with both software to make it worth upgrading. You will not be sorry. Trust Me.

2 DavidWheelerPhD June 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

How does LR3 noise reduction compare to CS5. Do they use the same algorithm?

3 Jeremy D. June 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

wonder what LR3 would do with images from my XTi at ISO 1600.

4 Neil B June 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Amazing results in some ways, but lots of care is required as the images are much less sharp and in some cases you get the background colour bleeding into the foreground image which looks absolutely terrible. And I am not talking about when you completely overdo the noise reduction.

5 Gordon J July 2, 2010 at 2:33 am

Where do I find the “Noise Control Panel” on LR3?

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