Posted in: Digital cameras

Nikon D3S crushes the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and 5D Mark II with a remarkable high-ISO performance

In yet another shootout the Nikon D3S proved that there’s no better DSLR as far as high-ISO performance is concerned. Tested against the closest to direct competitor that it will ever have, the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and the last full-frame camera that Canon released, the EOS 5D mark II, the Nikon D3S left no one wondering who is the real Lord of the Darkness.

What’s interesting to note is that despite being more than a year old and considerably cheaper, the full-frame Canon 5D mark II still performs better than the APS-H 1D Mark IV at both higher and lower ISO. Of course it’s actually making the photo that matters to 1D Mark IV potential owners and things like sturdy weather-sealed body, continues rate shooting speed and focus accuracy are enough to justify its price tag.


ISO 1600 • ISO 6400 • ISO 25600 (from left to right: Nikon D3S, Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 5D Mark II)


ISO 1600 • ISO 6400 • ISO 25600 (from left to right: Nikon D3S, Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 5D Mark II)

Back to the original topic I have to say that the Nikon D3S once again shows that its photos, shot at ISO lower than 51200 are perfectly usable for virtually anything. It gets a little messy at ISO 51200 but if you don’t pixel-peek or make too large prints it’s still pretty fine. ISO 102400 is of pretty limited use of course, but it isn’t much worse than what the 1D mark IV has at ISO 25600. So that’s almost a good two stop advantage in favor of the Nikon, which is light years ahead (in photography terms at least).


ISO 51200 • ISO 102400 (left: Nikon D3S, right: Canon 1D mark IV)


ISO 51200 • ISO 102400 (left: Nikon D3S, right: Canon 1D mark IV)

On the other hand the far better video recording of the Canon 1D Mark IV and the higher pixel count will be more than enough to earn it quite a lot of customers. The reporter’s camera segment was dominated by Canon a few years ago and people (usually) stay where their lenses are in this business so the 1D is safe for now. But maybe, just maybe, the next time Canon announce a sensor with insanely high ISO settings they should also deliver a performance that can justify its existence.

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