how noisy is the D700 vs. the D3s?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by paul_cohn, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. If anyone can share their real-life experience with this, I'd appreciate it:
    I have a D300 and like to do a lot of low-light shooting without flash. It may be zoomed or wide-angle, it all depends on what I come across ... I'm not a professional, but I'd eventually like to do freelance work so I want a professional quality image when all's said and done.
    To my eye, anything shot above ISO 800 on the D300 is too noisy so I don't go above it unless I'm desperate. I use noise reduction s/w in post-production (but I don't want to go into the relative merits of various s/w solutions here), but if the light is low, and I'm trying to shoot anything slower than 1/15 or 1/20 second at f2.8, I invariably get camera shake since I never remember to carry a tripod, and it's just easier to work handheld in crowded situations anyway.
    I'm drooling over the idea of a D3s with its ISO 102,500 capability, but it's pricey; if the D700 (or a used D3) can give me good noise control up to ISO 6400 or 12,800, that's probably good enough for me. The question is "if". How high an ISO can you use on the D700/D3 to and have a (reasonably) noise-free image? Is the D3s worth the premium over a D3 in that regard?
  2. How large do you print? The "reasonably noise free" issue depends entirely on how the image will be seen.
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

  4. With your D300, you can get an idea here: dxomark. Check the SNR 18% chart; the D3S has an SNR advantage of more than two stops over the D300, at any ISO.
  5. "I'm trying to shoot anything slower than 1/15 or 1/20 second at f2.8"
    at those shutter speeds, sounds like camera shake could be as big an issue as noise. before popping 5 grand for a d3s (+ much more for additional lenses), i'd consider adding a tamron 17-50 VC to your kit for considerably less.
  6. BTW, regarding Jose's post, and at the risk of thread digression, the DxO data is so close to useless for most practical purposes it should be flagged with a huge "Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter" warning sign. It's as much a trap as a useful reference.
    Note my emphasis on practical purposes. Too many people read DxO data without comprehending that measurable differences do not equal significant differences. For example, take the many posts all over the web claiming "The D90 is superior to the D300. DxO sez so!" Show me just one pair of comparison photos, using consistent methodology, with the only differences being the D90 and D300 camera bodies, where you can actually see the differences. I've looked all over the web. There aren't any. Because the differences, while measurable using testing equipment, are not observable with the eye.
    And I've seen enough of Jose's photos to know that I'd trust his subjective opinion about the differences in real world performance over any DxO test, because his approach to photography is very similar to mine.
  7. I found this page useful - it has the D3s, the D300s, and the D3 among others, compared at ISO 3200 to 102,400.
    The D3s appears to be a noticeable jump up in quality from the D3.
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    You should be able to get 1 more stop or perhaps a bit more of high-ISO capability when you go from the D300/D300S (or D90, D5000) to the D3/D700, and you get yet another stop when you move futher up to the D3S.
    In other words, if ISO 800 is your limit on the D300, expect ISO 3200 or a little higher to be your limit on the D3S; most likely ISO 6400 will be over your tolerance. Don't expect miracles. I have tried ISO 102400 on the D3S; to me it is useless. Whenever you need to reach to Hi 1 on a Nikon DSLR, expect major compromises on image quality. 102400 is Hi 3 on the D3S.
  9. To be sincere, only after some months? using the D700 I started to notice that lower noise in comparison with the D300... I still was "film minded", stucked to "the lowest ISO, the better" principle. With the D300, when things were over 800ISO I stopped shooting, or attached the flash. I was not concerned at all about noise levels but on the full format when I switched to the D700. I have never used a D3S.
    Now, with the D700 my high ISO alarm blow at 3200ISO... 1600ISO is what I consider the limit of an acceptable high noise level, and I`m finding many of my indoor shots are taken at this setting. I still shoot some times at 3200ISO, but I find this pics to be somewhat rough, and trying to use the NX2 noise reduction tool; I use to be dissapointed with the results. I almost never use 6400ISO, and never 12800.
    BTW, this weekend I have been chating with a relative, he is a very experienced photographer and printer. He liked to check my D700, and to see first hand its high ISO capabilities... I took some super-sharp 6400ISO shoots with the 70-200VRII for him, and his comment was something like "... while it`s very good for a 6400ISO shot, I think are too much noisy to my liking... "
  10. There *is noise* at ISO 1600 and up on the D700, but the point Shun is making is that the D700 has a stop *less noise* than the D300-D300s. I owned the D700 for 9 months and I did not find ISO 6400 all that impressive. I found ISO 1600 impressive, but even ISO 3200 had a lot of noise for me. It was great, but not mind blowing. I guess it depends on what your standards are. If I were shooting a wedding I would not shoot above ISO 1600 with the D700 for fear of someone wanting an enlargement and the results being sub-par. In my opinion we still have a long way to go in terms of high ISO performance, particularly at ISO 6400.
  11. I've found that these ISO settings are the limit for reasonable noise free photograph for the following cameras that I owned or have owned.
    D200 - ISO 400
    D90 - ISO 800 (or a little less, more testing is needed)
    D700 - ISO 2000
    It is interesting that these numbers closely match those from DXOmark's.
  12. I have also noticed at ISO 800 on the D300 that there is a lot of noise reduction going on. I try not to shoot higher than that but depending on the subject matter I'll shoot right up to ISO 3200 without hesitation if necessary. I also have VR that I can use to augment low light situations. Here is an example taken with the D300 at ISO 3200, at the Tower of London in London, England:
    To me, this looks entirely fine. It may not be tack-sharp, but it was taken handheld at 1/15 second with VR on and the lens zoomed to 35mm. It is a JPG straight from camera, no noise reduction or any other kind of enhancement applied.
  13. Is it a 100% crop?
  14. Is it a 100% crop?​
    It's 35mm on a DX body, so it looks like the full frame. Since it's a JPG straight from the camera, the camera was certainly doing some noise reduction. This shows what Matt pointed out: the importance of noise depends a lot on how big you print, or on what resolution you need to reduce the image for your web presentation. A 12 million pixel image with loads of noise can look nice by the time it's reduced to 0.33 million pixels, like the one above.
  15. As I`m usually looking at skin textures, I wanted to show noise over a smooth skin... sadly I only have my left hand (forefinger knuckle) over a black cloth as model. Certainly not as smooth as my wife`s skin... I`d say there is a noticeable loss of textures and smoothness at 3200ISO.
    Of course, satisfactory results depend on each one`s needs and procedures.
  16. The key with high iso seems to be to be sure to NOT underexpose at all. It's much better to pick the next iso up then push the exposure even slightly in post.

    I'd be happy printing at 8x10 from iso 6400 with my D700 if it was well exposed. If not, an iso 1600 shot can look ugly very quickly.
  17. "I'm drooling over the idea of a D3s with its ISO 102,500 capability" Dynamic and color range greatly diminish at higher ISOs even with the D3S.
    "good noise control " is best 'controlled' by shooting RAW and using good software to process your RAW images.
    ISO 6400 can yield very favorable results with the D700/D3/D3S with good shooting and PP technique. Is the D3S worth the extra cost over a much lower priced used D3? Only you can decide.
    Not sure what your problem is with the D300. I was always very pleased with the results at ISO 1600, which had the characteristics and look of ISO 400 or lower images after processing RAW images.
    The D700/D3/D3S are not 'magic' cameras. You may still need to work the RAW files to get the IQ you desire at high ISO.
  18. Agreed with Mark. If your shot is well-exposed, noise is much less an issue.
    Also, noise is much less likely to be noticed by the client in the case of sports or weddings, where the key is just to have the shot. In fact, a reasonable amount of noise will often be totally unnoticed by your clients in any fast grab type situation.
  19. Not really sure, but my F4s is not nearly as noisy as my D700, even at high framing rates :)
  20. Everyone has different standards, but for me ISO 1600 on the D700 looks good in almost any situation. I can live with 3200 where I need it (generally sports at night or in poorly lit gyms) and i only use 6400 where it is the only way to get a shot.
  21. D700 at ISO 3200
    No noise reduction
    (handheld: 1/100 @ f/2.8)

    This blog-sized JPEG is quite small, but there's a larger version on my website. It's not as finely detailed as an ISO 200 shot, but the noise is well-controlled. Look closely at the dark wood.
  22. Paul, I posed a question along the lines of upgrading from a D700 and got good input from some of the people who have chimed in this thread. At that time they remarked that a jump to the D3s made more sense than a jump to the D3 (what was I thinking then). I have since acquired the D3s and can say it handles high ISOs very well, better than D700. Of course it came with a cost but I think it was well worth the ability to shoot in low light to produce photos with very good IQ.
  23. I agree with Matt Laur: "How large do you print? The "reasonably noise free" issue depends entirely on how the image will be seen." I am also confused/amused by all the people who are stating that "anything over 800 iso (or 400 or whatever) is "unacceptable." For what? I have been very satisfied with iso 1600 with both the D70 and the D80. Both produce images with some very acceptable texture from luminance noise at 1600 iso, and I don't find this detracting in a 8x10- 9x13 inch prints. You do have to shoot in raw and use chroma noise reduction in the conversion. Sharpening makes noise worse too, so I only sharpen vital areas only after sizing for printing. People seem to be afraid of a little texture in their prints. IMO if there is no noticeable chroma noise the texture is no worse, and in most cases a lot better than the texture of high iso film when printed at the same sizes. Pixel peeping is not a good way to determine what is acceptable either. You have to make a print at the desired size you want. If you need to shoot jpgs and not do much post processing, then, yeah, you will probably need a more expensive camera when shooting high iso shots, and I realize some professions need this capacity when shooting a large volume of images in low light.
  24. A little late to the conversation, but I have a blog post about shooting the D700 at high ISO with a good, real-world example
    of using it at ISO3200 in a situation where it was the only choice:
  25. Steve, you`re absolutely right, but I also think there must be a point of reference, which IMHO could be the user`maximum acceptable level of degradation of the image at its full size. If don`t, there will be infinite answers from infinite users and variables.
  26. "I owned the D700 for 9 months and I did not find ISO 6400 all that impressive. I found ISO 1600 impressive, but even ISO 3200 had a lot of noise for me."
    "I am also confused/amused by all the people who are stating that "anything over 800 iso (or 400 or whatever) is "unacceptable.""
    It's clear that some folks here have never shot high-speed film. I love film, but the high ISO capability of the D700 is vastly superior to film. And, no, I don't find the complaint of noise odd because folks are pixel peeping instead of viewing files at reasonable enlargements.
  27. Here's a 3200 shot, a tripod wouldn't have helped with the moving dancers.
    Shot is D700 with 85 1.8 at 1.8, 1/250
  28. Ah the "pixel peepers" of the world! I have made decent Night shots with my D1X at iso 800 that look like grainy film... what of it? Looks more interesting than a totally sanitized Canon 1D MK IV digital wonderkamera shots. Yeah, shooting this way in a Gymnasium is pretty hopeless, but it's all what you do with it.
    I will tell you what, the main reason I want to upgrade to something like a 700, D3, D3s (try to find one) right now is mainly to get out of the inglorious world of DX sensors... like 'em alright, but they be limiting to say the least.

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