[Gear] Nikon D800 and Canon 5D MKIII ISO Samples

[Gear] Nikon D800 and Canon 5D MKIII ISO Samples

The Nikon D800 has been much criticized for its enormous megapixel count. And some have worried that packing 36 megapixels into a full frame sensor might lead to decreased low-light performance. These samples, however, push those worries aside. It's no D4, but for 36 megapixels, I think Nikon should win an award for this. Canon took a different route with the 22-megapixel 5D Mark III, but that paid off, too. See for yourself in the full post!

These Nikon samples are thanks to this source. The Canon samples are thanks to this source. Click on any image for the full-size file.

Image Overview
ISO 400 Sample from the Nikon D800
ISO 800 Sample from Nikon D800

ISO 1600 Sample from Nikon D800
ISO 3200 Sample from Nikon D800
ISO 6400 Sample from Nikon D800

ISO 12800 Sample from Nikon D800
ISO 25600 Sample from Nikon D800
ISO 25600 Sample from Nikon D800 w/ Medium Noise Reduction

ISO 50 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 100 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 200 Sample from 5DMkIII

ISO 400 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 800 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 1600 Sample from 5DMkIII

ISO 3200 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 6400 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 12800 Sample from 5DMkIII

ISO 25600 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 51200 Sample from 5DMkIII
ISO 102400 Sample from 5DMkIII

Nikon equivalents for the Canon shots below are too large to load here, so please visit the site here for images taken with the D800 in the same conditions, where you can find examples with noise reduction as well!

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Canon is clearly the Winner.

The Canon image is also more properly lit and exposed.  Very hard to tell which is the winner, wish they were shot in the same conditions..

absolutely not hard to tell who the winner is. The Canon 5Dmkiii wins at high iso, the nikon d800 isnt meant to be a high iso camera. its meant for properly lit scenes and subjects. this comparison is like tomatoes to eggplants.

 You're wrong. This test is a complete failure because lighting conditions do matter.

i am canon fan... but i can say that; this test is unfair... ambient light must be same if you want to compare two cameras...

Brian Hawkins's picture

Can't really compare unless they are under the same conditions.

Take a look at the link I posted below.  The same subject was taken with both cameras.

Mark A. Kathurima's picture

I agree. This is not apples for apples, but on their own merit, I think the 5D Mark III images are shockingly good, noise-wise.

unless you are printing huge sizes the noise will not show up...

Jr. Miller's picture

All talk...many people ditch about hi-iso and in the same conversation say "I rarely go over ISO 800 personally".. just read a few so-called pro reviews and their blogs. Most will say on the sly that ISO 800 is their top end unless they really need to get a shot (sports shooters and wedding pros aside). The conversation is moot beyond ISO 3200.

Dwtex's picture

'...in the same conversation say, "I rarely go over ISO 800 personally..."' I don't know who you've been talking to, I've have never heard that; from any one...ever. In fact I did a shoot this weekend with 4 other photographers, no one was shooting below 1250. One of them was shooting at 1600 but would have gone a bit higher were it not for fear of inducing too much noise. Low light and lots of movement is certainly an issue. Unless you want creative photos with lots of motion blur, lower ISO is fine. However, for crisp, clean images shot handheld (a tripod often isn't practical for indoor photo-journalistic photography) high ISO and low noise bodies are a god send. Your quote sounds like something Ken Rockwell would say. If this is the case, I can understand your state of confusion.

Jr. Miller's picture

Oh really...you found 4 guys who shoot hi-iso..lol at 1600. Hate to break it to ya "pro" but ISO 1600 is hardly hi-iso. I shot weddings on my old 20D at 1600 that were pretty darn clean on large prints. Did same with an old 1D classic. Find 4 "pros' who shoot at 3200 and higher for the majority of their work and let's talk from there. I personally don't know anyone who is begging for 25600. Better AF, better low ISO files and better auto WB is the real prize. Get it straight.

I'm a second-shift newspaper photographer. I crank the ISO over 6400 at most indoor and night sporting events, which is pretty much every day. 

When I go to breaking news, I no longer have to use flash in many cases. Just a street light and maybe cops with flashlights are often ample with ISO 8,000, so imagine what I could do with the performance of the 5D mark III.

I would never have to pop a flash in the face of a grieving widow again. 

Jr. Miller's picture

 Sure..but you do realize that needing to use ISO 8000 and beyond means a very crappy image without a light source like a flash?

I'm not saying it can't be done, just that most "low light" images I've seen are pretty bad and why would you want that unless you "need" the capture and can't get it any other way?

Aside from weddings, sports etc. who is asking for ISO 12,800 and beyond?

Me, dammit! And any other photojournalist for that matter, or did I not just say that. 

I'll take some moderate noise over on-camera flash any day. 

If you've ever tried to shoot pictures that include fire / police personell and vehicles with reflective stripes you know just how much hell they can be if you're using flash. 

Not to mention the red-eye. The harsh shadows. And of course, heaven forbid there is some depth to your composition and the subject is not the closest thing in the frame.

Do I need to continue on the negatives of using on-camera flash at night?

Now don't get me wrong, when I'm in the studio I shoot at ISO 100. Maybe 200. That's about as high as it goes. If I'm shooting something static in low light I whip out a tripod and shoot at, you guessed it, ISO 100. 

Jr. Miller's picture

 Well when I say "Flash" I mean auxiliary flash which can be bounced/modified. In your case, getting the shot has little to do with max IQ..it's just getting the shot. If you were shooting a portrait or something else to be printed large anything higher than 6400 is a real pain in the neck. Newspaper photos are tiny by comparison. an ISO 6400 or even 25,600 downsized and cleaned up for noise looks great.

LOL... agreed Ben! 

Second professional photojournalist here. I live above 1600 for most events,

And I've shot for LA Times, LA Weekly and more. 
Sorry, there are tons of reasons for high ISO when needed. I can't wait.

 Apart from vegetarians, who else eats vegetables?

Anw the awesome thing about the mark 3 that you can't really do with the mark two are precisely wedding and sports ETC

Jr. Miller's picture


Be sure about that...

I. I shoot a lot of bands at small pubs etc, where the lighting is really bad. I usually set the iso at 1600 before even looking at the scene, cause I kinda never go lower than that. My personal max is 12,600, but as camera's improve I go higher. Don't like shooting at 1/15th with f2.0 and iso 12.600...

Well this is retarded... You don't even have the same shot to compare. Fucking clown shoes...


Waiting for a test under the same conditions.  Also, you must keep in mind that when making a large print, the Mark III will need to be enlarged much more than the D800 files.

Yeah! You are right on that one. Must be nice to have money.

RUSS's picture

i've always been annoyed at comparisons of two  cameras or lenses or whatever, each one, seperately used under totally different conditions and then people saying how one is far superior to the other. It's F&*(KIN ANNOYING!!!!!

Gregory.K's picture

the word "comparison" is misleading and I dare to say provocative (considering the samples, in favor of the Canon)

Please provide us photos with exactly the same testing conditions and at least two different scenarios.

Take a look at the D800 samples from this link. This should compare against the 5DMKIII pictures above as the subject is the same:

this is for those pixel peepers!!
real life photography doesn't require such reviews.... ever!!

Well, your comment is certainly NOT bulletproof!
For this 'real life' photographer who routinely shoots large groups and printing 36+ inch prints, the more pixels the better!  Assuming of course we are comparing apple to apples.

well, just think about the unfortunate bunch of photogs who had used inferior gears for the last 100 years, yet managed to gain fame.... gears should help with our photography, but not drive us... today's cameras are all so good that hair-splitting reviews like these should not dictate us... and there are so much more to photography than just IQ... I hope you'll agree to at least some of it... thanks for the reply though... I kinda enjoyed it :)