D4 sensor - High ISO Performance and other factors


Apr 2, 2006
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CCK
#1
Since the announcement of Df (which is demanding my cash to be handed over) I started to investigate the advantage of a D4 sensor over my D800 sensor. As usual I started trawling the internet and found that not many rated the D4 sensor highly over D800 sensor. I am currently very happy on the colour output of my D800, and high ISO was, apparently, something that bugged me. Then I went through my files and found many ISO 5000 shots (results of M mode to get the shutter speed and aperture that I want, with auto ISO) that I would consider clean and useable. Then I went to DxO to check out high ISO score of Nikon cameras:

"Sports Score is based on Low-Light ISO performance (values in ISO index). Low-Light ISO indicates the highest ISO sensitivity to which your camera can be set while maintaining a high quality, low-noise image (based on a Signal-to-Noise-Ratio [SNR] of 30dB, a dynamic range of 9EVs and a color depth of 18bits). As cameras improve, the highest ISO setting to produce 30dB, 9EVs, 18-bit images will continuously increase, making this scale open. Low-Light ISO performance is of primary importance in photojournalism, sports and action photography".

DxO sports score then select Nikon from right selection.

----------------------
D3s 3253
D600 2980
D800E 2979
D4 2965
D610 2925
D800 2853
----------------------
D700 2303
D3 2290
D3x 1992
----------------------
D5200 1284
D7100 1256
D5100 1183
D7000 1167
----------------------
…
D300 679

Which shows roughly 3 bands: D3s to D800 (ISO 3253 to 2853 or ~ISO 3000 range); D700 to D3x (ISO 2303 to 1992 or ~ISO 2000 range); D5200 to D700 (~ISO 1000 range).

And my old D300 was for my reference. And my limited data point (2, D800 and D300) and experience with the D800 seems to support that table.

What are your experiences?

If I get the Df would I end up with only nostalgia as a key benefit? Or would the D4 sensor really show much improvement over the D800 sensor?

:confused:
 

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lenslust

New Member
Apr 22, 2012
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#2
To me, it's not just marks and points, it's how well the D4 performs as well as a whole. The sensor DR might have lost to D800 (well, 16mp vs 36mp...), however the performance of the D4 is disgustingly powerful.

Especially, in total darkness shooting or very difficult lowlight shooting conditions, you will see what the D4 can do, not just high ISO, but more. The D4 can totally lock in total darkness, AF, fire and get the image. That's my personal experience.

At ISO12,800 if one is not picky, the noise is very much bearable on the output, but you certainly have very limited bandwidth to push the image shadows and colours at high ISOs.

I'm not trying to say that D4 owns the Df, but each has it's targetted market. It might be niche and a cliche feel to own the Df, but whether one intends to use it as a hobbyist camera or professional camera leaves it much to be discussed. It might be a nostalgic thing as well, that however, only you can answer.

As for D4 winning D800, there are many factors that it does, for sure, it also wins a D600. I would put aside the MP and sensor DR in comparison if I need to choose a camera. The D4 still wins (IMHO) at having 16mp, that gives me very manageable file sizes as opposed to a D600/D800 (27mb, 42mb RAW).
 

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daredevil123

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Oct 25, 2005
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lil red dot
#3
The whole is much more than sum of the parts.

In real world tests, even when d3s have a better dxo score, i find their performance is almost the same when d4 images are downsized to match d3s's.

There is another major difference. There is a signficant difference in the type of noise in output from both. The noise patterns on the d4 are finer and more even, a lot easier to manage. Nowadays with raw images from d4 i very seldom do NR in post because the noise looks very natural and gives the image more grit.
 

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Likes: voux
Jun 2, 2012
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#4
I think it is difficult to come to a decision just by reading / comparing DXO results. A better alternative will be to do a side by side comparison (pixel peeping) test between a D4 and D800 high ISO shots.

My own experience with the D4 high ISO shots are that they are relatively easy to process and the noise is predominantly luminance noise, the chrominance noise is there but not excessive when compared to the D700 and D7000

I have never handled a D800 & D800E before, so no comments on the two cameras.

If your shots are predominantly taken at ISO 6400 & below then how much of an improvement (real world) will we actually see in a picture taken by the D4 vs the D800 at ISO 3200 ~ISO 6400? If add in some PP tweaking and noise reduction, I don't think there will be a lot of difference, perhaps marginal & not even very discernible. :)
 

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Apr 2, 2006
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#5
Thanks guys, appreciate your insights.

LM - to do a side-by-side test would require access to a D4, which I don't. And my schedule is so packed that it is difficult to arrange for a shoot out.

I summarized the point below for my benefit.

Pro D4 (including those pro D4 sensor)
-lock in total darkness, AF, fire and get the image. That's my personal experience [lenslust]

Comment: this does not apply to Df; it has the D600 AF system.

Pro D4 sensor (Df specs)
-At ISO12,800 … the noise is very much bearable on the output, but … limited bandwidth to push the image shadows and colours [lenslust]
-16mp, that gives me very manageable file sizes [lenslust]
-noise patterns on the d4 are finer and more even, a lot easier to manage. Nowadays with raw images from d4 i very seldom do NR in post because the noise looks very natural and gives the image more grit [daredevil123]
-high ISO shots are that they are relatively easy to process and the noise is predominantly luminance noise, the chrominance noise is there but not excessive [Light Machinery]

comments:
-D4 ISO Range 100-12,800 (extendable from 50 – 204,800) compared to D800 ISO 100-6400 extendable to ISO 25,600 equiv.
-Normal ISO range D4 has 1 extra stop, extended 3 stops!
- I can and have lived with 42mb raw files.

Pro D800 (some pros are simply because I already have the D800)
-Sensor DR [lenslust]
-If your shots are predominantly taken at ISO 6400 & below then how much of an improvement (real world) will we actually see in a picture taken by the D4 vs the D800 at ISO 3200 ~ISO 6400? If add in some PP tweaking and noise reduction, I don't think there will be a lot of difference, perhaps marginal & not even very discernible [Light Machinery]
- superior AF (compared to Df) [DDMD]

Comments: LM's observation is similar to mine. I have not pushed ISO 6400, not yet. I got shots at ISO 5000 as I was using AF 180mm 2.8 and wanted to keep 1/200 shutter speed and didn't want to shoot wide open, so I set at f/4, and auto ISO brought me shots in the ISO 3200-5000 range. Didn't even notice they were done at this range until I peeped at the exif data, it was that clean.

Key conclusions so far:
- at ISO 6400 and below, there shouldn't be much discernible difference in output noise between D800 and Df, I hazard to guess that some gulf begins at ISO 3200 (i.e. up to ISO 3200 more or less identical noise performance, as indicated by DxO score) but may not be discernible up to ISO 6400 (unless there is improvements already made on the D4 sensor, which I doubt for reasons below)
- D800 has better DR especially near base ISO, which is where I do most of my shooting. Even night scenes (tripod, f/8, A, -1 exp compensation as starting point) - crazy sharp pictures!
- total darkness AF does not apply, it is a D600 AF system (which is inferior to D800)
- Df is a clear winner (compared to D800) at ISO 12,800 and above. Which means indoor basketball, soccer games, dust or dawn shooting of animals or anything that requires motion stopping shutter speed in poor light

Why I don't think sensor improvements are found on the Df: I think D4s is in the making, either 24mp with the same or better noise performance and fps, or 16mp with another stop improvement to high ISO performance. Nikon will not put the improved sensor on the Df at this price.

Note: D600 high ISO performance as measured by DxO already the same as D4; so must at least improve on noise performance and enough bandwidth to do 9 fps at 24 mp.
 

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Apr 2, 2006
2,308
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CCK
#9
Well, if you ever have time on Sat or Sun to do a test, drop me a PM with the time, date & place to meet.
I have strong admiration for you! Thanks brother, I will PM you, got to check my calendar though. Sunday night flying out... :(
 

Apr 2, 2006
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#10

DWphoto

New Member
Oct 27, 2013
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#12
This is very interesting. I'm very interested to see the results of an experimental comparison if there's any.
 

marcphotosg

Senior Member
Jun 25, 2011
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#13
I'd agree with most posters.. Having owned every current camera for every system, I have to say that the D4 is hard to beat. The 1Dx has it's advantages, but I find that on a whole, the D4 is the best DSLR currently on the market.

I take into consideration a number of points, more then half of which are subjective. For example (subjective):

I like 16mp files, I feel for weddings it's EXACTLY enough.
I like how the camera feels in the hand, it's the most comfortable to hold for 10-15 hour days.
I like the ergonomics (where the buttons are placed, and what they do), it's the fastest camera to navigate on the fly.
I feel that ISO 6400 provides me with enough color and detail information, if I need it in a pinch, and 3200 gives me just the right amount of noise, that it looks cool, but isn't distracting (mainly use 3200, but have needed to push it two stops [12,800] and have been ok with it).
I like the skin tones from the D4

And a sample of non subjective points:

The camera focuses fast and accurately in low light
The face detection autofocus, when needed, is reliable.
The flash system is amazingly advanced, if you know what you're doing.
The sensor is very ISO competitive (it meets todays standards for good high iso)
The sensor shoots very clean low ISO files.
The sensor has great colors, tones and good dynamic range.


Some of these things are available in the DF, but the overall shooting experience changes.

You have to ask yourself somethings:

Do you like/want a smaller body?
Does the DF feel comfortable in the hands?
Are all the AF/internal technologies the same (a camera is more then it's sensor)?
Do you feel the dials are easier to use then buttons?


A lot of really hands on things need to be taken into consideration before making a purchase, but if you just want to look like a hipster, then get a DF camera and learn to live with it.
Obviously Nikon feels its more important to impress the cool kids with disposable income, then to focus on making improvements to their professional gear (I don't mean the D4, that's great, I'm talking a few lenses really need refreshments, although to be fair I am pleased from what I've seen of the 58mm).

Anyway, I am selling a D4 and a bunch of lenses (not my only D4, but my only one for sale sold a bunch off already).. Though I wouldn't sell any of them, if it wasn't for my need to go back to MFD cameras :|

But you don't have to believe what I wrote, you're welcome to think it's a sales pitch :D
 

Ansel

Senior Member
Apr 30, 2003
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Land Downunder
Visit site
#14
Since the announcement of Df (which is demanding my cash to be handed over) I started to investigate the advantage of a D4 sensor over my D800 sensor. As usual I started trawling the internet and found that not many rated the D4 sensor highly over D800 sensor. I am currently very happy on the colour output of my D800, and high ISO was, apparently, something that bugged me. Then I went through my files and found many ISO 5000 shots (results of M mode to get the shutter speed and aperture that I want, with auto ISO) that I would consider clean and useable. Then I went to DxO to check out high ISO score of Nikon cameras:

"Sports Score is based on Low-Light ISO performance (values in ISO index). Low-Light ISO indicates the highest ISO sensitivity to which your camera can be set while maintaining a high quality, low-noise image (based on a Signal-to-Noise-Ratio [SNR] of 30dB, a dynamic range of 9EVs and a color depth of 18bits). As cameras improve, the highest ISO setting to produce 30dB, 9EVs, 18-bit images will continuously increase, making this scale open. Low-Light ISO performance is of primary importance in photojournalism, sports and action photography".

DxO sports score then select Nikon from right selection.

----------------------
D3s 3253
D600 2980
D800E 2979
D4 2965
D610 2925
D800 2853
----------------------
D700 2303
D3 2290
D3x 1992
----------------------
D5200 1284
D7100 1256
D5100 1183
D7000 1167
----------------------
…
D300 679

Which shows roughly 3 bands: D3s to D800 (ISO 3253 to 2853 or ~ISO 3000 range); D700 to D3x (ISO 2303 to 1992 or ~ISO 2000 range); D5200 to D700 (~ISO 1000 range).

And my old D300 was for my reference. And my limited data point (2, D800 and D300) and experience with the D800 seems to support that table.

What are your experiences?

If I get the Df would I end up with only nostalgia as a key benefit? Or would the D4 sensor really show much improvement over the D800 sensor?

:confused:
Great minds think alike! I'm also keen to know the answer. I think I am convinced now that image quality alone, D800/E definitely trumps the D4 and the Df (assuming same sensor and same processor).
 

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lenslust

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Apr 22, 2012
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#15
Great minds think alike! I'm also keen to know the answer. I think I am convinced now that image quality alone, D800/E definitely trumps the D4 and the Df (assuming same sensor and same processor).
D800/E has a popup flash too. D4 doesn't have one :(
 

Apr 2, 2006
2,308
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CCK
#18
Aiyo, don't pour cold water like that lah! I am trying to convince me-self to hand over $3.5k for the Df body lah, so can justify owning a retro that is not just retro but a fine picture machine... :sweat:

But the test that DD123 posted showed that within ISO 6400 D800 definitely trumped the D4 on IQ - heaps more details and noise that is not too different.

Looks like I would be diverting that fund to a Music Hall MMF 9.1 Turntable (another retro, I guess) rather than spend it on this now...

But I probably will, likely even, get the Df or whatever successor at some stage... but the urge to plunge and get is starting to wane...

If the announcement coincides with the release, i.e. at the euphoria of the moment, I probably would be a "proud" owner of the Df... :embrass:
 

Jun 2, 2012
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Singapore when back at home
#19
Hi DDMD, you can always wait out a few quarters and get the Df at a reduced premium or even pick up a D4 by then. ;)

Meanwhile I am waiting for the right time to pick up a D800E ;p
 

lenslust

New Member
Apr 22, 2012
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#20
Aiyo, don't pour cold water like that lah! I am trying to convince me-self to hand over $3.5k for the Df body lah, so can justify owning a retro that is not just retro but a fine picture machine... :sweat:

But the test that DD123 posted showed that within ISO 6400 D800 definitely trumped the D4 on IQ - heaps more details and noise that is not too different.

Looks like I would be diverting that fund to a Music Hall MMF 9.1 Turntable (another retro, I guess) rather than spend it on this now...

But I probably will, likely even, get the Df or whatever successor at some stage... but the urge to plunge and get is starting to wane...

If the announcement coincides with the release, i.e. at the euphoria of the moment, I probably would be a "proud" owner of the Df... :embrass:
That's just one thing... as a whole, the D4 beats the D800/E silly. As a rule of thumb, personally I do not push the ISO >50% of it's capability. Meaning on my D600, the max I ever go is ISO3200 and on my D4, 6400. The D800 that I use, at ISO5000, the noise is horrible when printing out on 4R. I'm still trying to find out why it's so noisy at such an ISO. However, given I'm an old fogey of the D2 eras... having a D800 with ISO at 6400, it's already godsend.
 

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