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Snow Boulder  Moose Peterson
Snow Boulder, 24-120VR

Simply put, I've spent zero time dealing with noise in my D2X files! All my 24 x 30 prints so far have been done with no noise reduction work in the digital darkroom. Speaking with others like Dave Black, they've found the same thing. Is there noise in the D2X? Yeah, at the higher end but I'll get to that in a moment. But if I had to equate the noise of the D2X to some other camera, I would say that at ISO 800 the D2X is like the noise you'd fine at ISO 200 on the D1. Everything I've shot (other then testing) was at ISO 100 and I'm ~very~ pleased with the results. But you don't have to take my word for it!

I truly wish some one would come up with a Noise Test and scale so I personally wouldn't have to spend so much time writing about it. But there is no such scale or we could put to better use all that wasted time on the web talking about it. Personally, I get tired of hearing about and folks whining about noise (what, you had grain free film?). It is what it is and it's part of the digital experience.

With that said, testing the D2X to look at its noise was work I did only for this report. Personally, I just deal with any noise that there might be and move on (minimizing it when the photograph is taken). After shooting my sons xc racing in low light, HSC JPEG Fine, Large, Optimal Quality and then printing a straight 24x30 with zero digital darkroom work and seeing the results, I already knew the answer to the noise question for myself. In an effort to minimize emails on this topic, I've gone the extra distance to test and provide those test images here (hope you have a fast connection). Some background first.

Sensor

Nikon went with a new CMOS sensor for the D2X. It is not the LBCAST I or II which you only find in the D2H & D2Hs (respectively). It's a new generation Sony CMOS sensor. To put it all into perspective, here's the current sensor line up from Nikon Pro end:

D2X - 12.4 Effective Megapixels: High Resolution 12.4 Effective Megapixel CMOS DX Sensor with fast 4-channel output for 4,288 x 2,848-pixel images.

D2Hs - 4.1 Effective Megapixel: 4.1 Effective Megapixel Nikon original JFET imaging sensor LBCAST for high-resolution images (2,464 X 1,632 pixels). New ASIC reduces noise and greatly improves image quality.

D2H - 4.1 Effective Megapixel: 4.1 Effective Megapixel CCD Nikon original JFET imaging sensor LBCAST for high-resolution images (2,464 X 1,632 pixels).

And just for fun:

D2X - Image Size: Full Image: [L] 4,288 x 2,848-pixel / [M] 3,216 x 2,136-pixel / [S] 2,144 x 1,424-pixel, High Speed Cropped Image: [L] 3,216 x 2,136-pixel / [M] 2,400 x 1,600-pixel / [S] 1,600 x 1,064-pixel

Artist Drive - Death Valley - 24-120VR  Moose Peterson
Artist Drive, Death Valley, 24-120VR

D2H - Image Size: [L] 2,464 x 1,632 / [M] 1,840 x 1,224

It is interesting to note that the aspect ration for the D2X vs D2H/Hs is slightly, only slightly different.

D2X - 4288/2848 = 1.5056

D2H/Hs - 2464/1632 = 1.5098

What does this all produce? Here's my results.

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D2X

For my personal needs and photographic uses, I wouldn't hesitate to crank the ISO up to 800. My preferred and ISO for 99% of my shooting will remain ISO 100 simply because of the workflow. I don't want to spent time in front of a darn computer, I want to be behind the camera. As for HI-I (ISO 1600) and HI-2 (ISO 3200), while useable after some Dfine action, the noise is more then I want to deal with. What I've not taken time to do yet is process image shot at HI-1 and HI-2 with High Noise NR (new feature) turned on and then use Nikon Capture to process those files to see if that makes an improvement.

You can see for yourself what I'm talking about. Below are files you can download and play with (they are copyrighted images folks). You will need Nikon Capture 4.2 in order to process the Raw files.

Click on image to grab JPEG file.

ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200

RAW Files (shot compressed, file size average 12MB)

ISO 100 - Zip or Sit

ISO 200 - Zip or Sit

ISO 400 - Zip or Sit

ISO 800 - Zip or Sit

ISO 1600 (HI-1) High ISO NR turned off - Zip or Sit

ISO 3200 (HI-2) High ISO NR turned off - Zip or Sit

JPEG Files (see Moose's Settings for JPEG settings, average file size 5MB)

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600 (HI-1) High ISO NR turned off

ISO 3200 (HI-2) High ISO NR turned off

You'll see little noise and difference between 100, 200 and ISO 400. Be sure to check out the black moose hair (from my back) and the black square on the color chart. At ISO 800 you'll start seeing noise that will remind you of the D1 at ISO 200. And while the noise is present, notice that the detail in the foreground objects is still retained. Now head to the ISO 1600 (HI-1) and you'll start seeing more noise that while present, isn't as bad as the other DSLR bodies (see below). I think though it's interesting the noise pattern is such that hair detail is still holding though on the edge of going. At ISO 3200 (HI-2) you can't miss the noise and element detail is being lost. I don't think ISO 3200 is useable personally but that doesn't matter to me, I never, ever go that high in my work.

You can use the above images to compare D2X images side by side. To compare the D2X against other cameras, you have the bottom images. All these images were taken through a 200f2VR at f/11. Everything remained the same, just the camera bodies were switched out on the lens. One thing to note more important then the noise in each camera and comparing that, is comparing the color. I find the color in the D2X to be stunning and by far the best color out of the can of any Nikon DSLR bodies!

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(Sorry, because of server limits, only the Raw files are available for download. We have provided Zip files for PC users and Sit files for Mac users.)

Noise Comparison Test

D2X

ISO 100 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 200 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 400 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 800 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 1600 High ISO NR turned off - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 3200 High ISO NR turned off - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

D2H

ISO 200 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 400 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 800 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 1600 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 3200 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 6400 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

D70

ISO 200 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 400 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 800 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 1600 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

D100

ISO 200 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 400 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 800 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 1600 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 3200 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

ISO 6400 - RAW-Zip, RAW-Sit

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The Print

Personally, I want to see noise, either the lack or the amount of on the final print before I make my mind up whether a camera is good or bad. My office wall space is pretty much used up with 24x30 prints from the D2X. Whether from a Raw or JPEG, full sensor or HSC, I'm very, very pleased with the results. Nothing personal, but I'm not inviting all of you to come to my office to see the print for yourself.

NOTE: After 3 months and 3600 prints, we're no longer offering the sample D2X print. (01 June, 2005)

The print was done on an Epson 2200 printer. The image was enlarged to 24x30 and then a 8x10 crop was taken out of that 24x30 enlargement. All that was done to the image was processed in NC, sharpening-medium high and then scaled to size in PS.

Death Valley, CA  Moose Peterson Print of Death Valley  Moose Peterson
Death Valley, CA
D2X, 24-120VR - Raw, Full Sensor, ISO 100
on Lexar Digital Film

 

 

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