GRD3 vs GRD4 in low light - seemed very similar to me....

Started Dec 19, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Ray Sachs
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GRD3 vs GRD4 in low light - seemed very similar to me....
Dec 19, 2011

I've had a GRD3 for a while now and just finished spending a couple of days checking out a GRD4, which I'd been thinking about upgrading to. There are a couple of things the GRD4 clearly does better than the 3. One is the AF speed - the two layer AF process in the 4 is notably snappier than the AF in the 3. I very rarely use AF with the GRD and, when I do, its generally not a time critical shot, so this isn't an issue for me, but probably is for a lot of people who use AF most of the time. The 4 also has image stabilization, which I found to be pretty effective, so the 4 should be a better camera for static low light shots.

BUT, the big surprise to me was the way the two camera's handled low light shooting other than the IS. I'd read that the GRD4 was about a stop better in low light. I rarely shoot higher than ISO 800 on the GRD3 but I'd been hearing that 1600 was VERY useable on the GRD4, and 3200 was usable in a pinch, as 1600 is on the GRD3. So, I took both cameras out on a walk one evening and, to my surprise, I don't think there's a real functional difference. I did a bunch of back to back to back shots, shooting both cameras at 800 and 1600, and the GRD4 at 3200. I was shooting aperture priority, wide open at f1.9, in raw, with no exposure compensation dialed in. And in basically EVERY case, the GRD4 would choose the exact same shutter speed at 1600 that the GRD3 would at 800. And the 4 would choose the exact same shutter speed at 3200 that the 3 would choose at 1600. And the shots all came back exposed essentially the same across the board. What's more, the GRD3 shots at 1600 were slightly cleaner than the GRD4 shots at 3200 and the 800 shots on the 3 were slightly cleaner than the 1600 shots on the 4. So I'm wondering if the 4 really adds anything here, other than to have redefined their ISO levels (I didn't check out the low end of the ISO scale, which I probably should have done to see if this trend continued into good light situations, but I was more concerned with low light). Honestly, anything I could shoot at 1600 on the 4, I could shoot at 800 on the 3 and I'd get the same shutter speed and a very slightly cleaner image! So, aside from the image stabilization, which will help for some types of shots but not others, I don't believe the 4 actually IS better in low light... Am I missing something here? Doing something wrong in the comparison? Has anyone else noticed anything similar? Or notably different?

The other difference that matters a lot to me, but probably not nearly as much to most folks, is the new "auto" snap focus setting on the 4 and the corresponding removal of the ability to change snap focus distance manually on the fly, without menu-diving. This is a feature I use a lot on the 3. The "auto" setting on the 4 didn't work badly, but it missed on a number of shots, where it evidently pre-focussed on the wrong part of the scene and set the snap focus distance based on that. I tried Harold's suggestion to assign a different snap focus distance to each of the "MY' modes on the mode dial, and that wasn't a bad workaround, but the problem was that moving between them would generally change my ISO and aperture and other settings as well, which I'd have to make sure to re-adjust each time I switched. In short, I much prefer the ability to change the snap focus distance on the fly without having to go back to the menu. I think the whole concept of "auto snap focus" to be sort of an oxymoron, like jumbo shrimp - sort of a contradiction right off the bat. Which would be OK if it was actually an improvement in use, but I didn't find it to be so. So, for me at least, the GRD3 is a clean winner in this regard, but most people probably don't care nearly as much about this as I do, if at all.

Other than that, I couldn't find many difference. The IQ really didn't look any different to me in back to back shooting, day or night. This was shooting raw, so maybe the jpegs are better on the 4 - I couldn't say. I tried a couple of high ISO jpegs and the NR is pretty terrible on both cameras, so I'd rather add NR in PP with either of them. I sort of like the "bleach bypass" jpeg setting, but I can get to the same place with a quick preset in Color Efex Pro and I'd rather shoot raw anyway, so this also isn't an issue for me.

I'm staying with the 3 - I couldn't find a reason to go to the 4 for the way I shoot with this camera and I found one solid reason NOT to. I wouldn't begrudge anyone who decided differently, but that's what I found after using the two cameras back to back for a couple of days.

Anyway, if anyone has any similar or contradictory findings after using both cameras, I'd be interested...


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