D4s vs D4 high ISO comparison with Zeiss 55/1.4 Otus @ f/4

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onasj
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D4s vs D4 high ISO comparison with Zeiss 55/1.4 Otus @ f/4
9 months ago

I had the opportunity to test both a D4s and a D4 together. Here is a side-by-side comparison of their high ISO performance using the world's best DSLR lens (believe the hype), the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4. I carefully AF fine tuned both cameras with this lens using Lens Align II, then shot the same object, an extraordinarily finely carved vessel, at f/4, the aperture at which the Otus is sharpest in the center.

Picture control settings were identical, sharpness and noise reduction settings were identical (default), exposure adjustment was set to 0.0 for both, and WB was auto for both. Auto ISO was used for both (which is why the photos do not exactly match in ISO value in one case, for which I included D4 pictures with ISO values slightly above and slightly below that of the D4s. You'll see that the auto WB resulted in a much whiter (less warm) picture from the D4s than from the D4 despite the same ambient light (~2700K indoor lighting from LED and CFL bulbs). The D4 auto WB reflects more accurately what the image looks like to the human eye, though the D4s auto WB much more accurately represented what the object would look like in more balanced studio lighting (closer to 4000K or 5500K)

You can see that the D4s indeed has significantly better high ISO performance than the D4. The test actually favors the D4 since the D4s exposed brighter than the D4, presumably because the D4s images were taken with whole-frame autoexposure, whereas the D4 images were taken with center-weighted exposure (perhaps this also accounts for the WB differences?). But even with that disadvantage, the D4s clearly has the better low light / high ISO performance. In fact whereas I considered 12500 to be the ISO limit for the D4 under most circumstances (I'm picky, I realize), I consider 33000 to be quite acceptable for the D4s, giving it more than 1 stop of advantage. Even at ISO 7200 you can clearly see the advantage for the D4s. Of course at more reasonable ISOs (< 4000), noise was very low for both cameras.

All the attached files are 100% enlargement screen captures in ViewNX2 of the unprocessed 14-bit RAW files (NEFs).

D4, 7200 ISO

D4s, 7200 ISO

D4, 30800 ISO

D4s, 30800 ISO

D4, 20800 ISO

D4, 25600 ISO

D4s, 22800 ISO

I hope this comparison is interesting and useful to people.  Frankly, I was surprised after seeing Alain's Df vs D4s comparison and did not expect such a significant difference in high ISO performance.  Part of that difference could be simply because the Df has (supposedly) better low-light performance than the D4, but I doubt that's the entire story here.

Best,

David

Nikon D4 Nikon D4s Nikon Df
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