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Resolution Chart Comparison

Shots here are of our 'version two' resolution chart which provides for measurement of resolution up to 4000 LPH (Lines Per Picture Height). A value of 20 equates to 2000 lines per picture height. For each camera the relevant prime lens was used. The chart is shot at a full range of apertures and the sharpest image selected. Studio light, cameras set to aperture priority (optimum aperture selected), image parameters default. Exposure compensation set to deliver approximately 80% luminance of white area.

Nikon D3 (3.2 KB; 12 MP) Canon EOS-1DS Mark III (4.3 MB, 21 MP)
Canon EOS 5D (3,552 KB; 12.8 MP) Nikon D300 (3.3 KB; 12 MP)
Canon EOS-1D Mark III (2.2 MB, 10.1 MP) Olympus E-3 (3.3 MB; 10 MP)

Nikon D3

Canon EOS-1DS Mark III
Canon EOS 5D Nikon D300
Canon EOS-1D Mark III Olympus E-3

Nikon D3 Canon EOS-1DS Mark III
Canon EOS 5D Nikon D300
Canon EOS-1D Mark III Olympus E-3

Nikon D3 Canon EOS-1DS Mark III
Canon EOS 5D Nikon D300
Canon EOS-1D Mark III Olympus E-3

Measurable results

Camera Measurement
Absolute
resolution
Extinction
resolution
Nikon D3 Horizontal LPH 2200  2600 
Vertical LPH 2200  2600 
Canon EOS-1Ds
Mark III
Horizontal LPH 2700  3300 
Vertical LPH 2700  3300 
Nikon D300 Horizontal LPH 2200  2600 
Vertical LPH 2100  2600 
Canon EOS 5D Horizontal LPH 2300  2500 
Vertical LPH 2000  2500 
Canon EOS-1D
Mark III
Horizontal LPH * 2100  2400 
Vertical LPH 2050  2350 
Olympus E-3 Horizontal LPH * 2100  2400 
Vertical LPH * 1800  2200 

* Moire is visible
+ Chart maximum
LPH Lines per Picture Height (to allow for different aspect ratios the measurement is the same for horizontal and vertical)
Absolute resolution Point at which all lines of a resolution bar are still visible and defined, beyond this resolution loss of detail occurs (below Nyquist frequency).
Extinction resolution Detail beyond camera's definition (becomes aliased)

The D3 offers, unsurprisingly, very similar resolution to the other 12 megapixel cameras (and most of the 10 megapixel cameras for that matter) on the market, and the main differences here are down to sensor design (anti-aliasing filter) and JPEG processing. The notable exception is of course the 21.1 MP EOS-1Ds Mark III, which naturally offers considerably more resolution. The D3's rather conservative sharpening means the Canon EOS 5D looks a lot better in comparison than it really is (though it certainly appears that the 5D ekes a touch more usable detail out of its JPEGs).

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