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Compared to...

Studio scene comparison (higher sensitivities)

We've already looked in detail at the D300S's high ISO performance in our the noise section of this review; here we're just taking a quick look at how it compares to the 7D, K-7 and 50D (at their default settings) when shooting our new studio setup at higher ISO settings - particularly in the shadow areas. Here we compare the camera's JPEGs because there's rarely enough difference in sensor performance at high ISOs to make much difference (the sophistication of the chosen of RAW converter's noise reduction is arguably a more significant factor). However, the ability to produce useable results direct from the camera can be a real bonus.

ISO 800

Nikon D300S
Canon EOS 7D
Pentax K-7
Canon EOS 50D

ISO 1600

Nikon D300S
Canon EOS 7D
Pentax K-7
Canon EOS 50D

ISO 3200

Nikon D300S
Canon EOS 7D
Pentax K-7
Canon EOS 50D

ISO 6400

Nikon D300S
Canon EOS 7D
Pentax K-7
Canon EOS 50D

The original D300 was lauded for its high ISO performance - not necessarily because its sensor was significantly more advanced than its competitors (The Sony A700 had a closely-related sensor), but because its JPEG processing did a great job of using producing likeable images at high ISO settings. This was achieved because its noise reduction did a good job of balancing the retention of detail with the suppression of noise - it also did a good job of maintaining saturation so that the images looked 'realistic.'

It's not surprising that the competition haven't lagged behind - the Canons here are producing very similar levels of noise but also are striking a similar noise/detail/saturation balance. There's really not a lot to choose between the Canons and the Nikons, with the difference that the 7D is capturing marginally more detail at all settings and that the 50D lags behind a little at the highest settings.

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