Dynamic Range cont.
Picture Control presets
The graph below shows the dynamic range response from each of the D3X's four Picture Control presets. As you can see each has a slightly different tone curve but none achieves any better highlight range. By a small margin the best overall range (because of its lighter and hence extended shadow range) comes from the Neutral setting. It's worth mentioning that (like the D3) the D3X's default tone curve is actually quite contrasty and produces (for a pro-level Nikon) relatively 'punchy' out of camera JPEGs, but means the sensor's true capabilities (dynamic range-wise) aren't immediately obvious unless you play around with the picture settings or shoot RAW (see bottom of the page).
The graph below shows how the camera's tone curve and dynamic range is affected by the (admittedly small) range of contrast settings. Whilst the standard/default setting offers the most pleasing 'out of camera' results you can eke a little more (by which we mean maybe a third of a stop) more out of the shadows by opting for the flatter -3 setting. Highlight range is not affected.
ISO Sensitivity and Dynamic Range
The D3X has an indicated base sensitivity of ISO 100, sensitivities below this (ISO 80, 64 and 50) are indicated as L0.3, L0.7 and L1.0 respectively. Above ISO 1600 the ISO range extends to Hi2.0 (ISO 6400). As you can see from the graph below the compromise at ISO 50 is lower highlight range, which falls nearly a stop short of that seen from ISO 100 upwards.
Using the default settings the D3X delivers somewhere in the region of 8.5 stops of dynamic range from ISO 100 to 3200 and demonstrates remarkable consistency in the highlights up to the maximum setting. The increase in measured shadow range at ISO 3200 is due to noise reduction rather than an increase in shadow detail.
At base ISO dynamic range is in the same region as the D3 and, like its sister model, the D3X is capable of a lot more when pushed in RAW mode (as we'll see at the bottom of this page).
|Sensitivity||Shadow range||Highlight range||Usable range|
|ISO 50*||-4.9 EV||2.9 EV||7.6 EV|
|ISO 100||-4.7 EV||3.7 EV||8.4 EV|
|ISO 200||-4.9 EV||3.7 EV||8.6 EV|
|ISO 400||-4.9 EV||3.7 EV||8.6 EV|
|ISO 800||-4.8 EV||3.7 EV||8.5 EV|
|ISO 1600||-4.9 EV||3.7 EV||8.6 EV|
|ISO 3200*||-5.7 EV||3.7 EV||9.3 EV|
|ISO 6400*||-3.9 EV||3.7 EV||7.6 EV|
* Non-standard sensitivities
Dynamic Range compared
All cameras in this comparison offer a dynamic range in the region of 8.5 stops with the Sony DSLR-A900 at 9.4 EV being the notable exception. Of course a lot of this is down to the camera's standard tone curve and you'll be able to squeeze at least some extra dynamic range out of a camera when shooting RAW or modifying the JPEG settings.
|Nikon D3X (ISO 100)||-4.7 EV||3.7 EV||8.4 EV|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III (ISO 100)||-5.1 EV||3.5 EV||8.6 EV|
|Sony DSLR-A900 (ISO 200)||-5.1 EV||4.2 EV||9.4 EV|
|Nikon D3 (ISO 200)||-4.7 EV||3.9 EV||8.6 EV|
The wedges below are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).
Experience has told us that there is typically around 1 EV (one stop) of extra information available at the highlight end in RAW files and that a negative digital exposure compensation when converting such files can recover detail lost to over-exposure. As with previous reviews we settled on Adobe Camera RAW for conversion to retrieve the maximum dynamic range from our test shots.
As usual the default Adobe Camera RAW conversion delivers less dynamic range than JPEG from the camera (a more contrasty tone curve and very little noise reduction in shadows). It's pretty impressive how much 'unused' highlight range the D3X is hiding in its raw headroom. The ACR best image has approximately 2 stops more highlight range than the out-of-camera JPEG, and 2.5 EV more than the ACR default conversion.
We are only plotting the 14-bit RAW mode on the graph below, this is simply because the result for this test is identical to 12-bit. Where 14-bit will give you an advantage is when you're 'pushing' or 'pulling' using digital exposure compensation (as shown at the bottom of the page), as you'll be less likely to hit posterization problems when working with severely over- or under- exposed shots. In practice the difference is minimal (especially with extreme under exposure, where noise will be the great leveler), though there seems little reason not to shoot 14-bit to be on the safe side.
- ACR Default: Exp. 0.0 EV, Blacks 5, Contrast +25, Curve Medium
- ACR Best: Exp. -1.10 EV, Blacks 0, Brightness 125, Contrast 0, Curve Linear
Like the D3 the D3X has a rather contrasty default tone curve which can cause some highlight clipping. However, the camera has - considering its pixel-packed sensor - quite a large amount of RAW headroom to work with - almost two stops in its ISO 100 shots. This wide exposure latitude allows you to pull back both shadow and highlight detail if your exposure goes awry in the press scrum, or if you simply did not get these exposure settings quite right in the heat of the moment. As you can see in the samples below the ability to pull back detail and crucially also color information is quite impressive.
|Adobe Camera RAW default conversion||Adobe Camera RAW with -1.9 EV digital comp.|
|Adobe Camera RAW default conversion||Adobe Camera RAW with -2.95 EV digital comp.|
Nikon D3X 24.5MP FX CMOS Digital SLR
with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)
Nikon D3X 24.5MP FX CMOS Digital SLR
with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only)
Nikon D3 FX DSLR Camera (Body Only) (OLD MODEL)
Nikon D2Xs Digital SLR Camera
Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR
with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens (Black)
Nikon D3S 12.1 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera
with 3.0-Inch LCD and 24fps 720p HD Video Capability (Body Only)
Nikon D810 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
Nikon D4S 16.2 MP CMOS FX Digital SLR
with Full 1080p HD Video (Body Only)
Nikon D700 12.1MP FX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera
with 3.0-Inch LCD. Import, with out US warranty (Body Only)
Focus Camera Nikon D3300 DX-format Digital SLR Kit
w/ 18-55mm DX VR II Zoom Lens (Red) + Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 SLD DG Macro Lens with built in motor + 32GB SD HC Memory Card + 58mm UV Protectors + 52mm UV Protectors + Lens Band Stop Zoom Creep (Black) + Focus Deluxe Soft Shell Camera Gadget Bag + Accessory Kit
Focus Camera Nikon D5300 DSLR Camera
with 18-55mm Lens (Black) + Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR Zoom Lens + 64GB Memory Card + All in One High Speed Card Reader + Extra Battery + Deluxe Accessory Kit
|Eforcity Compact Battery Charger Set + Black 58 mm Camera Lens Cap Bundle Compatible With Nikon CoolPix S6400 D-Series D3000, D3X, D40, D40x, D5000, D60||$8.79|
|JJC S-N1 Shutter Release Remote For Nikon D4s F5 D4 D800 D300s D3s D3x||$12.99|