How does the D3 achieve such high ISO?

Started Feb 17, 2008 | Discussions thread
ejmartin Veteran Member • Posts: 6,274
Re: How does the D3 achieve such high ISO?

SDRebel wrote:

The jury seems to be in on the Nikon D3's successful implementation
of significantly higher and usable ISO than I can achieve with my

Has Nikon made a breakthrough in sensor design? Or, is the Nikon ISO
range a result of a breakthrough in post processing?

Nikon has caught up to Canon and slightly surpassed them on sensor efficiency. The D3 collects about 10% more photons per unit of sensor area than the 1Ds3, about .14 stop; not enough to bother about really. Nikon has also done its homework well on noise reduction, with a nice implementation of chroma noise reduction while keeping colors well saturated and not too much smearing luminance NR. The output of Capture NX with default settings looks a lot better than ACR with its defaults, IMO.

Notice I compared the two cameras' sensors on the basis of light collection per unit area . Most people look at noise at 100% magnification; in a 1Ds3 image compared to a D3 image, this is effectively blowing up the 1Ds3 image by 1/3 more than the D3 image, and so one is not comparing the noise grain at the same size scale. This puts the 1Ds3 at a strong disadvantage, since photon shot noise goes up at smaller spatial scales (smaller pixels sampling fewer photons). A fair comparison should resample both images to the same size (and one must be careful to resample in a way that doesn't enhance the noise).

Could Canon provide a firmware upgrade for the 1Ds3 that increased
ISO to the range achieved by the D3?

There is really no reason why not, other than that Canon never implements new features via firmware upgrade. Anything beyond ISO 1600 is just as well implemented by "amplifying" the raw data via software multiplication rather than boosting the amplification in hardware.

Of course, a 1Ds3 is capable of this without such a firmware upgrade; just underexpose by a stop or two, and push the exposure during raw conversion. This is the way Canon implements its high ISO extension presently, so just do it yourself

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