Compared to...

As mentioned on the last page for the studio comparisons we've opted to put the D3 up against Canon's two full frame offerings, the EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS 5D. We will add EOS-1D Mark III comparisons shortly (we don't have a production sample available at the moment). To get things started lets have a look at what for many potential D3 purchasers will be the most obvious alternative; the D300.

Lenses used

For direct comparisons we always use sharp prime lenses stopped down (F8-F9). Here we have used the Canon EF 85 mm F1.4, Nikon 50 mm F1.8 and Nikon 85 mm F1.8D (we use 85mm lenses on full frame cameras to give approximately the same field of view as a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor camera).

Studio scene comparison (JPEG)

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Nikon D3 vs Nikon D300

With twelve (ish) megapixels apiece and a feature set so similar it's possible to switch bodies all day long without barely skipping a beat, the D3 and D300 offer Nikon shooters an interesting choice. Even with the MB-D10 (which brings the D300 within a whisker of the D3's shooting speed) you can buy two D300 bodies for the price of a D3 body, and have enough left over for a bag full of accessories. So how do they compare image quality wise? Let's take a look.

Camera settings:

  • Nikon D3: Nikkor 85 mm F1.8 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200 (default base)
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Normal), Self-Timer
  • Nikon D300: Nikkor 50 mm F1.8 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 200 (default base)
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters (Normal), Self-Timer
Nikon D3
Nikon D300
4.4 MB JPEG (4256 x 2382)
4.4 MB JPEG (4288 x 2848)

Perhaps unsurprisingly at base ISO in controlled lighting the difference is minimal, and it's likely any minor differences are likely to be down to the differences in the lenses used (and depth of field). It's obvious that Nikon is standardizing processing defaults across it's 'serious' DSLR range (the D3 and D300 do have slightly different color, but it's not a big difference). The default sharpening, though still fairly conservative compared to some competitors, is little higher than on recent models (such as the D200). Both cameras are producing clean, detailed JPEG output with little to choose between them.

Also available