Nikon D4 vs D3s ISO Performance

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The first batch of Nikon D4s has started to ship, some lucky Nikon users would have received their brand new Nikon D4 already.

If you haven’t got yours yet, you can order yours at B&H.

If you want to check out the new specs on the Nikon D4, check out this post.

One of the many questions that has been frequently asked on the D4 is “What is the ISO performance like?”. Given that the Nikon D4 has the same baseline highest ISO of 12,800 as on the D3s, it suggested that the ISO performance is probably similar to the D3s, despite equipped with a 4MP higher sensor (12MP vs 16MP). The extended ISO range on the Nikon D4 is however a stop higher, extended to 204,800.

To answer the question, here is the ISO comparison between Nikon D4 and Nikon D3s. But first, here are some high ISO images taken with the Nikon D4.

Sample of ISO 5000

Sample of ISO 2500

Sample of ISO 6400

Sample of ISO 6400

Here is the ISO comparison between the Nikon D4 and Nikon D3s. There is no noticeable different below 800, so we will take a look from ISO 1600. Click on the image to see the full resolution. Note that the D4 is 16MP, so for a proper comparison, the D4 images are down sized to 12MP in the below comparison.

                                                              ISO 1600                                                                                                                                     ISO 3200

                                                              ISO 6400                                                                                                                                       ISO 12800

Once you get past 12800, the noise started to become pretty obvious. It find the Nikon D4 is capable of producing exceptional image even up to ISO 6400. At 12800, there are some recognisable noise. I would not hesitate to use up to 6400 on the D4. Comparing to the D3s, I found the noise performance is pretty much similar, the Nikon D3s is already capable of producing exceptional image at ISO 6400. Comparing to the D700,  I find the Nikon D4 is about 1-1.5 stop better.

I have to say that I was hoping the D4 can achieve 1 stop ISO better than the D3s, but this is not the case from the above images. The ISO performance from the D4 is pretty much the same as the D3s, but don’t forget the the D4 has fitted more MP on the sensor, so there is a gain in that. [Update] – DxOMark has recently scored the Nikon D4 and it has taken the 2nd spot, making it the best Full Frame camera out there, a little behind the Phase One IQ180. But similar to what we have found here, the ISO performance is actually 0.15 stop worse than the Nikon D3s. Read more here.

It also seems that the Nikon D4 is more susceptible to colour noise than the D3s. If you have to use the up to extended ISO range, you will have to except some noticeable noise. Click on the image to see the full resolution.

ISO 25600

ISO 51200

ISO 102400


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About Kent Yu

Kent is a professional wedding and portrait photographer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He and his team specialise in modern and contemporary weddings. Kent has his work published in international magazines and is a regular author to a number of photographic publication. He is fascinated by photographic equipment and enjoys showcasing the gear used in creating his images. You can find him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
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