If you didn’t get enough in the first Canon 7D vs. Nikon D300s ISO Test (and I know a lot of you didn’t, based on the lively comment section), we’re back for Round 2.
This time, we’ve got a couple of additional variables to mix things up a bit — and to see if the claims of some of the Nikon shooters in the comment section of the first round bear fruit.
First off, we’ve thrown a new camera into the mix – the new 12.3-megapixel Sony A500, which is a covers a sensitivity range of ISO 200-12800. And, we’ve still got the same Canon 7D and Nikon D300s from the last test.
This time, based on popular demand, we’ve turned off all noise reduction, dynamic range and auto-lighting optimizers. The exception being the Sony A500, which Sony must have felt it necessary to keep noise reduction turned on all the time as there are only two settings – Normal and High. As a result, we’ve gone with the lesser of the two evils and set the Sony A500 to “Normal” Noise Reduction.
Finally, we’ve bumped the exposure +1/3 stop from the last test.
If you’re expecting more of the same, get ready for a surprise.
Here is a sample of the complete scene. Below are 100% crop samples taken from the focus point of each image. No post processing was performed on any of these images other than the crops shown below.
You may download samples of each image for personal inspection by clicking on the links below each sample (right-click and choose “Save as…”). Do not republish the images on the Internet or elsewhere without express written permission, which may be obtained by email.
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D ISO 100
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 200
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 400
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 800
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 1600
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 3200
Nikon D300s vs. Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 6400
Canon 7D vs. Sony A500 ISO 12800
Canon 7D and Nikon D300s RAW Images
The following 7D and D300s were opened in their native RAW formats using, Canon Digital Photo Professional and Nikon ViewNX, respectively. No edits were made before the files were exported to JPEG format for display here. Sorry, but I haven’t had a chance to install Sony’s software yet – look for that soon though.
Canon 7D ISO 6400 RAW Export Sample
Nikon D300s ISO 6400 RAW Export Sample
If you’re one of the Nikon shooters that commented in the last round about Nikon’s noise reduction, feel free to chime in with an “I told you so” whenever you feel like it.
I think the biggest lesson to take away from this is that Nikon’s in-camera noise reduction blows and should probably never be used. In the above samples, I really don’t see much noise worth reducing, especially in-camera.
As for the RAW image conversions . . . I’m a huge fan of Lightroom and use it for all of my day-to-day photography, but the differences between how Lightroom and ViewNX handle noise in a RAW file for the D300s is a tough pill to swallow. I’ll cut Adobe a break on the 7D files since it’s not officially supported yet, but the D300s noise is out of control at high ISOs in Lightroom 2.5. However, if you’re working with images at higher ISO settings, don’t dismiss opening up the manufacturer’s native RAW conversion software if things aren’t quite looking right in Lightroom or ACR.
Finally, you can see the Sony A500 is really hurting from the noise reduction as ISO creeps on up. I’ll also point out that the A500 seems to have missed the focus point, which was upon the Kodak emblem on the film canister. In the full images, the focus point was actually about half an inch behind that point on the joker card in the scene (not where I put it). And yes, I tried manual focusing with these cameras; however, my eyes don’t have the accuracy that they used to. Again, we’ll be looking at the A500 a little closer very soon.
I’ll leave the rest of it to you in the comments below.
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Kenneth Bailey says
Let’s see how the results look when you have equal magnifications of the images! It’s obvious that the Canon 7D images are rendered at a higher magnification than either Nikon or Sony examples giving the Canon examples a clear disadvantage in this “Test”.
@Kenneth Bailey – The “difference” in magnification levels is because the 7D is 18-megapixels, while the A500 and D300s are 12-megapixels. As a result, taking the same crop of 600px x 150px will cover a smaller area of the scene at 100% magnification. In short, there is no “difference” in magnification levels.
@Sky_walker – The AF point was on the same location with the A500 as it was with the other cameras. Additionally, if you will click over to Round 1 that is linked above, you can find the D300s and 7D at Normal noise reduction so you can see how NR works for all cameras. Those original files are available for download as well.
Nah, that explanation why you missed the focus in A500 is just not right… You TRY till you get it RIGTH. What kind of test is this otherwise? How can I compare how much details does the A500 noise reduction eat while you even couldn’t focus right?
I’d like to ask for a test to be made again – this time in the proper way.
Also – perhaps we’d see the photos from all cameras at noise reduction set on normal/middle value? This would give us some more idea on how does the NR works.
This kind of comparison is just nonsense to me but in reality it would never end. Picture quality is at the shooter not the camera. Beside what photoshop can not do?
Wait for the sony A750,that’s the one to compare, except if you are allready sure the a750 will be FF.
once more, Prepeare to get flamed! :)
nice post. Is sony using the same sensor that it sapplies to nikon? That would be internesting result if they were.
in addition, Another site that I know actually gave and Edge to the D300s (I would like to post the site, but I don’t know this site’s policy.. so ..)
As far as I can see from the comparison, 7D win hands down in terms of details and noise. D300s NR is stronger and the A500 is strongest yet.
I also enjoyed this High ISO comparison.
Personally it would have bin nice if you did the ISO 6400 Raw comparison with no noise reduction at all.
Or maybe better, done with dcraw perhaps….
That would have shown us a more equal processing.
There’s still an amount of noise reduction applied in the software.
Never the less, you’ve done a nice job here.
James Parks says
Horrible test. You can NOT use AF for tests like this.
Learn to manual focus on a specific area and even the playing field. You are not testing resolution or noise performance if you can’t understand how to manual focus.
Not saying this because I love Sony – I own a 7D – but lets be fair about things, the Sony a500 and a550 are exception cameras at high iso but your test makes their image quality seem wrong. I can get an a200 to produce a sharper crop than what you were able to come up with.
jack wawass says
make a comparaison with photographing a grey chart & will talk.
i tink that noise level is less on the nikon anyway,but for prints above A3+ the canon will lead thanks to higher resolution & will see more details.
finally, it’s really abvious to compare a pic at 100% screen,no one does it in everyday use!!!!& the beter way to handle noise is to shoot in raw & reduce it after thanks to photoshop,nx2,DPP, lightroom…..try & ull see!
go make photos guys, what ever the camera u use!
Kenneth Bailey says
I would like to know how you achieved a 600px x 150px crop on images with such different resolutions? Did you first magnify the images to 100% on screen and then ‘eyeball’ the area of the images you wanted to magnify or do you have some sort of new fangled measuring device that precisely measures an area to the exact same measurements and coordinates! I would consider it to be extremely difficult to match a 12.3 megapixel camera to a 18.2 megapixel camera having the same sized sensor; because that 18.2 megapixel camera image has to be reduced beyond the native resolution of the 12.3 mp camera to achieve the same results. There is a much smaller distance to travel, if you will for that 12.3 mp camera to achieve a 600px x 150px image.
@Kenneth Bailey – Using Photoshop Elements, I set the selection rectangular marquee tool to “fixed size” mode at 600px wide and 150px high. Zooming images on-screen doesn’t really matter because 600px covers the same area no matter how I’m “viewing” it. As a result, the images are shown at 100% across a 600px x 150px section of the original file.
Kenneth Bailey says
It’s pretty obvious, at least in my view, that the 7D image has to be magnified more to achieve the same fixed 600px area coverage. Any time you are increasing magnification you are reducing resolution.
@Kenneth Bailey – The 7D has a higher resolution, so 100% resolution on it is going to be a bigger image. I did not res-up the image if that’s what you are getting at.
On the internet, everyone is an expert!
Great test Eric, I appreciate you posting your finds.
@Arturo – Appreciate the comment. Thanks for stopping by.
Seems pretty close between the Canon & Nikon personally i always shoot raw &
remove the noise in Photoshop with Nik dfine.
Finally some real competition for Nikon
Kenneth Bailey says
I always appreciate constructive criticism whether it agrees with my point of view or not! 45 years in this biz has taught me that there are many times when I am not right, but I never stop asking the important questions. Next time maybe you can compare my 5D to the output of my Mamiya RZ w/P65+ Back.
Eric, thanks a lot for your tests. I think You not the prepaid tester =)
Thanks Eric, good job on the test.
Sad to hear that the SONY didnt focus right. Some critism can, and already has been, be given.
It would be interesting to also see åics at some of the higher ISO, where you have compensated for the higher magnification (and 1.5 / 1.6 crop). I guess anyone could try their mathskills at home, but it would be nice to see how far ahead the Canon 7D would be.
All the best,
It’s becoming fairly common knowledge now that comparing 100% crops on cameras with DIFFERENT size sensors is incorrect.
Compare an exact portion of the frame instead.
The focus of the A500 is horrible, and its no fault of the camera’s. As a reviewer, shouldnt u get things to work properly, and in this case, get the focus correct, before doing a test?
Look at the low ISO pictures of the A500. The image is so soft and that has nothing to do with ISO. Its your inability to get the focus correct that is causing this, and as a result gives readers the wrong idea that the A500 is “poor” in comparison with the other 2 cameras.
Some how i think they known a Lower cost Sony A500. which cost less than 7D and the D300 And the A500 was going to kick them right out of the Box. i always did say that Nikon and Canon are money pits
Luiz Lage says
Kenneth Bailey “45 years in this biz” and dont understand 18mp x 12mp.
Download the samples and see by yourself. Compare as you like.
Great test Eric.
What I think is really being missed here is that Canon shouldn’t even be in the same league as the Nikon (but it obviously is!). We have an 18 megapixel camera against the Nikon’s 12. Many said that when the 7d first came out they were disappointed in Canon cramming 18 Mp onto an APS-C sensor… but with all that resolution if noise is roughly the same on the 2 cameras the Canon wins because with the same size prints each speck of noise will be smaller… finer grain (smaller) noise means a better (less noisy) print.
The one reservation I have about the 18 Mp is that the DLA (diffraction limited aperture) is a mere F 6.8 for this camera. The high pixel-density means that you begin to lose sharpness to diffraction at a mere F 6.8! I’d be interested to see a test of how much sharpness is lost. This potentially is the greatest drawback to the 7d potential as a landscape camera because you really need the smaller apertures for maximum depth-of-field. In sum, this looks to be a great sports, wildlife, action shooter… but depending on the diffraction loss maybe not so good for landscape, scenic… The 5D Mk II is still preferable in that dept..
Canon has really done something with their low-light technology here and I’m anxious to see how all the new tech & features trickle down (& up) to the rest of the Canon line. Also the competition will inevitably make Nikon kick it up a notch. Ain’t competition great! It’s an exciting time for photography!
Very nice test! The only somewhat valid criticisms here relate to the fact that the Canon is slightly disadvantaged due to the resolution difference.
Having said that however, I’m not sure what the Nikon shooters are bragging about. The fact that the Nikon’s in camera NR sucks is not a selling feature! And the Canon still wins this test in a close comparison even without equalizing the image size. Yes the difference is much smaller with no noise reduction, but the Canon still wins!
The Canon also appears to have better dynamic range as the whites look whiter. (Perhaps that’s an exposure difference.)
Based on the excellent test pics here, any potential new camera buyer would have to ask “Why would I turn off the high ISO noise reduction in the Canon in regular use?”, followed by “Why would I pay $100 more for a camera with a lower resolution whose NR sucks, and whose larger pixels don’t appear to give it any advantage?”
You can rest assured that any Nikon shooter’s “I told you so” on this test is a myopic one.
It would be nice if you had one additional comparison where you you resized the 7D to nikons size and compare them. That might be an interesting test.
While these test are good starting point, they do not tell as much about real situations. For example, I do the smallest contrast change to the 5D II and convert it to Black and White and I get horrible pattern noise. That’s something that will not show in these tests, unless the camera testers would add it to their procedures.
All said, thanks for a great post.
In the ISO 6400 you can really see how Nikon’s ‘RAW’ NEF is using the Low Pass meadian filter to reduce noise. Canon is truer by not filtering that kind of noise. The chroma noise is very high in the Nikons which is a little surprising. IT would be interesting to see if you did a TRUE Nikon RAW file via Mode3 hack if the results are more similar. The Sony looks like an over filtered Noise Ninja applied image.
Please redo the A500’s out of focus shots. Don’t leave it like that.
The reviewer ensures that neither Canon nor Nikon would have to come last by posting out-of-focus A500 images. Learn to use the camera before posting reviews. If the camera is defected, return it. The reviews like this belong in garbage can.
Thanks, again, Eric, for an enlightening comparison. Part 1 showed how well the 7D performs despite everyone’s claimed “deficiency” in using an APS-C sensor. A local store was offering such a great package deal that I bought a 7D the next day, and it’s doing exactly what I had anticipated it would. This test shows that Nikon’s in-camera processing is terrible, and that the Sony has a problem with auto-focus — both good things to note. And thanks for your explanation of the larger size of the Canon image. I appreciate your time and efforts, which informed my decision.
Thomas Siefert says
The Photos should be croped for the object to be the same size, reguardless of the pixel count, because partly the smaller the cell, the less photons per electron versus the larger cells.
Also the basic contrast should be adjusted to be the same for a truer comparison. The more contrast can give it an appearance of more noise.
Also from what I’ve read, this is just a test for the CMOS sensor, not the electronic niose reduction. The sensor is the the most inportant source of the camera.
The other factors such as the focus sensors needed inprovement, which is what I believe CANON did for the 7D.
I believe NIKON has the edge on more reliable exposures, where the CANON has the better low noise sensor.
Dan B. says
Thanks for the tests…. It nice to see people do this kind of stuff. Personally, I think the most important part of photography is the person behind the camera. Because it doesn’t matter if you have a $100 or $10,000 camera if you don’t know how to use it. Yet don’t forget people will defend their personal preferences in terms a camera system. I also enjoy the Canon vs Nikon vs Sony battles as it keeps pushing manufactures to new innovations and helps keep prices lower.
Keep your head up.
Good to see that the long-awaited DPreview 7d review basically confirmed your results here AND the validity of your tests, Eric. Congrats. The Canon low-light tech in the 7d is real.
Jason Chen says
The 7D images are “bigger” because 7D has a 18MP sensor while the other two is only 12MP.
I see no problem comparing 7D with D300 because they are about the same price range. It is fully justified if Nikon does not lower the price to compete with a lower level Canon. On the other hand A500 is half the price of the other two. I see A500 in the same league with T1i or D5000.
I think you should take the Sony images down until you can verify that the focus point was correct. I for one simply cannot believe that a properly focused camera, even on an a200, would take pictures like that at the low iso settings. If there is a problem with the camera or the lens then that needs to be sorted out as well.
Apart from the Sony images not having sharp focus it was a very good review between the Canon & Nikon.
If Canon has also nailed the AF it may be the crop sensor champ at least until the Nikon D400 arrives.
The D300s has a better auto iso implementation.
And the D300s has a better AF working range: -1 to +19 EV
The 7D AF working range: -0.5 – 18 EV.
Apart from similar ISO ranges, these 3 cameras are not even on the same playing field, how is it possible that this review is accurate?
Using an over exageration, it’s like taking a van, comparing it with a bike, and saying that it has better space.
the Sony a500’s an entry level DLSR, while the Canon 7D vs. Nikon D300s are semi-pros, no?
Unless you’re actually touting Sony’s new fantastic offering, such that an entry level model is actually good enough that it can be compared with Canon’s and Nikon’s semi-pro offerings.
So what does this say about Nikon and Canon?
LOL Stve, keep grasping at straws…. a whole 0.5 EV better whoa! There’s no guarantee the D400 will be the 7D killer either. The D300/s was such a great camera from teh get go that Canon had to jump in to cover some of that market. The 7D is a great camera and based on the sensors that Sony is supplying to Nikon there is only so far they can go.
I learned that ViewNX converted files are much better than those of Lightroom some time back with files from my D3. I was getting to the point where I was disappointed with the colors I got with the D3 until I learned the problem was Lightroom, or any other third party converter. Once I started using ViewNX or Capture NX2 for NEF file conversion, I began to get the results I expected from the D3. Lightroom starts from scratch, or I should say Adobe defaults, for settings, where ViewNX makes use of the settings I haVe made in the camera. I am a happy camper using Nikon products for conversion and the other software after that if needed. But most often nothing more is needed.
I agrre with the comment that the 7D is making a hell of a job at high ISO, with 18 MP in prime. I am a Nikon user (D90) and will look very closely at the D400 (as we agree that the D300s was a slim evolution, while the 7D is a new model). Regardless of the brand, it is the pictures that talk. Enough time on web sites and back in the field taking pictures…
Daniel Espinosa says
Does it matter that the D300 costs twice as much as the A500? I’m debating between a D90 and an A500 with the higher cost of the D90 being a deciding factor. And the D90 is cheaper than a D300.
Great test. The second time showed the real capabilities of both cameras, and both do amazingly well compared with DSLR’s not so very long ago. What I get sick of is how users of one brand put the other down, Canon users being the worst. Come on guys, the results were a draw to my old eyes and either is a wonderful choise, whichever brand you choose. But to say that the 7D beats the D300s is clearly not the case. They do equally well. What the test proved is that software can make a big difference when it comes to noise, Lightroom actually making it worse, in the case of the D300s. A person can’t go wrong buying either camera, or the Sony for that matter. For it’s price range, it seems to do well. I just get sick and tired of the brand war. Why don’t you guys go out and shoot pictures instead?
Daniel Espinosa says
Amen to Vern! It isn’t easy for us humans to not have personal preferences and to keep our enthusiasm to ourselves. Myself included. I’m still not sure how much this subject has helped me but it has given me things to think about. If I was in a better financial situation I would buy the “best of the best”, whatever that might be. But because I am disabled and on a modest fixed income cost is more important to me than it should be. As I stated before I was close to buying an A500. I guess for value. But because of this review, and a few others, I now feel that the extra cost of a D90 is more than justified. Thank you all for making me think that extra bit!
Thanks for taking your time doing the test.
It’s interesting to see how angry those who criticize your comparison methods seem on the feedback sections of your tests feedback sections, however valid their concerns may be.
Makes me wonder how much Canon or Nikon glass they already own…
Joseluis Carag says
it would help if you could mention at what settings the photo was taken at….and how accurate your methods are the missed focus point on the A500 may have easily been shooter error if system is flawed…. I agree these three cameras are not in the same level price wise bur performance wise they may not be much differeent…
One commenter said:
“We have an 18 megapixel camera against the Nikon’s 12. Many said that when the 7d first came out they were disappointed in Canon cramming 18 Mp onto an APS-C sensor… but with all that resolution if noise is roughly the same on the 2 cameras the Canon wins because with the same size prints each speck of noise will be smaller… finer grain (smaller) noise means a better (less noisy) print.”
Like a neutered dog, this guy just doesn’t get it. Perhaps each “speck of noise” will be smaller, but if you have uniformly noisy pixels across the entire image, you end up with smeared details, esp. after you’ve down-scaled the image or otherwise made a print.
Ryan Ward says
It’s always tough to run comparisons, but, when you have different resolutions it makes it even more tricky. I think it would have been great to see the Sony in better focus to compare how Sony and Nikon differ in their image processing. I think that would have been worth the comparison itself.
Quazi Ahmed Hussain says
Still camera manufacturing is in the blood of both Canon and Nikon. Same can be said about Olympus and Pentax as well. Sorry, not about the rest………
Actually, everyone saying it’s not fair because it’s not the same is just wrong.
Sure, if you want to compare x size to x size, however, it’s not a real world test.
Instead, a 100% crop is fair because it is exactly a 1:1 crop of what the sensor was meant to display. I think it’s entirely funny how people get online and complain about resizing being unfair because it’s not a real test, yet they forget that doing ANY adjustment to the output before a test would decrease the integrity of the image.
You can’t have it both ways. This test is the most natural way, at least cropping and image size – of displaying what the camera and sensor is capable of given the same PP treatment. So the Canon is bigger, so? Who cares what the Canon can do when resized to the Nikon. Don’t we care what the Canon/Nikon can do when printed or displayed in large sizes with high ISO?
It’s utterly pointless and ridiculous what people cry about – because it just doesn’t make any logical sense. Resizing ANY image to compare such small detail like ISO noise is about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
Nirmal Harindran says
i second Alex and let me tell u i was searching for a comparison between Nikon d300s and canon 7d
and about the pictures in question, could have posted the original images for download here and let the experts download it and analyze it the way they want it and maybe in the end at least some may feel convinced on which camera is better..
as far as i have learned, making comparison between these cameras is not worth the time im wasting here instead of going out and getting few pictures….
This is your compare pictures Canon 7d and Nikon d300s but i not believe this picture is the right one ,For sharpness and color should be Canon 7d better than Nikon d300s (Canon have a great picture / Nikon have a great camera body ).
Kristi W. says
I appreciate the side-by-side comparison pics, so thank you. However I can’t help but be surprised that the Sony a500 is included in this mix. I have the a500 and love it, but it’s a $500 camera body (http://amzn.to/ad0Uvr). The Nikon and Canons in this article retail in the range of $1500, no? It doesn’t seem fair to discredit the Sony’s performance when comparing it to cameras that cost three times as much.
Rob McCance says
Love the comparisons. The ISO6400 is incredable, better than the old film ISO800.
Photogs are starting to get really spoiled and the young ones don’t even know it.
Thank you for the test Eric. I really appreciate when you or others take the time to make and publish tests like this. As mentioned earlier in this threat it can give us all better and cheaper cameras. It is however sad that some people’s religious attachment to a specific company reflect so clearly in the comments they make. It tells much more about those people that it does about the products and your test.
I do not have any knowledge about performance of Sony cameras so I will not comment on it. I do not find it a problem that it is not in the same price range as the two other cameras. It is mentioned so everyone can take it in account when they compare the pictures. I do however have to say that it is not optimal that the focus is not 100% correct. It makes it difficult to draw any conclusions and in my opinion it is therefore difficult to see the relevance of including the camera in this test.
I was a bit surprised about the first of your test though. The sharpness for the Canon was pretty much what I have experienced myself but I feel that your results for the Nikon was quiet a bit below what I have experienced. The second test is identical to my experiences for both cameras. I generally prefer the result from Nikon as long as ISO is below 800. From ISO 800 and above Canon have a clear advantage. This is not surprising. For many years tests have proven that Canon handle high ISO better than Nikon. What there maybe is surprising is that Canon is able to do this even though it has a much higher resolution. That is impressive. Nikon have wisely realized this and chosen to keep the resolution on a level where ISO handling still is quite good.
Once again – thank you for an interesting test.
Now that Nikon has upsized to 16.5 MP, are you guys finally going to get with the program and accept that you need to resize to identical image sizes to have a fair test?
You are buying the camera to shoot a photograph, not a box of pixels. You are not evaluating the camera’s quality based on the quality of each pixels, but on the overall quality of the photograph.
And as to the guy who said noise would smudge all the detail on the Canon, get a brain, moran. The Canon camera has more detail before noise kicks in due to higher resolution. As long as the deleterious effects of noise and noise removal destroys less detail than the additional resolution adds, the net effect is nil.
As far as the test does go, while subjectively I think the 7D performs better than the D300s, according to other opinions the 7D and D300s have about identical high ISO performances once resizing is factored in, so this one is up for grabs. Do you have a big stack of Nikon lenses somewhere? What about Canon lenses? Do you expect that the 7D2 will hit the market to meet D7000 high ISO performance, and that this update will arrive before a D400?
I think you review is great.. Thanks for your time. Hoping to see more reviews especially for D7000.
On you the internet, no matter how well you do, you will find harsh negative comments. I read a lot of reviews and I found this one was the easiest to notice the differences, especially the sample images.
Richard Hannam says
I just love reading forums like this. Amongst all the stuff, there’s usually something that’s useful. I started out with a 450D & kit lenses. That combo really taught me how to take pictures! Then, as a pro, I added a 40D & recently a 7D. So now you expect me to say that Canon is the best. No I won’t. All the top manufacturers’ products are good. Their ranges always include camera/lens combinations suitable for anyone’s needs. In the right hands, they all perform very well. The best way to overcome any problem is to learn to use your kit properly. I’m still learning. When I’ve finished, I’ll stop reading opinions & looking for little golden nuggets of knowledge I don’t already have!