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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III vs Nikon D3—resolution

I’ve now made three different A/B field comparisons between the 12.1MP Nikon D3 and 21.1MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. In all three cases, the results seen are highly consistent, with the 1DsM3 showing higher resolving power. The image shown below is the full frame image whose crops are shown below.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III + Zeiss ZF 50/2 Makro-Planar @ f/8

The entire aperture series from f/2 through f/16 was shot on both the D3 and the 1DM3 using the Zeiss ZF 50/2 Makro-Planar, a lens of impeccable sharpness. The shallow depth of field at aperture f/2 was used to verify matched focus, critical to making a valid comparison (both cameras were focused with their respective Live View features). Two other A/B comparisons were also made at a focal length of 14mm (different lenses); one of these is shown further below.

Aperture f/8 is optimal on both cameras—at f/11, diffraction begins to degrade the image in a small but noticeable way; therefore the f/8 images were used. Both images were processed at Neutral with all sharpening disabled (Digital Photo Professional, Capture NX). The Nikon D3 image was up-rezed to the same pixel width as the 1DsM3 image (5616). A Photoshop CS3 Smart Sharpen of {100%, 0.5} was then used on the L channels in Lab mode. Note especially the detail in the tree bark and moss.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III <=> Nikon D3
(Mouse-over the image to see it switch between cameras)

Even in the out-of-focus background areas, the difference shows, though it’s less important:

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III <=> Nikon D3
(Mouse-over the image to see it switch between cameras)

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III is the resolution champ. Below is one more example, cropped from the image shown yesterday. Focus matching was done as before to ensure a valid test. The Canon 14/2.8L II was used on the 1DM3 and the Nikon 14-24/2.8FX was used on the D3. Processing was as with the example above, except that the D3 image was given Smart Sharpen of {200, 0.5} and the 1DM3 image was given only {100, 0.5}; the D3 images stand up much better to sharpening, but also requires more of it. (The per-pixel quality of the D3 seems especially high).

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III <=> Nikon D3
(Mouse-over the image to see it switch between cameras)

There are other approaches to upsampling and sharpening; these examples were done with the simplest approach. Upsampling using Genuine Fractals was also tried, showing the same gap in resolution. Photographers looking for a substantial resolution boost have a clear choice in the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, but what else could be expected given 75% more pixels? Other imaging qualities (noise, color, etc) might make the Nikon D3 more appealing for some applications. Those factors take more time to evaluate.

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