Nikon Df Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops comparing the Nikon Df with the Nikon D4, Canon 5D Mark III, Fuji X-T1, Nikon D800 and Sony A7.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses.

Nikon Df versus Nikon D4 at ISO 100

Nikon Df at ISO 100
Nikon D4 at ISO 100

This comparison is almost too close to call. Both perform admirably here at base ISO, as expected. The Df does pull more fine detail from the pink fabric swatch, and perhaps just a slight bit more from the mosaic tiles as well, but the default JPEG sharpening could be as much of a factor here as anything else. Note, of course, that the Df costs roughly half as much as the D4.


Nikon Df versus Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 100

Nikon Df at ISO 100
Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 100

The 5D Mark III has 6.1 megapixels greater resolution than does the Df, and the fine detail is amazing and crisp. Note that the Df does still out-resolve it in the difficult red fabric swatch, an area Nikons are known to excel in more than any other manufacturer.


Nikon Df versus Fuji X-T1 at base ISO

Nikon Df at ISO 100
Fuji X-T1 at ISO 200

Resolutions are almost identical between these two, but the X-T1 has an APS-C sensor and the size difference is clear here, as the Df does a better job with fine detail in the mosaic tiles, and far outperforms the X-T1 in the fabric swatches.


Nikon Df versus Nikon D800 at ISO 100

Nikon Df at ISO 100
Nikon D800 at ISO 100

The D800 has a monstrous 36.3 megapixel resolution, which is a pixel count of more than double that of the Df, and it very clearly out-resolves it in every detail. The tiles and pink fabric are incredibly sharp, but there is a trace of moiré in the red fabric swatch.


Nikon Df versus Sony A7 at ISO 100

Nikon Df at ISO 100
Sony A7 at ISO 100

The A7 has 8.1 megapixels more than the Nikon Df, and is just über-sharp here at default processing settings. The mosaic tiles and the pink fabric swatch are about as sharp and clear as anything we've yet seen from any camera. Note that as with the 5D Mark III, the Df does outperform the A7 here in the red fabric swatch, and has a trace of moiré as well.


Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Nikon Df versus Nikon D4 at ISO 1600

Nikon Df at ISO 1600
Nikon D4 at ISO 1600

Again, a tight race here between the new Nikon on the block and the storied veteran. At half the price, the Df does produce a slightly crisper image in some areas, especially the mosaic tiles crop and pink fabric swatch.


Nikon Df versus Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 1600

Nikon Df at ISO 1600
Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 1600

The 5D Mark III begins to introduce signs of noise processing artifacts here, seen as mild splotches in the tile crop and pink fabric swatch. They are minor, but the Df does look a bit more natural here, and far superior in the red fabric swatch.


Nikon Df versus Fuji X-T1 at ISO 1600

Nikon Df at ISO 1600
Fuji X-T1 at ISO 1600

The X-T1 and its APS-C sensor start to lose ground here to the full-frame Df, with more noise in the bottle, less detail in the mosaic and far less detail in the fabric.


Nikon Df versus Nikon D800 at ISO 1600

Nikon Df at ISO 1600
Nikon D800 at ISO 1600

Both cameras do an excellent job for ISO 1600, and the resolution differences makes an accurate comparison somewhat difficult. The Df does hold its own though.


Nikon Df versus Sony A7 at ISO 1600

Nikon Df at ISO 1600
Sony A7 at ISO 1600

The A7 outperforms the Df here in every area except for the red fabric swatch. The detail in the mosaic tile is incredible for this ISO. It's odd that it misses the red fabric so badly, but most cameras other than Nikons do as ISO rises.


Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600, so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Nikon Df versus Nikon D4 at ISO 3200

Nikon Df at ISO 3200
Nikon D4 at ISO 3200

Interesting, as the Df has a bit less noise in the shadows behind the bottle crop. Both do exceptionally well for this ISO sensitivity, with a nod to the Df in the mosaic tiles and pink fabric swatch, and to the D4 in the red fabric swatch.


Nikon Df versus Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 3200

Nikon Df at ISO 3200
Canon 5D Mark III at ISO 3200

The 5D Mark III has a bit less noise in the bottle crop shadows, but exhibits more noise processing artifacts as well. The Df's rendering of the fabric swatch is far superior in all respects.


Nikon Df versus Fuji X-T1 at ISO 3200

Nikon Df at ISO 3200
Fuji X-T1 at ISO 3200

Again, the X-T1 loses a lot of ground here, with less detail in the mosaic tiles and almost no detail in the fabric swatch. Higher ISO is where the Df's full-frame sensor really dominates most-all APS-C competitors.


Nikon Df versus Nikon D800 at ISO 3200

Nikon Df at ISO 3200
Nikon D800 at ISO 3200

The Df's reasonably controlled noise levels here are interesting in comparison. The resolution differential makes an accurate comparison difficult, but again the Df certainly belongs in the same league as the highly regarded D800.


Nikon Df versus Sony A7 at ISO 3200

Nikon Df at ISO 3200
Sony A7 at ISO 3200

The A7 finally starts to show some noise processing artifacts here, with minor splotches in the tiles and pink fabric, bit nothing serious. It does lose out in the red fabric, while the Df appears more natural and well-rounded throughout.


Detail: Nikon Df versus Nikon D4, Canon 5D Mark III, Fuji X-T1, Nikon D800 and Sony A7.

Nikon
DF

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D4

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Canon
5D Mk III

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fuji
X-T1

ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon
D800

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Sony
A7

ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. The Sony A7 virtually leaps off the page here. If sharp, fine detail is your primary concern for something like architectural photography, it will undoubtedly make your short list. The 5D Mark III is also quite nice for fine detail as ISO rises. The Df certainly holds its own though, and none of these cameras look bad, although the X-T1 has a sensor with less than half the surface area of the other cameras, and that certainly shows in the results here.

 

Nikon Df Print Quality

Excellent 30 x 40 inch prints up to ISO 200; a nice 16 x 20 at ISO 3200; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 51,200.

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageISO 50 through 200 prints look excellent at 30 x 40 inches, with incredible detail for this size. Wall display prints look great even at 40 x 60 inches, with pixelation only appearing if you get close and squint.

ISO 400 also produces a good 30 x 40-inch print and is super-sharp for this ISO and size. Wall display prints are quite good up to 36 x 48 inches.

ISO 800 yields a very good 24 x 36-inch print, an excellent size for ISO 800, maintaining fine detail even in our tricky target red swatch (which Nikons do particularly well with) and revealing virtually no noise in flatter areas. One of the best ISO 800 prints we have yet seen from any camera, as well as a 20 x 30-inch print here with amazing clarity.

ISO 1600 images begin to show the first trace of minor chroma noise in flatter areas, but this sensitivity still produces a very nice 20 x 30-inch print or a super-tight 16 x 20.

ISO 3200 prints a good 16 x 20, with only a moderate amount of noise in flat and shadowy areas. Our target red swatch is still rendered with an amazing amount of detail, almost unprecedented for this sensitivity.

ISO 6400 produces a 13 x 19-inch print that is usable for less critical applications, or an 11 x 14 that is quite good.

ISO 12,800 yields a rarity in the print department for this sensitivity: a good 8 x 10-inch print!

ISO 25,600 prints a very good 5 x 7, yet again an amazing feat at this ISO.

ISO 51,200 allows for a good 4 x 6-inch print.

ISOs 102,400 and 204,800 do not yield good prints, and are best avoided.

DxOMark awarded the Nikon Df its best low light score to date, and that is certainly supported from our results here. It is simply the low light camera, doing a terrific job yielding good prints all the way to ISO 51,200. Most amazing are the Df's capabilities in the common low light settings of ISO 800 through ISO 6400. Very large prints are still possible at these sensitivities, and a rare 8 x 10-inch print is possible at ISO 12,800.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Canon PRO-1000 Printer ImageTesting hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)

 



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