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Today DxO Labs announced that the all new Nikon D800 full-frame DSLR is now the top scoring digital camera of all times, beating even high-end medium format backs and digital cameras. With a score of 95, on the DxOMark scale, it outclasses the Phase One IQ180 by 4 points and the Nikon D4 by 6  which is a more significant jump than previous incremental improvements between generation.

The Nikon D800 which is scheduled to be available later this month features a full-frame 36 megapixels CMOS sensor capable of native ISO sensitivities from 100 to 6400 with expansion to 50 – 25,600. It can shoot continuously at 4 FPS and record full 1080p HD video.

Its 36 megapixels resolution gives it the power to produce huge images while maintaining high image quality comparable to that of medium format cameras and backs. The stellar DxOMark score achieved by the D800 underscores its unmatched ability for standard sized prints as well.

The DxOMark score consists of a weighted average of 3 metrics which characterize color-depth, dynamic-range and low-light performance. In particular, the D800 scores 1st place in terms of Dynamic-Range, managing to capture 14.4 EV in a single exposure. It also ties for 3rd spot in Color-Depth with 25.3 bits-per-pixel and placed 3rd in terms of low-light performance, behind its lower-resolution brothers the D4 and D3s.

What this means for photographers depends on the application but clearly this DSLR is putting much more costly Medium-Format digital cameras to shame by significantly catching up with them in terms of resolution and exceeding them in terms of dynamic-range. This makes the D800 a tremendous value for landscape and architecture photography while low-ISO sensitivities are used and speed is unimportant.

DxOLabs is pleasantly surprised by its High-ISO performance. The issue is that the D800 features small pixels for a full-frame DSLR but similar to the pixel size of APS-C models such as the excellent Pentax K-5 which has the highest DxOMark score among its class. This confirms the trend that on relatively large sensors, smaller pixels are scaling in close relation to their surface area. More practically, it means that a camera like the D800 which performs very well at low-ISO for large prints can also perform extremely well at high-ISO but for medium print sizes.

It is important to know that DxOMarks apply to output which is not resolution limited and for truly high prints medium formats are probably still capable of better results. However, with a resolution of 36 megapixels, even most professional photographers will have enough resolution for their needs. However, as a high-end Nikon, the D800 is much more efficient and tolerant of abuse than most medium format cameras other than the Pentax 645D.

The Nikon D800 is already available for pre-order for $2999 USD and is scheduled to ship next month.


Nikon D800 image quality even surpasses high-end medium-format cameras, DxOMark says.

With an impressive DxOMark Score of 95, the Nikon D800 illustrates the continuous improvement in DSLR image quality achieved over the years.

March 27, 2012 – DxOMark, the reference web site for camera image quality testing, has released its in-depth analysis of the new Nikon D800, as of now the best camera ever tested by DxOMark in terms of image quality.

Incredibly, the Nikon D800 even surpasses the best medium-format cameras, which are priced more than 10 times higher! The Nikon D800 comes out almost 1/3 of a stop higher than the best medium-format camera scored on DxOMark, the Phase One IQ180, which features a double-surface sensor and more than twice the pixel count (36 vs. 80 Mpix).

“The new sensor featured in the D800 achieves the best dynamic range and the highest color sensitivity ever measured, taking the lead on the DxOMark scale with 95 points,” explained Dr. Frédéric Guichard, DxO Labs’ Chief Scientific Officer. “This camera illustrates the consistent improvement that digital camera manufacturers have been able to achieve in the last few years, mimicking Moore’s law that has ruled the silicon industry for decades now.”

Mining DxOMark data, one can see the amazing progress of sensor performance over the past decade, from the Canon 1Ds released in 2002 with a DxOMark Score of 63, to the Nikon D3 and the Canon 1Ds Mark III, which both reached a DxOMark Score of 80 in 2007 (+17, i.e. approx. one stop in sensitivity), and now the D800 that adds the equivalent of one more stop in sensitivity performance with a DxOMark Score of 95.

Read more at DxOMark

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