High ISO Performance of DSLRs From the 2001 Super Bowl Versus Now

Want to see how far DSLRs have come in the past decade? Lee Morris of Fstoppers published these two photos taken at Super Bowl halftime shows. The crop on the left was captured in 2001, possibly with the Nikon D1H at 2.7 megapixels and ISO 800 (state of the art specs at the time). The slice on the right was from this past weekend, and was shot with a Nikon D3s at 12MP and ISO 12,800.

Image credits: Photographs by Lonny Krasnow/AP and FilmMagic

  • Andrew9909

    It’s not crazy; it’s ten years of development. Who writes this rubbish?

  • Jason

     Exactly. I am not sure what the writer wants us to be thinking other than “DUH”

  • Michael Zhang

    Alrighty guys, removed the “duh” line :)

  • Sinmeta

    Maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see that much of a quality difference, other than Timberlake’s face being overexposed in the left image, while the exposure in the right image looks spot on.  The backgrounds are different, so it’s like comparing apples and oranges.  At this sized-down-for-screen image size, I can’t see any noise in either image.  Also, given that the image on the left has a more exposed background and is not as sharp as the image on the right, I wonder if the left image was shot at a slower shutter speed than the image on the right.  Then there’s also the question of whether either or both of these images was shot with a stabilized lens (did Nikon even have VR lenses in 2000?).

  • John E. Branch Jr.

    You can’t see noise? I sure can. Lots of reasons to prefer the one on the right.

  • B Smith Images

    One thing that hasn’t change in camera technology: The ability to make old rock stars look any younger.

  • Ken Hurst

    Most assuredly the majority of the difference in these two photos in particular isn’t apparent in these relatively small web versions. The technological improvements haven’t impacted web photos significantly. But enlarge them to 30X40″ prints and it should be obvious.

  • Through Painted Eyes

    You don’t get a break here, do you? lol

  • Through Painted Eyes

    Also worth noting is the fact that the first is shot at ISO 800, while the second is shot at 12, 800 with what still appears to be less noise. It would be interesting to see the first one amped up to 12, 800 equiv.

  • lloyd

    Not to suck up to Michael, as i’ve seem some crud but i quite liked this. it might be 10 years and YES a lot has happened its still nice to see it. Thanks for the pics!

  • Sinmeta

    Could be we’re using very different monitors with varied calibrations.  That’s the problem with comparing photos on the web as opposed to prints.

  • Micah RobinsonCaputo

    You’re kidding right? You honestly can’t see all that noise? Perhaps my eye is more trained to it from doing low-light concert photography for a living, but the noise in the image on the left is as obvious as obvious gets. I wouldn’t even consider that an acceptable image if I were shooting that now.

  • J.L. Williams

    Another thing that hasn’t changed: Pop culture’s taste in celebrities is still worthless.

  • Anonymous

    She looks so much better in the photo on the right even though it’s 10 years later.

  • Matt


  • Jeffkravitz

    I took the image on the right and haven’t used my D3s since the Super Bowl. The setting was 10,000 ISO, not 12,500 as stated above.

  • Shawn

    I personally like seeing stuff like this.  Sure its common sense, but its a cool common sense reminder of how far technology has came so far.  If you trolls dont like it then dont read it.

  • Kevin Martini

    Its cool to see how much things have progressed!

  • 9inchnail

    Everybody knows, technology is developing incredibly fast. But it’s still nice to have an actuall comparison side by side to visualize where we came from and where we’re at now. Would like to see bigger versions of the images though.

  • Beeg

    Huh? There is surprisingly minimal visual difference between the two images at web resolution. Look at the detail of the guy in yellow’s pants and face compared to the guy with the fro holding up Madonna. The old pic holds up really well. 

    Of course if you had to make an 8×10 print of the two scenes, and were to view them 6 inches away from the print, the differences would be readily apparent. But not here.

  • Henry Ezra 王

    Digital sensor was on development stage in 2001. Now the technology is mature. It doesn’t mean that another ten years the performance would be so staggering like this comparison. In the next ten years we should see better lens technology, better dynamic range and improvement of uncompressed file type (universal RAW file). JPEG would be obsolete by then.

  • Josephr Teeter

    People saying they can’t tell that much of a difference need to look at the BACKGROUND not the people, that is where you can really see the noise. ISO comparisons aren’t going to show more/less detail