BBC Contradicts Nikon’s Claim That Its DSLRs Passed the BBC Test

Last week, we wrote that Nikon was tooting its own horn by claiming that both the D4 and D800 DSLRs had passed the European Broadcasting Union test, popularly known as the BBC test, making them the “first DSLR cameras fit for broadcast.” Now it appears that the horns were tooted prematurely, as the BBC is refuting Nikon’s interpretation of the tests.

Here’s how the original news article appeared on the Australian My Nikon Life website:

In our writeup, we reported that there seemed to be some confusion over what constituted “passing” the test, since the results don’t include a simple rating or pass/fail indication. More specifically, the D800’s results also had the harsh conclusion, “This camera cannot be recommended for serious programme-making,” suggesting that it failed, rather than passed, the test.

Shortly afterward, the original post was deleted from the Nikon website, and replaced with a new article that only claims that the D4 passed:

Nikon might need to make a second revision, as now the BBC is saying that neither camera passed the test.

Andy Quested, the broadcasting company’s Head of Technology, has responded to Nikon’s claim in an email to The Phoblographer and in a comment on our post, saying,

The cameras did not “pass” and the BBC is not and will not be using them for HD programmes.

Here are the sections from the test report


[…] However, even though the sensor has 16.8 million photo-sites, it achieves only about 1,355×764, only a little better than 1,280×720 […]


[…] Video performance is not really acceptable at 1080p, much less so at 720p. Even though the sensor has 36.8 million photo-sites, it achieves only about 1,355×764, little better than 1,280×720 […]

Nikon’s latest DSLRs are certainly drawing rave reviews for the performance of their sensors, but it seems the company — or, at least the Australian division’s PR agency — got ahead of itself with this latest “fit for broadcasting” claim.

  • Daf

    Oops – a PR blunder!

    Anybody care to explain what the BBC means with the photo-sites comment ?
    Does it mean that the 1080 isn’t individual pixels but something else ?

  • W3PYF

    What constitutes “HD ready” clearly varies globally. We’ve placed medical PR videos on CBS Sunday Morning and PBS with our D7000s running 1080p 24fps.

    Having watched BBC HD programming here in London this weekend, I can tell you that the LAST thing their production people should be worrying about is the number of “photo-sites” in the cameras with which they record programming. While their news collection and editing is world class, their production merits are…well…less so.

    In a world where iReports come in as iPhone video, and Skype video interviews are routine from trouble spots, the major error of the Nikon agency was believing many people would care about cameras passing this test. As more and more news goes to the internet, and media expects multi-dimensional video/audio/stills capture by their reporters, DSLR video is here to stay.

    Mel Snyder
    Managing Director
    ProClinica Inc.

  • Ed

    It means the actual resolution in the final video is much lower than 1080p, even though many more sites are used originally.

    DSLRs use highly lossy compression, which means that if you compare DSLR video to a dedicated video camera, the ability to resolve different objects (i.e. resolution in the final output) is much lower.

  • tttulio

    It is not a compression problem, but the line skipping problem ( just like the 4 year old 5D2), how they generate 1920×1080 lines out of a 16MP sensor, only the GH2 / GH3 does a Photoshop like resizing.

  • ssreddy samba

    we know it nikons are bummer.

  • James

    Sorry, BBC Production Merits?….
    Anything from the BBC Natural History unit is simply amazing, Planet Earth, Life in cold blood, any of the Life series in fact.

  • Mansgame


  • bob cooley

    But isn’t that solved by the direct line out to a recording device? I thought that one of the features was uncompressed capture w/ an external recorder.

  • Simon

    If you read the original Nikon article they NEVER claimed it was the BBC that approved the cameras, only that the EBU test was referred to as the BBC test.

  • Tapo

    Notice a trend ? Anything negative about Nikon gets a lot of publicity on this site . When the D600 was announced, there was immediately a post on this site quoted from the Strobist about the limitation of the camera’s flash sync capabilities.

  • Michael Zhang
  • Otto Van De Steene

    what about canon HDSLR’s like 5DmIII and 1Dx and 1Dc ???

  • sierrarobba

    They shoot film but keep it secret!

  • Mansgame

    You work for Nikon or something Tapo? Most consumers like to hear the truth.

  • Trey Mortensen

    If you look at the post histories, there is just as much negative for Canon as Nikon. I didn’t hear about the focusing issues in the D800 until I talked to someone, but there were at least a few posts on the 5D MK III’s light leak issue. This site does a good job at being neutral compared to other sites.

  • kyoshinikon

    The D4 has Raw output so compression shouldn’t be an issue. I would like to see how the slightly more video oriented 1DC fares tho

  •!/thelonelylights Adam Cross

    those are completely different from day-to-day regular programming. they have much larger budgets than, say – Eastenders or even the regular news broadcasts