How Far We’ve Come: Comparing the ISO Capabilities of Nikon’s D70 and D600

After Toronto-based artist Kyle Clements put together his popular D600 sensor dust time-lapse, he began receiving many questions about how his new camera stacked up against the D70 he used up until that point.

Rather than continue to answer questions individually, he’s decided to start putting together YouTube videos for the most popular ones, starting with the ISO comparison above.

Keep in mind that the D70 is a crop sensor camera, which immediately puts it at a disadvantage when compared to the full-frame D600. Even knowing that, however, the difference that eight years of engineering and advances in digital photography have made for low light shooting are staggering when placed side-by-side.


Clements performed the test in a dimly lit portion of his studio — he maintains that many ISO tests are unrealistically performed in well-lit environments — with the D600 turned down to 6MP to match the D70. The cameras were then set to aperture priority mode at f/4 with 0 exposure compensation.

Because he used aperture priority, the D600 shots automatically come out much brighter as the full-frame camera chooses to expose for about a half-second longer than its crop sensor elder. But what Clements was looking at wasn’t brightness, but rather the difference in noise/usability of the resulting photos.



As you can see, the low-light capability of the D600 blows the D70 out of the ISO water. By Clements’ estimation, the D600 gives you a 3-stop advantage in the low-end (i.e. ISO 1600 on the D600 is still just as clean as ISO 200 on the D70) and a 4-stop advantage in the high-end (i.e. ISO 1600 on the D70 is already as noisy and unusable as Hi 2 on the D600).

“This current generation of cameras is awesome,” writes Clements in the video description. “and if you love shooting in low light, this is an amazing time to be a photographer!” Check out the video at the top to see the full side-by-side breakdown.

To see more of Clements comparisons, check out our previous coverage on the D600 sensor dust issues and be sure to follow him on YouTube so you can keep track as he answers more of those questions he’s been getting.

(via Reddit)

  • dez

    For me the ISO1600 of the D70 looks still way more clean as any ISO1600 film.
    If the capabilities of film was enough for photographers for about half a decade, what we gonna use for the D600 and other competitors?

  • portra400

    Film sucks.

  • Bob

    Actually the D70 looks better in these examples. (D600 owner my self)

  • harumph

    Watch the video.

  • Tim

    The NR in those two stills comparisons makes the D600 look worse – the images are *far* softer and the attempt to elevate the shadows reveals pixellation and chroma noise.

    At least keeping them both at ISO 1600 would have been sensible.

  • Lucas Hoffmann

    They did it with film for years and it looked great, I can do it now with bad ISO. I’m starting to see lack of challange in certain things.

  • kendon

    alright, comparing a mid-range 2004 crop camera to an advanced level 2012 full frame. i didn’t watch the video, but where is the surprise that the newer, better one performs better?

  • harumph

    It’s just to show how far the technology has come in such a short amount of time. The only surprise is that are people claiming that they prefer the D70 images.

  • Kyle Clements

    I didn’t do any noise reduction in these photos. I turned everything off and just shot at the most neutral profile the camera would allow for a Jpeg output. The softness comes from rendering the video (H.264 softens textures a fair bit).

    The shots with the vertical stripes showing all the different ISOs at once have an unsharp mask applied to make the results from both cameras look worse – I didn’t use this for the comparison, only to illustrate the point in the video.

  • Karlo

    Wow. Just wow.

  • Matthew Wagg

    It is a surprise but because of the way a ccd sensor works the noise profile is less ugly than the cmos ones

  • YS

    Part of the reason why I haven’t been that compelled to get a FX camera. *Maybe* when I get paid work that needs me to shoot in dark areas, I’ll consider, but till then, I’m perfectly happy shooting on cameras with smaller sensors

  • YS

    He isn’t really wrong, you know. After shooting for film for over a decade, I’m really happy to see the back of it.

  • Tyler Magee

    Im assuming you just aren’t good at it. I mean I wouldn’t want to spend 4 hours in the dark room developing crap photos either.

  • Tyler Magee

    I use my D7000 at iso 2000-4000 at shows and I love it :) very slight noise/grain but its still great

  • harumph

    As somebody who transitioned from a D200 to a D7000 to a D600, let me tell you that it only gets better.

  • Nicholas Dunning

    I smile every time I go past ISO 1,250 on my camera now because that was as high as my Canon 1ds went to. I wonder if that will be the case for ISO 25,600