If you are concerned with digital camera image quality, the newly announced DXOMark website is a must-visit place. They analyze RAW sensor data instead of RGB images generated from a RAW converter to evaluate the actual performance of the sensor, bypassing the noise reduction and other processing of RAW converters.
At this site, you can see rankings of digital cameras based on a score of their sensor image quality tests. For each camera tested, they show you a detailed test results of actual ISO sensitivity vs. manufacturer’s published ISO (some manufacturers do cheat!), signal-to-noise Ratio at 18% mid-gray level (SNR 18%), dynamic range, tonal range, color sensitivity, the complete set of SNR curves (Full SNR), and (in the tab marked Full CS) the noise covariance ellipses used for assessing Color Sensitivity.
To provide fair comparison, they normalize the reported data so many indicators of quality such as SNR 18%, dynamic range, tonal range, and color sensitivity, are not affected by camera manufacturer’s inaccurate ISO sensitivity reporting and difference in sensor resolution.
Based on the tests, a overall score is calculated from matrix of color depth, dynamic range, and low-light ISO performance, which are associated with real-life photographic scenario such as landscape, studio & portrait, and photojournalism & action photography.
The following are the current rankings (in the order of 1, 2, 3):
- DxOMark: Nikon D3, D700, and Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
- Color depth: Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III, Sony Alpha 900, Nikon D700
- Dynamic range: Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro, Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro, Nikon D90 (Surprise!!)
- Low-light ISO: Nikon D700, Nikon D3, Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
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Keywords: database, DXO, DXO Analyzer, DXOMark, Image Quality, RAW, sensor