A 24X30 print would show a clear advantage to the Canon. There's no way that a 12MP camera can make a print that size the way a 21MP camera can.
And as I indicated in my article, at print sizes that are within the capability of both cameras the IQ differences at low ISO would be a quibble, and likely subject to the vagaries of processing as much as anything else.
Congradulations Michael for this very interesting and highly informative quick take!
Nevertheless, to me, the comparison can be better, if we taking in the following factors.
1. The Nikon 24-120mm VR is not really a sharp lens at f/5.6. But this does not affect the noise behavior of course and high ISO noise was Michael's main aim.
2. The one which does affect noise the the RAW converter. ACR/LightRoom in general produce much noisier images from the D3/D300 NEF files, I have found, compared to Capture NX, even when the NR is turned off in the NX. On the other hand the handle the CR2 files much better, to my eyes.
Why? Actually there has been quite interesting discussions on going at Bjørn Rørslett's forum on both NX's (and possibly Nikon's) noise and behind scene CA reduction issues:
, talking about the possible hidden information in the D3/D300 NEFs which I am almost sure the ACR/LightRoom is not current consider, if they do exist.
By the way, I have seen many 1DsIII samples and exactly like Michael I am extremely impressed. Still shooting film, I am tireless to try to squeeze out the last bits of fine details relatively artifacts free from digital captures. Based on what I saw, if I spend serious money on a DSLR today, I would not hesitate to go for a 1DsIII, since I am basically a landscape photographer and the 1DIII/D3's high ISO capabilities does not matter too much. The pixel level fine details and micro-contrast contained in the 1DsIII RAW files are truly astonishing, basically at the same level of 18-22MP MF backs if the right processing tools are used, despite of the presence of the AA filter. Even I label myself a Nikon shooter and lover! In the past I argued with many others on the film vs. digital subject, but even with my more conservative accessment the 1DsIII resolution has passed the 645 Velvia 50 level. For example there is a 1DsIII/MF back comparison here:http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat...25835108&page=1
Talking about resolution, and again like Michael, most importantly at low ISO values, there has been reports that the D3 images does not contain ultra-fine details, like these from my mentor and friend Lloyd Chambers:http://www.diglloyd.com/diglloyd/blog.html
The subject is heavily debated here:http://nikongear.com/smf/index.php?topic=6911.0
For one I tended to agree with Lloyd: without access a D3 I too found my D300 images not to the crispy D2x image level with more soft, maybe more "(negative) film like" feeling which I do not really like (I like chrome and B&W film feelings). I thought the same could be the case for the D3 until yesterday, when Imaging-Resourse posted the RAW files of their preliminary test images. I downloaded the NEFs, and played carefully in different RAW converters, ACR, LightRoom (basically the same to ACR but ACR is just updated), Capture NX, Phase One, and my perferred RAW Developer (RD). At the end, I found the RD does a much surperior job digging out that last ounce of fine details out of the D3 RAW files, although it also outputs more noise (which I do not care), and it lacks the automatic CA reduction feature in the NX.
Unlike most reviewers/testers, I do not look the converted images merely at 100%, but upsample them to a standard size, which is 16x24 at 300dpi, or 4800x7200 pixels, as my comparison base to exam the real fine detail and artifact level. This link brings to the RD processed D3 RAW files to see the level of fine details there:http://nikongear.com/smf/index.php?topic=7081.0
To my eyes, at the 170% upsample level, the ACR/LightRoom images look plasticky with the fine textures on smooth surfaces totally wiped out. ACR only exports at 25.1MP or 4088 pixels at the short site maximum, so to compare the ACR converted with mine you have to further upres. There is a reason Charlie Cramer and many other used to be film-based fine photographers use RD for RAW conversion. A direct link to the RD output, at 170% resolution, is here:http://lepingzha.smugmug.com/gallery/50676...229584488/Large
which was from the RD's Hybrid sharpening set to 1/10. Some small crops are below. No Photoshop involved in processing except for saving JPEGs at quality level 10.
Remember you are looking at a 16x24 blow up at 100% on screen. The little mostly demosiacing artifact will disappear on print, or at 50% viewing level, which matches printing results better.
Thank you for reading my long post!