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Detailed images from Nikon D3, Canon 40D

Time to start squinting at your screen. Nikon releases sample images from its D3 professional-grade SLR, and Canon 40D shots also are emerging.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Obsessive Canon and Nikon fans are getting some early images with which to judge some new SLR cameras just hitting the market.

A 100 percent crop of a photo taken at ISO 6,400 with Nikon's new full-frame D3 SLR. Nikon

Canon's EOS 40D, at $1,300 with no lens, is a midrange model, and one photographer who got his hands on a sample likes its colors, compared to one predecessor, the 20D, and the 5D. The 5D's sensor is the size of a full frame of 35mm film, compared to the smaller APS-C sensors on the 20D and 40D. Wyofoto photographers Miles Hecker and Nancy Patrick offer images from the three cameras at various ISO settings in full resolution, converted from raw files with Canon's software.

"The conventional wisdom is that full-frame SLRs will always produce the highest image quality," Wyofoto said, but the 40D looks competitive: "The image quality I see in the 40D images from ISO 100-800 is 95 percent the match of the 5D. At 1,600, the shadow noise of the 5D looks to be a tad bit better than the 40D, but not by a large margin. The 40D's tonality and richness in color gives the 5D a real run for the money. The only area I see the 5D looking better is in low-contrast highlight regions. It manages to pull out a tad more detail. The 20D does OK in the shadows, but in the midtones and highlights just can't match the richness of the 5D or 40D."

In addition, Flickr's camera finder has just begun sifting out 40D images. There are 11,000 and counting there.

On the other side of the religious divide is Nikon, which announced its professional-grade $5,000 D3 in August but hasn't yet begun shipping it. Nikon posted six sample D3 images on its own Web site. These are presumably cherry-picked shots, so take them with a grain of salt, but you can still see what at least one shot taken at ISO 6400 looks like on the new full-frame camera.

One pro photographer, Ed Betz of The Associated Press, got a chance to try out a D3 and was impressed. "The image quality was by far the best I have ever seen in a digital camera. The detail in the images was stunning," he said in a posting to DPreview's forums. "My hat's off to you, Nikon. I only wish you would have done this sooner, before I spent tens of thousands switching to Canon. Perhaps there is a Nikon switch in my future."