It looks like Nikon has finally produced a camera that surpasses Canon in terms of high ISO image quality. The official ISO6400 samples are noticeably cleaner than those produced by my EOS-1D Mark III. They have the low chroma noise, that has been a hallmark of Nikon image processing, as well as a pleasing luminance grain that is neither too flat nor too chunky. Retention of fine details seems at least as good as anything I’ve seen from Canon.

What is possibly just as exciting as the D3’s ISO performance is the debut of the new EXPEED processor which, from the look of the samples, produces JPEG files that are higher in quality than any Nikon camera to date.

In my opinion, prior to the D3 and the D300, Nikon’s three main weaknesses were:

1) High ISO performance

2) Lack luster in-camera JPEGs

3) No VR telephoto lenses.

It seems like they’ve checked all of these off the list in one fell swoop.

I expect that the future will bring updated AF-S versions of a few key prime lenses as well as a new weather sealed version of the SB800, similar to the finish found on the Canon 580EX II.

The official Nikon samples are available for download here.