As the Nikon D3 makes its rounds in the limelight, sample images are slowly making their way into the public domain. From the IAAF World Championships in Osaka to showrooms in Asia and Europe, Nikon's high ISO claims are at the forefront of speculation and examination. Chinese photography site fengniao.com posted a small series of sample images, supposedly 100% crops from a pre-production D3, which are mirrored here.
After being linked on dpreview and other sites, the site went down for the greater part of this afternoon. DPR Forum member Osku was kind enough to send me the original image crops while fengniao.com was offline, which appear below. I've resized the first image, but the following series are simply crops from the originals posted, which are available for download from the links following.
According to a translation of the original post, these image crops are with in-camera noise reduction off. These samples, if they're truly from a pre-production D3, certainly have the best high ISO performance we've seen yet from Nikon. As expected, noise through ISO 800 is very well controlled, and image quality still appears high through ISO 3200.
At ISO 6400, apparent noise begins to become more prominent, but even quality up to ISO 12800 is surprisingly good compared to the 12mp D2x at Hi-1 and Hi-2. There's been some speculation as to this increase in noise at ISO 6400 being the reason many of the images from the Osaka games were shot at ISO 5000.
These crops don't feature some of the darker shadow regions present in the original crops, so be sure to have a look at those files.
One poster at dpreview.com has made an informal comparison between the D3 samples and a Canon 1Dmk3, which you can see here. The Canon images show 100% crops of a lens, just as the above images, for all equivalent ISOs through ISO 6400. I'm sure this is only the first of many such tests that we'll see through the end of the year.
Additional supposed samples of the D3 have been posted on beareyes.com, and you can see them here. That's the last of three pages, and you can find lower ISOs on pages one and two. From those samples, ISO 6400 looks completely usable with fine detail retention, while Hi-2 (ISO 25600) appears to share similar characteristics to the D2x's Hi-2.