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Objective image quality data isn't easy to come by. Most of us have had to rely on our own limited experience coupled with a wide array of anecdotal evidence scoured from friends, acquaintances and various websites to make buying decisions on new cameras. changes all that. The new website created by the people behind the excellent DxO raw converter provides a wealth of information comparing and rating the camera sensors that at the heart of how digital photography works.

Want to know how your new camera stacks up against the competition? How about whether the latest offerings from Nikon, Canon or someone else are better than what you're using now? And by just how much? All this and more can be answered with objective test data provided free of charge on It's quite impressive.

DxOMark.comI've long been a fan of DxO. In my quest for the best raw image converter, I found the results possible from DxO Optics Pro to be a cut above the rest. The magic behind DxO has been their meticulous tests of individual camera and lens models. They get the most out of raw files created by various sensors because the test each of them in detail. DxO Labs has been adding to their test database ever since it was first founded in 2004. Even before DxO Optics Pro was released, the French company was hard at work on the DxO Analyzer, one of the best tools out there for professional measurements of raw images. Few people that didn't work for DxO had access to their measurements though until now. makes a vast amount of data derived from it available to the rest of us.

The objective data includes metrics on ISO sensitivity, signal to noise ratio, dynamic range, white balance and other factors are presented in straightforward chart format and are accompanied by a series of white papers (termed "Insights" and "Technologies" by the site) that explain the concepts and meaning behind the measurements. In order to simplify things as much as possible, DxO came up with their "DxOMark Sensor" scale (on which the website name itself is based) that allows image quality comparisons to easily be made between cameras. The scale aggregates the underlying data weighted by the real world concerns of three types of photographers. According to Dxo, the biggest challenge facing landscape photographers is maximizing dynamic range. They conclude that studio and portrait photographers are concerned mainly about color depth and accuracy while photojournalists and other action-oriented photographers need the best low-light ISO performance possible. While I think all photographers care about all three, you can tell from reading their analysis that DxO has definitely given all this a lot of thought. I've only scratched the surface of what's behind their rankings here. For those who have a compulsion to the read the end of a novel to see how things come out before they get through the middle chapters, the three top ranked cameras currently in terms of DxOMark Sensor score are the Nikon D3, Nikon D700 and Canon EOS 1DS Mark III in order. Forty-eight other cameras are also ranked with the underlying data also available. The website is definitely worth spending some time on.

The site content is licensed for personal use and limited ("Fair Use") professional use but that should work just fine for most legitimate purposes. Anyone needing greater access will need to contact DxO for licensing terms.

If you're interested in the technical aspects of digital imaging or simply want to make sure the next camera you buy does a better job than other options, you owe it to yourself to check out website.

Date posted: November 30, 2008


Copyright © 2008 Bob Johnson, Earthbound Light - all rights reserved.
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