Nikon D800 vs Medium Format (Phase One IQ160)

My friend Gordon Laing has just posted a Nikon D800 versus Medium Format landscape photography shoot-off at cameralabs.com.  It is an interesting comparison between Nikon’s DSLR du jour and the mortgage extending medium format rig.

In the straight-up single frame comparison between the two cameras the extra horsepower of the Phase One appears to be evident, (not surprising given that it totes double the resolution).  However once two D800 images are stitched together the D800 is very comparable especially once sharpened.  I doubt you could notice the difference in side by side native sized prints frankly.

I do have some issues with the test (most of which Gordon acknowledges in the article):

1) Fuzz Filter Fitted:  the D800 has an anti-aliasing filter fitted – the Phase One does not – a D800e would narrow the gap somewhat.

2) Sub-Prime Portfolio: the D800 was tested using Nikkor  24-70mm f/2.8   & 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms vs a $6,000US Schneider prime.  As we saw in my Nikon D800e prime vs zoom comparison there is a massive difference in image quality between a top nikkor prime and the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom especially away from the centre of frame.  Gordon acknowledges this in his report, but it is far from a level playing field.

3. Sub-Prime Mortgage Required:  I have alluded to this above – but these cameras do not inhabit the same fiscal universe.  It is very much akin to taking your $30,000 Honda to track day and wondering why it got it’s arse reamed by a $420,000 Ferrari.  The Nikon D800 lists on Amazon for about $3,000 while the Phase One IQ160 is so expensive, not even trawling Google will find you a reliable list price, but I am gathering that it will set you back about $40,000 USD.  Put it this way:  an anti-aliasing free Nikon D800E megapixel costs a paltry $90 from Amazon vs about $665(!!!) for  a million Phase-One pixels. That’s a lot of prints to sell.  In fact, I would rather have the new Honda and the D800e.

I for one will continue to practise my stitching skills in Photoshop :-)

You can read Gordon’s report here

The Road To St Bathans, Central Otago, South Island New Zealand

The road to St Bathans Central Otago New Zealand

Today’s New Zealand Photo: The road to St Bathans Central Otago New Zealand

Your New Zealand photo of the day – proudly brought to you by sisson New Zealand photography (that’s me and my wifey Sarah :-)

Cheers – Todd

Nikon D800e vs Canon 5dmkii Landscape Photography Comparison [UPDATED]

canon 5d mark2 v nikon D800e landscape photography comparison test

Which is better for landscape photography – the Nikon D800e or the Canon 5dmkii?  Thinking of upgrading from the Canon 5dmkii to the Nikon D800e?  Who knows?  Hopefully I will have the answers for you by the end of this test shoot! 

UPDATED 25 JULY: NOW WITH DYNAMIC RANGE COMPARISONS

[UPDATE BEGINS] When I first wrote this review I figured that the big story between the Canon 5d markii and the Nikon D800e was the headline grabbing resolution shootout.  Well, the resolution battle was indeed interesting, but not quite as blood-spattered and gory as I was hoping to be honest.  The D800e certainly out resolves the 5dii but it only matters once huge enlargements are made (important to me).

After shooting with the Nikon D800e for a while it became starkly apparent that it’s most usable great leap forward for landscape photography was actually it’s dynamic range performance.  The D800e is so good in this respect that I actually found myself penning (on my keyboard? :) another article entitled Are ND Filters Dead? – where I revealed the Nikon D800’s almost disconcerting ability to create terrific looking landscape images out of RAW files that would be little more than train-wreckage on other DSLR camera bodies. 

However, I am well aware that a placebo effect kicks in with new cameras – you find results that verify your preconceptions.  Maybe my trusty Canon 5d mkii would have been equally capable of rescuing highlights and opening up shadows as the D800. I decided, once again, to channel my newly discovered testing nerd personality and pit the Nikon D800e vs the Canon 5dmkii in a dynamic range fight club – here’s what I found:

Test Details: Both cameras were shot on aperture priority -1EV and they selected identical shooting settings of f/8, 1/250th @ ISO 100.  I then ran both RAW files through Lightroom 4 at identical synced settings – shadows +100 and exposure +.85.  I tested the shadow performance rather than highlight recovery, because I tend to actively avoid clipping highlights when photographing. I prefer blocked out shadows to blown highlights.

This is what we got with the Nikon D800e (another stunning test shot :-) :

Nikon D800e Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

And this is the Canon 5d mkii:

Canon 5d Markii Dynamic Range Shadows Test.
Left Image: -1EV exposure compensation from camera.
Right Image: After +0.85 Exposure and +100 Shadows slider in Adobe Lightroom 4

Look about the same to you?

Well take a gander at this 100% crop from the two cameras side by side (Canon 5d mkii on left and Nikon D800e on right)

100% Detail Comparison

Dynamic Range Shadows Test 100% Detail Comparison.
Left Image: -Canon 5d mkii after lightroom adjustments
Right Image: Nikon D800e after Adobe Lightroom 4 adjustments.

Now I remember why I never felt inclined to toss away my Singh Ray ND grad filters while I was shooting with the Canon 5d markii (or any other Nikon DSLR for that matter).  Compare the dark fence rails –  crazy colour noise and criss-cross patterns emerge on the Canon while the D800e looks like it could be pumped up another stop or two.  Wood patterns emerge from the murk on the D800 that are almost destroyed by colour noise on the Canon.

Compare the midtones on the leaves – the same story repeats itself.  Once again, it is not that the Canon 5d mkii is doing a bad job (noise reduction would tidy this up a bit) – it is that the D800e is doing a freakishly good job.  Not only does the Nikon D800/e deliver a significant bump in resolution it does so while re-writing the DSLR book on noise control and Dynamic Range – I didn’t think that pixels crammed this close together could do this.

For what it matters I personally proclaim the Nikon D800 to be the world’s best (and best value) landscape photography DSLR.  

[UPDATE ENDS]

Please take the time to read the rest of this report and view the image quality and resolution comparisons.

VIEW THE IMAGE QUALITY COMPARISONS>>>>>

READ: ARE ND FILTERS DEAD – D800 DYNAMIC RANGE LANDSCAPE EXAMPLES>>>

Wednesday Wallpaper | Flowering Lupines – Lake Tekapo, South Island New Zealand

New-Zealand-Photo-Lake-Tekapo-Lupins Mackenzie Basin New Zealand

Russell Lupins in bloom along the road to Lake Alexandrina. Lake Tekapo in the background, South Island New Zealand.

Welcome to another Wednesday morning and today’s FREE!!! iPad Wallpaper (are 3 exclamation marks enough???!!!)

July is rapidly evaporating – I must admit that I’m looking forward to a respite from all the fog and frost we have been getting down here though, roll on August…..

This image was made by my lovely and talented wife, Sarah.  It has just been featured as a double page spread New Zealand Geographic’s latest publication – Southern Exposure – which is well worth purchasing if you are a fan of New Zealand imagery (not just landscape photos either).

[Download as a free iPad wallpaper] Password = freewallpaper

Have a great week.

Cheers – Todd

[view image on our website] [follow us on facebook]

Nikon D800e Dynamic Range For Landscape Photography | Field Test Revisited

I wrote a post on Friday entitled Are ND Filters Dead?  in which I surprised myself as to how well I could pull up the shadows in an underexposed foreground from a Nikon D800e file.  I went to bed that night quite chuffed at myself for  the scientific rigour that I had imparted upon that test (sad, I know) until I was wrenched from my near slumber by a thought (yes, this is how far I go for you guys – the least you could do is comment ;-(.

That thought: What about the ‘over-exposed’ images? Can they be brought into line with a bit of Lightroom magic?

The answer is of course yes.

Look at this finished image:

Nikon-D800e-Landscape-Example-Dynamic-Range-1-2

Nikon D800e Landscape Image | Finished image after Lightroom exposure and highlight recovery. The histogram shows a perfectly contained tonal range.

Histogram and adjustments to the image – of course a grad adjustment was applied to the sky – exposure adjustment.

And here is the original image: This was shot at the camera’s suggested exposure – turns out the D800 knows best?!

Nikon-D800e-Landscape-Example-Dynamic-Range-1

Nikon D800e Landscape Dynamic Range Field Test | The original un-edited image – Yuk!

So, yet more compelling evidence that the world of landscape photography has taken yet another really big leap forward.  I can’t remember witnessing such a quantum leap forward in meaningful and useable  image quality between camera bodies.  As you will see in my next post, the Dynamic Range capabilities of the Nikon D800/e are in a totally different league to my previous camera body, the ground breaking Canon 5d mkii.

So are Graduated Neutral Density filters still needed? That depends, if you are shooting any other DSLR the answer is yes (unless you are into HDR or serious exposure blending).  If you are toting a D800/e the answer is no – not at all IMHO.  That makes me a little sad, as I genuinely like my Grad filters and Singh Ray are a great company – but like my postcards, which are being purchased less and less, times change and products become obsolete as technology marches on…..

My advice – if you want to be making the best landscape images possible for an ‘affordable’ price – buy the Nikon D800 (Amazon)

Cheers – Todd

Today’s New Zealand Landscape Photo

Blue Lake Sunset, St Bathans Otago New Zealand

Sunset over The Blue Lake, St Bathans Central Otago – this lake was formed in the gully created by gold mining activities back in Ye Olde Olden days. A very pretty addition to the landscape and a real photographic gem.

Howdy all!

This one has been sitting in unfinished for  a few months.  No, not HDR, just a singh ray grad filter and a D7000.  Image processed in LR4.

We will  most likely be visiting the Blue Lake on our upcoming Central Otago Landscape Photography Workshops.

This to me strikes a nice balance between warm and cold colours.  What do you reckon? – is there such a thing as too much sunset action?

Cheers – Todd