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

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