ETTR and Digital Image Quality
With my recent evaluations of all my cameras for ETTR (not all published as yet), it has become clear that an ETTR evaluation is essential for every camera in its corresponding review.
I have long used an ad-hoc ETTR approach in my field work. But sometimes things seep into consciousness slowly, then suddenly emerge with full clarity.
With my recent controlled studies, it has become clear that utilizing the sensor to its full potential exerts a remarkable influence on image quality: grainy results with impure color (small sensor cameras here) that defy even moderate sharpening. Versus ultra-smooth results that take strong sharpening easily. And that an optimal exposure easily outweigh the relatively small noise differences between cameras (useable dynamic range is still an issue however).
ETTR requires some care and is not for every shooting situation, but for many situations is it the ideal way to go.
See my recent work on the Nikon D800E, the exposure bracketing and ETTR sequence on the Sigma DP1 Merrill, and my upcoming work on the Canon 5D Mark III.