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Nikon D3 with 24-70 and 14-24 and more

I’ll post some examples soon taken with Nikon’s new 24-70/2.8 and 14-24/2.8. Both lenses are impressive performers, marked improvements over previous efforts in that zoom range, at least in the f/5.6 - f/8 range, where I made several hundred images today. If you’re shooting a Nikon D3, these should be considered must-haves. The 24-70 is far better than the older 28-70 AF-S on full-frame images; both lenses seem to have been designed from the ground up to “sing” on full frame. These lenses are going to make a lot of D3 users very, very happy. It’s a shame that both of them lack aperture rings, rendering them useless on Canon bodies. Both lenses are also very substantial items—they look serious and you’re not going to do any surreptitious photography with them.

D3 image quality—what I’m finding is that being much more aggressive on sharpening (level 4 or 5 in Picture Control) is helping mitigate the lower-contrast edge detail when the images are enlarged somewhat. This is really different behavior from the Canon EOS 1D Mark III, which manages to produce high-contrast on very fine details with minimal sharpening (along with extremely pleasing color and je ne sais quoi). Two very different sensors and electronic designs no doubt. I prefer doing the least amount of sharpening necessary, but the D3 characteristics might mean only that I have to readjust my expectations, not that something is “wrong” with the images. It might also mean that D3 images can withstand more manipulation and greater enlargement, but that should be understood as speculation.

I’ve tentatively concluded that the D3 can produce significantly more detail than the Canon 1D Mark III on real images (ignoring resolution charts), but the amount and type of sharpening will determine whether images are persuasive to that argument or not. Technical issues (lens, focus, etc) can dwarf any differences in detail rendition—exercise skepticism with all A/B comparisons, especially those that do not establish how focus was matched.

Human visual perception is a complex area which depends on a multitude of factors, including macro and micro contrast, color rendition and accuracy, smoothness, etc. My response to Canon EOS 1D Mark III images is one of delight; my response to Canon EOS 5D images is quite the opposite. The Nikon D3 is going to delight a lot of people, but my personal visual perception places it between those two Canon models; the D3 images do not please me as readily as the Canon 1D Mark III images do (the opposite could be true for you). I think my reaction is due both to the way in which finer details are rendered (micro contrast) as well as color rendition. Perhaps over time RAW-file processing parameters will be found that make the D3 produce results more to my liking, but my current assessment is that the style of the D3 images is simply different, and inherent to the camera/sensor/electronics. (For that matter the style of the 21MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III might turn out to be significantly different from the 10.1MP 1D Mark III!).

Making an analogy to an historical relic (celluloid film)—if you prefer Fuji Velvia over Fuji Provia or Fuji Astia, or slide film over negative film, realize that cameras have differences just as film did/does. It would be a boring situation if all digital cameras produced the same style of images, and it would be a mistake to assume that your personal response is necessarily the same as mine, or anyone else’s.

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