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Digital artifacts

I’ve started making some controlled head-to-head comparisons of the Nikon D3 and Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III to really understand the Two Beasts. I expect to produce a significant article on the subject in the next month or two, well behind the schedule I had hoped, but web server changes take priority right now.

Below is one of yesterday’s shots, chosen for detail, not for artistic purposes, placing as much fine detail into the frame as feasible, from near to far. This image is really interesting when viewed at its full resolution! It’s a location I want to return to and shoot with a longer lens, perhaps a 180mm or 300mm, capturing the skyline in a stitched 200MP or so image—really fun stuff, even if it’s not fine art—I enjoy the sense of exploration in such images. Atmospheric conditions here were reasonably clear for San Francisco, but not perfect for this sort of image.

Digital artifacts of various kinds (false, detail, color moiré, etc) are always an issue with DSLRs, but usually a minor one localized to very small areas (see Nikon D3 example). This example from the 21.1MP Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III using the world-class Coastal Optics 60/4 APO macro. It shows that there can be digital artifacts large enough in area to cause complications when making larger prints.


Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III + Coastal Optics 60/4 APO macro @ f/5.6 — full frame

Look at the aliasing going on in this building...wow! The aliasing “flips” entirely on or off where the lighting changes (perhaps due to contrast). A large chunk like this is going to look very strange in a larger-size print; the human eye picks out such oddities easily. Ironically, lenses with performance characteristics inferior to the world-class Coastal Optics 60/4 APO macro might not provide the high contrast and resolving power needed to induce such problems (I haven’t proven this in an A/B comparison, but I suspect it’s true). Does this show that the AA (anti-aliasing) filter of the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III is not as strong as some people think? Perhaps, but I’m not an expert on such arcane details.


Actual pixels — processed using Digital Photo Professional

Actual pixels — processed using Adobe Camera Raw

The effect is not limited to the 60mm focal length. Magnified another 65% using the Zeiss ZF 100/2 Makro-Planar (bel0w), the same problem is observed...or is it? Maybe there really is some vertical stripe detail and it just happens to interact strongly with the sensor grid and interpolation algorithm. UPDATE: see March 30 entry.


Actual pixels — processed using Digital Photo Professional
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