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SAVE $700 Nikon D700 “HR” — high resolution mod

I haven’t used a D700HR from, but anyone looking for extra resolution might want to check it out. The HR (“hot rod”) modification is a upgrade that replaces the stock anti-aliasing (blur) filter over the sensor, with the result that artificial blurring is eliminated.

Update: several readers have written assuming I’m recommending this modification. When I wrote "might want to check it out", this should not be construed as a recommendation. The rest of it is purely informational, and a natural tie-in to previous writings discussing the anti-aliasing filter. I neither endorse nor discourage doing it. I generally avoid recommending anything I haven’t tested myself— and in this case I haven’t. It’s up to you to decide if the modification is something you’d like to do, after doing your own due diligence.

The key concerns I have are white balance after conversion, the cleanliness of the conversion (since cover glass is replaced), loss of the anti-dust feature, and loss of original camera warranty. Since I have not converted a camera for HR, there is nothing I can say about the white balance or cleanliness issues. I have a Canon 5D converted to infrared which I am satisfied with, and a few point and shoots. But no HR conversion.

Nearly every digital camera made today uses an anti-aliasing (blur) filter, which robs the image of detail in order to suppress digital artifacts like moiré. Yet medium format digital backs have long enjoyed the stunning detail achievable without an anti-aliasing filter, see my review of the Mamiya DL28 in DAP. Another notable exception is the full-frame Leica M9, reviewed in depth in DAP (see also the free Leica M lens reviews).

Mouse over the image below to see the D700HR version. The difference is clear, but there are at least three differences to be observed (see below).

Mouse over this D700 image to see the D700HR “hot rod” version

There is a clear increase in resolving power, visible with the finest central detail. Can you imagine what a 24 megapixel Nikon D3x would produce with such a modification?

Acutance (edge contrast) is vastly better for the black/white edge details. This contrast difference explains why so much sharpening is needed for digital images made using a camera with an anti-aliasing filter: it smudges all details and all edges; black against white become black-gray-gray-white.

Moiré is visible at center with the HR image. This is what the anti-aliasing filter is designed to prevent. With most subjects, problems with moiré just don’t happen. I never found it an issue with the Leica M9, yet Nikon and Canon continue to degrade the image sharpness by always using an anti-aliasing filter. Perhaps the future will bring a change.

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