Be sure to read today’s other blog entries on the Nikon D800.
Let’s hope that Nikon’s sample photos for the D800E are the result of carelessness in sharpening and generating the JPEGs, though I can also see that lens performance is an obvious limiting factor, and that micro contrast seems lacking (a lens limitation).
Or perhaps it’s just the disappointing sharpening in Nikon Capture NX2, one reason I rarely use NX2 any more (though its color is excellent). It’s unfortunate that Nikon does not provide the samples as RAW files.
Compared to the 36 megapixels possible from the Leica S2, these samples are not in the same ballpark. They appear to lack micro contrast, but whether that is lens + camera or just the type of RAW processing I cannot be sure. My hunch is that the lenses used play a big role, since some of the samples lack sharpness outside the central 1/3 of the frame, even accounting for depth of field, etc. At any rate, a Leica S2 body costs 7X as much as the D800, and Leica S lenses cost $7K or so (each), so one must keep context in mind.
While examining the images, I was struck by a variety of visually effects that suggest the lenses used are just not up to the demands of 36MP over most of the frame, even setting aside what appears to be marginal quality in converting from RAW (due to poor sharpening). That, and the use of f/8 which is already limiting quality due to diffraction, it’s guesswork to deduce potential image (sensor) quality from those Nikon samples.
Note that IMG_06 shows asymmetric sharpness (blurred on the left, reasonably sharp on the right), a problem that occurs on lower resolution cameras too. The 70-200mm f/2.8 sure doesn’t look to be up to snuff for 36 megapixels. But it’s not clear which version of the lens was used.
All of the images show extremely shallow depth of field for peak sharpness, even at f/8, a subject I address at length in Making Sharp Images. If you want 36 megapixels of sensor detail, it’s hard to achieve outside a very shallow zone of focus.
All in all, were I to think that the sample images actually shows the D800E full potential, I would abandon my idea of getting one. But I remain confident that the samples are showing more about the lenses and RAW processing than about the camera itself, so I will patiently wait for my D800E and D800 test cameras to arrive.
The short story: only with the best lenses and impeccable technique will you obtain a real 36 megapixels of detail.