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Readers Comment on my Nikon D800 vs Leica S2 Shootout

Bookmark my Nikon gear page for D800 availability status.

Nikon D800, Leica S2

Readers react to my Nikon D800 vs Leica S2 shootout.

Steven K writes:

Lloyd as usual excellent review on the D800 and comparing it to the S2. I agree with 100% Medium format is in trouble except in one area, Medium format on a technical view camera with movement using using large format lenses..

Yet bodies like the S2, Pentax 645, and Phase ONe 645DF at least in there 40 mpix range are in trouble IMHO and forget about ever using that combo with anything wider than a 50mm lens..

I can only assume getting back the D800/D800E that the current Nikon T/S lens will not perform to well (maybe the 85mm will work good as it did on my D3X) and besides the Schneider 90mm T/S thats not much else.

Can't wait to see some more WA results using the zeiss ZF.2 lenses on the D800.

After seeing your samples today I am going to try to sell off my Rollei/Leaf AFI body and lenses and hold on to my Sinar arTec 3 lenses and 33mp Leaf Aptus II 7 AFI back.

DIGLLOYD: The D800 is a higher resolution sampling device. Lenses still perform the same. The question is which lenses deliver most of the 36 megapixels that the sensor can record. And there are other lens qualities that will look just as lovely at 36MP, and some users might be quite happy downsampling to 18MP to make the resulting image look ultra clean and non-digital, even in the finest details.

As for medium format, yes the low end is in trouble now.

Andreas Y writes:

I've been enjoying your coverage of the D800, particularly your comparison of the D800 + Zeiss 100/2.0 macro and Leica S2 + Leica 125/2.5. The D800 really does have an amazing sensor in it.

I wonder whether many photographers will be disappointed with their D800 purchase due to simply dropping it into their existing system of lenses, tripod, ballhead, computer/display/storage, and shot technique and finding that it delivers less than spectacular results because of the limitations of those items. For me, the D800 would be a $10k+ purchase, because my Sigma 180 f/3.5 macro lens is the only one I own that can truly take advantage of it, and everything else would need an ugrade.

I recall taking a friend's Nikkor 24–70 f/2.8 for a spin on my D700 a few years ago and coming away relatively unimpressed with the lens. I can only imagine that the perception would worsen on the D800, and that most other zooms will suffer similarly outside a center zone of sharpness.

FWIW, I've ordered an Olympus E-M5, which more suits my shooting style. I need something that I can tote on a 75+ km hike in Iceland this fall. The D800 plus a suite of primes would require a porter ;-)

DIGLLOYD: If one thinks of the D800 as simply a camera with a higher sampling frequency with the goal of 18MP or 24MP images, it still have huge merit on its color, dynamic range, and the elimination of digital artifacts by downsampling, as my D800 vs D3x comparison shows.

Taking a lens for a “spin” is a perilous way to draw conclusions about anything other than the total system performance (with autofocus involved also).

As for the Oly E-M5, I have not used it, but I suspect I would prefer the Fuji X-Pro1. All the Olympus sensors I have seen to date have not been up to my satisfaction in noise or color or dynamic range. Perhaps the E-M5 makes some improvements.

Don C writes:

You've outdone yourself this time Lloyd! Excellent series on the Leica S2 vs D800!

Interesting to note that while the S2 has fairly strong moiré on the brickwork at the bottom of the page, the D800 has some of its own which is certainly noticeable. I would want to be removing it in post for either camera, in which case I might just be better off with the D800E to start with.

DIGLLOYD: it was a particularly revealing and satisfying comparison.

Yes, the D800 has some moiré, which suggests that the D800E is going to have some issues with artificial surfaces like the test scene.

Jeff S writes:

Wow... what amazing results! I knew this camera was going to be a game changer, especially when I was reading your preliminary writings on it.

That’s why I sold my Hasselblad H3DII-31 and all my HC lenses. I got out just in time. So glad I did. Had major issues with color fringing on a couple of HC lenses when using for landscape shooting with backlit branches (though I didn't know exactly what it was until reading your articles on CA in Making Sharp Images, so thanks).

With the D800 you have better, current technology, and then coupled with something like great Zeiss glass. It’s a no brainer for me! Thanks for all your tireless diligence in testing this gear so I don't have to!!

DIGLLOYD: who says I don’t get tired? It was tough getting up this morning after working late!

Not every lens is as good as the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar but there are plenty of good choices in a variety of focal lengths.

Michael B writes:

It's difficult not to be impressed by the D800 in the comparison with the S2. Is it possible to do a similar comparison between the Pentax 645D and the D800?

DIGLLOYD: it is possible, but the lenses for the Pentax 645D are not in the same league as the Leica S lenses, either in contrast or resolving power or color or flare control, so I don’t see much point. The 645D does have a lovely sensor though.

Robert V writes:

Great comparison, I wonder if its worth spending so much dough on the S2 system, but after looking at those shots I doubt it is. The S3 will have to arrive soon or Leica is in trouble.

The S2 is better in many areas but not 7x the price better. And the Zeiss lenses are cheap compared to S glass (although no autofocus is a deal breaker for many applications).

I expect the D800E to have a lot more moiré, but even more detail too.

DIGLLOYD: One comparison cannot capture all nuances, but indeed the D800 is so far beyond “close enough” that game over if price is any consideration. And I have little confidence in Leica S autofocus accuracy based on my own experience. Ditto for any DSLR for critical work.

Michael B writes:

I Read your comments on the Pentax 645D and it 's lack of quality lenses in comparison of the D800 to the Leica and Zeiss lenses.

I'm wondering if a lens like the Hasselblad-Zeiss CF Planar T* f3.5-100mm would at least be on the same playing field as the current Zeiss crop of lenses like the Makro Planar T* 100mm f2 ZF.2 lens? Thanks for all the work your doing the information generated by these comparisons it's very useful.

DIGLLOYD: I don't know specifically about the Hasselblad/Zeiss 100mm f/3.5. But an f/3.5 lens is far less appealing to me than an f/2 lens, which is why the Leica S 120mm at f/2.5 is much more attractive to me than any other lens in that range for medium format.

Lenses to cover larger formats can be lovely, yet at the same time are often compromised in some ways for the larger sensor area: field curvature is often one such compromise, which is a headache on digital. It all depends on the lens and the sensor size. A smaller sensor enables an easier lens design for peak quality.

Edward S writes:

Following the D800 review on DAP has been an adventure--for me it justifies my subscription.

The comparison between the Nikon D800 and the Leica S2 highlighted the heightened race for quality that is occurring now with some manufacturers and not with others.

Nikon and Fuji are pushing the envelope at two ends of the Leica price/quality spectrum while Canon and Leica seem happy with incremental change. Fuji is biting the ankles of the M9 with the X-Pro1, even though it seems there is a ways to go before they nail the genre. Nevertheless, the X-Pro1 does offer the first significant competition for the rangefinder style camera in a format that offers a modern viewfinder and all-lens capability via adapters, and does it at a price (around a third of the Leica kit) with high enough IQ that makes the trade-offs attractive to some.

Meanwhile, Nikon has a category killer here, a high-pixel beast that takes the legs out from under the MF segment and leads the way to the expectation of very high pixel and very high resolution sensors in cameras that do not weigh a great deal, that are more portable, and that deliver images that were beyond imagination just five years ago. Price ratio of Fuji to Leica M9 = ±1/3, price ratio of D800 with lenses to S2 = ±1/8?

My question--will Leica have the research and development capability to compete as other than a high end camera jewelry company when it comes to bodies? No-one can deny the brilliance of Leica glass, but these new entries are making the bodies look, well, very dated. The D800 is a wake up call. Nikon is rolling.

Thanks again for the great articles.

DIGLOYD: More to come.

I want to emphasize that there are many qualities to a camera and lenses; there are some reasons for medium format. But not 20,000 to 40,000 reasons ($).

When one considers value, ease of use, focus accuracy and how it influences actual recorded resolution (think Live View), the range of shooting options (landscape, wedding, sports, anything), the reality of how big a print can be (no doubt the D800 can make a superlative 36" print), the D800 simply overwhelms with its value proposition.

Don’t expect the very best results with a 28-300 zoom; it’s not going to happen. Have lower expectations for such combinations, yet savor the fact that they exist and are options for when the need arises, and do not exist on medium format. See My Reference Lenses For Testing Sharpness as well as D800 reading material.

Test scene with gobs of fine detail

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