Gurgen B writes:
I just felt compelled to jot down a quick line or two regarding your site.
After reading some of your free articles and taking a chance on a subscription to Making Sharp Images, I must say that I am thoroughly impressed (blown away, really) by your methodology and exquisitely good writing.
I have since subscribed to DAP and Zeiss Guide as well and simply cannot wait to really study them. Although I am relatively very new to photography, as a scientist at heart (and by training), I wanted to make the correct decision between the Canon 5D Mark III and the Nikon D800 (have waited for the next (current) full frames for a couple of years since finishing school).
After being utterly dismayed by the lack of quality and coherence in literally ANY of the reviews/writing online (and not just about the D800 but photography in general), I am so very happy to have discovered your site. Thank you for that.
Please keep up the excellent work, and thank you for your time.
DIGLLOYD: Thank you.
Roy P writes:
My compliments on your thorough job of reviewing the Nikon D800, especially your comparison with the Leica S2. I have always been impressed by your diligence, but this time, having been present at Stanford during your D800/S2 test shooting that took almost three hours, I also have some sense for the hard work you put into your work.
I appreciated your attention to fine details like verifying that that your focus was accurate at multiple f-stops, like f/2.8 and f/5.6, or taking a second set of test shots, just in case something went wrong with the first set.
The other thing that was impressive is that when you wrapped up your work, you really had no idea how the experiment would turn out. You couldn’t really tell which camera “won” the face off, you had no preconceived notions, and you were not doing anything to handicap either camera in any specific way. That kind of objectivity is really valuable to people who rely on you to make purchase decisions.
You have already covered the D800 vs. the Leica S2 quite thoroughly. I would add the following two further observations.
First, objectively, the D800 has proven itself to be as good as, and in some ways, superior to the S2. As a practical matter, though, the S2 will probably deliver good images in greater numbers than a D800 will in everyday use. That’s because the larger size of the sensor, higher dynamic range and superior optics of the S lenses provide the photographer with a little more latitude than the D800 will likely offer. Perfect technique every time should deliver consistently good results from the D800, but the S2 will likely yield in consistently good results with even a little less than perfect technique.
So in this regard, a peculiar reversal of roles has happened: the S2 can be used more like a 35mm DSLR, while the D800 needs to be used more like a medium format camera!
Second, as you have pointed out, the S lenses are really the best, and compared to Leica M lenses, the S lenses are expensive but not preposterously so. What is grotesquely overpriced is the S2 body at $23,000, and the S2-P at the even more absurd $28,000. I can’t imagine anyone paying that kind of money for a new S2 now, so it is now a business necessity for Leica to introduce a ~60MP S3 as quickly as possible. IMHO, Leica simply has no option, assuming it wants to stay in business. So that would once again clearly delineate the market into “35mm” and “MF”, I think!
DIGLLOYD: The S lenses are superbly corrected, and while the S2 autofocus is best not relied upon for critical work, the new microprism screen is excellent. The D800 does require some care in selecting optics up to the task of its 36MP photosites; the Leica has 50% larger (in area) photosites, which relaxes the constraints a little. I’m not so sure that the Leica S2 has higher dynamic range though— I’d guess the D800 fares better here, at least at ISO 200 on up, because noise limits dynamic range and there the D800 really does well.
Tom S writes:
Any chance of doing a 15mm Zeiss vs 14-24mm Nikon comparison on the D800 soon?
DIGLLOYD: I have already made a comparison recently with the Zeiss 15/2.8 vs the Nikon 14-24/2.8G on the D3x, with the same disconcerting problem as documented in Making Sharp Images: very significant focus shift with the Nikon 14-24/2.8G. That focus shift, if not dealt with by the photographer, the 14-24 performs better at f/2.8 than at f/5.6. The D800 is even more demanding, and will show the effect to a greater degree. I am contemplating how best to do such a comparison. But in my view, the focus shift is a troublesome biting fly that makes the 14-24 irritating for critical work, and it’s really a non-starter for autofocus (results are very good, just not as good as the lens can deliver at the intended point of focus). The 14-24 is also a front-heavy badly balanced lens compared to the Zeiss 15/2.8. I have owned the 14-24/2.8G since it was released. I rarely use it, and that is one other way to express it. However, in the right situations it might be indispensable.
Geoffrey Byers writes:
I like you have had issues with my D700 and 24mm f/1.4G, and we corresponded on the matter last year (?)). I've since wondered whether the way I test this might be adding to the issue. Previously I had been racking the focus ring between each shot to defocus the image, and then acquiring focus and shooting the next frame - all in AFS mode.
I was thinking about the way I actually shoot, and concluded that this does not match my normal shooting patterns. Normally I acquire focus and then shoot, keep acquiring focus, and then shoot. What I certainly don't do is rack the focus between each shot. So if I was taking a portrait I would keep squeezing the shutter release a few times while the focus hunted, then do this again and keep shooting and focusing.
DIGLLOYD: There are so many different focusing scenarios. I could spend weeks exploring them all. But I have seen similar focusing errors when the lens is not defocused first.
Michael K writes:
I want to thank you for your accurate test of the D800 and 5D Mark 3 so far. However, the main reason why i updated my subscription to your site was my special interest in the dynamic range and color sensitivity of the new full frame cameras. Could you please go into that topic in a future article?
A preferred test would be a direct comparison of the D800 against the old 5D Mark 2 and the new 5D Mark3 on a high dynamic range landscape scene. I got a suspicion that Canon didn't improve the dynamic range at all. Therefore I would be forced to switch over to Nikon. But first I would want to confirm that its worth it. I don't care too much about the resolution as 21MP are enough for my needs. I am a landscape photographer and right now I’m shooting a 5D Mark 2.
DIGLLOYD: I am not done with my D800 / D800E review. I had a 9-day loaner that went back, and will have to wait until the D800E shows up. I intend to work on comparing the D800E to the D800 first. The Canon 5D Mark III comparison is something I will likely do, but image quality as a whole is more important— dynamic range, color rendition, freedom from pattern noise, resolution, overall visual impact, etc. Dynamic range in particular is hard to assess— on paper it might be similar, but when I see pattern noise at ISO 100 with the Canon 5D Mark III (as shown in my examples), no metric on dynamic range captures that serious issue. That said, it’s clear that the 5DM3 has notably better DR than the 5DM2.
Steven K writes:
Am a Nikon shooter and just received my D4 a couple days ago. Looking forward to your thoughts when comparing D4 to D3S (and to any other cameras). Personally I am coming from a D700 so the D4 is a big step up.
And also looking forward to your future D800E, which will be a longer term purchase for me (in about 18 month's time once I digest the D4 then D400).
DIGLLOYD: The Nikon D4 is dribbling out and B&H has none as yet, but I am told I will have one for review.
The D800E is very interesting however, and will be my priority, compared against the D800. The D800E is the first mainstream DSLR without an AA filter.
Campbell G writes:
I have just got my D800E and want to check something - when you set the focus point illumination does the viewfinder on your D800 have a red cast which is pronounced at the edges of the frame?
DIGLLOYD: I did not notice any red cast at the edges of the frame with the D800 I tested.
Tore O writes:
I noticed that the Canon 5DM3 seems to do better at single-shot autofocus than the Nikon D800 (judging from your examples).
It would be great if you could do a series where you shoot the same objects, in same light/at the same time, with similar lenses to make the autofocus results from the two cameras more directly comparable.
DIGLLOYD: It is suggestive, but not a side-by-side test, so should not be assumed. I ran out of time, but it is something I intend to try after calibrating both cameras. I would probably use the 85/1.8 lenses from both brands so as to have the same max aperture.
Vivek P writes:
Just re-subscribed to follow your D800 review. I have been shooting a Canon 1Ds III for the last 4 years mostly for landscapes and long exposures with the 17-40. Generally prints from this combo have been quite good. I have, however, ran in to (dreaded) very bad pattern noise from time to time in the shadows, especially in long exposures with falling evening light effects exposure times. I usually "expose to the right" to avoid this but with long exposures this is often difficult.
I am considering a switch to a Nikon body with a 16-35 combo to replace the Canon since, according to some samples I've seen, Canon has still not sorted out the pattern noise issue in the 5DIII. My question is: D800/E (I'm veering for the E) or D3X (many on the used market at very good prices). I, like you prefer a one piece body, but the D800 I.Q. looks impressive, and the E option is quite intriguing as I am liking my new Fuji X-Pro1 very much.
DIGLLOYD: I don’t have any difficulty agreeing with the noise problems with the Canon 5DM2, which I’ve noted for years now. The 5DM3 is much improved but can still show pattern noise at ISO 100. The D800 is by far my camera of choice over the 5DM3, for multiple reasons. A head-to-head on noise is a moderate priority once I have the D800E/D800 in my hands again.
Jeff S writes:
Thanks for your excellent coverage so far. There are so many combinations of lens/accessory equipment that, I'm sure I and many other readers want to see tested (with the D800 or D800E most recently), but I'm truly appreciative of your consistent, timely and thorough coverage you always provide. It's truly invaluable for those of us that just don't have the time or equipment resources to test ourselves. I have no regrets for my subscriptions, and feel I've already gotten more than my money's worth!!
Forgot to add... not just time, resources to test ourselves, but the expertise to test properly. I know it's not easy to find the right scenes to test for different things, and you always do a detailed well executed job visually of this- that's what I truly appreciate about your reviews over many others-you know how to shoot and clearly convey the strengths and weaknesses of what you test-not easy at all!!
DIGLLOYD: Thank you.