D800 - Let's get real folks

Started Mar 17, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Photo Pete
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D800 - Let's get real folks
Mar 17, 2012

I've been swept along as much as everybody else by the sheer detail of the D800 images, so much that I'd placed an order for a D800, with every intention of getting rid of my D3s....
... but let's get real!

I downloaded the ISO 200 jpeg images for the D3s and D800 from Imaging Resource and tried some sample prints. I chose a low ISO version as this should give the greatest advantage to the D800. I am working on the assumption that jpeg comparison is valid, as processing from RAW would improve both the D3s AND D800 files to a reasonably equal degree.

After a bit of sharpening in Photoshop to optimise the images for printing, the full images were resized to A3 @ 720dpi (The r1900 works best at 360dpi or 720dpi, but I chose the larger size to avoid losing detail from the D800 shot). I could see absolutely no difference in print quality between the two prints, nor could 3 other people I showed the prints to.

I next cropped the image to 71% and resized / printed again at A3 size. This is the equivalent of printing a full frame image at A2, or an approximate DX crop at A3. Again, at normal viewing distances we could see no difference in the prints. Only when viewed from less than 15cm could we detect slightly more detail in the fabric swatches of the D800 print. Effectively, an A2 size print from the full frame of a D800 shot will appear no better than one from the D3s.

Only when I cropped to 50% and printed at A3 size (simulating an A1 sized print) could a difference in detail be seen from normal viewing distances (30cm or more from the print).

It is pretty clear to me that for any useful output of images (eg printed) there will only be a marked difference between D3s and D800 output at sizes well above A2. Even at a DX crop the images will be effectively the same unless printed larger than A3.... and this is at low ISO.

Going through the same process with the ISO1600 images showed no difference at any print size. By ISO 6400 the D3s files appeared to have better tonality, colour and saturation (I assume this is due to the files having less noise at the highest ISOs).

My conclusion? Well, the D800 looks like it will be a wonderful machine but in reality the reason it is so wonderful won't benefit me or anyone else who doesn't regularly crop over 50% of the image away or print over A2 size on a regular basis.

I've cancelled my order for the D800 and will stick with my tired and dated D3s with its better top end ISO performance, higher frame rate and superb battery life.

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Have Fun
Photo Pete

Nikon D3S Nikon D800
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