D800 images have less microcontrast and sparkle

Started Mar 30, 2012 | Discussions thread
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D800 images have less microcontrast and sparkle
Mar 30, 2012

Contrast in an image is the word often used to refer to the overall contrast of an image. It is related to the dynamic range of the image. The D800 has excellent contrast at low to moderate ISOs.

Microcontrast is the contrast achieved between adjacent pixels, and it is the element that produces an overall sparkle and vibrancy in an image. It is the quality that makes you want to look at an image again and again because it is alive to the eyes and feeds our visual experience. It is literally an aspect of "sparkle."

One of the problems with putting medium format resolution into a 35mm frame, as the D800 has done, is that the pixels on the sensor have to be closer together and smaller. As a result, images produced using such a camera have a relative lack of microcontrast and therefore tend to a certain dullness and flatness. With such a sensor, good microcontrast is harder to achieve with any given lens.

Unfortunately, this is what the D800 has done. You can see this flatness and lack of vibrancy in sample shots, for example in Ming Thein's black and white images taken with the D800. He even comments on their unusual overall appearance.

Images made with a D800 will always struggle to achieve sparkle and avoid flatness.

True medium format cameras avoid this problem because they actually use a larger sensor, so they can maintain pixel size and spacing and give you greater resolution while they also maintain microcontrast. The D800 can't do this because it is over-packing pixels into such a tight space.

Many of the Nikon posters over here will of course be upset by this post and argue that this is not true. But any reader can easily learn about microcontrast and its relationship to pixel size and the size of the sensor just by googling the term "microcontrast" or "microcontrast" and "medium format." The D700, on the other hand, does not have this problem and will continue to produce the image quality it is famous for.

Nikon D700 Nikon D800
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