Hitting 5N's low light capacity limits?

Started Sep 12, 2012 | Discussions thread
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txabi
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Hitting 5N's low light capacity limits?
Sep 12, 2012

I was biking home a few days ago, enjoying Chicago's Lakefront at night I took a few pictures with my 5N coupled with a manual Nikon f/2 from 1976 - beautiful lens, amazingly built, incredibly sharp glass.

While it's awe-inspiring in its own right that I was even able to take pics on such a dimly lit environment (the lakefront bike trail next to Michigan lake), I can't help but think I'm hitting the limits of what this 5N can do in low light (hand-held of course, had I had the possibility to place the camera somewhere and take a 5 second pic this would be a different conversation, but there's nowhere to rest your camera in a bike trail, other than the dirty road):

After I recovered as much detail as possible in CS6 camera raw - ignore the noise in these images for now, though much of it has disappeared in the conversion to 1080p for web upload - I was quite disappointed at the amount of detail irreparably lost in this image (look at the square I left at 100%, I'm not even showing the black Water tower because that's obviously lost to a black blob where only windows stand out).

Obviously it's great to be able to take this image in such an extremely dark place. But I want more, more clarity, more visibility, a cleaner image, more per-pixel sharpness and I want to not lose fine image detail like the blurry mess that this ISO3200 shot shows. Of course I'm still talking about shooting handheld, since most of the time I don't have the possibility to do long exposure or I just don't have my equipment with me. At least I'm making sure I help the 5N with a f/2 lens.

Is my only option then going full frame? It's something I've been contemplating for a while now, and it's very likely to be my auto-graduation present to myself when I finish my PhD in 2 years.

Opinions? Meanwhile, here are a few more shots from that night:

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