D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison

Started May 5, 2012 | Discussions
Ming Thein
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D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
May 5, 2012

My D800E arrived late last week, and I managed to get a Leica S2 to shoot alongside it for a controlled comparison:

http://blog.mingthein.com/2012/05/05/an-unfair-fight-nikon-d800e-vs-leica-s2-p/

I think the most surprising thing was just how good the S2 lenses are.

And yes, both of them produce moire. Enjoy!

Ming

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Clark Hampton
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they should be good...
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

for over $5,000US

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Ming Thein
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Re: they should be good...
In reply to Clark Hampton, May 5, 2012

True, but I don't think you could spend that much on any F mount glass and get similar results - except perhaps the Coastal Optics 60/4 UVIR, but I don't have one of those handy to test.

Clark Hampton wrote:

for over $5,000US

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voider
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Re: they should be good...
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

I am using Leica lenses on my Nikon D700 and will use it as well on the D800e. I have the 100mm and 50mm Leica lenses and the results are stunning. I could not manage to get the 15mm running since the back is touching the mirror.

Here is a nice link for conversion.
http://www.leitax.com/leica-lens-for-nikon-cameras.html

Ming Thein wrote:

True, but I don't think you could spend that much on any F mount glass and get similar results - except perhaps the Coastal Optics 60/4 UVIR, but I don't have one of those handy to test.

Clark Hampton wrote:

for over $5,000US

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Livio Spallone
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Re: D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

I find Nikon images a little darker and with more contrast (differences in curves that could be equalized) . I trust your judgement but I do not find more resolution in Leica images .

Thank you, very useful informations.

Lisperit

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Biological_Viewfinder
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I read it
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

I enjoyed reading the ending as I thought the rest of it was a little heavy-handed in what appears to be biased toward the Leica throughout the article. What I mean is that there was a kind of congratulations in there for the D800e at the end which should have permeated more throughout the piece.

Still, it was very well written and it was interesting to see through the eyes of someone who is familiar with Medium Format and the kinds of tests that you did reflected that and kept my interest for the whole time.

You made mention that you repeated shots, and that was valuable so that I know you didn't just handhold a couple from your balcony while the wind blew through your hair.

I guess I would have worded it differently... such as saying things like, "Nikon doesn't surpass the S2, but it is clear that it is close to at least this Medium Format camera and that in itself should impress."

Just a couple of those spread throughout the article probably would've helped; but I'm afraid that as it stands now it would have to be entirely rewritten from the viewpoint of how you express its value finally at the end. What is at the end is not the article you wrote. What you wrote was kind of... less nice, less digestable. I wouldn't be surprised if you got some tomatoes thrown your way.
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SubPrime
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Re: D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

Ming Thein wrote:

My D800E arrived late last week, and I managed to get a Leica S2 to shoot alongside it for a controlled comparison:

Great article Ming.

May I ask what raw converter you used? My own findings have shown ACR to be inferior to CaptureNX.

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inasir1971
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Thanks
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

Nice to hear from you after you unleashed the "Left AF Tsunami" on us! Afraid you got swept away...

I found your detailed review of lens performance on D800 was really helpful as I switched to Nikon - it was invaluable in helping me decide which lenses to get. Just wanted to say thanks for that.

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Astrophotographer 10
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Re: Thanks
In reply to inasir1971, May 5, 2012

Nice review Ming.

How much does the Leica S2 cost?

As pointed out it is doubtful if ACR does RAW conversion as well as Nikon software.

Also is the Leica 16bit? That may account for some of the differences.

To me top ISO of 640 before degradation would be a total deal breaker for the Leica.

Also that bad green bias in the image which is terrible for an expensive camera. I hae a D800E and see no colour bias in what limited shots I have taken with it so far.

What sort of prices are these Leica lenses? An adapter to fit one to a D800E and then a retest to see how much that levels the playing field would be interesting.

Greg.

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inasir1971
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Re: D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
In reply to SubPrime, May 5, 2012

Nice article - thanks.

I have both versions, the 'E' for a day but I am already noticing the increased moire and the increased sharpness.

You hit the nail on the head, we have now shifted from a sensor limited system to a lens limited system. And performance of lenses on the D800 is very different to how they performed on other bodies.

Leica lenses are alas out of reach for many of us.

You mention Axial CA (LoCA's I think) and I have noticed this with the D800/E. Every flaw, blemish, and focus error is amplified on these or maybe I'm just looking for things more. However, I find that use of the Axial CA correction function in Nikon software deals with this very effectively. So, perhaps CNX 2 is as another poster suggested the better raw converter for the D800E. (maybe what we don't have in glass can be made up for somewhat through software)

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David H Dennis
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Re: Thanks
In reply to Astrophotographer 10, May 5, 2012

Yikes!

For anyone who is a casual viewer, a couple of facts might be relevant.

The Leica S2-P digital camera (body only) is an economical $27,995 from B&H.

The Leica Summarit-S 35mm f/2.5 ASPH lens is a positive snip at $6,495.

And I thought my D4 was expensive!

I think that if the D800 is in any way competitive with the Leica, it's pretty darn awesome. Especially since it has surprisingly good low light performance, which the Leica can't do at all.

D

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Toccata47
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Just killed my interest in the s2
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

I've toyed with the idea of pawning off my m9 and lenses in favor of stepping up to the s2 for months now. Just couldn't bring myself to do it, and now I'm glad for it. I prefered some of the s2 shots, but not all. Certainly not enough to pay retail!

Thanks for the comparison!

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bills_pix
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Re: Thanks
In reply to David H Dennis, May 5, 2012

+1

David H Dennis wrote:

I think that if the D800 is in any way competitive with the Leica, it's pretty darn awesome. Especially since it has surprisingly good low light performance, which the Leica can't do at all.

D

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djedi
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Re: D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

Seems to me that on the watch photo your conclusion might be premature. Please look at the point where the hands are connected to the stem on both photos. You will see that the D800 was focused right on that point (much sharper than the Leica photo) but the area on the face of the watch is in focus with the Leica, therefore sharper than on the D800. Depth of field is a killer in macro mode.
Wolfgang
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gonzalu
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The Leica is only $30,000 and the D800E
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012
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VBLondon
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Re: D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

Ming
Thank you. That was a very interesting, balanced and well written review.
rgds
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rhlpetrus
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Thanks, comment on high ISO
In reply to Ming Thein, May 5, 2012

Very good comparison but I take issue with your comment on high ISO:

"This is clearly not an available light camera; frankly, neither one is; I’d pick a D3s or D4."

There may a slight (very slight and it seems color holds up better with the D800/E) advantage printed same size in favor of the bigger ones, but unless you need the speed and other features of the pro bodies, the D800/E would be more than enough and actually are, so far, the next best thing available for high ISO, any maker.

So, to say D800E is not an available light camera is an exhageration, given it's better than the D700 and many still use that camera in those situations. The Leica S2 at 1250 ISO is already loosing control of detail in an obvious way.
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teodorian2
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Re: D800E vs Leica S2: a detailed comparison
In reply to SubPrime, May 5, 2012

SubPrime wrote:

Ming Thein wrote:

My D800E arrived late last week, and I managed to get a Leica S2 to shoot alongside it for a controlled comparison:

Great article Ming.

May I ask what raw converter you used? My own findings have shown ACR to be inferior to CaptureNX.

Could you please post your findings and point out in what way ACR is inferior.

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Ming Thein
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Sorry, should have clarified that...
In reply to rhlpetrus, May 5, 2012

Yes, you CAN downsize and get better results than the 12MP cams; but if you're only going to get 12MP, I'd rather not deal with the enormous files. It's just faster workflow. Not to mention to get critically sharp results at pixel level, you need a higher shutter speed than the 12MP FX cams - this costs you a bit in terms of noise as you've got to raise the ISO.

As for D800 vs S2 - latest generation CMOS vs older CCD...

rhlpetrus wrote:

Very good comparison but I take issue with your comment on high ISO:

"This is clearly not an available light camera; frankly, neither one is; I’d pick a D3s or D4."

There may a slight (very slight and it seems color holds up better with the D800/E) advantage printed same size in favor of the bigger ones, but unless you need the speed and other features of the pro bodies, the D800/E would be more than enough and actually are, so far, the next best thing available for high ISO, any maker.

So, to say D800E is not an available light camera is an exhageration, given it's better than the D700 and many still use that camera in those situations. The Leica S2 at 1250 ISO is already loosing control of detail in an obvious way.
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Ming Thein
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Thanks VB! nt
In reply to VBLondon, May 5, 2012

VBLondon wrote:

Ming
Thank you. That was a very interesting, balanced and well written review.
rgds
VB London

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