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Saturday, 03 November 2012


1. Enjoy whatever camera you choose, Mike. Getting a new camera once in a while is part of the fun of photography. But do sort-out what's really under your skin. I doubt it's really the need for a new camera. I wonder if you really make enough time to actually use your current camera?

2. Contrary to what you suggested earlier you are not a professional camera or lens reviewer. Even though there seems to be plenty of gear lovers frequenting TOP it is a far more interesting and eclectic place than any gear site thanks to your interesting and eclectic mind. (Ken Rockwell? What the hell are you thinking?)

Shut down TOP for a week or two and go out and take some pictures with whatever camera you have before the frozen tundra up there freezes over. When was the last time you shot with that M7 and spent a day developing film?

1. If you're going to do it then do it now. The D800E is at the beginning of its life cycle and you should have no problem selling it in the future.

2. I started to really like my conversions to B&W when I upgraded to Lightroom 4. The new RAW editor, version 2012, does a much better job and the presets for B&W conversion are, for me, very nice. I usually only have to make very small adjustments to complete the conversion.

3. B&W, more than color, is a very personal thing. Each to his or her own.

Looking forward to viewing your efforts.

PS: Viewing, many times, Julieanne Kost's video on B&W conversion with Lightroom 4 has been a big help. The link: http://tv.adobe.com/watch/the-complete-picture-with-julieanne-kost/converting-images-to-black-and-white-in-lightroom-4/

" the files he posted with his report look lovely"

Ming is a very good photographer.


Doesn't Ken Rockwell recommend the D600 over the D800's ? ;)

Also check out Ming Thein's blog for Dx00 models.

Oddly, prior to Mike's dilemma I was considering selling all my cameras to buy a Leica M-nothing. Now I'm considering selling almost everything, but buying nothing at all, with an eye toward getting more use out of the camera I already like best -- a battered 25-year old M6. I've realized that I only use digital when I don't want to waste film -- that is, I only use it for stuff I don't care that much about. Better to truly simplify, methinks, rather than using simplifying as a rationalization to buy more stuff...

'[T]o get the results you want, would you use a camera you don't like?' is the wrong question. If you dislike the camera sufficiently, your not liking it will find a way to prevent you from getting the results you want, even if from a technical perspective it is perfect for getting those results. One way or another, your incompatibility with the camera will disrupt your mindflow, or else you'll just never actually have it with you when you need it.

I purchased a view camera a few years back, in large part for image considerations - I like the kinds of images that I've seen come out of large-format black-and-white film photography. I never managed to accomplish much with it (although I haven't yet sold it, and am thinking of giving it another go). I wasn't technically unsatisfied with the pictures I was getting, but I realized that I was never taking the right pictures with the damn thing, because the planning-intensive nature of the view camera was incompatible with my disposition as an opportunistic photographer. As I go about my day, I try to keep my eyes open, and if I see a striking configuration of light and matter, and if I have a camera with me I'll try to find a view and framing of it that works for me and get a decent capture. Given various other realities of my life, this approach just wasn't going to work with a view camera, and I was not able to turn myself into a kind of person who could set up photographs in the way that the view camera demanded. The technical image quality was irrelevant because the incompatibility of between me and the camera presented me from getting any of the shots I wanted.

Maybe I could have grown past that. Maybe I will grow past it. But that's not the point. The point is that no amount of technical potential for image quality will make up for your incompatibility with the camera preventing you from taking pictures. If the D800(E) is sufficiently not your kind of camera to induce anything resembling that kind of incompatibility, then its image virtues will just make it that much more frustrating of a white elephant.

Look, there's a good chance that the sensor goodness that makes the D800(E) produce such lovely black-and-white results will eventually find their way into smaller sensors and in particular into the next generation of NEX or μ4/3 cameras. For all we know at this stage, they might already be present in the full-frame sensor in the sony RX1. Or you can save your money until the next-generation M Monochrom is announced (fingers crossed) and either pick up a new one of those, or take the opportunity to pick up a first-generation M Monochrom on the used market. There's really a lot to be said for waiting and buying a camera that you'll actually be comfortable using.

Always a pleasure to read your thoughts. This post about the D800E and B&W images leaves me with a question however. I realize now that I don't really have a clue as to what technical characteristic(s) make a digital camera better for black and white photography.

I've been reading a LOT about digital cameras over the last ten years. Occasionally someone will comment about how great they think their camera is for black and white photography, but I don't remember ever reading their explanation for why that's the case. So, regarding the D800E... does it have something to do with the lack of an anti-aliasing filter? If that's the case, then the Fuji X-Pro1 would likely do a better job since it not only doesn't have an AA filter, but it also doesn't have the Bayer arrayed sensor. Any thoughts?

I've been using a D800 to make black and white prints for a while. Image editing takes me a long time, using Silver FX Pro and all my Photoshop skills. The prints look great, when they work out. So do the prints from my NEX-7. The main difference is that I can print larger with the D800 files while holding the quality I want. A secondary difference is that the D800 lets me use a higher ISO without noise in the shadows. That's about it. The rest, in my experience, doesn't add up to much.

If you want nice files straight from the camera, then the camera might make a lot of difference. If you are expecting to work and struggle to make the best possible interpretive print on a good printer (assuming you use good lenses and good camera craft), then it is your image editing technique that is by far the biggest factor in every dimension of print quality. At least that's how it seems to me.

By the way, I do usually carry the D800, even though I haven't particularly bonded with it emotionally. It isn't as exciting technologically as the NEX-7. But it does what I need, consistently, and that makes me happy. So maybe I'll bond after a while. I don't carry a bunch of gear or big lenses with it, so it's not that big or heavy. Definitely no worse than my (sold) Mamiya 7.

p.s. After a lot of investigation, theoretical and practical, I decided that the "D800 vs. D800E" issue is more about elitism than about actual image quality. Aliasing artifacts can look cool and sharp in some situations, but they aren't actual detail. Again, digital processing skill, including deconvolution sharpening, trumps that whole discussion anyhow.

Maybe you should just slow down and just be.
Instead of thinking of photos think of photo in singular and consciously make one good photo with one of the cameras you've got at home. Of course the idea of trying or purchasing some flashy new camera is exciting but photography should be about photos not gear. Fly away and feel the magic when you're damn sure you've got one killer photo on film or memory card. Feel the ecstasy.

I've read through all of these mostly thoughtful comments, and I have to say, I agree with what Ed Richards had to say more than any others. FWIW

Rod Graham

there might be a cure. D800 uses a Sony sensor. And according to rumors there should be an a-mount camera with that sensor next year -http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/sr3-next-sony-full-frame-camera-to-be-scheduled-for-mai-june-2013/ .

There is a guy over on Nikongear who swears by the Fuji X-pro 1 for Black and White. He was waiting for his local dealer to get a D800 in stock and started playing with the Fuji. He cancelled the D800 order.

Two of my friends bought d800s, which i helped them set up, test, and use. In my opinion the files are out of this world--and this is the non-e, i think i have a bit of a handle on how the d800e might differ. I don't really like the camera much either, myself, but wow. And i also don't especially care about the resolution, and haven't been similarly impressed by most other camera's files.

Otoh, my m9 files hold up extremely well. The m9 has some horrible quirks and gremlins, but it is an amazing camera nonetheless. And i suspect it is more your style. Which begs the question--why the heck are you not trying out an m monochrom for yourself?

I'll bet you could even work out something with lensrentals.com to try one out for reasonable. Just be sure you five it some time.

Isn't this exactly what outfits like lensrentals.com are for?

Rent the beast for two weeks, fill every memory card you can find, and see if you still like the results when you have to do the processing yourself.

Coincidentally, a coupe of weeks ago I was fiddling with the settings on my D800E and gave the monochrome picture mode a go. I was really impressed; it's the first digital camera I've owned that I would use the in-built monochrome mode rather than converting in post.

Mike, if you would like some straight out the camera monochrome (boring) test shots of my desk give me a shout.

Despite the oft quoted 'awesome' nature of files from the D800E and Leica MM I have yet to see much that inspires me. I know why it is. It is because people are looking for something, and are thinking they got it, without doing the fundamental work of photography.

'Large Format quality' to use an ancient Saxon word is bollocks in this context. Because nobody ever took a photograph equivalent to medium or large format with a small camera. Some may come close, but not many. Because the underlying quality of an image is as much to do with the thought and commitment and work involved in making it. Take two ostensibly identical photographs, both made at the same time, each by photographers of equal renown and status, one from a new D800E, one from a 4x5 that has served the photographer over many projects. As you can't tell which is which from the prints, but you can decide to buy one or the other, don't tell me anybody is going to buy the D800E image and feel they bagged something special......

I'm sorry, but modern cameras are not only making people sissey's, adding to the short attention span of modern man, and reducing the work ethic by allowing the camera to do things you should be making decisions about, but they are as we all know a roundabout of angst ridden wants and needs. These take over from the intellectual rigor of making a photograph. You only need to look at the average camera forum to see that the importance is placed on the camera being a D800E, or perhaps a Leica MM, rather than somebody saying 'look, I think I had a good idea'.

The views of a born again film photographer. You may think differently, and I may start to use more digital again if I can afford an 'M' to replace my M9, but it won't be replacing a medium or large format camera, those cannot be replaced by anything smaller and handier.

"A mans gotta do what a mans gotta do"

I was in the same situation not long ago. Was dead set on going low-size and low-weight. Fed up with the bulk of my SLR, and thinking the freedom of small would make me and the camera stay together always.

Both the OM-D and the NEX-7 was so lust-worthy, beautiful sleek cameras (and later the E-X1 came into the running).

... and then I ended up with a D800 and a 24-70/2.8, an absolute monstrosity, nothing sleek or beautiful about it, but my god, the quality of the images are so gorgeous, it almost makes up for it (if you're a prime-man though, and a 50 is your thing, the combo with the 50/1.8G is very managable).

That being said, I thought you were getting the RX-1?

I learnt most of my modest darkroom skills of yore in a few sessions with one of the hapless chaps who processed prints for, amongst others, H. C.-B., who was a stern and exacting taskmaster.

The first lesson was that I knew nothing whatsoever about the business of enlarging.
The second lesson was the paramount importance of post-processing.
That lesson has been paying handsome dividends, and never more so than now.
Given the tools offered by Nik Silver Efex 2, DxO Optics Pro (currently version 8), and LightRoom, in order of decreasing importance, we're in monochrom(e) paradise.

Maybe the digital BW photographer needs all the pixel-peeping goodness of a D800E. I wouldn't know, for I wouldn't be able to schlepp a D800E even if I could afford it. One certainly does need good lenses and decent sensors. But, of all the technical tools that serve to enable and enhance the photographer's vision, I've now come to the point where I'd place digital darkroom skills and appropriate software tools at the top of the prerequisites list.
This holds even for film: I never had as much fun with Neopan/Acros, Tri-X, Delta or T-Max in my physical darkroom days as I'm having now with the scans of my negatives, old and new.

I have seen, there are 110 comments here... So, if you'll ever get to this one, perhaps it could make you stop and reflect- it is a copy of my post in RFF:

What would make me switch to digital


I have been observing over the years the excitement of photo enthusiasts about new models of digital cameras, however so far, there is no camera, that I regard as satisfactory enough, to make me abandon shooting B&W film. I would like to explain the reasons, and indicate what could be a tipping point for me to switch.

I am an occasional landscape shooter, and there is no doubt, that high resolution, rich micro detail and textures are helpful in producing great prints, however in practice, I am not printing that big, normally A3+ is my limit, and when I will change the printer, A2 is going to be the maximum that I'd go for.
Therefore, I believe, that if we speak about monochrome sensors, even 18MP are enough, although when I see my scans from 6x7 come out at 82MB, I wonder how the comparison would look like in practice. On this count however, I would say, digital is amply sufficient. I would also like to see a possibility to buy bigger sensor cameras with low pixel density, e.g. a 6x7 sensor camera with 36 or 48MP, as this would improve imaging and put less stress on lenses.

There's no contest, digital wins easily here, although with today's sensors you have to dial in a substantial sensitivity reduction, to avoid blowing out the highlights, so in practical terms the advantage shrinks somewhat for outdoor photography.

This is the main problem of monochrome digital - I have tried to ask various "experts" what is it exactly, that makes it so difficult for digital sensors to mimic the film's shoulderlike response to brightness (similar to the response of the human eye ), but the answers were always unsatisfactory. I believe, that the bit depth should be substantially higher, and probably some logarithmic function should be incorporated at the level of camera microchip in the reproduced brightness curve. Most likely, this would generate both a major computing stress on the processor, as well as a major hike in memory usage, therefore I imagine it will take several years before this can be realized. As long as this is not resolved, digital B&W is not an option for me.

I have recently bought a substantial number of lenses which I like. I believe, that we are moving to the point, where all digital cameras wll be mirrorless, and the sensor sizes will grow. I would welcome both a 35mm and a 645 or 6x7 mirrorless cameras with electronic VF and capacity to dial in correction profiles for any type of lens. This should finally do away with the PITA of inaccurate focus issues (both on RF and SLR). What I would also necessarily want to see, is a trend towards simplification and miniaturisation, in other words, I see no reason why a 35mm digital camera should be bigger or more complicated than a Leica M9, or a 6x7 camera than a Plaubel Makina. Currently, we are still missing bigger sensor mirrorless cameras, and from what I gather, the electronic viewfinders are still distant from the optical VF experience, so more progress needs to be made.


As someone who uses the Nikon D800 as his primary camera, but has mixed feelings about it, I understand your feelings.

First off, the image quality is in a different league -- never ahs small format been at this level. Ignore the massive pixel count for a moment, the tonality is great. The raw files have an incredibly long exposure range while still keeping colors vibrant.

That said, I could say somewhat snarkily that the D800(E) is a 70's pro SLR with a few electronic improvements thrown in. It has a good viewfinder, solid build and the basic controls work -- so did cameras such as the OM-2 has. The AF is great or infuriating depending on how you look at it; the tracking AF with the latest lenses is sheer brilliance, the accuracy of single point AF for a static target leaves things to be desired. The resolution is so great that stability and focusing accuracy take a much bigger effort than before. Live view is "almost there". Face detection with AF? Sometimes work, sometimes doesn't -- nowhere near Panasonic.

Of course it forces its user to upgrade half of his lenses and the computer, since the huge file size is only comfortable to process on recent hardware.

In other words, the D800(E) is an instant classic. It will most likely serve the tripod crowd well for many years to come. But the walk around lightly, snapping street photos crowd may be a bit more ambivalent in their feelings.

PS. second reference to Reagan this week? I have to start looking for a hidden meaning...

Hi Mike,

Don't give up film cameras and B&W. It is what makes your site stand out of the rest. There are fewer and fewer sites that report on it, so it makes your site more important as a knowledge base.

There are dozens of very good sites that review digital, if you change, you will just be one of many.

I remember many moons ago when, while testing the D700, you mentioned you thought it did a particularly good job with black and white. I've found that to be my experience. Love mine. Would buy another if I had the chance. One of the frustrating things about digital is the knowledge that you won't get 40 years out of a camera you like the way you can with film. I also find the X100 is pretty good tone-wise with it's b&w jpegs.

Hmmmm....I consider myself a very picky and fastidious landscape photographer and I have owned and used a D800E for the last few months. Like an early poster said I have a strong love/hate relationship with it. It is so demanding of you and your lenses that you have to use it with extreme care - much more so than any other DSLR I have owned (so far 11 of them over 9 years - ouch!). I only use Zeiss ZF manual focus lenses and focus using Live View, on a tripod, MLU blah blah blah.

When you get that all correct the D800E is truly outstanding. But I - personally - would not dream of using it in any other way as the amazing resolution it has is totally annihilated by even the smallest focusing error. And if you are not there to exploit that resolution and its 36 megapixels than you may as well use another camera for 'ordinary' use...which is what I do. In the last 3 weeks I have taken more shots with my Fuji X-Pro1 and X-E1 than I have in 4 months with the D800E.

I don't think the D800E is anything special as regards B&W and I think you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you buy it for that purpose. It is a good as other high quality digital cameras. Certainly it produces beautiful results with the right lens (35mm f1.4 ZF2 to name one). But the nicest B&W I have done in the last year were with the Fujis (including the X100 I also have). Why that is I don't know but I suspect it has nothing much to do with the sensor quality.

I think when I use the D800E I approach photography in a much more deliberate and prescriptive way because of its demanding nature and I tend to produce 'set piece' photographs. Smallish cameras certainly promote a freer approach in me and I rather think - from what I have gathered about you from a few years on TOP - you would prefer that. I used to use my D700 for fun/casual photography but I really would never use my D800E for that. The focus issues are so important that the results of casual use are just to disappointing.

Really, I ought to be more like Ken Rockwell, and I know it.

Please don't. One Ken Rockwell is more than enough for the Internet. Plus there are dozens of sites that keep up with the latest and the greatest digital stuff. TOP on the other hand is one of a kind on the Net.

Regarding the Nikon D800 or 800E: they are very demanding cameras; very complex, requiring fastidious technique. They're like little view cameras, and, as your other commentors have said, will require the best lenses, and a sturdy tripod. They will show every defect in your workflow, too. And, don't look down your nose at Ken Rockwell! He's a very interesting guy, with a lot to say about photography and audio - but, filter his comments through your own experiences and good sense. His stuff needs to be spread over time, so his, ahem, boyish enthusiasms can die down. Finally, see Thom Hogan's stuff at nyThom.com and sansmirror.com, and his D800 guide (850 pages - woof!) for straight-up good practical information.

Please don't take this personally, but can I have first dibs on your D800E once it's gone the way of the Chamonix? Thanks!

(seriously - don't be offended. I just can't help but think that's how this will end.)

Aside to John Robison, by year's end, I expect Kirk to be swooning over the GH3. The back-story will be how the Sony lenses don't compare to the m4/3 offerings. Once again, no slight intended. He's got a lot of skill & experience so he'd get fine results from anything that found it's way into his hands. Nevertheless, blog posts fueled by gear lust are becoming a cliche.

An interesting bit in the Merklinger article states that his best image from the day came from his M8 in infra-red mode (IR filter over lens, presumably). Tonalities also influence inkjet resolution in printing b/w. Plus I've found IR cuts right through haze, which also helps. I wonder what an IR-converted D800e would do?

Question for other Epson users on the thread: I have been using Quatone RIP on my 3800 for b/w printing. Do you like/find the native AWB mode as good as/better than QTRIP?

I have been shooting with a Sigma DP2 Merrill for one month. I don't think D800E can match it when it comes to BW conversions. For color, yes. For BW, no, it can't.

The D800/E is a major commitment. It will require the best lenses and support (i.e. tripod) and the best processing tool. I know you have spoken about your tripods in the past. Do you have one that you would trust to support something like the D800 series plus it's heavy lenses to maximize the D800's IQ? If not, then add an upgrade to the tripod / head.

How current is your computer and software? Those 36 megapixel images will take a lot of RAM to process and chew through hard-drive storage space. Will your current software process the D800E's raw files?

If the answer to any of the questions above is no, then factor in the additional upgrades.

As an exercise how does the following equation work out for you?

D800E + Lenses + tripod + head + computer + software = better photographs + content Mike Johnson

Remove any factors that as needed. Have a screaming new computer and Photoshop CS6? Then you can remove those arguments. Continue adjusting the left side arguments until they equal the right side.

I ran that equation for myself, and decided I didn't need the D800 and it's lenses. It turns out what I needed was a new tripod and head. So, I got a new tripod and head and am currently content photographically.

My point is that you might find that changing other arguments in that equation will be better for you.

A suggestion: Try something like Nik's Silver Efex Pro or other dedicated B&W conversion software. It has a free trial so you can see if it works for you. If it doesn't, then you have not lost anything besides the time. Maybe all you need is a dedicated B&W conversion application. That would be a lot less expensive than buying a D800E and some lenses.

Maybe you've already seen this... Kanstantinos Besios blog at:

It's pretty brief, so I'm not sure how helpful it is, but what I noticed immediately is the handling of the highlights (neither image on screen actually nails it for me, still...). Of course, he may simply not be adept at B&W conversion.

No, don't get it. You don't need it. You can't afford it.

You are a man and will impose your will on what you have and produce the best images you have with what you have.

When you go trout fishing you don't use bait and you don't use spin gear you use fly gear, because the idea is not simply to make things easy, the idea is to do things the best possible within the constraints you accept.

You don't write sonnets in 14 line iambic pentameter because it's the easiest way to express yourself.

Quit fooling yourself. You can't afford it.

Blow peoples' minds with what you can do with what you have now instead of the endless circle of the next magical fetish.

Wake up, Michael. You are a man. You don't need it.

About five years ago (36 digital-camera years, 35 dog years) I wandered into a legendary local camera-store (Cal's Cameras in Newport Beach, for you folks familiar with Southern California; Cal's is sadly no more) and noticed a foam-mounted photo near the entrance.

How could I miss it? It was huge: 40 x 60"? It may have been a tad smaller, but not by much. Really big.

A tag on the photo claimed it was printed from a digital file created by the (then still pretty new) Nikon D40. A 6MP camera. The lab, out of state, was listed. I copied the name down.

The photo, of a classic car head-on, was sharp even close up. It held together at very close viewing range--one or two feet--and was spectacular at proper viewing distance--five feet or more. I forget the lens (doubt it was the kit lens, but could'a been). I queried one of the veteran sales guys, and he swore it was legit.

Later I emailed the lab (forget which one, back in the Midwest I think) and received confirmation from some head mucky-muck that yes, the print was as advertised.

I'm still dubious. Just a little. Skeptical nature, I guess. But with the right light, the sweetest aperture, a tripod and lowest ISO...

I am persuaded that you don't need 36MP to go big--really big--and still have images that present well.

For all the limitations and antiquated technology of the D40, it might be possible to mount an exhibition of D40 prints enlarged close to the size that William Eggleston is now showing (60 x 44"), with similar image quality. (I saw the Eggleston show at Gagosian Gallery in L.A. a few weeks back, loved it, but you don't want to get too close to those images...some get really soft).

A quick check on the local Craigslist this morning produced many D40's, the best deal at $200 including kit lens. The Nikon 800e, body only, is selling for $3,300. I have no doubt that it is every bit the remarkable device that people claim it to be. But...

Mike, go ahead and scratch that itch. You can write it off as a professional expense, fair-and-square. Just don't be surprised if your photographs are not more compelling, more satisfying.

The ultimate camera is one that gets out of your way.

I have the feeling that this desire for the Nikon behemoth is going at the "problem" from the wrong direction. What do you actually want to see in black and white - a picture on the wall, or on a monitor?

As you know, for a picture on the wall, an inkjet printer, associated paper-stock and software don't automatically work by any stretch. There will be several years of familiarisation and practice, costing many thousands of dollars, euros or Swiss francs. And along the way, the software or hardware will change and you start almost from the beginning again.

I suggest the processing of the digital file is where the print is made to match what you want, not in the printer and not in the camera. Again, we all "know" this really. Beware of silver-bullets and bullsh!t hardware marketing. ;)

The most familiar black-and-white-like output is in silver based emulsion on paper, and you can put it there yourself (buy a Nova slot-processor, the darkroom work 'threshold' is thereby much lowered), or organise an account at the nearest good Lightjet or Lambda (etc. etc.) lab.

Then this will imply either a film or digital image going in to the chain. In film, the answer is probably spelt Mamiya 7(II). For digital origination, perhaps a Hassy and an oldish digital-back (say just under 40Mp).

Most of the expense should be expected in time (for both paths) and in software & training costs (for the digital path). The first ten-thousand pictures are the worst? How long will it take to post-process and proof even a tenth of that number, I wonder. That picture-count is pessimistic of course, as you already have far more knowledge than most of us.

You know that phrase "Your task Jim, should you decide to accept it . . ." well, that's about where this plan is now. You can't step off the bus halfway :o)

Lots of luck!

"(seriously - don't be offended. I just can't help but think that's how this will end.)"

Well, naturally...isn't it how ALL digital cameras end? They have a limited working life. We buy them when they're new and then send them to the graveyard in three or five or eight years. I've gotten three years out of my GF1 and I don't think that's bad. The only bad thing is buying a camera you don't really use, which I've been doing too much lately.


"And, don't look down your nose at Ken Rockwell!"

What?? *I'm* not looking down my nose at him at all. Maybe some commenters are. I think he does a much better job covering equipment than I do, and he probably monetizes his site a lot better than I do mine. (Not that I'm complaining, mind you.) No h8 from here.


I've just seen this:


and it tells me that all those things like equipement at the end of the day doesn't matter. What matter are picutures and compelling stories.


Before you make a final decision on the D800e as a monochrome mostly camera, I suggest you evaluate the new Sigma DP2m. It has a 45mm (35mm equivalent) lens, and a small relatively inconspicuous form factor. But best of all each pixel is a photo site, which coupled with a great lens gives the camera superb resolution.

I've had the camera for a little over a month and use it mostly in color, but the black and whites look like they came from a film camera with a Zeiss lens. There are photo threads on Lula and GetDPI that are devoted to the DP2m. As part of your search, it's well worth trying.


PS I fogot to mention It's a relative bargain at $1000.

>> I've gotten three years out of my GF1...

Great! If you keep the D800E for three years before you sell it me, my cost will be even lower than if you bail out in 2013. Sounds like a win for both of us.

Please take good care of the camera I'll be buying from you in a few years.

"Please take good care of the camera I'll be buying from you in a few years."

Will do. (And you laugh, but the guy who said that to me about the Leica M6 I bought in '90 actually bought it from me three years later. Truth.)


You do not need the best lenses, extra-sturdy tripods and mirror lockup when shooting with the D800.

That is based on the misunderstanding that Nikon has packed such a large number of pixels onto the D800 sensor that current lenses and normal shooting technique will produce inferior results.

The fact is that every APS-C camera with a resolution of 15.3 megapixels or greater, every current M43 camera, and virtually every small-sensor point-and-shoot on the planet has a finer pixel pitch than the D800, and as a result, it will be more sensitive to camera motion and less tolerant of mediocre lens quality than the D800.

So the FUD isn't necessary. You've got a better chance of shooting handheld and obtaining pixel level sharpness with the D800 than with any of the cameras listed above.


What about lenses?

Of course you will be advised to use expensive lenses to get the highest technical sharpness from a D800E. Sometimes the contemporary F-mount lenses look to clinical to me.

I have an alternative suggestion. The early pre-AI F-mount letter lenses (Q,P,H,S,O,N,D, 1959-1977) are inexpensive to own - even after you have them converted to AI spec. These early lenses have a unique look that could serve your B&W work well. Some are uncoated and others have minimal coating. They are a bit heavy though.

Just food for thought.

Oskar Ojala:
"D800(E) is a 70's pro SLR with a few electronic improvements thrown in"


If so I'm sold, but it sure looks more like a late 80's camera to me.

I really miss the removable prisms and interchangeable screens the M, H, and E screens on the f2 and in particular the waist level and sports finders

"Another of these persistent delusions is the idea that I'm going to return to my first love, B&W film photography"

Funny you should say that. I love BW film photography.

All my digital cameras get set for BW, orange or yellow filter, and never moved off that setting (still shooting RAW, but it's for the LCD preview and speeding up processing with preset decisions).

A significant number of photographers whose work I admire - and who have a similar style to my own, just better - are still shooting with the Pentax 67. I still own mine, I love the standard lens, I even take it to shoots, but I don't use it for very long.

On the other hand, I picked up a friend's 5D3 (after owning the 5D and 5D2), and immediately fell in love with it. It's just another 5D, but with fast accurate focus, and quicker reflexes. Bought one the next morning. Going to worry about the credit card bill later.

I ought to face up to the fact, I'm no longer a film photographer.

I wonder if you are attached to the wrong part of the "quality" issue.

No digital camera will actually produce a platinum print.

No inkjet printer will actually produce a silver gelatin B&W print.

So, *perhaps*, you need to redefine the question as "knocks my socks off monochrome" rather than "results like sliver gelatin".

And if you are going to rent test cameras (a fine plan) rent an M9, or M9 monochrome, a current generation Lens. At least when you go to sell the lens, you'll get something for it.

Other than resolution, I can't find a good reason to favor the D800E over a D800 or D600 for that matter.

Personally, I find that there is tons of tonal range in an E-M5, E-PM2, or even RX100 for quality black and white. It's my own abilities, both in capture and processing, that let me down.

>> And you laugh, but the guy who said that to me about the Leica M6...


I wasn't kidding. (Ok, so maybe I was about you bailing on the D800E in 2013). When the time comes, you have my email address.

Good thing you live in Wisconsin. I do a lot of cold weather shooting. Your D800E should be used to winter before it becomes my D800E.


Dear folks,

I think I have an idea where Mike is coming from on this. He's been looking for a digital setup that would get him to B&W prints he can be happy with for some time. This may not be the ideal camera regarding form factor, but it offers him that possibility. Maybe, indeed, in six months he'll find that, quality or not, he can't abide the camera. Only way to know is to try it.

If the quality's not there, the form factor won't matter. If it is, even if he ends up hating this particular camera, then he's got a personal reference point for the future.

What makes no sense is getting a camera that feels right and doesn't get you the picture quality (however you define it) you want. Remember he's been looking a while; suggesting he wait even longer sounds like better being the enemy of good, like waiting for the ideal computer.

As for 36Mpx being overkill for Mike, that presumes one understands what's producing the picture quality he likes (I don't). More pixels changes the look of a photograph in ways that have nothing to do with raw resolution (e.g., "grain" becomes tighter). Also fine detail looks different when it's optics-limited rather than sensor-limited, for the same amount of fine detail.

While it requires very good technique and often a tripod to get the full benefit of 36 Mpx, it absolutely does not require a "4x5 approach" to photography. That's one of those pixel-peepers' myths. Furthermore, high pixel counts produce valuable results under far less rigorous conditions. It ain't about making big prints...

pax / Ctein

Black & white digital photography?

Dedicated sensor: Leica M Monochrom? Pay through the nose, yes, but that fact alone makes many people love their gear to death :-)

Same thing as D800E, same pixel density, only 16MP and a fraction of the cost and weight: Pentax K-5 IIs.

Are you in good fit? Exercise a lot? ;-) To me it seems D800 to be the worst solution here, that will make you switch to yet another camera some time soon. :-)

Have fun Mike!

Why bother with the D800? The eminently pocketable Sigma DP2 Merrill is at least as much suitable to B&W as the D800 but it's a lot cheaper and lighter. It's a real photographer's tool though: fixed lens, no zoom, no bells and whistles... Not a camera for Pussys, as stated by M. Reichmann!



Mike, I think you have the same problem I do: I am great at getting everything ready for the greatest change in my life ever, but once I am ready, I don't make the change, but start looking around again for the next thing to get ready for.

I would say that you should not buy a camera for its B&W ability until you are doing B&W photography and struggling to get the results you want. Don't use a camera purchase as an excuse to change something in your life, because it never works out that way.

If you want to do B&W, you might also look at the Sigma DP2M. I hate hate hate the colours coming out of that camera, but the B&W images look intriguing. Slow AF, terrible everything, but great lens and (B&W) sensor? Disclaimer: I don't own one.

Btw, I own a D800, and it is so capable that it puts me to shame. It is taking me a long time to catch up with its abilities. I decided for the non-E because, really, I don't need 36MP, and the D800 files are already very, very sharp.

I haven't read through all the comments so apologies if my suggestion has already been made. The Fujifilm X-100 is a superb B&W camera. It is eminently improved functionally after several firmware updates, offers superb portability, and fabulous jpeg performance throughout the ISO range. It's retail price as of Nov. 2012 is a steal, so you won't have to sell a kidney, (or buy a back brace to lug it around). If you can live with the 35mm fixed focal length it just might be worth a second thought.

Hugh Crawford,

It's much larger than an Olympus OM. It doesn't have a removable prism like the old Nikons. And the shape is different, narrower but thicker. But the way I look at it, the A and M modes work as one expects, aperture, compensation and time are easy to adjust and the viewfinder is good, so the basic 70's stuff works as I expect.

Now it is dead without batteries, but for me that isn't an issue. So it really depends on how you look at it. Granted, it has more buttons than an ols SLR, but they don't get in the way.

I am a D700 Shooter. I have owned it for about 20 months now. I love my D700. The first thing I did when I got it was read the manual. After that I started shooting it and then read the magic lantern guide for that camera. I set it up so that if was a digital approximation of the same functionality I got out of my Trusty F100 with which I shot over a hundred weddings... The D700 is WONDERFUL --EXCEPT: It does not have the 100% viewfinder. This drives me NUTZ and is the reason that I will very soon own a D800e.

For once, one can suggest a camera to the guy who suggests one to others :)

Therapeutic and meditative uses of DP Merrills:

Apart from getting great BW files, Merrills can also get you peace of mind. A good look at one of her files at 100%, and a subsequent ownership will ensure you won't be affected by the relentless onslaught of newer cameras. Newer iterations of the GHs, the NEXs, the OMDs will not lure you anymore and you will enjoy reading about them with a balanced mind, and be able to judge them for what they are. This is called seeing in black and white. :)

You will also learn virtues of being patient while waiting for the files to be written. You will learn to live with less. You will plan ahead, think about the shot.

Coming back to the photographic black and white, here's why a Merrill is an excellent BW camera:

The camera has lots of color information. Because the kind of senor tech she has, RGB values are actually captured and not interpolated like a Bayer camera. So while converting the files to BW using channel mixer in Photoshop, one can abuse the files to nth degree to achieve subtle gradations. When you convert a Bayer file, 2/3rd information is thrown out immediately and one is working with relatively very little information to begin with.

DPreview had done a color resolution chart test for the original DP1, a 4.7 megapixel camera. Here's the link:


Mike, all i can say is, I take all the trouble, deal with numerous handling issues, but keep using it with a smile just for the results that i can get.

Highly recommended.

PS: Since you are renting a D800 and we are talking about black and white, here's a black and white shot taken with a rented 5D Mark II:


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