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Wednesday, 19 November 2008


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At risk at being laughed at for judging anything based on web samples (and for sounding like a Leicaphile :) the samples I've seen from the A900 (including some very large prints at Photoplus Expo) do seem medium-format-like in that they have a certain ease about them. You know they'll look great much bigger; they don't look like they're trying hard to look good. Actually, even though I have little *need* for 12MP versus 6MP, downsampled files from the A700 have a bit of that look versus 7D files.

I don't know what it is; whether it's greater downsampling, improved dynamic range, post-processing, or just my imagination. I'll have to pay attention to pictures from other high res cameras (including compacts like the G10).

You've obviously put a lot of thought into this summary. I haven't tried the Nikon and only tried an A900 for a few minutes, but the A900 is a cross between the Maxxum 9 and the Alpha A700 - while the 9 was a quick & capable camera, I was always happiest using it on a tripod, slowly and methodically (whereas the smaller, lighter, nimbler Maxxum 7 was my preference for handheld shooting).

Mike, Your comment about the D3 "seeing in the dark" which I guess is due to its ability to integrate photons over a time period, made me wonder why human (or other species) eyes/brains have not evolved some ability to integrate over time. Seeing better in the dark would seem to have a strong survival benefit, at least in the past. As I understand it eyes only vary in size,the number of rods and cones, and better reflective surfaces etc.

the quality difference is astonishing!!!
really good :)

Nice, what they call in the car magazines, comparo, from the perspective of an A900 skeptic.

It's sometimes hard to remember that different people shoot different ways. I do almost exclusively journalism-type photography, and would take the D3 in an instant (although I'd actually prefer the D700, if it's as advertised: the D3 is a load.) I *want* a camera that sees better in the night than I do. I may want to use an ISO 6400. Ultimate quality in a magazine -- -even a good magazine -- would be as well expressed with a D3 as with an A900. But for art printing, of landscape or still life, the A900 will definitely give you better resolution. (Not so sure if you were doing art photos of dance, though. "Movement" photography might be another place where the D3 would be better.)

But, generally, the comparison seems pretty reasonable. I would like to get me hands on a RAW version of that D3 stoplight photo, though... 8-)


Mike -

Your comments remind me of a few years back when I would write about any digital camera and would have to tip toe around the "film vs. digital" question all the time. Even after the Canon 1Ds MKII was introduced, it was blasphemy in the eyes of many to suggest that it might be a reasonable substitute for a 35 mm film camera. I knew what I was seeing in my prints, but was afraid to say anything because I knew that telling the truth would offend my audience. Over time, film lovers switched from insisting that 35 mm was better in all respects and narrowed their preference to the "look" of film.

Nowadays, it can be uncomfortable to argue that any camera can take a decent photo unless it is a Canon or Nikon DSLR. Someone will get annoyed.

Clearly, we are all becoming more educated and are more open to the idea that there are many great DSLRs and even some point and shoots that can deliver some great shots.

The Sony looks great to me, especially for the price.



...although I'm going to take a wild guess and bet that the word "breed" wasn't used in the original.


The problem with all these new high densities, high resolution sensors is that in many cases the high resolution is too high. As you have shown in your landscapes photos, high resolution helps. High resolution will give an A2 landscape print without any interpolation.

But now, what about portraits? High resolution is more a curse than a compliment, unless you make a photo of a 22 years old with perfect skin. High resolution means much more visible and obtrusive blemishes.

Let's face it, not being a spring chicken, I look a lot better on a 6 megapixels with a plastic lens, than I would with a Sony A900 and an outstanding Zeiss lens that is so sharp that every zit, every grey hair of my beard is clearly outlined.

So now, will we need to carry multiple cameras for multiple purposes? One for the portraits/weddings/kids and another one for the landscapes. Will the next solution be to have a camera that does raw with both high-res and low-res.

I wrote more about it at: http://foto-biz.com/doku.php/blog:returning-a-canon-1dsmk3

The DXO site is a wonderful tool, and I agree with you that it's an objective look at things many photographers may not completely understand fully. But since you put such a high premium on image quality (which is indeed made up of many factors), have you bothered to check DXO's rankings for dynamic range? In keeping with your continued admiration for your old K/M body, what about the 2 year old Fuji s5? It spanks everyone else, including the latest and greatest $3k offerings. It's not the highest resolving camera out there, but for plain overall image quality, nothing matches it still. I make regular 16x20's off of it and haven't had anyone tell me that film was better. You're welcome to borrow mine anytime.

Michael B.

"Horses for courses" is a phrase that seems to cover the situation in photography (not just digital, not just this week). Nobody has in fact made the "perfect" camera; some cameras are better for some things than others, but they're always then worse at yet other things. Medium format and large format (both film and digital) still exist, and still have artistic and professional uses.

I might disagree with you about the strengths and weaknesses of some pair of cameras (though I see no strong reason to do so from your D3 vs. A900 article; I've never shot with either one), but I'm solidly behind you on the concept that cameras HAVE both strengths and weaknesses, and that the proportions differ from model to model.

Syv wrote:
"But now, what about portraits? High resolution is more a curse than a compliment, unless you make a photo of a 22 years old with perfect skin. High resolution means much more visible and obtrusive blemishes.

Let's face it, not being a spring chicken, I look a lot better on a 6 megapixels with a plastic lens, than I would with a Sony A900 and an outstanding Zeiss lens that is so sharp that every zit, every grey hair of my beard is clearly outlined."

How big are you printing ? 12MP or 24MP shouldn't show you more detail in a small print. And 6MP can show plenty of (unflattering) detail. In any event, you can't get 24MP of fine detail that you'd like in a landscape from a 12MP camera (though you can print big if you don't mind the lack of detail) but you can always downsample 24MP to lose detail (or average out some noise).

The best part was the satire alert.

"As you can see, the Sony shows more colors, more sunlight, and more leaves."

My Pentax tends to show more mist and rain, but it is perfectly calibrated for an 18 % gray sky.

Thanks Mike, for posting this very interesting article. It's one reason I like this site: you're prepared to do 'reviews' differently, and not afraid to express your own POV even if many others would disagree. Keep up the good work!

I have on order the Canon 5D mark II, sight unseen as I fully expect that I will not be disappointed and have the optics for it already which essentially eliminates any competitor but I would like to comment on the capabilities of lesser sensors in terms of large prints. I work with an Epson 7800 printer and make 24 by 36 inch prints often cropped from the files from an 8 or a 10 or a 12 megapixel original file size from various Canon machines. With appropriate digital manipulations, resamplings, sharpenings and the like, one can produce wonderful images that no one but a very myopic person who can remove his or her eyeglasses as I can by the way and paste one's eye against the print to see the differential between a resampled and a straight image. The point is that one does not look at art that way...one stands at a reasonable distance and looks at the PRINT and not its microscopic artifacts any more than one looks at a drawing and zooms in on the smudges and subtextures that are, in essence, the physical limitations of any physical product. I have a hundred two foot by three foot prints and I forget which camera did what..I frankly do not care..if they look good... they look good and that is that. Sure, I ordered this new camera not to get even super sharper high res images per se but to give me the flexibility to be able to crop even more than I was able before without having to stand on my head in order to get the results that I get even now. It is more freedom to have more res..to throw away if necessary. I can see exactly what results I will get before I print on a 30 inch Apple screen and I am not ever surprised when I print on that large paper that even an 8 megapixel image resized and sharpened and the like looks wonderful. I think that purists amongst you might blanche at what I do to an original file but it matters not to me as I am first and foremost an artist and only secondarily an art photographer since I never leave my images alone in the first place but surely, the very first aspect of any of this is a fine camera with sufficient capabilities and after that, it is software and computer and printer and the knowledge of how to merge the various techniques together. In retrospect, even my 8 megapixel Canon 20D gave me more resolution than ANY 35mm camera could do unless I used Doku pan film ( remember that?) I am always struck by the gift of digital technology to us all. With 35mm, a 16 by 20 was, well, softish, grainy and just beyond the format. Now....the world is my oyster....Neil Fiertel

No matter how hard you try not to show bias, you just can´t do it. The Nikon did miss the leaves, but it clearly shows the jet contrails that the Sony does not see.

The thing that buffalo's me about DxOMark is: I can't figure out how they arrive at their sensor number! I've read all the descriptions of procedures but can't seem to find the Final Formula. So, is it voodoo, proprietary, what? And, horror, how does a D90 score better than a D300 even though the individual numbers are so close?

Given that both the Sony and Nikon big guns seem to be aimed at the same potential audience, I'm surprised to see such a difference in image quality. Certainly one camera will have better performance in low light, shadow detail or dynamic range but these images seem to show that the designers were pursuing very different goals for the look and feel of the final image.

The qualities of these two imaging instruments are not important to me unless they trickle down to something I can afford. I'll have to make do with my 40D until my ship comes in. Maybe a small interchangeable lens camera similar to the Panasonic G1 but with better build quality and more lens choices would be nice.

I'm sorry, but I never seen such a lousy test as this one.
you should be ashamed of putting on line anything so inaccurate as such you posted.
photos taken at different times of the day with completely different light and fairly different cropping.
no mentioning those very underexposed shots. then you wonder why so many people are concerned about noise. if they underexpose as much as you did on your example, they really need to be concerned about how to learn to take photos.
I do not see the point of showing such underexposed image, even if you need to prove something technical.
if you wanted to give an example of how bad photographers take photos, you really succeeded.

You need to read the text too, not just look at the pictures.

Mike J.

P.S. None of the pictures are underexposed.

As a D700 user, but more particularly as an AF-S Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 and AF-S Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 lens owner (read: "heavy investment," for me), I'm just happily waiting for the high-resolution Nikon body to be announced ... which should be any minute now! No solid evidence to support that prediction, but it should be soon. Not that I'll run out and buy it, but if it carries on the D3/D700 image quality and high-ISO prowess, *and* delivers, say, 24 megapixel resolution, it will be a force to reckon with.

Probably won't be cheap though. I hate it when that happens.

We've been mulling over the "What if the camera can see better than me?" question around the house lately. It started with Canon's "Highlight Tone Priority" feature. My question goes something like: "What if the camera can eliminate a blown-out highlight, say a reflection off a piece of chrome, that is clearly blown-out to the eye? Is that a desirable feature?" I'm not sure. Even painters sometimes portray blown-out highlights in their scenes - Edward Hopper comes to mind.

Now that camera manufacturers are upping the ISO's in new models, I wonder if I want a camera that sees in the dark. The easy answer is yes, then I can up the shutter speed and get more movement in my night shots. But what about static objects? I try and take pictures as I see them - as anyone else would see them, if they were at the same location, at the same time of day or night.

Of course, with a tripod and a long exposure, most any camera can see better than I can, but that's not the way I work. I've never had to think about it before. My inclination is to stay as realistic as possible, though I don't think there is a single answer to the question.


But which one will get you more chicks?

That is the question.

Hi Mike,

this is one of the best readings here. In my opinion it has two best parts in it. First the section "Shoot-to-carry", the other one is the section with your words about splitting photographers in pros and art photographers. (what about a poll if most readers here will call themselves art or pro ;))
I think you have extracted the essence of two outstanding cameras, and i think those too much technical reviews out there in web and printmedia mostly are not searching of such an essence. Respect.

As a camerasalesman i want to say that most FullFrame prospective customers are very impressed by the intuitive body layout and ergonomics of the A900 [but compared to the D700]

Compared with D3 & also D700 i would also choose the A900 but i have enough cameras :-D [yesterday i load a new film into my Minolta XE-1. On the mount the 35/1:1.8, yes i love this combo]

groove on

I can't speak for your other lens, but the AF-S 24-70 is superb.

Mike J.

Ahem... I do like the very personal way you state your viewpoints ! After all that's the whole interest of T.O.P.

Still, on such a passionate debate between A900 and D3 (or D700 as for D3 you should have to carry the A900 with the whole regalia of accessories), I had a flashback on the era when I had to choose between the ease of use of a M6 vs the Bronica SQ (I couldn't get a Hassy then). As for the load to carry on mountain slopes the M6 was a winner, but on the picture side the Bronica's negative did seem to give better prints...!

Of course the M6 was usually loaded with Tri-X and hand held, while the Bronica used some Ilford Pan F film and was often on tripod, so maybe this could explain that !

So, I would might state that for a camera about the weight and size of a good old FM2n (or FTB Ql), with Tri-X , I would go for a D700 and be quite happy with it... While for an Pan F on tripod (for seeing in the dark) I would vote for the A900!
The good news is that the two of them would be about the same size and weight (more or less), just as handy to use without the tripod (though not the same logic of menus and dials), and about the same picture quality between a Pan F and a Tri-X (HP 4 staying with Ilford)...

Of course in those times, one could use Pan F or even Technical Pan in a M6 and get some Tri-X in a 120 film format. Nowadays, you choose the sensor and have to get used to the camera built around it... Not as practical. But then it's almost nothing compared to the quarrel between the SLR's and the rangefinder's groupies. Not to speak of those who filed their negatives holder in the enlarger just to show they didn't reframe the negative...

In fact we are quite lucky to have at our disposal such a choice of cameras, choosing the one that suits the way one's shoot at the moment (the multi purpose, one lens "ruling them all", one ISO-auto setting, "affordable" camera being the famed "Deep range Kraken"myth sort).

Being more of the "snapshot" type (I'm not good enough to call it the decisive instant, yet), I'll get a D700 with some old Nikon F era lenses I have in stock and will admire those superb landscapes shot by A900's owners.

Good for you. It is just that sort of "mulling" that you need to do to come to grips with how YOU want your photographs to look. That's the hard part--"how" is usually pretty easy; but "what" and "why" are more the basis for expressive photography.

Mike J.

"But which one will get you more chicks?"

I don't know, but I can tell you the Nikon draws lots more looks and comments. Of course, they're usually from middle-aged guys, which may not be exactly the kind of attention you're looking for here....

Mike J.

"I don't know, but I can tell you the Nikon draws lots more looks and comments. Of course, they're usually from middle-aged guys, which may not be exactly the kind of attention you're looking for here...."

My point exactly! That thing is akin to driving around the city in a Ferrari. It doesn't bother me just makes me scratch my head.

(Big Smile)

Nice read Mike

You're on very shaky ground, Mike, in drawing any conclusions from your two pics of the trees. It's obvious that the Sony is going to show more sun since it was taken with the sun shining. The D3 shot wasn't as is evidenced from the complete absence of defined shadows. There must have been some time between these shots as well - minutes? hours? days? - as the sky is different.

There will be people looking at these two shots and thinking that the Sony is so much more impressive. I think you should really spell out the conditions under which each pic was taken and also make it clear that you can't compare one with the other as you have done. I'm a Pentax user so this is of largely academic interest to me but it wouldn't be right if some people out there were swayed one way or another by the belief that the Sony and Nikon were photographing the same scene under the same conditions. It would be ridiculous to think that two cameras with such close image quality were able to produce such widely differing interpretations of the same scene taken at the same time under the same light.

It's also a bit off to complain about the size of the D3/24-70 f2.8 combo and compare it with the "lots better" A900/35mm f2 outfit. The Nikon zoom is massive! No doubt the D3 would have been much better with a 35mm f2 stuck on the front of it as well.

If you're going to draw comparisons between two such cameras I think you have to make sure that test conditions are at least consistent.

I've just looked at the two tree pics again and have now noticed your satire alert! I was going to delete this comment as a result but then thought it was actually quite funny the way I was about to go off half-cocked so I've decided to post it to let people see what happens when you don't pay enough attention! It could be something to do with the fact that I'm just back from the pub having watched Scotland lose to Argentina and with three pints inside me...

Mind you, the comment still stands regarding the D/24-70mm v Sony/35mm!


A couple of questions Mike which I hope don't simply expose my ignorance - 1) was sharpening off in both cameras and 2) this was a comparion between 12 MP and 24 MP sensor cameras?
I ask b/c 1) sharpening can increase the impression of artefacts/pixelation can't it? and 2) wouldn't we expect the 24 MP to have better image detail than a 12 MP?
Thanks for a great site - always intersting, always stimulating.

A refreshing type of review. I only wish you would have taken the D3 shots in the same kind of light as the A900 shots. Also there are far fewer leaves on the tree. These 2 factors create a much less dynamic and colorful image.

Mike, I've been scanning my old B&W 35mm archive again recently (bleedin huge!) so have had an opportunity to peruse the film/digital thang again. Wow - all that grain - mostly from pushed Tri-x and HP4&5! I'd forgotten how in your face it was. (Doesnt mean I dont dig it tho).
Frankly, its obvious that we're talking about two different art forms here. (For me its a bit like the difference between playing accoustic and electric guitars).
I think its safe to say for most of us film has had its day. But that doesnt mean we cant go on loving it!
Dennis Fairclough

PS Mike...I think you need a small prize/accolade for post of the day. 'How many chicks' takes it for me.
My old Spotmatic II seemed to be modestly helpful re 'chicks'... but it coulda been the flares...!

PSS. While we're in the Film Universe. Any chance of some info on Film scanning?
I have a dedicated 35mm Scanner - Plustek i7200 with SilverFast dust/scratch removal. To my mind an excellent little machine... and the software is very, very helpful.
Be nice to know what other folks are using and getting results with. Worth some space on TOP you reckon? D.

Personally speaking I think we torture ourselves with all this pondering. We are at a point where digital is now a fully formed technology. There are now so many able cameras out there that we now develop analysis paralysis.

I only got into my current system when I was given a body and lens when my old faithful OM4 became a bit too erratic to rely on for professional work. When the first sub $2000 AUD DSLR came out I bought one. It wasn't a particularly thrilling camera but it turned out results that were ok but something was missing. I've now got a full frame camera with good high ISO performance (although I'm not the best to comment about this as I liked to use GAF 500), a dynamic range that is better than any chrome I used to use. I can't see myself upgrading for a while now, and will only do so when the camera wears out.

So my advice to any one (if they are interested) is be realistic. What are you really going to use your camera for? How do you really work? Largely I'm a one body one lens kind of guy, I like to move around and feel unencumbered. I don't shoot many frames per assignment, I want enough quality for an A3+ print, and I want full frame because I started out with film and think in terms of 35 mm lens lengths. So for 90% of what I do my camera is fine. Sure I can always lust after the the latest ubercameras, and I just talked myself out of an upgrade, but will I get anymore out of it? If bragging rights are important then do it, but if you are after images then lets be honest there are a number of good cameras on the market now.


An excellent and informative article - "informative" as opposed to "Lots of Charts & Graphs and pics of studio test setups." Not that there's anything wrong with the latter...

As the owner of a 28-75 2.8 K-M lens (currently mounted on an A100 that from it's picture quality seems to be blissfully unaware of it's obsolescence...) I'd like to know if you tried that lens on the A900 and if so what your impressions were. Thanks.

Steve G,
I wish I had, but I didn't. It turned out to be a very busy week for me--a death in the family in the middle of it. I had been planning to try the other two lenses I had for the A900 on the last day I had the camera, just before sending it back, but it rained. Bad luck.

Mike J.

David S.,
Again, it's really just an illustration of what I'm saying verbally in the text. Both frames did get the same processing. The image quality of the Nikon is exceedingly good--and would probably be enough for anybody who doesn't make huge prints, including me. But the Nikon has half the pixels of the Sony, and there's no denying that this gives an intrinsic edge to the Sony in some cases.

The Sony's image size will soon have some competition, in the Canon 5D Mk. II and the coming Nikon that's expected to use the same sensor as the A900. I'm not sure how many people really "need" this many megapixels, but it's certainly impressive to play around with. We've come a long, long way in the past 10 or 12 years.

Mike J.

I could have been Bruce Robbins (3 comments up), but still, he is absolutely right. That's what photography is all about -- light!! The Sony picture was taken at a time when the light was gorgeous - likely the last rays of fall sunlight from the side. The Nikon picture was taken when the picture should not have been taken. Even with your Satire Alert, the pictures didn't tell the right story.

Oh, on the shoot to carry ratio -- just 1 hint: do not carry the D3 round your neck!! Yes, it's like a chainsaw if you do. The camera was designed to be carried in your hand(s), not round your neck. I usually carry the D3 as a walk around camera in my hands and I never feel it. Trust me, it is so well designed for your hands that it feels like part of yourself. When you are not shooting, carry the camera in a backpack, not in a shoulder bag.


Your comparison pictures could have been more effective if like in all of the flash diffuser demos your subjects could frown with hard flash and smile with the new diffuser added. With regards to DXO I am always concerned when somebody develops a test and related statistic to quantify something that is difficult at best to describe. As we are both old audio people, how much "Air" did the sony have in comparison to the Nikon, did the reduced sampling sound er... look a tad more harsh?

Damn if Bosendorfer didn't have that extra "A" I could have been satisfied with a Steinway.

With that said, I hope to get a D700 soon. I have to admit I have rarely exposed at higher than ISO 200 in 40 years. And the thought of it could provide some new direction.

Not only does the Sony bring out the sun more but I'd like to know what processing magic they use to add more leaves to the tree. I suspect some fractal based algorithms are in play and if we're heading this way in future cameras then I'm waiting for the models with built-in CGI functions. He he.

I think you'll have some serious fun with that. I remember when I started shooting T-Max P3200. According to my film tests its real speed was I.E. 1000 (it was actually unrated), but my standard up till then had been Tri-X at E.I. 200. So the faster film gave me a real 2 1/3 stops advantage. It was very freeing, and I kinda went wild with it, shooting in "available darkness" at every opportunity.

The D700, if it's like the D3 as everybody says, will easily lap P3200. The D3 is cruising effortlessly at 1600, and 3200 is perfectly usable (although I say that having not made any prints yet). You'll have some serious fun with all the new things you'll be able to do, I'm confident.

Let us know once you've used it for a while, will you?

Mike J.

Chris S,
It's a Time Filter.

Mike J.

That was one of the most intelligent camera reviews I have ever read. Anyway to convince you to write more? Especially on a couple of cameras that us mere mortals can afford. Thanks.

The pixels on digital sensors are discrete whereas film emulsion is continuous. So as we cram more and more pixels into same area, are we approaching towards film emulsion like continuity in digital sensors? Your remarks about A900 files having that something extra (film-like qualities) make me wonder.

I still think you should try out a 5D or 5D MkII some time....


thats why i got the D700 .. they fixed that sun/leave problem and i guess by the time you get to review the D700 you might enjoy the new winter/snow mode the wizards at nikon built into it. they also promised a firmware upgrade for spring.

Stunning article, Mike.

And great fun reading the replies: what a refreshing time, to read comments from people enabled for the irony and good humour, as opposed to pixel peepers taking themselves too seriously all the time.

THIS is the kind of stuff I prefer: subjective opinions, very well explained, from informed people who are not ashamed to admit their subjectivity; further: I consider the informed subjectivity an absolute plus in any text.

It really makes a big contrast with the bullshit disguised of objective measuring, that is posted at other places (and receives thousands of visits per day!)

Fractal based algorithms?
Time filter?

What if it was instead the special formulation of glass used in newer high-end Nikkors?
Some rumours have arisen about trichlorophenoxyacetic crystals in Nano Crystals coatings, which have quite special properties (not the least among them to make fluorite seem outdated)...

Anyway, the truth is out there : there are still fall foliage on some species here in France (Populus in front of my window are of a gorgeous golden yellow).

Thanks for all!

PS : Btw, what do the bulls say?

Charlie hit the nail on the head. The Nikon picks up the chicks you want to take pictures of, but the Sony picks up the kind who will carry your tripod for you. Hmmm...

The Nikkor 14-24 is astounding.

The Sony/Zeiss 24-70 is also pretty dang good. But then you're back to the Skilsaw around the neck.

I'll note the Nikon 24-70 is smaller and lighter than the Sony 24-70 (which is a monster and really needs the grip to balance right on an A900). The D700 combo (Same camera as a D3 in a A900 sized body) will be a lot better size-wise as the D700 is the same size as and marginally heavier than a A900.

That Minolta 28-75 you've got (read Tamron as it's just a rebadged Tamron 28-75) is known as the smallest and lightest normal f2.8 zoom by a fair margin.

Frankly, anybody who sent you a D3 to review, knowing your biases towards smaller cameras, made a clear mistake. You'd be much happier with the D700 which offers the same IQ, metering and AF in the more compact body.

This example is ridiculous, and clearly incorrect for me.
In the second instance, the two photos are shot not only at different times, in the first full day with sun and the second side after sunset, but several days away. Look at the leaves on the central plan, are at the top still present, and many are on the ground, in the photo below are both almost disappeared that under the tree. Compare thaths two pictures is absurd. thanks, and sorry for my english.

It was a joke. That's what "satire alert" means...I didn't have the two cameras at the same time. I realize humor doesn't translate very well.

Mike J.


First, many thanks for this report. As a former D3 owner I am looking forward to reading more as I, like many others, highly value your opinion.

I am in total agreement with your “shoot-to-carry” theory and the D3’s performance in that regard was the main reason I down-sized to a D700. I think you will grade that camera much higher. I would also recommend that you lose the 24-70 mm. That is also a beast and can’t be compared to a 35 mm f/2 combo. For the D700 try Nikon’s new 50 mm 1.4 AFS (assuming that it is available).

Finally, I admit that I was a bit disappointed. From the pair of tree pictures the Sony is the clear winner here. I was shocked since I never noticed this with my D3. Oh well.


Great post. Enjoyed it very much, probably because I did not put the humor filter in front of my eyes (I mean, come on, people!).

I always suspected Nikons showed less sunlight, and leaves. I think that latter bit translates to hair, so I am going to make sure no Nikon toting photogs shoot any portraits of me! I want to accentuate what I have left -- and I hate phtoshopping it in!

It's hilarious how so many miss the point of this review by seriously comparing the two tree images above. I personally think this type of review is a nice change of pace, because there really isn't much between any of the sensors new FF cameras, and user experience is more important to me than which camera has 1/3 stop better noise handling. A smallish, well built 24MP camera with the best viewfinder out there and built in IS looks good to me.

It kills me how many people skimmed the article and focused on the 2 trees. Clearly you took them at different times and probably on a different day. The test was merely there to show a benefit of higher MP counts.

Did they really expect 12MP to do the same job as 24MP in regards to detail and resolution? I can't believe some folks are still arguing that more mega pixels don't equal more detail. These are 2 different cameras that are good for specific needs.

Anyway...Great Review!

Mike, a good article and one which resonates with my experience in a number of ways.

I recently took some big test prints to the office for giving away and the first comment I had from a colleague who aslo shoot was, 'wow, it sees better than me!'. Later that evening I saw your A900 post.

The other night I opened up a file for processing. The shot was from a summer trip to Norway and contained an old barn. Click to 100% and my first thought - not having looked at the file number - was 'oh no, I thought I'd shot that with the ds3. There is a very real difference in the available resolution at 21Mp compared to the 12.x of the 5D and it's visible sooner than you might think as print sizes go up - I reckon at 15 by 10 you will start see a difference, albeit small. Having said that I've made 3ft by 2ft prints from a 5D.

In terms of shoot to carry ratio I've also been shooting a lot with a zeiss ikon and 50 c-sonnar or 35 voigtlander. A perfect carry around combination. It's fun to shoot some film again and isn't grain obvious even in FP4, but I like the alternative look for some things.

I wasn't even going to compare film to digi, but I cou;dn't resist the opportunity to do a very unscientific test a couple of months back. I shot a wide open scene on my AE1 with a canon 50 1.8 lens using Tmax 400 (new one) and later compared it with the same shot from my GX100. The little Ricog digi clearly out resolved the canon tmax combo when viewing writing on a wall (appropriate?) across the Thames.

However, I just use what I feel like and don't worry now. As someone said, we have an embarrasment of riches.


About the A900 which you would like to have, but for which you cannot get yourself to drop 3 grand, how about letting us readers contribute to this? I read your articles here, on photo.net and in Black&White Photography, and I would be more than happy to contribute $20 to see you pick up this great camera, a continuation of your 7D which I recall you loved so much. If you set up some kind of PayPal link or something, anyone who, like I, feel that you have given me much more than we have given back would get a chance to do something for you. Perhaps if the differential price drops far enough, you would then feel good about paying the rest, in spite of the looming obsolescence of it?

By the way, I count myself among those who feel compelled to point out that there is no such obsolescence for cameras which you simply enjoy using and want to continue to use, like your 7D. There is no need to upgrade. Sony is huge, and is not likely to go out of business, so maintenance should be available for a very long time.

"Your comment about the D3 "seeing in the dark" which I guess is due to its ability to integrate photons over a time period, made me wonder why human (or other species) eyes/brains have not evolved some ability to integrate over time. Seeing better in the dark would seem to have a strong survival benefit, at least in the past. As I understand it eyes only vary in size,the number of rods and cones, and better reflective surfaces etc."

To some extent our night vision does get better over time. For example, after about 20 minutes outside in the dark, assuming no bright lights, you sensitivity will be noticably higher than when you went outside. Dark Adaptation is the term for this, a phenomena well known to amateur astronomers.

And of course, the "night vision" capabilities of different animals, varies.

But on an evolutionary landscape, significantly increased sensitivity through integration, so to speak, over time would seldom confer a significant benefit. In animals the potential benefit of good night vision is finding something to eat, or avoiding being that something to eat. So the necessity to move, and hence move the head, etc, probably negates advantage to a "slow exposure" build-up.

Thank you very much for the kind sentiment, but I can have no complaint about the generosity of my readers just as things stand. You would not believe the many kindnesses I receive from so many people...contributions, participation on the site, loans of equipment, responses to book recommendations, compliments, all sorts of things--even daily contributions to my continuing education!

A few years ago I did went through a strange experiment. I was poor, unemployed, struggling, and I felt unhappy constantly, to the point that I sometimes felt angry about it. So I started what amounted to a sort of self-administered cognitive therapy. I realized that instead of focusing on what I *didn't* have, I could focus my thoughts on what I *did* have. Instead of being annoyed in the grocery store because shopping is a chore, I tried to think of all the people around the world who don't have enough to eat, or who have to wait in line for food, and what an unthinkable luxury it is to be able to buy such a variety of food on what amounts to a whim. Instead of being envious when nicer, newer cars passed me by, I started thinking of how many people in the world don't have cars--even the people in America who ride the bus--and how much I actually liked the one I have. Instead of thinking about how seldom I get to go on vacation, I started to pay attention to how many people in the world have never been on board an airplane, and to feel lucky for all the places I *have* seen.

I realize that this is the farthest thing from earth-shaking...it's just a "profound cliché," little more than the old maxim about counting your blessings. But it gradually has had just an amazing effect on my happiness. I haven't changed all that much, and my situation has not changed all that much. But I seem to have shed my old habits of toxic thinking, my old acquisitiveness and desire and envy. It's really quite astonishing, how such a small thing could make such a large difference.

This is a typically long-winded way of giving a simple response, I know, but the plain fact is that, nice though your thought is (in itself, a bit of a gift), nobody owes me such a thing, singly or collectively! I feel very fortunate already--more than justly compensated for the work I do. Thanks, though!

Mike J.

As a habitual printer in the small size realm (8x10ish) of low ISO setting images, I am always interested to see information about different sensors re those uses. But it is not easy to always find the information relevant to me, since the conversation seems to revolve around high ISO settings and big prints.

I have been having some fun though of late doing night-time landscapes/urban 'scapes, with a 10mp camera, set at 1600 & 3200 (which is beyond its capabilities) and using the noise and compressed DR for weird effects.

There something I don´t understand.
How comes that everyone is praising and raving about the Nikon high iso capabilities, when they are cheating THAT much?

What I mean is were we looking at the ISO chart comparison, see that the D700 and D3 are indeed using a ISO 2070 [circa] when choosing the ISO 3200 set. Can somebody explain me why this happens, and why there is such a big difference between the set value and the real value?

Now, I know that all the cameras do this, but surprisingly the rest of the bunch I checked do this more accurately.

If anything this is not for being controversial, I just want to know. It leaves the real ISO almost one stop closer to the lower value than to the higher one. And this is a crucial factor, as far as many other DLSR´s are struggling to go past 1600 ISO -read: they do 1600 ok-ish, but die hard on 3200-.

I see that when taking the comparison shots of the tree between the Sony and the Nikon you had time to shake more leaves off the tree, rake all of them up, move all the park benches to the center of the lawn, pull the camera back farther for poor framing, and wait for a cloud to obscure the sun.

Clearly the Sony is better at detecting color.

Ah, but you missed something--as Clayton pointed out, the Nikon was the only camera that could record the contrail. Conclusion: Nikons are better contrail cameras.

Mike J.

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