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Tuesday, 28 August 2018


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I've become quite blase about ultimate image quality. Forming a clear sense of what I want to do with the pictures I make helped a lot. I think many people have lost sight of this benchmark, or don't ever think about it. If you're only ever going to look at your pictures on your phone, or perhaps your computer, then chasing image quality is a near-total waste of time for most people given how good cameras are today. (OK, if you're shooting birds in flight and planning to crop most of the picture away, I'll grant those extra pixels are worth chasing.)

For me, just thinking of the print as the end use made a huge difference. I know what I need to make a print of a certain size, and I'm not susceptible to the argument "What if you want to make a humungous print sometime that needs 3x the resolution?"

To your previous point, the Fuji X-T2 with my old-timey Olympus OM lenses hits that sweet spot for me. The camera fits well in my hands, and I can practically operate it blindfolded now. The image quality my equipment produces is just right for the biggest print I can make on my 17" printer. It's all good.


I suggest the ultimate image quality guys and the sharpness police take a good look at photos by Cartier-Bresson. Many of his best photos are less sharp than his Leica was capable of, but of course the decisive moment doesn't wait for you to set up a tripod and so forth. That fact doesn't seem to devalue his work.

Oh, and he did everything with at most a 36 exposure roll. So really, do you need two card slots?

I really aim to get to be like you, Mike. Cuz this perfectionism is driving me nuts!
Just for one thing, I know that even the Z6 would be overkill for me, but I still want the Z7.

It’s like this black girl I saw in town today, young, slim, perfect, stunning, hot. We’d have nothing to give to each other or talk about, but damn I wanted her.

Many camera heads buy cameras they don’t even really use. (I’ve done a bit of that.) You could say that it’s a waste of a good camera. But, heck, the industry can build as many as they want. And if they sell more, they can sell them cheaper to those who can use them.

I'd like a little more info about the guy who was printing with automotive paints.

Holga has worst pretty well all tied up, what else are they going to do?

I don't tend to chase the ultimate anything -- not as a photographic enthusiast nor as an automotive gearhead. But I must admit the idea of the ultimate archival stability is appealing - within reason.

I say this because it's still a thrill to look at black-and-white family photos from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. It would be nice to think that a good chunk of images that I capture will still be around 70-to-100 years from now.

Digital doesn't make it easy - with constant migration to new platforms required. And, given the luddite approach to most things taken by so many of my family members, I am not optimistic.

Carefully stored prints still seem to be the best bet.

Amazing how I agree with the wisdom inherent in your posts when the ideas you express most closely align with my own. ;)

I have been enjoying playing around with the Pentax K-1 for the past six months or so, and I think I have stated in TOP comments how much I like the design sense behind that camera. But the image files are freaking HUGE! Honestly the 12-something MP of the Nikon D3/and the 18-something MP of the Leica M9 are about as much image quality as I can use. Even then, I wind up throwing away some pixels to resizing so that I can get files to a manageable size for my needs.

Now the following will reveal how far down the rabbit hole of file size I have gone, but I think that the march of "progress" -- well the seemingly inexorable march, anyway -- will mean that that the Zed-files may seem small-medium, given enough time. What I mean by that is that I was astonished by the file size and quality of the Nikon D3/Leica M9 when they came out and those files seem slender by today's "standard." Whether or not the resolution is needed (or, "needed") is up to the consumer, I suppose.

I bet all of us can find images that we love on our own hard-drives that were taken with "lesser" cameras. I found one recently from 2005 that I made with the Epson RD-1. Wonderful photograph. I can't even remember what that chip's resolution was. 6 MP? It was enough.

But was it enough in all situations? Used to be that you had your 35mm camera for snapshots, your 6x6cm camera for "serious work" and your LF camera for when your had minions, a hand-truck, or a mule to carry your gear. But I vaguely remember that if your Nikon F4 with 50/1.4 was $x, that your Hasselblad 501 C/M with 80/2.8 was around $2.5x and your Canham 4x5 with 210 Sironar and Gitzo tripod was $3.5x.

Now your iPhone is free or $x (that is, you already bought it to use as a phone, and you got a camera for nothing), your "serious" digital camera is $2.5x and your professional medium format back is $20x. Maybe there is a market "slot" for the Z7 and its file size and pricing are sort of dictated by the other players in the game. That is, you have to compete with Sony, but you don't want to cannibalize your own customer base. (?) I should phrase this last as a question, rather than a statement because I have no idea how it really works.

I do know that when one of those new Nikons inevitably makes its way into my crowded camera cabinet that -- at this point -- it will be in spite of the sensor resolution rather than because of it. The Pentax K-1 is already giving me electron-agita . . . and MAN do I not want to migrate my photo programs and storage to a new desktop. Ugh.

Its going to be hard to comment on this specifically given that "ultimate image quality" has not been defined here or by Nikon, nor anyone else now that I think about it, and I doubt that it is due to a couple of attributes, e.g. resolution or MTF chart performance.

I will say that certain cameras have a look that is hard to describe that I like very, very much, even though these cameras would not be regarded as representative of ultimate image quality.

Two of these are the original 12 megapixel Canon 5D and the 16 megapixel Fuji X-Pro1 (in fact, I just bought a used, like new, X-Pro1 because I sold mine in 2016. Stupid!). Something about the original 16 megapixel X-Trans sensor and image processing engine of the X-Pro1 has very wonderful quality to it, particularly for B&W conversions. Trying to describe the qualities of the 5D and X-Pro1 seems to be a contradiction in terms, but the only way I can describe it is a "detailed creaminess".

The other two cameras whose look I like very much are the Fuji X100F and GFX50S. Interestingly, the look of the X100F is very much like the GFX50S, though I haven't been able to figure out why. Regardless, both are flat-out gorgeous.

In many respects, I find this inability to put experience into words is much like high-end audio. I can't very well describe verbally why I love the sound of my Koetsu Urushi Vermilion moving coil cartridge more than a Lyra Atlas, or my Conrad-Johnson tube gear more than solid-state Soulution components, but I do.

Regardless, these cameras and audio components have attributes that are hard to describe, but which create create engaging and beguiling experiences.

And its the experiences that matter.

I remember when I first saw the incredible Navigation By Numbers by Wynn Bullock- the IQ alone blew me away! No way I was ever gonna get that with 35mm, but there were a helluva lot of other things I could do with it, and I gradually learned to make my peace with it...

As a prospective purchaser of a Nikon Z6, I am a touch miffed that 'UltimateImage Quality' is the initial marketing...and design...paradigm for the Z (or is it the S-Line) lenses. Why? Because 'UIQ' these days means large lenses with 13 or 17 elements to accomplish that UIQ. Smaller camera? Yes. Larger lenses? No. Please...no. It will, apparently, fall to Cosina and Zeiss to supply the small, non-autofocus lenses that I want for my smaller, more compact 24x36 Nikon.

That's flagship talk, isn't it? I mean, every Big needs to have an "ultimate image quality" lens and body combo, to show off their chops, and to cast a golden aura on the whole product line.

In fact, reading through the "A Few More Thoughts ..." thread the other day, one might get the impression that Nikon had decided to become a Flagship Brand, like Leica, but for non-wealthy people, with one or two less zeroes on the sticker prices.

It may not be a bad idea, given how the market has passed Nikon by. Now, somewhere between the high end of mass market and the boutique brands, there just might be a niche for a working pro's system with a familiar name and legendary reputation--a slightly dusty one, perahps, but without any "luxury good" or "electronics-maker" baggage, either.

If it works, their newly polished aura may even give them a way back into the high mass market.

Well , what would you have Nikon’s engineers do?
They have a long history of making fine lenses ( and some clunkers too).
They have labored under a lens mount that requires work around.
Now they have a new mount that gives them more freedom. Should they ‘dumb it down and have the internet awash with mediocre lens talk? Or should they make the best lenses they know how to make.
I got the impression that they were not only going for sharpness but fine balanced lenses . All lenses have characteristics that draw us to them or send us looking elsewhere.
As you say, it’s a personal choice.
Let the lenses come and decide if you like them, - or not
We all have lenses that we like that may not be sharp in the corners, but draw faces beautifully. Nothing wrong with that.
But as a design goal when launching a new system that will be picked apart in a hundred different ways I don’t think you can fault them for aiming to make image quality the best they can.
“Image quality is of course subjective, but these are people with lots of experience making lenses.
Wasn’t the design goal at Zeiss when they designed their Otis very similar?
Not everyone needs or wants an Otis, but if you do it’s there.

As for not aspiring to do your best because in 5 years technology will be better, I don’t get that one.

We’ll only know the answer when we take pictures with them

Lloyd Chambers said: I want my images I take to fill an 8K display. Accordingly, I have nil interest in 24-megapixel cameras. https://bit.ly/2BWiyxs

Henri Cartier Bresson said: Sharpness is a bourgeois concept. https://bit.ly/2oigeY3

c.d.embrey (who isn't a philistine gear-head) says: Resolution and sharpness doesn't matter. Lighting and composition are what's important.

Has anyone (outside of online photo-nerd forums) ever said, "Wow! What an amazing photo! It's a pity the corner sharpness isn't as good as the center", or similar critique of marginal differences (to a non-nerd or connoisseur)? I don't know when the technical specifications of photographic output first exceeded the reasonable expectations of the vast majority of the consumers of photographs, but I suspect it was quite a while ago now.

Would not the ultimate image quality camera need to be paired with with the ultimate large screen or large print? We would need to compare it to the second best camera using the ultimate in image viewing. But even if we did not compare it to the competition, do we need it with regards to how the image will be viewed?

Most hobbyist, and likely many professionals will never have their images viewed on huge prints. Screens might be a little different. Somebody might look at your image on a computer screen deemed high quality for image editing/viewing. Clients might view their wedding photos on their big screen TV. But does it meet the standards of the photographer's computer screen carefully chosen with editing in mind? Do I need the ultimate camera, or one that is "sufficient" given how my images will be viewed?

Ultimate image quality might mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I read a message left by a photographer on an online forum, stating that she was less concerned about overall sharpness than she was about how the lens rendered images. Bokeh and the transitions from in-focus to out-of-focus areas (and vice versa) are often more important to photographers than how many line pairs per millimetre a lens can resolve. Similarly, I like sharp images, but I also like smooth out-of-focus areas in my photos as well. That a lens can deliver those qualities, whether it's a "Zed" lens or other lens, is all I really care about.

I was happy with ISO400 film. Call me traumatised by having used cameras before 1990, but I have no clue what people in 2018 are arguing about when they talk about 'image quality' while grabbing their phone to film 480fps slomo.

If you ask me, since 2010 pretty much any camera is good enough by any practical means, and some 6 years ago with the D800 you could even take photos in the dark.

I see meaningful differences in style, design, usability. But 'image quality' - come on..

This very issue arose for me last month. I decided to re-view a library of images that I shot in Cuba in February 2001. For that trip, I decided to shoot exclusively with my new Nikon D1 and its whopping 2.7 megapixel files. As a side-note, it was very interesting to see how much differently I viewed the images now. My tastes have changed from when I originally edited these images.

That camera produced images that are 4x6 at 300dpi. And I was limited to shooting almost all jpgs because shooting RAW in those days was somewhat unwieldly. But in the end, a good photograph is good and a bad photograph bad. I recently uploaded some images from my "new" edit: https://500px.com/johngillooly

I think I'm missing the point here. (Cool car pic tho). So a guy sez, I've got the best, ultimate quality, say rain gear (I'm in the PNW), or maybe binoculars (am. birder), or maybe kitchen blender. Whatever. But, he sez further, 'I want to be honest with you, probably in a few years there will be something better available'. So I say I don't want it then??? What am I not understanding.

Thx Mike

Ray H.

Here's some food for thought: total system resolution is roughly the inverse square root of (1/Rc^2 + 1/Rl^2), where Rc is the resolution of the camera, and Rl is the resolution of the lens.

An interesting prediction of that formula is that as one factor gets higher, it's ultimately limited by the other factor. For example, using a lens of very high resolution on a camera of lower resolution allows you to approach using all of that camera's native resolution, and vice-versa.

Another interesting prediction is that if you use "matched" components of equal resolution, you get approximately 70% of the resolution of either component. So in order to use all of a camera's resolution, you must use a lens that can significantly resolve more than the camera's sensor.

So perhaps there's some justification for producing über-lenses?

RIP Nikon (I fear).

I am always concerned about image quality. Attaching the modifier "ultimate" doesn't add anything.

In the film days I used a 4x5 view camera and knew that the only limitation in resolution and contrast range was the film; no need to read spec sheets of cameras or update lenses. They were indeed good enough. I hauled the equipment up mountains and had 23" Cibachrome prints made of glaciers that have long disappeared. My back doesn't allow me to do this anymore and getting sheet film developed in Switzerland is nearly impossible. I converted very late to digital when the D800 came out. Printing images larger than 16" there are visible resolution limits coming from the lenses and lack in color separation stemming from the Beyer sensor. Where we are heading can be seen with the announcement of the Phase One IQ4, albeit and as always, at astronomic prices and with the disadvantages of larger formats. Therefore, any improvement due to lens design and sensor architecture is welcome. Then I don't care about one or two card slots and the smiling-cat-face autofocus. But I agree, for all those who don't print, we have long surpassed sufficiency. And if a composition sucks at 40 MP is sucks twice at 80 MP.

Not a comment on the product, just what I think of when I hear the word "Zed" : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smSuFjJez1o

If 35mm film is the base line for "good enough"... then...

Digital cameras have been "good enough" maybe since 2005. Almost certainly since 2007 (D700), and truly almost certainly since 2010.

Pretty soon the digital camera in your phone will be "good enough".

"Super plus better than good enough" is not all that interesting.

Definitely good enough and smaller is much more interesting.

The bass horn mention reminded me of Taliesin West. I would have sworn that the cabaret theater at Taliesin West had a flexible stage floor to help with acoustics but I can't seem to find any mention of it.

This could be considered a comment on the previous post: "Goldilocks, meet Fuji", but it is only coincidental that for me (YMMV) Fujifilm has nicely fitted their X-T, X-Pro, and especially X-100 cameras to my personal 'sweet spot'. My comment is on the pleasures of reaching the ostensibly mature age of 70 and developing a clear vision of where my sweet spot is located. (I don't for an instant declare that I will never develop a new purpose for my photography, nor that I may not want another camera system to achieve that purpose … but it's becoming increasingly unlikely.)

I know the maximum size I want to print. I know how much weight I'm willing (and able) to lug around, and how much complexity I'm prepared to struggle with.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not pining for 'the good old days'; I love digital photography. Viewfinder histograms are a dream come true. As my eyesight fails auto-focus is becoming a necessity. (At this point I don't have Mike's "yips" so OIS is not as important as I once thought it would be. Besides, my best photographs have usually been shot from a tripod, so OIS is, in reality, a seductive temptation to lure me away from the quest for quality.)

I'm not yearning for bigger or better technology to enable me to do new things. I'm at the stage where I need to practice, practice, practice to do old things better.

There are still a couple of lenses out there (and one on Fuji's 'road map') that will draw my attention … if I set out on a project that calls for them. But at the moment I have neither the need nor the desire for new equipment.

There are numerous discussions on the web debating whether this or that digital imaging system has "finally matured". Now that I have finally begun to mature, it's not a question that interests me much.

Ultimate image quality is hardly the point, Mike. The point, surely, is the potential for producing UIQ when you require it.

I have recently posted a comment on another site that's pertinent to this: if you consider the new Nikon high mp version as a tool, then it would make the copying of a reasonable library of transparencies larger than 135 format easier and less expensive that going the scanning route. Also, with 6x6 trannies, you would be using a lot more pixels in that central sensor area than lesser cameras can offer.

In no way does the avilable UIQ have to be something one pursues every time the camera goes into action; it's just a nice feeling that it's there if you need or just want it per se.

Just like horsepower, then.

I don't care for "image quality" above a certain level. For instance, I recently had the opportunity to take pictures with my wife's iPhone 6s. While using it is fun, looking at the resulting files isn't (at least not for me). On the other hand, the new Nikon cameras and lenses - while certainly very good - are so much over the top for my current needs that I can't rationalize a purchase.

It's like "bench racing:" hot rodders talking about the amazing horsepower their cars put out.

Then they drive home in the traffic at 25 MPH.

But if I understand the reason behind the new mount, it was developed in order to allow for a tremendous step up in optical quality of the lenses. How noticeable that step will be remains to be seen...although early reports about the prime lenses are encouraging. I love my Fuji system but am occasionally frustrated by the unusual nature of the x-trans sensor and the extra step of passing some files through iridient to get the best possible image. I still have a Nikon DSLR and many lenses for that reason. What I have grown accustomed to with my x system is shooting from the LCD and the additional info in the EVF; something now available to me in the Nikon ecosystem. I am intrigued with the idea of getting a Z6 and the adapter for those reasons with at least one native Z mount lens to start....

Moving up from 35mm to Pentax 645 and Mamiya C330 in my wedding photography in the late 20th century gave me "ultimate image quality". Never had any complaints about the 20" x 30" prints.... Then using Pentax 67 for aerial photography gave me more than "ultimate image quality" ... just shot an aerial job on Canon 5D3 with Tamron 24-70. Quality much better than Pentax 67. All I'll need. Shoot weddings with Oly E-M1 and am happy with results because with two light bodies and fabulous lenses, I can concentrate on getting great expressions, which, to me, are far more important than "ultimate image quality". Don't need anything higher, ..... (yet !). Great post, Mike.

Many years ago when I started as a high tech salesman, I joined a fellow salesman, Vince, making a call in New York City. This guy was a quintessential New Yorker. He dressed in the latest fashions and was well-groomed. He knew his way around the city.
As we walked down the street, I commented on how fashionable all the NYC men and women were. He says, "In New York, no matter how cool you think you are, you'll see someone cooler on every block."
Same here. No matter how much IQ your camera has, or prestigious your car is, somebody will have something better. Get over it!

A few years back I wrote an essay for this blog about ideal print sizes (give me a little rope here.) I suggested that it would be profitable to look at the size of famous paintings, because paintings are visually-oriented, flat physical objects that hang from a wall, like photographs, but painters were not restricted in sizes by paper and enlargers produced by manufacturers in standard sizes. They could make their paintings any size or shape they wanted, from gigantic (Sistine Chapel) to tiny lockets that a woman could wear around her neck. But the vast majority tended to fall within a certain size range, because they were "human sized." They were made to fit human vision, human rooms, etc., the way most photographic prints were not.

I think this is what Nikon is getting at, and it's a good thing. They are going for the ultimate human-sized image quality. For human-sized photos (that is, photos that we would keep on the wall in our home) you don't need more than X resolution, because your eyes can't see better than that. You don't need military satellite lenses or sensors, because our eyes can't see the differences they'd make. There are also other human limitations -- camera size and weight being two. So you take all the components, both the physical (size, weight, ergonomics, etc.) and physics-al (sensor abilities, lens quality) and you go for the point NOT that's "good enough," but where more quality wouldn't make any difference because you can't see it in human-sized photographs.

As for Mike and Eamon not having their boats floated by ultimate quality, well, you can easily degrade quality in post processing, but it's a hell of a big problem to find more quality if you don't have it to begin with.

I've been through many iterations of digital since I first bought this - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Sony_Cyber-shot_cameras#/media/File:Sony_Cyber-shot_DSC-F1_CP%2B_2011.jpg

When I got to the Canon EOS5D in 2006 I think that was good enough for me, and probably remains so for most uses, although I continued through 5d MkII/II, Leica M8/9, current 24-35mb cameras. etc etc.

Here's a random 5D shot from 2006


Good timing! You wrote this on a day when Phase One and Sony collaborated on a 150 megapixel leviathan. Who needs a picture that big? Who needs a camera that costs over 50 grand without lenses? Wasn't 100 megapixels enough? When will it end?

"...the Zed series (that was for you UK readers)..."
Replace UK with the rest of the English speaking world.

[What! You mean everyone else gets it wrong too?? --Mike]

(Rather ironic that you posted this musing on the day that Phase One publicly announced the new standard in “ultimate image quality”; the IQ4 150 (150 mp) digital back.). At $55,000 for the back, surely it brings the best “image quality”?

It’s one of the grandest of all fallacies in photography that sharpness and color fidelity equates to “image quality”. It never has. It never will. If only “image quality” could be so easily acquired. Most, maybe all, of the greatest photographs were made by cameras that the amateur community today wouldn’t pee on if they were found on fire. (And, indeed, some of those cameras could catch fire!)

But I understand all the nonsense Nikon is using to promote its new cameras. Good for them.

"Ultimate image quality" year-by-year is putting one foot in front of the other. Progress, it is. With the inevitable gains in photographic capture goodness comes greater latitude for artistic expression, a larger playing field for image grading. I am smiling, pleased with Nikon's step-up to the challenge of greatness.

Nikon's goal appeals to me greatly because it means they're pushing boundaries. This will ultimately benefit us all. Although I'm not in the market for the Z system, I'm rooting for Nikon, and every
other camera company, to keep raising the bar and offering us new and amazing products, even if I don't need (or can afford) some of those products.

I just hope I'm one of the first to get the Z6. I'm excited, and that's coming from someone that favored Canon over Nikon.
I dunno...But I think Canon is gonna Blow it. It may be everything I want from the Z6, but slightly better everything, then WHAM!!
It has a Fully Articulated Screen.
Probe me wrong Canon.

And lastly, why won't Panasonic give us the LX100 with a fixed 20mm lens? Just call it the LX20, charge me $799 and call it a day?

When all this novelty wave is gone, the Z6 and Z7 will be OK cameras and the new line of lenses, will be fairly good lenses. Keep working with what you have, these new cameras will do nothing to improve your photography. I'm with Ken Tanaka on this.

Mike- I think its wise not to pursue “ultimate image quality” by itself, but i think doing a comparison with the moving targets is still playing in the domain of this pursuit.

I think the reason pursuing image quality by itself isnt or shouldnt be that hot is simply because its not really what makes a photograph a great photograph. It all depends on what a photographer does, wants to do, what domain to work on. And the bodies wth the said ultimate image have implications depending on whats the domain a photograpger works and wants to do. Same with smaller ones.

Funny thing- worse image quality can become on some works part of the style of the art work, and putting ultimate image quality there can ruin it.

This would be like having The Lord Of The Rings printed on real nice paper vs ok paper- but what matters is the written work, not the technical quality on where its printed. Why bother with the search for ultimate paper and pen to write the same boring stuff because of a lack of focus on what matters?

To paraphrase an old saying about photography, ultimate image quality has little to do with creating the ultimate quality image.

Whenever I feel a sense of anxiety or dissatisfaction regarding my gear, or worse yet I feel GAS manifesting from reading too many articles online, I find the the best way to disarm all that is by snapping some photos and then printing those photos. The printing is important. When I do this I'm reminded that my gear is quite good enough, and in my case anyway, getting better gear won't help me make better images. Sometimes I think I might be happy with something like that new Panasonic LX100 just to keep things simple.

People have a real soft spot for quality lenses, so if Nikon’s new primes get a good reputation people will buy them, even if they are a little larger and more expensive than some. It’s like being a so-so guitar player and spending a couple grand on a Martin. The feel and tone of the instrument gives you pleasure, even if your playing doesn’t do much for anyone else.

The tool a creator uses is of zero interest to the audience. A reader won’t care if an author uses a word processor, a typewriter, a fountain pen or a stick in the dirt. The only thing that matters is the story the words tell. Someone looking at a painting won’t care if the painting is oil or acrylic, what brand brush the painter used, or the type of canvas used. The same with photography - viewers don’t care what camera/sensor/lens was used. They only care, and rightly so, about the reaction they have to the photograph. Robert Capa’s photographs of D-Day were technical disasters, yet some of the most powerful war images ever created.

The tools a creative person uses does matter to the creator. Writers swear by their tools, because of their intimate relation to those tools. Painters do care about their paints, brushes, and canvases. And photographers do care about their cameras and lenses and films, and sensors. And understandably so.

It’s just that no one else cares.

@ Jim Arthur:

Way back when, in addition to my other responsibilities, I would do setup work for the late Harry Pearson of The Absolute Sound magazine fame.

In early 1984, after an arsonist destroyed the rear of his house by setting it on fire, he decided to rebuild and renovate the house in its entirety. Although well built, it was just short of 100 years old and definitely long overdue for some maintenance and repairs.

As part of the process, the contractor installed 10 or 12 screwjacks in the basement to stabilize the structure while various walls and other structural elements of the three-story house were removed, repaired, and replaced.

A few days after they were installed, I found myself struggling to make HP's primary reviewing system sound the same as it had in the days immediately before the screwjacks were installed.

I was puzzled by this because nothing in the system had changed. Eventually, I realized the only change that had been made was to install all those screwjacks in the basement.

On a whim, I ventured downstairs (the only access to it was from outside the house) and began adjusting the tightness of the screw jacks in an attempt to restore the prodigious bass performance of the large, floorstanding IRS speaker system that was installed in the room above.

To my astonishment, this made a huge difference in the quality of the bass response! In fact, after a few weeks of experimentation, I had the system sounding better than it ever had before!

So, yes, the flexibility of the floor (or the lack thereof!) absolutely can have a significant effect on the bass performance of a speaker system and also, to be sure, a live musical performance as well.

Sure, "image quality" is not all about resolution, or even primarily about resolution. But doesn't it intrigue you just a bit what Nikon (a lens making company) might be able to do with this lensmount? If M4/3 is "sufficient," what will this new Z system be able to do? I am interested to find out. Seems to me the current of "too much quality" in the comments dismisses or demeans the spirit of innovation.

FWIW, I am much more interested in GETTING an image, than I am in achieving absolute image quality in the captured image. These things aren't entirely unrelated, but the goal is different. For example:

1. I like to take handheld images at night of dark scenes. IBIS helps me GET the image that I want (i.e., a reasonably sharp image without obvious signs of camera shake). IBIS contributes to what most people would consider image quality, but I'm only interested in it because the look I'm going for is one where the subject is clearly identifiable and any elements of camera shake are not distracting to the viewer. If I wanted absolute image quality, I would schlep a tripod around. And I don't care if there is a small amount of camera shake visible, as long as it isn't distracting to a layperson.

2. For the same reason, I appreciate decent high-ISO performance. It helps me get the shots I want, especially when my kids are running around in dimly lit interiors and I don't want to use flash. High-ISO performance may be an element of image quality, but I don't really care about noise all that much. I care about having a decently high shutter speed that will stop most blurring from subject movement.

3. I don't care about having the most megapixels and the most resolution, but I do care about having ENOUGH megapixels to be able to crop significantly and still have a quality picture that I can print at a reasonable size. Yes, I know it's better to get it right in-camera. But I'm not after ultimate image quality, I just want to be able to get to the image I want with reasonable quality. It isn't that I want a bajillion megapixels for the sake of the ultimate in resolution.

4. I often take pictures on sunny days in forests, where the subject brightness ranges from bright sun to dark shadow. I like cameras that produce files that allow me to recover highlights and boost shadows (and that meter conservatively). Those are elements of image quality, but I'm not after ultimate quality, I just like to be able to salvage an image from challenging conditions without having to resort to HDR stacking.

I could go on and on, but you get the point. And by the way, ergonomics and intuitive camera settings matter much more to GETTING the image than do the absolute quality of the lenses or sensors or whatever.


Both the post on Fujis -- and now this one on UIQ -- made for very educative reading, for me. Thank you everyone. But, speaking of UIQ and Fujis in the same breath, maybe readers would like to 'meet' Bristol-based photographer Damien Lovegrove.
In case you haven't come across his work, I'd recommend a good half hour or more at:



Might have some of you inching away from the Nikon Z system. A Fuji GFX 50s in his hands becomes a magical tool.

I have just sold a print of a misty Tuscan landscape. I took it with an X-T2 but I doubt that anything would have been lost if I had used a phone, because it just isn't an image that depends on resolution.
My sister has a print on her wall taken with a 6 MP Minolta. It, and many others that I took with that camera still look ok today. They might want for being better pictures but not for more detail.

Vis-a vis JH (partial comment): ...
He says, 'In New York, no matter how cool you think you are, you'll see someone cooler on every block.' Same here. No matter how much IQ your camera has, or prestigious your car is, somebody will have something better."

At least two things fascinate me about contemporary America (as in 'USA'). One is the extent of the impact of biblical language on spoken American (I know why this is so--space / weight constraints in Conestoga-type covered wagons compelled many pioneers striking out west to carry just ONE book -- the Good Book).
The other is the durable hangover from Wild West days (I am a fanatical WW nut), as in 'no matter how fast you are, there's always someone faster'. But I wouldn't try telling that to George Temple.

All these comparisons are pretentious.

For example, in the wine drinking world, if Parker awarded 100 points for a wine, everybody wanted it. Most times you cannot tell the difference between a 97 point wine and a 100 point wine.

Better to be keep it simple and just compare and conclude, "Good, or better, or best." Maybe best might be ultimate but don't make a big deal out of it.

Dan K.

The new Nikon Z series would have a number of design / business objectives e.g provide a foundation for the future of Nikon cameras, be distinguishable from the competitors (namely Sony), limit the impact of other competitors (e.g FF+ from Fuji and Hasselblad), play to Nikon's strengths.

If this imaginary list of mine is true, then a camera that is well-built, has good ergonomics and [possibly] best in class IQ for a wide range of lenses seems like a natural outcome.

Put the other way, if IQ isn't your highest requirement, then you might be better off with a camera with an APS-C sensor … and get the benefits of smaller size / less weight / more reach / more DOF.

My fridge door is 30 x 40 inches (vertical, freezer on the bottom).

But I like diglloyd's idea of filling an 8K monitor.

People are talking about ultimate image quality now because no one wants to hear about how many megapixels or high ISO anymore.

One of my several tools for dealing with lifes excesses is to abandon the concept of perfection, and go comfortable with Excellence, I enjoyed these supportive comments about some of the greatest shots lack that so called technicalexcellemce.. I even now am proud to have several of my "Excellent" photos that I call "Accident Actuactions".

I have no need for 45meg cameras. My photos won't be better than from my 11 year old 12meg Nikon D3. My images aren't limited by resolution. I do need/want a second body to go alongside the D3 and I'm renting a D4S for a week. I'm an ex-pro and the whole second body thing feels normal.
I sadly haven't printed in years but who needs such resolution to just look at photos on screen?
I'm 62, I have decades of film and darkroom practice in formats from 35mm to 8x10.
Would I want an ISO 3200 image to look like K64? Good god no.
I was in Maine last week and the wedding shooter was using flash during the speeches while I,uncle of the bride was shooting the D3 at 6400, 85 1.4 wide open in candlelight. Lovely noise, lovely. I'll take that please.

In an ideal world we'd buy only the least expensive camera that will do the job. But defining the job sets limits and limits are … limiting.

From a clear, sharp and perfect image, I can create a vignetted, grainy soft one.

It's a much more difficult trick to turn a vignetted, grainy and soft image into a clear, sharp, and perfect one.

For what it’s worth, when I listed my expectations in July for the new Nikon mirrorless camera, ultimate image quality wasn’t among them. Most of the important bits I wanted are provided by the Z6 – at least from what I can glean from Nikon and critics since the announcement of the new series. That said, the Z7 and existing and anticipated high-end S lenses with the right hands and eyes are sure to generate some very fine images.


[Yes I think they were listening to you! --Mike]

It's rumored that the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (6th edition) will include GAS as a psychiatric disorder, a form of neurosis not to be confused with OCD.

Several longitudinal studies (varying in length from one to fifteen years) confirm SSRIs are less effective than placebos for treating GAS.

Recently, The Lancet published a study authored by a bearded cigar-smoking fellow from Vienna. The gist of the article is that patients who are prescribed Kodak Instamatic 104 cameras show remarkable recovery, 85%. The recidivism rate (1-year) hovers around 12%.

There is hope...

Well, in the film era you'd be arguing against Ansel Adams' approach then, right?

To me, things are simple: optimal data capture, optimal data output. That's what I aspire to. I don't always achieve it and there are certainly images that "work" without those.

To stand out from the rest of those in photography, I don't have a lot of things I can be better at. Composition, story, perspective, moment all live on one side of the equation and I'M in full control of those. Exposure, data integrity, focus, optics, and a whole heck of technical things live at the camera end. Nikon makes cameras and lenses. So to me, trying to provide optimal data capture is indeed something I want them to do. Simple as that.

[I'm not arguing against anything. I'm just asking if the concept of the marketing pitch appeals to people or not, that's all. --Mike]

For the ‘ultimate image quality’ crowd I’d suggest looking at the photos of Michael Kenna, or David Burnett. Although both have high end cameras their work with simpler tools (such as Holgas or in Burnett’s case an ancient speed graphic mounting an Aero Ektar) demonstrates that craft and talent just don’t come in a can.

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe the folks who lust after ultimate image quality can always hope for a PS preset to apply a ‘Holga effect’.

You can't take marketing speak at face value. Even in the context of the Nikon Z, the goal really isn't "ultimate image quality" because in such a scenario price would not act as a constraint. Each lens would be 1.2, smaller, 4x the price etc.

This is merely shorthand for the fact that the engineers challenged themselves to create the best image quality they could for the new design within certain boundaries. That's what engineers and designers do.

For the intended consumer, i.e. someone already using Nikon, the larger mount in itself means nothing. That it can support an image stabilized sensor is something else entirely. Shutter shock with large sensor Nikons is a real thing and it eats away at all that resolution you were so proud of, either because of blur or the high iso you needed for faster shutter speeds. And it is a helpful aid to those shooting video. To me this is the most significant thing about the Z line. It's not so much an issue of "ultimate image quality" but more of using technology to get the most out of the available image quality. To me, this is what camera innovation should do. It all boils down to the FTZ adapter and if the 3 point stabilization improves shots with legacy glass.

Yes, i will take more image quality (resolution) and use it for cropping.

What a photographer (or any other visual artist) needs are in this order: 1. visual talent, 2. originality, 3. taste, 4. skills and 5. the right tools.
Most people can develop their skills to a certain level and buy excellent tools. Though the first three are very hard to learn. I was always honest to students who lacked talent and told them not to waste their time and start something else. Missing visual talent, originality or taste also makes it almost impossible to discuss the essence of things. And alas, you can’t compensate this with working hard.

The right tool for a photographer may not always be the camera with the highest resolution. On the other hand if I were a professional, which I fortunately am not, I certainly would want that Z7. As my photography teacher used to say: “You can’t reproduce what is not there.” (This was thirty years before Photoshop).
But if your work is sh*t the only progress will be an upgrade to better detailed sh*t.

For me, it's the content of the photo that is the most important. I take for granted that the composition of the photo and the print quality will be adequate for the purpose.

One of those cars damn near clipped me on Piccadilly yesterday (it might have been a Lambo). Bastard ran a red light to do it.

Are we actually advocating here for *not* trying to advance the state of the art? What we choose to do with it (or the lack of it) is a totally different matter...

[Jeez, we're not talking about doing anything with the state of the art or any other aspect of the product. All I'm asking is whether that particular sales pitch hits home with you or not. --Mike]

One additional thought in terms of definitions.
We ought to at least separate the technical image making qualities of a camera /lens system, from the artistic merit of the work produced.
They are two very different things, but we sometimes talk about them as if they are not.
So when Nikon or any other manufacturer speak about 'Ultimate Image quality' I take that to mean that they are not cutting corners, and their goal is to make the best lens they can within the available technology.
It COULD be just marketing speak, because how many of us would buy a lens from a company who said 'Our Goal is to make it about 80% as good as we can make it.......
I also assume that their goal is not sharpness alone, but their version of what a well corrected lens should be.
But no matter what they come up with , a great Photographer will likely be able to make exceptional photographs with it, and a Mediocre photographer's pictures will in all probability be mediocre.

Just like there is a range in quality in carpenters tools from 'value priced tools sold in big box stores to artisan made chisels and planes made from laminated Hitachi White steel.
The fine tools are more satisfying to use (if you know how to use them,) but a master craftsman will turn out good work with any tools at his disposal, and owning the best tools makes you a tool owner, not a craftsman.
Master Craftsman is a title that has to be earned based on the quality of work produced, not the tools used. Same with Photography. Good tools usually give you more options, but that's all.

So if you are launching a new camera & lens line today that is priced at the higher end of the market what should your stated goal be?
"We have the best purple fringing"?
We have to remember it's Marketing speak, and none of it really matters unless it manifests itself in the product.
Then Photographers get to decide if the product is worth buying.

Ultimate image quality? All you need is a decent telephoto lens, any average camera, some time in the field and some stitching at home.
Problem solved!

PS I'd also like a little more info about the guy who was printing with automotive paints... Not that image permanence keeps me awake at night (I print with 3rd party dye ink!), but I'd like to know how he does, for printmaking's sake.

I think my level of image quality is only one part of the whole picture. For me, I’ve found that a major definition of what any digital camera can do is determined by the software algorithm that finalizes the image. Every camera seems to be different, even the same make and model. I have been amazed at what, say, an Olympus 2.5mp C2500L does to a shot as well as my higher resolution Nikons, or even my scans of film shot with various older cameras. It’s all in the numbers.

Re:The Koenigsegg Regera has 1,479 horsepower

Years ago, when I had friends who raced expensive sports cars, I asked lots of questions.

Here's an exchange I remembered re the 427 Ford Cobra: I saw a lot of 289s racing and almost no 427s. The 289s were beating the few 427s in a track course. I asked why. I was told the 427s were over powered and didn't corner as well as the 289s. In a straight line, the 427 would win but, that's it.

This is a fan letter. Oddly, not to you, but to your readers. This post created answers from almost all of my favorite commenters and all were interesting. You attract a good group of people.

Apropos of the 'zee' / 'zed' thing: you could just have written 'Z series': people will pronounce it appropriately for their dialect. It only really matters when you need it to rhyme or something -- you need to specify how 'ZZ Top' is pronounced, say, but not 'Z series'.

(I realise it was a joke in the article, but I'm a language nerd.)

[Is the "T" in your first name pronounced "Ted"? Just kidding. --Mike]

After 50 and then some comments, I'm still wondering: what exactly is image quality?

“[Is the "T" in your first name pronounced "Ted"? Just kidding. --Mike]” Like you’re initials are Mee Jee? I’m sure you know there is a logical and historical reason why Zed is “correct” :-) Not that I care another Zed, but I am curious how Americans (US?) came to mispronounce Nikon and I don’t think it can be related to those running shoes presumed to be worn by Greek gods as surely they came after Nikon?

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