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Motion blur, diffraction and noise are not impacted by high megapixel count

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Nikon D800 sensor unit

Nikon D800 sensor unit

In today's guest post, Jinn Leong is explaining why  Motion blur, diffraction and noise are not impacted by high megapixel count (in our case the Nikon D800):

Diffraction
Diffraction depends on the lens, not the sensor. A higher megapixel count won’t increase diffraction. There’s a common misconception that a higher megapixel count increases diffraction because most of the time, images are examined at 100%. If you normalized the images from two cameras with the same lens to the same pixel count/print size, you’ll realize that both of the images have the same amount of diffraction.

Motion blur
Motion blur depends on the field of view. So, a higher megapixel count won’t increase motion blur. Of course, at 100% magnification, motion blur is more visible. If both are displayed at the same size, there will not be more motion blur.

Noise
Ever realized why there are two types of charts in DxOMark – Screen and Print? That’s because screen displays the chart information for images tested at 100% resolution. Instead, print is tested at 8 megapixels. DxOMark does this because they know if they examined/compared pictures from different cameras, the camera with a lower pixel count will definitely have an advantage at 100%. That’s why those test charts on the net aren’t an accurate way to compare sensors. The best way to compare sensors is to compare their pictures at the same display size. If displayed at a lower resolution, the SNR performance will increase. The effect is similar to pixel binning.

Many are misleaded by many review sites who compare 100% crops, and so are effectively comparing the amount of noise per pixel, even when those pixels represent different percentage of the total image. Moreover, the microlens design have already reduced the loss of light from gaps between photosites, so the advantage of a lower pixel count sensor is reduced.

File size & Frame per second (FPS)
This can be solved with pixel binning, but there’s no pixel binning feature in Nikon D800 for stills. For JPEG users, just shoot at a lower resolution.

Conclusion
Therefore, motion blur, diffraction and noise is not a problem. File size and FPS is still an issue though. Computer are getting cheaper nowadays, a $1000 computer could easily handle the files. 4 FPS is actually not bad too, and professionals sports photographers used to shoot at 4.5 FPS. The higher resolution will serve you well when you need it, and you don't actually need to compromise your daily shooting just to utilize all of the resolution unless you need them.

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  • Dan

    1

    • http://mikeandfrida.blogspot.com mike

      Yup…we’d happily do our wedding work with a D800 if it fell within our budget.

      • Mark J.

        If you can’t afford a D800 level of camera for wedding photography you are definitely not charging your clients enough for your work/time. A single wedding nearly pays for it these days being that the national average for a wedding photographer is $2,500. And with DSLRs having a 3-4 year practical life cycle right now, that is pretty minor equipment expense over that timespan even if you are charging way less then national average.

        • http://joelc.com.au Joel C

          $2500 isn’t net income from a wedding. And isn’t the D800 $3000+?

          • darren

            The point being made- if you are not making enough income to buy a D800 you should start doing something else… or for most people, stop calling yourself a wedding photographer when you shoot 3 weddings a year for friends and family.

            ‘I can’t afford a $3000 camera for my weddings that I shoot twice a year. Sucks man.’

            • yakker

              Not sure where he said he was a “wedding photographer”.
              And why would the quality of wedding photography be defined by how much someone shoots or how much they get paid?

        • derWalter

          maybe it pays for it, but you have to stay alive for 11 other month a year too!

          • neversink

            There’s only one thing I dislike about photography ——-

            All the people claiming they are professional photographers because they shoot one or two times a year for spare change. This is one tough business. Photography is one tough and risky business, but I love photography, even though I have gone nearly bankrupt twice in my > 25 years as a full-time pro. But despite that, photography has been good to me… The trick is knowing how to bounce back….

            But that is another story. If you don’t need a D800, don’t buy one. But don’t claim you can[t afford one if you are a wedding pnotographer. You CAN NOT afford not to have a D800 if you are a professional wedding photographer who makes a statement that they would gladly shoot weddings with a D800 if it del within your budget There is something wrong with your statement. Or you are pulling the wool over your own eyes.

            • http://www.sole-food.net RW

              Not cool man. You don’t even know how old or in what situation he/she’s in. Everyone starts from somewhere.

              The D800 is the first DSLR I’m spending my own money on. So prior to this would you not call me a professional?

              Why do people get so twisted over that word?

    • badarticle

      Small pixel size deteriorates color accuracy and dynamic range that is not compensated by “pixel binning”. That is because if they photo site is half the size, it is slightly less than half as efficient. Had Nikon created a slightly smaller megapixel camera, the color and dynamic range would be better even after pixel binning. If you don’t notice the effect with the D800 it is because of advancement in sensor technology and not because it generally doesn’t matter as the article suggests.

      The whole megapixel / IQ decision is a compromise and I think the choice of Nikon is not that bad. It’s just too bad they don’t have a RAW-S and RAW-M setting like the Canon 5d3 does.

      As a side note: The large megapixel count actually does help you even if you don’t need a full 36 megapixel image in the end. The reason for that is the camera uses a bayer sensor. This means the sensor has only 9 megapixel red, 18 megapixel green and 9 megapixel blue. But what you get in your final JPEG is 36 megapixel red, 36 megapixel green and 36 megapixel blue. So effectively the camera has upscaled the image at the cost of resolution. So you have to downsize the image again to end up at an “honest” optical resolution equivalent to something between a 9 and 18 megapixels non-bayer sensor.

      Also 36 megapixel does sound like a big number. But 36 megapixel does not double the resolution compared to 18 megapixel. It’s only a factor of 1.4 because resolution is measured in pairs of black and white lines (in 1 dimension), whereas the megapixels are distributed in two dimensions. The high megapixel count did split the area of the photosite into half though!

      • rkas

        Actually, smaller pixels gives HIGHER dynamic range. Thou I dont know how it works, but some VERY technical guys at a swedish forum have explained how and why.
        Anyways, the D4 vs D800 shows it pretty clearly aswell. ;P

        • badarticle

          You cannot compare two cameras with different sensors and end up at a conclusion like that.

          Small pixel cameras have good dynamic range at low ISO but gets bad pretty quickly at high ISOs. So even here you have to be very careful not to compare apple with oranges.

          • elph

            “You cannot compare two cameras with different sensors and end up at a conclusion like that.”

            I thought that was the point to begin with???
            Smaller pixels on the D800, showing higher contrast.
            Even if you say “at high ISO’s”, we’re talking without high ISO values, because that’ll destroy any test-except the ISO test.
            And I’m going to have to disagree, it is apples and apples.

            DR at 100 ISO, and test at 6400 ISO on both cameras. Can’t imagine how you don’t consider that an even test.

          • http://micahmedia.com Micah

            Empirically denied: the D800 is giving images as clean as my D700, and the color is at least as good.

            But I’ll give you a little hint here about why more pixels can equal better dynamic range: picture 5 pixels in a row, with the following rgb values

            0/0/0
            2/2/2
            4/4/4
            6/6/6
            8/8/8

            If you double the number of pixels to ten, you could end up with

            0/0/0
            1/1/1
            2/2/2
            3/3/3
            4/4/4
            5/5/5
            6/6/6
            6/6/6
            8/8/8
            9/9/9

            That’s assuming you maintain the same or better SNR. That isn’t actually more dynamic range, but it’s more precision, with which you can better estimate a pixel’s actual value under manipulation (sharpening, color correction, tonal adjustment, lens corrections, etc). Remember, there’s a lot of estimation that goes on with Bayer pattern sensors and square pixels.

            S/N is probably about the same and not more than 12 bits total, but the extra pixels give you more precision for a given image.

            Does that help?

            • Worminator

              I suppose the point being made is that S/N would not likely be comparable.

              In practice though, for the D800 it seems that the net impact of the higher pixel count is positive even at high ISO. In other words Nikon engineers did their homework, and whatever hit taken for the pixel count is re-couped by the noise reduction (smoothing).

            • http://micahmedia.com Micah

              If by “noise reduction” you mean circuit design, then yes.

            • badarticle

              The empirical comparison is invalid since you’re comparing an old camera with a new camera. There are other factors that influence the quality.

              Your little calculation is using an idealized sensor that has more megapixels, the output of each being of the same quality albeit being smaller. It makes no sense. The point is: You half the sensor size, quality goes down by more than half. Your phone’s camera’s photosites are probably 10x smaller than that of a D800, would it help with dynamic range if you average 10 pixels? No. Would it help in low light situations? No.

          • badarticle

            What I’m saying is: You most definitely *cannot* compare an old camera with a new camera and come up with the conclusion that high megapixel does not matter because there has been an improvement in sensor technology.

            The high megapixel has made the noise worse and the sensor improvement made the noise better, and you end up with the conclusion that high megapixel has no impact on noise.

            The question is: Do we need the megapixel? If not, how much better would the camera have been if they had left away a few megapixels.

            • rkas

              Ofcourse you cant compare a new camera with an old like that. But now I compared the NEW D4 with the NEW D800.
              Thou i think we can even say that the D800 is older than the D4 since apperently it was suppost to be released last year..

      • Michael

        Dynamic range is compensated by pixel binning. http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOMark-Insights/Detailed-computation-of-DxOMark-Sensor-normalization

        “As can be seen, high-resolution sensors will gain more SNR, DR, TR and CS when reduced to a lower reference resolution. For DxOMark Sensor Overall Score and Metrics, we chose a reference resolution equal to 8 Megapixels, which is a bit less than a 12″ x 8″ print with a 300dpi printer. However, any other resolution can be chosen, as doing so only shifts the normalized values by a constant (because the reference resolution appears only as a logarithm in the formulas above).
        What should be remembered is that doubling the resolution adds:
        3dB to the normalized SNR
        0.5 bit to the normalized DR
        0.5 bit to the normalized TR
        1.5 bit to the normalized CS.”
        From DxOMark

        • badarticle

          The article never mentions anything being compensated. The article does say there is an influence of 0.5 bits on DR if you double resolution, but does not explain why.

        • Fred

          All these computations are just that, computations.
          there has been no actual measurements of the D/R on a print so the point has not been proven.
          DXO also provide D/R values in ‘print’ that are not achievable by printers anyway. Distortion of the facts.

          • Michael

            From what we’ve seen when comparing D7000 and D800, I can confidently conclude that what they’re saying is true. Moreover it they were wrong, they would have been proven wrong. The people at DxOMark are very reputable and so far no professionals have been able to find any flaws in them.

  • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

    Word.

    • Josh

      It’s ‘Werd’ not ‘Word’!

      • Anon

        It’s nerd not werd!!!

      • correctumundo

        Its WURD ya HURD?

      • Peter Griffin

        It’s bird, bird, bird is the wurd!

  • http://www.daveallenphotography.com Dave Allen

    I’ve been saying this all along, glad to hear that someone else “gets it”

    • Not Surprised

      My god, Dave Allen’s been saying this all along. And we’ve ignored him all along! How did we survive..

      By the way, the article seems to be intentionally or unintentionally sharply pointed at DPReview — with their advanced 100% crop comparison charts and pixel peeper culture.

      I wonder if they’ll ever implement a “resized” comparison chart?

      • rkas

        Apperently there have been quite a few people trying to make DPReview change that, but they obviously havent succeded. Maybe this kind of post can change that? (please please!)

  • nah

    i agree with everything except the argument regarding noise. this just is not the case in the real world.

    • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

      Okay, so what world do you live in?

      Even if you had to print 24″ with native, high-ISO-and-noisy D800 file, could you not downsample to remove noise, then enlarge *that* file to your final 24″ output? It’d be no different than using a camera with the same megapixels as your downsampled file… except it’s sharper and holds more detail.

      • Pixel Peeper

        Wait, how is it sharper with more detail if you’ve downsampled all that detail away?

        • Michael

          It is sharper because the AA filter is not as strong in a higher megapixel camera.

          • Pixel Peeper

            AA filter doesn’t need to be as strong because your resolution is higher– before you downsample. Then you downsample, which is a massive low pass filter operation, and I’m still not seeing how you magically get any of that detail or sharpness back when you upsample. Upsampling can’t add information, it can just store existing information less efficiently.

        • Fred

          Very Nasty question!
          It’s done at night when no one is watching …

      • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

        You don’t need to downsample to decrease the noise. Denoising is always a better choice than downsampling. You get less blur from downsampling and you still get the sharpness from the higher MP, albeit less than what it’s supposed to be, but still better than lower MP shots.

    • http://molnarcs.500px.com molnarcs

      What? That’s exactly in the real world where the noise at 100% crop doesn’t matter. Most pictures you see are displayed in 2 megapixels. TWO!! Most photos anyone sees are shown on screens with a resolution lower than even 1080p. That 8 megapixels DxOMark uses is quite generous. Either way, the point is that the ONLY practical, real-world comparison between noise performance must normalize the images to the most likely output the photo will be seen in the real world. 8 megapixel covers 99.99% print output of photos that gets printed at all (the vast majority of photos produced never get printed). That is, if they have pixel-perfect quality. That is precisely the reason why the d800 is such a breakthrough FX SLR. At ISO 100-800 it can produce images that will be pixel-perfect clean and sharp in most real-world usage, with the option to go up against some low-end MF cameras (which are still 3 times the price!). At ISOs above 800 it stays easily competitive with just about anything else there, if output resolution is normalized to real world usage. For a 20x30cm / 7×10″ print you only need 16 megapixels. How many print above that? At 16 megapixels, the d800 seems to beat the Canon 5D Mark III, and stays relatively competitive even with the low-light big guns like the d3s and D4.

      • BartyL

        2.54 cm to the inch. 20x30cm = 8×12″.

  • RomanOv

    Good article!! (but what with D400? :)). Very interesting article, I hope new cameras with 20-30 MPIX won’t have huge noise…

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      So far, a higher MP isn’t too challenging for camera manufacturers. There is just a bit of light loss to the gaps, due to microlenses. It is indeed not as good as a lower MP sensor in terms of low light prowess, but it should be quite invisible.

  • sand

    I have used my D800 at f32 (85mm PCE as well as 105mm Micro)..I do not see any diffraction effects..May be I am not pixel peeping..But some these problems are exaggerated.. I don’t see them a big problem in real life use..

  • Adam

    It is kind of sad that people need to be told all of this information. They ought to already know it. But it’s good someone is pointing it all out.

  • KFA

    I thought this was obvious to people into photography.. More MP makes flaws easier to see. It’s not producing flaws itself. Gee..

    • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

      And this entire article could be summed up in exactly those words.

      “More megapixels means more detail; both good and bad.”

      • bratvlad

        Its been said many times that the D700 with 12mp is more forgiving with motion blur, than the crop sensor D7000 with 16mp or full frame D800 with 36mp. I hear people use their shutter speeds at 1/1.5 rule on D800 to get a sharper image, not the case with my D700.

        • rkas

          The D800 will always be at least as good as D700 with the same settings. Thou if you NEED to use the pixel to their fullest potential you will have to use shorter shutter speeds with the D800 yes.

        • Ray

          Oh well if you HEAR that, it must be true! Physics and reality be damned!

  • http://www.photoway.com/ Photoway

    What’s about the Dynamic Rang ?

    • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

      Dynamic range is not directly affected by the number of megapixels in really any regard. It’s more about the quality of those pixels and the underlying technology.

      • Greg

        Not true. Smaller pixels saturate with less light. Sure, technology can make improvements, but then you’re changing two things– pixel size and technology.

        • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

          So how does a camera with relatively small pixels (D800) have the best dynamic range of any sensor ever?

          How, with that, does pixel-count correlate to DR? Besides, you are talking about pixel density, not pixel-count.

          • http://www.createdbylove.com/ Lewis

            If you are talking about a higher pixel count on the same size sensor then you are talking about pixel density too. Also, as Greg already stated, better technology also has an impact on dynamic range. If the D800 has the best dynamic range to date it is despite it’s pixel density.

            • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

              Hence I said “It’s more about the quality of those pixels and the underlying technology.” Because it is.

            • Greg

              You also said, “Dynamic range is not directly affected by the number of megapixels in really any regard,” which is wrong.

              Pixel for pixel, the D800 underperforms the D4 and the D700 above ISO 400, and inch for inch it still underperforms the D4 above ISO 400.

              Dynamic range is directly affected by the number of megapixels.

          • SNRatio

            It’s simple, really. The D800 has got a full well capacity sufficient to beat other sensors at base ISO because the read noise is extremely low. Per pixel, it only beats the D4 below ISO200, according to DXOmark, and I don’t really understand how DXOmark transforms dynamic range to print and makes it bigger for the D800 – probably it has to do with the _perceived_ dynamic range. Tonality and color precision can be improved by downsampling, but I would think that should be more difficult to attain for the dynamic range, because of overflow. At least with single readout, but I may be wrong.

            But also according to DXOmark, D4 print is better than D800 above ISO400.

            To get a clearer idea about this, you may compare the D800, the Sony NEX-7 and the D5100. The ca 50% increase in pixel count on the Sony does come at a price, and I don’t feel confident that this will never show up in comparisons with D5100/D7000, as DXOmark’s print graphs indicate.

            I think the extremely good performance of the new sensors may contribute to concealing some of the real differences. Even at 800 ISO, the 24MP Sony sensor has 10 bits DR per pixel, which is a lot, possibly much more than enough for most situations.

            I suspect many people are really thinking about tonality when they say “dynamic range”, things like the depths of the shadows, which of course is not workable with low dynamic range, but may be perfectly fine with 10+ DR per pixel. And in the shadows, tonality may improve drastically with binning, like in 36MP -> 8MP print. DR “proper” is best seen in how much infomation may be recovered from the highlights, and I think my own experience with ETTR on D5100 vs D700 is typical: With the D700, I am always afraid of too dark shadows, much because of the high read noise becoming visible there, while with the D5100, I am much more afraid of seemingly blown highlights, because if they seem so, they are probably really blown, not much recoverable in a safe way (color channel clipping etc). While the low read noise makes lifting the shadows a safe operation.

            Wrong color recovery from blown highlights is something far worse than lack of color precision in dark scenes. Shooting in the dark, we have no precise color perception from our eyes, so even if the tonality is reduced and colors are a bit off, we can’t tell for sure. So we can’t really say it’s wrong ;-)

            • SNRatio

              Just a small correction: The precise unit for DR is of course EV. Which may well be coded into fewer or more bits, but as +1 in EV corresponds to +1 bits in counting, it is kind of natural “counting correspondence”.

            • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

              By print, DxOMark meant perceived (noise/dynamic range etc). By screen, they mean per pixel.

        • Rick

          They saturate with less light, but each pixel takes up a smaller area, so it will receive less light given the same exposure. What you need to measure is the total saturation count of same area of pixels with the 2 sensors.

          • Greg

            Dynamic Range is the range from saturation to noise. They receive less light, but they have a higher noise floor. They also have micro lenses to focus more light on less active area.

            You can say that the D800 mitigated the reduced pixel size with improved technology, but you can’t say dynamic range isn’t directly affected by the number of pixels on the sensor.

            • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

              “It’s more about the quality of those pixels and the underlying technology.”

              I did say that, because it’s true. Pixel size, at least at this level (FX and MF sensors) is a largely moot point since the technology can nearly totally overcome the size disadvantage.

            • Homer

              @Sean Molin: “technology can nearly totally overcome the size disadvantage.”

              That’s what she said.

        • Michael

          Dynamic range is compensated by pixel binning. http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOMark-Insights/Detailed-computation-of-DxOMark-Sensor-normalization

          “As can be seen, high-resolution sensors will gain more SNR, DR, TR and CS when reduced to a lower reference resolution. For DxOMark Sensor Overall Score and Metrics, we chose a reference resolution equal to 8 Megapixels, which is a bit less than a 12″ x 8″ print with a 300dpi printer. However, any other resolution can be chosen, as doing so only shifts the normalized values by a constant (because the reference resolution appears only as a logarithm in the formulas above).
          What should be remembered is that doubling the resolution adds:
          3dB to the normalized SNR
          0.5 bit to the normalized DR
          0.5 bit to the normalized TR
          1.5 bit to the normalized CS.”
          From DxOMark

        • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

          And smaller pixels also allow for a lower ISO due to lower read noise, and therefore compensating the loss.

  • Hugh

    “If you normalized the images from two cameras with the same lens to the same pixel count/print size, you’ll realize that both of the images have the same amount of diffraction.”

    Yeah, that’s the key phrase … Saying you won’t see the diffraction if you reduce the size of the image you look at. Doesn’t mean it is not there.

    What’s the point in getting a 36 Mp camera if you are not going for fine details – in other words utilizing all the pixel capacity ?

    • Phil

      Who said you shouldn’t utilise all the pixels? All he is saying, which you are still not getting is that you should compare cameras at the same output size. If it makes you feel better, you can upscale the lower resolution camera to 36MP and compare it with the D800, instead of reducing the D800 image.

    • http://www.daviddrufke.com David

      Good point. That’s my exact feelings after using the D800 for three weeks. With the exception of photos taken at lower ISO, there isn’t that much advantage to using the D800 over the D700. The negatives outweigh the positives in many cases for our real world use.

      • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

        The “disadvantages” should have been obvious before you bought it.

        I am, personally, utilizing many of the advantages over my old D700 every day. The only negatives I am running into are that they switched the + and – buttons, that I don’t have a grip yet because they are stupid expensive and generally unavailable, I had to buy more huge memory cards, and I had to tighten up my technique as to not be upset at 100% pixel view.

        And I don’t know about you, but my ISO 25,600 shots SMOKE the D700 in both noise and detail: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seanmolin/7028040701/in/set-72157629648626551

        • photo-Jack

          Hi Sean
          I like the images that you’ve presented so far! But this ISO 25,600 example is really amazing. I have to admit that I’ve hard gone beyond ISO 800 with my 12 MP cameras and I don’t have my D800 yet. So please let me know if that great fur detail on the cat would hold up to 20 x 30 cm print size?

          • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

            If “the stars were aligned” I’d probably manage a print that size I could feel comfortable in presenting to a client, but in most instances, I’d probably max out at 13x18cm.

            This is all a good 1.5 to 2 stops more usable than the D700 in my work.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

        It makes it possible to get an even finer detail, if you improve your technique, then it’s possible. Like the old saying goes, a better camera doesn’t get you a better photograph, it only allows you to get an even better photograph if you use a better technique.

        In short, if you’re not willing to have a better technique or if you’re not gonna utilise so much MP, a higher MP is not gonna help you.

  • http://www.sftwins.com Chris

    Great article! I fully agree. I have had the D800 for little over a week and the camera continues to impress me. You definitely have to put a bit more effort into each photo to get the maximum quality. Noise is almost non existent up to 1600 (or above). LOVE IT.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      That’s it. If you put in the same effort as a lower MP camera, you’re gonna get the same picture from a lower MP camera. A higher MP camera gives you the oppurtunity to work harder so that you can get an even sharper shot.

  • Paperman

    Shallow piece of article defying facts .
    Reduce everything till you can’t see the defects…

    • Don

      So, Mr. Shallow, just how large did you blow up you film to see that you were hiding defects?

    • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

      “Reduce everything till you can’t see the defects…”

      You could argue that this is what low-MP sensors have been doing all along. Ignorant statement.

  • Pdf Ninja

    Very well said. A higher resolution sensor is not going to look worse when the image is downsized. If nothing else, it will look sharper, because at native resolution every sensor is Bayer interpolated, so a downsized high rez image always has the potential to be sharper and carry more color detail.

    The worst case of diffraction is when you start losing some of the advantages of the higher megapixel count. You’re wasting pixels, but the end result won’t be worse than from a low megapixel sensor.

    A high megapixel sensor has a lot of flexibility about noise. You can always selectively turn pixels into better noise performance, but you can’t turn a superb high-ISO performance into more detail. With the D800 you can selectively reduce noise in the out-of-focus background or in the shades, while sharpening the foreground, which is supposedly well lit most of the time.

    One thing where a low megapixel camera like the D3s will beat a high megapixel sensor is image quality at low light situations. Noise isn’t the only issue, but dynamic range, color accuracy, micro-contrast, saturation and detail at medium to higher ISO. This is especially important in indoor sports situations, where a high megapixel sensor inherently loses.

    The problem is when people zoom in all the way, of course they’re going to notice more flaws in a 36-megapixel sensor. But you can think of the D800 as the first 16 megapixel non-Bayer camera from Nikon. If downsized a bit, it effectively works like a virtual sensor, where each pixel has individual red, green and blue components. And that alone is a pretty big advantage.

  • trialcritic

    On a slightly different topic, a few customers returned their cameras claiming they were defective.

    1. What was the defect
    2. How to identify them

    Does Nikon know this problem? Has anyone in this forum faced these problem.

    Please see

    Of course, the biggest problem people are facing is Nikon messing up the delivery due to excessive demand.

  • Greg

    Everyone seems to want to simplify this discussion into “more megapixels are bad, or more megapixels are irrelevant” and this article kind of does the same thing.

    There are two separate points to be made– all else equal, diffraction and motion blur are a function of image size alone and noise is only mildly dependent on pixel size at a given image size (for D800 sized pixels).

    Second, you don’t get the improved resolution you’d expect from your increased megapixel count unless you control diffraction, motion blur and noise.

    These are simultaneously true, and arguing one or the other alone is simplifying to the point of being wrong.

    • http://www.frisianphotography.wordpress.com FrisianPhotography

      Well said. It seems too many are fishing for a simple answer (perhaps so they can decide whether they “need” a D800?), where there isn’t one. Sometimes (like in this case), to have an intelligent discussion on a relatively complex matter, the matter shouldn’t be simplified.

  • Don

    Well duh!! Only a complete moran would think otherwise. I too am stuned that it reqires an explaination.

  • Mike

    This explanation is purely academic. It completely glosses over the fact that if we can see it, it’s there. No, higher MP count will not CAUSE more diffraction. It will not CAUSE more motion blur. And it will not CAUSE more noise. But it WILL allow us to see more diffraction, more motion blur, and more noise because we now have a larger image with more detail.

    And that effectively means there is more PERCEPTIBLE diffraction, motion blur, and noise in the D800 images. You can rationalize it all you want and you can down-sample and reduce the image size all you want. But then why not just use some other camera in the first place?

    At the end of the day, people are going to have IQ issues. That’s all that matters. You can’t rationalize more perceptible diffraction, blur, and noise away.

    If I can see it, it’s there.

    • Mike

      And in the end, what matters is how the freaking photo looks. If my photo has more perceptible noise, or blur, or diffraction, it doesn’t matter how or why it’s there. It’s still there. “But it’s only there because you have a larger image to look at.”

      Well yeah. But the IQ issues are STILL there. Justifying why you can see them doesn’t change the fact that you can see them.

    • umeshrw

      which simply means that ” if you can’t use your dslr …. blame the camera…….

    • Don Pope

      “If I can see it, it’s there.”

      But the point of the article is that you CAN’T see it unless you blow up the image to 100%, which is not how anyone looks at photos.

      • Tom

        I never assume people won’t want to print at the correct size that a photo was taken. Res of prints and monitors goes up all of the time, meaning that each time it goes up, you get closer to viewing an image at 100%, not to mention, a big selling point of this camera by Nikon was the ability to now crop in.

        • Dhdjj

          Then you’ll just step back and look at it further away anyway. Who looks at a 100″ TV from 1 foot away?!

        • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

          If you look at D800 at 100%, you’ll be looking at D700 at 300%, which is a blurry crap. Which one you’d prefer? :)

    • Tom

      Not to mention that computer screens aren’t going to be 1920×1080 forever. We only have such low res monitors because of the stupid HD standard that everyone keeps throwing around. Mark my words. When monitors get as high res as the retina display on iphones and ipads, we will all be wishing for lower noise at 100%. Wait until monitors go up to 3, 4, 36 megapixel density. Also, you must always assume that a print will be at 100%. The standard of any definition is not obtained by averaging or manipulating.

      This article is short sighted, and misleading. People who write articles like this should be shunned by the industry and reprimanded by the law. It causes confusion and misunderstanding.

      • EnPassant

        Your argument has a big flaw.
        If the number of pixels are increased but not the size of the monitor the only effect will be that the image appear a bit sharper. In fact it will be almost the same as looking at a downsized photo, which is and have always been the normal way of looking at photos, be it on a screen or real photos.

        This talk about ’100%’ is misleading.
        The bigger the print the easier it is to see flaws in it that were unnoticed in smaller printsizes. Photographers coming from film knows this.

        So if you really want to see flaws in a photo exaggerated by a 36 MP sensor you need either make a very big print or have a very big screen like about 6×4 feet big! That is if you want to see the whole picture and not just make crops or pixelpeep.

      • elph

        Sorry, but “retina display” is just something apple throws for marketing. Hell, I could make my old CRT monitor “retina display” if I’m far enough away, and that’s the trick; don’t be so easily fooled.

        “Short-sighted”, that’s a pretty hefty claim.
        “We will be all wishing for lower noise”. Well that’s true, so make it happen…can’t do it? Its because this is more or less the height of technology at the price. Just click “view at %100″, what’s the difference honestly? You think I’m going to hold back on DSLRs for another 10 years until monitors and DSLRs are even better? What’s the point? You can *take* and *view* great photos now. What’s short-sighted is your comment, you obviously don’t understand what matters is *NOW*.
        I’m sorry but you said a lot of stupid stuff in your comment, I can’t reply to all of it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

        Maybe you should study physics before saying such harming words.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

        As I said (I’m Michael), do you buy a monitor 3 times the size and resolution just because you bought a D800?

    • Michael

      Do you print 3 times larger for every photo if you bought a D800?

      • Don

        Good one. Print at 100%. You are an ignorant laughing stock.

        Hey, I had a customer ask me the other day. “What camera did you use to take that shot?” I wanted a 16×20 for my wall, but now that I know you used the D800, I now want a 48×60.” You’re just plain stupid!@

        • Michael

          +1000

  • Robyn

    Yeah but,

    Did anyone receive it since Nikon resumed working after stock taking for this year????

  • T.I.M

    Computers are not a problem if you get the right one.

    I built mine 7 years ago with the top components available at that time, 10,000.00 rmp HD, 4GB fast acess memory, GeForce 9500 GT video card, etc…

    I never had any issues, and it can handel huge pictures files without slowing down the system.

    You always get what you pay for, except for the D800 which give us more than what we pay !
    :)

    • ActionJunky

      There are two markets for high-end electronics: retail and used. I buy new retail Apple hardware. I always purchase hardware anticipating my needs for the next 3 years. After 2-3 years, I usually sell the used hardware for a decent amount and then purchase a new system. This is far less headache than trying to constantly upgrade your system. The computer and software are just as important as the camera. They are just tools. If you did not factor in new hardware to support your $3,000 camera purchase, you might want to consider another camera.

      I have a Mac and a Windows PC and the Mac wins hands-down. As for 64-bit, the world is now 64-bit. It’s not fair to compare a Core 2 Duo Mac to a quad or 8-core PC.

      By the way, Lion does run on the 32-bit core 2 Duo. I have it installed on my Mac Pro Laptop. It is nearly 5 years old. Yes, it is due for an upgrade.

      Thanks,

      • http://www.detgyldnesnit.dk dgs

        Would it be fair then to compare a $ 2,000 Mac with a $ 2,000 PC? Regardless the number of cores?

        • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

          You can get twice the computer, from a hardware perspective, by getting a PC over a Mac.

          I moved to Mac last year for one reason: I don’t have time to mess with my computer anymore. I used to be a big tweaker, building my own PCs, experimenting with the latest and greatest, water cooling, the works… but I just flat-out don’t have time for any of that anymore. And my time is worth the extra money.

          Don’t get me wrong, Macs aren’t perfect as much as many Mac-lovers would lead you to believe. I have my share of raw, unadulterated annoyances.

          • Wes

            Actually, the choice you made to tweak the system has nothing to do with whether you used a PC or Mac…that was just your own personal choice. You could have easily choose a PC and just used it rather than tweaking it. For $2k, you can get a pretty damn good PC.

          • ActionJunky

            I agree this is a matter of personal opinion. This is my opinion:

            Buying a computer based solely on individual specs is never a good idea. I am searching for the complete package and software is just as important as the hardware. This is where Apple excels. There software is designed to work cohesively with their hardware. That is why the tightly manage their ecosystem.

            As an example, I recently purchased a car. I had a model set in my mind. It had more horsepower and gadgets than all the competitors. A friend convinced me to test drive a German competitor, despite having much less horsepower. There was no comparison. The combination of rapid gear changes, high speed rated tires, better shocks, and smoother torque band made for a car just as fast, but much more enjoyable and responsive.

            Some people like to constantly tweak hardware. I get it, but I would rather spend my tweaking photos and not my machine.

            Just my opinion.

      • GrumpyDiver

        Having used both Macs and PCs extensively in photo and video work, I can’t really say one works better than the other, at least to an objective end user. Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses.

        My biggest concern is that Apple seems to have given up on the creative community and is moving into the consumer, rather than pro markets. The Final Cut Pro X fiasco is one such sign, as is the lack of innovation in the Mac Pro line (pros do NOT use MacBooks for serious work).

        I guess the profit margins are higher in the consumer marketplace.

        • Dhsjj

          That was a pretty assuming statement you made. I can easily use a MacBook pro for serious work (photo and video). Maybe you have an older MacBook?

          Though I prefer to use my fairly new pc because it’s faster.

          • GrumpyDiver

            The statement is true, whether you agree with it or not.

            Laptops, built by Apple or anyone else are primarily designed to preserve power in order to extend battery life and to make a small, light transportable unit. All of these design decisions mean that these devices are not optimal for either photo or video editing. These programs work best using high-powered. multi-threaded GPUs and fast, multiple hard drives (SSD or conventional). Large, calibrated screens are a must for colour work. Adobe, in both Photoshop and Premiere Pro is coding these applications using CUDA to take advantage of the processing power of certain nVidia video cards, rather than using the CPU.

            Yes, you absolutely can use photo and video editing software on them, and I have done so many times in emergency situations. It’s a bit like using the spare tire on a car. You can drive on it, but just not very well.

            Serious work = workstation, not a laptop.

  • Srini

    Pretty good article

  • Cndlpwr

    One thing that people always seem to conveniently forget is the phrase “all else equal”.

    We hear bitching and moaning every time a higher camera comes out and base our expectations on the previous generation’s technology.

    Sure, the laws of physics remain as always, but this is where all else is NOT equal!

    The D800 has about 42,oo0 pixels per square mm. The D1 had about 7,300 in the same area. So to those of you who like to champion the “laws of physics”, how is it even remotely possible that the D800 can apparently gather more light, or at least produce a far superior image from smaller photosites?

    It’s the technology stupid! It changes the game and we must always wait and see what it can do before proclaiming new products DOA.

  • Martin

    well, that’s all common sense if you know the least bit about physics. but in his conclusion he confirms what i didn’t like about the D800 from the start: “File size and FPS is still an issue though.” why the heck did they not include a pixel binning feature on the raw level? should be easy…

    • Pdf Ninja

      No, it is not easy to do pixel binning at the RAW level. It’s easy to do in an RGB format, such as JPEG or RGB TIFF. Due to the Bayer pattern, you can’t bin neighboring pixels, because they’re of different color. You’d have to bin red pixels with red, green with green, blue with blue, but they’re not neighboring pixels, they’re 2 photosites away. You could only bin green pixels that are neighbors, but that would only reduce the RAW size a little bit.

      If you want to bin red and blue pixels, you need an RGB image. But converting from Bayer to RGB is an interpolation that increases the file size so much that binning can’t compensate for. A 12-bit per component JPEG could be a solution, but it’s not RAW. Binning works in video, because that’s not RAW, it’s RGB.

      • CanonDoesIt

        That’s no excuse, the Canon 5d Mark III has this feature. It can shoot raw in 3 sizes.

        • Trevor

          I agree that some function of the D800 to reduce the 36mp burden would be welcome (although it’s a burden I most likely will never have to deal with).

          That said, the Canon sRAW and mRAW formats aren’t true pixel binning and aren’t really RAW. Here is a wonderful article explaining: http://dougkerr.net/Pumpkin/articles/sRaw.pdf

    • Michael

      How did Nikon do that with their D1h then?

  • Planet9

    I’m a bit confused by this entire discussion. What type of motion blur are we talking about here? Are we talking about the subject moving or the camera moving or both?

    • rkas

      Both.

  • @ll

    in other words, whenever there is a critical condition (motion blur, diffraction, and Other physical limits noise) is canceled the benefit of high resolution.

    • Pdf Ninja

      Exactly. You start canceling out some of the benefits of the higher resolution.

    • GrumpyDiver

      In any system, whether it is electronic (camera sensor) or mechanical (lens) some element(s) will limit system performance.

      In a 12MP D700, the sensor pitch means that the lens resolution at the diffraction limit exceeded the sensor’s ability to resolve it, so overall resolution is limited by the sensor. You can shoot in the f/12 range before you might start noticing the effects of diffraction

      In the 36MP D800, the sensor pitch is fine enough that it will resolve more line pairs and you might seeing the diffraction limit around f/8, i.e. the lens rather than sensor are the limiting element.

      In practice, you would have to be viewing the image at the pixel level to see this. Put on your sharpest reading glasses, you’re going to have to put your nose right up to that 2ft x 3ft (60cm x 90cm) print to be able to see this though.

  • Fabian

    What a bunch of platitudes. Along the same lines you can make the argument that 36MP does not increase resolution…. as long as you only make 4″ x 6″ prints.

    • ActionJunky

      Or… you could just be more precise. If you wanted to print a 4″ x 6″ print at a typical, acceptable DPI of 300, then you only need a 2.16 megapixel camera. The human eye cannot discern details past 300 DPI. That’s one reason why Apple is touting their new “Retina” displays. Even at 400 DPI, you would only need a 3.36 megapixel camera.

      Based on 300 DPI, an 11″ x 14″ print requires a 13.86 Megapixel camera. A 16″ X 20″ requires a 28.8 Megapixel camera. If you assume that you will crop at least some of the image for your 16″ X 20″ print, then 36.0 megapixels gets you a print one size larger.

      My point… there is a reason for the massive increase in sensor pixels. Viewing images on a computer may be where most people see them, but if I want to hang a 20″ X 30″ print or larger on the wall, then 36 megapixels is still not enough.

      • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

        “…but if I want to hang a 20″ X 30″ print or larger on the wall, then 36 megapixels is still not enough.”

        Well, it’s “enough”… just not at native resolution. ;-)

        We did just hang one of my images in a gallery last week at 52×35. It taken on my lowly 12.1MP D700… and it looks great.

        BUT oh man do I wish it had been taken on a D800! And that’s why I get irritated at people like Ken Rockwell who say “6mp is enough.” Sure, it is… but can you imagine how much MORE enough could be?

        • ActionJunky

          I agree those images can look great. Larger images are typically viewed from greater distance and the DPI matters less. However, I try to anticipate the printed size when taking photo and shoot accordingly. Last year I was looking to fill a wide wall space and took a photo of the Grand Canyon. It was not the best location or my best work, but I did take 7 shots at 12 Megapixels for panorama stitching.

          This can be personal preference, but I do prefer to stay around 300 DPI for those picture peepers out there. If I were to do this the same shoot with a D800, I would still stitch them together, but with far less photos.

          Thanks,

    • timon

      having only to compare about the image quality in between the screen modes would not be a good way.
      contrarily, the scores merely came from an 8Mpix print mode would only show of the flawed scores.

      how score would you mark the pixel quality in between the imaging qualities? You have to remember that the pixel quality is a base in the imaging qualities.

      The PIXEL QUALITY is a BASE in the imaging qualities.
      well then, the screen mode is still a very valuable way.

      for the print mode, why you did not print a A3 size (300dpi), or a A2 size? but is merely in a A4 size? the 36MP camera is merely for a A4 print quality needed?

      DxOmark’s Overall Score is unworthy with your fanatic overly, rather their impersonally Measurement data is valuable in focuses, especially under the screen mode to view the charts, (with a 100% magnification, pixel-for-pixel).

      d800, d7000, Phase One IQ180 Digital Back, measurement charts with screen mode, like TR, DR, SNR18%, Color Depth, etc…
      http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/792%7C0/(brand)/Nikon/(appareil2)/746%7C0/(brand2)/Phase%20One/(appareil3)/680%7C0/(brand3)/Nikon

      d800, d7000, 5d2, measurement charts with screen mode,
      http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/792%7C0/(brand)/Nikon/(appareil2)/680%7C0/(brand2)/Nikon/(appareil3)/483%7C0/(brand3)/Canon

      do not need to notice the so-called Overall Score, it is merely a remark of man-made.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      A higher MP count gives you a choice to print larger at the same DPI as compared to a lower MP count.

  • http://500px.com/mason John Mason

    Just fyi, I’ve preordered a D800 and look forward to using it.

    However, I have to disagree a bit about the points made for diffraction and noise.

    As large format photographers know, film or sensor size does have an impact with diffraction as well as the lens. Part of the reason LF photogs can shoot at higher apertures. Ken Rockwell has a post on this – http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/diffraction.htm

    Noise – well yes, a lot changes when you make a print. Type of paper the ink bleed, etc can effectively mask noise issues. How many people are printing their shots these days? So screen/100% has become more important lately specially with larger TVs and devices which show images in high quality. The main point though, for me, is that a higher resolution sensor will have worse low light/iso performance. It’s basic physics at play there. If I flip a coin 3 times, the chances it hits heads each time is very good. If I flip the coin 30,000 times, the chances drop and in actuality I’ll see a very tight spread at 50%. The same holds true for the photons being detected by the individual pixel. If the sensor sizes are the same and I increase the pixel count, those individual pixels have to be smaller. Their ability to catch photons drops as a result. I get a wider swing of detected values as a result which in turn equals noise.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      Show me a TV that is 36MP.

  • http://ericduminil.com Eric Duminil

    Let me please add a paragraph to this kinda-pointless article :
    ###################################
    Megapixel count
    A higher megapixel count won’t increase megapixel count. There’s a common misconception that a higher megapixel count increases megapixel count because most of the time, images are examined at 100%. If you normalized the images from two cameras with the same lens to the same pixel count/print size, you’ll realize that both of the images have the same amount of megapixel.
    ###################################

    Sorry, but that’s pretty much the structure and content of the whole article.

    • ActionJunky

      No. Incorrect.

      Read my post above regarding print sizes. The point of the article is to debunk the myth that increasing megapixels results in increased diffraction and motion blur. This is not the case. They are just easier to see if you pixel peep.

      • Mike

        Exactly. And in my opinion if I can see it, it exists.

        So while the higher MP count of the D800 may not cause more diffraction or motion blur, it makes it easier to see their effects. And whether it causes more of these things or not, in the end it’s all the same difference.

        If my photos exhibit more diffraction or motion blur, rationalizing how it happened will not solve the problem.

        The solution for the diffraction issue? Better lens design.

        The solution for motion blur? Higher shutter speeds, which comes from either better ISO performance, wider apertures (which sacrifices DOF), or more light.

        • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

          “The solution for the diffraction issue? Better lens design.”

          Wouldn’t they just* have to make the aperture blades thinner?

          *a big “just”.

          • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

            Diffraction is impossible to remove – it’s a property of light getting through the lens. Removing the aperture blade totally doesn’t decrease diffraction either.

        • Don Pope

          “If my photos exhibit more diffraction or motion blur, rationalizing how it happened will not solve the problem.”"

          If you make two 20×30 prints, one from a 12mp image and one from a 36mp image, the diffraction and the motion blur will be exactly the same in both prints.

          • Mike

            Why would I handicap the 36mp image to compare it to a 12mp image? If that’s what most people do, why get a 36mp camera in the first place? Bragging rights?

            If the 12mp image looks the same as the 36mp image, why get the 36mp?

            • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

              A downsampled 36mp image should still be noticeably sharper and more detailed.

            • Shah

              Because it’ll look better at 36MP than the 12MP will blown up (for the times you need to print that size). Also cropping ability (for when you want to do that). You can crop 36MP a LOT and still get 10MP. It’s very usable too.

              Basically it’s about flexibility.

              Honestly though. Why u mad bro?

            • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

              Because you get a higher DPI when printing.

  • wrong

    The article is not accurate. Yes, what you call “pixel binning” does reduce noise but not by the same amount as a larger sensor. Also you don’t mention dynamic range. The smaller the sensor, the less capacity it has and therefore the smaller the dynamic range is.
    If the D800 does not have the problem, then it is due to the fact that Nikon has made a great sensor. Had they built a camera with larger photo sites, it would even be better.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      Yes, your name says that you’re wrong. A larger sensor don’t equate to less noise. A larger lens (due to a larger entrance pupil, or simpler – aperture_ at a given focal length will determine the noise performance. Also, a smaller sensor won’t have lower dynamic range, because a smaller sensor can have a lower ISO without as much read noise.

      It won’t be any better if they have a larger photosite – it only decreases the resolution/increase the sensor size. The D4 has a larger photosite, don’t seem to have much difference in terms of noise. Dynamic range wise, D800 is better, too.

  • burgerman

    >>> Mike
    Exactly. And in my opinion if I can see it, it exists. so while the higher MP count of the D800 may not cause more diffraction or motion blur, it makes it easier to see their effects. And whether it causes more of these things or not, in the end it’s all the same difference.

    If my photos exhibit more diffraction or motion blur, rationalizing how it happened will not solve the problem.

    ______________________________

    But thats the whole point. If you cant see them in your print now, then you wont see them in the D800 print either. Unless you print it proportionally bigger… What you WILL see is 14.4 stops of DR, and finer detail… AND no more noise than the same shot on a D4.

    • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

      “…AND no more noise than the same shot on a D4.”

      Err… you’d have to downsample to 16.4MP… save that file… THEN enlarge your downsampled file. In that case you *would* actually have more detail along with your similar noise performance.

      Of course this only matters at high ISOs (over 800). But what you gain in sharpness over the D4, you lose in dynamic range.

      • burgerman

        I am talking about printing large. Or actually small bits cropped on one page. so we dont waste paper/ink. But equal to almost 30 inches wide.

        I have printed shots taken in my dingy pub at night from a freinds D3S and from my D800 at the same settings. Same subject, same iso, same lens, same everything.

        This has the same affect as downsizing the d800 to match the d3s. Only the printer does it to fit the paper… Cant try a D4 as we dont have one (yet).

        The D800 shots are absolutely the same even at the stupid isos that most never use. The max the d800 goes to.

        You cannot see which camera took which. And at lower isos there is absolutely more detail. You can only win. Speed is another matter. But image quality, at high ISO is every bit as good. Dynamic range may not be, at high iso but you could have fooled me. The D3s owner is looking at getting a d800 for dingy churches as he didnt believe anything would match the D3s.

        • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

          I was talking about printing large, too.

          Now maybe I’m just confused by your response in exactly what you were trying to say. You are talking about downsampling and 30 inch prints, but both the D800 and D3s are natively smaller than that… so they wouldn’t be downsampling. They’d both be upsampling.

          What I was saying is if you shot a D3s and a D800 at, say, ISO 6400 and the blow them up to 30-inches, the D800 will be quite a bit sharper, but will have the noticeable 100% pixel-level noise. What I was saying is, downsample it to remove that noise (say, to 18mp), THEN resize that image up to 30. That’s one way of dealing with the noise, as it should retain sharpness and detail that software reduction wouldn’t. The end result would be having a really sharp 18mp image which is plenty big enough for 30 inches.

          Now, say you just took your 36mp and upsampled it for the extra 8 inches and the D3s looked just as noisy (because the little noise it did how is now massively enlarged)… it doesn’t change the fact you could make the D800 even better by downsampling some of that noise first. At least that’s the theory. ;-)

        • Lucky guy

          i found this true too. But in my tests the d3s starts to pull away after 6400iso (max “native” ISO on the d800). Still very close though.

          I own both btw. I’d still choose d3s for sports just for the fps. Events a d3s would be good because of the smaller file size letting you get more shots per card. But I suppose you could just buy more cards. 12 bit lossless compressed d800 files are only about double a d3s file size. Just double your card capacity and you’ll be fine. ;)

      • Rich

        If you reduce the size of an image then apply noise reduction and then interpolate the file for enlargement; that’s not going to increase image quality (minimal at best) you would better off if you had just worked on the large file.

        The point of having these high resolution cameras is to utilize the resolution. Otherwise just keep your D700. Using a tripod with a quality lens at the optimal aperture makes a huge difference and you won’t have to worry about diffraction. Or motion blur. This NR post is pointless.

        • Mike

          Because the D800 is aimed at landscape and studio photographers, in many cases (like people using off-camera lighting) people will NOT be using a tripod and will NOT have a choice in aperture to reduce diffraction. When using off-camera lighting, many times a large depth of field is wanted and you must choose a small aperture to correctly expose for the lighting used. So what you’re telling me is to optimize the D800′s images, you are asking photographers who normally don’t use tripods and who use off-camera lighting to cripple their creative process to band-aid fix other issues?

          • http://www.richmartinezphotography.com Rich

            If your shooting landscapes an want the detail and best image quality you want to use a tripod. I don’t know any respectable pro that doesn’t prefer to use a tripod. Yes sometimes you’re going to hand hold but if possible you will use a tripod. If youre shooting in a studio with strobes you still have some exposure latitude to work with. Shooting wide open isn’t as bad as shooting at F22 for diffraction. My point is I don’t know anyone who comes home from shooting that has to cry about diffraction. If you know what you are doing you will get your shot!!

          • Ms pacman

            Mike, judging by your posts I guess you don’t own a d800. If you did you wouldn’t be suggesting it’s just for landscape and studio photography. You can use it for everything with a bit of skill. It has proven itself to be a great high ISO camera, has excellent AF for sports and even has brilliant movie fuctionality.

            From the venom evident in your posts you either can’t afford one, are waiting for your order or are a Canon troll. Which one is it?

  • compromise

    “4 FPS is actually not bad too, and professionals sports photographers used to shoot at 4.5 FPS”
    Sorry the “old days” comparison is a really bad argument. The D800 is clearly not the camera of choice for sports photography. Period. Sure you can if you want to, but would any pro really do that. If someone used to shoot at low FPS in the past it does not mean it was good. They just didn’t have a choice.

    “The higher resolution will serve you well when you need it, and you don’t actually need to compromise your daily shooting just to utilize all of the resolution unless you need them.”
    Yes it does compromise your daily shooting: You get low FPS because of it. Your memory card gets filled up quickly because of it. Your disk gets filled up more quickly (a pro will shoot hundreds of thousands of pictures). Your videos get moiré because a mathematically more accurate downscaling from a huge 36 megapixel is not possible with the given processor.

    The author is just looking at it from one side.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      Hundreds of thousands of pictures? Your camera will be dead very soon. The cost of changing shutters is much more than the cost of HDD. Most likely you’ll change your camera. And a pro knows which shots to throw. You don’t need to keep all the shots you take.
      Videos, I agree – get a Canon until Nikon step up their game.

  • T.I.M

    @Peter,
    Any informations about the new AF-S 50mm f/1.4 with nano-coating ?
    The “old” version is out of stock everywhere, will the new one be made in Japan and have an aspherical element ?
    I hope it won’t go more than $650

  • http://www.steinpix.com Mark Stein

    Sounds good.

    Any news on how well this camera handles moire/bayer pattern prone subject matter? Specifically apparel – (tight linear weave artificial fabric is my nemesis at the moment). I’ll probably be testing it out next week but I was wondering if there is any consensus yet.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      At 100%, it’s actually quite apparent for D800, and very apparent D800E. So far I haven’t go through any softwares that deals with moire well, so you’re kinda out of luck if a moire hits you. My advice: shoot a few shots and hope one isn’t affected by moire if you’re shooting a moire prone scene. Worst case scenario – merge shots, take parts from the shot where there isn’t moire. If you don’t view at 100%, it should be almost invisible for D800.

  • rkas

    Thank you Jinn Leong! People really need the read this kind of stuff. Now please make this a sticky. ;P

  • Ertan

    Terrible text. Summary: “If you decrease pixel count, all problems goes away”.
    Somebody should remind the writer that D800 is purchased for its 36MP, not to decrease pixel count. If you take 36MP, then all those problems are there.
    Recommending to use lower pixels is BS. Then go and buy a D7000 or even D700 and invest in better lenses.

    • Michael

      D800 gives you a choice to utilise the extra pixel when you need to. You don’t need to use all of that pixel.

  • http://blogg.hogbergphotography.com Danonino

    Thankyou Admin for this post. Finally we can end this endless debate that has been going on for years..

  • Brent

    People need to wait for Nikon to release a successor to the D700 and stop stating that 36mp is better than anything else because you can resize the image and get the same or better results as a D4/D700/MD3. It’s plain stupid (unless storage really isn’t an issue at all or you would be using most of the resolution) to buy this camera with the intention to resize every single pic and have to store the raw 36mp on a drive. I think people are jumping the gun with this release and a select few will actually need that much resolution. In fact, I would argue that if asked before the D800′s specs were released, most people when asked would want something like 18-24 mp. Even the 5D3 has more resolution than most would need. Insanely great camera, but it does bother me that every click I make is almost 20mp more resolution than is needed and necessary to get less noise as other cameras. I’m also not a Canon owner and have been debating between the 5D3/D800/(or waiting) for some time. My concern is that the D700 was 12 mp and Nikon would have to bring it up another 11 to reach the 5d3 performance at native resolution. Now I’m not saying they can’t, but will it be that much better and worth the wait..

    • burgerman

      >>> It’s plain stupid (unless storage really isn’t an issue at all or you would be using most of the resolution) to buy this camera with the intention to resize every single pic and have to store the raw 36mp on a drive. I think people are jumping the gun with this release and a select few will actually need that much resolution.

      __________

      I have in my PC 4x 1tb drives. And 4x 2tb drives. They are so cheap its rude not too. I honestly dont get your problem. As for the resolution its GREAT! Super sharp, and can be shrunk down if you want. Also if you have a sad old computer shoot at 9, or 20mp. Nothing stopping you, 36 isnt manditory. Plus of course these are ready downsampled images. So sharper than any native 20 or 9mp camera!

      If your argument is large raw files, then thats the point of raw. You WANT as much pixexs and info as you can get to make the best final image. Wanting smaller raw makes absolutely no sense. And yes it does everything the D700 did but is hugely better in countless ways. All but 1 frame per sec… And yes it matches the D4 at high iso too photo for photo. But slower.

      But again, theres a lower image quality faster D4 for that fast spray and pray and delete 99 percent stuff…

    • D800 owner

      You don’t need to shoot everything 14bit uncompressed (70MB per file).

      12 bit lossless will give you an excellent 36MP file that’s perfect for everything but perhaps landscape and studio work. It’s only 30-35MB too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      How many pictures do you shoot per year? An insane photographer would shoot maybe 100K photos and probably 25% would be deleted before it is even transferred into the computer. Let’s say a normal photographer would store 50K photographs per year, it would only cost $100 for the hard drive per year. I guess most wouldn’t even get near that number. You are capable to pay for such a good camera and you are going to cheap out on your storage media? It’s more or less 3% the cost of your camera.
      EDIT: And this is if you shoot RAW, if you shoot JPEG, it’s going to be absurd for you to cheap out a HDD. WTF?

  • urgyen

    OMG seems most of guys here are tech-geeks, engineers.
    guys enjoy what u have be it d100 or d4.
    love peace flowerpower

  • burgerman

    Well I think an engineering qualification or an IQ test should be a requirement for buying a decent camera.

    Those are the ones that get why 36mp IS BETTER and photo for photo especially in crops or large prints, has better detail and better dynamic range, or better noise than any old tech D700/D3 are in the above club.

    Now IF you want to take and print the exaact same low light shots (in a dark church for eg) you will get absolutely the same image quality and high ISO noise as you do with a D4. In the same image OUTPUT size. The difference is that in every other lower ISO shot you have masses more detail, cropability, can straighten walls, correct lens distortion etc and print a massively batter print than any 12, 16, 24 mp camera since you had more pixels to interpolate and play with BEFORE your printer prints it out… Best of both worlds.

    It was damned obvious before any tests by DXO etc. And why I ordered mine on the 7th and have been using it for about 1k shots. And its a HUGE improvement in detail even on relatively small 20 inch prints. If you dont want big files, then get something else. Or get a proper computer.

    • burgerman

      http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Publications/DxOMark-Reviews/Nikon-D800-Review/Sensor-performance

      Added…
      So whats the point of the D4? Its faster. For spray and prey journos or for Sport where high resolution and ultra dynamic range isnt so important but speed is.

      D700 successor? What could it do. If it was as fast as a D4 then whats the point of the D4. If its “low pixel count” how would that help? The D800 is equally as good as D4 with high iso noise now at the same output size as the D4 is.

      No room for a D700 successor.

    • JJ

      “The difference is that in every other lower ISO shot you have masses more detail, cropability, can straighten walls, correct lens distortion etc and print a massively batter print than any 12, 16, 24 mp camera since you had more pixels to interpolate and play with BEFORE your printer prints it out… Best of both worlds”

      What’s with all this print talk? Honestly, how many people print and how often are you really doing that much cropping to these images? All the described above you can do with a 23mp or less. I typically take a pic with the intention of not having to crop it to begin with, so your argument is only fair in the one in a hundred shots. Also a proper computer has nothing to do with the massive file sizes and more about the practical use of this camera.

      • burgerman

        How do you view your images? If you dont print them (I do) then you view them on screen.

        My monitor is 30 inch and 2560 x 1600 resolution. SIf I view the whole photo full screen then whatever software, or windows etc does to fit it on to your screen RESIZES IT down to 4mp size regardless of resolution of the file so it fits the screen. Typical monitor is 100 DPI only. So at 100 percent on screen the D800 image is 74 inches wide! That doesent fit your screen.

        If however you PRINT it at 300 DPI where there is much more detail (3x more) than your screen then a D800 image is only 24 inches wide. I print bigger regularly.

        Do the same with a d700 or d3 and at a fine print quality its only 14 inches wide… Of course you CAN print it bigger and I used to do so. But the detail is obviously missing. You wouldnt believe the difference. So you can keep your tiny files and toy computer if you want! With the D800 landscapes are unbelievable sharp and detailed. D700 shots in comparison look muddy and indistinct.

        • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

          “…Typical monitor is 100 DPI only…”

          Monitors don’t have any idea what DPI is. Your image could be exported at “1 DPI” and it will be displayed exactly the same. Pixels by pixels is all that maters on a computer.

          http://www.scantips.com/no72dpi.html

          • Don Pope

            Burgerman is not talking about the DPI setting embedded in the image. He’s talking about the pixel density of the monitor. He should have written PPI instead of DPI, but that’s nitpicking, and his point is perfectly valid.

            Most monitors have a density of around 100 PPI and a resolution below 4 megapixels. Therefore, in a computer monitor, a full 36 megapixel image will look the same as 4 megapixel image. The only difference is that you can zoom-in (or crop) the 36mp image and see additional detail.

      • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

        “What’s with all this print talk? Honestly, how many people print and how often are you really doing that much cropping to these images? All the described above you can do with a 23mp or less.

        I just had a photo hung in a gallery last week at 52×35. When I took it, I had no idea that would be it’s home. And it was taken with a 12.1MP D700.

        Yes, you are generally correct. 23mp is “enough”. BUT oh man do I wish it had been taken on a D800! And that’s why I get irritated at people like Ken Rockwell who say “6mp is enough.” Sure, it is… but can you imagine how much MORE “enough” could be? That image was enough for a gallery, only because there wasn’t the same shot with 3x the detail to compare it against.

        “Enough” is an incredibly subjective term. Probably best to just remove it from your vocabulary if you plan on bettering yourself.

  • Che Ibarra

    All this talk about comparable noise levels, downsampling, etc etc is just silly in my opinion. Just go out and shoot and have fun. I for one settled on the D4 bc of my sports and low-light work but I am intrigued by the D800 huge resolution. I would NOT mind at all using a D800 over my D4 on small projects, landscapes, etc…but not assignment where I will be shooting 600+ images. If I later feel that I want the best of both worlds, I will just sell my D7000 with DX lens and get a D800 or D800E. There just seems to me so much talk bout all this noise performance, etc etc. I idea of downsampling my images for better noise performance just doesn’t sit well in my mind with me. But we will see.

    • burgerman

      You dont have to down sample! That is just for comparison on screen to normalise between cameras.

      Either shoot it at lower resolution (the camera automatically downsizes) or view on screen (the PC downsizes it to fit the screen) or print it (the printer downsizes or not depending how big you print…)

      Why is this so hard for so many people? I dont understand. Theres no downsides just options. And as long as you UNDERSTAND how the physics and maths works it just means more choice/quality.

  • http://cdsharper.zenfolio.com CdSharp

    Not trying to get hate mail, but the D800 is a game changer.

    I shot Ospreys over the weekend. The main activities were building the nest and mating, all of which I caught. FPS was not to much of a trade compared to the resolution. After shooting with a D300S, I’m nolonger afraid to use shutter preferred and auto ISO. I’m not a pro shooter but my primary focus is landscape and wildlife. It’s a worthy investment for my passion!.
    As I said, with good technique, the D800 is a game changer!

    • http://www.seanmolin.com Sean Molin

      I’ve been shooting environmental (human) portraits with mine the last two weeks… and the face-detection metering has changed how I shoot.

      I focus 100% on my composition, and I can shoot fast. Metering is dead-on every single time it can see a face. When you’re shooting weddings, every second counts, and this is going to shave off many of them.

  • LarryC

    I have been on the fence about getting D800 because of all this debate, but Amazon is currently running a killer promotion and offering a $2 mp3 credit with the purchase of the D800!!! My decision is made.

  • http://www.photo-now.com george

    my 2 cents
    shooting weddings and architecture, i have found that 21 mpx is fine, and actually overkill for weddings, most of the images never get bigger than 16×20, and if they do they are still too sharp for the customer (faces almost always need softened).

    even with architecture i have enough pixels to make a 5 foot image with no sign of pixels. i would however like to have a few more for some projects that are printed bigger (i am stitching for those images at this time).

    there has been talk in the past of diffraction limits on pixel size, but i have not seen any scientific proof/study showing what that size is, i am sure that it is a factor or electron microscopes would have never been invented (size of the wavelength does limit resolution)

    anyway, in conclusion we are really reaching the limits of need as far as 99% of photography is concerned. and without a dramatic increase in lens resolution and image stabilization abilities more pixels don’t count. therefore unless you are using $2000+ prime lenses on a tripod, i expect you will only see a 10 % or less increase in quality form 24 to 36 mpx, and almost no increase in quality from 36 to the next higher sensor that is probably in a lab right now.

    • http://cdsharper.zenfolio.com CdSharp

      Even with a 500 mm and 1.4 TC, shooting in Crop Mode, the increased MP is nice to allow for cropped images when the glass cona’t get you closer. I use mine for wildlife. Used it for less that 10 days and I’m every happy

  • raphaelsa

    I personally do not care about the D800 technical issues. I do not care about resolution, noise, fps, etc, etc. What I DO care is PRICE. I need to replace my good old D90. I need it to be priced around USD1200. That’s my only criticism to D800.

    • Robyn

      I hear you brother, I feel the same way:

      I personally do not care about the Ferrari FF technical issues. I do not care about acceleration, aerodynamics, asctetics, etc, etc. What I DO care is PRICE. I need to replace my good old Toyota Corolla. I need it to be priced around USD12000. That’s my only criticism to Ferrari FF.

  • Derp

    I guess somebody at Phase One needs to reconsider their priorities

  • GrumpyDiver

    Actually, not quite technically correct. The author states that the diffraction limit is set by the lens, and that is not exactly correct. The diffraction limit is set by the f-stop that is being used. On the D800 sensor, shooting your standard f/2.8 lens wide open, your won’t see any diffraction effects (perhaps just the vignetting or corner softness). Stop the lens down to f/8 and put on your pixel peeping glasses and you might start seeing a bit of softening due to diffraction, but the vignetting will have gone away and the corner softness will have disappeared too.

    On the other hand, who cares as you would have to be looking at 100% plus enlargement to actually see this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

      Nope. It is not limited by the f-stop but the entrance pupil.

  • Read what he wrote..

    He says “Diffraction depends on the lens, not the sensor.”
    - this is only true for lenses that have the iris/aperture in the lens and whilst this is true, it is not the diffraction itself that is the problem but rather how the diffraction interacts with the sensor. Note that he does not say that an increase in megapixels does not change the impact of diffraction on an image.

    Now further down, he says “If you normalized the images from two cameras with the same lens to the same pixel count/print size, you’ll realize that both of the images have the same amount of diffraction.” – so if you downsize a D800 36MP image to 12MP, it should have the same diffraction as a D700. This is almost an admission that more megapixels creates more visible diffraction. Note that you cannot up-convert a 12Mp to 36MP and have the same diffraction unless you create new light data that wasn’t captured originally.

    These comments are of the snake oil variety that politicians make. You need to read what is said and also understand what is not said to fully grasp it.

  • http://www.robertash.com Robert Ash

    My main criticism of the article is that all it does is summarizes at a high level comments that already have been made numerous times in threads here over the past several months prior to the D800′s being released. There isn’t one thing he says that someone here hasn’t said already. In more detail and more knowledgeably, to boot. Moreover, the engineers posting here included a lot more detail and showed significant knowledge of physics, of material science, hardware engineering and of optics science.

    This author shows none of that expertise. He just makes high-level declarations that he provides no proof for, no detail about (except for including a url that explains pixel binning which is written at a much deeper level of scientific detail than this author explains anything in his high-level summary aka article), and shows no examples to support.

    Even if his conclusions are right (and I believe they are), someone else could put together an equally high-level article equally lacking in detail or proof — and asserting just the opposite of what he’s asserting. And such an article would look just as right (or wrong) as this article.

    In this case I find the engineering-oriented comments about this article, both pro and con, much more informed and much more informative than the article itself.

    • Michael

      This email have been written to Admin more than a month ago.

  • timon

    having only to compare about the image quality in between the screen modes would not be a good way.
    contrarily, the scores merely came from an 8Mpix print mode would only show of the flawed scores.

    how score would you mark the pixel quality in between the imaging qualities? You have to remember that the pixel quality is a base in the imaging qualities.

    well then, the screen mode is still a very valuable way.

    for the print mode, why you did not print a A3 size (300dpi), or a A2 size? but is merely in a A4 size? the 36MP camera is merely for a A4 print quality needed?

    • timon

      DxOmark’s Overall Score is unworthy with your fanatic overly, rather their impersonally Measurement data is valuable in focuses, especially under the screen mode to view the charts, (with a 100% magnification, pixel-for-pixel).

      d800, d7000, Phase One IQ180 Digital Back, measurement charts with screen mode,
      http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/792%7C0/(brand)/Nikon/(appareil2)/746%7C0/(brand2)/Phase%20One/(appareil3)/680%7C0/(brand3)/Nikon

      d800, d7000, 5d2, measurement charts with screen mode,
      http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cameras/Compare-Camera-Sensors/Compare-cameras-side-by-side/(appareil1)/792%7C0/(brand)/Nikon/(appareil2)/680%7C0/(brand2)/Nikon/(appareil3)/483%7C0/(brand3)/Canon

      In currently, major desk-monitors are resolution in between 96dpi and 120dpi, it means the d800 can print a larger picture in 70×46-inch/100dpi, but the imaging quality would not be lower than the eos5d2 in 50×33-inch/100dpi, moreover the DR performance d800 is better than eos5d2.

      for the A3 (300 dpi) print, the narrowed sample is in 4960×3500 pixels, the imaging quality the d800 would undoubtedly surpass eos5d2.

      needless to say, mirror-slap-blur, a lesser shutter lag time, spot-metering can link to AF-point, alloyed mirror-box and lens mount backside, etc…

      d800 and d7000 are more worthy of investors’ attention. Although the d7000 is an APS-c format and plastic mirror-box, but the imaging quality is also a well done camera.

      as a real photography lover is rather than a pretender, you ought to know about the fine high-grade photographic book in A3 size, the printed photo is with a 300dpi resolution, it is put on desk to view and admire, a 50cm spacing is in between eye and photographic book. In the A3 photo books, for a large photo across the two full pages would show a d800 to be capable of doing rather well, but in past it needed a 645 format digital camera.

      • Michael

        It’s best to compare at screen mode. The overall score is useful too. A 15 point increase means 1 stop increase.

  • Fred Azinger

    Man I’m so sick of these stupid comparisons…
    STOP hacking the pixel’s to suit your need.
    Motion blur and diffraction are fixed “size” events….the more pixels you jam into that size, the more blurred pixels you get.
    Sure, if you equalize everything to big pixels, all these effects look like they only effect one [big] pixel.
    You DON’T buy a 36MP camera to use it in 12MP mode, so STOP comparing in that mode….just plane stupidity.

    Blur due to motion and diffraction are constants…the more pixels you pack into that are, the more BAD pixels you get….plan and simple….
    If you are throwing away 1/3 of the pixels, then you might care less….but why did you buy all the pixels….

    When are you stupid reviews going to actually learn some basic physics….

    • Michael

      Lol, looks like the stupid one is you.

    • Fred

      Well because there are hose that are ‘scientifically challenged’.
      Throwing away 2/3rds of the pixels to get to 12 MP and retain detail is an interesting concept.
      Anyone can try this at home.
      Take 36 bottles of your best wine and throw 24 outside. This will make the remaining 12 bottles taste much better.
      Actually just ship those 24 bottles to me rather, I’ll find a use for them.

      • Michael

        Hmm, you’re not throwing away those 24 bottles. You compress those 36 bottles of honey into 12 bottles to make the 12 bottles better.

      • http://www.facebook.com/leong.qijin Leong Qi Jin

        We don’t throw them away unless you use the nearest neighbor algorithm. We compress them together because we usually downsize using the bicubic algorithm.

  • ChrisMA

    How is he comparing noise with two identical sensors with different resolutions? Nearly every new higher MP sensor also has improvements in sensitivity. The only valid comparison would be two sensors with everything the same except resolution. Then you would see a noise benefit of fewer pixels. I’m sure Nikon has done this internally, which is why they used only 16 MP on the D4.

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