Print comparisons from 12 vs. 21+MP

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by david carver, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. Has anyone done a print comp between the D700, D300 (D90) and 5D Mark II at 13 by 9? I am not interested in viewing pixels. Is there any sharpness or detail difference in the actual prints at that size? I am not asking for any opinions either or someone telling me to research older answers. I just want to know if anyone has done a comp between any or all of these cameras and what the results were. I have had a D300 and now a D90 and am considering a 5D Mark II if there is a gain in print quality. I don't plan on spending 8 grand on a D3X so Canon is my only alternative.
    Thank you for your answers. I really appreciate your help.
     
  2. What lenses do you have now, and what lenses would you have to buy if you jumped systems?

    What sort of subject matter are you shooting?
     
  3. The only time I've seen this kind of large prints (larger than 13x19) at the same time was from the NYC Photo Expo. Doesn't matter what camera / lens the photographer used, they all look great. Many of those poster size prints were taken by a 8 or 10 MP cameras. With the proper techniques, all the cameras you mentioned above should be OK.
     
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The primary factors that determine how good your prints are (1) how good a photographer you are and (2) your post processing and printing techniques. For a moderately mid-size print like 13x9, 12MP is plenty. For static images such as landscape, studio fine art type, if you can routinely use a tripod and try to use the middle aperture of high-quality lenses, e.g. f5.6, f8 from a high-end f2.8 zoom, that will make some difference in your final print.
    I tested the 24MP D3X earlier this year. Some other photographer and I made side-by-side comparisons between the D3X, D3, and D700. If you print something like 24x16", you can see some subtle advantage from the D3X if you use the right technique and optics as I mentioned above.
    I used the 200mm/f4 AF-D macro on a tripod to captured the following flower macro with the D3X and D700. That lens has a tripod collar, and I just swap cameras with identical compositions. I used f11 to gain depth of field and 1-second exposure delay to prevent vibration from mirror slap. I made 11x8.5 prints and cannot tell the difference between the two prints while looking carefully from just a few inches away. That flower has a lot of little "hair" with plenty of fine fine details: http://www.photo.net/photo/9206542
    I never used the Canon 5D Mark II, though.
     
  5. Shun, Matt and Andy, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question. Shun, you exactly answered my queston. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    David
     
  6. I shoot with a D300 and 500mm F4 (nikon), my photo partner shoots with a Canon 600mm F4. She previously shot with Canon 50D, recently upgraded to a 5D. Just this morning I printed a shot she took of a bull Elk with the 5D to 16X24 and the level of detail I find amazing when compared to my D300 or any of her previous photos with the 50D. The difference is quite obvious and impressive, much better quality than possible with my D300. (That's 21mp versus 12mp). The difference may not be quite as apparent in smaller sizes but the possibilities are definitely much greater for a highly detailed photo.
     
  7. Don, you're not only comparing 21 vs. 12MP, you're also comparing two different sensor sizes (and different lenses). The OP is asking about two cameras of the same format with different pixel counts. Since lens detail contrast drops as you increase spatial frequency, the answer is also different.
     
  8. Ikka, here's what he asked "Has anyone done a print comp between the D700, D300 (D90) and 5D Mark II at 13 by 9?". I believe I answered his question correctly except the print size was larger. If I'm correct both the D700 and 5D are full frame (FX) formats.
     
  9. Is that 13x9 cm or inches?
     
  10. Keith, inches.
     
  11. Don, thanks a lot. That is what I was asking. I have a D90 and wanted to know if I would see a diff in quality in prints if I went to a full frame 21MP or higher (Sony 850 or Canon 5D II). I can't justify the D3X. I am not a pro and do this for fun. Eight thousand would really take the fun out of it.
    Ilkka, explain an increase in spatial frequency. Sorry, I'm in business and not an engineer. :) Assuming the lenses are the same and the sensors are the same would you see a diff? I did not think sensor size mattered because from what I have read the IQ from the D700 and the D300 are about the same.
     
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As I pointed out earlier, there are many factors that affect the final print result. If anything, shooting technique, camera/lens support, lens optics, post-processing technique, etc. might have a larger impact than mere pixel count. When you reach 24MP on an FX (24x36mm) area, you have to use the best lenses in their optimal apertures to take full advantage of the many pixels, especially around the edges of the frame.
    In other words, unless you keep all other factors the same as I did with my D3X, D700 test, you are actually comparing a lot of other (unknown or not well understood) issues.
     
  13. I compared the D300, D700, and D3X earlier this year with images from www.imaging-resource.com.
    I posted the following summary on Nikongear:
    Is 12MP enough ?? The only way to answer the question is to take images of the identical scene with a variety of cameras and put them through your full workflow to the final print, and then compare them.

    I bought a D300 two months before the D700 was announced and I wish that I had waited.

    However I have now done a full scale comparison test of the D300, D700, and D3X at ISO 200 and ISO 3200 and there is VERY little difference between them in a 24" (60cm) wide print. Your opinion may differ and I encourage you to do your own testing.

    On the web there are several sites showing comparisons of a D3 and D3X, but all show crops at the same pixels/inch rather than the same full image angle, and of course the D3X pics look bigger obviously.

    One site www.imaging-resource.com does a better job with its "comparator" page and you can compare a large range of cameras with a large range of static images.

    On the screen, there are visible differences between the D300, D700, and D3X, however most of these disappear in the final print.
    I downloaded their files (6MB jpgs for the D300 and D700, and 13MB jpgs for the D3X), and went through my normal workflow -- CS3 smart sharpen and Noise Ninja, both at their defaults. Then I printed all images with Qimage, which does its own uprezzing and sharpening, at full 24" width of my printer.

    At ISO 200, I could detect NO difference between the D300 and D700, and the D3X image was only very very slightly better. It did show better resolution on the round scale (see the image below) but on normal objects you could not tell one apart from another.

    At ISO 3200, there was still very little difference between the images. However on the pink cloth swatch the D300 and D3X produced a blurring of the pattern (probably due to Noise Ninja) while the D700 was crisp. The round scale was about the same between the D700 and D3X, with the D300 showing less resolution.

    Bottom line -- it is very hard to tell these apart in the print and I could sell images from any of these cameras at 24" wide. Your workflow does make a significant difference to the end result and seems to even the playing field between cameras.
     
  14. I would imagine that there are a multitude of people with 13 inch printers who want to move up to 17 inches. That's where I am anyway. At 13 inches, a D300 with an average tele will produce an amazingly good image. So, the question is, will DX still be enough at 17 inches? A move to FX 20+ mp would end the anxiety. The Sony a850 will probably be about the same price as a 7D or D300s by the time I could afford one. I could set it up with used or Sigma/Tamron lenses and still come out ahead.
     
  15. We get so caught up in 'is this number of megapixels better than that number of megapixels, DX vs FX etc etc.' The final point is that on the wall does it look good? I never look at prints from a few inches away, so whether x is sharper than y at 3" viewing distance is really irrelevant. I've had prints at 16" x 12" made up from a D700 (good lenses on tripod) that look fantastic, I've also had 16" x 12" prints made up from 35mm slides scanned on an epson V700 (not a great way to scan 35mm) and they look fantastic too, and at a viewing distance of 3 feet, I can't tell the difference. I might be able to tell the difference at 3", but I've never really bothered trying...
    Sorry, that doesn't really answer the OP's question, but hey, the D700 can produce way more detail than I need.
     
  16. Don, I apologize, it was I who read the original post incorrectly. Sorry.
     
  17. David, under certain shooting circumstances, you may see a difference. Depending on the lenses used, you may see a difference. Depending on post processing, you may see a difference. Depending on how your print the pictures, you may see a difference. Or not.
    "5D.... level of detail I find amazing when compared to my D300" Dan, I don't necessarily agree or disagree with your statement but perhaps the reason for the difference can be attributed to something other than the sensor of either camera (high ISO advantages aside). Lenses, settings and technique can have a dramatic effect on picture quality regardless of the body being used. A 6mp image is enough to produce a very good (or bad) quality 13 x 19 print depending on post processing skills and advanced software.
    Is it worth the switch to the Mark II? You would probably have to try the camera and Canon lenses yourself to see if you like it/them and notice any image quality differences. As a user of both Nikon and Canon for over 2 years (began in digital with Nikon 6 years ago), I still use both, won't part with either, prefer one over the other depending on what I am shooting and get great results with both.
     
  18. Another benefit of the higher megapixel count (assuming image quality doesn't suffer) is that you can afford to crop, and still be able to print large sizes with the final picture.
     
  19. Ryus, you took the words right out of my mouth. I have the Canon 5D2 and the cropping advantage is something I didn't give much consideration to when I bought the camera. However, now I can make beautiful photos out of many shots that I would have deleted using an older camera. The "cropability" of the 5D2 (and I assume also the D3x) is astounding and you still end up with amazing photos. Here's my latest example:
    00V23r-191609884.jpg
     
  20. And here's the actual frame as it came from the camera. Note that the finished image above is probably only 10% of this original frame and yet it still delivers a lovely 10" x 10" print.
    00V245-191611584.jpg
     
  21. Elliot, I have also shot with both Canon and Nikon and my first choice goes to Nikon. I think that Canon makes great cameras its just my preference. I would love it if Nikon had a higher MP camera that was more in line with the price of a Mark II. If they did I would not hesitate in buying the camera. I just have a problem spending that much money on a FF D700 with just 12 MP's. I know the camera has other benefits but........
     
  22. Just be prepared to take a step backwards in AF performance if you go for the 5D2. The AF is OK but the D700 AF is in a different league altogether. Other than that I have no complaints.
     
  23. Guys, I have gotten such great info from everyone that I just subscribed to Photo.net. This is a great source of info. I feel guilty for not doing it sooner.
     
  24. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    David, at least for me, 12MP is plenty. Unless your technique and optics are superb, going to 20+MP is largely meaningless. For example, if one shoots landscape, always uses a tripod and stops down a high-end lens, 20+MP makes sense if you need to make large prints. Otherwise, you'll frequently suffer from the lower-quality photosites due to high pixel density and slower frame rate simply because the camera has so many pixels to process. It is very easy to waste the advantage from those pixels due to issues in other links within the workflow chain.
    One of the big advantage for the D700 is it excellent AF system and 8 frames/sec with the MB-D10. I shoot enough action that those are important factors. Even with the D3X (which has the same AF system as the D3, D3s, D700, D300, and D300s), I am down to 5 frames/sec and to me, that is a distinct disadvantage. And sometimes I actually prefer the D300 and D300s for the extra reach from DX, but that is another topic.
    Jamie Robertson's example is about cropping maybe 3MP out of 21MP. I would rather get the right shot with the right technique and proper lens (focal length) so that I can take better advantage of the sensor (and camera) I have.
     
  25. "Jamie Robertson's example is about cropping maybe 3MP out of 21MP. I would rather get the right shot with the right technique and proper lens (focal length) so that I can take better advantage of the sensor (and camera) I have."

    I agree, I would always prefer to have the right tool and lens for each given situation but in the real world we all know that's not always the case. What I was saying is that with 20+MP you can often make cracking images out of ones you would normally delete. My original image above would have been instantly deleted as being worthless but with a little patience and severe cropping you can get a nice result out of something. With half the pixel count you simply can't do that... not to the same extent anyway. The shot I took above was a grab shot of a street crowd that caught my eye as I was photographing other things with my 200mm. If I had known the shot was going to appear I would of course used a longer lens and prepared for it better. However, that option wasn't available but with the 5D2 I still got a nice result in the end.
     
  26. Just for completetion, here's a 100% crop. Granted, it's not exactly a high-res image but it's still nice.
    00V267-191637684.jpg
     
  27. If you want to use high ISO then the benefits of a larger pixel count are dimnished.
    If you don't use a tripod then the benefit of increasing pixel count is not as large as when using a tripod.
    13x9" is a small to medium size print, it can be handled by 12 mpix without problems. A lot depends on your printing materials and technique; the greatest benefits can only be achieved with very good printing. Now larger prints such as 16x20" are a different matter, there larger pixel counts start to show their benefits.
    Why is Canon the only option? Sony has 24 mpix full frame for around $2000, I would say that's the best deal at the moment.
     
  28. Oskar, I agree and I did list Sony earlier in the thread. The Zeiss lenses are the draw with Sony. I also handled a Sony at a store and was very impressed with the quality and feel of the camera. It felt very good in my hands.
    Jamie, the crop is very impressive
     
  29. "If you want to use high ISO then the benefits of a larger pixel count are dimnished.
    "


    Depends which cameras you compare. Compare a 21MP 5D2 to a 10MP Canon 1000D and the high ISO of the 5D2 is way better. Compare the 18MP 1.6x crop Canon 7D to the full frame sensor of the Canon 5D and the 7D has far better high ISO performance.
    "Why is Canon the only option? Sony has 24 mpix full frame for around $2000, I would say that's the best deal at the moment."

    It's a good deal if you only shoot at ISO 100 or 200, anything above that doesn't compare with the D3x or 5D2. It's also a good deal if you don't want a wide range of lenses to choose from. It's also a good deal if you want a completely different flash hotshoe design that's incompatible with virtually every flash accessory available.
    Sorry for being so sarcastic... no offence intended... just my weird humour ;0)
     
  30. I think if you'd search about 5-6 years back and look for the same type discussions about the difference between 6-7mp and 12mp sensors you'd find pretty much the same feelings. Some saying the difference is negligible and not really worth it, and others feeling differently.
     
  31. Speaking of proper technique, I hear that Mirror Lockup is difficult to use on the 5D2. I guess you have to go through some menus to access it. Would anyone like to share their experiences with the MLU?
     
  32. "
    Speaking of proper technique, I hear that Mirror Lockup is difficult to use on the 5D2. I guess you have to go through some menus to access it. Would anyone like to share their experiences with the MLU?"
    MLU has always been a pain on Canon cameras. However, there is a workaround with the 5D2. The camera has a customisable "My Menu" system so you can program the MLU function into that and then be able to activate it at the turn of a dial. More importantly though, many people now just use Live View when using a tripod. Obviously, when using Live View on any DSLR, the mirror is already flipped up and out of the way so MLU isn't an issue at all. I use Live View when on a tripod so that I can get perfect focus (using the 10x mag feature). It also enables me to get a more accurate framing of the shot compared to using the viewfinder, not to mention saving my poor bad back from bending down so far! Then when you fire the shutter there is no risk of mirror slap.
     
  33. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I think if you'd search about 5-6 years back and look for the same type discussions about the difference between 6-7mp and 12mp sensors you'd find pretty much the same feelings. Some saying the difference is negligible and not really worth it, and others feeling differently.​
    Don, the difference between 6 and 12MP is more noticable than the difference between 12 and 24MP. 12MP is more than enough for a lot of applications for perhaps 95% of us in this forum. And when you have even denser pixels, there are disadvantages as we have already discussed. Essentially you are facing diminishing returns.
    Another issue is that with 12MP on DX and 24MP on FX, we are approaching the limit for a lot of lenses, especially the cheaper consumer zooms. That was no a factor a few years ago when you compared 6 vs. 12MP. Therefore, in many situations more pixels are somewhat meaningless or can potentially even be a disadvantage.
    However, clearly, more pixels still seems to sell cameras, at least to some customers.
     
  34. Obviously, when using Live View on any DSLR, the mirror is already flipped up and out of the way so MLU isn't an issue at all.​
    It's not "obvious," because that's not how Nikon cameras implement Live View. After having been raised for Live View, the mirror closes and opens AGAIN when you press the shutter release to make the exposure (really, really stupid design).
     
  35. After having been raised for Live View, the mirror closes and opens AGAIN when you press the shutter release to make the exposure
    Right; so the way one would use it is to turn Live View on only for focusing and then switch to either self-timer with exposure delay mode or M-UP mode for taking the actual exposure. I read that this issue has been fixed in the D3s, though just from one source.
     
  36. I think if you'd search about 5-6 years back and look for the same type discussions about the difference between 6-7mp and 12mp sensors you'd find pretty much the same feelings. Some saying the difference is negligible and not really worth it, and others feeling differently.
    Pretty much everyone was very impressed by the results when Nikon made their first 12 MP camera (D2X).
    I'd love to have a 24 MP DSLR when the signal quality gets approximately in the same ball park with the 12 MP cameras (before calculating, average 2 pixels of the 24MP image together for every pixel from the 12MP model to make it even playing ground). From the looks of it the 12 MP FX cameras are increasing the lead.
     
  37. "It's not "obvious," because that's not how Nikon cameras implement Live View. After having been raised for Live View, the mirror closes and opens AGAIN when you press the shutter release to make the exposure (really, really stupid design)."
    Sorry Don, I didnt realise that was the way the Nikon system worked. I just assumed the Nikon system worked the same as Canon's.
    "Another issue is that with 12MP on DX and 24MP on FX, we are approaching the limit for a lot of lenses, especially the cheaper consumer zooms."

    That's not actually the case. Of all DSLR cameras currently in production, the Canon 7D is theoretically the most demanding on lenses because it's pixel density is the greatest at 5.4MP/cm3. In contrast, the Canon 5D Mk2 has a density of just 2.4MP/cm3 = less than HALF that of the 7D. The performance of the 7D sensor is excellent and does not go beyond the limit of current lenses. Going by that data you can naturally work out that a full frame sensor with the same pixel density of the 7D would equate to 46 megapixels and would put no more demand on lenses than the 7D already does. In fact, I wouldn't mind betting that the upcoming Canon 1Ds4 will have a megapixel count of around 40MP.
    "I'd love to have a 24 MP DSLR when the signal quality gets approximately in the same ball park with the 12 MP cameras "

    The 21MP 5D2 is very close to the performance of the 12MP Nikon D3 and D700 already when it comes to ISO performance/signal quality. The new D3s is, however, yet another leap forward in this game and leaves the 5D2 behind in terms of high ISO quality. The new Canon 1D4 seems to be relatively similar to the D3s from initial previews but we will have to wait and see to be sure.
     
  38. Its an invalid comparison. You can buy a D90 for a third the price of a 5D2. Buy a D700 and compare that. Even then its not valid. Just because canon decided to squeeze lots of little noisy photocells onto the 5D2 sensor to make up 21mp and claim superiority, that does not make the image better than the 12mp of fat, low noise cells of the D700. Even the older 5d may still be superior. The end result would be the same to the eye. Even the 12MP sensor of the D300/D90 would still be comparable after post.
    But to answer your question...up to 13x9, there will be little difference...certainly not worth the price difference. And with the D300/D700 you get the D3's superior AF and colour matrix metering. And we won't start again on the 5D2's cheap plastic body, will we folks? Especially if you go out in the rain or dust.
     
  39. The 21MP 5D2 is very close to the performance of the 12MP Nikon D3 and D700 already when it comes to ISO performance/signal quality. The new D3s is, however, yet another leap forward in this game and leaves the 5D2 behind in terms of high ISO quality. The new Canon 1D4 seems to be relatively similar to the D3s from initial previews but we will have to wait and see to be sure.​
    The technology that we have available today is astounding!
     
  40. I haven't compared the camera systems, but I did do a little test to see if lots more pixels would make a difference in print image quality.
    I wanted to know if more pixels than my D200 would make a difference visible to the naked eye in an 8x12 print.
    An 8x12 print is 96 square inches. The very interesting gigapxl.org project says roughly "beyond eight square inches per megapixel, the human eye will notice a loss of sharpness." We're talking about close inspection by naked eye, not looking from the 'normal' viewing distance. By this rule of thumb, my 8x12 would be just beyond the largest optimally sharp print from a 10MPx D200.
    To research this, I shot a demanding test scene with my D200 and Nikkor 35mm f/2 prime lens, using a tripod. It makes an excellent 8x12 print with pretty standard processing, and with a small size reduction to 300ppi for the print (2400x3600 pixels). Sharpening makes a difference of course; I follow Bruce Fraser's approach.
    Then, for comparison, I mounted a Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 prime on the same camera, used a panorama head and shot 16 images to stitch together for a 54MPx image. Pretty standard processing, then reduce it in Photoshop to the same 2400 x 3600 pixels for a comparison print, same size, 8x12. Same sharpening for print.
    The result:
    1. Both prints are excellent. I judge both as critically sharp. Other viewers do so as well.
    2. The print from 54MPx is better to the naked eye. This was a surprise to me. Details are sharper, and surface textures are better. I think it gives a richer visual experience; when you can move up close and the detail holds, I think it changes the viewer's connection to the image. At least, it does so for me.
    3. You have to look closely to see this; the prints at arms length are not visibly different, and differences are barely visible at the 'standard' viewing distance of 20" for an 8x12 print (1.5x the diagonal measure). On the other hand, it doesn't take pixel-peeping or a magnifying glass to see the difference.
    4. You do need good viewing conditions to see the difference in the prints.
    5. Just a little motion blur or poor focus would wipe out the advantage of more pixels. I suspect you need a tripod and excellent glass for more pixels to make a difference at this print size.
    6. I conclude that 10MPx is sufficient to make a fine 8x12 print, and that more pixels help make a really excellent 8x12. I think the rule of thumb "8 square inches max per megapixel" is pretty good for critically sharp prints. (Of course, successful images are made with far fewer pixels. I'm just talking about sharp prints that convey detail and texture.)
    7. I'm not about to buy a 24MPx SLR or a MF digital back, but when I'm serious about the image and the scene permits, I'll make a stitched composite. This has worked very well for me in making excellent large prints up to 50" of buildings, for example.
    If anyone is interested, I'll link to the files and you can draw your own conclusions.
    I wish everyone good shooting!
     
  41. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Then, for comparison, I mounted a Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 prime on the same camera, used a panorama head and shot 16 images to stitch together for a 54MPx image.​
    Richard, I am afraid that your experiment represents a totally different situation than cramping a lot more pixels onto the same (FX or DX) sensor area with a single capture with one lens.
    When you stitch 16 images together, all of a sudden your sensor area is effectively 16 times as big. Ok, there are probably plenty of overlaps, so say your sensor area is 10 times as big. Your pixels are not proportionally smaller because they are not cramped into an FX or DX area. But more importantly, you don't have the limitation that one lens has to resolve for so many little pixels in just one capture.
    So as interesting as it may be, the result is for a totally different situation that cannot at all be compared to using a 20+MP camera in non-stitching situations.
     
  42. Shun said
    Unless your technique and optics are superb, going to 20+MP is largely meaningless. For example, if one shoots landscape, always uses a tripod and stops down a high-end lens, 20+MP makes sense if you need to make large prints. Otherwise, you'll frequently suffer from the lower-quality photosites due to high pixel density and slower frame rate simply because the camera has so many pixels to process.​
    I find this to be very dubious, like saying unless you do everything perfectly medium format film is meaningless compared to 35mm film. It's just not true. And the majority of serious photographers know what they're doing and do most everything right, and are using high quality optics.
    Having almost twice as much image info make a big difference in quality with digital just as it has always done with film. Go to the bookstore and you can pick out the nature photo books shot with a 20+mp digital slr compared to a previous generation right away. Even at the smaller print size the difference is quite pronounced, just as was the case with 35mm vs. mf at smaller print sizes.
     
  43. Dan asked
    Speaking of proper technique, I hear that Mirror Lockup is difficult to use on the 5D2. I guess you have to go through some menus to access it. Would anyone like to share their experiences with the MLU?​
    Same as it's always been, same place, not difficult
     
  44. Stephen said
    Just because canon decided to squeeze lots of little noisy photocells onto the 5D2 sensor to make up 21mp and claim superiority​
    Boy, that's a pretty grumpy and cynical perspective. Have you shot with the camera? Noise and overall IQ are absolutely phenomenal.
     
  45. Stephen said:

    "Its an invalid comparison. You can buy a D90 for a third the price of a 5D2. Buy a D700 and compare that."

    I was simply illustrating that the number of pixels and the size of the pixels does not necessarily relate directly to noise. In that respect I think it's a perfectly valid comparison.
    "Even then its not valid. Just because canon decided to squeeze lots of little noisy photocells onto the 5D2 sensor to make up 21mp and claim superiority, that does not make the image better than the 12mp of fat, low noise cells of the D700. Even the older 5d may still be superior."
    That is absolute utter nonsense. I agree that the D700 and D3 have the edge over the 5D2 in terms of noise but it's not exactly chalk and cheese. There is actually very little difference. In actual fact, due to the much higher resolution of the 5D2, it actually makes the noise much less obvious at large print sizes compared to shots from the D700/D3. You've obviously never used the camera, and as for your claim about the original 5D being superior simply because it has fewer pixels... that's just silliness. It's like saying the 2.7 megapixel Nikon D1 vastly outperforms the Nikon D300s at high ISO because it has less pixels.
    "And with the D300/D700 you get the D3's superior AF and colour matrix metering. And we won't start again on the 5D2's cheap plastic body, will we folks? Especially if you go out in the rain or dust."

    Sounds like someone's getting really grumpy now. Yes, the Nikon AF is better, no doubt. Cheap plastic body? As far as I'm aware the 5D2 is made from magnesium alloy. And as for being cheap! £2000 ain't cheap my friend.
    I think you need to take a chill pill. I love the D700 and the D3, awesome cameras, but you don't hear me slating them just because I use a 5D2.
     
  46. Depends which cameras you compare. Compare a 21MP 5D2 to a 10MP Canon 1000D and the high ISO of the 5D2 is way better.​
    We aren't comparing any random cameras here. Get a D700 for high-ISO work and 20+ mpix camera for low ISO work. As for the D300/D90, I don't think there's much to be won by increasing the pixel count when light gets dim just by increasing the amount of pixels. My high-ISO images tend to be resolution limited by either shake or lenses, not the pixel count.
    It's a good deal if you only shoot at ISO 100 or 200, anything above that
    doesn't compare with the D3x or 5D2. It's also a good deal if you don't want a
    wide range of lenses to choose from. It's also a good deal if you want a
    completely different flash hotshoe design that's incompatible with virtually
    every flash accessory available.​
    400 ISO and below is the best range for these high resolution bodies anyway whether it's the S, C or N brand. I think Nikon lenses could be adapted to Sony, but I'm not sure. That would be a viable option for tripod work. And there are plenty of Minolta lenses around. Why would you use a hotshoe flash without TTL anyway? In any case, I'm not saying that the Sony full frame is a solution for everything, just a viable camera to consider. The handling of the camera seems to be very good.
     
  47. "400 ISO and below is the best range for these high resolution bodies anyway whether it's the S, C or N brand."

    Surely 400 ISO and below is the best range for ANY DSLR is it not?
    Oskar, I am not knocking the Sony, I was being a bit sarcastic... just my little bit of fun.
    As far as I am concerned, the only high resolution body (20+MP) that can genuinely excel at both low ISO work and high ISO work is the 5D2. At present, nothing else compares if you want the best of both worlds. The D3x is awesome but at high ISO it loses out rapidly, not to mention the price of the thing. The D3/D3s are amazing cameras at high ISO but if you actually need 20+MP they're no good. The 5D2 sells so well because, as far as image quality goes, it's got the best of both worlds. It's price, in comparison, is also very attractive. Unfortunately it loses out in the AF and build quality department but I don't suppose you can have everything. The best value all round camera if you don't need 20+MP is still the D700 but in my position I couldn't afford to switch brands.
     
  48. due to the much higher resolution of the 5D2, it actually makes the noise much less obvious at large print sizes compared to shots from the D700/D3
    This statement is a bit ambiguous. According to dxomark.com tests, averaged per print area the D700 has about 1 stop edge in 18% gray SNR (a bit more below ISO 3200, less above it), 1 stop more DR at low ISO settings (100-400), fraction of a stop above that, tonal range about 1 stop advantage, but in color sensitivity, it has almost two stop advantage. These measures were all averaged per area, yet still the D700 remains ahead. The difference in richness of colour and tones is nontrivial. 5D Mk II images from e.g. weddings and club photography that I've seen support this; the images look "thin".
    Also, high ISO is normally used to photograph moving subjects, since a tripod and low ISO would yield better results for still subjects). With moving subjects, good autofocus is ... well, useful. For some potentially high ISO action work one might actually prefer Nikon's D300s due to its coverage of AF sensor points all over the frame, unlike in other cameras e.g. Canon 7D. Like you said, you can't have everything, at least now, in an affordable camera, but you can get specialized cameras for different tasks. I would not mind having an ISO 100 camera for landscape and close-up work, but currently my brand doesn't offer one at a price point within my reach. Similar things could be said about action cameras; Nikon seems to have an excellent choice in their D700 and D300s at reasonable prices, both cameras including top-of-the-line autofocus. I think Nikon and Canon just ball us around, people "switching" is very profitable for them.
     
  49. Look at Jamie Robinson's beautiful shot of the woman in the crowd....that's certainly the advantage of higher megapixel cameras.
    Using the entire image you really won't see any difference in that print size.
    If you start cropping to the extent you are losing 40% in any direction you most likely will see a difference.
     
  50. Shun wrote:
    your experiment represents a totally different situation than cramping a lot more pixels onto the same (FX or DX) sensor area​
    Yes, of course. My experiment is just about whether additional pixels would matter, not about the implementation in today's Canon or Nikon offerings.
    Besides the camera systems, the OP asked about more pixels in 13 x 9 prints; my experiment showed me that more pixels can make a difference, for fine work, at this print size.
     
  51. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Richard, the context for this thread is clearly about moving to 20+MP DSLRs (such as the 5D Mark II the OP mentioned in the very first sentence), not about stitching multiple captures into a high-pixel-count image as in your experiment. I merely wanted to point out that those are completely different ways to achieve a higher pixel count and any comparison between the two results is largely meaningless. I was concerned that not everybody realized the big difference. Otherwise, there is nothing wrong with your experiment and it is ok to bring it into the discussion.
    While Thom Hogan is a well known Nikon guru, I don't always agree with him (or for that matter I don't always agree with anybody). But I think Hogan has a very good write up on high-pixel DSLRs. See what he wrote last month on October 21 with the title "Here We Go Again" just a little down on this long archive page: http://www.bythom.com/2009 Nikon News.htm In particular, I very much agree with this point: Too many people are still "cropping later." They use extra pixels to be lazy.
    If occasionally you need to make an extreme crop, that is ok, but I don't consider it an important reason to get more pixels to begin with.
     
  52. In 12 years of professional field work 90% of everything I've ever shot has been below 400. I have to shake my head and wonder when these discussions sometimes center around what camera is best at 3200 or 6400iso. Who goes around shooting at 6400 all the time expecting miracles? Quit your griping and think back to shooting 1600 film and the results you'd get with that.

    I think we're a bunch of whiny, unappreciative, anal retentive, techno-obssessiphiles, and all need to get a life and go out and actually take compelling photographs, with any one of the superb available cameras from Nikon or Canon. And these ridiculous comments about cheap plastic bodies. I've taken the 20d and 40d through deep mud and rain in tropical rainforests for years on end and banged them around incessantly and never had the slightest hint of a problem.
     
  53. In 12 years of professional field work 90% of everything I've ever shot has been below 400.
    From your website I see you photograph nature outdoors in daytime. That's cool. What about shooting some nocturnal wildlife in existing light? Bears in Lapland after midnight? I hear most mammals are active during early and late hours of the day when light is low.
    Who goes around shooting at 6400 all the time expecting miracles?
    No one. The advantages in SNR that a camera may have at ISO 6400 are typically propagated to low ISO just as well, producing deeper tones and richer colours.
    Quit your griping and think back to shooting 1600 film and the results you'd get with that.
    However crappy old technology was for low light, it has no relevance to a photographer who has to produce good work today by today's standards against today's peers.
     
  54. As far as I am concerned, the only high resolution body (20+MP) that can genuinely excel at both low ISO work and high ISO work is the 5D2. At present, nothing else compares if you want the best of both worlds. The D3x is awesome but at high ISO it loses out rapidly, not to mention the price of the thing. The D3/D3s are amazing cameras at high ISO but if you actually need 20+MP they're no good.​
    These sound like fair assessments from what I've heard and read, but has anyone done a comparison of the 5D2 and the D3x where both are set to comparable levels of noise reduction? The 5D2's noise reduction processing is reportedly a bit heavy-handed; images are apparently quite a bit sharper with NR turned off, but where does the noise show up in that case? The D3x is clean until you get to ISO 1600, and that's without NR.
    I realize that it's difficult to compare IQ directly. The DIGIC and EXPEED chips are different, the sensors are different, the glass is different, etc.
     
  55. "These sound like fair assessments from what I've heard and read, but has anyone done a comparison of the 5D2 and the D3x where both are set to comparable levels of noise reduction?"
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/NikonD3X/page31.asp
    "If occasionally you need to make an extreme crop, that is ok, but I don't consider it an important reason to get more pixels to begin with. "

    And why not? Extreme cropping from my 300mm f4 is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a 600mm f4 and lugging it around. Even after cropping I can end up with a beautiful image of around 8MP which is more than enough for most purposes. The £2000 I spent on my 5D2 was cheaper than investing in a 600mm lens to get the same quality result as I would have got from an 8 or 10MP DSLR. Yes, of course it's not ideal but it is definitely a distinct advantage of having more pixels to play with.
     
  56. I appreciate TH's knowledge of Nikon technology, but some of his opinions are bewildering. The "who needs more megapixels when you can stitch" attitude is one example. Try stitching multiple shots from a soccer match or a hockey game. Oh, sorry, that wouldn't work, would it? The subjects are actually moving around.
    Stitching isn't optimal for slow-moving mountains, either. The 3D-to-2D conversion already modifies the look of a scene significantly, but we've adjusted and become accustomed to that particular translation. However, when you twist a camera up, down, left, and right and stitch all of those images together, you're distorting the image even further by merging a lot of viewing angles into one flat plane. It's like looking at a flat map instead of a globe. When we pan our camera (or our eyes) we see an image that wraps around us, not one that hangs flat against a wall.
    Lazy cropping? Well, we can't all afford 800 mm super-telephoto lenses, and the security guys at the ballpark probably wouldn't let us in with them anyway. I recently shot some sporting events with my D700, the 70-200 VR, and a 1.4x tele-converter. There were many times when this level of magnification didn't fill the frame, so I had to crop many of the images up to fifty and even sixty percent in order to maximize the composition. The images still looked fine, but a lot of pixels were lost. I wouldn't print any of these crops at larger than 11x14 (inches). If I had been using a D3x or a less expensive 24MP alternative (hint! hint!), my crops would have held significantly more detail. On the other hand, I could have used a D300 if I felt like buying another DX camera (I don't). My D200 would have been far too noisy, as most of the images were shot at ISO 800 - 1600. So, I'm sorry that TH thinks that I'm lazy. ;-) Maybe next time he'll lend me one of his super-teles, or I can just run out onto the playing field and shoot the athletes up close.
    As far as the usefulness of high ISO shooting goes, that's undisputed. I'm sure that anyone who has worked with a D3, a D700, or a 5Dmk2 has discovered a whole new universe of shooting possibilities thanks to these cameras' abilities to render VERY clean images up to ISO 3200. Kudos to the engineers of both Nikon AND Canon for bringing this revolutionary technology to the masses. The D3s looks like another quantum leap into the high-ISO frontier. I'd love to have one of those in my hands the next time I shoot a wedding!
     
  57. The £2000 I spent on my 5D2 was cheaper than investing in a 600mm lens to get the same quality result as I would have got from an 8 or 10MP DSLR
    Whoa! You really think that cropping from an image made with a 300/4 lens gives "the same quality result" as a full frame image made with a 600/4? Amazing how the perpetual engine keeps popping up. Just add pixels and there will be detail! That 5kg glass in the front doesn't do anything really that a chip can't replicate. Yeah, right.
     
  58. Thanks for the link to dpreview. I'm not sure how carefully the comparison was done, because the 5D2 comparison images all look to be a bit overexposed. They lack the color saturation of the other images, including those from the other Canon model. Over-exposure could also have an impact on noise level.
    Further, this comparison uses each camera's noise reduction settings. It's difficult to set comparable NR settings across brands. I would have preferred images with NO NR to level the playing field. I almost always shoot without in-camera NR.
     
  59. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you want cropping, you are much better off starting with a DX type body (or 1.6x crop for Canon). The likes of 5D Mark II, D3X, etc. simply cannot match the frame rate from a D300s, Canon 7D .... Not to mention the DX bodies are a lot more cost effective.
     
  60. Whoa! You really think that cropping from an image made with a 300/4 lens gives "the same quality result" as a full frame image made with a 600/4?​
    Whoa! Are you claiming that cropping is not an effective photo editing technique? Maybe they should just remove the crop tool from photoshop. :-D
     
  61. "Whoa! You really think that cropping from an image made with a 300/4 lens gives "the same quality result" as a full frame image made with a 600/4?"

    Lens quality aside, of course it does. Why wouldn't it? Crop a 24MP D3x shot with a 300mm f4 down to the same size as a 12MP shot from a D3 with a 600mm and you have at least a similar result. I'm not pretending this is ideal, of course not but it's a technique that can be used with high res cameras these days.
    "If you want cropping, you are much better off starting with a DX type body"
    That assumes I would want to crop every single shot. Nobody does that.
    "The likes of 5D Mark II, D3X, etc. simply cannot match the frame rate from a D300s, Canon 7D"

    Eh? What's that got to so with cropping? You've completely lost me on that one.
     
  62. You really can't compare a cropped 24 MP pic at 300mm with 12 MP pic at 600mm.
    To make a fair comparison, 24 MP 300 mm cropped to the same field of view as 600 mm would give you a 6 MP file. 24 MP at 300mm cropped down to 12 MP is about a 420 mm field of view. Nothing that a 1.4 x teleconverter cant fix (although you lose a stop).
     
  63. I think, what Shun was getting at is if you are always cropping to make your lens reach further. So his argument, to some degree holds water.
    And the D3x, in crop mode, gives 10FPS at 10MP, not bad for a sports camera. Food for thought. Now if only it had better ISO handling.
    As for the OP's question, I would think that both cameras would render about the same at 13x19 print sizes, 300DPI. With a 10.2MP camera I am just starting to upsize slightly to get these numbers. The 24MP might have a slight advantage. Prints below that, both, assuming colors and everything else are equal, should print about equal. I would think that once you start increasing the print size beyond the normal pixels, this is where print quality would begin to decline.
     
  64. Lens quality aside, of course it does. Why wouldn't it? Crop a 24MP D3x shot with a 300mm f4 down to the same size as a 12MP shot from a D3 with a 600mm and you have at least a similar result. I'm not pretending this is ideal, of course not but it's a technique that can be used with high res cameras these days.
    It doesn't work like that. If you take a D3X and crop the image projected by the 300/4 to match the angle of view of a 600mm lens on the D3, you end up with a 6 MP image from the D3x+300/4. What's more, since the Nyquist frequency of the D3X is about 83 1/mm and the D3's about 59 1/mm you end up with inferior contrast of details on a pixel level by using the "high-res" camera with a too short lens.This means to match the images you need to apply more sharpening to the cropped D3X image and this increases artifacts and noise (maybe 0.5 stops worth + flare + ghosts accentuated). Further, the D3 has about 1 stop advantage in SNR (when 2 X pixels are averaged into one; which is not possible in this case because of the crop), and another stop because of the light lost due to the crop . In total, we end up with about 2.5-stop advantage to the D3+600mm lens in terms of how fine detail is reproduced against noise at the same spatial frequencies. Also, you still have only a 6 MP image and not 12MP. To compensate for that you need a 48 MP camera and deal with the subsequent loss in signal fidelity.
     
  65. Thanks James for the respect you show everyone and their opinions. There always has to be someone in a thread like this.
    Most here offer their thoughts based on their own experiences. I have a 12mp camera and my business partner has a 5D2. We both have been in the business since the 60s.
    I am delighted with my D300...my first digital camera. He is disappointed with his 5D2, his umteenth, and is selling it at a huge loss. I won't bore you all with the reasons, but to him, they are valid. I personally think he is being too fussy. He prefers the look of images from the older 5D. And thats what we are talking about....the LOOK...not the analysis. So to one person's eye an image will look different or appeal less or more, than to another person.
    All we can offer are our experiences, but to be told they are rubbish, displays ignorance and a closed mind.
     
  66. He prefers the look of images from the older 5D.​
    Has he tried shooting in RAW and editing the files to get the look that he wants (with PS, Lightroom, Aperture, etc.).
     
  67. At 9x13 (actually 9x13.5) even the lowest MP count camera here is well over 300dpi on print. The only differences you're going to get on a print this small are the differences between lenses, DOF, and possibly (although doubfully) high iso. I've got 8x12 prints from my 7D at 3200 that you need to analyse the print with your nose up to it to see any noise.
    In other words, Any of these cameras will be just fine. The 7D and 5D2 will beat out the Nikons on prints 16x24 and up....at least on prints where detail is important.
     
  68. Thats a good point dave.
    I have never done a print bigger than A4. I'm an old newspaper guy. To me its all about the uniqueness of the image, not the quality. Thats why I like the D300 so much. Its fast and has way too much resolution. But coming from the body integrity of an F4s (which I still have and use), I could not buy anything less.
    My mate though, is a landscape guy and also does not go over A3...so its the look he is after. He thinks the 5D2 images are more pixel'y and less natural than the 5D images. If the 5D2 had the solid body of the 7D, I would consider buying one. But not new...never new.
     
  69. Very important is still, what kind of quality glass you are using in front of your S, C an N cameras, and not only the type and size of sensor!
     
  70. Jamie, I don't mind sarcasm, but I will talk back ;-)
    Ilkka's argument about the lens quality affecting the picture is pretty clear; all pixels are not created equal.
     
  71. Why not print files from the cameras you're interested in yourself? Get the raw files and process them yourself? After all, YOU will be doing the printing, not the guys on this forum. Should be real easy to get raw files from any and all of the cameras you're interested in. I don't doubt these guys know what they're talking about, but why not do your own testing?
    FWIW I have a 13x19 (19 not 9)shot from my 10d (6mp) at home, sharp as a tack at proper viewing distance. Printed at home on an old clogprone epson 1280..
     
  72. I have 43 prints (16X24 inches/40.6X61.0 cm) printed on Katana Luster paper in an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 printer. 40 of them are prints of some of my flower shots. They are fantastic prints. All of the shots were taken with my Pentax K20D 14.6 MP camera. Cheers!
     
  73. I think your money is better spent on glass. I know that wasn't the OP's original question, but it can be deduced from the limited budget. I think new/more glass + 12 MP is a better return on IQ than a system/camera switch to 21 MP.
    If you're not invested heavily in either brand, then the trade-off is different, but I'm not sure if I would weigh MP more than the many other feature differences. Think about what you shoot (static vs. moving, decent light vs. low light), and plan a system around that.
     
  74. Do you need the extra pixels of the Mark II?
    Or do you need the excellent low light work of the D700?
    Or do you need the crop factor for shooting nature close-ups with a 400mm?Then D300.
    If you do not need to blow up your photos and thus the extra pixels of the Mark II, go for the D700. Especially if you shoot more often in low light situations. The quality is splendid.
    Spend the rest of the money on some good glass. It's not worth buying any of these cameras if you have bad lenses. I got rid of some lenses when I went from D200 to D700. Lower quality lenses show clearly on the D700.
     
  75. I print 16x20s from my D200 that look perfect. It is my personal camera, unlike the D700, D3 and Canon 5D that are work cameras. Noise was not a factor whatsoever at that size. I also like to use Dfine and really like its sampling and pixel smoothing capabilities (I know some prefer other tools, but Dfine works great for me). I also rent Hasselblad H series digital cameras for commercial work. Even the older, smaller sensor sizes blew away comparable DSLR sensors of the same MP size. So obvious the way the sensor is built has a lot to do with the quality you will get.
     

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