After just a short while working with full frame, high resolution DSLRs the need for tilt lenses has really come home to me. Most lenses deliver their best results at fairly wide apertures like f8, it’s easy for detail to begin to look soft and lacking impact if you are forced to stop down to f22 to get everything sharp. Tilt adaptors and tilt lenses solve the problem.
Much has been written in the past few days about the Canon 5D MkII’s so-called black dot problem, in which pixels to the right (as viewed) of extreme point source highlights appear as black dots. Canon has been asked for explanations; my feeling is that the explanation is already present in the way that the 5D MkII handles the necessary process of sharpening.
5D MkII files I have shot (around 500, I’m not a prolific shooter, before the test camera went back) display a far more aggressive edge sharpening policy than any other DSLR raw file I’ve seen. Combined with a very steep midtone curve – crushing the shadows a fair bit, but not unkind to highlights – this produces some of the sharpest looking images around ‘out of the box’.
But, if that visual acuity is to exist on moderate contrast contours and transitions (dark/light boundaries – the basis for all sharpening) it may be extreme on boundaries between dark midtone and small blown highlight pixels. The directional quality of the black dot problem points to a sharpening artefact, or more accurately an edge enhancement artefact – not to be confused with post-capture or JPEG process sharpening.
If so a firmware fix is possible. It may, in the process, make the 5D MkII images from raw appear a touch softer than they do right now. These ‘black dots’ are certainly not dead pixels, and don’t have much to do with the actual sensels on the CMOS. They are created after the image is read out from the silicon.
I may be wrong, but that’s my prediction – the black dots will prove to be an artefact created by a aggressive contour sharpening policy.
Using a light level typical for tungsten light shots at 1600 (1/60th at f8 = 1/500th at f2.8 for action, 1/250th at f4 for concerts etc) I have made a quick first day – D3X arrived this afternoon – comparison which, in the process, also evaluates two lenses (24-120mm VR Nikkor and 28-105mm RS Minolta) and two anti-shake systems. Sadly, my 5DMkII test kit went back on the same City Link van which brought the Nikon kit. Look out for my Nikon review/s in the British Journal of Photography soon.
There are caption notes to each image. The point of targeted focus was the end of the fingerboard with the spattered rosin on it. Feel free to download and print. The red rosin cloth is interesting, so is the sharpness of the point of focus. Clicking on the small images here will open a full size 24 megapixel file in each case!
Ref the exposure difference: these were locked down manual exposures. The Sony does not appear to achieve a true ISO 1600. However, when shooting the same subject using auto exposure, the Sony image is perfectly exposed and the Nikon consistently overexposes. Here, I have set the exposure to the correct density for the Nikon.
You can read Thom Hogan, you can not read Michael Reichmann (because he tells you to read Thom Hogan instead!) and you can muse for hours on the unexpected price bombshell which accompanied the Nikon D3X launch. Then you can watch in surprise as the camera sells.
Why? Read on.
RRP: £5499.99 / €7728.00
Availability: Late December 2008
Nikon UK is pleased to introduce its new top-of-the-range premium D-SLR – the D3X. Building on the reliability, handling and durability of the award-winning D3, the D3X offers an imaging sensor with over twice the resolution* of the revolutionary D3, breaking new ground in image quality.
(*Nikon’s own words – actually, it’s twice the pixel count, and approximately 1.42 times the linear resolution, as resolution is normally understood, though the visual information density is more than doubled).
The all-new 24.5MP CMOS* sensor makes the new model eminently suitable for the broadest range of shooting situations, both in the studio and on location – ideal for photographers seeking unrivalled detail.
(*Nikon’s own words again – we must wait to find out whether it is really all-new, or is a derivative of the Sony 24.x megapixel sensor. See features below of gapless microlens array and 12-channel readout, which are not claimed by Sony. Samsung pioneered gapless microlenses in the 14.6 megapixel sensor for the Pentax K20D/Samsung GX20).
“This is the camera that many professional photographers have been waiting for,” said Robert Cristina, Professional Products and NPS Manager at Nikon Europe. “Just as the D3 has become the professionals’ camera of choice in sports photography, the D3X’s extremely high imaging resolution will raise the bar for commercial, fashion and stock photography. The results speak for themselves: this is without doubt our highest-quality camera to date.”
The World is Your Studio
The D3X boasts a specially-developed FX-format CMOS image sensor with 12-channel readout, gapless micro lens array and on-chip noise reduction. It delivers class-leading levels of continuous shooting speed and noise management at higher sensitivities without sacrificing detail.
The D3X supports a broad ISO range from ISO 100-1600, extendable down to ISO 50 and up to 6400 equivalent with up to 5 fps continuous shooting at full resolution, or 7 fps in the 10MP DX-crop mode. The acclaimed MultiCAM3500FX 51-point autofocus system enables extreme accuracy with outstanding dynamic tracking for fast moving subjects in low light.
The camera’s LiveView function offers a smooth workflow option, perfect for studio work or other situations where the use of the viewfinder is impractical. The camera also delivers a superb response rate, with a start-up of just 12 milliseconds and 40ms shutter lag. The Kevlar/carbon fibre composite shutter has been designed for intensive professional needs and tested to 300,000 cycles.
Images with the X factor
The D3X reaps the benefits of the very latest developments in sensor design and image processing technology. Designed to produce files suitable to meet the demands of tomorrow’s commercial and stock requirements, the camera produces 50MB 14-bit NEF (Raw) files. Using Capture NX2 software, NEF files can be processed into medium format terrain; 140MB (16-bit TIFF-RGB). Fine details are reproduced with incredible clarity, whilst shadows and highlights contain tonal gradation with minimal clipping for pictures with a unique look and feel.
The D3X shares the same ergonomics and handling as the D3, which have been designed to enable anyone to get to work quickly and efficiently. The bright, uncluttered viewfinder features 100% coverage and comprehensive illuminated displays, while the high-definition, 3-inch, 920,000-dot VGA TFT monitor enables outstanding playback quality for on-the-spot image assessment. The D3X’s magnesium body, which is sealed for moisture and dust resistance, also supports Nikon’s wireless system (the WT-4), HDMI output, offers a dual slot for CF cards and is compatible with the new GP-1 GPS unit.