D800 compared to Medium Format Digital Backs

paulrpaulr Posts: 1,176Member
edited April 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
I would like to hear from members who own and use Medium Format cameras with Digital backs for an honest comparison to the D800 with regard to to quality of the image and is there a major difference, and do the medium format Digital Backs justify the high costs when compared to the D800.

I would prefer that actual owners or experienced users of both formats answer the question.
Camera, Lens and Tripod and a few other Bits
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  • JohnJohn Posts: 134Member
    edited April 2013
    Ok, full disclosure here...
    I use a D800 but have no hands on experience with medium format digital backs.
    However, I have seen a lot of comparisons between the two.

    The first difference is that the D800 has an anti-aliasing filter. Medium format cameras normally don’t have one. So, a comparison between the D800E and medium format might be better.

    The second difference is the megapixel count. Compared to older and/or “cheap”/entry medium format cameras the difference is small (36 vs 40 for example). However, some digital backs offer almost double the number of pixels of the D800. So in terms of resolution medium format can still win but the extra cost is quite huge.

    The most important aspect that we have to consider is image quality.
    At base iso a D800E and a medium format (both using high quality lenses) offer almost the same pixel sharpness.
    At high iso (800 and up) medium formats start to get a lot more noise than a D800.
    The D800 has also more dynamic range.

    So, the D800E is giving medium format a run for its money.
    The two main reasons to go medium format is if you really need very high megapixel counts (60MP or more) and because of the artistic effects of the different sensor size (think difference between DX and Full Frame).

    This is a good, relevant comparison between a D800 and a medium format:
    http://www.cameralabs.com/reviews/Nikon_D800/Nikon_D800_vs_Phase_One_medium_format_quality.shtml

    (Unfortunately they didn’t test the D800E so we do see effect of the AA filter)

    One last addendum :
    In my humble opinion the extra cost of going medium format is not worth it. You can by a 2 D800(E)’s (one main body, one backup), quite a few lenses, flashes, studio strobes, filers, high quality tripods/monopods/ballheads,… for the price of a high end medium format (the only medium formats where you’ll see a difference in image quality).
    So unless you have a very specific photographic need that requires medium format I would suggest that you shoot the D800E.
    (The D800 is a wonderful camera and a better all round camera but the D800E is just a little bit sharper and I assume that’s what you’re looking for if you’re considering medium format)

    Post edited by John on
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    @paulr: how much Medium Format users you expect in a Nikon Forum? What is the idea behind your question? These systems are hard to compare, focal lengths, file size, weight, ease of use and costs. I am not sure if a entry level medium format like the Pentax has much advantages against D800, but I'm absolutely certain, a PhaseOne user would not give up his IQ2 back (only, no camera or lenses included) and get instead of this single back a dozen D800E plus a very decent basic lens set. Simply because he or she has to calculate costs and will buy only of there's are turn of invest. And in that case, no other system will do.

    I do know an aerial photog, who equipped his octocopter with an Alpa/phaseOne combination and abandoned his Hasselblad H4D for that.

    But I'm looking forward to the answers as well.
  • itsnotmeyouknowitsnotmeyouknow Posts: 481Member
    I use a more modest form of medium format in the Pentax 645D. There is more to it than pixel sharpness. The larger sensor does give a better feel to the image in my opinion. Don't get me wrong I love my D800 and wonder whether I might have got a E instead. Also, Medium format's normal aspect is 4:3 as opposed to the 3:2 of 35mm and APS-C. Yes you can crop after, but I always feel its better to get the image right in camera first. My one complaint about D800 files is that they can look like letterbox slots because of the 3:2 aspect ratio, Nikon has done an amazing job with the D800/e. Of that there is no doubt. But they are still different formats.
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    The larger sensor can use the same technology as smaller sensors, therefore the top MF backs are up to 80 mpx, and have an advantage in ultimate possible IQ.

    That being said, for many professionals and applications, the IQ does not have to be the best possible, it only has to be 'good enough' for the client, and then other considerations begin to matter.

    While a D800e is not the IQ equal of a 64 or 80 mpx MF back, it is certainly good enough with Nikon's best lenses, well used , for many applications that formerly needed MF to get the required IQ.

    For this reason, it is almost certain that it is bleeding off some sales that formerly would have gone to an MF camera and back.

    .... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited April 2013
    @Kuv: I saw this video last year and was LMFAO when I saw that after 200 ISO the MF Hasselblad was done...cooked. It just sucked. In addition, I like the bokeh on the D800 better...notice the hexagon on the Hasselblad on the right at about 9:30 into the video. As for the lens they put on the D800, the 50 1.4G though a nice lens, I would have much preferred if that had gone with a more pro (gold ring) lens...ie. 24, 35, or 85 1.4G. Lastly, the price is with out question on the side of the D800!!!
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    All competent engineering is balancing trade-offs for an expected use. Sensor designers for MF backs have chosen to optimize dynamic range at base ISO at the cost of high ISO performance.

    This makes sense for their core market, but hurts flexibility.

    Those needing high ISO performance will also want fast lenses, which are not available in larger formats, and for sports /wildlife where high ISO is needed , long tele's and fast autofocus are also needed which are not available in larger formats.

    A device must be evaluated in the context of it's design parameters.

    Knowing ones own needs and application helps us pick the right one for ourselves.

    .. H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @haroldp: I agree.
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    @paulr - sorry but offhand I don't know of anyone here that has a MF on hand to do the comparisons of image quality.

    The actual real difference is the color depth of MF is 16bit (65,536 colors available) vs. the 14bit (16,384) colors the Nikon has. This is the true reason why many professionals/art houses want the MF. It is the most accurate color available. (Btw: Pentax's MF is 14bit.)

    There is also the leaf shutter option for MF that DSLRs don't have for flash sync. I do not have much exposure to Leaf shutters and not sure if that really makes a difference anymore. Since they still make them, it must in some ways.

    Everything else about the differences are about usability and quite frankly shouldn't be included. Maximum IQ is at the base ISOs.

    They are two different systems, used for two different objectives - DSLRs for maximum options and configurations for a vast array of shooting conditions focused on getting the photo whatever comes at you vs MF for maximum image quality 1st and everything else second.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • paulrpaulr Posts: 1,176Member
    TaoTejared You do now, and like you said each format suits different tasks, but I do not own a D800

    Your spot on with regard colour depth, 16 bit makes a difference especially when used with large cropped images

    I used to use Hasselblad but like a lot of photographers have moved over to PhaseOne. I can only compare a D3x but this is now becoming old technology and I am waiting for the next generation of pro Nikon camera bodies

    Maybe a D4X which encompasses the virtues of the D800 and D4 or perhaps Nikon might leapfrog again, with a
    totally new concept of sensor and pixel count.

    I think that the door is wide open for a manufacture like Nikon, Canon and other big guns to come into the MF arena. These days they have the funds and development and could break the MF Cartel price on Digital Backs.




    Camera, Lens and Tripod and a few other Bits
  • haroldpharoldp Posts: 984Member
    Nikon could certainly do it (remember Bronica), but I do not think there is enough volume in this market to interest them, particularly as each generation of better 35mm FF bodies makes the MF market smaller.

    ... H
    D810, D3x, 14-24/2.8, 50/1.4D, 24-70/2.8, 24-120/4 VR, 70-200/2.8 VR1, 80-400 G, 200-400/4 VR1, 400/2.8 ED VR G, 105/2 DC, 17-55/2.8.
    Nikon N90s, F100, F, lots of Leica M digital and film stuff.

  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Over the last months I kept watching several videos PhaseOne offers in YouTube. I admit, I envy some of the details a small company like them is able to implement in their backs, such as HR touchscreen, WLAN connection with an iPad (how I'd love to have this function on board of a Nikon) and up to 1/1600 sec sync time when using leaf shutters, contrary to Nikon a pretty good and fast RawConverter. It's more than just Megapixels what makes the difference. And they clearly have less functions and less settings to adjust.

    Is photography really having zillions of functions in a small but high MP body just because some thousands of the users wish to have them? Or is it a comparable simple body with not much buttons but easy to learn and fats to handle? If money would not be the problem, I had as in my film days a Medium format and a simple DSLR. The way of shooting a MF is so different and and calmly, I liked that very much.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    @haroldp

    Yes, I remember Bronica...had one of the early Zenza Bronicas....incredible photos with the Nikkor glass.

    The big factor for me regarding medium format is I have no mega million budget....
    Msmoto, mod
  • JohnJohn Posts: 134Member
    And then there is large format. :)

    (As far as I know the only large format digital cameras are "scanning back" which use a sort or scanner like implemetation and are totally useless for even slightly moving subjects. But I would love to try one. :) )
  • DXV_PhotoDXV_Photo Posts: 158Member
    I guess TTJ brings up a good point. With MP count getting so high on DSLR now could we see Nikon move to 16bit colorspace next? I think 14bit has been out for awhile so what would be the complications with going 16bit?
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    ...WLAN connection with an iPad (how I'd love to have this function on board of a Nikon)....
    The D4 has this function built in via LAN connector. Should you wish to do the same operation via WiFi just the the WT-5A. When compared to the price of a PhaseOne, you will have so much cash left over you just might want to take a nice long vacation...North America perhaps :)
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • KuvKuv Posts: 55Member
    edited April 2013
    I think 14bit has been out for awhile so what would be the complications with going 16bit?
    File sizes would grow about 20%.
    Post edited by Kuv on
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    ...WLAN connection with an iPad (how I'd love to have this function on board of a Nikon)....
    The D4 has this function built in via LAN connector. Should you wish to do the same operation via WiFi just the the WT-5A. When compared to the price of a PhaseOne, you will have so much cash left over you just might want to take a nice long vacation...North America perhaps :)
    You in Northamerica and I in Switzerland... how about a meeting in Iceland? :) After watching this video with Joe Cornish, you probably agree there's a lot more elegance in the PhaseOne solution. And then: Why would I give up the resolution of D800 because of a LAN (not even WLAN ?) feature?
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @JJ_SO: If you can lust over or have the funds to buy a PhaseOne, then you should not have ANY problem come to the USA on a first class ticket, then picking me up and flying me back with you, again on first class...followed by a stop at a camera shop where we both get another D4 for each of us, in addition to a few goodies, like all the RRS stuff I have told you about...and still have some cash left over. :P

    As far the the network stuff, the D4 network functionality is awesome. It has the capability of letting you network 10, 15, 20 D4's all together, while controlling each one form a single interphase, be it a laptop or iPad and go to town. Not sure if one can even do such a thing wit a PhaseOne.

    Have a look at this video, jump to 4:30sec and see it work on the iPad incase you have not seen it in action.
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    No prob, once I get an IQ280, you get invited to Iceland. I didn't want to be impolite but the forms one has to fill to come to the US troubles me. Why doesn't NSA use Google or dropbox to find out I'm just a mostly harmless person with no bomb experience?

    Now the video, very interesting - the pictures were normal speed and the soundtrack - oh no, it was only a fast talking person, no dub-effects or high speed rap. And either I have to seriously calibrate the iMac or the guy should go on with the manual to come to the chapter with white balance.

    But: cables :( how unsexy is that? and WLAN dongle. :-& Now, because I'm already bleeding cash, what would I shoot with 20 D4, controlled by an iPad Mini? And, would the iPad battery last until I set up the 20th D4? We gonna discuss this in Iceland, don't we?
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    The MM PhaseOne /w IQ260 (we are talking well over $41,000) does have a very nice and sexy setup. With the D4 all one has to do is add the wireless adapter and you can do exactly the same thing...at Far..far less price. I'm sure you can do the math and find the saving yourself.

    With respect to why one would use a cable setup to network camera bodies like the D4 or Canon 1Dx, well it all has to do with the type of shot you are taking. Have a look at this video to see what I mean.

    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    edited April 2013
    Do the math? Hmmm. That'd be 16MP vs. 80MP (I'd go for 280, if you don't mind), 11fps vs 1fps, financially 1MF camera with lens vs 9 FX D4 camera with 50/1.4, 14 Bit vs. 16 Bit.

    Not to forget and quoting TTJ:
    The actual real difference is the color depth of MF is 16bit (65,536 colors available) vs. the 14bit (16,384) colors the Nikon has. This is the true reason why many professionals/art houses want the MF. It is the most accurate color available. (Btw: Pentax's MF is 14bit.)
    Easy math: 5× higher Resolution + 4× more colours = 9× more money :) I know, far tooo simple. But still it sounds not completely off track?

    It's hard doing the math once you know, each of both has massive advantages on different fields, isn't it? But IQ wise, no doubt one will see a huge difference - in huge prints. And shooting wise? I'd prefer the slower, bigger one. Luckily, I will never have enough money, but Iceland stays a dream.
    Post edited by JJ_SO on
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited April 2013
    So you did find the savings, via your method of mathematical calculation, which is more cost effective...which we all know are not MF bodies. With respect to the color depth, yes the MF (16-bit) does have a nice advantage over the 14-bit FX (D800/D4), however, God forbid you ever have to take a shot that require an ISO above 800 due to poor lighting. With that in min, go ahead and make a big print with the MF and lets see which sensor preforms better (given the higher ISO). To me, the advantage again goes to the FX sensor of the D800/D4. We all know which body is best suited for action photography...no need to point that out..or do I?

    It was less than 4 month ago that I had a very nice MF in my hands and took a few shot with it. If the owner had not run out of memory I would have played with it more. When compared to the my D$ and the 70-200 2.8 lens I had on it at the time, the "bigger one" as NOT the MF body...which by the way was the Hasselblad /w a PhaseOne back.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    I had Mamiya before and no prism finder, no integrated meter but a nice spot meter. Action cam? That always depends on the range the action takes place in. Possible but of course by far no competition to D4. But the better shots of my film era came out of that plasticky 645 Super. And I never missed high speed shooting, so that's not much of an issue to me. It was a difference of getting a 2.5 times bigger negative already at shooting. I found myself taking more care of what I photographed and although I was not using a pure zone system, the way of visualising a picture before pressing the button helped me a lot.

    Just to be clear, I took it more as fooling/dreaming around, like what wouldmI do if I won the lottery.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    TaoTejared You do now, and like you said each format suits different tasks, but I do not own a D800
    Your spot on with regard colour depth, 16 bit makes a difference especially when used with large cropped images

    I used to use Hasselblad but like a lot of photographers have moved over to PhaseOne. I can only compare a D3x but this is now becoming old technology and I am waiting for the next generation of pro Nikon camera bodies

    Maybe a D4X which encompasses the virtues of the D800 and D4 or perhaps Nikon might leapfrog again, with a
    totally new concept of sensor and pixel count.

    I think that the door is wide open for a manufacture like Nikon, Canon and other big guns to come into the MF arena. These days they have the funds and development and could break the MF Cartel price on Digital Backs.
    I just don't see Nikon or Canon going to MF. They have never (or very limitedly many years ago) moved off of 35mm format image circle, and I don't see them doing it anytime soon. I just don't see that there is much money in it for them unless they can utilize their existing lens line-ups. Then that goes into if the lenses can still hold up to the quality standards outside their designed purpose.

    I still think that if someone would make a MF (or 35mm) system with a 6-10mp sensor in a cheap body and sold it for real cheap (think diana/holga)- they would sell like hotcakes.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
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