Nikon D800E vs 6×7 medium format black and white film

One more comparison of the Nikon D800E, this time against the Plaubel Makina 67 MF camera loaded with Fuji Acros 100 b&w film.

Both photos were taken mid-day (very harsh light) and the Nikkor 24-70mm was set to 40mm (which is the equivalent focal length of the Plaubel). I chose to shoot both cameras handheld, since I rarely put the Plaubel on a tripod and wanted this comparison to be close to my usual shooting habits.

(Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, handheld, b&w conversion with Silver Efex Pro)

(Plaubel Makina 67, Fuji Acros 100 film, handheld)

Both images look very similar, although the film managed to record better the highlights areas and the tonality is better than the D800E. Now let’s see a crop part of the images.

(Plaubel Makina 67, Fuji Acros 100 film, handheld)

(Nikon D800E, Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8, handheld, b&w conversion with Silver Efex Pro)

At this zoom level, the Nikon D800E has a slight advantage in resolution, but not too much. This difference would be visible in a very large print. So, what I am going to keep from this comparison is the great tonality and highlight recovery of the medium format film.

I don’t know how much better results the D800E would yield if it was on a tripod (there’s mirror vibration, while the Makina being a rangefinder camera has no mirror), but as I have already written, I shoot my Plaubel handheld and that’s the way I should compare it with the Nikon.

(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All Rights Reserved.

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7 Responses to Nikon D800E vs 6×7 medium format black and white film

  1. Ricky says:

    Hi Konstantino,
    I just stumbled onto your blog and I must say I love this (and some other) comparison you did! It applies some questions I had for myself. I am a documentary photographer, mostly using medium format film for my work. (6×7 being the most used) I have used it and still use it because of a variation of reasons: The quality. I love the colors, the tonality and the detail. And one mayor reason that I think you and other MF film users might share with me, the general approach and feel one has when using medium format film. When I carry my Pentax 67 for instance, I use maybe 5 to 10 rolls on one whole day. That is 50 to 100 photo’s, and that has been a very productive day with a big percentage of truly usable photo’s for my projects. I feel I am highly concentrated when using this camera, not wasting one shot and I do take my time before I decide to shoot. I also love the size and weight of the camera, I use mostly handheld shots because it suits my general flow of how I work (no time is wasted for a tripod setup, so I can keep my momentum) I find this camera great for handheld photography, with shutter speeds of 1/125th (and 90mm prime, equals 50mm (d)slr) or sometimes even lower up to 1/60th.

    Now, I have just purchased a Nikon d800E because I want to/have to move to digital also. (I had a digital camera before, but it was no match in quality for my Pentax)
    I also have bought 2 Voigtlander primes, completely made out of metal and manual focus only. Not only to get great quality, but also to be able to use this camera as much in the same way as I did with my Pentax. I would be very much interested in your opinion about this transition to a serious digital camera that matches our old film MF camera’s in terms of usability in the field. I haven’t had much time to try my d800E, so far I like the quality, but I wonder how it affects my concentrated and highly productive way of working I am used to with MF film.

    Kind regards,


    • kbesios says:

      Hi Ricky, thanks for your comment.

      The percentage of keepers in a day shoot out will always be in favor of the film system. With digital, no matter how disciplined you are, you tend to shoot many more images due to the fact that they are free. I may have 7-8 keepers from a single roll of 6×7 and have the same keepers out of 100 digital images.
      Now, there’s a good chance that with the D800 you may capture some images that you couldn’t capture with the Pentax. Faster to operate, instant preview, motor drive and of course the ability to shoot 100-6400 ISO without changing film. So, for documentary photography it may be a better solution some times than the Pentax. Also, as time goes by, it’s a cheaper system to operate since film costs money, digital shots are free.

      The problem here could be the huge size of the D800 files. A workflow of 100-200 images is not so easy to handle like its is with a 21mp DSLR for example. For this reason, I try to shoot fewer images, or preview them on the LCD and delete them on field.

      The Voigtlander lenses are great quality, with small size due to the lack of AF mechanisms. I own four of them for my Leica M and I consider them to be superb especially for their price (and of course much cheaper than the Zeiss).

      Although all my film cameras are manual focus, I tend to use the AF most of the times with the D800E. It has a great AF system, an although some times it can miss a target, generally is very helpful.

      Personally, I rarely use the D800 for anything else than landscapes, macro or some specific projects. On the street or when I travel , I much prefer the Leica M due to its small size and weight, or the Plaubel Makina 67.

      Of course, a very important factor is which system makes you more comfortable to work with. I consider myself a film shooter, I just love the feeling you get with a film camera, just frame and shoot, no preview, no electronic gadgets. I also love the way MF looks, the tonality and color, and most of all the different way it renders a subject. Shooting a 80mm at 40mm distance at f/2.8 will provide a completely different image and DoF than a 40mm DSLR lens, and that’s something that cannot be replicated, it’s just physics, sensor size.

      So, when there’s need of doing a specific work that requires the merits of digital technology, of course I will use it, but for all other stuff, my MF gear remains my favorite.

  2. Ricky says:

    Hi Konstantino,

    Thanks for your reaction. I agree with you that I also still favor MF film over digital.
    It just has to do with the way of working. But like you also pointed out, the D800E enters the realm of MF quality and has many advantages over film.
    I already noticed though that focussing with the D800 is A LOT harder than on my MF film camera (although I expected the opposit due to the sensor vs 6×7 film size).
    When I am just slightly off it shows directly on the D800. With film, I hardly ever have this problem. I expect that this issue will only get worse when we enter 60+ megapixels untill the point u need a tripod and/or AF.
    If you have more results on the D800E vs MF topic I would gladly hear about it. Thanks for sharing your findings!


  3. Jae Ruberto says:

    Please post a color example,too. The makina has quite an original look in color. Sharp, but lower contrast. It’s my favorite rangefinder!

    If you get a drum or imacon scan from the 6×7 neg you will be blown away.

    • kbesios says:

      Indeed, the Makina is a remarkable camera !! I will post tomorrow a few images taken with the Makina 67 and Fuji Astia 100F film. As for the drum scan, i am sure the scanned file will be fantastic.

  4. Carl valle says:

    Please don’t take this remark as being derogatory or insulting in any way. The concept that medium format is somehow a slower more deliberate and therefore better method for capturing images, whereas 35dslr is a machine gun process which produces few great images, is in actuality all psychology. As a 35mm film photographer, using ektacolor at asa 12, i was able to get reasonable large prints. The process was so labor intensive in the darkroom that i didn’t shoot many images. In fact even though i was using a F100 at the time, which just happens to have had about the same frame rate as a D800/e, each frame was a deliberate, tripod mounted, pre-visualized keeper. Often i would have to shoot frames just to get the film out of the camera. I shoot the same way with the d800e except that i don’t need a tripod and have way higher asa, and don’t have the darkroom anymore. The d800e delivers way bigger effective images than ektacolor ever did, and is the first digital camera i have owned that comes close to the f100’s ease of use and image quality. a plus for me is that i once again get to use my collection of nikkor primes as they were designed to be used. They are quite exquisite. I appreciate people using zeiss and voigt glass, but i can tell you that the 55micro nikkor will outresolve the d800e, as will the old 50mm1.4, 28mm2.8, and the 85f1.8.

    • kbesios says:

      For selected images that I will print extra large I will use the tripod, but I have to admit that except when stitching, making long exposures or aiming for a perfect technically image, I usually operate the D800E handheld. I will also use the tripod with the Fuji GSW690 and of course with a panoramic or large format camera (you can’t do otherwise !!)
      I agree that there’s a psychologic factor concerning the way a camera is used. With a film camera where every frame costs money, I am more careful and shoot very selectively. I am trying to shoot the D800E the same way but of course I will bring home many more photos with a digital camera (not too many, the files are huge).
      I don’t have any experience with the lenses you mentioned, so I’ll take your word for it, since you have tried them. About the 55 micro, a friend of mine owns it and he also states that its a state of the art lens, a true gem.

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