On my recent trip with the Nikon D800E, I also took with me the Fuji GSW690iii camera. I loaded a Kodak Portra 160VC and during my shooting I photographed three locations using both cameras. It was not an effort to make a comparison, I just used the two cameras in order to choose the best image at the end. But since I have the photos, I thought of writing a post about it (its my third comparison between these two exceptional cameras).
Before I go on with this comparison, a few words first. I shot all images handheld and from a posits that may differ a a couple of meters, so the frame is not the same. On the Nikon I had the 28-300 lens which is not one of the best lenses for the D800E (on its short edge, the quality is not optimal, neither is distortion). The Portra 160VC when scanned showed a larger amount of grain than I am used to, also the dynamic range is not on par with the rolls of 160VC I have shot in the past (I rated it at ISO 100, as always). So, there might be something wrong with the film or the development I got from the lab. Please take those parameters in consideration when reading this post, since its not a scientific comparison but just my way of shooting under specific conditions.
So, after getting things clear, let’s see the images.
The two images look quite similar, the Fuji has a warmer color, Nikon’s cooler rendering is closer to what I was seeing during the shooting.
Now, a crop from both cameras.
The scanned 6×9 film has a bit of advantage in resolution in this image, although there is evident grain which is expect at this magnification. At this crop level, we are talking about a very large print which is meant to be seen from a certain distance of course.
I much prefer the color and sharpness on the film image here. The dynamic range of the Nikon shows here with everything properly recorded. The Fuji images has blown highlights on the sky (I didn’t expect to see that especially with the Portra, so I am not sure what happened here, the metering was done with my trustworthy Sekonic meter). Lets see the crop.
The Fuji image shows high grain compared to the Nikon. Resolution seems about the same, maybe a little bit better on the digital photo (which can be further sharpened without adding evident noise).
Now, here my decision is more difficult. I think I prefer the digital image due to more subtle tones and softer rendering, it looks more real. The film photo seems more harsh to my eyes, much more dramatic with more saturation and contrast.
I would call it a tie between the two cameras in resolution terms, although the recorder differently the textures on the wall. It’s just a different look.
So, my conclusions from this comparison are partly in favor the Nikon D800E. With some proper process images could be improved more and that could of course favor the digital file, which can be abused more in Photoshop or Lightroom without a significant loss of quality. The Coolscan 9000 which was used to scan the film is considered an excellent film scanner. A drum scan would provide a better image, but so would a better lens on the Nikon like the 24-70mm or a 28mm prime.
It’s obvious that the sensor of the D800E easily reaches or surpasses a 6×9 color negative, and of course you get all the advantages of digital like bracketing without cost, better handling of files in post process. On the other hand, a Fuji GSW690iii can be bought for less than 1000 euros today, while the D800E with a decent lens would be about 3500 euros or more. So at one third of the price you get a wonderful landscape camera which with a good slide film can equal the D800E. Of course film costs money, so it depends on what kind of shooter you are. On the Nikon you can mount different lenses and it’s a camera that can do any kind of photography, not just landscapes, travel or some architecture as I do with the Fuji.
Ina a couple of weeks I will take another photo trip with both cameras, this time the Fuji will be loaded with Velvia which records the colors of fall like nothing else. So, I will try to do another one comparison and of course post the results.
(c)2012 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.