Nikon D800E vs medium format film (Fuji GSW690iii)

One of the first things I did when I got the Nikon D800E was to compare it against my heavy artillery landscape camera, the Fuji GSW690iii (6×9).

You can read these posts using the following links:
Part I
Part II
Part III

There are occasions when I need the ease of use and speed of a digital camera and/or want to have the images at the same day (for color negative I can do that although it requires quite an effort and time getting the film, scan it and process it, for slide film I have to wait at least a week).

So, if my D800E can provide an almost equal alternative for these occasions, its something I want to evaluate myself.

Before I post the first comparison, a few words. This is a test I did for my own personal reasons, it reflects my way of shooting both cameras and my way of processing the images. I tried to be as fair as possible, but as you can understand, I am not a technical guru. With the same combo others could produce different results, either due to their better knowledge of post processing and scanning, or their personal taste on how the final image should look. So, read this comparison with those parameters in mind, and filter it according to your needs (I know I do it when I read such comparisons over the Internet).

The D800E image was shot with the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 at 28mm at f/8 ( I think its a good compromise between quality and depth of field). The Fuji GSW690iii at f/13 with Kodak Portra 160NC film and scanned and the negative scanned with the Coolscan 9000 scanner.

Both cameras shot on tripod from the same position.

So, lets see how the cameras performed.

(Nikon D800E)

(Fuji GSW690iii)

Below are zoom crops the photos.



Pretty much alike with a slight advantage on the Fuji image.

If we enlarge more, then the Fuji gains a little more advantage since scanned at 4000dpi it produces a file of 12800×8800 size. It’s over 100 megapixels but as you can understand, its not like digital sensor megapixels, I would say that its somewhere over 40 megapixels. You must also account that at these levels of magnification the grain is visible. A newer film like the Portra 160 Professional or a slide film like a Velvia and Provia would provide even better results, but generally both cameras are very close.

So, I can say that the D800E is pretty close with a very good 6×9 camera which shows the great evolution of digital sensors.

I prefer the look and color of film when printed, but that’s subjective, others might prefer the rendering of the digital sensor.

The D800E with a good lens like the 24-70 is about 4000 euros, so its an expensive combo. You can find a GSW690iii used at about 1000 euros, so that leave you with lost of money for films. But they are totally difference machines. The D800 can pretty much shoot everything you can imagine and its low light performance is also superb. So, they are not systems to be compared as your sole camera gear.

A medium format camera due its larger sensor (film) size renders the world with differently. On the GSW690 you shoot a 65mm lens at 28mm distance. On a 6×7 MF camera for example, your 80mm lens is 40mm equivalent, so its a good normal lens but at the same time it is a fantastic portrait lens (imagine taking a photo at the distance of 40mm, but with a 80mm f/2.8, its completely different).

To answer my initial question, I would gladly use the D800E (when needed) at subjects where my Fuji excels without any hesitation, its really a fantastic camera.

(c)2013 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to Nikon D800E vs medium format film (Fuji GSW690iii)

  1. Jerome says:

    HEy, thanx for the good comparaison! I’ve got the Niukon Coolscan 9000 and looking for that Fuji Camera, my only concern is being able to scan it at its best resolution… As i only have the basic standard carrier for medium formats. Do you use the glass rotating one or just the standard one? Cheers

    • kbesios says:

      I have the glass carrier, and it really does a great job keeping the film flat. I haven’t ever used the standard one, but my guess is that the glass will have an advantage in scan quality.

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