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Author Topic: The truth about the E-3 Image Quality  (Read 11077 times)
SecondFocus
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« Reply #20 on: February 21, 2008, 10:44:09 PM »
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Ray. Get a new hobby. Why do you care? (other than having nothing else to do)
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Anthony;

I just looked through your website; beautiful work!
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Ian L. Sitren
SecondFocus
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« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2008, 11:02:22 PM »
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Ray. Get a new hobby. Why do you care? (other than having nothing else to do)
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Anthony,
I have plenty of other things to do. More things than my brief moment on this planet will allow. But I find it a sensible approach to get hobbies which interest one.

I am now going out into the yard to prune some tree that are interfering with my TV antenna. Pruning trees, however, is not a hobby.
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schrodingerscat
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« Reply #22 on: February 21, 2008, 11:46:42 PM »
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It always amazes me how quick people are to champion the superior attributes of a new camera they have just bought. They seem to become like salseman for their new equipment providing free advertising for the manufacturer. To the more rational amongst us, their claims often seem to defy credibility.

I'll just mention a few recent claims which I viewed with great skepticism.

1. The image quality from the 40D is virtually as good as the 5D, perhaps better in some respects.

2. The 40D image quality is a definite improvement over the 20D and 30D.

3. The E-3 definitely produces sharper images than the 40D.

4. The E-3 produces better and sharper images than the 5D. (And I know because I'm a working photographer who publishes in magazines and I've used both cameras, but I'm too busy to carry out tests.)

5. The Nikon D3 has about a 2 stop noise improvement at high ISO, compared with anything else on the market.

6. The Phase P21 DB definitely produces a more sold looking image with a greater sense of 3-dimensionality than the 1Ds3 can produce. You either see it or you don't.

Often when one questions such claims, the people making the claim are unable to provide the evidence for whatever reason, usually because they are too busy perhaps, but sometimes I think because they want to let the myth ride, whilst it can.

I now see that Dpreview have just completed their review of the Olympus E-3. There are no surprises for me, expect perhaps one. The E-3 actually produces image which are less sharp than the 40D when shooting RAW. This is apparently because the E-3 uses a slightly stronger than average AA filter which limits the potential to capture sharp detail. The lens used on the E-3 during the tests is considered by Dpreview to be one of the sharpest optics they have ever used, the Olympus 50/F2, so I don't think that claims that the lens used on the E-3 might be substandard will hold.

The other image quality characteristics are no surprise. The E-3 is definitely noisier than the 40D at ISO 1600 and above. Highlight headroom is slightly less so the camera is more prone to clipping of highlights. Jpeg output is slightly sharper and punchier (more contrast and saturation) which is no doubt the reason why some people got the impression the E-3 produced even better results than the 5D.

Of course, needless to say, there are more features to a camera than fundamental image quality. That's not in question. Here I'm only addressing fundamental image quality, not range of lenses available, speed of focussing or wieght and waterproofing advantages etc etc.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #23 on: February 22, 2008, 12:31:53 AM »
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Hi,

I think that some of the issue is that the Olympus DSLRs have pretty strong AA (Anti Aliasing) filter. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but means that they need more sharpening.

Now, I think that DPReview tries to keep sharpening the same between different cameras which would put the Oly at disadvantage.

Regarding JPEGs the situation is that amateur cameras almost always oversharpen (by default settings) while professional cameras sharpen much less. The reason is that JPEGs in amateur cameras are intended for viewing/printing but in a professional workflow some more image processing would be made.

The best way to compare cameras would probably be to compare RAW-conversions followed by optimal "capture sharpening". Deciding what is optimal is not easy, tough.

Sharpening would increase noise. Lightroom can use edge masks, so sharpening is limited to "edges" or parts having significant detail.

A good example is given in "Real Word Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2" by the late Bruse Fraser. He compares a 6 MPixel Kodak DCS 460 with a Canon 300 D. The Kodak has no AA-filter while the Canon has. In Bruce's example the Kodak needs radius "0.6" and "amount" 210 while the Canon needs radius "0.6" and "amount" 500.

Best regards
Erik

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BJL,
You've brought up these sorts of issues before. I remember once when I commented that dpreviews tests of a previous model of the 4/3rds system showed images being marginally less sharp than even a P&S camera of similar pixel count, which was included in the comparison, you pointed out the fact that the images being compared were all out-of-camera jpegs and that RAW images would produce a better result; a valid point, but you never provided any link to such a comparison based on RAW images, so the matter remained unresolved.

In this latest comparison of the E-3, dpreview has produced out-of-camera jpegs which are actually perhaps marginally sharper than the 40D, confirming that one can't necessarily judge a camera on the basis of its default jpeg output, but this time they've also compared RAW output and found the E-3 RAW images to be marginally less sharp.

Now, I admit the first thing that springs to mind is that perhaps ACR is not optimised for use with the E-3. Perhaps Olympus Studio 2 would do better conversions. The thought also occurred to the dpreview team. If you read the review more carefully, you'll find that they also used Olympus's own software to do the conversions (no doubt because they also were surprised at the result in ACR), but found that it did not change matters. They have concluded that the slightly less sharp results from RAW conversions are due to a stronger than average AA filter on the E-3.

Once again, none of these differences in image quality are of any great significance. They are no great impediment to the taking of great, artistic photos if your talent lies in that direction. If all the other features and advantages of the 4/3rds format suit your purpose and shooting style, it would be silly to choose a 40D instead just because it has marginally more highlight headroom, marginally sharper RAW images and significantly less noise at maximum ISO   .
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Ray
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« Reply #24 on: February 22, 2008, 05:08:39 AM »
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A good example is given in "Real Word Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop CS2" by the late Bruse Fraser. He compares a 6 MPixel Kodak DCS 460 with a Canon 300 D. The Kodak has no AA-filter while the Canon has. In Bruce's example the Kodak needs radius "0.6" and "amount" 210 while the Canon needs radius "0.6" and "amount" 500.
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That's a fair point. I think dpreview used an amount of 80% USM, radius 1 pixel and threshold zero in PS on all RAW images. In ACR, sharpening was set at zero and other adjustments at default.

I imagine increasing the amount of sharpening would be necessary to get the E-3 image looking as sharp as the 40D image, but as you say, sharpening also tends to increase noise and produce halos.
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Ray
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« Reply #25 on: February 22, 2008, 10:45:07 AM »
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I've just been reading some of the responses to the dpreview E-3 test on the dpreview forum, and I think I can now understand why Michael has disengaged himself from all attempts to provide objective and detailed reviews of equipment.

No matter how much trouble you take to be as objective as you possibly can be, there always seems to be a barrage of criticism from disaffected owners of the equipment you've demonstrated might not be quite up to to scratch.

They seem to squirm and wriggle and try with all their might to escape from the "facts" like a kangaroo caught by its tail.

I don't post on dpreview, but I wish Simon Joinson well. Keep your cool, mate.
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BJL
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« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2008, 04:17:37 PM »
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Which other reviews are you referring to, BJL? Can you provide a link? Perhaps the methodology in such reviews is flawed.
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Since I have already said that I see little value in such resolution comparisons, while you apparently care a lot, I suggest that you search around: DPreview is far from the only or best DSLR testing site on the internet.

I am struck by your pre-emptive speculation that these other sites are using flawed methodolgy while your often highly critical approach to some data and testing methods seems to have overlooked the various potential flaws of the DPReview methodology discussed in the DPReview forums.

If you truly care about methodology and seeking to measure such small differences in resolution, here is a nit-picking point. DPReview did the E-3 resolution testing with the 50mm f/2 lens at f/6.3, an aperture shown in testing elsewhere to be not the sharpest available. (That lens is good enough that the resolution keeps improving down to about f/2.8, and indeed most 4/3 lenses are sharper at f/4 than f/6.3). So the resolution measurements are held back somewhat by lens limitations; specifically diffraction due to using a smaller than optimal aperture diameter.

The same is likely to be true of the other cameras tested too, so all around, diffraction effects have probably not been sufficiently controlled in the DPReview testing.
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BJL
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« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2008, 04:33:06 PM »
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... there always seems to be a barrage of criticism from disaffected owners of the equipment you've demonstrated might not be quite up to to scratch.
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(Emphasis added)
Ray, this dismissal of criticisms of reviews and testing methodology by people who have read the reviews is ironical given that in another post in this thread, your first speculation about reviews that you have not read is that they might use flawed methodology. You (like I!) certainly have a record of vigorously disputing other people's evidence, arguments and methodology.
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Ray
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« Reply #28 on: February 25, 2008, 09:51:15 PM »
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Since I have already said that I see little value in such resolution comparisons, while you apparently care a lot, I suggest that you search around: DPreview is far from the only or best DSLR testing site on the internet.

BJL,
It's standard practice in academic circles to always quote your sources. If you don't care about an issue, why raise the matter in the first instance or engage in debate?

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I am struck by your pre-emptive speculation that these other sites are using flawed methodolgy while your often highly critical approach to some data and testing methods seems to have overlooked the various potential flaws of the DPReview methodology discussed in the DPReview forums.

Which other sites are you referring to? I always start from the premise that methodology possibly could be flawed, especially when I attempt tests myself. It is true, however, that sites such as Dpreview with a reputation for a meticulous and consistent approach, tend to generate less skepticism regarding sound methodology than do unknown, unspecified or rumoured sources.

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If you truly care about methodology and seeking to measure such small differences in resolution, here is a nit-picking point. DPReview did the E-3 resolution testing with the 50mm f/2 lens at f/6.3, an aperture shown in testing elsewhere to be not the sharpest available. (That lens is good enough that the resolution keeps improving down to about f/2.8, and indeed most 4/3 lenses are sharper at f/4 than f/6.3). So the resolution measurements are held back somewhat by lens limitations; specifically diffraction due to using a smaller than optimal aperture diameter.

That's a good point. At face value, it does seem that dpreview might have blundered here. When sharpness (or resolution) is an issue, why not use both lenses at their sharpest aperture. In this situation, perhaps it would have been fairer to use the Olympus 50/2 at f2.8 and the Canon 50/1.4 at f4. PhotoZone tests show that the Canon 50/1.4 peaks in sharpness at F4, at least in the centre at MTF 50.

Checking the review again, I find the following statement from Dpreview.

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Lenses used

For direct comparisons we always use sharp prime lenses stopped down, typically to F9 for 35 mm lenses and F6.3 for Four Thirds lenses. Here we have used the Minolta 50mm F1.4, Pentax 50 mm F1.4, Olympus 50 mm F2.0 Macro, and Canon EF 50 mm F1.4.

Perhaps the reason for using F9 with the 40D and F6.3 with the E-3 is for the sake of consistent results across the frame, from edge to edge. One can only speculate on the degree to which the Olympus 50/2 might be sharper at f2.8 than it is at f6.3. But it's clear from the Photozone tests that the Canon 50/1.4 is definitely sharper at F4 than it would be at f9, (assuming that centre sharpness at F9 would be marginally less, or no better than at F8. They don't show the results for F9).

Nevertheless, if I had been carrying out these tests myself, suspecting that the Olympus 50/2 might be sharpest at f2.8, I would have taken some more shots of the test target at wider apertures to see if that made a difference to the RAW image comparisons. Perhaps Simon Joinson actually did that, just as he also used Olympus Studio 2. I notice that Dpreview are now branching out into lens reviews.
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Deep
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« Reply #29 on: February 27, 2008, 02:33:41 AM »
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I download all the dpreview sample photos taken by cameras that interest me.  They are the most objective standard out there and I am very grateful to Phil, Simon and the team for what they do.

BUT:  there did seem to be a strange thing happening with the E3 samples.  The RAW one looked disturbingly soft (as everyone seems to have picked up).  I have Olympus cameras and am aware that if I use Lightroom or Photoshop, the files seem to need more sharpening than other files.  So I did the obvious, which was to gently move the sharpen and detail sliders in Lightroom a very small amount and, hey presto!, all that hidden detail sprung up.  And we are not talking about excessive sharpening either.  Now I compare the detail with any other 10-12 MP camera there and only the 5D has recorded more information (and I do try playing with settings on samples from other cameras too).  If you look for the finest details in the scene, the E3 has plucked them out, every bit as well as the RAW L10 file  that Simon heaped so much praise on.

As for the excessive AA filter - actually I think it is the opposite.  Once the file has been sorted, look at the writing on the tin man and you will see jaggies.

But yeah, it's all pretty irrelevant, 99% of the time.  I have an exhibition in town at the moment and buyers don't know, or care, where the images came from.  Those sold so far came from my best DSLR, two digital point and shoot cameras and film!

Really, we are utterly spoilt these days.

Don.
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Ray
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« Reply #30 on: February 27, 2008, 08:10:45 AM »
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BUT:  there did seem to be a strange thing happening with the E3 samples.  The RAW one looked disturbingly soft (as everyone seems to have picked up).  I have Olympus cameras and am aware that if I use Lightroom or Photoshop, the files seem to need more sharpening than other files.  So I did the obvious, which was to gently move the sharpen and detail sliders in Lightroom a very small amount and, hey presto!, all that hidden detail sprung up.  And we are not talking about excessive sharpening either.  Now I compare the detail with any other 10-12 MP camera there and only the 5D has recorded more information (and I do try playing with settings on samples from other cameras too).  If you look for the finest details in the scene, the E3 has plucked them out, every bit as well as the RAW L10 file  that Simon heaped so much praise on.

As for the excessive AA filter - actually I think it is the opposite.  Once the file has been sorted, look at the writing on the tin man and you will see jaggies.
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I don't see any significant difference between the E-3 RAW image on dpreview and the other RAW images with which it's compared. It's all very trivial.

My point really is, how come some people who claim they always shoot RAW are able to assert that the E-3 produces not only better and sharper images than the 40D but even sharper than the 5D?

It's tests like dpreview's that bring us down to reality, and that's a good thing.

As regards the strength of the AA filter on the E-3, I'm having trouble with your logic. If you think it's not stronger but actually weaker, why does the E-3 RAW need slightly more sharpening than the 40D image in order to bring out the detail? How do both images compare after they've both been given the same amount of additional sharpening? Are you claiming that the E-3 image then looks right but the 40D image looks oversharpened?
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BJL
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« Reply #31 on: February 27, 2008, 05:11:21 PM »
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I don't see any significant difference between the E-3 RAW image on dpreview and the other RAW images with which it's compared. It's all very trivial.

My point really is, how come some people who claim they always shoot RAW are able to assert that the E-3 produces not only better and sharper images than the 40D but even sharper than the 5D?
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if that is your only point, then perhaps I have been wasting your time and mine. We seem to agree that the differences are "trivial" [your word] or "within the margin of experimental error" [my suggestion]. I will stick to counting pixels to estimate image resolution potential of a sensor.

(Which is why I do not feel the need to seek out citations to support a passing comment about other reviews that I read in passing!)


P. S. The measured total dynamic range at low to medium ISO speeds, 100-400, (ignoring the rather meaningless highlight-to-midtone and midtone-to-shadow splits) also seem about equal, or within experimental error, for the 40D, E-3, A700 and D300. And yet much blood is being spent debating those too!
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Quentin
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« Reply #32 on: February 27, 2008, 05:47:42 PM »
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My point really is, how come some people who claim they always shoot RAW are able to assert that the E-3 produces not only better and sharper images than the 40D but even sharper than the 5D?

It's tests like dpreview's that bring us down to reality, and that's a good thing.


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Another review, another opinion.

For example, the E-3 is reviewed this month in a UK magazine called Digital Photographer,  a semi-pro magazine, which rates the E-3 image quality 10/10, saying of the quality of results "A synergy of body and lenses that produce a resolving power and an edge-of-frame sharpness currently unrivaled".  

The overall score is 96% (which is I think the highest mark they have ever given to a DSLR - the 5D got 90%), and the concluding paragraph opines the E-3 is "...one of the most rounded cameras ever tested by Digital Photographer." I could go on; the rest of the fairly detailed review is in a similar vein.  It is the very definition of a rave review.

Are they right about the E-3 or is the dpreview more accurate?  Is the Digital Photographer review the "Truth" about the E-3? Its clearly not your truth, Ray, but it is the view of a reasonably respected journal - but while the Digital Photographer review waxes lyrical about the E-3, it is, when all is said and done, just another opinion.  

You seem pretty wedded, Ray, to your Canon cameras and many of your posts seem to be defending them against others, including the fairly relentless if ultimately unconvincing attempt to show that the 5D noise at high ISO was nearly a match for the D3. The fact is all mid to top end dslrs now are excellent, you really cannot go far wrong with any of them.  

Just my opinion...of course  

Quentin
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Ray
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« Reply #33 on: February 27, 2008, 06:48:43 PM »
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The overall score is 96% (which is I think the highest mark they have ever given to a DSLR - the 5D got 90%), and the concluding paragraph opines the E-3 is "...one of the most rounded cameras ever tested by Digital Photographer." I could go on; the rest of the fairly detailed review is in a similar vein.  It is the very definition of a rave review.

Are they right about the E-3 or is the dpreview more accurate?  Is the Digital Photographer review the "Truth" about the E-3? Its clearly not your truth, Ray, but it is the view of a reasonably respected journal - but while the Digital Photographer review waxes lyrical about the E-3, it is, when all is said and done, just another opinion. 

Quentin,
There's only one issue here for me. How accurate and how reliable are some reviews. Objective reviews are supposed to attempt to cut through mere subjective opinion. All reviews are not objective. All tests are not thoroughly and meticulously carried out and for all the reader knows, there may be occasions when one particular review is a borrowed opinion or simply a biased opinion because the site or magazine carries advertising for Olympus or because the reviewer owns an Olympus 4/3rds system or has shares in the company.

Whatever the reason for such discrepancies of opinion or test results, the cause of such discrepancies is surely of interest to all pixel peepers.

If I personally were to buy a camera because because a few sources (individuals and professional reviewers) had made claims for it that later proved to be exaggerations, I might be a little annoyed.

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You seem pretty wedded, Ray, to your Canon cameras and many of your posts seem to be defending them against others, including the fairly relentless if ultimately unconvincing attempt to show that the 5D noise at high ISO was nearly a match for the D3. The fact is all mid to top end dslrs now are excellent, you really cannot go far wrong with any of them. 

I might seem to be, but I'm not. I can only make personal comparisons with equipment that I own. I rely upon reviews for most comparisons of cameras. I recently attempted to compare my 5D with a D3 under conditions which were not ideal and within a time frame which was rushed. I couldn't claim my methodology was flawless and therefore I didn't make the RAW images freely available.

I look forward with interest to the release of the Sony 24mp FF DSLR. If it's noticeably better than the upgrade to the 5D and not too expensive, I'll probably buy it. Fortunately I already have a few Minolta lenses which I was using before I switched to Canon 7 or 8 years ago. I have no specific allegiance to Canon, apart from the obvious convenience of already having a bunch of Canon lenses.
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SecondFocus
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« Reply #34 on: February 27, 2008, 07:27:24 PM »
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Quentin you are so very correct.

I glanced through the overly ponderous review on DPReview and just could not relate to it. Does anyone actually go out and shoot photos! I am not impressed.

These things can be used as a guideline perhaps to learn about features but using gear on real shoots is where it all gets sorted out. Like a friend of mine once said, some things seem pretty good until you take it out into the jungle and your life depends on it. That wasn't about cameras of course.

I stand by all the good things I have said about the E-3 on my blog and I am certainly not alone. When I saw the title of this thread with it's subtitle pop up a while ago, it sure gave me a laugh.
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Ian L. Sitren
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« Reply #35 on: February 27, 2008, 09:02:58 PM »
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These things can be used as a guideline perhaps to learn about features but using gear on real shoots is where it all gets sorted out
This attitude leads to boasting with 100% center crops of the cat, "proving" how god the camera is.

You can judge a camera with experimenting, i.e. shooting with it, but that is no basis to any comparison; that is plain nonsense.

For a few days ago I read this on DPReview:

the D3 is 2 stops better then the D300 over 800 ISO....

I asked how the poster came to the 2 stops (not 1, not three); the answer was

subjective, based on experience.

Now, that's what I call BS.
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« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2008, 06:12:00 AM »
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Ray,

Objectivity is unattainable.  Even issues like sharpness and colour are ultimately subjective.  If someone tells me their camera is better than mine, it only makes sense if I use that camera and agree.  If I don't agree, its not better, its worse.  

Probably like you, I am pretty fed up with reviews that spout pseudo scientifc bull. Thus, Michael's reveiws are better than most because they make no attempt at false science.  So long as we bear that in mind when we debate the merits of camera gear we'll be a lot more understanding of why there can be such a wide range of different views.

Quentin
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« Reply #37 on: February 28, 2008, 12:39:22 PM »
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As regards the strength of the AA filter on the E-3, I'm having trouble with your logic. If you think it's not stronger but actually weaker, why does the E-3 RAW need slightly more sharpening than the 40D image in order to bring out the detail? How do both images compare after they've both been given the same amount of additional sharpening? Are you claiming that the E-3 image then looks right but the 40D image looks oversharpened?
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The beauty of the digital age is that you do not have to take my word for it.  Repeat my experiment for yourself and you'll be amazed.  And yes, I imagine the 40D would look oversharpened at the same settings.  What counts for me is the detail I can actually resolve at the optimum settings and I don't really care if those settings are different for different cameras.  I know it is quite different for my Sony, for example.

Don
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