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Author Topic: Quality vs Value  (Read 43172 times)
yoni
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« on: January 31, 2009, 03:09:10 PM »
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One element not addressed in the article which muddies the issue further is value in used cameras.  Because of the flattening of the quality curve, last year's camera is only marginally inferior to the current one. However the price can often fall below 1/3. One can buy a used 1ds2, for example, at around $2200. Not a bad quality/value ratio.  Even today's generation is quite heavily discounted given the financial environment we are in and a used 1ds3 can now be found for $4700. Adding this to the mix greatly expand our choices.
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pegelli
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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2009, 03:56:59 PM »
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Very interesting essay and my two cents (or rather two points) are
1) Being an early adopter is indeed expensive. Also the incremental 'quality' you get by always upgrading to the latest and greatest is probably the smallest step if you do it every time. So I agree with the 2nd hand point of yoni and for me even my current body is the cheapest second hand I don't have to buy    I'll probably just upgrade every 3rd or 4th generation to make a big leap. But for me it's pure hobby and I can imagine that pro's can't afford to do that.
2) I invest some of the money I save by the above strategy in better lenses. Something I read elsewhere: DSLR's are for a year (or 2), lenses are forever. I believe in the end a better lens will make more impact on the picture IQ than the body (and proper technique of course).
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pieter, aka pegelli
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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2009, 04:19:32 PM »
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Good point, Yoni.  I found Michael's article very thought provoking.  I'm sure he will be addressing additional points as the series continues.  A few points that occurred to me:

1. Lens technology is advancing also.  A couple decades ago, a popularly priced zoom lens was likely to be truly terrible in both build quality and optical quality.  Now a consumer zoom can be a decent lens, and even a few of the super zoom lenses offer respectable performance.  Yes, there is still a measurable difference between the consumer lens and the finest pro glass, but as with cameras, the price gap is large while the quality gap is shrinking.  Add to that the facts that post-processing software can now correct for many lens defects and high ISO sensors compensate for many of the advantages of fast glass, and one can see that the value equation is changing.

2.  When comparing the value of a camera like the Canon G10 to current DSLRs, much of the discussion naturally centers on image quality versus price.  But one ought also to consider that the small size of the cheaper camera is actually an important positive factor for many photographers.  If you need a camera to fit in your pocket, you might actually be willing to pay more for a smaller size.

3.  Ultimately, value is very personal.  If I regularly print at sizes of 20 by 30 inches and larger, a large sensor may have great value to me, but if I never print larger than 8 by 10, then there isn't a camera on the market that is lacking in resolution for me and there is no value whatsoever from more megapixels.
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John DeMott
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2009, 04:35:56 PM »
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Yoni, interesting point about buying used gear.  I bought (at different times and excellent discounts) a used 1D Mark II and 1Ds Mark II when their previous owners upgraded.  Both were lightly used (the 1Ds2 only had about 3,000 clicks).

True, neither are now at the top of their respective categories.  But as a serious amateur, they both serve me well and I am certainly getting good value.

Paul
« Last Edit: January 31, 2009, 04:43:37 PM by PaulS » Logged

aaykay
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2009, 06:49:12 PM »
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Very interesting article and puts a fresh perspective on things.  Eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.
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JohnBrew
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2009, 08:16:10 PM »
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Quote from: aaykay
Very interesting article and puts a fresh perspective on things.  Eagerly awaiting the rest of the series.
I don't know about the fresh perspective, to me it's just common sense, something which has been lacking in approaching the current offerings in the digital world.
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jjj
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2009, 10:28:09 PM »
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Quote from: JohnBrew
I don't know about the fresh perspective, to me it's just common sense, something which has been lacking in approaching the current offerings in the digital world.
Common sense is anything but common! Though Michael certainly has plenty.

Yoni's point re 2nd hand stuff is also a good one.
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2009, 11:12:08 PM »
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The one glaring omission I found with the article is the quality / value of a camera system.

As MR writes, he thinks the A900 is a great camera so he proceeded to buy it and a few lenses. Doesn't buying the extra lenses he didn't have raise the effectual price of the A900 by quite a few thousand? Given that MR already owns a few Nikon lenses, it would have probably been cheaper to buy the D3x rather than investing in a whole new system. In this scenario, I am certain the D3x's value would trump that of the A900, notwithstanding it's 8k price tag. (I understand the point about testing, etc. but this is looking at it from a straight value perspective.)

I think without taking lenses and their quality, price and value into consideration, one cannot make claims about which camera is better. Sure, the A900 or D3x might take better pictures than my Canon 1's, but I can't use my lenses on either, rendering them completely use-, and value-, less to me.

Additionally, while I may get better quality from the Nikons, their lenses are typically much more expensive than their Canon counterparts, further widening any price / performance gap.

Cameras are, after all, an integrated system. Without taking into account the lenses and other essential accessories, giving value numbers to bodies from different manufacturers is getting us nowhere.

If we were to try and create a system-wide value chart, one would have to consider the gear s/he already has, how much it is worth and what the resulting funds will finance. After all, not all of us can afford the latest gear.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2009, 11:15:26 PM by RafalA » Logged
pegelli
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2009, 03:00:54 AM »
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Quote from: RafalA
The one glaring omission I found with the article is the quality / value of a camera system.

Agree it is a point not covered yet in the first essay, however don't think it's a glaring omission. The point being that once you take the resale value of the system into account the playing field is significantly flattened. Only if you degrade your uncompatible lenses to paperweights the economics of switching systems is prohibitively expensive. However in my experience quality lenses keep their value quite well.

Edit: Changed better reflect what I meant to say
« Last Edit: February 01, 2009, 05:08:38 AM by pegelli » Logged

pieter, aka pegelli
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2009, 03:27:07 AM »
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It's impossible to take into consideration what lenses and other equipment readers might have, so it's far from a glaring omission.

The individual is left to weigh in those factors.  How much return on selling current equipment versus the cost of replacement for either system (perhaps zero for an existing brand).  $8,000- for a Nikon compared to $3,000- for a Sony, for example, plus the resale of existing equipment, allows quite some room before the Sony system approaches th cost of the new Nikon body (assuming you don't need to upgrade anything else to take advantage of the new body).

Ultimately, though, whilst entire system costs must come into it for those with existing equipment, there's no one but the individual who can know the entire equation as it applies to them.  With a system that ranks as Michael has suggested, you can at least then have in mind the relative position of the two bodies you might be looking at and then decide whether at any given point one system is better value than another.  Once there is a method, a formula if you like, for rating value, then you can change the input value to reflect system change costs (making it net with the resale of existing gear) and derive a quotient that suggests a "break even" point.  With that, you can make an informed decision on which system is the best value and take the into consideration with the other factors that affect an individual's choices.

But given this is a proposed series of essays from Michael, I think to call it a glaring omission is at the very least premature, if not completely wrong :-)  It's a good point to consider system value, but I think you need to view the proposed method with an open and prospective mind to see how it can still be useful when investigating system comparitive values.
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lattiboy
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2009, 04:07:55 AM »
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Okay, first off, hello LL forums. Been lurking for a bit, but I thought I'd stick my head in. Second, sorry for my first post to be so argumentative. Now..........


This whole "system value" talk sounds like desperate justification to me. Of course if you have $15,000 worth of Canon glass you're probably not going to jump ship (even though you could likely sell all your gear quite easily and retain much of your original investment), but to say that assessing the value of a product based on the.....value of a product is somehow a glaring omission is silly double-talk.

Also, consider the fact you could buy:

CZ 24-70mm
50mm f/1.4
CZ 135mm f/1.8
70-300mm G
two HVL-58 AM Flashes
A900

for less than the price of a D3x. I believe that is the majority of a "system" in and of itself.

I am aware the D3x is (probably) an all around better camera than the A900, but please don't try to defend the Nikon pricing by putting this artificial "system value" idea in there. This was clearly a comparison of different cameras aimed at prospective buyers.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2009, 04:09:13 AM by lattiboy » Logged
gingerbaker
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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2009, 10:08:48 AM »
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I feel I must chime in here and sound a small alarm bell.  Please, please can we stop using the DxO ratings to compare between different camera systems? Madness lies in those charts, madness, I tell you!  

First of all, nobody really knows how the final algorithm for the DxO rating is weighted or derived.  So, from a simple First Rules basis - don't make decisions based on statistics that we don't understand.  And I don't think anyone but DxO knows how they come up with their final rankings.

Secondly, the DxO scores may be fine to compare within brands - use it to look at the various Nikon cams, for example, but I think one can not rely on DxO scores to tell you much about how different makes of cameras compare.  And here is one reason why: DxO measures noise, among other things, and these noise stats go into their final rankings. But Nikon sensors process out chrominance noise on-chip before the RAW image is outputted - other makers do not do this. This is an inherent bias, and there are most likely others.  DxO rewards Nikon's strategy in their rankings, but this does not tell you what we need to know, which leads to...

Thirdly, the DxO rankings do not tell us which sensors/cameras can produce the best images.What they tell us is only which cameras produce the best DxO scores.  In fact, Michael actually pointed this out in a tangential way when he spoke of the remarkable prowess of the Canon G10 compared to a medium-format digital back under certain conditions.  If one was to look at the DxO chart, the G10 has one of the lowest overall scores on the chart, yet its IQ, under the right conditions, is comparable to the the highest scoring camera. This alone tells us that there is a huge disconnect between a Dxo score and the actual IQ potential of a camera.

The Nikon cams generally test relatively higher than the Canons because of their preRAW processing, but this does not tell us whether a Canon 5D or a D700, or a D3x vs a Sony 900 will produce the best images after optimal PP, which is how we use these systems, after all. And speaking of actual use, each of us has different ecological niche for our cameras.  If I had a Canon G10, I would use it for landscapes without huge dynamic range requirements.  That is, in the cameras sweet spot. We all would do this for any and all of the cameras we use.  And this is natural, expected, and completely screws up the statistical significance of the DxO rankings.

So, I don't think we can rely on the DxO numbers to simplify our decisions as tempting as that may seem.  We still need to test the actual cameras in the field, process the images, and make decisions based on a more challenging dimensional map than the one provided by DxO.
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michael
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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2009, 10:28:09 AM »
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Gee did you get a sneak peek at my article coming on Tuesday?  

Michael
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250swb
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« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2009, 11:26:07 AM »
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It is a fine article Michael, and while I am sure we are all 'gear junkies' to some extent the onward march of 'having to have' or 'needing to have' requires just this sort of analysis.

All to often it seems the camera gear forums are run along the lines of the 'Ferengi Rules of Acquisition', and with latest being mightiest in any argument/polite discussion. I opted out of one big manufacturers system for a little manufacturer because the gear was better made, smaller, higher quality lenses, and all weatherproof.  The combination of these factors mean it gets carted around and used more, and that for me counts as an increase in value over what I had, despite the monetary loss in changing systems. So 'value' isn't necessarily just buying the next cheapest camera that does a similar job, but also the level of intensive use any camera can be put to over and above other cameras. Its kind of whether you buy a tool or ornament type of debate, where a G10 carried in the pocket is used for making more photo's than the 5dMk11 at home on the shelf, so which camera has more value to the photographer (assuming they aren't a pro)?

Steve

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David Watson
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« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2009, 11:55:52 AM »
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 This is a very interesting debate but it, very politely, ignores one significant element and that is the desirability of cameras as objects other than picture taking mechanisms.  When a photographer,amateur or professional, buys a camera or a camera system the desirability of the camera and its technology has an effect on his decision to purchase notwithstanding the apparent or real gain in performance.  If one were to rank cameras solely on the basis of objective desirability and then compared that list with one ranked in terms of image quality what an interesting list that would be.

Show me that person who does not admire and wish to possess, simply for its functional beauty, a Leica M3 and I will show you someone who is uninterested in the technology of picture taking.  Where does that take us?  It means that those photographers who have the means to indulge their appreciation of the camera as an object can and do buy the most technically interesting and well-designed systems and I would suggest that a significant proportion of sales of high end systems are to that market.  That is not to say that they are not good photographers - the two issues are separate and distinct other than the coincidence of obtaining the best performance one can for the money available.

Michael raises a challenging and most interesting point.  To be blunt 95% of all photographers needs can be met with a Sony camera and a few lenses costing, as one contributer points out, less than a 1DsMkIII or a D3X - I agree totally with that.

Why then do I own a $20,000 of Canon equipment and $50,000 of Hasselblad equipment?  At the risk of bring some opprobium down on my shoulders I would say three things:-

1. I like them as objects.
2. I can afford to indulge myself.
3. I want the best image quality that I can buy given items 1 & 2.

It seems to me that many photographers disguise their pleasure in ownership  and collection of cameras as objects with all sorts of high-sounding reasons.

Let's just be honest - we like these gadgets!
« Last Edit: February 01, 2009, 11:57:13 AM by David Watson » Logged

David Watson ARPS
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« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2009, 01:17:53 PM »
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Quote from: David Watson
Let's just be honest - we like these gadgets!

Speak for yourself.
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David Watson
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« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2009, 02:34:14 PM »
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Quote from: KLaban
Speak for yourself.

I thought I did!
 
Okay some of us are honest enough to admit we like these gadgets, some of us aren't, and some of us just use them as tools - no problem with that at all.  Each to his own.  All I am saying is that this debate is not necessarily exclusively about the image quality and utility of the camera or system but its desirability as an object in its own right.  An interest in the camera as an object and an ability to produce wonderful images are not mutually exclusive no more than a disinterested attitude to photographic technology is a barrier to the same result (although in the digital age that would be a little short-sighted perhaps).  This is not necessarily a fashionable opinion but it doesn't make it any less true.
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David Watson ARPS
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« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2009, 03:43:08 PM »
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Quote from: gingerbaker
I feel I must chime in here and sound a small alarm bell.  Please, please can we stop using the DxO ratings to compare between different camera systems? Madness lies in those charts, madness, I tell you!  

First of all, nobody really knows how the final algorithm for the DxO rating is weighted or derived.  So, from a simple First Rules basis - don't make decisions based on statistics that we don't understand.  And I don't think anyone but DxO knows how they come up with their final rankings.

Secondly, the DxO scores may be fine to compare within brands - use it to look at the various Nikon cams, for example, but I think one can not rely on DxO scores to tell you much about how different makes of cameras compare.  And here is one reason why: DxO measures noise, among other things, and these noise stats go into their final rankings. But Nikon sensors process out chrominance noise on-chip before the RAW image is outputted - other makers do not do this. This is an inherent bias, and there are most likely others.  DxO rewards Nikon's strategy in their rankings, but this does not tell you what we need to know, which leads to...

Thirdly, the DxO rankings do not tell us which sensors/cameras can produce the best images.What they tell us is only which cameras produce the best DxO scores.  In fact, Michael actually pointed this out in a tangential way when he spoke of the remarkable prowess of the Canon G10 compared to a medium-format digital back under certain conditions.  If one was to look at the DxO chart, the G10 has one of the lowest overall scores on the chart, yet its IQ, under the right conditions, is comparable to the the highest scoring camera. This alone tells us that there is a huge disconnect between a Dxo score and the actual IQ potential of a camera.

The Nikon cams generally test relatively higher than the Canons because of their preRAW processing, but this does not tell us whether a Canon 5D or a D700, or a D3x vs a Sony 900 will produce the best images after optimal PP, which is how we use these systems, after all. And speaking of actual use, each of us has different ecological niche for our cameras.  If I had a Canon G10, I would use it for landscapes without huge dynamic range requirements.  That is, in the cameras sweet spot. We all would do this for any and all of the cameras we use.  And this is natural, expected, and completely screws up the statistical significance of the DxO rankings.

So, I don't think we can rely on the DxO numbers to simplify our decisions as tempting as that may seem.  We still need to test the actual cameras in the field, process the images, and make decisions based on a more challenging dimensional map than the one provided by DxO.


Exceptionally well said - I have had an issue with DXO rankings floating around in my head for a while now [although I still beleive there is value to be had in DXO]  and could not put my finger on exactly how the whole picture came together from a holistic real use perspective.

You have succesfully articulated it for me.

Thank you.
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NashvilleMike
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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2009, 04:12:41 PM »
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Quote from: lattiboy
Also, consider the fact you could buy:

CZ 24-70mm
50mm f/1.4
CZ 135mm f/1.8
70-300mm G
two HVL-58 AM Flashes
A900

for less than the price of a D3x. I believe that is the majority of a "system" in and of itself.

I am aware the D3x is (probably) an all around better camera than the A900, but please don't try to defend the Nikon pricing by putting this artificial "system value" idea in there. This was clearly a comparison of different cameras aimed at prospective buyers.

An interesting thought might be: right now this is true. What might the scenario look like, if, in a years time, Nikon has a D700x (or whatever) that has the same imaging system/quality of the D3X at a prosumer price? Then the Sony might not be the value leader. And who knows what Canon will do next, etc. The value equation certainly will be changing all the time.

As a Nikon owner I look at it this way: Bodies come and go, but excellent glass lasts a while. While sure, it would have been nice if Nikon had gone the 5d-II route and introduced a more affordable prosumer body that fits my needs, they didn't - and as a Nikon user, I know that typically Nikon goes "flagship first, trickle down the technology second". So while at this moment in time for a new buyer the Sony system might make more sense (unless they needed some lenses that Sony simply doesn't have - and this is a point that has to be made I think), the equation might change in 8 months (or whatever), and for someone who has a large investment in Nikon glass (I do), changing systems just for one body that's popular today, without a clear and very compelling business need, doesn't make that much sense. Let's be honest - as we progress through the years, there *always* will be something better - always. Unless you're wealthy enough to constantly upgrade, at some point you have to be willing to hop off the train and be comfortable with what you've got. I may only be using cruddy old 12mp D2X and D300's now, certainly not anything as exciting as the 24mp class bodies, but you know what? - I'm producing 16x20" prints - the largest size I commonly print - that are superior to anything I ever did with 35mm and easily in the same league of prints I produced from 6x6 negs/chromes from back in the old days. I'll certainly upgrade at some point, but at my own pace. I put the money into the best lenses first (and some of them Sony, for example, has absolutely no counterpart in their system, thus severely limiting them as a choice should I have wanted to switch brands anyway)

Note I'm not really disagreeing with you - I rudely just inserted a general response to things into your end of the thread here (sorry!) and I agree with what most folks have discussed so far. The only thing I'd add is that I think print size is very important to the overall equation. For someone producing 8x10's and an occasional 11x14, I seriously doubt their customer could tell between prints made from the D90 and the D3X (or Sony, Canon, etc).

-m
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2009, 04:43:46 PM »
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Interesting write up, and who could disagree with the proposition that good value can be had cheaper than ever before in the digital world.

Now I guess that an assessment of value vs quality should be based on a sufficiently wide set of images/usage. Are a few A2 prints from a given assignment a good base for judgement? I personally don't think so:

- Some scenes are kinder than others to lesser imagers (because their DR is either narrow or on the contrary too wide for both imagers for instance) - which mostly explains the G10 vs P45+ results and could explain Antartica's results too (since many scenes appear to have a rather low DR in them),
- A2 was already an achievable size for a well handled 12 MP file, and differences between 20MP+ bodies in terms of detail are bound to be rather small at that print size (I bet that P65+files are also not that different at that size)
- It takes time and in depth usage to optimize one's usage of a camera (exposure during shooting, best raw converter/best settings,...), the D3x for instance has to be shot for highlights (and the histogram can be relied on very accurately to do so) but tremendous flexibility is available with shadows recovery, there is no way to figure that out on a first trip with the camera, it is for instance pretty different compared to a D3,
- Things go wrong sometimes and not all images are shot perfectly,

Referring to one example Michael mentioned in his essay, based on my own comparison of several tens of raw files, I feel that the D3x is more than 10% better than the A900. The difference in base ISO DR alone is good enough for me although better micro-detail would probably be emphasized by others also. This being said, I am not sure that my usage of the A900 files is optimal (I converted them with C1 4.6).

In fact, my personal feeling is that there is as much difference between the D3x and the A900 as there was between a ZD/P25+ and 1ds2 for instance. So where you draw the line and start to decide that there is enough value to justify the gap of price really depends on everyone's priorities at a given moment in time.

Finally, why stop at the comparison between the A900 and the D3x? Once stitching becomes part of the equation, the A900/D3x becomes a two order of magnitude better value proposition than the P65+ and these bodies are much better stitching options than anything medium format for pretty obvious reasons. a 380MP stitch from D3x as a quick example:



Michael, would you still be selecting a A900 over the D3x if you didn't have anything better to shoot with (like a P45+ or P65+) to produce fine art prints?

Cheers,
Bernard
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