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Author Topic: a film to digital print comparison  (Read 11836 times)
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« on: July 24, 2009, 10:36:40 AM »
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Since this pertains to pritnts, I thought I'd post this link (taken from kenrockwell.com):

http://www.imx.nl/photo/technique/page153/page153.html

I wanted to read the responses of those who have made large prints with both digital and film media, using both completely chemical as well as electronic workflows, as I have used very little film, and have never made a print in a darkroom.  The shootout thread below discussed the results of scanned film, but not prints made on an enlarger:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/back-testing.shtml

Please note that I realize this topic might create anxiety or tension, and that I have no desire whatsoever to start any kind of fight.  I simply would like to learn something from those who would be so kind as to share their observations.

Thanks,
John
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Gemmtech
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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2009, 11:19:00 AM »
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Of course it is referenced from Ken Rockwell's site, he's the epitome of why the internet is NOT a good place for reference material since 99% of it is false, you have to look for accurate information.  Regarding these "tests" and the use of test charts and camera A vs. camera B, they are just silly nonsense.  I'm assuming most people started using digital as I did, shooting the identical scene with film and their new digital camera and was wondering why the digital file produced a better print.  When the Canon D30 came out and people (including MR) were claiming it to be as good as 35mm film, I balked at such a silly notion, "Just do the math, it will take 40mp to equal 35mm film" so I said.  But then I started doing my own tests and the resolution numbers kept growing and I kept testing (Always against a Nikon F5) and I came to the conclusion many cameras ago that not only was a digital print better (resolution, color, dr, noise etc.) it was exponentially faster and easier to produce a better print.  I truly believe that this is old news and probably not even worth discussing anymore.   And as always, the bottom line is whatever works best for you and whichever method you prefer, that's what you should use.
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jashley
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2009, 11:24:27 AM »
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Oh jeez...

Please don't feed the trolls.
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bill t.
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2009, 11:38:43 AM »
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Using various digital techniques I can capture and attractively represent scenes (as prints) that were impossible with film.

The range of possible subjects using digital far exceeds that of film.  That's the metric of overwhelming importance to me.

Comparing film & digital while imposing the limited envelope of film misses the point of what digital has to offer beyond film's capabilities.  Don't compare digital and film by asking how well digital apes the film lock.  Compare them by asking what digital offers beyond film.  There's a lot of explore in those uncharted waters.
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2009, 11:45:46 AM »
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I still think tests such as these are misleading. For real-world images, especially color, digital just makes better prints than 35mm film, even at 10-12mp.

And it's not just about resolution. Digital has significant advantages in color accuracy and dynamic range when compared to color film (BW film is still DR champ, but digital has narrowed that gap considerably).
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button
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2009, 12:57:57 PM »
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Quote from: jashley
Oh jeez...

Please don't feed the trolls.

I don't troll, and your comment does nothing to help anyone.  If you have something to contribute, then I'd love to read it.  Otherwise, let's leave the discussion to the adults, shall we?

John
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Bruce Watson
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2009, 02:05:17 PM »
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Quote from: button
I don't troll...

Actually, you do. Even if you don't realize it. This and many thousands of other film vs. digital threads are all over the 'net. And have been for years. All you have to do is search for 'em. This horse has been beaten well beyond simple death. It's such a religious topic that the mere mention of it is considered trolling, regardless of intent. Welcome to the 'net.

Nonetheless, I'm a film user who loves what films does for me. Then again, I shoot 5x4 negative films. It's difficult for digital to play on the level of 5x4 film, and where it does (e.g. Phase One P65+) it costs well more than my car! So it's just not an option for what I'm doing. But when it finally does become an option I'll certainly give it a good look.

What I always try to say in the few of these discussions I'm willing to enter is that there's a hell of a lot more to photography than simple resolution. Tonality and smooth tonal transitions are important. Color accuracy is important (even capturing correctly the luminosity for B&W). Dynamic range is important. Grain / noise is important. Etc., etc., etc.

None of the systems on either side of the aisle is perfect. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses. One should use the system with which one is most comfortable. So one can basically ignore the equipment and concentrate on the art. Which is what it's really all about IMHO.
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button
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2009, 02:34:31 PM »
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Quote from: Bruce Watson
Actually, you do. Even if you don't realize it.

Fair enough.  However, this isn't dpreview.  After having spent a fair amount of time here over the past 2 years or so, I believe that this site attracts many knowlegable and experienced photographers who have offered a veritable cornucopia of knowledge to anyone merely willing to ask for it.  I would guess that the average age of the typical poster here lies somewhere in the 40's or even 50's.   If these assumptions don't stray too far from reality, then I don't think that my post asks too much.  

Actually, I don't have an emotional attachment to either modality, and I spend most of my time here in the critique forum, where we seldom even mention gear.  Because I haven't seen a comparison of 35mm film to digital results on print, I thought that this link might generate some interest.  To me, the results of the test imply that a film negative can be enlarged quite a bit more than I thought reasonable.

John
« Last Edit: July 24, 2009, 02:36:26 PM by button » Logged
Wayne Fox
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2009, 04:59:17 PM »
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Quote from: button
I simply would like to learn something from those who would be so kind as to share their observations.

I would suggest you don't waste your time reading Ken Rockwell.
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Bruce Watson
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2009, 05:52:23 PM »
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To me, the results of the test imply that a film negative can be enlarged quite a bit more than I thought reasonable.

They enlarge differently. Film tends to become softer and more grainy as you enlarge, but in a smooth and predictable way. Digital capture seems to me to have an enlargement threshold. Below the threshold it looks fine, sharp, clean, smooth. Above the threshold it becomes rough -- more jagged, sort of "jangly" if you know what I mean. I'm not sure how to explain it other than it doesn't seem to degrade as gracefully as analog does when enlarged.

As long as you stay below digital capture's enlargement threshold, what I find for same size prints is that digital capture seems to be cleaner, smoother, and "feels" more color accurate (whether it is or isn't). Film capture seems to have better dynamic range (negatives, not trannies), have a bigger range of tones, often better shadow detail, and can "feel" sharper (whether it is or isn't) depending on the image.

Part of what I like about film is part of what digital capture strives to eliminate. That is the toe and to a lesser extent the shoulder of film (the characteristic curve). I like that little bit of compression in the shadows and the gradual rolloff that I get from film. Digital tends to be nice and linear to a point, then boom -- black (similar thing with tranny film, which is why I don't use it). If it had more dynamic range than film this would be OK -- just give it a bit more exposure to capture all the shadow detail you want. But it doesn't, so for some scenes you have to trade off some shadow detail to preserve highlight detail.

But the biggie for me is weight. I put my entire 5x4 kit on my back and hike into the woods and up the mountains. Film is light. Something like a Better Light scanning back (and all the kit required to run it effectively) would add another 9 or 10 Kg to my pack. To be blunt: ain't no happ'nins.

This is just my take on it. I don't pretend to be an expert, and don't expect anyone to pay much attention to what I'm saying. My advice -- do the experiments to show the strengths and weaknesses for the different media yourself. Put some prints on the wall and live with them for a while. Decide which you like better. Decide which workflow you like better. Then go off and master one. Or the other. But unless you are amazingly good (with a high tolerance for climbing learning curves), it's difficult to master both.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2009, 03:26:10 AM »
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Hi,

The author of one of those articles is Erwin Putt, one of the leading experts on Leica lenses. I have great respect for Mr Putt and his articles. Some observations:

The article is about B&W film. B&W films have much higher resolution than color film. I don't know about the Ilford Delta 100, but Kodak's T-MAX 100 is a film of remarkably high resolving power. Slide film would not come even close.

The other issue that I'd point out that we see quite a lot of aliasing in the digital samples presented by Mr Putts, and that is partly a consequence of the M8 sensor having a low resolution, no low pass filter and used in connection with Leica lenses of very high resolving power, and not least, very accurate focusing.

A lot of very knowledgeable authors on this forum have found MFDBs equivalent to 4x5 by film, that's another point of view. The persons I think about are Charlie Cramer and Joseph Holmes. These persons comments are about color photography under field conditions.

Whatever medium we use it is always hard to achieve maximum quality many recent articles indicate that alignment issues can readily be seen on MFDBs (again referring to excellent articles by Joseph Holmes on this issue).

Finally, both film and digital are limited by laws physics. Diffraction limits and Airy rings do apply to analogue as much as to digital. Neither digital or analogue can see photons that ain't there.

One of the interesting issues is that much of the discussion is about at which level digital sensors start to be seriously limited by diffraction and there may be some kind of consensus about 25 or so MPixel's to be practical. On the other hand point and shoots or mobile phone cameras easily go into the 2 micron range corresponding more to perhaps 150 MPixels on full frame but those lenses are diffraction limited at large apertures.

The two main reasons that FX-sensors now stay about about 25 MPixels is that the main focus is not on resolution alone  but on  high resolution in combination with good picture quality at high ISO and long dynamic range, both of these latter quantities decided by the number of available photons. Small pixels see few photons...

Finally, there is a generic tendency to use the most convenient lenses, not the best ones. We normally use zooms not fixed focals and few of us put our carefully calibrated Leicas on super solid tripods.

Best regards
Erik Kaffehr


Quote from: button
Since this pertains to pritnts, I thought I'd post this link (taken from kenrockwell.com):

http://www.imx.nl/photo/technique/page153/page153.html

I wanted to read the responses of those who have made large prints with both digital and film media, using both completely chemical as well as electronic workflows, as I have used very little film, and have never made a print in a darkroom.  The shootout thread below discussed the results of scanned film, but not prints made on an enlarger:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/back-testing.shtml

Please note that I realize this topic might create anxiety or tension, and that I have no desire whatsoever to start any kind of fight.  I simply would like to learn something from those who would be so kind as to share their observations.

Thanks,
John
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2009, 03:28:19 AM »
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Hi,

Lot of good points! Thanks a lot for good input to this forum!

Best regards
Erik


Quote from: Bruce Watson
They enlarge differently. Film tends to become softer and more grainy as you enlarge, but in a smooth and predictable way. Digital capture seems to me to have an enlargement threshold. Below the threshold it looks fine, sharp, clean, smooth. Above the threshold it becomes rough -- more jagged, sort of "jangly" if you know what I mean. I'm not sure how to explain it other than it doesn't seem to degrade as gracefully as analog does when enlarged.

As long as you stay below digital capture's enlargement threshold, what I find for same size prints is that digital capture seems to be cleaner, smoother, and "feels" more color accurate (whether it is or isn't). Film capture seems to have better dynamic range (negatives, not trannies), have a bigger range of tones, often better shadow detail, and can "feel" sharper (whether it is or isn't) depending on the image.

Part of what I like about film is part of what digital capture strives to eliminate. That is the toe and to a lesser extent the shoulder of film (the characteristic curve). I like that little bit of compression in the shadows and the gradual rolloff that I get from film. Digital tends to be nice and linear to a point, then boom -- black (similar thing with tranny film, which is why I don't use it). If it had more dynamic range than film this would be OK -- just give it a bit more exposure to capture all the shadow detail you want. But it doesn't, so for some scenes you have to trade off some shadow detail to preserve highlight detail.

But the biggie for me is weight. I put my entire 5x4 kit on my back and hike into the woods and up the mountains. Film is light. Something like a Better Light scanning back (and all the kit required to run it effectively) would add another 9 or 10 Kg to my pack. To be blunt: ain't no happ'nins.

This is just my take on it. I don't pretend to be an expert, and don't expect anyone to pay much attention to what I'm saying. My advice -- do the experiments to show the strengths and weaknesses for the different media yourself. Put some prints on the wall and live with them for a while. Decide which you like better. Decide which workflow you like better. Then go off and master one. Or the other. But unless you are amazingly good (with a high tolerance for climbing learning curves), it's difficult to master both.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2009, 03:48:21 AM »
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Hi,

Although I tend to agree with your view of information on Ken Rockwell's site I'd point out that the article referred to is by the highly respected Erwin Putts, who is one of the leading lenses on Leica Lenses.

In my view digital has been better "for the rest of us" for quite some time. Achieving ultimate resolution is not the only aim of digital technology, among other things we also want to have high ISOs. Canon or Sony could produce a 200 MPixel DSLR limited to 50 ISO with ease (using the same technology as in their point and shoots). Processing times would be eight times longer. Maximum sharpness would only be achievable with LiveView, MLU, cable release super heavy tripod and lenses not yet built.


Best regards
Erik

Ps.

I much appreciate all your generous inputs to this forum!




Quote from: Wayne Fox
I would suggest you don't waste your time reading Ken Rockwell.
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DRoss
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« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2009, 02:11:29 PM »
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There is not clear mention of how the files were prepared for print other than what raw program was used. No mention of dpi. print sharpening uprezing or interpolation.
For the above average printer there is a big difference between pressing print and preparing a file for print properly. Let alone say press print and have a professional like Jeff Schewe prepare and print you digital file. I'm not saying the authors option or results would change but there is a whole art to getting clean sharp large print from digital file much more so than making sure the enlarger is focused properly to print a test pattern.
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Roscolo
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« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2009, 09:23:25 PM »
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[quote name='Bruce Watson' date='Jul 24 2009, 03:05 PM' post='299837']
Then again, I shoot 5x4 negative films. It's difficult for digital to play on the level of 5x4 film, and where it does (e.g. Phase One P65+) it costs well more than my car! So it's just not an option for what I'm doing. But when it finally does become an option I'll certainly give it a good look.[/quote


I still shoot some 4x5 film for the same reason and I like to do some large prints (32x40, 40x50 inches) that my digital files just can't accomplish. Large format film still provides a lot of bang for the buck. I can purchase and process tens of thousands of sheets of 4x5 for the price of a comparable 4x5 digital back. And, I won't feel near as bad when I drop a 4x5 holder on a rock or in a stream as I would dropping a $30,000 digital back! Also nice to not have to have need any battery or source of electricity.

Each to his own though. I have friends who still shoot some 35mm film. I remember seeing a story some years ago in PDN on an official White House photographer who shot film due to the historic nature of his photographs and the need to have a hard copy right from the exposure so as to be relatively certain there was no digital manipulation and to not have his images unreadable in 150 years due to digital incompatibilities or failures. Made sense to me then. Makes sense to me now. Especially in his line of work.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2009, 09:29:36 PM by Roscolo » Logged
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« Reply #15 on: July 26, 2009, 12:34:21 AM »
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Quote from: DRoss
There is not clear mention of how the files were prepared for print other than what raw program was used. No mention of dpi. print sharpening uprezing or interpolation.
For the above average printer there is a big difference between pressing print and preparing a file for print properly. Let alone say press print and have a professional like Jeff Schewe prepare and print you digital file. I'm not saying the authors option or results would change but there is a whole art to getting clean sharp large print from digital file much more so than making sure the enlarger is focused properly to print a test pattern.

Thanks to everyone for your insightful posts.  I had not considered the issue of uprez, which at least to my eye, wasn't handled properly for the digital file.

John
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #16 on: July 26, 2009, 05:41:22 AM »
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Quote from: button
Thanks to everyone for your insightful posts.  I had not considered the issue of uprez, which at least to my eye, wasn't handled properly for the digital file.

John


Add to it that the M8 isn't really a killer in "35mm" digital cameras, comparing a color sensor to B&W film not a test on equal terms and using a Leica with 100 ISO film not that practical.  Like the replies here suggest the obvious choice for landscape photography would be to use an MF or LF film camera to get even more detail of the scene and use a 20-25 MP digital camera where more action is required and light sensitivity has to be adapted to the circumstances. Erwin Puts wrote enough essays that are worth reading and some of his recent ones are like notes for the burial speech of the Leica rangefinder camera. This one could be seen as a last inbreed report for the Leica crowd.


met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst Dinkla

Try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/
« Last Edit: July 26, 2009, 05:43:41 AM by Ernst Dinkla » Logged
Dan Wells
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« Reply #17 on: July 27, 2009, 12:19:22 PM »
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Compared to Velvia 100, here are my experiences with a range of digital cameras I have known. All the film was scanned using Nikon scanners (Super Coolscan 8000 and 9000), except for the 4x5 transparencies, which are scanned on an Epson V700 (definitely a disadvantage). Digital uprezzing was done using either a stepped technique in Photoshop (bicubic in 10% increments), or more recently, Genuine Fractals. The printer driver was never permitted to uprez - files always sent at 360 (Epson) or 600 (Canon iPF) DPI at print size. Digital always at base ISO (100 (Canons, D3x) or 200 in the case of Nikons other than the D3x)

Canon EOS D30 - yes, the OLD 3 mp model, NOT the 30D... - Lower resolution than 35mm scanned Velvia, noise is less than film grain, so can sometimes look as good overall. Don't try to print past 8x12!

Nikon D70 - Equivalent resolution to scanned 35mm Velvia - lower noise means that image is marginally better.  Prints in the 11x16 range at most, makes a really GOOD 8x12.

Nikon D200 - Significantly higher resolution than scanned 35mm Velvia, lower resolution than scanned 6x6 cm (Hasselblad) Velvia. Prints 12x18 much more comfortably than 35mm (color) ever did.

Canon EOS 1DsmkII - medium format film quality - resolution close to scanned 6x6 cm Velvia, although the different aspect ratio makes it difficult to compare. Distinctly higher resolution than a 6x6 cm chrome cropped to 3x2 aspect ratio. Dynamic range exceeds Velvia by a substantial margin. Prints 16x24 quite reasonably, although I wouldn't push much past that.

Nikon D3x - well above conventional medium format film quality, but not large format - resolution easily comparable to or better than scanned 6x9 cm Velvia. Prints 24x36 very easily (I'm more comfortable with the D3x at 24x36 than I am with the 1DsII at 16x24). Extra dynamic range is very noticeable over any film.

4x5 film still exceeds any of these cameras for raw resolution (some of the high-end Phase backs may be in 4x5 territory), although 4x5 resolution versus D3x dynamic range would be an interesting choice. The higher camera resolution gets, the more near-perfect technique becomes important. The D3x produces 6x9 cm results, but ONLY if it is handled as a 6x9 (sturdy tripod, remote release, extremely careful focus). It is tempting to use as a 35mm camera, because it looks like one, and it will produce better than 35mm results used this way, but it isn't a 6x9 unless it is handled as a 6x9! This will be at least as true, if not more so, for any future DSLR with even higher resolution.

The other limit we are reaching is the size printer we're willing to live with. The best current DSLRs are already producing gallery quality 24 inch prints. The next step up requires a 44 inch printer and oversize mat board (a 24x36 inch print barely mats with a standard 32x40 inch board).

Is the next step really a higher resolution DSLR, or is it more choices at the resolutions we have? There is no reason why a 24.6 mp Leica M9 can't exist, or a 24.6 mp Nikon FM3d. If we have a wide range of cameras that can print 24x36 or larger, from models with 4 inch LCDs and tilt/shift sensors (technically possible if you get rid of the mirror) to a classic rangefinder that may even lack the image review LCD, and including SLRs with a wide range of features, is that not ultimately a more satisfying choice of tools than a few SLRs with even higher resolutions that require heavy tripods and 44-inch printers.

How about this range of cameras - all between 20 and 30 mp, optimized for prints up to 24x36 inches? All except the X1 are expected in the next year or two in some form or another.

Nikon D3xs (D3x with sensor cleaning, integrated GPS, integrated WiFi, integrated wireless flash transmitter) - everything anyone can fit into a big, heavy DSLR.

Nikon D700x (D700 body with a D3x inside - includes sensor cleaning and flash transmitter (less sophisticated than D3xs), but not GPS, WiFi)

Canon 1Ds mkIV (Canon's 29.3 mp answer to the D3x - lacks flash transmitter and GPS, but has HD video, which the D3xs lacks)

Canon 1D mkIV (20.1 mp, not quite full frame, but 12 FPS, with a 1080p60 video mode having FULL auto and manual control)

Canon EOS-3D (29.3 mp, no video, but 1D-level autofocus in a weatherproof body only slightly larger than a 5D)

Nikon S5 (Nikon's answer to all the rangefinder clamor - same old 24.6 mp sensor in a rangefinder body - unlike Leica, has AF if you want it)

Leica M9 (Ubiquitous 24.6 MP Sony sensor, although with 16-bit readout,  custom Leica filter pack in an M body)

Sony Alpha 925 (Alpha 900 with 14 bit readout, improvements in AA filter and electronics to catch D3x image quality)

Sony Alpha 1000 (A true hybrid with as much attention paid to beyond-HD video quality as to stills - makes Jim Jannard see red)

RED Scarlet (Similar to the Alpha 1000, but started life as a movie camera, so optimized silghtly differently)

Nikon X1 (D3xs sensor in an EVF only camera with a 4 - inch XGA LCD on the back - sensor has 8 degrees of tilt capability and 18 mm of shift in any direction). The X1 uses its own line of lenses with increased image circle, although a F Mount adapter is available, which, of course, locks the shift.

This is (at least mostly) realistic based on what everybody's been known to do in the past (notice that the four Nikons ALL reuse the same sensor).

                                       -Dan
« Last Edit: July 27, 2009, 12:21:46 PM by Dan Wells » Logged
T_om
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« Reply #18 on: July 27, 2009, 03:19:23 PM »
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Quote from: button
Since this pertains to pritnts, I thought I'd post this link (taken from kenrockwell.com):


Anything "taken" from Ken Rockwell should be immediately returned.

Tom
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felix5616
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« Reply #19 on: July 27, 2009, 04:04:22 PM »
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Can anyone explain the reaction to Ken Rockwell?
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