Monday, November 21, 2011

Impending Nikon D800 and the megapixel war....

Well, I have read for months about a possible new SLR/Pro SLR camera from Nikon called the D800 and I couldn't be happier.  I am a fan of progressive technology and applaud anyone making anything better than a previous iteration.  It is almost inevitable that something newer and better is always around the corner.  Now, there is something newer around the corner, but is it really better?  
When I first read that the new D800 (if that is indeed the name) will have 36mp, I was dumbfounded.  The reason that the D3s is so amazing is it's low-light ISO capabilities.  That low-light, high ISO comes from the size of the pixels on the camera sensor.  Unfortunately, unless you are going medium format, you are somewhat limited on the actual size of your sensor.  So, cameras started at relatively low pixel count with the onset of digital photography, but the technology was not there to meet current specs today.  As tech progressed, more and more pixels were crammed onto the same size sensor.  To do this, the size of the pixels have gotten super small.  When they are small, their sensitivity to light is diminished.  Canon and Nikon have always competed to one-up each other in megapixels, but what Nikon decided to do was pull back and make sure that the usability of those pixels was paramount, vs. the most megapixels.  
The D3 was the start of this.  It provided roughly 12mp, but with a great clean image quality, even at high ISO's.  It was a revolution of the sensor.  It had larger pixels on the sensor to allow the camera to be used at high ISO ranges while still producing a somewhat clean image.  The D3x was to try and bridge the gap between medium format and slr's, albeit with one major draw back, ISO usability.  Unless you were in the studio with additional light sources, the usability of the D3x was very limited.  When you pushed the ISO, you introduced a lot of noise, almost an unusable amount.  It is still a king of MP and quality of images.
The D3s was basically a D3 with a brand new sensor.  Nikon(Sony) created a fantastic (bench-marking) sensor that would be the basis of comparison between other pro level dslr's.  They kept the MP count still at 12, but the size of the pixels increased, allowing for amazing low-light/high ISO usability with virtually no noise.  So much so that photographers were able to get shots that they were previously unable to do, unless with long exposure and a tripod.  Now dragging the shutter at 12,800 will produce usable, amazing images.  
This is where the D800 starts to concern me (as an outsider of course). The physical size of the sensor is not really changing, which would leave me to believe, like canon, they are densely packing pixels on the sensor.  This would also lead me to believe that the high-iso abilities that are in the D3s, are not going to be present in the new D800.  Considering this is all based on information I have gathered from public sources, I have no idea if a breakthrough was had in this area of electronics to allow for even better performance from this vs. the D3s.  I suppose only time will tell to see if it is indeed 36mp.  Not sure how this number was acquired as it 3x mp jump over their current flagship cameras (D3x not included). I can't wait to find out, either way.

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