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| p.3 #8 · Why do Nikon images look sharper and better to me? Please help another undecided. |
Some commenters have mentioned as a Nikon advantage the D800's dynamic range, which I did not mention specifically in my original comment. Their points are well taken, and I wish I had that kind of dynamic range available on my 5D III. But I wouldn't always use it. My admiration comes with some caveats.
First, it doesn't matter much on many, many images—at least among the ones I take using natural light. Because in the majority of outdoor venues where I shoot, the natural light available isn't usually even dynamic enough to use the 5D III's full capabilities. So it's a non-issue on most of my images. If I lived in the mountain west, it would probably be different.
Second, big dynamic range invites problems, in addition to conferring advantages. Image threads from the D800 are loaded with extremely dull-looking images, more of that than I have seen from any other camera. They probably don't have to be that way. A judicious exposure or curve adjustment would spread some of the flattened tones, and confer some life-giving contrast. But that would throw away some of that coveted dynamic range, by pushing some tones into the blacks—from which I suspect they were initially lifted, inadvertently producing those tonally compressed flat-looking images in the first place. Also, remember that if you plan to print your images, there is only limited use for more dynamic range in your image than your printer can match.
Note too that real world scenes are full of opaque shadows. Look around. You will see them everywhere. It's not a sin to have them in your pictures.
A great example of where big dynamic range helps is when you are showing shadows and brighter areas that are discontinuous, with a tonal gap between. A classic example is the indoor/outdoor through-the-window shot. For now, nothing beats the D800 for that kind of image.
But if what you are trying to do is capture continuous tones from deep shadow to bright highlights, you need to remember that spreading tones apart is contrast's friend, and pushing them together can suppress perceived detail. Using that great D800 dynamic range to best advantage is something you can do with only a minority of typical images. And doing it requires judicious post-processing that seems to challenge many users.