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Archive 2013 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!
  
 
vieri
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Hello everyone,

after working with it for a while and getting familiar with my new SD1, I decided time has come to do a comparison between it and my workhorse Nikon cameras, in particular with the D800E - today's king of high-resolution DSLRs. As always, I approached the problem from an user's point of view, so I didn't start shooting charts and the like but I used "real world" subjects and light. I couldn't find any such comparisons on the web, and I thought that publishing one might be of great help for those trying to figure out whether the SD1 is the camera for them or not, and whether they really need to fork out D800E money to get such high IQ out of their camera and camera system.

In the first instalment of what will be a long comparison, I choose to deal with the classic, "fast normal" 50mm f/1.4 lens (35mm f/1.4 on the SD1, of course). My conclusions are very positive for the SD1, which turned out to be a very impressive camera - though with many caveats - and for the 35mm f/1.4 as well: both by themselves and when compared with the King Of Resolution, the D800E equipped with Nikon 50mm f/1.4.
For those interested, you can read my article

HERE

Hope you'll find it interesting. Best,

Vieri



Jun 20, 2013 at 09:23 AM
sflxn
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


I skimmed your review. You mistakenly compared lenses instead of sensor resolution. There are many articles on the web discussing optics + sensor issues, including those on DXO. If you want to see how well a sensor is resolving, you need a common lens and look at center performance. The corners will be different between an aps-c and FF cameras.

Another way to test the potential of each sensor is to take the best lens in the same focal length for each camera and do the test, but this would still not be objective, just more correct than picking arbitrary lenses. So, let's say the Zeiss 55/1.4 on the D800E. It's no mystery that the D800(E) requires the best optics to show its potential.



Jun 20, 2013 at 10:21 AM
ytwong
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


If they make a NEX mount body with that sensor,I would get one. I don't want to get into yet another system.


Jun 20, 2013 at 03:01 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


What I'd really like to see is UWA vs. UWA @ crop Foveon vs. FF Bayer, with best available glass for each format @ equal FOV, for a real world combination comparison.

Foveon has always caught my attention (no AA filter like my SLR/C) as my Kodak is getting long in the tooth in some regards. But, since Foveon is crop only, the challenges of UWA and steep angles can rear their heads.

+1 @ lens choice limitations for Foveon.



Jun 20, 2013 at 03:03 PM
andyjaggy82
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Yeah but it doesn't make much sense to compare sensors in a way that you wouldn't be able to replicate in real life. I mean theoretical performance limits tested in a lab are nice, but if you can't reproduce those in the real world it doesn't mean much.

What's always struck me as so impressive is that a smaller than usual APS-C sensor can go head to head with a full frame sensor and oft times beat it, at least in terms of resolution. That's pretty impressive, imagine what a full frame fovean sensor could do.

Too bad there are some pretty limiting issues with these cameras. The one issue that keep me from being able to use them 100% of the time is the red grid flare you often get when bright lights are in the scene. Sunrise sunburst shots are pretty much impossible with these cameras, at least with the DP ones.



Jun 20, 2013 at 09:30 PM
vieri
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


RustyBug wrote:
What I'd really like to see is UWA vs. UWA @ crop Foveon vs. FF Bayer, with best available glass for each format @ equal FOV, for a real world combination comparison.

Foveon has always caught my attention (no AA filter like my SLR/C) as my Kodak is getting long in the tooth in some regards. But, since Foveon is crop only, the challenges of UWA and steep angles can rear their heads.

+1 @ lens choice limitations for Foveon.


RustyBug,

I will post (in August) more lens comparison, and one of these will involve the 14-24mm f/2.8 vs the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 - I already shot the pictures, and I can say that resolution-wise the Sigma is surprisingly good at comparable apertures; in fact, at 24mm, the Sigma is MUCH better than the Nikkor (!!) and at 18mm and 14mm (or 12mm FOV for the Sigma) they are pretty much equal with possibly a slight edge to the Sigma. I re-did the test three times to make sure of what I was seeing!

The only area where the Nikon is vastly superior is distortion at the wide end (the Sigma has A LOT of barrel), plus CA is better corrected on the Nikon. While distortion is fixable in post, you loose FOV and the file is not happy to be stretched and pulled; once you fixed distortion, the Sigma advantage in FOV is gone and the 12mm equivalent becomes a 14mm equivalent...

Of course, CA is easily fixable in post with both cameras, so that's not a problem.

I'll be out and about for more than a month, so I will not be able to post any more comparisons until August.

Best,

Vieri



Jun 20, 2013 at 11:06 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Appreciate the testing / comp / info.

So what would be the very best UWA that could be mated with the Foveon to achieve a 16mm or 17mm (FF equiv) that is well corrected? I'm looking at the Tokina 16-28/2.8 for a zoom, or the 17L TS-E for a prime in terms of FF for my EF mounts.

It just seems that the lens choices @ Foveon are very restrictive and rather compromising in the UWA camp (earnestly open minded @ Foveon)



Jun 20, 2013 at 11:25 PM
vieri
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


RustyBug wrote:
Appreciate the testing / comp / info.

So what would be the very best UWA that could be mated with the Foveon to achieve a 16mm or 17mm (FF equiv) that is well corrected? I'm looking at the Tokina 16-28/2.8 for a zoom, or the 17L TS-E for a prime in terms of FF for my EF mounts.

It just seems that the lens choices @ Foveon are very restrictive and rather compromising in the UWA camp (earnestly open minded @ Foveon)


Sure thing, glad to be of help

Well, there are actually three options: the two 10-20, and the 8-16. I haven't tried any of the former, but the 8-16 is very very good at 12mm (18 FOV), and at that focal distortion is much more under control. Of course, if you want a Foveon DSLR you are limited to Sigma lenses ONLY, which leaves you at their mercy - as you, before deciding to buy into the system, I was most worried about the WA and UWA, but I have to say that the 8-16 exceeded my expectations so far, and so did the not-so-higly-rated 17-50 f/2.8, which is a very good performer all over the frame if stopped down, at every focal (am talking f/5.6-f/8).



Jun 20, 2013 at 11:31 PM
curious80
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


There was someone a while back who converted the Sigma bodies to accept Canon EF lenses (because apparently Sigma has just 'borrowed' the protocols from Canon). Might be worth looking into if you really want more lenses for the camera!


Jun 20, 2013 at 11:35 PM
 

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glacierpete
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Vieri, you could use a Sigma to Nikon JTAT Nikon F Lens to Sigma Body Adapter
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3505767#forum-post-51674446
http://www.jtat.com/sd/sd_main/SD_Nikon.html
The list of compatible lenses is somewhat limited.
Then the test would be with the same lens, althoug the Sigma would use only the cherry center part of the lens, it might be a little bit unfair

I would prefer the Foveon Merrill sensor in a Nex5n like body. That way I could use it with a CV15 and Leica TE90 in a very small package.
I do have a DP2M, but some times miss the reach of 90mm TE or 105mm lens (like the Nikon 105/2.5) The Nikon 105/2.5 is compatible with the JTAT Adapter BTW.



Jun 21, 2013 at 05:12 AM
vieri
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


glacierpete wrote:
Vieri, you could use a Sigma to Nikon JTAT Nikon F Lens to Sigma Body Adapter
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3505767#forum-post-51674446
http://www.jtat.com/sd/sd_main/SD_Nikon.html
The list of compatible lenses is somewhat limited.
Then the test would be with the same lens, althoug the Sigma would use only the cherry center part of the lens, it might be a little bit unfair

I would prefer the Foveon Merrill sensor in a Nex5n like body. That way I could use it with a CV15 and Leica TE90 in a very small package.
I do have a DP2M, but some times miss the reach of 90mm TE or 105mm lens (like the Nikon 105/2.5)
...Show more

Indeed, I thought about the adapter - however, this way you'd have to give up to the latest and greatest Nikon glass; you probably could find lenses good enough for the SD1 (as you said, it only used the sweet spot), but you'd be hard pressed to find lenses that give justice to the D800E's 36 MP - especially if you intend to cover lengths from WA to 200-300mm...

I would love it to have a Foveon sensor in a F modern mount camera, or in a m4/3 or Nex. Well, basically I'd love to have that option in any mount alongside Sigma...



Jun 21, 2013 at 06:44 AM
alundeb
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Thank you for the comparison, it is well executed and your work as a photographer inspires confidence.

It has already been pointed out that such a test is more of a lens test, which is partially true.

I am sure that the raw files you have avaliable are able to tell a lot, and your presentation with both native pixel crops and crops resized to a common presentation size is a good way to do it.

Since the article mentions "sharpness" my concern about sharpening methods and different raw converters arises. It is known that the diffusion that takes place in a Foveon sensor necessitates sharpening of the color channels, and there may be no neutral ground for comparison of sharpness or actuance between Foveon and Bayer sensors. Maybe a sensible thing to do would be to try to process both images close to a desired otput actaunce, and then compare varoius aspects of the image quality, like noise, artifacts, etc. Just a suggestion.

Before I want to digest you results, I have one BIG concern about using Nikon Capture NX2 to convert the D800E files. Especially for the homogenous surface, the difference between the D800E and the Sigma SD1 Merrill looks to me like the difference between an in camera D800E jpg image and a D800E image processed with a state of the art raw converter. The Capture One Pro 7 especially excels in extracting detail from homogenous areas.

It is my humble opinion that your test does not give me any confidence of the superiority of the Foveon sensor to extract low actuance detail until I have seen a conversion of the D800E images from a raw converter like C1 pro 7 with all noise reduction turned off, and sharpening of the images to the same subjetive actuance of "Normal" detail.



Jun 21, 2013 at 06:59 AM
glacierpete
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


vieri wrote:
Indeed, I thought about the adapter - however, this way you'd have to give up to the latest and greatest Nikon glass; you probably could find lenses good enough for the SD1 (as you said, it only used the sweet spot), but you'd be hard pressed to find lenses that give justice to the D800E's 36 MP - especially if you intend to cover lengths from WA to 200-300mm...

I would love it to have a Foveon sensor in a F modern mount camera, or in a m4/3 or Nex. Well, basically I'd love to have that option in any mount
...Show more

Leica Macro Elmarit-R 60mm f/2.8 and Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f/2.8 (latest version) come to my mind for your D800. I converted a Macro Elmarit-R 60mm to Nikon by exchaning its mount, great lens and not too expensive used.
Regarding post processing, a nice raw converter besides C1 is PhotoNinja. Their beta is the latest version.
Very well written review by the way.



Jun 21, 2013 at 09:22 AM
philber
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Vieri, as others have said, most of your work compares lenses rather than cameras. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, except that the title may be misleading for some. As you point out, in any case, buying either of these cameras also means buying into either of the "eco-systems" around them. My guess is that, taking all of this into account, there aren't a lot of people agonizing over the choice between a D800E and SD1M.
But the best part of the read, for me, was the truly magnificent pictures on your site. Do you live in the region on Mantua? Because, if you do, I need to get there fast!



Jun 22, 2013 at 07:57 AM
vieri
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Well, I have to disagree completely with the "this is a lens test" argument. Testing lenses assumes as a fundamental prerequisite that everything else must be equal; on the contrary, there couldn't be a less equal lens testing ground than this different crop, different sensor technology, different RAW converters. If there is something that my comparison is NOT, is a lens comparison. In fact, this is intended a systems comparison more than anything else; to do so, I chose the best, highest-res DSLR in my possess (the D800E) and choose to compare its output with the best Foven DSLR (the SD1 Merrill); to make the comparison meaningful to photographers who need to choose one or the other for real world work, I equipped each with lenses covering the same field of view. There actually is no way to compare these sensors "everything else being equal" because there isn't a common RAW converter (except for Iridient, for those inclined to use it), and because even equipping a Nikon or Canon crop camera with the same Sigma lens you'd use on the SD1, pixel count and pixel pitch would be different, etc.

All this comparison (and those that will follow) is meant to be is a showcase of what a photographer doing a particular kind of work can expect if he needs a fast lens covering (in this case) the 50mm's field of view on the best Bayer camera out there vs the best Foveon camera out there. Which one is better for his/her work, he can decide by him/herself by looking at the IQ results and by chechking out which features he or she needs in a camera.

IMHO working photographers, or at least myself, are more interested in things such as these; for one, I am purpose-driven, that is to say if I need to shoot something with a 50mm at a certain distance and under certain light, I want to see how different cameras render images in similar conditions and with lenses covering that particular field of view. Everything else, I leave to better reviewers than me and their shots of resolutions charts - they do a wonderful job, and there are plenty of such tests around already



Jun 22, 2013 at 03:11 PM
sculptormic
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


Well said vieri!
I very much enjoyed your test on your blog.
For me it is always a joy to read personal experiences of good photographers, although you also put a lot of effort in image crops and samples as well. And I think I took it as you ment it.
A real world test of two very different systems. I can understand that you took the plunge into the Sigma system besides your Nikon. It suits your more completative style of photography very well.
The type of photography that doesn't always need a 59 point AF and God knows what other bells and whistles, but rather focusses on pure image quality and on the compositions in mind.

That why I can never understand a reaction like the first one in this thread, very wise not to react on that. Skimming through and then patronasing. But allah, who cares.



Jun 23, 2013 at 09:38 AM
alundeb
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill: the saga begins!


It is fine to do a system test, and I think people here understand the concept of how the test was made. We just want to point out what we think is the weakest link in the systems tested. The article emphasizes the sensors. Some people believe it is the lenses, I belive it is the software.

Here is a demo file with a low contrast surface from my D800E developed with Capture NX2 and Capture One Pro 7. Both with sharpening and noise reduction set to zero. Both files were sharpened in CS5 with USM 200/0.4 after conversion.

We have different taste and different preferences, but I am very satisifed with Capture One to get the most out of my D800E files. I would not use Capture NX2 neither for my work nor for a system comparison of sharpness / detail.








Jun 24, 2013 at 05:43 PM





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