Photoshop actions

  Reviews by: rk-d  

View profile View recent posts View reviews Add rk-d to your Buddy List
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM

Review Date: Jun 1, 2017 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,649.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, bokeh, color, AF speed, low light accuracy
Weight, size, expense

I have owned numerous examples of exceptional Canon and Nikon prime glass. Currently shooting a Canon 5D Mark IV primarily with a 24-70 II zoom lens. The 35L II is exceptional. It's nearly perfect.

Color is awesome - typical Canon with just the right amount of saturation, but not TOO much. Very similar to Portra, which is my favorite film.

Sharpness is insane. I've never seen anything like it. Absolute, critical sharpness at f/1.4. It simply doesn't get sharper than this in my experience. This is aided by exceptional AF performance -- this camera nails eyelashes in low light. AF speed is also excellent.

Bokeh is always a subjective thing, but this lens beats the older 35L. Perfectly smooth and creamy. No complaints there.

This lens is nearly the same weight, length and expense as a 24-70II. It's not as wide which makes it easier to hand hold. It balances beautifully on the 5DIV.

The weight, length and expense issues are made irrelevant by this lens' performance. Absolutely exceptional and the best I've ever used. This lens draws gorgeous pictures and will elevate your photography.

Nikon D800

Review Date: Oct 28, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,000.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: High resolution sensor - exceptional dynamic range in RAW, intelligent auto ISO, continuous AF in video. Af assist lamp.
Downgrade in body ergonomics, grip and build. AF not up to snuff. Inherent challenges of shooting pristine 36 MP files and managing massive RAW images.

I demo'd the d800 and the 5dIII for one week, eventually settling for the latter. My thoughts after using shooting 500 pics on the d800 over the course of a week:

Image quality is excellent in the right situation. At base ISO, there is nothing on the market that touches it when taking pics of static images or landscapes. I have not been so lucky with anything that moves. This is most prominent at wide open apertures (I primarily shoot primes lately). Shooting both single shot and continuous, I had a greater number of poorly focused shots. This was simply not an issue with the 5dIII. The d800 AF module is excellent, in general, but I wonder if it needs to updated for the demands of this sensor.

High ISO quality is very good. Dynamic range is excellent in RAW. Color is off - skin tones are just not where I like them to be. It takes work in PP to rectify this, but I greatly prefer the 5dIII or, interestingly enough, the d600. Both of those cameras have natural skin tone with rich color. The d800 is generally flatter with a slight green cast. Custom white balance set points do help a little.

Build quality is a disappointment. I have a high standard for Nikons - the d700 was a luxurious feeling camera, for instance, but the d800 grip is bad. Thin, with no thumb hook and plasticky feeling due to the CF door. The 5DIII just feels richer, more solid with a far better grip.

If I shot landscapes, studio or other tripod work, I'd go with the d800. I don't shoot landscape and primarily shoot handheld in available light, so I went with the Canon. These are actually very different cameras in use, so it's mostly a matter of what your style and subject matter is, rather than the inherent qualities of these bodies - both are excellent.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Review Date: Oct 27, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: JPEG output, High ISO performance, build quality, grip, ergonomics, AF

I had the opportunity to shoot both a Nikon d800 and this camera for one week, to determine which camera I'd keep. I prefer to shoot in JPEG, after years of shooting exclusively in RAW. Previous to this camera, I've owned a wide variety of full frame cameras, including the d300, 5D, d700 and 5d Mark II.

I have been shooting with a 5D Mark II since it was first introduced. The image quality of the JPEG output of the Mark III is clearly superior - especially as it pertains to high ISO output. I exclusively shot RAW in the 5dII, primarily due to the unimpressive JPEG engine. The biggest revelation of the Mark III has been it's superlative JPEG output. It's incredibly liberating to shoot at ISO 12,800 and get images with minimal noise and excellent color retention and detail. It's essentially made RAW irrelevant for me. With the 50 mm 1.4 lens, I have practically little need for flash. This is an enormous advantage and to be able to get excellent images straight out of the camera using the native JPEG engine is awesome. The d800 has a technically impressive sensor, and the noise performance of that camera is very good. That said, you have to shoot RAW to extract the DR advantages of the d800 and files are just enormous, particularly in that format. Furthermore, the ISO performance still lags behind the 5DIII and, in JPEG, there is no contest (though the d800 is still very good).

More importantly, I prefer the metering of the 5DIII. There is a slight tendency to underexpose, but the d800 frequently overexposes by 1/3-2/3 stop, in my experience. The native color tone/WB of the Nikon is also greener than the 5DIII and requires more PP to optimize the color. I've tried custom curves and custom auto white balance tones, but was not able to nail the color rendition. In terms of color, I find the Canon to be an easier camera to use, with less PP required.

Detail from the 5DIII is excellent. The d800 has more resolution, but I find that you really need to carefully set up a shot (ideally on a tripod) to extract the most of this sensor. Additionally, the d800 requires a much higher shutter speed to avoid shake when handheld. This results in higher noise issues, as the ISO has to be pushed to compensate in lower light.

The build quality of the 5DIII is top tier. It is superior to the Nikon, which is a first in my experience. The d800 grip is thin and the lack of thumb rest means that you end up pinching the body. The Canon grip is FAR superior. It feels molded to my hand and the large thumb hook lets the body just stick to your hand. The metal finish of the Canon has a more expensive feel and the tight, dense and compact 5dIII body just feels nicer to hold than the d800. This, in my opinion, is the most important difference between these bodies. The ergonomics of the Canon, is also preferable, as it pertains to button placement and quality.

The d800 sensor is a technological marvel, and I was tempted to keep it from that principle alone. The only problem is that the Canon is more enjoyable to shoot, comfortable to hold and, ultimately, I prefer the image quality of the 5dIII. The Nikon really needs RAW processing and careful technique to see any advantages (primarily at base ISO) and the inconvenience of manipulating 75MB RAW images is not a trivial issue. From my real world usage standpoint, the 5dIII was clearly superior when I tested both cameras.

The Canon AF is excellent - a big improvement from the 5DII, which was essentially crippled (though it had very good center point accuracy). It's so nice not having to focus and recompose. The Nikon AF is it's equal. Low light performance is basically the same, as well, though the d800 AF assist lamp can potentially increase accuracy in very low light situations.

The d800 is a great camera and is better suited to landscape photography or static subjects, in my opinion. If you shoot primarily handheld pictures of real people, then I recommend the 5dIII - I simply have more keepers with this camera.

These are very different cameras - both excellent and both very different with different strengths. If you are starting fresh, I'd recommend renting both before deciding which system works best for you.

Canon Speedlite 580EX II

Review Date: Jun 19, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $499.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Power, build quality, wireless master capability, weather sealing, fast start time and cycle time, catchlight card, full swivel range of motion.
Size, weight, cost.

I previously owned a 430EXII and replaced it with this flash. The 430 is an excellent flash with more than enough power for most casual photography. That said, the 580 has certain distinct advantages. It's obviously more powerful, which allows more latitude in bounce flashing. The built-in catchlight card is a nice touch. The full swivel head is a big improvement from the 430, which is 180 only. More importantly, however, is that the swivel on the 580 is of a much higher build quality. It has a weather sealed button and rotates in a very nice, dampened action with slick, positive clicks. The 430 feels cheap in comparison. The buttons on the 580 are easier to push and unit is just nicer to handle and use.

The flash itself is significantly larger than the 430, at least by a quarter. That said, the 430 is not exactly a stealth flash, so I don't think the difference is all that important in real world use.

Start up time and cycle time are essentially instantaneous. Exposures are spot on and beautiful.

The biggest downside is cost. This flash is $200 more expensive than a 430. Is it worth the difference? For me - the superior build quality and handling, particularly with regard to the swivel head, is worth the extra. I used to sometimes struggle with the 430's swivel head, which tended to be a little stiff and resistant. The 580 head is silky smooth and a pleasure to use, in comparison.

Canon EF 24mm f/2.8

Review Date: Jun 18, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good sharpness wide open and stopped down.
Old design. No USM. Cannot use focus ring while in AF mode. Chintzy feel. Prone to flare and low contrast.

This is a good, solid lens. The sharpness wide open is very good, across the frame, and a little sharper than my old 24-70L (which was a very sharp copy for a zoom). The colors are good, but the lens is prone to flare which reduces some of the contrast. That being said, this is the only option at this length for a good price. The sharpness wide open alone makes this lens a good buy.

The major con is the inability to manually focus while in AF mode. This lens also does not have USM and is a little noisy as a result. Lightweight build - not very expensive feeling but appropriate for the price.

This is a good lens that does it's job well. Given it's performance and the huge differential between it and the 24L mkII, this lens is a very good value.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Review Date: Jun 16, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $370.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very good sharpness at 1.4, excellent sharpness stopped down. Good weight, size. USM - quick and silent AF. Accurate AF. Price is right.
Hood is not included and aftermarket ES-71II is ridiculously expensive for what it is. Focus ring is undamped. Element extends beyond barrel with focus. Bokeh can sometimes be a little nervous.

I thought long and hard about this one. I've heard the hype about the Sigma and strongly considered it. I used the Nikon mount on my previous camera and loved it's bokeh but hated the unreliability. This is what finally tipped me towards trying the Canon for my 5dMkII.

I have read many reviews regarding softness at f/1.4 - 2.0. I might have lucked out with an exceptional copy, because this lens has great sharpness at f/1.4 - essentially equivalent to my 85mm at 1.8. Perhaps that means my 85mm is suboptimal, but at any rate, the 50mm 1.4 is as sharp at f/1.4 as I could want it. At f/1.4 I don't even care about corner sharpness, because it doesn't really matter to me at that aperture, so I have no comment there. Bottom line - center sharpness is excellent.

Bokeh on this lens is perfectly fine - 1.4 on a full frame is always a beautiful thing. There are times when the OOF elements could be a little creamier - this is where the Sigma particularly excels. That said, I would rate the bokeh as good to very good - probably equivalent to the Nikon 50mm 1.4G. I have no complaints in this department, but in terms of optical qualities, bokeh is probably the least impressive characteristic of this lens.

Color is good. It's very natural, perhaps not as saturated as some Ls I've used.

Build quality is merely ok. It has USM which is nice and the AF is fast, accurate and reliable. I don't like how the front element extends proud of the main barrel, so I bought the ES-71II bayonet hood. This is a nice little hood, but costs a ridiculous $36.00. The focus ring is not damped, so it's a little gritty feeling and not as pleasant as it could be.

Overall, I'm very happy with this lens. The IQ, on the whole, is great. Sharpness is excellent and I'm loving the images I'm getting with this lens and the 5d2.

Highly recommended.

Canon EOS 7D

Review Date: May 26, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,520.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Build quality, handling, viewfinder, image quality, video handling, noise performance, 24p and 60p modes. 8fps. AF accuracy and speed.
CF door. Not full frame.

Build quality is essentially pro level - only thing keeping it from a 10 is the CF door design, which is the same as the 5d, 5d2, xxD cameras. Aside from the 1 series, though, this is the best feeling and best built Canon camera I've used - tight seams, dense, excellent grip and display with a great viewfinder. Canon uses a big, 1D style viewfinder cup on the 7D - very comfortable. No creaks. Tons of buttons - almost feels more like a Nikon than a Canon in use. Video is much better integrated into the camera than the 5D2 - it feels more thought out as a real function of the camera with instant access and a nice amount of customization. 24p and 60p is a nice touch.

IQ is excellent - the best crop camera I've ever used (previous crop experience is a d300 and 40D). High ISO performance is really great - using LR3 beta, the images at even 6400 are nice, with a fine, film-like grain and no banding or splotchiness. The 5d2 and d700 are superior, of course, but the 7D is surprisingly close. Lower ISO images are great - sharp, great contrast and color. Very good dynamic range - not quite up to FF levels, but still very good latitude in RAW. I've been using FF for the past 2 years and the only major difference I see is the shallower DOF with FF.

AF, in my experience, is excellent. Very good accuracy and speed. Low light performance is very good.

This camera is a legitimate alternative to the 5D2 - at about $800 cheaper. While the 5d2 image quality is better and has inherent FF advantages, the 7D build, AF and video handling/frame rate are better. In that context, the price for the body at $1600 is perfectly reasonable.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM

Review Date: May 13, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $440.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Exceptional sharpness at wide open - as sharp as any lens I've ever used at f/1.4 Very nice bokeh. Excellent color. Silent motor. Very good build quality. Good focusing accuracy. Includes hood and pouch.
Not a fan of the satin finish. Focus can sometimes be stubborn to lock in poor light.

I am shocked by the quality of this lens. Sharpness at wide open is as good as any lens I've ever used. Color and contrast are both excellent. Build quality is very good - though I am not a fan of the Sigma finish on the lens barrel. Weight and size are both ideal.

AF performance is average, but predictable. AF lock could be better in low light - the lens sometimes has a tendency to hunt, but when it locks, it's typically fairly accurate. I am using the lens on a 7D and it's perfect at +/-0. I've noticed no back/front focus issues.

Vignetting is minimal. CA is relatively non-existant for a lens like this. I have not been bothered by distortion.

I have been surprised by some of the test chart reviews of this lens. In real life use, I'm thoroughly impressed. This is a lens with wide open performance at the top tier of prime lenses, IMO. Excellent and highly recommended.

Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM

Review Date: May 13, 2010 Recommend? no | Price paid: $440.00 | Rating: 4 

Pros: Build quality is good. Small size and weight. Good AF speed.
Soft - poor focus at infinity. Dull, lifeless images. Expensive for the image quality.

This is a poor lens. It is difficult to get a quality image with it - even with AF microadjustment, the focus is poor and general image quality is soft. I would equate it's sharpness to a low end kit lens. Just terrible.

Build quality is good. AF speed is very good and the USM is silent. Nice weight and size for travel and a decent FOV for crop cameras as a walk around lens.

Not recommended.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Review Date: Mar 31, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Exceptional resolution, excellent noise performance, lightweight, excellent color rendition, good build quality, no cheap built in flash, excellent center point AF performance, good value. Video mode is a nice add-on.
CF door squeaks, Auto ISO not very adjustable, AI servo not as good as Nikon and peripheral AF points not cross type, no AF assist,

Better build than the 5D, with a better grip and more solid, dense feel. CF door can be squeaky if you really wrench the grip, but a little Blu-Tack solved that problem. Otherwise, no major complaints. It's not as luxurious feeling as the d700, but definitely an improvement over the 5D and very slick looking in person.

Ergonomics are completely different from Nikon. Canon and Nikon have polar opposite design philosophies and I like both in practice. The Canon may take a little longer to adjust yourself to, but in the end both work very well.

Image quality is, flat out, the best I've ever used. There is a real resolution difference here. When I downsize images to 12 megapixel size, the sharpness and noise performance is as good as it gets. Overall noise when downsized to d700 size is superior to that camera. At 100%, the d700 has a slight edge above ISO 2000. Why anyone would look at 21 mpx images at 100%, though, is beyond me. Approximately 1 stop advantage compared to the 5D.

Haven't seen any dust problems with the camera, but I don't change lenses a great deal. Using a 24-70 lens hasn't shown any dust sucking issues.

No built in flash, but that's an advantage in my book. These things are worthless with large lenses/hoods and are cheap feeling/looking and tend to pop open at inopportune times.

AF center point accuracy is excellent, in my experience. I don't use AI servo, so I can't really comment on it's performance. That said, this is just not the camera for fast moving subjects. If that's your game, look elsewhere. Contrary to some reports, I find the low light AF to be comparable to Nikon with the center point. An AF assist lamp would be nice, but I have noticed these things are worthless with larger sized lenses/hoods that block the light.

Video mode is pretty cool, but you can't adjust aperture, which is annoying. That said, I never use it.

This is not a perfect camera and not as feature packed as the d700. I was a detractor when it was first released along with everybody else. The funny thing is, though, that in use this is a fantastic tool that produces exceptional images. I have been blown away by the detail in RAW -- it's addictive.

Bottom line - if it's image quality you care about, this is as good as it gets (with the possible exception of the d3x). In that context, this camera represents an excellent value.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

Review Date: Mar 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,100.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very sharp. Color, contrast, build, speed, quiet/fast AF, fixed hood

I recently owned a 24-105 and sold it to buy this lens. Since most people vacillate between these two, I wanted to compare..

I've used a number of lenses in this range, and this lens is essentially as sharp as any I've ever used. Using the AF microadjustment on the 5d2 really honed the lens down to excellent sharpness with +1. I suspect many of those who complain about sample variation use this lens on unadjustable bodies. The 24-70 is sharper than the 24-105, but it's definitely not a huge difference. I think this probably speaks to the excellence of the latter.

Color and contrast are excellent. The 24-105 may have a slight edge with contrast.

The lens is heavy, but it's no different than most other 2.8 zooms. That said, the 24-105 balances better on the 5d2 body.

Build is identical to the 24-105, with the exception of the reverse extension of the zoom with fixed hood. I personally like the idea of a fixed hood that doesn't move when you zoom, but the flip side is that the hood becomes necessarily huge. When mounted, this lens becomes fairly imposing.

If this lens had IS, it would be perfect.

Bokeh is truly excellent, IMO. This is a subjective thing, but from what I've seen, it is smooth, calm and creamy. I'm actually fairly impressed with it -- most zoom lenses tend to have nervous, edgy out of focus areas, but this lens has prime lens quality bokeh, IMO.

Vignetting performance is excellent -- there is essentially none to speak of with a FF sensor. The 24-105, in comparison, has massive vignetting at the wide end.

Highly recommended.

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR

Review Date: Mar 3, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Exceptional sharpness, Beautifully saturated colors with natural contrast. Removable tripod mount.
Necessarily huge, expensive, apparently optimized for DX.

This review applies only to use on a DX body (which I owned when using this lens)

On a DX body, this lens had the deepest color saturation I've ever seen in any lens. Sharpness is as acute as I've seen in any lens. Bokeh is absolutely beautiful, beaten only by the 85mm 1.4 in my experience. VR is excellent and the lens handles very well, despite it's large size.

Build quality is as good as Nikons get. The gold badge is a nice touch.

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED DX VR AF-S

Review Date: Mar 2, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Ridiculous, enormous range. Very effective VRII, Solid construction, Sharp in the mid ranges with good color and contrast, Affordable.
Slow, Wide and Tele are soft, Fair amount of sample variation, lens creep with use, Range requires a double barrel telescoping design

This is a very good lens for the vast majority of casual photographers out there. It encompasses an enormous range that will cover 99% of all practical situations when traveling. The color, contrast and sharpness are all good enough for snapshots and the performance in the mid range is not bad at all. The wide end is relatively soft and the tele is uninspiring.

This is a slow lens, so forget freezing action at the tele end of the range.

Lens creep is a common complaint and is something that worsens over time. Because of the huge range, the lens requires a double barrel telescoping design. This makes the lens a bit flimsy and vulnerable when completely zoomed out.

VRII is excellent and works as advertised.

I would recommend this lens to anyone who is not particularly critical about image quality and wants a huge zoom range without having to switch lenses. It's the ideal lens for a new SLR owner transitioning from a point and shoot.

The ability to shoot such a huge range in one lens does open up opportunities - it's liberating not having to switch lenses and to be able to just shoot.

One thing to keep in mind is sample variation -- I've owned 18-200VRs that performed much better at the wide end compared to others. I would only buy from a source with a good return policy.

At the end of the day, the relative lack of sharpness, slow speed, mediocre color/contrast and construction make this an uninspiring lens to use and I would not recommend it to anyone who is remotely critical about lens quality. For a consumer lens, the 18-200VR is better than average.

Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF Nikkor

Review Date: Mar 1, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,025.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Exceptional sharpness at 1.4, but with an organic, film quality. Bokeh is the best I've ever seen. Construction is indisputably pro. Colors are beautifully natural. Comes with a full metal hood.
Still AF-D, VR would be nice to have, CA is a major flaw, Hood is screw on type. Expensive, given lack of modern technology.

This is one the best lenses I've ever owned. It has been described as "smooth yet sharp" and this is the best description I've heard. The bokeh is the definition of creamy smooth, yet the focus point will be absolutely pin sharp. When combined with the beautifully natural colors and contrast, the overall image is very film like in presence. The images from this lens have a very distinctive organic quality that I can pick out every time, so if you don't like a lens to have a personality - this may not be the lens for you.

It's not perfect, though. Wide open CA is among the worst I've experienced in high end glass. The lack of AF-S is annoying - focus acquisition is slow and noisy. The nature of shooting a wide open 1.4 at 85mm makes it tricky in locking a reliable focus - a problem exacerbated on DX cameras. VR would be a nice solution to help when your focus plane is a matter of millimeters.

The construction is old school - it has that awesome crinkly finish that Nikon no longer uses and a nicely engraved, metal front lens surround and filter thread. The included hood is a nice metal piece, but is a screw in type which can be annoying.

When it comes down to it, despite it's real flaws, this is a legendary piece of glass and well worth owning. Highly recommended.

Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM

Review Date: Mar 1, 2009 Recommend? no | Price paid: $438.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Bokeh is exceptionally smooth. HSM. Nice carrying case. Balances beautifully on the d700. Considering the construction and elements, the lens is a bargain compared to the Nikon alternatives.
Multiple copies have had serious front focusing issues. Sharpness is not quite as good as Nikon when wide open. CA. Huge lens negates some of the size advantages of primes (not a big deal for me).

There is alot to commend in this lens -- it's bokeh is beautiful -- reminds me of the Nikon 85 1.4 in some respects. The HSM motor is reasonably quick and quiet. The sharpness when stopped down >2.8 is excellent. The color is warmer than a more honest lens, but it's a pleasing warmth that's easily 'fixable' with PP.

The problem is that both copies of this lens I used had significant front focusing issues. Both copies required +20 (whereas my other lenses work perfectly fine). Even with correction, the sharpness wide open was not at the level of my old AF-D Nikon lens. I cannot say whether the lenses I bought had uncorrectable front focusing, had unreliable focus acquisition or were intrinsically less sharp than the competition.

I suspect there are other Sigmas that are more sharp and perhaps this problem is exacerbated on the FX d700. If I have to sort through a number of lenses to find a holy grail Sigma, then it's not worth my time.

If the Sigma is simply less sharp than the Nikons, then this comes down to taste. I personally prefer the superior sharpness with the slightly inferior bokeh seen in the Nikon AF-D. Others may choose the creaminess of the Sigma, but I personally find the QC problems I've experienced with this lens to be discomforting. The lens has been returned.

Nikon D700

Review Date: Feb 26, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,450.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Peerless noise performance. Excellent build quality. Buttons for almost everything. Pop up flash. Excellent Auto-ISO capability. Powerful AF. Responsive. Excellent image quality. Great DR - generous bandwidth for PP.
Don't like placement of the ISO button. Nikon lenses have become expensive and no quality WA primes. No video. Sharpness not class leading (though still excellent). Tends to overexpose by 0.5eV

In the final analysis, this is the best camera on the market.

The build quality of this camera is second to none -- anyone who has ever picked up a Nikon will know. It's quite similar to a d300, but with a much larger pentaprism and substantially denser feel to it. The button layout is relatively logical, but I would have appreciated having the ISO button accessible with my right hand.

The Auto-ISO feature is leagues ahead of Canon. It's highly customizable and, given the impressive high ISO characteristics of this camera, has essentially changed the way I take photos. The images are truly clean up to 1600. Noise thereafter is highly controlled and largely luminescence, giving it a film grain, IMO. Absolutely fantastic, class leading noise characteristics.

Image resolution is very good -- 12 mpx is enough for me and I have no desire to manipulate 20mb NEF files. Sharpness is excellent, though a hair less resolute than the 5d I used to own. This is with pixel peeping and, for all practical purposes, negligible. This is especially true given the superior low light AF capability. Something as simple as an AF assist lamp really does help. I tend not to shoot moving subjects, so 51 AF points are more than I need, but having them makes composition much easier - no need to focus and recompose.

Only caveat I have is that Matrix Metering tends to overexpose by 0.5eV. Luckily this is consistent, and the camera allows you to fine tune exposure, so this has been easily resolved.

Video would be nice, but is not a deal breaker.

The biggest improvement I've noticed over the Canons, overall, is the feel of using this camera. Though the 5D made outstanding pics, using it for several hours became uncomfortable and I couldn't get over the cheap feel. The 5dMkII is better, but still not quite where it needs to be. The longer I use the Nikon, the more I enjoy it. Superior ergonomics, construction and image quality make this camera the clear winner.