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Old May 10, 2004, 6:55 PM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 41

I've been telling myself that the images from the D70 look about as good as ones I have scanned from 35mm using my Coolpix III 2700 DPI scanner, but I didn't really believe it deep down, even after looking at lots of similar images and on average finding a bit of an advantage to the D70. Now I do.

Yesterday I was fiddling about comparing various older Nikon lenses with the 18-70 D70 kit lens--the kit lens comes out very well, about equal even in the corners as compared even to a 55/3.5 micro, a 20/2.8 AIS. This may well be due to the limitations of the sensor; I'd be surprised if the kit lens is really as good. Anyway, I realized today that I happened to have a near-identical shot of my informal test target taken with a Canon EOS 650 with the 50/1.8 normal lens. I was a bit worried, but thought I'd see just how much worse the D70 was than the scanned film.

Surprise--it is just about exactly the same, and in fact the D70 image is way less grainy, and probably would be about identical for resolution if Adobe improved their demosaicing algorithm to reduce the prevalence of artifacts. The attached picture shows on the left a frame taken with the EOS 650 on ISO 100 negative film (sorry I don't know the brand, maybe Agfa, maybe Kodak) and scanned at 2700 DPI. The boxed area can be viewed at full original resolution. On the right is the D70 image of the same subject. Way less grainy, and the EOS only resolves one step further on the chart, and even there, I suspect the D70 would catch up with better demosaicing/moire avoidance.

Both images were treated about the same with similar degrees of unsharp masking etc in photoshop. This is not meant as any sort of Canon versus Nikon comparison; I'm sure the EOS did about the same as a Nikon SLR would have with the same film, the EOS image was just the one I happened to have around.

Clearly, if you shot on a tripod, on Velvia, with a prime lens, and scanned at 4000 DPI, the film camera would still win for everything except perhaps grain (I do have a lot of scanned Velvia and Provia slides, and I think the D70 may have as good or better graininess at ISO 200). In the real world, though, you often don't use the tripod, the Velvia, and the prime lens, and may not have a 4000 DPI scanner, and in that case it looks like there really is not an advantage to film. Interesting, at least to me.
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