Nikon D800E in Somerset, Continued - Some thoughts on cameras with no AA filters

All images - Nikon D800E Tamron 28-200mm lens

The weather continues to be glorious and I'm getting lots of stock and personal images. I'm also pretty tired after only two days since I'm working all day. 

I have been hauling around the D800E plus one of the zooms I have for it, and while its not light, so far I'm managing it. I've probably walked about 4 miles each day, some of that on stone covered beaches which is not fun, so I'm getting a good workout with the camera. The Tamron 28-200mm is the lens I'm using the most. Its nice to carry being relatively light and the images it produces are nice and sharp. 

Its for trips like this when cameras like the Nikon come into their own. Fast, responsive, get the job done cameras are very useful in situations when I'm changing focal lengths all the time. 

I currently have only the D800E, as I have sold the D800 I bought (For virtually what I paid for it) since the slight extra sharpness of the D800E is preferable for what I do. While its AA free CMOS sensor is very good, its not really comparable to the results I got from my CCD Leica M9 sensor. The Fuji X-Pro 1, though obviously hampered by not yet having any software that shows what it can do, was similar. In both cameras this "removal" of an AA filter doesn't seem to have a very dramatic effect on the sharpness of the images. It is possible to see the difference with the D800E but only when you look really hard. 

There are rumours that the next Leica M series (M10?) will use a CMOS sensor. Its early days yet but this rumour suggests that they will use a Sony 24MP unit. Presumably Leica will continue with their no AA filter policy to get the ultimate performance from their lenses, so will they be able to get the levels of sharpness as the M9 achieves? Additional rumours suggest the M10 will have video capability plus the possibility to use an add-on EVF. Also there is the notion that Leica are under pressure to improve the high ISO performance. So what does this mean? Are we about to see the end of the super-sharp, poor noise performance, CCD sensor files like the M8 and M9 produce to something closer to the D800E or Fuji X-Pro 1? Both of these cameras have excellent performance at high(er) ISO's but neither have that stunning 3-D crispness of the Leicas.

It would be nice if Leica could produce a camera that gives us files that are the best of both worlds, but is that possible? All the very sharpest results seem to come from CCD sensors (plus the Sigma Foveon) and this seems to go hand in hand with very noisy higher ISO results. From using them, both the Fuji X-Pro 1 and Nikon D800E don't seem to gain much from having no AA filter, or in the case of the Nikon have another filter added to negate the effect of it. The X2 for example produces files every bit the equal of the Fuji and that as far as I know has an AA filter. And yes, they are very impressive, but they don't really have that magic and the "wow" factor that M9 (and M8) files have. (Just in case anyone is wondering what happened to my Leica X2 and why I'm not using it, I've forgotten to bring the battery charger!)

It would be a shame if super-sharp, low-ISO, CCD images were left to super-expensive MF digital cameras and backs and I hope that Leica can come up with something thats similar. If not then the M9 may be the last of its kind.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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