Nikon D800E and the "big picture" - Musing on the Foveon sensor

Despite my reservations about the size and weight and the comments I made in my previous post here, when I'm in what might be described as a "classic" location and one where I'm going to be taking somewhat formal travel shots, I do find the D800E + 28-300mm VR zoom to be the lens for the job. In these locations where there is a lot of competition, i.e. lots of other people have photographed the place, there is no doubt that a 36MP 103MB file might just tip the picture editors decision in my favour. Until of course the pixel counts rise even higher.

Selling images via websites and therefore via thumbnails tends to make the actual image quality of the files viewed at 100% irrelevant. At these sizes no one can tell the difference between an image shot on a Leica M9 or a Sony RX1. They will look pretty much the same, particularly when I've done my Photoshop editing. 

Now ever since Chris Handley showed a link to a shot he took on a Sigma DP2 Merrill, I've been obsessing as to whether to get an SD1, a DP2 or both. Chris has made this even more difficult for me by posting another shot here from an SD1 which is so mindboggleingly (is that a word?) sharp that its frightening. This is a 100% crop from that shot.

That is actually quite special and the whole image is just gorgeous when viewed at full size. Now this is making it hard to resist. Particularly since I'm staying just down the road from Park Cameras who I know have an SD1 in stock at a reasonable price. And about 1/4 of the price that the camera originally was advertised at. Now I know there are all sorts of operational issues because of the time it takes to create one of these 3-layer Foveon works of art and I know I was somewhat scathing about Sigmas claims for Medium-Format quality, but the files from this camera (and the DP2) are breathtaking. I've been working on some raw files that are around the internet for the SD1 and found that I can upsize them to D800E dimensions and they look pretty much the same. So, I'm prepared to eat my words and say that yes, the Foveon 45MP (15MP?) sensor does indeed produce MF / Leica M9 quality at a fraction of the price you pay for those options. 

However if I bought one and shot with it, I would be probably be picking my jaw off the floor every time I looked at an image on the screen, but that doesn't mean that I would sell more pictures taken with a Sigma / Foveon camera than anything else, because of the aforementioned thumbnail scenario. Indeed, having done some reserach on it, I probably sell less of the shots I took with my Leica M9 as a % of the number of pictures I took with it than any other camera. They may be sensational to look at, but that doesn't mean that they are going to "fly off the shelves". The question is can I sit idly by when I know that kind of quality is out there. My recent discussions with myself have resulted in my (supposedly) using gear because I want to rather than because I think I should. However that is still proving difficult to come to terms with and consequently at the moment I'm keeping both the cameras I love to work with and the cameras I think a working professional should have. Consequently I have 11 of them, a shelf full of lenses and no money in the bank!!

So watch this space to see what happens. Its not looking good as the weather is dull at the moment and not due to brighten up until later, so I've got some time on my hands and plenty of time for a 30 mile drive to Park Cameras cave of delights in Burgess Hill!!

In the meantime here are some more D800E + 28-300mm shots from yesterday. I'm sure UK snappers will know where it is, but for everybody else its Arundel in West Sussex.

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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