Why the Nikon D800 is not a medium format competitor

Judging by the fact that Nikon has closed preorders for the D800 it would seem they have a hit on their hands.

Interesting to note this even though Canon called an end to the megapixel 'arms race' with the Canon 1D-X which has 'only' 18 megapixels and yet replaces the 1D MKIV and the 1DS MKIII.

This is particularly interesting as Canon make their own CMOS sensors and are therefore able to call do more or less what they want in terms of specification, not relying on third party sensor manufacturers.

So there must be something in it, right?

Infact when the eagerly awaited Canon 5D MKIII(if indeed it is going to be called that)is launched I'm prepared to wager that it will have a similar number of pixels to the MkII, no I don't have any insider knowledge, but the 1DX does certainly suggest that.

But the whole Canon v's Nikon thing is not the Point of this post.

It has more to do with some claims made that the D800 will be a competitor to medium format.

I recall in some early reports of the excellent in its day Canon 1DS MKIII that some people were giving up on medium format....well some people may have but it didn't quite work out that way did it?

The D800 may have a lot of pixels but I don't believe it is a true medium format competitor.


1. Physical sensor size of medium format gives the most wonderful depth of field, if you enjoy a full frame sensor, imagine how your images would look if the sensor was bigger?

Here is a portrait I will be talking about more in the next few weeks, for reasons that will become clear

I shot this on the Phase One DF and P65+ with the Schneider 110mm LS lens at F2.8, full frame, un-cropped.

2. Dynamic range? 12 stops of full fat goodness. Do I NEED it? Not always, but it fits so beautifully in with my analogy of the Phase One being the 'ultimate blank canvas' it has the ability to record what is in your mind better than anything else.

3. 16 Bit colour capture. DSLR's capture in 14 bit, 14 to 16bit not a big gap, right?


14 bit capture has 16,384 possible values for each colour channel.

16 bit capture has 65,536 possible values for each colour channel.

Quite a difference.

4. Aspect Ratio

I find the aspect ratio of 35mm does not suit my creative shoots nor indeed my really big commercial shoots

It is too wide, and I often end up cropping one or another of the ends off the shot.

As Nikon seem to have done in their D800 brochure, rather proving my point.

5. Speed.

By it's very nature medium format is not, nor has it ever been a speed king.

You have to slow down, think.

And consider.

When that happens the quality of my work just goes up.

It's when one adds all of these qualities together that you end up with images that are removed frm anything that a DSLR can produce, no matter how many megapixels it has.

The Nikon D800 is going to be a very good camera, but don't for a moment think it is going to challenge or replace medium format.