Part II – the analysis

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Following on from the last post, I’ve been doing a little more technical analysis to convince myself I don’t need a new camera.

First off, noise at high ISO. Here are some crops of the image above, taken at various ISO settings. The full size view, which you can see by clicking on each one, is a 100% crop with no noise reduction.

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In order, these are ISO 3200, 1600 and 800. By 800 the noise has practically disappeared, but even at 3200 it really isn’t intrusive. To give an idea of how irrelevent it truly is at web sizes, the full frame shown at the top is the ISO 3200 version.

Also note that the ISO 800 image isn’t as sharp as the others. Camera shake, I’m afraid, even at 45mm and 1/125s. And that’s with VR on – really not good enough! It’s a reminder, should I need one, that the biggest limitation I have is not my camera – it’s my technique.

Finally I tried a little experiment with another image to see how it might pan out enlarged.

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I took a crop and scaled it to A4, A3 and A2 and printed the result. The A4 crop is actually a slight reduction from full size and in each case I sized to print at 300dpi. It really was a quick and dirty experiment, as you can see from a scan of the resulting print on A4 paper:

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It should give you an idea of how big the image would appear printed at each of those sizes. The final one, A2, would be near enough a 24″x16″ print. Looking at the print at arm’s length (and when do you ever view an A2 print much closer than that?), I reckon it’s good enough.

With care, I could probably get an A1 print out of the camera. This shot was handheld, at ISO 400 – if I was shooting landscapes with a view to making massive prints, the camera would be on a tripod at ISO 100 and I’d take a lot more care over the post-processing.

So what would a 24MP full frame camera give me? A bit more leeway, mainly, if I was making large prints – they’d be slightly smaller enlargements and therefore a little more forgiving of less than perfect technique. That’s about it, really.

Given how rarely I ever print anything, there really is no need to change my camera – although I do have to work on my technique! It’s been a useful exercise in that respect.

I don’t need a new camera

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I really don’t need a new SLR. I just need to convince myself I don’t.

20141213_0037My current SLR is a Nikon D7000 that I’ve had for nearly three years. At 16MP, it’s been overtaken by the current generation – 24MP is even available in Nikon’s entry level D3200. So it begins – the nagging feeling that I want to upgrade.

The thing is, though, I don’t really need more megapixels. How often do I print to A3 or larger? Almost never, and my first DSLR, which only had a modest 10MP, was perfectly capable of decent prints to that size anyway.

So what else has improved? High ISO performance is, amazingly, better on the current generation of 24MP cameras. I say amazingly, because in general cramming more pixels onto a sensor of a given size ought to increase the risk of noise. Again, though, my current camera performs perfectly adequately. Most of my shots are taken in the ISO 100 – 400 range anyway, and the 7000 is good enough for the rare times I need to venture into the higher range.

There are a few other things that have improved, but the real boost in image quality would come from jumping to a full frame camera. I’d rule out the 36MP D800. Too expensive, and with RAW files taking about 76MB it needs a lot of storage, both on and off camera. The D750 is tempting. At 24MP it’s inline with the current DX generation, but the larger sensor should mean less noise.

20141213_0024Of course, going full frame means new lenses as well – all of my current lenses, with the exception of the 50mm 1.8, are designed for DX cameras and won’t cover full frame. Any change would require major investment. So why do it? Just for the remote possibility that I might want top notch prints at silly sizes? Just in case? It really doesn’t seem worth it.

I’m trying to convince myself… when the urge to splurge on a new toy gets hold of me it takes a lot of willpower to resist it, even when it’s a lot of money.

I’ve been putting my current camera through its paces to try and convince myself I don’t need a new one, and will be posting a more technical run through soon.