The Brick Wall Test

Just a quick follow-up to my rant on reevaluation and exposure automation. The infamous brick wall test. Of course I can't possibly shoot just a brick wall not even when playing around. I guess this is what qualifies as good enough. I've had boat loads of cameras, lenses, etc, etc. For the most part of the last decade I've complained a lot about digital and some of the things that I think are just not that great. Somethings have been pretty darn good for a while others not so much.

Having gone through a bunch of images for the last year very quickly over the last few days I've realized something substantially different. I really don't have a lot of complaints with my current kit. I might have niggles here and there but those are more related to bulk and even that's not as nuts as it was to what I wanted just a little while ago. Fast zooms are still huge - they will always be huge - not much use in discussing those. The cameras - yea the D600 is a bit bigger than I would like but mostly in depth not all the other dimensions. The X100S is fine - perfect maybe even if it's only APS-C.

All those things aside. I have no complaints about IQ in either camera. Both are stellar with the D600 being crazy good better than required for normal purposes. Noise? I don't even bother with NR unless I screw something up royally when shooting. Sharpness, resolution, heck even DR is actually pretty darn good. I'm at a point where I am a bit more than satisfied. When I made the decision to buy the D600 I gave serious consideration to the D800 variants as well. Thank goodness I actually had the ability to evaluate that over quite a bit of time and lots of different scenes. I made the D600 decision not out of cost considerations. Even the size consideration wasn't the entire swing towards the D600. Of course while I feel cameras are too big smaller will always be better as long as there aren't operational compromises that I actually use.

What was the major consideration? At the end of it all there was no practical IQ difference. I've made 4' x 6' prints from both - that's beyond both cameras if you really want somewhere near 300dpi in the print. Guess what - you can't tell which is which. They are both great. I'm personally at the point where there are way more things to be considered than any particular minor pixel bump, or even another "stop" of useable ISO. Maybe we all are if we are actually into making pictures and not some science experiment.

I know this kind of thing has been repeated for a while - actually the last couple of generations of cameras has seen this mentality crop up. Canon bet the bank on it with the release of the 5D Mark III and just made other things better with marginal IQ differences. Nikon just added thousands of dollars worth of fake knobs to what really is a sensor from a long time ago. My complaint is about the Df is not about the sensor it's mostly about the price for some frankenstein assembled from the old parts bin - mostly D600 parts. The difference is this is the first time I have been able to go back a year with perspective and really say I don't really have needs and desires that have anything to do with IQ or for that matter overall capability.

Here's a contact sheet from me fooling around outside and playing with the 50mm vs the 35mm thing.

Katya DC Contact Sheet

I'm not going to bother with full-res 100% images of this brick wall test. It doesn't matter. You've seen some of these before but not as a bunch of them together. The difference is these are not all effect-y. No VSCO, no fake grain, no fade-y crap. They are an import into Aperture 3 with my default tone curve and the same WB slapped onto all of them. I did have to go through and normalize exposure frame to frame but that was mechanical - I knew what exposure I wanted and just typed in the appropriate + or - into Aperture's exposure control to make it that way.

I guess that's one of the reasons that I am so vocal about telling people that are in need of a new camera that the D600 is the best thing going in terms of price/performance as an added bonus if you can take the shame of shooting such a broken camera according to internet common-think echo chamber then you can get stellar performance for about $1200-$1300. Look at the D610 as the biggest gift to photographers from Nikon ever it's put the D600 somewhere around the price of far far far lesser cameras.

When I was looking through the attached contact sheet I was actually floored. All shot wide open. Hand held. Quickly and casually at f/1.4 the consistency and accuracy of focus and the performance of a $400 lens is about as good as you are ever going to need for anything. Hell I wasn't even optimizing for the holy grail of ultimate IQ. Amazing.

How good is good enough for you? Is it somehow relative to what the absolute best available on the planet is? Do you actually work in a way that would allow you to see that consistently? Are you at a point where you are actually yearning for some image quality that you don't have already? I am curious if you are I would love to hear why. I swear this is the first time I have felt this way with about a year in perspective.


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