Crazy Comparison! Nikon D800 vs Sony NEX-7 vs Olympus E-M5

Crazy Comparison! Nikon D800 vs Sony NEX-7 vs Olympus E-M5

JUST FOR FUN guys, so please  – no getting bent out of shape! I have done those crazy comparisons for 2 1/2 years and I do them for fun and “just because”. Why? Because I can! Basically I take each camera and shoot the same scene, at the same time, using the same aperture (and preferably the same focal length or equivalent) and I convert the RAW files to check for things like sharpness, color, dynamic range, etc. I used to do this many years ago for my own personal curiosities so I started doing them here as well, and many of you enjoy them. Some of you hate them. But the good thing is, if you dislike these sort of things you don’t have to read it 🙂

Since I have the Nikon D800 here (which is a BEAST of a camera) along with a Zeiss 35 1.4 I decided to put it up against the Sony NEX-7 with the Zeiss 24 1.8, which gives the NEX a 35mm equivalent field of view. Basically a big brute of a full frame DSLR vs a small mirror less APS-C camera. Now obviously the resolution of each camera is different with the Nikon coming in at a whopping 36 megapixels and the Sony coming in at a not too shabby 24 megapixels. Note that I am not doing this to say “Camera A is better than Camera B”. I am showing this to give you guys and idea of what each camera can put out using these lenses and this scene. 🙂 There are many NEX shooters who come to this site and there are also many curious about the new Nikon.

[ad#Adsense Blog Sq Embed Image]

It is my opinion after shooting the D800 for a few days that for me..well, the size and weight of this camera is a bit much. Sure, it can take a serious quality photograph but so can a NEX-7, or Olympus E-M5 or Fuji X100. But then again, If you are a DSLR guy then this is one of those “Holy Grail” cameras so if you do not mind the weight and size and bulk and cost, then this camera is highly capable of some crazy delicious output.

I did find it easier to manually focus my NEX-7 and OM-D than the D800 as even with its big and bright OVF I found 20% of my shots were missed in the AF dept (even when using the confirmation dot). I never miss focus with the NEX or OM-D when using manual glass. I’ll go over all of this when I write about the D800.

I also am starting to think that 36 megapixels is way overkill for just about anyone. I don’t care if you are shooting for huge billboards, 36 MP is overkill. Period. These RAW files are 76MB and they make my iMac a bit sad. 🙂 But again, with that said, for anyone wanting crazy resolution and full frame benefits, the D800 is indeed a pretty wonderful camera. But given a choice I would take a smaller camera anyway over the D800 because if I owned this beast I would never shoot it unless I was shooting something like a live performance for $$ or in a studio environment (and even then I would choose my M9, as I have in the past). Id never ever take this out for daily shooting anywhere when I have other smaller cameras that are really just as capable. You do not need this kind of camera for street, for snapshots, for your kids, for daily personal use or if you are just resizing for web sharing or making small to large prints. Period. But again, I will write much more in my D800 review coming soon 🙂

Also, coming SOON (this week) . A NOT SO crazy comparison. The Leica M9 with a converted to B&W image vs Leica Monochrom vs Nikon D800 converted to B&W! Stay tuned!

On to the images! Both were shot RAW and converted using the latest version of ACR. What you see here is what you get! No corrections were made to color but I was finding that the D800 was overexposing in almost every shot I took so I did adjust the exposure in RAW for that file.  All images were shot at f/5.6. The D800 had the $1800 Zeiss 35 1.4 mounted and the Sony had the Zeiss 24 1.8 mounted. Both giving a 35mm field of view.  The last image was shot with the Olympus OM-D but all I had with me was my little 12mm f/2 so that one is also included at the bottom. 

Click on each image to open the larger version with full 100% crop embedded. 

What do you think? I also shot one with the little Olympus but only had the 12 f/2 with me so wasn’t the same focal length at all.

and someone requested that I try to pull out the shadow detail here on the Olympus file. Not a problem at all 🙂


  1. it’s worth noting that all of these could benefit from fast shutter speed, since we’re shooting windy trees instead of stationary buildings, you’re not going to see any difference with any camera, because trees will be blurred.

  2. Next time please compare Beko freezer with AK 47… right? its just makes no sense ,your comparison its just like photographing empty sky with 39 different cameras…gues what,they all will bring the same results

  3. Canon/Nikon are the McDonald’s/Burger King of photography. Most popular, fastest AF, yes, but not the best IQ. For that, you have to look at Pentax/Olympus.

    My point is, Canon/Nikon fall short of that vivid, 3d lifelike rendition that I look for in my images. Just google “Canon/Nikon images look flat”. The same search for Pentax/Olympus yields no legitimate results…

  4. That OMD likes to add a bit of red IME, and I see that here. (I have that and the Nex-7 right now for eval).
    That said, I see ‘fog’ or haze in those Micros compared to that Nikon shot. Also, don’t understand why the OMD is rated higher on Dynamic Range than the D800, when I see the most DR in that D800 shot?…

  5. I too, like the over-all image of the OMD. It seem sharper and richer in color.
    I did not see that you mention you used a – TRIPOD – with each camera.
    THAT can make ALL the difference, esp. since the OMD has an earth
    shattering, state of the art ( 5 ) axis in-body IS – if you are hand holding them.
    And any camera with a 36 meg output – will show the SINS of the PHOTOGRAPHER !

    Thanks again, Steve.
    Your site inspires many people to not just Look, but to S E E .


  6. Hi Steve !

    Great website. Makes me ever more prompt to practice my compulsive buying disorder ! 😉

    I don’t know if anyone suggested you a test procedure, but reading your crazy comparison, I thought I’d like to see this one applied to low light capability comparison:

    – on each camera, set the ISO on the highest professionnaly usable value,
    – shoot the same dark scene, hand held,
    – show at which under/over exposure value (+/- x EV stops) you are able to get a sharp shot.

    Seems to me it would be a great way to compare the EV range you can get sharp, handheld, with or whithout moving subjects in a dark scene.

    The best performer would be the most exposed one, thus giving an immediately visual idea of the low light capacity of any given camera. It would also have the advantage of taking all specifications of any given camera/camera system into consideration (sensor quality, image stabilisation, lens quality, jpeg processing). Of course, allways using the best possible lens at any given focal lengh. A very practival and un-technical test, to my opinion.

    I’m not sure I made my point clear, there…

    Anyway, cheers and thank you for the killer site and reviews (mostly for the wallet) !

  7. Thank you Steve! This was an interessting comparation as I’m about to choose between the Nex-7 and the OM-D. I hope that you and your readers can give me some advice regarding features I consider important.

    1) Which one is best for manual focus with old adapted lenses? (I have a nice collection Contax/Zeiss lenses from 16 mm fisheye to 200 mm)
    2) Which one is best for handheld video work? (I will use the mirrorless camera for video interviews on photo/video assignments.)
    3) Which one is best for all manual shooting? (I´m thinking about buttons/dials/user interface.)

    Keep up the good work, Steve! And fellow photographers, keep posting!

    • NEX-7 has focus peaking, OM-D doesn’t – but I have yet to get an OOF image from the OM-D using MF glass. Video? OM-D as the NEX overheats after a couple of minutes. All manual? Either will do great.

      • So I guess your Nex-7 will be for sale soon…? 😉

        I´m almost sold to Olympus. It´s the manual focus thing that worries me most. How do you work when manual focusing the OM-D? Enlarge or not? Is it a similar enlargement as Nex (the whole image)? And how do you like the lower resolution screen on the OM-D compared to Nex-7?

        You had some pink tint using wide angles on Nex-7. Is this a brand specific problem? Can I expect the same using Contax/Zeiss glass?
        Have you ever noticed something like this on the OM-D?

        Many questions… I fully understand if you haven´t got time to answer. 🙂

        • Nope, keeping the nex so when new lenses come out I can test them 🙂 Also, I enjoy shooting it from time to time as well.

  8. Did you try to lift the shadows in all three RAW files?

    I´m curious if all 3 perform the same (D800 is especially good in this department – IMHO)


  9. Hi Steve
    Many thanks for that astonish test! Yes, I agree. Why should we all give us in that “unreal” pixelpeep?!!!

    Your shots show us, what we need, also the professional! Outdoor, waterresistent, little, fast, lightwight, and top lenses!

    By the way on studio only the middle range digicam shot very very good picture!

    I am so impressed about the shot of the Olympus OM-D with the M.Zuiko 12 mm lens! The lens is not one of the best MicroFourThird lenses! And the result is really great. Try the test with the Panasonic MicroFourThird Lens 45 mm/f2.8, then you will come to the same quality class, as the Sony Zeiss 24 and Zeiss 35 on Nikon, or maybe surpass!

    Fortunately you had only the M.Zuiko 12mm on the test. Otherwise Nikon, Sony and Canon would come grey hair!!!! (Oh my god, do we do our homework well, or are we sleeping!)

    Best regards and I enjoy following your next tests.

  10. Hi guys,

    took another look at both (Olympus and Nikon) photos, changed my glasses, opened both in different windows.

    The more I study these photos the more I am convinced that the Olympus is the much better photo.

    Not only is the Nikon overexposed (grass next to the house) in the crop window the resolution is so high that the details are “smeary”. Maybe more detail is better detail – my smaller Nikon 5 100 can shoot this in a more pleasant way for my eyes.

    As I said I am a Nikon fan but this shot does not convince me to have even a look at the D 800 in a shop.

    Tomorrow I travel to Burma for 9 days, after that I’ll visit an eye doctor.

    Best regards

  11. Actually what these crop do show is there is way way more detail in the D800 files. Try blowing up the Olympus file to 36MP and compare the same portion of the scene

    • For on screen viewing and print at A4 or slightly larger there will be very little discernible difference using these samples if the exposure of the shots is balanced.
      If you cut and crop a lot then a larger sensor is a possible requirement, its a case of chose your weapon and off you go shooting for the rest of us.

  12. Interesting comparision, but am I really the first one to point out comparing 100% crops off sensors of different megapixel count is invalid, these crops need to be resized, as in, the need to same the same portion of the scene at the same display size.

  13. I just quickly looked at the full sized images (as big as allowed) and noticed that only the D800 and the NEX-7 were able to show the telephone cables all the way across in the background. The Olympus loses some of that detail, which might be the result of not having the exact same focal length. I am more of a street photographer and most tests tend to be about sharpness in landscapes, whereas I am shooting for more wide open sharpness and pleasing out of focus areas with nice contrast and on and on. But,I guess it’s nice to see the smaller sensors getting better and better for shooting landscapes.

    • Well that is due to the Oly using a 12mm lens and the others using longer focal lengths. That would be the same with any camera.

  14. IQ is one thing, the other thing is:
    – big OVF vs EVF (For my part I much prefer the first, I know some prefer EVF)
    – fast lenses (for shalow DOF or available light) for D800 vs small lenses for the Nex/Oly
    – ability to use M-mount lenses with the Nex and Oly, not for the Nikon
    – really fast and usable continues AF of the Nikon vs phase detection of the mirrorless
    – high ISO quality different

  15. Hui…D800 is lightyears in front – both details and dynamic range – NEX and OM-D are not even close.

    So if you don’t mind the higher cost for very good Nikon glass and the overall plus in weight – if it’s IQ you are looking for – D800 stands alone – nothing besides.

    • I sure some digital medium format shooters will agree with that assessment of the D800. It stands alone and behind them in IQ.

    • Its also slightly over exposed and the others under exposed. That gives the better shadow detail, note the 800 loses it in the grass. If it were all balanced out most people would see no difference in a screen shot or A4 print.

      • Actually you would always see a difference (in favor of the D800) when you take parts out of that picture and print it in A4 size…

        • I did not mean for the shots to be cropped, when I said balanced out I was meaning the exposure, not cropping a part and then printing A4.

  16. Steve,
    exelent idea to carry out A NOT SO crazy comparison. The Leica M9 with a converted to B&W image vs Leica Monochrom vs Nikon D800 converted to B&W.

    I’d love to see teh OM-D in that mix too. For me as an mostly B&W shooter ( who is also very intersted in the OM-D) the such an test would be most intersting.

    • Agreed. Steve, if you can put a smaller sensor in all of your comparisons, it would be more fun.

  17. This is not really a useful test IMO.

    Not being grumpy – let me explain !

    Shooting in bright light at 5.6 is giving all of these cameras an easy ride. All of the cameras are going to produce detailed and sharp results. The only differences would be the OOC colors.

    It would be a very different situation in low light. Each camera would perform very differently.

    If you compared shots at , say, 1600 ISO or more then the differences could be huge.

    These are the differences people pay for, if these things are important to them. Shooting a zoom lens at f.5.6 and needing at least 1/500 to capture movement in fading light ( and so a high ISO ) sorts out the good from the not so good.

    Snaps in good light are not a huge challenge.

  18. Since the OMD is using wider lens, the image covers more brighter scene (sky and the yellow grass). So, I assume O-MD setting is using faster shutterspeed. That is why also, shadow area in OMD shot is darker than others.

  19. Hi Steve,

    I love this comparison. You call it crazy comparison, but I don’t think it is that crazy at all. You just illustrated that the difference between big cameras and sensors is in most cases difficult to identify when you look at a finished product. It would have been interesting to see, how many people would identify the images to the right camera in a blind test.
    I bought myself the NEX-7 a few weeks back and love it. So far, I used for some smaller assignments and am amazed by the quality files the camera generates.
    Looking at your comparison here, I wonder how long it will take for mainstream professionals to move to Micro 4/3 setups.

  20. Would you say the D800 shot is the closest to the actual scene? It’s colour is also more neutral compare to NEX and OM-D.

  21. Hi guys,

    for me the Olympus photo is the best one. The Nikon photo has an overexposure on the grass next to the house, the Sony I did not compare as the camera is just ugly – slim body with large lense!

    It is amazing how far MFT has improved during the fews yesra of existens.

    I am a DSLR fan (Nikon 5 100) but don’t want to walk around with it all the time (although it does not weight more – less?- than a M 9)

    For walking I use Panasonic FZs “supezooms” as they are really very light (500 gr). In bright daylight you need good eyes to see a difference, and I use a 50 inch flatscreen or print A 3. I spend 11 days on the beach in Kho Samui (Thailand) and used Nikon 5 100 and FZ 40, jpeg.

    As the Thais say: same same but different.

    The Olympus will outperform the FZs with low light, no question. If I don’t have a car with me (then I have 2 cameras with me) and the sun goes down, no chance to get the Big Gun, avoiding noise isn’t easy.

    For the photos above the difference in IQ don’t matter. Price and handling are more important citereas.

    Anyway the “relationship” with your camera is more important than the features, pixels etc. Every camera (and lens) reacts different, so having 10 nice cameras might be fun, but you might never explore the full potential of each one.

    I will consider the Olympus after observing it on the net or some months, flaws will be repaired by new firmware versions, people will compare lenses as there are many MFT lenses available.

    As a Nikon fan I am surprised that for the tripple weight and price the (ONE) photo does not show superiority (even worse!)

    The eposure and with this the color balance on the Olympus photo tis the best.

    Best regards

    • Generally the Nikon D800 will outperform the OMD completely in IQ- but in this case I agree that the OMD looks best.

      Look around and find some fullsize samples with the D800 and download them and if you have a decent monitor you will see that there is no comparison to the OMD.

      The D800 is simply in a different league than the OMD and btw. very cheap for what you get even if it is about double the price of an OMD.

  22. Totally digging these type of comparisons!! To me they do make sense, as a FF shooter myself there are days you curse the camera and weight of the gear. You wonder what it would be like to go to something lighter and then wonder if you would be giving up too much in IQ.

    I think the Nikon shows the most detail in cropped area but the other two look great to me as well. Wouldn’t hesitate to use them. In fact, truly amazed that the Olympus could hang in such company. M4/3rd may have turned the corner with this camera. It really appears to be a winner!

    So keep them coming! It’s fun reading!! Thanks!!

  23. Many ask why full frame when M4/3 is good enough?
    M4/3 today in most technical aspects surpass film, especially the standard ISO 200 color negative. That film have artistic qualities that can’t be made in the digital world is a different matter.

    The answer is LENSES! If one only count the OPTICALLY DIFFERENT lenses (Many lenses having the same optical formula excist in different versions with different mechanical design and exterior, coatings, manual as well as AF version!) Nikon themselves so far have made about 200(!) that can be used on the D800! If one also count all the lenses made by Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Vivitar, Kiron, Zeiss, Samyang and a lot of now almost forgotten brands we are most likely speaking about more than 500 optically different lenses!

    Only counting AF lenses Nikon made more than 90 different, so with other producers totally around 200 different AF lenses!
    Now, compare that to the lenses available with M4/3 mount!

    Reason number one is of course full frame has been around for a long time. But also full frame is in a sweet spot for lens constructions. Lenses for MF are simply too big and bulky for general use.

    The problem with smaller formats is the size of the sensor. Simplyfied lenses for smaller formats must resolve better to give the same resolution and sharpness as a more simple equivelent lens for a bigger format. That means lenses for M4/3 need both a more complex construction and more careful assembly to compare with full frame. This make many M4/3 lenses more expensive than the full frame equivalents!

    For exemple the Voigtländer 25/0.95 is much more expensive than its angle of view and DOF equivalent 50/1.8!

    Now I hear you screaming one can’t compare a 0.95 opening with an ordinary 1.8!
    And I ask why not? Let’s try compare the the other way. A FF 50/1.8 on MF would be something like a 100/3.5 lens. I’m not sure exactly such lens existed, but 90/3.5 and 105/3.5 did. Was they cheaper than a 50/1.8 standard lens? NO! Because as I wrote earlier full frame occupies the optical sweet spot.

    Only thing missing is a smaller (and cheaper than Leica!) full frame body to make it the walk around choice for many as it used to be in the days when cameras used film. Such a body from Nikon is already rumored, and if we look a few years forward I think Canon, Sony and even Pentax(!) will have a smaller FF body in their programs.

    Sure, the smaller format mirrorless cameras will still be smaller and lighter. But remeber small is not only beautiful but expensive as well! (like Sony!)

    • You forget 3 things.
      * Nearly all lenses with manual focus capability that fit a 35mm can fit a m43. And lots more in addition.
      * Any 35mm lens used on a m43 will have the same DOF as on a 35mm for that portion of the image that is the same. The only difference will be COC size and that may or may not be evident depending on the viewing size and any cropping of original images.
      * Not every one is enamoured of shaving with their DOF. In fact most photographers, I believe, want a bigger DOF so the image can be seen in a better context. Razor DOF is a fairly recent thing. Faster lenses were originally to get more light, not DOF. Well they were when I started with SLRs in the mid 1960s.

      • No I did not!

        I know a lot of lenses can be used with adapter on M4/3 WITHOUT any mechanical or electronic coupling between lens and camera. That’s why I also mentioned my estimation of 200 AF lenses compatible for D800. How many AF lenses do you count for M4/3?

        Also on M4/3 most 35 mm lenses become tele lenses. Great if one need a really long tele one couldn’t afford for a larger sensor format. It could also be useful for lenses with special optical qualities one want to have with 2x focal length.

        But for most ordinary lenses there are no optical advantage using adapted 35 mm lenses on M4/3. The reason is that the imperfections of a lens gets enlarged (just as when a crop is made from a larger sensor or a teleconverter is used) when used on a smaller sensor compared to a lens made for the format. That’s why even Steve noticed Leica M glass on M4/3 was nothing special compared to Olympus own M4/3 lenses. If one want to adapt older lenses APS-C size mirrorless cameras is a better choice until we get that affordable full frame mirrorless dream camera.

        As to your second point I didn’t write a word about using 35 mm lenses on M4/3!
        I was only considering equivalent lenses made for each sensor size.

        For the same angle of view smaller formats will always have more DOF as the focal length will be shorter. A 35 mm lens as you take as an exemple will of course show the same DOF on any sensor size. No argument there. However 35 mm on a 35 mm/FF camera is a wideangle lens while on M4/3 it is a short tele lens. This means one get the wide angle DOF of a 35 mm full frame lens at the short tele angle of view on M4/3.

        As to your third point of small versus large DOF is really a discussion of its own. I only compared equivalent DOF on different sensor formats. I NEVER said small DOF is better than large DOF or reverse!

        Although I partly agree with what you say about DOF. Razor DOF as you call it (I’d just say small DOF in general) is rather something that has been rediscovered now with better fast lenses that actually are sharp already at full opening and especially the possibilities with digital post processing with sharpening etcetera.

        Before(!) you started in photography Medium Format film with its smaller DOF was the standard format for amateurs while most Pro’s used Large Format with razor DOF as you call it, especially for portraits.

        Please understand I am not against M4/3. I think size is about ideal for a small system and great DOF is an advantage in many cases. I am mostly critical of the prices although they propably partly can be explained by higher cost producing smaller things.

        Already having a lot of 35 mm equipment I’d rather have a smaller than Nikon D800/Canon 5DIII size full frame digital camera compatible with my older lenses or a few small DX wide angle primes for my APS-C cameras than investing in a completely new, although nice and small, expensive system.

        • You said
          “(Many lenses having the same optical formula excist in different versions with different mechanical design and exterior, coatings, manual as well as AF version!) Nikon themselves so far have made about 200(!)” Now you say you were only referencing AF.
          Yes, I mentioned m43, so did you. “Now, compare that to the lenses available with M4/3 mount!”
          So I gave you an answer. Its a lot more than Nikon.
          “For the same angle of view smaller formats will always have more DOF as the focal length will be shorter” I was talking about using a 135 lens on a m43 camera, where the DOF would be the same as it is on the 135 camera. That was the whole point of my comment. I might add that DOF is a lens property not a sensor property.
          “I NEVER said small DOF is better than large DOF or reverse!” True I said it. I also referenced it to lens speed.
          So all the points I mentioned you had forgotten.

    • “A FF 50/1.8 on MF would be something like a 100/3.5 lens” That is incorrect.

      A 35mm 50/1.8 on m43 is still a 50/1.8 (Same on a NEX, its still 1.8) The angle of view is halved so the effect is 100/1.8, note it is still 1.8, that does not change. Also note that the DOF will be the same, it does not change with sensor size.
      In effect you could put a photo taken with the m43 in the centre of the same photo (enlarged by the same amount) taken with the same lens on a 35mm and it would not change the image. As both images are enlarged from the cameras the COC of the M43 will be half of the 35mm and may cause an optical effect difference when both are enlarged by the same amount.

      • The comparision here is about EQUIVALENT focal lengths on different formats, at least between Nikon D800 and NEX 7. I also was ONLY discussing the equivalent focal lengths and corresponding DOF on different formats. NOTHING ELSE! I did not write anything about using the same lens on both full frame and M4/3.

        COMPRENDE? Do you understand? Or maybe you don’t?

        I think you should read your own text again as you are stumbling on your own arguments. And the rest is saying obvious things like 1+1 is always 2 which even children can understand.

        What I understand from what you try to say is that a 50/1.8 lens on M4/3 compared to a 100/1.8 lens on full frame would have the same angle of wiew (correct!) and show same DOF (COMPLETELY WRONG!!). Or can you elaborate?

        Besides my text you was refering to was about a comparance between digital Full Frame/the 135 film format, 24x36mm versus Medium Format (MF) which can be anything between 6×6 and 6×9 cm (6×4.5 cm is also MF but more of a crop format as APS-C) NOT M4/3!

        To clarify. As MF is not one format as 24×36 mm I am assuming a 2x focal length difference for the same angle of view.

        As a side note to make the comparision really equivalent also when it comes to DOF Steve should have stopped down the 35 mm lens on D800 to at least f/8, or to be exact a bit more, about f/8.4. The Olympus should have a 17.5-18 mm lens and be opened up to f/4 (4.2).

        • I think you better read your original comment again. Then read my comments again.
          “EQUIVALENT focal lengths” you don’t mention that in your comment at all, but you do mention aperture quite a lot at the end.

          “What I understand from what you try to say is that a 50/1.8 lens on M4/3 compared to a 100/1.8 lens on full frame would have the same angle of wiew (correct!) and show same DOF (COMPLETELY WRONG!!). Or can you elaborate?”
          That is NOT what I said. I referenced a 35mm 50/1.8 lens (your choice) used on both 135 and m43. NOT native lenses of 50 and 100mm on 135 and m43 respectively. Read it again. This time imagine the result of using the same lens on both 135 and m43.
          And don’t forget that as the center portion of the lens is being used on m43 the image will not suffer as much fall off light of softness.

          As a comment on your original point, Bronica make a 100/3.5 I have 2 of them for my system.

          I also think Steve’s point was to take the photos using what the cameras gave him for settings. A real user test.

    • Well, JimD covered it pretty well. I just want to add that I do not find the Sony cameras to be expensive at all. Something like the 5N is actually really cheap for the IQ and features it delivers.

  24. Great comparison Steve! We do see some differences (as expected) in colour rendition.

    Being that you where there IRL (in real life) do you have any comments on the ‘colour accuracy’ (particularly the red roof and blue sky)??

  25. Nice crazy comparison that shows there is really little difference. The 35mm is slightly over exposed and the other 2 very slightly under exposed. If the exposure was completely balanced the shots would go from showing little difference to virtually no difference in on screen size and A4, possibly not much at A3.
    I put the “large sensor shade detail” on these shots down to exposure not sensor size.

    Well here we have it. Grab the one you like best and off you go.

  26. Steve:

    There are applications where high rez is very important. I shoot art repro every day and use a 309 MB back. Exposures are long – like 15 – 30 minutes long but it is the only way I can capture all of the details in an original painting right on down to the brush strokes and the weave of the canvas.
    I’ve been considering the Nikon 800E and using HDR because my cross polarization lighting set up shortens the dynamic range and HDR will recover the detail in the shadows and highlights. 5 minutes in Photoshop vs 30 minutes under the lights, this camera could take on some of the work load – at least some of the small stuff.

    Keep up the good work. I always enjoy hearing what you have to say.


  27. We llive in the age of sensor envy. I was quite satisfied for years with the quality of RAW files I received from the Canon 40D and EF-S 17-55 2.8. But everytime I checked out DXO Mark and other sites, I was told that I was behind the curve on image quality!
    I’ve since sold all my Canon equipment and switched to the Panasonic GH2 with some very small, light, and excellent lenses. The RAW files are, once again, equal to anything I received from the 40D or T2i. You do have to take a bit of care with exposure, much as in the old days one had to pay close attention when using transparency film. (APS-C does give a bit more latitude in development, just like print film.) But the diminution of weight and clumsiness–along with the eased integration of video capture–makes up for need to be attentive.
    In the end, just as the old timers said, a camera is just a box to capture light. The real relationship is between the lens and the emulsion (sensor). Any of the sensors created in the last three years or so are capable of superb output. So now we must return to the real painter’s brush of photography: the lenses. If consumers focus on the lenses best suitable to their needs–that they wish to use as their brushes–then the particular box will make itself known.

  28. Actually the OMD shows excellent detail. Remember that resolution and detail are also a product of the magnification factor of the lens.
    In this test the OMD is using a 24mm equivalent lens and the Nikon a 35mm equivalent. The extra magnification allows more detail capture, combine this with the larger file size that the Nikon puts out and it has the edge, but surprisingly not as much edge as would be expected.
    I say do a real test: Slap a 100mm equivalent lens on all cameras, stop them down to F5.6 then crop the images to a percentage that puts all cameras at the same size magnification frame and then let us see how close they are.
    Since the OMD has the smallest file size use a 100% crop on it and then make the Nex and Nikon use smaller crop percentages so that all images show the same crop area and magnification.

  29. I wanted to make a simple comment that the color rendition we’re seeing is strictly down to Adobe’s profiles, so anyone choosing one camera over another in terms of color would likely be happy with any of them with a proper profile. In fact, from a technical standpoint, the NEX-7 has the least metarmerism of just about any camera, outside of the A900, but that still doesn’t make much difference in use.

  30. If not pixel peeping the OMD looks best and the D800 image does not look particularly fantastic. But from most of the other examples I have seen and downloaded in full size, the D800 will generally outperform both OMD and NEX7 by a large margin regarding IQ.

    • the d800 will categorically outperform the Olympus in every single image quality criteria the one and only advantage of the OMD is its size. only fanboys and shills would suggest otherwise

      • …or those who can’t stand the fact a $900 camera w/good glass in the hands of an amateur who knows what they’re doing, can render 16×20 prints as good as their $3000 D800.

  31. Thanks for the comparison. I hope you get the opportunity to do more of these. There are a lot of people like me who will only buy one camera, so the crazy comparison is a real-world review.

    Feel free to use the big Nikon to chase around kids, or use the little Oly to shoot a studio portrait. I’ll click on every link.

  32. Full frame is the new medium format. Steve, all the descriptors match: bulky, heavy, over the top resolution…

  33. From these I prefer the OMD. Maybe because it has a large depth of field and the mountain rocks are sharp and detailed. Probably a touch underexposed (which is preferable – generally). Surprising performance. The D800 looks overexposed and the NEX-7 a bit flat. I agree about the huge file sizes of the D800 (but you CAN shoot at lower res). This is one of the reasons I am reluctant to upgrade from a 5D to MKII or III.

  34. Daylight, sunny, conditions. Even a Nikon V1 or Fuji x10 would look surprisingly good in comparison to the three larger sensor formats shown. However, try to pull up some shadow details from that mft sensor and compare it to the Nikon FF output..

    • So what you are saying is we only need these FF cameras if we shoot in low light? Anyway, amazingly the OM-D sensor is jaw dropping. I will post an example today of an underexposed shot out of camera, then the shadow details pulled out. Amazing and not a problem at all. In fact, shooting both yesterday I found the DR to be a bit better with the OM-D, as crazy as that may sound. I judge with my eyes though…

      • It’s not so much about low light shooting, but rather high contrast conditions under which previous mft sensors were clearly inferior to good aps-c ones. One had to decide between ugly shadow noise or blown highlights no PP could rescue because of lack of DR with previous generation mft sensors. You have shown that the OMD’s DR is impressively improved compared to older mfts.

  35. Hi Steve, for me is the difference between them are small, so I would go for the Sony Nex-7. The Nikon D800 have larger sensor as the biggest advantage over the others. The Nex-7 has better size and are more discreet, and it is therefore possible to take more natural photos of people on the street, or other places where it is required. I also save money by choosing The Sony Nex-7 with the two Sigma linses. Therefore, I have just chosen the the Sony Nex-7, and I love it ….
    Olympus has some of the same qualities as the Sony Nex-7, but even smaller sensor, but also an interesting camera. The Nikon D800 is really for paid work and not for everyday use, unless you really want all the heavy equipment for a little quality difference.

    • Have to agree with Nexmanden, particularly when discreetness is an issue. When travelling I hesitate about taking my Nikon dSLR where I’m with many people or going to include some shopping etc in the day. Who wants to look like Mr Photographer or Mr Tourist and attract any attention (the low-life on the Paris Metro are ever ready to take advantage of redistributing your pocket wealth..) ? Even if some Nex7 combos are not pocketable, the attention factor is certainly less.

      Steve’s “real” comparisons are very useful (I reckon a few other people have wondered about the relative merits of those very cameras, while acknowledging they’re not highly controlled tests), and Nexmanden’s observation that the differences are small is the important message from such an outing.

      And I think Ulf Gregor (above) is right about some photo sites – no names, but one I’ve given the flick seems pre-occupied with what tea or coffee is holding sway, who could help flog some prints, why someone else just uses a one word name (who cares?) and on it goes. OK, a daily upload is not easy, but some fun and actual shooting are always winners. After all, most people want to know if they’re making reasonable decisions about any future purchases.

  36. For me, a test like this shows that all 3 are capable cameras and well-suited for everyday use. Anyone shooting landscapes while on vacation with family would come home happy with shots from any of these cameras… and if Ken Rockwell is right about the difficulty of switching banks on the D800, ordinary humans may prefer something easier to work with… such as either of the other two cameras discussed here.

    And whoever owns that house should look into getting some foundation work done… it looks like the back end is sinking into the earth. 😉

    • I think Steve didn’t hold the cameras straight on purpose. Diagonal lines are a worse test for the sensor than straight ones.

  37. Is there any way you could include RAW files for our own conversion and pixel-peering? I hope it’s not against your principles… 🙂 Thanks.

    • Sorry I can not due to bandwidth issues. The RAW files from the D800 are 75MB each. With 70-100k visits to this site daily, I would be paying some big time overages in bandwidth that I can not afford. Sorry. If anyone knows of a site where I can upload a RAW to I would be happy to do that.

      • Thanks for the answer, I really haven’t thought of possible bandwidth issues…
        Well, the best (and free) way to publish huge RAW files would probably be torrents, but you’ll have to pick some ‘neutral’ torrent tracker for this purpose.
        Does any of visitors have such experience? Anybody else thinks that having RAW files available would be great?

  38. Love your crazy comparisons Steve

    I don’t know why people are so uptight about things like this

    Just enjoy life already

  39. Very interesting to read the comments! Reminds you that photography is indeed a very subjective matter.To me the Nikon looks way better than the other two. I find the overall color distribution and dynamic range to be much more organic and pleasing.
    I am however pleasantly surprised how much better I like the OM-D compared to the Sony. Chromatic aberration on the trees in the crop is minimal whereas it bugs me horribly on the NEX and I really don’t like the reddish Sony look at all. As I was considering either the Olympus or the Sony as my next camera purchase I am super happy I went with the OM-D! Not that it “is” better just that I like the image better.
    Comparisons like these really help you out when you’re looking for the right gear for your personal preferences.
    Thanks a lot Steve!

  40. To my humble opinion: i find the Nikon pic boring, yes you see more detail in the shadow, but the other pictures are more contrasty and have more soul … Look at the color of the sky for example … The Nikon picture is dull/flat. In LR I would pump up the contrast for sure. I prefer the Olympus shot, than the Sony shot before the D800 picture …

    Kind regards,
    A Nikon shooter

    • I don’t care about what image looks better, I care about detail and dynamic range. Bothe Nikon D800 and the Sony NEX-7 deliver the goods. The Olympus has less detail and a lower dynamic range and needs careful exposure and a serious shadow boost.

  41. Thanks for the comparison. After years of search (and still searching) I’ve come to the conclusion that I am more of a DSLR guy, but for me it’s currently the D7000. If the D600 FX come true, I may add it, but I prefer the smaller bodies for handling, unless shooting with a large tele lens. I dislike that these MP-monsters needs bigger lenses to fully shine. Not that worried about FX or DX. I’m more curious whether I should trade in my X100 for a X2, or if there will be a future m43 body of my taste so I can use my old m43 lenses again.. 🙂

  42. Also interesting, resolution aside, is that if these 3 frames represent simply a SOOC file, based upon how the camera metered the scene, I’d honestly say I find the Olympus shot to be the most pleasing to my eye.

    I’m quite sure that with some tweaking the D800 shot could be stunning, and the dynamic range of its files, especially pulling up the shadows is amazing, but, there is also something to be said for simply having a great OOC file.

    Thats one thing I really love about my X100 and XPro, the JPEG’s. I could shoot RAW but 90% of the time the processed RAW files don’t really look any better.

    Not trying to start a RAW vs JPEG war, and I of course still shoot RAW for paid work, but for my personal shooting, its rather nice to just come home, transfer the photos to my computer and share on the web, FB etc without having to sit at the computer for an hour editing.

    Having nice, well exposed, sharp files with great color is a useful feature. Olympus m4/3 camera really seem to excel at this as well

  43. I am trying hard to see the Nikon as better than the Sony, but I’m just not. In the small inset, the Nex looks better to me. Make the exposures the same, and I don’t think the Nikon will have much of a shadow advantage either.

  44. Hi Steve:

    Yep, you compared like for like lens…but that Ziess is a monster for comparison. These cameras are two different animals used in my opinion for different purposes. Others may debate this. To be fair, I believe you need to do a complete side by side comparison, otherwise those that have no clue may begin to get a basic understanding and not just rely on a couple of shots you posted. I have no ax to grind…I shoot with an M8, M4, Nikon D300s; just sold my D3 and have D800 on order. I probably shoot my M4 the most.


  45. D800 certainly looks impressive, but the thing is, are my clients going to 1) notice a difference 2) demand such high resolution and most importantly 3) be willing to pay more as I surely would have to increase my rates if I was to upgrade my equipment and/or add some lenses better suited to 36megs of resolution.

  46. I really can’t see the difference. Each camera is a nice instrument, but i whoul rather go to OMD (even if d800 had the same price) because there is no major difference (for me) and OMD has much nicer body))

    • Print large or crop a little and soon the differences become clear. The OM-D is a toy compared to the mighty Nikon D800.

  47. The D800 preserves the shadows far better than the OM-D here, no contest. But what else could one expect from a comparison between a FF and a m4/3 sensor? 😉

  48. Anyone considering manual focus on Nikon DSLR’s should definitely inest in an KatzEye focussing screen with split prism. Manual focus works like charm with one of these fellows. Not sure though, if they already offer one for the D800.

  49. People say that the whole “Olympus colors” thing is a myth, but of the three, the Olympus sure does make a pleasant rendering of the colors and tones.

    • It is not a myth, but you can only see some of it here: For the full “Oly Color Range” you need to develop the RAW files with Olympus’ RAW converter or their JPG engine.
      What you see here, is ACRs interpretation, based on the camera’s white balance.

  50. I have the D800, and yes, it is large, heavy, and loud, comparatively. But the Ziess 35mm 1.4 is amazingly large and heavy, that in fact doubles both the size and weight of the D800. When I saw the header picture of the D800 with the Ziess mounted, I could not imagine using that combination for carrying about. The D800 is actually not too cumbersome with the older, moderate aperture “D” primes.

  51. I think this comparison really drives home the point that we are very near or at the zenith of photographic technology. Really, all three of the images above are amazing – and the differences in quality marginal.

    For me, the clear winner is …………………. the Zeiss lenses.

    Seems to me you don’t really need to drop big bucks on a full frame behemoth like the D800 … the money would be much better spent on a lesser expensive camera, and quality glass.

    • Zenith of photographic technology? had a good laugh about that one. Just keep shooting. Cheers

      • same here, LOL… I hope it was a joke. Photographic technology hasn’t been able to get any better than the combination of Kodachrome film, Cibachrome prints and good lenses (name your favorite here, I would go with a Super Takumar 50mm f1.4). And that was like 50 years ago.

  52. Fascinating comparison, Steve.

    Three different formats with three lenses of different true focal lengths. And the result? On viewing these few images taken in good weather, to my tired eyes, I have to say, very close indeed! So much so, it will be down to personal preferences for a camera brand, I suspect.

  53. It seems the NEX’s colors are a little flater than the Nikon. But this normal for Sony. Funny you mention the overexposing. I find mine NEX-7 likes to use about +.3 to + .7 too much also. Don’t know why. I wish there was a way to calibrate this.

    Otherwise it is hard to guess what camera took what. Maybe in extremely complex lighting conditions the difference becomes more apparent. At least I would like to think this considering the great increase in size, weight, and cost…

  54. hi guys, i do love this site and often come here to read articles and comments, which i enjoy, how can people comment “but shows more distortion as expected”,??? what is the value added by writing such comments.i preatty sure the comment is spoiled by having read a technical review of that Oly lense showing that distortion was a couple of percent, and pretty sure that if that same review was showing distrotion is o% then the comment would have been “whoa, no distortion! great lense” i have an excelent view and i’m not a brain computer analysing a scene in 3D to determine if a pixel is missing or not and I truly can not see distortion there, do people have eagle eyes and looking into details each leaves and grass of a landscape picture where the only lines are far away inside the pic and too small to see if they are curved?? common; while commenting the pics, appreciate the picture first i/o seeking THE error of the lense or camera. Steve: you should test your readders by showing a picture shot with different lenses (same focal) on different cameras, we will all be surprised by the score of people getting the correct answers… all is subjective, no? enjoy the art first, free your mind of technical specs, then you will feel something new. i still do pics with a canon powershot 2 megapix dated 2003, and when some friends come home and see the pics on the computer next to the Leica X1 deliberatly sitting next to the computer, people want to buy a X1…. even some crazy camera lovers believe what they want to believe because it is written there or here the technical specs. tony from france, camera and lense lover, but picture oriented, sorry for spelling mistakes

  55. Thanks for the comparison. I do wish that I had a full frame camera because the lenses would be the effective focal length that they were intended to be. It’s also easier to use big lenses with a big camera. A 70-200 f2.8 feels much better on a big camera than on a small one. The big bodied/full frame Nikons are still expensive, though.

    D800 is a landscape photog’s dream with that resolution. Stitch 3 of those big files together and you’re getting near large format territory.

    One thing I don’t get is why people seem to think that they are FORCED to shoot a maximum resolution. If 36mp is too much, it is possible to choose a lower rez setting.

    I doubt that you would see much difference between any of the three cameras if you print at 13″x19″ and smaller.

  56. Nice “crazy” comparison, we can clearly see that nikon has a higher DR and it’s very detailed in the shadows.

  57. Nikon file simply Amazing , Olympus comes next …. thanks steve for the Crazy Comparison !

    • Well many use it with MF lenses all of the time. I just found many “misses” even when using the confirm dot. Could be me, could be the lens, could be the camera. I just find it easier to MF using other cameras.

      • Had the same problem with the Zeiss 50 f1.4. Using smaller aperture lenses, such as the zeiss 25 f/2.8 it isn’t bad, but using anything with a thing dof, focusing on a nikon through the viewfinder is very hard.

      • What kind of screen was installed in the D800? As far as I know most focusing screens in AF (D)SLRs are optimized for ‘slow’ lenses and actually do not show shallow DOF for apertures under f/4.

        With my old Minolta 7D it is nearly impossible to focus manually with fast or long lenses (50/1.4 or 100/2.8).

        Just a thought …

        • You are right, Matus. All of them come with standard, bright focusing screens meant for slow lenses and do not show DOF bellow F4. I am shooting 5DMKII with my “holy trinity” of Zeiss lenses (MP 2/100, 1.4/35 and 2.8/21) and I shoot everything with them – landscape, street and portraits. The confirmation “dot” is extremely unreliable and I never trust it, but I have installed high precision focusing screen and have no problem focusing any of these lenses even wide open and if I need a super precise focusing I use the LV. Though, on Mark III people say the focus confirmation is way better (better than D800 as well).

  58. As cool as that 35mm 1.4, man it’s a beast! I mean that lens is why I don’t use zooms on EOS cameras. The 50mm Planar and the 35mm f2 are not tiny, but they make the cameras much more manageable.

    36mp is crazy overkill. I’m no Canon fanboy (Fuji or Pentax if anything) but I do love that the 5D2 and 3 pretty much nail a 13×19 @ 300dpi right out of the camera. On the rare occasion that I go larger it’s no problem to uprez from there, but meanwhile I’m not overwhelming my 2009 iMac or clogging up my external raid. Can you imagine shooting at wedding with a 36mp camera? Yikes… I hear Nikon has a smaller resolution full frame coming, that’ll make more sense for a lot of people.

    I would love to see you compare the Distagon to whatever Leica equivalent you have. 🙂

    • 36 Mpixels may be overkill for ordinary out-and-about shooting, but it would be very useful for recording artworks, maps, old documents, etc.

      16 Mpix is not enough for a large painting with important fine brush texture, especially when a Bayer mosaic is in use. The extra 50% of resolution given by going from 16 to 36 would be really helpful.

      Likewise when digitising Kodachrome slides. On a good 20×16 Cibachrome, you can see fine crisp grain from a Kodachrome. A 16 Mpix image turns this grain to mush. Again, a multi-layer sensor would help – the big advance of Kodachrome over older films was the replacement of a mosaic by multiple layers.

      But I agree that you don’t need 36 Mpixels for street photography.

      • If you want to show fine detail on a painting,try using a multi shot camera.
        A 39 m Hassleblad or an old eyelike 22,will blow any single shot digital camera away.

    • 36 megapixel is just the beginning. 13×19 is a small sized print. Nice for family snaps, wedding or news photography. You just can’t make serious prints from any DSLR at the moment. Not enough pixels. 36 megapixels is not enough.

      • You can make serious 20X30 prints from a 4MP camera, from a D800E with 36, you can make astounding prints. With a Leica M8 at 10MP, the prints – LARGE prints are amazing, better than film. So what you say is not true, at all.

        • Disagree. I might be late to this conversation, but I have exhibited in a gallery often before. the d800 file size, at 300dpi, is 24×16 inches. This is not huge. In order to get bigger, you have to either upsample, or decrease the DPI. Both reduce the print quality. At this point, the only argument to make is “wellllllllll, prints that large depend on viewing distance! they are meant to be seen by feet away, not inches!” To this I say: TOTAL BS. As I said, i have exhibited in galleries, both portraits, landscapes, you name it. People don’t stand 5 feet away from an image. Almost everyone goes right up to the print, sticks their face inches away, and marvels at the details. I would love to have every line of the face their examining, or every tree branch, nice and sharp. I don’t want to have pixelation or artifacts, and they don’t want to see it.

          • D800 not too bad,a 39 million Hassleblad multi shot is miles better,as it should be,£20,000 buys a lot of quality!

            I can assure everyone that 39 million pixels are enough if they are multi shot pixels.

            My system produced very colour accurate results, and very big prints through a GMG rip running Delta E readings of on average 1.1.

            This was no amateur set up,UK’s biggest art dealer would have nothing

  59. I think the D800 shows a lot more detail and I like the colors (but seems to be a little greenish on the wall as many authors said), but you can change that with the other cameras. The Oly on the bottom has a nice wide angle but shows more distortion as expected. Really interested in your review and B&W comparison…
    Martin (

  60. What does this leave for FF cameras, I wonder. Yeah, shallow DoF, bokeh, unprintable shots like that, sure.

    • Perhaps Steve has subliminally figured out Sony’s strategy in manufacturing the D800 sensor and giving Nikon a 1 year exclusive on it. For 90% of photographers, 90% of the time 36 megagpixels is overkill. We may be past the megapixel race. It’s now about pixel quality, ergonomics, features and size of camera and lens combinations.

    • We are anything but ‘past the megapixel race’. I’ve been hearing this mantra for years now. Reminds me of a lot of other things we didn’t need’ and now have, enjoy and do need. In the future computers will be faster, buildings will be higher, cameras will have more pixels and we’ll be older or dead.

      Having 36 megapixels at my disposal is no overkill or luxury (being able to buy it is). High quality prints from a native D800 RAW file are really,not that big and what about the Ultra HD (and higher) displays that are entering our lives as I type this? Come on, 36 megapixels is a nice starting point, a bare minimum, but nothing more. It’s not very impressive at all.

Comments are closed.