D800 or D800E

There’s been a lot said about the new Nikon D800 and it’s twin, the D800E.  There’s nothing but a single letter on the outside to tell them apart and not much on the inside, either, with only the anti-aliasing filter cancelled out.

What does an anti-aliasing filter do?  It (nearly) eliminates the effect of “moire” patterns caused by fine, repeating detail.  See the Wikipedia article for more information.  The cost of such a filter is that the resolution is decreased somewhat because the light is “blurred” (high-frequency component is removed) so that it hits more than a single pixel.

What this means is that the D800E without the AA filter will be able to produce an image with more detail than it’s brother.  However, any fine, repeating patterns will likely cause weird color artifacts.  If you’re a nature photographer, such patterns are not common but if you’re going to be photographing anything man-made (including clothes), the lack of an AA filter is going to create problems, problems that are very difficult to remove in post-processing.

I’ve ordered a D800 (no-E) for myself because experience has taught me that too much stress on the best possible performance usually comes back to bite you in many other ways.  Better to have something that works really well in all situations than something that works perfectly in only a few.

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6 comments to D800 or D800E

  • I’m in confusing situation between D800 and D800E which one should I buy. But the way you specified comparison between this two device, it’s really helps me to choose D800 to purchase. You’ve done very brilliant work in this post. Thanks for your strive. 🙂

  • What I don’t understand is how big is the difference in detail that the E can produce? And in which situations is it noticeable?

  • An anti-aliasing filter “blurs” the image so that light from any given point will strike at least one red, blue, and green sensor. Without the AA filter, light from any given point could strike only one. This gives you an increased resolution (theoretically as much as double the horizontal and vertical resolution) but can cause weird color artifacts if the image has fine lines at the same pitch as the sensor.

    The increased resolution is mostly only noticeable in tests and only when viewed at 1:1. The weird colors generally occur when photographing man-made materials and are visible at all scales.

  • Thanks for the reply. I do get the theory, but I’m not sure how big the difference is in practice.

    I assume it’ll be a concern for someone who specialises in product photography and maybe also for fashion given the patterns on clothes as you mention. But is the increased sharpness of the E significant enough that it’s worth getting it for those that don’t shoot man-made things? Or is it not that noticeable in practice, ie. once you’ve finished post-processing and have the final output (print, web file) and therefore not worth the potential hassle?

    For example, the D700 with a good lens (and good exposure) gives pretty sharp results. It has an antialiasing filter. I can’t imagine what a sharper image from a camera without the filter would look like.

  • The E _can_ be sharper… if you have a superb-quality lens… at f/5.6 or below. Bayer interpolation means you probably won’t get more than 25% more resolution, but that’s just a guess — I don’t have any math to prove it. Once it’s release, you’ll surely see some detailed reviews on the subject.

  • I also got confusion between D800 and D800E. But after I read your post which is solving my question. thanks!

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