NIKON D800E VS SIGMA SD1 MERRILL REVIEW PART II: THE WIDE-ANGLE BATTLE

Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill

IN THIS SECOND INSTALMENT OF MY NIKON D800E VS SIGMA SD1 MERRILL REVIEW, LET’S SEE THE WIDE-ANGLE BATTLE’S RESULTS!

Just before hitting the road to go shooting in Scotland last July, I posted Part I of my Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review (see SIGMA SD1 MERRILL VS NIKON D800E REVIEW, PART I and SIGMA SD1 MERRILL FIRST LOOK REVIEW). I was immediately quite impressed with the SD1 Merrill’s files, so much so that I decided to bring it along for my trip to Scotland, leaving my faithful Nikon D800E home to enjoy a well-deserved month of rest.

In this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review Part II, I examined extreme wide-angle zoom lenses, tools I use quite a lot in the field for my Fine Art landscape work. Without further ado, let’s move on with this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review. On Nikon’s corner, enters the legendary Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S on the full frame Nikon D800E; on Sigma’s corner, please welcome the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM on the APS-c Sigma SD1 Merrill. Let the test begin!

Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with Nikon or Sigma in any way. I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.

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ULTRA WIDE LENSES, FILTERS AND LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY
To realise my vision, having a solid ultra-wide-angle option in my bag is fundamental. My most used focal lengths in this range are 18mm & 24mm, with some excursion in wider territory (14-15mm) as well. Of course, I need to be able to use filters with lenses in this range, too. In particular, for ultra-wide-angle lenses, Grad ND and solid ND are the ones I cannot be without. Sometimes, when there is no blue sky in the frame and I need it to control reflections and the like, I use a polariser as well.

Unfortunately, both camera/lens options compared here are not easily filtered. As you can see from the side-by-side image, both lenses feature a built-in lens hood, and neither lens offer a filter thread. In order to be able to use filters on the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S, you have to get either the Lee SW150 or the Hitech Lucroit 165mm systems, both expensive, bulky, and both not allowing you to use a polariser.

With the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM, on the other hand, you can skip the Lucroit 165mm (the Lee SW150 wouldn’t work here anyway) and make do either by easily adapting a 100mm (4″) filter system to it.

This solution has the advantage of being a less bulky and less expensive proposition, plus it allows you to use a polariser as well. Last but not least, you’ll be getting a filter system that you’ll be able to use on every other lens you own. The Sigma wins here easily.

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COMPOSING & FOCUSSING AN IMAGE: VIEWFINDER VS LIVE VIEW
There are basically two ways to compose and focus an image with modern DSLR cameras. You can either use the camera’s optical or electronic viewfinder (EVF), or you can use Live View on your camera’s LCD, if your camera offers this option. For people like me, coming from the Age of Film and having extensively used Medium Format (both film and digital), having a good & bright viewfinder to compose my images used to be a given. Luckily, both cameras in this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review feature pretty good ones.

With the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S you’ll get a very good optical viewfinder for a 35mm camera, together with a nice enough implementation of Live View as well. One that works, anyway, which is especially useful when using ultra wide-angle lenses. The Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S, being a luminous fixed aperture lens, will give you a chance to look at your scene through a bright enough viewfinder even when light is low.

With the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM, on the other hand, you’ll be a bit out of luck when it comes to composing. Its APS-C viewfinder, while very good for an APS-C camera, is not on par with the Nikon D800E’s full frame one.

More, the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM isn’t a particularly fast lens, so your viewfinder will look much darker than the Nikon combo’s. When the light is low, this will definitely make a difference.

On the upside, the Sigma SD1 Merrill’s viewfinder has a sort of ground glass around the central focus point, visually telling you when the image is in focus. If you come from the old split-prism screens of the cameras of old, you’ll find it quite easy to use.

In such situations, one could go for Live View, of course. Unfortunately, the good people at Sigma didn’t feel like implementing it in the Sigma SD1 Merrill. Overall, the Nikon wins this one, no questions.

IMAGE QUALITY
I know that comparing a Nikon APS-C body against the SD1 Merrill (using the same Sigma lens both in Nikon and Sigma flavour) would have been a fairer way to compare Nikon’s Bayer sensor vs Sigma’s Foveon. However, I am not at all interested in such a sensor comparison. To choose the best tool for my work, what I am interested in, is comparing the highest-IQ Foveon-based DSLR system against the highest-IQ Bayer-based DSLR system available; hence my selection of camera & lenses for this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review.

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Methodology. I am not a lab lens tester, nor do I wish to become one. I am first and foremost a working photographer who needs his gear to perform as good as possible in the field. Lens charts and other flat targets, especially when shot at relatively close distances in controlled light conditions, are completely different things than the non-flat, near-far, three-dimensional landscapes I shoot in the field under the most various light conditions. Therefore, let me repeat what I already said in Part I of this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review.

Comparing two completely different imaging systems is not an easy task, and even less so in a case such as this. We are comparing cameras with different sensor sizes, lenses’ fields of view will not exactly match, nor will depth of field at equal apertures. One lens is a fast, constant f/2.8 lens while the other is a slower, variable aperture f/4.5-5.6 one. There isn’t any software able to develop RAW files from both cameras. Sensor technology is completely different. And so on. All this considered, my methodology for this comparison has been as follows:

– Shoot 3 sets of images for each set, re-setting AF every time (using Live View on the Nikon D800E), choosing the sharpest set of the three;

– Shoot RAW with both cameras in aperture mode without any exposure compensation, to be able to compare the two cameras’ metering behaviours;

– Set white balance in software taking a spot measurement on the exact same point of the images;

– Develop the files in Sigma Photo Pro and Nikon Capture NX 2. Since no available software is able to develop the RAWs from both cameras, I went for the software I’d use with each camera for my own work.

In particular, I sharpened both cameras’ files as I normally do for my work (setting Sharpening to -1.0 for the Sigma SD1 Merrill and using a combination of High Pass + Unsharp Mask for the Nikon D800E). I turned off all Noise Reduction and Distortion Correction options, and I left on Chromatic Aberration & Fringe correction at default level for both cameras.

SHARPNESS
To analyse sharpness, I prepared series of images taken with both lenses at 14mm, 18mm and 24mm FOV equivalent in so-called “full frame” terms. As well, following what I did in my SIGMA SD1 MERRILL VS NIKON D800E REVIEW, PART I article, I added one sample at an equalised resolution of 30 Mp per each focal length, to give you an idea of what Foveon can do. In Part I, I added a full series for each lens, so if you are interested in a more detailed analysis of equalised images please refer to the article above, the same principle will apply to the wide-angle zooms reviewed here.

24MM (OR FOV EQUIVALENT)
Here is the usual, uninspiring test scene at 24mm FOV equivalent (24mm on the Nikon D800E, 16mm on the Sigma SD1 Merrill). Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s start with 900 x 600px, 100% center crops, at the native resolutions of 36 Mp (Nikon D800E) vs. 15 Mp (Sigma SD1 Merrill), starting with the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S ED (click on the images to enlarge):

As you can see, the Nikon is not tremendously sharp wide open, it improves at f/4 and is amazing at f/5.6-f/8; after that, diffraction kicks in and resolution drops a bit. On the other hand, the Sigma is already amazing sharp wide-open at f/5.6, stays the same at f/8 and after that, diffraction robs it of its sharpness.

Let’s check out what happens in the lower right corner, starting with the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S ED (click on the images to enlarge):

In the lower right corner, the Nikon combination definitely struggles. Starting out very mushy at f/2.8, the lens sharpens up slightly stopping down. However, sharpness doesn’t improve even at f/11, and the lens’ best aperture here is f/16, despite diffraction. The Sigma combination, on the other hand, behaves much better. While it starts up slightly soft, at f/5.6 it’s already better than the Nikon will ever be; at f/8 is quite sharp and is best at f/11.

Let’s check out what happens equalising resolution to 30 Mp, starting with full images. I choose an aperture of f/8, which is both a standard landscape photographer’s working aperture, and an aperture where a lens should give its best performance. Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now compare crops, starting with center crops first, followed by corner crops. Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

At equalised resolution, despite the advantage that downsizing images should give the Nikon combination, the Sigma definitely holds its own. In the center, perhaps the Nikon combinations shows a bit more fine details in the tiles, while the Sigma looks better in uniformly coloured areas. In the corner, however, the Sigma combination blows the Nikon out of the water even after uprezzing the Sigma file to 30 Mp.

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18MM (OR FOV EQUIVALENT)
Here is my classic, uninspiring test scene, this time at 18mm FOV equivalent (18mm on the Nikon D800E, 12mm on the Sigma SD1 Merrill). Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s start again with 900 x 600px, 100% center crops, at the native resolutions of 36 Mp (Nikon D800E) vs. 15 Mp (Sigma SD1 Merrill), starting with the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S ED (click on the images to enlarge):

At 18mm, things look much better for the Nikon, which kick offs to a great start in the centre. Already very sharp at f/2.8, it shows an amazing performance between f/4-f/8, only to give in to diffraction at f/11 and above. The Sigma, on the other hand, starts off pretty good at f/5 and it stays there, offering a very good performance until f/16 but never being amazingly sharp at any aperture.

Let’s check out what happens in the lower right corner, starting with the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S ED (click on the images to enlarge):

Here again the Nikon starts off on the soft side, improving constantly when stopping down and starting to get sharp at f/8. Despite diffraction, maximum sharpness is achieved at f/11 – f/16. The Sigma, on the other hand, starts off very good wide open at f/5 and is very sharp at f/8, staying that way up to f/16.

Let’s check out again what happens equalising resolution to 30 Mp, starting with the full images. Aperture is still f/8, Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now compare crops, again starting with center crops first, followed by corner crops. Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

At equalised resolution, and at 18mm FOV equivalent, the Nikon combination looks much better than the Sigma in the center, where Nikon’s files are much more detailed.  In the corner, neither combination looks particularly sharp, but the Sigma seems to output more details even after uprezzing.

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14MM (OR FOV EQUIVALENT)
Let’s look once more at my uninspiring test scene, this time at 14mm FOV equivalent (14mm on the Nikon D800E, 9mm on the Sigma SD1 Merrill). Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s start once more with 900 x 600px, 100% center crops, at the native resolutions of 36 Mp (Nikon D800E) vs. 15 Mp (Sigma SD1 Merrill), starting with the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S ED (click on the images to enlarge):

At this focal length, in the centre the Nikon is razor sharp wide open, and it stays that way up until f/11 where it starts getting soft due to diffraction. Amazing performance here! The Sigma, however, is no slouch either at this focal length, showing an amazing performance as well wide-open, with sharpness declining very slightly all over the range, and similarly getting soft only when diffraction kicks in at f/11. Great job for both lenses here!

Let’s check out once more what happens in the lower right corner, starting with the Sigma SD1 Merrill & Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now examine the Nikon D800E & Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S ED (click on the images to enlarge):

Very unfortunately, the Nikon cannot keep corner performance up to the amazing level it showed in the centre. Here the lens starts off really mushy, picking up sharpness along the way and becoming useable at f/11 – f/16, despite diffraction. The Sigma, on the other hand, starts off extremely well and keeps up its performance over the aperture range, showing definitely very good results for such a wide-angle lens.

Let’s check out once more what happens equalising resolution to 30 Mp, again starting with the full images. Aperture is still f/8, Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Let’s now compare crops, again starting with center crops first, followed by corner crops. Sigma image first, followed by the Nikon (click on the images to enlarge):

Similarly to what we saw at 18mm FOV equivalent, also at 14mm FOV equivalent the Nikon combination looks much better than the Sigma in the center, where Nikon’s files are sharper and much more detailed. In the corner, the Nikon file benefits some from the downsizing, but the Sigma – despite the uprezzing – still pulls ahead in terms of sharpness.

THE EXTRA 2MM
While the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED is a very wide lens, the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM is even wider, and for someone this might be a determining factor in deciding which system to choose. While seemingly a small difference, in use 12mm is actually noticeably wider than 14mm. Before seeing how the Sigma behaves at its widest focal length, 8mm (12mm equivalent), let’s see my uninspiring test scene comparing 12mm to 14mm FOV equivalent (click on the images to enlarge):

As you can see, there is a pretty sizeable difference in field coverage between 12mm FOV equivalent and 14mm. Let’s now look at the usual 900 x 600px, 100% crops, starting with the center of the image (click on the images to enlarge):

In the center, the Sigma at its widest focal length is definitely amazing: in a world, is ultra-sharp wide open at f/4.5, and while it loses a bit of sharpness along the way it stays impressive until f/11.

Let’s now examine once more the lower right corner (click on the images to enlarge):

 In the lower right corner, to my eye, the lens outputted a very impressive performance for a 12mm-equivalent lens. However, you can evidently see the presence of some CA. Please also note how CA changes colour at different apertures. Other than that, this lens resolves wonderfully into its deep corners at 12mm. I’d have no problem in using it at pretty much any aperture here.

Overall, at 12mm the Sigma offers a very impressive performance all over the frame, not just for such a wide lens but for any lens in general, for that matter.

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VIGNETTING / COLOURS / DISTORTION
Note: Please refer to the full images and the crops above for visual references. It is interesting to note how these two cameras’ metering systems work. Let me remind you that in this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review I used aperture mode, with the purpose of seeing how both cameras’ “brains” worked. Well, the Nikon’s brain seems to be working much better here; results are more consistent over the aperture range, while the Sigma outputs darker files at larger apertures. Vignette is present on both lenses, more so in the Nikkor. Of course, being a much faster lens, that’s to be expected. Distortion and field of view are quite similar, with the Nikon combination being just a tad wider than the Sigma (of course, tripod hasn’t been moved when switching cameras).

18mm. As far as colour rendition and vignetting go, we can see the pattern above repeating here as well; however, the Sigma’s metering behaved much better in this series. On a side note, checking out the two lenses’ field of view you can see how the Nikon is evidently wider than the Sigma. This is not a question of wrong marks on the lens’ barrel, since EXIF unequivocally said 12mm for the Sigma.

14mm. As far as vignetting, colour and so on, nothing new or different to note here. The Nikkor has quite a lot of vignetting, which doesn’t really clean up until f/5.6-f/8. The Sigma’s behaviour is similar at this focal length to that of its Nikon counterpart, showing vignette that doesn’t really clean up until f/8. Distortion is quite similar, too; if you check as a reference the water drain between the yellow and grey buildings on the right side, you’ll see that both lenses have more or less the same amount of distortion and that the distortion is of a similar kind.

IN PRINT
How about people whom, like me, love (or need) to put ink on paper? Well, in my experience with both cameras and lens configurations, I found that either configuration works out equally well if you only need to print up to 40 x 50cm (16 x 20 in) at 240dpi.

This is about the limit of the native resolution of the Sigma SD1 Merrill, while resizing the Nikon D800E’s files to this print size helps in getting rid of most of the un-sharpness you saw above at full resolution.

At this print size, you’ll get similarly excellent results from both cameras at most focal length and aperture combinations. The main differences here are:

– At 24mm the Nikon combination is slightly weaker than the Sigma;
– At 18mm the Sigma combination is slightly weaker than the Nikon.

And, obviously:

– With the Sigma combination you can shoot at 12mm equivalent and the prints will look just great, while the Nikon doesn’t go that wide;
– With the Nikon combination you can shoot between f/2.8 and f/4.5-f/5.6, according to which focal length you are at, and the prints will look between OK and very good at 40 x 50cm (16 x 20 in) at 240dpi.

If you want to print larger than 40 x 50cm (16 x 20 in), then things change. The Nikon D800E has resolution in spades and can print natively up to 60 x 75cm (24 x 30 in) at 240 dpi. Unfortunately, but the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S is out-resolved by the sensor at many focal lengths and aperture combinations in various areas of the frame. It is very good to excellent all over the focal and aperture range if you care only about centre-frame sharpness. If you want sharpness all over the frame, you are just not going to get it if you want to print large using the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S.

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The Sigma’s files, on the other hand, need to be up-rezzed to go beyond 40 x 50cm (16 x 20 in). This, as we know, involves post-processing skills that not everyone has or wants to spend time to learn. As well, even the most skilled operator will inevitably hit a physical limit after which up-rezzing artefacts will be too evident to be considered acceptable. In my experience, you can print great with the Sigma SD1 Merrill up to 50 x 65cm (20 x 25 in) at 240 dpi, which is about 24-28 Mp depending on image ratio etc., and which is close enough to Sigma’s claims of 30 Mp-equivalent luminance resolution. Larger than that, I wouldn’t consider the Sigma SD1 Merrill an option for serious work.

CONCLUSIONS
Let me start my Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review conclusions by looking at the camera systems compared here from the wallet’s side. While seemingly unrelated to photography and image quality, this is nevertheless something very important for many people out there, when they set out to choose a camera system.

In September 2013, B&H prices, the Sigma SD1 Merrill with the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM sells for $2.948 US. The Nikon D800E with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S, on the other hand, sells for $5.292,95 US, a difference of more than $2.300 US. With such amount, one could pay for a very nice photographic trip, or for a couple more lenses (or 3, or 4, if you choose Sigma) or whatever it is that you’d like to spend $2.300 US on.

As well, the Nikon D800E with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S weighs in at a whopping 2.110 gr (4.65 lb), battery & card included, without its lens cap. The Sigma SD1 Merrill with the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM weighs in at only 1.650 gr (3.63 lb), with battery & card, without its (absurd) lens cap. In other words, there is almost half a kg difference between the two packages (460 gr to be exact, or 1.01 lb).

More, if you are one of those people who likes to use filters on your wide angles (I definitely am), to filter the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S you’ll need to spend about $800 US extra to get either the Lee SW150 or the Lucroit 165MM enormous filter systems with 5-6 filters (Grads and ND grads, no polariser possible). On the other hand, you’ll be able to filter the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM adapting the same 4″ filter system you’d use on all your other lenses (polariser included, for those situations when you’ll need one with such a ultra-wide angle lens), saving both money and bulk.

On the other hand, just a quick look at the specs of both systems will immediately tell you where these $2.300 and that extra pound of weight went. With the Nikon D800E, you’ll get a much better performing camera by far and under any point of view, more features, a much faster constant-aperture lens (albeit not as sharp, perhaps), and more.

Now, all this aside, if you weren’t concerned with any of the above and all you wanted to know is which system will give you the best wide-angle performance, image quality wise, as a result of this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review, which one would I recommend?

At the end of the day, as it often happens, things aren’t so black and white. If you need lens speed, thinner depth of field, a brighter viewfinder, Live View, electronic level or if camera performance and features are important to you, then the Nikon it is. On the other hand, if you need to get quite a bit wider and want the deeper depth of field of the APS-C sensor, if easier filtering is important for your photography, if you don’t mind a slower camera, if you don’t need all the Nikon D800E’s features to do your work, if you need to hike long distances to get to your locations and 1 lb. makes a difference for you, then the Sigma is the best choice.

Is the Sigma SD1 Merrill combination the end-all for landscape photography? No, at least not yet. To come closer, it would need at least to have Live View, faster file write speed, allow for longer shutter speed without penalties in image quality, and I’d very much like an electronic level as well.

As I said in this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review Part I’s conclusions, just being able to compare head-to-head files from the Sigma SD1 Merrill against those from the Nikon D800E tells a lot about the quality of Sigma’s camera / lens system. Funny enough, considering that the ultra-wide-angle range has always been a weakness for APS-C cameras compared to Full Frame ones, this turned out to be even truer in the test presented here. Lens speed aside, the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM holds its own perfectly well against the legendary, but ageing, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S. In fact, the Sigma’s overall performance over the frame and along the zoom range is higher than the Nikon’s, except perhaps at 18mm in some parts of the image. A pretty impressive feat, considering that the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S is considered by many the best UWA zoom ever made.

Coming to file quality, while the Nikon D800E wins in sheer resolution, it is evident that its sensor needs superior lenses to show its potential in full. Unexpectedly, even the legendary Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S comes a little short here. On the other hand, the Sigma SD1 Merrill produce files that have exceptional micro-contrast and fine detail, probably equal to about 24-30Mp files coming out of a Bayer camera. While the Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 HSM is less ambitious in specs than the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S, it’s really a wonderful lens if you don’t need the speed.

RECOMMENDATIONS
If you don’t need all those features that the Sigma SD1 Merrill lacks (i.e. video or Live View), if you are starting from scratch or if you want to step up your game and haven’t already invested heavily into one particular system, then this is a really easy one: Sigma is the way to go here.

Not only it’s the best bang for your buck but it’s also an impressive camera / lens combination, producing wonderful images at any price. However, if you already have a Nikon D800E, I’d not sell it to get the Sigma just yet unless you felt hopelessly in love with the Foveon look, and all you shoot is landscapes or stuff that doesn’t move too quickly.

So, if you already have it, just keep your Nikon D800E, get a better ultra-wide angle than the ageing Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 AF-S, i.e. Zeiss primes are wonderful alternatives, and you’ll be a very happy camper. More, if you shoot stuff other than Fine Art Landscapes and you can’t afford to maintain two systems, the Nikon D800E is the camera that makes more sense out of the two.

WHAT ABOUT ME?
I am lucky enough to have both cameras. Since both have their strengths and weaknesses and both have their place in my camera bag, I’ll keep them both for now, and keep working with both to find out what’s the best camera for me and my work.

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Thanks for reading this Nikon D800E vs Sigma SD1 Merrill review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?

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JOIN THE DISCUSSION

6 thoughts on “NIKON D800E VS SIGMA SD1 MERRILL REVIEW PART II: THE WIDE-ANGLE BATTLE”

  1. There’s something you can do better with a Foveon sensor. Due the complete abscence of color alias and also regular color artifacts, you can easily resize the image by a factor of 1.5x without any significant image quality, specially if you choose the proper resizing algorithm. I like to use Mitchell or Lancsoz with 4×4, 6×6 or even 8×8 matrix. You can even push further to 1.75% depending on the image.

    Reply
    • Yes, indeed – I find that you could easily up-rez the SD1 Merrill (and the DP series) up to 1.5x; I think that Sigma’s claim of 48mp resolution is a bit too optimistic, but the SD1M can definitely print larger than the 15mp of its sensor, I think 24mp is a good reference point.

      Reply
  2. It’s very tricky to compare such different cameras and optics. What I would do is try to use the same lens on both cameras, but of course, this may not be possible. The two tested cameras are completely different in every single way. The D800, for example has a fantastic under/over exposure recovery up to maybe 4 stops. The SD1 is exactly the opposite. It’s like using a small latitude positive film, but can deliver images sharp enough to cut out your fingers, for half the price of a D800.

    I would say that the D800 is a do everything beast, something like a swiss army knife, and the SD1 something much more specialized, like a sushi knife. It’s not advisable to try to open a can with a sushi knife, and also the same to cut a 1mm thick slice of eel with the swiss army knife. Possible but not the best tool for the job.

    Reply
    • Hello Antonio, and Happy New Year!

      You are absolutely right – it is very difficult to compare camera systems so different between one other. However, I feel that there are interesting conclusions to make, not as much from a strictly technical point of view as from an user’s point of view: people trying to understand which camera system to buy into (as we all are, at some point) don’t normally find such comparisons online. In this case, I think that both cameras are specialised tools, with the D800E being a slightly more “general” camera (for instance, neither camera would be good for sports or fast action).

      Best wishes for a great 2016!

      Vieri

      Reply
      • I agree 100%. Lab and very technical tests may be used as a guide, but nothing beats a real life, on the field test. Even if the test covers ugly buildings (I have the same problem here haha). And one more thing, image quality is a very subjective concept.

        You have far more patience then I have to write and keep your posts in the right measure !

        Let’s hope that 2016 be a less crazy year for us all !

        Reply
        • Well, Lab tests are a general guide, in some particular conditions. My tests, and hopefully that is clear enough, are generally addressed to real world users, and most of them to people doing landscape / architectural photography. Of course there are exceptions, but this is what I do and since camera / lens systems are not generally tested for such use I hope my tests will be of some help to people trying to make up their mind about which system to choose.

          I hope your wishes for 2016 will be granted, though it seems that the world is hell-bent to a very destructive path these days…

          Best,

          Vieri

          Reply

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