645z vs D810 vs 1Dx

IMG_5586First things first,this is not a scientific or carefully done test. Don’t read too much into it!

This was just because I happened to have all 3 cameras here, and had a bit of time spare. And I like playing around with camera gear.

The most important thing to note is I didn’t have the right lenses to do a really fair comparison. This is just for curiosity to see how a similar pic would look coming out of each camera.

The Nikon is using a Nikon 35/1.4, and the Pentax is using a Pentax 55/2.8.

The Canon is at the biggest disadvantage, with a Canon 24-70mm II lens shooting wide open. The 24-70 is an outstanding general zoom lens, but it’s not really fair to compare it wide open to 2 other prime lenses.

Anyway, with that out of the way here we go.

First up is just a look at how the images look generally. A suitable wife was located and dragged along.

I don’t normally use a 35mm lens for portraits but again, it’s all I had here. So the Nikon has it’s 35mm, the Canon 24-70mm is set to 35mm, and the Pentax with it’s 55mm is equivalent to roughly a 43mm so I took a small step back as well. I wasn’t on a tripod, so the framing is not identical, but close enough.

These images are completely untouched and auto white balance. Of course you can make the colours anything you want. All lenses are set at 2.8. The iso varied slightly over each camera but was pretty low.

First we have the Canon.

Next, the Nikon.

And now the Pentax.

Next, we went outside just a few steps away and did the same.

First the Canon

Then the Nikon

Then the Pentax

So out of all that, my personal conclusion is that the Canon probably gets the nicest colours straight out of the camera. I like the overall look of the larger sensor Pentax more than either the Canon or Nikon. The medium format ‘look’ is something that is hard to describe but I think is pretty clear to most people in these quick test shots. If this was a wedding and I was doing a proper edit of course I would go through and get the colours spot on.

If I posted 100% crops here my wife would kill me. But to summarise from looking at the files at 100% the Pentax is a clear step above the other 2 cameras with the most ridiculous amount of facial detail rendered at 100% view. The D810 does well, but does trail significantly behind the Pentax. The 1Dx did very well considering it was using a zoom lens wide open. I would think D810 would compare better sharpness wise to the pentax with different lenses such as the lovely Zeiss Otus 55 or 85mm. But as it is with the 35/1.4 – there is a fair gap. I’ll do a small aperture test later in this post.

Basically the 1Dx and the D810 were a lot closer together than the D810 was to the Pentax.

Next we have the high iso test.

All 3 cameras set at 6400 iso, f2.8 and around 35mm as the portrait test.

The room was deliberately dim.

First the Canon

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Then the Nikon

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Finally the Pentax

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At this size, they all look pretty similar. So we need 100% crops to really see. It’s hard to frame these identically with the different file sizes & lenses.

First the Canon

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Then the Nikon

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Then the Pentax

pentax

My conclusion on this is the noise levels on the Nikon are incredible. It’s not far from noiseless at 6400 iso. Truly incredible stuff.

The Pentax is surprisingly good. Until recently medium format was pretty much unusable above 400 iso and took a huge resolution hit if you did go over 400. These days, to have a 51mp medium format body that produces very good & detailed high iso work is just amazing and is a reason why I can use this camera very effectively at weddings.

The Canon obviously trails by a fair way here, but still a decent result. Remembering of course the 1Dx is a few years old now. I still regularly print files from this camera in wedding albums at 6400 iso and a bit higher, and the noise will often be greatly diminished on print. I would also run some noise reduction over this file in my editing process, but haven’t here.

The next test is the dynamic range at high iso. Both of these shots were f2.8 @ 1600 iso. The Pentax was not used here. This is just Canon against Nikon.

A suitable baby was located. I put her on a dark couch, with a window behind her to push the dynamic range a bit.

First the Canon.

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Now the Nikon.

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There’s a tiny difference in the window in the background, but not much difference to my eye. Lets go outside and do low iso.

The Canon.

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The Nikon.

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There in the leaf shot you can see the dynamic range of the Nikon. The Canon is clipping highlights a bit on the edges of some of the leaves, the Nikon is not. But indoors, the dynamic range was near identical. So as far as I can tell, there is a difference in low iso’s between the cameras, but it becomes a much more level playing field dynamic range wise once the iso starts getting high.

Lastly, here is a resolution test. It’s a bit pointless including the Canon here as the files are so much smaller it’s hard to really compare.

As a wedding photographer this is a spectacularly useless test – I put colours & dynamic range and how a camera handles well above how many pixels it has. But I know some people will be curious so here it is!

Both cameras are at 100 iso, f/11 and on a tripod with 2 sec self timer on. Manual focus with live view.

Completely unedited.

The Nikon

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The Pentax

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Here are the crops – this is just a screengrab of lightroom in the 1:1 view.

The Nikon

The Pentax

It’s hard to tell the detail difference from those small jpegs – I’ve put the raws here if you would like to have a look ;

CLICK HERE FOR RAWS

So the Nikon here is certainly not bad, but there is a noticeable difference to the Pentax. Given the Nikon costs about 35% of what the Pentax costs, it’s not a bad result. I actually thought the Nikon would do a bit better and retook the shot a few times to make sure but that was the consistent result – at least with this lens.

The Pentax 55mm used in those teddy shots is a very good lens, but it’s far from the sharpest available. I have a 35mm that is a big step up in sharpness from the 55mm but did not use it as the framing would be too different to the Nikon 35mm – it’s essentially a wide angle lens in medium format.

The conclusion?

The D810 is a noise monster, but for all practical intents and purposes for a wedding photographer I wouldn’t say there is a huge difference over a 1Dx or a 5D mk3 (the 5D is near identical to the 1Dx picture wise).

I tried out the D810 as a curiosity to see if I was tempted to switch the Canon gear over as there is a lot of noise in the photo world how in the digital slr side of things that Nikon has a clear edge. As it turns out, I wasn’t tempted to switch – but the D810 is a GREAT camera and would be a fantastic choice for anyone either starting out, or already in the Nikon camp.

For existing Canon owners who mostly shoot people/weddings, I’d advise holding on. The D810 most clearly has a noise advantage, but the Canon is still very good at 6400 iso and with f2.8 or faster glass and on/off camera lighting, there’s rarely a reason to need higher in our line of work – at least for me.

I’ll be posting up a proper review of the 645z on my site next week with lots of real life samples from weddings.

TYPE AND HIT ENTER