Have you ever ever tried to think about the consequence of a battle between two armies whose weapons and army methods are separated by a century of improvement? Having lately bought my palms on Nikon’s first full-frame flagship DSLR, the well-known D3, I made a decision to attempt an analogous experiment. For its competitor, I selected the Nikon Z9. True, these two rivals are separated by 14 years somewhat than centuries. However at the present fee of technological improvement, it’d as nicely be!
So, what are the similarities and variations between the two cameras? First of all, they each signify the finest of what Nikon is, and was, succesful of. The 12.0MP Nikon D3 launched in August 2007 at a value of $4999. It wasn’t till the following year that the Nikon D3X noticed the gentle of day. The latter had a gargantuan 24.4-megapixel decision (nicely, for its time!) and an equally excessive price ticket of $7,999. The Nikon Z9 launched extra lately, in October 2021, at a value of $5,500.
Taking inflation into consideration, the Z9’s value is fairly just like that of the authentic D3. What’s dramatically completely different is the decision, which has elevated 3.8 instances in fourteen years. Such a rise will be in comparison with the enhance in the capabilities of the human mind over the previous few million years, and its lower over the final ten 🙂
To make my comparability actually inform the story of the place know-how has gone in these 14 years, I’ve outfitted every camera with a wide-angle lens from its period. On the Nikon D3, I used the Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 AF-S G ED VR lens, launched in 2010. The Nikon Z9 bought an analogous, however 9 years youthful, Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S.
However let’s not waste any extra time and head out into the discipline to see the way it all works. For my brief check, I selected the Jizera Mountains, a distant nook in the north of the Czech Republic. The well-preserved spruce forests, mountain local weather, and peat bogs right here give the panorama a magical and considerably mysterious character. On the map, I picked out a small stream away from the vacationer trails. After a tortuous descent, throughout which I refreshed myself with blueberries, I stood at the backside of a magical canyon. At its mattress, a beer-colored stream roared by means of the rocks. How typical of my nation.
My check may start. The design was easy in precept. Not the subtle scientific strategy you might be used to in our opinions. I arrange the composition with one camera, took a number of variations of the similar picture, and then repeated the similar factor with the different camera. The goal was to get pairs of images the place the essential distinction can be the camera/lens pair used.
In actuality, there have been three different variables at play. Firstly, the minimal ISO of the two cameras is completely different. On the D3 it’s ISO 200, whereas on the Z9, it’s a a lot decrease ISO 64. This affected the shutter pace and due to this fact the quantity of blur in the water and vegetation. There was additionally a big distinction in the high quality of the polarization filters I used. On the D3 with a 16-35mm f/4 (77mm diameter) I used my top quality VFFOTO filter with 14 anti-reflective layers. On the Z9, I used a borrowed low-cost no-name filter as a result of the 14-30mm f/4 requires an 82mm diameter. The distinction between the two would make a complete article. (A lot in order that after the first two photographs, I most well-liked to easily maintain a high quality filter in entrance of the 14-30mm lens.) The final main issue that was tough to regulate was the climate. Solar alternated with heavy clouds, wind with windlessness. However the largest drawback was the heavy rain that began in direction of the finish of the day.
Whipped by the rain and gusts of wind, I stood on excessive floor overlooking the bathroom. As quickly as the wind calmed, I eliminated the lens cap and took just a few photographs. After just a few seconds, the entrance of the lens turned waterlogged, so I dried it off whereas shielding it from the rain and repeated the course of. For this foggy scene, utilizing a polarizing filter didn’t make sense. Because of this, the sharpness and distinction weren’t affected by the unhealthy filter, nor by the vibrations brought on by holding the good one in entrance of the lens. That is the place the variations between the two cameras actually turned obvious.
Nicely… possibly at net decision, the variations aren’t obvious in any respect. As an alternative you possibly can decide from the 100% crops:
A 100% crop on one camera will not be the similar as a 100% crop on a lower-resolution physique! Perceptually, the sharpness isn’t all that completely different, however the better quantity of pixels on the Z9 implies that we’re seeing that sharpness rather more zoomed in.
And listed below are two extra 100% crops from the similar scene to point out what I imply:
After returning to my cabin and drying my moist garments and cameras by the fireplace, I went out once more. It was late at night time, and the supermoon had simply risen in the sky. Not precisely the supreme scenario for star images, however at the least the rain had stopped, and there have been some gaps in the clouds.
In the torchlight, animal eyes in the forest shone out at me from the darkness. A fox was working not removed from me. A doe, which might have fled throughout the day, walked round with dignity. A toad was sitting on a stump and two deer have been grazing in a meadow surrounded by tall bushes. I didn’t discover this till I used to be processing the images. It was so darkish in the forest that I couldn’t see the tip of my nostril. See if you could find the deer in the Z9 photograph! With no lot of brightening in post-production, I count on you possibly can’t.
And listed below are the crops, should you’re :
At a pixel stage, there is a little more noise in the Z9 photograph, however there may be additionally way more element in the leaves and grass. I keep in mind how impressed I used to be with how nicely the Nikon D3 dealt with excessive ISOs at the time. It’s nonetheless spectacular from a noise standpoint, however loads of particulars are misplaced in the low decision. If each images have been printed at the similar measurement, the noise ranges can be related on each cameras, however the element would favor the Z9.
Two extra crops:
For a camera that will be sufficiently old to get its driver’s allow, the D3 holds up very well, however this was by no means a good struggle and of course the Z9 comes out forward.
The Nikon D3 was a improbable camera in its time, and it nonetheless is. Holding it’s nonetheless a pleasure, and a glance by means of the viewfinder will make you reminisce about the outdated golden days of images. However technological evolution has labored its magic, and trendy high-resolution sensors like the one in the Z9 are clearly higher. To not point out the different advantages that include time, like processing pace and video options. Does it make sense to purchase a D3 now? Pragmatic arguments are exhausting to search out, apart from value. It’s superb how one can get a used full-frame skilled camera like the D3 for about $400 used – lower than most entry-level mirrorless cameras.
The identical goes for the lenses. Particularly with wide-angle ones, the transfer from the considerably slender F-mount to the XXL-sized Z-mount has meant an general enchancment in lens high quality. Nonetheless, the actual advantages are solely obvious at broad aperture values and massive prints, or should you count on to do loads of cropping. Lenses additionally go out of date extra slowly than cameras. The 16-35mm f/4G that I discussed is promoting used, in the present day, for nearly precisely the similar value as the D3 is. That’s nonetheless an enormous lower from the authentic value of $1260, nevertheless it’s not a 90% lower like we see with the D3.
What about you, do you could have an outdated digital camera sitting in a drawer? A mate from the outdated days? Then take it out and stretch its shutter. The mirror will nonetheless clap fortunately, the shutter will rattle, and you may keep in mind your first digital steps. Isn’t it improbable that we lived by means of these instances?
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