↑CMOS Sensor used in the D600 (image courtesy of Nikon).
On September 15th, I posted some thoughts on the M9 and its CCD sensor, essentially reasserting my long-held preference for CCD (vs. CMOS) rendering, at base ISO. Two days later, Leica introduced the M and M-E.
The new “M” — to refresh your memory — carries a CMOS sensor.
Last night, I happened to be perusing a popular photo-blogger’s site, in which he praises Nikon’s new D600 (yes, a CMOS-based camera) and reports “unbeaten” image quality. Accompanying his post is a sample image taken at high ISO, which is simply — how can I put this delicately — atrocious. More precisely, when you click into the higher resolution file, you are greeted by a muddy and flat arrangement of pixels devoid of detail or microcontrast.
Thinking that the poor image quality is likely secondary to shooting at high ISO (even CMOS sensor-based cameras can’t produce miracles), or the harsh lighting from the on-board flash that was used, or the previous generation zoom lens that was used, or a combination of all of these factors, I shrug it off.
Then I click into his review of the D600 and view the images taken at base ISO, with Nikon’s newest generation zoom lenses and primes (admittedly, Nikon’s newest lenses are not quite as highly regarded as Leica’s, but they’re pretty darn close). Although the additional images look appreciably better, they still fall short of what I’m currently getting out of my three year old M9.
So, the point of all this?
I fear that if Nikon — with all its experience and might — cannot coax better image quality out of their newest generation CMOS cameras, the new “M” may end up representing a step backwards for Leica (with respect to image quality at base ISO).
I really do hope I’m wrong, but once again, I’ll wait and see…