I think Reid is making a fundamental error in his evaluation. He is evaluating images at 100% on a monitor view. That is not a real world conditions. And as the pixel count goes up, that condition moves further and further away from a real viewing condition. The variability in the photographic process going to be far more significant than an AA filter--having an AA filter does not result in a soft image, just some loss to frequencies at the Nyquist limit. Reid's own argument suggests he really does not know, he is simply making an argument that because he thinks he sees detail at 100% more clearly without an AA filter, that that is significant detail. I have never read that is true nor do I have experience that that is true--my experience fits the theories I have studied. Reid himself does not really offer any support to his claim.
I would agree that the increase in detail and microcontrast that is probably visible in a D800E shot compared with a D800 shot of the same scene using the same lens, after both images have been appropriately sharpened, is probably trivial and probably not noticeable when viewing large prints from a recommended viewing distance.
It would be revealing to do some comparisons involving stepping back slightly when using the D800E, so that after cropping the D800E file to the same FoV as the D800 shot one could compare say a 33mp D800E shot with the full 36mp shot from the D800, then a 30mp shot, then 27mp etc. It might be better to use 2-dimensional subjects to avoid any confusion resulting from different perspectives.
With such a procedure one could get a clearer idea of just how much that extra resolution, resulting from the lack of an AA filter, might be worth in terms of pixel count. Is it equivalent to a 5% increase in pixel count or a 10% or 20% etc?
I never get excited by small increases in pixel count when I'm upgrading a camera. My first upgrade from my first DSLR (the 6mp Canon 60D) was the 8mp 20D, which represented a 33% increase in pixel numbers. My main reason for the upgrade was the significantly improved noise characteristis of the 20D. I considered the extra pixels as icing on the cake, but not significant.
I recall doing some resolution comparisons with those two cameras some years ago, and came to the conclusion that any increase in pixels numbers of less than 50% is probably not worth bothering with, and therefore I would never upgrade a camera based solely on an increase in pixel numbers of less than 50%, and perhaps not even 50%.
However, as regards comparing images at 100% on screen, I think that's quite legitimate. The issue of whether or not differences seen at 100% on screen may or may not be visible on certain size prints viewed from a certain distance, is a separate concern.
The first step is to establish whether or not there are
any differences, and to do that one usually has to pixel peep.
Having established that there are noticeable differences at 100% on the monitor, one should then address the real-world, practical circumstances whereby such differences could be apparent.
The first example that springs to mind is the habit of viewers, not only photographers, to inspect a large print at a close distance, when possible, and for no other reason than to appreciate and take pleasure in the observation of any fine detail and texture that is not
visible from the 'appropriate' or 'correct' viewing distance.
I believe this is a matter of normal inquisitiveness. When we view the real world, we expect to see greater detail the closer we look at any object. If our eyesight is not up to the task, we know that we will be able to see more and more detail as the power of the magnifying glass increases.
The photograph has the reputation of 'capturing' reality, albeit in a 2-dimensional format most of the time. However, if one approaches a large print to view the fine detail and instead discovers bluriness, it's a disappointment. Have you never experienced that before, theguywitha645d?
The second example that springs to mind is the opportunity for cropping. When one inspects a small portion of the total image at 100% on the monitor and finds that it is significantly sharper or more detailed than another 100% view of the same scene taken with a different camera, one knows that any print of a crop that is the same size as the image on the screen, will also reveal such differences, when viewed from the same distance as one views one's monitor.
That's worth something, surely.