Let me try to respond in the hope that we can clarify a few things. First of all, as I said many times in the article, this is not a scientific study or a rigorous technical comparison, so to all reading this forum I want to emphasize again that any debate about scientific minutiae or specific technical measurements that to my knowledge no one has performed is not a productive discussion.
Please lighten up and take this article as a short history of why I purchased the camera and why it is so good. Nothing more, nothing less.
If someone wants to spend the next 3 years figuring out all the scientific issues, please go for it and have fun. And please, share the results with us once you are done. In the meantime, I would much rather spend my time making good images with the great machines I am lucky enough to own and by the time the scientific study is completed, I will probably be buying the next generation camera.
Just so everyone knows, my current camera arsenal consists of 3 systems:
1. An ALPA FPS system with a bunch of Rodenstock HR lenses and a PhaseOne IQ 180 back. This system beats everything I have ever tried in terms of image quality and is fantastic in terms of versatility and usability in the field.
2. A Nikon D800E system with two bodies and a bunch of lenses. I have praised this camera very highly in all my articles. It is one heck of a fine machine when it comes to image quality.
3. And most recently The new Leica M with the lenses mentioned below.
Please note that these systems work for me and for my type of photography. If I was doing something very different, I might opt for different equipment.
Regarding the comments about the D800E sensor, just because DxO rates a sensor higher than another does not mean that the camera using the higher rated sensor will deliver a better image versus a camera that uses a sensor with a lower rating. Even DxO will confirm this to you. I suggest that those of you interested in really going deep on this subject contact them in order to discuss their measurement criteria further and how they correlate (and sometimes do not correlate) with actual image quality in the field. Also, please note again that there are TWO filters in front of the Nikon sensor and none in the Leica. Intellectually and intuitively, this has to make a difference in resolution although we do not know how much.
It was because of these kinds of issues that I quoted one of the top Chief Technical Officers in the industry when he told me that the sensor is 10 % of the equation and the rest of the system is the other 90%, particularly the electronics in the camera and the algorithms to recover the image, This is even before the lens, shutters, etc. are taken into consideration. As I think I expressed very strongly in the article, one needs to evaluate THE WHOLE SYSTEM: Not just the sensor, but also the rest of the electronics in the camera, the optical path, the image recovery algorithms, the processor, the mechanical components and their tolerances, the software,, the shutter, the lenses, etc. This is a very complicated problem!
I have shot the Leica with the 16-18-21, the 24 Summilux, the 35 Summicron, the 50 Noctilux and the 90. I have used the equivalent closest focal length prime lenses in the Nikon as well as a few zooms. All I say in the article is true for any of the above combinations of lenses. I believe one person made a comment that a few shots with one lens were not enough. Correct indeed. The fact that I showed only a few shots was not to bore the readers to death and miss the important thread of the article.
Regarding Bernard's questions (Hi Bernard. How are things in Tokyo? Good to hear from you!
, I see noise in every image from every camera I use. Noise is pervasive. We can get used to it and even immune to it, but it is always there. I used to think that the PhaseOne P65+ was noiseless, until I saw an IQ 180 file. Every now and then I get a bit of a wake up call like this. The D800E is very low in noise, but the Leica is lower. At all ISO settings from ISO 200 (native on the Leica) to 3200. If you look at the shadows in the screen shot in the article, you can clearly see more noise in the Nikon. I rest my case. I am very glad to hear you get extremely low noise in your images. Fantastic, be happy and continue to do what you do; you are a great photographer and if it works, do not mess with it! In terms of my two statements you ask about, they are both correct: ON THE TRIPOD I see basically the same resolution and pretty much identical dynamic range. BUT, HANDHELD the Leica out-resolves the Nikon. Also, notice I said throughout that the color accuracy, saturation, local contrast, accutance etc., etc., etc. meaning everything else is better with the Leica SYSTEM. This is why I stated that the Leica wins. Visually, the Leica images simply stand out and look better. It is not super subtle either, it is quite noticeable.
Regarding how I view my prints, I always view them in a calibrated GTI viewing station, and I always shuffle the prints and have someone else place them on the viewing station. Perhaps this does not completely qualify as a double blind test, but I think it is a good habit to get into in order to avoid biases. By the way, just this morning my good friend and photography aficionado Geoff Baehr came to the house. I told him I bought the Leica and he rolled his eyes upwards and laughed saying "you are incorrigible". Yes, I am, I said. Then I told him I would show him some prints. I put a 24x30 Nikon print (shot at ISO 100) and a 24x30 Leica print (shot at ISO 200) of the same image I published in the article next to each other. Geoff knew nothing about the prints. He did not even know that they came from two different cameras.
He immediately remarked that they were both very good, but then he walked towards the Nikon image and said that he could see some chromatic aberration or other similar anomaly in the fine branches and he thought the sky looked "blotchy" (his word) and magenta contaminated. He said the sky did not look real. He then walked over to the Leica print and said that they sky looked fantastic and totally realistic. He also said he could see no chromatic aberration and more detail in the trunk of the trees (Geoff thought the Leica print out-resolved the Nikon print in the bark on the tree trunks and was about equal in other areas of the image). More importantly he remarked that he could see "tons more color information" in the Leica image. Not knowing which print was which, in fact not even knowing that the prints came from different cameras, he concluded very quickly that the Leica image was "quite a bit better".
I hope this addresses the questions and comments brought up in this discussion.
May the Photons be with all of you!