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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Nikon's imminent D800 could offer high-sharpness option

It looks likely Nikon will announce a more expensive D800E SLR tomorrow, too, that abandons the convenient but blurriness-inducing antialiasing filter.

The Nikon D700, introduced in 2008.
The Nikon D700, introduced in 2008. Nikon USA

It looks like Nikon's highly anticipated D800, a large-sensor SLR that supplants the three-year-old D700, will cater to photographers who want to leave behind that mixed blessing of digital photography, the antialiasing filter.

The job of that filter is to remove moire artifacts--wavy lines and other visual distractions that can occur when an image sensor's grid of pixels captures an image with repeating elements such as fabric patterns. The antialiasing filter works by slightly blurring the image, which is convenient when moire is a problem but which degrades sharpness in the many situations where it's not.

Chasseur d'Images, a French photo magazine, said that will Nikon sell both the regular D800 and a D800E model with no antialiasing filter. The French price will be less than 3,000 euros ($3,920) for the regular D800, and the D800E will cost an extra 300 to 500 euros, the magazine said.

Nikon launched the D700 in 2008, an SLR for professionals and enthusiasts who wanted the image quality of a large full-frame sensor without all the expense and bulk of a top-end camera body. Nikon's D700 sequel will compete chiefly with whatever Canon offers to replace its three-year old 5D Mark II.

D800 specifications have been leaking for months from Nikon Rumors and others. Among those specs have been a 36-megapixel sensor with extended-range sensitivity reaching ISO 25,600; 1080p video at 24, 25, or 30 frames per second; an option for uncompressed HDMI video output; dual CompactFlash an SD card memory slots; and USB 3.0 support. To that, Chausseur d'Images added that the sensor is an Exmor model made by Sony.

Nikon Rumors also reported the D800E name on Saturday. It seems likely the camera will be announced tomorrow.

Moire patterns can be removed with software. Indeed, Adobe Systems' Lightroom 4 beta adds an adjustment brush specifically for the task. But it's no surprise camera makers generally would err on the side of convenience.

The purported D800E won't be the first camera lacking an antialiasing filter, also called a low-pass filter. Medium-format camera products from Phase One, Pentax, and Hasselblad don't use them, because they're geared for professionals who know how to handle moire in software if necessary. Some unusual cameras such as the Pentax Q and the Leica M9 also forsake the filter. And some companies offer antialiasing removal services for converting ordinary cameras.