Today DxO Labs published its DxO Mark score for the Nikon D800E, edging out the D800 by one point, to reach a score of 96. The D800E now becomes the highest scoring digital camera ever ranked by DxO Labs, besting all medium-format cameras and backs, just like the D800 did.
The Nikon D800E is a 36 megapixels full-frame DSLR – which Nikon calls FX format – without an anti-alias filter. This filter, which is present on the Nikon D800 and all non-Sigma DSLRs on the market, is designed to reduce chances of Moire artifacts by slightly blurring the light reaching the sensor. Nikon launched the D800 and D800E simultaneously, making the anti-alias filter optional for the first time.
After all these years of being told that anti-alias filters were required for DSLRs, there is now finally two otherwise identical models which can be used to prove or disprove, as the case seems to be, if anti-alias filters are in fact required. Luminous Landscape made this specific comparison which only managed to show very minor Moire some rare cases. At the same time, it clearly showed an edge in resolution to the D800E, demonstrating that the impact of the AA filter in image quality is not negligible. Of course, higher-end Medium-Format cameras do not have AA filters, to avoid eating up their edge in terms of resolution.
Meanwhile, companies like Adobe have developed better software which can eliminate Moire from images with a few brush strokes. Since the risk to get Moire is low but increased resolution is assured with the use of sufficiently sharp lenses, this is an extremely beneficial compromise.
Kudos to Nikon for being first to remove the AA filter and letting DSLR sensors reach their potential. Other manufacturers are extremely likely to follow we hope! There are already some SLDs without anti-alias filters, like the Fuji X-Pro1.