thanks for the read. interesting. however having shot canon extensively for years and having switched to the D800 for about a year now, we can debate all the stops and number etc and DXO scores; but the fact remains that in my own personal experience NOTHING touches the D800 with a canon brand in terms of overall image quality, dynamic range as perceived by my prior experience with canon. Let's not even get about the low noise in shadow areas at base ISO which the sony/Nikon sensor delivers in a way that makes even the 1DX and 5DmKIII feel like cameras that are a generation behind where they should in this area. this has been documented extensively by now. Canon simply can't perform at low ISO in the shadows if you're really going to push that DR. And I do push it, to my dismay when shooting with a canon sensor, all I get is levels of noise and banding that are ridiculous.
I will re-evaluate my gear when the 5Dmk4 and D900 get released. until then, I an only trust my eyes and I just can't see myself shooting with anything but the D800 for nothing gives me the confidence that I will recover all the detail with the least artifacts like that camera does.
Agreed, D800 and D600 DR is amazing. The DR from current Canon cameras is nothing to shake a stick at, either, though. Keep in mind, go back five or six years, and most cameras couldn't break the 8-9 stop barrier for dynamic range. The fact that pretty much every Canon camera from the last 4-5 years is in the 11-12 stop range means they offer great dynamic range. The computer screens of most people are 8 bit, so you can only really see eight stops of DR on them anyway. Some people are lucky enough to have a 10 bit screen, and an even fewer lucky ducks have a 14-16 bit screen with a hardware LUT and hardware dithering that can almost display the 11-14 stop photos modern cameras are capable of on screen in all their full glory.
Another thing to consider is that print is still limited to maybe 7 stops at most on the best of the best paper with the highest L* and deepest dMax. More often, especially with fine art papers, you get 5 stops.
The benefit of more DR is shadow pushing or highlight recovery (usually shadow pushing) in post. In that respect, at low ISO, the D800 is certainly king, and offers two extra stops over anything from Canon. Just don't let that make you think the 5D III or any other Canon camera "sucks" though...12 stops of DR is still amazing, and will take you very far, and is more than sufficient in the vast majority of cases. There are limited sitiations where extreme DR is necessary...landscapes is one. If you have the option of night sky photography at low ISO, that could be another (i.e. extremely long exposures on a guided tracking mount could look phenomenal at ISO 200). "Mistakes" are of course another area where having super-clean shadows is a great time to have tons of extra DR. In most other situations, I'd say the desire to have good contrast overpowers the benefits of dynamic range. Increased contrast is kind of at odds with increased dynamic range...you either attenuate the contrast curve (and lose DR in the final image), or flatten the contrast curve (and gain DR, up to what your camera offers, in the final image).