FIrst of all, let's start with what I shoot and what I used before this new move in the territory of digital MF & LF. As most of us do, I shoot basically everything but when it comes down to money I do mostly people - artists (classical & pop, promo & CD covers & such), formal portraiture for professionals, concerts & theater work; recently I made a move into maternity & baby photography; some architectural for magazines & such, and a little product studio work, and some landscape stuff as well. Well I told you: basically I shoot anything that moves and doesn't move! Besides that, my personal work consist in lot of street shooting and reportage-like stuff, both for myself and for magazines, and some artsy-abstract stuff and the like.
To do so, as far as 35 mm goes, I have been a lifelong Nikon user with the great D3 as the last Nikon camera I got so far; while it's unbeatable for low light and concert stuff, it is less good for the rest as far as details and IQ goes; I use Hassy for film work (X-Pan, 500 and some really old V lenses); Leica (MP & M2, after the disappointment of the M8); and I have and use some other cameras as well, Holgas, old cameras, whatever I can stick a film into So, long story short, now the moment has come to jump into serious IQ territory, which means as well moving into serious movements (shift, rise for architectural) and forgetting the IQ-destroying Photoshop lens correction tool for architectural and such, forgetting software-based solutions for products, DOF control and Scheimpfung, etc. So, I needed to get some tools that allows me the best IQ, and no system can do it all here. So, stays the D3, stays the Leica, though both seriously re-sized in their lens lineup, and in comes digital MF... "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here", no words were better spoken!
After thinking about getting the CFV 39, and having (probably for the best) had to give it up due to circumstances not under my control, I finally decided what my path with MF & LF digital was going to be and went for the following system:
- Phase 1 645 with P45+;
- 28 mm D;
- 80 mm D;
- 150 mm D (to be delivered);
The reasons to go this way were very straightforward for me; I needed a system that allowed me to use the back on a WA camera and on a movement camera, which in the first place excluded the (btw, still non-buyable) S2. Choosing between Hassy & Phase, which both look like a great system to move to, was also pretty easy; I needed a back that I could use on view cameras as well, I needed a camera that allowed me to shoot film as well (I am old fashioned, and I always bring and use film for BW on every shoot!), I looked at what I felt it could be the future, at service in my local, at the prices here in my local, and the Phase looked the best to me - especially with the deal they had (Camera, P45+, 80 mm D and whatever second lens of choice out of the D line up for a great price), and with the promises held by the news about the new camera and upcoming lenses. So there I went and got it.
Once having the back, I thought about how to make the most use out of it with a WA camera (Arca, Alpa, Cambo-like) &/or a movement camera for studio stuff. After weighing all options, I ended up choosing a Silvestri Bicam & a S5 with a 28 Rodenstock, 47, 90 & 180 Schneider lenses, a system which allows me to use the same lenses on both cameras just by bayoneting them on and off; plus I got all rise/fall movements I need for the WA camera, a sliding back adapter (not possible on the Cambo) with the possibility of turning the sensor sideways if needed, the possibility of using film, and again lot of flexibility and modularity. Now I am waiting for the lenses to come in, and will post images as soon as that will happen (a couple of weeks), but the first tests I did with loaner lenses are just great: sharpness all over the frame, clarity, details, DR is like nothing I have seen before.
While waiting for the new LF lenses to get here, I did a shoot with the new Phase (a maternity shoot); I hope I will be able to post some images soon, but in the meantime I can say that the amount of detail, depth of the images and DR is nothing short of amazing for someone like me coming from 35mm film & digital and MF film. Complains: coming from a D3, the Phase camera feels sluggish in response when using a digital back, while its response is immediate with the film back; AF could be faster and, especially, less hunting. I am sure these concerns will be much improved with the new 645 DF, which I will upgrade to as soon as available, keeping an old Mamiya 645 for film work.
So there you go: this has been my path to digital MF, my way of "abandoning hope" or, better, of finding new hope in the quest for the best IQ: I hope this will be of some interest for others trying to make the same move as well!