So... Steve Hendrix and I FINALLY met face to face today... after literally years of "MF close calls" on my part.
I needed to get to Atlanta this week to get one of my trumpets worked on, pick up an item or two at Ikea... and most importantly, finally drop into CI and meet Steve and try out some gear. With all the running around I had to do, I only had about an hour or so in the shop, so we decided against trying multiple camera formats and instead opted on trying multiple backs (plus those other thugs at CI had taken all the newer gear to a workshop in Tampa ). We were stuck with an original AFD so we decided to make the test more about comparisons between two competing MF back typologies... microlenses (p30+) for better high-ISO and full-frame-ish lower ISO optimized backs (Aptus)
What an illuminating hour! I shot an aptus II-8 and a p30+ with the 80/2.8D in the alley just beside the shop... all natural light. Bright conditions, but we hid in the shade and I augmented the light with a white reflector. Am I seeing corretcly that a "normal" lens doesn't seem to exaggerate noses as much in MF. I would never shoot headshots with a 50 on a 35mm camera.
Firstly. IMO the original AFD is not a good enough camera for these backs. It works fine, and TBH, the shutter isn't much mushier than my 5dII, lol (but the lag is worse). The big problem is the AF circle is too damned big to be sure of what you're focusing on... consequently, basically all my shots were slightly OoF mostly to the front (tip of the nose). I only shot about 40 frames total... and the spent the rest of the time looking at the files on the computer... Steve was really helpful showing me both LC11 and C1v5.
On the aptus files... Leaf Capture had a wonderfully "gentle" rendering of the files. The roll-off to highlights was so nice and "filmic" while the skintones were very realistic. The interface, however, seemed far less refined when compared to C1v5. The aptus files in C1 (as opposed to LC) were a bit more contrasty and skintones seemed a bit less refined, but I was really impressed at the similarity in rendering between the files. Neither was "better", per se... but I did prefer the use of secret sauce in LC with the Aptus. The difference was subtle though and proper profiling and tweaking could probably equalize the two renderings to a large extent.
The p30+ was the big surprise for me. Even though I found the aptus files more "lovely", the files at ISO 200 and above were already becoming noisy. Funny, as a wedding shooter who doesn't mind noise, they did NOT seem overly noisy though. Still, I was on the edge with shutter speeds even wide open which killed some sharpness. But MAN... when I took the p30+ out... it was amazing how clean the files came out at ISO 400/800. Really clean with detail being kept. This also allowed for much higher shutter speeds.
It was the first time I realized how much more the p30+ might be fitting for the type of work I do (which involves a lot of ambient shooting in "fat light"... broad shade on bright days). Even ISO 200 on the non micro-lens backs seems noisy compared to the p30+. In C1, the files from the p30+ were VERY nice. Again, IMO not as "lovely" as the Aptus files, but every bit as nice... and definitely clean.
So , in the end, this very short trial of two different takes on MF backs was very illuminating for me. It really helped me realize... BY TRYING THE BACKS OUT IN THE SAME WAY THAT I SHOOT... that the ISO advantages of a p30+ (or similar) is going to outweigh the disadvantage of the slight crop at the sensor. Something I hadn't expected. I have been looking hard at the 22mp backs, but now realize they might not be as fitting for me.
I'm a student now (again!), I'm waiting for the October announcements to pull the trigger (to see what it does to the prices of current backs), but I can't stress enough now how actually trying these backs out and looking at the files can make a difference. It's worth it.
Here a quick work up... and know this was very slightly front focused, so the eyes weren't as sharp as they should be... but the color and file quality is SO nice. (would be nicer still if I had LC, but this a RD conversion). I love the look of these files. For the first time in a long time, they just look "right" as opposed to my 35mm stuff. Could they be better, sure, with practice... but boy are the already a TON better right out of the cam.
Aptus II-8... p30+ to come later: