Never thought I'd be posting a thread on this board, I'm way too poor!
I've been doing work for an organistation which privately owns a huge collection of handwritten Jewish literature spanning back 500 years and beyond. They are interested in photographing this work, page by page (they have around 10,000 books and documents!) and as I'm their resident photographer they contacted me. It's well timed for me as this would be a perfect job for me as my wedding business dries up to around the Death Valley level. The budget is about $35K including lights, copy stands, computer setup and enough memory and backup for 2 years of work.
I contacted Yair Shachar who put me in touch with Yad Vashem the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem where they have a reproduction studio using a Leaf back on an AFI camera. I visited them and they were incredibly nice people only too happy to show and demonstrate everything. I went back again yesterday and they photographed a sample I'd brought of the material which we would be shooting so I could get an idea of the workflow and quality.
I've written to Yair about my conclusions but as he's out of the office for another week I thought I'd pick some minds here if that's ok. Firstly I'm going Leaf due to the support network in this country, there are apparently only some 3 Hasselblad's in the entire country and Phase is only starting now to trickle in since they bought Leaf. As such it makes sense to buy Leaf.
Secondly the back they were using, a 22 megapixel back, isn't enough. Oh it's sharp enough and beats the daylights out of a 1DsIII for example however these documents are very old, the writing very faded and there is an incredible amount of damage with a high percentage of them, they had not been archively kept until the past 20 years and there is serious woodworm damage and generally many are falling to peices. Although the 22 megapixels was a lot and very sharp, I think the 28 or 33 megapixel back would be a better bet and the photographer in Yad Vashem agreed with me.
Speed is not an issue, even 2 seconds between shots doesn't bother me. Ditto crop factor, the camera will be on a repro stand and a big one. Cameras are an issue. Leaf still sell the AFI apparently but the photographer there told me that they are limited to using a single 80mm lens because the cost of the 55mm he would love could buy a new back! Yair suggested a Mamiya RZ and having seen the setup in Yad Vashem I'd agree that a WLF is essential for copy work when you are recomposing and refocusing every time you change the book or document size on the copy table or even every 20 pages or so when photographing through an entire book. I thought about Hasselblad, the older bodies are very cheap these days and the lenses are the same vintage as the RZ. Although I realise a P1 camera gives more modern lens options but without a WLF they are not in the running. I can buy a lightly used RZ with spare, motor drive, 3 lenses, etc for the price of a single AFI lens methinks. I have to check though whether the back would need to be shimmed to an RZ, it's a pain in the neck I'd prefer not to have to bother with.
Lighting. The studio there just changed from continuous lighting banks to Profoto D1's. The continuous light wasn't accurate enough between banks and were causing colour shifts. The D1's are nice lights, should I look any further keeping in mind perfect shot to shot accuracy and balance?
Backs. As neither the speed or the crop bother me, would I be gaining much by spending the extra for the 33 megapixels over the 28? Seems rather moot to me to be honest. Another question is with a fixed studio setup shooting tethered at iso 50, why not get the previous generation 33 megapixel back, the 75s and save a fortune which could be better spent on superior lighting or a better copy table or a faster computer? I've read of center fold issues with that back but I've no idea if it was just history with more modern software.
Software. Leaf seems to be upgrading their software though locking out older backs. With a setup like this I don't see a huge need for anything over complicated though. In their studio they were shooting tethered with an old version of Leaf Capture, applying a default, cropping then sending to their workstation and doing the rest in lightroom with the tiff's and I can see why.
Having compared the files from Leaf Capture and the raw files processed in C1 6.2 that I downloaded for the occasion (I don't have 6 yet myself) there is no doubt in my mind that Leaf Capture does a far superior job with micro contrast. I know C1 quite well and the sharpening just doesn't quite get there in side by side images. Colour isn't quite as accurate either. I'm surprised actually as P1 now own Leaf and support their backs and tethering (though interestingly they don't allow you to work with Leaf files without a license though you can do that with P1 files). Seems to me that with a setup where the lighting is fixed, low contrast and static, it won't make any difference which software I use to tether, if Leaf Capture gives superior results then I'll stick to it.
In any case while I wait for Yair to give me the number of the local dealer, thoughts please people?