It's not practical for everyone. I actually find it has huge advantages in its inpracticality (did I just invent a new word). I use going over contact sheets with the client a day or two after the shoot to network even more. Then there is e certain "je ne sais qua" about shooting film and little polaroid previews. I get calls from new clients and often one thing they say that interested them is that I shoot film. Almost no realtimne feedback durring the shoot means that the client has to trust me more. This has it's advantages.
But above all the look and feel is so different. IMHO one is far more empowered by a combination of high end Nikon or Canon and LARGE MF film than MF digital.
Lets spend a few words on the look of MF digital. Is it really that different?
If it were wouldn't MF manufacturers have side by side comparissons all over their websites???
Above 40mp, I think the difference is there, but it's more of a smoothness that comes from greater resolution as well as the pros that come from processing programs designed specifically for the optics/sensors (ie. phocus).
A year ago I would have argued that the differences were greater than they are now... but times have begun to change.
I think rather than resolution, the sensor size is the key difference, especially since the D800 was introduced. A D800 with an 85mm f/1.4 can nuke a background in a waist-up portrait, but MF digital allows for a sort of subtle subject isolation in something like an environmental portrait that I don't see as much in 35mm. I think that kind of look is much more realistic than a blur of colors and bokeh.
There is a point of measuring resolving power as a linear factor as we perceive differences in resolution/detail that way. Using area is deceptive--the change in area does not really represent how we perceive the changes to the image. Even in logic, linear relationships are easier--if you double the area of your backyard your are only increasing the length of the boundaries by 40% and you don't really feel that doubling of the area. Also most folks are far more accurate in determining length by sight, but are really bad at estimating area.
So, using pixel resolution does confuse people and it allows manufacturers to overrepresent how we perceive the increase in spacial detail. Folks think making a jump from a 40MP sensor to a 60MP is a 50% increase in detail, but it is only perceived as a 22% increase (although file size increases by 50%). (I wonder when folks will get tired of file size outstripping resolving power?)
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The diagonal linear resolution of an IQ140 sensor is only 3.4% more than that of a D800 while the corresponding difference for the sensor size is 27%. I struggle to see that these are significant values, and unless the MF lenses are vastly superior to those from Nikon or 3rd party suppliers like Zeiss, I fail to see the point with "small" MF sensors, unless they are being used on technical cameras.
For an IQ180 vs. the D800, those figures increase to 46 and 56%. That's a lot more of course, but it should be when the price of the camera is what? 15 times as high?
Even the roughly 6 x 8 cm size of a negative from a GX680 is less than 130% larger than the D800 sensor, but then at least it starts to become significant, and MF film cameras are fortunately much cheaper than either the D800 or any MF digital. I paid somewhere between 1 and 2% of the price of an IQ180 back for my GX680. That's 98% cheaper. I wish I could buy a new car with the same discount
In those cases shooting film eliminates the problem.
The truth is that in order to see a significant "look" difference you need to double the linear dimensions.
For example there was very little difference going from 6x8cm SLR to 4x5inch film for me. That is why I would shoot either 6x8cm film or 8x10in film back in the day.
Another area where having more megapixels helps is if you are doing post that involves reshaping, distortion, irregular scaling etc. Big difference.
...now the H4D-60 has about four times as many pixels as the GH2, and costs about 20 times as much.. but is is more than twice as good where resolution counts.
If the GH2 produces prints that look good to A4 and the H4D-60 produces prints that look good to A2, you get twice the linear dimensions, but four times the area...
DSLRs are bigger than digibacks, and would tend to get in the way when trying to use maximum tilt, and the mirror box would prevent use of non-retro-focus wide angle lenses.
Since "pre-digital" I have an adapter to put Hasselblads on the back of Sinars... and the benefits and drawbacks are similar, but it is hardly worth the hassle now that we have live view.
In other words, technical cameras are excellent applications for digital backs, whatever the size of the sensor. I think we agree on this.
Perhaps lab tech discussions have superseded artistic visual thinking and subjective judgement?
The only math I trust is the math I can see. Personally, I don't evaluate using the pre-concieved concept that "bigger is better", or whether more meg is better than less. I just look at the images and determine if this looks and feels better than that, and if it compliments my personal vision ... also whether it does it on a consistent basis at any print size with-in the limits of any given camera/sensor/lens performance combination.
Using technical reasoning and/or a bean-counter mentality to over-ride subjective visceral feelings, and hammer that rebellious right brained reaction into submission, is interesting to witness (even in myself unfortunately).
I've watched as some talented folks produced wonderfully beautiful images, then moved to something else, (in one case even MFD), and the synergistic beauty increased, (just something very in tune with their vision ) ... then they over-rode it all for some new rationalized choice, and while the personal insightfulness is still there, the accompanying visceral beauty that complimented that personal vision evaporated.
I watched as a very famous wedding photographer established himself with a singular vision assisted by the use of a rangefinder, then swapped it out for overly rational reasons, and started using a DSLR. Despite assurances that it didn't make any difference, the demarkation was so subjectively obvious as to make me wince in disbelief.
I always remember the rather blunt quote from the famous ad man David Ogilvy on the subject of creative evaluation by less creatively oriented minds ... "Businessmen suffer from the tyranny of reason."
Perhaps we have entered the era where photographic creativity simply suffers from the tyranny of too much reason?
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I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz
I guess the OP is well and truly put off MF now.
Agreed one needs to pay attention to his actually needs. Which seems to have veered off course. Just sayin
Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.
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Only 3-4 years ago, the situation was totally different, but in the current marketplace, I believe that one has to go with one of the technical cameras or one of the top MF backs to really gain an advantage compared to a D800, and maybe even to a D3X or an A900.
So I ended up with the GX680, very much because the visual differences are so obvious that the technical side became uninteresting, but also because it's a relatively inexpensive solution nowadays and because for my photography, it works well in its own somewhat obscure way. Like weighing four kilograms and using this ancient technology called film.
So I reach the same conclusion as always: it's the photographer first, then the lens and then this black box that we call a camera, loaded with a more or less expensive sensor or even with film.
That of course doesn't preclude others from finding their ultimate solutions with other cameras, including "small" sensor digital backs. It's what we learn to use through endless hours of practice and experience that works best for each and every one of us. That's one of the things that makes this forum such a nice, little universe; it's crowded with highly skilled photographers who produce excellent results with totally different gear.
But I am curious, what MFDB have you shot with?
Still, your argument seem to be economic. It seems to boil down to "I can't afford it and so it has no value."
Second, your economy is a false one, or at least only relevant to your situation. Your film solution is not always a "cheaper" solution. I bought a Pentax 645D a year ago and have shot over 6,000 frames. Before that I was shooting medium-format film and running my own color darkroom. If I had shot the same number of frames with my 6x6 and 6x12 cameras over the year, I would have spent $5,000 to $10,000 on film and developing costs alone. I am on track of having the camera pay for itself. It does not quite give me the quality of my 6x6 camera in terms of look, but it gives me something that I like.
I can print on 44" printers fine with my 645D. There is nothing lacking in the images. I really don't want more than 40MP because there is no point in putting up with larger file sizes. I will probably shot this camera into the ground--I usually use cameras for 10+ years.
One thing is really important for me and makes this camera so much better than its 35mm brothers, that is the format. For me, the 3:2 format sucks. I shoot full frame and putting up with a 3:2 camera is not worth it. And yes, I also have a m4/3 camera, but no others, at least in digital.
The closest relative of a Pentax 645D or a Mamiya with an IQ140 back is not traditional medium format, it's a D800, both from a technical and, from what I see with my eyes, from a visual point of view. If we are talking about something like the IQ180, I'm sure it looks different. That's yet another class, but for financial reasons, I haven't sunk my eyes into that. I wouldn't be able to afford it even if I sold my house, if I had a house, which I don't.
So discussing medium format from a point of view that it's one format with one set of properties simply doesn't hold water. Likewise, a discussion about economies between the Pentax and the Fuji makes no sense. I don't doubt for a second that the Pentax is much cheaper long term, but again; they are completely different formats.
I have btw. calculated the cost per click for the Fuji. If I take 10,000 photos with it over its life time, it's $1.54 or lower per photo, including film, developing (which I don't do myself) and scanning (which I do myself). Then all the gear is written off, including scanner and lenses. If I take more photos or I'm able to sell the gear or if I start developing myself, the cost per photo will go down. Particularly if I start developing myself. If I had used 6 x 4.5 film, like a Mamiya or Pentax 645, the cost per photo would go down more than 40%.
The aesthetics of format choice is a personal one, as you have pointed out, and really not something that can be "better" or "worse." I assume you have not been shooting MFD and so you are basing what you see on the internet, which is really not a great measure of the properties of any system. I happen to print with it and at large scales. I certainly see a significant difference in the size of the format and I am not talking about splitting hairs when pixel peeping. YMMV.
As a graphic designer, I frequently work with other people's photos, and sometimes, those photos are printed large, either as a part of a design or on their own. That is where I learn the most about photography, what works the best from a visual as well as a technical point of view. That has also taught me to be very critical to any established truth, particularly during these internet times, where facts, true or not, are killing many interesting discussions about creativity.
Still, studying and trying to understand the underlying technology is important to be able to "connect the dots" and not having to try out every single piece of equipment on this earth to reach one's visual objectives. Whatever photo we look at, esthetically pleasing or not, is made with some kind of equipment, and that equipment, either we like it or not, influences the end result to some degree. That's what this forum is all about, isn't it? The crossroads between technology and visual arts. Heck, that's what photography is all about if you ask me.
Well I got to try out the H3DII-39 today. Honestly I was amazed. I thought the camera would seem a lot slower. I really did not find myself waiting on the camera. I was actually surprised by how accurate the af was.
I have a few more days to make my final decision. I really wanted to test out an AFDII body and a back preferably like the Aptus 75... but it looks like no one locally to test out.
Anyway here are a few pics...
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That's a gorgeous Porsche! Will be interested to know your conclusions.