It has been almost a year since I got my tech cam (Arca Swiss Factum, plus 3 lenses, all Rodenstock: 32mm, 50mm, 90mm and an IQ160). All in all, I am very happy with theis system, but I thought I would summarize here what worked, what didn't, what surprised me, what I am still working on...
First of all, the image quality is fantastic. The camera is very nice, I like the handling and tactile sensation when using it.
- Shift on Factum can slide: on the Factum, the shift movement can slide from its reference position when the camera is in the bag. That's a bit annoying, since you have to remember to check every time you take it out of the bag, it's at zero (assuming you want no movement). I still keep forgetting that, since most of the time, it is at zero. Except when it's not. Grrr.
- LCC: take them often is the lesson learned ! Once it happened that there was shift on the camera and I didn't notice it. I made a nice rotational panorama and forgot to make an LCC. Boy is that color cast + vignetting (on the HR 32mm) a PITA to correct without LCC. I spent hours in photoshop (I'm not very good with PS) trying to get rid of it, whithout too much success. Any tips for this ? ("replace colors", was an avenue I explored trying to get the green and magenta colors in the sky to be blue, like they should, but it's not that easy to get a seamless result).
I tried to make a library of LCCs (for different shifts), but for the moment, I haven't found the one that would solve my problem. I'll keep trying...
- Framing is easy ! No need for an external viewfinder, contrary to what I initially thought. Just put the lens to f/32, go to live-view on the IQ, frame, and voila ! Really simple. I never used the viewfinder that I bought, thinking framing would be hard. Even eyeballing it with a wide lens is pretty easy.
- Focusing. I thought I would suffer for this. Well it turns out most of my pics until now are done with a focus at infinity. So no problems there...
I have the Leica Disto 5, but it has been sleeping in my bag for a while, not much use at all.
- Copal shutters: I like them in principle, work fine for me. It just would be nice to have 2 and 4 seconds shutter speeds. The B setting is not very accurate - which is needed when shooting panoramas.
I have not yet tried to increase the ISO from 50 to get around this (and go to an exposure of 1s) but I will.
There are no mirror vibrations like on an SLR, so the tripod doesn't need to be extra sturdy (unless there's wind), which is a very nice plus when hiking.
- Wake-up cable + shutter. That's a bit annoying I have to say. Wake-up the back with one button and then trip the shutter with another, within 4 seconds. Especially when doing LCCs, it seems I am always missing at least one arm to do this. But no, I refuse to pay 300 Euros for the Kapture group contraption-cable that does this in one single press.
- Processing: I am using LR (I did not want to learn C1, despite many people pushing me towards it), because I know and like the LR workflow. I find is useless to learn another software, when LR does basically the same thing (yeah yeah, C1 is better for IQ160 images, yada yada yada). In addition, it pisses me off that Phase One, which loves to underline it makes backs for other mounts and is "open", doesn't support Pentax 645 (even DNGs!) or Hassi backs. Not very open, in the end...
With LR, I manage to do everything I need, even though the workflow with LCCs is a bit clumsy since it only supports DNG files - C1 is better for that). I have made a few tries with C1, and haven't seen a huge difference - it's there, but for the moment, I'm ok with LR.
- White balance and colors is something that I hadn't thought about at all when getting the tech cam! This is for me perhaps the most surprising drawback of a tech cam. No WB sensor, so you are at the mercy of your eye and presets. And this turns out to be a bit tricky. On an SLR, the white balance sensor allows you to get "pretty close" to something pleasing. On the tech cam (after making a profile with a Passport card), getting WB to look right is still more work now. I sometimes even take a picture with my Sony A7R, just to use that as a reference for WB and colors. Weird. I think my eyes still need a bit of training on this front.
- Rotational panoramas are easier than I thought, even without entrance pupil (nodal point) slider, because camera and lenses are short (no morror box, mildely retrofocus lenses), and so the nodal point is already very close to the center of rotation of the camera. For the moment, I have not needed the panorama plate (that would allow to move the camera backwards).
- Long lenses are a bit of a pain ! I have the 90mm, with the extra spacer for the back. That is so annoying, when you can't decide between a 50mm and a 90mm composition. Taking it off and putting it back on is a bit stressful (still!) since you have to take off the digital back and put it back on again. The spacer also takes a bit of room in the bag. Oh well.
This is the reason I haven't bought a 120mm or 150mm. It's yet another spacer to put in the bag, and to swap around once in a while. It would be nice to have shorter (tele) lenses for tech cams, but I think that is never going to happen.
- The Arca system lenses are heavier than I thought. There's a lot of metal tubes in the bag now. I guess for this, Alpa mounts are a bit more lightweight.
All in all, I'm a very happy camper (except for that missing LCC on those panoramas. Grrrrr. There's a lesson for me there !). What do you think ? What still annoys you on your tech cam ? What have you learned ? What's easier / more difficult than you thought ?