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Is there a compelling reason to move to MF?

Abstraction

Active member
I started a thread, some time ago, regarding technical cameras and whether Live View was available on MF backs. The discussion veered off a bit, there were some side comments and after a while, it occurred to me that there may not be a compelling reason to go to MF from an image quality perspective. After digging a bit further, I realized that there are technical cameras that can accommodate 35mm DSLRs and Mirrorless systems. Further investigation revealed that the new generation of digital backs are based on pretty much the same sensor technology as those in Nikon and Sony systems.

Granted, given that the MF sensor is bigger, especially the Full Format MF, we can get higher resolution at the same pixel pitch as the 35mm format.

So, if we set resolution aside, is there a compelling reason from an image quality perspective to go with MF at what winds up being a considerable price premium? Granted that some, if not most MF backs are CCD and that may give the MF a certain look. However, CCD has a number of very real limitations and the trend is towards CMOS, which is what most 35mm digital cameras use. I can see that it's somewhat easier to work the tech cameras with a back, rather than a 35mm camera and there are more options available, but that seems to be an extremely niche market. Those who need movements can find them in 35mm ranging from TSE lenses to tech cameras accommodating the 35mm cameras.

So, what is a compelling reason for you, those of you who have made the jump to have done so at such a high cost? What compelled you? Would you do it again? If you had your 35mm kit today, would you still change it for MF?
 

jerome_m

Member
So, if we set resolution aside, is there a compelling reason from an image quality perspective to go with MF at what winds up being a considerable price premium?
The rendering and the quality of the lenses.


If you had your 35mm kit today, would you still change it for MF?
I still have my 35mm kit. I would suppose most MF shooters still have a 35mm kit, actually.
 

Abstraction

Active member
The rendering and the quality of the lenses.
What do you mean by "rendering"? How does that manifest itself within the image? I have looked at RAW files from 35mm and MF format and I had compared them and sometimes I see something, which I can't quite put my finger on and sometimes I can't see a difference at all.
 

Paratom

Active member
For me....
-large viewfinder
-transition between focus plane and background...smooth
-tonal transitions
-dynamic range
-detail

The images look more real, more 3d, less artificial. I can see details I didnt even see in reality.

I can see the difference even at smaller sized images. (I think I can)
 

Abstraction

Active member
For me....
-large viewfinder
-transition between focus plane and background...smooth
-tonal transitions
-dynamic range
-detail

The images look more real, more 3d, less artificial. I can see details I didnt even see in reality.

I can see the difference even at smaller sized images. (I think I can)
And that's really the rub: "I think I can". I think I can too, but I don't think I can to the tune of $50,000 or even $15,000. If the price delta is going to be that high, shouldn't we be able to obviously see the difference? The difference should be so big that there shouldn't even be any doubt or debate about it.

A lot of it, in fact, most of it has to do with money. If the price delta is small, we really don't care if we see that big a difference. We like the viewfinder, we like the way it feels, we like the work flow, all good things, and so we can afford to indulge. However, when the price delta is SO high, shouldn't the difference be a lot more than "I think I can?"
 

dchew

Active member
So, what is a compelling reason for you, those of you who have made the jump to have done so at such a high cost? What compelled you? Would you do it again? If you had your 35mm kit today, would you still change it for MF?
- I like working with a technical camera
- I like not looking through a viewfinder
- I like not having a light meter
- I don't like autofocus

You could argue I could turn off all those things on a DSLR (or on my a7rII). Just like I could manually shift an automatic transmission. But for me it would not be the same thing. I would absolutely do it again.

Notice I did not say anything about the quality. I don't believe there is a compelling quality reason.

Dave
 

dchew

Active member
However, when the price delta is SO high, shouldn't the difference be a lot more than "I think I can?"
For you it sounds like the answer is yes, but for others maybe not. We don't all have to have the same marginal utility for better quality. In fact it would be a pretty boring universe if we all did.

Dave
 

JorisV

New member
A lot of it, in fact, most of it has to do with money. If the price delta is small, we really don't care if we see that big a difference. We like the viewfinder, we like the way it feels, we like the work flow, all good things, and so we can afford to indulge. However, when the price delta is SO high, shouldn't the difference be a lot more than "I think I can?"
No offense but why are you even asking the question? It sounds like you have your mind made up and are going to set the tone of the discussion any way independent of the replies.
 
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Abstraction

Active member
- I like working with a technical camera
- I like not looking through a viewfinder
- I like not having a light meter
- I don't like autofocus

You could argue I could turn off all those things on a DSLR (or on my a7rII). Just like I could manually shift an automatic transmission. But for me it would not be the same thing. I would absolutely do it again.

Notice I did not say anything about the quality. I don't believe there is a compelling quality reason.

Dave
That's interesting. Question: Why would you be willing to pay so much money just to drive a stick shift? I understand it's fun, but there's the sort of fun where you don't mind shelling out a few dollars and there's the tens of thousands of dollars worth of fun. The fun part makes sense to me, but the money to fun ratio doesn't.

Why not just get a film camera and have the same sort of fun for a lot less?
 

Abstraction

Active member
No offense but why are you even asking the question? It sound like you have your mind made up and are going to set the tone of the discussion any way independent of the replies.
I knew that was coming.

I'm asking because I'm interested to really understand what is it about MF digital that compels people to spend an extraordinary amount of money on MF equipment. I feel as though I'm missing something. I play the devil's advocate to peel the onion in order to get to the core of the issue.

Don't pay much attention to my style of inquiry. I need that to understand things and I do that regardless of the subject at hand.

Please bear with me.

Thanks
 

dchew

Active member
That's interesting. Question: Why would you be willing to pay so much money just to drive a stick shift? I understand it's fun, but there's the sort of fun where you don't mind shelling out a few dollars and there's the tens of thousands of dollars worth of fun. The fun part makes sense to me, but the money to fun ratio doesn't.

Why not just get a film camera and have the same sort of fun for a lot less?
I just might get a Mamiya 7ii, but that would be for occationally use. Film doesn't do it for me. Waiting for processing just so I can scan it and get a digital file that isn't as good? Meh.

With digital medium format I can enjoy and have a great file! Can't beat that. And my gear doesn't weigh any more than my 35mm DSLR kit.
 
Ok, your question was besides resolution, that is a obvious advantage for some user scenarios.

First you need to be a technical perfectionist. If not, forget it, because the price delta, as you call it, is not worth it. Also, if you are more interested in artistic aspects of photography, forget it, spend your money in getting a good teacher, muses and photographic opportunities. But you knew that already ...

So to the topic: I think it is a very good question, at least it was for me.

I recently bought a Leica S 007 with some S lenses. Not so much, because it is MF, but because of the whole package which I could not find within full format and other MF alternatives. Here is why:

I love my Nikon D810 and still use it for wildlife. For landscape I used it with several Zeiss ZF2 lenses and adapted Leica R lenses, always flirting with Otus lenses which I never bought (because they are only manual focus, nearly as expensive as some MF lenses and - mainly - the focal length selection is more than limited for my kind of use). Comparing the Nikon lenses with the ZF and R lenses, I never liked them because of color rendering, tonal transitions, micro contrast, out-of focus rendering, etc. I tried some wide angles and standard lenses, but ended selling the Nikons because I could not get it right even with some effort in post.

Then I made an expensive "mistake". I bought a Leica M240 with 3 M lenses which I used some time parallel with my Nikon/Zeiss combination. I even tried some blind tests to fool myself but the Leica images had something which I could not get with Nikon. The Nikon sensor is clearly better than the Leica M (and S) sensor, but this is not relevant so often as I thought it would be, but the lenses made the difference in nearly every photo. What is this secret "salsa", I don't know. There are a lot of Leica haters who deny it. You won't see it all the time, looking at your photos at 100% (bad habit), but you should see it looking at prints and at a big 4k/5k screen (whole picture).

And sure, it's personal, if you can't see it, better for you, you will save a lot of money.

I sold my Leica M, not for the lenses for sure, but because I was not happy with the Rangefinder experience and also thought that 24 MP is too limited. The route was clear, I bought the Leica S because I liked the ergonomics, very few cameras can offer (the viewfinder, the simplistic menu, fast DSRL like handling, etc.) But at the end it was the LENSES. They are expensive, yes, but what the f… In combination with the fat pixels (6µm) of the 37MP sensor, these lenses shine. They have a different character than the M lenses but in their own way they are wonderful. Color rendering, tonal transition, 3D, micro-contrast, these are the known technical terms. By the way, it is not the shallow DoF, this you could get with FF lenses also, it is the construction of the lenses which defines the out of focus rendering also, both before and behind the focus point. Maybe I could be happy with the OTUS lenses because I like the way, a lot of Zeiss lenses render, but in practical terms it is not working yet, maybe in the future if Nikon or Sony come out with a decent mirror less camera.

I also think there are some similar alternatives because of excellent MF lenses of Schneider/P1, Fuji/Hasselblad and Pentax, but again, the package is not for me. One of the interesting features of the Leica S is its adaptability to other lenses with a lot of character, especially Contax 645 and Hasselblad V.

May I go back to FF for general and landscape work, no way … maybe in the future when Sony comes out with a better camera body (don't think 7RII is it) or when the Leica SL II with 37 MP comes in 3-4 years ....
 
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DougDolde

Well-known member
Unless you buy a 60 megapixel back or better, my opinion is just buy a Nikon D810 or similar. I compared the IQ140 to the D810 and couldn't see much difference in resolution. However I did like the Phase One color better out of the box. But thats not a big deal, color can be altered to match your style.

My current back, an IQ180, blows away Nikon or whatever you can throw against it.. For a back up I'd pick the new Pentax K-1

This one, Desert Tortoise, shot with Phase One XF/IQ180, 28mm Mamiya D lens

View attachment 117196
 
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jagsiva

Active member
I knew that was coming.

I play the devil's advocate to peel the onion in order to get to the core of the issue.
Perhaps renting the onion and peeling it yourself for a week may or may not give you the answers. I think for a lot of us, it is a subjective and personal, even more so for those of us that use tech cams.

Of course, there are some that have specific customer requirements.
 

kdphotography

Active member
You can equate medium format digital photography to many other pursuits of excellence and/or happiness. Once you add money into the equation, 99.9% of these pursuits of excellence often will come with diminishing returns. You could easily say that about higher end cars.

It's very subjective. And from a quality perspective, the question is---is it good enough for you? Are you happy or satisfied with what you have? Or are you always wanting, maybe pining for more?

I shoot both a DSLR and medium format digital. I can tell you that 9 out of ten times my clients will pick a portrait photographed with a MFDB. They have no idea. They have no clue. No idea why they choose the way they do. They just do. And that's good enough for me. In the end it is just a tool, and obviously each format has its strengths and may be better suited in certain areas.

From a photography perspective, I simply like medium format better. Always have----going back to my film days.

Remove money from the equation and simply pick what works best for you. Besides, it's Dante's Forum. C'mon in, the water's fine. :D

Or you could buy a boat. :p
 

satybhat

Member
I suppose you could ask such questions in all aspects of life.
For eg.

Do you HAVE to have a beautiful wife?
Do you HAVE to have a cute dog?
Do you HAVE to live in a dainty 3 bedroom house with a large backyard instead of a smaller one?

Humans evolutionarily gravitate towards beauty in all aspects, making big issues out of minor increments. Even if that pursuit is commonly known to be a waste of time and resources.
Price points: some of us can afford, some can't. I would love to own the Hubble space telescope one day. That doesn't mean that NASA is wasting its money today. After all, what good does it do looking at stars?

Most of us believe in other people's theories inasmuch as we believe their opinion that their kids are cute. So feel free to form your own. Good luck.
 

Abstraction

Active member
Unless you buy a 60 megapixel back or better, my opinion is just buy a Nikon D810 or similar. I compared the IQ180 to the D810 and couldn't see much difference in resolution. However I did like the Phase One color better out of the box. But thats not a big deal, color can be altered to match your style.

My current back, an IQ180, blows away Nikon or whatever you can throw against it.

This one, Desert Tortoise, shot with Phase One XF/IQ180, 28mm Mamiya D lens
I'm a bit confused. In the first paragraph, you state that you couldn't see the difference between Nikon 810 and IQ180 and then, you say that the IQ180 blows the Nikon away.

Since you said that you couldn't see much difference in resolution and the color wasn't a big deal, in what way did the IQ180 blow Nikon away?
 

Abstraction

Active member
Remove money from the equation and simply pick what works best for you. Besides, it's Dante's Forum. C'mon in, the water's fine. :D

Or you could buy a boat. :p
You can't remove money from the equation. Money is very much part of the equation. As I had stated previously, if the price difference is small enough, we can afford to be "subjective" if you will, and just say: "I like the MF experience, it's got that 'je ne sais quoi" and so I'm going to pay, let's say 10% more and have that visceral enjoyment. Fair enough, but when we're talking about spending 10x as much for what could objectively amount to being a 5% difference... that's why the French stormed the Bastille

I suppose you could ask such questions in all aspects of life.
For eg.

Do you HAVE to have a beautiful wife?
Do you HAVE to have a cute dog?
Do you HAVE to live in a dainty 3 bedroom house with a large backyard instead of a smaller one?

Humans evolutionarily gravitate towards beauty in all aspects, making big issues out of minor increments. Even if that pursuit is commonly known to be a waste of time and resources.
Price points: some of us can afford, some can't. I would love to own the Hubble space telescope one day. That doesn't mean that NASA is wasting its money today. After all, what good does it do looking at stars?

Most of us believe in other people's theories inasmuch as we believe their opinion that their kids are cute. So feel free to form your own. Good luck.
Naturally, that's what I'm trying to do. I'm leaning towards proclaiming that MF is a waste of money, but I'm not there yet. I want to believe there is a practical reason folks go out there and spend crazy money on MF stuff. I want to believe it's not just for bragging rights.
 

Paul2660

Active member
I'm a bit confused. In the first paragraph, you state that you couldn't see the difference between Nikon 810 and IQ180 and then, you say that the IQ180 blows the Nikon away.

Since you said that you couldn't see much difference in resolution and the color wasn't a big deal, in what way did the IQ180 blow Nikon away?
I think he meant IQ140, not IQ180. Doug owned the 140 first before the 180. 40MP vs 80MP.

Paul C
 

satybhat

Member
Naturally, that's what I'm trying to do. I'm leaning towards proclaiming that MF is a waste of money, but I'm not there yet. I want to believe there is a practical reason folks go out there and spend crazy money on MF stuff. I want to believe it's not just for bragging rights.
That doesn't make sense. Consider the same equation from the other side. In what way do you consider having (60K in bank + Nikon kit) a better situation than (0K in bank + Phase One kit) ?

Consider the nature of your query from another perspective. A hard-core painter, for e.g.. might consider all of us to be deluded (and he might not be wrong in that frame of reference).

Similarly, the crowd here is biased towards MF. Why would you want to ask this question to a biased crowd then? Why not ask in the nikon forums? Perhaps the answer is because you seek to challenge the existing norms. Perhaps a better challenge would be to challenge yourself to reach a point in life where the cost difference between 35mm and MF does not matter to you at all. (Believe it or not, this is what I did over the last 10 years). And then immerse yourself in MF photography. Then wrinkle your nose and throw it away in disdain or donate your kit to one of us before proclaiming that it was a rubbish experience. Perhaps then you might be able to convince yourself. Or others.

I apologise if this sounds condescending. Not at all the intention. Just what you get when you challenge the norms :salute:
 
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