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What is your decision-making process when choosing your camera and lenses?

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
I am currently considering a new medium format camera system. From my conversations with many photographers, this process is quite fascinating and different for each person (although there are some striking similarities). It would be wonderful to hear your own approach/ideas about choosing your new camera and lenses. Of course, one of the most important factors is price but for the sake of this conversation, let's keep it out of equation. What is important to you? How do you choose it?
 

Ray Harrison

Well-known member
Obviously, the decision process is a personal thing and we all create our own narrative as to how we get there. I own a couple of Phase One digital backs, a format I really like. There are drawbacks like size and weight but they fit the bill for me. It comes down to flexibility (there's a lot to unpack here) but it's also not just a spec sheet. I also like Phase as a company. They do some very clever things and they seem to have a passion for photography. They can be infuriatingly slow but I'm willing to take that with the goodness. I feel the same way about Leica and Hasselblad too.

By flexibility, I mean that I can use the backs on a DSLR type system and on a tech camera with movements. It means I've got access to a wide array of stunning lenses and I've got a system that lets me just focus on ISO, shutter speed and aperture and mostly gets out of the way. The files are malleable and very high quality. The backs, at least the IQ4, are upgradeable and they add new significant capabilities (albeit slowly - see the "infuriatingly" statement above :D ). On the IQ4, I really appreciate the flexibility in file sizes, automated frame average, dual exposure+.

Even though Phase and Capture One are no longer technically joined at the hip, I appreciate the tight integration between the hardware and software. I appreciate all of the nifty features in the XF. I also like the X-shutter for tech cam lenses. Yes, the shutters are expensive, but they add a bit of flexibility. At the end of the day, I feel I can control the camera system on my own terms. While I don't myself have an XT (I have a Cambo), I appreciate some of the design and electronic touches Phase has put into the camera and the lenses.

As much as there are things I look for, there are things I don't. I'm not after massively sophisticated AF - (eye AF, for example). I wouldn't turn it down, but it's not a priority. I don't want complex menus. I like them simple, intuitive and to the point. I think Phase, Hasselblad, Leica and to some degree Fuji do this pretty well (obviously we can get used to anything). Lightweight isn't particularly a priority (though again, I wouldn't turn it down). I'm not after video.

It takes me a long time to reach a decision but that's another story :)
 

Abstraction

Active member
I try to figure out what I REALLY NEED. Not what I want, not the nice to have, but what I REALLY need. Then, I look at what I have and I try to figure out how to best integrate what I already have in terms of accessories into a new camera. I look at various options that fit my needs (not wants). Once I narrow down my options, I look at the ergonomics, digital workflow and how that fits with how I do things. Once I narrow things down even further, I start looking for the particular choices on the used market (I hardly ever buy new). I compare the prices and if there's a big discrepancy, I try to figure out where I'm willing to compromise. Sometimes, I'm willing to pay more to have an easier and smoother workflow and sometimes, I compromise the workflow to save money. It all depends on how much of a workflow disruption there is, how easy it is to find a work around and how much cash I would be saving. I am less willing to sacrifice the ergonomics. The camera can't be a source of frustration. It has to be seamless in its use.
 

JeffK

Well-known member
I tried going with what I really need. That was a little Pocket Ricoh GR3. Used it on a little travel tripod for longish exposures. Worked great. But then I wanted to print bigger... and that led to me becoming a Phase One achromatic owner and user.
 

PeterA

Well-known member
I will only buy a camera and lens that I think is pretty makes me happy to hold it - this pretty much rules out every larger than FF sensor choice out there except for the Hasselbald X series and Leica S series.
 

olafphoto

Administrator
Staff member
I will only buy a camera and lens that I think is pretty makes me happy to hold it - this pretty much rules out every larger than FF sensor choice out there except for the Hasselbald X series and Leica S series.
You made a very interesting point. It matters to me how the camera looks and feels in hands, therefore I don't mind paying more for elegant and beautiful design. I also know that some people don't care about it at all.
 

f6cvalkyrie

Well-known member
As a hobby photographer, I only buy a new camera when the old one is broken ... since I'm invested in micro4/3, lenses, adapters for vintage lenses etc ... I stay in the micro4/3 microcosmos and buy a new camera, but not the latest model, to avoid to be confronted with "childhood diseases" ...
For example, two years ago, my Mk1 Olympus E-M1 started working unreliably and I replaced it by a Olympus E-M1X, a model that was already on the market for 2 years ...
No regrets ...

Stay safe,
Rafael
 

Alan

Active member
Does it make my work/life easier?
Does it give me new capabilities I can/will capitalize on?
Will it have a reasonable life span?
Is it pleasant to use?
 

dj may

Well-known member
Optical viewfinder
Rugged
Weatherproof/ resistant
Easy to use
Ultrawide to medium-long selection of top-quality lenses
 

Thyl

New member
You might want a checklist of features you will need, which is governed by what your intended uses are. But then, it will be important to actually use the cameras that end up on your short list. I believe it is not possible to make a decision based on feature check lists. I did that and got frustrated twice, because nobody on the entire Internet told me about the particular quirks.

Luckily for your decision preocess, the number of companies offering sensors larger than a 35 mm film picture is rather small: Pentax, Fuji, Hasselblad, Phase One, and Leica. Others, like Cambo, Alpa, etc depend on the good will of digi back makers with which you then will get into contact anyway (actually, only Phase One and Hasselblad). Others, like Rollei, cannot offer recent compatible backs.
 

Paul Spinnler

Active member
Image quality, optics, resolution, haptics / design - I bought into P1, Leica, Alpa as a result. Considering Hassy X due to compactness, as my main gripe so far has been that for compactness I am relegated to a Leica M ... the S is semi compact, but starts to weigh on your neck after a while. P1 is just tripod, etc.
 

SylB

Well-known member
I have given up on compact or lightweight systems. I have chosen a system which I want to carry with me because I enjoy seeing through the (optical) viewfinder and I know that the resulting images will be beautiful to my eye unless I made poor choices or mistakes (which happens).
There may be higher MP backs or faster AF elsewhere, but to me, the perfect combination is OVF + biggest possible sensor size. I believe there are no bad lenses anymore in digital medium format offers on the market, so that was not coming into high consideration. I admit that at the moment of choosing between PhaseOne and Hasselblad, I took the later because it was slightly smaller, I loved the simple interface, which is a joy to use, and the HTS was very appealing.
And I love being slowed down by the camera... It forces me to take my time and think before taking a picture. I would rather have a simple and slow camera than a fast and over-featured camera.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
I bought a Hasselblad 907x/CFVII 50c "Moon" edition because it is so similar in form factor to the Hasselblad SWC (which I have loved for years) and its back extends the usefulness of my existing Hasselblad V system cameras and accessories.

The compatibility of the CFVII 50c with my existing Hasselblad V system was the most important factor in the choice of this camera. I never had a single thought to buy any other medium format digital camera system ... I was completely confident even on its announcement, before it arrived, that its capture and imaging capabilities would be just fine for my uses. I have not been disappointed with my purchase.

G
 

Pieter 12

Member
Ergonomics, ease of use, capabilities that I need, want and use now. I never buy for some imagined future use, since if that does come to be, there will most probably be better and less expensive (possibly used) equipment available by that time. The only absolute must is an optical viewfinder. I also try to stay away from first-generation anything.
 

glennedens

Active member
Its clearly very personal. EMWV (everyone's mileage will vary). I start with what's motivating a desire/need for change? What am I frustrated/happy with when using my existing gear and the results it/me produces? Once in a great while a change is driven by the need to accomplish something outside the capabilities of the existing equipment, although that is extremely rare.

Examples: the move to doing wildlife work for a few years, which needed longer lenses and AF that simply were not available in the current system. Another example is the move from film to digital - that left the 4x5 behind and technology "forced" a new journey, since I did not want to keep up the darkroom, supplies, consumables, etc. I used to print big, then with the advent of digital I started printing smaller and displaying electronically. About a decade ago (2010) I decided to start printing again and printing big (a major solo exhibit drove this decision and it rippled through my entire workflow from capture camera & lenses, to computer, to processing, to wide format printer).

I was very active teaching photography workshops for a decade++ and it became helpful to have gear that was more similar to what my students were using (I was mid-market workshops so Nikon D3s and Canon 1DsII were the high-end of that day).

My short list:
1. What has changed with what I am trying to do?
2. What has changed with technology, electronics or optics - and is it meaningful to my work?
3. Do I believe/care about the system's maker - their ability to continue to fund innovation, support customers and stick around?
4. Where do I assess ergonomics, design and the pleasure of use?
5. Where do I assess image quality?
6. What has changed with me personally physically (vision, strength, stamina, interests)?
7. Who is the dealer and how good are they?
8. Budget or price can not be eliminated as a factor

Item 4 and 5 are paramount, and they both have to excite me. Item 7 is critical, especially with low-volume medium format, you need a dealer that has your back and is big enough in the market to have some vendor pull. I worked with my Palo Alto dealer (RIP) for 35+ years, even when I lived 1,500 miles away for a decade. Now it is Capture Integration :) I wish they were closer.

In the distant past I did photography for a living (although always as a parallel career) and that led to an entirely different set of metrics -price/performance, ROI value, depreciation calculus, client demand and rapid service.

I do try to predict how long I think the "new" system will last - although that math is way subjective from my experience for personal work.

Olaf, I know it would likely be unwise for you to declare what you are deciding between, but inquiring minds want to know? :)

Glenn
 
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Makten

Well-known member
"Do I want this?"

Yes -> Buy
No -> Don't buy

Luckily I don't want a lot of things. There is almost always something wrong with new gear. 😁
 

PeterA

Well-known member
You made a very interesting point. It matters to me how the camera looks and feels in hands, therefore I don't mind paying more for elegant and beautiful design. I also know that some people don't care about it at all.
The new Hasselblad X2 is going to be hard to beat

Good luck
Pete
 

hausens

Member
There are many things to weigh in. Like what folks said, the smoothness of the workflow from pressing the button to the final result. It depends on you what you value more.
But there are still some commonalities, the workflow depends on darkroom software like Capture one. In the past, I have tried focus, Iridient, and Lightroom. All of them are great! But the only one that focuses on color science and all the editing functionalities one may need is Capture one. That might rule out Pentax and hassy systems. It's not fair. But honestly, I don't want to spend most of my life on retouchings 😂
If you use studio settings, maybe the lighting is crucial too.
Lens selection, for architecture photography, some system makes it hard to do the job, Sorry pentax!!
And many other factor matters to you.

PS. Why does it start with the software? Some of my friends suggested choosing a new camera system starting with the software platform.
Also, I love pentax, especially 645D. I found a way to make the workflow both awesome and compatible with Capture one. So it's probably not a dealbreaker for someone.
 
I struggle with fantasy scenarios… like 1% stuff, what is a client wants this… what if I need that? When in reality, I don’t need MF. I’m still new to game since I’m coming off a decade plus of 8x10 sheet film. I still love resolution. However, any feature on any camera is gravy considering I had zero for the longest time.

I work in academia so I have access to tools I can’t afford. Currently using the GFX50Sii and it’s awesome.
 
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