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Thread: Large Format and Digital Back

  1. #1
    Gardenerbob
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    Question Large Format and Digital Back

    I just got off the phone with Marflex(looking for a part for my Wista), the guy there says that using a Digital Back with a Large Format camera is a waste of time.
    He said that that the camera movements and focussing are not accurate enough to take advantage of the sensitivity of digital. That the camera was designed for film and its' variation from a true flat surface and that digital would be too critical of these variations.

    It seems to make sense to me, but I wanted to pick your brains regarding this. I am in the market for a Leaf back, maybe 38 or so MP, and wanted to use my Ebony RW45 along with my old Medium Format bodies and lenses.

    I know I can use my old gear with the Leaf, but will I be able to get good results with them?

  2. #2
    Workshop Member lance_schad's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Have you considered a smaller technical type camera similar to the Cambo WRS-1000 or Arca RM3d that are designed for MF digital backs and offer movements.

    These are great alternatives to using a traditional 4x5 camera system, since the have very precise movements that are designed for the MF format chip sizes.

    They are also very compact as well.

    We have quite a few users of these systems on the board that will probably chime in with their experiences and successes of the use of these systems.

    L
    LANCE SCHAD - Digital Transitions - Phase One,Mamiya | Leaf,Arca-Swiss,Cambo, Profoto
    direct/cell:610-496-5586 office:877-367-8537x224
    http://www.digitaltransitions.com email:[email protected]

  3. #3
    Gardenerbob
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Thanks Lance, but I was hoping to be able to use what I had.
    I guess my question should be:

    Will using my old film bodies and lenses w/ Digital Back provide acceptable images?
    OR Should I sell it all and just buy newer bodies and lenses made for Digital?

    I know that the latter would be the best way to go, but I really would like to use my old gear, at least for the near future.
    Bob

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    Workshop Member lance_schad's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Take a look at this image forum member 'RGA' took on a trip to Yosemite with his recently acquired P45+.

    The technicals behind the shot were:
    El Capitan Morning--Stitch of 15 exposures taken through a 4x5 Technikardin S/135mm. Cropped



    Maybe Robert can share some of his experiences in using a traditional 4x5 and a digital back.

    Some of your older equipment may work just fine. I do not know exactly what you have. My best advice is to try it out.

    Hope this gives you some more insight.

    Lance
    LANCE SCHAD - Digital Transitions - Phase One,Mamiya | Leaf,Arca-Swiss,Cambo, Profoto
    direct/cell:610-496-5586 office:877-367-8537x224
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    I will wait a bit, i also want to buy a technical camera but i just wasted money on H4D-60 and i can't sell it now as i am still paying for it, and also i just got my LF camera new not so long, so i don't want to give up my H4D and LF so fast to get a technical camera and another expensive DB, i will not go with 39-40mp and want to go with higher, so for me it is like if i want to get over 40mp DB and technical camera then i have to wait years, so the only thing i have to do is:
    Wait to see where i can find an adapter to use my H4D-60 on my LF or even another DB if possible, i have an adapter to use my Canon DSLR on my LF and it is not bad, hope to find something similar to my H4D-60, also there is a member here he was able to use his H4D on a technical camera [STC i think], so this will save me bucks then than buying another DB.

    Good luck!
    Tareq

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    FWIW, I have attempted to use my Toyo 23G with my Phase One P30+ and, unfortunately, the results have been less than satisfactory. Putting aside the fact that the P30+ back uses microlenses over the sensor, which limits its ability to be used with movements without also causing vignetting and/or color shifts across the image, the bigger problem is that unlike with film, which has some amount of physical thickness and thus some amount of tolerance in where the plane of focus is located and/or to deal with field curvature, there is no such tolerance with a digital sensor, so you need to focus it very precisely indeed in order to achieve the full amount of resolution possible from your lenses and your lenses must project a very flat field with minimal amounts of curvature. Otherwise, your images will (at best) look slightly soft or (at worst) completely out of focus or (most likely) some combination of the two, with areas that go in-and-out of focus as you move around the frame, depending.

    Personally, I have found it quite difficult to focus with this degree of precision, as the OEM Toyo groundglass simply isn't fine enough to allow me to make very fine distinctions as to exactly where the plane of focus is located regardless of which loupe I use, and this is especially true when using the wide-angle lenses that I generally prefer.

    Also, even though my Toyo is all metal and fairly well made, it's impossible to dial-in only those movements you want without also dialing-in unintended movements as well due to the camera's lack of perfect rigidity. Which is why people who need movements are using digital backs with various "technical" cameras that keep the front and rear standards in tight alignment with each other and apply movements, including tilt and swing, using various forms of geared controls.

    Of course, all of the above reflects my particular experience and my personal set of tastes and preferences, so YMMV, especially if you tend toward longer lenses and use backs that don't have microlenses installed over the sensor.

  7. #7
    Gardenerbob
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Thanks Audii, this is the information I need in order to figure out whether this new fixation of mine is going to work.

    Do you use the P30 on any MF manual bodies? Do you have the same result?
    Thanks Bob

  8. #8
    Senior Member viablex1's Avatar
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    one word ask routlaw!!!! he rules in this area!!! seriously

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Quote Originally Posted by Gardenerbob View Post
    Do you use the P30 on any MF manual bodies? Do you have the same result?
    I use my P30+ digital back with a five-lens Contax 645 outfit (35, 45, 55, 80, and 140). I also have a Mamiya 645 50mm/f4 shift lens that was modified for a Hasselblad V-mount and which I use on my Contax via a Contax MAM-1 Hasselblad lens adapter.

    A lot of my photography has an architectural bent to it (if you're curious, you can see some at http://audiidudii.aminus3.com/) and as a result, I do miss having movements available to me at times. In particular, rise and fall and shift as well as rear tilt and swing.

    To address this, I'm in the process of creating a shiftable adapter that will allow me to use Hasselblad lenses on my Contax and take advantage of their larger image circles. Although shift movements are supposed to cause problems with the microlenses on my P30+ back, I convert most of my images to B&W (which reduces the problem of color shifts) and based upon my experience with the Mamiya shift lens, this problem is less prevalent when retrofocus-type lenses are used because they position the lens further away from the sensor and in turn, this means the light reaching the sensor is more telecentric, which further mitigates the potential for color shift and vignetting problems.

    When I first bought my back, it was my hope that I could use it on my Toyo 23G as well, but as I noted above, this has turned out not to be the case. Which is a shame, because I really like the "look" of all the 6x6 and 6x7 medium-format lenses that I've adapted for use on it (38mm Biogon from a Hasselblad SWC, 50mm Biogon-clone from a Mamiya Press, 75mm Mamiya lens from a Polaroid 600SE, etc.) and I've had to give them up.

    If my Hasselblad shift adapter doesn't work out, then my only alternative will be to buy a technical camera, such as those from Alpa, Arca-Swiss, or Cambo, and upgrade to a P45+ back which doesn't have microlenses over the sensor so that I can also use some of the new design, non-retrofocus Rodenstaock and Schneider lenses intended for use with digital backs. Ka-ching!

    (As an aside, the silver lining in all of this is that I'm now convinced that the image quality I'm getting fully equals or exceeds that which I was getting with my 8x10 back in the day; that shooting with a camera with a fixed plane of focus has caused my compositions to become less stiff and formal, and once the not-inconsiderable amount of money to buy a digital back outfit has been spent up-front, the only additional cost to shooting with it is time, which has allowed me the freedom to become a bit more experimental, all three factors of which I think have improved my photography overall.)
    Last edited by Audii-Dudii; 14th March 2011 at 18:24.

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Quote Originally Posted by Gardenerbob View Post
    I just got off the phone with Marflex(looking for a part for my Wista), the guy there says that using a Digital Back with a Large Format camera is a waste of time.
    He said that that the camera movements and focussing are not accurate enough to take advantage of the sensitivity of digital. That the camera was designed for film and its' variation from a true flat surface and that digital would be too critical of these variations.
    I have done pretty exact what you are asking, but I also designed and had custom make a stitching adapter per my requirements since the qualiy ones out there are way over priced and the chaper ones around 200-300 USD are not of suffice accuracy, and all of above with tiny groundglass. My groundglass is 118mm x 80mm and suited also for panoramic stitching beyond what can be accurately visualized using any other stitching adapter.

    My lesson is that for my photography (landscapes) it will be much simpler to use a technical camera for panoramics, shift and rise/fall. Thus I will in essence give up tilts and shifts. Because of this reason I have sold alot of quality gear over last three months (plus), both here on GetDpi, LuLa and on Ebay. My stitching adapter is for sale on Ebay, search 'stitching adapter' or look here http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23733

    You may or may not decide you wish to purchase it, and I would assume that it will fit on a Wista since it fits on my Shen Hao YFC-IIB.

    What is mentioned in above of focusing is not accurate on a large format for digital back is something which I strict disagree upon, and at least on my Shen-Hao have experienced being fully achievable. Same as for film it may require slight turining back and fourth of focusing knob but was in my experience not difficult. However I believe this also depends on what focal lengt of lenses you use because the focus travel vary. If there would be problem I would recommend to simply make knob attachments that make the outer diameter larger of the knobs!

    With wide lenses it is my understanding that the focus travel is short. At least for Schneider 24mm Digietar XL lens I was told by Schneider that the total focus travel from 1.5m to infinity is only 0.3mm, thus I hold for likely that such lens is rather impossible to focus on a e.g. Shen-Hao, Wista of Ebony. This is perhaps why I had problem to acheive focus using my Schneider 58mm XL, or because simply things in groundglass were very small. Do note that I have a quality groundglass on my adapter made by Bill Maxwell, arguably the very best and brightest (it is not even his basic but the Hi-Lux per memory). I used a 6x lupe to focus. With my Schneider 72mm XL and 150mm Rodenstock Sironar-N I acheived sharp focus with not much issue at all.

    The Schneider 72mm XL and 150mm Rodenstock Sironar-N are reputable as very sharp lenses. Without actual testing I would say that those are sharper than the non D version of Mamiya 645 AF lenses I have owned. However, other large format lenses may not be. I replaced my Nikkor 75 SW 4.5 with the Schneider 72mm XL due that it was not suffice sharp for digital (while indeed it was so for film). It is thus worthwhhile to ensure that you do use top sharp large format lenses, but not necessarily digital lenses.

    As implied by others above digital requires stricter tolerances for focus accuracy and film flatness. However, as I stated above focus accuracy was not the problem for 72mm and 150mm focal length of lenses for me. The tedious was to adjust swings and tilts to zero or to accurate plane for each shot. However, I believe that was a weakness in my Shen-Hao camera since there is not knob to turn to fine tune such adjustment. In a large format camera that feature knobs for fine adjustment of tilt and swinsts, such as by micro adjustments I believe this should be feasible and considerably less tedious. This is reason I wrote in my for sale add that I recommend for studio primarily, however that is just me because I found this tedious for each shot, and also in setting up camera with stiching back for each shot.

    In regards to groundglass, well... as stated in above I choose the very best on market and the Maxwell groundglass is frank so bright that I can many times compose without shielding it against light, except of course if sun is shining directly onto it --- also when no clouds in sky! Amazing really. Such groundglass simplifies. Also of course a 6x loupe is recommended, and a 3x magnifies less and should thus result in less accuracy.

    Let me also point out that the absolute critical for using digital back on any large format camera, wheather made for 4x5 or even tech camera, is that if focusing using groundglass, the groundglass and sensor must be within a certain error of preciseness in flatness (else you may achieve focus on groundglass that does not match sensor). It is possible to shim the adapter I have, both at adapter plate and groundglass. When they made it I had them adjust it three times . It matches my 28MP Leaf back.

    Current I consider going with Alpa and sometimes using their groundglass for focus using a 6x loupe. If this works I may also get a 6x9 Shen-Hao camera and have custom made a backplate to fit the Alpa rear mount. Why? Because that would assure the tolerances between Alpa groundglass and my back to Alpa tolerances. That Shen Hao will be small to carry and I can use it for tilts and swings for select occassions. Will it work? Yes, as stated in above of my experience it will. The most critical is the accurate tolerance between groundglass and sensor in digital back. Swings and tilts require accurate adjustment. Focus is no problem.

    I hope above helps.

    Any questions, feel free to ask me, either here or per email.

    Regards
    Anders

    P.S. It is possible to go with a cheap Chinese made adapter for 200-300 USD, per memory Jim Collum has used one and may still do so by shimming it. However I maintain mine is of higher quality... and at a price which is rather a steal with such groundglass, and which very significantly aids in focusing and in seeing.

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Quote Originally Posted by Audii-Dudii View Post
    I use my P30+ digital back with a five-lens Contax 645 outfit (35, 45, 55, 80, and 140). I also have a Mamiya 645 50mm/f4 shift lens that was modified for a Hasselblad V-mount and which I use on my Contax via a Contax MAM-1 Hasselblad lens adapter.

    A lot of my photography has an architectural bent to it (if you're curious, you can see some at http://audiidudii.aminus3.com/) and as a result, I do miss having movements available to me at times. In particular, rise and fall and shift as well as rear tilt and swing.

    To address this, I'm in the process of creating a shiftable adapter that will allow me to use Hasselblad lenses on my Contax and take advantage of their larger image circles. Although shift movements are supposed to cause problems with the microlenses on my P30+ back, I convert most of my images to B&W (which reduces the problem of color shifts) and based upon my experience with the Mamiya shift lens, this problem is less prevalent when retrofocus-type lenses are used because they position the lens further away from the sensor and in turn, this means the light reaching the sensor is more telecentric, which further mitigates the potential for color shift and vignetting problems.

    When I first bought my back, it was my hope that I could use it on my Toyo 23G as well, but as I noted above, this has turned out not to be the case. Which is a shame, because I really like the "look" of all the 6x6 and 6x7 medium-format lenses that I've adapted for use on it (38mm Biogon from a Hasselblad SWC, 50mm Biogon-clone from a Mamiya Press, 75mm Mamiya lens from a Polaroid 600SE, etc.) and I've had to give them up.

    If my Hasselblad shift adapter doesn't work out, then my only alternative will be to buy a technical camera, such as those from Alpa, Arca-Swiss, or Cambo, and upgrade to a P45+ back which doesn't have microlenses over the sensor so that I can also use some of the new design, non-retrofocus Rodenstaock and Schneider lenses intended for use with digital backs. Ka-ching!

    (As an aside, the silver lining in all of this is that I'm now convinced that the image quality I'm getting fully equals or exceeds that which I was getting with my 8x10 back in the day; that shooting with a camera with a fixed plane of focus has caused my compositions to become less stiff and formal, and once the not-inconsiderable amount of money to buy a digital back outfit has been spent up-front, the only additional cost to shooting with it is time, which has allowed me the freedom to become a bit more experimental, all three factors of which I think have improved my photography overall.)
    If instant capture isn't neccesary, consider a Betterlight, sensel spacing is such that you won't be taxed optically using any lens that can deliver 40 lp/mm resolution, and a 7x10 cm capture area make life a whole lot easier when making movements. I use a Dicomed Field Pro on a Sinar P or an RB67 (for 6k x 6k captures) with a self made adapter, not really much more difficult than shooting film, really. A few mins critically focusing using the focus tool in the s/w to compensate for any gg/sensor tolerance issues and that's about it.

    Telecentricity is critical for microlens sensors, and the longer flange to focal length lenses do help, from what I'm told.



    erie

    (btw, still driving a Q? been quite a few years since I've even looked on the Qlist, as I've defected to the three pointed star marque)

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Quote Originally Posted by epatsellis View Post
    If instant capture isn't neccesary, consider a Betterlight, sensel spacing is such that you won't be taxed optically using any lens that can deliver 40 lp/mm resolution, and a 7x10 cm capture area make life a whole lot easier when making movements.
    This was the first approach I tried with a used 4k model, but my subjects aren't static enough and the exposure length limit was too short for my nighttime photography, so it really didn't work out for me.

    Telecentricity is critical for microlens sensors, and the longer flange to focal length lenses do help, from what I'm told.
    This is true, which is why a 35mm retrofocus lens for my Contax 645, with its 64mm lens register, works just fine, but a 38mm Biogon-design non-retrofocus lens that has the rear element almost touching the sensor, doesn't work at all. The longest lens I regularly use is 80mm, but even that is infrequently ... ~90% of my work is done with 35mm, 45mm, and 55mm lenses, which may be one reason why I find accurate focusing to be more difficult than others who are using longer lenses have experienced.

    (btw, still driving a Q? been quite a few years since I've even looked on the Qlist, as I've defected to the three pointed star marque)
    Yes, I am. Presently, my daily driver is an '04 A4 3.0, but I still have my '02 S4 as a backup, a '99.5 A4 as a track/play car, and, of course, my '85 UrQ project car. Not sure where to go from here, though, as Audi's recent offerings either haven't been to my taste or are too rich for my budget, especially now that I've dabbled in the medium-format digital world...

  13. #13
    Gardenerbob
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Thanks for the detailed info Audiidudie.
    Nice to hear from another Audi Lover. I just got a TTS last week(traded in my 08 Roadster), have to break her in gently before I can get to the power....

    Epatsellis, I used the Betterlight, as well, just wasn't for me, so I sold it last month.

    So, it looks like the guy from Marflex is right. I really hate to abandon 4x5, but with the lack of quickload, and the ease of digital. I am really leaning toward selling my gear.


    Audiidudie- how were your experiences with medium format bodies?
    The Alpa Camera looks awesome. Do you have one?
    Bob

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Quote Originally Posted by Gardenerbob View Post
    Audiidudie- how were your experiences with medium format bodies?The Alpa Camera looks awesome. Do you have one?
    Unfortunately, the only medium-format bodies I have much experience with are my Contax 645 and a friend's Mamiya AFDIII. I'm a bit of a traditionalist, though, so I quickly ruled out the Mamiya body because, among other things, I like having aperture rings on my lenses and I like the Zeiss "look," which the Contax lenses have in spades. I did spend a brief amount of time working with a rented Hasselblad H1 outfit, but quickly decided I didn't like its gestalt, plus the H-series bodies and lenses are an order of magnitude more costly than Contax stuff and I am a bit of a bottom-feeder in that respect.

    I haven't yet photographed with my P30+ on a technical camera, but I have no doubt this is the direction that I'm ultimately headed. Rod Klukas, the U.S. rep for Arca-Swiss, is also the instructor for a photography class I am taking at a local community college and he brought an Rm2D -- the first one in the U.S., I believe -- to the last two classes, and after handling it for a bit, I can see how it makes a lot of sense for the type of photography I do now and would eventually like to be doing.

    Alas, the price is equally breathtaking (at least for a bottom-feeder like me!) and in order to take advantage of its rise/fall/shift movements, I'll also need to upgrade my P30+ to a P45+ because as I noted above, microlenses over the sensor / non-retrofocus lenses / movements generally don't play together well, which pushes the cost of making the switch even higher still.

    I agree the Alpa cameras do indeed look similarly awesome, but my only first-hand experience with one was last year, when I was in NYC on business and I ran into a guy photographing with an Alpa MAX outside of my hotel in Times Square. He was truly surprised that I had recognized it and he generously let me handle it for a bit as well as put a few images captured with it on a memory card I had with me. Alas, it is likewise too rich for my budget, as the cost of mounted lenses is even higher than what Arca charges and used ones aren't exactly thick on the ground these days... :-(

  15. #15
    Gardenerbob
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Hmmm, maybe I should try a new tack and look for the Contax 645 used.
    As this is getting off forum topic. I am going to post in Medium Format. Thanks for all the detailed info, guys.


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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    I just noticed that Lance showed my image of El Capitan in this thread.
    I use a Linhof Technikardan S with the Linhof MFDB holder. Essentially I frame and then mount the DB on the rear standard and take three rows of 5 exposures (a lot of overlap). I took an LCC exposure after each shutter release (so essentially 30 exposures in all).

    I also use the Maxwell screen and the Linhof MFDB mount seems to match the GG plane of focus pretty well. Stopping down ensures the image is in focus; just like I had to do with film.

    My lenses are 25+ years old and suffering from "Schneideritis". And the shutters are prontors which, even after recent service, are sticking. So I'm looking to replace them (anyone know where I can find a reputable dealer?).

    It seems to me that the combination of stopping down and using LCC for correction of each exposure works well. I'll keep practicing and see what a large print looks like.

    Btw, I also use my Hassy Flexbody (rear rise and fall plus rear T/S) with great success:
    http://rgaphoto.com/2011Yosemite/con...e_1_large.html
    This image is sharp all the way through.
    Bob

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    I just finished modifying Meridian 45B (aka American Linhoff) to accept sliding back adapter from Fotodiox (which is basically graflok compatible, got its own focusing screen, but meridians didnt have graflok backs , so some technical work was done, i tried few approaches and very happy with result, as i kept whole thing compatible with original spring screen, and kept rotating capabilities in tact, if they ever needed (not fast though, if digital to be used).

    Anyway - i just done first set of tests with Aptus 54s. And it looks like if i am to use loupe to focus on supplied screen - its dead on sharp with pretty old Angulon (not suffering from usual Schneiderities though ), and with Calumet's rebranded Roddenstock 210/5.6. However its a bit trickier to focus of course.

    Still got to do some work. Problem with cheap sliding backs is that they dont cover whole image, which bugs me. But i am not yet ready to pony up two grands for K-group one

    (if you looking towards fotodiox word of warning - they do not give you black slide for viewfinder. So if you are cheap bugger like i am and dont have chimney or something that could be closed - you will need to make black slide of your own. Cutting plastic from any of instant film packs works like magic )

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    The issue of sharp focus with a digital back, is more about focal length to begin with. The circle of confusion for digital is at least 4 times more critical than film was as the depth of digital is 1 micron verses several thousandths for film. It is quite easy to focus 72/75mm lenses and longer on a ground glass. However as many of the digital back sensors are a great deal smaller, for wide angle lenses the focal lengths are therefore much shorter. They are not easily optically focused consistently shot to shot.
    Also if you shoot your analog lenses by themselves with a digital back on a view camera you might feel they are quite good. However when shot on same shot against a digital lens, you would see a huge difference. The analog lens will require a much larger adjustment in sharpening and much more work on contrast as well. And then it still will not be quite as good as the digital lens image side by side.
    A Camera such as the RM3di or RM2d or other tech cameras can make a considerable difference in sharpness especially with the wides. And when the movements are used you are unlikely to introduce any misalignment either. Then the last item is that diffraction seems to show up much sooner as you stop down than with film. So F22 is probably out and around F11 is probably your limit. When you jump up to high MP backs you may not be able to even pass F8 or F8.5. The denser backs show the diffraction even faster.
    Just some comments.
    Last edited by RodK; 2nd June 2011 at 14:30. Reason: spelling
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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    Depth of focus--the tolerance at the image plane for focus--is a factor of the f-number and has nothing to do with focal length. This is true for digital as well as film. At the very least, it will be proportional to the pixel pitch. Since no sensor has a pixel pitch of 1 micron, the tolerance does not need to be that tight.

    Rod, what do you mean by a "thousandth"?

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    I use a P25+ back on a Linhof C679 view camera with a sliding back and ground glass. I have no problem focusing that. I wish the ground glass was finer, but you get used to it.

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    Re: Large Format and Digital Back

    I'm using a Technikardan 23 with a Hasselblad CFV39 back and Linhof adapter plate. No question my 35mm Sinaron Apo digital lens requires a fine touch to focus but it can be dome. I has taken some practice but I'm hitting a very high percentage now. It just takes a fine touch on the focus and keen eye on details. My 47mm SA XL and 58mm SA XL seem to be much easier to focus.

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