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Thread: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

  1. #1
    Member nikonf's Avatar
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    Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Good day,

    My name is Mike Herring and I have been a photographer for more than 35 years. I started with 4x5, medium format and 35mm systems in the US Army and also ran the photo lab in my unit.
    After the Army service, I worked part time as a commercial and (heaven forbid) wedding photographer using 4x5 and Hasselblad cameras.
    Recently, I have been using Nikon and Canon DSLRs because when I used film I always bought the lenses I preferred and then purchased the bodies I needed.
    These days, I do mainly landscape, macro and some architecture and I am not satisfied with the images at 12mp.
    I would like to move to medium format for the superior quality as I have been able to view the RAW images the digital media department at Mercedes-Benz USA produces (I am an employee).
    I would very much appreciate any recommendations you experts can provide regarding a digital back or digital back and camera.
    The only medium format camera I still own is a late model Hasselblad 503 CW and an 80mm Planar CE lens. I also have an Arca-Swiss 4x5 and a Linhof Technikardan 4x5. Therefore, in essence I need to know whether I need just a digital back and a few lenses or an entire system.
    Are any of the large format lenses I own good enough for digital? I have a 55mm APO-Grandagon, 72mm Super-Angulon XL, 110mm Super-Symmar XL, 150mm Sironar-S, 210mm Sironar-N and both Nikkor AM lenses: 120mm & 210mm.
    I probably would be content to have 3 prime lenses for digital and a macro lens, but I am open to any suggestions. Even, heaven forbid, a zoom lens option. Also - how superior is a 22-31mp medium format digital back to a 21-24mp DSLR from Canon, Nikon or Sony? Is it vastly superior in a 20x30 inch print? I have been informed the digital back sensors are inherently superior because these do not use any filters.
    Lastly, are there any dealers in the NYC area you would recommend?

    Thank you very much for your time, effort and expertise.

    Sincerely,
    Mike Herring
    [email protected]

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    Senior Member David Schneider's Avatar
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Mike,
    Here's a couple of threads:

    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=18868

    http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=20046

    First one I asked similar question. Second one shows a very unscientific comparison of Hasselblad digital image vs. Canon 5dMk2 image.

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    Thumbs up Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    When you are ready, definitely get in touch with Richard Andres at
    FotoCare in NYC.

    He was great to work with in my case.


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    Senior Member Graham Mitchell's Avatar
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    If you like working with the view cameras then you could certainly go down that route. The lenses are superior to the SLR lenses, you already have nearly everything you need to get started, and you will get the full range of technical movements on all lenses which you would miss with an SLR.

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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    I compared my old 11mp MFDB to my 12mp APS-C DLSR, and I found the MFDB to be 2-3x as sharp. The lack of AA filter and the extra color depth was immediately noticeable, even at smaller print sizes.

    Ergo, I think it's safe to assume that a newer 20+ mp back will have a similar 2x improvement in IQ over a high end FF DSLR.

    But I would appreciate contrarian opinions from those who disagree.

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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format


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    Member nikonf's Avatar
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Many thanks for all of your most informative responses.
    I am going to NYC to test out the backs and compare them to the quality I get now from my best Zeiss, Leica and Canon/Nikon optics on Full frame 12MP.
    A couple of you responded I will be able to produce superior images, even with the non-digital Schneider and Rodenstock lenses I currently have.
    Another photographer told me a very good option would be a medium format Alpa, Arca, Linhof or Cambo with a couple of Rodenstock or digital Schneider lenses. He has used the Mamiya lenses and the Rodenstock digital lenses (especially the wide and super-wide angles) were vastly superior in resolution, contrast, edge resolution and APO registration.
    This person has been shooting large format architecture for more than 30 years and he decided to go this way after extensive testing.
    Wishing you good light,
    Mike

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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    I currently use a Cambo WRS1000 and Phase One P45+ as my primary landscape camera and am very pleased with it. Much like you I used to use a Canon 1DsII for landscape until I felt the need for better image quality and made the switch to digital medium format first with the Mamiya 645 AFD and a P30+ and finally moving to the technical camera and the WRS/P45+ combo.

    I'm also using a Leica M9 as a walk around camera and enjoy the quality of that almost as much as the Cambo\P45+. My wife shoot with a 1DsIII and since I do all the post processing I'm fortunate enough to see first hand the great image quality a digital medium format back offers - of course the lens quality of the Schneider lens also have a huge impact.

    Good luck on you quest!

    Don
    Don Libby
    Iron Creek Photography
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Interesting discussion. My experience is similar to Don's. An M8 as a walk-around, travel camera. Great flexibility, small form factor, ability to deliver pretty serious shots if needed. For mroe thougthful composition and slower work, a Leaf back and a bunch of older Schneider lenses - just can't imagine anything sharper, better, or more necessary. Had a P20 before that, and liked it, although its ability to work in lesser light was more limited. The medium format setup is good for studio or for taking out. Its rather cumbersome to walk around with, but the number of keepers with it are much higher percentage. I think its the combination of thoughtfulness in composition and shooting, and it captures a level of detail now expected. Perhaps the M9 would too.... but then all the lenses for the M8 would have to be reshuffled, and that's a lot of $ for a body.

    However, both of these, superb in their own ways, have limitations. Tight composition with the M8 is hard; MF gear is both slow and heavy. A couple of lenses, camera and back - and its backpack weight, not shoulder bag.

    Alternatively, My son has the family Canon 7D, and with a 70-200, and 1.4 tx, he gets fine good shots. Color rendition isn't quite as nice, nor the lenses, but he's getting the shots while I'm fitting a lens or firing up a back. The speed he can work to capture wildlife is also untouchable. So rather than trying to compete, the smart next purchase would be a 400 mm lens for that platform.

    In short, depends on what you are shooting. If I had to pick one.... I'd probably say the M8 is the most usable, but the medium format setup has the higher level of interest and precision - and thus (for now) gives the most pleasure.

    Be careful how you pick your system tho - each has its quirks. Make sure you like what you are getting - its a big investment (even if its 1/2 of what it used to be.... or less! but still....) and not so easy to swap around. If simple gear (Canon, Nikon, even the small Leicas) can do the trick, stay there. Cheaper, simpler, faster.

    There are some who suggest that even for landscape work the really good Canon gear is close to the MF (tilts, shifts per LL article) but I don't quite see that. I could imagine the Leica M9 could be.... but if you are looking for that last 2-5% that makes the picture sing - not much choice. Some of us have gotten to the point that dynamic range is what we shoot for, challenging the gear with hard shots is part of the fun and that unusual lighting, color rendition, or special challenges is what we are interested in. For that, the choices get fewer.

  10. #10
    Member nikonf's Avatar
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Hi Don,

    Thanks very much for the technical information.
    You have some great images on your website!
    How do the Leica lenses and M9 compare to the medium format results?
    Always loved the look of the Leitz optics.
    The photographers using the Rodenstock and Schneider digital lenses seem to be very impressed with the image quality. I guess you still get what you pay for......
    All the best,
    Mike

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Libby View Post
    I currently use a Cambo WRS1000 and Phase One P45+ as my primary landscape camera and am very pleased with it. Much like you I used to use a Canon 1DsII for landscape until I felt the need for better image quality and made the switch to digital medium format first with the Mamiya 645 AFD and a P30+ and finally moving to the technical camera and the WRS/P45+ combo.

    I'm also using a Leica M9 as a walk around camera and enjoy the quality of that almost as much as the Cambo\P45+. My wife shoot with a 1DsIII and since I do all the post processing I'm fortunate enough to see first hand the great image quality a digital medium format back offers - of course the lens quality of the Schneider lens also have a huge impact.

    Good luck on you quest!

    Don

  11. #11
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Mike - you're welcome and thanks for the comments on the images.

    It's very hard not to be impartial when comparing the Leica M9 (using Leica lenses) to the results I've gotten using the Schneider lens with the WRS/P45+. While I still firmly believe that there simply isn't a current 35mm full frame system on the market that can match or beat medium format that gap has closed considerably with the M9 and Leica lenses.

    I've had this very same conversation with another photographer whom I value not only her work but her opinion and we've both come to the same conclusion; we're seeing what we see not what we want to see.

    Very long convoluted answer to how I see the comparison between my Leica lenses for 35mm versus my Schneider lenses for medium format. The shortest answer I can give you is if I rank the Schneider glass as 10 then I rank the Leica glass as 9.5. This is of course based on the lenses I own and use almost everyday.

    While glass quality has a major impact on image quality almost equal to that is the sensor of the camera/digital back and I personally believe that the major reason "we're" seeing such a huge quality comparison between the M9 and P45+ (and P65) is the sensors in the systems. I am fortunate to see the difference in image quality between the 1DsIII my wife uses to the M9 and I believe there is a big gap there; that gap lessens considerably between the M9 and my P45+.

    In the end all this is very subjective and can only really be seen by the individual who has the files directly in front of them. Jpegs on forums and other websites generally suck in comparison to the actual file or printed page however we're stuck with it until we can do something better. The great folks at Capture Integration are one of a very few that I know of that actually offer RAW files for downloading (just remembered that Jack & Guy both do as well).

    My personal opinion - if you want image quality better than 35mm DSLR then medium format is the way to go. If you really want to push the envelope of medium format for anything outside a studio (thinking landscape images) then look at a technical camera and digital back. If you want a smaller compact easy to carry in the field full frame 35mm with kickass image quality look towards the Leica M9 and Leica glass. I've only mentioned Leica lenses here as that is all I own; I understand there are equally good lenses offered for the M9 that are not made by Leica however I don't own any - yet.

    Sorry for the rather long reply

    Don
    Don Libby
    Iron Creek Photography
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    Tucson AZ

  12. #12
    Senior Member symbolphoto's Avatar
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    I jvst w3nt and st4bb3d my 3y3s 0u+ to enu5ur3 i d0n+ go bvy 4n m9 n0w.

    Must resist.

  13. #13
    Member nikonf's Avatar
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    Re: Old Timer Needs Help Choosing Digital Medium Format

    Hi Geoff,

    What are you using now for a medium format camera and which back?
    Are you using large format lenses with a medium format back or the newer digital lenses?

    Thanks again for any "light" you can shed on this rather expensive transition.

    Take care,
    Mike

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