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Thread: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

  1. #1
    mahaney_mark
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    Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    I still shoot a lot of film, but for editorial projects I've started to shoot some digitally. I was using the Canon 5d MarkII but was quite let down by the quality of the image, especially with their tilt/shift lenses (I'm coming from shooting 4x5 film). So, I tried the Phase/Mamiya 645df with a Phase One P45+ back. I've tried a lot of medium format options out and this is the best I've found. I like the RZ with this back, but don't like that the lens focal lengths aren't native. I liked the 645df camera and the p45+, but I have to say I'm let down by how the back renders backlighting. Why do most medium format digital backs seem to have problems with this? I shoot a lot of natural light and sometimes shoot into a window. On film, it looks great. Even with a Canon it looks great. But with the MF digital systems I've used, it looks like a mess. Why is this? Is this a common problem? Any solutions?

  2. #2
    Senior Member mediumcool's Avatar
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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    Your post is far-ranging but quite vague; “…let down by how the back renders backlighting.
    Specific examples?

    Why do most medium format digital backs seem to have problems with this?”
    What other backs have you tested, or where did you obtain the anecdotal evidence for this statement? Which lens or lenses?

    You state that [you were] “… quite let down by the quality” of the Canon 5D, but later that “… with a Canon it looks great”.

    Getting back to the Mamiya and the P45+, a significant difference between digital and film is that the sensor has a reflective glass cover, and some lenses not designed for digital photography can cause reflections to bounce around, causing flare. The matte surface of film, on the other hand, minimises this.

    Perhaps if you posted some samples …
    Last edited by mediumcool; 25th February 2012 at 05:40. Reason: added an ellipsis
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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    There is lots of useful experience and broad technical expertise on this board but without samples or illustrative examples this question amounts to writing on a music forum "Can you help me name that song that goes de dum do dum dum dee dum?"

    We'd be happy to help. Just post some examples!

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    Senior Member mediumcool's Avatar
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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    Quote Originally Posted by dougpetersonci View Post

    There is lots of useful experience and broad technical expertise on this board but without samples or illustrative examples this question amounts to writing on a music forum "Can you help me name that song that goes de dum do dum dum dee dum?"
    I know that song! Itís Ö um, er Ö

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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    For what it's worth I've shot the exact same thing, fashion editorials with models sitting or standing in front of a window with both film and my P25 and have had no such problem. Like others said, you might want to post an example illustrating your issues.

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    Senior Member David Schneider's Avatar
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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    This week I did a quick outside pose I do often during my high school season. It was the first time I used the Hassie H3D2-39 and 100mm instead of Canon 5dmk2 and 70-200. The 100 is shorter than I usually use for it, but was still surprised by the flare. Some of it might be the sun being in a different position in winter compared to summer, leaves on trees might block sun in summer. Will take a look at it and pay more attention to it; it's pretty automatic in summer.

  7. #7
    mahaney_mark
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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    I understand my post was wide ranging and at times, contradicting of itself. First, the canon system is impressive for what it is, but being someone who is used to shooting large format mainly and making conventional darkroom prints, it was a big shift to use on jobs where budgets were tight. There are the new Schneider tilt/shifts I really want to try, as I do not like the Canon versions. I've tried the new and old 24mm and neither are impressive to me. The focus is super finicky. The Canon does however seem to render backlighting better than what I've tried in the (I have to admit, very few times I've tried medium format digital).

    I just feel quite overwhelmed making this transition into digital. I've held off until now because I haven't felt the quality was there. There are many of my peers who do similar work, large or medium format environmental portraits and architecture, typically relying on natural light who are all similarly frustrated with how the photos are rendered digitally compared to what we're used to on film. I've so far tried the p45+ with my RZ and a range of RZ lenses, I've tried the same back also on the Arca Swiss Rm3di with a digitar 47mm lens and I've also tried the same back with a Phase One/Mamiya 645df with a range of their digital lenses. I've had best results I'd say with the RZ and the 645df. I just went to look for examples, as I know they'd help illustrate this, but I think I tossed them. I wish these cameras weren't so expensive to rent, so I could actually try them out more and more. Anyhow, it just seems in general the rendering of the subtle gradient changes of daylight, especially through a window are not rendered as well from my experience on digital as on film. It seems like an entirely different genre at times.Although I don't examples of shots taken digitally, I can supply some photos I did on film that I don't feel would've turned out as well on digital. This image for instance on digital would've been ultra blown out around the window with haloing and such. On film, it is great, with no burning, dodging.
    BlueLabel | Assignment Work | Mark Mahaney - Photographer
    and even a shot like this:
    StopSmiling Magazine, Stephen Malkmus | Assignment Work | Mark Mahaney - Photographer

    Possibly you won't agree that it would be difficult to create the same look on digital. Perhaps I just have to try the cameras out more. This has however been my experience thus far and as mentioned, for many of my peers who do similar work. I'm sorry to not be able to supply digital examples.

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    Re: Backlighting issues with MF Digital backs

    Mark, I just sent you some examples by private message as I prefer to keep my real identity private on forums.

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