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Thread: tech/view cameras advises required!

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    tech/view cameras advises required!

    Hello everybody, I am an interiors and architectural photographer and I moved years ago from my beloved MF and 4x5 view camera and film to the digital arena. I am presently working with a Canon system and the tilt and shift lenses but I am not happy about the quality/flexibility. The next step would be the medium format/tech cameras and digital back but since the costs involved in this operation are substantial it is better to get off on the right foot and ask some advises from you!
    I am attracted to the portability and size of the new tech cameras (ALPA, ARCA, CAMBO…) and I think this would be the natural choice BUT there are one important detail = the cost of the lenses.
    The same lens can be almost double in price, for example:
    CAMBO SK 35mm f/5.6 Apo-Digital XL = $4,800 (approximately)
    Not mounted SK 35mm f/5.6 Apo-Digital XL = $2,775
    If I am planning to have 3 lenses it’s easy to predict that the difference in costs are close to $7,000 and on top of that it would be much easier to find not mounted lenses than, for example, CAMBO or ALPA mounted lenses for renting.

    After this long introduction the point is: Is it worth it to invest in the Arca-Swiss M Two (that, on paper, I really like) and saving money with the lenses (+ easier rental options) or the DB are now so unforgivable in term of focus that it would be better to go with tech cameras? Does the Arca-Swiss have the quality, but most of all, the precision to satisfy the demands of a modern DB? And what about the parallelism of the standards, the possibility for very fine focus adjustments, where a fraction of a millimeter can change everything? I know there is not the “perfect” solution but I really appreciate to know more about this system from professionals that actually use it.

    BTW Please forgive my mistakes, English is not my first language!
    Max

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Hi Max:

    Yes, the M two would be fine with a DB. I have a Linhof c679 with a sliding back and a p25+ DB. I have no issue with focus and it has a similar rack and pinion focus like the Arca. Another camera might be a Linhof Techno, which like all three of these cameras, takes view camera lenses, which you can mount in a lens board. Depending on the focal length, you my find non-digital lenses work just as well as their digital versions and can be a lot cheaper.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    In general the issues of precision are more important when:
    - using a higher resolution back (e.g. 60mp rather than 20mp)
    - using wider lenses (e.g. 28XL rather than 60XL)
    - focusing at infinity than close up (e.g. architecture not tabletop)
    - using wider apertures (e.g. f/8 than f/16)

    Personally for most architectural shooters I suggest skipping over a view camera and going straight for a tech camera. I find the argument for a view camera to be stronger for table top, macro, or portrait applications.
    Doug Peterson , Digital Transitions | Email
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Focus precision is a matter of the aperture, not the focal length. It is no harder to focus a 28mm lens than a 280mm one.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    I'd say that a pancake camera like the RM3Di and a laser distance meter is ideal for interiors.

    However, while not being as ideal it will still work fine with an Arca-Swiss M-line 2. Chris Barrett has used it a lot for interiors, see his review here Christopher Barrett - Photographer: Blog : Arca Swiss M Line Two

    If you shoot f/11 as ideal aperture, which I think you should have even for 60 megapixel backs, you will not need to worry about parallelism issues with the M-line 2, and with a strong loupe you'll focus precise enough too, but probably you should plan to shoot tethered at least indoors, or have a back that supports focus checking.

    If you are going to shoot a lot with larger apertures than f/11, perhaps because you enjoy aliasing and too short depth of field , I would strongly recommend a pancake cam. If you shoot a lot of wides indoor (ie low light) and really dislike the idea of having to check focus on the back or tethered, I would also recommend a pancake camera.

    A nice thing with going Arca is that you have the RM3Di in the same system. Arca-Swiss is unique in having both a very good pancake camera and a very good digital field view camera.

    I use a Linhof Techno myself but I'm a landscape photographer, and I would say that if I would be shooting indoor architecture professionally I'd probably get an RM3Di, at least until we have decent live view-capable backs that also perform well with technical wide angles. The reason would not be for parallelism or precision but to get a bit smoother workflow in low light. However I don't see advantages so huge that I would put a lot of money in it, so if I also had use of the view camera flexibility I'd probably go for the view cam. And of course it's the economics side of it, but if you buy a $40k digital back spending $1-2K extra per lens might not seem that bad. If you instead get a pre-owned 33 -39 megapixel back than there's serious money to save in terms of percent.

    The Techno is one of the best systems for portable tech photography, I have seven lenses in my system, 35, 47, 60, 72, 90, 120, 180, the cost of those in say tiltable Alpa or Cambo mounts would be very high indeed (can't even get tilt for them all), and probably also more bulky to carry. The M-line two is still portable not as good as the Techno, but is then on the other hand more flexible in the studio (wider range of movements, important for closeups), and costs a bit less.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Focus precision is a matter of the aperture, not the focal length. It is no harder to focus a 28mm lens than a 280mm one.
    I agree. You don't need to place the focus more precise with a wide angle, as the depth of focus is constant with aperture, so the difficulty with wide angle focusing is often exaggerated.

    However with wide angle you have the problem with light falloff, substantial focus breathing, and fresnel mismatch (when lens is shifted) making it increasingly harder to focus on something as you go away from the center of the image circle, simply because visibility on the ground glass becomes poor.

    One trick in difficult situations which I use sometimes with my SK35 is to focus first, by pointing the camera at an object at suitable distance, so I get to focus in the center, and then make the composition with shifts etc. In really low light I have a strong led head lamp which I light up the area as I focus. Some use a laser pointer for the same purpose, but I found the head lamp more all-around.

    Focusing the SK28 on the ground glass in indoor light will be challenging quite often (especially when large shifts are being used), therefore I think most will prefer to have a possibility to check focus either on the back or by shooting tethered. Shooting tethered is often a good idea anyway.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Torger +1

    And I think that is more of a problem--finding a good ground glass and using it. It is so much easier with a large format ground glass than the small area that is used in a view camera with a digital back. If you are coming from 4x5, the MFD ground glass is a bit of a shock.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    Focus precision is a matter of the aperture, not the focal length. It is no harder to focus a 28mm lens than a 280mm one.
    Displacing a 28mm lens by 3mm is of more consequence than displacing a 300mm lens by 3mm. So if you're limited to a gearing which is difficult to move in extremely small amounts you'll notice it more on a short lens.

    Likewise an effective 1 degree (or 0.1 degree or whatever degree) of swing from a misaligned lens matters more on a 28mm than a 280mm lens. So if your standards aren't perfectly parallel it's unlikely to effect a long lens shot, but very likely to add a strong (unplanned) Scheimpflug effect.

    Again, one of the factors is resolution of the digital back (assuming that your goal is to maximize the detail the back can capture). So users of 22mp backs are less likely to run into any such frustrations than users of, e.g. a 60mp or 80mp. If you're going to go for a 22mp back and don't plan on upgrading in the near or mid term then you'd likely be quite happy with a view camera, as Shashin and Torger are.

    And to be clear there are also users of higher-res backs using view cameras for architecture.

    Only guaranteed option to know what works for you is to try it yourself. If you can visit a specialized dealer that's one such way; a rental from such a dealer is another (often credit can be made towards final purchase); finding another forum member that you can meet up with, or attending a workshop are others.
    Last edited by dougpeterson; 21st May 2014 at 11:59.
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    One thing that make MFD ground glass experience a bit better is a strong loupe. By some mysterious reason the view camera makers themselves do not provide adequate loupes, and using a 4x5" 6x loupe is just not enough magnification for digital, for people with normal eyesight and skill at least.

    The by most considered the best loupe around is the Linhof Studio / Silvestri 12x loupe. I own that and it's good but actually I use a 20x jewelry loupe most of the time. I don't know if the Arca-Swiss ground glass is as finely grained as the Linhof though, but I'd guess so.

    Still, most interior photographers I've seen working with a view camera, the Techno or the M-line 2, shoot tethered. Some don't even use a sliding back, but do something like this: frame and focus as good as you can on the ground glass, maybe not even using a very high resolution loupe (they're going to check focus later anyway) but rather a good overview loupe, remove the ground glass and put in the digital back, and shoot tethered, adjust focus if required (you'll learn how much to turn quite easily so you don't need to remove the back and start over), and you're done. Probably this is the least frustrating way to work with the view camera, you'll still most often hit focus at first try when you've trained a while, but you don't need to worry if you don't do it as you'll check the result anyway.

    If you have no possibility to check focus on the back or tethered you may find yourself painfully working hard to try to find best focus in those low light situations with your shifted SK28, and still not being 100% sure if you nailed it.

    I know some users that use RM3Di still use about the same workflow, ie they prefer to frame on the ground glass where you can more precisely frame the image than with a viewfinder, but use a laser distance meter and dof calculators and set the distance. It's not 100% certain it's a quicker workflow, but many feel more comfortable with it.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by dougpeterson View Post
    Likewise an effective 1 degree (or 0.1 degree or whatever degree) of swing from a misaligned lens matters more on a 28mm than a 280mm lens. So if your standards aren't perfectly parallel it's unlikely to effect a long lens shot, but very likely to add a strong (unplanned) Scheimpflug effect.
    That's a good point. That's why most digital view cameras intended for wide angle compatibility have only tilt and swing on the front standard and a fixed rear standard, to improve parallelism precision. This is true for both the Arca-Swiss M-line 2 and Linhof Techno.

    There's still a limit to how precise a flexible view camera can be made, and from the mathematical analysis I've made and practical use with the Linhof Techno I've come to the conclusion that view cameras are good for f/11 and smaller apertures. If you shoot with wider apertures parallelism can become an issue for the widest angles and focus placement precision for the ground glass focuser becomes too hard.

    There's plenty of good reasons to avoid wider apertertures than f/11 though. Less aliasing artifacts, ie moire and color aliasing, more even sharpness corner to corner, especially considering shifted wide angles, and a more workable depth of field. You will also have less worries about lens sample variations. And if you're satisified with not going wider than f/11 parallelism should not be an issue, and it's fine to go with the M-line 2 considering the precision.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by dougpeterson View Post
    Displacing a 28mm lens by 3mm is of more consequence than displacing a 300mm lens by 3mm. .
    Not as far as focus goes. Those would be exactly the same. For focus tolerance, depth of focus is the limiter, not depth of field (even though they are conjugate spaces). Your ability to place the image plane at the plane of focus is in the image space, not the object space. Depth of focus is directly related to the f-number as that makes the intersecting cone of light passing through the image plane. That is where you need to place the sensor. Focal length does not change that.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    THANK YOU everyone for your very helpful insights!

    I am not planning to go with a 22Mp DB, i would stay with the system that i presently use, but to go with, at least, 40Mp or a little higher.
    I completely agree with you, Torger, when you said if I spend 40k for the DB 1-2k per lens doesn't make a big difference but with 20k budget it could be.
    The advantage of a view camera system is that i could afford the camera, one lens and the DB (maybe a pre-owned one) and renting for $75 a day the additional lenses i need.
    I also have to say that i am not a fan of super wide angle lenses, mostly for interiors, everything starts to be distorted on the edge of the frame and it is not my style. I would rather use a 40mm and stitch 2 images than 24mm in one shot. It seems, considering your evaluations, that starting with a 35mm lens, for example, it will be a little more "forgiving" with the potential imperfections of the camera and i am also planning to use the lens at f11 to have the best results from the glass.
    As i said the natural choice would be a tech camera but it would force me to buy all the lenses together, at least 3 (i can't imagine to work with one lens!!!!) and the costs will be too high for me.
    So hard to figure it out!
    Budget reasons = view camera
    Practical reasons = tech camera

    Thanks for the advices.

    Max

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    I also have to say that i am not a fan of super wide angle lenses, mostly for interiors, everything starts to be distorted on the edge of the frame and it is not my style. I would rather use a 40mm and stitch 2 images than 24mm in one shot.
    This has got me scratching my head a bit.

    Assuming the same presented field of view, there would be a difference?

    Kind regards,

    Gerald.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Gerald,

    Quote Originally Posted by gerald.d View Post
    Assuming the same presented field of view, there would be a difference?
    Visually, yes, there would be if a projection type other than rectilinear is adopted, or if the horizontal and/or vertical compression feature in, for example, PTGui is adjusted. However, these features are not without issues of their own.

    EDIT: In addition, if an image is produced via nodal stitching rather than shift stitching then the images will differ visually - I think - given that the former represents a 'faceted' image whereas the latter preserves rectilinearity, just at a larger size than the sensor is capable of natively.

    Cheers,
    Last edited by AreBee; 22nd May 2014 at 04:19.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Maki, think carefully about the digital back, as it will affect lens choice. And then how wide field of view you need and how much you want to shift.

    The high costs and narrowing down of choices happen at the wide end.

    The 6um Dalsa sensors (P40+, P65+, IQ140, IQ160, IQ260) don't work great with the SK28 and SK35, it's sort of okay as the LCC algorithms have improved but many get Rodenstock retrofocus lenses instead, which are more expensive, and have more distortion. The older 7.2um Dalsa sensor work better (Aptus-II 7) with those lenses, and also the 6.8um Kodak sensor (eg P45+). Sensor size 44x33, 48x36 or 54x41 will of course also affect the field of view and what you need.

    If you don't shift much a 44x33 sensor size could make the Rodenstock Digaron-S lenses attractive which are a bit cheaper on the wide end.

    If you intend to flat-stitch instead of getting a superwide not that you'll have the same issues concerning color cast etc when you shift a longer lens to get the same field of view as the shorter, as the light will fall in about the same angle (assuming similar design, which they usually are).

    For the view camera I think a pre-owned Leaf Aptus-II 7 would be a very good choice, and combine it with SK lenses. The SK35mm will then get about the same field of view and shift capability as you have with your Canon and TS-E 24 today. Getting the SK35 pre-owned is not impossible either as many which upgrade to full-frame 6um backs sell their SK35 and get Rodenstock 40.
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by torger View Post
    Maki, think carefully about the digital back, as it will affect lens choice. And then how wide field of view you need and how much you want to shift.

    The high costs and narrowing down of choices happen at the wide end.

    The 6um Dalsa sensors (P40+, P65+, IQ140, IQ160, IQ260) don't work great with the SK28 and SK35, it's sort of okay as the LCC algorithms have improved but many get Rodenstock retrofocus lenses instead, which are more expensive, and have more distortion. The older 7.2um Dalsa sensor work better (Aptus-II 7) with those lenses, and also the 6.8um Kodak sensor (eg P45+). Sensor size 44x33, 48x36 or 54x41 will of course also affect the field of view and what you need.

    If you don't shift much a 44x33 sensor size could make the Rodenstock Digaron-S lenses attractive which are a bit cheaper on the wide end.

    If you intend to flat-stitch instead of getting a superwide not that you'll have the same issues concerning color cast etc when you shift a longer lens to get the same field of view as the shorter, as the light will fall in about the same angle (assuming similar design, which they usually are).

    For the view camera I think a pre-owned Leaf Aptus-II 7 would be a very good choice, and combine it with SK lenses. The SK35mm will then get about the same field of view and shift capability as you have with your Canon and TS-E 24 today. Getting the SK35 pre-owned is not impossible either as many which upgrade to full-frame 6um backs sell their SK35 and get Rodenstock 40.
    Torger, it seems that the right move is to decide the DB first and than built the system around it according the best combination with the lenses. But also it seems that the newest DB demand the Rodenstock HR, with the SK not as an option.
    The P45+ is maybe the best solution, but what about a preowned Leaf Aptus-II 10 (i like the size of the sensor and the MP are adequate for what i do) or since it is discontinued i am buying something that is already "old"?

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by maki-b View Post
    Torger, it seems that the right move is to decide the DB first and than built the system around it according the best combination with the lenses. But also it seems that the newest DB demand the Rodenstock HR, with the SK not as an option.
    The P45+ is maybe the best solution, but what about a preowned Leaf Aptus-II 10 (i like the size of the sensor and the MP are adequate for what i do) or since it is discontinued i am buying something that is already "old"?
    The Aptus-II 10 is using the 6 um Dalsa sensor technology, ie the same sensor type as in P40+, P65+, IQ140, IQ160, Credo40, Credo60 etc, but has a unique size format of 56x36mm. Ie it won't be better at handling the SK35 than the others. You can make good results with the SK35 still, there are examples of that. If it's good enough for you I cannot know, I recommend to look at some samples.

    There are not really many sensor types on the market, just different sizes of them. You have 9 um Dalsa/Kodak, 7.2um Dalsa, 6.8 um Kodak, and 6um Dalsa, and also a rare 6um Kodak (used in Hasselblad CFV-50), and now the new CMOS from Sony of course...

    I am myself planning to upgrade eventually and will continue using SK35 on 6um Dalsa, knowing its limitations. Actually Aptus-II 10 is a likely upgrade path for myself. I own an Aptus 75 today. I know quite a lot about the performance of the various types of backs though as I develop raw software.
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    IMHO, the best thing you can do is connect with a good dealer -- and I specifically recommend the ones that advertise on our site! -- and have them run you through the plusses and minuses of each system currently available. End of day, systems from Cambo, Alpa, Arca, Linhoff and Sinar are all very well made and a knowledgeable shooter can make their desired images with any of them, but they each still have their relative strengths and weaknesses...
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Good dealers are good to have, but few are around. I've been in contact with about seven dealers in Europe, only two of them was familiar with tech cam systems at all. One suggested me to use the IQ250 with my SK Digitar wides, which anyone remotely familiar with the hardware knows is a rather bad idea. A dealer that suggests things without really knowing what they're talking about is a quite a turn-off for me, but it happens.

    So sure go find a good dealer, but make sure that they really have experience with the stuff (many dealers are small and specialized on narrow use cases, here in Europe it's often studio photography for portrait and advertising, technical camera knowledge is harder to find) and it's still a good idea to double-check with the forums. There's a lot of knowledge here, both in terms of technical knowledge and user experience.

    A really good dealer has experience with many different systems though, something that's harder to find among users on the forums. Also keep in mind that a dealer probably won't suggest you to buy a system which they don't sell

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by torger View Post
    Good dealers are good to have, but few are around. I've been in contact with about seven dealers in Europe, only two of them was familiar with tech cam systems at all. One suggested me to use the IQ250 with my SK Digitar wides, which anyone remotely familiar with the hardware knows is a rather bad idea. A dealer that suggests things without really knowing what they're talking about is a quite a turn-off for me, but it happens.

    So sure go find a good dealer, but make sure that they really have experience with the stuff (many dealers are small and specialized on narrow use cases, here in Europe it's often studio photography for portrait and advertising, technical camera knowledge is harder to find) and it's still a good idea to double-check with the forums. There's a lot of knowledge here, both in terms of technical knowledge and user experience.

    A really good dealer has experience with many different systems though, something that's harder to find among users on the forums. Also keep in mind that a dealer probably won't suggest you to buy a system which they don't sell
    I agree 100% with you, and this is the reason i am here, and i bet like many others, collecting information from professional photographers and people with knowledge and actual experience with the equipment.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Quote Originally Posted by AreBee View Post
    Gerald,



    Visually, yes, there would be if a projection type other than rectilinear is adopted, or if the horizontal and/or vertical compression feature in, for example, PTGui is adjusted. However, these features are not without issues of their own.

    EDIT: In addition, if an image is produced via nodal stitching rather than shift stitching then the images will differ visually - I think - given that the former represents a 'faceted' image whereas the latter preserves rectilinearity, just at a larger size than the sensor is capable of natively.

    Cheers,
    I get that of course if different projections are utilised, the images will look different.

    But there's nothing stopping you re-projecting a single shot from a wide angle lens.

    Still scratching my head as to why, unless you want the extra resolution, you'd ever make the choice to stitch multiple images from a longer focal length.

    Kind regards,

    Gerald.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Not sure if this is allowed but if you check out the buy and sell forum I have my Rm3di kit for sale in there which could help you out.
    Stop chasing gear, start chasing photos instead.

    Jeff, but my friends call me Dogs

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    I think flat-stitching and/or reprojecting makes you lose a bit of the workflow convenience of a tech cam. The whole idea of a tech cam is that you with movements get the perspective you want, shoot the image, and voila it's complete! If you stitch and reproject a lot, a panohead+DSLR combo comes in mind, you usually need to stitch more frames though but with the best stitching software it won't be much difference in time spent. I think the real gain is had if you don't need to stitch at all.

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    I think this is one of the most informative and civil set of posts I have read in a long time - thank you all
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Gerald,

    Quote Originally Posted by gerald.d View Post
    Still scratching my head as to why, unless you want the extra resolution, you'd ever make the choice to stitch multiple images from a longer focal length.
    Improved image edge quality? Reduced distortion from the lens?

    Not sure. Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't do it either - just putting some suggestions out there.

    Cheers,

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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    As far as the wide-angle effect where round objects appear to stretch away from the optical center, there is no difference between a single and stitched image if the angle of view is the same. It is basically a projection problem of a three-dimension space being reduced to a two-dimensional one. It is the angle of view and viewing distance that are causing that not the focal length per se.

  27. #27
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    Re: tech/view cameras advises required!

    Hmm. As a pro architectural shooter, the considerations for me always start with the question "What is the BEST gear currently available that meets my requirements?". I am in the business of giving my clients the best work I am capable of, so for me, this is the right place to start.
    The next question I consider is "what is the price difference between the best and the 2nd best options". I measure this not in dollars but in billable days of fees. At the time I chose to go with the system I currently use (IQ180, Rodenstock HR lenses on an Alpa STC), the price difference between the Alpa and the other 2 contenders at the time was about 3 days of fees. When I consider this in terms of the expected service/earning life of the camera/lenses, in my case 10-15 years, it became a non-argument. Basically, by sacrificing 3 days of fees over the next 10-15 years, I get to use my No1 choice of kit.
    Only you can make the assessment of budget vs ROI. Basically, if you are an architectural shooter, you need the highest res back you can afford, a pancake camera that you can learn to shoot without using a ground glass (workflow considerations) and the best lenses that suit the back. As the lenses will probably be in service through several upgrades of back, that most likely means Rodenstock HR's for anything much shorter than 50mm given that both the 60 and 80MP backs require these. Of course next-gen backs may not have this limitation, but you can only make decisions based on the current level of knowledge.
    Siebel
    "In the end, it's all about the pictures"
    www.bryansiebel.com

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