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Thread: Reaquainting myself with digital

  1. #1
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    Reaquainting myself with digital

    Well, I must say I'm really impressed with my D700. I have owned and used it for nearly one year, but almost never shot it for important personal work, always just for mundane paid work. I suppose as a consequence of not having shot anything other than boring subject matter with it I haven't tried to push it to its limits or got to grips with how best to process the files to satisfy some kind of personal vision. Lately I've been too hard up, both financially and with time, to shoot much for long term projects on 6x7cm film, as is my preferred format. So to try keep my eye in form I've been using the D700 in between jobs. I must say that the low light performance and shooting experience is amazing, especially now that I'm using LR3 over LR2. When I get the exposures right, the tonal and dynamic range in phenomenal. When I first got the camera, and occasionally still out of habit, I was / am off with my exposures and blow a lot of highlights by exposing like I would with colour neg. I've customized the settings now so that the camera pretty much operates like an AF FM2, using center weighted metering and with Active D-Lighting off. Once I flipped the meter readout "backwards" I found the camera a lot more intuitive to use. The only thing I'd like is more resolution.

    I'm not sure why I feel a need to share this info other than the fact that it's got me thinking about trying to fast track a full migration to digital. I've always lusted after a MF digital system and from the files I've seen, and from personal experience with several test sessions, I see MF file quality is certainly better than 35mm in certain situations. I wonder though, thinking about how large I print and the situations I like to photograph in, if the D3x is not a better option - it has an in camera 5x4 crop mode and produces nearly 360dpi files @ 12 x 15". The largest I ever print is 18 x 22.5" for small editions. Although I'm very fussy about print quality, I'm also aware that image content and form is the most important part of my photography, not absolute detail or even perfect technique. Being able to safely and confidently use up to 800ISO would be a bonus too, although I haven't used anything but 100ISO in my Mamiya 7ii for three years! MF digi is getting better but even with the H4D-40 I'd not want to put 400ISO.

    Having said all this, I think there are two things I would find weird about going back to 35mm. The first is having to deal with a larger depth of field and less spacial compression (if that's the right term?) I love the way the MF standard lenses draw. I know 35mm lenses are faster, but opening them up usually introduces many optical problems compared to say my M7 lenses. This leads me to my second worry, that every man and his dog uses a 35mm camera these days. In the game I'm in, sometimes it's the small, almost imperceptible visual differences that count. There's something about the combination of a bigger negative area and technically superior lenses that really contribute to a visual point of difference, even when shooting quick, more off the cuff images on the street. This is one area my Mamiya 7 really shines.

    I guess I've got a lot of thinking to do There are plenty of really well respected artists shooting with lesser gear than the D3X so I suppose that just goes to show me its somewhat of a futile discussion!

    Sorry for the rant!

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    Senior Member otumay's Avatar
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    Re: Reaquainting myself with digital

    tjv, I read your post with great interest. I must first assure you that being an amateur, I'm no way in a position to shed light on your inquiry(ies).

    What I understood is that you are considering a switch from analog to digital AND from MF to 35mm. The first topic is more or less time related, i.e. digital is fast catching analog in more than one aspect, if not surpassing it, especially when practicality is of importance. This will probably be more so in a year or two, making the switch to digital an easier choice.

    The second issue is more complex, I believe. I have always shot 35mm, and now contemplate going into MF. You have very nicely summarized the pros and cons; I have benefited myself by reading your post. I LOVE the authority MF images have, it's almost lust. Having said this, I would not easily forgo the ergonomics of 35mm, especially in street shooting. For better images I opt for Leica M, sacrificing autofocus and higher ISO shooting.

    So it all boils down to pros and cons, as you've stated. I hope you'll find a solution that will satisfy you both professionally and artistically.

    Best,

    Osman

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    Re: Reaquainting myself with digital

    Just to show something, here's an image of my beautiful little nephew from the other night. It was taken at 1600ISO with the 24-70 at f4. I just couldn't have got this shot with my usual setup.

    In terms of detail / resolution, I think well scanned MF film is still better than 24mp 35mm digital, but it's such a mission trying to squeeze the best out of it. Time is money, as they say!

    Again, sorry if I'm not adding anything new to this discussion, I'm really only thinking out loud!
    Last edited by tjv; 7th January 2012 at 01:23.

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    Subscriber Member Corlan F.'s Avatar
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    Re: Reaquainting myself with digital

    Hey Tim, good points.

    You already know the pros and cons of MF vs DSLR, so i won't get into that. Let's just say that only the latest MFDB offers (H4D, PO DF+sensor plus backs (40+/65)) come close to DSLR flexibility. Not quite there -by far on some aspects-, but catching up. Then, the economic side of things may be another limitation, for some (like myself)...

    On the strict matter of pixel counts, at least for landscapes you might want to look into the work of Roman Johnston (he's sometimes on the board). The prints size and quality he achieves with his 6-to-12MP bodies is simply astounding.

    Of course there's a lot of printing optimization involved, maybe he'll chime in on this.

    FWIW, i printed several 1m*60cm posters from D700 files, high-end products for shows in particular, and they came out quite good.
    Yeah it's easier with the D3X, and surely even more with a H4D-40 or a PO DF/40+, and posters will look nicer if they have to be displayed at closer distances. Again, not the same money -and not the same file handling and processing time either

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