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Thread: Has digital improved your photography?

  1. #1
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Has digital improved your photography?

    Looking at one of my oldest gallery quality images hanging in my office this morning, I recalled I shot it with my first view camera on 4x5 Velvia. I then got to reflecting about how has the move to digital *improved* my photography? And I realized it really hasn't, at least directly.

    Crap. Thinking more about it, the only real certainty is that that I spent a LOT of money on digital photography and a serious amount in just the last year (IQ180 upgrade, tech cam and lenses.) But so far this year (it isn't over yet) I did also create 6 images I am really happy with, images I deem lifetime portfolio worthy. Six solid gallery hangers is actually a pretty productive year for me, probably close to double my typical year. But then I recalled that half of them were out of the P65+ --- so the expensive digital upgrades did not make the difference.

    The only real difference with digital is I shoot a lot more frames than I ever did with film. In LF film days, I considered 20 sheets exposed -- which may have only been 7 or 8 unique compositions -- a huge day; and a good year was actually getting one gallery-grade image, getting more than two was a spectacular year. Today, even when using the "slow" tech cam, I frequently shoot 20 frames of the same basic subject, altering compositions slightly before moving to the next subject.

    So my photographic mantra for 2012 is simply going to be, "Get out and shoot more." And I hope to see you out there doing the same with me!

    Happy Holidays to all!
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    And to you too, Jack!

    The only thing that actually improves one's Photography is intent, study and practice. Technology is limited to affecting the specifics of capture and rendering, which can be better or worse as technology changes, but doesn't say much about the Photography itself.

    "... Yoda was a friend of mine. ..." ;-)

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    Senior Member David Schneider's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    During a portrait session, especially with seniors, I can easily try something new or different lighting. I wouldn't do that if I was still using film. With film I would probably limit myself to just doing what I know sells rather than trying something new or edgy or kewl.

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Godfrey and Dave both bring up very important aspects of digital and the practice ( and study ) of photography.

    The temporal compression that digital affords - i.e. the ability to try different angles, exposures, lighting and receive very quick feedback shortens the learning loop, enhances aspects of discovery and reinforces memory paths all of which should improves one's study and practice.

    I recall all too well the long delay between capture and review when I first began shooting....some 40 years ago. This was especially true on extended trips out of country. I rue the lost captures that would have been were I to have used my present gear...or any present gear.

    In short yes...but I was never that good to begin with and have a long way to go at the present time. I must admit that my lightroom skills far exceed any darkroom skill I could possess.

    'my photographic mantra for 2012 is simply going to be, "Get out and shoot more." '

    Best advice for all of us Jack.

    Happy Holidays in return.

    Bob

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    This one is tough for me to answer since I have been shooting digital only for about 20 years. Yes folks I was a guinea pig back than too. But I will say in that span the technology helped me accomplish with more certainity before I walked away from a shoot. The old days a lot of praying went on. Today I have no religion it's in the can I know it and on to the next. But I will say the recent upgrade to the IQ just adds more to the I nailed it category. Has it made me a better shooter, hard to say in all honesty I was never a bad one. LOL
    But I am supposed to deliver always. So in that respects sure the technology has helped me in functional ways for sure.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Yes indeed... Guy's theme song ():

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itb6uNL_3ag

    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Member Ebe's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Yes !!
    The control you have from start to finish is much improved.
    I produce better prints, more prints, and have more fun with digital than film.
    I do not want to spend time in a darkroom ever again.
    It can't improve you vision, but it can provide a more controlled workflow.
    For portrait photography, the ability to retouch with software is light years
    ahead of putting pencil lead to negatives.
    I love the new digital photography world…..
    The newer MFD cameras take pictures as nice as I use to get with 4x5.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack View Post
    Yes indeed... Guy's theme song ():

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itb6uNL_3ag

    And I can sing better too. Blahhhhhhhhh
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Senior Member David Schneider's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Instant gratification of digital has supplanted the slow gratification of watching a black and white print come to life in a tray of developer. The treatment of a file and the almost infinite alterations one can make to a file has supplanted the limited options of the negative in the darkroom or lab.

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Learning the basics of aperture and shutter speed was difficult enough for me with film. I still remember those notebooks which contained the shot number, aperture and shutter speed. I can't image if I had begun to learn lighting with film. Digital was much easier for that.

    As for digital improving my photography ? I'm not sure if it was simply years of practice and learning or how much the medium played into it.

    I certainly hope to join you Jack in 2012 - The Year I Get Out and Shoot More.
    Chris

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    I would say that the opposite is true for me - moving from a faster, more spontaneous medium - it was 35 mm film in 1999-2002, but could have been digital if I had made the move later - to a much slower, more deliberate, costly (per frame) medium - 8x10 inch large format color slide film - has hugely improved my photography.

    With an instant-feedback medium like digital it's mostly shoot first and then evaluate. 8x10 forces me - strong-arms, really - to think, to visualize an image, then to execute it (which is tedious but mostly trivial).

    This is why a slower medium makes me a better photographer: I have to think first, before I shoot. Think a lot. Visualize, see the final image.

    That said, I use digital for scouting and planning, so it is a tool in the process. And if I had the budget for a high end MF system then perhaps I would use it in a different way than I use my Nikon DSLR.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    I would say that the opposite is true for me - moving from a faster, more spontaneous medium - it was 35 mm film in 1999-2002, but could have been digital if I had made the move later - to a much slower, more deliberate, costly (per frame) medium - 8x10 inch large format color slide film - has hugely improved my photography.

    With an instant-feedback medium like digital it's mostly shoot first and then evaluate. 8x10 forces me - strong-arms, really - to think, to visualize an image, then to execute it (which is tedious but mostly trivial).

    This is why a slower medium makes me a better photographer: I have to think first, before I shoot. Think a lot. Visualize, see the final image.

    That said, I use digital for scouting and planning, so it is a tool in the process. And if I had the budget for a high end MF system then perhaps I would use it in a different way than I use my Nikon DSLR.
    The assumption is that digital is a rapid fire hope for the best medium....

    For a lot of us old guys it is not...I have cameras that are years old with a couple hundred shots....

    STILL: " I have to think first, before I shoot. Think a lot. Visualize, see the final image."

    No changes here.

    But the feedback allows a better output.

    I cannot tell you of the number of negatives that very high end processor companies have ruined.

    Would rather mess with them myself. And as an SMALL CAPS ALL amateur in the most humble sense of the term...I cannot afford the time nor space to process 4x5 or 8x10 Negs.

    You are correct that visualization and focus are tantamount in this game...sort of like Zen Archery.

    For me digital eliminates a lot of transient distraction and peripheral trash...including adding others into the loop.

    My H3D II 39 and S2 capture rival anything I got from 4x5.

    Bob

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Very good question Jack and somewhat difficult for me to quantify. I've been shooting digital for longer than I can remember. Who made the camera that took a disk?

    I think what's made the biggest difference is the software advances. Every once in a while I'll open an image from years ago to see if the software advances could help me make it better or just to see what if any changes could be made.

    Digital can be a two headed snake. On one head you have the ability to see what you've done instantly and correct if need be. The other head is the dangerous one. I've seen people literally take over a dozen images of the same subject hoping that at least one will be good. Very close to the spray and pray method of photography. I like to tell folks that no matter the card size I always act as if I only have 4-shots left on my roll. Then again I have to explain at times what a roll of film is....

    Just my 2 here...

    Don
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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    It has, but only up to a point. I changed to digital overnight after I screwed up epically on a shooting for a client, partly due to equipment failure and partly due to my own lack of abilities. With digital, I've been able to develop my technical skills in a way that would have been far too costly and far too time consuming with film. But over time, the comfort of digital photography has made me more sloppy. Increasingly often, I find myself taking a bunch of shots, of which maybe none are really good, instead of concentrating on the task 100% from the outset.

    For commercial photography, there's really no way around upgrading regularly and keep up with the technical development. Clients are usually well enough informed to know what is possible with the latest gadgets, and that is what they expect me to deliver.

    But for my own photography, the stuff that I really love to do, I've been in the process of "backgrading" for some time now, using gear that is slower and not at the bleeding edge of technology. I use more film, but also older digital cameras. Not having access to umpteen megapixels and clean ISO one million forces me to think and to plan each shot "the old way". And since other photographers abandon old gear at the speed of light these days, it's become cheap to acquire gear that used to cost a fortune.

    So, I think the ultimate learning process comes from doing it both ways: Fast paced commercial photography one day and slow, on digital or film, the other. It's like it always was; broad visions work better than narrow ones.

    Edit: Whenever I carry a film camera only, which is increasingly often, it's much more difficult to find motives worthy of a frame on the precious roll in my camera. For me, that's a good thing. It means that I take fewer photos that nobody, myself included, will bother looking at. Would 1GB memory cards in a DSLR have the same effect, I wonder...
    Last edited by Jorgen Udvang; 8th December 2011 at 15:12.

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by docmoore View Post
    The assumption is that digital is a rapid fire hope for the best medium....

    For a lot of us old guys it is not...I have cameras that are years old with a couple hundred shots....

    STILL: " I have to think first, before I shoot. Think a lot. Visualize, see the final image."

    No changes here.

    But the feedback allows a better output.

    I cannot tell you of the number of negatives that very high end processor companies have ruined.

    Would rather mess with them myself. And as an SMALL CAPS ALL amateur in the most humble sense of the term...I cannot afford the time nor space to process 4x5 or 8x10 Negs.

    You are correct that visualization and focus are tantamount in this game...sort of like Zen Archery.

    For me digital eliminates a lot of transient distraction and peripheral trash...including adding others into the loop.

    My H3D II 39 and S2 capture rival anything I got from 4x5.

    Bob
    We all have different experiences.

    "And as an SMALL CAPS ALL amateur..."
    "My H3D II 39 and S2 capture rival anything I got from 4x5."

    You realize that your digital setup easily requires 10x-20x the budget of a 4x5 film setup?
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Lars,

    Of course..."one has either time or money"

    If I had unlimited time it would be an 8x10 couple of sherpas and visas to trek for months in the Himalayas

    Not my lot in life...I struggle to capture that which is acceptable to my
    very stringent standards. Working 80 - 100 hours a week leaves little time to indulge myself with the freedom that I desire in photography.

    I apologize if you consider my comments at all a personal reflection...they are about my viewpoint and struggle not at all a reflection on your art or life.

    When all is said and done my equipment will be sold and the proceeds donated to a worthwhile cause...here is my favorite:

    http://www.mercyships.org/

    I take a little solice in the realization that I have lost very little money over the years .... lenses hold ultimate value...bodies in digital less so. However the cost of development of AG halide far exceeds my holding costs of these digital bodies.

    Warm regards and best wishes for a prosperous NY

    Bob

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    Subscriber Member weinschela's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Having been shooting since I was 13 (and that was almost 53 years ago)(all amateur though I have sold a few), the answer is yes, digital has made me better. Two things occurred to me:

    First, I learn better from my mistakes because I see them and can figure out how to correct them on the spot. This goes for exposure (ooh the highlights are blown), composition (where did that distraction come from?), and other stuff (gee that's more flare than I thought there would be).

    Second, while I learned how to develop and print film (I actually still have an enlarger and tanks, etc.) there is no question in my mind that my digital darkroom skills in Photoshop far exceed what I was able to do with dodging and burning and different grades of paper. And the digital part means learning from your mistakes here too, only you don't have to wait for the print to come out of the fixer and dry before you go to fixing the problem.

    That doesn't mean that all of the work I consider really good is digital, as lots of old film stuff (now scanned and turned into digital) are my favorites. But on balance, I can turn out better stuff now than I could in my film days.

    Good question Jack, and Happy Holidays to you too.
    Alan

    Selection of work: http://weinschela.zenfolio.com

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    It is interesting that you bring this up. I have been scanning 8x10 negatives from 40 years ago, and they and my current digital work all go up on the viewing wall, so they are all intermixed. My thoughts were, nothing has changed. I was technically good then, I had my eye, I would say very little change, which bothers me. I hope it doesn't equate to stagnation. I made my living for 20 years, and I have been showing and selling art for 40 years, so I cannot be that bad, but I would have thought more growth. Or maybe there is growth and I in the middle of it cannot see it. Digital has made the processing part so much easier, but I have to say, I was usually careful about what I made a picture of so I rarely exceeded what the material or the camera could do. So I still do that in digital, I don't have to fix a lot. So I suspect that digital has changed me very little. I am not a high numbers shooter, I prefer having high percentages instead. When film was bulky and expensive, a carry over. Happy holidays to you all, wish me a happy birthday next week. Joe

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Provocative question.

    I'd agree, shooting more and thinking more are the only real answers to becoming a better photographer, not better technology.

    I think we all went through the initial "keep pace with digital" from its infancy to now ... but now it's getting to be a matter of infinitesimal degrees of ROI, if any at all. The residual effect of all those years of techno strivings to master the medium may have served to take the eye off the prize.

    I think ideas took a beating during this era of distractions, as did emotional sensitivity ... or the fundamental personal reasons behind making a photograph in the first place.

    In a way, excellence has also become less precious. If the measure is technical excellence, and more photographers can achieve it because of technology, then the measure of excellence has to shift back to ideas and expressions ... with technical excellence as a given.

    However, I will say that the one area of personal improvement that I can directly attribute to digital technology is the use of supplemental lighting. Being able to instantly see the real effect of what you are doing has been a huge help in refining and mastering lighting. In that regard I do not long for the days of film or crappy LCDs in any way what-so-ever.

    -Marc

  20. #20
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    I'm finally getting around to "get out there and shoot slower".

    I want to do that this year as much as possible.

    I've been digital, really, as long as I've been serious as a photographer (since about 2004)... so I'm constantly fighting the instant gratification impulse.

    All I can say is that digital has made me what I am as a photographer... and I'm trying to slow down and enjoy the process of shooting more... to make those moments of my life that I spend shooting mean more, regardless of results. What I'm finding is that the results of those shoots are starting to get better.

    and... I bet I can play Guy's theme song on the trumpet better than he can sing it.
    http://youtu.be/PEMkLx5dAkc

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    No.

    I've enjoyed trying different digital cameras and approaches to inkjet printing and learning about the technology, but it's been almost completely unproductive for making pictures I'm happy with. I'm sure l'll continue to tinker with it now and then, both because I'm curious and to make sure I'm not missing anything that I might find useful.

    I've certainly found digital cameras extremely useful for utility purposes. To follow up on Marc's point, one of those purposes is getting instant feedback as I grope my way up the learning curve to understand studio lighting. I suppose if I ever get to the point where I'm comfortable using studio lighting in my photography with film, digital should be credited with improving my photography. That's not meant as snark - good learning tools provide real value.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelby Lewis View Post
    I'm finally getting around to "get out there and shoot slower".

    I want to do that this year as much as possible.

    I've been digital, really, as long as I've been serious as a photographer (since about 2004)... so I'm constantly fighting the instant gratification impulse.

    All I can say is that digital has made me what I am as a photographer... and I'm trying to slow down and enjoy the process of shooting more... to make those moments of my life that I spend shooting mean more, regardless of results. What I'm finding is that the results of those shoots are starting to get better.

    and... I bet I can play Guy's theme song on the trumpet better than he can sing it.
    http://youtu.be/PEMkLx5dAkc
    Lovely. Really enjoyed listening to that
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    BTW my original point and was not saying I'm great or anything but my point really was not sure it has improved me or not. Sure 20 plus years more shooting has since I started digital has but that would be a normal occurrence anyway for anyone. I can say it has made my life more effective in the sense I don't have to guess at outcomes from a shoot but honestly before digital I learned more because you really had to work at it and I'm more talking about lighting and technique since you really had the unknown factor in there so you killed yourself to have it all down to a science. Now digital certainly has made it easier to learn for the masses but I think us old dogs learned more before digital and the technology just confirms what we do today and already know. So it's a tough question to answer as on one hand sure the technology helps us be more efficient and has improved us but a lot of us old timers would be very hard pressed to say we did not learn a ton before digital as well. So the answer is yes but I think the newer younger crowd has learned more from it. No question it is a excellent learning tool and one reason I teach it is because I love the technology for one and also it's fun to teach. I see students grow really fast and I won't name names but many of our repeat workshop attendees are out there really doing extremely good work and improved ten fold over when they started. So yes it's a great learning tool but I still think the folks that have been shooting a very long time the it improved me is more at a slower pace since they are already good shooters. That was more my point , we are already good at it but it has helped us grow as well just at a diffrent pace than folks that are just coming into it. Hope that made sense been working hard lately and brain dead
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    interesting thought...most of those replying have been brought up on film, tweaking in the darkroom, maybe even into the zone system and that background has to flavor what they take from digital. we are now at a point in time where a new generation of photogs may never have used film, have never had their hands i the dektol and may not ever do so.

    hooked up my old turntable last month after a very long hiatus and asked my 21 yr old to queu up an album and he had no idea how to do it. we did rock out until late at night however, so the message got through the medium

  25. #25
    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    Marc: Spot on as usual.

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    No, there's nothing particular about digital that has improved my photography. In fact I went back to film primarily because it allows me to take my time and focus on composition as opposed to taking snaps. I'd say my film photography has improved my photography (that, and a class I took a couple of years ago).
    -Dragos
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  27. #27
    Super Duper
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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    I think that in all honesty most of the photography that I do would just not have been possible in the film era without a level of investment which would make the endevour questionable in the first place. Certainly a good portion of my wedding photography just couldn't have been done with film (near medium format quality using iso 1600 as almost a default, shooting with crazy mixed lighting on the run, etc). I tried what became my stitching project in Jerusalem initially with a Horseman 6X12" back but it turned out to be impossible, I couldn't use the perspective I wanted (135mm lens) with the DOF I needed and still freeze people and foliage movement even with iso 400 film. It was just impossible. I can however do it with stitching and a DSLR. I don't believe I could achieve the tonality of my other projects using 35mm film due to the scanning costs necessary to achieve that level of quality.

    I don't believe my vision or compositional abilities are particularly better due to digital, I do know however that I can achieve photographs that in the past would have been impossible without a level of financial and time based dedication that I would not and especially at present, can not achieve.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

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    Re: Has digital improved your photography?

    I think Ben, Marc and Guy are making the most salient point about digital. One it allows us to see in real time what before we either had to be super careful about, in terms of lighting, and truly some photographers simply shot a lot of poloroid back then, (I didn't, but I was pretty arrogant about my skill level, when I was younger) (now, I am more humble..) But also the added benefits of the technical ability to expose at high ISO's, the stitching capability, and in truth the sheer quality of image is staggering. I used a lot of large format (8x10 and 4x5) because I had to, MF didn't cut it. And when I needed even a PR shot MF was the only way to go, I literally never used 35mm unless there was a specific need. Now, if I were working, I am not sure that I would ever need more than 30MP on MF for anything, most of the pros I know still working simply have no call for more than that. I think we have become somewhat ensnared in MP+ and I am not speaking to those whose work involves very large prints, but for most of the working advertising world and such I would be surprised if there is a call for super MP. But it makes me curious, for those out there working, do clients insist on huge MP? And if so what do they use it for? Joe

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