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Author Topic: Mamiya ZD review  (Read 4884 times)
David Grandy
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« on: March 26, 2006, 09:28:50 AM »
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I'd like to make a few comments about  Eduard de Kam's recent review of the Mamiya ZD.

He starts off the review by suggesting that the design of the camera implies that it can be hand held. Having said that he then says "I was not content with the handheld shots made with the ZD. Using a 200 mm lens and a shutter-speed of 1/320 sec I did not expect to have problems, but unfortunately, this was not the case."

Well I never would expect what is basically a medium format camera to be hand holdable.  The design, Pentax 6X7 like, is just it's shape, and I don't infer handholdability from that. I know that I wouldn't hand hold the Pentax for example, at least not if I wanted sharp images.

More to the point why start here? A line in the middle of the review that went "I found this camera less handholdable than the Hasselblad." would have been fair. To start with this implies that the ZD is not a sharp camera, and if it's not sharp nothing else matters.

Yet the fact that his Hasselblad delivered sharp images at roughly the same shutterspeed as the ZD is moot. His greater familiarity with the 'blad, a better day, or even a conscious/unconscious desire to see that Mamiya fail could account for that.  Handholding with ANY camera is going to be subjective.  You are testing YOUR ability to handhold the camera, not the camera itself.  Put the camera on a tripod, use a cable release and determine what the camera/lens will do with as little of the shooter in the equation as possible.

Of course you need a tripod for this camera, but you do for EVERY camera.  If this camera was being marketed as a replacement for newshooter's 1D Mark IIN then handholding mght be an issue, but it's not is it?  

He also comments on the relative superiority of the Hasselblad. "A H1D with either a Hasselblad, Leaf, Sinar or PhaseOne digital back costs quite a bit more, but the images are of a higher quality.That will likely be because the lenses are better, and maybe because of the way the software does its job."  

This gives me pause.  First off I don't think that he did a side by side comparison of the Mamiya with those digital backs.  He doesn't say which specific digital back he's referring too either.  OF COURSE the 39MP back will outperform the 22MP of the Mamiya.  Will the 22MP Phase One? Possibly but I think that this is anecdotal, not imperical evidence.

How do the lenses fit into this evaluation, "...most likely because the [Hasselblad] lenses are better ..."  In both case he's guessing that the Hasselblad backs and lenses are better BECAUSE THEY SHOULD BE, and not that they really are. My experience with a 6X6 transparency shot with a Zeiss 80mm f2.8 and a Mamiya-Sekor 80mm f1.9, both shot on tripod and both at middle apertures produced identical transparencies.

In sum I think that this review was superficial, leading off with a serious criticism that is subjective at best and continues with far too many assumptions about the competition.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2006, 09:31:12 AM by David Grandy » Logged
michael
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2006, 10:48:34 AM »
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I agree, not one of the better independant reviews that I've published. I'll be more selective in future.

But, Eduard was the only European writer to step forward with a review, and I thought that there would be some information there that people might find useful.

Now, if Mamiya America would get off its fanny and get some product into the hands of North American reviewers we might be able to do better.

Michael
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Gandalf
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« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2006, 10:58:12 AM »
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David,

I agree with your points, but I think as an overview, rather than an indepth review, I find it informative. And his points, though not well supported, are in step with other user reports I have read on the camera. I suspect that the Mamiya lenses, while fine on film will not hold up well on digital, but that is based more on limited experience with RZ lenses than anything else. We'll see. Also, I think 16-bit makes a difference. So a little here and there add up to a camera that doesn't compete with the Hasselcon, but that isn't where the Mamiya is aiming, is it?

Really all pointless discussion in the US. The ZD would compete with Leaf and there is no way MAC will risk bringing it in. I would be pretty shocked to see this thing in stores, but if the Pentax actually makes it to market (actually available, not like the Contax N1) MAC may reconsider. Time will tell.

Bill
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jd1566
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« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2006, 01:58:17 PM »
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Prior to "reviewing" cameras I think everyone should pop over to DP Review and have a look at their methodolgy, as a starting point.

Having said that, (as well as hats off to almost empirical testing by the guys at DP Review) it must be said that holding a camera in your had you are bound to let some subjectivity into your evaluations.  While I cringed at the general statements of our European reviewer (thank you though for your input by the way) as general impressions I think they are valid in the sense that they are subjective opinions, offered as info to other potential buyers of the Mamiya.  In support of his vague statements it must be noted that:

The Mamiya sensor is only 12 bit (like Canon's DSLRs) vs 16 bit of other back makers.  This will come into play when files are manipulated in Photoshop.

The resolving power of film MF lenses is lower compared to their 35mm brethren.  I BELIEVE that Hasselblad's newer lenses are build specifically to work with Image sensors and have a higher resolving power than is usual for MF lenses, so the statement that the Mamiya lenses are not as "sharp" may be viewed in this context.  

As for the statement that when comparing the Mamiya vs Hassy handheld, the Hassy seemed to offer a sharper image... this may indeed have something to do with the mirror mechanism.  While Mr Gandy suggests that our European reviewer may want the Mamiya to fail..  I would expect someone playing with MF cameras to be a honest photographer.  Benefit of the doubt? Not all mirror mechanisms are built alike.  And though tripods SHOULD be used with a precision instrument like a MF camera.. there are times when hand-held is the way to go.

All this is moot though.. seeing as great photographers have been making great prints and photographs with positively antique equipment for the last hundred and fifty years...  All this technology and resolution and all that jazz just make us jump up and down comparing product a vs product b.  Truly if we were photographers we should be comparing photo a to photo b, and deciding which is a more powerful image.  Ooops. I'm in the equipment forum.. sorry guys.  :-)
« Last Edit: March 28, 2006, 02:01:01 PM by jd1566 » Logged

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BJL
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« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2006, 04:30:37 PM »
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The Mamiya sensor is only 12 bit (like Canon's DSLRs) vs 16 bit of other back makers.[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61209\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
No, the sensor is the same 22MP Dalsa sensor as in other MF backs, and the technical data sheets suggest that its dynamic range is no worse than that of the other 22MP sensor option, from Kodak: about 12-stops. Indeed, on paper the Dalsa sensor offers slightly better DR, if operated at carefully controlled temperature and at optimal read-out rates.

The only difference is whether this is then converted to and stored as 12, 14 or 16 bit RAW format, and 12-bits is already enough to cover a DR of 4096:1 (2^12:1) No sensor produces anything close to the range of 16-bit (65,000:1) or even 14-bit (16,000:1) RAW data. Outputting 16-bits simply fills up the two bytes needed anyway to store anything more than 8-bit output, but it does nothing to improve dynamic range over 12-bit depth RAW. The sensor's own signal to noise ratio is the weak link.

Indeed, since both A/D convertors and data storage are far less expensive than MF sensors, it would be crazy to waste the DR of such a sensor with an inadequate A/D convertor or discarding useful A/D output bits in order to reduce storage size.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2006, 05:14:29 PM »
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Well I never would expect what is basically a medium format camera to be hand holdable.  The design, Pentax 6X7 like, is just it's shape, and I don't infer handholdability from that. I know that I wouldn't hand hold the Pentax for example, at least not if I wanted sharp images.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61048\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
David, I must disagree.  I used the 67 system for over 20 years.  Much of the time I used the big Pentax for shooting aerials, the very definition of "no tripod shooting.
Some of my images were sharp, too.

Peter
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drew
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« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2006, 05:57:53 PM »
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I know geography is not a strong point with Yanks, but I thought Phil Askey's DPreview reviews were written in the good 'ol United of Kingdom, which I believe is in Europe. So let's not tar all Europeans with the same brush.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2006, 05:58:23 PM by drew » Logged

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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2006, 10:37:11 PM »
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Japan would obviously be the best place to do a rigorous comparison between a ZD and a Phaseone P25, and it can be done in 2 days from now by renting the 2 pieces of gear (yes, they are both readily available for rental in Mamiya mount in Tokyo), but I do personnally unfortunately not have the financial resources needed to do that...

If someone can send me a 800US$ check, I am willing to do it though, and could use whatever methodology would be proposed.

Considering that nobody has been able/willing to publish even a comparison between a PhaseOne P25 and Leaf Aptus 22 over the course of more than a year of availability, I am somehow enclined to think that nobody really wants us to know.

Hell, there would be a looser, and who wants to be told that one's 30.000 US$ piece of equipment is not the best game in town?

Regards,
Bernard
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Slough
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« Reply #8 on: March 29, 2006, 02:46:29 PM »
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I know geography is not a strong point with Yanks, but I thought Phil Askey's DPreview reviews were written in the good 'ol United of Kingdom, which I believe is in Europe. So let's not tar all Europeans with the same brush.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61227\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Psst: This is a Canadian site.

Britain may well be part of Europe in the eyes of some misguided folks, but the gnomes in the European parliament recently wiped Wales off the map, achieving in seconds what some English have been trying to do since the 14th century.

Seriously though, I find Phil Askey's reviews too technical and lacking in soul. I prefer a review that gives me a feel for a piece of equipment and not just the specs and a few selected measurements. Sadly though the forums on dpreview are not a good advert for the UK. Unless you like a preponderance of squabbling nerds.

Leif
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Ray
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« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2006, 12:04:48 AM »
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Outputting 16-bits simply fills up the two bytes needed anyway to store anything more than 8-bit output, but it does nothing to improve dynamic range over 12-bit depth RAW. The sensor's own signal to noise ratio is the weak link.

Indeed, since both A/D convertors and data storage are far less expensive than MF sensors, it would be crazy to waste the DR of such a sensor with an inadequate A/D convertor or discarding useful A/D output bits in order to reduce storage size.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61214\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

That's an interesting point BJL. There was a lengthy discussion on the Rob Galbraith forum recently about this very issue. A certain John Sheehy was of the opinion that Canon could improve the DR of all its DSLRs (at ISO 100) by simply moving from the current 12 bit to 16 bit A/D conversion. I am also very doubtful that 16 bit A/D conversion (on it's own, at least) would achieve much, or Canon would already have done this.

Nevertheless, there is a DR issue with the 5D at ISO 100 which seems more of a problem than I recall experiencing with the D60, despite the 5D pixels being slightly larger. Since I'm travelling without a tripod (currently in Hanoi) it's not so easy to take bracketed shots for blending purposes without risk of misregistration.

I don't believe I've ever seen any thorough DR comparisons of different brands and models of cameras at base ISO. Such a comparison is long overdue. The excuse is usually that DR has a subjective component which makes an f stop specification quite misleading. Whilst that's true, it should be no obstacle to getting meaningful results if the same methodology is applied to each camera being tested.

My suspicion is that expensive MF digital cameras, especially bargain priced ones like the ZD, do not always exhibit much higher DR (if any) than the average Canon DSLR.

Let's have some controlled tests, please.... Michael?
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2006, 06:26:16 PM »
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Since I'm travelling without a tripod (currently in Hanoi) it's not so easy to take bracketed shots for blending purposes without risk of misregistration.
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Ray,

And you dare to confess this openly?... :-)

cheers,
Bernard
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2006, 06:36:56 PM »
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That's an interesting point BJL. There was a lengthy discussion on the Rob Galbraith forum recently about this very issue. A certain John Sheehy was of the opinion that Canon could improve the DR of all its DSLRs (at ISO 100) by simply moving from the current 12 bit to 16 bit A/D conversion. I am also very doubtful that 16 bit A/D conversion (on it's own, at least) would achieve much, or Canon would already have done this.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61407\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I don't know whether it is just me, but I feel that the current breed of DSLR basically do have enough DR. A bit more DR would of course help, but too much DR means flatter images out of the camera, and therefore more work in post with local contrast in order to keep a dynamic image will preserving details in shadows that are often not expected to have many.

What bothers me is how well the highlights are handled, or more precisely, how the transition from non blown to blown highlights is handled.

If you think about it, this is related not just to DR/bit depth, but also to spatial resolution of the sensor, and flare behaviour of the lens, but anyway using a linear example, let's zoom on the nose of a model where an ugly blown specular reflection is showing.

Our eyes capture is as a bright spot without detail, and so does the camera. No problem so far. Now, our eyes will see a natural looking transition from the non blown area to the blown one, while most current DSLR will exhibit a sharp transition from say RGB 250 to RGB 255.

I am wondering whether a higher bit sampling of the sensor signal would not help here.

Regards,
Bernard
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Ray
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« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2006, 07:56:18 PM »
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I don't know whether it is just me, but I feel that the current breed of DSLR basically do have enough DR. A bit more DR would of course help, but too much DR means flatter images out of the camera, and therefore more work in post with local contrast in order to keep a dynamic image will preserving details in shadows that are often not expected to have many.

Hi Bernard,
The example in the Rob Galbraith thread that gave an impression that 16 bit A/D conversion might be useful (and it would take me too much time on this slow hotel computer to find the link) was a comparison of 2 identical shots using the same exposure, but one at ISO 100 and the other at ISO 1600. The meter reading would have shown the ISO 1600 shot as being 2 stops overexposed and the ISO 100 shot 2 stops underexposed, but the sensor in both instances received the same amount of light.

The interesting thing is (I believe the camera was the 20D) the shadows in the ISO 1600 shot were so much better. The difference was really quite staggering.

I agree that for most shots, the DR of current DSLRs is sufficient. On the relatively few occasions that it isn't, then other techniques can usually be employed such as bracketing or fill flash. However, the 5D doesn't sport a built-in flash and, because of weight considerations and convenience, I am not carrying a tripod.

Let's say I want to photograph my partner having breakfast at the Menam hotel on the banks of the Chao Phaya river. From the breakfast room there's an open view of the river, barges floating by, interesting clouds etc.

Without using a bulky flash attachment, or an even more bulky tripod for bracketing purposes, I've basically got two choices. I can totally blow all detail in the sky for the sake of a reasonably noise-free partner, or I can compromise a little and overexpose the sky by just a stop or so (overexpose in relation to the sunny 16 rule, that is) and get a clearly noisy partner.

I've tried it. I used 1/40th at ISO 100 and f16. People sitting in the sun in parts of the breakfast room that jutted out onto the river have totally blown white shirts; whitish buildings on the other side of the river are as white as paper; some detail is lost in the clouds but not too much. In general the bright part of the scene is acceptable because it occupies a relatively minor part of the frame. The major part of the composition (my partner and activities inside the breakfast room) is totally unacceptable. The noise is really quite horrendous even with the luminance and color NR sliders in ACR set to maximum.

Next time I stay at that hotel, I'll bring my 550EX to the breakfast table   .
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2006, 07:27:54 PM »
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Ray,

Yes, my d2x would probably behave the same way in similar circumpstances, maybe even worse than your 5D... although it does have very clean shadows at base ISO.

Fill flash is indeed the only option, and will probably stay so in the coming years...

Regards,
Bernard
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David Grandy
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« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2006, 10:59:56 AM »
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David, I must disagree.  I used the 67 system for over 20 years.  Much of the time I used the big Pentax for shooting aerials, the very definition of "no tripod shooting.
Some of my images were sharp, too.

Peter
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Yes I'm sure they were. But that doesn't mean they ALL were. I also have no doubt that the use of a tripod would mean that the vast majority of the shots would be sharper.  Obviously you can't use a tripod in an aircraft or of sports, but that's no way to test a camera or lens since it's YOUR ability we are largely testing, not the camera.
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David Grandy
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« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2006, 11:28:51 AM »
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David,

I agree with your points, but I think as an overview, rather than an indepth review, I find it informative. And his points, though not well supported, are in step with other user reports I have read on the camera. I suspect that the Mamiya lenses, while fine on film will not hold up well on digital, but that is based more on limited experience with RZ lenses than anything else. We'll see. Also, I think 16-bit makes a difference. So a little here and there add up to a camera that doesn't compete with the Hasselcon, but that isn't where the Mamiya is aiming, is it?

Really all pointless discussion in the US. The ZD would compete with Leaf and there is no way MAC will risk bringing it in. I would be pretty shocked to see this thing in stores, but if the Pentax actually makes it to market (actually available, not like the Contax N1) MAC may reconsider. Time will tell.

Bill
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In your post you re-afirm my problem with the original review.  That problem is that I don't want to read, "... in step with other user reports ..." which is the same scheme that the French skating judge used, and which means that we know who will win before we start. I also don't want to read, as you put it "... [that you] suspect that Mamiya lenses, while fine on film ..." because suspicion is opinion not information.

Now some suspicion and speculation on my part:  It's legal not technologial reasons that the Mamiya ZD has not been brought into North America. Mamiya America has trade marked the Mamiya name and gray markey Mamiya's were not allowed to be imported into the US.  In spite of the fact that a US Mamiya Pro-TL and an English Mamiya Pro-TL were built next to each other in Japan, Mamiya America convinced the US customs that the English Mamiya was a knock off just like a fake Rolex.  So once Mamiya America gets their share the ZD will appear.  But this is all just a guess.
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