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Author Topic: You can't do That with medium format  (Read 55432 times)
Ray
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« on: October 09, 2010, 03:13:22 AM »
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Let's have a look at the latest article in 'What's New' from James Martin.

This is an interesting description of the conflict between the seduction of a 'potentially more realistic image' and the practical realities of inflexibility and additional cost and weight of the MFDB system.

James Martin's title suggests that MFDB is more flexible than it's sometimes made out to be.

I would contest this view. I think there's no doubt that a larger sensor delivers better image quality, all else being equal. That's a given. But let's not kid ourselves as to its flexibility.

Full frame 35mm compared with the cropped format does at least retain, or even exceed, the flexibility of the smaller format. It exceeds it with respect to autofocussing at F8, for example. It may exceed it with respect to frame rate, for example.

The issue with MFDB is not that the quality at base ISO is not better than 35mm. It clearly is. The issue is that the MFDB system is cumbersome, heavy, lacks flexibility with regard to frame rates, liveview, high-iso performance, Dof, weight, and perhaps most important of all, cost.

Let's look at a few revealing examples from James Martin's article.

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I concede that the equipment is relatively slow to operate and heavy enough that I canceled my gym membership while setting up a payment plan with my chiropractor, but whatever the challenges, the seductive resolution of the images I nail compels me to pack it every time.

Clearly, the message here is, the ultimate image quality transcends all. Never mind if you miss the moment because your equipment is inflexible. Those moments I capture make up for all the lost opportunities.

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With immobile objects such as a grove of baobab trees or the tangle of the spiny forest, there wasn’t much difference between the Phase system and a 35mm rig, but animals were more challenging.

Really! With immobile objects there wasn't much difference between a Phase system and a 35mm rig?? I can't understand that. This is the precise situation where the MFDB reigns supreme. Low base ISO, slow shutter speed, tripod to eliminate camera shake, all contribute to a noticeably superior image quality with MFDB.

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There was no way to capture skipping sifaka lemurs using autofocus; the system was too slow. Super telephotos are absurdly heavy, and mirror slap would blur the image at slower shutter speeds. I had to go old school, getting close and either focusing manually or, anticipating where the animal would go, focus on that spot and wait for the critical moment. I was back in 1990, but the old techniques still worked.

Is the message here, 'let's go back to old school and spurn the advantages of modern technology'?  If you are in a position where you are photographing skipping lemurs, I concede it might be possible to get a spectacular shot using an MFDB, but I reckon a 35mm DSLR improves your chances.

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For street photography, instead of snapping surreptitiously, I commandeered someone’s time, stood unmoving for so long they forgot about the tall guy with the tripod, or endured the jostle and press of the throngs long enough to capture a few moments.

Okay! So it is possible to do street photography with an MFDB, with difficulty. I'm not sure I have the time and patrience to stand in a position so long that people forget I'm there.

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I don’t want to over sell the opportunities. There are times when the returns diminish to the vanishing point. Try to photograph a gazelle with a super telephoto, two tripods, and mirror lock up, and you will quickly exhaust your store of oaths and imprecations as your compatriots fill their cards with crisp images. After dusk, medium format street shooters hit the bars, but not to photograph unless they crave blurs and noise. Nothing does everything well.

I completley agree. Let's also consider the spectacular image of the Indian Sadhu with flowing long hair (much longer than mine. I'm envious). Even in such a small jpeg, the lack of resolution due to the lack of DoF in the lower half of the image is obvious. You take a shot of a Sadhu with spectacularly long hair, spilling out on the floor in front of you, but the hair is mostly out of focus and that's supposed to be good? C'mon! Let's get back to reality.

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After coming to grips with issues great and small confronting medium format, I can’t go back to small sensors when medium format will do. When I zoom into an image and it holds together at each step, there’s a thrill I can’t relinquish.

Fair enough! But I think the key phrase here is, "I can't go back to small sensors when medium format will do". This applies to all of us, I suspect, whatever the range of formats we have. I've bought P&S cameras in the past, then got tired of them because image quality is so lousy compared with DSLRs. I always prefer to use FF 35mm instead of cropped format, except in circumstances where the effective longer reach of lenses, and the associated reduction in weight and cost, is an advantage. Consider the difference in cost and weight betweeen a 400/F4 and a 600/F4.

The fundamental issue for me is, when I move from an APS-C format to a FF 35mm format, I get a camera which is only marginally heavier, not significantly more expensive, and no less flexible in any respect, but actually slightly more flexible in some respects.

The move from FF 35mm to MFDB seems fraught with difficulty and enormous expense, in addition to a loss of flexibility as a bonus. Not particularly appealing in my opinion.

I hope I'm not offending anyone. I just think we should call a spade a spade.






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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2010, 03:36:20 AM »
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"I hope I'm not offending anyone. I just think we should call a spade a spade."

Or even a shovel, if it takes your fancy.

I also read the article - just before this post of yours, Ray, and can only agree with the conclusions you reached which, to me, seem to be that if one is determined, then a very difficult route can sometimes be rewarded, but don't hold your breath. A bit like facing the world with your arm in a sling, then.

I would suggest anyone wondering about mobility take a look at the link Fred posted to the Lindberg film, of which I can't remember the thread, as I write, but if you like to see a top pro doing his stuff, it pretty much says all there is to be said.

What happened to the old belief (and logic) in horses for courses?

Rob C


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yaya
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« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2010, 04:09:27 AM »
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I hope I'm not offending boring anyone
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« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2010, 06:16:22 AM »
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you have some interesting thoughts.. and i understand what you are about to say.
in my case i used to work with medium format film cameras in the past and i switched over to a canon full frame camera.
there is no doubt that raw files of high end canon and nikon cameras offer superb quality.

but in my case i recognized that i`m not a 35mm camera user. means shooting with mf is completely different. it feels different, in some way better even when you look through the finder. this is something subjective and i cannot proof that in a technical or physical way.

i think guys who worked in the past on mf or 4x5 are now better equipped with a digital medium format system and guys who worked on 35mm film (shooting events, reportage) are better with a canon or nikon camera.
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kers
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« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2010, 07:36:49 AM »
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i think guys who worked in the past on mf or 4x5 are now better equipped with a digital medium format system and guys who worked on 35mm film (shooting events, reportage) are better with a canon or nikon camera.

I used to shoot with 4x5 inch cameras doing architecture .But now the quality of a Nikon D3x with the new PCE tilt/shift lenses is so good - combined with the lighter weight and perfect focus- I would never go back.
It is the most flexible - creative system.
The focussing screen is even good enough to use tilt - and with liveview you can even use tilt at d2,8 and focus correctly.
I think the 24PCE could be a little better in the corners but the 45mm and the 85mm do 25MP with no problem.
If i need more pixels i stich to 45MP



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Pieter Kers
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« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2010, 07:49:45 AM »
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If all cameras where the same price and offered the same social status, then what people would really use would be apparent. But with all the physiological and marketing segmentation each series offers... well, some cameras just feel better than others.

Smiley
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bradleygibson
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« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2010, 09:01:50 AM »
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I know Jim (James) personally, and may have helped to catalyze his transition to medium format.  I say this to illustrate that I, too, am a fan of what can be achieved with medium format.

Despite this, I find myself generally in agreement with the points Ray raises about the article--there is definitely a cost (beyond the financial) to shooting MF; with perseverance, there will be a reward in terms of exceptional output, but one should not discount the additional time, effort, missed shots, additional weight, loss of speed (in all senses), et. al one will most definitely incur working in this medium.

I also agree that the statement that medium is 'no better than 35mm' for stationary subjects is puzzling.

Perhaps if Jim gets a moment he will be able to weigh in on a couple of these points...

Best regards,
-Brad
« Last Edit: October 09, 2010, 09:05:38 AM by bradleygibson » Logged

Doug Peterson
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2010, 11:56:18 AM »
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I also agree that the statement that medium is 'no better than 35mm' for stationary subjects is puzzling.

From my reading of it that paragraph was about usability and the ability to capture the desired image, not about image quality.

Meaning:

"With immobile objects such as a grove of baobab trees or the tangle of the spiny forest, there wasn’t much difference [in ease and practicality of use] between the Phase system and a 35mm rig, but animals were more challenging [regarding ease and practicality of use]."

(bracketed words inserted by me)

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Rob C
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« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2010, 01:59:06 PM »
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you have some interesting thoughts.. and i understand what you are about to say.
in my case i used to work with medium format film cameras in the past and i switched over to a canon full frame camera.
there is no doubt that raw files of high end canon and nikon cameras offer superb quality.
but in my case i recognized that i`m not a 35mm camera user. means shooting with mf is completely different. it feels different, in some way better even when you look through the finder. this is something subjective and i cannot proof that in a technical or physical way.
i think guys who worked in the past on mf or 4x5 are now better equipped with a digital medium format system and guys who worked on 35mm film (shooting events, reportage) are better with a canon or nikon camera.


I used to work with 35mm and 6x6; I then changed the 6x6 for 6x7. Mistake (for me). But there is no doubt that using the 35mm or 6x6 turned you into a different photographer: not better, not worse, just different. However, 35mm spelled freedom; 6x6 spelled slow but larger blow-up. It was basically as simple as that - in the studio - but outdoors, 35mm was king from the comfort point of view of the work, just as long as you didn't want to use flash very much..

Rob C
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Fritzer
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« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2010, 03:08:26 PM »
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Welome to Photoraphy .
There are indeed different camera systems, which are being used for different things .

To discuss such basics, there are fora like dpreview.com .























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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2010, 03:36:59 PM »
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Wait for it folks, any moment soon: Fritzer's guided tour to the Universe!

;-)

Rob C
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bradleygibson
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« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2010, 03:45:43 PM »
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"With immobile objects such as a grove of baobab trees or the tangle of the spiny forest, there wasn’t much difference [in ease and practicality of use] between the Phase system and a 35mm rig, but animals were more challenging [regarding ease and practicality of use]."

(bracketed words inserted by me)

Thanks, Doug.

Ah, with that interpretation, it makes much more sense.  I'd initially read it the same way Ray did, but this interpretation makes much more sense.
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Fritzer
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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2010, 03:56:24 PM »
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Wait for it folks, any moment soon: Fritzer's guided tour to the Universe!

;-)

Rob C

Give me a monent ... Wink
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Schewe
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2010, 05:12:41 PM »
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The move from FF 35mm to MFDB seems fraught with difficulty and enormous expense, in addition to a loss of flexibility as a bonus. Not particularly appealing in my opinion.

And that's your opinion...

I guess you don't know Jim do ya? If you did you would realize that image quality is very, very important to him. It is for that reason that Jim shoots medium format. The thing I found interesting in the article (and his wonderful work when you consider the real IQ not just a few small JPEGS on the web) is that Jim gets great shots, with enormous image quality because he's shooting medium format digital, shooting subjects and in circumstances most people would not even try to shoot with medium format–which was the thrust of the article in the first place.

If IQ is important to you, you do what you need to do to capture the quality you are looking for. In the old days, it was carrying large format view cameras and glass plates...these days life is considerably easier. The kit required for shooting medium format can be easily carried (relatively speaking) in a backpack with a tripod. Yes, it's heavier than a similar DSLR kit (and more expensive). Is it worth it? To you, maybe not...to Jim it is. Does that make him a bad person? No...it make him a dedicated, hardworking professional. What are you?

After finally moving to medium format (P-65+) last year, I've struggled with the question of what to take to a shoot. Sometimes I take my Canon _AND_ my Phase One kit, sometimes only one or the other. More often, I take the Phase kit for the serious stuff and a Canon S90 for snaps and leave the 1Ds MIII at home.

There are times when the mobility and flexibility of a DSLR camera vs the slower, plodding medium format back would be the difference between getting the shot and not getting it. I don't think anything Jim wrote indicated that he would ignore that reality and plod along with medium format regardless (he's not that inflexible). I saw him shooting with both a Phase One and Canon 1DS MII in Iceland-using the camera that was appropriate for the subject.

The point of the article was to encourage people to push the envelope...don't automatically assume that you must use DSLR instead of a medium format camera because it's "easier".

BTW, what Jim didn't show in the article was a lot of mountain climbing shots he's done using medium format while hanging off the cliff and still getting the shot with medium format. He admits now that he's getting a bit old for that sort of stuff...but if you are setting up a DSLR on a tripod to do a shot and get max IQ, what's the difference between shooting it with a DSLR and medium format? Not much assuming you were willing to make the extra effort and carry the weight...the end results, when shooting medium format will be superior, right? So, Jim says sometimes it's worth the extra effort...

« Last Edit: October 09, 2010, 05:21:24 PM by Schewe » Logged
Ray
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2010, 05:50:35 PM »
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From my reading of it that paragraph was about usability and the ability to capture the desired image, not about image quality.

Meaning:

"With immobile objects such as a grove of baobab trees or the tangle of the spiny forest, there wasn’t much difference [in ease and practicality of use] between the Phase system and a 35mm rig, but animals were more challenging [regarding ease and practicality of use]."

(bracketed words inserted by me)



Doug, I agree that must be the interpretation. However, for me, even with stationary landscapes, I would find a camera with a low base ISO, a shallow DoF and no image stabilisation less convenient to use.

All my DSLRs, until I bought a D700, have had a base ISO of 100 which, in conjunction with an image-stabilised lens, is usually sufficient for shooting still landscapes without tripod, in most circumstances, (almost) whatever the DoF requirement and whatever the lighting conditions.

Using the D700 with a base ISO of 200 is a real joy in this respect. Even on a dull day when I want the maximum DoF without seriously compromising image sharpness (say F16) I may not need to increase ISO to get a sufficiently fast shutter speed for a hand-held shot.

When I contemplate the disadvantages of the MF system in this respect, I get the impression the MFDB system would have to be permanently glued to a tripod.

Consider those 3 disadvantages added together.

Base ISO of 50 + bigger f stop number required for same DoF as 35mm + no image stabilisation = mandatory tripod.

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tho_mas
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« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2010, 06:13:33 PM »
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finally you got it: MFD is only for real men
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Dennis Carbo
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« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2010, 06:29:54 PM »
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Doug, I agree that must be the interpretation. However, for me, even with stationary landscapes, I would find a camera with a low base ISO, a shallow DoF and no image stabilisation less convenient to use.

All my DSLRs, until I bought a D700, have had a base ISO of 100 which, in conjunction with an image-stabilised lens, is usually sufficient for shooting still landscapes without tripod, in most circumstances, (almost) whatever the DoF requirement and whatever the lighting conditions.

Using the D700 with a base ISO of 200 is a real joy in this respect. Even on a dull day when I want the maximum DoF without seriously compromising image sharpness (say F16) I may not need to increase ISO to get a sufficiently fast shutter speed for a hand-held shot.

When I contemplate the disadvantages of the MF system in this respect, I get the impression the MFDB system would have to be permanently glued to a tripod.

Consider those 3 disadvantages added together.

Base ISO of 50 + bigger f stop number required for same DoF as 35mm + no image stabilisation = mandatory tripod.

True,  However Consider these 3 DSLR disadvantages added together

(D700)  base iso of 200, 14bit file, Less dynamic range, smaller format = lower quality image, smaller print

 This Jim fellow seems all about image quality which is not always the most convenient. it just depends what is most important to you !







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kers
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« Reply #17 on: October 09, 2010, 06:52:30 PM »
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Welome to Photoraphy .
There are indeed different camera systems, which are being used for different things .

To discuss such basics, there are fora like dpreview.com .


basics.. indeed




















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Pieter Kers
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Ray
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« Reply #18 on: October 09, 2010, 07:31:22 PM »
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And that's your opinion...

It certainly is. Any objection, Jeff, to my expressing an opinion?  Smiley

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If IQ is important to you, you do what you need to do to capture the quality you are looking for. In the old days, it was carrying large format view cameras and glass plates...these days life is considerably easier. The kit required for shooting medium format can be easily carried (relatively speaking) in a backpack with a tripod. Yes, it's heavier than a similar DSLR kit (and more expensive). Is it worth it? To you, maybe not...to Jim it is. Does that make him a bad person? No...it make him a dedicated, hardworking professional. What are you?

Did I say, or even imply, that Jim is a bad person? What are you on about, Jeff? What am I? I'm a nice person too.

Quote
After finally moving to medium format (P-65+) last year, I've struggled with the question of what to take to a shoot. Sometimes I take my Canon _AND_ my Phase One kit, sometimes only one or the other. More often, I take the Phase kit for the serious stuff and a Canon S90 for snaps and leave the 1Ds MIII at home.

I'm not surprised. The weight of a P65+ system plus lenses plus sturdy tripod would make it very impractical to carry the additional weight of a 1Ds3. Carrying just two 35mm DSLRs creates a conflict for me. I like my D700 with 14-24/2.8 lens, but I also like my 5D with 24-105/F4 and my 50D with EF-S 17-55/2.8, not to mention my 100-400 IS zoom.


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The point of the article was to encourage people to push the envelope...don't automatically assume that you must use DSLR instead of a medium format camera because it's "easier".

Do you think I'm making assumptions? I thought all my points were based on fact. It is true that MFDB systems are heavier than 35mm systems, and lack image stabilisation, and have shallower DoF at the same F stop, and have a slower base ISO, and suffer a greater loss of image quality at high ISO, and require the additional weight of a heavier tripod which is required to be used almost all the time, or certainly more frequently, is it not?

Quote
BTW, what Jim didn't show in the article was a lot of mountain climbing shots he's done using medium format while hanging off the cliff and still getting the shot with medium format. He admits now that he's getting a bit old for that sort of stuff...


Sensible guy. I've also had the experience of trudging up mountains in the dark to catch the dawn, carrying camera gear and tripod, then stuffing around trying to get the tripod on a solid base in the grass whilst the dawn gradually slips away. Progress for me is being able to get equally good results without tripod and sometimes better results because there's less chance I will miss the moment.

I've recently been doing some tests stitching hand-held shots from my old Canon 24 TS-E using shift. They stitch perfectly in CS3 or CS5. No tripod required. I can't believe it's taken me so long to realise this. The implications are clear. If the subject is stationary and you need a really high resolution image, then use a 1Ds3 or 5D2 with one of the excellent 17mm, 24mm or 90mm TS-E lenses and stitch the shifted images.

Quote
but if you are setting up a DSLR on a tripod to do a shot and get max IQ, what's the difference between shooting it with a DSLR and medium format? Not much assuming you were willing to make the extra effort and carry the weight...the end results, when shooting medium format will be superior, right? So, Jim says sometimes it's worth the extra effort...

Not necessairly. If the DoF required is so great that you need a tripod even with a DSLR, then the faster frame rate of most 35mm cameras may be useful for bracketing exposure in order to exceed the DR of the MFDB system, or again, if there's any movement at all in the scene which you want to freeze (such as tall grass swaying in the breeze) and you need an extensive DoF, you may have to compromise on the MFDB image quality by either raising ISO or settling for a shallower DoF than you really desire.

I'll always remember Michael's comparison between the P45+ and the P&S G10 at A3+ print size. There was no discernible difference except the P45 shot had a noticeably shallower DoF. To equalize the DoF, the P45+ should probably have been used at F22 instead of F11. I wonder if the G10 shot would then have appeared sharper.

In my experience, F22 is the point where lenses become almost totally diffraction limited. At F8 they begin to be very slightly diffraction limited. At F11 diffraction is a bit more noticeable. At F16 diffraction effects are still only moderate, but F22 is the point where images tend to be noticeably very soft, at least with 35mm.

Perhaps F22 is more usuable with MF. Is this true Jeff? I'm always willing to learn.  Smiley

Cheers!


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Schewe
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« Reply #19 on: October 09, 2010, 08:34:03 PM »
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I've recently been doing some tests stitching hand-held shots from my old Canon 24 TS-E using shift. They stitch perfectly in CS3 or CS5. No tripod required. I can't believe it's taken me so long to realise this. The implications are clear. If the subject is stationary and you need a really high resolution image, then use a 1Ds3 or 5D2 with one of the excellent 17mm, 24mm or 90mm TS-E lenses and stitch the shifted images.

Or use a Phase One P65+ and stitch 7 or 8 60MP captures together...it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. Max image quality with stitched 60MP medium format captures is pretty impressive. It will beat the heck out of a DSLR...

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Perhaps F22 is more usuable with MF. Is this true Jeff? I'm always willing to learn.

F22 with a medium format is better IQ than a DSLR at F22...again, depends on what you want. And note, deep depth of field is not ALWAYS desirable...the bokeh of a medium format capture at F2.8 or so is pretty nice...

So, Ray, do you shoot medium format? Are you talking from experience or a reluctance to buy/use medium format because of cost or convenience? If you don't have medium format experience then your opinion may have less relevance and your opinions are more likely an attempt at rationalizing your lack of medium format capability than being truely knowledgeable in your opinions of the limitations of medium format capture. Don't know...just asking...
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