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Author Topic: Thoughts on Medium Format Cameras  (Read 28362 times)
Rajan Parrikar
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« on: December 20, 2010, 04:14:16 PM »
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A clear statement of position by Mark Dubovoy.  I enjoyed the photographs, too.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2010, 05:32:49 PM »
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Hum... with so much focus on using the right tool for the job I find the lack of mention of stitching surprising.

Stitching is clearly the only way to reach high resolutions, MFBD Added_for_clarification"single frames" cannot dream to even come close.

I understand that, just like 8x10 wasn't for everybody, stitching also isn't, but I still don't get why anyone looking into really high quality would do oneself the disservice of not stitching. This just doesn't make sense when looking at things in an objective fashion.

I have no problem with someone preferring the experience provided by one camera over another, but please don't try to justify this with a "desire for perfection".

I have also a hard time swallowing quotes like "Also, the resolution and general image quality of a small DSLR is not in the league of what most clients in this area expect and demand. This is why the vast majority of serious architectural photography is done using technical cameras." that are simply based on... nothing.

So, sorry to crash the party, but this new piece reads once more like an MF commercial.

Cheers,
Bernard
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 08:43:46 AM by BernardLanguillier » Logged

A few images online here!
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« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2010, 06:02:43 PM »
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Hum... with so much focus on using the right tool for the job I find the lack of mention of stitching surprising.

Stitching is clearly the only way to reach high resolutions, MFBD cannot dream to even come close.

I understand that, just like 8x10 wasn't for everybody, stitching also isn't, but I still don't get why anyone looking into really high quality would do oneself the disservice of not stitching. This just doesn't make sense when looking at things in an objective fashion.

I have no problem with someone preferring the experience provided by one camera over another, but please don't try to justify this with a "desire for perfection".

I have also a hard time swallowing quotes like "Also, the resolution and general image quality of a small DSLR is not in the league of what most clients in this area expect and demand. This is why the vast majority of serious architectural photography is done using technical cameras." that are simply based on... nothing.

So, sorry to crash the party, but this new piece reads once more like an MF commercial.

Cheers,
Bernard


+1 for me. Whilst there is much in the article that is of interest and I did really enjoy the article (including the excessive and over used analogies to musical instruments and cars) I cant help but disagree with the same statement Bernard has raised.

Quote
"Also, the resolution and general image quality of a small DSLR is not in the league of what most clients in this area expect and demand. This is why the vast majority of serious architectural photography is done using technical cameras."

I believe it far more likely that MF cameras are used for two reasons: 1 - To create a pseudo 'grey' point of differentiation between the professionals work and uncle Bob with this D3X or equivalent (and this is a wholly justifiable reason given the way the pro market has been hammered by the cheap availability of high resolution cameras). Or 2 - To justify charging larger sums of money for ones work; which is not justifiable in my opinion. Who cares what brush was used to make the painting - its irrelevant wether it was horsehair or the finest Russian sable. What matters to the viewer or purchaser is the artwork - not the tool used to create it. The tool only matters to the painter/photographer.

It has been my experience that the photographer is the one sweating bullets over minutia (my technical term for 'things' MF pundits often refer to as subtle tonal variations) in their work (I am guilty of sweating these bullets). The purchaser of the art work has never in my experience pixel peeped the art.  They buy on emotion that an image evokes in them - not technical perfection. Thats been my experience anyway (and BTW: This is not an argument not to strive for technical perfection).

« Last Edit: December 20, 2010, 06:16:57 PM by Josh-H » Logged

Nick Rains
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« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2010, 06:31:09 PM »
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Stitching merits are another point of discussion entirely. You can stitch with any camera, including medium format ones, to any level of resolution you choose, only really limited by the time it takes in post and the movement of the subject.

Mark does not mention stitching because it's irrelevant to his topic, he is not saying a single MF capture is always better than any stitch. What he is saying, and comparing apples with apples, is that MF digitals are superior in image quality as single capture devices. This is pretty inarguable. I have the S2, I have also shot it extensively alongside the D3X with the best Nikon lenses and the 5D2 with the best Canon lenses, and it is clearly the winner for pure IQ. The lenses are awesome (really) and the sensor is bigger and just plain 'better'. I'm talking from experience with all three cameras, not from reading about it and/or downloading sample images. (Just to be clear, I'm talking about IQ here, not handling and AF performance etc.)

Sure, I can achieve a more or less 'similar' result with my Canon 5D2 by stitching, at least as far as pixel count is concerned but not even close when lens quality and bit depth is concerned. If you want a level playing field you really need to be discussing the relative merits of stitching D3X images against stitching P65+ images on Rodenstock lenses or S2 images with Summicron lenses.
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2010, 07:01:14 PM »
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Hum... with so much focus on using the right tool for the job I find the lack of mention of stitching surprising.

Mark doesn't mention stitch...I'm not sure Mark has ever "stitched" a scene...

I have. And while stitching with a file size of a 1Ds MIII (or equivalent Nikon) is useful, I've actually gotten into stitching 6-8 P64+ files for my "ultimate" file size...it's nice to have a file that is 36" x 107" at 300 PPI...

If you have a lens with coverage, it's pretty easy to do a camera back shift with a technical camera which will always be a bit better than actually moving the camera lens...
« Last Edit: December 20, 2010, 11:02:19 PM by Schewe » Logged
Rajan Parrikar
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2010, 07:06:22 PM »
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Who cares what brush was used to make the painting - its irrelevant wether it was horsehair or the finest Russian sable. What matters to the viewer or purchaser is the artwork - not the tool used to create it. The tool only matters to the painter/photographer.

It has been my experience that the photographer is the one sweating bullets over minutia (my technical term for 'things' MF pundits often refer to as subtle tonal variations) in their work (I am guilty of sweating these bullets). The purchaser of the art work has never in my experience pixel peeped the art.  They buy on emotion that an image evokes in them - not technical perfection. Thats been my experience anyway (and BTW: This is not an argument not to strive for technical perfection).

This point has been touched upon by Dubovoy in there somewhere, I think, although he may not have expanded on it.  The musical analogy again holds: a great musician can make memorable music on a less-than-capable instrument, music that moves hearts and soothes souls.  The listener doesn't care about the make of the instrument or the fine details of its construction.
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tho_mas
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« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2010, 08:15:14 PM »
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This quote is simply nonsense:
Quote
The ALPA is not only more precise than any view camera...
By design the Rm3D is clearly superior. The super high resolution of the focus ring allows extremely precise (and reproducable) focussing... even on badly lit or uniform surfaces lacking any contrast (that are impossible to focus on a groundglass). On the Rm3D focussing is actually only limited by the laser distometer you use.
As to the back shimming: the Arca lenses provide a linear scale and tables to translate real distances into the values of the focus mount.
Once you know the deviation (due to sensor misalignment) you can use that offset for any lens at any distance (as, again, the scale is linear).
Now, Alpa just introduced their "high precission focus rings" to keep up a bit with Arca and to support the use of a laser disto.
These rings are a very nice improvement but still nowhere near the Arca design.
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Steven Draper
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« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2010, 08:18:31 PM »
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Having just tested an S2 (currently shooting D700) I can certainly understand a large part of the essay.

The S2 is wonderful to work with - a little bit like using a Mac for the first time after living with PC's, although I have yet to test an Alpa.

A key part of the essay is Marks comment about final use, and if large pixel peeping prints are the destination then non dSLR is almost certainly required. My dSLR prints max out at about 30" - although most viewers would not notice the issues photographers tend to notice even if the prints are actually much larger.

MF a requirement for Pro working....  My clients are very happy with the files they receive from my dSLR, and my equipment handles a whole range of assignments well.  

The reason I'm looking at MF isn't on the whole bigger prints or more charging more expensive rates but in saving time. I can shoot wide open portraits on my dSLR in the morning and architectural interiors in the afternoon, but the amount of time required per dSLR file to achieve the look I require is much longer than that required for the larger file size of the S2.

So where time is money and post processing of dSLR files to achieve a certain signature look is heavy, MF may pay dividends quicker than expected.

Steven

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« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2010, 08:37:46 PM »
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Well timed use of Mark's opinion piece as it won't be valid for long in 2011.

The quality of the Pentax and its IQ are not nearly as important as the influence it will have on the market. Survival is based on sales supporting what it costs to bring a product to market. Phase One and Hasselblad will have to respond to a lower price point and they only have X amount of R&D resources so the high end products will suffer. Add the next generation of DSLRs hitting 30+ MP and 2011 will bring a redefined, and ever shrinking, market for MF quality.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2010, 10:37:06 PM »
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I enjoyed this article very much, and having seen a sample of Mark Dubovoy's large size prints, I readily relate to the quality standard from which he is appraising these systems, and I do not doubt his observations. The main issue with medium format photography which needs to be emphasized is that it is more demanding "per unit of quality" than FF-DSLR photography. What I mean by this is that it takes more patience, more premeditation and more precision to achieve the image quality it can deliver when everything is "done right". This in turn means that one will achieve a higher success ratio not only the more experienced the user, but also the better the ergonomics and technical reliability of the equipment. As an owner of a Phase One system, and having been involved with the testing of both the Leica S2 and the Pentax D645, the latter two have a clear edge. It has been my view from day-one using a Phase system that the weakest link is the camera body. The sooner Phase One starts from scratch and puts their fine backs and fine lenses on an ergonomically imporved, energy-efficient, and technically reliable body, they will do themselves and their clients a huge favour. I don't think they have much choice but to improve the camera body and reduce their prices. The latter has already started.

I also appreciated Mark's comments on the inevitable shake-out this industry is facing. He wasn't too specific about what he thinks will happen, and that is wise. We can be surprised by all kinds of things manufacturers may have up their sleeves, and predictions are very hazardous at the best of times, especially without the data. With that caveat behind us, I shall jump right into it based on what I think is *somewhat* compelling logic. Here's roughly the way I see things based on current, known data: Pentax is offering quality well within the range of a 40 MP Phase One system for half the cost if not less; Leica, with lenses, is costlier than a comparable Phase One system, but it appeals to the high-end, very demanding purchasers who have the resources to buy the best in its class. Hence the Hasselblad and Phase One families get squeezed from the top by the flight to quality for which Leica is having a hard time meeting the demand, and they get squeezed from the bottom by the attractive price/quality point of the Pentax, and perhaps some DSLRs to come. Therefore I see the biggest onus of structural adjustment falling on the Phase One and Hasselblad groups. They will need to reposition themselves on the price/quality spectrum, the one big factor giving Phase One an on-going niche, however, is the detachability of its backs - this is the only way, for example that Mark could implement his Alpa/P65+ combo. And the quality of the back is really what makes Phase One what it is.

Speaking of quality, just a footnote on comparing apples to apples. I appreciate the foregoing comments on stitching medium format frames. I've done it, and I've achieved results which definitely surpass what would be achievable with stitched Canon 1DsMk3 shots - of that I have no doubt. That said, I'm not nearly as hard as Mark Dubovoy is on the better FF-DSLR systems - for the image sizes I usually print, I find my 1DsMk3 with the 24-105 L lens to be capable of delivering very high quality results (in terms of sharpness, tonality, shadow detail etc. etc.,) with great ease of use. I really do appreciate what the Phase One can deliver, but I won't be giving up my handy, high-quality 1DsMk3 any time soon.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #10 on: December 20, 2010, 10:43:59 PM »
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Hi,

A couple of things I noted...

Mark has replaced 8x10" with MF digital. There was a discussion on this forum what was needed to replace 8x10" and it seems that in Mr Dubovoy's case it's an Alpa, shimmed to perfection with a P65+ back and carefully chosen lenses.

It is very obvious to me that there are alignment problems on all cameras. It's simply probable that any given camera is less than perfect.

http://www.josephholmes.com/news-medformatprecision.html

It may be that MF digital has it's share of problems, but similar problems exists on DSLRs. Also, MF system are not created equal. Diglloyd recently tested an MF system of Swedish origin and found the lenses badly lacking. One of the lenses had an obvious decentering problem, but neither of the two he tested was really good of axis.

Regarding stitching, it can be obviously done with any equipment. Stitching works less than well for some subjects. For anything non static stitching can be quite problematic.

Best regards
Erik

A clear statement of position by Mark Dubovoy.  I enjoyed the photographs, too.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2010, 11:03:21 PM »
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Hi,

I agree with everything you wrote. I'd just add some observations.

DSLRs now also have live view which really helps achieving pin point focusing accuracy.

AFAIK Mark uses a laser rangefinder with his Alpa and AF on the Leica S2 works very well for him. Diglloyd had AF issues with the Leica S2, but loved the lenses. Diglloyd seems to like the Pentax 645D and I got the impression that AF works reasonably well but he was not at all satisfied with the new 55/2.8 lens.

In the end, I'm pretty sure that larger formats always will have benefits. It's quite obvious that Hasselblad and Phase now have some serious competition. On the other hand, neither Leica S2 or Pentax are really MFDBs, they are MF DSLRs. A back has more utility.

All MF backs are not created equal. Some sensors are bigger (in square inches).

Best regards
Erik


I enjoyed this article very much, and having seen a sample of Mark Dubovoy's large size prints, I readily relate to the quality standard from which he is appraising these systems, and I do not doubt his observations. The main issue with medium format photography which needs to be emphasized is that it is more demanding "per unit of quality" than FF-DSLR photography. What I mean by this is that it takes more patience, more premeditation and more precision to achieve the image quality it can deliver when everything is "done right". This in turn means that one will achieve a higher success ratio not only the more experienced the user, but also the better the ergonomics and technical reliability of the equipment. As an owner of a Phase One system, and having been involved with the testing of both the Leica S2 and the Pentax D645, the latter two have a clear edge. It has been my view from day-one using a Phase system that the weakest link is the camera body. The sooner Phase One starts from scratch and puts their fine backs and fine lenses on an ergonomically imporved, energy-efficient, and technically reliable body, they will do themselves and their clients a huge favour. I don't think they have much choice but to improve the camera body and reduce their prices. The latter has already started.

I also appreciated Mark's comments on the inevitable shake-out this industry is facing. He wasn't too specific about what he thinks will happen, and that is wise. We can be surprised by all kinds of things manufacturers may have up their sleeves, and predictions are very hazardous at the best of times, especially without the data. With that caveat behind us, I shall jump right into it based on what I think is *somewhat* compelling logic. Here's roughly the way I see things based on current, known data: Pentax is offering quality well within the range of a 40 MP Phase One system for half the cost if not less; Leica, with lenses, is costlier than a comparable Phase One system, but it appeals to the high-end, very demanding purchasers who have the resources to buy the best in its class. Hence the Hasselblad and Phase One families get squeezed from the top by the flight to quality for which Leica is having a hard time meeting the demand, and they get squeezed from the bottom by the attractive price/quality point of the Pentax, and perhaps some DSLRs to come. Therefore I see the biggest onus of structural adjustment falling on the Phase One and Hasselblad groups. They will need to reposition themselves on the price/quality spectrum, the one big factor giving Phase One an on-going niche, however, is the detachability of its backs - this is the only way, for example that Mark could implement his Alpa/P65+ combo. And the quality of the back is really what makes Phase One what it is.

Speaking of quality, just a footnote on comparing apples to apples. I appreciate the foregoing comments on stitching medium format frames. I've done it, and I've achieved results which definitely surpass what would be achievable with stitched Canon 1DsMk3 shots - of that I have no doubt. That said, I'm not nearly as hard as Mark Dubovoy is on the better FF-DSLR systems - for the image sizes I usually print, I find my 1DsMk3 with the 24-105 L lens to be capable of delivering very high quality results (in terms of sharpness, tonality, shadow detail etc. etc.,) with great ease of use. I really do appreciate what the Phase One can deliver, but I won't be giving up my handy, high-quality 1DsMk3 any time soon.
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Ray
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« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2010, 12:20:35 AM »
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We should also bear in mind that the best image quality from an MFDB system is usually at ISO 50 (or maybe actually 40, or 44) despite any manufacturer nominated ISO 100.

This has always seemed to me to be a distinct disadvantage when searching for maximum quality. My Nikon D700 has a base ISO of 200 with no compromise on shadow noise. I find that wonderfully liberating.

If ISO 44 with an MFDB produces wonderfully low SNR but unsharp images due to subject movement, what's the point?

I haven't even brought into the equation DoF. If we do, it get's even worse. At ISO 44 we have to either further reduce shutter speed as a result of F/stop adjustment, or increase ISO to match the Nikon at base ISO, at equivalent DoF.

We sometimes fail to make a distinction between the best image quality under ideal circumstance, and the best image quality in specified 'real world' circumstances.

I really think this is part of the confusion. If one has total control over the lighting, as in a studio environment, then the MFDB can have the advantage in terms of lower SNR and higher resolution.

If one is half-way up a mountain, such advantages tend to be less relevant.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 12:40:08 AM by Ray » Logged
Noel Greene
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« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2010, 01:19:27 AM »
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To Mark Segal

thanks for your thoughtful contribution. Much more balanced than the original Post. The flexibility of the high end DSLR just cannot be confined to the bin.
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2010, 01:40:07 AM »
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To Mark Segal

thanks for your thoughtful contribution. Much more balanced than the original Post. The flexibility of the high end DSLR just cannot be confined to the bin.

+1

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« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2010, 02:06:33 AM »
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Great.

So you've got to be a multi-squillionaire before you can even think about pretending to be even a vaguely competent landscape photographer....

Awesome.  Whatever.   
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« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2010, 03:31:16 AM »
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I don't have the photographic knowledge needed to understand the advantages of medium format over "lesser" formats but what I do understand is that there is  -imo- an egotistical slant to the article that I disliked. I am surprised that it was posted on the site. Him stating that he has over 50 years experience doesn't justify what I think is just an egotistical rant. Shocked
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Josh-H
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« Reply #17 on: December 21, 2010, 04:40:55 AM »
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I don't have the photographic knowledge needed to understand the advantages of medium format over "lesser" formats but what I do understand is that there is  -imo- an egotistical slant to the article that I disliked. I am surprised that it was posted on the site. Him stating that he has over 50 years experience doesn't justify what I think is just an egotistical rant. Shocked

Unless I am mistaken; Mark D. recently became part owner of Luminous Landscape (or at least a business partner) - so it is not surprising that there has been quite a few articles / opinion pieces from him of late.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 04:43:37 AM by Josh-H » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: December 21, 2010, 04:52:21 AM »
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There is nothing wrong with striving for perfection. The issue that I have is that he is dismissive of tools that he has probably used in his quest for perfection. At the risk of sounding paranoid I take this as a slight to those still using them and can't afford or even wish to move up the ladder to MF, or similar tools. I don't know about his business interests - haven't met him because I am a native of Scotland and never crossed the pond - so the point I made still stands with respect to it being my opinion based on the reading of the article. I slept on it and posted my remarks not as a knee jerk reaction. Roll Eyes
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« Reply #19 on: December 21, 2010, 05:59:18 AM »
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Hum... with so much focus on using the right tool for the job I find the lack of mention of stitching surprising.

Stitching is clearly the only way to reach high resolutions, MFBD cannot dream to even come close.

Bernard

In contrast to Bernard, I found Mark's article highly interesting and informative.
Although I enjoyed many of Bernard's previous posts, this time he is totally out of place.

Now, I know that I could resurrect my old trusty Nikon Coolpix 900 and by stitching a good number of shots I could create a higher resolution picture, but I suspect it just wouldn't compare with the quality of 50-ft prints I used to create 15 years ago by using a combination of a rotational film camera with a long lens, or even with a single image taken by the latest crop of high-resolution MF cameras. Beside, many of my large panoramas contain moving subjects or were shot from a low-flying plane, so stitching wouldn't work. But to tell truth, I was never fond of stitching, and I have to admit that nowadays I'd be perfectly happy to create a print in panoramic format by taking a single shot by HD4-60 or P65 armed with a wide angle lens and simply chop off the upper half of the image.

But maybe Bernard is on to something with his stitching suggestion.
A good friend of mine, Peter Lorber of Boca Raton, who in the good olden days of film, used to print hundreds of kilometers of panoramic prints for the panoramic community worldwide, is now a happy Hassy dealer and shooter, and when he is not diving or hanging out of helicopter shooting panoramas, he creates insanely huge giga pans by stitching H4D images. On my last trip south, I stopped in his lab, and witnessed personally the abuse of his hardware working furiously on stitching together over one hundred H4D-40 images into a multi-gigapixel  panorama of Ft.Lauderdale. The amount of visual information, the detail, and the dynamic range was simply astounding. I doubt that the same result could be achieved by a lesser camera.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2010, 06:07:28 AM by LesPalenik » Logged

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