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Author Topic: Camera for B&W fine art  (Read 7804 times)
Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« on: April 26, 2011, 10:47:43 PM »
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I must state I am a beginner, and not even a 'serious' amateur yet. I shoot 35mm film on a Nikon with prime lenses, using Tri-X or Tmax 400. I have read almost every essay on the Lula website, plus a thousand others, and still find the need to ask what I am about to ask. I apologize beforehand if I have made a mistake in doing so.

Here's my interest in photography:
1. I would define my interest as 'carefully staged and artificially lit fictional B&W photography where the prime subject will always be one or more human beings in various surroundings'. If possible, I would like to have the camera shoot color as well. I will shoot both outdoor and indoor.
2. I will need to print to a maximum size of 36 inches in its longest side. The goal is to create fine art that will sell.
3. 6x6 or square format is NOT an option. Any other rectangular format is okay.
4. I will not go above ISO 800 under any circumstances, and in most likelihood, be well within ISO 400.
5. I will almost always shoot on a tripod, but will need to use the camera handheld as well. I will have all the time in the world to compose and select settings, so I don't need professional weather-sealed bodies with buttons for everything. I am okay with menus. Autofocus is not a requirement.
6. I will need an interchangeable lens format. Most of my shots will be stopped down since I will be lighting the scene and need a lot of depth of field. Flash is not required.
7. Fast shooting is not required. A perfect meter is not required (I will be using a light meter) - meaning, a basic DSLR meter is okay.
8. Film is out of the question (for reasons I don't want to get into). It has to be a digital camera system - one with easy-to-find batteries.
9. I will be using Photoshop to manipulate the images, and it might need to have the exposure bracketing feature.
10. It has to be the cheapest system possible.

I think what I'm looking for is a cheap camera system that is meant to do one type of photography only. The question is: how low can I go?

For example, I have printed JPEGs (72dpi) off a 550D on A1 (23x33 inches) and the resolution seems okay. But would any of you consider a print from a 550D as fine art? Assuming I master my camera in and out, and become a good photographer, will an entry-level Nikon or Canon system limit the quality of the print? Do I need to go full frame, or can I stay with APS-C (or even 4/3)?

In my particular case (I can manipulate my content to my heart's desire), will a kit lens be good enough? Or L glass, or Zeiss? Would I be able to overcome any limitation in the lens with my methodology, or is it futile? Or should I set my standards higher and aim for a Leica M9? Or higher, to a medium format system?

Thank you in advance for any assistance.
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Rob C
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2011, 02:40:08 AM »
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Sareesh, I think you are trying to fly before you have wings.

Rob C
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2011, 04:52:27 AM »
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Rob...you're absolutely right...but I'm still stuck where I am - I have to buy gear to start even...
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2011, 08:37:32 AM »
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Sareesh, if it has to be "the cheapest system possible", I should say that almost any DSLR or m43 available would suit.  If the lens is going to be stopped down even the lower end lenses would be fine and if you are doing 'fine art, if the pictures are good enough no one is going to want to know what camera they were shot on. Jim
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2011, 11:00:34 AM »
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Why does this remind me of the saying: "If you have to ask, you do not need to know"?
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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2011, 01:33:48 PM »
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Why does this remind me of the saying: "If you have to ask, you do not need to know"?




Ah, the close relative to: "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

I seldom ask anything anymore; who needs humiliation?

Rob C
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uaiomex
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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2011, 08:10:32 PM »
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Sareesh: You seem to me to be the perfect candidate to buy a used 6X7 film camera. Used ones can be found really cheap. It's not digital and that implies scanning and finding suitable film depending where you live.
My own heart advice: Get a brand new aps camera from Nikon, Canon, Sony or Pentax with one good lens. Know your camera and lens combo and learn how to stitch properly. But my first choice would be to find a good used 5D (MkI).
Eduardo
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2011, 10:53:31 PM »
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Thanks Jim...that's what I wanted to know.
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2011, 11:03:33 PM »
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Thank you Eduardo...A good used 5D is also what I had in mind.

To everyone else: I wouldn't have asked this question if film was an option. I was going to buy a mamiya rb67 system but where I live (Mumbai, India), it's almost impossible to find good film and the costs of developing, scanning and printing are insane. However, if I do feel the need to upgrade in the future, thanks to Lula, I'll know where to ask.
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2011, 02:23:01 AM »
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Thank you Eduardo...A good used 5D is also what I had in mind.

To everyone else: I wouldn't have asked this question if film was an option. I was going to buy a mamiya rb67 system but where I live (Mumbai, India), it's almost impossible to find good film and the costs of developing, scanning and printing are insane. However, if I do feel the need to upgrade in the future, thanks to Lula, I'll know where to ask.




You think that only applies to Bombay? Try Mallorca, and even then you will find you'll have to try Barcelona...

Does the Persian Café still exist in, I think it was, Marine Drive? Or the air-conditioned Eros and Metro?

Rob C

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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2011, 08:51:56 AM »
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Hi Rob...not sure about the Cafe, but Eros and Metro still does, but Metro has become a Multiplex. It's all digital now (I couldn't resist!).
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Rob C
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2011, 12:03:13 PM »
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Hi Rob...not sure about the Cafe, but Eros and Metro still does, but Metro has become a Multiplex. It's all digital now (I couldn't resist!).


Yep, everything sure is different now... Not  better, just different and more expensive.

I recently saw a series on Indian train lines on the tv; they did the Nilgiri Blue Montain Express, which I knew only too well, and also the other one up in the north - to Darjeeling, I think, which I was not familiar with, having spent my time at the other end of the country. The one where they showed Ooty was not very good: there used to be so much of interest up there, but they only touched on the Club and a brief shot of St Stephen's and that was it, apart from a lot of stuff about families living off the train service... Who says tv can't get it wrong? Or perhaps it just wasn't the right programme for me.

Rob C
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2011, 11:05:07 PM »
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You didn't miss much with Ooty...they have destroyed it. One place that might be a landscape photographer's dream is Munnar in Kerala. Luckily, almost untouched. Any direction you turn, you have a winner.
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RawheaD
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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2011, 11:32:15 PM »
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A 5D Mk1 used is still going to cost near $1K US.  For what you want to do, I would tend to discourage you. Why?  Lack of liveview for composing, and the general suckitude of the LCD--basically, I found the Mk1's LCD preview so bad to the point that looking at the previews had impact on my motivation to shoot.  I now shoot Mk2 and it's worth the extra $1K just for those two things (seriously).

However, you might not agree and want to keep costs down.

Until recently, I would've discouraged you from going Pentax for the kind of stuff you want to do.  I owned a K-7 and one reason I sold both it and the Mk1 to get a Mk2 was because of K-7's reluctance to let me turn NR off for exposures longer than 30s.  The current K-5 is another matter altogether.  It has a superior, modern sensor (that is, in relation to Mk2 as well as K-7), better higher ISO performance, and very useful features like its two axes digital level, great in-camera shake reduction, and sensor-tilt based recomposing (+/- 1˚ AFAIK).  The only thing it lacks is sensor size, but since you want to do stop-down, landscape photography, there are few instances where that would make a huge impact (I wouldn't recommend an APS-C over a fullframe, for example, if you wanted to do lot of wide-open, shallow DoF photography...like I do :-).

Combined with some excellent wide angle primes in the Pentax lineup (e.g., the diminutive DA 15mm F4 Limited), the K-5 I think is a fantastic landscape DSLR.
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Riaan van Wyk
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« Reply #14 on: April 29, 2011, 12:23:19 AM »
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A 5D Mk1 used is still going to cost near $1K US.  For what you want to do, I would tend to discourage you. Why?  Lack of liveview for composing, and the general suckitude of the LCD--basically, I found the Mk1's LCD preview so bad to the point that looking at the previews had impact on my motivation to shoot.

Darnit, looks like I'm wasting my time trying to save up for one. I now also know why my photos are so crap. The LCD's on my two non live view cameras must be the problem.
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RawheaD
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« Reply #15 on: April 29, 2011, 01:27:45 AM »
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I understand you're being sarcastic, but I know from experience that crappy LCDs can be problematic.  The photos that came out of the Mk1 were, quite often great.  Much greater than I'd thought in the field, indeed. But, like I said, not being able to see that, and in fact being shown something that looks crap, can, and in my case definitely *did*, affect motivation, enthusiasm, whatever you want to call it.

Imagine you had a friend shooting with you and every shot you took, he told you what utter crap you just took, and tell me that won't impact you as a shooter.  That's pretty much what the Mk1's LCD was to me.

Obviously photographers got along fine for ages without *any* previews, so you could either decide you're not going to rely on the LCD at all in the field, or not even turn the darn thing on.  In fact, that's what I did with my Mk1 during the last few months I owned it. If that is all that you would demand from your "D"SLRs LCD, then more power to you, and it certainly isn't a waste of your time to save up for it.
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: April 29, 2011, 03:06:04 AM »
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My latest shoot was the opening of a friend's new show in a local gallery here in Mallorca.

The lights were very strong and aimed at the paintings; the walls and the ceilings are white. I used the D700 set on Auto ISO with aperture at f2 and shutter at around 250th. (I think that's where I set the shutter, but I never look at that info. once the images are in the computer) on the basis that since folks are walking about and I don't want to pose them, if it doesn't freeze them sufficiently, too bad. I only shoot RAW and leave the camera set on daylight, and the meter on Matrix.

I never, once, looked at the rear sceen. (The only time I do is in strong sunlight where I fear killing important highs.)

Now, having converted them all from NEF to Psd files, I'm delighted at how well the camera accomplished its task, and the white balancing via Nikon Capture NX2 is beautiful, the only thing I'd question is the very slight warmth of the walls, which the slider can't quite kill, taking them into too cold if I try the next position in the other direction. Amazing technology. Frankly, I don't know what I'd have achieved that's better had I used the screen.

As was said, we didn't have those screens with film, and Polaroid was an entirely different beast anyway, yet great work was done...

Rob C
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #17 on: April 29, 2011, 03:08:10 AM »
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Thank you rawhead...I would love to spend the extra money for the Mark II, but I can't. Not until I know this is going to work for me. That said, if I can't find a good 5D with lens, then I might still go for a new 550D with its 18-55 IS kit lens ($800 in India).
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RawheaD
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« Reply #18 on: April 29, 2011, 03:52:55 AM »
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As was said, we didn't have those screens with film, and Polaroid was an entirely different beast anyway, yet great work was done...

Sure, but the point is, why have a screen in the first place?  It's like saying "Why use film, great works were done with glass plates".  Technological progress is useless if it's not used; some people may not need/want it, but other people do.  I spoke as someone who thinks that in this day and age of digital, using the LCD/LiveView, which, unlike most viewfinders out there, has 100% coverage, is crucial for the kind of photography that the OP wants to do (carefully composed landscape photography).  The preview having the ability to show a good representation of the actual image, in terms of color balance, dynamic range, exposure, etc. is also extremely important. 

Are these things necessary to take great photographs? No.  Do they not help you take great photographs in any way?  Of course they do. 

So the question is, is the OP willing to live without them?  I, personally, was not; hence the Mk2.  I, unlike some, won't judge anybody for disagreeing with me on what are and are not essential traits of a digital SLR.
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2011, 04:32:28 AM »
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Sure, but the point is, why have a screen in the first place?  It's like saying "Why use film, great works were done with glass plates".  Technological progress is useless if it's not used; some people may not need/want it, but other people do.  I spoke as someone who thinks that in this day and age of digital, using the LCD/LiveView, which, unlike most viewfinders out there, has 100% coverage, is crucial for the kind of photography that the OP wants to do (carefully composed landscape photography).  The preview having the ability to show a good representation of the actual image, in terms of color balance, dynamic range, exposure, etc. is also extremely important. 

Are these things necessary to take great photographs? No.  Do they not help you take great photographs in any way?  Of course they do. 

So the question is, is the OP willing to live without them?  I, personally, was not; hence the Mk2.  I, unlike some, won't judge anybody for disagreeing with me on what are and are not essential traits of a digital SLR.


I take your point, but speaking for myself alone, as most of us have to, a rear screen isn't much use other than for a histogram, and in a sense I see that requirement as a result of the limitations of highlight capture on digi. Was a time an incident light meter told you all you had to know in one fell swoop!

Again, personally, chimping (or its compulsion) simply gets in the way of taking pictures as the mood dictates, and inserts yet a further intrusion into the process between seeing and capture. I accept that for people who never knew another way that is the norm; for me it is not. Of course, I agree that in cases where you are doing multiple light shots etc. it's a great plus to have a good screen, and better yet a computer beside you; for free work, as I expect the OP is wanting to do, I see few plusses in more options. Maybe that's what Leica has known all along.

Rob C
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