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Author Topic: ZD Back vs. ZD Camera  (Read 2401 times)
PeteZ28
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« on: April 09, 2012, 09:23:38 AM »
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I'm very close to being in the market for my first medium format digi back. I already own a 645 AFD with a few lenses and have been eying up the ZD and older Aptus 22 backs as those are the only 22mp backs in my budget. But lately I have been seeing some ZD cameras showing up for the same price or even less than a ZD back, and often with both the standard and IR filters. Am I giving anything up by simply buying a ZD camera over the back only? Are the cameras more reliable? I've head the ZD backs have a few nagging glitches such as not writing random images to the card among others that seem like they may be more related to back/camera interface than the back itself.

The only "advantage" I can see to a back alone, assuming price is equal, is portability. I would not need to carry two bodies to shoot film and digital. But I can get over that.
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Brian Hirschfeld
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2012, 10:42:39 AM »
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I have held the ZD camera, and although it is similarly shaped and sized to a D3/D4 or 1D series camera, but it is in fact much bulkier and heavier. The ZD back is similarly sized and ergonomically somewhat similar to a PhaseOne back, and it is much more self contained. Personally, I am not a fan of Leaf, and have said it before. I would lean towards the ZD, especially if you are ever going to want to remove the IR filter. + if you also want to shoot film then you will have a much easier time carrying a DB and a Film Mag then a DigiCam and a AFD with film Mag.

I thought about the ZD cam as a backup for a while, but decided it wasn't very practical. The ZD however, is amazing well priced. I too had a 645AFD with a film mag, but then took the jump and got a 645DF with IQ180, and it really is a great system, especially if you already have all the lenses you want.
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Anders_HK
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2012, 11:48:04 AM »
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Peter,

First of all ignore what Brian says of Leaf, if you read on his website as review of e.g. Aptus 10 you can read of that he has not even bothered to get familiar with how to use the digital back mere than stick some San Disk cards that did not work etc. Instead do a search on internet of actual Leaf users who swear on the Leaf backs for durability, reliability and quality image. There was a recent thread on forum.getdpi.com of one back that fell into water, was dried out and still worked as should... my prior back dropped on hardwood floor once and bounced and rolled like a ball several times. Do not try it! Mere real stories...

In 2007 I had ZD camera, wich is same as ZD back except it is a camera in one unit. I sold it within six months due to a problem at the time, due to insufficient implementation of the sensor by Mamiya, and that caused problems. You can assume that Mamiya has not spent a fortune to fix it since, although I believe Capture One may be lessening the problem somewhat. I recommend to forget ZD.

On other hand, the Leaf Aptus 22 has the same identical sensor from Dalsa as in ZD, but Leaf implemented it very very well and correctly (and Leaf still makes digital backs, Mamiya do not, the now Mamiya branded backs are by Leaf). Many professionals have used the Aptus 22 back and it is as all Leaf Aptus solid reliable and delivers excellent image quality. I looked at it myself back in 2008 but instead purchased Leaf Aptus 65 which is 28MP but a slight smaller crop sensor measuring 44x33mm instead of 48x36mm. Big deal? Both are crops of 645, but because smaller crop it was at time lower priced than Aptus 75. It may still be that way... Smiley. The Aptus 65 is one generation newer sensor and same sensor as Aptus 75, except the smaller crop.

Last year I upgraded my Aptus 65 to 80MP Leaf AFi-II 12 (same as Aptus-II 12 but for Hy6 camera). I am an advanced amateur and not rich. That was big money to me. However I did so with confidence in Leaf products and the support they give me. And no, I do not worry of San Disk card making problem (or I simply find out what is problem or toss the Sand Disk away and buy a new one...), I used/use a 32GB San Disk Extreme in both my Leafs, and unlike Brian I also use them extensive and learn how simple and solid they function...

When you look at Leaf do also look and read up on the display and what it offers you in large histogram and spot metering tool right on the display. I believe you will not be disappointed if you go with an Aptus, but advise to forget ZD. Per memory there was an ex user of ZD here on LuLa that the other week posted in some thread that he had upgraded to the Aptus 22 and was impressed by the improvements in image quality... The Leaf is worth any extra money. One more advise, do purchase from a Leaf dealer, and not on Ebay or a shop. That will give you support and likely also beyond warranty. They know what they are doing, at least mine. I upgraded with confidence after less than 4 years later... The sensor in a back is also the most expensive part, and you want to make sure to test it when/before you commit money.

Best of luck. Feel free to PM if you have any questions.

Best regards,
Anders
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Brian Hirschfeld
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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2012, 12:04:51 PM »
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First of all ignore what Brian says of Leaf, if you read on his website as review of e.g. Aptus 10 you can read of that he has not even bothered to get familiar with how to use the digital back mere than stick some San Disk cards that did not work etc.

I always emphasize that its been MY, PERSONAL, experience, and am open that I have not spent a lot of time with them, but have had experiences like multiple cards including SanDisk Extreme Pro cards, which work with every other camera I have ever used or demoed. Also when attempting to shoot tethered the software didn't work......and on a 645DF it kept not recognizing the camera, and I found the menu system to be tedious for getting to the section where you could make it recognize the camera. And I found the whole set up to be useless FOR ME in MY EXPERIENCE, and found the whole touch screen stylus thing to be a drag, not to mention the whole menu system...good god if you want to change ISO. Again I am always very clear in stating the majority of my experience is with Hasselblad and PhaseOne since these are the only systems that I have actually owned...that said I have tried to use Leaf on multiple occasions in dealer demo's and I have never had a smooth run...
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Anders_HK
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2012, 07:03:00 PM »
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Brian, Leaf works flawless and including with San Disk Extreme and indeed with tethering to computer. I use it to tether to Capture One. If you have not spent suffice time with a product it may still be your opinion and experience encounter but is wrong to write long review and attempt advise others to not use it. All you show is that you not whatsoever have the experience which appears tad silly.

In over five years of use, the only times I have had issues was when I myself was at fault, and help was a phone call away, also on holiday and sunday!
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Brian Hirschfeld
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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2012, 07:06:59 PM »
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This argument is pointless, and inane. back to the OP's actual question, from my LIMITED personal experience (with Leaf) I would recommend the ZD Digital Back.....

Side-note wasn't attacking Leaf or its product's owners, just stating my observations and experience....
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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2012, 07:18:59 PM »
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Yep, I am the user who upgraded from ZD to A22.
There is nothing more I can add to Anders post. I'll just agree with him once again about Brian's "review". The difference between ZD and A22 is HUGE. You have to be insane to choose ZD back over A22.
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MichaelEzra
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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2012, 09:26:17 PM »
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I have used rented Aptus 22 with H1 and also own ZD camera since end of 2006. Aptus 22 and H1 combo delivered great image quality but griefs in use. This combo did not behave reliably and required restarting camera and back several times during a session. Aptus 22 will give much greater tonal details in shadows compared to ZD. Dynamic range of ZD, however is very wide and it can handle 2 stops overexposure with ease. If one were to consider to use ZD it is important to use abundant amount of light to get clean results. I use it only at ISO 50 in the studio. Camera handles just like a (slow) DSLR, it is NOT heavy; for its fatter than DSLR size it feels unexpectedly light actually. I traveled with it to few national parks and it served me well. There are three specific issues with ZD on must be aware of:
1. Original implementation of the firewire board is not reliable. It will most likely fail. I had mine replaced with a new one.
2. ZD camera requires firmware update for compatibility with the D lenses. I don't think it is possible to get this done in US. It can be likely done in Japan and it was mentioned here previously on someone in Canada who has the equipment for this purpose.
3. Card slot door is poorly designed and one must be careful to not to break it and to close it securely. Every time I open it, I feel that I am breaking something, well this is normal I suppose and I've done it for a few years now, unchanged.

I process ZD files with RawTherapee using automated flat field correction to remove the lens cast and am very happy with the results in my application.
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ghoonk
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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2012, 01:07:41 AM »
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I always emphasize that its been MY, PERSONAL, experience, and am open that I have not spent a lot of time with them, but have had experiences like multiple cards including SanDisk Extreme Pro cards, which work with every other camera I have ever used or demoed. Also when attempting to shoot tethered the software didn't work......and on a 645DF it kept not recognizing the camera, and I found the menu system to be tedious for getting to the section where you could make it recognize the camera. And I found the whole set up to be useless FOR ME in MY EXPERIENCE, and found the whole touch screen stylus thing to be a drag, not to mention the whole menu system...good god if you want to change ISO. Again I am always very clear in stating the majority of my experience is with Hasselblad and PhaseOne since these are the only systems that I have actually owned...that said I have tried to use Leaf on multiple occasions in dealer demo's and I have never had a smooth run...

FWIW, I had an Aptus 65 that I sold for a H4D, and still shoot with an Aptus 54S. Yes, I have had problems with CF cards, largely due to the fact that I failed to read the part in the manual that says to format the card in a certain way. As an example - bought the 65 to the HUG meeting in Singapore. Shot a couple of frames as some people were curious as to how the 65 performed. Stuck the CF into a H4D-31, shot just fine. Stuck it back into the 65 and the 65 throws a hissy fit and refuses to power up. Had to reformat the card before it would work on the 65 again. Same thing happened when I stuck a card that the 65 used into my D3s - the 65 wouldn't touch it until I formatted it.
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PeteZ28
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« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2012, 07:52:45 PM »
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Thank you for all of the great replies Smiley

Honestly my preference all along has been for an Aptus, however they seem to come up far less frequently, and when they do, they are 10-20% more. But after reading this thread I think I will completely abandon the idea of ZD anything and just hold out for an Aptus 22.

Pete
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Anders_HK
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« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2012, 08:15:31 PM »
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If one were to consider to use ZD it is important to use abundant amount of light to get clean results. I use it only at ISO 50 in the studio.

Michael is right. Indeed ABUNTANT of (studio?) light is required (the limitation) for ZD to produce clean results. Since same Dalsa sensor in both, DR should be no less with Aptus 22. Base ISO for ZD is 50 but for Aptus 22 is ISO 25. I do have some good captures from ZD with soft diffused landscapes, but ANY SITUATION with DR with ZD risk getting (noisy?) purple artifacts in shadows (unless for newer ZD that has been bettered, a.k.a. tad doubtful). In 2007 even pointing camera at color chart with balanced exposure produced purple artifacts in blacks... that was both for ZD camera and ZD back. ZD back was also known for needing to remove battery, remove back in shoots at that time, while ZD camera did not display those two issues. Thus appear one would need be mad to recommend to buy a ZD today ...

Aptus 22 or Aptus 65 are wise choices, wishing best luck and joy of using!  Smiley
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 08:17:28 PM by Anders_HK » Logged
Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2012, 08:00:10 PM »
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Thank you for all of the great replies Smiley

Honestly my preference all along has been for an Aptus, however they seem to come up far less frequently, and when they do, they are 10-20% more. But after reading this thread I think I will completely abandon the idea of ZD anything and just hold out for an Aptus 22.

Pete


Good decision Pete. While one can derive great image quality out of a ZD, the same image will be delivered in better quality from Leaf, and with the same sensor. In addition, there are so many more advanced functions with Leaf by comparison, the additional price for the Leaf is well deserved. When one considers that the ZD has no future support or path forward, then Leaf becomes a no brainer.

Now, that said, save yourself a headache and dedicate your CF cards to the Leaf, and take advantage of some of those $40 Lenmar 5400 amp batteries that give you 4-5 hours shooting time. The best things in life take some effort, which is ok, as long as it's rewarded. Leaf does reward you.


Steve Hendrix
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2012, 08:08:36 PM »
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Pete,

I was just going to suggest you look at the Capture Integration website for their refurbished Aptus 22's. That is a very good buy and I have more than one friend producing superb work an Aptus 22.
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Ian L. Sitren
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« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2012, 08:28:29 PM »
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Pete,

I was just going to suggest you look at the Capture Integration website for their refurbished Aptus 22's. That is a very good buy and I have more than one friend producing superb work an Aptus 22.


Thanks for the prop Ian.

Yes, we still have some of these left. They are completely inspected and CI Certified, include most of the accessories that come with a new Leaf Aptus, 6 month warranty, surprisingly low shot counts considering the generation of the product, and support from Capture Integration for as long as you own it.


Steve Hendrix
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PeteZ28
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« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2012, 09:05:32 PM »
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Thanks for the prop Ian.

Yes, we still have some of these left. They are completely inspected and CI Certified, include most of the accessories that come with a new Leaf Aptus, 6 month warranty, surprisingly low shot counts considering the generation of the product, and support from Capture Integration for as long as you own it.


Steve Hendrix

Steve, I will keep your shop in mind. At the moment I have the cash but I was let go from a job a few weeks ago, so I have to conserve until I'm back up and going again.
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PeteZ28
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« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2012, 09:11:00 PM »
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Michael is right. Indeed ABUNTANT of (studio?) light is required (the limitation) for ZD to produce clean results.

I don't mind the low ISO limitation. I still have a D300 if I need to shoot fast/low light. That's not the type of work I'm looking to do with a digi back. Not sure if it was mentioned here or in one of the dozens of reviews I've read, but after posting this thread I discovered that the ZD, without active cooling, tends to get long exposure noise after 4 seconds. That alone is a huge deal breaker for me as I like doing long exposure (30s-1min). I've heard the Aptus is much better about longer exposures because of the fan. Any insight on that?

I'd really like a Phase back but for the price of a used P25+ I could get one of the 33mp Leaf backs. Decisions decisions... (and money Wink )
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2012, 10:07:17 PM »
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Steve, I will keep your shop in mind. At the moment I have the cash but I was let go from a job a few weeks ago, so I have to conserve until I'm back up and going again.


Sorry to hear that Pete, I hope this difficult change ultimately results in a positive direction for you.

BTW - we do also have pre-owned P25+ units and some 33MP Leaf product available as well. Same attributes apply, CI Certified, new accessories, warranty, and support.


Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2012, 10:16:48 PM »
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I want to make sure we are talking about the same "ZD". The ZD back is simple enough, there are two versions, the first ZD and a ZDb which has a bigger buffer. Then there is the 645ZD camera which is a Mamiya 645AFDII (not the 3 I think) with the "ZD" back. Then there is a prior ZD camera which is more like a DSLR in design.

As I recall the ZD Camera is not supported by Mac Group here in the USA. It seems like an intriguing choice but without a dealer service availability I would be reluctant to buy one.

As to the 645ZD and ZD back, I was perhaps the first person ever to be published with that system. I was loaned a 645ZD camera system by a dealer who asked me to evaluate it before they decided to recommend it to actually wedding photographers. I actually put it to work for a week or so and was published in a couple of magazines with a cover and some feature stories. I liked the back and the image quality and still do.

However with the availability of good Aptus 22 backs on the market at great prices like at Capture Integration, looking around for a ZD at a great price with potential repairs to come seems ill advised. I have friends still using the Aptus 22 with superb results. I have used the Aptus 65 and have more published ad shoots and features with it than I can tell you. The same goes with the Mamiya DM33.

With that said I have also used Phase One backs, the P45, P45+ and they too are superb. It just depends on what strikes you best for what you do and like.

But I do think the Aptus 22 price at Capture Integration might be the best buy out there right now for an MFDB. They are certainly a superb dealer with a great reputation and Steve has been very considerate here in the forums for a long time.
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Ian L. Sitren
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« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2012, 07:03:02 AM »
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They are completely inspected and CI Certified, include most of the accessories that come with a new Leaf Aptus, 6 month warranty, surprisingly low shot counts considering the generation of the product, and support from Capture Integration for as long as you own it.

That is what to look for when buying a used back, wheather from CI or another dedicated Leaf dealer, not to buy Ebay or shop that do not provide warranty, support and know nothing of history of back!

Plus of course, negotiate on price  Grin...
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Quentin
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« Reply #19 on: April 16, 2012, 08:52:57 AM »
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I owned a ZD camera for several years and used in its comnfort zone, it was an excellent peice of kit.  Not too big for MF, nice ergonomics, great image quality if not underexposed, great highlight recovery

There are however two issues;  first, the rear screen was very poor, and second, noise becomes a probem if underexposed or used at anything above 100ISO.

Understand and work with its limitations and it produces first class results comparable with any22 mp digital back, with  the advantage of being a fairly compact DSLR-type desgn and easy to use, with a wide range of fairy inexpensive lenses available.  Remember, this is the ZD Camera I am referring to; the back seemed to have some issues not affecting the camera, as Anders mentions

PS I recall Michael did a test of the ZD, see here for the initial camera review and also here
« Last Edit: April 16, 2012, 09:15:06 AM by Quentin » Logged

Quentin Bargate, ARPS, Author, photographer entrepreneur and senior partner of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2013
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