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Author Topic: Leaf Aptus-II 5 - A 1st MF Digital Back?  (Read 3279 times)
David Cartwright
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« on: April 23, 2013, 11:40:17 AM »
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Hi,

I am thinking about going "large, ok Medium" for Landscape as well as some Studio work. (Still Life not Portrait etc.). I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about MF digital backs, having regarded them as so out of my finances.... (I earn my living elsewhere, this is a hobby that I enjoy)

I notice now that the price of a new Leaf Aptus-II 5 is within reach. My thoughts are that I can then start to use a "technical camera" with the advantages of the shifts and other movements.

However I have started asking myself the following:

a) Is it any good, it being "old" technology compared to the latest Phase One and Leaf backs?
b) Would I better investing my money in a D800 and a good Schneider Tilt/Shift lens instead. (I have a D700 kit at present)?
c) Are there issues using this out on landscape shoots? It's clearly not weather sealed, how do other protect thier digital backs?

Without starting the whole, MF vs. D800 discussion yet again, I would like the opinions of others on how good the Leaf Aptus-II 5 actually is?

Thanks for yuor help

David.
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KLaban
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« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2013, 11:56:11 AM »
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There are plenty of folks here who will try and persuade you to buy one over the other, usually the one they're using.

Fact is the two choices could hardly be more different. You know what a Nikon feels like and how you get on with it, now you need to try the other one before coming to an informed decision.
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2013, 12:53:11 PM »
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By far the best way to evaluate the answer to this question is to get raw files, or ideally capture your own. Any good value added dealer can help you with this.

They are very different systems, each with advantages and disadvantages. So what makes sense for one person may also make no sense for another. For me the color, tonality, and rendering of an H25 (far older than even an Aptus II 5) still beats a Canon 5DIII (which I reference because I have extensive experience with that body). So age is not what you should be looking at so much as quality of results and usability/enjoyability factors.

You can also look into our recently updated Cambo and Arca Swiss pages for more details about those options.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 12:55:20 PM by Doug Peterson » Logged

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torger
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« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2013, 02:04:34 PM »
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I have an Aptus 75 and Canon 5Dmk2 myself, and worked with a Hasselblad 22 megapixel back, studied lots of raw files of various cameras, including the Aptus-II 5 and its older incarnation Aptus 22. The image quality of Aptus 22 and Aptus-II 5 is virtually the same, and its not strange as the same Dalsa sensor is being used, so yes its "old" technology. However, CCDs became good already back in 2004 so the improvements up till now if we only look at low ISO performance is mostly in resolution. Yes dynamic range and color rendition is a little bit better in modern sensors, but the difference is so small I consider it irrelevant for real picture making.

At base ISO and in scientific measurable terms the D800 sensor is a little bit better per pixel than the Aptus-II 5. Canon cameras is still behind. However, the look the Aptus-II 5 will produce is different from the D800 and many prefer the Aptus-II 5 look. I am myself the type of photographer that's quite agnostic: as long as a camera records reasonably accurate colors with reasonable dynamic range the rest is post-processing. I use MF for the cameras I get to play with, not for the sensor in the backs.

The greatest weakness of the Aptus-II 5 I'd say that it's 22 megapixels, which makes it quite prone to moiré and color aliasing. I can live with that, but some find it really really annoying and want higher resolution to reduce the problems, just going up to 33 makes a difference (although you still have some of those problems). In technical photography shooting at f/16 is a good working aperture, and with ISO25 you'll notice that you will have quite long exposure times. Usually not a problem, but you it will be considerably longer than for a D800, especially if you use wide angles with center filters.

Unless you're very into the MF software workflow and look the real gain in getting the Aptus back is the cameras you can use them with. The tilt-shift lenses for D800 is very limited compared to the range of lenses and flexible movements that exists for a technical camera. I use a view camera myself and I think you should consider that for your studio work. A second hand 4x5" geared Sinar camera could be a solution for studio work and a "pancake" camera for your landscape work, or look into getting a Linhof Techno which I use myself and think is a really good field camera for the ones not scared of ground glass.

Note that with 22 megapixels and f/16 as working aperture you can't fail even with poor ground glass Wink. Pancake cameras tend to get rather expensive if you want tilt and many lenses (high lens mount cost).

Weather sealing... hmm... I currently have a support issue with my Aptus, it's in for repair a second time. I can just say that I personally don't trust the product fully until they've fixed mine. The problem I have is that it fails now and then in cool temperatures (+4C and lower). Many have success with them though and Leaf claim that they should work, but all I can say I'm having a bad experience and I've seen a few others have reliability issues when asking around here and other forums. If it's 1 out of 50 or 1 out of 5 that has problems I cannot know. I think its safe to assume that these are not as good as a pro-level DSLR, but if you get "a good copy" it should work in well in most conditions including very cold temperatures, and it does have some minimal sealing despite the vents - it's not as bad as it looks. Just talk clearly to your dealer about which conditions you are going to use your back and say in advance that you will return it if it does not work as promised. And when speaking about dealer, pick a large dealer with good reputation concerning support. Here in Europe many dealers are small, only 1-3 people and have trouble keeping up support. If you want the best reliability from MF in tough conditions the P+ series have the best reputation.

If you're going to buy new as it seems you are, then make the dealer work, really show you the product and the workflow. Then you will also get a feeling for if it's a good dealer to have if you run into problems later on.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 02:10:24 PM by torger » Logged
Gigi
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« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 02:37:40 PM »
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Second to Torger's advice above, with the following:

Been using a Leaf 7 for about 2-3 years, and just don't look back. There are reasons not to like it - weight, more hassle, and size, but image quality isn't one of them. Just lovely. Looked at a D800, and with the right technique and the right lenses, it will make some pretty nice files. Not quite the same, but very very good. The problem is that (for this user) to get the proper technique with the Nikon is less interesting.  With a digital MF back, getting it right, with either with medium format camera or tech camera, is a lot more enjoyable.

Mind you, there are lots of assumptions and personal preferences buried in that statement, so do your own checking, but apples:apples it isn't.  
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 09:33:48 PM by Geoffreyg » Logged

Geoff
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« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 04:46:47 PM »
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a) Is it any good, it being "old" technology compared to the latest Phase One and Leaf backs?
At base ISO the IQ is very nice, but does not have either the dynamic range or resolution of the D800.
Anything above base ISO is far from todays standards. Lifting shadows is also an issue as it is quite similar to the effects of shooting high ISO.

b) Would I better investing my money in a D800 and a good Schneider Tilt/Shift lens instead. (I have a D700 kit at present)?
Far more options around the D800. More choices of tilt shift lenses as well as options like the Cambo X2-Pro
. Rectalinear stitching adapters are in the works for D800 and similar cameras along the lines of the Rhinocam by
Fotodiox. With these you can do very high res large capture area still lifes.
On top of that there is a vast range of control software for the d800 such as ControlMyNikon. Things like automated/assisted focus stacking that produces great results.
HDMI live view is very usefull for still life. Real time feedback of lighting changes and tinkering around with flags and reflectors.


c) Are there issues using this out on landscape shoots? It's clearly not weather sealed, how do other protect thier digital backs?
Higher dynamic range and better weather sealing is an advantage with the Nikon D800. The leaf backs are not as robust as the Phase One backs.
Weather sealing is very limited with leaf backs and no claims are made on their website. Just the fact that is air cooled with a fan presents a problem in dusty environments.
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yaya
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« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 04:59:35 PM »
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There are plenty of folks here who will try and persuade you to buy one over the other, usually the one they're using.

Fact is the two choices could hardly be more different. You know what a Nikon feels like and how you get on with it, now you need to try the other one before coming to an informed decision.


+1

David, we have a few dealers in the UK who can help with demonstrating the backs and they all sell technical cameras as well so can provide advice on lenses etc.

You can find them on this page

IMO the shooting experience with such a system is very rewarding and very different from shooting a Dwhatever or a whateverD

Good luck and do feel free to contact me should you have any specific questions about the Aptus-II 5

Yair


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FredBGG
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« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2013, 05:42:44 PM »
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Plenty of opportunities to buy used Leaf backs. In particular if you are after the 22MP 1:1 backs they are essentially the same tech even if they are quite old.

Good thing about buying entry level MFDB used is that you can sell it quickly and well if it turns out to not be for you.

New MFD takes a huge hit, especially if entry level.

Here is one that went for under $ 3,800 with case and all as well as only 2319 actuations from a 100% positive feedback seller.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Leaf-Aptus-22-for-Mamiya-AFD-DF-/160991476286?pt=Digital_Cameras&hash=item257bd6fa3e&nma=true&si=jhjT7BljlEE18%252B558JBA9aBMhYU%253D&orig_cvip=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557
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torger
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« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2013, 03:24:32 AM »
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Tilt-shift lenses available for the D800 don't impress me that much. The problems are few focal lengths, limited flexibility in movements (locked tilt/shift axis) and varying optical quality. If you get a pancake camera note that they can be quite limited in tilt/swing movements too, so really think about which focal lengths you want and what movements you need. The most flexible way is a studio view camera, but they are not that portable. Canon seems to build a stronger collection of tilt-shift lenses, but still it's only the 17 and 24 that has the modern design, and Canon's sensors are at base ISO not at the same quality level as found in digital backs and the Sony and Nikons.

Concerning tech camera a good compromise between studio and field is the Arca-Swiss MF-two. However say that for your still life work you don't need any wide angles, maybe 80-90mm is the shortest you need there, then getting a second hand geared 4x5" camera just for having in the studio can be worthwhile, and have some other camera out in the field. Those are quite easy to find and are sold at low prices. If you need wide angles the older 4x5" cameras are bit more tricky to use, problems with parallelism and needing super-recessed boards etc. It's still possible to do, but a bit messy, so then I'd choose a "digital view camera".

I'd also look into pre-owned deals or buying second hand when it comes to the digital back. You can get nice deals there for the ~$8000 that a new Aptus-II 5 costs, but there's more risk of course. If you buy new to get the safety and service just make sure you get a dealer that really can provide that. Those that sell one Leaf back a year and make their main income from other business is not such a dealer.

If you go technical, I recommend not to buy overkill lenses, you're not getting an 80 megapixel back. Rodenstock wides are extreme. If you go 4x5" second hand for still life, you can find great quality in analog 4x5" lenses if you pick the right types. On the digital side the Schneider Apo-Digitar series are great, small and light too.
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KLaban
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2013, 03:43:06 AM »
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Tilt-shift lenses available for the D800 don't impress me that much...

Agreed.

I'd add that the available wide-angle lenses in general and particularly those in the range 14mm to 21mm don't impress me that much.
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torger
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« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2013, 04:04:14 AM »
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Agreed.

I'd add that the available wide-angle lenses in general and particularly those in the range 14mm to 21mm don't impress me that much.

Hopefully he can keep away from those in the MF too though for financial reasons, 14-21mm corresponds to 20-29mm in MF 36x48. 20 doesn't exist, the widest is the Digaron-S 23mm (one could use a H-Cam with the 17mm Canon TS-E though...) which is very expensive and has only 70mm image circle. Quality is really good though. Then there's 28mm Digaron-S (still 70mm) and the Schneider 28, a little bit cheaper but still costly. I use myself the Schneider 35mm as the widest and I'm pleased with that (it corresponds to 25mm on the D800). When having shift I don't think one need as wide as without.
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KLaban
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« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2013, 04:53:23 AM »
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Hopefully he can keep away from those in the MF too though for financial reasons, 14-21mm corresponds to 20-29mm in MF 36x48. 20 doesn't exist, the widest is the Digaron-S 23mm (one could use a H-Cam with the 17mm Canon TS-E though...) which is very expensive and has only 70mm image circle. Quality is really good though. Then there's 28mm Digaron-S (still 70mm) and the Schneider 28, a little bit cheaper but still costly. I use myself the Schneider 35mm as the widest and I'm pleased with that (it corresponds to 25mm on the D800). When having shift I don't think one need as wide as without.

Yup, the super-wide medium format DSLR lenses certainly don't come cheap - £4314 for the Hasselblad HCD 4/28 - but I've yet to see anything from Nikon, Zeiss or Samyang on the D800 that even comes close to the performance of the HCD lens.

Tech cameras are a good fit for some and a bad fit for others, the OP will never know until he tries for himself.
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ondebanks
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« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2013, 07:14:24 AM »
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Yup, the super-wide medium format DSLR lenses certainly don't come cheap - £4314 for the Hasselblad HCD 4/28 - but I've yet to see anything from Nikon, Zeiss or Samyang on the D800 that even comes close to the performance of the HCD lens.

I suspect that if the 35mm format manufacturers took the design route of the HCD line, i.e. not correcting distortion, heavy vignetting and lateral colour and leaving all of that to DAC to sort out, we would see them catch up on the final image quality.

Ray
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2013, 08:16:34 AM »
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Hi,

I would expect that an MF lens would have an advantage as it needs less magnification. Somewhat simplified, an 135 format lens needs to be 1.5-2 times better than an MF lens to be as good in similar size prints.

Best regards
Erik


I suspect that if the 35mm format manufacturers took the design route of the HCD line, i.e. not correcting distortion, heavy vignetting and lateral colour and leaving all of that to DAC to sort out, we would see them catch up on the final image quality.

Ray
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KLaban
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« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2013, 08:22:26 AM »
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I suspect that if the 35mm format manufacturers took the design route of the HCD line, i.e. not correcting distortion, heavy vignetting and lateral colour and leaving all of that to DAC to sort out, we would see them catch up on the final image quality.

Possibly, or possibly not.

Either way we would still be left mouth agape at the failure of 35mm format manufacturers to deliver anything resembling quality control.
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ondebanks
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« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2013, 09:50:16 AM »
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Hi,

I would expect that an MF lens would have an advantage as it needs less magnification. Somewhat simplified, an 135 format lens needs to be 1.5-2 times better than an MF lens to be as good in similar size prints.

Best regards
Erik


You're right Erik - I should have been more specific, as I meant image quality per unit area of sensor, or per pixel as long as the pixel pitches are similar.

Ray
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David Cartwright
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« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2013, 03:26:22 PM »
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Folks,

Thanks for all your replies, it has certainly given me more to think about. It has been much appreciated.

David.
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Ken R
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« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2013, 11:13:29 PM »
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Hi David,

honestly, for Landscape the D800e is the best choice for the price, if you do not need a tech camera obviously. I do not own one but I have used it with the Zeiss 15mm, Nikon 14-24 and the 24 pc-e. All are good lenses with perhaps the 24 being the weaker of the bunch but easily corrected in post production. In typical landscape situations (base iso) the D800 wipes the floor with any Canon Dslr ever made. Its not close. The D800e also fares well against all the sub 50mp backs and its much more versatile.

 For studio tabletop a tech or view camera is best. Yes, you can mount a D800e in some view cam setups but the elegant solution is to use a digital back.

Also think of the camera as a system. There are many options available with digital backs. You can basically assemble a system taylor made for your needs and budget and upgrade as you budget and needs change.
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