Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh To Have One Of Those Medium Format Backs

There are times I dream of somehow being able to afford a medium format digital system so I thought I'd take a serious look at how that might work, compared to what I do now. As I have a fair amount of experience using medium format film cameras and know the parameters of medium format backs, I can do this reasonably accurately without forking out the $40,000 to really test the hypothesis.

As I use a 1Ds2, size and weight won't be huge factors, my current camera already makes a brick look slim and light. The first obvious difference is I'd probably not need to stitch normal images as a little cropping could result in a square to 2:1 image while maintaining more than 20 megapixels. Dynamic range seems to be a bit better though as it's only a couple of stops at best, I'd still have to shoot multiple images for any more dynamic range than that. Depth of field becomes a significant issue in medium format cameras - there just isn't a lot of it. This would mean that even more images would have to rely on a tilted lens (but only wide angle is available unlike my Canon 90 ts-e). I could process multiple images in helicon focus but boy, we're talking big files now - don't know how well Helicon does with those, and of course Helicon is so far only 8 bit so I'm losing some of the advantages of medium format 16 bit images.

I'd lose most of my zooms - no 17-40, no 70-200. Sure they have a moderate length zoom 55-110 but that's only 2X and neither very wide or long. No such thing as a long macro lens though. Lenses are bigger so I'd be able to carry fewer of them and not being zooms, this means I would have to hope that I can fine tune framing with my feet rather than with my lens - which isn't always possible or desireable.

The shot to shot time wouldn't really bother me given the kind of work I do. One thing to consider though is that now your back pack is worth $50,000 - that sure has an impact when you think of going in for lunch or to pick up a drink, when you fly, leave things in your hotel rooms (see Michael Reichmann's recent experience in Paris). It has significance when you hold your camera 5 feet out over a waterfall to get the best possible shot. It's already an issue - it's just that much worse with medium format.

I'd lose the rapid sophisticated auto focus I currently use - even though I focus manually I rely heavily on the camera to tell me when I'm in focus and where.

I'd have to give up long lenses. Even my 70-200 would need a 350 mm. lens and anything longer is simply not practical.

Maybe I'm just as well of where I stand.

Interestingly you could apply some of the same logic to people who shoot with a digital Rebel or XXD or DXX camera from Canon or Nikon with it's fewer pixels and smaller sensor - sometimes the crop factor means that you don't need as long lenses. The camera weighs less than half and is half the size too. Batteries and chargers are smaller.


Anonymous said...

"see Michael Reichmann's recent experience in Paris"

So what happened to him? Cannot find anything on his Luminous Landscape site.

Anonymous said...

Careful, you almost have yourself sold. It is human nature to want things "new again." CS3 Photomerge works very well, and it might buy you a year while prices come down some.


George Barr said...

Michael's hotel room was broken into and money and ipods stolen, fortunately not cameras.