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Sunday, 18 September 2016


It's probably a bit inconvenient for your style of photography but have you seen this "poor man's digital MF"? http://amzn.to/2cAfefq

[This is just me, and nothing against that product, but I've personally never been interested in PITA solutions like that...from the Visoflex on down to today. Hair-shirt simple is about as far toward a PITA as I'll go...for instance I used a camera for six or eight months that didn't have an exposure meter, guessing exposures by eye. But that's all. Otherwise I just find a camera that does what I want and use it as it was intended. Radical simplicity appeals to me; radical complexity doesn't.

Some guys are the opposite, and I get that. (JG's Frankencamera is a good example--he did that half because he needed its capabilities and half because the project appealed to him, as he admitted.) Lots of professionals are problem-solvers first and foremost, and they like nothing better than a challenge to figure out. I have admiration for those guys, but I also know I'm not one of them. --Mike]

I'm an iPhone guy, but Robin Wong's review of the Huawei-Leica P9 phone makes me very interested in that phone. I think Wong can take good photographs with anything, and he is a naturally enthusiastic guy, but still...


For a new iPhone, I would definitely wait until some reviews come out with a lot of sample DNG files available to download and play with in Lightroom.

You've had large sensor behemoths in the past and have seemingly failed to use them half as much as your iPhone.

Don't have an iPhone or a FF, but I'm pretty happy with my phone sized, crop sensored GR. Crazy small and convenient, no slouch in image quality.

I have an older iPhone (5s), which I use for record keeping. Much as I would like to upgrade, because of the camera, I won't. We use an MVNO (ting), and would have to pay full price for the phone. Looks like I'll be living with the 5s, which I bought used, for a while longer.

I've been considering buying a pocket-able camera for a few months. I love how I can take and share pictures anywhere with my phone, but the quality of the photos isn't as high as I'd like and the slow boot time for my phone's camera drives me a little crazy. I'm tempted by both the Canon G9x and the Ricoh GR II, but I'm afraid both aren't durable enough to go everywhere with me like my phone.

My dream go-everywhere-camera would use a one inch sensor, fit in my my pocket like a Canon G9x (or large cell phone), have a fixed 35mm f1.8 lens, construction like those Olympus tough cameras, the ergonomics of a Ricoh GR, and it would run Android. I'd also want this dream camera to function as my cell phone with a big LCD so I could edit my photos on the fly. I don't care if it would be significantly thicker than a regular phone just as long as it is pocket-able. Most of the time I use Bluetooth headphones to talk on the phone, and I'm used to carrying a phone that's protected by one of those giant klutz-proof cases so size is no issue to me. All I care about is functionality.

[I think your dream camera exists, or will soon. It's called a DxO ONE.



Why an iPhone 7 when a Chinese company made a smartphone with a native B&W camera sensor ? ;)
(hint, it says Leica on it... which make some noise instead of the B&W bit)

". . . an optimum balance between quality and convenience, which to me right now means Micro 4/3 or APS-C ILCs.. . . a medium-format camera or high-megapixel FF camera as the other?"

You might consider the possibility that the yearning for MF or HR FF may be rooted more in GAS than reality. Big gear with big numbers is definitely cool, but does it add any practical capabilities?

One of my touchstones is the $19.95 print by Ctein that TOP sold in 2012

With a 15x20" image area (29x) from a 12 MP Olympus E-P1, the first µ4/3 camera, it's a pretty spectacular example of how much clear detail is actually available from a modest size sensor and a moderate number of MPs.

One thing you don't mention above is what you would do with the resulting image files. Other than pixel peeping and posting 100% samples to prove mine is bigger than yours, how would anyone display images to others in a way that would show a difference from the very high MP sensors? It would take enormous prints, or perhaps some sort of array of display monitors.

These are not idle thoughts, but things I investigate for my own understanding, and to temper my own GAS. I have done comparisons of normal to HR. HR captures more detail and better color. Interestingly, its image files also hold more detail when down sampled to the size of the sensor. This means that the lens is delivering more detail than the sensor is capable of capturing in normal use, the result of a combination of lens quality and the poor, ~50%, efficiency of Bayer array demosaicing in capturing detail.

Moving forward to today, the E-M5 II's HR mode captures images that are in some ways equal to and better than the Nikon 810 and the Pentax 645Z

Then forward to tomorrow morning; Oly's announcement when the HR Mode* firmware upgrade was released, and the many rumors, suggest that the E-M1 II will have a "hand held" HR mode. Oly originally said this would allow capture of the eight frames in 1/60 sec. or less (assuming a short enough shutter speed.)

For my own photography, the focus bracketing added in the same firmware update has been far more useful than the HR Mode. The truth is that 16 MP is more than enough at least through 12x18" prints I have of my files, and I've seen much larger ones with fine detail even peered at very closely. Absent some killer feature beyond what's been rumored, I believe I'll pass on the E-M1 II, and wait for the E-M5 III.

* Oly provided a converter plug-in for ACR, supposedly to take full advantage of the HR files. My own testing has revealed that it is little more than USM sharpening, and can leave obvious artifacts, bright, hard halos on contrast edges, on some subjects. Opening the files directly in ACR, DxO, etc. and applying either USM tuned to subject, or, better yet, deconvolution "sharpening" (Focus Magic, Topaz InFocus, etc.) results in better images.

As you know the combo of iPhone and Leica S is the compromise you are describing. It works for me just as you suggested. A used Leica S plus used Leica S lenses is almost affordable for you now. But will your usage be just as it was with your large format film quest?


Usage of the Leica S couldn't be any less than your now famous try with the your full plate camera, as usage with a Leica S is so much easier. But I suggest you please rent first!

[I hear you Jack, but I'm not sure I have enough beer money. Consider that the lenses for the Fuji X system are expensive enough to make me think three times, and then, mostly, not buy. I'd have trouble parting with the cash to buy more than one S lens, even if I felt I could get far enough to need one!

But yes, a Leica S plus an iPhone has got to be the ultimate expression of this idea. --Mike

P.S. Don't tease me about the Single Use Device, please. :-) ]

In response to David Raboin...

Panasonic CM1 - Android phone with 1 inch sensor, leica lens......


Since I started a 365 with my iPhone, I acquired a Coolpix A to be a carry anywhere camera for those situations where the iPhone wouldn't cut it, namely low-light, high dynamic range, detail rendition or just ability to use with winter gloves on required. Worked well for me. Quality-wise, APS-C offers a clear distinction to an iPhone, the tonal rendition alone is clearly superior. My main system is, however, full frame, which gives an even greater envelope.

The thing that makes the iPhone useful for me is the ability to do the whole workflow in the phone. I make a habit to edit frequently, culling photos and using apps to transform the colors and contrast to better match my vision. In this way it works as a visual notepad.

One thing to note is that the very large DOF of the iPhone does direct visualization and subjects quite a lot -- at least for me. Sometimes it flattens and image and sometimes it makes everything usefully sharp.

I'm a fool for oddball engineering ideas. The ones that somehow slip through the corporate approval process and make it to production against all odds (and probably against the will of sensible managers that were on vacation while the hothead engineers managed to turn over some big fish high up in the company hierarchy). One of these marvels was a 2012 Nokia 808 phone. With 42 megapixel sensor it was pitted against Pentax 645D in some reviews. It was enough to convince me that it might actually be a phone camera that can serve as my only camera (I’m enjoying being an amateur nowadays). I’ve experimented with it for over a year. It was the best camera I ever had for photographing people. It was so natural for them to be photographed with a phone – nobody ever stiffened up while being in front of it, which is not the case with dedicated cameras. The IQ from that little, incredible sensor was surprisingly good. In perfect lighting that is. Though even in ideally lit scenes, it was still lacking in dynamic range and shadow color rendition. And the phone part wasn’t so good either – Symbian was outdated even in 2012. In 2014, when I was using the 808, it became pure nuisance. So I’ve abandoned the idea of having a phone camera as an only camera and since than I still haven’t seen anything that would make me reconsider. I moved on to another great but deeply flawed camera - The Sigma dp2 Merrill. But that’s a whole other story.

I have the Pentax version of the Big Dragoon (K1) that I carry around like a goofy tourist all over the place. I think I notice the image quality difference compared to m4/3 mostly on faces in shadow. Fortunately the primes are small, especially the 43 limited. I also use my iphone as you describe, though half the time I'll take an image and send it through the Prisma app because a noisy, dark crappy photo looks much better as a painting.

Over-priced phone, over-priced phone service, over-priced camera - how's the book coming?

I think this idea is very good and solid. A note-camera and a "serious" camera.

It struck me that the serious camera does not *have* to be a big expensive high-end camera. For many it probably would be used less. Probably the Serious camera can be just what you had: a good ILC of a reasonable size and price. After all these days they do give great image quality.

Here's something of a sideways thought about all of that. You (and many other people) like B&W because for many years that was what we could make the best photos with. The limitations, in a sense, established an aesthetic that's still widely accepted. Grainy, oddly cropped action images still somehow say "news" to us, even though relatively few photos are taken in B&W anymore.

I wonder if cell phone cameras are establishing a whole new emerging aesthetic with its own built-in limitations, like B&W did, so that smooth high resolution photos will come to be seen as artificial, something like early fashion photos? I wonder if advanced cameras will have a built-in cell-camera "look" like some cameras now offer B&W film simulations?

The difference between an iPhone sensor and an APSC sensor is HUGE...

21 X the surface area, several stops of DR, much lower SNR, more resolution etc...

I guess the question is, how much malleability do you actually need?

In the end, it's all down to print size since all quality factors scale with output size. If you want to go for 48X36 prints, then maybe...

I used to think that APS-C was the way forward but I settled on MFT but since the A7 range came out I've changed my mind again and I now have MFT and an A7. My A7 with the 35mm f2.8 or 55mm f1.8 is the same size as a mini SLR style MFT or APS-C mirrorless camera and a similar lens.

I use the A7 for luxury self indulgence and for manual lenses and I use MFT when I want a even more compact package (RF style camera and small prime lens) or when I'm going to places I don't want to take the A7.

It seems to me that the elephant in the room for all phone-cameras is the viewing screen. In bright light or sun, they are often almost impossible to see clearly... or am I wrong? Is there a work-around?

It is likely some sort of glitch in my creative/thought process, and I should probably just force myself, but I still can't get comfy shooting pics on a phone. I get that "phone" and "photography" share the first three letters ... but that's about as far as the overlap goes for me.

I love my iPhone 6+ as a phone/email/browser thingy, with an occasional game of sudoku to relieve boredom while waiting for something, but most of the time I don't even "see" potential images if I don't have a real camera with me (not meaning to infer that a phone camera isn't a "real" camera, just couldn't think of any other way to say it).

I shoot RAW, because I actually enjoy the process of ingesting files from my camera at the end of the day and kicking back with Lightroom or Capture One (more of the latter, recently) to sort and process. Don't even bother with in-camera jpegs.

But wait ... now they're telling me that iOS 10 makes RAW files available from the iPhone camera? Sorta? But you need an as-yet undeveloped or released 3rd-party app to get to it? But it'll probably fill up your memory in no time? I guess we'll find out what's gong on there soon enough. It might just be the kickstart I need to start shooting with the iPhone more.

Maybe. Except that I'll still want to be able to change focus modes, adjust exposure compensation, select shutter or aperture priority, and tweak a whole bunch of other details on the fly to match whatever I'm trying to shoot.

And lenses! My a6000 used to be almost pocketable (when I was wearing a big floppy overcoat with oversized pockets ... which I never did) until I put the Sony Distagon T* FE 35mm F1.4 ZA on it. Now I might as well be shooting with the Big Dragoon, but that lens is NOT coming off that camera. At least for a while. That's the kind of fun you just can't have with a camera phone. Yet.

So, finally getting to the point: my default setup is a camera phone and a decent mirrorless ILC. The phone that is always with me just happens to have a camera that I very occasionally use for "documentation" in it. I use the mirrorless ILC for photography.

Huawei P9 with monochrome camera??

My own mini-axioms on this subject.

1. In today's digital photography world no camera is too good to be used for memos.

2. In today's world of digital photography, in which the medium is constantly and measurably improving, the real benefits of larger sensor size are fleeting (as Moose previously postulated well). In fact, for most work I would say that the shortcomings of medium format camera systems (eg. size, weight, no stabilization, limited lens selection, limited size exposure program options, slow AF, etc.) make smaller cameras far, far better all-around tools for nearly all jobs.

Ergo, "Serious" is mostly as serious does, not as has.

When I realized my D700 was collecting dust for well over a year, I knew then APS-C and MFD were my tools of choice. I sold the D700 and have not looked back.

I recently had some images printed for upcoming exhibits, and the need for me to stay with MFD became very apparent. One file that went to printing at 20x30" made with a Sigma SD1M and 70mm macro starts to breakdown at that size. The colors look great, but the image quality (resolution) when compared to the others does not match up. The curator requested larger than 20x30", but this particular image I will not print above 20x30". There may be some software that can boost a bit more out of the file, but this gets expensive pretty quick and I did not pick the images and do not want to put a ton of money into it. The rest of the images were shot with a 50mp back and look great at 30x40". I know there will be times in the future when I want to shoot with my Sigma because I enjoy using it, but I will *have* to use my MF view camera and 50mp back because of image quality demands.

I understand why some photographers do not have the need for MFD, or have not been in a situation to see how work can breakdown from lack of resolution for a requested print size, but it happens. I recently printed a few X-Pro2 files on various types of 17x22" paper with 2" borders and they all printed well. I will be sending one of the files off to my favorite lab to see it printed and face mounted to 20x30" acrylic and report back on how it looks.

The photos I have made with my iPhone 6+ look great as capturing-the-moment shots, but crash when it comes to file quality. I upload them in Lightroom before sending them off to Facebook, but they are mushy looking. And when I photograph my orange tabby cats, the color of their fur always looks off and forget about trying to fix it because it is a mushy jpeg and color balance response is cruel. But I do appreciate the 6+ for many other things, so I am not disappointed with it -- I did not buy it for its camera, and I find it irreplaceable for quick visual note taking.

"I guess most of why I think a big camera is an advantage is not resolution but the "malleability" of the files."

I've heard that word used to describe files before, and not just from you. I wish I knew what they mean. I really don't.

I've edited an awful lot of files from digital cameras, starting with a 1.9 MP Canon S110 in mid 2001, through many mid to fancy compacts, Canon 5D for five years, various µ4/3 bodies and now E-M5 II and Sony A7.

I'm not a LR gunslinger, working the sliders to see what happens (nor implying that you are.) I edit in PS, using many tools, including several plug-ins and lots of masking of multiple layers.

The only big things I find to hamper my ability to massage the images in the way I want are noise, in particular the way it can destroy fine detail, and DR, in particular how the files respond to underexposure of midtones and shadows to retain highlight tonal detail and how much highight recovery is possible in Raw conversion.

Shoot the tiny 1/2.3" (6.17 x 4.55 mm) sensor of the Pany ZS50, Raw, at base ISO in good light, and the files are a cinch to process and play with. So they are malleable?

Shoot fine, repeating patterns, as in fabric and ink drawings on a Nikon 810, and moire makes false colors and can kill detail. Not malleable at all.

Might it be that you are looking for a pixel pitch that works with the current state of the art of sensor design/manufacture to optimize noise and DR, more than for a particular sensor size and/or # of MPs?

The 5D nailed that for mid-decade, with 13 MP on FF. The 16 MP sensor systems of the OM-Ds to date seem to me to hit a good balance, as do the 16 MP Fujis.

To answer some of Kent's questions: the new iPhone DNG files are about the size of three JPEG files. Obscura and Manual are two iPhone apps that will produce RAW/DNG images from your phone camera right now. Lightroom will accept these files with no problems, at least as far back as Lightroom 5 and probably farther back.

Regarding iPhone 7 dynamic range and color, this is a must-read:


like many people here, I rarely go out without a camera. There is the notebook quest but always there could be this opportunity of a good shot anywhere.

The iPhone is alright technically I guess but I have rarely got any precious picture out of it. I suspect, naively, that the viewing on the screen makes me feel unconnected to the scene. I much prefer a old clear viewfinder, making me feeling closer to the subject.

I have tried the Nikon Coolpix A with the optional viewfinder and it was much appreciated. The "28" mm view was on the bit wide for me so I switched to the Fuji X100s with more satisfying pictures. Both are light cameras, easy to carry, and the results were very good

Finally, I have returned to my Leicas. Any M body with an old Summicron 35 is somewhat heavier than the two mentioned above, but never a pain in the neck. Their viewfinder are as clear and simple to use. Actually, the manual focus makes me more conscious of what I am doing and I get way more keepers.

I guess I have to work harder to obtain better results. But hey, all this is fun after all.

The last time I took a photo with my iPhone 6 was in March of this year. That was to text a friend and show off my new Weber gas grill. Nothing since and very little before. While I love it for a reading device, list keeper, place finder, internet browser and--oddly enough--a telephone, the iPhone just doesn't work for me as a camera. Using it as such was a novelty when the phone was new that wore off quickly.

Sometimes I wonder about how a full-frame or medium format digital might improve my photos. That usually happens while I'm processing 4/3 and APS-C Raw files in Lightroom (a program I'm still learning) and looking at them at 200% or more. But then I make a print and...well, the thought just fades away.

Number of prints on my wall? That would be 0. Maybe I should frame some tare-sheets 8-)

I'm a problem solver. At this point in my life, my problem is that I'm getting older. I want/need to downsize. Therefore it looks like there is an Apple iPhone 7+ is in my future. And lots of cameras on the bay.

People make the mistake that an iPhone is a phone. In actuality it's a very powerful computer—and it will run 3rd party programs (commonly called apps). There are lots of photo and video apps that allow you to do custom white balance, manual focus, different frame rates and rack-focus for video, etc, etc.

BTW any camera a pro has in his hands, is a pro camera. More than a few pros have had iPhone photos published—'nuff said.

iOS10 has given developers access to the RAW data for photos. The newest version of Lightroom is already using it when you take photos (DNG) within the app. Try it.

The ability to recover highlights on the iPhone is now much closer to other, dedicated, photo systems. It's certainly not surpassing them, but I can already see a huge difference in quality between RAW and JPG shot with my iPhone 6s. You might decide that it gives you most of what you need.

Sample here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKUbBQoBBZs/

Unfortunately, shadows aren't helped as much. Still a lot of noise in low-light situations.

There's an interesting piece by Tiernan Ray in this week's Barron's that you should read: "The Future of the Camera": Who Wins, Who loses".

It's kinda interesting that photography, as practiced, includes both clunking LF gear and note-taking snappery. The speed and convenience of workflow are most telling. There are some organizations that could probably use recognizing and respecting this change rather than hanging on to the "if it ain't emulsion-lift it's not art" mentality.

I hear you about having something of the polar opposite, but beware, in a few years there'll be another feeling of "why lug this great big Fuji MF thing around when my iphone 6 got adequate photos out quicker?" and the cost of asymmetry will manifest as uneconomy...

For us landscapies, there's also the whole problem of keeping the doglet at one's feet quiet whilst shooting... ;)

Reminds me of the day I forgot to take my Fuji XP-1's battery out of the charger before a drive up to Mount Evans, Colorado's highest Rocky Mountain Highway. That left me with just my iPhone 6sPlus. I made just a few photographs with it, but they looked very good on the phone's screen. Pretty good on the iMac screen, too, but when I clicked to enlarge, there was no additional detail to be found. The image was certainly sufficient to be seen on another phone screen, but that was all.

Next time, I'll make sure to carry the camera battery.

I used to get excited about medium format digital options, but no more. The newest camera in my stable, a Pentax K-1, has surpassed my expectations and overcome any technical limitations- except for DOF. I really should get more familiar with f 8-16 again. Full-frame is the new medium format, I believe, and 645 and larger options are now large format.

As much as I admire the Pentax 645Z, I don't think it will take the kind of duty the K-1 excels at: shooting handheld in the Blue Hour following sunset, taking little more care than a snapshot to produce sharp images with more color than my eye can see in the evening dusk. Handholding a 90mm lens at 1/10 of a second to blur moving water and seeing the rocks and leaves around it in tack-sharp detail.

The K-1 is the largest single step up in quality I've experienced since my first medium format cameras, a Kowa 6x6, and a Rolleiflex. If I did everything perfectly, on a solid tripod, those would give enlargements that looked as sharp as contact prints. My new K-1 does that on the fly, no special handling required. So I'm all for more format choices. And it looks like the square sensor Mike's wanted may finally be coming. But I'll stop here. Two pounds of camera body is a full serving for me.

And there it is -- Fuji just announced an MF digital camera on the way.

I have a similarly difficult time of admiting to myself that I've changed and that the iPhone has, despite my berating of myself, become the go to documenting camera for me. I'm well invested with M43 and Fuji and have found over the last year and a half that none of my three olympus bodies are being used in accordance to the excuse I used in order to rationalize buying them. They are my light weight small system that is supposed to come with me everywhere I go. But it's only the phone that actually goes. This phone, the iPhone 7's camera just put the nail in the coffin. No more self deception. If I've got a 28-55 zoom and the ability to do software based narrow dept of field, that now is "good enough". The fuji system on the other hand is what I've been reaching for, not every day, but every day that where photography is the point of the drive or walk. So it stays. And it is also small enough that the Nikon D3 is thick with dust. I'm a little confused and much disappointed that this should have evolved this way. Am I still a real photographer when traveling with only the iPhone 7? Yes, I think so. Leaving the wet plate for the tini mini format 35 mm must have been a similarly difficult time for my grandfather, but now I have four boxes of treasured negatives instead of 23 wet plates. That was a good choice for my grandfather - one smart change deserves another.

I had a little different take on MF this afternoon. Mrs Plews has me up at Rocky Mountain National Park for a week of decompression from the news biz.
We came up on an "ElkJam" which is a bunch of cars stopped to check out some elk. Most of the time I just drive by these kind of events because the world isn't short of elk pictures so if I am gong to try to add one it better be good or at least interesting.
This one felt good so we dropped anchor and I was in a mood so instead of pulling out a DSLR I unpacked an ancient Hassy 500c and snapped on a 250 Sonnar.
I love this camera because looking through the viewfinder is like going to the movies. It also never fails to start a conversation with other photographers.
Got no idea if my stuff today is any good. Will have to wait until Dwayne's gets the film back to me.
A little OT but I just got back in the cabin and saw this thread.

Mike, I like these step-back-and-take-a-look posts.

Will art historians call our work better than that of the past because our images are sharper and because tone and color rendition are more faithful?

Phone cameras might be called an alternative tech that aims not at hyper-realism, but instead at fluidity of interaction between subject and photographer and between photographer and medium. That new dynamic and that new "look" eventually could have as big an effect on what we think we and the medium are capable of - and on our tastes - as have had the past 150+ years of ever sharper, bigger and more technical. John Camp made the point in an earlier comment.

Massive files go good with some subjects, some shooting situations and some image uses. But on the other hand, plenty of stuff shot with puny phone cameras succeeds without making a statement about the extremes of their performance limits. Instead shooters have explored within the equipment's capabilities and found aspects that uniquely advance expression.

Some see these phones as a new eye and a new hand. I'm one of them.

I shoot intimate range, low light(not a typo here) woods interiors with an iPhone 6(7 Plus on the way!), panos almost exclusively. I'm patient, and I've accepted some limits, have learned to get around a few, and like to use others. I'm also narrowly focused. While I'm not being fluid with people, I am trying to be that way with a landscape. A phone camera has made me more adventurous and inquisitive because I'm able to develop my ideas a lot quicker. It's also simple to use and easy handling. Once I worked out of a big LowePro pack and always on a tripod. That was glacial. The labor and the go-slow wasn't in carrying the gear, it was in changing difficult camera positions and then waiting for hours or even days to get any idea of the results. For my typically close foreground subjects, even small changes in camera position make big changes in the image. Now I see the image as it's being made and a review right after. Magic. My subjects also have mega detail, which the little camera softens. Good. Depth of field from here to yonder? Love it.

If you look at the best of what I've done, and if you then notice and care that it isn't the sharpest, etc, then you can say that I haven't done my part to make the unity of the picture rely on those features.

Maybe as MF digital photography is even more expensive , many claim there equipment is more than adequate. Full frame cameras sail very close to MF , depending on the eyes of the beholder there is a difference.
Why talk about mobile phones on this subject , there are hundreds of small purpose made consumer cameras that offer advantages over camera phones, even DXO has a quality offering. Do manufacturers pack up because of mobile phones ?
There is a difference between snaps and photography and both are fun and can be satisfying but no comparison with medium format quality. ?

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