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Wednesday, 08 November 2017

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What would your non-brief answer look like ?

Re: holistics and the medium format camera that's more or less free of quirks, I have no opinion on that, having only ever used a Rollei TLR. But I kind of feel that way about digital cameras. I don't think I've ever used a digital camera - or heard of one, for that matter - that's been satisfying enough to think that I could use this camera for a decade or two. They all have something that begs for improvement after using them for a while. I think a handful of people have found cameras they've gotten along with (just as some undoubtedly did with medium format) and a couple of cameras (Nikon D700 comes to mind) have more than a few fans, but I don't know that anyone has made any close to a "just right" digital camera. (Maybe my Sony RX100 is the closest, though certainly not as an only camera).

I've been playing with cameras way too much these last 18 months. Which is a bad thing as playing with cameras detracts from my taking pics.

If I had to settle on one camera, it'd be the Fuji X-Pro2. Amazing in all aspects especially with the 35mm f1.4. But I have the luxury of being able to have multiple cameras; big camera & little camera.

Big camera is the Nikon D810. Mostly because I can't afford medium format. It delivers almost all the medium format does for a lot less money. I had one, sold it, missed it after one month and bought another. Only way it'll leave again will be if a GFX come home.

Little camera is the Olympus OM-D EM1.2. Amazing camera. It's everything the D810 is not and nothing that it is. I never understood the "confusing menus" comment till I bought this camera.

An oh yeah, there's an X100F that lives in my car.

Definitely a good time to be a photographer.

Really great post from the bully pulpit Mike, as well as a nice cap to the recent discussion around medium format. I look forward to Ken Tanaka's GFX notes to "put a bow on" things.

As for the X-T2, yeah, it's killer. I remember using it instead of my Canon 1D-series for an entire race weekend around a year ago, including racing action, and thinking the X-T2 had significantly raised the bar for mirrorless cameras. It's considerable performance capabilities, light weight & compact form, and image quality completely exceeded my expectations that weekend, as demonstrated in this shot of Charlie Kimball and Alex Rossi racing hard against each other, literally flat-out, during the race.

http://photos.imageevent.com/puma_cat/indycarsonomaraceway2016/Duel%20at%20Carousel.jpg

As soon as I saw this photo on my laptop's Retina display back at the media center, I knew the X-T2 had just changed the game when it came to mirrorless.

That being said, I think the (relatively) new Fuji X100F more fully realizes its design intent then even the X-T2. The fact that the lens is not interchangeable means that the mounting of the lens to the body can be held to tighter tolerances and more optimized with respect to it's position relative to the sensor. With the 24 mpixel sensor, there's a synergy between the lens/sensor interaction that results in some of the highest image quality I've seen from a non-MF camera.

"Remembrances of Walker Evans, SF MOMA"

So, might the X-T2 be the best camera I've ever used? Yes. And so is the little X100F. Then, there's the GFX. "Ay, me...", Sam as Juliet, Shakespeare in Love

I think that the difficulty in a decision like this comes from the fact that we are essentially splitting hairs. Aside from the fact that certain cameras 'fit' better with certain types of photographic uses, if we believe that the content of our photographs is the most important thing, every serious camera company makes a camera that will be more than adequate to do the job.
We each have styles of working that will favor one camera over another, and we all have developed preferences which may or may not be fact based, but that doesn't matter either because if you are happy with your camera you will use it more.
Apart from that, the hardware side of photography is also an interesting endeavor which for some is very important and even an end in itself.
I tend to work slowly, and mostly with lenses from wide angle to 135 (ff) and I make largish prints so MF interests me. I think I would like working that way. My all time favorite camera is my Hasselblad 903 superwide
But whatever I decide to do, I have no illusions of my next camera making me a better photographer. But it just might be more satisfying.

Just out of curiosity, what percentage of photographers who are pineing for digital medium format but can’t afford it have used or are still using film medium format ?

It seems to me that most of the things that I like about medium format cameras have either been rendered moot by the digital era, or have been abandoned by the medium format digital cameras.

Interchangeable backs- moot
Waist level viewing- MIA
Polaroid backs- moot
Square or vertical or rotating back - MIA
Thick emulsion film - moot
Slow ergonomics that gets in the way enough to make photography a slow contemplative activity- apparently an anti-feature, not I never ever heard about a medium format shooter complaining that their camera was too slow.

I was one of the skeptical responders in the previous post who questioned whether or not the purported benefits of the mini-medium format sensor are “significant”. You challenged us to look at that Flickr link and pay attention to the “effortless DR and tonality and the excellent color depth” of the GFX JPEGs. Challenge accepted!

I focused on the black and white images, and saw some excellent DR and tonality. I looked especially closely at the ones where the highlights were crucial to the image. Sure, I saw some nice highlight separation, lots of tones, great detail, etc. I’m not debating for a second that the GFX doesn’t make excellent photographs. The thing is I repeated the search for X-T2. And there are lots of black and white images with effortless DR and tonality in those search results too.

I’m not from Missouri (the “show-me” state for those of you not familiar with this expression)… but this is starting to sound like one of those conversations about which lenses “render” best… I really wish it was economical to rent a GFX in Canada, like it is in the US. Until that day comes, I’ll have to wait for someone to do a well-controlled side-by-side comparison (same scene and conditions, roughly comparable lenses, similar processing, etc.) so that I can see for myself whether or not significant differences in something that matters exist.

Thanks for stirring this up! It's been great to read all the perspectives.

Mike, let me use a car analogy, cuz I know you "think car."
I could afford expensive cars like Porsches but drove Miatas and Minis. Part of the reason is driving enjoyment - ever hear the adage "it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than drive a fast car slow?" And my one foray into higher end cars, a BMW M3 about ten years ago, was a very unsatisfying experience - except on the track.
Same with big Nikon DSLRs, abandoned for M4/3 when they came out and I found no real difference in the quality of my work, and like Thom Hogan says, when you are going to pack for a trip, the weight and volume is much more agreeable. And my iPhone does 90+% of what I need, the Pen F the rest.
Not interested in bigger/faster/more expensive/faster depreciating stuff.

In response to Hugh Crawford's comment: as a mostly-film person (I enjoy darkroom printing), I think I moved away from film MF because it was not slow enough. I seem now to use either 35mm or 5x4. This may be because of poor camera choice: the MF system I used mostly was the Pentax 67, which, much though I love it, really wants to be on a tripod and is, I think, as heavy or heavier than my 5x4 camera. So, the 5x4 involves carrying a spot meter, a couple of darkslides and a dark cloth over the MF camera, which will easily go in a shoulder bag: it's close enough that if I was going out with the P67 I'd probably just take the Chamonix.

And no-one ever complains if you ask to take their picture with a camera made of wood.

Mike,

I’ve been using an X100s for a long while now. I got it as a carry around camera and it has turned into my almost everything camera - now I am thinking about the X-T2. The pull is to get the 18-55 kit lens, but I have got used to a camera that doesn’t stick out much, and I am leaning towards the 35 f2 and/or the 50 f2.

What lenses do you like with the X-T2?

[I have the 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 (currently have two of them, don't ask), the 23mm ƒ/1.4, and the 14mm ƒ/2.8. I haven't tried any others so I can't really make comparative judgements. --Mike]

I do the iPhone/big camera thing that you speak of, but my "big camera" is an Olympus EM-1 Mark 2.

I'm pretty sure that for what I do whatever incremental improvements along some "quality" axes that you might get some a bigger camera are completely offset by the bigger camera being, well, bigger and slower and less well supported by software, etc etc.

And while I'm not going to necessarily discount the requirements of others, I'm also skeptical that the bigger cameras make a material difference unless you are specifically printing in larger-than-usually-practical sizes (i.e. bigger than 16x20).

But, doing the exhaustive tests necessary to back up a statement like that is beyond my interest and energy.

I also agree a lot with hugh crawford's comment. FWIW.

It all depends on what you do. I have a Canon 40D, that I bought new in 2007. Now that I've stopped doing paid work, I see no reason to replace it.

In the past I owned a sidewinder Pentacon 6 that was as fast to use as a Nikon F. Push button, advance film with a quick movement with your right thumb and repeat until the roll of film was used-up.

I now have a lot of time to waste, so I may do some art photography. People who spend real money on art like large prints, say 45"x 60." If I can find buyers for my style, getting a X1D to replace my film cameras makes a lot of sense.

About six months ago I came to the conclusion that the most interesting stuff I was shooting was being done on an iPhone. The pictures were for the most part incidental to other work, almost accidents.
If I didn't also save gas receipts on my phone they would have been deleted. The experience has left me a little unsettled but it is what it is.
In light of that I would have to say that a digital medium format camera might make my pictures sharper it would not make them better.

Of course they did. Fuji GX680.

[For the studio maybe! But for a walkaround camera, fergeddaboudit. --Mike]

Sidetracked, Mike? Way back in ancient blog times, as in Oct 19 of this year ,there seemed to be a posting that talked about comparing the A6500 w/Sony 24/1.8 to the XT-2 with your Fuji 23/1.4.

Maybe you accidentally gave them away to some lucky trick-or-treater on Halloween night? Or perhaps you merely got sidetracked by the siren call of the current discounts on the GFX, as did I?

I used to shoot 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 format color film and the GFX would get me close the that quality overall and is just about affordable for me.

Well, I sold my A7RII outfit some weeks ago but I got sweaty palms and a queasy sinking feeling in my stomach about cleaning out most of my photo-fund for a camera body that would probably lose half it's value in just 2 years, when the new GFX likely comes out. The rumored 50-70mp w/improved sensor Sony full frame camera might hit next year, or might be vapor ware. Even if it does come out it might be plenty expensive, somewhat closer to the GFX.

Other options included getting something to tide me over for a year or two. Something nice and light and easy to use, and not too expensive. Like maybe an XT-2 with the 23mm / 1.4 or f2 lens (35-40mm is my favorite overall 35 equivalent focal length) due to analysis paralysis, or maybe the A6500 w/ the very expensive 24/1.8 lens. But I can't wait until next Halloween and drop by your house :-)

Dan

In response to Dennis, I think we feel that way about digital cameras because we know there’s something new coming, that there must be an improvement so our camera will be obsolete soon enough. It’s part of the digital zeitgeist. Now back in my film days I had no money and only shot ancient cameras, so I was by necessity happy with whatever I had, whereas now I can afford to upgrade, but I do think that the pace (and associated marketing) of digital change makes us itch for the next and leaves us perennially, if not unsatisfied, then at least looking around the corner.

I’m with Jim on the Miata argument. I’ve driven Porsches, Corvettes and a McLaren but what I want is a Miata. Just more fun in real life.

But I also shot with a LEICA S and a Pentax 645Z and while rationally, I can’t justify their prices or have to own up to my realization that I wouldn’t travel with them, when I look at those files, even the Sony FF cameras I used to have pale in comparison.

That said, what I really want is a true 6x6 MF sensor...

I've got a couple of Fuji GW 690 cameras (wide, and a little wide lenses). While these cameras are certainly hand-holdable, the image quality advantage of the big negatives really only show when using a tripod. Sure, they're not quite as detailed as a medium format digital, or maybe even a FF35 50mpx digital, but they do have the "medium format look, with ... the "look" of film.

I would guess, that if you don't like to use a tripod, medium format is not really want you'd want. No matter film or digital.

And the price of these, just a little bigger than FF35mm. A bridge too far for me :)

So, it's 6x9 film for me + the iPhone!

After posting my call (above) for some careful side-by-side comparisons I remembered that this is the bread and butter of Imaging Resources! Oops. There are both studio and real world images, shot under as comparable conditions as reasonably possible.

I brought some pairs of sample RAFs (X-T2 and GFX 50S) into Lightroom and printed to 16"x24" on my Epson 3880 using a monochrome inkset. The larger sensor in the GFX clearly shows its value in terms of detail, but the X-T2 -- for a fraction of the cost -- continues to prove itself an amazing camera. Part of the difference is the lenses. The X-T2 image is made using the XF 60/2.8, which is a terrific lens, but by far not the sharpest one in the range. I'd say the X-T2 holds its own in terms of tonality in these test images.

We really are fortunate to have so many excellent choices to suit every taste!

With a bucket of money, I would have thought that you'd want a Leica Monochrom, which has almost medium format quality with the Bayer Array removed. And of course that elusive all-b/w workflow. The expected future M10 Monochrom will have the added benefit of the sweetest digital M body yet. But a mint original Monochrom, with a newly installed Leica CCD sensor and Germany service, can be had for $3.5k or less, which at least is a lot better than the initial $8k tag.

And then came the Pana G9...

Just thought you ought to know: DPR did a comparison between FF and MF. They concluded that FF will get you 90% of the way to MF.

After that, it's diminishing returns. Also, remember that the shelf life of a computer is less than two years. A digital camera is really a computer with a lens. You'll be spending >$6500 on a bunch of chips that will be obsolete in less than two years.

Link: https://www.dpreview.com/opinion/2341704755/thinking-about-buying-medium-format-read-this-first

Much as I would love to play with a GFX, just like I would enjoy to drive a Ferrari on a track, I could live without either on a day to day basis.

The Xpro2, or the hipster iteration of the XT2, is definitely my favourite camera ever. It doesn't weigh me down, and it does everything I ask of it.

I would enjoy using the GFX, but whether I would ever make use of its extended capabilities is doubtful. It is, however, a lovely camera.

Been through a number of systems as my needs evolved over time: Leica M9, Hasselblad V and H, Canon 5D, Sony Rx100-III, Fuji X-E2, and none of them did it all. The 5D came closest. I have settled on shooting studio portraits /art-nude and street/travel and adjusted my gear accordingly.

Once I started shooting in the studio with a 10 year old Blad H with a fat pixel CMOS back, there was no turning back. It is not about ISO performance or DR, which are crap, but about color, DOF fall-off, skin rendition and tethering. It is a pain to use, but the results are worth it. In terms of cost, I recommend to look at used gear not be hit by steep depreciation. Used H series Blads are in the same range as new FF DSLRs / MLCs. Used lenses are similar as well.

For street / travel, a used Fuji X-E2 fits my needs perfectly, great performance out of a small package that is easy to use and not very expensive(because it was used) so not an issue if it breaks or gets stolen, which is an added incentive to take it with me all the time.

I tried the GFX for a demo shoot and didn't bond with it. It is well designed and easy to use if you have a Fuji, but it felt like a big DSLR and compared to the Blad, the files felt lifeless. So I didn't see the upside compared to owning a do-it-all DSLR, but I could see how the combo of a Fuji X and a GFX would make sense.

I've started and stopped writing a comment on this and previous posts. MF (or even FF) - I dunno, it just seems SO expensive.

I use Nikon and my biggest problem now is the rising cost of replacing them. I mean wow D800 to D850, that's a large increase. Annoying little things like large size (carry two+lenses for a time), small info displayed in the viewfinder, 2x memory banks (?!?!). And, every time Nikon revamps a lens the price goes up by 50%.

Which brings me to the recent announcement of the Panasonic G9. Right price and lots of things I like. Plus lenses that are back in the region of a grand. I use a GH4 for personal stuff and I just like Panasonics.

So I don't fancy MF (or FF) at all, bring on the Panasonic.

For portraits sports and long shots, RZ67. For everything else, Mamiya 7. So called medium format digital is not only a waste of money but a waste of time, when medium format film is so much better already. And not to mention cheaper.

I had never been a medium format (film) guy until I stumbled into a trade that landed a Rolleiflex K4A MX in my lap. All my previous work had been with 35mm (various) and 4X5. (I've never been to the UK, so I have never worked with a 5x4 camera, but I think they're similar.)

You are spot on, Mike et al, about the tonality difference between 35mm and 4x5. The fact that the Rollei is easy to use hand held (easier than 35mm for me,) causes me to more often reach for it over 35mm film, or even the APS-C Xpro1.

All that said, I really appreciate Stephen's take on the X100F. Either the X100F hasn't gotten much love amidst all the GFX/XPRo2/XT2 hoopla, or I just haven't bothered to look.

I may just sell my XPro1 kit, add some cash and buy one. I don't really need a digital SLR and OCOL for digital (non-iPhone) is very, very appealing.

Given a choice I definitely would try MF, most likely the Fuji since I have an XT-1 and a X100F. Decades ago I read Ansel's books, took a Zone VI workshop with Fred Picker and learned the rudiments of sheet film and view camera photography. This was all in the elusive pursuit of the "look," which larger format cameras theoretically offered. What is not clear to me is if there is a similar digital MF "look" that is apparent in smaller prints as mural size images are not of interest. Re: the car analogy, my faithful old Subaru serves me well, but if I was offered a new Porsche 911GT3 would I want it? Absolutely.

Mike, I did some flickr searches on the above mentioned medium format digital cameras, and I was reminded of something I have known for a long time: in photography, there are techies and there are photographers, then there is a very small percentage of people who are and need to be both. It is good that these cameras are sold to hobbyists, because it is the only way to make development possible, but there are a lot of good photographers out there, who could really do amazing work with these cameras, and there are a lot of owners who upload insignificant snaps on flickr.
I am very tempted to buy one of these systems, and as a test I decided to pack ten rolls of medium format film and my trusted GF670 on a ten day trip, during which I had a lot of time to photograph. I ended up shooting 10 rolls of 35mm, and five rolls of medium format during an opportunity that doesn't arise that often. Good photographic subjects are hard to come by, and I usually know it when I see them, so I doubt I would end up taking enough meaningful pictures to justify the investment. All of this doesn't mean that the siren isn't calling, but I have to keep reminding myself to resist.

One of the things I like most about my Olympus EM-1 Mark II is the native 4:3 aspect ratio, which I infinitely prefer to 3:2. The other thing I like most about my Olympus EM-1 Mark II is how small and light it is (not just the camera but the camera and lens system). I feel much the same way about the Hasselblad X1D. Or at least I would (or at least I think I would) if I could afford it.

It's really misleading to think of digital cameras as if they are cameras. It's much more like buying a block of film. Use it up and move to the newer emulsion. They get better. The films that is. And digital cameras. They are consumables.

It was somewhat hard for me to shoot up the remaining Vericolor I had after I bought my first batch of Portra. I knew the Portra was going to be better, but I had no idea how much better. Vericolor was probably the worst color negative film ever sold in large quantities. Great in the studio and a total PITA under natural light.

I use my Sony A7 and think that a MkIII version of it will be great, some slight advantages that will help me in my work. The nice thing is that I will be able to retire the old tool without having to use up the old film (of course I do have a freezer full of Portra, but that's a whole different situation, though an expensive one I guess)

There is no modern equivalent to an M-series Leica, or a Deardorff, or a Cirkut camera.

@Jim

"For portraits sports and long shots, RZ67"

Good lord, and I thought I was pushing things using an RB Graflex for party photography, though in the 20s the RB was THE sports camera and the RZ is the final permutation of that design, but still that's like using magnesium ribbon for presidential pool photography. Now THAT sounds like fun...

So to keep the camera / car analogy going whats to digital camera equivalent of a Lotus Seven , or more to the point a homemade Lotus Seven clone? Or a Winnebago?

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