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Monday, 08 October 2007


A very interesting, well thought out, and diverse collection.

These kinds of lists always generate a lot of comments, infuriating some and puffing up the egos of others. This promises to be one of those posts where the comments are sure to outdo the original article.

Mike, I always loved your Best Of reviews, going back to the PHOTOTechniques days. When I read these, I always know I'm getting a well-balanced, thought-out assessment. Just great, thanks!

""The improvements are several and logical, and, when considered alongside the advantageous price and weight, make the ZI the rangefinder of choice for users not already wedded to Leica""

so... and which are the improvements?

I like to think of myself as a photographer and not a camera fetishist, but the little thrill I felt when I saw my own precious on this list (and in the first spot no less, though I assume we're in "no particular order" mode here) forces me to admit that my creative self may be tainted with a touch of that baser impulse.

about the ZI i'm esitating between this and the Mamiya 7 : the price difference is not so huge, the mamiya is quite compact and you get a medium format camera… Let's say i'm not really interested in street photography but more on landscape etc. i see no reason to go for a 24x36 rangefinder : when you see the price of Leica/zeiss lens maybe i prefer to get the best i can from the lens i pay for… see what i mean ?

I would be curious to know what you think of this choice

You can do all kinds of subjects with either camera, but if you tend toward landscapes, static subjects, and middle-distant perspectives--and especially if you prefer large prints--then I would lean toward the Mamiya 7. If you shoot quickly, to take "notes" so to speak, find yourself often shooting fast-moving subjects at closer range (I mean 3-12 feet, not macro) or in difficult lighting situations, then I would lean toward the ZI.

The image quality of the medium-format film will begin to overcome the image quality of 35mm film roughly around 8x10 size prints, regardless of the quality of the 35mm lenses. This is a judgement call and there is some variation based on film choice, technique, and specific circumstances, but most careful darkroom craftspeople will begin to struggle to achieve excellent quality prints as the print size passes 8x10 and approaches 11x14. 6x7 makes effortless 11x14s and can make excellent 16x20s.

A way to think about it is that the 6x7 image quality will exceed that of the 35mm *IF* you got the picture! The higher speed lenses, greater portability, and better d.o.f. of the 35mm will help it make successful pictures in more varied and difficult shooting situations. But if there's seldom a problem getting the picture with the larger camera, then there's no question its image quality will be superior.

Mike J.

Mike, like others I've always liked you camera lists over the years, but find the two small sensor cameras chosen in paragraph 5 not credible: just because you don't like this category doesn't mean that you should choose two "crippled" cameras that don't have RAW capability. Here is what Jeff Spirer, a professional photographer with broad experience, wrote about the Fiji f30, whis is similar to the f31:

>>> Purple fringing is unbelievably bad, the noise reduction softens the image at high ISO and the images are over-sharpened at low ISO, and the images tend to be contrasty...The problem is that many companies optimize their products for tests, not usage, and this gives great results from cameras that have problems during actual use. A company can take the same type of testing the dpreview does and work with the camera until it gives great test results. The noise tests on the F30 appear to be the result of some very specific optimization that really doesn't give great images.<<<

The cameras that should be on your list are the Ricoh GR-D and GX100, which have much greater capability, and, in my view, are the cameras that Leica should have designed if they were an innovative company and had the R&D funds.


Mike, don't forget about the K10D "Super" with dust reduction, a nice addition for only about $100, more. Also, I would give the Sony A100 an honorable mention, now for about the same price as a "Super," with both image stabilization and a self cleaning sensor, but with a very usable zoom kit lens as well.

Being a user of a big medium format rangefinder, I'll agree with Mike. Besides less grain, the other advantages of shooting medium format are so only when you push it a little. Using a Mamiya 7 in the same way you'd use a 35mm rangefinder will probably yield results not so different from the 35mm camera (as I said, not taking grain into account). And later on, you can get excellent dedicated 35mm scanners for very cheap, and that's also something I'd take into account.

"All of the major camera review sites save one (The Luminous Landscape) treat "medium-format" digital backs as if they don't exist."

Er, Mike, would the manufacturers be willing to send expensive review specimens out to _sites_? I know that computer (equipment) manufacturers often don't want to give their gadgets to sites, especially if it's a site not in the English-language-speaking area...

Plus, yeah, they are priced a bit out of reach for most people who do photography even if you consider that the likes of 1DS Mark III cost $8000.

BTW, I would be willing to test a P45+. :-)

What? No M8? Your mother wears clunky footwear!

Suggest you eliminate links that are mostly outdated info, such as Cameralabs and Camera Review

stefan, i can think of six things.

1. larger viewfinder eyepiece, brighter, clearer image, better 50mm framelines, and less cluttered viewfinder since they left out the 75mm and 135mm framelines (might be a con).
2. swinging back door film loading.
3. scale-like meter display.
4. top mounted dial controls iso and exposure compensation.
5. longer effective baselength.
6. burn-proof shutter.

there are also several down points, such as unavailability of motorwind/rapidwinder or different viewfinder magnifications, and maybe the moving rangefinder spot and bottom rewind crank.


Have you had a chance to play around with the Alpha 700 yet? Since you use a 7D and appreciate its ergonomics and anti-shake, it'd be interesting to hear your verdict on the newest Sony DSLR and whether it has been able to retain all the good bits of the Minolta legacy and inject the right amount of Sony technology. Perhaps we might see it in the revised Top Ten list in mid-winter ;-).

Really? An Ikon over a R2A/R2M/R3A/R3M and an R4M/R4A - and throw in an old Bessa L for good measure.

The Leica premium covers a much quieter shutter and smoother gearwork (though, honestly, I barely notice the difference in winding film between my M7 and R2A) - what does a Zeiss net you?

milosz and Stefan R.,
I'll have much more on the subject in my Zeiss Ikon review, coming soon.

Mike J.

Charlie, the K10D already has dust reduction. You're probably thinking of the "entry-level" K100D, which Pentax updated with that feature and SDM support in a later "Super" edition.

A well thought-out list, to be sure.

Just came back from my first week of vacation doing some landscape photography in the Eastern Sierra. Hands down the camera of choice with the photographers I saw out there (and they are pretty much the only people you see out there this time of year...) was the Canon 5D. Still appears to be a reference standard of sorts for image quality for many photographers.

I must admit I am a bit surprised about the inclusion of the 1D MkIII with it's well-documented AF issues, but the images that I have seen that are in focus are very impressive with respect to image quality. Canon will need to address this problem soon with the advent of the D3. The pros, unlike many amateurs, are not marque-biased, and will simply use whatever is the best tool available for the job. If Canon does not solve this problem, they may well get pros defecting back to Nikon, now that supplies of the 1DMkII N have completely dried up.

Regarding the little point-and-shoots, I am a fan of them as you know, and have lamented the passing of RAW from the vast majority of them. Much as I like my little Fuji F31fd, it is hindered by not being able to shoot RAW. If only....

Given the nice post you had recently about the Canon G9, I must admit I am surprised it did not make your list. The newly (re)added RAW capability means that this is going to be the next camera I am going to buy, what with the demise of my much-lamented little Canon Powershot S45.

For me, the perfect camera is a fusion between the Nikon FM3a and a full-frame DSLR. made in the spirit of the Leica M8 (which I would like, but can't afford). It would look and feel similar to a Nikon FM3a, have a full-frame 12 MP or higher sensor, and use all manual and autofocus focus Nikkor F-mount lenses. In short, a digital throw-back to the manual focus cameras that made Nikon famous. I miss my FM3a, but need to work digitally.

I know it would be financially viable, but I can hope, can't I?

Hear hear for the Nikon D80. Combine it with the Nikorr 18-200 VR zoom lens and you're set. I just love mine!

I couldn't agree more with your option for the first place. And, of course, not because I am the owner of such a great camera. It simply is the best camera for an enthusiast amateur photographer willing to experiment. And I think that Pentax is the brand to include in its available digital cameras the biggest part of the history of photography.

Aizan, thank you... larger viewfinder is fine, I dont care about the rest ;)

Mike, cool, thank you.

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