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Tuesday, 12 June 2018


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As I sat down to read this post I was flush with excitement. After finishing it I felt drained. I have since placed a lid on my emotions. It's time to move on, I suppose.

I immediately thought of Alfred Stieglitz photo of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, which in 1925 must have been the elephant in the room much like a picture of a Campbell's soup can can't un-reference Warhol


In the end, when it comes to a spacious feel in the image, size matters. It just does. I regularly make photos with my iPhone, Canon full-frame DSLR, Pentax 645z (a recent acquisition), 6x7 film, and 4x5 film. I scan the films to about 90-100 megapixels, but, of course, with scanner-introduced distortions of various kinds. But still that feeling of three dimensions grows commensurately with format (and, it must be said, with print size, because part of it is how much the image consumes of one's visual field). Part of it is the smooth rolloff between the focus plane and out-of-focus areas, which is a useful antidote to the lesser depth of field imposed by the longer lenses of the larger formats. Part of it is less reliance on noise reduction (in which category I include things we do to minimize intrusive film grain) to achieve smooth tonality. Technology does wonders, but larger formats just don't need as many wonders. That's why they are more effortless.

But I have made pictures I love and pictures I don't with all of them, so I have to keep things in perspective.

The image of Venus throws off the whole balance of the Christian Cross photo, IMHO.

Weston's terlet is abstract. Yours is editorial.

Good job you didn't include a Leica in the test, you'd never hear the end of it :-)

I see you keep your backlog of unread New Yorker mags in the same category of reading room that I do.

I tried and loved the XT2 but will likely sell it for the very reason you did.

I won't try the Sony AIII because it seems a bit big, as do the expensive Sony lenses.

That leaves Micro 4/3, which I have used. I spent 3 weeks traveling through south India with an EPL-3. I even brought back some usable images.

While I prefer the larger APS-C (probably for no real reason), I may give Micro 4/3 another try. What irks me is bodies, such as the G9, rival in size the APS-C bodies. The original "micro" size advantage is long gone.

One important factor with the Micro 4/3 is there are many very good to great lenses at relatively affordable prices. That's a big deal.

Your picture reminds me of one of my favorite jokes.
How does a woman tell if her boyfriend is a keeper?
Show him a toilet brush and if he asks "what's that?" she needs to move on.

Mike, I am feeling the same way APS-C Sensors. I recently re-processed pictures from 10 years ago, shot with a Nikon D300. I Used the most recent version of Adobe CC Lightroom. The images were really great. Clearly as good as anything to come out of my Nikon FF Camera.
As you know from my previous posts, I shoot both Fuji and Nikon. I really like the Fuji, but love my Nikon D 750. It is just too big for travel. I am currently looking at the Nikon D500. It is the same size as the D750 body, but the lenses are smaller and lighter.
I currently travel with the fuji, but if I had the D500, I could travel with that and sell both systems. Thanks for the review.
One unrelated comment about the Fuji System, the f2 primes are beautiful, and very easy to travel with. I own both the 23 and 35 and love them both. In fact if I did get the D 500 I would sell the big Fuji zooms, and keep the XT2, and the small zooms. Thanks for the post, there sure is a lot of hype about the Sony camera. One day I may try one myself. All the best.

I think we're to the point where all cameras are "good enough", as in, if the photographer gets the basics right - lighting, composition, & an engaging subject - the person viewing the photos won't be complaining about any obvious deficiencies. I will say however, that some of us consider shallow depth of field to be a feature, not a bug. But I'm sure you knew that.

I am wondering about the special procedures used to prep that prop for a photograph? LOL. No words needed as the mental image appears.

Hmm...I have to admit that I'm somewhat disappointed at not seeing any representative photos to compare, or a link to a Flickr or similar gallery to review the different camera's photographs. As a scientist, I really like seeing representative data.

That being said, I'd be willing to bet Mike breakfast that if I made 24 photographs each of different subjects from the A7 III and X-T2 using matching fields of view, exposure conditions, calibrated camera profiles, paper profiles, and made reasonably large prints (e.g. 16X20") of all of them that 1) performing a 2-proportion test with a statistically valid sampling of viewers would not produce a statistical difference (e.g. with a test proportion, of say, >70%) of one being better than the other and 2) most viewers would not care which camera took the photograph.


Because I had the time and curiosity, I did a somewhat academic comparison of the A7m3 and iPhone 8 as "equivalent cameras." It is contrived in the sense that the A7m3 image must be cropped to the same dimensions as the iPhone image, and the lens for the Sony is chosen so that images from both cameras have the same field of view. In this case the lens was a Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 used at f/9. Mid-day, outdoor scenes. Raw images from both cameras processed with ACR and Photoshop. I was surprised at how similar the images are. If anyone is interested, here's a link: http://philservice.typepad.com/f_optimum/2018/04/the-sony-a7-iii-and-iphone-8-as-equivalent-cameras.html


The comments above about images having room to “breathe” is absolutely correct in my experience. Somehow especially between APS/C and FF. Been using an A7 with lovely fast MF lenses for years.

However... (short story)

My A7 inexplicably, and very dissapointingly, stopped working properly (every time it turned off/slept, all settings went back to factory), and repair was going to cost more than the camera was worth. So, a rethink was needed.

With the sony, I felt it was always more like using a device than a camera. I tried all manner of grips and do-hickey’s, but never got a happy feel in my hand.

Thought I’d try something new, and relatively low cost. Went for a second hand OMD EM-1 with the 12-40 and 40-150 2.8 lenses. Still wanted small (not back to huge hulking FF DSLRs and lenses), highly usable and flexible, and hopefully with good enough image quality.

Holy-moly! It delivers way beyond expectation. To my highly subjective eye, I think the image files are just lovely, RAW files process beautifully, and the kit is a joy to use.

So, at least for the next few years, I’m in love with this wonderful little package of well thought through photography tools :-) 4/3rds rules!

MAy I suggest an alternative title for the first photo?
"Reader´s digest"

Twice in the last few days I have read here that a shallower depth of field is not (necessarily/usually/often/regularly) some sort of advantage. Thank goodness. I had thought that I had lost my monkey, because since way back in the film days when 35mm was still small format, I had more problems from a lack of depth of field than I ever had from too much. Pretty much still true. Glad to see that I am not the only one with this odd delusion.

Glad to see the modern New Yorker in its appropriate place too.

Yeah, in my experience the full frame files (Pentax, in my case) are definitely nice to work with. But at the same time there are very few images where having a full frame camera was the deciding factor in making it a good image (compared to using my M43 camera). If you get much of your pleasure from looking at files at 100% or greater magnification and boosting shadows three stops, then get a full frame or medium format camera for sure. For most other purposes, get the camera you like and make the best of it.

What about medium format digital? This test is not complete without including the latest mirrorless from Hasselblad and Fuji :-)

Thinking of IQ and Edward Weston being mentioned in the same post: I think this Weston toilet is particularly impressive - look at the dynamic range possible with a big neg and minus development:

Weston Toilet

I seem to have been on a continuous trip as far as formats are concerned, trying everything in the process, and finally settled down with a format which was a given back in the day, the full frame. Every camera was a full frame camera few years ago. I feel smaller formats are good for something but not good for some other things, whereas i can do pretty much everything. I feel that a full frame camera facilitates my creative expression the best. I do not tend to miss this or that anymore.
I shoot with a Sony a7R3, FE28, FE55, FE85 along with CV40/1.2. Needless to say, the lens ecosystem is very encouraging for FE mount, especially for those looking at small manual focus/autofocus lenses.

As I indicated in a post not long ago I am trying to wrangle a project assignment with the government and I know clearly my trusty old X-Pro 1 doesn't cut it based on required print sizes and cropping flexibility. So can I succeed by merely moving up to a 24MP sized X-Trans APS-C? Having Fuji lenses seems to make that a no brainer. Yet, your "exhaustive" comparison of 4 cameras, plus my own suspicions, leaves me inkling to move on to a bigger sensor living in Sony-land. Now a second question confronts me: 24 vs 42 MP. I have no urge to spend an xtra $ 1,200 if the former achieves what I need. The answer to that question is still hiding from me!

This somewhat supports the way I view the current assortment of camera formats. I've been at this a long time and in the film days I worked with everything from 35mm to 8x10. It seems to me that in the digital world as far as image quality goes:

M4/3 = 35mm
APS-C/N = Medium format
"Full Frame" = 4x5
Medium Format Digital = 8x10

Not exactly accurate, but close. In the film days 35mm was good enough for most of my work. I used medium format when I was doing studio portraits.

These days M4/3 seems good enough for everything and even the one-inch sensor cameras are quite usable.

But I keep watching the features, size, weight and resolution of the full-frame sensor cameras thinking I might like to add a "4x5" to the kit someday when everything lines up.

You wrote that the "four cameras are pretty impressively compressed". For those of us who mostly look at photos on computers or maybe print an 8x10 would we see a difference between a full frame camera like the very hyped Sony and micro four thirds?

"I've said before that I'm pretty much "over" full-frame cameras, having satisfied myself that they don't really offer that much advantage in return for their disadvantages (such as shallower depth-of-field and larger lenses, and greater expense)."

That's funny because I would have said, I'm over crop frame cameras because they don't offer a shallow enough depth of field. Horses for courses.

APS-C sensors come close in that regard (especially when Fuji offers an f/1.2 lens), but smaller than that sensor and I'm frustrated.

Delighted to see you taking that loaner Sony A73 for a walk, Mike. I’ve not used one myself but I did end up adopting the Sony A7 line as my primary platform shortly after the first A7R was introduced. (Not an easy decision after being a Canon man since college days.) Having used the A7R3 for about a year I cannot imagine wanting or needing anything more in a 35mm-class camera. That sensor combined with Sony’s finest FE lenses is simply unbeatable in most dimensions for producing the (technically) best imagery. Yes, I use other cameras but my Sony A7R3 is the “big gun” in this format.

As an aside, illustrating the relative quality of that Sony on any Internet venue is nearly impossible. We reached the level of presentable sufficiency for this medium quite some years ago. It’s really in print where the men get separated from the boys, so to speak. I spent much of this past winter making reference proof prints of a decade-long body of work that employed many cameras in many situations. The A7Rx images were, indeed, usually the most robust and easiest to tune.

As an aside, I’m sure you gave a few Sony public relations managers frowny faces by posting a photo of a toilet under the heading “Image Quality (My Updated Opinion) (Sony A7 III)”.

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