Bigger Formats – What do you get

With all the current interest in Medium Format, driven from the two new ‘budget’, ‘small’, and ‘light’ mirrorless bodies from Hasselblad and Fuji, there have been a few articles arguing the pros and cons for the smaller formats and the larger.

In my opinion a lot of the articles written can be put straight into the bin. There are mostly people justifying their own choices.

The biggest reason to pick a format is for its look.  MicroFourThirds, 35mm Full Frame, Medium Format etc, all have a different look, portray tonally differently, and the biggest is depth of field.  The problem with theses differences like look and depth of field; is that some people say one is better and others say the other is better.  This is wrong.  They are different and depending on the look you are after one may suit better then the other.

Get the Light Close – edit completed

Why would a professional choose medium format over the rest considering the high cost.  Well 100 megapixels are available, 200 megapixels with pixel shift.  That makes the camera incredibly flexible for cropping in post production.  Dynamic range in challenging light, the DR is far higher then other format, also colour bit depth is far higher then any other format; the files are also very robust, you can edit, and edit, and edit again.  The files are hard to break.  Basically it gives you lots and lots of options in post production, your not limited and do not have to go back and reshoot.

So the big things people quote are noise, resolution, depth of field and dynamic range.

First we assume that technology is level.  Not a true assumption as the smaller formats do tend to advance faster then the larger formats.

Small Format – Postive

  • Lots of Depth of Field
  • Smaller lighter glass
  • Higher resolution proportionally to sensor size
  • Low Noise *1 (true but not in theory)

Small Format – Negative

  • Little selective Depth of Field
  • Smaller lens have to be built to higher tolerances
  • Diffraction effects when stopped down
  • Poor Colour Depth and Dynamic Range
  • Low resolution

Larger Format – Postive

  • Highly selective Depth of Field
  • Lens can be built to lower tolerances and give better results
  • Little diffraction effects when stopped down
  • Maximum Colour Depth and Dynamic Range
  • High Resolution
  • More robust RAW files that can be pushed harder.

Larger Format – Negative

  • Size and Weight
  • High Cost
  • Generally behind in Technology
  • Slow performance

Now many of these pros and cons can be offset with technology.  Bracketing and HDR, Pixel shifting, stitching images, focus bracketing.  With regard to note *1, in theory the larger the sensor the better noise this this should be an advantage to large format, but I have put this down to small format.  In general 35mm full frame has the best noise results but this is because the technology is moving faster then for the other formats.  In theory the bigger the sensor the less noise if the pixel density is kept the same and the technology is at the same point, in actual reality 35mm full frame wins the noise war, with medium format next and micro four thirds at the bottom but still good enough for the majority of people.

Of course there is also the major disadvantage of larger formats and the is performance in getting the image.  Try getting a picture of a young child at a birthday party with a medium format camera.  I know many photographers in that instance would want to reach for a Pro Nikon/Canon DSLR in order to try and keep up!


What format for digital Studio and Landscape Photography

For studio work I tend to use my Hasselblad or my Nikon for professional work and sometimes by little Leica M for fun.

For a while now I have been looking at new backs for my Hasselblad but for 50 megapixels you can buy one of the new Fuji or Hasselblad for the same price.  Being a Hasselblad and Leica user already I would prefer to either use Hasselblad or switch to the Leica S, but recently I have been wondering do I need medium format?

Yes there is a certain look you get with the larger sensors and lens but at the NEC Gavin Hoey and a few other Olympus ambassadors showed that whether shooting assignments, wildlife or stunning landscapes, if you get it right in camera micro four thirds can deliver the goods. 

One Inch sensor – Nikon V1

MicroFourThirds – Olympus OM E-10

Leica M8 sample – Boudoir
Cropped sensor Leica M8

35mm Full Frame

Film Scans in LR4
Hasselblad 6 cm x 6 cm

Ebony 45s, Fuji Provia 100, Nikkor 150mm f/5.6, f/36 1/8 second
4 x 5 inches Large format

As you can see, certainly on the web and even at A3 print size there is not much between any of these, and how often do you need to print bigger?

Looking at the images on the web you cannot see much difference. I suspect if you mainly use the web and services like Flicker and do not print above A3, go for the format/camera and budget you prefer and ignore the forums and ‘experts’. 

I’ll post more on the pros and cons of small (35mm and smaller) verses larger (above 35mm) tomorrow. 


Introducing a new system and the lack of lens

Its tough introducing a new camera system.  Ask Canon when they released the EOS mount, Fuji with the X mount etc.

Mirrorless with its short flange distance gives many advantages when introducing a new system.  Thus when MicroFourThirds came about adapters enabled lots of existing lens to be used while Olympus and Panasonic built out the range.

Leica, since they released the 35mm full frame SL have had a similar problem when introducing a new system, compounded by the fact that it is full frame thus most of the current crop of mirrorless lens are not suitable unless you want a crop.

We now have two zooms with the ranges 24-90mm and 90-280mm, and a 50mm Summilux prime.  This year they intend to round out line-up with a 16-35mm zoom and three new smaller primes of 35mm, 75mm and 90mm.

Of course until then you can always use your M glass.

Zone Focus with the 50mm Summilux

Autofocus brings many advantages, but when you are trying to get a quick grab shot, its just point and shoot and its matter of luck if the autofocus manages to focus on the correct subject.

With a 35mm lens on full frame,  zone focus is relatively straight forward, but I am finding it much more challenging with the 50mm.  For the above shot, I prefocussed on a point on the pavement and when my subject reached that point I fired the shutter.

Zone focusing is something I am getting better at but I definitely need more practice.

Photography Show 2017 at the NEC Part 2

As cameras improve it seems lens are getting left behind, and this is giving manufactures such as Zeiss a gap in the market.

With lens like their Otus range you can add a truly stunning lens to your bag that is potentially better then what your camera manufacturer can produce at a good price.

I tried out a couple of Zeiss M mount lens, the 85mm f/4 portrait lens and the 35mm f/1.4.  There were impressive in the hand with good build quality and they would focus quite well. The top shot was taken with the 85mm in poor light and a relatively slow shutter speed so is not the best example.

As well as the usual stands we had a show of work from several groups.

I also took the opportunity to revisit the Olympus and Panasonic stands when it was a little quieter and tried my own memory card in a few of the cameras.  I found the GH4 suffered a little with viewfinder blackout, but the GH5 was very responsive.  When it came time to play with the Olympus Pen-F someone had been playing with the art modes so all I got were some very odd looking jpegs.

As I mentioned in my previous post, ComicCon was on next door and we had a visit from some Imperial storm troupers and a special guest!

Chris now has his post up about the show so check it out here:

The Photography show 2017


Photography Show 2017 at the NEC

This weekend myself and Chris Bennett visited the Photography Show at the Birmingham NEC.

When we arrived there was a number of shows on including ComicCon which proved a hit with photographers.

On arrival we visited the Starbucks franchise and paid over the odds for an average coffee, but captive market, so slightly understandable.

Chris collected the guide book, and once the clock hit 10:00 am the doors opened.  We headed straight for the Fuji stand, with a quick stop on the way at the Olympus stand to collect the Olympus magazine; I had to interests here, the Fuji X100F and the Fuji medium format camera.

The original Fuji X100 impressed me but I have now been shooting with Leica too long and have found the optical viewfinder somewhat lacking in the Fuji.  After playing with it for a while I confirmed what I had thought when I played with the Fuji X100T, its not for me.

I got my hands on the Fuji Medium format camera and was quite impressed.  I heard a few complaints about the size and its weight, but compared to my Hasselblad 503CW with PhaseOne digital back, this new Fuji GFX felt a little lighter and easier to use.  It was slow and heavy to use, if you have just used more normal censored mirrorless cameras but for a medium format camera its fast and easy to handle.  If your after easy to use, easy to handle medium format then the new mirrorless Fuji, Hasselblad and the SLR Leica S are definitely ones to look at.  The Fuji seems a well put together model and certainly with just the few minutes I had to use it a relatively (for medium format) responsive camera.

The Olympus stand was our other major stop.  Chris who is currently a Olympus user, treated himself to the new 300mm prime, at f/4 and an effective field of view of 600mm for MicroFourThirds.

For wildlife photographers MicroFourThirds makes a compelling choice.

I took the opportunity to have a good look at the current Olympus models. I like the top model OM-D E-M 1 and the bottom model OM-D E-M 10, the M 5 is large enough to make you think you might as well carry the M 1.

I also had a play with the Pen-F.  This is my favourite small camera currently, and I love its features and handling.  Unfortunately it is way too expensive.

As well as Olympus I also tried out some of the Panasonic models.  I liked the GH5 but not much else, though the new Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 is a thing of beauty.

As well as the hardware we also watched a few seminars.  I particularly enjoyed the one on wildlife photography by Tesni Ward, her pictures of mountain hares were amusing, fun and showed real character.

We also caught one from Gavin Hoey.  He gave a talk about a commissioned shoot for Olympus.  On the wall were some very large blowups of the final images, taken in a dark environment at high ISO, using Olympus MicroFourThird’s equipment.  A few years ago you would have been convinced that you needed either medium format equipment to take such large prints or at least full frame 35mm.

Drones were a big element of the show and there were also a few surprising stalls, such as IT backup solutions, dresses and fabric and even holiday companies.

Over all it was a good day.  Chris got a very good deal on his lens and I managed to get some good deals on paper.  I now know the Fuji X100 is not for me but I am tempted by Olympus.

Photography Show 2017 – Coming soon

Fuji X-Pro2

This weekend the Photography Show at the Birmingham NEC starts. I’ll be looking forward to trying out the Olympus Pen F, the old Panasonic GH4 and to compare it with the GH5. From the Fuji stand I want to try the latest X100, the X100F and lastly the new Fuji medium format camera.

I would have loved to try a Leica M10 and the Leica Q together with the new Hasselblad mirrorless design but neither of them are there this year.

Hopefully there will be a few show offers on and like last time I look forward to getting hold of some cheap paper.

Portrait and Neutral Backgrounds

Leica M8 with Summilux-M 50mm

As you might have guessed from my last few posts, I have been experimenting in the studio recently with different backgrounds.  The one above is a paper called platinum.  Its nearly perfect for taking a white balance reading and one can also easily use photoshop to remove the model and place her on other backgrounds.