Monday, 13 February 2012

Why the Nikon D800 is not a medium format competitor

Judging by the fact that Nikon has closed preorders for the D800 it would seem they have a hit on their hands.

Interesting to note this even though Canon called an end to the megapixel 'arms race' with the Canon 1D-X which has 'only' 18 megapixels and yet replaces the 1D MKIV and the 1DS MKIII.

This is particularly interesting as Canon make their own CMOS sensors and are therefore able to call do more or less what they want in terms of specification, not relying on third party sensor manufacturers.

So there must be something in it, right?

Infact when the eagerly awaited Canon 5D MKIII(if indeed it is going to be called that)is launched I'm prepared to wager that it will have a similar number of pixels to the MkII, no I don't have any insider knowledge, but the 1DX does certainly suggest that.

But the whole Canon v's Nikon thing is not the Point of this post.

It has more to do with some claims made that the D800 will be a competitor to medium format.

I recall in some early reports of the excellent in its day Canon 1DS MKIII that some people were giving up on medium format....well some people may have but it didn't quite work out that way did it?

The D800 may have a lot of pixels but I don't believe it is a true medium format competitor.


1. Physical sensor size of medium format gives the most wonderful depth of field, if you enjoy a full frame sensor, imagine how your images would look if the sensor was bigger?

Here is a portrait I will be talking about more in the next few weeks, for reasons that will become clear

I shot this on the Phase One DF and P65+ with the Schneider 110mm LS lens at F2.8, full frame, un-cropped.

2. Dynamic range? 12 stops of full fat goodness. Do I NEED it? Not always, but it fits so beautifully in with my analogy of the Phase One being the 'ultimate blank canvas' it has the ability to record what is in your mind better than anything else.

3. 16 Bit colour capture. DSLR's capture in 14 bit, 14 to 16bit not a big gap, right?


14 bit capture has 16,384 possible values for each colour channel.

16 bit capture has 65,536 possible values for each colour channel.

Quite a difference.

4. Aspect Ratio

I find the aspect ratio of 35mm does not suit my creative shoots nor indeed my really big commercial shoots

It is too wide, and I often end up cropping one or another of the ends off the shot.

As Nikon seem to have done in their D800 brochure, rather proving my point.

5. Speed.

By it's very nature medium format is not, nor has it ever been a speed king.

You have to slow down, think.

And consider.

When that happens the quality of my work just goes up.

It's when one adds all of these qualities together that you end up with images that are removed frm anything that a DSLR can produce, no matter how many megapixels it has.

The Nikon D800 is going to be a very good camera, but don't for a moment think it is going to challenge or replace medium format.


icedsoul said...

I agree with your points for sure, but I still think you are kinda "wrong", because you are forgetting one thing. Price!

I am really thinking about a Medium Format for quite some time now and never made or could make the jump so far.

the cheapest solution at the Moment ist that "starter kit" by Hasselblad, which costs 9999.- Euros and you get one 85mm lens with it. you will at least need a second lens which will probably set you back between 2-3k.

Of course the the D800 is no MF, but the extra meat gives me a something more to work with. more detail etc. My D3s is a fantastic camera and I looking forward to a D4, but the D3s in my work with cars for example left me sometimes with no other option than just not editing it as much as I wanted to as it "just" has 12MP. You canon guys have a bit more luck there with your 5Ds in that regard.

So the D800 is for me the next best thing as I might buy it this year and use it with all my lenses and still be under 4k.

just my 2 cents :-)

have a good one Drew!

Unknown said...

Hey Teymur,

Hope you are well.

I hear you about the price.

It is higher and there can be no doubt about that.

Do however bear in mind that David Hobby picked up a Phase One( The BEST in medium format...) set up for under $10,000 on ebay secondhand.

It really was in terms of quality and output that I was talking about.

The D800 will be excellent but not as good as the Phase One



icedsoul said...

Thank you Drew, I am very well, hope you are too.

There is absolutely no doubt about the quality of medium format and phase one in particular, also the sync times. And I love that special feeling in medium format shots. Still I need to figure out, whether along the way I can and should afford this step.

The second hand market is a good option for sure, though I was always quite reluctant as you never know, or rather its hard to check what you are getting.

Well we also have to see how the second hand market will develop as more high profile photographers are now in the MF and phase one camp.

I ordered a D4 and thats it for me at the moment, so I still have time to figure it out I guess :-)

Kayhan said...

I think, there the introduction of D800 is a welcome news for the medium format users! I don't have any experience what so ever with the Phase One. But Hasselblad for example, charges you over £17000 for a camera in which the back LCD is at least 10 years behind any point and shoots which you can pick up at ARGOS and then no ergonomic design to make and place the dials with a photographer in mind have gone into their bodies for years now. Their image quality/ resolution has been in my opinion one of their big advantages up to this point which allowed them to get away with it. There is no doubt that a 35mm should never reach the medium format in quality but giving the price its going to really push those lazy medium format manufacturers back to the drawing board, to produce cameras which have excellent image quality not only on their base ISOs, have improved handling and ergonomic designed reviled by the 35mm DSLR's.
I am confident in the near future we shall be expecting a revolution in medium format digital SLRs as well.
Competition is on the side of the consumer!

Unknown said...

Hi Guys,

Good points from both of you.

Kayhan, you make a very interesting point about competition giving the consumer more choice.

I agree with you regarding LCD on the Hasselblad BTW, in fact this was the case with Phase until they bought out the IQ backs which are the gold standard for LCD's on any camera at any price (think of sticking an iPhone 4 on the back of your camera and you won't be far off)

The problem for medium format manufacturers is the very small numbers produced (compared to DSLRs) so they have to get their R&D spot on before they come to market.

Hasselblad are in an uncertain place right now I think.

With the advent of the Phase IQ backs they have fallen far, far behind Phase One and it is difficult to see them catching up again.

New owners (Venture capitalists) are talking about taking them into new markets and there have been very few upgrades to their line.

I wonder if you are right and if we will see more offerings from other companies, taking the route that Pentax have?



ISO 1200 Magazine said...

Against the big sensor of Medium Format Phase One , new Nikon D800 can not fight.

With Nikon D800 begins a new era to full frame cameras, about resolution, low noise and more.

Here a example why Phase One is amazing, the sensor by Borrow Lens:

Unknown said...

Hi ISO 1200

Thanks for that, if anyone needs reminding of the size of a large Phase One sensor they should check out your link.

I think you are right, DSLR's don't compete with Medium Format, I just think it smacks of ignorance that some people have chosen to make the comparison.



MG Imagery said...

While I see the D800 as a great camera, I also believe it will not be a DMF killer any time soon.

A lot of it's already been said about DOF, sensor size, etc...One BIG issue is while they seem to be improving the cameras by leaps and bounds they are relatively doing nothing to the options of glass currently available to them.

On one hand I fear that there's going to be tons of backlash when the D800 starts rolling off the lines and people realize that all the lens they've been using aren't up to snuff. On the other, I also fear that a lot of people won't notice how lacking the lenses really are.

As far as cost goes, true DMF can be very restrictive and never will one be the only and most versatile camera. I recently went down the road of DMF with a P1 645 DF, and a Leaf Aptus 22, 80mm, 150mm and still have far less invested in my kit than when I was shooting nikon. Though my Digi back is over 6 years old and only 22mp it still runs circles around any currently available 35mm camera. They just do not come close to that indescribable not quite film not quite digital 3d look. Other than need for speed, I've never really found myself missing something after the switch but I don't shoot events/sports/weddings either though...Did I mention I still get to shoot film on it :)

Scott said...

Drew, I would have thought that the MF camera would have a much lower noise level than the 35mm format. For me, this would another reason to switch to MF (save the price; not all of us are as adept at stalking prey on eBay as David is!).


Unknown said...

Hi Guys,

Yes, my Phase gives a look all of it's doubt.

And yes Scott, the noise levels are silly, silly low....all but non existent in most situations when you shoot at super low ISO.

I always try to shoot at 50 ISO if possible on my P65+



Mark R Coons - Music Man5 Photos said...

"I find the aspect ratio of 35mm does not suit my creative shoots nor indeed my really big commercial shoots."

I could not agree more. I spend way too much time with my DSLR worrying about getting the composition I want in the size I want.

Thanks Drew.

Unknown said...

Hey Mark,

We both agree on this one then..

I LOVE the MF aspect ratio.

I forgot to say that MG Imagery makes avery good point.

Optics are a big deal.

One of the big things I noticed when I switched to Phase for Hasselblad was the jump in quality from the Schneider LS lenses in particular.

Super, silly sharp.

A revelation



MG Imagery said...

Ditto on the aspect ratio!

I dream of the day that I can move to the Schneider LS lenses, i hear they are unreal!

My mamiya 150 3.5 @ 5.6 is so freaking sharp that I can't even stand it and find myself wanting to soften the images for screen use, for print it's great!

Oh, it's me, Garrett Wood btw :)

This is the 150mm @f11 with the sharpening 0'ed in C1Pro

Unknown said...

Drew, I am not sure I agree with you here. I don't think the D800 would replace MF for you, but I think it could for quite a lot of shooters. Those who work in a studio and would be shooting at f32 on MF shooting jewellery or the like would be thankful for the extra DOF and the sensor res (perhaps even more so without the AA filter on the D800e) is going to be high enough for them. Somebody looking for shallow DOF portraits wouldn't be happy with it. It all depends on what is being shot, but I don't think it can be denied, for some people this will be a smarter option than getting a digital MF camera: just not for everybody.
I for one am a long way from being in the price range of even the D800, let alone a Phase One, and a large proportion of working photographers are the same. So I will continue to get as much as I can from my old crop sensor cameras until I can get enough work throughput to justify an upgrade... but I do love to dream! Thanks for the great blog: always an inspiration!

Dominick Delli Paoli said...

Give me a make excellent points but everything you say comes at a cost! 5-10xx the price of the D800!

Also remember you get paid for commercial shoots, D800 owners are advanced amateurs or wedding and portrait shooters. Noone is going to step on your toes...if they do, get your game up.

walljm said...

I haven't seen anyone address the issue of the ability of 35mm lenses to resolve to a level that would take advantage of more megapixels. this was an issue with the Canon 1Ds Mk3. at a certain point, adding pegapixels doesn't really buy you any resolution...

mpyphoto said...

Thanks Drew for reminding me of the benefits of Medium Format. I have to admit my initial "wow" factor of the D800 and my sweaty palms upon its release. But when I then go to the Phase One site and feast myself on the 645DF and read the posts of Zack Arias, THAT my friend is when more than just my palms sweat as to the beauty of real medium format...Dynamic Range, depth of field, aspect ratio...oh the agony of the cost of entry...someday...

Unknown said...

Can you expand on Point #3?
Sounds like a megapixel race to me.
Your printer can probably only print thousands of shades. Your display can only display millions. When is having this bit depth important?

Unknown said...

Hi Guys,

Thanks for your comments.

I hear you.

I'm fully aware that Medium Format does cost more.

I was merely seeking to rebut claims which suggested that the D800 is a medium format competitor.

Not that everyone should go out and buy one.

As for people stepping on my toes?

All great photography, no matter what it's source, no matter what it is shot on is a cause for celebration.

Photography is not a boxing match, it is a celebration of humanity.



Unknown said...

Hi Again,

I'm overwhelmed by the response to this post.

Thank goodness I did not post it when I had the flu :)

Now, bit depth when shooting commercially is worth a lot.

The ability to shoot on a continuous tone background with graduated lighting is doable without 'Stepping ' with 16bit capture. On a DSLR it can be the devils work to fix...

I have shot a whole series of books in the last couple of years and have output to the printers CMYK profile straight from RAW.

The Phase One files work a that when you go to CMYK, DSLR files, particularly with food take much more work to get looking 'right'



Libby said...

The D800 is going to kick some butt that's for sure, and as a primarily Nikon shooter I happy about that. But the people calling it the MF killer, well they just haven't shot MF. MF is a bit like Leica, it's got that "look and feel" but in its own right.

On aspect ratio, you have know idea how much I've come to hate 3:2. I think that is in part why I'm having some fun again with the m 4/3 format - I recently picked up a m4/3 cam at a dirt cheap price. It's just a more comfortable framing for me, always had been as I started with TLRs and 4x5 film.

That's a lovely shot by the way. You have an uncanny knack to capture a look that is what I call very Old England.

Take care - Libby

JettFoto said...

I agree that the D800 doesnt get close to grasping the MF market. However, it will sure quench my desire for MF while I wait for the price to drop in the next few years.

jadufy007 said...

I'm with IcedSoul and others on this one. Of course, MDF is going to be "better", but where does this madness end? Yes, madness. Drew...why aren't you shooting large format? It *is* better isn't it? I confess, I would love an IQ1** Phase One system, but all of those systems are so deep into the diminishing returns curve, it's pretty crazy imo.

Funny to me. Hobby, Arias make a good living teaching DIY, low budget approaches to lighting and gear. Then what do they do with that cash? Buy MDF. Lol.

Is an IQ140 7X better than the $3000 D800? Not remotely. Subjective as hell, but maaaaaybe 20% better imo.

As a recovering audiophile, I see a LOT of similarities to this image quality affliction. :) True story. I bought a $20k 2 channel audio system. My girlfriend at the time said to me, "you used to listen to music on the boombox, now you listen to your system." She was spot on. I listened to the transparency, the soundstaging, etc...not the music.
And let's not forget "bragging rights", etc within the audiophile community.

zwaagmw said...

Just wait for the D4x.

Would not be surprised if Nikon is working on a 40x50mm sensor to compete wih medium format.

Imagine: Faster response, better display, more ergonomic and a MF sensor a la Pentax 645 with amazing DOF and far better iso performance known in MF today.

Problaby around 10grant as target to penetrate the Medium Format market, just like Pentax tried to do.

It would not make any sense to just put the d800 sensor in a d4 body and call it d4x.
No, can't believe that, otherwise the D4x would be on the calendar to be announced soon.

Nikon is working out something special for the D4x and that's why they make us wait.......

MF, mark my word

Dave Keating Photography said...


What will Nikon, or Canon do for glass if they step up to that size sensor? Their current offerings really are not going to be able to handle the D800.

Not sure the volume is there for either company to try and compete in the true MF market.

Perrone Ford said...

I'd like to address your comments about the D800 being a MF competitor if I may. I would say that it CAN be a competitor depending on one's needs. Now I've been a fan of MF since putting my hands on a Pentax 67 back in the early 90s, and have recently been shopping a Pentax 645 or the Mamiya. That said, let me take your points in turn:

1. Sensor size goes to MF. Period. Always has. If shallow DOF is your thing, MF is great. If deeper DOF is desired, things get a bit more tricky.

2. The dynamic range on DSLRs is pretty good these days. And many will do HDR in camera. This is not something I've seen in MF camras so I'll call this a draw between the two.

3. The 16bit color capture is a red herring to me. Yes, it's technically better. But neither print nor monitor viewing can really take advantage of it. Heck, the larger print places ask for sRGB JPEG files! If custom fine art prints are your thing, then maybe the 16bit capacity is important.

4. Aspect ratio can be changed in camera. I do it in my D3s all the time. Actually I leave it a 4:5 since my most normal prints are 8x10s. Works beautifully, and I don't have to spend any time in post re-composing.

5. Speed. Put the dial on the DSLR on the "S". Shoot single frames. Easy.

All this said, the SLR has always had a different mission than medium format, and the D800 doesn't change that. I can (and will) be shooting outdoor sports and even some indoor sports on my D800. The ability for me to crop nearly half my frame and still produce excellent 16x20 prints means that I don't have to buy that 600mm/F4 lens, and I can keep using my 300mm/2.8. That's $12k I get to keep in my pocket.

The ability to use a slightly higer ISO setting and then have it look quite good when I shrink my 7000+ pixel wide fram to 3500 pixels is another benefit. Yes, MF would help here, but I'm not really thinking about carrying a 645 around a soccer field or at the baseball diamond.

Again, we have to look at WHY we are holding the tools in our hand. In the studio, the medium format camera is terrific if you can afford it. The leaf shutter offers many advantages when mixing daylight and strobes. But for hobbyist, or multiple format shooters like me, buying into the $20k-$50k ecosystem of MF is simply out of reach.

The D800 fills a niche slightly below that of real MF, but with some wonderful advantages as well.

Murray Laidlaw said...

I am baffled as to why Nikon should decide to shoehorn 36 million pixels on to a 35mm sized sensor when their new flagship Pro offering has just 16.2Mp and the equivalent new Canon 18. I can only conclude that they see a market for the pixel obsessed.

This debate about cost of D800 v MF is facile. Medium format costs more end of discussion. Every aspect of the MF business model is different. If you want to understand why just go hire a PhaseOne or Hasselblad for the weekend and shoot alongside your usual DSLR, the difference will make you weep. Yes it will cost you a whole lot more and no you probably can't justify it but your clients will love you for the improvement in quality. You may even find you can charge more.

Now this nonsense about MF ergonomics, there's nothing wrong with the layout of the buttons on a H4, once you know where they are. It's like moving from Nikon to Canon, BMW to Merc - it's the same functions only slightly different layout.

One thing that has only been mentioned in passing is the developments by PhaseOne. I am particularly impressed with the Capture One concept of controlling the camera from an iPad wirelessly and seeing the results on the screen. I believe you can get live view with the right backs - how cool would that be?

if you have the new vertical grip firing your Profoto lights no longer requires an external transmitter, it's built in and the Profoto triggers will work with pretty much any flash you can plug a sync lead into. No one else is doing this so Thank you PhaseOne. And before you say Profoto cost an arm and a leg yes they do and for a very good reason. They're excellent.

leedsonwheels said...

Hi Drew,

Thank you for the sanity check, I became irritated with the 35mm frame years ago, and really lusted for 6x7 or 6x4.5. I thought I was mad, but I suppose I'm not! I find the 35mm restrictive and does not inspire my creativity.

Whilst the current medium format cameras are great... we're still only at 6x4.5. When if ever will we see a full-frame 6x7 digital back? wouldn't that be even more amazing? I don't like the SLR-aspect of current systems, and I always preferred the idea of using a Mamiya RZ67 over anything else... not that I'm likely to ever get the chance to! I can barely afford the -old- Canon 5D, nevermind my own medium format system.

As to the quality of digital medium format vs DSLR's, I work in the Aerial Laser Surveying industry and we use a camera system which uses the P65+ back and it is utterly stunning. Just a few years ago we were using the 1Ds MK III and it was appalling, but then are needs are quite different to most. Also, attaching these things to helicopters like we do really shows just how tough they are! we've only broke one so far, not too bad going really.



jadufy007 said...

I shoot with a Nikon D3x. I have a decent amount of experience with MFD and this whole 1DsmkIII is "appalling", 35mm in comparison will make you "weep" is absurdly over the top.

Maybe I should link to a massive scan of a 8x10 LF shot and say that MFD is an utter waste of time and disgusting to look at in comparison. Why do you guys even bother shooting?!

Pretty unreasonable
What we consume defines us now?

I'm gonna go shoot.

Tomas said...

Hi Drew,

Very interesting post and definitely an eye/brain opener.

There's plenty of talk about resolution, image quality and price tags but what about maintenance and support in relation to price?

Based on experience, top end Nikon bodies with 2 years of moderate to heavy use without a fairly extensive repair is unrealistic.

If I were to add the cost of the camera body along with the repairs over the last 3 years, I wouldn't be too far off the initial investment into medium format.

Phase One on the other hand suggest that a decade of use is not uncommon.

If that holds truth, then the price points raised earlier in the comments above needs different perspective.

IQ aside, a D800 is a cheaper system initially, but long term, say over 3 to 6 years, is it really?

What volume of repairs, (if any), is one likely to encounter within 3 years with a Phase One system?

It would be interesting to hear your experiences.

Cheers in advance


Unknown said...

Hi Tomas,

I have had a very good experience with my Phase One

Never been to the menders.

The backs are super reliable in my experience.

I have had no issues with the camera's or lenses either.



Tomas said...

Thanks Drew!

I think it's a valid point for the potential 35mm users that are considering the investment into medium format systems.

Depending on the area of industry in which we operate, If entry level Phase One gear can out live the average life expectancy of a top end 35mm dslr (3 years max on moderate use), then the larger price tags can be far more financially viable.

All relevant for those who would buy 2 D800's, for basic commercial purposes isn'nit?


mtnzlondon said...


Been looking at MF for a while now, and I agree Phase One seem to be ahead in that game. But as a pro who only shoots magazine/book for about 30% of my work I can't justify full retail, so I'm hunting at the low 2nd hand end.
I am also buying a D800. One does not replace the other.

Unknown said...

Drew... show me numbers.

How much did your business increase by investing and shooting in Phase One.

We can pixel peep all day long, but the MF will win. There, end of comparison. Advanced Amateurs will want it. Pros will have to justify it, which is the bulk of the market for MF, at this price.

To me the MF is a Nascar race car compared to a D800E as a turbo charged sports car. In a Nascar race car, you cannot turn your head much because you are buckled in for safety regulations, but does it go, meant to be in an oval raceway. Then, in the sports car turbo charged to run fast, you can do much much more than just go in a straightaway and as fast. In short, I like the ability to do a lot and for less.

Simply put. I take the D3s/x with me everywhere I can. The MF I will not.

Everyone seems to be content to compare the camera systems. But, compare the business. If adding another (MF) to my system that is already making money, is going to make the return. Then, I think anyone will go to the investment.

The best camera is the one with you.
The best photograph is the one you were able to take.
The best photographer is the one that shoots it.


Iden Pierce Ford said...

You are a teacher. Not content to just talk, I have booked my first shoot with a Phase system for April. It's in an edgy old factory with a dancer. I shall report to you on my results. Looking forward to giving the system a run, probably a 30+ back.

Unknown said...

hi Iden,

I hope you enjoy it.

In my opinion if you want t get the best out of your rental shoot tethered.

Oh, and watch your focus.....



gurvitch images said...

This is directed for both you and many of the responders to this interesting article. The fundamental flaw with this type of thinking Drew is that it is based on the premise that the camera is the most important tool in the artists kit, whereas the artistic vision is. Whether it's Lou Manna using a 5mp Olympus, Maya Deren using 16mm Bolex, Or a photographer today using an "amateur" dx format dslr, the success of the image (still or moving) has so much more to do with the photographer and his/her team than it has to do with the format and brand of his/her gear.

MF won't be replaced simply because it's another format, not because it is better. It is a fantastic format both digitally and in film, but it is just that. So is 35mm. Photography is painting with light and you're basically comparing pastels, oils and acrylics to each other as if choosing one medium can ever be superior to another. It is a different look, like polaroid. When Phase One or Nikon designs a lens and system, they are actually designing it to create an effect, a certain type of sharpness/creaminess/bokeh, not to show greater truth. In the end a camera is a kaleidoscope anyway and we are bending and twisting the light and translating it through a digital sensor, so there is no truth anyway except our perspectives. So each photographer chooses the setup they prefer that aids them in expressing their perspective most efficiently.

The idea that because there is a larger sensor, that a better image is delivered is a fallacy because in the end we all put our eye in that viewfinder and compose the best image for whatever sensor we use.

There are things each style of camera excels at and falls short of whether it's resolution, iso, lens quality at each mm, etc. As a Nikon dslr and Hasselblad film owner, it frustrates me that in this competition to be a better photographer, people brandish their insecurity when they hide behind their fantastic toolkit. Is it to justify our investments? Jeez, I'd love to have the top of the line camera in every format out there and I would use them differently but I wouldn't be scared of changing up what style of photography I'd use each format with.

As much as those of us hate to admit, there are artists out there making great images with their iPhones and point and shoots -- images with great artistic integrity. There's nothing wrong with that.

A good driver can beat out a Maserati with a Mustang on any given day.

The camera is a fantastic tool and at this point the main companies are all doing amazing things to make it easier for us artists to produce better images. Drew is right that nothing will replace MF, but that isn't a knock on any other camera, it's just because there is a market of artists that like the MF. This new Nikon has me drooling, but I don't think that I will automatically be a better photographer with it. Nor do I think simply owning an IQ180 and watching training videos will make me a better photographer.

These last few weeks Canon and Nikon users have been chattering about how good/bad products are that haven't even been shipped yet. Have you ever seen the format, brand and model listed next to a photograph in the gallery (if so how frequently)? Have you ever seen the format, brand and model of the camera used next to an ad in a magazine or on a billboard? How many of us even use our camera's format, brand, or model on our websites?

Point is again that those things don't matter -- the end result does. Let's all go paint some light and stop worrying about what type of paint our neighbor uses!

jadufy007 said...

Gurvitch... well said, well said!

Unknown said...

Hi Gurvitch,

Thank you for your considered and eloquent comment.

I really could not agree with you more.

As I have said many, many times before on this blog, it is just a camera, it,s what you do with it, not the name on the top plate.

The point of the post was merely to point out that a 36MP dslr was never going to be in the same league as Phase One.

Do you need to buy one? No, it is just a camera.

I'm a big believer in 'Horses for courses' the dslr is the tool for many jobs that I shoot.

But when I need the sheer quality AND I have the luxury of choice the Phase wins the day.

I liked Jadufy007's comment of being a recovering audiophile, and I get where he is coming from.

But when you need MF. you need MF and there is no substitute.

I have been prepping 14 images which are going to be printed for my 'Olympians' exhibition today.

13 were shot on my Phase.

1 was shot on a dslr with SUPERB glass.

The gap between the them was not small.

I was simply staggered, really.

I will be talking about this at Focus.

Thanks for contributing to the debate, which will run and run.....



MG Imagery said...

I still think a D800 will be more of a medium format companion moreso than a competitor, you know, the whole right tool for the right job bit...

some other points that I think won't put it on the same level that I still haven't seen mentioned.

The files...and this is one of the bits of magic of DMF' there leeway in post processing abuse. There's so much latitude in the files for adjustment that you just can't imagine until you work with them yourself. Files from 35mm systems just don't have enough and they just start to fall apart when you really push them. It's crazy how much headroom you have in raws from MF backs. It's not just a matter of sensor size though, it's a combination of the entire capture path from the glass to the sensor to the ADC and so on that all add up that 35 is just lacking all around.

I don't say that to criticize 35, it's just different. Not looking for a D800 myself but if it just fell in my hands, I'd still shoot the hell out of it happily.

one thing about DMF lately that's been bugging me also with their megapixel wars, it seems even DMF is loosing it's own magic that made it special as resolution gets higher. Yeah, high resolution is great and all for those that need to print big but as it gets higher it looses it's depth and starts to look as flat and boring just as it's smaller sensored brethren.

There's a certain magical look that the larger sensored, larger pixel images had that are just gone after we've exceeded around 33mp or 7.2 micron pixels and smaller. Images from 80mp just don't seem to have that 3d'ish look that the 21-33ish mp images have that first drew the ahh and amazement of DMF backs....

Ahmed Behiry said...

well.. the d800 is defintly not a medium format competitor.. but wouldn't the built in HDR function in D800 make the gap a little bit smaller regarding the dynamic range?
As for the depth of field.. as you said.. it's physics.. but since the DOF is the sum of the sensor size and the focal length and the aperture together (isn't it?) .. isn't it possible to compensate for the size of the sensor in the d800 with higher focal length and lower apertures?

I'm just wondering..

Unknown said...

Dear Ahmed,

Thanks for your comment

I have not shot with a D800 (but I am keen to)

My experience of having shot on both is that you can seem to get close in some circumstances but in final analysis a DSLR will never be a Medium format camera and a Medium Format Camera will never be a DSLR ( though I do seem to recall Hasselblad somewhat misguidedly referring to the H3D as a DSLR in an ad campaign...)

If you need something small, light and fast then the DSLR is the right tool for the job.

If you seek ultimate quality Medium Format is the way to go.



Ahmed Behiry said...

well.. I need some thing small .. fast.. with the ultimate quality.. but unfortunately I can only afford the d800.. even if I can afford a medium format camera I think I wouldn't get one.. I'm feeling guilty already for ordering the d800 :D

Unknown said...

Dear Ahmed,

As has been said many times before, it is just a camera.

It is a dumb and inanimate object.

Go and create something stunning and different with you new camera.



Unknown said...

The announcement of such a camera like the D800 is IMHO a great thing for the industry. Phase1 gear has been overpriced and now a similar offering (at least in MP) for a fraction of the cost Im hoping will mean P1 will lift their game further.

I had an IQ160 for the past week with the P1 645DF body and 4 lenses (28/4.5, 55/2.8 LS, 80/2.8 LS and 110/2.8 LS)

Yes the file quality is insane, but what let the whole experience down for me was the completely rubbish AF performance of the 645 body. Its completely horrible. I reverted to manually focusing most of my shots, especially when they were f4.5 and shallower. And that was still an unpleasant experience with 80mm+ and f4 and under.

The 645DF body is somewhat dated now. It is really due for a new replacement. If they could package some actual decent AF performance into it I would serious look at getting an IQ outfit.

Its no wonder a lot of landscape photographers use 3rd party bodies like the cambo, alfas and horseman brand.

When my sub $4k dslr focuses better and I get far more infocus shots I don't care how much megapixels it doesn't have, you can't refocus an out of focus shot.

Im hoping mounting the IQ160 or the IQ180 on the hasselblad H4X will be somewhat less disappointing. The hassy's true focus sounds promising for the style of fashion and portraits that I shoot.

MFDB is not there yet. I believe DSLR's are pushing close to where they have been comfortably sitting for a while. Hopefully it means further evolution. Then its wins all round. (except for our bank accounts)

Taki Bibelas said...

I have a Phaseone camera with a P40+ and all the LS lenses. I'm getting tired of holding it as it is so heavy with the air grip that I need to I dont run out of batteries all the time.

The DOF is terrible, I have to shoot at f8 to make sure people are in focus. With my Canon I can shoot at 1.4 and the background is nice and blurry and the auto focus makes sure the face in the focus. With the LS lenses if I open them up all the way most of the shots are blurry. I shoot models not still life so they do tend to move. If someone is in Paris and they wat to buy a full Phase one set up still under warranty let me know, I'm ready to go back to 35mm.

Unknown said...

Well I do concur. I have the Hasselblad H3dII 50 and it is much better than the Nikon in regards to IQ. I should say that I found similar AF issues when I had the Mamiya 645 ADFII as some are mentioning. The Hassy is so much better in that area. That is a calibration issue though and not an inherent shortcoming of the MF. I acutually get MORE DOF with my H3DII-50 than the D800. I attribute it to far superior lens in the system.

The D800 is far far ahead of anything that Canon is making with regards to shadow noise and truly is knocking at the door of MF though.

If you really want to see DOF try a Digitar or Digiron lens on an Alpa 12. I bought one instantly. Remember that a sharper more resolving lens has a smaller circle of confusion and will give more useable DOF.

Rana Hamza said...

Win a Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark III
Enter in the Draw here:
Do it fast before the Deadline Hits

gharip gadalla said...

مزيكا فور واى