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Can you really “see“ medium format?

  
 
zeitlos
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Today I came across a sales advert on Facebook from a really great (portrait) photographer who was selling his Pentax 645 medium format camera. One would think it's because he's leaving Pentax. But no, he sells it in order to switch to the newer one (but not new - unfortunately Pentax is no longer continuing its digital medium format line...).

I have always really liked his portraits. Of course I ask myself: Can you really see medium format in the pictures? I suspect the answer: no. But maybe I'm wrong?

Btw. Of course, the question immediately came up on Facebook as to why not Fuji medium format. He hasn't responded (yet?), but as someone who used to take photos with Pentax (up to the K-1), I know about the great imaging performance of Pentax cameras, especially when it comes to portraits. Of course, I also know that these cameras are very easy to use.

I'm currently thinking about whether I should treat myself to a Pentax 645 with a portrait lens just for fun.
Side question: What focal length is considered a “portrait focal length” in medium format?



Mar 26, 2024 at 08:28 AM
johnvanr
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


The Pentax 645Z has the same sensor as the Fuji 50mp MF cameras. It’s a great sensor. The Pentax is much heavier to use, but would do fine for portrait work. In good Pentax tradition, the ergonomics are great.

Personally, I think the larger sensor with a good lens renders the skin nicer as the light falls off. But it’s pretty close to FF with an excellent lens.



Mar 26, 2024 at 08:46 AM
zeitlos
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Thank you for your answer! Very interesting. I didn‘t know that the Sony and the Fuji share the same sensor.

And yes, I fully agree with what you wrote about Pentax‘ ergonomics etc. And very good glass…
But maybe, as you also mentioned, it‘s too close to my Sony FF with lets say a Simga 105 1.4 or Sony GM 1.2.

Btw. the photographer I mentioned is Zachar Rise. He‘s now switching to the Pentax 645Z from his older Pentax 645. https://35photo.pro/zachar



Mar 26, 2024 at 12:25 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Can you 'see' medium format? No. There is nothing inherently special about the format, especially given the types of lenses that are made for medium format. For instance, you can get the same 'look' as a medium format camera and fast lens using any full-frame camera with a fast lens, because full frame has significantly faster lenses available for it. This is especially true with the Pentax / Fujifilm medium format sensors, since they are only 1.25x the size of full frame - just a bit bigger, and nowhere near the size of medium format film, where even 645 (the 'small' medium format film) is significantly larger, and 6x7 and 6x9 are massively larger.

Even when shooting medium format film on, say, a Mamiya 645, with their very fast 80mm f/1.9, you'll get the same general look as shooting with a 50mm f/1.2 on full-frame.

With all that said, the larger sensor digital will provide added resolution for the newer cameras, and phenomenal low-ISO dynamic range, because all things being equal, capturing more light with the larger sensor is going to yield higher image quality.

So there is an image quality advantage, as one would expect, just as there's a rather significant image quality advantage to shooting medium format film vs. 35mm, but beyond that, there isn't a special 'look' to medium format, despite what a lot of people may say. And due to advances in sensor design, the jump in image quality from an excellent modern full-frame camera to a modern medium format digital camera is much smaller, because the smaller format now can produce images that are spectacular at huge print sizes. Most people don't print or display their images large enough where the added quality is easily noticeable.



Mar 26, 2024 at 12:38 PM
MAubrey
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


I think it was something easier to see when everything was film and formats were distinguished by how much the grain was enlarged.

I have a Mamiya ADFIII and an IQ160 and an A7rII. I know what's what. I know what my Mamiya lenses look like for rendering versus my Sony and Sigma ones.

But really, the main thing that isn't lens rendering that I see is really just 3x4 aspect ratio versus a 3x2 aspect ratio.

Sony GM 35mm f/1.4






Mamiya 45mm f/2.8







Mar 26, 2024 at 01:10 PM
RoamingScott
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


The big difference in modern digital "medium format" and full frame are the tonal falloffs, with the mini-MF and MF options having generally better/wider color rendition and smoother tonal transitions.

You have to generally get to f/1.2 past 40mm on FF to start to replicate the MF pop. There are only a handful of FF lenses that can replicate that look.



Mar 26, 2024 at 01:22 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


RoamingScott wrote:
The big difference in modern digital "medium format" and full frame are the tonal falloffs, with the mini-MF and MF options having generally better/wider color rendition and smoother tonal transitions.

You have to generally get to f/1.2 past 40mm on FF to start to replicate the MF pop. There are only a handful of FF lenses that can replicate that look.


Eh, there are quite a lot more, actually. For instance, if you were shooting Hasselblad 500 series 6x6 film, their widish lens would be the 60mm f/4. This gives a very similar look to a 35mm f/2 on full frame.

The equivalent for Pentax 67 is their 75mm f/4.5, which is again, roughly equivalent to a 35mm f/2 on full frame. (37 f/2.2 to be precise).

Most medium format lenses are just not fast enough to really provide anything crazy that isn't achievable on full frame. Even the new 55mm f/1.7 for Fuji GFX is still just like a 43mm f/1.3 on full frame. No direct equivalent, but there are 40mm f/1.2s and 50mm f/1.2s available, and 40mm f/1.4s, which are all pretty darn close.

Meanwhile on full-frame, there are tons of 35mm f/1.4s, a 35mm f/1.2, even a 35mm f/0.95 and 40mm f/0.95, plus oodles of 50mm f/1.2s, 50mm f/0.95s and f/1s, etc.

You are certainly correct on the tonal rolloff, though. The benefits to more light.



Mar 26, 2024 at 01:36 PM
RoamingScott
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Jman13 wrote:
Eh, there are quite a lot more, actually. For instance, if you were shooting Hasselblad 500 series 6x6 film, their widish lens would be the 60mm f/4. This gives a very similar look to a 35mm f/2 on full frame.

The equivalent for Pentax 67 is their 75mm f/4.5, which is again, roughly equivalent to a 35mm f/2 on full frame. (37 f/2.2 to be precise).

Most medium format lenses are just not fast enough to really provide anything crazy that isn't achievable on full frame. Even the new 55mm f/1.7 for Fuji GFX is still just like a 43mm
...Show more

I literally started my post with the "digital" qualifier I'm not talking about older film lenses at all.

And yes, the CV 50/1 exists, but oddly, it has less of that MF look than the 40/1.2. It's a weird one. You're basically down to a 50/1.2, the crappy Mitakon 0/.95 or the CV 40 on FF for THE LOOK and you only get it at a single aperture (one that is rife with issues on both the CV 40/1.2 and Mitakon).



Mar 26, 2024 at 01:44 PM
MAubrey
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Jman13 wrote:
Eh, there are quite a lot more, actually. For instance, if you were shooting Hasselblad 500 series 6x6 film, their widish lens would be the 60mm f/4. This gives a very similar look to a 35mm f/2 on full frame.

The equivalent for Pentax 67 is their 75mm f/4.5, which is again, roughly equivalent to a 35mm f/2 on full frame. (37 f/2.2 to be precise).

Most medium format lenses are just not fast enough to really provide anything crazy that isn't achievable on full frame. Even the new 55mm f/1.7 for Fuji GFX is still just like a 43mm
...Show more

Hasselblad's 200/2000 series also has a really lovely 50mm f/2.8, which if you're cropping 35mm to square is like 21.5mm f/1.2 (versus the diagonal equivalent 25mm f/1.4). Here is is on the Phase One IQ160 (=32mm f/1.8).







Mar 26, 2024 at 01:47 PM
RoamingScott
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


I also think there are pretty low returns on investment if ALL you're worried about is bokeh quality/creaminess with MF vs FF...FF is darn close.

However, you'll never ever ever get even a digital MF to exhibit the same qualities of a MF film photo, so if anyone is interested in MF, I'd implore them to pick up a cheap MF film kit and hack away...the results are so different than what they'll be used to in the digital world.



Mar 26, 2024 at 01:51 PM
 


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MAubrey
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


RoamingScott wrote:
I also think there are pretty low returns on investment if ALL you're worried about is bokeh quality/creaminess with MF vs FF...FF is darn close.

However, you'll never ever ever get even a digital MF to exhibit the same qualities of a MF film photo, so if anyone is interested in MF, I'd implore them to pick up a cheap MF film kit and hack away...the results are so different than what they'll be used to in the digital world.


Yep. I don't think anything in MF gets to something like the Laowa 35mm f/.95.







I don't keep MF cameras around for bokeh. I got them for the experience of shooting film.



Mar 26, 2024 at 01:54 PM
mike reid
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


I think I get a sense of it when I am doing aerials








Mar 26, 2024 at 02:38 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


The only benefits of 44x33 medium format digital to me are:
– High resolution 100mp sensors
– Access to modern GF or XCD lenses designed specifically for mirrorless
– Native 4:3 image ratio

For landscape, you may need to go all in and start focus stacking if you don't already. For shots with near-to-far detail, the DOF on 44x33 (at 100mp viewed at the pixel level) is too narrow even stopped down for perfect sharpness across the image. 60mp full frame has already necessitated focus stacking for many compositions, but the extra vertical space 4:3 allows in the horizontal orientation can add more distance you need to cover with the already narrow DOF, making it even harder to get single shot landscapes without resorting to shooting wide open for a specific look instead of stopping down.

Can you "see" it? If you're looking for detail, then on a good monitor at home, probably. Can you "see" it in wide open portraits? Maybe, but I'm of the opinion that it's the 4:3 image ratio that makes a bigger difference to the feeling of the image than the sensor size and lens used.

In the film era, the difference between 35mm and medium format was much more of a big deal, even for average size enlargements. Medium format negatives were easier and less expensive to have professionally retouched for portraits. Shooting a wedding on 35mm in the film era was considered an amateur effort. The difference between 35mm and 6x7 medium format even at 8x10 in a wedding album was striking, especially for group shots with lots of small faces.



Mar 26, 2024 at 04:14 PM
Jman13
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Can you really “see“ medium format?




highdesertmesa wrote:
The only benefits of 44x33 medium format digital to me are:
– High resolution 100mp sensors
– Access to modern GF or XCD lenses designed specifically for mirrorless
– Native 4:3 image ratio

For landscape, you may need to go all in and start focus stacking if you don't already. For shots with near-to-far detail, the DOF on 44x33 (at 100mp viewed at the pixel level) is too narrow even stopped down for perfect sharpness across the image. 60mp full frame has already necessitated focus stacking for many compositions, but the extra vertical space 4:3 allows in the horizontal orientation can add more distance
...Show more

I agree wholeheartedly with this. Digital, 35mm is outstanding quality for big prints up to 36-48”.

When I started ahooting film again, I ran a couple of rolls of 35mm and the overall quality was significantly below what I found acceptable for my work. Shooting 645 and then later 6x6, and I feel like I can do similar excellent enlargements.



Mar 26, 2024 at 04:26 PM
bemei
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


We ran a test some years back between the then new P1 100 megapixel back on the latest DF body versus the D810's and A7r III's we were using in the studio at the time. We had a whole lot of experience with them and our Leaf 40 Aptus II-8 MFDB but that P1 blew our minds for colour range, fidelity and tonality. That and the amount of work that went into profiling and maximising the potential of those P1 files in Capture one was probably 1000% in favour of Phase One at the time, they were still the same company back then. Unfortunately our clients at the time couldn't tell the difference in the end product once all the post was done and weren't therefore willing to pay the premium.

As such I would say, yes the difference is there but not enough for the end product to justify the cost unless you're playing in a higher league than we were.

If I was to have to make a crude comparison, certain cars are drivers cars but the passenger in the back rarely cares about the difference. Such is life.

Edited on Mar 28, 2024 at 12:56 PM · View previous versions



Mar 28, 2024 at 12:54 PM
Andrew CD
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


RoamingScott wrote:
I also think there are pretty low returns on investment if ALL you're worried about is bokeh quality/creaminess with MF vs FF...FF is darn close.

However, you'll never ever ever get even a digital MF to exhibit the same qualities of a MF film photo, so if anyone is interested in MF, I'd implore them to pick up a cheap MF film kit and hack away...the results are so different than what they'll be used to in the digital world.


Good point! I have no experience of MF (film or digital) that could enable me to disagree, but I strongly suspect you’re right. @highdesertmesa makes a similar, excellent point about the relative difference of 35mm and MF for film and digital.

The reason I’m particularly interested to hear these opinions is that I am wondering whether to explore some form of MF for B&W landscapes.

(An obvious 35mm alternative would be an M10 or M11 Monochrom, of course, for which I would trade in my M11 but, at this point in time, I don’t feel that this is the right option for me. I do realise that for low light / ultra-high ISO they are uniquely capable, but that’s not what I’m after. ISO 400 is more than enough for me!)

Simplistically, I guess there are two options: colour to B&W conversion from MF digital (ideally a 100mp sensor) or B&W film. And I have long had an irrational desire to try a Hasselblad 500 ….

So, although it would undoubtedly be interesting to try colour to B&W conversion with something like a Hasselblad X2D (the lenses look fantastic, and IBIS would also be welcome), I’m beginning to think I know what the right answer is ….

I do have one 35mm question, though: are the two CVs and the Mitakon the only lenses (and wide open?) that you feel can give the MF “pop”? If so, that’s an interesting assertion!

Anyway, apologies for the ramble and for going rather off-topic. I might post one or two questions in a separate thread, once I’ve thought about it a bit more.

Andrew



Mar 28, 2024 at 12:55 PM
markhout
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Just as a side note. If you are into landscapes, and on the fence between Leica M and digital medium format, then you should also consider equipment weight.

For example compare the weight of a GFX 100 camera + Mitakon 65mm (potentially + tripod!) with a M11 + 50mm.

Would recommend renting a X2D or GFX 100 and take it out of a hike just to get a sense of whether the perceived IQ improvement outweighs the extra ballast.



Mar 28, 2024 at 01:11 PM
RoamingScott
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


The difference in sharpness, tonal transitions, and detail between the X2D/GFX100 files vs anything on full frame are what make those cameras special.

That said, you're only going to notice that on your very high resolution monitor. It barely registers on a print until you're getting up to 70+ inches on the long side.

If you "consume" your work on your computer, the "upgrade" might be worth it. It might not in the field when you're dealing with heft/battery life/longer glass, etc.

If you're interested in landscapes, lenses like the very fast CVs or Mitakon are not relevant. The thing that makes them special wide open makes them terrible for landscapes.



Mar 28, 2024 at 01:16 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


Andrew CD wrote:
Good point! I have no experience of MF (film or digital) that could enable me to disagree, but I strongly suspect you’re right. @highdesertmesa@ makes a similar, excellent point about the relative difference of 35mm and MF for film and digital.

The reason I’m particularly interested to hear these opinions is that I am wondering whether to explore some form of MF for B&W landscapes.

(An obvious 35mm alternative would be an M10 or M11 Monochrom, of course, for which I would trade in my M11 but, at this point in time, I don’t feel that this is the right option
...Show more

Your M11 is the same pixel density as the GFX 100S/II but with thinner cover glass and a microlens array more suited to small M lenses. There's no proof, but it's widely assumed they share the same base sensor from Sony. So just turn the M11 vertically and take two or three shots (depending on how much overlap you give it), stitch them together as a panorama, and you have the equivalent or better than what you'd get from a 44x33 sensor. The only potential detractors would be any stitching artifacts, perspective errors, and lens IQ differences. An M11 2-3 shot pano taken using a Voigtlander 35 or 50 APO will be on par with or exceed the IQ of the same single image from the 100S/II with the GF 45 or 63 respectively. Of course that's tripod shooting. Handhold your M11 and the IQ drops if you're not rock solid or shooting at high shutter speeds.

I think medium format for b&w, even 6x7 or 6x9, may disappoint you compared to the IQ of the M11 with an APO lens or compared to the GFX or Hasselblad 44x33. You'd probably need to shoot 8x10 film Ansel Adams style and wet drum scan it to get close. But I guess you gain the perspective movements once you move to large format film, so there's that. Basically you're exchanging the tedium of focus stacking for the tedium involved with large format film. You really have to want to do that and enjoy doing that, seeing both the process and the result as an imperfect art form.

I still recommend not going exclusively with an M11M unless you also have an equivalent color camera available such as the M11 or GFX/Hasselblad. If you don't keep a high IQ color camera, you'll sometimes want to crawl out of your skin when there's a glorious scene before you that only looks good in color. Perhaps a Q3 would be a good M11M companion if you wanted to save money, but a used M11 (non-P) isn't worth much more than a new Q3 right now anyway.



Mar 28, 2024 at 03:17 PM
highdesertmesa
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Can you really “see“ medium format?


markhout wrote:
Just as a side note. If you are into landscapes, and on the fence between Leica M and digital medium format, then you should also consider equipment weight.

For example compare the weight of a GFX 100 camera + Mitakon 65mm (potentially + tripod!) with a M11 + 50mm.

Would recommend renting a X2D or GFX 100 and take it out of a hike just to get a sense of whether the perceived IQ improvement outweighs the extra ballast.


And you can carry your M11 to dinner with you at a restaurant and not look like a complete dork, so it doesn't have to stay behind in the vehicle or hotel room and get stolen



Mar 28, 2024 at 03:20 PM
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