Why don't you try a MF digital camera?
A reader of the VSL blog recently wrote to suggest, after reading my post about photographing Lou with my film Hasselblad, that I try out a medium format digital camera before making the assessment about which path will ultimately yield better results. I thought I would remind my readers that I've been down that road before, for months at a time, and with three different systems. In 2009 and 2010 Studio Photographer Magazine commissioned me to test and write about three of the MF digital cameras that were just coming on to the market. My two most memorable tests were of the Leaf AFi7 with a 39 megapixel back and the Phase One 45+ because, at the time, they were the state of the art.
I also reviewed the less expensive Mamiya entry camera.
Once you got over the fact that you'd just signed for a $45,000 system (when the two delivered lenses are factored in) the Leaf camera was nice. It made beautiful files. The 180mm f2.8 Schneider lens was superb. It gave really nice out of focus performance and even better in focus performance. But it's autofocus was slow like paint drying and the tandem batteries in the camera and grip did their best to die often, and always out of sync. Would I still be shooting with the camera if someone bestowed it upon me for free? Yes. Was the calculus there for me to buy it and make more money with it? No.
The Phase One was as close to being the perfect medium format digital system I've shot with so far. The camera is much lighter and better set up than the Leaf and the lenses+body were small enough and light enough to be used handheld and to be carried around town.
The Mamiya was heading in the right direction price wise and I thought the files were just fine.
But with each of these cameras I kept coming back to the idea that I could dump the $25,000 or more into film and processing with cameras I already owned and get files that were just as good. And I could side step the handling and battery problems. The bottom line is that my clients didn't need the bigger files and I didn't need the additional expense. Not in the middle of the great recession...
If you want to read what I wrote about the cameras for the magazine (now discontinued) you can read them at these links.
So, how are those LED lights working out?
I read stuff on the web and die hard strobers are always telling people that LED's are too dim or that the color can't be used for professional jobs. Those people are limiting their own work by thinking in such a linear and bracketed way. While LED's aren't the perfect solution for everything they are great to have in your tool kit. I did a job with Ben on Tues. We shot video for a television commercial and stills for print. We used four LED panels to light a greenscreen background and another three on work main subjects. When we finished shooting video we clicked the camera over to the manual mode and banged off some raw files. All of them were beautiful. You'll see the commercial as soon as it's edited and approved. I don't use LEDs for everything but when I do I know it's a good choice. A recent job for a healthcare company was also done with all LED's. The difference it that those LED panels were all battery powered. We were able to move through location after locations almost as fast as if we had been shooting available light and the images were just right. The check cleared the bank.
This image has nothing to do with LEDs. I just like the graphic and the message.
The set doesn't get hot, you can work closer in to your subject and the color is easy to white balance. The use of continuous light gives you a level of control you'll never really have when using flash.
And when we rev up the cameras for a video shoot there's nothing I'd rather light with right now.
Photos of me by Amy Smith.
Finally. Could there be a better time to buy used stuff?