4.07.2017

Full frame versus one inch? Nope; it's not a contest.


One of these images was made with a $1500, one inch sensor, bridge camera while the other was made with a camera most would consider either "the" or "one of" the current state of the art, full frame camera ($3200) coupled with a $1500 lens. If I pull them onto a 27 inch Retina screen and blow them both up I can tell that one is less noisy, a bit more detailed, and has slightly nicer overall tonality (chalk that up to increased dynamic range). Would my client care which camera made which photograph? Hardly. They are looking for the right moment, the right expression, the right composition and the right emotion. The idea of "extreme" technical differences between these cameras would be laughable to them. So, which one is from the RX10iii and which was created by the A7rii? The one on top is the RX while the one on the bottom is the A7xx.

I was thinking about the images I recently shot for Zach Theatre as I drank coffee this morning and read the usual sites. I start with the Washington Post, dabble in the Wall Street Journal and NY Times and sometimes end up seeing what's new over at DP Review. Today, chomping on a waffle, I started reading through the comments on DP Review that readers had left on the Fuji medium format camera review. That inspired me to also read the review.  Given all the hoopla attached to breathless "previews" and "first impressions" looks at the product I presumed that DP Reviewers would find the camera (GFX 50S) to be a very big step up from the full frame contingent from Nikon, Sony and Canon. It was not the case. 

While the reviewers found the camera endearing and brave they also had to admit that the output from the Sony A7rii was, in some cases, very close to the overall quality in comparison and, in some cases, even superior. Add in fast, sharp lenses and great zooms and the review soon devolved into a study of just how far 35mm sized systems have come and how the system really determines how well the various  cameras will work and how high the quality of the output will be. And they mentioned that it would be nice if the two MF cameras focused, you know, more rapidly. And more importantly, will the quality of MF translate into the kind of work you do. 

I laughed at one point when someone on the DPReview staff earnestly wrote that there was a difference of .08th of a stop in some performance aspect of the Fuji MF versus the H-Blad mirrorless MF camera. A pea under the mattress of the reviewer princess, indeed. 

As expected, the comments ran the gamut but the schism was between people who encouraged putting off a final judgement until the MF makers could rush faster lenses to the market in order to match the (mindless) equivalency between the systems, and the people who already knew that this kind of MF camera, coupled with slow lenses, at misguided focal lengths, would render the product only useful to collectors and people anxious to show off their purchasing power (awfully hard to bring your luxe car into the night club with you on the end of a strap...).

Which brings me back to the question of competition between formats and sensor sizes. There are differences but they are aesthetic specific. You need ultra thin depth of field you go one way, you need incredible reach you go another way. But point of view, mastery of lighting, directing and composition mostly trump a lot of technical considerations....at least where clients are concerned. 

I have several full frame cameras but I find myself preferring to shoot most things with a one inch sensor camera. When it comes to producing video I am even more firmly in the one inch camp. Master the techniques of photography and the absolutism of format tyranny fades. It's nice.


While the commenters at DP Review seemed to think that there were never fast lenses for medium format systems I remember owning and using the Zeiss Planar 110mm f2.0 with a Hasselblad 201F for a while. That and the 150mm f2.8 seemed plenty fast to me.

5 comments:

Bob Krist said...

You are a constant voice of wisdom and insight....probably because you actually make pictures for a living, and not exclusively for camera reviews. You dinosaur, you!

amolitor said...

I own a 110/2.8 from Mamiya. I'm pretty sure I could beat a horse to death with it.

Mike Rosiak said...

Kirk,

I had to chuckle this morning, when I read "as I drank coffee this morning and read the usual sites. I start with the Washington Post, dabble in the Wall Street Journal and NY Times and sometimes end up seeing what's new over at DP Review"

Because I had just read the Washington Post, checked the headlines in the WSJ, checked in at Slate and Politico and Washington Monthly, then went over to TOP and VSL.

I have this picture of Mike Johnston doing something similar, and Andrew also, and each of you routinely checking each other's sites. I think I should start my own blog, and join the club. I'm not in anything like the league your or Mike are, nor Andrew Molitor, who describes himself as "a cranky old bastard who has been taking crappy pictures for 20 years or so." 55 years for me, and I'm an IT guy by profession.

FWIW, the main photo sites I hit are TOP, VSL, Photothunk, Working Pictures, and The Online Darkroom (TOD?)

mikepeters said...

Sensor size, megapixels, bokeh, hike!

Our clients don't care what we shoot with, only we do. A sufficient amount of information provided in an aesthetically pleasing way that is useful to our client, and/or expresses our point of view are all that is necessary. Use the right tool for the job at hand, or just rent it when you need it.

I think it was 2003 or so when Alex Majoli was shooting big stories for Newsweek, won a bunch of awards too. They were all shot with Olympus C5050 point and shoot cameras! The cameras worked for his vision and the images worked for his clients.

Gordon Cahill said...

"While the commenters at DP Review seemed to think that there were never fast lenses for medium format systems I remember owning and using the Zeiss Planar 110mm f2.0 with a Hasselblad 201F for a while. That and the 150mm f2.8 seemed plenty fast to me."

Yep. They seem to miss plenty over there recently. Including the currently available Leica 100mm Summicron S, which is f2 and the Hasselblad 100mm f2.2.

Gordon