I'm just looking for some general guidance here. Since Christmas, I have been shooting digital for the first time on my beloved Hasselblads using a CFV-39 back. I suppose that there are not that many people in my position, where I am using exactly the same cameras, lenses and accessories which I have used for many years, and now instead of a film magazine there is a 39MP digital device hung on there instead. Well, only users of Hasselblad V-system and Contax 645, perhaps.
By now I have shot about 150 frames I suppose (the CFV had to go back to Denmark to be fixed under warranty, so I lost a month). And I am having so much trouble with focus and depth of field it is driving me insane. Where before, with scanned film, I would reckon to get at least 90% or more of my shots correctly focused and with adequate DOF, now it is about 50% if I am lucky. My DOF seems to have disappeared - using the DOF scale on the lens is pointless, and hyperfocal focusing (which I used to use a lot) is a total write-off. The other crazy thing is how sensitive the camera has become to camera shake - I am even getting blur from camera shake when shooting off a tripod, unless I am terribly careful and use the mirror pre-release religiously.
The really annoying thing is, that some shots are absolutely perfect, even hand-held at lowish shutter speeds. I try just as hard to get the focus pulled on every shot, but my results have become completely inconsistent, so I will get one brilliant result and the next frame will be pants.
Are digital sensors really so demanding?
I'll admit I rarely post on forums but I do learn a great deal from them. I thought this thread would be a good opportunity for me to share my experience.
Like John who started the post, I am shooting a CFV-39 with a 503CW, and focusing can be very much of a problem. In the past, I've owned a Mamiya AFD + Aptus 22 and an H3DII-31. I've always loved working with the V system with film and thought I would give it a try with a digital back, although I did suspect the large digital sensor would perhaps be too demanding for manual focusing.
I purchased the system with the idea to shoot it primarily in the studio on a tripod. I am actually getting very accurate results using an Acute Matte D screen and a the built-in magnifier of the waistlevel finder. I also use a chimney and go back and forth with the latter. The Acute Matte D screen has the split image and microprism combo. I like the microprism very much but find the the combination of ground glass/microprism/split image a bit too distracting. I have been thinking of ordering a screen from Bill Maxwell with just the microprism or actually none of the central aids. Does anyone have any experience with Bill Maxwell's screen and digital-V?
While I am getting satisfying results in the studio, shooting handheld outside is another story... At first, the keeper rate was null; every image was blurry, either from focusing or from what looked like motion blur. I am now starting to get better results, but the keeper rate is barely above 50%. I found that focusing just with the waistlevel finder will not do it. I definitely need to use the built-in magnifier or a chimney. I also find that the DOF is very shallow, and feels even more so than with film.
I took the camera yesterday to do some random focusing test. These are simple shots with no great contents, and just for illustration.
This shot was taken handheld at ISO 100 f8 and 1/250. It is a good example of how sharp the image can be. I've done very minimal editing in Phocus and exporting the file to full-size with quality of 10 to reduce the file size a bit. It is still 10MB so make take time to download:
I got a number of other images which were quite acceptable in sharpness. Again, this is handheld, probably stopped down a bit, around 5.6:
However, the greatest part of my images were more or less blurry. If I pixel-peep, I would qualify these as unacceptable and would send the file straight to the trash. But I dug through scans done at similar pixel size with a Creo scanner, and I was surprise to see that what I regarded as blurry shots were pretty close to what I was getting on film.
Here are two examples:
1. film, probably Ilford HP-4 ISO125:
We know that the CFV-39 is capable of much better results, but I think that this image could actually make a very good print if I compare it to the film shot. This a crop at 5000 pixels image. Downsized for screen viewing or for an 8x10 print, you could probably not tell it is blurry.
This is another shot I took from about 6 or 7 ft away at f2.8. The pebble measures about 1in. The DOF is very shallow, yet I was able to shoot this handheld:
Digital is definitely very much more demanding. I think the choice of camera comes down to ones preferences and goal. Comparing H to V systems having owned both, my keeper rate was much greater with the H3DII-31. I actually I don't remember focusing handheld was ever a problem. Yet I like the body and lenses of the V system much more, and since I primarily shoot on a tripod and take my time to compose images, I find the V more suited for my photography. In an ideal world, I would love a back which would fit both V and H systems, or any other AF systems.