Let's have a look at the latest article in 'What's New' from James Martin.
This is an interesting description of the conflict between the seduction of a 'potentially more realistic image' and the practical realities of inflexibility and additional cost and weight of the MFDB system.
James Martin's title suggests that MFDB is more flexible than it's sometimes made out to be.
I would contest this view. I think there's no doubt that a larger sensor delivers better image quality, all else being equal. That's a given. But let's not kid ourselves as to its flexibility.
Full frame 35mm compared with the cropped format does at least retain, or even exceed, the flexibility of the smaller format. It exceeds it with respect to autofocussing at F8, for example. It may exceed it with respect to frame rate, for example.
The issue with MFDB is not that the quality at base ISO is not better than 35mm. It clearly is. The issue is that the MFDB system is cumbersome, heavy, lacks flexibility with regard to frame rates, liveview, high-iso performance, Dof, weight, and perhaps most important of all, cost.
Let's look at a few revealing examples from James Martin's article.
I concede that the equipment is relatively slow to operate and heavy enough that I canceled my gym membership while setting up a payment plan with my chiropractor, but whatever the challenges, the seductive resolution of the images I nail compels me to pack it every time.
Clearly, the message here is, the ultimate image quality transcends all. Never mind if you miss the moment because your equipment is inflexible. Those moments I capture make up for all the lost opportunities.
With immobile objects such as a grove of baobab trees or the tangle of the spiny forest, there wasn’t much difference between the Phase system and a 35mm rig, but animals were more challenging.
Really! With immobile objects there wasn't much difference between a Phase system and a 35mm rig?? I can't understand that. This is the precise situation where the MFDB reigns supreme. Low base ISO, slow shutter speed, tripod to eliminate camera shake, all contribute to a noticeably superior image quality with MFDB.
There was no way to capture skipping sifaka lemurs using autofocus; the system was too slow. Super telephotos are absurdly heavy, and mirror slap would blur the image at slower shutter speeds. I had to go old school, getting close and either focusing manually or, anticipating where the animal would go, focus on that spot and wait for the critical moment. I was back in 1990, but the old techniques still worked.
Is the message here, 'let's go back to old school and spurn the advantages of modern technology'? If you are in a position where you are photographing skipping lemurs, I concede it might be possible to get a spectacular shot using an MFDB, but I reckon a 35mm DSLR improves your chances.
For street photography, instead of snapping surreptitiously, I commandeered someone’s time, stood unmoving for so long they forgot about the tall guy with the tripod, or endured the jostle and press of the throngs long enough to capture a few moments.
Okay! So it is possible to do street photography with an MFDB, with difficulty. I'm not sure I have the time and patrience to stand in a position so long that people forget I'm there.
I don’t want to over sell the opportunities. There are times when the returns diminish to the vanishing point. Try to photograph a gazelle with a super telephoto, two tripods, and mirror lock up, and you will quickly exhaust your store of oaths and imprecations as your compatriots fill their cards with crisp images. After dusk, medium format street shooters hit the bars, but not to photograph unless they crave blurs and noise. Nothing does everything well.
I completley agree. Let's also consider the spectacular image of the Indian Sadhu with flowing long hair (much longer than mine. I'm envious). Even in such a small jpeg, the lack of resolution due to the lack of DoF in the lower half of the image is obvious. You take a shot of a Sadhu with spectacularly long hair, spilling out on the floor in front of you, but the hair is mostly out of focus and that's supposed to be good? C'mon! Let's get back to reality.
After coming to grips with issues great and small confronting medium format, I can’t go back to small sensors when medium format will do. When I zoom into an image and it holds together at each step, there’s a thrill I can’t relinquish.
Fair enough! But I think the key phrase here is, "I can't go back to small sensors when medium format will do". This applies to all of us, I suspect, whatever the range of formats we have. I've bought P&S cameras in the past, then got tired of them because image quality is so lousy compared with DSLRs. I always prefer to use FF 35mm instead of cropped format, except in circumstances where the effective longer reach of lenses, and the associated reduction in weight and cost, is an advantage. Consider the difference in cost and weight betweeen a 400/F4 and a 600/F4.
The fundamental issue for me is, when I move from an APS-C format to a FF 35mm format, I get a camera which is only marginally heavier, not significantly more expensive, and no less flexible in any respect, but actually slightly more flexible in some respects.
The move from FF 35mm to MFDB seems fraught with difficulty and enormous expense, in addition to a loss of flexibility as a bonus. Not particularly appealing in my opinion.
I hope I'm not offending anyone. I just think we should call a spade a spade.