I am currently shooting wilderness landscapes and some architecture using a Mamiya 645 w/ a Phase One P30 (non plus) back. My primary lens for both is the Mamiya-Secor C 35mm f3.5 N, and I have what I think is a good copy, but it is decidedly soft at the edges, and suffers from some CA. Capture One helps w/ the CA, but can't sharpen up soft edges. My prints look good at 17x22, fair at 24x30 (good in the center), but the edges at anything larger just don't cut it for landscape print sales. I've never shot large format, but when I look at prints by skilled landscape photographers using 8x10 cameras and sacnned film, I can readily see that they are in an entirely different league.
I am therefor beginning to consider moving to a tech camera/digital back system, but recognize that the financial step is considerable, and won't be justified until I am able to sell more large prints, and book more architecture jobs. But camera decisions aren't always justified financially, and gravity is pulling me, so I want to try to answer a few questions.
1) I have been told by the good folks at Capture Integration that tech cameras (when using movements) are not compatible w/ the P30 back, due to the angle of incidence of light on the sensor, and the cupped design of the P30 sensor sites. Can the P30 back be used w/ 35mm or wider tech lenses if no movements (or a camera like the Alpa TC) are used?
2) If no tilt is used and one is shooting at the lens sweet spot f-stop (f11 or so), can classic landscape high depth of field be achieved? It's typical to want focus from 2ft to infinity, and obviously w/ lens tilt that is possible. f16 is the sweet spot for the 35mm Mamiya lens, so that kind of depth of field is do-able.
3) With current generation back displays and non-tethered shooting, what are the ideal methods for focusing for critical sharpness? The P30 display is utterly, completely, horribly (add other adjectives as desired) inadequate for critical focus checking of any kind. I doesn't seem that the newer backs offer much of an improvement, certainly not enough to justify moving to a newer back for that reason alone. (I rely purely on depth of field to be confident that I have focus)
4) (and ultimately, the most important) Is a tech camera system such as a Cambo, Alpa, or Arca-swiss with a moderately wide lens (and good technique) really able to deliver stunningly sharp prints at 36-40 inches? This is not about 'pixel peeping'. I believe that the buyer of a 40" landscape print is seduced my many qualities in the print, but one of the most important is edge-to-edge detail resolution. I do not expect a print from something less that a P65+ to equal one from 8x10 scanned film, but that is the benchmark.
Comments on the merits of each of the camera systems above and some of the medium/wide Schneider and Rodenstock lenses would be appreciated.