I was not in Ireland, but I was at the recent PODAS in Death Valley (April). This wasn’t a master class, so there was significantly less existing medium format experience. However, two of us had technical cameras and both were Alpa STC’s. Kevin also brought a third Alpa STC, but I think it was rarely, if ever used by anyone. I had just purchased mine but did not have a digital back, so I was in the market for one, and hence my decision to attend PODAS. I took a big leap from a dslr to a technical camera.
Since I never shot a Phase camera, I shot the 645DF the first day. After that I used my Alpa for the remainder of the trip. I will say the results I got from the DF camera were better than I expected. I focused manually but used the focus indicators to assist (arrows indicate inside or outside the focus point). After switching to the Alpa, I used focus bracketing almost all the time because my rookie skills were quite green (and still are). I like the DF for what it is. But my main reasons for going with a technical camera, and specifically the Alpa were 1) the shooting style, and 2) the light weight. I plan to backpack, trek and canoe with this.
I think my results were better with the Alpa. Was that because of the camera or my dedication? I really don’t know. Several other participants commented how my images seemed sharper with more detail. But if that was the case, I think it is because focusing on a technical camera is just a more precise process. It is easier to get very close to correct focus with an autofocus camera. But I maintain it is easier to get precise focus with a technical camera like an Alpa with HPF rings or an Arca simply because of the longer throw from close focus to infinity. I had two lenses with me: 43xl and the HR100. I have since added an SK150.
For me the bottom line is that it is so much more enjoyable using a technical camera. Funny that most would consider not having a light meter, autofocus, or even a viewfinder would think it limiting or confining. But I find it quite liberating. And yes, I will admit I think there is something romantic about using a technical camera. I'm not full-time pro, so for me it is all about the process.