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Author Topic: Medium format redefined  (Read 65603 times)

Petrus

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Medium format redefined
« on: August 27, 2015, 02:19:36 pm »

I made some comments on another photography site about the new Leica S 007 being a medium format camera (ok, it is). My point was that the old definition of Medium Format being anything larger than 135 sized sensor is not really relevant in the digital age.

During the film era things were simple: with the same or similar emulsions available in different sizes, you were able to increase the IQ simply by using bigger piece of film. With that came the effect of diminishing DOF with the same aperture lenses, etc. The MF look, if you wish. And LF look with large plates.

If we put this "scientifically" the formula which defined the "look" had only two variables: film size (which governed the IQ) and the lens aperture, larger formats having less DOF.

Now we have another variable in the equation: Sensor quality. Sensors can not be judged by surface area only, like film was (in a simplified sense). This makes the "format equation" much more complicated, because we can get the same MF quality with small but high resolution sensor with large aperture lenses. So a 135 size sensor (like Nikon D8xx, Sony & new Canon) with fast lens can give you optically the same picture as slightly larger "mid format" (?) sensor with slightly slower lens, as larger format lenses tend to be. As we know, new 135 sensors beat many MF backs and sensors both in resolution and all in DR. With a slightly faster lens all shallow DOF effects of MF cameras can be duplicated with smaller sensors also.

So are we stuck with the old film era definition of MF? How about defining digital MF as something with more than certain resolution (30 MPix?) and the availability of lenses for the system which give the same minimum DOF as f/1.4 on a 135 sensor, or f/2 on a "MF" sensor (whatever it is)? It should be the end result that matters, not the way it is achieved.
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Doug Peterson

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2015, 04:09:49 pm »

With a slightly faster lens all shallow DOF effects of MF cameras can be duplicated with smaller sensors also.

This has not been my experience.

torger

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2015, 04:26:36 pm »

There's a bit too much prestige in MF gear still I think. Too many want it to be a separate exclusive genre.

In the longer term however, I think forums like this will be called "high resolution photography" rather than "medium format" and include both high res smaller sensors and larger. The shooting techniques, challenges and questions are the same when shooting high res, regardless of sensor size.

That said there are today quite some MFD gear specific questions, and tech cams are quite a different animal, and many are using older second hand gear etc, this forum is good for that to share tips for this relatively rare gear.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2015, 04:30:28 pm by torger »
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Petrus

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2015, 04:33:24 am »

This has not been my experience.

It is really just descriptive geometry at work. Of course lenses have their own characteristics, but that is not directly tied to the size of their image circle.
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synn

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2015, 05:05:05 am »

It is really just descriptive geometry at work. Of course lenses have their own characteristics, but that is not directly tied to the size of their image circle.

It's not just the image circle and it's not just the lenses.
There is a large variety of factors, that COMBINED makes medium format shooting a whole different animal than shooting smaller formats.

Starting from the more deliberate way of planning a shot; (Can be a plus or minus, depending on your POV) more so if you're working with tech cams , the out of camera color renditions including better color seperation and tonal gradation, the shallower DoF for a given aperture and FoV as you mentioned, the post production workflow, per pixel "bite", the thickness of the files... all these combined makes it a very different way of working and output.

Of course, those who like to break everything down to numbers would argue that none of these are real, but these are my observations from actually using these formats to make pictures.

And megapixels have nothing to do with it either. Owning a 40MP MF back and a 36MP 135 format camera, I can consistently see that the difference between them is a lot wider than the 4MP would suggest. For one, the MF fileholds itself together very well, even when blown up to 200%. The 135 file completely fals apart in comparison.



(An example of the "Global color" look that is prevalent in most 135 cameras: The one that BC always talks about, vs better gradations in skintones on the MF file)

Even with low megapixel older backs, this can be seen. There is a "Fat pixel magic" thread in GetDPI with plenty of image samples that show this. At base ISO, a 16MP file from an older MF back is still superior to a 20+mp 135 camera in my books (Say, like the 6D).

So no, I don't believe in re-defining MF based on some arbitrary megapixel number or whatever. The old definitions still work great for me.
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BAB

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2015, 11:39:45 pm »

+1000
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AlterEgo

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2015, 12:35:02 am »

Of course, those who like to break everything down to numbers would argue that none of these are real, but these are my observations from actually using these formats to make pictures.

thank you for being modest and not invoking ghosts of "6 stops of DR advantage" and "16-bit raw files" staying with just "the thickness of the files"  ;)
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David Eichler

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2015, 01:28:57 am »

It's not just the image circle and it's not just the lenses.
There is a large variety of factors, that COMBINED makes medium format shooting a whole different animal than shooting smaller formats.

Starting from the more deliberate way of planning a shot; (Can be a plus or minus, depending on your POV) more so if you're working with tech cams , the out of camera color renditions including better color seperation and tonal gradation, the shallower DoF for a given aperture and FoV as you mentioned, the post production workflow, per pixel "bite", the thickness of the files... all these combined makes it a very different way of working and output.

Of course, those who like to break everything down to numbers would argue that none of these are real, but these are my observations from actually using these formats to make pictures.

And megapixels have nothing to do with it either. Owning a 40MP MF back and a 36MP 135 format camera, I can consistently see that the difference between them is a lot wider than the 4MP would suggest. For one, the MF fileholds itself together very well, even when blown up to 200%. The 135 file completely fals apart in comparison.



(An example of the "Global color" look that is prevalent in most 135 cameras: The one that BC always talks about, vs better gradations in skintones on the MF file)

Even with low megapixel older backs, this can be seen. There is a "Fat pixel magic" thread in GetDPI with plenty of image samples that show this. At base ISO, a 16MP file from an older MF back is still superior to a 20+mp 135 camera in my books (Say, like the 6D).

So no, I don't believe in re-defining MF based on some arbitrary megapixel number or whatever. The old definitions still work great for me.

Between the two examples, I prefer the look of the small-format image in this particular case. Yes, the medium format image has a slightly greater sense of depth to it, but I actually do not find that effect to be preferable for this particular image. I will say, however, that the small format image has a warmer overall color balance, which I find more appealing here, and I think it makes the other version look rather cold and unappealing by comparison. So, perhaps the difference in color balance is having some effect on my overall perception of the two images.
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synn

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2015, 04:45:40 am »

thank you for being modest and not invoking ghosts of "6 stops of DR advantage" and "16-bit raw files" staying with just "the thickness of the files"  ;)

I am a "reformed" velvia 50 shooter who started on the D70s in digital. So for me, anything over 6-7 stops of DR is a bonus, not a prerequisite. :)
Regarding DR, my D800 definitely can milk a lot more out of the shadows at base DR, but in a real world scenario, I have never really required to do this. In the studio, you're always working with optimal lighting and for landscaping, I work with filters and make some optimal exposure choices. Of course, when I want to do extra long exposures, I use the D800. This is why we have horses for courses, innit?

Below are two throwaway shots that show what the Credo's files can do in post. I am more than happy with that.





with respect to "Thickness", I am not talking about DR or whatever. As mentioned in the post, an MF file holds its own even when scaled up to 200% while the 135 file visibly degrades.
Here are some 100% crops of two files of the same location, shot with similar focal lengths using the same setup (MLU, cable release, very sturdy tripod). Both opened in ACR (It is not even the best converter for the credo files) with no settings changed. Credo on top, D800 at the bottom. Both scaled to 200% in Photoshop.

You can see just how much better the MF file holds up to the enlargement. this is very vital when working on larger prints. Yes, the megapixel counts are similar, but not all pixels are created the same. This is what I mean by "Thickness" :)
The numbers crowd can fight their battles about number of stops and whatever. I work with what I see.

p.s. I know that the Credo file shows visible chroma noise in this screenshot. Before someone brings the knives out about that, no noise reduction was applied to the files (Imported as they are from ACR). In my real workflow, opening the files in C1P and using its noise control tools (Including single pixel noise) cleans the files up beautifully for me.

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synn

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2015, 05:00:56 am »

Between the two examples, I prefer the look of the small-format image in this particular case. Yes, the medium format image has a slightly greater sense of depth to it, but I actually do not find that effect to be preferable for this particular image. I will say, however, that the small format image has a warmer overall color balance, which I find more appealing here, and I think it makes the other version look rather cold and unappealing by comparison. So, perhaps the difference in color balance is having some effect on my overall perception of the two images.

Hi David,

No worries, a warmer WB is mostly preferable for portraits. These images are again pretty much SOOC and I stuck with the default renderings. The Credo file can easily be warmed up in a second.
The point I was making though was that the skin in the D800 file has an overall "redness" to it, while the Credo file shows better tonal gradations. This is not something that can easily be corrected in post.

I have also seen this in landscapes where the smaller format muddles the greens up in foliage while the MF camera discriminates them better.



Both cameras in A mode, same setup, similar FoV, MLU, cable release and a sturdy tripod. WB picked manually in post from the same spot.
See how the greens in the D800 image gets polluted from the lighting all around them. The blues in comparison, hold up quite well though.

p.s. The last time I posted this sample, a well know Nikon supporter in the forum had a near-meltdown over it. One of his complaints were that the exposure times were different. Sadly, it seems like he is unaware of the fact that claimed ISO numbers for manufacturers is not necessarily the actual ones and when shooting in aperture priority, exposure times will vary from camera to camera. I invited him to do his own tests, haven't seen one yet. ;)
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 05:02:53 am by synn »
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torger

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2015, 05:14:13 am »

The differences claimed here sits 99% in the camera profile and 1% in the hardware, it has absolutely nothing to do with the size of the sensor.

However as photographers can't make their own profiles it doesn't really matter, but still the difference you see is a software one, not a hardware.

I would also strongly recommend against evaluating camera color in artifical narrow band light (the night landscape case), the results will be pretty random. Differences in color filter responses are exaggerated, and I can assure you no-one designs color filters to render pleasing colors in artificial peaky spectrum lights, as the task is virtually impossible and will damage the possiblities to perform well in good light conditions. It just happen to become what it becomes and in some conditions you're lucky.

One problem is that for most users there are only two raw converters, Capture One and Adobe Lightroom. Adobe doesn't make that great profiles, so any camera tested in Lightroom/ACR will be considered behind. And in Capture One there's a lot of effort put into the MFD profiles, and less effort for the 135 profiles and probably care to make them look a bit different (a really bad business decision if Phase One would strive to make the 135 look the same as their MF cameras).

That is, MFD has in practice a big software advantage, and it's not going to change anytime soon as I see it.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 05:20:00 am by torger »
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synn

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2015, 05:46:46 am »

The differences claimed here sits 99% in the camera profile and 1% in the hardware, it has absolutely nothing to do with the size of the sensor.

However as photographers can't make their own profiles it doesn't really matter, but still the difference you see is a software one, not a hardware.

I would also strongly recommend against evaluating camera color in artifical narrow band light (the night landscape case), the results will be pretty random. Differences in color filter responses are exaggerated, and I can assure you no-one designs color filters to render pleasing colors in artificial peaky spectrum lights, as the task is virtually impossible and will damage the possiblities to perform well in good light conditions. It just happen to become what it becomes and in some conditions you're lucky.

One problem is that for most users there are only two raw converters, Capture One and Adobe Lightroom. Adobe doesn't make that great profiles, so any camera tested in Lightroom/ACR will be considered behind. And in Capture One there's a lot of effort put into the MFD profiles, and less effort for the 135 profiles and probably care to make them look a bit different (a really bad business decision if Phase One would strive to make the 135 look the same as their MF cameras).

That is, MFD has in practice a big software advantage, and it's not going to change anytime soon as I see it.

Torger,

I have mentioned several times that I have custom profiles for all my cameras. My observations regarding color are with custom profiles, in ALL light conditions. If I did deep into my backups, I can probably find similar examples in daylight, tungsten, sunset etc.
That said, I don't understand how color profiles can affect how a file holds up when scaled to 200% (And that was after an ACR conversion, where the MF file is at a disadvantage). I am asking this because you painted a broad stroke saying ALL the differences shown above can be attributed to profiles, while I am showing many distinct cases.

But I do agree, MF has a big software advantage and if 135 manufacturers don't want that gap to be narrowed, their loss. What I do not agree with is that C1P puts a subpar effort in for 135 files. A default C1P render of a D800 files is miles better than what Adobe can manage. And it only gets better when the IQ250 color profile is used. It's kinda hilarious that a ginormous corporation cannot match up to what a comparatively tiny company in Denmark can do with probably 1/10th the number of programmers.

Back to the topic though, it ties in quite well with what I was saying earlier. It's the whole package that makes MF a different beast to smaller formats. And that includes the tools available for post production too.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 05:55:42 am by synn »
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torger

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2015, 06:00:06 am »

Out of curiosity, which profiling software do you use to make your own profiles? I also make my own, recently using my own software. You might be interested in that, DCamProf (it's free).

That Adobe's colors are worse is not an objective truth of course, but what folks with MFD tastes generally think. Adobe themselves, which in this case I assume is Thomas Knoll in person, probably think that their color is great. When it comes to color it's probably one or two people that does it, both at Adobe and Phase One.

If you make your own profiles you probably know that cameras can be made to show almost the exact same color for a fixed light condition. Still C1 chooses to make color more different than it needs to be. There's a reason for that, and I think it's about business.

I missed the 200% thing, which as you say is of course not profile related. The D800 has aa filter which makes its blowup quality better due to less aliasing, but many photographers has developed a pixel peep taste that prefers aliasing artifacts over correct micro detail. And indeed remove the aa filter and have sharp lenses you get those "desirable " artifacts. Today 135 has that too though, so it's not format related. MFD has a lead though due to overall sharper lenses, especially in tech cams like I use myself.

I totally agree that one should consider the whole package including post processing, and I think software has more importance than many may think.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 06:13:29 am by torger »
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synn

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2015, 06:17:26 am »

My tools for color profiling are rather rudimentary by the standards of those who are hardcore into these kinda things.

For LR, I use the Spyder Color Checkr and their associated software to create profiles for different lighting conditions (For each camera, of course), tweak a bit to taste and save them. I use these as starting points.
For C1P, I shoot the Spyder color checkr in different lighting conditions, use a default color profile as starting point, use auto adjust, then do the fine tuning using the color editor and save as ICC profiles.

You"re definitely right that Photographers can benefit from doing custom profiling instead of sticking with the defaults. My cameras, across formats have benefited from this, but I maintain that the difference in color fidelity between MF and smaller formats still remain after this.

Regarding Adobe, it's not just the color rendering that I dislike about their RAW converter. Their default output requires quite some work to match the sharpening of C1P, lacks some features such as corner sharpening for WA lenses, lacks fine tuning tools such as the skin tone editor and so on.
In general, I only work with LR when I have a large batch of images to finish (Such as vacation pictures, which I am doing right now). Adobe certainly has a better library management module, but that is where my praise ends.

Quote
I missed the 200% thing, which as you say is of course not profile related. The D800 has aa filter which makes its blowup quality better due to less aliasing, but many photographers has developed a pixel peep taste that prefers aliasing artifacts over correct micro detail. And indeed remove the aa filter and have sharp lenses you get those "desirable " artifacts. Today 135 has that too though, so it's not format related. MFD has a lead though due to overall sharper lenses, especially in tech cams like I use myself.

Yes, the AA filter in the D800 does play a part in that, but I have observed the same with an AA filterless camera such as the D7100 that I owned for a while too (Granted, this is only APSC). I do not have access to a current AA less camera such as the A7RII to do side by tests, but you might be right, the difference might be lesser now.

Good point on the lenses as well. I do not have tech lenses, but the Schneider Kreuznach lenses for Phamiya are quite excellent IMO. 135 format has excellent lenses too, but the dud-to-excellent ratio is a lot more lopsided there.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 06:22:42 am by synn »
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EricWHiss

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2015, 06:32:25 am »

>With a slightly faster lens all shallow DOF effects of MF cameras can be duplicated with smaller sensors also.

>>This has not been my experience.

I agree with Doug.  

Interestingly people that like to make these kinds of comparisons look at only one facet - for example sharpness at 100% or in your case a comparison at shallow DOF, but you can actually see differences in format size at all apertures not just shallow.  And if you want to look at shallow DOF, here's a shot at 80mm f/2.0 which is focal length that represents normal on the Hy6. Could you do this with a 50mm 2.0 with your DSLR? f/1.4? f/1.2?  and what about your MFT camera?   My experience is there's 3 stops difference in aperture between MF and 135 but even after you adjust the aperture you still don't get the same look.





« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 06:36:26 am by EricWHiss »
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David Eichler

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2015, 03:29:35 pm »

Hi David,

No worries, a warmer WB is mostly preferable for portraits. These images are again pretty much SOOC and I stuck with the default renderings. The Credo file can easily be warmed up in a second.
The point I was making though was that the skin in the D800 file has an overall "redness" to it, while the Credo file shows better tonal gradations. This is not something that can easily be corrected in post.

I have also seen this in landscapes where the smaller format muddles the greens up in foliage while the MF camera discriminates them better.



Both cameras in A mode, same setup, similar FoV, MLU, cable release and a sturdy tripod. WB picked manually in post from the same spot.
See how the greens in the D800 image gets polluted from the lighting all around them. The blues in comparison, hold up quite well though.

p.s. The last time I posted this sample, a well know Nikon supporter in the forum had a near-meltdown over it. One of his complaints were that the exposure times were different. Sadly, it seems like he is unaware of the fact that claimed ISO numbers for manufacturers is not necessarily the actual ones and when shooting in aperture priority, exposure times will vary from camera to camera. I invited him to do his own tests, haven't seen one yet. ;)

Again, what I seem to be seeing here is an overall difference in color balance, which I think needs to be addressed before close comparisons of color rendition can be made. It looks to me as though the color balance of the small format version is considerably warmer than the medium format version, and a warm overall color balance will obviously subdue cooler colors and may even make them look muddy in some cases. If you are just talking about what comes straight out of the camera, well, that is not set in stone either, since you can make custom color profiles for each camera. Also, it is not just about the cameras. Different manufacturers' lenses can have their own modest differences in overall color rendition.
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synn

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2015, 03:41:05 pm »

David,

I think you should re read the parts where I have mentioned that manual white balance for both images were done on the same spot and also that I have custom profiles for my cameras.
It is not fair for someone to write a detailed explanation when the other party ignores half of it.
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Ken R

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2015, 03:49:42 pm »

David,

I think you should re read the parts where I have mentioned that manual white balance for both images were done on the same spot and also that I have custom profiles for my cameras.
It is not fair for someone to write a detailed explanation when the other party ignores half of it.

Synn. Dunno why you waste time justifying your gear choices. Specially to some of the trolls that reside in this forum. I guess there are some folks here that are honestly asking for information. But the trolls pop out in no time to dissuade any PhaseOne interest or god forbid and actual purchase. It is their duty in life to take down PhaseOne. True haters. (Maybe I got it all wrong and they secretly work for other manufacturers? of 35mm gear? and are sabotaging PhaseOne on purpose, or maybe they just despise capitalism? Maybe they are just angry at everything. Only they know. Some of the haters have actually used PhaseOne gear, others, not even a lens cap. Oh well.
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David Eichler

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2015, 04:35:40 pm »

David,

I think you should re read the parts where I have mentioned that manual white balance for both images were done on the same spot and also that I have custom profiles for my cameras.
It is not fair for someone to write a detailed explanation when the other party ignores half of it.

Sorry, I missed the comment about manual white balance. However, I am not sure that picking a point within a scene like this for white balance is that precise and would prefer a sampling from a neutral grey card within the scene for maximum precision. In any case, I still think that the overall color balance of the small format shot is again warm, and that it is at least partly for this reason that the cooler tones are not looking as nice as one might prefer.

As for the redness of the skin tone in the portrait shot, I see a modest overall red bias, so I find it hard to evaluate any differences in color rendition between the two systems from this example.

I don't see any reference to custom camera profiles in your comments about either of the two scenes.
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David Eichler

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Re: Medium format redefined
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2015, 04:46:17 pm »

Synn. Dunno why you waste time justifying your gear choices. Specially to some of the trolls that reside in this forum. I guess there are some folks here that are honestly asking for information. But the trolls pop out in no time to dissuade any PhaseOne interest or god forbid and actual purchase. It is their duty in life to take down PhaseOne. True haters. (Maybe I got it all wrong and they secretly work for other manufacturers? of 35mm gear? and are sabotaging PhaseOne on purpose, or maybe they just despise capitalism? Maybe they are just angry at everything. Only they know. Some of the haters have actually used PhaseOne gear, others, not even a lens cap. Oh well.

I do not hate Phase One or any other medium format gear. I think that medium format has its applications, and there may very well be some differences in color rendition that make medium format preferable for some people and some applications. All I am trying to say is that Synn's examples are not sufficiently convincing to me for the purposes of illustrating differences in color rendition between the two systems in question. I think that it would have been preferable to show a color chart and grey scale within the scenes (or perhaps several, in different parts of the scene), both for overall color reference and to use as a target for white balance.
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