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Author Topic: I would like to understand the MF look.  (Read 62255 times)

Alex Waugh

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I would like to understand the MF look.
« on: December 01, 2013, 02:47:30 am »

Hi all,

As a long time lurker, I was wondering if anyone could take the time to explain to me (technically) what composes the medium format look. I accept that it is there, however I cannot even explain it to myself. For me it isn't a question of resolution, as I've seen legacy backs with the same look, and I do not believe that it is the lenses (i could be wrong). What I see is something in the colour reproduction - its almost less colorful, at least in the normal exaggerated sense. The colors seem to have a more gentle gradient, perhaps contain more shades and are less "harsh". The format also seems to excel in smoothness of focal zone transition and softness of blur. Finally, while 35mm formats seem to have more "pop" and more obvious contrast changes, i find the less obvious contrast (micro contrast?), for example the detail held within a woven blue shirt as opposed to a large brightness shift, to be much finer.

I actually love the look that the medium provides and while many people I try to explain it to can't see it, I can. If any technically gifted reader could perhaps shed some light on what I'm seeing, id be extremely appreciative. Apologies for any possible misuse of technical terms.

Alex

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Phil Indeblanc

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2013, 03:23:13 am »

crudely put, CCD vs CMOS, Oh and aafilter
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Justinr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2013, 05:53:21 am »

Hi all,

As a long time lurker, I was wondering if anyone could take the time to explain to me (technically) what composes the medium format look. I accept that it is there, however I cannot even explain it to myself. For me it isn't a question of resolution, as I've seen legacy backs with the same look, and I do not believe that it is the lenses (i could be wrong). What I see is something in the colour reproduction - its almost less colorful, at least in the normal exaggerated sense. The colors seem to have a more gentle gradient, perhaps contain more shades and are less "harsh". The format also seems to excel in smoothness of focal zone transition and softness of blur. Finally, while 35mm formats seem to have more "pop" and more obvious contrast changes, i find the less obvious contrast (micro contrast?), for example the detail held within a woven blue shirt as opposed to a large brightness shift, to be much finer.

I actually love the look that the medium provides and while many people I try to explain it to can't see it, I can. If any technically gifted reader could perhaps shed some light on what I'm seeing, id be extremely appreciative. Apologies for any possible misuse of technical terms.

Alex



All of the above Alex and I think it quite possible that we get too hung up on the technical issues at times rather than just standing back and savoring the magic. In fact I think you have put your finger on it very well for although I see exactly what you see in dMF it is rarely spoken of in those terms which is a loss to the craft.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2013, 06:10:45 am »

Hi,

To a great part, I would say it's a myth.

Check out this page: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/RealWorld/index.html

Two kits were used on that shot a Sony Alpha 99 with 24-70/2.8 and 70-400/4-5.6 zooms and A P45+ on Hasselblad V (555 ELD) and five Zeiss lenses (40/4, 50/4, 80/2.8, 120/4 and 150/4) can you see which is which? All images processed to taste and resized to 4000 pixels using Lanzos (which introduces few artefacts of it's own).

Answers are here: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/RealWorld/Answers.html

And all raw images are here: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/RealWorld/rawfiles.html

Regarding AA-filter, check the images below, both are taken with a 150 mm lens at 3.5 m, the left one with a P45+ sensor the right one with a Sony Alpha 77 APS-C camera. Pixel sizes are 6.9 microns (left) and 3.9 microns (right). THe P45+ image was upsized to match right image.

Best regards
Erik




Hi all,

As a long time lurker, I was wondering if anyone could take the time to explain to me (technically) what composes the medium format look. I accept that it is there, however I cannot even explain it to myself. For me it isn't a question of resolution, as I've seen legacy backs with the same look, and I do not believe that it is the lenses (i could be wrong). What I see is something in the colour reproduction - its almost less colorful, at least in the normal exaggerated sense. The colors seem to have a more gentle gradient, perhaps contain more shades and are less "harsh". The format also seems to excel in smoothness of focal zone transition and softness of blur. Finally, while 35mm formats seem to have more "pop" and more obvious contrast changes, i find the less obvious contrast (micro contrast?), for example the detail held within a woven blue shirt as opposed to a large brightness shift, to be much finer.

I actually love the look that the medium provides and while many people I try to explain it to can't see it, I can. If any technically gifted reader could perhaps shed some light on what I'm seeing, id be extremely appreciative. Apologies for any possible misuse of technical terms.

Alex


« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 08:02:15 am by ErikKaffehr »
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Justinr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2013, 06:35:31 am »

Hi,

To a great part, I would say it's a myth.

Check out this page: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/RealWorld/index.html

Two kits were used on that shot a Sony Alpha 99 with 24-70/2.8 and 70-400/4-5.6 zooms and A P45+ on Hasselblad V (555 ELD) and five Zeiss lenses (40/4, 50/4, 80/2.8, 120/4 and 150/4) can you see which is which? All images processed to taste and resized to 4000 pixels using Lanzos (which introduces few artefacts of it's own).

Answers are here: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/RealWorld/Answers.html

And all raw images are here: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/RealWorld/rawfiles.html

Regarding AA-filter, check the images below, both are taken with a 150 mm lens at 3.5 m, the left one with a P45+ sensor the right one with a Sony Alpha 77 APS-C camera. Pixel sizes are 6.9 microns (left) and 3.9 microns (right). THe P45+ image was upsized to match right image.

Best regards
Erik





Better start off with a smiley as I disagree somewhat but don't want to fall out -  :)

But the sad truth is that we don't invest thousands to take pictures of feathers under lab conditions. If I may refer back to my link here - http://www.inkplusimages.com/natplgh13/index.html I'd like to suggest that pictures 3 and 6 in particular have a certain look about them that I have yet to see emerge from a dSLR. Maybe its the DoF but the smoothness of colours and tones in the bonnet and engine of the Fordson Major hint at something more than technical specs suggest, whilst further on along there is a Massey Harris Combine that seems to fill the page  in a way that dSLR's cannot, in fact that particular picture was used twice in the same issue of one magazine so it must of attracted somebody's eye or, and more likely, it was a cock up.

My apologies for not presenting the pictures separately here, but I haven't got them on this computer.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 06:59:34 am by Justinr »
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jerome_m

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2013, 09:06:07 am »

Part of the look is indeed that MF users, in average, do not take pictures in the same conditions as 24x36 users. This is especially true for fashion and portrait, where MF users usually have a considerable better knowledge of light and thus take pictures with much better technique than the average 24x36 user. This obviously will not show in pictures of a feather taken under lab conditions. It will also not show on pictures of abandoned cars taken under natural light. But it is not really an inherent property of MF cameras either.
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jerome_m

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2013, 09:10:30 am »

I'd like to suggest that pictures 3 and 6 in particular have a certain look about them that I have yet to see emerge from a dSLR.

What aperture did you use for pictures 3 and 6?
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Chris Barrett

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2013, 09:41:30 am »



Regarding AA-filter, check the images below, both are taken with a 150 mm lens at 3.5 m, the left one with a P45+ sensor the right one with a Sony Alpha 77 APS-C camera. Pixel sizes are 6.9 microns (left) and 3.9 microns (right). THe P45+ image was upsized to match right image.

Best regards
Erik





Erik,  am I missing something in your post?  Uprezzing the P45+ image makes the comparison completely invalid, right???  I would expect you to use a longer lens on the P45+ so that you can match compositions from the given distance and THEN compare pixel to pixel... if, ya know, you really want to compare pixel to pixel.

Personally, I may just have to pick up the new A7R.  If I do, I'll shoot something similar against my IQ260.

JoeKitchen

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2013, 09:45:45 am »

I shoot MF and I shoot 35mm DSLR.  For me, it is the color.  My MF files have better color with a smoother tone that anything I have gotten from a 35mm file.  With that said, I light and time all of my images. 
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Ken R

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2013, 10:32:08 am »

I shoot MF and I shoot 35mm DSLR.  For me, it is the color.  My MF files have better color with a smoother tone that anything I have gotten from a 35mm file.  With that said, I light and time all of my images. 

Yep, I would say in general the color is the biggest difference between medium format digital and 35mm (or smaller) digital. The depth of color and the "robustness" of the files when manipulating them in post is higher. Color differentiation is higher, at least in my back, than any DSLR I have used.

Regarding resolution, it can be much higher in medium format digital, depending on the system you use. Tech cameras/lenses and the 60-80mp backs lead the way in that dpt. with the latest medium format SLR bodies and lenses close behind. Some "legacy" systems might offer some great performance as well (Contax).
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michael

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2013, 10:40:48 am »

I am preparing a couple of reports on the 36 Megapixel Sony A7r, using Leica M lenses, and also the Hasselblad H5D-60. I've been shooting with both systems here in Mexico and will continue to do so for the rest of the winter.

I'm going to write below a rough draft of a section of what will be in the Hasselblad report, though it likely will be somewhat different after editing. This is just a first pass at my thoughts on the matter.

Can You See The Difference?


Chris Sanderson and I, along with our friend photographer Lars Svanstrom recently spent two days shooting landscape and cultural photography in the isolated mountains of Eastern Queretero called the Sierra Gorda.

I was shooting with the new Sony A7r, on loan for long term testing by Sony Canada, and a half dozen of my own Leica M lenses via a Novaflex adaptor. I will detail in my test report how well these lenses match up with the A7r, but in brief, any lenses of 35mm or longer works flawlessly, and wider lenses either don't work well at all, but most do, with most just needing some post processing attention to fix vignetting and lens cast correction. Full details in my test report.

The other camera I am using is a Hasselblad H5D-60, which Hasselblad has kindly loaned my for a couple of months of testing. Again, my report will appear here, likely in January.

On this two day shoot, the first time with both cameras, shooting the same subjects, I was more focused on getting the best images I could than in doing any comparisons. When I got back home I did find that I had enough shots of the same subject at the same time with matching focal length lenses that comparisons can be made.

What started off the comparisons, was that Chris had spent some time looking over my shoulder the next day as I worked on my Sony files. I had not yet downloaded the Hasselblad's CF card because I had misplaced my card reader. We chatted about the Sony images, composition, aesthetics of the shots, and also did a little 100% pixel peeping, commenting on how sharp and lovely the Sony / Leica images were.

Later that day I found the CF reader and loaded the Hasselblad files. I had not touched any yet, just had thumbnails on my laptop's screen in Lightroom, and a random full size image of one of the files on the 27" screen. Just then Chris walked into my office to chat about something. His first comment, standing in the doorway 12 feet from the monitor was, "That's from the Hasselblad, isn't it?"

Thus began an hour or so of serious pixel peeping. We put up shot after shot from both cameras, doing full screen and side by side comparisons, many at 100% magnification.

What was fascinating (yet something that knowledgable medium format owners have taken for granted for many years – myself included) is that the Hasselblad images were "more appealing" on screen and in prints (I'm using an Epson 3880 with Baryta paper). Does "more appealing" mean sharper? Yes, sometimes, but not always. Is it due to the shallower DOF? Yes, sometimes, but not always. Is it colour rendition, acuity, tonal smoothness?

The answer is it's all of the above, and not necessarily any of the above.

We find ourselves in the same situation as audiophiles with high-end sound systems. Some electronics and speakers just sound sweeter. Spec sheets and test reports have little to do with it. It's just how it sounds. The same applies here. It's the overall look of the image.

I'll have more to say on this in my review, but I urge anyone considering an MF system purchase to borrow or rent one from a dealer and do your own testing and comparisons. Again I urge, forget technical specs and random pictures of people's cats and flowers. If you're going to spend $50,000 to buy a new BMW, you won't rely on sometone else telling you how it drives. You'll damn well take it for a test drive yourself.

Same thing with a MF back or camera. All that matters is what you see. Oh yes, and the other important factor is the current state of your Visa card balance. Again, something that no one else can take into consideration for you.

Michael


« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 10:42:32 am by michael »
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Doug Peterson

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2013, 10:51:08 am »

Cross posted from here:
http://www.getdpi.com/forum/medium-format-systems-digital-backs/49368-influence-format-size-photograph.html

Quote from: Doug Peterson
An image system is just that: a system.

Discussing any single element (like sensor size) is entirely fruitless.

Here is a partial list of factors influencing the technical rendering of an image:
Lens coating > Lens elements (number/design/spacing/composition) > Aperture (blade design, blade quantity) > internal body coating > microlens design > Anti aliasing filter (found in 35mm but not in medium format) > IR filter > sensor photo well > bayer pattern (spectral overlap of R, G, and B filters) > sensor read-out (heat-sinking and/or active cooling very important here) > cables to A/D converter > A/D converter > (read-out of black calibration file from sensor recorded as adjunct to the image) > debayering algorithm, deconvolution / detail finding algorithm, noise reduction based on black calibration file > noise reduction based on image data > sharpening.

The sensor size, in and of itself, is a factor in the final outcome of the image rendering. But the "look" of MF is always going to be a combination of all of the above factors.

In general medium format engineers are less constrained by how their design decisions increase the cost, slow down the operation, or increase the physical size, of the resulting product. They are also often targeting a market which cares deeply about the look/feel of the image, and not just it's technical specifications or price. I don't think it's any surprise that many people thereby find the results of their design work (high-end cameras) to produce a special looking image.

Apart from all that (technical) stuff you have the non-technical element - the human element - the impact on the photographer of using a system which is slower and requires more thought and for which they likely spent more time researching and saving up $$ for. In theory one can spend as much time considering composition/color/subject-selection/aperture/exposure etc etc with a point and shoot as with an 8x10 camera. In theory it should not matter if you spend $1 on a camera or $10,000 - you should put equal thought behind learning to use each to it's greatest capability. But people are not machines and the tool often influences the man. So the work produced by medium format shooters (or, for instance, Leica rangefinders) often feels deeper in subject matter, better thought out, and more impactful.

In my opinion anyone who tries to isolate any photograph, or any camera system, down to one specific technical element is missing the bigger picture - pun intended.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 10:53:25 am by Doug Peterson »
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2013, 10:54:03 am »

Hi Chris,

What you are missing that I am not comparing APS-C to MF.

What I am doing is demonstrating the difference between large pixels without OLP filters and small pixels with adequate OLP filtering. The reason I have uprezzed the image was more for comfortable viewing.

The other way is to demonstrate the difference is to downsample the small pixel image. It is available here: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/FakeDetail/comparison1.html

The intended message is that large pixels and sharp lenses produce fake detail, which is very obvious on the P45+ image. The way to get around getting fake detail is increasing resolution. Once the pixels are small enough the lens can be fully utilised and will produce true detail.

What I would suggest is pixels must be small enough to avoid aliasing (that is fake detail). With normal lenses it seems that 3-4 microns do a decent job. With excellent lenses smaller pixels are needed. So to have images with true detail, you would need very large files. With small enough pixels it would be possible to do demosaic in camera firmware using a quick and dirty algorithm and present a smaller RGB image, with an option to use all pixels from raw data.


Best regards
Erik





Erik,  am I missing something in your post?  Uprezzing the P45+ image makes the comparison completely invalid, right???  I would expect you to use a longer lens on the P45+ so that you can match compositions from the given distance and THEN compare pixel to pixel... if, ya know, you really want to compare pixel to pixel.

Personally, I may just have to pick up the new A7R.  If I do, I'll shoot something similar against my IQ260.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 11:15:06 am by ErikKaffehr »
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Justinr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2013, 11:18:20 am »

What aperture did you use for pictures 3 and 6?

ISO 160, f5.7, 125th shutter priority for both with the 80mm 2.8 standard lens.

Looking at the Super Major picture a little more closely the plane of focus seems to be around the front axle.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 11:19:57 am by Justinr »
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Justinr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2013, 11:30:18 am »

Cross posted from here:
http://www.getdpi.com/forum/medium-format-systems-digital-backs/49368-influence-format-size-photograph.html

That generally makes a lot of sense but surely some parts of the system will have a greater overall effect on final IQ than others, and it will vary according to the conditions.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2013, 11:31:37 am »

I think Michaels and Dougs posts are completely spot on.

I have a 20 MP scan of a 4x5" negative and people not knowing about the technique behind it somehow react special to that image (and others from that 4x5 camera). Sure - I used somewhat limited depth of field in that file and did a little postprocessing with selective sharpening but, however - I've done that to other files from other cameras as well.
To some extent I think it is possible to mimick the look of larger format files (MF, 4x5") in post, but after all its a sum of many variables, including the pace and mindset at which you shoot when operating a large camera.
Comparing technical parameters helps for some very rough comparisons, but after all -when spending 10-50 grands for a system- take an extensive test drive so see if you like it or not.

Cheers
~Chris

ErikKaffehr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2013, 11:31:41 am »

Hi,

To elaborate a bit. I am certain that there is a resolution advantage to larger formats, even if I would rather discuss that in MTF terms.

There are differences in colour rendition between different sensors, but that has nothing to do with format and a lot to do with the colour filters on the CGA. Some authors regard the Sony sensors to have very good colours. It seems that many customers prefer DALSA sensor vs. Kodak sensors, regarding colour.

A larger sensor can collect more photons, so highlights will be smoother, period. Modern CMOS has much lower readout noise than the CCDs used in MFDB, something like a 4X advantage. On shadow detail modern CMOS wins. Canon and Nikon D4 uses old generation CMOS that shines at high ISO but doesn't deliver on shadow detail.

I personally shoot Sony Alpha 99 (24 MP CMOS) and Phase One P45+ (39 MP CCD). In general I cannot see differences on screen or print. The P45+ excels in resolution, but causes a lot of aliasing artefacts. Sony excels in shadow detail. Colours are different, the P45+ has yellowish greens. Is that good colour separation or fake colour? I don't know!

Best regards
Erik

Hi all,

As a long time lurker, I was wondering if anyone could take the time to explain to me (technically) what composes the medium format look. I accept that it is there, however I cannot even explain it to myself. For me it isn't a question of resolution, as I've seen legacy backs with the same look, and I do not believe that it is the lenses (i could be wrong). What I see is something in the colour reproduction - its almost less colorful, at least in the normal exaggerated sense. The colors seem to have a more gentle gradient, perhaps contain more shades and are less "harsh". The format also seems to excel in smoothness of focal zone transition and softness of blur. Finally, while 35mm formats seem to have more "pop" and more obvious contrast changes, i find the less obvious contrast (micro contrast?), for example the detail held within a woven blue shirt as opposed to a large brightness shift, to be much finer.

I actually love the look that the medium provides and while many people I try to explain it to can't see it, I can. If any technically gifted reader could perhaps shed some light on what I'm seeing, id be extremely appreciative. Apologies for any possible misuse of technical terms.

Alex


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Justinr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2013, 11:37:03 am »


What was fascinating (yet something that knowledgable medium format owners have taken for granted for many years – myself included) is that the Hasselblad images were "more appealing" on screen and in prints (I'm using an Epson 3880 with Baryta paper). Does "more appealing" mean sharper? Yes, sometimes, but not always. Is it due to the shallower DOF? Yes, sometimes, but not always. Is it colour rendition, acuity, tonal smoothness?

The answer is it's all of the above, and not necessarily any of the above.

We find ourselves in the same situation as audiophiles with high-end sound systems. Some electronics and speakers just sound sweeter. Spec sheets and test reports have little to do with it. It's just how it sounds. The same applies here. It's the overall look of the image.


Michael




Amen to that. My printing set up is not quite as sophisticated as yours but the Mamiya prints have a finesse that is lacking totally in any dSLR print that I have produced.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 11:39:52 am by Justinr »
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jerome_m

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2013, 11:47:56 am »

ISO 160, f5.7, 125th shutter priority for both with the 80mm 2.8 standard lens.

I only asked about the aperture, because that is what responsible for the better rendering of the transition from the focus plane to the out of focus zones. All lenses have good "bokeh" at f/5.6 or slower, because the aberrations responsible for bad bokeh are negligible at these apertures. The difference is that MF or larger format use these apertures and still get some subject isolation while smaller format need faster apertures.
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: I would like to understand the MF look.
« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2013, 11:49:39 am »

Hi,

I shot same subject with my Hasselblad 555 ELD an Sonnar 150/4 and my Sony Alpha 99 and SAL 70-400/4-5.6G lens. Show the images to a friend with long experience at a Swedish pro lab. So my friend looks at the images 64x86 cm prints at 25 cm distance and says: the left image is warmer, a bit more yellow. Looks again. After a couple of minutes he says, look here this trunk of the tree is sharper on the left image.

So it takes my friend something like 15 minutes to find a difference, not side by side but one image on top of the other. He has worked with Lennart Nilsson, one of the leading photographers in the world http://www.lennartnilsson.com .

The images we were discussing were the images at top on this site: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/Articles/MFDJourney/RawImages/MFDB_VS_DSLR2/



Best regards
Erik

Hi all,

As a long time lurker, I was wondering if anyone could take the time to explain to me (technically) what composes the medium format look. I accept that it is there, however I cannot even explain it to myself. For me it isn't a question of resolution, as I've seen legacy backs with the same look, and I do not believe that it is the lenses (i could be wrong). What I see is something in the colour reproduction - its almost less colorful, at least in the normal exaggerated sense. The colors seem to have a more gentle gradient, perhaps contain more shades and are less "harsh". The format also seems to excel in smoothness of focal zone transition and softness of blur. Finally, while 35mm formats seem to have more "pop" and more obvious contrast changes, i find the less obvious contrast (micro contrast?), for example the detail held within a woven blue shirt as opposed to a large brightness shift, to be much finer.

I actually love the look that the medium provides and while many people I try to explain it to can't see it, I can. If any technically gifted reader could perhaps shed some light on what I'm seeing, id be extremely appreciative. Apologies for any possible misuse of technical terms.

Alex


« Last Edit: December 01, 2013, 11:59:09 am by ErikKaffehr »
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