Discussion points: An ideal format?

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Flexible? yes. Practical? Not exactly…

Today’s post will be the first in the experimental ‘discussions’ theme proposed a little while back.

We all know there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ format or system – there are myriad considerations for selection, based on creative properties and technical ones – for example, depth of field, dynamic range, ‘graphic-ness’, color depth, shooting envelop, ability to deploy under certain conditions that might be weight restricted, system completeness for specialised lenses, camera movements etc. And this is before we even get into any thoughts around cost (for hobbyists) or return on investment (for pros). In most cases, we’re left either stuck with a single system that fills all needs but perhaps not perfectly, or multiple systems and formats and the inconvenience of both overlap and lack of it. For example – I love to create graphic images with a lot of compression and infinite depth of field, but this requires a narrow angle of view and thus longer equivalent focal length. I could do it with my H6D-100c, but the sensor on that is so large that I can clearly see a difference in focal plane at f8 and just 150mm-e, with a subject 100m away. Clearly, this is not workable – so I also have an E-M1.2 and Canon 100D with their respective telephotos for that kind of work. The graphic intent of the output means that limited dynamic range and crushed blacks aren’t so much a problem as desired most of the time.

But I suspect the reality is not that many people legitimately have as wide a range of requirements as a working pro; I might cover everything from portraits to documentary work to formal product or finished architecture on a single assignment, some of which might be shot from a moving platform like a boat or aircraft. Most formats (M4/3, APSC, FF, MF etc.) have matured to the point where it’s possible to actually find an optimum for what you do. And contrary to popular opinion – I don’t think bigger is necessarily always better.

Here’s the way I think when making hardware selection choices:

Smaller sensor (think M4/3) strengths:

  • Overall system size, weight and price
  • Stealth
  • Extended depth of field
  • Easier to get a ‘graphic’ look
  • DR limitations not that bad because most are EVF-based and exposure can be set very precisely
  • Fast lenses are more common (and more accessible) – somewhat offsetting the sensor size
  • Speed, ease of running and gunning
  • Stabilisation – less resolution and lower moving mass significantly increases effectiveness

Smaller sensor weaknesses:

  • Image quality – resolution, DR, color accuracy, noise
  • Limited DOF control and control over focal plane with camera movements etc.

Larger sensor (think 54×40 full 645) strengths:

  • Image quality – at least 1-1.5 stops better noise at the pixel level; up to 6.7x the pixels (15MP M4/3 vs 100MP 645), which means for a given print size, perceptual noise might be up to four stops better – and that’s before counting color accuracy (M4/3 is 12 bit; 645s are all 16 bit), dynamic range and sheer spatial resolution
  • Depth of field control through both aperture and camera movements

Larger sensor weaknesses:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Cost
  • Limited fast lenses – mostly f2.8 or slower (with few exceptions)
  • Shot discipline required, overall deployment flexibility

Needless to say, quantity of points isn’t necessarily indicative of importance or individual photographer priorities.

And whilst you might complement a small format with a larger one and vice versa – I think you need to go up at least two ‘sizes’ in area before the difference justifies the added inconvenience; e.g. a favourite combination in the past was the 44x33mm 645Z and 24x16mm GR. There’s no point carrying APS-C and FF; most of the time you might as well just crop from FF since the lenses are going to be similar in size and weight, plus you won’t gain that much in other areas unless your needs are very specialised (e.g. D810 and D500).

I personally would like to carry just one format – especially if one of those is larger/ heavier, but my professional requirements make that largely impossible. If I could, it would probably be full 645, and as heretic as this sounds: a FF-sized crop is still 40MP, and I can always downsize 🙂

Here’s where you come in:

What do you think is the ideal compromise?

What do you think is best for your needs – and do you have it already/ are you sure? 



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  1. Ming, first off let me thank you for such an interesting Blog. I don’t know how you keep it up along with all your work.

    I’ll chime in here. When I was shooting full time and in a studio (mostly not always) I last used a Nikon D4. It had the right combination of speed, MPs and image quality, even at lower ISOs. I retired from all that in late 2013. Looking back on all of my images through the years I shot professionally, since 2006, I can say that sensor output still has me amazed. I loved the color. Something to this day I can’t put my finger on, but I loved that camera.

    Today, semi-retired, and much older, 65 now, I find I need something small, light and still high image quality. I do need something with good DR, handling high contrast lighting situations mostly. I now only shoot editorial stock (not micro stock). I am rarely out during the beautiful light.

    My choice now is the Fujifilm system. I am currently shooting only with the little Fuji X-E2 with the superb 18-55mm f2.8-4 OIS lens.

    I am not married to camera brand. The reason I chose Fuji is the superb sensor in the X-T2 (purchasing after the 1st of the year for taxes;-) and the fact it is quite small, and lightweight. There is another reason I chose Fuji. The lenses, XF line, are superb, reasonable in price and size. I would like to hear more about your objection to APS-C lenses: “My gripe with APSC is the lenses somehow never quite render right – can’t put my finger on why, exactly.”

    Two things I don’t like about the Fuji X line is the X-trans sensor, (I had to switch to Capture One Pro for descent output), and for some reason, I am not wild about the color. Like you and APS-C lenses, I can’t put my finger quite on it. Maybe it will grow on me.

    If I were continuing with the same type of photography business I had between 2006-2013, I would be shooting with a Nikon D850 and a D750 as a backup. I really wouldn’t need anything more than the D750 but I can’t stand the finder. The viewfinder really puts me off with such a limited focusing area. I shot mostly commercial business portraits, in-studio and on location, with a little editorial Web content thrown in.

    I’ve shot with the Olympus OMD E-M1 MkIII and the 12-100mm f4 stabilized lens. It’s a great combination but I was not satisfied with the dynamic range. In even light it is wonderful, but add some deep shadows and a hint of a highlight and the sensor is toast. The blacks will crush and I just couldn’t get the highlights toned down enough. Lovely bit of kit though. The IBIS is absolutely amazing!!


    • Ahh, the perpetual search for the unicorn 🙂 I don’t think any of us have found it, to be honest – and I’m not sure we ever will. The tradeoffs between size and image quality are mostly non-negotiable due to the laws of optics…

      Whilst you can profile out color differences, it’s much easier not to have to since there’s no one-size-fits-all and you will inevitably need to do a little tweaking along the way to make the color work under edge cases (and that’s typically where light gets interesting, too).

      • So true! 🙂 It may be in my mind only, but, since changing from Lightroom CC Classic to Capture One Pro 11, I’m finding there is a slight difference in how colors are rendered. I believe I will be much happier with C1P. Or, it could be too much brandy in my eggnog. 🙂 Have a great December, Ming!!

  2. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    My ideal is MF, Ming – but I know I can never afford it, now. In the analogue era I used to shoot with 60×60, 60×90, 35mm and 4×5, but since I retired it’s been beyond my reach to be so self-indulgent.
    That said – I am as jealous as all hell of the detail you get in your shots with the ‘blads, and it’s a fact of life that the smaller sensors can’t match the performance of the sensors in the ‘blads.
    The compromise is FF (Nik D810) with top grade glass (Zeiss Otus w/angle and 55 mm prime).
    But I also use D7200 for certain purposes – and a Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark II, in lieu of a pocketable thing. The Canon has a 1 inch sensor, and it’s one of those things you can always take with you, so you aren’t caught with no camera – for me, that’s as important as having “the best” gear.

    • Interestingly, used ‘Blads aren’t that far off top end FF now, and I suspect that’s only going to fall since the starting price of the X1D is quite a bit lower than the H traditionally was. Lenses too are cheaper (but as I’ve done in the past, Otus + X1D is pretty fantastic). So it’s not as far off or as much of a compromise as you might think…

      That said, the rest of the time – I seem to be skipping the compact and using my phone. More so now I have one of those dual-camera iPhone 8+s which also now have a short tele option…

  3. For me, I think APS-C is the ideal size sensor for me, EXCEPT that I don’t love any of the mirrorless systems… don’t love Fuji for its ergonomics and their color doesn’t do it for me, EOS M has few lenses and is behind the curve in terms of, well, most everything. I currently have an a6000 with several lenses, and (much like the A7 series), it just doesn’t inspire me. The 18-105 f4 is a great do-everything lens, Sony and Sigma primes cover some basic focal lengths with quality glass, but there’s still something missing. Having moved from years with Micro 4/3, I enjoy the increased resolution and flexibility of the latest APS-C sensors, but……

    This would all be SO much easier if I didn’t love mirrorless… WYSIWYG in the viewfinder is incredibly useful to me, as is the smaller form factor (generally). I had a D5500 that I really liked the output of. Although a slight step down, the Canon 100D / SL1 seems to be a great little DSLR, too. I wonder if my insistence on convenience (specifically related to size and an EVF) doesn’t hamper the quality of my output.

    Sometimes I want to sell it all, buy an RX10 III and never look at ebay, forums, or this site again.

    • My gripe with APSC is the lenses somehow never quite render right – can’t put my finger on why, exactly. Especially since the latest generation 24MP sensors are really excellent. M4/3 seems to have a much better lens-sensor match, even if you give up a bit in base ISO quality. At least you get it back through the stabilisers though…

      RX10: you won’t be happy with 1″ – there’s significantly less latitude than M4/3, even.

  4. Compromise, what. When your only Tool is a Hammer all your problems begin to look like Nails.

    Compromise the Sensor’s physical size: I guess between M4/3 and FF, that way those who ask about putting smaller Lenses on a FF Camera will be happy (even with vignetting not discernable to them) and those who invested in FF Lenses for better Image quality will use the sweet spot of their precious Glass; of course we’d want a FF Mount even with a Sensor sized halfway between.

    How about Pixel size: Big (for sensitivity) and deep (for DR). The race to one um is unfortunate but the improvements made in the past few years IS impressive and not everyone wanted the a7s.

    How about a compromise to FPS, or a lack of Global Shutter.

    Thing is that one size doesn’t fit all uses or wallets.

    Variety is necessary, we don’t (yet) want Medium Format Sensors in our Cellphones; when Flat Metamaterial Lenses come out then that may change.

    Thanks for reading,

  5. Very Nice to read

  6. Dear Ming,

    I think the ideal compromise does not exist. We should probably aim at a solution the user can live with, or even better – feels happy with.

    I own a D4s and a D810. The latter I bought because of its high resolution for a particular professional job. It now serves me as a back-up and a tool for lens-testing.
    My workhorse is the D4s, and there is a really a lot I love about it. Its resolution is often more than I need, and its high-ISO performance is excellent. However, its weight and size are often prohibitive.
    What I dislike about both cameras is their focussing issue: I own the Sigma 50/1.4 Art, and on both cameras I have done extensive fine-tuning using the Sigma USB-dock. Despite of this, if I want a picture using the lens wide open, I often have to take four or more pictures to get one of them really in focus. The problem has gone when stopping down to F 2.8 or less. Someone once told me all SLRs were unable to reliably focus lenses with an aperture of 2.0 or wider.
    I also own the Nikkor 80-400/4.5-5.6 G. On both cameras, fine-tuning of the focus is required depending on the focal length: -5 at 80mm, +10 at 400mm. Can anyone imagine what this means in real life? However, this working-style provides extremely good and reliable results.

    After your favourable report on the Olympus E-M1 Mark II I borrowed one for extensive testing, including the Zuiko 12-100/4, 25mm/1.2, the 40-150mm/2.8 and its converter 1.4x. I used the camera at various stops and focal lengths, day and night, situations with difficult light and weather condition. All of the pictures taken were snap on focus, including the 25mm/1.2 wide open! I was deeply impressed by the results of this camera and its lenses. Considering the size of the sensor, shots at ISO 6400 were very, very good.

    I could well imagine, that the Olympus does more post-exposure processing than Nikon. But who cares as long as you don’t see it?

    I think I will keep the D4s for high-ISO work, and with it, a couple of lenses (first of all the 24-70/2.8G and the 70-200/4G), but am seriously considering to replace the D810 by the E-M1 II and a new set of lenses.

    Kindest regards,


    • I think the focusing problem is with the lens, not so much the camera body – focus consistency is unfortunately a known problem with Sigma lenses. As for the zooms – that’s a bigger problem, and I agree that there’s not ‘good’ solution for this other than hoping you find a copy that doesn’t have that much focus shift, or just setting it for the FL you use the most, or the one with the shallowest DOF and hope the deeper DOF on other FLs covers it.

      Mirrorless cameras shouldn’t have any focus shift since they focus at the sensor plane (unfortunately, the Leica SL and it’s 24-90 is another problem entirely). Small sensor cameras like M4/3 will cover any error further with extended DOF, which further helps.

      I think the E-M1.2 might well replace the D4s, too: more resolution at low ISOs, not that much less DR, and you’ve got that incredible stabiliser that buys you at least three stops over the D4, by which the sensor advantage is largely negated. The equation is no longer simple…

      • Thank you very much indeed for your comment!


      • It is now four months since I have bought the E-M1.2 and a few lenses. The intention was to keep the D4s for special work at high ISO.
        Believe it or not: ALL of my equipment for FF has gone – I don’t regret it a bit.
        The results of the E-M1.2 are very consistent and very, very good.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Unfortunately, Felix, I had a rather bitter experience with one of Sigma’s lenses. I took a pair of their ART series lenses with me on a trip to France, last year – the 50mm prime was most impressive and I’d happily recommend it to anyone (unless, like me, you’re a Zeiss nut and happy to use an Otus instead). The 24mm w/angle was a disaster – dreadful back focus problems, and no possibility of sorting this out while I was on the other side of the planet. When I returned home, I got the dock and found the 24mm was -19 on the back focus adjustment on my D810 – the maximum adjustment on the D810 is plus or minus 20, so that was really pushing it. I junked it, and switched to the two Otus lenses I use most of the time now, on my D810 (28mm and 55mm).
      I repeat – it was an unfortunate experience and I guess that somewhere along the line ANY manufacturer can make a mistake like that. I wouldn’t hold it against Sigma, I think that’s a bit unfair. That said – it cost me hundreds of dollars, and I was left several hundred kilometres from Paris with a w/angle that I found I couldn’t possibly use on AF. When I switched to the Otuses, I KNEW I had to use MF, so it wasn’t an issue. But it’s an uncomfortable feeling to be caught like that, out in the field, with something that’s not working properly.

      • Focus inaccuracy

        can really be annoying with DSLRs. I have had a Nikon D7100 with 300mm f4 lens (not the latest short lens though). Out of the box I first went to the service to get the camera and lens calibrated, because it needed -18 or +18 AF fine tuning (I don’t rememeber back or front) for medium distances, not much headroom left, lets say if temperature changes. They mitigated this but still, and even after the second service, the fine tuning would need to have different settings for close up (1.5m) vs. medium distances (10m), when shot f4 or slower. Which I wanted at that time.

        Actually this was THE reason to abandon DSLR world and turn to the future which is mirrorless, embracing the other advantages too.

        Not having owned pro gear but I believe that the mirrorbox system coupled with old lens designs, or rather old manufacture processes and workbenches, are not up to the task when sensor resolutions went up. (Though I am not too sure about this being the reason as film also had a high resolution, no?).

        The other thing I am furious about is lens sample variation which is reported often, even with lenses which I would not consider cheap. I am not willing to spent too much time, nor do I have the appropriate skills, to check whether the lens I just bought new and spent several hundreds or >1000 bucks or more is a good one (within specification) or an outlier, which you otherwise would notice maybe only later.

        The ideal system for me is a system which is working as expected/suggested by the company who produces it. For example, the lens companies should deliver lenses to each customer which meets the expectation they have raised, e.g. regarding MFT, but most of them are computed only and outliers are not catched before shipment. Yes it is also a matter of price level, but it shouldn’t be.


        • “The other thing I am furious about is lens sample variation which is reported often, even with lenses which I would not consider cheap. I am not willing to spent too much time, nor do I have the appropriate skills, to check whether the lens I just bought new and spent several hundreds or >1000 bucks or more is a good one (within specification) or an outlier, which you otherwise would notice maybe only later.”

          This is very true, and most companies are in denial – trying to return something because it looks out of spec or being allowed to pick from a range is almost impossible unless you know the dealer very well.

          Sample variation doend’t go away in mirrorless, but I do agree that focus precision is a really good reason to abandon the DSLR. Not to mention poor lens samples being actually less noticeable because focus off-centre is also more accurate…

  7. Samuel Jessop says:

    At this point I am convinced of having both good lenses, and the largest sensor that I can afford. I am perfectly happy with my Fuji and 18 & 35mm lenses, and I can build a number of larger format systems to upgrade from this.

    I am keeping an eye on Sony as the next format up, but am not sold on the platform and instead can make a far easier case for a Hasselblad X1D, combined with the 30 and 65mm. That would be portable enough and work well for my slow method of shooting. Affording it is another thing, but I feel my needs are pretty well catered for by what is on offer.

    • I think skipping intermediate sizes is the way to go – there’s a big difference between M4/3 and FF, but not so much between APSC and FF or M4/3 and APSC. FF to 44×33 isn’t that great, either, but FF to 645 is. Similarly – from APSC, the next logical step would be 44×33. Interesting your preference isn’t for the GFX though – especially given haptic and interface commonality with the rest of the Fuji X line?

      • Samuel Jessop says:

        I think the GFX is really interesting, but I am most interested in lenses as the differentiator. I could probably be happy with the 63mm, but the wide options are either too wide for my uses or not wide enough. A 35mm would be perfect like the new Pentax, but I could work happily enough with the 30mm on the Hasselblad. At the tele end I would be happier with the 110mm GFX than the Hasselblad options, but this is less critical than the wide. I also think that the leaf shutters on the Hasselblad will be better for critical sharpness, and of course with an adapter there is a much larger choice of first party glass.

        Both are I am sure fine choices. The GPS and longer presence within the MF digital market would seal the deal for Hasselblad. The ultimate would be to buy an H6D-100C which gives me more focal length options closer to what I have in mind (35, 80, 150mm). This is fantasy land budget wise, but who knows in ten years? I would be happy to save for one body and lens as a start. I follow enough people on Flickr who are able to produce stunning work with a one lens kit and a 6×6, 6×7, or 6×9 and rolls of Portra 400.

        For now, I think rental is a good idea. I am London, and not short of options. The point of this post was I think about ideals, and that is a way I could maximise image quality for a reasonable cost.

        • There’ll also be a 35-70 zoom and 120 macro for the Hasselblad – just announced last week. If the zoom is anywhere near as good as the 35-90 on the H system, you won’t need the primes.

          Larger formats: oddly, I find myself not feeling restricted by fewer lenses. No idea why…

          The cheapest way to get the most image quality now would be a used Pentax 645Z, and some of their older manual A lenses (the 35 and 150 are excellent) or Hassy Zeiss CF via an adaptor.

          • Samuel Jessop says:

            Thanks for the tip. A second-hand 645Z and 55mm would be good as a single lens kit. Was autofocus accurate enough with older lenses? I have become very used to the benefits of focussing in live view.

            On the subject of zooms, the Fuji GFX has a nice 32-64mm that would cover nearly everything I would ever need, but I like the discipline of shooting with primes.

            I can’t budget for this yet, but if the market keeps moving in this direction then buying one is inevitable.

            • It’s a bit hit and miss (as with all geared systems that have mechanics backlash) but there is AF fine tune.

              Zooms: I just tend to use mine at either end of the range. Unless I need more light gathering ability, the 35-90 (Hassy H) or 24-120 (Nikon) is usually it.

  8. For me it’s very simple: I take my E-M1 more or less everywhere because it’s no hassle. I only took my Canons somewhere if I wanted the effort. I can hold the E-M1 and any lens I own one-handed walking around for hours at a time. I literally take an order of magnitude more photos with the E-M1 than with my DSLRs. I get moments I wouldn’t otherwise have had, and because I get more practise, I get better.

    So for me, the size of 4/3 is ideal. The other cameras I look at seriously are replacing my (lost in a San Francisco hotel) FT-3 with another tough cam, which fills a need no ILC can, and buying a DP2s in a moment of weakness (always wanted to play with a Foveon sensor). I can’t imagine bothering with an APS sensor, and I’m not prepared to put up with the many compromises of OVF medium format cameras (or rich enough to afford them even if I was).

    • The size is undeniably an advantage. But I’d personally have fewer, but better images – sometimes the effort makes you curate a little more before the shot…and that’s not a bad thing.

      • It forces me to spend more time weeding out, for sure – but it’s not the difference between the number of photos in any one place, but rather the oppotunity to take any at all.

        However, that very much gets into what one is trying to achieve, as well, which takes us back to the point of your essay.

  9. For me, the ideal format would have the width of a FF 35mm sensor but the aspect ratio of a 4×3 format. Taking the current A7RII sensor but stretching its height to that aspect ratio and keeping the pixel pitch the same would give a 47.5mp sensor and with a small decrease in pixel pitch that could easily be 50mp. The advantages would be 1) that the aspect ratio would suit many people well and would allow for in-camera selections for 2×3 or 1×1 etc and 2) that the closer a sensor’s aspect ratio is to 1×1 the better use it makes of the lens image circle. The lenses could stay the same size but with a notably larger sensor. The camera body could stay very close to the same size. I have an X1D, which I love, but it’s more “FF+” than MF in some ways. A 4×3 ratio A7RIII or D820 or 5Dx would make a lot of sense. Why has no one do it? Am I missing something?

    • In camera crop lines/ grid lines already exist (I know they did on the 5DSR, A7RII, and the D810 has 5×4 but misses 4×3).

    • …and stretch just a little further for a square sensor, then add quick selection for orientation and aspect ratio (with immediate update on viewfinder, obviously).

      • This is actually a brilliant idea. It also eliminates the need for a vertical grip with additional dials for portrait orientation

  10. I guess this goes back to why-how-what. Us modern humans influenced by marketing and status signalling tend to do it all backwards. “What tools are right for me” should be the last question after understanding a) why one is taking photographs in the first place, and b) how one strives to meet those goals through photographic expression. So.. umm.. frankly, for myself, the process itself is a big part of why I photograph, and more exciting than the eventual output. Therefore the camera should first-and-foremost be enjoyable to use *through the whole workflow*, which includes maintenance, capture, post processing, and ordering prints (albeit very infrequently).

    I was relatively content with m43 until acquiring a secondary camera with APS-C sensor and noticing how much nicer files it produced. Despite having awkward controls and terrible responsiveness, the new entrant was almost solely used, so I knew it was time to upgrade the primary system. After getting a 35mm DSLR to work with, the secondary shooter got sold very quickly, so I think it made sense to skip one sensor size. The main weakness in the current system is camera size, and there – after some wasted money – I’ve found it best to go all the way to the other direction with a 1″ compact. Anything in between will be left home due to size restrictions or due to carrying the main kit anyway.

    In the distant future I may develop entirely new needs. Since the process is such a big factor in my hobby, trying out a view camera is intriguing. I’ve been checking out compact Intrepid Camera 4×5 bodies, which cost less than the average FF lens. However, that is all about dreaming and not realism given my current time constraints. As MT pointed out in a previous reply, stitching allows capturing static scenes with higher resolution, and will work just fine if I find some time to dabble with landscapes.

    Nowadays I think more about what kind of photography and/or visual expression I should attempt than what gear I should use. That’s probably a healthy sign, but somewhat frustrating for the relentless web surfer. Finding one’s own photographic interest is usually brushed aside (“you should know why/what you’re shooting”) and virtually all of the discussion focuses either on gear or technique.

    • “Finding one’s own photographic interest is usually brushed aside “
      For two reasons: a third party can’t dictate your motivations – at best, we can guide you to ask the right questions which might yield the kind of answers you’re looking for. At worst, the third party has no clue what they want, either. 🙂

      • I suspect it’s the latter and/or ability to introspect. Most people follow their guts when it comes to such choices (purpose or gear). However, there’s a lot of decent writers who analyse gear choices from various angles, almost as many analysing photographic techniques, but very few writing anything useful about the process of arriving at style/approach/projects. Or maybe I just haven’t stumbled upon them yet 🙂

        • There’s one more thing: it’s not easy to write, and if there’s no audience or return, you’re not going to write about it unless you have some other means of paying the bills 🙂

  11. Simon Miles says:

    The compelling advantages to me of my E-M1 are the portability, deep DoF and native 4:3 aspect ratio. I often struggle to get enough DoF in FF and intensely dislike the native 3:2 aspect ratio. I quite like (and regularly use) the 5:4 crop mode on my D810, but the implementation through the OVF is rather crude (and I wish it offered 4:3). What I really want is a mirrorless camera with a somewhat smaller than FF 4:3 14-bit sensor. As it doesn’t look like anyone is going to make this for me any time soon, I would settle for a lighter, mirrorless D820 with EVF and the option to compose and shoot in different aspect ratios. Come on Nikon.

    • The D810 actually has two crop modes: one with the gridlines, and one with a greyed out/frosted out area. You have to disable VF information or some similar setting to enable the greyed out mask, because it’s mutually exclusive with the LCD overlay I believe.

  12. APSC covers most of my needs… which are street/doc for fun and events if I’m being paid. Sensor tech gains in recent years have, IMO, made the usable performance envelope of the crop sensor cameras (both MFT and APSC) far more versatile than they were a few years ago, and most OEMs offer decent and fast glass.

    And glass brings me to my point. If there’s one bugbear for me with crop sensor it’s respective FLs. For example, I quite enjoy the 28mm FOV, but I don’t enjoy the actual look of an 18mm lens. That said, 23/27/35/50/60 on APSC work well for me, and really cover what I need, so as long as I stay in those lengths, I’m happy to use the ‘middle of the road’ ‘jack of trades’ that modern APSC offers in terms of size/performance

    • Agreed – the latest generation of 24MP APSC sensors are impressive – the D5500 I had a little while back had pixel level sensor performance not far off the D810, and much nicer tonal response in the highlights than the D800E.

      As for lens rendering, angle of view and focal lengths – I think this article explains why…

      • Yes, I’ve read that before, good article and so much more eloquent than how it is in my head, which would be something like – APSC + 18mm = nice amount of subject(s) in the frame, but the CA and perception of curvature are a real pain the *ahem* posterior 🙂

      • Maybe someday someone will go through the trouble to shoot equivalent fl’s (cropped to exactly the same fov, including aspect ratio) at equivalent apertures with different formats on the same tripod and overlays the results for A/B/C comparison. Of course it would have to be repeated for at least two common focal lengths (say, 85 and 24mm-equiv) and “typical” lenses used for each format (actually I’d like to see the same for something as simple as Otus vs Nikkor 85mm). That could be a great marketing boon for medium format manufacturers, given that there actually is any visible difference when scaled to same resolution, since it would be an actual proof of the mythical format differences beyond dynamic range.

  13. amirali says:

    Nice to read other peoples thoughts.
    Anyway ; I think the FF is the ideal compromise if they had made a round of F2 Otus lenses (from a more macro point of view). Most of the lenses in different formats at fastest , DOF wise , are equal to F2~1.8. The larger formats and FF has the options to get crazy razor thin DOF which one is super heavy and the other is heavy. The F 1.4 is still not usable in many situation because of the thin DOF. The Otus is about 1 kg each. They could make a F2 or F2.5-8 series and reduce the weight (alot) while offering the same or even better IQ. I don’t know whats with F1.4 that every manufacturer is obsessed with it.(Altho there are lots of great slower lenses out there…)
    That being said for me it would be X1D(we discussed in the last post). My work does not require action. I have to plan for it. I have had spend 2 days for one shot for example (not that it is super artistic or something , just my workflow is slow and I like to see it before I take the final pic). Im using a dslr aps-c. The fastness of the camera is overkill for me. I like the fact that I don’t have to use a tripod with it 90% of the time. My reason for moving to larger format is mostly colour and look. Colour Im pretty sure is much better , with look Im not yet sure.
    ( Also Im here secretly hoping the camera industry move to curved sensors )

    • We kept telling Zeiss that: they didn’t want to build them. What can I do? 🙂

      • amirali says:

        If only we could fire someone to make them listen -_-

      • The interesting thing that they’ll make smaller, slower lenses for the Loxias, but not for the rest of their line. Arguably the Sony FEmmarket is smaller than their SLR market, too.

        • amirali says:

          Yes true that , and sony cameras are just weird. I don’t know about other photographers but I did not enjoyed them a few times that I handled them.

          • On paper alone, I really wanted to like them. I owned four. And none of them stuck longer than a few months, probably for similar reasons to you…

        • I’m not sure about that – from what I heard, the FE market is larger at the moment…

          But we all know Sony users: they believe the system must be small, say people who adapt big lenses and complain about ergonomics are idiots, and then embrace the G-masters like the second coming…go figure.

  14. A very timely article since I am in the middle of reevaluating my photographic objectives and what I want from my gear. My $0.02 is below.

    1) Ideal compromise:
    From my limited experience, it depends quite a lot on the situation you’re in/your objectives as Andre has suggested somewhere in this discussion. I am often the designated photographer a.k.a designated photo-deleter of my group of friends – this basically means balancing between my own needs (slower, mostly BW, more considered and much smaller quantity of good prints) and what I do for my group as a sort of courtesy (mostly documentary-style stuff, internet output, used to do some prints out of curiosity more than anything else).

    TL; DR: I think MFT is pretty close to a one-size-fits-all, but then again I don’t think chasing one-size-fits-all in itself is the right answer for everyone. I suppose there exists an “Ideal Compromise” for a certain spread of work you do, but start doing any sort of cross-genre stuff with conflicting interests and the cracks start to show. Adjusting the definition/scope of your work within which to fit your Ideal Compromise is another discussion altogether.

    I switched from FF to MFT ten months ago as a compromise between the two seemingly conflicting objectives, as well as dumping a Sigma DP3M due to workflow issues and the fact that I wasn’t using the tripod that much. I still wonder if I should have gone with a used D3S when it all began, maybe that would have been the answer.

    I’ve noticed a few things from this:
    -I suffer from a serious case of pixel-peeping.
    -I can never keep up with anybody’s iPhone in terms of time-to-output, even if I use an iPhone myself. 30 seconds to Instagram vs several minutes at least for me to export the file and do some PP, assuming I even have a computer to hand- not even close. My FF stuff was pretty much overkill in this regard. For social documentary, I’ve pretty much mentally checked out. iPhone or E-M5 with the 75/1.8. As long as there’s bokeh I should be good. Considering not bringing my camera to events anymore since everybody else’s mobiles (and my own iPhone) seem to do the job just fine. So in this case I suppose iPhone and (sometimes) bokeh-capable/people-friendly MFT is the ideal compromise.
    -In terms of personal work the GR is still the first thing I pick up, despite the undeniable flexibility and competence of the E-M5. Tele end used to be served by the 12-40 and 75/1.8, recently added the 45/1.8 since I don’t always have the proper working distance for the 75. Constantly hungry for better image quality especially in the lower ISO regime – I have a preference for the GR’s files, making the 12 end of my 12-40 pretty much irrelevant.

    2) Best for my needs/Do I have it:
    Short answer- I don’t know/Probably not.

    TL;DR: I want great image quality but am lazy. What do?

    An ideal compromise for me goes beyond the discussion of format sizes and into the realm of ergonomics and operational usability. I’ll happily lug a camera around to the shot location but once I’m there it had better not frustrate – otherwise it goes out the window. Same applies to the workflow end, hence I don’t really want to get off my lazy ass and shoot with film and partly why I didn’t get along with the DP3M.

    Currently using a GR and an E-M5 setup. I think it’s about there for the GR, but for the E-M5 I’m not so sure. Maybe the best solution for me would be to retain both and add a tripod-based big gun for corrected perspectives, large DR for landscapes and all that jazz. No budget for medium format so I’m looking at a used D800E to fill the role, which would end up with me having an on-tripod/off-tripod combination of solutions with the GR being a part of both. I have a feeling that the MFT kit would stick around only as an in-between option for when I want/need to use something bigger than the iPhone but don’t want to set up the artillery.

    I suppose I’m thinking of it as cutting up the scope of my work into subsections and making an Ideal Compromise for each of those cases, if that makes sense.

    In terms of need, how much of our needs do we really need to cover anyway? I used a 3.2MP Olympus Camedia back when I was a kid, and I was happy…

    • The current iteration of the IG app is surprisingly flexible once you figure it out; and the results are clearly optimised for looking good at tiny screen sizes. Algorithms appear to work better with iPhone images, too.

      I don’t think ergonomics can be independent of form factor, right? You’re never going to get a pocketable 4×5″, nor does a D5-sized M4/3 camera make much sense, either…

      Need: depends what you do with it. The larger/higher density you print, the more you need. And yes, you can still see the difference – even going from 50-100MP.

      • Thanks for the recommendation- I’ll try out the app’s built-in editing the next time I publish on IG.

        Ergonomics – both examples are true, but are edge cases. What I had in mind was something along the lines of an RX1 vs an EM1.2 for example. Or maybe the GM5 vs the EM1.2. For something that I’ll be using a lot, I’m a lot more inclined to look into the shooting experience and operational aspects (comfort, button placement etc.) in addition to the sensor format. Another way of saying that I’m prepared to take a certain level of IQ degradation for something that’s more comfortable to handle or something that I’m less likely to drop when out in the field.
        I suppose the point I made is kind of moot anyway since if you’re fixed to deliver a certain pictorial result you’d pick the best sensor size for the job and select the one with the best ergonomics within that pool of candidates, and not compare across formats like I seem to have done.
        As a hobbyist I suppose I’ve had the liberty to disregard sensor sizes in favour of what I feel the best photographing with, with the caveat that it falls within an acceptable range of performance (probably most of the cameras out there). This might be the result of me not considering the output seriously enough though- maybe if I get my printer to print at higher pixel densities (something I’m considering doing, I wonder how far they can go)/upgrade my monitor I’d see the difference and then my priorities would change again, possibly to favour the bigger formats more.

        Just curious though, with the move from 50MP to 100MP are you printing denser, or are you using the pixel count to enable larger prints at the same level of pixel density? Or less stitching perhaps?

        • Prints: a bit of all three.

          Ergonomics: there are definitely compromises that don’t work (DF) and similar ones that do (K1) – often only separated by small differences…

  15. In majority, my Ricoh GR does the job for me. I also bring along a Canon 6D with the 50mm STM lens, which I think is more than I’ll ever need. Both fits easily inside my Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag. If I need to slow down, I’ll bring my Sigma 20mm and 85mm Milvus and surprisingly still fit in my small bag. Oh and I have the GR strapped on my right side or in my pocket! I’m still dreaming for that unicorn though…FF GR!

    • I’ve always wondered if they could make the GR a little larger and add back a finder of some sort like the film cameras had…

  16. Ming – may I ask you about something unrelated? You are an experienced traveller, do you have some suggestions about what to do in Istanbul? Some dos & don’ts? Because of a rescheduled flight I will spend a day in Istanbul.

    • I have to apologise as I’ve never been…it’s on my list!

    • Michiel953 says:

      Hakan: take a bus or cab to the centre, visit the blue mosque, one of the nearby big markets and then, if you have time left, try to take a bus or cab ride through the three different parts of Istanbul or a ferry ride visiting the European and Asian shores.
      You can have a drink or something to eat almosteverywhere.

      It’s an amazing place.

      • meficrypto says:

        Thanks for your suggestions!

        Ming: will we perhaps see some pictures from China soon?

        • China: actually, I’ve got nothing to show: it was a solid two days of meetings from morning to evening. Didn’t get the time to shoot (and I was in the middle of a rather boring modern industrial zone).

  17. I`m completely on MFT, reasons:
    1. I like to use the same system/menu irrespective whether the day demands a pocketable or a more bespoke setup.
    2. Speed and weight are important. If in doubt what I need during the day, I can pack a lot of lenses, without breaking my back
    Lenses from extreme WA to telephoto available.
    3. Preference of short telephoto lenses – here the MFT offering is especially strong: Nocticron, Olympus 45/75mm. The latter is so sharp that it frequently makes the use of longer/heavier telephoto obsolete.
    4. The Olympus 50mm Macro is excellent, and the 60mm is even better – the latter gives me the chance to capture insects in-flight, using AF
    5. I do not use WA lenses that often – MFT has extremely lightweight solutions, so – if in doubt – I can still take one along (Lumix 2.5/14mm !)
    6. Resolution quality absolutely sufficient for me & my audience (no pixel peepers)
    7. Very robust Olympus FL50 flash

    • Very sensible!

      • I might add that MFT is also very economical, due to the fact of many users jumping around and selling their as-good-as-new gear for little money. I bought many cameras 2nd hand with less than a 1000 releases. Generally I paid only half of the MSRP or less

  18. What do you think is the ideal compromise?

    I haven’t been able to compromise, but if I was forced to, it would be the Fujifilm X-T2. I don’t really like working with the files as I find Adobe (whether Bridge/Photoshop or Lightroom) takes a frustratingly long time to process shots, but a simple messenger bag can carry way more lenses than I need. The Fujifilm lenses are excellent, but I find they lack character and are too perfect. Shooting with legacy lenses is a lot of fun but can be frustrating as I find a lot of misses or near-misses get produced. I love the Ricoh GR II files, they are easy and quick to manipulate and have tons of latitude. However, there is only so much you can do with the one lens size, but since I love 28mm that’s generally not an issue. My Nikon D810 is fantastic but ginormous. I rate cameras by their portability, and my favoured Zeiss/D810 combos are quite large, especially with the battery drive attached. So the compromise goes by photography type with my preferred first and backup next:

    Street photography – Fujifilm X-T2 or Ricoh GR II.
    Landscapes – Nikon D810 or Ricoh GR II.
    Lowlight photography – Nikon D810 or Ricoh GR II.
    Naturally lit portraits – Nikon D810 or Fujifilm X-T2.
    Nature – Fujifilm X-T2 or Nikon D810.

    If I judge by portability, I can always have a Ricoh stuffed in my pocket, and when I am going out I carry my messenger bag with X-T2 and a few lenses inside.

    What do you think is best for your needs – and do you have it already/ are you sure?

    No, I am not sure. I am tempted to think that the new Fujifilm GFX 50S might cover over more of what I like to do, but then I go back to my Nikon/Zeiss combo and am really unsure about it. The X-T2 is so small and so easy to operate, the dials are fantastic and I find I catch more of the shots due to ease of operation combined with stealth. But the Nikon D810 files are clearly superior, along with the Ricoh files (when not in lowlight conditions) being equivalent and coming in a smaller package. I don’t regret owning any of the systems, but I wish I could just operate with one as money starts being an issue. If I was a pro, I would be using a medium format, merely because it produces files which cheaper cameras can’t. But since I’m not, cost is the major issue and owning a medium format in addition to what I have already is simply not economical. All of this is to say, I have not found a system that I am completely in love with, but much like a political solution, am not really 100% satisfied.

    • Depends on your intention. For me – probably MF and a single lens (optimal being all lenses); or a D810 and 24-120. I’m fortunate enough that I can chuck an X1D and a lens or two in my bag for when the probable return for going up a step to the H6-100 isn’t going to be worthwhile; it actually isn’t much larger or heavier than my EM1.2. Speed, on the other hand is something else of course.

      • The Nikon D810/24-120 combination is one which I’ve often used for travel photography, but it usually ends up being too big to capture my favourite shots, which are usually just on the way to dinner in the early evening. The X-T2 or Ricoh GRII have taken over that role, particularly since they are much less intimidating than the D810/24-120 combo. I don’t expect the MF Fujifilm is going to be any smaller than the D810, but it might give another step up in quality in return for the same size. I’ve tried mucking about with my Zeiss 28mm and a driveless D810 with some success, but the haptics of the X-T2 are just so much better than the D810. At the end of the day, I can only conclude that the camera I want simply isn’t possible at the moment.

        • Actually, I find the shooting envelope isn’t quite big enough for those times of day – f4 is just too slow. Switch it out for a 50/1.8G and you go back to small and much more versatile…

          • True, which is why for a lot of shots I took in places like Venice the Ricoh GR II and a small tripod which fits in my pocket worked a lot better, although I did get some odd looks as I attempted to balance it on various things. Even at that point I was pushing the limits of the Ricoh’s ISO. So I’ve gone back to the X-T2 and the Fujfilm 35mm f/1.4 (53mm equivalent) which has more resolution than the Ricoh GR II. But I find the Fujifilm RAWs not as good as the pure awesomeness of the Ricoh. Sigh. Do you not like the 50/1.4D or 1.4G?

            • Nope, sorry – I’ve owned one 50/1.4D and two 50/1.4Gs, and honestly – I prefer the 50/1.8G. It just has a little more ‘bite’.

              • I’ve never owned a 50/1.4 so I thought I would ask. I have owned a 50/1.8D in the past, but it won’t cost much to get a newer 50/1.8G. In fact, I could even get the Special Edition for a measly $200.

  19. I’ve very much enjoyed your philosophical and experiential discussions on camera gear. And in spite of your sage wisdom I’ve suffered through the Sony full frame system for a number of years and I’m just about done. At least I’m mostly done for my landscape work. I’ve transitioned over to a Hasselblad 500CM and the change back to a “real” camera is amazing. The Sony is a soleless camera I never enjoyed shooting. I’ll keep it around for my real estate where the dynamic range comes in handy. But shooting medium format film on the Hassy creates a perfect pace for the way I like to work. I’ve never needed, or really wanted, autofocus for landscapes especially with long exposures. I’m only just 10 rolls in and shooting with the 50mm FLE, 80mm, 150mm & scanning with the Nikon LS-8000ED but the workflow feels pretty good so far.

    • 🙂

      You may actually find the Sony useful for the scanning part with a copy stand and lightbox – faster than the usual film scanners…

  20. I haven’t gotten my order yet, but i am hoping to make Leica M10 with a 35mm summicron my only camera for awhile. Ive been using the d810 and ricoh gr over the past year but looking for something more in the middle; better image quality but also smaller body. the leica m to me seems pretty ideal for most photography, especially the kind i enjoy, street and travel photography. 24mp is enough to capture great photos too.

  21. Not to seem stuck in the past, but LF film produces a 3d quality and contrast which I have yet to quite experience with Digital. My Print sizes are at least 20×24, and I find comparative differences noticeable. With LF film, I feel a greater sense of stepping into the image; digital seems more 2 dimensional in effect. Even MF images using tilt etc produces for me a “thin negative”, the punchiness of fine detail in LF film is missing. It’s as if digital produces a smoothing effect.

    With the last produced Schneider and Rodenstock LF lenses, one can attain finer color contrast nuance, though older Nikkor and Fuji LF still produce fine images. Shooting film at these sizes and with great per sheet expense forces one to visualize the final product before releasing the shutter. Only those special situations where lighting and composition come together in an exceptional way, will I use film.

    So, imho there is still no equivalent to what can be produced with LF film, though all but a few old timers using LF have switched or use both. D810 with Zeiss and best quality Nikkors gives me the facility to shoot with a LF eye, getting maybe 80% of what I might get with LF film, while enjoying the speed of setup and unlimited variations in compositions and exposures. It’s a fun toy. The results are fine, but not usually jaw-dropping.

    When I look at Paul Wakefield’s LF work, for instance, I am immediately in awe of his translation of what might otherwise be a mundane scene. When I look at Phase 1 or H5d results, the take away for me is bold, garrish color, DR which can seem almost unrealistic, and extraordinary but “clinicical”, 2d detail. This is not to say that the best MF can’t eclipse LF- I have simply not found the right digital formula.

    Perhaps the “flatter” files of the x1d will prove me wrong and I will have found the right compromise. I hope so.

    For birds (my first and now surpassed passion) and critters, Dx or FF suffice. I had always wanted to “improve” on Porter’s 4×5 images of birds at nest using uodated LF lenses. Too many family issues precluded realizing that objective. Maybe next life.

    • Martin Fritter says:

      What films do you use and if you scan, perhaps some details about work-flow? Thanks!

      • Velvia 100f is preferred (great but more controlled color saturation, excellent reciprocity characteristics) for general work but is not available from retailers in US. Purchased through sources in Japan.

        Provia 100 is marginally acceptable alternative, Velvia 50 for static subjects, all transparency film.

        Before Kodak crashed, E100g was a good all-purpose, no longer available. Kodak Portra is a negative 400asa film with great latitude and subdued color relative to Velvia, but requires darkroom work to produce an image.

        I don’t use B&W 4×5 film.

    • “When I look at Phase 1 or H5d results, the take away for me is bold, garrish color, DR which can seem almost unrealistic, and extraordinary but “clinicical”, 2d detail. This is not to say that the best MF can’t eclipse LF- I have simply not found the right digital formula.”
      Could be processing choices as much as anything – that, or you aren’t viewing the right files at 100%. All of the MF CMOS files are as flat as the X1D – I use the same workflow with that camera as the H5/H6.

      The 100MP MF cameras are a step up over the 50MP generation though.

      • This is true, but depending on what film stock you shoot for large format, you don’t have to do very much digital processing (Ektar 100 being the obvious odd one out here); with slide you’ve got it right there in front of you, and this is awesome. Obviously there’s the additional step involved with getting the film itself processed, and then scanning it (for which I use D800E anyway!), but this is the exciting part!
        I shoot both Nikon D800E and Linhof Technikardan 5×4 with Velvia 50, Provia, Ektar, and Delta 100, for intimate landscapes predominantly now. Where possible I try to set out a particular plan days in advance (you have to with large-format anyway, since there’s the film-loading to factor in), and shoot the Linhof first, before getting backups, or scouting shots, on the Nikon. The results speak for themselves – for this purpose, the Linhof continues to blow the Nikon out of the water, for colour, tonality, and flexibility of composition; sometimes you would scarcely believe that the two cameras had shot the same composition. The latter isn’t an issue for prints anyway (I home-print up to A2). I haven’t got any sheets drum-scanned yet, but producing a stitch of 4 D800E shots from one sheet of 5×4 produces a very nice file as it is. If you have the patience for large format (and this for me is part of the point), there’s little that can beat it for the experience and the results. Even a 100MP digital technical camera would struggle to beat an 8×10 sheet of Velvia 50, I think (and currently only Phase can get the latest digital backs to work this way anyhow – plus you save yourself the order of a couple of tens of thousands of dollars!)

        • “The latter isn’t an issue for prints anyway (I home-print up to A2).” This was intended to be a comment on sharpness, where there really isn’t very much in it, and a drum scan would very likely bring any 5×4 weaknesses (depending on the lens, perhaps) compared to digital moot.

        • True – not much processing latitude though, either (B&W neg is something else, though).

          My gut feel puts 100MP on par with a perfect 4×5″ or slightly higher, though there’s the whole grain vs no grain thing to figure out. We can easily stitch, though – and dynamic range/ color are something else 🙂

        • Hey dwf, I’m using my digital camera + macro lens to ‘scan’ film too. But I am having trouble making multiple shots to stitch. Currently my setup uses an enlarger, with the film in the film carrier. Enlarger lens removed and pointing a camera on a tripod up into the diffusion box.
          My trouble has been getting the film and sensor planes parallel across multiple shots if I move anything. Would you mind sharing your scanning technique? Thanks!

          • Mine is really very simple. I put a flat book on the floor of my office, with a sheet of paper on top of it, and on top of this I place a small light MedaLight light panel. I use my Gitzo tripod, Novoflex Castel-L focusing rack, D800E and macro lens (generally 60mm) set vertically over the panel, checking both panel and sensor plane are level using my iPhone (a copy-stand would perhaps be easier here, but I don’t have one). I then select my sheet to digitize, place it on the light panel, and keep the film sheet flat with a plastic rig that fits over just the very edges of the sheet (made of lego! readily available and easily adjustable). I then shoot away, making sure that the focus for each frame is correct, and using the sheet of paper do allow the light panel to slide easily under the lens to allow quick and easy repositioning. Here is the lego rig I made: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davefearn/32742733060/in/album-72157664432705792/

            • I should also add that this is what works for me with 5×4 sheets. I’ve found that digitizing 35mm using this method is more time-consuming; strips of film (I don’t know about 120) seem always to be more likely to be bent and seem more difficult to keep flat, even using a smaller lego frame and some coins for weights.

              • For 35mm, keep it in a roll, and have two rubber guides spaced at the inter frame distance – those sit on the film between frames and keep it flat.

            • Thanks dwf! I’ll have to give that method a try

          • Shift the film instead of shifting the camera – it’s easier to maintain parallelism that way.

        • Tim Parkin at Onlandscape.co.net has performed side by side comparatives of 8×10,4×5 film with drum scans to IQ180 and Nikon D800e and found that the IQ180 was cleaner but did not resolve more than 4×5 film (velvia 50), with the latter exhibiting greater color contrast and differentiation than the Phase product. Perhaps a 100MP phase will equal 4×5 output but with a different “look”.

          Perhaps a 100mp MF digital system will be the appropriate compromise; albeit at an extraordinary cost.

          I may end up shooting both FF and LF still, particularly if Kodak reintroduces 4×5 Ektachrome.

          • That sounds in line with my experience so far. The 100MP CMOS cameras have considerably better dynamic range and color than the 80MP CCD and still somewhat better than the 50MP CMOS; the net result might be a bit over 4×5″ but not quite into 8×10″ yet.

            There’s one bonus for digital, though: you can stitch pretty easily. A few – 2-4 I guess – 100MP frames doesn’t push limitations on motion blur etc. too much, but 300+MP (allowing for some overlap) is pretty spectacular 🙂

    • Agreed: Eliot Porter’s intimate work is awesome. UK large format photographers such as Paul Wakefield, David Ward, and Richard Childs contine to show what you can do with this medium. I find the movements of a fully spec’ed field camera very much offset any concern that digital is more flexible. For my kind of work, this basically isn’t true. Slow down, and work on your compositions!

  22. It’s very interesting to read what other photographers say and do.
    It’s funny to see you keep using m43 system. Reading your latest post I though you’d be using the d750 on a regular basis.
    As far as I’m concerned I used a 40D, bought and enjoyed a 5DII, tried an EM-5, sold the 5DII. Now I only own an EM-1… For my need the 5DII was too bulky with excellent glass. While it was good with primes, it was expensive to buy a complete lens system for a hobbyist and it most likely have been to heavy to carry around (hiking for instance).
    So I picked up the m43. IQ does not need to be commented but I have a lot of fun and much less frustration compared to the FF system. What truly bothers me is the lack of DOF control… it’s really the one thing… So I’m actually looking for focal reducer/speed boosters to have both higher IQ, more transmission and have a 35 f2 becoming an “50” with a transmission closer to f1.4 on the m43 making it equivalent to an APSC. So why not get a Fuji? Stabilization…
    Thanks for the discussion.

    • Sold my D750 a long time ago, because it was close enough to the D810 in size I defaulted to that instead. And I haven’t used that since switching to MF – again, there isn’t that much of a difference in size/volume to go to the X1D…

      I actually don’t mind the DOF control – there are times you want everything in focus with a narrower AOV, and you can’t get that on a larger format. 🙂

  23. I work in multiple formats but in a standard way:
    All studio work is done with an RZ67 with older digital backs – P20+ (36 x 36 square!) and Mamiya Leaf DM-33 (36×48)
    All Landscape work is done with D800/D810 and Zeiss manual focus lenses (21, 25, 100)
    Walk around (street) shooting is with the Sony RX1R v1 (FF 35 mm fixed Lens) or micro 4/3 GH2 with Zeiss 50mm f/2 MF (like a 100mm for FF)
    Visualization is ok because I use the different formats for specific uses.
    I have the Nikons set up for 5:4 aspect ratio and the GH2 as 1:1; Unfortunately I cannot change the RX1R aspect ratio so I am stuck with 3:2 although I would prefer 5:4 or 4:3. This I believe is an important thing for visualization – being able to choose your aspect ratio and standardize across cameras. There is no reason why all manufacturers cannot offer this in digital – it should be standard. The other thing I do is set up all cameras to display monochrome in the viewfinder/screen when possible; I find this also helps me with composition and live view focusing. Again I wish all manufacturers would offer this.
    Two things I really enjoy in the field are looking through a bright optical viewfinder (diopter corrected) and using nice manual focus lenses. I probably should be using the HB V series and shooting film 🙂

  24. Casey Bryant says:

    What a great article to start for discussion. Evaluating one’s needs/objectives is really the only way to inform what gear will work for you. The sooner the gear is decided, the more time we can spend practicing photography.

    What do you think is the ideal compromise?
    I’m only a hobbyist with a patient wife (w.r.t. photo taking and buying/selling gear) and two energetic young kids (not patient at all). I carry a camera most everywhere to capture family moments, which means size and focusing are a priorities. I also prefer a viewfinder and manual controls. I often use an E-PM2, plus an E-M1 when I need greater control. But I have still been frustrated with focus misses and low light noise performance. Adapting various faster lenses (f/1.4 etc) defeats the size benefit of m4/3. Upping to APS-C or FF deliver the IQ and focus performance, but size and/or price quickly kill the deal. Every 1″ compact is a disaster in terms of controls, battery, and file flexibility. Ultimately — for size, haptics, focusing and IQ, I still keep coming back to m4/3 as the right compromise.

    What do you think is best for your needs – and do you have it already/ are you sure?
    Despite falling in love with the files from a loaned D750–for my needs (medium wall prints, photo books, web)– I absolutely don’t need more than what I have. But I tend to see the weaknesses in my gear…or I rationalize better gear by future plans to start a photography business. I wish there were some way to turn those switches off!

    • I’m using the EM1.2 a lot for family stuff too – it’s a good balance especially where speed is required with quick little ones!

      Professionally, it’s the Hasselblad system. Initially the H5D-50c, and I didn’t really warm to the H6D-50c, but the H6D-100c is something else entirely…I think it has to be The One. That said, if I only had the H5D-50c – I’d be fine too. 🙂

  25. I have a very specific requirement that really narrows down the selection. I regularly shoot off a small boat that I operate alone in open water. More often than not I need to be able to fire off shots with one hand only, as I need the other to operate the boat. To make things more difficult, a small boat sways quite a bit even in calm conditions and I often employ telephoto lenses between 100mm to 420mm equivalent. As if the above wasn’t enough, I live latitude 62 degrees North, so light levels are generally quite low.

    With this in mind, I have ruled out any system where I need two hands to change exposure settings (looking at you Fuji). Stabilization is the next most important consideration. Boat movements are very 3D, so optical stabilization often doesn’t cut it unless high shutter speeds are used. That is often not a possibility due to low light levels. That narrows the selection down to either m4/3, Pentax or Sony. Sony is out of the question as the ergonomics are horrible for one-handed shooting with any decent telephoto. The lenses are huge and the body is too small, and there really isn’t much selection for telephoto lenses. Pentax K1 is better in many ways than Sony, but with telephoto lenses the size gets in the way and the stabilizer is not that effective with high resolution bodies. The lens selection is a bit uninspiring as well.

    That leaves m4/3. The ergonomics on the E-M1 and E-M1.2 are really quite good and the stabilizer is amazing. I have no trouble using the 40-150mm f/2.8 zoom one-handed when needed and in poor light it allows shots at base ISO that would need ISO3200 or more on other systems. Hand held video is magnificent on these as well, although at the moment it is a very low priority for me. I currently own 6 lenses for the system but I’m looking to narrow down the selection further. Two fast primes and two pro zooms would be ideal. Hopefully Olympus will release a 2x TC, that would get me from 24mm to 600mm equivalent with just the pro zooms. What other system can match that?

    • The minute you said ‘boat’ and ‘longer lenses’, Olympus rockets to the top of the list…
      12-100 and 100-400 Panasonic? That gets you all the way to 800mm even.

      • We are really spoiled for choice with excellent tele zooms for m4/3. The 12-100mm looks to be the ultimate do-all lens, but I would still need another lens to get past 100mm. At the moment 40-150mm focal range really hits a sweet spot for me, it is often the only lens I take out. TC in pocket and GR on belt holster and I’m good to go for boating and hiking.

  26. Charles Millen says:

    I shoot predominantly 4×5 and use a 5DSR when the view camera is a bit unwieldy or impractical. I am looking at picking up the 24mm TSE and maybe even the 17mm TSE to get back some control over my focal plane when in the digital realm of capture. I prefer to use the 4×5 and thoroughly enjoy the process and outcome when it all comes together. My compromise is that I have to shoot a large volume of sheets and freeze them until I can warrant doing my own processing run. That can be a period of 6-12 months on ice before I know if I captured the shot or not! When I shoot with the 5DSR the convenience when compared to 4×5 is profound, but there is some visual depth missing to the file and definitely the print in my eyes. I am always open to alternatives, and my interest is hovering around a MF digital back (or even Fujifilm GFX) and a Cambo Actus (by your suggestion when I commented on your 645z review Ming) though I still think that I will gravitate back to 4×5 regardless of the weight, cost and time between processing runs. Therefore the sensible thing for me to do is to stick with the 5DSR and decent primes to augment the 4×5 set up, though I am not immune to gear lust unfortunately. The Cambo could very well be a modern, viable compromise…

    • I admire you patience, Charles 🙂

      I agree on ‘something missing’ with the 5DSR: I found the same, and I think it’s a color/bit depth thing and format size/rendering thing. Otuses helped but the files do not look like 44×33 MF, much less 54×40 or 4×5!

      I seem to remember there was a Cambo solution that would work with a DSLR adaptor and 4×5 sheet film…that might be your solution.

  27. I too am moving toward the dual kit configuration: A99 Mark II + Siggy 35/1.4 + Zeiss 50/1.4 + 85/1.4 + 135/1.8 and E-M1 Mark II + 7-14 + 300MM PRO with x1.4 (maybe the 12-100 for streets) the sync IS is very nearly irresistible.
    I’ll have roughly $15K +- in the above and be thrilled with the versatility. I learned how to make m43 look like MF here…thank you 🙂 The Hassy 50c kit with lenses is close to $40K maybe I’ll indulge myself after my last kid has finished university :/

    • Haha: well, MF looks like nothing else (so far) – what you can apply to M4/3 you can also apply to MF. It need not be 40k, though – 645Zs, GFXs, CFVs and X1Ds even with a full kit are well under half that. Less, if used.

      • Right, but the point is, my selection is so much more versatile and so much less costly, even compared to the new, little less expensive versions of MF. At some point I’d like to try MF but I’m just not seeing the advantage for what I do, at present. Hopefully the trend will continue and at some point be on par with FF cost wise.

        • Just a matter of time – as costs slowly come down, more people adopt, component costs go down further because of volume, and so on. The FF market isn’t going to grow much – but MF is so tiny it just might; or 44×33 at least.

    • Would you mind elaborating on how to make m43 look like MF? I must have missed the article!

  28. Stephen says:

    Most current digital cameras are much larger than they theoretically need to be. The Rollei 35 (1966-2015) is a “full-frame” 35mm camera, but way smaller than any modern full-frame digital camera. The new Fuji GFX 50S is a digital medium format camera that is way smaller than most medium format cameras – yet even it is much larger than the sensor actually requires. The ideal format combines the biggest sensor with the smallest body possible – something that still has a long way to go with current digital offerings. Phones have evolved from big boxes with small screens to practically just a screen (with everything else vanishing). Cameras too will evolve – giving us more in a smaller, lighter and ultimately cheaper package.

    • Not quite: you forget the interaction between ray angle, sensor micro lenses and other such things. A much higher degree of telecentricity is required for digital compared to film to avoid vignetting/ hue shifts/ purple fringing etc. which in turn means longer flange distances and more internal volume. There’s also the ergonomic/human factor, too: you can have really tiny cameras like the Panasonic GM5, but they aren’t very comfortable or easy to use for extended periods.

  29. Ming
    Ideal compromise is that a contradiction? Well the basic statement of the bleeding obvious could be purchasing the equipment that best suits your needs that has the most turnover and price competition (unless you really can say cost is not an issue) and convince yourself that you can live without whatever else you may have missed. But I get the feeling that the most GAS free photographers tend to optimise one or two key parameters (often means lens choice &/or form/haptics), and compromise on every thing else in terms of versatility.

    So for me I suspect that the best all round camera system would be something like the Ricoh GXR camera that is mostly up to date in terms of IQ and performance, with a good EVF and up to four lenses units. I know it probably will not happen, but you were expecting at least one unreasonable suggestion 😉 , at least mine is not beyond the laws of physics. My potentially more reasonable and possibly attainable would be lower versatility, slow-ish high quality zooms in APSC, or in 135 if the cost difference between the formats continues to narrow.

    • It probably is a contradiction. Our problem is that photography is emotional: what appeals to us, what makes us react, how we shoot, and down to what we shoot with: if we were only objective, we’d almost all be shooting entry level DSLRs 🙂

      The GXR was a very interesting concept – I don’t know why it was not developed further.

      FF digital can be had pretty cheap now (6D, D610) and even compared to the latest generation APSC is still superior…

      • Ming
        Re GXR; I think it was probably introduced too early, basically the tech for mirrorless was not sufficiently established, and the lack of general acceptance that non DSLR cameras could be “good”. My memory from that time was that most reviews were warning people that they should be careful because it did not comply with standard notions of system. Having said that most reviews had quite good things to say about IQ for the APSC prime units and the control system. Basically the reviewing community forgot to review it for what it was, and decided to opine and judge it for what it was not, at least from my 20:20 hind-site vision 😉 .
        I did not have the confidence to try it so I can not complain that it is not continuing. Maybe if something like curved sensors ever become a reality, the concept could be revisited with more confidence for a manufacturer. It would then have a marketing logic with some unique techno credibility and rational to counter existing systems thinking.

        • I had one myself, and other than being somewhat slow in operation – it was actually pretty good quality-wise.

          Ironic because what sells now are things that are different as people get bored of the ‘standard’ stuff…

  30. >> What do you think is the ideal compromise?
    I mostly shoot street photography (or just shoot whatever looks insteresting), and ocasionally landscape.
    And I value compactness much. Mostly FF or ASPC cameras are fine, and maybe 6×6 sometimes.

    >> What do you think is best for your needs – and do you have it already/ are you sure?
    For street photography (and my daily camera), a Fuji X100T and the good old Leica M3 are enough.
    For landscape work, well there’s the Hassy 500 CM. All of them fit in my bag and they don’t feel heavy at all.

    Sometimes, when I’m in the mood, I’ll bring my Fuji GX680 III, which some consider as the ultimate medium format camera
    (tilt/shift/rise, dude). Of course, the thing is a really huge beast, and due to its size/weight, I rarely take it outside.

    • The GX680 has always intrigued me because of its incredible flexibility – but the change in FOV on smaller digital backs is a little challenging. And somehow, aesthetically, it reminds me of a train – and probably weighs about the same 🙂

  31. I’ve been trying smaller formats, namely micro ft and fuji x,, but I keep landing back on Nikon F as my ideal compromise. A full frame body with a compact prime is nice and compact, while allowing me to shoot low light candids without a big light setup. The only other lens I really need to cover almost everything else is a standard zoom, and, when required, a single on camera speedlight with a modifier or two.

    Everything else only comes out or is rented when needed for a specific purpose… telezoom, lights, UWA.

    • Agreed: when I had the D4, it was incredibly versatile when paired with the 24-120…

      • Damn it. I wish you hadn’t said that. 🙂 (Ming and I have been talking about getting a D4.)

      • Simon Broenner says:

        Great guess, the 24-120/4 VR is my go-to standard zoom. Perfect along with a 35mm or 50mm prime.

        A D3/D4/D5 is out of my weight and size range (not to mention price range when it comes to the latter), but every time I’ve shot with one I’ve loved it, even the venerable old D3. I’m sticking to the smaller bodies for now, currently enjoying the grip shape on the D750 🙂

        Now if only I could find a 35mm prime that provides satisfying results at long range. The ones I’ve tried so far (I.e. all the Nikon AF-D and AF-S options) become a little soft at ranges over 2m. The Sigma doesn’t exhibit this problem, but the bokeh is rather meh, with slight onion ring patterns. Looks like I’ll be picking up the Tamron for an extended test sometime soon… My last hope 😀

        • The D750 and 24-120 is probably the next most versatile after a D4 or D5 – you get another stop up on the D810, and it isn’t anywhere near as demanding for technique. Better AF tracking, too.

          The newer Nikon 35/1.8 perhaps?

          • Agreed, the D750 is much better suited to my “run and gun” style of candids than the D810 (or most other super-high-resolution cameras, for that matter :D). A close second would likely be the D500.

            Regarding the 35mm, thanks for the suggestion!

            The new AF-S 35 1.8G ED is actually the lense I’ve got on my D750 right this minute… it’s my third copy already (first was slightly decentered, and I sent the second one back because my D750 was front-focusing, which turned out to be a body issue that was quickly fixed by Nikon). This third one focuses fine, but I’m seeing the same slight softness across the frame at f/1.8 that was already an issue when manual-focusing the second copy. By f/2.8 the lens is perfectly acceptable by my standards, but the softness at 1.8 irks me, especially due to the fact that the much cheaper DX version of the 35mm is tack sharp in the same situation. For 200-300€ I don’t think I’d be complaining, but at 540€, I’m not quite sure.

            The 35mm 2.0D was even softer than the 1.8G, albeit much smaller and better to use without a lens hood due to the recessed front element, and the 35mm 1.4G is large and heavy. I may actually just bite the bullet and buy the 1.4G, but that also requires stopping down to f/2.0 or at the very least f/1.8 for acceptable sharpness at long range. I rented one the weekend before last, so I more or less know what to expect.

            I know needing to stop down a little doesn’t seem like a big problem, I know, but when 80% of the shots I take are at f/1.4 or f/1.8 in low lighting, that’s exactly where I’d like my lenses to shine ;). The 35 1.4G stopped down to f/1.8 with the emergency option of f/1.4 also available seems like it might be a workable compromise.

            • That’s a very expensive compromise…!

              I wonder if it’s an AF problem: are the results the same with MF? It sounds as though peak contrast isn’t at the same point as peak phase, which would lead to it looking out of focus – fortunately, easily fixable with AF fine tune.

              • My wallet won’t thank me, but hey, 80% of all my photos are taken at this focal length, and the used market for the 1.4G is decent (50% of retail price vs. 80-90% of retail price for the 1.8G, so hopefully it will hold its value better :p).

                You are likely 100% correct in assuming that the issue is caused by spherical aberration reducing contrast. Unfortunately, the aberration is such that the contrast (and hence sharpness) is reduced in general, leading to the slightly soft rendering I’m seeing. Manual focus produces exactly the same results…

                • Darn – I’d feared that. Unfortunately, that explains precisely why the 1.4G is so much more expensive than the 1.8G…

                • I have the 35/1.8ED as well, and as you discovered, the lens is a bit soft and dreamy wide open, unlike its 35/1.8DX sibling, which is almost harshly sharp wide open. There’s a bit of LoCA wide open as well which doesn’t help matters.

                  • Maybe I should just buy another 35 1.8G DX for low light use… was stupid enough to sell mine after a few days with the FX version :p

                    • I believe the DX version actually covers FX when stopped down a little. The corners aren’t great, but the middle is quite crispy.

                    • Simon Broenner says:

                      Actually it’s the other way around (I’ve shot the DX lens on FX for a few weeks myself) – it only has a slight vignette wide open and then starts to go “full circle” the farther you stop it down :p

                      I picked up my 1.4G yesterday, and apparently there’s also a bit of luck involved when it comes to my previously described problem. Discounting the stronger chromatic aberrations, the new 1.4G is as sharp at 1.4 as the 1.8G ED (FX) is at f/2.5… And at large distances (full body portrait on 35mm) no less. The one I previously rented was significantly worse at this range…

                      I’m positively surprised… Thanks for the thoughts and advice!

  32. John Prosper says:

    “What do you think is the ideal compromise?
    What do you think is best for your needs – and do you have it already/ are you sure?”

    Interesting questions for sure. I am currently looking to build a dual system format using µ4:3 and FF systems.

    With a strong interest in expanding more into real estate, real estate photography (i.e., architectural/interiors photography) is a natural interest that can easily expand into a professional endeavor. Although this is certainly possible with MF, the bright lenses and smaller size of FF systems seems more ideally suitable to this type of location photography. Yes, one can always work with portable lights and light stands to accommodate MF photography, but bright, sharp FF optics can certainly serve to minimize this extra equipment. The increasing resolution of the better FF glass (think Otus) definitely approaches MF resolution as you have superbly demonstrated.

    I have also always had a very strong interest in macro/close up photography, which, once again, is mostly location based work that is more amenable to the portability of FF systems. Finally, I DO love landscape work, which I have generally regarded as a LF/MF domain. However, the advent of Otus lenses and near-similar high resolution FF optics balances out the superiority of MF/FF glass with the portability and richer lens choices of FF systems.

    I have always had an interest with playing with camera/lens movements of LF and some MF systems, which I may indulge eventually. However, the overall flexibility of FF systems for real estate. macro, & landscape photography makes them the best overall compromise for those photographic genres in my view.

    The smaller µ4:3 system comes into its own for situations involving more stealth or more relaxed photo work. Certainly, for street/candid photography the tiny µ4:3 systems with fast, sharp lenses allows one to capture special moments with more ease and (often) less subject awareness than most other systems. These systems also are ideal for travel photography. Again, due to my love of macro/close up work, having macro lenses or non-macro lenses with minimal working distances are nice advantages when encountering unplanned macro/close up opportunities locally or on trips. The only real caveat with the smaller µ4:3 systems is to guard against using them as a poor substitute for a larger system one has. I would rather use these tiny systems with their advantages in size, brightness, and portability in mind when a larger system may be clumsier to use or to cumbersome to bring along for unplanned work.

    • Macro is easier with M4/3 because of DOF and magnification/coverage; it’s really quite a pain with MF.

      I’ve actually never used lights for interior or architectural work: just do a reccie and determine best time of day before starting. But you’ve definitely got better dynamic range and color options (and arguably, wide perspective correction options) for FF than M4/3.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      Hmm – I shoot macro a variety of different ways.
      One shoot involved about a hundred shots for a catalogue, and stackshots were the solution. Then I found something unexpected – stackshots don’t work as well on an object like a flower, with softer edges – but the Otus 28mm w/angle produced a brilliant result, with exactly the DOF I wanted. I suppose it’s old fashioned, but calculating DOF is still a useful technique for shots like that. And yesterday I snapped a macro of a bee landing on a gum tree flower, with my Nikon Coolpix – nothing like the quality of the others, but still an interesting macro shot.
      There’s no “one size fits all” – yes I prefer working macros with the FF, but I’m perfectly happy to use any of the other cams, if it suits me at the time. I don’t burn out if some of my shots aren’t “perfect” – just “nice”. After all, I still have happy memories of my very first photograph, and I took that with a second hand Kodak Box Brownie, running 620 roll film – from memory, I think there were only about two adjustments you could possibly make with it, but the photo turned out just fine.

  33. Way back when, in my professional days, we dealt with choice of camera quite object related.
    35mm and it’s according set of lenses (back then – I am speaking pre autofocus times here – I preferred to use a Minolta), a middle format with three different lenses according to intent of use in the studio for portrait, product, reproduction and the like (a Mamiya 7 something) and finally a 4×5 inch ancient camera with wooden frame and iron tripod and a set of Zeiss lenses for architecture and landscape (the latter never happening as a paid job, just for training – in rural regions, people don’t seem to care much about landscape, funnily. Maybe they take their surroundings for granted, I wish, I had photographed more of it to just document the significant changes over the years).
    These days, being an amateur only, I settled for a crossover camera with a huge zoom range (always getting annoyed with it’s lack of colour capacity, can’t depict any blues correctly, funny enough) that suits most of my needs and is practical enough. There were two requirements I asked for, when buying it: I want a Zeiss lens with maximum 1.2 speed (is that the correct English term for luminous intensity as we call it in German, I wonder?) at 50mm and a big zoom range.

    My classical, all mechanical Hasselblad 500C sitting in the cellar in its box unused for decades now. Who has the time to go out with a tripod and lightmeter these days, I ask you?

    • I think we all take our surroundings for granted – or rather our brains eventually process them out, otherwise every day would be visual overload. Also explains why it’s much easier to find subject matter when traveling; one doesn’t have to fight human nature. 🙂

      I shoot the V body handheld and without a meter – experience makes up for the latter, sufficient shutter speed for the former. It’s actually more compact than my D810 and a decent prime.

    • Are you saying you found a bridge camera with an f/1.2 Zeiss lens? Astounding to say the least…

      • Might be a typo. But Zeiss did make f1.2 lenses for the C/Y system, and those are of course adaptable…

        • Might be the RX10(III) he’s talking about (because of the huge zoom range) – fantastic device with great IQ… 24-600 full frame equivalent IIRC, albeit f/2.4-4.0 across the zoom range. A very nice way to compromise.

          @Lyart: Are you shooting RAW? Might help with the blues – I’ve found that Sony’s 1″ sensor cameras (mainly from my experience with the RX100 series) have much more trouble with auto white balance than Canon or Nikon, but this is easily fixable in post.

          BTW: Luminous intensity = Leuchtintensität. Your choice of “speed” is, however, the correct term for what you are referring to (“Lichtstärke” ausgedrückt als Blendenzahl).

      • I am sorry, just cheked – it is a Zeiss lens with 2.8 – somehow I lived in the deception, I actually have one with 1.2 – until now. Obviously; I just settled for the best I could get.& thanks for the translation help…

    • “Who has the time to go out with a tripod and lightmeter these days, I ask you?”

      me! The planning of a day or days away is great fun.


  34. I sold most of my Nikon gear (D810 and D700) and replaced them with Panasonic GX8 and GM5 a year ago. There’s no going back. Although the D810 image quality is superior to the GX8, the m4/3 lenses are not only smaller, lighter and cheaper, but mostly of better quality unless I compare with F-mount lenses that were out of my reach anyway due to price and/or size and weight. I’ve also found that the form factor of the GX8 suits me well and takes up very little space in spite of not being a particularly small camera. Add to that the excellent, tilting viewfinder, articulated touch screen LCD and great 4K video… there’s not really any competition. Remember the sensational D700, a camera that weighs 2-3 times as much as the GX8 and costed 2-3 times as much as well? It’s not that far back in time, but the GX8 runs huge circles around it when it comes to image quality. If I want shallow DOF, there are enough f/0.95 and f/1.2 lenses available at reasonable prices to satisfy most needs. And I can go further, using full frame or APS-C f/1.4-1.8 lenses with a speed booster. That configuration using Sigma’s excellent f/1.8 zooms has become so popular that it’s surprising that Sigma doesn’t launch those lenses with a built-in booster for m4/3.

    I love using medium format and 35mm film on Sundays. Then I get that traditional shallow DOF film look both ways. But for everyday photography, commercial or hobby based, I don’t see why I need anything but m4/3, and I do print big, up to 4 x 3 metres. You do see a lack of detail when going up close, but that was never the point with those print sizes, was it?

    • That sounds like a sensible compromise to me – and why I have an E-M1.2 myself for casual stuff, even if the daily driver is a H6D-100c.

      Commercial prints have different requirements to fine art, and if you get an AD who likes to crop – then M4/3 ain’t going to cut it. But for 99.9% – yes, it’s more than enough. I think I said that already back in 2012 🙂

    • I too am wondering why Sigma doesn’t launch their f/1.8 zooms for m4/3, the focal ranges would be very useful even at 2x crop. 35-70mm zooms used to be common back in the day, and I would buy one in a heartbeat given the choice. 100-200mm f/1.8 would be very tempting as well. Maybe they are thinking there’s no market for such big lenses on m4/3, but they need not look further than Olympus Pro zooms and see that there is indeed a demand especially at Sigma’s price point.

  35. That’s a hard question to answer. I’m shooting four film formats (35mm, 645, 6×9, and 5×7) and two digital (μ43 and 35mm) because nothing is satisfying.

    If I could budget it, Fuji’s new mini-MF might be the ideal compromise, but that’s beyond my means.

    • Ouch – I can’t even begin to imagine how visualisation for that would work. I already find being fully familiar with two formats is tough enough; right now I’ve got four (M4/3, FF, 44×33, 645) – and there’s definitely some hesitancy especially when two of those (44×33, 645) share the same lenses – but with different angles of view…

      • Ah well, the easy answer to there is simply that visualization is really rigorously practiced with 5×7 and FF digital. I’m still learning 5×7, too. That was a change from 4×5 because I wanted something wider and practical for contact printing.

  36. Hi Ming,

    For me, I’d define an ideal compromise as a something that doesn’t compromise why you’re there in the first place. That sounds sort of tautological, but it makes sense from a subject-centered view. For example, for travel, you don’t want the photographic equipment to interfere with your vacation, unless you’re attending a photo workshop. So I’d want light and unobtrusive, so I can enjoy the vacation, of which the photos are a peripheral part only.

    For a photo assignment, you don’t want to compromise what you’re trying to photograph, and that’s both behind and in front of the camera. For example, no flash in a theater, or messing up natural landscapes by driving into them. That’s going to affect your equipment choices since you might need lighter equipment to hike into a protected area, or a camera with good high ISO performance to freeze action in a theater.

    Output’s going to affect your choices too. Facebook is going to put a very low ceiling on image quality, so if social media is your end-goal (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you may not need the sharpest lenses or the most noise-free sensor. But you may still need good AF and responsive performance to get a particular moment.

    What I have right now is satisfactory for me. It could always be better, but I can make what I have work well enough for me. As with many people here, I’ve been afflicted with GAS, but I find that the best cure for GAS is to find a project that you feel passionately about, and submerge yourself into it. For me, that means not saying no to almost any subject that fits in one of my 3 current projects (dance, local landscapes, and videography), as long as I can get enough sleep and not compromise my day job. I know I have to process the output of some shoots well into the night on a workday night, but the photos I get and the people I do them for are the reward that makes it worthwhile for me. The details of this are obviously going to vary for other people.

    And the surprising thing (well it shouldn’t be surprising) is that I’m finding myself improving, both artistically and technically though not always in a straightforward or even forward path! I’m finding many of the compositional solutions that I discover applicable to other subjects than just my main projects, and my eye is improving too. So it’s kind of a win-win: I don’t do the endless equipment chase and my output is improving, and it’s very satisfying.

    There are also photos that I make now that I wouldn’t have even thought could work a year or two ago. This is not about technical pyrotechnics, but just having more maturity in how I see things and how I want to say things. Basically, I gave myself permission to make photos in ways I might not have allowed myself to a few years ago.

    Technically, my projects made me learn new things too, like how to use flash. I was one of those people who never liked or understood how to use artificial light, but now I’m fascinated with it, and it’s actually informed how I deal with natural light too.

    Anyway, I’m curious how this discussion and experiment will work out! Hope we get lots of input here!

    • Not tautological at all: it makes perfect sense to me. The only thing I’d say is that DR and DOF of larger formats are still visible at social media sizes, but perhaps the 100MP thingy isn’t necessary for Instagram…

      You touch on another critical point here: you have to shoot to improve; there is no shortcut or replacement for this. It doesn’t matter what you shoot with; it’s the fact that it forces you through the thinking process.

      • And the results of the practice needs both external feedback and your own critical eye to help improve your art and craft too!

        • Yes and no – I think one has to be careful of getting too much feedback, actually. It can put you off course if the opinion isn’t a relevant or informed one…

  37. Living in the heat and humidity of Thailand and at 70+ years of age it’s all about weight. Hauling a Dslr kit around is a no go. But I still want FF and my Leica M240 plus 4 lenses weighs little. As a complement I also carry a Sony RX1004 for fast grab AF street situations.

    I’m really happy with this set up and really, that’s the most important thing. Haptics.

    • Fully agree on the impact of climate! How do you find the haptics of the RX100? My experience was that it was best used in auto…somewhat fiddly if at speed.

      • Best camera I ever used for candid “in your face” street photography. When I see a subject approaching and not wanting to deter them I use the LCD and pretend I’m shooting a video ABOVE THEM, pointing the camera at the sky and waiving it around like a tourist. This keeps them looking at me but unaware of they being the eventual subject. As they come into range I drop the view down and fire. Because it’s such an unobtrusive little thing no one gets alarmed or angry. Just another crazy tourist with a point and shoot. My set up is either 24mm or 35mm equiv.(depending on the location) Aperture set to f5.6, 1/1000th sec, or more, wide AF mode, auto ISO and top continuous frame rate. (8 fps). Often I’ll also pre focus but the AF is pretty good. I’d say, that in a year of using it I have a hit rate of 80%.

        I never leave the house without it.

  38. jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Oh dear – no idea what’s ideal – whatever suits the shoot, perhaps.

    Seriously – for my “better” shots I prefer FF, and for candid or casual photography I waver between my PowerShot and my HF.

    The HF gives a better image than the PowerShot, but the PowerShot has the advantage of a tilt screen which is often extremely useful in capturing candid shots, or shots that might otherwise call for gymnastics such as lying on the ground (not fun, at my age!)

    I also have a 4/3 – bought because it’s a handy size & slips into my pocket – my intention being so I would never be caught without at least one camera. After a while, I decided the image quality wasn’t acceptable, so I upgraded to the PowerShot – unfortunately it’s not quite small enough to slip into a pocket, so the 4/3 has come back into use for its original purpose.

    There – they’re graded, from 1 through to 4! Actually there’s another consideration – the two smaller cams are fun & easy, the HF is more serious but still fun & easier than the FF. But the quality from the FF devours the others.

    I do envy you the luxury of medium format, Ming. I did have a two & a quarter square for a long while, and for some years, I used it instead of my 35mm – but sensibly, I don’t shoot commercially and I don’t print larger than A3, so I can’t really justify the larger format. I even had a Linhof 4×5 for a while, but what that gained in image quality it lost in convenience. 🙂

    • Here’s a thought: do the larger/more demanding formats make you shoot differently? Because they certainly do for me…and that’s one of the other reasons I prefer MF; the psychology of working slow, more consideration, lower quantity but higher quality…

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Most definitely – all four of those, plus greater thought and planning. But then it’s in the nature of candid stuff that you grab it as & when you can, so it kind of balances out – the smaller cams for the stuff some would dismiss as snapshots (they are not, really – not if you are serious about candid photography, anyway), and definitely with a lower percentage of keepers. And the great thing about doing both is that using the larger camera does train you better – so when you DO go for the candids, etc, you do a much better job of it – there IS planning and forethought, and you do see a fall off in deletions and a rise in quality in the keepers.
        That said – I get the greatest satisfaction out of my D810 FF with the Otus lenses I use on it. OK it’s heavy – MF – no pretensions of weatherproofing – but those images . . . . . 🙂

        • True; miss it or think about it – two different approaches to photography, I suppose.

          I don’t think there’s such a thing as a snapshot: an image that is more spontaneous or require faster reaction time, perhaps; but it shouldn’t be compromised compositionally.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        PS – if I had the money, I’d have one of those ‘blad X1D’s in an instant – in the words of Oscar Wilde, I find the temptation irresistible, and only finance constrains me to behave myself on this one.
        I don’t know if you’ve seen this review, Ming, and I doubt whether you really need to – but it says it all, for me.

        • For me a Hassy is a ground glass and omitting upflappable LCD is no purchase for me.

        • Same image quality as the H6D-50c, and slightly better than the H5D-50c which was my workhorse last year – so yes, I know what he means.

          The real problem is once you get used to the 100MP files on the 54×40 sensor…then you are in deep, deep doo-doo. 🙂

          • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

            In my wildest imaginings, I can’t see myself ever being able to get hold of one of the 100MP ‘blads, Ming – WAY outside my price range! – so I enjoy them vicariously, instead, through the quality of your photography 🙂


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