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Old Apr 4, 2003, 12:13 AM   #1
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Default digital vs medium format

I've read the excellent reviews about the image quality of the new canon eos 1ds and kodak pro dcs 14n. With the high 11.1 megapixels and 13.98 megapixels resolution, can these cameras actually replace medium format cameras?
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Old Apr 4, 2003, 4:01 AM   #2
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It's not just the MP...certainly you can't say a high-quality 35mm SLR can ever replace a medium format. Medium format cameras are in a class of their own...you can get digital backs for them from 6mp to 16mp (PhaseOne H20 for Hassleblad, costs only $25,000 not including camera and lenses).
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Old Apr 4, 2003, 12:54 PM   #3
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shinta

I agree with Mike_PEAT in general. The 1Ds and the 14n (if you accept its limitations) are quite good cameras, but I don't believe they truly "replace" medium format cameras. They might do somet things better, but they also do some things worse. All depends on what makes a difference to you when you take photos.

For example, dynamic range is something which digital cameras don't do well yet. I don't know of those high-end digital backs do it better than the 35mm digital cameras do. I have no experience with those.
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Old Apr 4, 2003, 3:55 PM   #4
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Read the article following this link
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/re...shootout.shtml

It has some interesting points. I was very impressed by the second comparison photo, the crop of the "York" sign. I was also stunned to find out that the scan to do this cost the guy $300, and it took up 158mb.

Well, enough of me talking about it, read it for yourself!
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Old Apr 5, 2003, 7:04 AM   #5
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It's not a contest between film and digital, which is "better". The ultimate goal for most who switch to digital is to eliminate the film/processing cost, delay, and uncertainty. Early digitals served a valuable service for internet use and newspaper use. They have evolved to the point that fewer and fewer can continue to claim digital is inherently inferior. Many have wanted to switch to digital, but worked in formats that required large size high quality reproduction. For them, it's not whether the photographer can accept digital as a replacement for film, but whether their clients will. Since most are rushed and on a tight budget, digital has the edge, IF the reproduction quality is there.
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Old Apr 5, 2003, 9:44 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skiola
The ultimate goal for most who switch to digital is to eliminate the film/processing cost, delay, and uncertainty.
Yeah, I can't imagine wanting a large print from film, but needing it edited first. First you would have to wait a day for it to be developed, then another day scanning(for 300!), then you would need a powerfull computer to edit the photo as it is over 100mb, and THEN get it pinted.

All told, you could probably spend a week proccesing this photo. Not to mention the cost. And your right as far as uncertainty, you never know exactly how the scan will come out, especialy when you consider how large dust will be on a print that large!
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Old Apr 5, 2003, 12:38 PM   #7
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Quote:
I've read the excellent reviews about the image quality of the new canon eos 1ds and kodak pro dcs 14n. With the high 11.1 megapixels and 13.98 megapixels resolution, can these cameras actually replace medium format cameras?
Since the topic's been pretty well covered, I can't add too much; just a couple observations.

Can the high resolution digicams "replace" medium format film cameras? Yes, in some cases. No, in others.

If the subject as captured is amenable to interpolation (large enough in frame or small enough in detail) then a 1DS or 14N can produce equal or better results in very large prints.

If super fine detail (like distant detailed landscapes) is important, then the answer is no - at least not for poster sized enlargements. Ultimately, there is no substitute for adequate capture resolution. The question becomes then, what constitutes "adequate?"

Even a 1.5 megapixel capture of a detailed macro can be enlarged successfully to poster size. Why? Simply because 1.5 million pixels provides sufficient sampling density for a subject which constitutes a very small field of view. As the field of view increases, or as the degree of fine detail in the subject increases, the requirement for sampling site pixel density per unit of measurement remains constant, but because the geography within the frame is increasing, the pixel density (photo-receptor sampling sites count) must increase accordingly to keep up.

There is no hard and fast rule. Because film has such a concentration of the digital equivalent of "photo-receptors" in tiny irregular silver halide crystals, we never had to deal with "pixel density" simply because film grain became the operant issue governing enlargement potential long before "resolution" was challenged. The situation is quite different with digital. Noise - the digital equivalence of film grain - is so low in pro-level digicams that resolution rather than grain IS the issue.

The only rule of thumb which I could suggest is that if you spend more time with detailed landscapes and large prints, or with group photos, you would probably be happier with medium format film. On the other hand, if you spend more time with individual portraits or only a few subjects at reasonably close distances, even a six megapixel digicam will thrill you.

My own personal opinion is that six megapixel pro digital resolution is a perfect replacement for 35mm fine grain color film or transparency. 11 megapixel pro digital is far and away better than 35mm color film or transparency for 99 percent of what any pro photographer uses 35mm color film or transparency for, and is a suitable replacement for about 75 percent of what a pro photographer uses medium format color film for.

Lin
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Old Apr 6, 2003, 9:18 AM   #8
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Lin

Since you've used a 1Ds (and a 14n?) I've a question for you.

Do the high end 35mm cameras capture the dynamic range of color or light as well as Medium Format? Or even 35mm with quality film (Provia, for example.) What about the digital backs for Medium Format?

From the pictures and compairsons I've seen on the web, it looks like the ability to resolve detail is matched or exceeded with the pro digitals. But detail is not everything.
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Old Apr 6, 2003, 2:53 PM   #9
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Hi Eric,

Dynamic range is a difficult subject with digital because there are wide ranges between what a consumer and pro sensor will do. Exact answers are difficult to get because dynamic range changes not only from sensor to sensor (different systems) but with changes in ISO.

A film has an ISO rating, so it's reasonably easy to say that this particular film has a dynamic range of "X" and that one of "Y". But with a single camera, we may have ISO 50, ISO100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 500 - etc., all the way to ISO 6400 (in the case of extended range with a Kodak DCS-720X).

At low ISO's such as 100 - 200, and to put it into generalized terms, most pro level sensors have higher dynamic range than transparency and lower than the best films. In general terms again, typically we see dynamic range of around 8 stops, plus or minus one.

But with digital, there are ways of greatly increasing the dynamic range within a single print. Of course, we could do likewise with film, but it's much easier with digital. For example, let's say you were photographing a landscape in high contrast sunlight with strong shadows and hot highlights. It's very easy to simply shoot two exposures of the identical frame, exposing the first for the shadows and the second for the highlights. Then in PhotoShop simply place the two images in different levels and combine them into one image with extreme dynamic range in the same print. To do the same with film would require two exposures and development, two scans and then similar treatment in PhotoShop of the scans.

Another example. Let's say you began shooting at 6 pm and sundown was at 6:15 pm. Between your first and last image, you really need to go from ISO 200 to ISO 800. Obviously, with film you would have to change to ASA 1000 or similar film to capture sufficient data as the shadows lengthened. With digital you simply switch ISO settings and shoot, and you have shifted the dynamic range to the extremes of shadows while simply having the ability to switch back to avoid blown highlights. So effectively, you have increased dynamic range within a narrow range of light frequencies with the digital; not in the traditional sense of having the ability to capture great detail both in the shadows and highlights within a single frame, but having extended the ability to see differentiation within a more narrow (shadow) band of lighting frequencies.

There is no doubt in my mind that with the right film, you have considerably more dynamic range leeway with a single exposure, but with digital you have the ability to instantly extend the range within most any of the "brackets" which would be represented by film speed changes.

To make the answer simple, most digital sensors including professional level sensors do not have the dynamic range capabilities within a single exposure that the better films have - especially black and white film. Most professional level sensors are 12 bit (8 bit for consumer counterparts) level. But if faced with a decision of which I would prefer to shoot with under trying conditions, my choice would be digital in nearly every case.

Lin
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Old Apr 6, 2003, 9:48 PM   #10
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Hi Lin,

Thanks for the description. As always, you give a very detailed and informative answer. I enjoy reading them every time.

I didn't realize that the dymanic range was 8 stops... larger than I expected.

I do agree about using digital over film. Although my situations aren't as difficult as yours, I'm switch to a 10D and hoping to accelerate my learning.... and being able to take all those extra pictures just because I can will be very freeing.
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