In this video, I show how you can produce incredible colours with your full-frame camera. Using the Canon 5DSR and a Colour Checker Passport I demonstrate how you can achieve colours that are either very close or potentially even better than medium format cameras.Read More
What is the absolute best camera you can buy for Architectural photography? Many professional photographers would immediately say "medium format technical camera". For the longest time, I believed this to be true and assumed that for the absolute best image quality for the kind of work I do I would eventually need to upgrade to a medium format system. I believed this until I actually tried the system and made some objective comparisons.
In the video linked below, I demonstrate how medium format and Rodenstock lenses actually perform against full frame cameras and dispel some widely known "truths".
Ever since I got into photography medium format has been something I've admired from a distance, mainly due to the price. Countless conversations with peers and other photographers lead me to believe that medium format was THE system to use if you wanted the best possible image quality. Over the last few months, I've had the pleasure of being able to test and use the Hasselblad H6D 100c, to determine just how good this system actually is.
To begin, we can have a quick look at the images above, although both have been shot using a 100mm focal length, the difference is very clear. This is because the Hasselblad has a much larger sensor allowing for a much larger angle of view, with the same depth of field of a Tele lens. This is essentially the "medium format look". The colours are the other thing you may notice and how the Hasselblad has much cleaner and detailed colours. The Sony, on the other hand, is quite muddy and muted in comparison.
There is a slight issue when shooting wide open with medium format and that is the focusing system. With the Sony, it's fairly straight forward in that you can choose where you want to focus using a single point. The Hasselblad, however, relies on focus and recompose. The difference is quite significant with the eye being out of focus. Focus recompose can be effective with Hasselblads "True Focus" mode, however, this method is still not perfect especially if your subject is moving or moves slightly. The flagship medium format cameras are in dire need of a proper focusing system.
The second set of images were shot in a studio with controlled lighting and settings for optimal performance. The left image was shot with the Hasselblad using the 150mm f3.2N and the right is with the Sony A7RII and Canon 100mm Macro. Once again you can see how the colours from the Hasselblad are far more vibrant and detailed due to the 16bit RAW files. Both images have been shot wide open to demonstrate what each lens is fully capable of. Once you zoom into the eye of the soft toy you can see far more detail from the Canon/Sony combination than you can from the Hasselblad system. The lenses from the Hasselblad are much softer and lack a huge amount of detail. This is extremely surprising especially considering the massive price difference. This terrible performance seems to be a common trait of most if not all Hasselblad lenses.
Although I discussed colours as being a great feature for medium format, it's not something that limits full frame. Taking a look at the images above, the left is again the Hasselblad with the 150mm and the right image was shot using the Canon 5DS with the Zeiss 135mm f2. I don't need to discuss which lens is sharper and more detailed, obviously, it's the Zeiss by a huge margin. The colours, however, are very close and this is simply done by adjusting the white balance and adding a little vibrance. Adding a little bit of vibrance can really shrink the gap between both systems.
Ultimately, the Hasselblad suffers from ridiculously bad build quality, it's very cheap and unacceptable considering the huge price tag. The system and software is buggy and glitchy, it still uses an outdated focusing system and the lenses perform far below what's currently available for full frame. Due to this, it's not a viable option for professionals. The reason people say medium format is worth the huge price tag, is because it supposedly produces the best in terms of image quality. This of course is not true at all and the evidence can be found in this comparison and the video linked below. Many professionals who use Hasselblad will more than likely defend it due to the amount they've probably paid for it and do to the brands current reputation. This I think will change if Hasselblad do not make some major changes and people start to realise it's very apparant shortcomings.
Yesterday I must have spent more than 6 hours looking at different Leica cameras trying to figure out which body and lens is best for me. My wife has heard nothing but Leica this and Leica that and after using and reviewing the Leica SE for a week I might be a little smitten. The Leica S 007 is soon to be released and in preparation for that we decided to review the currently available model.
Cambridge has to be my favourite city for street photography and the Leica does not disappoint. Even handheld the image quality is jaw dropping, especially when you consider how heavy a lens and body combination really is.
As this is a medium format camera the sensor, the body and the lenses are bigger. My 5D mark III looks small in comparison. So what's the actual camera like, well its big, its clunky, its slow at focussing, I'm used to having multiple focus points and medium format cameras only have one in the middle of the frame. The camera has no image stabilization which makes handheld even more difficult especially with let's say the 180mm F3.5. The Leica SE has a CCD sensor which means low light performance is pretty bad and ISO can only be boosted up to 1600 (you'd be wise to stay below 800). There is no live view, no video mode and the top part of the camera is made of plastic, possibly due to the GPS node being there, but who uses GPS anyway? Lastly although its considered to be a medium format camera, the sensor is only 20% bigger, its less medium format and more "Full-Frame Plus".
When you attach one of those behemoth sized lenses onto the camera, all of the above issues seem to magically disappear. The image quality is simply astounding, even with just 37.5MP (for medium format) it feels like the lenses are making use of every single one and maybe a few more just to be safe. I don't profess to be a great headshot photographer but even my shots are looking pretty good. The way the Leica renders fine details, skin texture and contrast really make an image pop. The lack of noise at its base ISO (100) is really impressive and the amount of detail that can be brought back from the shadows still surprises me. Although we talked about this camera having a CCD sensor and it's low light performance, this camera wasn't built for those environments. When you give this camera enough light and use it for what it's been built for, it truly excels beyond expectations.
Being an interior and architectural photographer my favourite Leica lens is of course the 24mm F3.5. This is a beautifully made lens with fantastic build quality, the front element is big and gives off a slight reddish reflection. Leica are known for their lenses and I could be wrong but to my eye this lens has absolutely no distortions. The 24mm lens isn't a tilt shift making some architectural photography a little difficult, however, I've been told Schneider are currently developing a wide angle tilt shift lens which will be compatible with Leica, this is definitely great news for us :). I had the opportunity to take some images of the The Midland Hotel in Bradford whilst using the 24mm lens and the results speak for them self.
In conclusion I think the Leica S system is amazing to work with. The camera has been built for settings where the light can be controlled. It's probably not the best camera for events and wedding considering the ISO performance but then it would be pretty overkill for that too. When this camera has enough light it really comes into it's own. The Leica SE may not be the best medium format camera considering it's smaller sensor size and the fact that you can't upgrade "the back", however it has a really well built DSLR form factor making it very straight forward to use. All I needed were two dials and a shutter button, and because of it's form factor even street photography was easy. This camera is a true photographers camera, it doesn't need all of the other fancy features when it produces such amazing images, The lenses are simply wow, I really can't say enough about how great they are. Some of the people at Leica tell me that relative to the other medium format brands, they make the best lenses, and honestly I don't have any reason to disagree.
Ultimately I'm very pleased with the Leica S system and would definitely consider upgrading to it, however as the Leica S 007 has been announced I think I'll wait till I've seen what that can do before making a decision.