Why I switched to the Medium Format platform.
Today is an incredible time to be a photographer. Amateurs and professionals alike are enjoying the ever increasing features of their DSLRs. more megapixels, HD video, low light performance, its all there, right?
Well, no. It’s not. See, I make the argument, and I am sure I will get lots of nodding heads here, today, everyone is a photographer. Now, you may not like it, but its still an accurate statement and a problem we have no control over. In addition, today’s cameras want to be everything to everyone. Photography, video, audio, etc, etc. Let’s do it all in the camera say the camera manufacturers. Sounds great in theory, but its creating this mentality with both photographers and clients that anyone can do what we do. Truth is, not everyone can do this. There is more to being a professional photographer than just clicking the button.
There is without a doubt an art to what we do. We all have our own unique vision of the world, its what makes us artists. And we all have access to some amazing tools to bring our vision to life. These tools are not just the camera. These tools are everything from lighting, composition, posing, emotion, story-telling, editing, and yes, your camera are among many other facets required to being an artist. Too often in our industry, people pick up a camera and then consider themselves a professional. I get it, we all have to start somewhere. I, like many other photographers, started as a hobbyist. There is nothing wrong with that. However, for the past 8 years, I have been on a personal journey to improve my craft and be the best I can be. Which leads me to the very point of my article.
In wanting to offer the very best for my clients, I soon began to realize that I needed a way to really stand out from the crowd. I wanted my images to have a look and feel to them that was different. Make no mistake, not all digital cameras are alike. There is more to it than just megapixels. That’s like saying the difference between a Hyundai and a Ferrari is horse-power. Its just absurd. Its about quality, quality, quality. Yes, there are many cameras out there touting high megapixel count and hell, you can get a new camera phone that’s 40megapixel now. So, are you trading in your DSLR for a camera phone yet? Of course not and that means at the basic level you are picking up what I am laying down here.
Look, I am not going to lie. When the people of Phase One reached out to me about taking a look at their cameras I scoffed at them. I shoot a Canon 1Dx – what more can I need? I look back at that moment and realize how truly ignorant I was to the medium format platform. They came out to my studio and brought with them the IQ260. I had arranged for a model to be on hand in our studio to really give this thing a test. The results can be seen here in my first post about medium format – Phase One IQ Review I was immediately blown away. The results in camera looked nothing like anything coming off my camera before and this was before any post production had been done on the images. This was my studio, my lighting set up etc. The only difference was the camera and that very fact blew my mind that day. It didn’t matter how much time I put into all the other aspects of my work and education – there was no scenario I could ever get my images to have that level of detail out of camera on the 35mm platform. I was forever tainted. I HAD TO HAVE ONE. Now, I can sit here and get into all the scientific mumbo jumbo that the companies want to put out there in their marketing material that honestly makes us feel stupider after we read it because we are talking microns and light waves and prisms and whatever the hell else they are talking about, but we are photographers and we are visual. So, lets see some visual proof! On a recent trip to China, I was speaking at a workshop talking about the benefits of the medium format platform and how the quality was far superior to that of 35mm. And someone asked me if I really thought it was that much better and I thought… don’t take my word for it, lets prove it. So, we were at a hotel conference center, no fancy studio, with a 3 light setup – main, fill, and hair. He had a Canon 5d M3 and I had the Phase One IQ250. We used the same exposure settings and similar glass. We then zoomed in to the same level to show the side by side difference. The results absolutely speak for themselves. This is with nothing being done to the image AT ALL. No photoshop, sharpening, exposure, etc. It is what it is. And if after looking at the results, I would be shocked if you don’t see yourself eventually moving towards the medium format platform. For me, it became a no brainer. It was something we had to do to stand out.
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And please realize, I have intentionally left out all the features of the platform, because that’s just icing on the cake. One thing should matter – quality pixels and details.
Now, you might be wondering, “why do I need this level of quality Sal?” I am never going to blow these images up to be on a billboard somewhere. That would be correct. However, the old adage “garbage in, garbage out” is all you need to know. More data is never a bad thing – its why we shoot RAW vs JPG, so that we have more quality data to work with in our images. Same concept here. End of day, your images will just look crisper, have more detail and larger dynamic range, and ultimately, allow you to stand out from the crowd.
The next thing you are going to start worrying about is price. And that is a reasonable concern. Here is the thing, this is your business, your livelihood. This is your tool of the trade. When you walk into a room with a medium format camera people take notice, including your clients, who have no idea what the difference is. Perception is reality, but the reality is that’s not the reason I switched. It was purely about quality. When it comes to cost, I want you to consider that these cameras hold their value. How much is that Canon 5d worth today? Can you even give it away? Then I want you to realize, you can buy one used and completely refurbished for just a little more than a Canon 1Dx. Then… I want you to consider they offer leasing options for these cameras because they hold their value.
If this is something you are serious about, you have options. Remember, we all have money for the things we want to have money for and this is no different. And for what its worth, my money is on a company called Capture Integration. They sell and support medium format cameras and equipment and are one of the best companies I have ever worked with. Best of all, you can rent one before you buy. So, if my personal testimonial is not enough, then I encourage you to call them up and rent one for a few days and get out there and play. It will change the way you see the world.
Enjoy some recent images taken using the Phase One IQ250 and IQ260