Bailing on the Nikon D4

UPDATE: I answered many of your questions about the post below, here.


Apologies for slightly off-topic post. But given my gear path to date, this is not exactly one I was gonna slip under the rug. I think every long-term photographer has an interesting and very personal journey leading to their current gear bag. Here's mine.

It was almost 30 years ago, but still remember the first day I stepped into the Nikon pro flagship line. At the time I owned a Nikkormat FTN, a 50/2 and a 200/4. And then I saw the ad in the classifieds of the Eustis News. Some guy was selling a Nikon F, with a full bag of pro lenses, for like $600. I couldn't afford it.

But my friend and fellow photographer John Ashley was also a young Nikon shooter, having gotten a job at the local Leesburg Daily Commercial right out of high school. And he was looking for some gear, too.

As luck would have it our needs were almost complimentary. So we pooled our money (mine from mowing lawns) and bought the bag together, divvying up the spoils. I forget all of the split details, but I think I walked away with a 24/2.8, a 105/2.5, a 300/4.5 -- and a Nikon F body. It was the happiest day of my life up to that point. I now owned a Nikon flagship camera and bag of lenses -- if only the 13-year-old versions.

Since then I have worked as a photojournalist with the F2, F3, F4 and F5 before switching to digital. Then it was the D1, the D2 and D3. So the decision to switch horses rather than go with the D4 was a big deal for me.

I was almost asleep last night when the news dropped on the new D4 around midnight. Caught up in the vortex of posts and tweets about the amazing array of new features, photographers around the world were in a frenzy. Of course, McNally had an early one. (Actually, two.) Sleep would have to wait.

Part of me had been dreading this day for the last few months. For the first time since the original Nikon F, I knew I would not be progressing along to the next full iteration of the Nikon flagship camera. Tonight I'd either be happy and content, or very pissed off. Because less than a month ago, I had committed to a new platform.

Ditching the Machine Gun for a Big Chip

Even with the swirl of rumors, it's a fool's errand to try to predict the features on a new Nikon flagship a few months out. But specifics aside, I was pretty comfy with this much: The Nikon D4 would be better, faster, more pixels, more tech, great in low light, high-end video-capable and probably go for around $6,000.00.

It was the last part that was critical for me, because my goal was to see what else was possible if I was gonna shell out that kind of scratch. You can do a lot of things for $6,000 -- swap cars, take a great vacation, or eat for a long time. So if I was going to commit to something not so far from 5 digits, what were my options?

So after months of research, and lots of talking with respected colleagues who had made the jump before me, I decided on a used Phase One camera, a P25+ back and a basic lens kit. And as I watched (and participated in) the nerdgasm on the web last night, I began to realize I am not going to miss the D4 one tiny bit.

Here's why.

1. No Need for Speed

Don't get me wrong. If I were still shooting daily sports, I'd probably be lining up to preorder this camera just like everyone else. It's a machine gun that can see in the dark. But I don't need that any more. And truth be told, the best argument against the D4 is how pretty damn good the D3 still is at that sort of thing. But I no longer shoot pro and college sports, nor prep sports in ungodly dark venues. So I don't need an Uzi.

In fact, I am trying to slow things down. More conscious thought, less spray and pray. The Nikon chip looks great. But rather than also paying for speed and ancillary tech that I will never use, I want to put all of my dollars into the chip.

2. Image Quality

About that chip. The Phase One P25+ essentially a 645 medium format piece of digital film. Yeah, it is a few years old. But size matters.

I own three concurrently made cameras -- a D3, a D300 and a Canon G9. They are all ~12MP cameras. But the quality is miles apart, as is the depth of field each camera offers. At the same resolution, the D3 absolutely kills the G9 in large part because of the size of the chip. The focal length "feel" of the D3 is also miles away from the G9, because of the size of the chip.

So rather than more pixels and more light sensitivity, I wanted more real estate.

I have shot a few jobs on the Phase One, but mostly I am still getting to know it. I have dropped a couple of messing around test photos into Flickr, after rezzing down the 25MP files and pasting that smaller jpeg version onto a D3 image file to hide the EXIF data. (This is just to stay ahead of the pixel peepers when I am not ready to talk about something yet.)

The bigger individual pixels offer twelve friggin' stops of dynamic range, and suffice to say noise it not an issue. This is not a high ISO camera, at all. But it shines in the types of conditions in which I want to use it. You can even make a one-hour night exposure without noise.

I wasn't totally convinced that a 645 chip would be worth the pain and expense until I went to London last October serve as a lighting designer on a shoot for my good friend Drew Gardner. I got to play with a Phase One body during the day, a talked to him about it at length. And I was still on the bubble, because they are not cheap.

Then he sent me a straight file of one of the images he had shot that day. From that instant, resistance was pretty much futile. It's like that moment when you first hear a favorite recording on an amazing stereo system for the first time and you think, wait, you mean ALL of my music could sound this good?

(Drew's photo has not been published yet, but, well, you'll see it soon enough.)

3. Modular to a Fault

To get that new Nikon chip, I'd have to buy the Uzi, buy the ethernet capabilities, buy the video tech, etc. But I want the chip, not the smorgasbord. And medium format digital backs allow you to separate the chip decision from the camera as well as from the lens. I would be buying all at once initially, but this has a strong effect on upgrade paths.

I chose the P25+ chip. It is a few years old now, and now readily available used for under $5,000.00. I could have simply married this to my old mechanical Hassy body and been out the door for less than the D4 price. But I decided to bite the bullet and start out with a more logical system.

In the end, I decided on a Mamiya mount for the P25+ back. I bought it with a used Phase One 645DF body and a Schnieder leaf-shutter 80mm lens. I don't have to tell you what being able to sync at an 800th of a sec does for your flashes. If I upgrade the back in a few years to the now-current version, I'll be synching at 1/1600th. (The back itself is the limiting factor.)

The 80/2.8 LS will be my bread and butter lens. It is scary sharp. But I also picked up a couple of used Mamiya (focal plane shutter, sync at 1/125th) lenses for when the 80mm will not suffice. They are quite sharp, and were available used in AF mount for under $300 each. An auto extension ring rounded out the kit to allow close focusing at every focal length.

I may well stay married to this chip for many years. But if I decide to upgrade it at some point, (more on my cost rationalizations in a minute) I do not even have to buy a new camera.

4. Speaking of That Chip

I can get to it for oh-so-easy cleanings. Just pop off the back and there it is. This, ironically, was the very first thing that got me thinking of medium format.

It may be a little thing to some. But I am so, so happy about it.

5. Under the Hood

The last reason for my switching is a little circumspect. I had picked up a copy of Capture One Express a few months back. It is Phase One's imaging software, and it is by far the best raw converter I have ever used. I am just now scratching the surface of the other features, but the more I explore the more I love it. The amazing black and white conversions are my current playground.

I have not yet figured out the way it archives, and it likes to create a lot of support files that I do not understand yet. So I am using it in a very cave-man way until I get time to figure out the ecosystem. I edit in Photo Mechanic and then pull my selects into a folder for Capture One. Problem avoided, for now. I'll learn the file management stuff when I have time.

But if you are looking for a new camera right about now and shoot raw (or TIFFs) I would totally recommend trying Capture One Express. The full version is $129.00. But you can also try it free for 30 days, here.

How Can I Rationalize The Cost?

Simple. I can't. Not straight, at least.

I don't shoot enough high-end jobs to rationalize what was in total a $10k+ purchase. But what the hell, I probably could not rationalize a $6k D4 either -- much like most of the people who will end up purchasing it.

But I am all about water finding downhill when it comes to finding a financial path to something. So here is my solution. If you'll remember, there was a post awhile back about setting up a co-op for expensive gear. I decided against that, mostly because I wanted to be able to buy exactly the gear I wanted. But I do plan to rent out the full kit to local colleagues in the Baltimore/Washington area as a way for them to experiment with the platform.

It will be for people I already know and trust, and at below market rates. The idea is to give them time to experiment, and/or to use it on a couple of jobs to see if this is for them. The rental would usually get billed to a client.

I am not turning into a rental house anytime soon. But for this particular piece of gear I needed to have a revenue stream attached that would partially offset the expense. And I like the idea of other photogs being able to explore the system at a below-market rate that they can bill out to a client.

Being a photographer (and true to form all the way back to my high school days) I'll also be delaying my next car purchase for a little while to rationalize a piece of camera gear.

The Nikons will still get plenty of use. But, especially considering two big projects I have in the on-deck circle, I could not be happier with the switch to Phase One for the big gun stuff.

And on D4 Day, it feels good to come out of the closet.


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Blogger Alan Hess said...

Great post David. and it sums up something that people always tend to gloss over when new tech hits. You should buy/use the camera that is built for your style of photography.

I am one of the folks that placed an order for the D4 first thing this morning. 99% of my photography takes place in dark concert halls or even darker bars. I shoot concerts and can really use a camera that sees in the dark.

Since that is not what you do, the choice to go to a different platform seems well thought out, logical and will hopefully pay off for you.
I cannot wait to see what you do with that "Chip"

January 06, 2012 4:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

And I was just getting to like you ;-)

January 06, 2012 5:02 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

So let me sum this up to see if I've got it right:-

1) You didn't need a new camera anyway,

2) A new camera came out which costs $6K, which you feel is expensive,

3) You spent $10K on a whole 'nuther different camera system.

Sir, you are an inspiration to photographers everywhere! :)

January 06, 2012 5:05 PM  
Blogger Jeff Geerling said...

Could you sell your old, well-worn D3 to another photographer at a below-market price, eh? Might as well jump completely to medium-format, and you'd feel good helping a fellow photog, to boot!

January 06, 2012 5:06 PM  
Blogger marcus said...

I've got to say, I find it fascinating that on the heels of the D4 announcement both you and Zack Arias have announced you've switched to medium format.

January 06, 2012 5:07 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

Congrats, David!

I lust after one of these systems, but it's like lusting after George Clooney. He's waaaay out of my league and besides, it's never gonna happen anyway. I would like to just hold him one time, though ;)

Congrats again. I know you'll enjoy it.

January 06, 2012 5:10 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Really interesting to see you going the medium format route.

I understand that the image quality is a step up but I've never seen any image comparisons between medium format and a high end 35mm DSLR's posted online. Maybe you could show us what it's all about some time.

January 06, 2012 5:12 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


I know, right?

But honestly, it was more about watching the price point come down on big-chip cameras, while we were constantly being asked to spend more and more and more on flagship 35mm cameras.

At one point you just have to step back and say, "Really, Nikon?"

My biggest worry was that I would have an immediate and prolonged case of buyer's remorse. Never happened. I am long-term thrilled.

January 06, 2012 5:13 PM  
OpenID d9855072-0573-11e1-90c1-000bcdcb2996 said...

Doesn't the D3 have "enough" to it that if a photographer was happy with it last month they should be happy with it next month? How often do most photographers need more than 12mp where 16mp would be enough? For most, is a 15% increase in vertical and horizontal resolution important once at this high resolution anyway? Other than video improvements, it seems minimal.

January 06, 2012 5:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Do you ever shoot tethered with that back?

If so, does the firewire cable have some locking mechanism?

I've been surprised by how easily the cable slips out of the hassleblad backs.... yes, there are 3rd party clips, and the inevitable gaffer tape solution....

If the cable does pop out on the phase one back, does it take a while to get going again, or is it pretty quick?

January 06, 2012 5:14 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Do you ever shoot tethered with that back?

If so, does the firewire cable have some locking mechanism?

I've been surprised by how easily the cable slips out of the hassleblad backs.... yes, there are 3rd party clips, and the inevitable gaffer tape solution....

If the cable does pop out on the phase one back, does it take a while to get going again, or is it pretty quick?

January 06, 2012 5:15 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

I like your paranoid approach to hiding the true EXIF data. Perhaps you can add to your medium format piggy bank but teaching some of those sites that inadvertently broke the Nikon embargo how to cover their digital tracks online and not leak info.

January 06, 2012 5:18 PM  
Blogger Nas said...

After reading the D4 announcement during breakfast this morning I have been laughing all day about it and the price tag. My D700 doesn't get nearly enough use since I fell back in love with film last year.

Shooting medium and large format is in a whole different class. I was shooting 10x8 last weekend and produced a 960mb scan at my flatbed scanners native resolution. I've no clue how many gajillion pixels that is but I'm sure it's a lot.

Good luck with your medium format upgrade, I absolutely love using my Mamiya RZ67. Did you get a roll film back for this 645? That will help you slow things down. Treat yourself to shooting and souping some film, it's a lot different to 35mm from your Nikon F days.

January 06, 2012 5:32 PM  
Blogger gregbrophy said...

I did the same with the P20 a year ago and I love it. The colors and the range is incredible. All for $6000 as well. I don't have the LS lenses yet, but I am told the 120 f4 macro is one of the sharpest.

I also like Capture One and the tethering.

My only problem was Depth of Field. As in realizing how shallow it is.

The one I bought is 18 meg from 2006 and is still more than the D4.

January 06, 2012 5:42 PM  
Blogger p. said...

If you hadn't already made the purchase I would swear you were using the blog to practice presenting your case to your wife. =)

January 06, 2012 5:43 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Mr. Hobby,

I have always enjoyed all your work and tips. This is why I am so sorry to read this post and know that Nikon 'security' will disappear you within days...if not hours.

I hope you have made the appropriate preparations for your family.

Again, all the best.

January 06, 2012 5:43 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I fully thought he was going to say he was switching to Canon.

January 06, 2012 5:45 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


In the 2+yrs that the 5dMkI was spanking Nikon's ass, I strongly considered it.


Not that different a process, no? You have to convince yourself first, THEN the spouse. Rather like writing, then defending, a Master's thesis...

January 06, 2012 5:56 PM  
Blogger Gail Peck said...

What most amazes me is that you are from Central Florida. I live in Orlando. Congratulations on all your success and finally, good for you buying something out of the ordinary.

January 06, 2012 6:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

RE: the Phase One back to Camera body locking... Is there a screwdriver lock or some sort of way to make sure it's very, very tight?

i.e. using a modular back and camera system has a slight risk of not quite fitting snug.... or is a bit cumbersome to mount...

I've used a hasselblad back on a Contax 645 with a plate of some sort that didn't seem to fit as flush-tight as I'd like, sometimes images were slightly out of focus at one edge but sharp at the other....

I can assume since they both say "phase one" on them, there's some corporate cooperation and/or testing done....

January 06, 2012 6:16 PM  
Blogger Tom said...


Congratulations on your purchase, I look forward to seeing your results. How will this system work paired together with speedlights or is this baby all about the big lights?

Also, somewhere I saw you make a post saying you would be first in line for one of the first Nikon D800s - Have you dropped that idea? I was really looking forward to your evaluation of the D800.



January 06, 2012 6:35 PM  
Blogger ModifiedPhoto said...

I can't blame you one bit... A few months ago, I had the joy of trying out a Phase One body and the unbelieveable IQ-180 (80 megapixel) digital back and it was nothing short of amazing. The dynamic range alone sent my mind into shock. Then the sharpness and shear size of the files (in available resolution) completely blew me away.

I wrote about the experience here and have some small samples, 100% crops and comparisons to my D300 here:

January 06, 2012 6:40 PM  
Blogger William Beem said...

I know nothing about medium format cameras, but I'm really intrigued by your post today. Hope you have more experiences to share as you spend time with it. I'm quite happy with my little Nikon D700, but it never hurts to look ahead. Keep the info coming.

January 06, 2012 6:45 PM  
Blogger said...

Ha. This is awesome. Great to see somebody going against the grain. Although I am looking forward to the D800.

January 06, 2012 7:05 PM  
Blogger Thomas Ott said...

For $6000 I can buy, shoot, and develop 641 rolls of 36exp B&W film.

January 06, 2012 7:31 PM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

I knew when someone Tweeted you about ' joining the 645 bandwagon'. I google 645 to see what they were talking about. Pasting exif! LOL
Love you David!

January 06, 2012 7:31 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...


Yep, the D800 is not gonna be for me. I have decided that 12mp is fine for 35mm. I want my big pixels on MF.


That is one reason I went with the OEM platform. Absolutely rock solid.


One has to be from *somewhere*! :)

January 06, 2012 7:38 PM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

David, would you post a raw full image from the 645 so somewhere that we could pull to see the quality like Drew did for you?

January 06, 2012 7:38 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Very interesting. Last summer I had the opportunity to run a 4-way comparison including a Canon G10, Canon 1DsMk3, Canon 7D and a Phase One P65+. My goal was to compare the results for the way I work.

I've posted a quick and dirty web page with roll-over images so you can see the results. Needless to say, each step up was a noticable increase in image quality, but also a roughly four-fold increase in price.

See the comparison at

My goal with the medium format was to replace the 1DsMk3 for landscapes and slow-paced work. But the Canons still provide better handling, faster response and handle low light much better. The 7D is a good hiking or walking-around camera since it's light, and the G10 fits in my pocket when I'm playing tourist.

Each camera has its place.

January 06, 2012 8:23 PM  
Blogger mlstephens said...

Great post. I think the best point you made was about wanting to slow down. Medium format certainly forces you to do that, and even outside of the larger pixels argument, you will create better images just by changing the process. I recently took a different but similar path, at a lower price level of course as I'm not a pro, by changing to a 3-yr old Leica M8.2. Bigger sensor than what I was using, better quality, and forcing the slow down. The camera-of-the-month merry-go-round does little if anything, i would argue nothing actually, to produce better quality work

January 06, 2012 8:27 PM  
Blogger ab said...

Ha - I just did the opposite! Sold the tech cam/P25 back and going to D3x + PCE lenses full time. (Architecture shooter)

Yes, the Rodenstock/Schneider lenses are sharper, but not as much as you'd think. Plus you still have to deal with moire & color shifts/LCC on movements. The Rodenstock lenses have distortion, too. You also need much more light with an ISO 50 back and center filters. It definitely slows you down and makes you think though!

Shooting both, I'd say the P25/D3X files are comparable. Real live view on the Nikon makes critical focusing much easier, too.

Enjoy your change of pace! Just some words of caution to anyone who's tempted by the romance of MF. You'll still need a 35mm system for backup too.

January 06, 2012 8:41 PM  
Blogger iamlucky13 said...

Interesting timing, because I think the revamped tethering interface for the D4 (especially when combined with the WT-5 wireless adapter, but also just when using the built-in ethernet port) really opens up some nifty convenience options for off-camera lighting.

Nikon released a demo showing a rep controlling the D4 - shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, autofocus point, and release, all from a live view feed sent to an iPad. It sounds like it should work with just about any computer, tablet, or high end phone.

Just imagine walking around a set adjusting lights, taking test shots, and reviewing the results without ever walking back to your camera.

Not an enabling asset, of course (unless you wanted to mount one on a robot so you can control the whole setup from a sunny beach somewhere, which might hurt your client rapport), but definitely a remarkably convenient looking feature.

Enjoy the Phase One system. It's not something I even dream of owning myself, but I've seen some stunning medium format photos, and I completely get the excitement for more dynamic range.

January 06, 2012 8:46 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

@ Dan, here is a real world comparison, and it even uses the same P25 phase one back That is being discussed here, against a fairly common FF canon.

He pretty much sums up the same things that were just mentioned in this post. Both have pros, both have cons. It depends on your needs.

January 06, 2012 9:27 PM  
Blogger Stephen Voss said...

David, this was a great read. I'm weighing my options with moving to a medium format digital back and going a generation back seems like a great way to get that jump in quality without taking out a second mortgage.

I'm curious if you gave the Pentax 645D a look? I like the selection of old lenses that will fit it and it seems more or less in line pricewise with the Phase One.

January 06, 2012 9:35 PM  
Blogger Ron H said...

Wow... David.. I'm a long time Nikon shooter and I was thinking EXACTLY the same thing! Wow... just wow.. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

January 06, 2012 9:42 PM  
Blogger Wink of an eye Digital said...

@Brian....I thought the same thing as I was reading the start of Daves article.... he is going Canon!

Dave I think your choice of med back is a choice done wisely for you. Your style of portrait photography will bode well with this tool.

one said
"The bigger individual pixels offer twelve friggin' stops of dynamic range" Which is true but processing on a computer screen with has a lower DR or printing etc. will lose the 12.
My question would be you do printing of things like your HOCO work where it would make a big difference and or res-size for a magazine? Just a thought in case your wife asks questions when you upgrade again....soon cause your happy.

New 1DX Canon is perporting 12.7 stops DR (touting and doing we will see)

January 06, 2012 9:59 PM  
Blogger mark11photography said...

David I couldn't have said it better myself. After looking through the specs on the new D4 it just doesn't warrant the cost in my eyes. I've been shooting the D3 since it was released, and keep a D700 as backup/alternative. Hoping that Nikon would finally release a successor to the D3X, more in the price range of the D700 would have resulted in an instant 'buy' click on my part. 12MP is great for 90% of my work, and for the other 10% it's difficult to justify the cost of a system that is going to used intermittently. That being said, I'm looking forward to learning from your insights and experience using the medium format system.

January 06, 2012 10:01 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

David, how are you finding converting the FoV of your lenses in your head? Seeing as you already used APS-C and FF is it not too much trouble to throw a third set of numbers in the mix? Or do you just look through the view finder and what you see is what you see?

January 06, 2012 10:22 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I keep waiting for some genius working in his garage or lab to come up with a way to slap a sensor into a cartridge or something that will fit into the back of any 35mm camera. That way all of the great 35mm film cameras of the past can be used with digital capabilites. Take out the cartridge and download the files like a media card. I have many older cameras and lenses I have loved using in the past and would love to use again with added digital convenience. Dream on!

January 06, 2012 10:34 PM  
Blogger hipster.brah said...

wish i could have one of this awesomeness myself :/

January 06, 2012 10:39 PM  
Blogger tweedlebug said...

A while back I bought a used Hasselblad H3D-39 on ebay for about the same price as the new Nikon D4, and its resolution and clarity are astounding. A drawback of that platform is the expense of each lens. The total cost of ownership is high, even with the great deal I got on the camera and digital back.

Since then, I've developed a taste for shooting film, and I've been using a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and a YashicaMAT 124G for most of my work. They're fantastic cameras, and the negatives contain a level of detail that is in the range of 25 to 35 megapixels when scanned with good technique. See

I actually sold my Hasselblad (I miss it sometimes though). When I need high resolution digital photos, I stitch them together from multiple shots on my Nikon D7000. It works quite well. The D7000 also has really good dynamic range... better than the D3x (I've owned both), even though it has fewer megapixels. In fact, the D7000 has even more ability to pull in details from shadows than the Hasselblad H3D. Of course, the newer generation of Hasselblad cameras is better than the H3D. Anyway, for now, I'm happy using a combination of film and a lower resolution 35mm digital camera.

Oh, and I have a 4x5 camera too, which is another league altogether, exceeding the resolution of the Hasselblad.

January 06, 2012 10:48 PM  
Blogger Lee Love said...

David welcome to the world of medium format. I have been trying to explain the benefits for a long time and many photographers don't get it, the think it's all about megapixels.

But as you discovered, once you see and work with the files from these cameras it's hard to go back to 35mm. Between the detail, the dynamic range, the lack of chromatic aberration and the amazing quality of the depth of field, medium format rocks.

Is MF for everyone? No. Because it requires an increase level of techique. I discovered shooting MF has made me a better photographer because I have to be at the top of my game. No 51 focal points, No 11 fps, No fancy features. If you don't get the shot it's all YOU.

David, making the move to MF is exactly the right move for you and the way to up your game.


January 06, 2012 10:56 PM  
Blogger DLM said...

Trey Ratcliff said it best in another post. The DSLR format is a "dying breed". I prefer to think of it as a "mature " technology and has reached a point of diminishing returns as far as improvements go. There's just not much more that can be squeezed out of a form factor that, at least outwardly, hasn't changed in decades. Look at passenger aircraft. The basic shape and, for the most part, performance is unchanged since the early '60s. This also leads to a convergence of form and capabilities across brands. Think Airbus and Boeing (Canon and Nikon). Mirrorless will be the next generational step and soon will eclipse the performance of "mechanical" DSLR's.

I don't see what you are doing as "bailing" on Nikon. Your shooting style, and thus gear needs, have evolved away from the equipment Nikon makes. Actually, from what you have said I'm surprised you stayed with the 35mm format as long as you did. In my eyes it does kind of take away from the Strobist brand now that the gear the rest of us use is no longer "good enough". No offense intended.

January 06, 2012 11:45 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Job change -> equipment change.

Good luck with your new career!

January 06, 2012 11:52 PM  
Blogger Tim T. said...

David, thanks for telling it like it is for you without telling us "it's all ball bearings nowadays."

I've been shooting with a Nikon D40x since 2007 and selling off stuff I don't need and saving for my first pro body for the last 3.5 years, so yesterday's announcement and my subsequent pre ordering of the D4 was a momentous occasion for me. (Not for nothing, a good portion of the funds I put toward the purchase I earned by using ocf techniques I learned from your site.)

One of the many beauties of photography is that one size does not fit all. The more I shoot, the more I get to know what works for me and where my curiosity lies.

January 07, 2012 12:14 AM  
Blogger jimmyd said...

Interesting how pro photographers at various levels of success seem to balk or need lots of reassurances when things get over $5k or $6k (more so when the price is close to or past 5 digits) for a camera while many videographers and aspiring filmmakers have been shelling out that kind of dough, and without as much financial angst attached, for a long time... and I'm not talking about already successful filmmakers. In fact, many of them have been newbies. Different perspectives, hopes, and dreams I suppose.

January 07, 2012 12:20 AM  
Blogger Chris_Aggie said...

Excellent! I'll live vicariously through you. No way the spouse will allow such an upgrade.

Any help on talking the spouse into a Canon 1Dx?

Will you bring this on next year's Flash Bus tour?

January 07, 2012 12:21 AM  
Blogger Bo said...

David, regarding your lending program, could you give me a bit of insight to the type of insurance you have on your gear? That's something I've been wondering about, and I've searched your blog and various others and haven't found much info.

Any input you could give would be appreciated.

I mean, that's the least you could do considering that you've been a driving force behind me dropping a lot of cash on lighting gear...and now maybe a new camera.

January 07, 2012 1:28 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Some things are just sooo interesting to read, and that's one of 'em.

January 07, 2012 1:51 AM  
Blogger gerry dolphin said...

for those willing to dive in the MF consider old MF film cameras, they really are on the cheap side and film is gorgeous, i repeat, a good Kodak portra 400 or 800 rocks. The dslr makes a good "polaroid" test before shooting film. best of both world to me. cheers

January 07, 2012 2:19 AM  
Blogger Alexander said...

Happy New Year!

Does anything change from a Strobist point of view if you use MF? Maybe additional differences between digital and analog MF? Will there be coming up an MF section on this site?

January 07, 2012 5:00 AM  
Blogger EPiC said...

Wonderful post, David.
People often say that the best camera is the one you have with you, but to me that's just a silly cliché. The best camera is the one that suits the photographer's needs. If you need (or convince yourself that you need by rationalizing) a MF camera, then go for it. Make a million images with it, or just a few. It doesn't matter. What really matters is to know that you have the gear that delivers what you want.
Good luck with your new camera!

January 07, 2012 5:49 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm happy the wait is finally over.
The D800 isn't for me either but I have now decided that the D3s is to be my new baby!
As for the D4, it's a lot more wanda for one more stop of light!

January 07, 2012 6:23 AM  
Blogger Paulo Rodrigues said...

12 stops? Is that all? :) The Nikon D7000 has 13.9. On colour depth its probably not that much better than your high end Nikon's either. That's not to say its not an excellent choice.

I think the real secret to the image quality from medium format is the lack of ant-aliasing filter. I'd say that's why they look sharper and richer than images from a DSLR.

I wonder how its going to affect your power requirements when you want more rather than less DOF? Now that you are using big lights I guess it won't be as much of an issue?

January 07, 2012 7:41 AM  
Blogger John Fowler said...

Is ab the arcxhitecture shooter should read this, I'd be very grateful to hear from him/her.

January 07, 2012 7:53 AM  
Blogger Kevin B. said...

One thing I don't understand about the new D4, or any of Canon's new professional grade cameras for that matter... why is it they never put any focus points in the natural rule of thirds? I mean out of 51 focus points, do they really have to cram them all into the middle of the frame?? One would think they would start placing fps at the rule of thirds and start working the rest towards the center. JMO.

January 07, 2012 8:28 AM  
Blogger Sergei Rodionov said...

Welcome to the Dark Side, David.. We got cookies ;)
I went nearly same path after shooting with D700.. And after trying out few MFDB.. now when i absolutely have to have speed - i still use D700.. Which will last for forever, as i barely get 1-2k shots out of it through year.. Also acts as backup body. But modularity and crispness of MFDB is what got me.. As a side note - you might want to spend couple hundreds on spare mamiya AFD body just to have backup for MF lenses you have.. Oh and if you haven't seen it yet - you get to drop sync to 1/100, if shooting with SB900s slaved optically. No clue why, but you will get dark 1/5th of frame every now and then otherwise (never happens with Nikon)..

Grab film back ;)))

January 07, 2012 9:38 AM  
Blogger Jim Prisching said...

David, I think your move up is a logical step in the right direction. The D4, D3s and Canon's Mark IV, 1DX, are great cameras but just as in the film days, medium or large format has a totally different feel and look and are used for different needs. In the film days, not very many studios or newspapers with studios would use 35mm, but medium or large format systems like Hasselblad and Sinar. The reason, plain and simple, the prints that were made from the larger formats were just better. So it should be no surprise that a larger sensor digital camera would offer the same results.

January 07, 2012 11:04 AM  
Blogger Jon said...

My reaction was the same as Jim's and Stephen's. A) You spent how much? And B) You didn't just get a brand-new Pentax for the same amount??

The lenses alone push me toward the Pentax before any D3/D4 body.

January 07, 2012 11:11 AM  
Blogger J. Michael Thurman said...


You read my mind. :-D

However, as I do not have sufficient projects in the on-deck circle, my MF jones will have to be met by film. I still haven't decided on 6x6, 645 or 6x7, but I did fondle a Mamiya 645 and an RB67 lovingly last week. 120 film and a scanner should "do it" for me for a while. (Until the 4x5 bug hits.)

Still planning to upgrade my DSLRs for sports. Otherwise, they wind up as snapshot rigs or, as one poster suggested, Polaroids for my film cameras.

Always enjoy your site. Learned many things from it.

Cheers & look forward to your MF work.


January 07, 2012 12:07 PM  
Blogger kevwil said...

Please excuse my while I slap my forehead. I can't believe I had put all the pieces together so clearly before.

I intend to go in the same direction you did, just for a different purpose. Maybe it's cliche and worn out, but I want to work on fine art landscapes. I know the value of a large negative or sensor, and I know how to use swing, tilt and shift movements. I've been dreaming of the new IQ180 back mounted on an Alpa body or a Linhof monorail, along with some new Schneider glass. That's a small house worth of gear - unobtainable. Or perhaps a 5D (2 or 3) with the 2 L tilt-shift lenses and the 2 Schneider tilt-shift lenses. That's a new compact car - not unobtainable but close. Depressing.

Now I realize there's a lot of gear lust in those wish lists. Now I realize I could go with a used digital back, a used large format body with technical movements, and two or three used lenses and still only spend half the cost of the Canon tilt-shift setup. That's somewhat obtainable, within a year or so. Even better, I can get the body, lenses, and a film back and practice shooting that way while I save up for the digital back.

I have a new goal, thanks to your post. Thanks!

I can't wait to see what results you get from your setup! Please share ASAP!

January 07, 2012 12:40 PM  
OpenID WCSUWill said...

The fact that one can temporally upgrade a 80 mp system just by renting a back is pretty useful.

If I could offer one accessory that is a must… the vertical grip. Combined with Profoto one should be able to get 1/1600 sync.

Also it kind of sucks but the only way to upgrade firmware is through the grip.

January 07, 2012 12:57 PM  
Blogger Mark Davidson said...

David, I have followed the same logic in paring down my gear but focusing on sensor. I do not have a need for all the bells and whistles that come with today's cameras. Moreover I am surprised at the criticisms of people who feel there should be more doodads.
The MF platform that is so modular actually points the way to a future that makes sense. Like the Red cameras one can buy the basic sensor platform and add capabilities as needed.

January 07, 2012 1:21 PM  
Blogger djonesii said...

A while back, I decided not to get a D3X ....

Got a Phase One P30+ and a 35mm/80mm/150mm lens, have not looked back since...

Slowing down is great!


January 07, 2012 1:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

@Kevin B. - I'm pretty sure they have to cram them into the middle due to the way AF sensors work with the mirror.

January 07, 2012 1:44 PM  
Blogger Wei Chong said...

Hi David. Your experience reminded me of when, after some years of processing Tri-X and TMAX films in Nikon 35mm trying to eke out the best, I borrowed a Rollie. As my 120 film dried on the hanging rack, all I could say was that those medium format shooters were "cheating." Such a humungous negative, with superb tonal gradations. Yeah, I got into medium format after that. I know how you feel, as I never looked back on 35mm b&w.

January 07, 2012 1:54 PM  
Blogger Paul Hartley said...

You raise a good point, David.

I'm a Canon guy: own a 5D Mark II and 1D Mark IV. I also have three old-school 'Blads, lots of lenses and a Phase P45+back. The latter system gets very little use. Once last year, as I recall. My Hasselblad stuff was bought long ago and doesn't owe me anything. The Phase back is a different story, though. I wish I had the roughly $20,000 I spent on it a couple of years ago.

To be sure, the images produced by a medium format system are fabulous. The bulk of my clients, however, don't need the benefits that system delivers. Wish I'd realized that BEFORE the "investment." (Just think of the number of other toys I could have purchased with the same amount of money.)

You're absolutely correct: We should all assess our image-making needs before signing up for the latest and greatest equipment. Thanks again for another great post.

January 07, 2012 1:54 PM  
Blogger Grumpy in L.A. said...

In the future can you please post a blog on the new rig: 1. Any negatives on weight, 2. availability/cost of accessories, 3. whether size/weight have any impact on street photography, 4. whether you had to upgrade size of tripod ballhead, 5. camera bag upgrades, 6. can you shoot tethered to a computer

January 07, 2012 2:37 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

David . . glad you joined the MF back club, been there now a few years with an older H-20 Phase One back and have been enjoying that giddy feeling when one opens a big tiff with lots of bit depth to play with and the capture one software is way out there just dandy great . . no I wont give up my nikon stuff . . but I am not pining away to have a D4 either, I use the back on a LF camera with LF lenses, and two different MF bodies Hassy series and Mamiya RB yeah I shoot tethered but the results are always spectacular. .
a P30 or 25+ ins on the list this year for mobility sake.

January 07, 2012 2:37 PM  
Blogger Mark Davidson said...

@Jimmy D,
You make a fair point about video/film makers spending plenty for their gear. I think, though, it is becoming increasingly clear to still photographers that the chances of getting regular gigs with enough revenue to pay for such gear is remote. Video/film OTOH tend to get expensive for even the most rudimentary productions of quality.

January 07, 2012 2:44 PM  
Blogger Thomas Shue said...

finally you made it where he big boys play. Single AF point, Yes!!!, I do shoot MF and LF and love it. I still keep my 7D but that is a toy. When I get serious I break out the big guns. Currently I am shooting film and drum scanning but when working with 8x10 it's hard to find a digital back.

If I need to do a fully digi shoot I grab the 645 and rent a back. You made a great choice. AKfreak

January 07, 2012 2:49 PM  
Blogger Deborah said...

I too have been a very long time Nikon user - since the 70's. And perfectly content with my D700 but if I want anything more in the near or far future - it would be a larger sensor. And a camera that can hold up under use. That's my only complaint about my D700 is that within one or two months of purchase the hinge on the pop up flash broke as did the hinge the battery. I remember the dates of the Nikon rep showing up at my school throwing an F camera against the wall and saying "this is one of the many reasons you buy Nikon".

January 07, 2012 3:01 PM  
Blogger Sportymonk said...

Somebody up above mentioned a "generous offer" for your "old, worn out" D3. May I step in line for your D300, SB-800s, and maybe even you D700. I know the problems your wife will give you with your place so cluttered up with equipment, especially old used equipment you won;t use anymore so I will be more than glad to help you out in this moment of need.

Glad you did what you did, it is crazy the way people chase the latest and greatest with no thought to their needs. Please post more about the camera and compare its images to other D3 etc images as others have requested above.

Thanks. (BTW - loved the Flashbus tour, got a lot out of it)

January 07, 2012 3:06 PM  
Blogger Richard Kimbrough Photography said...

Just passed up a medium format system with 4 or 5 lenses and a pelican case for $350 but it got me thinking about a digital back for one. Of course the first ones I saw were $15,000+ so I crossed that idea off the list, but it did make me pull out the old Pentax 6X7 to play with. Ended up shooting a photo of the camera rather than with the camera that night. Now that someone mentioned renting a digital back, I'm kicking myself for not picking up that kit I saw.

Sounds like 2012 is the year of medium format, can't wait to see what you do with it.

January 07, 2012 4:20 PM  
Blogger Stephen Caissie said...

Welcome to the wonderful world of MF digital, David. I guess we have to teach you our secret handshake now. :)

Seriously, though, if you get a chance, you should get a demo of one of the new IQ backs. I had a chance to play with the IQ180 in a fashion setup. I'm considering putting a kidney up for sale.

January 07, 2012 4:42 PM  
Blogger Stylish Imagery said...

1. McNally claims skin tone is better on D4. Could it be the chip is 14 bit or improved in some way or the Expeed 3 software?

2. For tethered shooting there are tether accessories, for Hasselblad and others. I forgot the name of the company though.

January 07, 2012 5:23 PM  
Blogger Tarale Seena said...

Bailing on the D4 or pitching for "the chip"!?
For the reasons you provided, you might have
as well stuck to your D3 or D3S, right?!

January 07, 2012 6:25 PM  
Blogger DougOrama said...

I won't be getting the D4, either. Because I don't have $6,000.

January 07, 2012 7:29 PM  
Blogger Benjamin Geiger said...

Heck, I had to save up for my EOS 60D.

(The reason I went with Canon was not so much 'peer pressure' as 'gear pressure'. All my friends shoot Canon---three T2is and one T3i, plus my 60D---and I wanted to borrow their lenses.)

January 07, 2012 9:55 PM  
Blogger Grant Flanagan said...

Glad to know someone has kept a Hasselblad, David! I'm just beginning a career in photography, at Brooks Institute, and 1/500th a of a second sync, and the lowered DOF blows the other students flash work out of the water.

January 07, 2012 10:19 PM  
Blogger Rueben said...

Great choice for your flash needs David.. but I must ask... did someone just post about Pentax? Enough about that.. All of these camera manufacture's need to listen to the troops on the war field.. we can all help if they would listen.. but seriously.. Pentax?

January 08, 2012 12:59 AM  
OpenID padams said...

Welcome to Phase One land David. I made similar decision to you when the D3x came out and have never looked back for non sports/event work.

January 08, 2012 1:16 AM  
Blogger bedwards said...

Great choice! I also have a P25+ and I love it. The IQ is amazing and the chip is one of the best. Even when comparing it to the newer P40+ I would still take the 25+ the crop factor works to my advantage and the 25+ is one piece not 4 chips stitched together and fixed more with software. I shoot products and my entire setup (sinar, sliding back, lens) ran me less than a 1ds3 or d3x setup. Now whenever I use a 5d2 the images just look soft... The upfront investment is well worth it! Happy shooting.

January 08, 2012 2:41 AM  
Blogger bedwards said...

Great choice! I also have a P25+ and I love it. The IQ is amazing and the chip is one of the best. Even when comparing it to the newer P40+ I would still take the 25+ the crop factor works to my advantage and the 25+ is one piece not 4 chips stitched together and fixed more with software. I shoot products and my entire setup (sinar, sliding back, lens) ran me less than a 1ds3 or d3x setup. Now whenever I use a 5d2 the images just look soft... The upfront investment is well worth it! Happy shooting.

January 08, 2012 2:42 AM  
Blogger mark said...

good point, in the beginning it was a race for digital cameras to catch up with the quality of film. having choices limited to the d1 and d2 and their prosumer lines.

when the d3 came out it pretty much set the standard for what is needed in a camera in my opinion from there on camera manufacturers can only add bells and whistles.

with the array of choices available today that wasn't available 4 years ago, i think we pretty much have everything we need as far as dslr 's go. any upgrade would be only for a very specific need.

January 08, 2012 4:39 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Being that you're a person with some influence in the photographic community, I'm so glad that you didn't add to the hype of the D4 and that you went with a non-standard setup. Non-standard in that it's not Canon or Nikon.

Yesterday at a bookstore I saw the cover of a photographic magazine that stated something about 'the death of stills'. Any comments on the claims that video is the new still?

I look forward to reading more about your experience with medium format, I myself own a number of medium format film cameras and hope to upgrade to digital some day. 100% of people I've talked to about photography have thought of me as odd for using medium format, your switch has given some of us a bit of credibility.

January 08, 2012 8:24 AM  
Blogger Robert Harrington Studios said...

HI David,

I'm going this same way towards the end of this year. The D4 is just not worth the cost over the D3. I don't use video and don't shoot sports. I'm looking forward to the larger chip.

I've been using Capture One Pro for 3 years and love it. It is by far the best darn raw converter out there. The styles and presets are awesome!

Good Luck with the new system and keep us posted. I'll be joining you later this year!

January 08, 2012 8:48 AM  
Blogger Jason Quibilan said...

Thanks for this post David! I actually made the same jump a few months back, and have never looked back! Also, it's great to know that we both had the same ideas on how to help recover some of the costs... that is, by renting it out to a few friends! MFD is truly a great format, and it's cool that the proces are coming down to where it is right now. The more people invest in the system, the lower the prices are going to be in the future! Happy us all!:D

January 08, 2012 11:22 AM  
Blogger Ami Siano said...

I also struggle with wish for medium format.
I work with the 5d mkII so I do get excellent resolution, but as a true photographer - I always crave More !
Medium here is impossible to rent or to buy. So I went back to shooting film.
So much fun. Now the problem is scanning. A good scann is about 30$ per frame !

January 08, 2012 2:34 PM  
Blogger FOOTOOBLOOG said...

Since the details of the D4 and D800 were announced, I've been thinking the same thing. I don't need half of the features they are cramming into those bodies and I don't want to pay for them. What I do want to pay for is the best possible image quality at low ISOs. A Phase One system is just that. I've been using an IQ180 system recently and it is absolutely magical.

What really pushed me over the edge is that the Phase One system shoots in the much more useful 3:4 aspect ratio, which is much closer to a magazine page than Nikon's 2:3.

January 08, 2012 3:26 PM  
Blogger R. J. Kern said...

I’d date a Pentax 645D before a D4.

David, kudos! The D4 is the prom queen, albeit not the top of her class, she starves for attention. She’s like a machine gun with infrared goggles that can shoot accurately in super-low light scenarios.

On the other hand, a medium format (MF) digital camera like the Pentax 645D, has understated status, a strong build, and knows quality takes sacrifice in features. And likes fine art.

The Nikon D4 dates soldiers. MF cameras like artists.

I'll side with you. My realistic dream? To get my hands on a used PhaseOne 645DF and a back that would allow me to sync to 1/800.

January 08, 2012 8:06 PM  
Blogger Kendrick Kirk, MBA, CPP said...

You just made the exact decision I made. I come from sports, and I had a Canon system with about $14K invested. Work all but stopped, and I was shooting more (relatively) commercial work anyway. It was time to get away from my 8.2 MP bodies.

It was never about the image size, though. I had a magazine cover with my 8.2 MP camera. However, RETOUCHING!!!! Those beautiful medium format files are to die for.

Something you didn't mention is that cost of ownership is actually significantly less with a Phase One system because of their bulletproof warranty. 24 hour global replacement? Rentals on lenses that are a fraction of that of ownership of a Phase or rental of a small format system?

Am I of the level of shooters who typically shoot medium format? Heck no. However, now that I have the best money can buy, I know that when a photo sucks, it's my fault - not my gear's.

January 09, 2012 12:02 AM  
Blogger jrrome said...

I miss my Mamiya 645AFD almost every time I look through my Nikon viewfinder. So simple and clean, and big enough to actually see something through it. I don't miss the weight or the autofocus or the $2 per frame it cost to operate, but man, those photos were sharp and had delicious DOF. As long as your subjects aren't running, you probably won't miss the Nikon.

January 09, 2012 1:31 AM  
Blogger Michael Quack - Visual Pursuit said...

Occasionally I do miss working with the Hasselblad - but that is mostly for the abstraction layer a waist level finder offers, and second for the square frame. Give me a waist level finder (even digital is okay) and a square chip, and I might likely buy it. Until then I stay with 35mm.....

January 09, 2012 6:39 AM  
Blogger John said...

Haha! I love how you 'blocked' the pixel peepers... matter of fact, I bet I was one of those that checked just to see what gear you were using ...I suspected it was a Nikon product.

I am a total newb when it comes to medium format/digital combo... so, maybe a blog post on the gear itself sometime?

What I'm trying to get my head around is, you are using a medium format camera that shoots film (the Phase One) and slapping a back on there that turns those negs in to digital files yes?

So are the newest Hassy's like that as well? I mean a film camera with a digital back? This is all new to me.

Thanks for the write up and your opinion. A lot of the time, decisions you make help me to rationalize my own. Personally, I'm hoping prices come down on the D3... which would still be a monumental purchase for me. :)

January 09, 2012 9:02 AM  
Blogger said...

I've been using Capture One Pro since v3 with D1x, 5d and now 5dmkII. CO's interface and customizability for how you work, speed, batch recipes (need to output hires 16bit tifs,fpo jpgs and 800px web files in seperate folders and adjusted names with one click? sure), keystone controls, etc. keeps Lightroom unused except for occassional files. Not to mention Capture Pilot if you are tethered. Best to you david on your MF adventures.

January 09, 2012 9:23 AM  
Blogger Yugo said...

What does this mean for your lighting? My guess: since you shoot mostly manual anyway, not much? Seems like you could just slap your PW and/or SB's right on the hotshoe?

January 09, 2012 10:56 AM  
Blogger JustLyle said...

You're far too rational to be involved in photography these days, Mr. Strobist.


Best Wishes in your chosen path - if the shoe fits, WEAR it.

January 09, 2012 11:04 AM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

You aren't fooling me. I think you bought a system that requires you to shoot at f22+ to justify the hotter spark of that high dollar lighting gear you bought last year. :-)
I didn't realize there was an under $10K path into medium format. I considered the Pentax 645D but dismissed it when it was released with a non-interchangeable back. I shoot advertising and architecture so medium format makes a lot of sense at the price point you've outlined here. It's still a bit too steep of a barrier when I add the cost of back-up and the lack of a locally rent-able support system though.
That Phase 1 is certainly a lucky camera to end up in your hands. Happy shooting!

January 09, 2012 12:05 PM  
Blogger John said...

Thx for the bucket of calm, cool water on my gotta-have-the-latest urges. I haven't yet come anywhere near practicing the many OCF techniques you've taught us, nor reaching any really meaningful limits on the gear I already own. So I'm gonna focus hard this year on making good pictures, not upgrading cameras, thx for the sanity check.

January 09, 2012 2:29 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

One of my friend here in Montreal is doing exactly that : he wanted a MF digital camera, picked up a P45+ and rent it with or without his studio and/or his digital expertise.

Today, he's not knee-deep in money but he has one more Phase One body than me... ;)

January 09, 2012 2:53 PM  
Blogger Tom Parkes said...

Food for thought, I don't mind telling you. In the UK we're being asked to pay 1/3 more over the D3S price. In this market, few will be able to justify the small gains to be had over their current equipment unless they expect to be heavily into video in my opinion. I need another body at the moment and had been waiting on the D4. I'm now 99% sure my next purchase will be another D3S.

January 09, 2012 3:37 PM  
Blogger Kevin Blackburn Photography said...

This has certainly made me start to rethink My purchasing I was in no way headed for the D4 but the DX00 replacment of the D700 when ever it may be but now more food for thought

Thanks Man

January 09, 2012 4:51 PM  
Blogger vivekg said...

Congratulations! I've always repeatedly considered upgrading my Mamiya 645AF to an AFD model so I could get a digital back for it. Unfortunately I really can't justify the cost of the Medium format backs just yet :-). Enjoy the new shooting experience.

January 09, 2012 10:51 PM  
Blogger Darrell Noakes said...

That's a great post, David. I have learned to love medium format, but it hadn't occurred to me to look for a used Phase One. I picked up a beautiful old M645 1000s kit with three lenses seven years ago, and last winter stumbled onto a well worn RB67 Pro kit with two lenses. Ever since my first 35mm SLR, more than 40 years ago, I drooled over medium format, but never had the budget for it. Finding that used equipment was just too good to pass up. I love the rich transparencies and crisp negatives. But for what I saved by going with film cameras, I have to make up for on the scanner. A good scanner with good software does a very good job. I use the Canon DSLR to chimp the exposure, then turn the big guns to the task. Sometimes, I have everything clustered at the top of my sturdy tripod, a single remote rigged to fire all the cameras simultaneously. If there's vibration, I haven't noticed, but I guess I could always lock the mirrors if it becomes a concern. But the Phase One, used, hmmm, hadn't thought of that. Well, Christmas is only a little under 12 months away.

January 10, 2012 12:49 AM  
Blogger BRUJO said...

my first thought wads, uh oh, you better grab your flak jacket, but trolls and di hards are to fast for me. as 4 me im a canon 5d mkii zeiss 35mm 1.4 all M mode kinda vato, so unless i can refi my home,current value 220 k USD :( i would jump ship to chimp that sick Phase One :) as for now derp btw im 67k what they are now calling middle class yet i call it tax man taketh his 2 plus k and i have 2 kids wtf?! boohoo me blah rock on yo i saw this on phase ones facebook btw

January 10, 2012 3:55 AM  
Blogger BRUJO said...

Hey i think if someone wanted to trade Bresson-Cartier for Ansel Adams, then by Gods good grace by all means, the camera is a tool is it not mr. Troll diehard?

January 10, 2012 4:05 AM  
Blogger BRUJO said...

case in point...Adams primarily used large-format cameras despite their size, weight, setup time, and film cost, because their high resolution helped ensure sharpness in his images.

January 10, 2012 4:07 AM  
OpenID tmjohnsonphotography said...

Wow, you are one brave photographer coming out of the closet like that. But I totally agree with you about rethinking your equiptment for your needs not just because some new hot item is on the scene. You made a very sensible choice 10k on medium format versus 6k on a 35mm. If I had the $$ I would move to medium format too simply because I'm a portrait photographer and I don't need all the bells and whistles. For now I snuggle up close with my D700 proudly but what do you plan on doing for storage as the file output size is massive? Best of luck!

January 10, 2012 2:12 PM  
Blogger pokho said...

I am getting more and more into capture one myself, find it quite impressive. See the tutorials to get a quick overview

January 10, 2012 4:22 PM  
Blogger James David said...

Dave, I have a band new, 645AFD with three lens: 80, 55, 155... I bought it to do weddings about 6 years ago and probably put 20 rolls through it... I've been waiting for a "cheaper" medium format back for all those medium format cameras hanging around. Your discussion was very thoughtful and I've had similar thoughts which you articulated.

January 12, 2012 4:04 PM  
Blogger Lord Conrad Von Douchington IV said...

Great post. I've been thinking about switching to medium as well. If you don't mind sharing, where did you purchase your used body, back, and lenses for $10K? Seems like a great price and I can't find used Phase One gear anywhere.

January 13, 2012 2:20 AM  
Blogger Marc W said...

Hi Dave,

I've assisted with commercial studios here in Singapore where we used the phase one backs, and also used the leaf backs when I was doing my course up in Hallmark, so I do agree that Medium format just "feels" that much more different.. the control of focus, and depth of field especially.

What I'm wondering is, do you really see the difference in prints?

It's obvious on-screen of course, which we all can see because we can zoom 100%.. but I kinda feel like you don't see the difference practically in real world print sizes.

In school I was making 11x17 prints with both my d200 and the leaf aptus (17 i think it was), honestly don't think I could tell the difference without a magnifying glass or going really close to inspect...

In fact, at one of the studios I assisted at, my boss decided that the 5D was more than enough for his commercial jobs (despite having full 645 setups) and used his 5D for his commercial work..

I think we've reached a point in technology where the limiting factor isn't the camera but the printer.

Especially if it's a mass commercial print run - I'm not sure if that many printers would print a thousand copies of a file that has a 12-stop dynamic range (not to mention say a 40MB base image with maybe 10 layers of retouching?) ; much less if the paper would be able to hold it well...

What do you think?

Not to pour cold water on your purchase of course - it's a great camera and I'm sure you'll make good use of it - just wondering what you thought about that...

Enjoy the new camera!

January 13, 2012 11:42 AM  
Blogger Daniel Moca said...

Argghh, now you just talked me into it!! lol
I saw this Mamiya kit including the 645DF body, a DM22 digital back and the 80mm 2.8 lens for just around $10K which I think it's a pretty good deal...

I'd like to see more posts about the whole medium format experience, end result, sample pictures, etc.

See you in Dubai! ;)

January 15, 2012 9:30 AM  
Blogger Daniel Moca said...

Argghh, now you just talked me into it!! lol
I saw this Mamiya kit including the 645DF body, a DM22 digital back and the 80mm 2.8 lens for just around $10K which I think it's a pretty good deal...

I'd like to see more posts about the whole medium format experience, end result, sample pictures, etc.

See you in Dubai! ;)

January 15, 2012 9:30 AM  
Blogger Bob Kidd said...

Ballsy move...good choice

January 17, 2012 10:45 AM  
Blogger Peter Bibby said...

Thanks a lot David, I have been saving my pennies for an Aptus 22 or P25+ back, and I have a feeling that thanks to you, just like the old SB-24 flashes, the used market for such items just went up! ;)

Enjoy the new format, I can't wait to see what you can do with it!

January 17, 2012 2:55 PM  
Blogger Russ Fortson said...

Did you consider the Pentax 645D? Seems like it would be right up the alley you're taking.

January 22, 2012 1:28 AM  
Blogger Gavin Jowitt - Sydney Photographer said...

Really interesting post David...
I'm a bit confused about the fuss regarding the cost of the D4. It's a pro camera for people who make a living using it. Spending $6k on a new body every couple of years is nothing really and similar to the sort of expense you require to keep your computer system up to date. (The need to do that will become even more apparent when handling 24MP or bigger files). I rent MF when the need arises, but lets face it, most commercial work ends up in offset print or online... and all that glorious pixel quality is lost.

January 24, 2012 8:53 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

oh gosh, that's almost the same thing which is happening to me now. im in dillema of d3 (not the d4 tho) and pentax 645D. and as im going deeper and deeper into researches, the more i think i want a medium format. i don't really care about like you say "Uzis" too. for me which matters allot more then speed, is dynamic range, in other words how many tones and how realistic views it can capture. was sooooo happy reading ur thoughts. and in the end it killed me abit: my name is David too. awesome mate, i think you did best decision u could do. though i dont have that camera, so i cant be that accurate, but as im researching - i think it's the best. :)

February 01, 2012 11:16 AM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@Richard Wearne-

Sorry, but I do not really have the time for 1-to-1 consulting via email. But read this QA follow-up:

February 11, 2012 11:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm almost more interested in what you think of the 36.3-Megapixel Nikon D800...

February 18, 2012 12:19 AM  
Blogger Gordon Macgregor said...

I am appalled at how few DSLR users have discovered the Phase one Capture One or Cone Pro software. The cost of the software will more than pay for itself in terms of editing speed and quality of reproduction. The fact that you can now use their fabulous tools to fix Jpegs and tiffs just raises the return on investment. I have been using it for ten years and never looked back. Their colour conversion system is definetly the best, ( no more magenta cast highlights like Adobe causes).

February 19, 2012 6:14 PM  
Blogger bronney said...

Dude you needed a post to justify your GAS? :D

Congrats on spending money!! But really no need to justify it. Ask the girls why they buy shoes hehe.

March 06, 2012 11:09 PM  
OpenID said...

nice ... love it

June 13, 2012 11:30 AM  
Blogger Brendan said...

Hi David,

I did a similar thing about 20 years ago and bought a Bronica outfit. I wanted to slow down, take more care and be more methodical and thoughtful about my photography. It lasted about three years. I started to get frustrated about the restrictions of lens and accessory availability (and cost)compared to 35mm. Do you think this might happen in your own situation?
I agree with you about the escalating cost of equipment. It is also a lot higher here in Europe generally and even more so in Ireland where I live.
Did you not consider a move to the D800? Much less money and very high resolution. The best sensor yet tested by the independent DXO Mark lab. You mention the 12 stops of dynamic range on the Phase 1 but DXO measured 14.4 stops for the D800. Do you feel that the size of the pixels leads to smoother gradations? In theory this should be the case as there should be less variation in size, and therefore output voltage, compared to a chip with smaller photosites. I always remember my first side by side comparison of some MF and 35mm Velvia slides on a lightbox. Shots of the same subjects seemed so smooth that the 35mm versions looked grainy by comparison. Is this what you are seeing with the Phase One? Do you envision any problems with multiple off-camera flash photography?

July 10, 2012 2:33 PM  
Blogger adam deals36 said...

D4 is nice but I hope it's not too heavy on a budget. I still have my own cam 4 years ago just the older version and it's still good.

July 25, 2012 2:30 AM  
Blogger adam deals36 said...

No thanks. My camera is still working. Just the older version of this one.

July 25, 2012 2:31 AM  
Blogger Daniel Magalhães said...

David, have you researched or know something about using speedlights with medium format cameras?!

April 03, 2013 12:00 PM  
Blogger Weston Fuller said...

As a follower of your posts for years I am quite pleased to find this particular post in your archives. I have used much of the same gear and have similar Nikon bodies as you in my gear bag, but have always wanted to make a jump to medium format but wanted to hear some real testimonials regarding it's performance and what it can provide. Most all reads online I have come across are geared around mostly marketing material and tech specs that don't get into the performance. A few years ago I tested a Phase One out from a rep while in the LA area, and loved it. Although an afternoon of shooting street photography doesn't let you get to experience it's depth. In the end a 3 lens kit for a 65 px back was around $40-50K...ouch! The price alone has scared me away for years but I've always wanted to make the jump. Thanks to your post and posts like Zach Arias....I'm proud to say I'm coming out and made the switch to a Phase One system. It may be used but it's a great starting point to get a system I've wanted for years.
Thanks for helping me along the way and I'm glad to see that I'm not far off in my own opinions at times.

November 29, 2014 12:48 AM  

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