…how I stopped worrying about digital medium format and learned to love full frame.
First a Disclaimer: Similar to my Leica disclaimer I am not here to disparage medium format or question anyone else’s decision to purchase medium format. All are fantastic tools. But after years of wanting and finally obtaining a digital medium format solution I now realize that full frame will do just fine for me. This applies to digital only. Film medium format is not going anywhere… for now. Who knows? Case in point.
Note: The bride to be and her father, a friend and quite the photographer himself, are camera buffs. As a result they requested film photography as well.
After this bridal shoot, I expected I would be writing yet another glowing post about the digital Pentax 645D.
But the star of the day was a lens, not a camera.
As a result, it appears that I have been cured of my obsession with digital medium format. It was all very sudden and very unexpected honestly. Recently fawned all over the Pentax 645D after a wedding shoot.
Started with that recent bridal shoot. The same one as the film photo above.
I had also brought along the Pentax 645D I have been prattling on about quite a bit lately, but as things progressed I leaned in on the G Master mentioned almost exclusively that day.
This is not the first time this has happened. Had brought everything and the kitchen sink to that wedding shoot. When I went back and looked at other G Master shots from that earlier wedding…
…and an engagement shoot not that long ago.
I then realized that I had created a problem rather than a solution. Had thought I was adding a “different” tool to my toolbox with the Pentax 645D. But instead, I had created a duplication of functionality already available to me. Am I saying that a full frame lens perfectly replicates a medium format experience?
What I am saying is that this lens comes close enough for me while carrying numerous other advantages as well.
- Better AF.
- Not just the Pentax 645D, which does just fine relatively speaking, but also more modern digital medium format offerings. The camera I had considered based on price point, the Fujifilm GFX 50S II, has contrast only AF and from what I have read none of its competitors are particularly stellar autofocusing cameras either. As much as it pains me to say this I have heard few kind words about the AF on Hasselblad digital medium format cameras. The one that does best, the excellent Fujifilm GFX 100S, would not likely keep up with the A7 bodies over the last few years.
- Relatively faster lenses.
- The Fujifilm lens for me would be the GFX 80mm f/1.7. I believe it is the fastest aperture autofocus medium format lens on the market currently. This works out to 63.2mm f/1.34 according to mmcalc.com which puts the G Master in the same “effective” ball park as mentioned in my review of that lens.
- Most any current or recent Sony body the G Master could be attached to would be an effective and accurate focusing video capturing device. That cannot be said for any current medium format camera except the GFX 100S.
- Less clutter.
- On paper having a digital medium format camera for a photo shoot sounded great. In practice, I looked like I was packing for a safari. When left in the car, like for the engagement shoot because there was a lot of walking involved, what is the point? When it left the vehicle for the bridal shoot it became yet another bag of gear to keep track of when I used other gear more.
- Great in theory. A novelty in practice.
- Wait. Don’t laugh. I am serious. Depends on what you are looking for. Admittedly the G Master is no bargain when compared to more pedestrian, but perfectly good lenses. But the G Master is neither pedestrian nor merely good. It is quite a special and great lens easily worth the asking price once you fully grasp what it is capable of.
Much like my personal experience with Leica it became more about saying that I had a digital medium format camera than actually benefitting from it significantly. A perfectly acceptable justification mind you. Just not enough for me.
I was looking at my Flickr photos from the bridal shoot and I could not tell the G Master shots from the 645D shots. Yeah, this is a 645D shot, right? Nope.
Then I asked myself a question:
What am I doing?
I had created the mother of all inefficiencies. Unnecessary redundancy. The Industrial Engineer had drifted from the path. It was fun and all but after two weddings, an engagement shoot, and a bridal shoot with both you know what I wanted?
For all of these events, I spent far too much time keeping track of stuff. What is the point of streamlining my lens selection on my main system (Parting ways with many prime and zoom lenses in the process.) with one lens…
…if I am going to then turn around and bring a whole other camera system with me?
Now I could make a case for the film variant since film has its unique charms. But all of a sudden digital medium format made no sense to me anymore. Great fun and I am glad I got a chance to use it. And truth be told if I had not I would have continued to obsess over digital medium format. But I am now over it. The same applies to another long-trusted image-capturing tool that had not left the house in some time since the G Master arrived.
A fantastic Pentax combination, but my new goal is one bag only (Not counting lights. That is a whole other conversation.) for any shoot.
On to the photos.
Here is a 645D shot from that day in my portfolio.
And here are the others all taken with the Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master.
I am very happy with the result.
Is there a difference? Yes. But nowhere near significant enough to justify the additional gear in my opinion.
In the interest of full disclosure many of the outside shots were taken with the Phottix Raja Hexa Softbox (59″) softbox. It was a recommendation made by Graham Terhune and I really liked the results. It also did a great job on an engagement party a while back.
May have to write a review about this softbox… and perhaps the two AD200 rig used to light it.
Had you asked me a week or so ago I would have said there was no way I would set the 645D aside. Things change.
Had said a while back that I was starting to think that, “…it is mostly about the lens, isn’t it.“. Definitely seems to be the case here.
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