Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Medium format: Do I need it? Do clients need it?

Testino shoots a H2D with what looks like a HC 120mm f/4 Macro with Sarah Jessica Parker.

Brian, asked a great question regarding my last post regarding MF and I figured this being a long-ass post, I might as well share with all :) As of right now no one has asked me for a file with more than 4000 pixels on the long edge. My D3 barely satisfies that request at 4256 pixels on the long end. So no, no one has specifically asked for MF.

But clients are much more comfortable knowing that you're shooting fashion with what is deemed a "fashion tool". I've never seen Meisel or Testino shoot a Nikon/Canon for the cover of Vogue. Check out "Vogue Diaries" to see Testino in action (above). It's weird but clients don't want to see you use the same cameras that they have at home. They think their Canon Rebel is the same as your Canon 5D Mark II. They don't know the difference.

Is it essential to what I do? I like having the larger dynamic range. Sometimes I experiment with black clipping but at the end of the day, more data is better. There are things that I can get away with on the H3D that I can't get away with on the D3. The D3 forces me to be spot on with the exposure otherwise I'll either lose darks or blow highlights. The H3D is very forgiving and "sees" more like how our eyes see things. The larger dynamic range seemingly compresses the contrast while preserving tonal differences between 12 stops of light whereas the Nikon D3 always feels like it's delivering shadows that are too dark (greater overall contrast) and often blows out highlights. I know my eyeball doesn't see things like that!

My philosophy for capture is to get the most usable picture out of the box. Of course that means getting as close to the final product as you can at capture, but it also means getting a file that you can manipulate to your liking. The greater bit depth and dynamic range affords me more "range of motion". Just try doing a curves, levels, brightness/contrast adjustment. In no time your image starts to develop "holes" in the curves because it's missing data in between those particular levels. There's a specific word for it, ahh yes "posterization" that we try to avoid but inevitably there simply isn't enough data to fill in the holes. Fortunately Photoshop is pretty smart about filling in those data gaps but you'd like to have that stuff to begin with. This still happens with the H3D but less so because it captures more information.

When I purchased the H3D, I did so before anyone client asked for it. I didn't want to be in the position where a client needed something that I could not deliver on. It's basic training/requirement if you're a fashion pro, less so if you're a different type of photographer. It's only a matter of time before someone specifically asks for medium format.

Oh and I know that's a H2D because Mario is shooting a P45+ back and the H3D bodies don't support that non-Hasselblad backs. Cheers! :)

H2D with P45+ back. That's a nice back though for not being Hasselblad! ;)


  1. Interesting to know! I hope I can try shooting a MF camera one of these days.

    Thanks Charles!

  2. First step is to rent a film camera! :) I have some old MF film you can use ;) Are you in LA? :)