Medium Format Digital: Bigger is Still Better

We live in a fast-paced world, and few, if any, fields are able to escape the monumental advances of science and technology.  Photography is no exception.  Indeed, with the advent of digital, the past ten years have collectively brought forth greater advances in photography than the previous one hundred years combined.  Although the ease with which we are able to capture everyday snapshots has expanded, there are certain maxims that still ring true.  Just as similarly as we can buy a race car, that does not automatically impart the skills of a race car driver!  To many, a Medium Format Digital Back is like having the ultimate sports car.   But likewise, knowledge of lighting, posing, retouching, etc. are the skills of a professional photographer.   I have received many Accolades of Excellence for my photography, and although the overwhelming majority of my award-winning images were photographed with Medium Format Digital, it is the technology that simply gives me more control as a professional photographer and allows me to offer higher quality images and more exciting products to my clients.

I am often asked about the type of cameras that I use in my boutique studio, Ken Doo Photography, in Carmel, CA.  I have always used medium format camera systems, because the age-old maxim from the days of film still holds true:  Bigger is Better.   Many often are confused by the number of megapixels that a digital camera may have, but more importantly, it is the size of the sensor that makes the difference.  And this is where Medium Format Digital reigns supreme.   The apt comparison is with 35mm film compared to medium format film.   A 6×45 medium format film negative/chrome is approximately 2.7 times the size of a 35mm negative.  The larger surface area of medium format film simply offers better image quality than the smaller image of 35mm.  Plain and simple.   Similarly,  a medium format digital back offers stunning image quality that rivals and surpasses large format sheet film.  Medium Format Digital offers the best resolution, details, micro contrast, smoother tonalities, and depth of color rendition.  Bigger is better!

Medium Format Digital Sensors offer much more information and quality than smaller DSLR digital sensors

The Phase One P65+ is the world's first full frame Medium Format Digital sensor, offering huge increases in image quality over DSLRs.

Some photographers may lament that the image quality offered by a good Medium Format Digital Back (MFDB) is not noticeable at  smaller image sizes.  But it is more than simply a difference in resolution and the ability to enlarge a wall portrait.  It is also the format, the system, and the quality of lenses which far exceed 35mm based cameras.  Those who have photographed with both 35mm film and medium format film will remember viewing pro-proofs of images taken, comparing the 35mm 4x6s and the medium format 4×5 proof images:   Medium Format always provided a better image—-even at smaller proof  sizes! 
Ken Doo Photography in Carmel, CA has been fully digital for eight years.  The transition from shooting with medium format film to using high resolution MFDBs was an easy one for me, since my experience in the darkroom is mostly with medium format.   Going to a professional photographer is not normally an every-day affair, and so my approach is to offer my clients the very best products and services.   And accordingly, rather than be content with “good enough,” I have always sought the best tools for my studio which includes both full-frame high resolution DSLRs and Medium Format Digital cameras.   Currently I use a Phase 645AF camera mated with a Phase P45+ MFDB, offering 39 megapixels.  The quality is stunning, and perfect for portraiture, commercial work, photographing artwork, and landscapes. 
Later this month, I will take delivery of the new Phase P65+ MFDB from Capture Integration  (Phase One Dealer of the Year).  The Phase P65+ MFDB is the world’s first full-frame medium format digital back offering both the highest resolution (60.5 megapixels) and unsurpassed image quality.  I am extremely excited for the incredible quality that the P65+ MFDB will offer for my portrait and commercial clients and for my landscape work.
 
More on the Phase P65+ later!
You can see some of my medium format work at the main studio website at www.kendoophotography.com  and at www.carmelphotographer.net or www.montereyphotographer.com    My landscape work is photographed exclusively with medium format digital and can be seen at my landscape website, www.houseoflandscapes.com and also at Searles Framing, 663 Lighthouse Avenue, Monterey, CA.   Images in the Canada gallery were photographed using a Phase P30 MFDB.  Images from the Death Valley Gallery were photographed with a Phase P45+ MFDB.   Contact me at (831) 626-1844 to view medium format images or to discuss your photography needs.
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3 Responses to “Medium Format Digital: Bigger is Still Better”

  1. Well, still the feel’n’look of a medium format Agfa Scala slide is just something you can not create in a purely digital workflow ! I fully agree with you, that for many applications the advantages of simply having a HUGE image file makes post production easier. But, talking about Fine Art Photography, film and the enlargements made from film will (hopefully) still be there in many many years from now. If you allow me this comparison: A modern sports car might be faster, more comfortable and easier to handle, but which real automobilist would give away a classic roadster from the 40s or 50s … ?

    • Hi Peter,
      Sadly, medium format film has been relegated to the fine art genre. Thankfully, there have been several wonderful new media substrates released recently that have really advanced digital wide format fine art printing capabilities. Medium format digital capture has evolved far beyond the capabilities of medium and even large format film. The few photographers remaining that shoot 8×10 film certainly don’t choose large format in an attempt to outresolve 60 megapixel digital backs. It’s the look. I still have several film bodies on the shelf, including several old Graflex cameras. So in answer to your comparison by way of analogy: a real photograpic connoisseur has both the faster, modern, easier to handle digital camera, but also treasures those classic film cameras from the past. ; )

      • EXACTLY, I use both systems – digital and film – and I would never give away my old film cameras.

        In most cases the digital SLR or medium format camera is the obvious choice, but as you said “It’s the look” that makes the classic film camera still so interesting.

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