Moving from medium format film to digital

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Dane D., Jul 19, 2006.

  1. Dane D. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 16, 2004
    As the title of this thread says, our company finally is moving away from roll film. I would like some info on replacing our Mamiya RZ67 with a DSLR. I do have requirements: PC sync for external professional flash unit, capable of providing an image at least 9" x 12" at 300 dpi, full manual settings option, high quality lenses and choice of focal lengths, FireWire if possible, and durability. I have looked at the digital backs for the RZ but are too expensive for our budget. This would be used in factory settings, outdoors and some studio. Any thoughts, opinions, would be appreciated.
  2. pulsewidth947 macrumors 65816


    Jan 25, 2005
    I can't recommend a specific model as I'm still in love with film (and wouldnt want to get into a Nikon/Canon war), but any decent DSLR should be able to print out at that size. I work it out to be about 9 megapixels:
    (9 x 300) x (12 x 300) = 2700 x 3600 = 9,720,000 px.  
    Woot maths rules :D Might I suggest a trip to - they have some quality in depth tests to help you narrow your choices. After you've narrowed down somewhat you can go into a shop and try a couple see which you prefer. I hope your company realises how expensive decent DSLR's are :)

    This is quite ironic though, I've just ditched digital to take up film! Admittedly I didn't have a DSLR, but I now have a film SLR which cost me £60... and free darkroom access at work.. SCORE!

    Good luck with your mission though, Dane.
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I used to use an RB67 system still have and use my (Norman) Studio lights and now have an Nikon D50. First off there is no comparison in terms of image quality the RB67 with it's huge frame size completely blows above any DSLR. But Digital wins in ease of use and fast turnaround. I can have an image on the web within minutes of shotting.

    A DSLR frame uses the 2:3 aspect ratio while your RZ was more square. You will lose some pixels in the crop. If you really do need 2700 pixels in the short direction then on the Nikon side you need the D2X but for much lless money the D200 is only 108 pixels short at 2592. I doubt you would notice. But there is no room to crop. Both camera can control a studio stobe system, in fact ALL DSLRs can do that. I'd prefer to use a wireless system mounted to the hot shoe but you could do a PC cord too. Many of the Nikon lenses are as good as the Mamiya

    As much as I am a Fan of Nikon equipment what you really want, comming from an RZ67 is the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II. This camera uses a "full frame" 36x24 millimeter sensor with 4992 x 3328 pixels. So at 300 DPI you could get 16 x 11 inch prints. Don't discount the value of "full frame" it will give you depth of field and perspectives closer to the RZ. But even the "full frame" size is tiny compared to the RZ's 6x7mm.

    The other thing you loose going digital is dynamic range. Shooting digital is like shooting slide film where if you blow out a hilight you've lost the shot but worse, the exposure latitude is even norrower then slide film. That is where you studio lights will come it handy. You can make the light ratio low enough contrast that the entire scene will "fit". A "full frame" DSLR will have pysically larger pixels which means more dynamic range

    A lot depends on your budget. The Canon 1D exactly fits your requrements but costs $7K the Nikon D200 can do 95% of what you want for about $1.5K Both Canon and Nikon have some good lenses

    There are other systems but if the digital back for your RZ of out of your price range then the offering from Hasselblad and Sinar or also off budget for you.

    The D200 would do fine.
  4. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    No, it does not quite work out that way. it comes to 9 megapixels only AFTER you crop the image to the desired aspect ratio.

    The DSLRs all have 2:3 frames and a crop is required. So if the short side needs 2700 pixels the long side must be 4050 pixels so you will need aminimum of an 11MP DSLR. But then there is ZERO room for a crop. If yu asume minimal crops then a 4500x3000 pixel frame is required which works to 13.5MP. If you follow this argument there are not so many DSLRs to chose from. If you can relax the 300DPI requirement to 200 then anyhting on the market would work
  5. bigbossbmb macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2004
    Sounds like a Canon 5D is the only Canon/Nikon DSLR, at a reasonable price, that would fit your resolution needs.
  6. Dane D. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 16, 2004
    Thank you all for the input. 95% of what I shoot goes on a press, so 300 dpi is needed. I still use a PC sync cord because the powers that pull the purse strings are old school and spending money is like pulling teeth. Most if not all of our clients don't understand why photography costs so much. When we explain the process of buying film, shooting, processing and scanning they cringe. Needless to say they ask why not digital. Then I am put on the spot doing some song and dance to explain the benefits of film. Turnaround is probably the most important factor, since clients think everything is done in a snap of the fingers. I am currently using a BetterLight Super8K for my still shots in the studio, so I know about the narrow latitude. Thanks for the link, it looks like some research is in order.
  7. extraextra macrumors 68000


    Jun 29, 2006
    He said the digital backs were too expensive? (I just looked at the price and had a mini heart attack)

    I second the 5D. I think it's around $3500 (body only). However, it's one of those cameras where if you don't have the best lens (i.e. a Canon "L" lens) it's really going to be obvious in the pictures. L lenses are pretty expensive but they've got unbeatable image quality. Check for reviews of certain lenses.

    I'm not overly familar with the Nikon system, but they don't have any full-frame cameras.
  8. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    No, this guy is comming from an RZ system. The 5D even with l-series glass will be a large and noticable step down in terms of image quality. He will be giving up some sharpness but more so dynamic range and color "smoothness" You can make good prints four feet wide with an RZ sytem. But he says he only needs 9x12 prints at 300 DPI so the RZ is overkill.

    I bought my Mamyia system from a company that shoot pictures to be printed in technical books. Finally they decided that books are printed with at bast 150 DPI and some of their larger images where only 6 inches tall. For many uses medium format is overkill.

    What will seem great is the versitility of the Canon system. The Mamyia K/L lenses are about as good as lenses get and the build quality surpasses anyhting I've seen from Nikon or Canon but the Mamiyas are huge fixed focal lenght lenses.

    Handling is much different too. With the Mamuia the shutter speed is set with a ring on the lens as is the aperture. Focus knob is on the sides of the body My camera lacked a built-in light meter and the reflex mirroe is not "instant return"
  9. andym172 macrumors 6502

    Oct 24, 2003
    I'm not so sure. The 5D's sensor is a real peach - supposedly better than even the 1dsmk2's ("The 5D's image quality (other than absolute file size) is a noticeable step up from that of the 1Ds MKII. Images are cleaner and have lower noise at all ISOs" - Michael Reichmann - and coupled with Canon's L primes (specifically the 35L, the 85L and the 135L) I doubt you'd notice a significant drop in image quality.

    You may wish to read Measuring Megabytes.

    Without wishing to go into the whole Canon vs Nikon 'thing', I think your choice is simple - go for the Canon 5D :)
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Well Dane did say he needs a minimum 9"x12" print. What if he wants to print larger than that?

    What if he wants to crop?

    A Canon 5D or Nikon D2X or D200 would be inadequate, I think. He'd have to go for a 1Ds M-II.

    What's wrong with the 18 MP Pentax model (645 digital)? It's either coming out, or has come out. I'm not even sure, but it's not supposed to be THAT expensive.
  11. Menkar macrumors newbie

    Feb 19, 2003
    San Jose, CA
    Film scanner

    You can save a lot of money by getting a high-grade film scanner (Nikon's Coolscan 9000 comes in at about $1,800) and keep all you lenses, accessories etc. (and have a back-up should your harddrive die ;) )
    If you go for DSLR you will need to contend with different framing, different focal-length performance (if you are used to thinking 80mm is a normal lens, a 50mm lens will be the equivalent unless you are getting a camera body with smaller than full-frame sensor), chromatic abberration with the iris fully open at short focal lenghts etc. You will most likely need to get a PC synch cable that is polarity reversed as pro flashes are diffrent from consumer grade flashes.
  12. wilburdl macrumors member


    Jul 18, 2006
    I freelance for magazines so I know a bit about the subject. I shoot the 1Ds Mark II and have to say it's never let me down and looks great printed. That said I brought it over a year ago when there was no 5D. Had it been available I probably would have brought two. Well when I look back I would have tried to get a back--but that's another story.

    It comes down to what you shoot. I've shot plenty of assignments where they've cropped the image and I was glad for the extra resolution. I think that the 5D would be just as competent. It doesn't have all the features of a 1-series but the image is pretty decent. The biggest difference would come in size. Without up-sizing, I can get a double page spread. You may be able to find one cheaper used... check or

    I'd suggest investing in a digital back though. Despite the high cost, it is definitely the best choice. High dynamic range, image quality, Use your exsisting gear, and if put on a lease comes out cheaper in the long run. The reason being, there are upgrade programs in place when a new model comes out--I'll have to pay another $8 grand for the next Canon.

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