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Canon 5D MKII vs Mamiya RZ67

Tony Black , Jul 14, 2009; 03:01 p.m.

I am currently using Mamiya RZ 67 and do a lot of night shooting. Exposure times are 2-4 min.
I m thinking of switching to digital and wonder if Canon 5D MKII with good prime lenses can compete with Mamiya in terms of sharpness etc.?


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John A , Jul 14, 2009; 03:30 p.m.

Film and digital work a bit differently with time exposures. Reciprocity doesn't seem to be a big issue with digital, so your exposures should be reduced at the same relative iso speed. I have shot RZ's in the past and now shoot both H and V system Hasselblads. I bought a 1dsmkIII and also have a 5dII. I ran a comparison test with my H system lenses, which I believe to be not only sharper than Mamiya lenses, but also V system Hasselblad lenses (I loved my RZ by the way, my switch was a need for the other features the H system offers). The comparison was at iso 400 film to iso 400 digital. The result, in fine detail, was that even though I might have felt the film has a bit better acuity, the lack of grain made the digital a more usable file and makes it appear a bit sharper. I compared these files at 100%, which was about a 2000 dpi scan of the 2-1/4 film and also resampled the digital file to 3200dpi, the size I scan my negatives. The result was the same in both cases--I use the Imacon scanner for comparison. I don't know that the result would have been the same with 100 speed film vs digital, but I was doing the test for aerial work where I need to use iso 400 most of the time with the MF camera.

My problem with the digital cameras is more that they lose sharpness if you don't shoot them in the sweet center section of the f-stop range-most about f4 to f11/14. Outside this, they seem to start to fade a bit. This might be acceptable to many, if you make smaller prints, but it is not an issue you will generally see with the film cameras. Of course, because you will use small focal length lenses, your need to stop down as far will be reduced with the 35mm lenses.

I carry my digital more now than my film cameras, MF or large, but I still take the film camera as well when I am doing landscape and certain other things. On the other hand, the digital cameras, with their abilities in certain cases, including high iso performance, have opened up areas I used to be more reticent to shoot. So, my thought is really one that you need to see if your use is better served with the film or digital camera--borrow or rent one would be my recommendation.

Ed Rodgers , Jul 14, 2009; 04:06 p.m.

I have an RB67, but I've only dabbled in long exposures with it. But I can say that my 5DII does infact out-resolve the 6x7 with a Sekkor C 90, but just barely.

I think John's mention of digital losing sharpness is true, mainly because the sensor is a very thin single-layer device that is unforgiving of the minor focus errors film might tolerate as the light passes through the three layers. Not that I have any evidence, other than what I have read years ago about it, and just happen to remember.

Tony Black , Jul 14, 2009; 04:48 p.m.

Thank you John and Ed. These are great explanations. I both hear you. I mostly shoot at f11or f16(iso 100) at night time. so i guess with this f stop canon will be ok in terms of sharpness.
the only problem left out for me is, i do big size prints around 110cm x 140cm and i don think i can do that size prints with canon5dmkii(21million pixel at 240 dpi)
My lab prints around 150dpi to 200 dpi with a lightjet print. Even with those dpi numbers, canon is far way form those dimensions i mention..
Hasselblad digital cameras will be too expensive for me. So I still don't know...

Ken Schwarz , Jul 14, 2009; 05:16 p.m.

As long as you stop down the lens to f/2.8 or f/4 you should get extremely good night performance with the Canon prime lenses. Unfortunately, wide-open even the 24L and 35L lenses show pretty bad coma (wing-shape) distortion on point sources in the periphery of the frame. I had no such problems with my Mamiya 7, but I can't vouch for the RZ67 lenses, which might also have some coma wide-open.

Matt Brost , Jul 14, 2009; 05:50 p.m.

Prints from a digital camera do not have the same dpi requirements as film cameras. You would however be somewhere around 86ppi to 101ppi with the 5D MkII.

The key is the viewing distance. These are large prints. They seem to be viewed at somewhat of a distance since you are saying that 150dpi to 200 dpi from film is good. So, it may be fine at 86 to 100 dpi. Don't get too cought up in the dpi count, do a comparison and see what you think.

John A , Jul 14, 2009; 05:57 p.m.

Tony, your last comment, about making large prints from these files, is actually a bad assumption! I have made 40x50 inch prints from the original 5d, which was only 14mp, and they were incredible. I routinely make prints this large and since my rip performs best at 300-360dpi, I resample my files up with no issue(from 60mb to about 800mb!). I even used to make Lambda prints, similar to Lightjet, which required 200dpi and never had issues with digitizing or pixelization making these large prints and resampling. I have found that even the basic photoshop algorythm is more than acceptable for the needed resamples.

Ben Goren , Jul 14, 2009; 06:15 p.m.


That size print from a 5D Mk II is really close to the same enlargement as a 100% crop viewed on screen. Find a native file from the camera that matches your quality requirements (after suitable post-processing has been applied, of course), look at it on your computer at actual pixels, and that's basically what you'll get out of a print.

If you're happy with that quality, your lab should have no trouble up-scaling the file as appropriate to suit their printer's requirements.

You might also check with the lab to see if they have a sample from the camera printed at that size, or if any of their clients have one they'll let you look at.

I don't know your requirements, but I suspect the camera is in the ``good enough'' range where you'll want to take into consideration other factors such as workflow (no need to scan, wait to get a scan back, etc.) and ergonomics.

Speaking of ergonomics...the 5D's live view function when attached to a computer has to be seen to be believed. Full-screen live view with exposure and DoF preview, focus control in the AF motor's smallest increment, full-screen 100% pixel preview, and the like. It's like a view camera on steroids. If you're shooting in a studio or can use a laptop in the field, that alone may well turn you to the dark side....



G Dan Mitchell , Jul 14, 2009; 08:36 p.m.

To generalize, a number of the formerly serious film photographers I know of who have switched to digital seem to have arrived at a consensus that a particular digital format can probably produce IQ results in the range of the next larger film format. For example, cropped sensor DSLRs can equal (in many ways) 35mm film; full-frame DSLRs can compete with MF film; MF digital can compete with 4x5 LF. (There are differences that are not "recording media" based - e.g. lens performance - that don't translate quite this way.)

I think that the notion that DSLRs lose sharpness at longer exposure times is bogus. Yes, I do a fair amount of night photography at multiple-minute exposure times.

I also am certain that the generalizations about useful apertures are not quite on target. Yes, the very sharpest images will come from using a prime at whatever aperture provides either the sharpest center resolution or the best overall frame resolution - and I can understand why in different situations either might be better - but quite good resolution is available from a range of apertures. I regularly shoot at f/16 when I need the DOF and the results are very sharp.

Having said all of that, for the print sizes you mention, I think that MF digital would actually be a better option. The people I know who do very high quality prints of landscape and similar subjects have mostly gone that direction. My feeling - and YMMV - is that a DSLR in the 5DII category can do good work at about 20 x 30 and perhaps a bit larger if you use excellent technique and equipment. Beyond that, I think I'd want MF digital.


Chris JB , Jul 15, 2009; 02:10 a.m.

Maybe add a digital back to the RZ, that way no need for a whole new system. I use hassy & 5d but have not seen RZ digital results :)

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