May 16, 2006

Measuring Megabytes

The Great Luminous Landscape 2006 State-of-The-Art Shootout

Left to right: Chris Sanderson, Michael Reichmann, Charles Cramer, Bill Atkinson
Bill is blurred because he was running around to get into the shot

Written by Michael Reichmann

In March of 2006 I purchased a Phase One P45 medium format back in Hasselblad H mount. This was an upgrade from a P25 back – 22 Megapixels to 39 Megapixels, among other improvements. My friend Bill Atkinson also upgraded from a P25 to a P45 at the same time, and Charles Cramer simultaniously purchased his own P45, his first digital back, after shooting 4X5″ film for the past 30 years.

The three of us decided to inaugurate our new gear with a shoot together in the redwoods of Northern California, but not before adding my friend and frequent shooting companion Kevin Raber, who happens to be the VP of Marketing for Phase One in the US. A description of that shoot, and some photographs from it can be found in Counting Ants, an essay on shooting with a view camera and the P45 back.

Of course when you put four photographers and a bunch of new equipment together you’re inevitably going to get their collective testing juices going. We’d hoped to do some on-location equipment tests, but variable weather and other time pressures meant that we had to put this off until after our shoot in Redwoods National Park.

What We Tested
A couple of days later, after taking care of some other matters in the Bay area, I returned to Bill’s studio, along with Charlie, and videographer Chris Sanderson. Kevin wasn’t with us, because he had other commitments, but also because we felt that his presence would be inappropriate during testing of his company’s products. But, before leaving Kevin left us with a P25 and a P30 back for testing.

We tallied up what equipment we had available that day and found that we had the following for testing….

Phase One P45 back(s): 39 Megapixel
Phase One P30 back: 31 Megapixel
Phase One P25 back: 22 Megapixel
Canon 1Ds MKII with Canon Macro 100mm f/2.8: 16.6 Megapixel
Canon 5D with with Canon Macro 100mm f/2.8 : 12.7 Megapixel
Canon 1Ds with with Canon Macro 100mm f/2.8 : 11 Megapixels
Linhof 679cs camera with Rodenstock HR digital lenses: Various backs
Linhof 4X5 camera with Sironar HM lenses: Drum scanned film
Linhof 4X5 camera with Sironar N lenses and BetterLight Super 6K scanning back
Hasselblad H1 with Hasselblad H lenses: Various backs
Mamiya 645 with Mamiya lenses: P45 39 Megapixel and drum scanned Velvia

The Testers
As for the testers – all three of us are middle aged and have each been doing photography for some 30 years or more. We all have worked with film formats from 35mm to 4×5″, and have done extensive colour as well as B&W darkroom work. We all have been working within the digital environment since the mid-1990′s. All three of us teach photographic workshops and seminars, and write regularly for major photographic magazines in the US and abroad.

Bill Atkinson is a scientist by profession and one of the original developers of the Apple Macintosh computer and its software. He is also one of the world’s leading experts on colour profiles and printing. His printer profiles need no introduction to anyone familiar with the world of inkjet printing. Charlie Cramer is a highly regarded large format landscape photographer and photographic educator. Both Bill’s and Charlie’s work can be found in galleries and print collections worldwide, and they frequently teach seminars and workshops together.

Michael Reichmann, the primary author and publisher of this web site, teaches photographic workshops and seminars around the world, and is a contributing editor to Photo Techniques Magazine as well as a regular columnist for American Photo magazine. He is a consultant to the photographic industry and a frequent speaker at international conferences. His books, prints and portfolios are found in museums and galleries as well as private collections.

Chris Sanderson, director of The Video Journal was also in attendance. Chris filmed some of our testing activities as well as our prior shooting trip to Redwoods National Park. Some of that footage is also found on our available test disk. Chris has been an award winning commercial film and video producer as well as a still photographer for some 30 years.

So, with some 100+ years of photographic experience between us, and with Bill wearing his Dr. Science hat, we set out to do some testing.

The Tests, The Conclusions, and The Disk
Below are some web-sized crops and samples from our comparisons. We also have a short essay from Bill on the testing methodology, along with comments from each of us on what we see.

But, for what may be the first time anywhere, we are providing readers not only with these scaled down samples and our observations, but the raw files as well, so that you can do your own comparisons and draw your own conclusions.

The Luminous Landscape is making available a DVD disk containing almost 4GB of raw files taken with each of these cameras, medium format backs, and lenses. Files from the film drum scans are also provided. Included as well are 30 day free trial copies of Capture One software for both OSX and Windows. With this C1 raw conversion software you are able to process all of the raw files provided, including those from the three Canon cameras.

Bill, Charlie and Michael have also included sample raw files from Redwoods National Park taken with their P45 backs. Bills were with a Hasselblad H1. Charlie’s with a Mamiya AFD, and Michael’s with a Linhof 679cs and Rodenstock lenses.

The disk is a DVD-ROM, which can be used on an PC or Mac computer with a DVD drive, anywhere in the world. This is a data disk, not a video DVD. But, we have also included a Quicktime video produced by Chris, showing a bit of our location shoot in the Redwoods as well as our test session at Bill’s studio.

The disk is currently in preparation (video editing, artwork, printing, duplication, packaging, fulfillment) and will be available for shipping on or before June, 15. This disk is available through this site’s online store. It is priced at US $9.95, plus S&H, until June 15th, after which time it will be priced at $14.95 + S&H. It is also available free until June 15th, 2006, as part of new subscriptions to The Luminous Landscape Video Journal, or with renewals by current subscribers.

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