I think I will always want more…

 In Dave Gallagher, News

OK, that really sounded like a clickbait title, didn’t it?  And that was the winning title of my post as compared to “I am never satisfied” and “Give me resolution!”  So thank you for clicking through, regardless of how poorly I chose a lead in and I hope that my technical information will make it worth your while.

We have been in the industry through the beginning of our digital age. Ever since we started with 2mp sensors and upgraded to 4mp sensors, I have been hearing the same old sentence from clients stating “who needs more megapixels than this?” And history has proven over and over that we always want and need more resolution. However, in 2022 we are utilizing 100mp and 150mp sensors, and I still hear “but who needs more than this?”   The fact of the matter is I will always want more, and here are my reasons why.

I almost always change my mind

When I import my captures into Capture One and view them 27” wide on my monitor, I almost always see something that I didn’t see when shooting and viewing on my tiny LCD.  I would say that 80% of the time, I am cropping in and getting a tighter image.  And sometimes those crops are substantial.

Did I change my mind?  Did I choose the wrong lens? Did I see something later that jumped out at me?  Does it matter if I end up with the final image that was stronger than on location?

This first shot is an example of just how the right image might be living inside your current capture. I was in NYC relaxing in Central Park and watching this group of children enjoying the magic of blown bubbles. Here are my captures:

The overall scene was good, but the stronger content was the joy in the boy’s faces. They were having such a great time, and I had an even better time photographing them. The wider image was “good,” but the tight image was superior. Take a look at the expressions and let me know if you don’t agree.

Even if I had a longer lens in my bag, I am not sure I would have pulled it out in this situation. I like the wide shot. It’s not bad. But the expressions are more important in my opinion. Here is my raw capture crop:

Simply stated the more resolution that I begin with, the more flexibility I have to change my mind later.

I am old school and the square image speaks to me

I feel older than dirt today, and I look the part too. But heck, I am getting up there, and with age comes wisdom. At least, that is what I tell myself. I started in the industry working for a view camera company. I fell in love with large format in college and it just fit perfectly for me. In the early 90’s we focused on selling 4×5 cameras, but we sold a 5×7 and 8×10’s every now and then.

In photography today, we really don’t have a lot of choices in capture sizes. Capture Integration sells sensors in 3 sizes. Small format at 24x36mm, medium format at 33x44mm, and full frame medium format at 54 x 41mm. But what do you choose if you grew up with the Hasselblad 500 series system and still absolutely love the square format? There have only been two square sensors offered in the commercial market. The first was the Dicomed Big Shot… anyone remember that one? I bet most don’t, as it was truly a full frame 2 1/4″ sensor, never really worked right, had heat and consistency issues, and brought the company crashing down with it. The second was the Phase One P20 sensor at a whopping 16mp resolution! And that is where they stopped.

What do you do if you love the square format? You shoot your existing camera, and you CROP in! Yes, they make cameras that will crop the image internally to square format for you… but I want control of that later, so I do it all in post. Here is the current image I am working on:

If you know me, then you know I am never ever finished with an image and the above bull is one of those. It’s a work in progress, but it shows you how I love the square crop.

The original is in the small format ratio. And I then cropped a very substantial part of the image in order to make it square.

The 100% crop shows you that the image is good. But I was using the newest camera that just came out this year. If I had last year’s model at half that resolution, I know that I would not be pleased. And I am certain that I will look back at this image in the future and go “wow, I wish it had more detail,” just like I have year after year looking back at past files.

What is my real resolving power?

It’s a real question. So I wanted to analyze how I feel mathematically. Let’s start with the statement that almost all of us crop our raw captures. Very few of us keep the non-standard dimensions of our sensor and print or reproduce our images with those ratios. So what is a good ratio that we can all agree on that we use?

I would state that the 8×10 ratio has been a standard in printing for years. And whether you stay that size or go larger to 16×20 or 24×30, I think you would agree that that is a pretty standard ratio. So if you are a photographer who wants to print a 24″x30″, do you know the cropped resolution of your sensor at that ratio? Well, here is a graphic showing you the cropped sensor and the percentage of the sensor you would use for the normal 8×10 ratio.

ManufacturerModelResolution8x10 Crop
Leica M1160mp45mp
FujifilmGFX 50s II50mp47mp
HasselbladXCD 50 II50mp47mp
FujifilmGFX 100s100mp93mp
Phase OneIQ3 100100mp94mp
Phase OneIQ4 150150mp141mp

Sensor Ratios do Matter

Have you thought about how the ratio of the sensor means “I am not utilizing the resolution to its best ability”? Even if this gets you thinking about the topic, then this blog has been successful.

Did you know the actual crop factors per camera and how your camera compares to others? The chart should clear up any questions and shed some factual data where it was just conjecture in the past.

Where I think the biggest “ah ha” moment with this exercise is the comparison of the Canon R5 and the Fujifilm GFX 50s II. Both of these bodies are about the same price point. The Canon is $3,899 and the Fujifilm is $3,999. They are also very similar resolutions. 45mp vs. 50mp. I think the photo market has thought of these two systems as very similar historically.

However, since one sensor is a 35mm ratio and one is medium format, this crop exercise makes the Fujifilm GFX 50s II stand out over the Canon. The Canon crop yields a 34mp resolution compared to 47mp of the GFX.

While they start as a 10% difference in raw resolution, in reality, the Fujifilm GFX 50s II is 40% more resolution than the most popular Canon camera when used at an industry standard crop……… Now that IS significant!

Does this resonate?

I think the following factors should be on your mind when you choose systems or thinking about upgrading:

  • How deep into my images do I like to crop when I get them into post?
  • Do I want to repurpose those images in the future at different output sizes?
  • What format/output ratio do I prefer in my final image?
  • Is this image being shot for fun, or am I creating something more for future use?

The owner of a camera retailer touting that he will always wants more resolution sounds disingenuous. But I am a photographer just like my clients. If you are like me, I still want more resolution for my shooting style and repurposing. The stable image above is a 3 image stitch that I shot 5 years ago. When I look back at my archive on images such as this, I am often disappointed with the lack of detail that I had back when I captured that image. When will I NOT want more resolution? I truly am not sure. But what I am sure of is that we are not there yet. What are your thoughts?

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from Dave & the Medium Format Experts

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