Medium Format Digital vs. DSLR and Mirror Up in Landscape Photography

  I mentioned in my last posting how I like to take best advantage of the image depth, sharpness and clarity of landscapes by using the mirror lock feature on the new Mamiya AFDIII Camera Body. This feature is now so easy to use that I use it whenever my camera is on a tripod. Remembering that the mirror assembly on a medium format camera body is substantially larger than on a DLSR, by eliminating any chance of movement, I’m insured that I’ll get the sharpest image possible. If I’m handholding the camera and I have a little wiggle room available, I will even use this feature if I feel the necessary shutter speed is getting a bit slower than I’d like.

Here’s how easy this is to do. Take a look at the image showing the top of the camera and look at the choices around the shutter release button. 

By simply rotating the shutter selection dial around to “M.UP”, you’ve activated this feature. If you have the camera set for Single Autofocus and the lens set on AF, the camera will focus before locking the mirror. You may also focus and meter by pressing half way down on the shutter release. Should the camera body be set for continuous focus, (“C” on the front of the camera body below the lens) it could be possible to not have focus locked, so make sure you are on either single or manual focus. If either the camera body or the lens is set for manual focus, then you will have to focus by yourself before activating the shutter.

To see once again what the combination of a medium format camera and a Leaf Digital Back bring you, let’s take a look at the same scene captured with this combination compared to a 12 megapixel DSLR. Both cameras used f2.8 lenses and identical ISO and exposure settings.

This is a view of Sentinel Rock reflected in the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. While both images hold up well at 8×12”, the clarity of the details starts to fade even at 11×17” – and yes, before you ask, the bird was added to the Mamiya/Leaf image. Where the real beauty of medium format digital shows up is when we zoom in closer to 100%.

Owing to the resolution differences, the DLSR image covering an even greater area is smaller, but notice the details that remain clear. The fine features in the rock, the depth of color and detail in the shadow area and even the clarity of the needles on the pine trees remain on the digital back shot while they fade to blurred details on the DSLR. To take advantage of this clarity, you don’t need to make enormous prints, but should you want 24×36 or larger images, this combination will deliver them in striking detail.

Even while handholding the camera for this image, using the mirror lock feature provides another advantage to keep your images as sharp as they can be.

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