the move to medium format!

so, after decades using 35mm SLRs - and the last two decades using nikon equipment - we're finally taking the plunge and moving to medium format - in the hope of finding better detail..

last weekend, thanks to the fantastic team at specular (, I got to have a play with  the camera and a few of the lenses that we're expecting to arrive late this week. specifically a PhaseOne DF654+ with iQ260 back, Schneider Kreuznach 28mm f4.5, 40-80mm f4.0-5.6 & 75-150mm f4.0-5.6.

having got used to the very quiet, very fast Nikon D3X I've been using for some years, my first impressions were that I had a very large camera, that made a lot more noise and was a bit slower to focus than I am used to.

however, as this journey is all about (a) image quality and (b) the ability to take long exposures, the acid test was what the difference in image quality was.. and I have to say that in both respects I was blown away!

I was mainly using the 40-80mm zoom lens (that translates into ~25-50mm in 35mm terms), which is a very large chunk of glass. However, it delivers not only stunning image quality but also depth of field/depth of focus control unlike any other lens I have used.


I just took  a range of very ordinary shots in the back yard, picking up textured objects such as wood and ceramic, plants & flowers and a few bits of rusted sculpture.. two major differences from the images I am used to were immediately apparent. firstly, even at 300%+ zoom, the lack of pixellation and retention of clarity was amazing. even using the best optics nikon has, there is just another level of 'real' detail in the images using this lens and a medium format sensor.

the second big difference is all about the depth of focus that is possible. I didn't try much at the smaller apertures, but from f5 to f11 the ability to control depth of focus so that focus faded in and out mid-frame was almost uncanny. it was extremely easy to get both foreground and background out of focus and in a way that showed progressive 'drop-in' and 'drop-off' of focus. focus is so progressive and controllable that I really couldn't believe I'd managed it just snapping a few quick shots with the demo gear.

I'm not, of course, abandoning my much-loved and heavily used 35mm kit though. there's no question that where longer distance to subject, moving subjects or low light are concerned the 35mm equipment comes into its own. my nikon gear has never, ever let me down and has been responsible for a stack of memorable trips and shots.

still, it's a whole new world of experimentation that lies ahead of us now and in a few days when the new kit arrives, I'll be back out in the middle of nowhere seeing what can be achieved..  from march onwards, I have a 10-14 shooting-day trip planned each month, so I'll be learning a whole lot about how everything works once put to the test in the field.

I'll provide updates and some pics as I proceed and give you my honest impressions. don't hesitate to ask questions or join the discussion - I'd love the input..