Saturday, March 22, 2008

Panorama Plate

I am hunting for a panorama plate, a little plate mounted between tripod and head (the head is rather optional) that rotates smoothly and has little x degree markings. For any non VR panoramas that is good enough and you dont need to rotate exactly over the nodal point, if you shoot with a tele lens, eg. 100mm lens. To cut down on weight (by not carrying the big Manfrotto VR head), I am looking around for this simple plate. In the usual Singapore camera shops (Cathay, Alan, The Cameraworkshop,..) I couldnt get a NOVOFLEX Panorama plate (link), that I was aiming for, with a price around 200.- SGD, but I found a 25.- SGD substitute from Lenspen (link). OK, I am not serious, its not a serious replacement, but I will give it a try until I get my hands on a Novoflex.
I find it a bit ambitious to say "
Use with any tripod and any camera", I will mount the Mamiya AFD on it, guys !
But I really like this statement: "
Take as many pictures as you need to cover what you to show." That puts the worldwide effort to create panoramic pictures into 1 sentence. Great !

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mamiya ZD Forum

Searching for a forum revealed none, so I started a new Yahoo techgroup for anything about the Mamiya ZD. Join at

Monday, March 17, 2008

ISO Challenge for Mamiya ZD Back

Most important facts about the digital Mamiya ZD back:

Digital back for Mamiya 645AF/AFD/AFD II and RZ67 Pro IID
36mm x 48mm, Full Frame RGB Square-structured CCD (Dalsa)
approx. 21.80 Million Pixels, active approx. 21.50 Million Pixels
(Mamiya Link)

Yesterday in the early evening I challenged the back, resp the CCD chip in a low light high contrast situation and compare results in ISO 50 and ISO 400.
Conclusion: The dynamic range is amazing, but just dont touch the ISO button (fix glue it to 50) !

Setup: Tripod with cable release and mirror lockup. Adobe Lightroom without any sharpening or noise removal.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Test Images Mamiya ZD Back

I will not indulge in some scientific test series which steal my value time to take photographs, but I created some sample shots with all my current (5) lenses to get a bit an idea how the lens perform. Yes, you are right it should be a range of f-stops for all lenses to compare 2.8 vs. 32 and center vs outer part of the lens. Maybe later (i doubt so).

Mamiya AFD II with ZD Back (22Mp, image 5.328 x 4.00o pix)
Gitzo Tripod at same location
ISO 50, F8
Mirror Lockup and cable release

Untouched 8bit Tiff from Raw (Mamiya Digital Photostudio)
Result saved as JPG (8), 1.000 x 751 pix with 100% (400 x 300 pix) detail

Mamiya AF 55/2.8 (Mamiya Link)
Mamiya AF 80/2.8 (Mamiya Link)
Mamiya Macro 120/4. (Mamiya Link)
Note the effect on the right border which appears randomly.
No explanation yet.

First experiences with the Mamiya ZD Back

Any given (digital) camera model (more or less recent model) in the market is discussed on the web, somewhere in Yahoo groups or similar. Not so the ZD, of course the traditional Mamiya 645's are very common and you find plenty of hands-on info.
After a couple of rainy days I finally managed to bring the ZD out for some test shooting.

Mamiya AFD II, ZD Back, 120/4 Macro, 80/2.8, 55/2.5, 150/3.5 (plus Arsat 30/3.5 with adapter)
Gitzo Carbon tripod.

Very first (partly emotional) impressions (not based on objective technical tests yet):
  • The resolution and level of detail is amazing.
  • A very serious mirror sound on a "digital" camera. Not suitable for observing birds.
  • The screen is ridiculous small. Any 200$ cam has a bigger screen (but not 22Mpix).
  • Reviewing images is painful. But some backs dont even have a screen (at least the older ones)
  • It is slow. Of course, its MF, not point-and-shoot for auntie Ann.
  • It creates that "slower" and more appreciative way of working in MF.
  • Why do I need AF lenses ?
  • Why cant I lock the buttons to prevent the back from switching on by itself in the bag.
  • It looks good. The AFD II body look sturdy and professional.
  • Working with a tripod gives you so much more control (but removes speed).

With this camera you quickly will find some new old friends:
  • Sturdy tripod.
  • Cable Release.
  • Mirror Lockup.
  • ISO50 (any other ISO higher than 100 with this back is useless).
  • Spare battery.
  • Big CF cards and lots of them (or image tank).
  • Another camera if you are in a hurry.
More (technical) results follow.

(Mamiya AFD II, ZD Back, Arsat 30mm, Chinese Garden Singapore)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Free Advertising

Thanks for adding this little Headlines editorial in the Expat Living Magazine in the March 2008 issue. A lifestyle magazine targeting the expat community in Singapore.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

First Hands-On Report Mamiya ZD (back)

This blog is about panorama photography and anything on film. The Mamiya ZD digital medium format back is 100% digital, but it allows you to work hybrid, going out with a film back and the digital back. I wouldnt start another blog for hybrid stuff, so I put all the reports, comparison and experience write-ups here.

I purchased a Mamiya AFD (I) a while ago with some AF lenses hoping to get my hands on a ZD back sooner or later. The current weak U$ helps a lot, at least anyone outside U.S. Price comparison you can do by yourself by browsing through the catalogs of Adorama, BHPhoto and others.

Only few websites give feedback about the back or show sample images. I relied on a couple of images in lower resolution at flickr and some reports on The Luminous Landscape.

The Mamiya ZD is the entry point to digital medium format photography, it is the budget version of the other backs from Sinar, Leaf, Imacon (Hasselblad) and PhaseOne. Btw. Mamiya went into an alliance with PhaseOne last November (see Rob Galbraith DPI). I am not sure what is going to happen, Mamiya to stop their own back production ? But PhaseOne sure will not enter the budget price market either. Lets see what will happen. Strategy Game time !

Interesting is the fact that the back is not the latest in town, Mamiya started somewhere in 200? with the R&D and finally reveilled it at Photokina 2004 ! Thats a four year old back (?!). Only 1 year later they released the first sample images. Somewhere in 2007 they released the Mamiya ZD (integrated into a body) and later the same year finally the back hits the shops. Not sure what took them so long, but it was woth waiting though !

I will post more sample images and reports soon. Stay tuned.
Until that you can browse the (old) reports at
The Luminous Landscape:

(The crap picture above is made with a Kodak V705)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Camera Diet

During my recent camera inventory exercise, I took note of the weight of all pieces. Fact: I will never be able to bring all my equipment to a trip or shooting.

I try to carry the complete..
.. Zenza Bronica ETRS stuff: 3,5 kg
.. Hasselblad Xpan: 1,4 kg
.. Fotoman with 2 lenses: 3,3 kg
.. Canon DSLR with 5 lenses and 4 batteries: 8 kg
.. Mamiya AFD with 2 backs and 4 lenses: 4,3 kg
.. Pentacon Six with 5 lenses: 4,1kg
(to be added: film, tripod, filter)

Lightest piece: Nikkor 50/1.8 with 150 g
Heaviest piece: Canon L IS 70-200 with 1750 g

Conclusion: Better check the maximum weight you
a) can carry comfortably for long period.
b) can bring onboard a plane when traveling overseas (normally about 7kg max in eco)
and also plan ahead what you want shoot and how flexible you want to be ! More stuff, more weight, less flexible ! Even on a roadtrip where you can virtually bring as much as you want,
try not to exaggerate your flexibility efforts.

Enough mathematics for today. Go out and shoot (without becoming a donkey)
PS: I am on the way to Hong Kong this weekend to get one more piece of bulkiness. Will update you and the inventory accordingly.