A few thoughts on committing to 4:3

After using 3:2 aspect ratio cameras and mostly enlarging to 5:4 photo paper, it took a while for the native dimensions of the newest sensors to feel natural. I didn’t start to visualize my photos in 4:3 until recently. Anyone thinking about buying the soon to be released OMD EM1 and ditching their DSLR may want to think about this fundamental difference. There’s a great multi-part review of the new camera on Ming Thein’s blog.

With either the EM5 or the new EM1, it’s relatively easy to cut a little from either the top/bottom to get to 8″x12″, or from the sides to get 8″x10″. So, it took me a while to learn to appreciate a nicely framed 9″x12″. The following photos were pure 4:3 from conception to printing. One benefit of this is that the images are perfectly proportioned in both portrait and landscape orientations, no cropping needed.

One version is a HDR stack of 3 exposures and the other is my straight 0 eV exposure. I like the standard shot better and it is cleaner at the pixel level, but they both have their merits.

I’ve been experimenting lately with HDR technique, and lean heavily towards the photorealistic. The M Zuiko 75-300mm lens requires a steady hand for this. I did a conservative locally adapted merge with a little tweaking of exposure, gamma and highlights. It is a nice way to adjust the roll-off of the highlights and not lose any detail in the shadows. With any object sitting still and the OMD’s 9 fps, it’s not bad even hand-held as long as the alignment works and you can de-ghost any slight movements. I’m not sure it results in the best photo, but it’s an interesting look.

Although I’m reasonably happy with the quality of these images, when I compare them to what others are able to capture using stacks of glass that cost multi-thousands of dollars, I still feel there’s room for IQ improvement.

Here’s a link to an example from a recent post on one of the better photography forums on the web. I am not complaining about my own equipment, or the fact that I don’t have the time (or patience) for carrying and setting up heavy equipment when I’m shooting for my own benefit, but sometimes it would be nice to have fast tracking AF and ridiculously sharp high-ISO performance. As an example of what I can’t get with a $550 lens and small sensor, take a look at the detail in this shot!

My next shot was setup exactly the same as the one above. I then adjusted white balance, recovered highlights, applied moderate noise reduction, boosted the mid tones a bit, and sharpened. This gives me what I think is the closest I can get to the Canon DSLR shots in the post from the FM forum. Using higher saturation or contrast, adding heavy clarity or vibrance adjustments, don’t seem to do it. I added two different HDR versions for fun. I was bracketing the exposure and the bird didn’t move, so I thought I’d see what I could do with the resulting files.

All in all, it is not so bad that I’m running out and buying a camera twice the size and lenses several times heavier. No one is going to see much of a difference at the print sizes I normally send to people.

I may rethink this when I see what Fuji’s upcoming organic sensor technology produces, and possibly make another technology jump. However, even if FF or MF sensor prices drop when they ditch silicon substrates, the lenses are still going to be tough to justify, and I really don’t want to carry a tripod around everywhere.

 

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