Leica S "arrogance" ?? - Continued

Some more thoughts and comments on the Leica S "arrogance" ?? post yesterday.

Andrew Chew Yesterday
I think the trouble with his underlying assumption is that you get more gradation and detail and some smug superiority just by being "medium format". There are a host of other variables such as pixel quantum efficiency, Signal to Noise ratio and number of pixels before you can clearly say medium format is clearly superior. As it is, many medium format sensors especially on the low end are inferior to the 35mm sensor in the D800 if one were to take DXOmark as truth.
david taylor-hughes
If you are a manufacturer who has invested a lot of money in creating a MF digital system or a photographer who has also committed substantial amounts to buying such a system it must be difficult to say that a camera like the D800 is comparable to that. Whether it is or not doesn't really matter, it would be hard to accept if it was in fact as good or almost as good. I can understand that and I can understand if those manufacturers and photographers try to talk up the advantages they still see in their MF system.

The problem here is that the Leica company man implies that people who make claims about the D800 don't know what they are talking about and attempts to assert some superiority that is unknown to the mere mortals who don't use MF. This is clearly a mistake, plus in the case of the S system, innacurate, since it doesn't have that much of a size advantage over the D800.

There are some raw samples from the S2 here at photography blog so that people can decide for themselves.
Chris Handley
My two cents, after a couple of weeks play. As you know I have a 645D, it creates beautiful images, large files with lots of detail and nice colour. I also have a D800E (surprise!) and Canon 5DMKIII, Sigma SD1 (and others), they are also more than capable of creating nice images. So what's my point, the balanced has been addressed, technology has moved on, the 645D is great (was), but we're really starting to spilt hairs, the 5DMKIII is in my opinion the best all round camera, the D800E is 0.1% better in producing a more refined image, the SD1 out on it's own. The difference between image quality is really becoming marginal, so not a shouting point, so we now have to focus on the overall experince, so when I look at the D800E comparative to the 645D, the D800E winds hands down. OK, it's not a S2, but not far removed.
david taylor-hughes
I think reading between the lines you probably guessed that was my view. I have little experience with MF digital, though always check out all the raw samples I can. I considered a 645D many times, but am obviously very glad I held off and got the D800E instead (So is my bank manager!)

I think everybody thinks that MF digital is the same as MF film, but I would contend that its not. There was a clearly defined size advantage with 645 film (the smallest MF format) over 35mm but the same doesn't apply to MF digital. Here its not just about sensor size, there are other factors coming into play, such as processing engine etc. and technological advances have a much greater influence than it simply being about sensor real estate. Looking at the results from the Sigma Foveon cameras clearly demonstrates that. Though not a fan of DxO their OM-D results show the m4/3 sensor in that camera only marginally behind Sony APS-C sensors.

D800 files are 103MB, S2 files are 107MB and I look at Leica raw samples taken with £23,000 worth of gear and compare them against similar D800E files I have and seriously wonder how the evidence of my eyes can be so wrong. There's obviously something I'm missing here. The fact that I see no extra detail in the S2 (In fact the images are somewhat soft) I see no extra colour definition, no less noise, no "Wow" factor, is worrying. As Mr. Leica pointed out its obviously my fault and if I had shelled out the £23,000 I would obviously be able to immediately see the S2 advantage.  And he's probably right. If I had in fact spent £23,000 instead of around 1/4 of that then I'm sure I would suddenly be able to see just how superior the Leica files are. Magic!

The D800 / D800E have simply changed perceptions. That file size in that package can't fail to make an impact and it would be surprising if manufacturers and users of MF systems didn't move immediately to stress just how much better their products are. How they will react to Canon's proposed 47MP sensor is anybodys guess.

We see all the time that the "rules" of sensor size are being changed. m4/3 has changed that, the Sony RX100 has changed that and the D800 / D800E has changed it dramatically. The "mantra" that big expensive MF cameras automatically produce better image quality is not de facto always the case anymore. A "good big 'un will always beat a good little 'un" is also being subverted. I'm prepared to bet that Nikon and Sony put more R & D into their sensors and cameras than do the companys that manufacture MF cameras and backs. Simply because they are bigger organisations with the expectation that they will sell a lot more gear. Leica's, Hassleblads, Leaf etc, aren't so much more expensive because they are so much better, its more to do with how much their stuff costs them to make, and how much of it they expect to sell.

The price / quality equation is constantly skewed by factors such as these and thats why I took a pop at Mr. Leica because it seems to me that he's basically stuck in the mid 1980's in his perception of what gear a pro "should" have, how much that pro should charge and most important of all, what a client is prepared to put up with from a photographer, particularly with regard to their bill! It simply isn't the case that clients will write a blank cheque to photographers and allow them to dictate anymore, they want to see value for money, and its my experience that they know a lot more about cameras and photography in general than was the case some years ago.

In many ways, these manufacturers and photographers who in the past overpriced everything, are their own worst enemies. They just can't get away with it anymore and they have to take some responsibility that prices are being constantly driven down and that these days an editor is just as likely to commission an iPhone feature as a MF shoot. The "myth" of the pro photographer with the "big camera" as being the only way the job gets done is being exposed for being just that. A Myth. And the more companies like Leica try to hoodwink us with propaganda and misrepresentaion then the further they may find themselves from providing photographers with tools they want, tools they can use in the way they want to and of course tools they can afford and are prepared to buy. The more elitist they become, the more their potential markets shrink. After many years and a lot of cajoling Nikon seemed to have finally realised that, and will probably reap the rewards.
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