Wednesday August 17, 2011

NEW YORK NEW YORK – So what’s so technical about a “technical camera”. Here’s a link to last week’s post on my Alpa TC but it just looks unwieldy and it lacks a lot of things (autos focus and automatic exposure) that we take for granted on a pocket point and shoot.

First, what’s so technical about these things? Well last week’s Alpa TC is actually the little brother of the Alpa Max, a camera that permits the back and lens to be shifted relative to each other, and permits the lens to be titled relative to the plane of the sensor with longer focal length lenses. The ability to shift the lens upward to look up while keeping the camera level permits great flexibility in composition while keeping vertical lines properly parallel (if you tilt the camera up they appear to converge). Of course once you move into shifts you are committed to working on a tripod. In my setup composition is done through live view on the IQ 180’s lcd panel (live view is common in consumer cameras but for technical reasons is hard to implement in medium format digital backs). Working with the Alpa Max is fully the digital equivalent of working with a view camera and 4 x 5 film (the debate on the “quality” of film vs. digital ended a long time ago – on a resolution basis the IQ 180 is fully comparable to r=legacy 8 x 10 film, but the look is different).

Here’s the Max with the lens shifted upward relative to the back:

Alpa Max
Alpa Max
Alpa Max
Alpa Max

This setup (the tripod and the need to fiddle with a complex camera) forces one to work slowly. It leads to consciously “composed” work. Some of my best work is actually shot off-hand and intuitively. The challenge for me in working with a large camera is to keep the images interesting (getting them to be perfect is not that hard). The following capture with the Max has the character of thousands of other images captured with similar equipment. This bothers me a bit, but I suppose it shouldn’t – it’s really no different that the millions of “mom and pop at the beach” snapshots that all look the same except for who mom and pop are.

Central Park
Central Park

I’ve included a grayscale conversion of this image that further emphasizes how this method of capturing images nudges you in the direction of traditional landscape.

Central Park
Central Park

On this day last year: A travel day. A travel day last year, on our way to Nairobi and a date with some wildlife.

John and Nancy Novogrod