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Guest Post & Photos by R. J. Kern – Follow R.J. on Twitter

Shooting a wedding using a medium format digital rig represents a departure from the norm. In the crayon world, it’s like going from a box of 24 colors to a new box with 120 colors.

Wedding photographers often shoot exclusively with a 35mm DSLR system like Canon or Nikon, but with brides expecting photographs similar to what they see in fashion magazines, the wedding photographer is expected to be different, especially in terms of lighting and post-processing.

To meet your clients’ needs, you want more data to play with. That’s why I often rely on my PhaseOne IQ.

Eight Advantages of Digital Medium Format versus DSLR

#1. Invest in image quality. After shooting all my weddings last year with MF digital, I am confident in my decision with PhaseOne. There’s a roundness that adds depth and punch to the image.

#2. Think long-term with an open-source system. Modular systems give you the power to pick and choose what you want to work with.

#3. Edit with 16-bit depth per color channel. If you have to sit in front of the computer, you might as well enjoy the experience while digging into a picture’s dynamic range.

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#4. Stay true to tradition. I love the large viewfinder and the PhaseOne’s clunk of the shutter. A confident shutter “whomphf” results in client feedback often.

#5. Crop less. Dig the vertical 4×3 aspect ratio for portraits, far better than the 2×3 from a DSLR.

#6. Touch the screen. Using the retina-style display of the IQ 140 is like replacing the screen on the back of your camera with the functionality of an iPhone screen.

#7. Embrace smart technology. The focus and exposure mask features are powerful and useful, especially when shooting portraits in a short amount of time and with shallow depth of field. If you thought shooting f/1.4 on a DSLR was shallow, try shooting f/2.8 on a medium format rig. You’ll appreciate the extra technology.

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#8. Optimal ISO. With the PhaseOne IQ, there’s a lower base ISO of 50 vs. 100, which means I can get one stop more flash power. This gives me more options to use shallower depth-of-field, without the need for ND grad filters to slow autofocus. And with Sensor+ technology, I can shoot up to ISO 3200 sensitivity and get a beautiful film-like grain, especially when converted to black and white. Plus, those images are smaller in size, which speeds up my post-production workflow.

The Ninth Advantage of Digital Medium Format: Re-introducing the Leaf Shutter Lens

Leaf shutter lenses have been around since the dark ages of photography, call it 50 years. While many photographers have never heard of them, they are changing the scope of photography. These lenses directly impact workflow, style, and what some are calling “camera porn.”

My search for a new camera system came to an end once I began shooting flash at 1/1600 sec, thanks to the PhaseOne 645DF with a leaf shutter and IQ digital back. They become a super power when used at speeds of 1/1600. The faster sync speeds help to cut down ambient by two stops and you can shoot at f/4 all day if you want. That results in faster flash duration and quicker recycle time.

Here Comes the Bad News

Leaf shutter lenses are a boutique item with a lot of moving parts, like a Breitling watch. Good luck finding one under new $1,800. The new Schneider Kreuznach 28mm LS will run about $6,000 for a fixed-focal lens.

Here’s my suggestion: Try before you buy. Most big-box camera stores and rental houses won’t carry leaf shutter lenses. Check out Capture Integration, which may credit a rental towards a purchase price. Tell them I sent you (I don’t get any kickbacks for saying that. I’m simply in love with my leaf shutter).

Your Next Step

If you shoot editorial, fashion, or commercial jobs, your photography clients probably are familiar with medium format. They appreciate your investment when it comes to the image quality of the medium format lenses.

You might already rent this stuff for the big jobs. If you rock headshots like Peter Hurley, produce epic fashion like Drew Gardner, or shoot fashion like Frank Dorhof, you’ve been using this stuff for years. And if you are a wedding photographer looking for something different, consider medium format. The bride and groom are expecting you to work with that box of 120 crayons.

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