Older MF Camera still "worth it" for commercial purposes?

Started Jun 28, 2018 | Discussions thread
fPrime Veteran Member • Posts: 3,152
Old comparison, long debunked

Macro guy wrote:

A slightly bigger sensor than FF and an older tech doesn't make "magical" images. This is the type of thing that's perpetuated all over the Internet.

Here's a guy who made a head to head comparison of the older CCD tech vs CMOS. Whereas it's not an MF to FF comparison, I think many of the lessons can be applied to this discussion as well.

It's important not to buy into snake oil.

You have to know where the Achilles heel of CMOS is in order to spot where processing it to mimic CCD breaks down, Macro Guy.

In the head to head comparison you linked to I still identified all of his M9 shots correctly despite the author attempting to specifically match the M240 CMOS to the M9 CCD via post processing. How? By downloading his source images and doing an A/B comparison and looking for how well weak colors were held in the presence of saturated colors.

I call this quality the dynamic color range of a sensor. Modern CMOS sensors generally have weaker CFA's and so must use stronger RAW transforms to recreate the color in the scene. The lower native color signal read by CMOS along with the higher applied gains means they are prone to overcooking either the strong or weak colors, never getting both correct at the same time.

Classic example is this shot:


View: original size


View: original size

Above the author had to boost the M240's saturation or vibrance so much in order to match the naturally strong reds of the M9 that the strap of the fuchsia sandals in the upper left frame has gone nuclear. Meanwhile all the other colors in the M240 image have been dragged up as well and the nuanced color tones in the background now look overcooked compared to the M9 rendering. Reds in the M240 still render more orange than they should despite WB color matching... see that clearly in the $4.95 price tag.

Not a typical scene due to artificial lighting, you say? How about this full spectrum daylight one:


View: original size


View: original size

Here the author can't quite match the M9's rich rendering of the purple vine because the green foliage of the M240 image would go nuclear if he did. Yet you can still see the strong saturation or vibrance applied to bring the M240 image closer to the M9 has already unnaturally overcooked the weaker colors in the M240 walkway. Only the M9 preserves the full dynamic color range of the scene.

Perhaps the best validation of the CCD viewpoint on this matter is the conclusion from the author himself as he writes in his summary:

I learned quite a lot about both the M9 and M240 during this test. I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover the M9. The camera can indeed produce some really stunning images under the right conditions. To its credit and, in line with what CCD supporters say, the color palette produced by default in Lightroom (after my preset application) is extremely pleasing in most cases. Images have a bite and saturation that is very attractive. Deep blues, thick midtones and punchy highlights add to the M9s inherent per-pixel sharpness. In daylight shooting with good, directional light and a scene with saturated colors, the M9 is truly hard to beat. Even though the camera is going on six years old, it still produces images that keep pace with the best. Its weakness, due to its CCD sensor, is low light performance. If your shooting needs dont dictate the need for ISO 3200 and youve got some fast M glass to boot, well, by all means, the M9 can still work its magic for you.

Pretty much what Marcio said about the DM22 as well, isn't it? Aggressive CMOS RAW processing can come close to CCD but there's a core dullness to CMOS that hasn't been overcome as of yet in any comparative review of the two sensor technologies. Perhaps the strong, trichromatic CFA in the Phase One IQ3 will help CMOS overcome the barrier?


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