IT IS INTERESTING TO SEE how things move in cycles in photography. Back in the day pros at the top of the tree, whether they were shooting weddings or tackling commercial studio shoots, wouldn’t have dreamed of working with anything less than medium format. It was the confirmation you had truly made it, the mark of having reached a certain level.

Then digital came along and muddied the waters, and for a long time medium format struggled to compete. The digital models that were available cost a fortune and were bulky and unwieldy, certainly by comparison to the flagship DSLRs they were up against. Some even predicted the format could die out altogether, but the development by Fujifilm of its GFX range has massively changed all of that. The announcement of the GFX 50S at photokina in 2016 started the ball rolling and, since that time, the family has grown, pixel counts have soared and prices have tumbled.

It’s incredible to think that the GFX 100S used by David Lineton is available new for just £5500, while the very latest GFX 50SII, launched last year, is something of a snip at £3499, or £3899 complete with the GF35-70mm. Meanwhile the used market ensures that less current but still awesomely powerful GFX models are available for sub-£2000 and, in short, medium format is now not just affordable, it’s actually competing directly with full frame mirrorless models, with sleek and well-designed bodies that are easy to handle and which collectively deliver a staggering amount in terms of jaw-droppingly high resolution.

As we’ve seen in this month’s (issue 196) Portfolio feature David has embraced the GFX system wholeheartedly, moving across from his previous full frame mirrorless system and tapping into the particular benefits that a medium format workflow is capable of offering him. For someone working in the world of commercial photography where resolution is king it made particular sense, but David is convinced that many other professionals in other genres could likewise benefit from taking a closer look at what medium format has to offer.

“For me it was a case of asking myself exactly what the GFX 100S could offer me over the camera I was using at the time,” he says, “and sensor size was really key for me, plus the fact that it was just such a brilliant, customisable camera. And it taps into the things that more and more I’m being asked to deliver as a photographer, and it just does it phenomenally well.

The startling crispness and detail that’s possible through the use of a huge full frame medium format sensor is reflected in David’s still life images.

“The files from a 100MP medium format camera are already huge, of course, but the fact that I can use the pixel shift function – where the sensor is moved in a series of microscopic amounts throughout a burst of sixteen frames to create a combined file of around 400mp – is truly incredible.

“This gives me a huge amount of data that I can then use in a variety of ways. For example, I’ve been photographing textures and surfaces that I can then supply through the Ultra High Resolution side of my business, while I can also copy such things as artworks for clients, and give them huge files they can then use for reproduction purposes.

Another big advantage of such a massive amount of resolution is that it’s then possible to carry out a multitude of crops if required, so there’s flexibility built in and a client is able to use the file I supply them in a number of different ways, to create upright, landscape or even panoramic-style images, that precisely suit their purposes.”

Medium Format Workflow

Another huge advantage offered by David’s GFX 100S, along with several other models in the GFX range, is the ability to offer focus stacking and bracketing to massively increase the depth of field within a frame. Again, this is a hugely useful function to have access to in a studio situation, where the camera needs to be held rock steady, with software subsequently stitching the component files together.

“For me, this is really useful,” says David, “and it just taps into all the other advantages of the camera, such as superb dynamic range, glorious colour rendition and manual focus lenses to give me a tool that’s brilliant to work with. It’s just so easy to move from one function to another, so I could be shooting stills, then a ‘stop-go’ animation sequence and then some video, all with the same camera and with the same set-up and lighting. It just helps me to give my clients exactly what they need while cutting down massively on the time it all takes.”

Given there is so much data being generated the obvious thought has to be that working with medium format must create issues regarding the handling of monster files and their subsequent safe and secure storage, but David is very relaxed about that side of things.

“Obviously I do have to have a computer that’s powerful enough to handle the massive files I’m working with,” he says, “but I’ve trained myself to be pixel savvy. Yes, I am chewing through terabytes like no-body’s business and I’ve effectively doubled the amount of data I’m generating on jobs, but then I’m more efficient in terms of what I keep, and what I archive. And because I’m working a non-destructive workflow it allows me to jump back in at any point and create other content.

“Clients will frequently come back to me down the line and ask for a slightly different version of a shot that I might have supplied them with, but I can generally give them what they’re after because that versatility is naturally built into the system, thanks to the information I have in my files. For commercial shooting this is key, and with the ease with which you can move data around these days, via routes such as Dropbox and WeTransfer, problems with large files are a thing of the past.

“And the real payoff is when a client turns to you and has been blown away by the detail on the shot you’ve supplied them with. It’s like looking at the real product and you know that it’s created a huge impression.”

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