A guest blog post by @shaoomingg
Choosing the right camera is a life decision especially deciding which to bring for travelling. As an intermediate photographer, I find myself struggling to choose between medium format, 35mm SLR, and point & shoot. As we all know, the Medium format is well known for its shallow, airy depth and the details that can be preserved. On the contrary, the mobility of an SLR and point & shoot is much more travel friendly. Under the premise of this, a comparison is carried out to compare to what extent is the difference between medium format, 35mm SLR and point and shoot in terms of sharpness.
I hope this sharing can help you make a better decision when choosing your next camera with you for traveling/daily casual shooting.
To compare this, we used a camera test strip to determine the sharpness of both different format cameras.
*Please do note that all pictures were taken using the same lighting set up, and correct exposure.*
Camera used: Pentax 67 w 105mm f2.4 & Nikon F2 w 55mm 2.8f & Canon Autoboy 2
Comparison outcome sequence as below:
1. Medium Format
2. SLR 35mm
3. Point & shoot 35mmm
The Siemens star pattern is a pattern consisting of alternating black and white thin "pie-shaped" segments. As you move towards the center of the star the lines get closer and closer together. The higher the resolution of the system generating the star pattern, the closer to the center of the star they will appear to merge. By observing this, we could determine the sharpness of a picture outcome.
As you can see, the photo captured using medium format. The lines derived from the outer periphery to the inner are clear and high in contrast. You could clearly differentiate the thickness of each line group at just a glance. The patterning close to the center disk is visible and high in resolution.
When it comes to 35mm SLR, the lines are visible. You can still notice some visible patterning close to the center disk but the lines are akin to Moire patterns. Overall, the contrast is slightly lower compared to the medium format.
Moving on to Point & shoot, the lines of the Siemens star pattern are barely visible. Only the first layer of the Siemens star is visible. Everything is blended when it gets closer to the center of the disk. Even the numbering is grainy and poor in resolution.
A closer look at the picture, the sharpness, and resolution of medium format is consistent and well structured, the line details are clearly presented in layer 6.
To be frank, Nikon’s image result is surprisingly satisfying to me. The lines are still visible despite it looks less contrast and grainier compared to Pentax’s. I would not say it was bad, it is still considered acceptable. The line only starts to become blurred out in layer 6.
Point & shoot clearly did not survive this test. Any details that are finer than the lines in layer 2 are not visible anymore.
Here is the center of the image. This is where things get noticeable between Medium format and SLR. The Pentax remains high in contrast, with much better sharpness compared to Nikon’s. Nikon’s is almost blurred and seems like lines almost blended. You can notice it at the end of layer 6 lines.
I think we could say that we completely lost the point & shoot at layer 6. We only could see an outline of the Siemens star pattern. No details at all.
No doubt that medium format is much sharper and the details that can be preserved are copious than 35mm. Finer subtle details in Pentax add a point for a photographer that matters fine sharpness. But on the other hand, mobility would be sacrificed. This could result in slowing down your shooting efficiency. It could be a limitation.
As shown above, distinct differences only can be noticed in the center of the test stipe. I would not say that 35mm SLR and Point & shoot is bad. In fact, it is acceptable despite you might lose details in your picture. It will not be an issue if you are just using it to take a photograph of your everyday life for memory purposes.
My personal preference travel gear is always Medium format and P&S. Point & shoot is just great to bring it around to record this and that, even group photo with important people. Medium format is dedicated to printed work.
At the end of the day, this is a subjective question. You might need to ask yourself, what is your expectation on your photography outcome? What are you going to do with the photo? Print? Or just post it on social media?
There is no absolute answer to this. If you were to ask, personally thinks that every camera has its place to shine, finding the best working styles & equipment that you feel comfortable shooting with is much more important. :)