Medium Format vs. DSLR for Fashion and Beauty Photography

"Battle of the mega-pixel monsters"

The Nikon D850 has been heralded as “near medium format quality”. But is this true for fashion and beauty photography? Have full-frame DSLRs finally caught up to the medium format cameras?
 
 Phase One IQ3 50mp

Phase One IQ3 50mp

 

The Nikon D850 has been heralded as “near medium format quality”. But is this true for fashion and beauty photography? Have full-frame DSLRs finally caught up to the medium format cameras?

In fashion and beauty photography, our goal is to achieve a certain artistic purpose and instill an emotional response in the viewer. Since the advent of DSLRs cameras, digital medium format technology has generally been able to deliver images with a certain qualitative “edge” that makes them stand out in a crowded marketplace of images - and better achieve our goals as fashion and beauty photographers.

In this video we take a careful and brutally honest look at whether this is still true, and if so, in what conditions and uses. We compare two of the highest quality camera systems from each technology: the Nikon D850 45MP DSLR paired with the legendary 85mm f/1.4g to the Phase One IQ3 50MP with the 110mm LS f/2.8 Schneider-Kreuznach Blue Ring lens. Its the “Battle of the Megapixel Monsters”!

The Nikon flagship was the first DSLR to score 100 on the Dxomark score and won Camera of the Year in 2017 at Imaging Resources. Phase One are generally considered at the top level of the medium format digital camera systems. How do they compare for us as fashion and beauty photographers?

 

 
 Nikon D850

Nikon D850

 

We compare the two systems in four common lighting scenarios and evaluate how each camera system captures various aspects that are important to us: in short, does the image look better? In this respect, this test is fundamentally different than many you will see. Technically, we are evaluating tonal gradations and dynamic range. But in the end, we care if the image simply looks better - if it allows us to better achieve our artistic ends.

A camera will not replace poor technique or low production value. But as the value of productions rise to the highest levels - top models, excellent creative teams, and effective lighting paired with an artistic eye - do medium format camera systems still deliver images with a qualitative “edge”?

Similarly, almost all cameras look the same on Instagram and cell phones. We compared the images in three demanding use cases: high-resolution computer monitors, magazine-scale print images, and gallery-size print images.

Image “quality” is not the only difference between these systems. To explore this, we have paired this video with an exclusive webinar to be held on September 8th, 2018 EST during which we will explore other differences: ergonomics, auto-focus, durability, cost, and many others. We also provide all of the raw and retouched images so you can decide for yourself!

Join us to hear our no-holds-barred critique!