In today's guest post Brian Hirschfeld will discuss Multistich - a simple device for 4x5 cameras that will help you generate large format digital files for commercial photography:
In my humble report from PDN PhotoPlus 2013 I had the opportunity to meet and briefly interview Myko, the creator of Multistitch. The YouTube video I did at this time gave a brief overview of the product's essential functions. Today, I am here to present you with a much more in-depth look at Multistitch and its functions.
On March 7th, I had the opportunity to further interview Myko the creator of Multistitch at Fotocare in NYC. Fotocare has many interesting events which I would highly-reccomend since they usually bring in unique products for demos which go beyond the standard Nikon or Canon rep coming to town. It was an especially miserable day out weather wise so if you were not able to make it, the video presentation covers this material. Also at the end of this article, there will be a link to a Dropbox folder with the sample images from this article.
Multistitch is a deceptively simple device for 4x5 cameras which houses some truly striking image making potential for commercial large format photographers working in fields like product photography and architecture. Multistitch is a product "Made in USA" and there is something to be said for that in this day and age for photographic products. Multistitch supports Full-Frame Nikon and Canon models as well as medium format digital backs from MamiyaLeaf (formerly Mamiya and Leaf) / PhaseOne / Hasselblad and accepts both the Mamiya M Mount and Hasselblad V mount. However, this is not where the question of mounts ends, different 4x5 cameras have different mounts (even if they are "Graflok" style), Multistitch mounts to Cambo and Sinar cameras at the moment, and more mounts are in development. Also in development is a plate for Hasselblad H cameras, which could a provide particularly interesting option if it works with Hasselblad's proprietary MS ( multi-shot ) technology.
Multi-stitch comes with a focusing spacer mask which defines your capture area, that moves the ground glass into the focal plane.When you focus with multi-stitch you focus using the ground glass just like you would normally when using your 4x5 camera. When working with a DSLR you have to refocus through the viewfinder before making your exposures.
There are a couple of different ways that, as a product, Multistitch can be pitched. However, the most prescient reason to me is the fact that it allows you to create some truly gigantic high-resolution stitched images, and is very simple and compact. The device is capable of a 4x capture (-15% for overlap) on its own, not only does this yield huge high-res stitched images, but it significantly increases your working area when composing and using your camera. However, utilizing a camera with rear movements, it is possible to get an 8x stitch for even higher resolution images. Both of these methods are demonstrated and explained in the video. For the most demanding landscape and architecture photographers, this could be a real boon. Also for landscape and architecture photographers, there are a couple of other advantages to Multistitch beyond extra resolution, 4x5 cameras can allow for more extreme movements then smaller plate cameras with large format lenses. Further then this, since Multistitch mounts to an existing 4x5 camera, rather then adapting LF lenses to helical mounts in a smaller system, it allows fort the possibility to use all lenses and not be limited by the smaller systems constraints on the lenses, even the ultra-wide Schneider 47mm f/5.6 Super-Angulon XL. Multistitch gives you back a "true" ultra-wide with digital capture. The Schneider 47mm, is equivalent to a 21mm lens in medium format. The widest lenses there are 24mm for Leica (consider the crop factor) and Hasselblad and 28mm for Mamiya / PhaseOne. Even further then simply providing a focal length the 47mm XL has a large image circle which, of course allows for perspective control, which is not something that you can get with these ultra-wide primes for medium format systems. A 4x5 47mm lens is equivalent to 14mm in FF-35mm and this is again without movements. "Modern" LF lenses, for systems like those from Alpa and Cambo, are generally only made to cover 6x9 and simply don't have the image circles of traditional 4x5 lenses.
Beyond the "flashy" sell of ultra-large resolution images and further then simply being able to use wide angle lenses, you gain a larger working image area as well as full perspective control. While, fine artists will discuss the merits of 4x5 (and large format) cameras as tools which slow down your creative process and make you "think" about the images you are making, there is a much more practical side to using 4x5 cameras, larger working areas, and perspective control. Of course, this allows you to be able to have the full perspective and DoF control. In discussions with Myko, I found that "[his] goal in creating Multistitch was to get back to shooting in the larg(er) imaging area" and getting back to full perspective control when making his images using his traditional 4x5 camera.
Another excellent selling point for Multistitch is, as its creator says, to extend the life of digital equipment. As an example, when I purchased my D3s when it first came out and it cost me ~$5,000 and today it is only worth ~$1500. This does not mean that in any way an inferior camera, however it does mean that there are "better" (in this situation read higher-resolution) cameras out there. When there are higher resolution cameras out there, it of course puts pressure on anyone producing images to meet or exceed these standards when delivering images to clients. This can get expensive. As we will see in the next video, it is possible to milk older equipment for some excellent images as well. Of course if you are working in areas involving moving subjects like portraiture or fashion then this is not a viable option, but it should not be ignored for still life situations since the added effort involved is minimal and the cost of entry into the system is also very low since you already have the camera body/lenses and digital sensor.
From the discussion of these sample images, we can see that there are some serious gains in resolution. Recently with ultra-high resolution DSLR's like the Nikon D800(e) we have found that there are some lenses which are not capable of the resolving power needed to produce the sharpest images with high-resolution digital sensors. You can decide for yourself whether (older) 4x5 lenses are capable of resolving images with new digital backs. Most of the images are taken with a MamiyaLeaf 33mp digital back. However, there is one taken with an 80mp digital back and this file is one of the sharpest and most finely resolved and its image quality does not suffer because of the resolving power of the lens. As we can see from these examples, as well as the others in the Dropbox (all of which were taken with traditional 4x5 film lenses) the traditional 4x5 film lenses are absolutely capable of resolving super sharp images with modern high-resolution cameras. Further to this point, newer large format lenses are coated differently then older lenses because the manufacturers know that some of these lenses will end up being used with digital sensors. If you feel that this is something you need, then it is an added cost to enter the system, but then again as you can see through the samples show you probably won't even need that.
If you are not aware of how Adobe Photoshop's automated stitching process works, this third video will provide you with a step by step process demonstrated by Myko from images captured while using Multistitch. These images are again, available for download in the Dropbox folder, and you can follow along and complete the process for yourself. The process is pretty straight-forward and fool proof. The 15% overlap allowed for in the design of the Multistitch back provides enough information for Photoshop to accurately and consistently be able to correctly stitch images together. The process of stitching was slightly sped up for the purposes of this video and of course processing times are dependent on the specifications of your individual system. There are also other softwares which offer more control of the stitching process. A notable example of this that I have used is PTgui which offers some excellent added controls for the stitching process.
Film is dying a slow death, with manufacturers scaling back production of film. I don't believe that it will die in the near future since there are still many professionals and hobbyists alike who enjoy using large-format film. The financial costs of switching to digital can be justified when you compare them to yearly expenses on film. This is very similar to the way that photographer Mitchell Feinberg was able to the creation of a single-capture 8x10 10mp digital CCD camera to replace the $55k a year of 8x10 polaroids he would go through. Digital capture devices can pay for themselves in this way, and Multistitch can allow you to milk even more use out of your equipment or for resolution. Multistitch allow you, in the words of its creator to "get greedy".
You may click here to access the Dropbox folder to freely access and download the files discussed in this article and video. However please note that all images belong to © MYKO Photography Inc. All Rights Reserved