I’ve been an advertising photographer for 16 years. I started out shooting still life for Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, migrating to beauty and fashion for Olay and Nexxus and editorial spreads for Spanish Vogue and Vanity Fair Italy. My clients have afforded me the luxury of shooting with great models such as Erin Wasson, Tiiu Kuik, Missy Rayder, Chandra North, Angie Harmon, and Diane Kruger.
In 1998, Neiman Marcus presented me with the challenge of shooting digitally for their website. The first digital system I used was a Leaf Volare/Contare on a 4x5 Sinar p2 with an Apple Mac. With an 11 micron chip and 18MB files, images were really only good enough for the Web. You didn’t have the option of cropping due to small file size. In addition, there were constant problems with moiré.
Since then, I have used and owned two other systems: Sinar Bron and Phase One. When I heard about the Aptus 75, I was curious to see how it had evolved. With 33.3 megapixels and 7.2 micron pixels, there really is no comparison with the older models.
Outstanding in Its Field
For quality and size, the Leaf Aptus 75 is outstanding. I no longer worry about moiré. The files are so large you can actually shoot and apply a creative crop, and still have plenty of information remaining without having to res up. Shooting tetherless is so intuitive that I haven’t had to open a manual once. When shooting on location and can’t take along a lot of hard drives or DVD burners, having lossless compressed files is a must. And the touch screen is big and very easy to use.
I find no difference in performance whether I’m shooting close-up jewelry or high fashion. The Aptus 75 has no trouble going from a 120mm macro lens at f/32 to a 150mm telephoto lens at f/4.5. Nor are different lighting conditions a problem. In studio, I may use strobes; on location, natural light or HMI’s. All it takes is a GretagMacbeth color chart, gray balance, and I’m ready to shoot.
I also love its color consistency and the fact that the files can be opened and processed with Adobe Photoshop. I never have problems with color shifting.
The down side to creating such large files—65MB RAW, 95MB 8 bit TIFF—is a bit slower speed and lots of time spent archiving. When shooting fashion, I take up to 100 frames on each shot, with 12 to 14 shots a day. To save time, I process the client’s initial picks through Photoshop for position only. Later, I process the final images with Leaf software, Leaf Capture. It can’t be beat.
Another time saver: I generally give clients a copy of all the files from their shoots to take back with them to edit, process in Photoshop, drop into their layouts, and call me with their final picks. Then I process and deliver the final images.
I shoot a wide range of subjects, from jewelry and beauty in studio to fashion on location. I’ve never had any issues with difficult lighting or exposures. And skin tones come out quite good with the whole Leaf lineup.
As for its advantages over previous models, I particularly like the large files. It’s nice to be able to crop in for a more creative composition. For example, I can shoot a fashion image then the client can crop it to create a beauty shot. This would have been unheard of with the earlier backs.
Smaller microns means broader dynamic range and less chance of moiré. Shooting tetherless is another huge advantage. The LCD touch screen has a very simple user interface. Plus, you can shoot to a digital magazine or CompactFlash cards.
But a new product does create other changes. I archive all my shoots, so the large files definitely mean more work for the digital tech. Also, the client has to be a bit more patient waiting for the files to appear. I have to explain that there’s a small down time throughout the day to back up the files and move them to another computer for processing. I prefer the “shoot computer” to be used only for capture. I want all the speed I can get.
Leaf Capture 10.0.1
I like the newer version of Leaf Capture, v10.0.1, but it runs a bit slow with the Aptus 75. It’s because the file size is amazingly large and has to transfer 65MB RAW files in approximately 1.5 seconds. But we’re in a world of instant gratification, and some people hear a click and expect to see an image instantly. [Editor’s Note: Capture v10.0.3 has since been released, but was not used in this product review.]
I probably prefer Leaf Capture v8.4.2, which is actually three programs: Leaf Capture, Contact Sheet, and Leaf Processor. The processor can be working, yet I can still be shooting or editing. There was a bit of a learning curve in the initial set up, but like anything else, once you take the time to learn how it works, it’s easy. Most of the learning curve involves file management.