Mamiya Leaf Aptus-II

October 29, 2019

The softness, slowness, and overall magical qualities of film has always captivated me. Over the last few years I’ve purchased two different medium format cameras:

1) Mamiya 645 PRO – a manual focus body with a film back

&

2) Mamiya 645 AFD, auto-focus body with a film back, but also with digital capabilities.

Although I’ve been shooting on medium format cameras for the last 3 years, I’ve only recently (over the last year) dedicated myself to shooting solely on film for most of my sessions. I am a wedding and engagement photographer based out of San Francisco, so that means that every engagement session is 100% on film, and whenever I’m allowed a second photographer on a wedding day, I’m shooting everything from the getting ready shots to the start of the reception on film – and only switching to digital for late-night dancing shots. It’s so magical when I get to put myself in the mindset of shooting solely on film for a full day; however, I’m not always afforded that luxury. Sometimes on a wedding day I don’t have a second photographer, or sometimes I get booked for a family session with little ones. During times like this, I’m a bit hesitant to shoot only on film. While I love the slowness of medium format film, weddings (and little ones) move quickly and I can’t always spend time switching out the film backs. There are some sessions when I like to have the flexibility of digital, but I don’t want to lose the quality of medium format. 

That’s when I found, the Mamiya Leaf Aptus-II (pictured below)

The Mamiya Leaf Aptus-II is a 28mpx digital back for the Mamiya 645AFD. It’s an interchangeable back that can be swapped out in place of the film back, and allows you to shoot with your medium format camera, but instead of shooting on film you are shooting on interchangeable CF cards. I won’t get too into the technical details, but with this back you can shoot your images on a CF card, upload them directly to your computer, and edit them in Lightroom or Photoshop (after converting the files to be readable by Adobe – which is as simple as running them through a [free] downloadable program).

Image taken with the Mamiya Leaf Aptus-II

So why choose to invest in a digital back?

PROS

• You get to see the image on the digital back immediately after you take the photo, and you can scroll through the images that you’ve already taken

• The CF cards are insertable and batteries to power the back are interchangeable – so you can keep as many in stock as you’d like

• You get the same creamy bokeh in your images as you would with film

• You have high quality editing capabilities once the images are uploaded to your computer – there is minimal loss of data in the images and you are able to edit similarly to a raw photo

Film (Left) Digital Back (Right)

CONS

• The screen on the digital back isn’t super high resolution, so the preview of the images looks very grainy, high contrast, and well – very “raw” in nature 

• The digital back is not light, so it does add a bit more weight when compared to the film back

• It does make a slight whirring sound when the digital back is turned on, which can be noticeable – but no less noisy than when you’re reloading film

• You still have to edit the images – I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but when you’re used to having a film lab do all of the work for you – you notice when you’re stuck behind your computer retouching the images

• It’s not cheap, and because it’s considered a “legacy” product, Mamiya Leaf won’t be able to do repairs if it gets damaged

Digital Back (Left) Film (Right)

Overall, I’m happy with this digital back purchase. Although I’ve only used it for a couple of sessions, it is nice knowing that I can shoot both film and digital, and that the images will have the same medium format “feel”. I’d suggest this digital back for anyone with at least 2 film cameras; someone who wants the capability of shooting digital now and then (whether it’s for sneak peeks, tight deadlines, etc). However, I wouldn’t suggest investing in this if you’re new to film. If you’re just learning film, my suggestion: go all in. Find a good film camera, whether it’s medium format, 35mm, or something else – a decent light meter – and just trust the process.

Film (Left) Digital Back (Right)

Article & Images provided by Krista Lynch

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