Resolution Equivalent to High-Pixel-Count Digital Backs

Muga Miyahara

Fashion/Commercial [Japan]

You are active in various fields including editorial, advertising and music photography. Please tell us about yourself as a professional photographer.

Muga Miyahara

In my 20s, I was mainly working for magazines and also taking fashion photos. In my early 30s, advertising jobs increased and now I also shoot for commercial films. I originally wanted to be a photographic artist and what I’ve long been doing is taking snapshots. Be it personal works, editorial or advertising, my photographic expression is based on snapshots, which reflect my own everyday life. For my personal works, I express it up front metaphorically, and for magazines, I overlap a touch of my private life on the main subjects of such goods as clothing or watches. And what I always try to achieve as my theme is capture contradictory subjects linked together, showing the cacophony of directly opposed elements in one picture as much as I can. I think that is directly shown in my personal works, but probably less than 20% is apparent in my advertising photos. But even in advertising photography, people sometimes ask me, “Isn’t that yours?” I’m pleased to hear that because it means that even a touch of my essence is expressed in that image.

Which cameras do you usually use?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve switched from film to digital for advertising photography. But many years ago, when digital cameras were not readily available, I was already scanning my reversal films and processing pictures using image-editing software. I’ve used several digital cameras. Currently, the image size required for my work has increased and calls for very high resolution, so I’m using 39-megapixel digital backs. With this level of resolution, eyelashes look very beautiful even in a poster double the size of B0.

What is the decisively important factor in realizing the picture quality required by the art director, creative director, client or yourself?

Muga Miyahara

It’s resolution. Just like some art directors asked me to shoot in 4x5, not in 120, 15 to 20 years ago in the age of film, I’m now asked to shoot with 40 megapixels because resolution is not high enough with 20 megapixels. Shooting for posters double the size of B0 would be difficult without the resolution of a 39-megapixel digital back. I also use 20-megapixel-class digital backs and 35mm-format type digital SLRs, but the description of details is totally different when the image is printed in a large size or magnified on a monitor screen. In the case of film, you may be comfortable with coarse grains. But you will not be comfortable at all with the jaggies and unsharp edges peculiar to digital, so low resolution cannot be utilized to add flavor to photographs. I believe everybody will judge that 40-megapixel-class pictures are better.

When do you use a 35mm-format type digital SLR?

When a digital back proves problematic for reasons of mobility, I shoot with a 35mm-format type digital SLR if the required size is up to A4 or A3. But in A3, the edges are not sharp when compared with a 39-megapixel digital back and the original low resolution is evident no matter how much you apply sharpness in post-processing. I never use a 35mm-format type digital SLR for A2 output.

What is your impression of the D800 and D800E after using them both?

I thought that the resolution achieved is as high as that of a 39-megapixel digital back. I can foresee the resulting picture quality from the type of lens used and the distance to the subject, as far as the cameras I usually use are concerned. Compared with that, I felt there was sufficiently high resolution, especially with the D800E, in every aspect including the impression of size when magnified on the monitor and how eyelashes looked. Responding to a request for a portrait with the theme “Japanese”, I expressed the direct motif of a woman with a traditional Japanese hairstyle, attired in kimono as “things Japanese” that reflects what I think is modern Japonism, in cooperation with a hairdresser and a stylist I know well and a fashion designer, a friend of mine. As the texture and pattern of the kimono were important to pursue another theme of “high definition”, I took time to carefully select the appropriate kimono with the stylist. The fine structure of the fabric was reproduced in detail. The texture and detail of the skin applied with make-up under the eyes are rich, while the luster of the upper lip delivers highlights and the brightness is appropriately distributed. I think the D800E is better in both, albeit the difference is subtle.

You highly evaluate the D800E. How did you feel when you were shooting with the camera?

Muga Miyahara

When images were magnified on the monitor screen, I felt the brightness of those taken with the D800 was lower and lukewarm compared with those taken with the D800E. As for points that attract attention like the area above the lips and eyelashes, I preferred the D800E, although the difference is only slight. The D800E has higher resolution because the effects of the low-pass filter are removed, but is susceptible to moiré. But if you stop down the lens a little bit and focus on an area where there is no interference pattern or change the distance between you and the subject, you can mitigate moiré as much as possible. Even if moiré appears, you can modify it later. I like the D800E even if moiré appears. It will depend on the application, but I think this camera can reliably capture any subjects ranging from fashion and landscapes to people.

To fully bring out the definition of a high pixel count, the lens needs to provide matching resolution. How did you feel about this point?

When I take photos with lenses of other makes I usually use, I sometimes think the focus is sharp at the center but not so in peripheral areas. Light may be insufficient in peripheral areas and there may be chromatic aberration. It is all right if these are taken as “flavor,” but people do not necessarily understand them as such, so it may cause problems in my commercial work. As I personally regard them as flavor, I sometimes use an old lens that can achieve focus only at the center and causes color smear in peripheral areas at the maximum aperture or create images utilizing spherical aberration intentionally as expression. But I cannot try these interesting things with my commercial work. I used the AF-S 50mm f/1.4G this time. There was no problem at all and the lens could fully bring out the definition of 36.3 megapixels. The clarity is excellent when I shoot for large posters. It is fascinating that the lens’ flavor can be beautifully represented together with high resolution.

What difference did you find between the D800E and the models you usually use?

Muga Miyahara

I tried only Nikon’s Capture NX 2 on images taken with the D800E and I thought saturation is high. Colors are precisely reproduced. The impression I got at my first shooting with the camera in the studio was that reddish and tawny parts of the skin were correctly rendered. It may be the feature of the Portrait setting of Picture Control I used for shooting. Generally, it is troublesome to add colors that are nonexistent afterwards, but it is easy to pare down colors that are already present. I often think that the models I usually use do not pick up colors properly. It’s an advantage that the D800E can properly capture and pick up colors to such a degree.
The D800E is also strong at capturing shadows. The gradation of the background of the paper screen was gray close to black and I thought a noise jump would occur because this is a color gradation digital cameras cannot usually handle well. But with the D800E it did not happen, because of rich gradation of the shadows. There was a subtle gradation range in the gray and I didn’t expect it to come out as beautifully as it did. So I’m convinced that the D800E is excellent at capturing shadows. With other models, there would have been noise or lines, but there were none with the D800E. That’s a great difference. Digital cameras need high resolution, but it is a matter of concern for professional photographers how well cameras can capture gradation from the darkest to dark, and to the intermediate section. I’m satisfied the D800E can do the job.

How did you set the aperture and shutter speed?

Usually I stop down 1.5 stops further from the aperture where the lens’ resolution can be maximized, down to f/11 or f/16 where diffraction starts to take place. This time, I stopped down to f/8 so as not to decrease definition due to diffraction. I did not especially care about shutter speeds as I shot in a studio using a strobe flash. I shot at 1/250 second with and without a tripod, but there was no noticeable blurring.

To what kind of people do you recommend the D800 and the D800E?

For people who photograph subjects that have uniform texture, like rolls of cloth for kimono or textiles for clothing and fabrics, either for work or as a hobby, irrespective of being professionals or amateurs, I think the D800 is better because the D800E is susceptible to moiré. I recommend it also from the viewpoint of the high perfection of the images within the camera. For other people, I recommend the D800E.
If I were to use just one of them, I’d choose the D800E. I don’t think images are completed on the spot either with digital backs or the 35mm-format type digital SLRs I use. In most cases, I use image-editing software to apply elaborate masks for completion. Therefore, the wider the range for adjustment, the better. In this context, the D800E is better for its wider range for adjustment. I’d like to try, by taking my time in changing the exposure and tone curve while viewing the histogram, to explore how far images taken with the camera can tolerate tone curve adjustment and at what point the shadows start to lose detail.

Muga Miyahara (Japan)

Born in Tokyo in 1971. He became a freelance photographer in 1996 and joined “Image” in 2001. While active in editorial and commercial photography, he is pursuing a wide variety of expressions from classical techniques to digital, with his interest extending to traditional Japanese culture such as the art of the tea ceremony and flower arrangement, and ethnic cultures. He creates artistic works from multiple viewpoints through his unique filter of expression. Mr. Miyahara won the Mainichi Advertising Prize in 2005. He is actively engaged in such fields as magazines, advertisements and video and regularly shows his works at solo exhibitions.