24 Hours with the Leaf Credo 40

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to try out the new Credo 40 for a full 24 hours. I spoke to Chris Snipes over at Capture Integration and was considering the jump to medium format. With the promotion going on for a complete camera set up for just under $14k, it sounded like a good deal! After talking to Chris, who was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable, I reserved my time with the camera and had it sent overnight to North Carolina.

During this test shoot, I was armed with a reflector and had anyone within arms reach as my assistant. We were shooting around noon and needed fill for the hard shadows. The camera worked well, I like the Mamiya 645DF body and the grip, even with the additional weight of the massive digital back, didn’t feel too heavy. I could comfortably shoot several hours with it. I’ve never tried the any of the Hassy bodies, so I can’t compare the two.

First things first, I need to get this out there. This camera locked up on me big time. What I mean is I was getting every single “Err” message on the body and no amount of restarting would help. I swapped out every battery in different order and had to call in several times to troubleshoot. We dived into the Custom Functions to no avail. The camera wasn’t firing and after all the excitement leading up to this point, it was a downer. I went back to the office and kept playing around with it, and then out of nowhere it started working. It’d be one thing if I could say, this happened, and then I did this type of restart to get everything working again. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. To me, it seemed like dumb luck.

The good news is there were no more error messages for the rest of the day. Huge relief! However, if I were in a critical location and I had to go through this process again after setting up a real photoshoot, it would be devastating. I can’t even put into words what would go through my mind and don’t even want to go there.

The Mamiya 80mm is beautifully sharp wide open. Opening up these files on your computer will make you giddy because they contain so much detail and the background is wonderful creamy goodness. This lens will punish you, though. It’s been said again and again, if you are off focus by just a millimeter, you got to trash the shot. You messed up and need to move on. Don’t try to sharpen the eyelashes, get over it. The photo is no good. This is the harsh reality of dealing with a digital medium format system.

But when you do get it in focus, hallelujah. You’ll likely consider these the best photos you’ve ever taken if nail composition down. Even simple portraits take a life of their own. Eyes tell such a vivid story in a 40mp image!
Manual focus is a nightmare, though. Maybe I’m not seasoned enough with the camera or don’t have the eyesight, but what you see is not what you get through that viewfinder. It seems like you’d need to rely on autofocus quite a bit with the 645DF body. I definitely did. I’d love to try this digital back out with a Mamiya RZ67, it’d be interesting to see the results through a proper focusing screen.

The LCD screen on the Credo 40 is responsive, fast, and intuitive. I wouldn’t hesitate check focus with it or review images without being tethered. The focus mask on the IQ series on Phase One backs would make this is sorely missed, however, for this price point on a new medium format system, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
I’m very interested to see the future of medium format now that there is a bit of convergence between the two systems. Sony is fitting full frame mirrorless sensors into compact bodies. Things are changing fast.

I wish I had some strobes for my shoot so I could mess with the 1/1600 flash sync. Leaf shutters get me jazzed up! We’re seeing them incorporated into much smaller cameras from Fuji, Sony, and of course, Leica. So if the flash sync is a big sticking point, there are much cheaper ways to freeze the image or battle the sun on an even playing field than jump to medium format.

Before anyone gets a medium format system, you have to try it out. Make sure it fits your shooting style. If you’re researching, you’ll hear time and time again that this is not for “spray and pray” type of shooters. An intense, methodological approach is necessary for the best results with any camera system, but with the medium format it’s your only option.

Here are some of the shots that made it below from the Credo 40.

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