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Leaf AFi 7 review and opinions - By Frank Doorhof Peter from Leaf Benelux visited me and brought along a Leaf AFi 7 camera with two lenses a 90mm MF and the 180mm AF. In my review I will be using those two lenses…

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  #1  
Old August 8th, 2008, 06:36 AM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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Today Peter from Leaf Benelux visited me and brought along a Leaf AFi 7 camera with two lenses a 90mm MF and the 180mm AF.
In my review I will be using those two lenses.



First what is the Leaf AFi 7 ?
With the Leaf AFi Leaf delivers a system that is very close to a fully intergrated system that operates seamlessly together making it for the photographer feel and act as a one piece camera. I say very close because however you look at it, it's no DSLR (and that can be a good thing).

The Leaf AFi consists of a body and a digital back and of course an extensive lenslineup.
Because the system is based on the Rollei system this is good news for owners of that camera and their lens collection.
Also it's good news for people who are broke after buying the AFi because they can start hunting the lenses on ebay for cheap and later upgrade to the new versions.

The system I'm using at the moment is the so called AFi 7 which boasts a 33MP digital back, at this time the largest available although the AFi 10 has just been announced which has a stunning resolution and a bigger sensor, I'm really looking forward to testing that one in time but for the time being I will concentrate on the AFi 7.

First the specs of the AFi 7

CCD size : 48x36mm
Speed FPM : 50
Resolution : 33MP
Pixel count : 6726x5040
File size TIFF : 190MB (16bits)
File size MOS / RAW : 63MB
Compresses MOS / RAW : 36MB
Sensitivity : 50-800 ISO
Dynamic Range : 12 stops
One focus point

The camera is powered by the normal Leaf batterypacks which are loaded in the grip and if you want (and I advise to do it) under the back when shooting on the card.
When shooting tethered the camera is powered by the firewire connection.
For the back I have some negative experience with the battery life of the Leaf battery packs, they run out in cold weather within 1-2 hours.
I use third party Samsung battery packs which are three times as heigh but they run app a whole day.
I recon the grip will use MUCH less power so you whould be ok with one battery in the grip and one third party for the back.



Look and feel
Somehow I'm always rather quick with getting used to a camera, manuals are fun for things that are not clear from the start and I strongly believe that if you NEED a manual something has gone wrong in designing the camera.
Of course I agree that you need to read the manual for the hidden features (in this case for example the focus trap (later more)) and the final understanding of the machine, but you should be able to pick it up and work with it from the start.

The AFi does not dissapoint in this.
The layout of the controls are basic and very easy to understand.
In short the controls are located on the left side of the camera and consist of a dial for shooting modes, metering and focusmethods.
Using the dials is one way of setting up the camera, but you can also use the red dot and access the more advanced settings in the menu which is shown on the grip.
More on the grip.....
With most cameras it's the way the manufactorer designed the camera that dictates how you should handle the camera.
With the Leaf AFi this is not the case, the grip itself can be positioned in four different settings, making sure there is always a comfortable grip option if you are using the prims or the wastelevel finder, for me this is a big plus when you are working alot with the camera, it can give you just that little extra in comfort.

But it all counts when we pick up the camera and start shooting.
The Leaf AFi is responsive and it feels almost like the camera knows what you are willing to do and does it for you.
Some cameras you have to work and they feel somewhat sluggish, the AFi is not that kind of a camera (and I don't mean it's pshychic).

The AFi that was delivered to me uses the wastelevel finder instead of a prism, if I would buy the system I would probarbly also buy the prism.
At the moment I use the 645AFD/III and the RZ67 ProII both with a Leaf Aptus22 digital back and although I love them both I have a bit of a preference for the RZ67Pro II, it was bought to play with film but over the last few weeks it has grown to be the main camera I use in the studio, I orginally planned on only using it with the waistlevel finder but I recently ordered a prism for it, for the following reason.

waist level finder
When working with a waistlevel finder there are some things you have to realise.
The image is stunning, it's large as it can get and the sense of depth is amazing, it's something that most students that look into my camera fall in love with (and to be honest it's one of the reasons I bought the RZ (and the wonderful cocking the shutter lever and shuttersound)).
On the WLF you will see the image first on the focus screen for composition according to the manual, for fine focus you can pop up the magnifier and fine tune focus.
Well for me it means I only use the magnifier, somehow I can't work with the focusscreen only I hate it, with the magnifier I see the whole image and I can focus much easier.
But when you see the picture something weird (well actually it's not weird) happens, the image is mirrored, meaning left is right and right is left.

When I bought the RZ67ProII I tried to shoot handheld the first two days and than gave up, the camera with the digital back is just not balanced enough for me to handheld the whole day, so I bought a studio stand (which I know learned to love) and when using that making compositions with the mirrored image is no problem.
The story changes a bit with the AFi.
Because the camera is wonderfully balanced (and I mean wonderfully) I did not find the need to shoot from the studio stand and when I don't need to I love to use it handheld, for portrait work this is not a real problem, for location work this is no problem, BUT.....
When working with a dark gray background and a pitchblack studio and low key lights and shooting full body with movement of the model in a rapid tempo I felt a little seasick after a few minutes, keeping the camera straight became a struggle of counteracting the way my brain would adjust the camera and before I knew it I was paying way too much attention to keeping the camera straight than to my model.
I decided to work a bit slower and it worked out fine, but for that kind of work give me a prism :D

That's not to say I hate a WLF, it gives me much more movement and communicating with the model is much easier without a camera in front of your face.
Also the lower angle from which you are shooting is a big plus of course.

The good thing is you can use both and changing takes less than a few seconds.

By they way, there is an option in which you can let the AFi show you if you have your camera level, but when I'm looking through the maginifier, taking notice of my model, taking care of composition and coaching my model I don't really have time to also check the level meter.
As with many things, for some photographers it's a gift for some it's a gimmick.
For me I will probarbly opt for the prism for the fast paced work, and the WLF for the OH effect and the sheer fun it is in portraits.



Landscape portrait landscape portrait
With a prism camera changing from landscape to portrait is a breeze, just tilt the camera and you're off.
With a WLF we have a problem, unless you know a little acrobatics (most of the time serious expressions will be out of the question from your models and your back will be hurting after a few days).
So with the WLF that has to be solved different.
In the case of the RZ67ProII this means setting a lever for R and rotating the whole back, setting the lever back again and you're shooting portrait (or landscape).
This is a very fast way and the back is never exposed to the outside world during the procedure.

If I have to find ONE negative thing about the AFi it's the way they solved it on the AFi.
To rotate the back you have to remove the back (exposing the sensor to the outside), rotating it and reconnecting it.
The button to release the back is FIRM, meaning you need both hands to operate it, because the back is a VERY expensive piece of equiptment this scares the living you know what out of me. In practice it's not as bad as it sounds but I won't be changing the postion on the beach I think (time to take up acrobatics..... or buy a prism)
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Old August 8th, 2008, 06:36 AM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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The back
What can I say, the first time I saw the Leaf Aptus series I was sold.
They are sexy, they are slick, they just call out "buy me, buy me, I will take really good care of you".
The back boosts a 6x7cm touch display that is just stunning.
Well inside....
That's the one negative I have to add about the backs display, it's great for setting settings on the camera inside and outside.
However when judging a photo, the displays on the new DSLRs are far superieur.
The Leaf is just to dark in the sun and the resolution is poor compared to the new DSLR displays.
I have to add that this is NOT ONLY LEAF, I have yet to see a medium format back with a good display (as of this writing).

What can we do from the back ?
Do you have an hour ?
I will make it short.
What can we not do ?
The software that Leaf uses in the backs is really stunning.
For example, shoot a graycard and just click on the touchdisplay on the graycard and it will set the whitebalance for you for every following shot. (after selecting setting whitebalance ofcourse).
But there is much more.
You can edit and rename files, you can select different crop modes (for example an overlay for different formats you need), you can add different profiles (like pictures styles from Canon DSLRs).
But most of all the menu structure is VERY easy to follow and works very fast once you get used to it, to be honest I never even use the stylus, just using my fingers work perfectly on the touchdisplay.




Software
My first experience with the Leaf software was a strange one.
I bought the Aptus 22 and never figured a company like Leaf would not have PC software :D
Thanks to the guys from Leaf I was up and running on a PC one day after I got the back (many thanks guys) and before I knew it I was testing the software.
To be honest it was one of the easiest testing jobs I ever did, the software ran smooth from day one.
So my experience with the software always has been great.

I recently switched to the mac because I wanted a notebook with powered firewire, I do alot of workshops on location and missing a powered firewire connection was really bugging me and giving me alot of problems.
So it was finally time to run the software natively.
Well ok, it ran smooth also......
Leaf is constantly improving the software and at the moment they added a compare option which is great for quickly deciding which captures to keep and which to delete.
They are also one of the only software makers I know off which included the dynamic range of photography into their histogram (2 1/3 stop over and 4 1/3 stop under) students of my workshops know what I mean. For me this means we are dealing with a company that thinks together with the photographer.

Why is this important ?
Simple.
The back has more dynamic range than a standard offset press can handle, by marking the dynamic range in the histogram you can adjust the ratios so that they fall in the dynamic range of the press AND you can still have more shadow detail for digital work or own prints.
VERY clever and something I think that should standard be on all histograms.

Leaf also has a very well working moire removal tool which actually works very well.
I was using the free plugin from phase one which worked nicely but left me often with a result that was 10x better than it was but not perfect.
I will not say the leaf solution is 100% perfect, but it's pretty close.

Now add a red eye filter and a batch rename function and we're done.

Resolution
Who needs 33MP ?
That's something that alot of people will ask.
Well to be short, most people don't.
I make perfect A2 prints from my 5D, I have done billboards with a 10D.
But I'm also someone who loves small details, when I shoot fashion I love to see the fabric of the clothing, when I shoot a street scene I love to see the toothbrush through the window in the building at the end of the street (ok now I go to far).

Anyway, 33MP is great, 56MP is better but you have to realise that it's something that is not necessary for most work.
For landscapes it's amazing I think, for city scapes it's stunning for pictures of the wife and kids, well....... it's fun.
Can we talk about fun with a price range in which the AFi sits ?

Yes we can and we should, photography should be fun. We all hate to go to work in the morning and hate our work.
Using materials such as the AFi will make our work just that much better (as if we modelphotographers need a AFi to enjoy our work with beautiful models :D)

But more seriously.
The demand for high megapixels will go on, and the disturbing thing is that most agencies will demand ridicilous ammounts of megapixels for ridicilous small prints, maybe it's a way to eliminate the GWC (Guy With a Camera) or it's just not knowing what it means.
For me the more MP's is something I love to use, as mentioned before I get a kick when I can see the different subtle strains of woll that makes a sweater, or I can see the eye full screen etc.
But that's personal, for my work most clients are more than happy with the 5D.

Then why buy the AFi 7 ?
First of all it's the sensor size, with a measurement of 48x36 it's at the moment the largest sensor Leaf offers (with the exception of the recently announced AFi10).
It's the same sensor size as the AFi 5 (22MP)
Now the choice.....

Now it gets difficult.
The AFi 5 has a working range of ISO 25-400
The AFi 7 has a working range of ISO 50-800
When I work on the 645AFD/III I want the ISO25 (outside sun/strobes/1/125)
When I work on the AFi series the sync speed is not a problem any more so ISO50 is a great starting point.
ISO 800 from what I have seen in a VERY VERY quick test is nice to have but I would not shoot an assignment with it (it's noisy).
But it's better than ISO400 on my Leaf Aptus 22 (one stop quicker and little more noise).

So for me it would still be the AFi7 I would choose.

Why not the AFi 6 ?
Well the answer is simple, the crop is larger.
The sensor measures 44x33 mm and that's for me a reason to get the 5 or 7, and to be honest also what draws me to the AFi 10 although I probarbly will NEVER be able to afford that one when it's on the market, but the 56x36mm sensor sure sounds sweet.

Why is the bigger sensor better ?
First of all, the bigger the sensor the bigger the pixels (in the same density that is), the bigger the pixels the better the quality.
That's why cellphone cameras are bad.
But there is something else and a lot of people dissagree with that.
I have found that the larger the sensor gets the more 3D effect I find in the pictures, lenses, light etc. play an essential part in this but the sensor size also.
I have seen the jump from the 20D to the 5D and after that from a crop leaf to the Aptus22 and recently from FILM 6x45 to 6x7 film.
So for me the bigger the sensor the more excited I get.


Have to know
Some things that are nice to know and important to know:
The autofocus system operates on a few levels.
There is one area of autofocus which is common with MF and in my opinion something that hopefully will change in a usable selection of points (and not like the AFD/III from Mamiya with ghost focuspoints that show not up).
The way the AF can be used is something I would like to give some attention to:
Of course you can choose for the standard AF in one shot or focusbracketing.
There however also is a focus trap in which the camera will fire when your object gets into the focus area, this is great for photographing moving objects and something that I think will benefit some photographers alot.

The camera uses a Leaf (what's in a name) shutter system, this means the shutter is in the lenses and makes it possible to sync at MUCH higher sync speeds than the usual 1/125.
In the case of the AFi this is 1/1000th of a second.
To compare, the 645AFD/III with normal lenses will top at 1/125 and the Mamiya RZ67ProII will top at 1/400.
Especially when working outside with strobes this is a TREMENDOUS advantage.

There is a mirror lockup button on the camera and the mirro is dampened to eliminate camera shake.

Also the firmware updates are a breeze, this happens in the Leaf software and is done automaticly when a new software version is released, it's the most easy system I've seen, just connect and the rest is done automaticly.

one more note for today
According to Peter the AFi was designed to be laid down on it's side, that's why all the controls are slightly below the side of the camera.
And that works great, I would almost say it's a great and clever design, but.........
One thing they probarbly did not think about (although I can't believe that) is that when you connect your trigger to the hotshoe (even the Elinchrom skyports) you can't lie the camera on it's side anymore and you have to lay it down the way you hold it.
When it's sitting like that it's a bit unstable, so watch out when you walk through your studio, it's a mighty expensive paperweight when it falls down.
I always lie my camera down in a place nothing can happen so I don't have that problem, but I think I will note it here.
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Old August 8th, 2008, 06:37 AM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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opinion day 1
WOW.
I think the opinion on day 2/3/4 etc. will be the same as the system will probarbly grow more and more on me.
For the time being I'm impressed with the system.



Oh almost forgot
If you're still reading (thank you) the most important thing.....
Image quality.

This is were the AFi shines.
As mentioned before I shoot with the AFD/III and the RZ67ProII both with the Leaf Aptus 22, so I think I can make a quick comparision between the systems although the AFi 7 has 11MPs more.
The first thing I have to say is that although the backs can be the same, the quality of the camera is VERY important as is of course the glass.

When I bought the RZ67ProII I never thought it would replace my 645 in the studio, but it did. The quality of the detail is just better with the RZ67ProII.
The AFi I will place slightly above the RZ67ProII.
I'm blown away with the 3D effect of the RZ67ProII and the Leaf AFi adds a nice little edge to this (making the images even more real).
I cannot say if this is the 33MPs or the glass/camera, but I do know it's one of those (:D), so when comparing the SYSTEMS I give the price to the AFi, which actually is not a surprise I think seeing it's price point.

IF and I say IF I would have to start all over with my gear, I know that the AFi would be my camera.
At the moment I own the 645AFD/III with a nice selection of lenses, the 645AFD/III is a nice almost stealth like camera which I love to carry with me on street photography and holiday, The RZ67ProII is the camera I love for it's feel and look but I have to shoot from a studio stand in the studio.
The AFi lies exactly in the middle of these two.
It's very close to the RZ67ProII for looks and feel (without the shutter cocking), but MUCH more balanced making shooting handheld a breeze.
It's also a little bit less obvious than the RZ67ProII for outside shooting.

So I think Leaf delivers with the AFi a stunning camera which will suit ALOT of photographers.

Now, were's my gun to rob the bank.....
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Old August 8th, 2008, 06:37 AM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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Some interesting links:

The software :
http://www.leaf-photography.com/Show...entMenuID/314/

The camera :
http://www.leaf-photography.com/Show...entMenuID/314/

And the Leaf website :
http://www.leaf-photography.com


I would like to thank :
Shachar, Dalit, Yiar and Peter from Leaf for their support and help over the last few months.
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Old August 8th, 2008, 06:38 AM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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Service and quality
When we invest money like this, think about the following.....

One day your camera WILL break down, it can take ALONG time, it can happen within a day.
What happens than ?

I'm a lucky user because my problems always have been minor ones that could be fixed over the phone or by a software update (as mentioned before I was beta testing the PC software).
However last week my Aptus acted up, just before an important shoot, and the problem was serious.
Somehow it could not boot up when a card was inserted and it crashed as soon as I tried to write to the card.
Normally it can happen the dealer will say, "please bring in the camera and we'll take a look".
Somehow that look always takes 1-2-3-4-5-6 weeks, and it's always the manufactorer who doesn't hold it's promises, and according to the manufactorer it's the dealer, or it's the mail etc........

I don't know how you guys are, but when I have to miss my camera for one day it can be done.
2 days is really pushing the limits.
1 week will drive me nuts and it will cost me money.

With Leaf the whole problem took them 2 working days (yes you read this correctly).
I reported the problem on Friday and on Tuesday I had a working camera.

Leaf works with a nice system that is in my opinion one of the reasons to choose the Leaf backs if you are in the market for a back.
In the real world it means you keep your sensor but the whole box with electronics is changed.
It's a bit weird to see the counter back at 5-6 shots, but I think this is the ONLY real way of dealing with a problem.
Of course you can repair something that's broken, but who garantuees that there is not something else that's defective ?
This way you are 100% sure you get a back that is 100% as good as new.
And it's done VERY quickly.
Also as added bonus the back is calibrated by a Leaf technician for centerfold and coloruniformity.
I just got my back back and can say that's it's even better than new, I already had nothing to complain about coloruniformity but now it's as even as it can get.

When spending this much money, I think this last part of the review may drive people straight to Leaf instead of the competition.

I would also like to add that Leaf is one of the companies that answers my mails the quickest I have ever experienced, most companies can take up to 3-4 weeks to answer a mail (if they ever), normally I will receive an answer on my questions within the day or the next day.
Again spending this ammount of money I don't want to spend it on a company that does not care for their customers.
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Old August 8th, 2008, 12:26 PM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Bonsoir franck
First of all, let me thank you for posting and sharing here, you're of great help to increase the quality of informations and shares delivered within OPF.

As we all know the Leaf and he Sinar Hy6 are in the same family, it is interesting to make some comparisons between both our experiences…

waist level finder
At first I have been really -but realy- dissapointed by the mirrored viewing! wishing the angleviewfinder to be released (AFAIK it should be now) but after some sessions I got used to it. You know we have different subjetcs to shoot and mine are moving (as I am too) and the horizon is something quite difficult to catch from a chasing boat, even with a dslr, so imagine thru a waist level finder!
So now I got used to, but I don't have a 180 mm "just" 40, 50 and 80. Thru a 180 maybe much more tricky.
So as said, I got used to, but the more difficult is when switching from the HY6 waist level finder to the Canon 1Ds3 view finder! Both for size/clarity and mirrored image. Well, I guess it's called the hard life of the photog!

landscape/portrait orientation
I'm sure Leaf should release quite soon a rotating adaptor.
I have one on the Sinar Hy6 and it's pure real pleasure to change orientation, just rotate the back and you're set!

Now, not for pixel peeping, but to get a real idea of the quality of the back/camera/lens/pixel, I would love to see some crops at 100%…

Last edited by Nicolas Claris; August 8th, 2008 at 11:45 PM. Reason: typos
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Old August 8th, 2008, 01:27 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Hi Frank,

This is a superb resource you have added to OPF. It goes well with the Sinar threads we already have using the same platform. I have to read again every word. At this point I'm so impressed with the photography. Could you perhaps include 100% cutouts of detail so we can see what this is capable of and any moiré and the like?

Thanks so much for generously sharing!

Asher
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Old August 8th, 2008, 11:44 PM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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I did not yet experience moire.
And I will be adding 100% crops after the weekend, at the moment it's a bit hectic over here.
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Old August 8th, 2008, 11:47 PM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Good morning Franck

thanks!
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Old April 26th, 2009, 11:55 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
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Frank,

Could you update your experience here now that it's 2009 and there have been new additions to the Leaf offerings and you have done so much work with this camera.

Asher
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Old April 27th, 2009, 12:32 PM
Frank Doorhof Frank Doorhof is offline
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Hi,
In the mean time I have been beta testing the AFi10 on some occasions and will do a few days sessions with it end of may.

The AFi-II series is still wonderful, I shoot with it on some occasions my own setup is still the aptus22 on the 645FD/III and RZ67ProII.
I love that combination, when I upgrade however it will be an aptusII of course :D

One new addition is the REMOTE VIEWER utility that I've been beta testing the last few weeks, this software makes it possible to see the shots you take tethered also on your iPhone or iPod touch.
It gives a lot of new possibilities for people normally watching over your shoulder :D

Will update the review end of may when I've shot a few days with the AFi-10
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Old October 2nd, 2012, 07:33 PM
Otto Haring Otto Haring is offline
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Wow! These are awesome!!!!
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