Can You Guess Which Camera Took Which Picture?

Can You Guess Which Camera Took Which Picture?

Do medium format cameras have a specific look? Do Micro 4/3 camera take horrible still photos? You tell me. 

I happen to have a range of different cameras in my possession and I thought it would be interesting to shoot the same image with each of them to see if we could actually tell a difference. This is not a resolution test, we will do that in another video. This test is strictly to determine if images inherently different coming from different sized sensors and manufacturers. 

I stood in one spot and shot my buddy Keith Bradshaw with 4 different cameras with 4 different sized sensors. To keep the field of view the same, I used a 50mm "equivalent" lens on each camera. To keep the depth of field the same, I changed the aperture as well. My cameras and settings are below. 

FujiFilm GFX 50R/ x 32.9mm sensor/ 64mm lens f/8

Canon 6D/ 35mm ff sensor/ 50mm f5.6

FujiFilm XT-3/ 23.6mm x 15.6mm sensor/ 35mm f4

Panasonic GH5/ Micro 4/3 sensor/ 25mm f2.8

I shot each of the images below in raw, I changed only the white balance, and stacked the images on top of each other. I cropped in on all of the images to hide the 4/3 aspect ratio of the GFX and GH5 and shrunk them to 1920 pixels in width. Can you guess which camera took each image? 

UPDATE: The results are in

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Previous comments
Tim Gallo's picture

I have Kodak 2mp camera... and as you mentioned it looks like film. Also enough for insta :)

Also, you don't buy a medium format camera to shoot portraits at F/8. This test is "scientific" in the sense that it measures what each sensor is capable of in an artificially constrained environment for all but the smallest of the sensors. You get a bigger sensor camera in order to do things that the smaller sensor camera can't do, or will struggle with at least.

A proper test would be to test with with the parameters where the big sensor would be the optimal solution and then ask the other cameras to match that, not to take the least capable camera and limit the other cameras to operate under the same conditions. So, what would the test be?

Shoot the portraits on a 100mm F/2 medium format lens at F/2. Now, what would the other cameras have to do? The Canon would need a lens around, what 70mm or so, at F/1.4. OK, something similar should be possible. The APS-C would have to find something in the F/1.0 range. Sure. Can probably do that. Finally, the M4/3 camera would ned a lens with an F/0.7 aperture. Now, that would be a tad harder, would it not?

You don't buy a large sensor camera to shoot with it completely crippled (limiting your self to F/8 as the biggest aperture). You buy it to do things the smaller sensor cameras simply can not do at all, or at least do well.

Any errors in math are mine, but do not alter the conclusion in a major way.

SPEE DING's picture

Smaller formats may have some difficulty matching a lens like the 110/2 wide open...but just how different would the results be and at what cost?

Fuji MF 110/2 = $2,300
Canon EF 85/1.4 = $1,500 (+1/3 EV light gathering advantage)
Canon RF 85/1.2 = $2,700 (+2/3 EV light gathering advantage)
Nikon FX 85/1.4 = $1500 (+1/3 EV light gathering advantage)
Fuji XF 56/1.2 = $900 (-1/3 EV light gathering disadvantage)
PL mFT 42.5/1.2 = $1600 (- 1 EV light gathering disadvantage)
Oly mFT 45/1.2 = $1100 (- 1 EV light gathering disadvantage)
Voigt mFT 42.5/0.9 = $800 ((-1/3 EV light gathering disadvantage)

FF can easily match or exceed the GFX in light gathering. The APS-C Fuji comes within 1/3EV for 155% less $$. The autofocus mFT lenses are a stop behind wide open, but of course, cost far less. The manual focus Voigtlander mFT comes within 1/3EV for 1/3 the price.

To be honest most of these lenses wide open need to be stopped down for head shots to get both eyes in focus. Full body shots from a distance - wide open, certainly easier for larger formats but not impossible with smaller formats either.

David Ha's picture

110mm F2 in crop MF is 87mm F1.6 in 35mm camera. It's so easy to find 85mm F1.4 in 35mm camera. What makes you think that MF lenses have more shallow DOF? MF have limitations of having shallow DOF with MF lenses. Are there any F1.4 lenses available for MF system? NO.

Medium format is focused on having more image quality than the 35mm system. What MF can do while small sensors cant do?

Today one buys MF for shallow DOF fashion. Earlier, it was the tonality of image that could never be achieved with 35mm film.
Top fashion shooters still use small apertures on MF for detail.
Shallow DOF is hobbyist fashion just like safari jackets for fat Leica owners

Gordon Cahill's picture

Stupid test, sorry. Deliberately made to hide any differences. At this size a reduced pixel image, crushed into a web jpeg, you expect us to see a difference? Of course you won't. Every image here is shown below the capabilities of all the cameras used. Why not add an iPhone as well? It'd look the same in this skewed test.

It's like putting a Hyundai and a Ferrari in peak hour traffic and then claiming they go the same speed.

Do some highlight and shadow recovery and then print them A1 and then tell me you can't see a difference.


michaeljin's picture

There are tons of people that will talk about a "medium format look" or a "large format look" and they will swear all day that it's an aesthetic thing. There are similarly people who will knock M4/3 for lack of shallow DoF.

If these things are true, they should be plainly evident even in JPEG compressed for web.

Not when the photographer shoots the pictures doing everything he can to hide the advantages. Shooting a portrait at f/8? That's stupid.

michaeljin's picture

Why is shooting a portrait at f/8 stupid? I regularly shoot portraits at f/8 on full frame. Shallow depth of field is not always appropriate for portraiture.

Cristian G.'s picture

"not always appropriate" is different from "regularly". If you're doing in regularly, you're most likely doing it out of habit.

michaeljin's picture

Actually, I regularly take corporate headshots where they definitely do not want shallow DoF and I also regularly take environmental portraits where blurring the hell out of the background would sort of defeat the purpose. So yes, I do portraiture at f/8 more often than not since that tends to be the sweet spot where you get a deep DoF, but not too much for environmental and also before diffraction really starts to set in on most lenses.

Not everyone is into the eyeball in focus while eyelashes are blurred aesthetic.

Michael Holst's picture

Just want to point out that your argument can be used against shooting DOF "regularly"...

Cristian G.'s picture

Yes, of course :).

Gordon Cahill's picture

Micheal Jin. I agree. And often shoot around f8 myself. In that case I could take my PenF and get the results I need. For work, I almost always use 35mm for the system, not the IQ. 99.999% of the time even that's overkill. That's not the point.

The point is this type of test is deceptive, in that it deliberately removes the differences in the systems. Even the cropping is intended to disguise. There may be only a 10% difference between each format as you step up but it's that 10% we pay the extra money to get. I may shoot 90% of the time at f8. But if I need more resolution or want less DoF the larger formats will give me more options than the smaller ones.


michaeljin's picture

I completely agree that if we were to push all of these cameras to their maximum capabilities and be able to view/manipulate the RAW files, the differences would be quite evident even without looking at the EXIF data. This test is extremely limited in scope in searching for an aesthetic difference based upon sensor format. In that sense, I do not see it as being deceptive because after equalizing all of the other factors, we are left only with the aesthetic imparted by the sensor itself rather than the optics, resolution, or aspect ratio.

Simply put: Does the "Medium Format Look" exist?
If it does, what constitutes it? What are the specific elements that create that differentiation? If it's simply a matter of DoF, that's not a "look" because you could theoretically create design a lens to create an equal DoF on any system (this doesn't mean that they exist for practical reasons, only that it's theoretically possible). Is it the depth of color? Obviously this wouldn't translate to an 8-bit JPEG on the web, but then one has to wonder how much this actually matters given where the vast majority of photos will end up. Is it the resolution? There are 50-megapixel medium format cameras, but there are 45+ megapixel full frame cameras, too so how much of a difference is there between the two?

People talk about the "medium format look" all day, but when you ask someone to actually define it, it seems that nobody can describe or quantify it. One cannot help but be suspicious in such a circumstance. Photography is physics and physics suggests that there's no "look" that could be attributed to a sensor size. There are certainly capabilities such as low light performance that are afforded to larger sensor sizes outputting the same resolution, but there is no specific aesthetic quality that can't be compensated for to produce similar results on a smaller sensor. In practice, this obviously fails because regardless of the format, we more or less have the same aperture limits such as f/1.4 for primes or f/2.8 for zooms and we all know that f/1.4 on an APS-C sensor is not equivalent to f/1.4 on a full frame sensor as far as DoF is concerned. So maybe the "Medium Format Look" is just a function of the available optics rather than the sensor size.

Gordon Cahill's picture

With regard to the physics involved, as far as I'm aware it has to do with the longer lens required to get the same angle of view when on a larger sensor and it's really only visible some of the time and when the format is pushed closer to its limits.

I have systems from m43, APSC, 35mm and minMF. Yes, I see a difference, sometimes. There's a subtle difference how DoF fall off with the larger sensor. Some of this is due to lens design but not all. However..... Each of the modern sensor sizes is only a relatively small increase from the previous one. Up to a stop but not much more (1.2 stops for APSC to 35mm). At these changes it's hard to see the subtle differences because they're often tiny. Easier to see when jumping from m43 to 35mm or APSC to miniMF. That doesn't mean they're not there if you recognise them.

In the film days the differences were much much larger, in general. We had in between formats (127 etc) but mostly 35mm, 120/220 roll film, 5x4 and 10x8. Big differences and the effect was obvious. A 50mm in 135 format is close to an 80mm in 6x6 and about 320mm on a 10x8 camera. You see that, even at smaller sizes. miniMF standard is 63mm compared to a 50mm in 135 format. A much smaller difference with much smaller differences in the look.

Just because it's subtle doesn't mean it's not there. But I've been shooting up to 4x5 for the last 30 years so it seems obvious to me. I do understand when someone who's looking at a 44x33mm sensor as a large imager wouldn't see the differences.

michaeljin's picture

In the film days it was clear as night and day partly because we didn't even have the concept of speed boosters (however imperfect they are) and partly because the negative size from something like a Mamiya RB67 completely dwarfed any 35mm film. Also, film had much more limited resolution so unless you were shooting 50 ISO film or something on 35mm, you'd run into grain pretty quickly as you enlarged it whereas the film grain was far smaller in relation to the details of the image with medium or large format. Obviously these things don't really apply to digital.

4x5 is much more obvious and I do think it has a "look" that goes beyond resolution which can be attributed to the unique movements capable with a 4x5 camera. For me, the coolest thing about medium format digital is the modular systems such as the Phase One. The newer handheld systems are certainly impressive, but they essentially amount to bigger full frame cameras in their use.

As to your point about the longer lenses to achieve the same field of view, it's possible that this could be the difference. I'm not so sure, but I wouldn't discount it.

I have long maintained that the MF and LF "look" was always the tonality exhibited by these formats in the film days.

Exhibit A would be any print made by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, John Sexton or any of the easily recognizable large format icons.

We would look at prints and immediately know if the photographer was using larger formats by the smooth tonalities that only a fine grained film could make. Even the virtually grainless tech pan films in 35mm could not duplicate this look.
It was never , ever the DOF.

Hans Rosemond's picture

These are all really interesting points and it's got me thinking. I'm going to do a shoot and compare. With real medium format. Maybe do a survey of sorts. The wheels are turning.

As the vast bulk of image end up on the web and as the vast bulk of amateurs never even print their work, it is valid.
The outrage is the evidence of defensiveness by hobbyists over their purchases and prejudices.

Gordon Cahill's picture

I'm not a hobbyist. And as someone who has cameras in m43, APSC, 35mm and miniMF I have no prejudice toward any system. Sure the vast amount of people who don't print might not need a larger sensor. But the test doesn't once mention that that's it's intention. If it said "a comparison of different sensors when the output is 1900px images on the web", it'd be valid. What it said was "This test is strictly to determine if images inherently different coming from different sized sensors and manufacturers." If you homogenise the images, as has been done here, you're not doing what they claim to be testing. To do that you need to test where they are different, not where they are the same.

Kind of like doing the same with an A73 and A7R3 and then saying there's no difference.


There are endless comparisons on the web slicing and dicing images in any manner of ways to show certain points. What is also lost here is the viewing distance of the image at any size on any media.
I have cropped a vertical image out of a 6MP file that was used at stunning quality on a billboard 60 feet wide. I have also had clients use an 1800 pixel wide image on another 40 foot wide billboard.
While it is true that differences will be evident at the pixel level what this test shows is that even if we had a crowd looking at these images printed billboard size, at the appropriate viewing distance the guesses would be just as distributed.

Simon Patterson's picture

They all look fine to me. EXIF data says they were all shot at the same time with a Canon EOS 6D, f/5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO-400 @ 50mm. I wouldn't be surprised if this was accurate...

You negated every factor that makes the various cameras' output have their distinctive looks. I like Gordon's Hyundai/Ferrari analogy.

michaeljin's picture

Oh, I LOVE this. Incoming excuses next week. 🤣

In all fairness, doing it in low light would probably make it easier.

Scott Hussey's picture

While the test may be imperfect, there is a fairly broad dynamic range here, so it isn't as horrible a test as some might think. Camera 1 seems to have retained better detail in the highlights. Other than that and some slight color rendition variations there are no discernable differences. No photo is objectively better or worse than the others.

Good job, Lee.

Korey Napier's picture

It's so hard to try and compare different sensor sizes. There are so many variables that people will scream about and and use to point out why this is completely useless. However, I still see the validation in these kinds of comparisons. I think the point it tries to illustrate is a good one. We often times split hairs about the differences in sensor size, image quality or a "look" when in reality, most of all this doesn't make an iota of difference for MOST people who are publishing their work on social media and the like. Will there be some big differences in the extreme scenarios (like shooting at ISO 12,800, pushing and pulling shadows and highlights by multiple stops)? Absolutely. Even then, things like dynamic range and ISO performance can yield negligible differences in the non-extreme cases. Shallow depth of field would probably be the biggest giveaway in normal scenarios if you were to use the fastest "portrait" lens for each system. You'd certainly be able to tell the difference between the 42.5mm 1.2 on the GH5, the 56mm 1.2 on the X-T3, the 85mm 1.2 on the Canon and the 110mm f/2 on the GFX. Even then, that's one aspect of all of this and again we would be splitting hairs between platforms (don't get me started on people who point to the ability to achieve MAXIMUM SDOF for the reason to go with XY or Z sensor size).

EL PIC's picture

FStoopers ... Blow up these images to 16x24 equivalent and then give us the test ..

Blow all of them to 20x24 or bigger (or even as-is out of camera) and then ask us.

As per the article, m4/3 is all everyone need.

Hans Rosemond's picture

To be fair, I think the medium format look thing is overblown, in digital anyway. The sensor size is smaller than the smallest "true" medium format equivalent on film, so all the benefits of a medium format sensor (tonal, resolution, color fidelity, dynamic range, etc.) have little to do with the "look." If you put a GFX shot against a 6x45 film shot, the GFX will blow away the film shot in every area except one: the medium format look. The sensor just isn't big enough for that.

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