Olympus’s much-anticipated OM-D E-M1 Mark II is here (we also preview it in this issue), while Nikon has unveiled a new entry-level D-SLR, the D5600, and Leica updates its ‘APS-C’ mirrorless camera. Also from Leica is an M-mount lens finished in red – pretty, but pricey! Lexar announces a partnership with the World Rally Championship, and the annual Pink Lady Food Photographer Of The Year competition gets under way for 2017 – now open for entries.
IS THIS THE year you might start contemplating a move up to digital medium format? The reality for most enthusiast photographers is that digital medium format has simply been beyond their reach. It’s not just the high prices either. The sheer size and weight of a DMF D-SLR is a deterrent, as it places limitations just where and how these cameras can be used. Additionally, compared to any other format, the choice of lenses is often quite limited. Compared to what the same money would buy in terms of a full-35mm camera system, DMF just doesn’t make sense even if the bigger sensor is a definite attraction.
Well, all that is about to change. Digital medium format is becoming more accessible courtesy of Hasselblad’s X1D, Fujifilm’s GFX and whoever else wants to throw their hat into the mirrorless camera ring (the rumours persist that Sony is giving the category a long hard look, which makes a bit of sense since it makes the sensors). We’re still not talking cheap here, but Fujifilm is promising competitive pricing with the top-of-the-line pro-level full-35mm D-SLRs, and the ’Blad is still very attractively priced for… well, a digital ’Blad. An honourable mention should, at this point, go to Pentax’s 645Z, which has been the most affordable DMF camera on the market for a long time, but it is a reflex and the choice of digital-era lenses is still actually quite small. Both the Hasselblad and the Fujifilm systems only comprise three lenses right now, but both are promising more (the latter has already committed to another three by year’s end) and the big deal is, of course, that these are much more compact cameras via virtue of eliminating the mirror box. The X1D is a work of art design-wise and, while the GFX is a bit more conventional in its styling, you can make it more compact by detaching the EVF in the situations where it’s not needed. Both cameras are initially available in the 50 megapixel flavour, but it’s virtually guaranteed they’ll be higher-res versions down the track. That said, 50 MP really is the happy medium at this sensor size, as you’re still getting all the benefits of a bigger pixel (derived from a higher signal-to-noise ratio) without the vibration issues which make using a 100 MP camera a very different proposition.
There is, of course, a pretty long tradition of non-reflex medium format cameras, including the many fixed-lens models from Fujifilm in the 6x4.5cm, 6x7cm and 6x9cm formats. Mamiya’s later 6x6cm and 6x7cm interchangeable RF cameras are still very highly regarded, as is Bronica’s short-lived RF645 and, if you’re of a certain vintage, you may just remember the Plaubel Makina 6x7cm models with their fixed Nikkor lenses on collapsible bellows. With the lens folded away, the Makina was very compact indeed.
These cameras brought medium format film photography within reach of many more amateurs and their smaller size made them more suitable to applications such as landscape photography. In truth, the lens systems were always small and, with the Fuji/Fujica cameras, you purchased the model with the focal length that you wanted the most. The fixed lens route is still open for digital medium format and I, for one, wouldn’t be surprised if Fujifilm does a big sensor X100 sometime in the future… which would be even more affordable.
In film photography a bigger frame always had some attraction, it was just the logistics and costs that curbed the enthusiasm. The same is true with digital capture. There are performance benefits to be had from the bigger sensor, but they’ve been a luxury that’s been hard to justify even for many working photographers. Before too long it may be a case of justifying why you shouldn’t have a digital medium format camera.
Digital medium format is becoming more accessible courtesy of Hasselblad’s X1D and Fujifilm’s GFX.