WHAT’S NEW

Camera - - CONTENTS - Paul Bur­rows, Ed­i­tor.

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.

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