With all the hoopla that has been the release of the Nikon D3s and the Canon 1D Mark 4, many have overlooked an important segment of the industry, Medium Format Digital. In a time that sees the struggle of our industry bringing camera sales to a slow grind, the MF Digital sector is being hit the hardest of all.
Although I prefer shooting a Nikon body for ad work, I sometimes have to work off the client’s wishes of a specific body or native file size that can only be achieved with Medium Format. Personally I find these setups rather cumbersome and more of a compromise in efficiency than an ultimate solution, but they have their place in the industry for a reason. For a bit I owned my own my owned MF Digital systems and lugged them around everywhere I went until I found myself on set one day shooting more with a 35mm body (that I had for quick grabs) than the MF body around my neck. From that point on the decision to rent was made and I am grateful, for the lifespan of a MF back and body are like that of a new computer (months before a newer/better one is out), and feeling like you are working with obsolete gear in this industry is a handicap in itself.
Enough rambling aside…
Both Hasselblad and Phase One recently announced new equipment aiming at tackling issues all photographers have with MF cameras…. AF. Whereas their 35mm brothers has 50 or so AF points, Phase bodies have only 3, and Hassy only 1. However, 3 is a huge step up from the 1 that Phase has before, and Hassy has introduced a yaw sensor that measures camera angle adjustment from a center AF re-composing. Sounds complicated, but ingenious in my opinion. Does this put them anywhere near 35mm creature comforts?, No, but it shows they understand their target market. Another great addition from Phase is a new DF lens line that has shutter in the lenses for the 645 AF body, allowing shutter syncs to go up to 1000th of a second. This is huge to me as we all know I like my lighting, and the ability to cancel out ambient on location just a little bit more is a welcome concept.
With these steps in the right direction, comes a quick note on drawbacks of the systems… While these body/backs produce huge files, seeing the range of 60MP, they still produce limited files that when photographed at 400 ISO still fall short to the 35mm bodies that are now a generation old. Not to mention the LCD on the current backs feels like that of a mid 90’s camcorder screen in it resolution and viewing angle. And last but not least, $40,000 will barely buy your into into some of these systems, and your purchase will loose value immediately, so a commitment is needed…. along with the funds.
At the end of the day, it’s still the photographer that makes the image, not the camera. With MF bodies, there is no magical setting as some believe, it is still very easy to take bad pictures with them, only with MF, they’re really big bad pictures.