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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Next-Generation Medium-Format Cameras And Backs

The reports of the death of medium format in a digital age seem to have been greatly exaggerated

Clearly, medium-format manufacturers are banking on the fact that the pros have high standards for their equipment and that medium format has set the standard for generations. So it's likely that these cameras represent only the first generation in what will be a long line of integrated all-digital, medium-format systems.

Hasselblad H1D Hasselblad H1D

The first all-digital, medium-format camera on the scene was the Hasselblad H1D, announced in September 2004. Built on the fully automatic Hasselblad H1, the H1D incorporates an Imacon digital back to complete the all-digital offering, yet utilizes all Hasselblad HC lenses (as well as V-system lenses with an optional adapter) to allow photographers a seamless merger with existing equipment.

With its 22-megapixel sensor, the H1D produces a digital image file far larger than any 35mm digital SLR. Such big files would fill up typical removable media quite quickly or require a tether to allow for continuous shooting. The H1D uses a 40 GB Image Bank to allow for portable shooting and storage of up to 850 images. Like a flash battery pack, the Image Bank clips onto the photographer's belt to become a portable hard drive capturing every image as it's shot.

Sensor Size: 22 megapixels
Sensor Dimensions: 36.7x49mm
Approx. Image File Size: 132 MB (at 16-bit)
Shooting Mode: Single Shot
Capture Rate: 2 sec.
ISO Range: 50-400
Shutter Speed: 1⁄800 to 32 sec.
Image Storage: Image Bank External HD
Storage Capacity: 850 full-resolution images
Interface: FireWire (IEEE 1394)


Pentax 645 Pentax 645 Digital

The newest offering on the all-digital, medium-format market is from Pentax. The 645 Digital was announced in March of 2005, and is anticipated for release soon. Compatible with all existing SMC Pentax 645 lenses, the 645 Digital uses a CCD sensor from Kodak capable of producing 18.6-megapixel images.

Pentax 645 At press time, very little has been finalized and made public as far as the Pentax 645 Digital's specifications. While the concept was unveiled in Tokyo in the spring, we've yet to see a prototype. In the absence of good hard information on the camera, the rumors have been flying. We expect the camera to have an 18- to 22-megapixel image sensor and most of the camera features of the film-based 645. It should be compatible with most of the same lenses as well. Look for more information from Digital Photo Pro as it becomes available.

Mamiya ZD Mamiya ZD

Mamiya's all-digital, medium-format camera is the ZD, announced at Photokina in the fall of 2004. Although the camera isn't available as of press time, it has piqued the interest of many photographers because of its unique approach to bringing digital capture to medium format.

Shaped like a beefed-up 35mm SLR, the ZD is a fully automatic, medium-format camera with an integrated 22-megapixel image sensor that captures 12-bit images. The ZD's announcement caused such commotion mainly because of its portability; not only is it shaped much like a typical 35mm professional SLR and weighs about the same, but it incorporates both CompactFlash and SD media slots so there's no tether required. At 30 to 40 MB per RAW image file, a card can fill up fast, but downloading can be done equally quickly via the camera's integrated IEEE 1394 FireWire port or by removing the media for use in a card reader while the camera continues shooting.

The ZD incorporates a standard 1.8-inch LCD screen for viewing, so it will be easy for photographers to forget that this SLR-shaped camera is actually packing a medium-format-sized sensor. The ZD utilizes all existing Mamiya 645AF lenses, so many photographers will need only a new body (and perhaps a few additional CF cards) to make the leap to all-digital, medium-format capture.

Sensor Size: 21.8 megapixels
Sensor Dimensions: 36x48mm
Approx. Image File Size: 35 MB (at 12-bit)
Shooting Mode: Single Shot
Capture Rate: 1.5 fps for 11 frames
ISO Range: 50-400
Shutter Speed: 1⁄4000 to 30 sec.
Image Storage: CompactFlash or SD card
Storage Capacity: Depends on the memory
card or external hard drive
Interface: FireWire (IEEE 1394)


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