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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

Is That A Camera, Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Self-promotion is crucial to a photographer's business. Medium-format cameras simply look more impressive to the average client, and they carry lots of cache. In the competitive world of professional photography, when it comes to impressing a client, every little bit helps. There's something inherently more dramatic about a photographer with an exotic-looking, medium-format camera than someone shooting with a camera that, although it may be very professional and very expensive, looks an awful lot like the average SLR.

“As a pro, some tend to want to put on a show,” says Veronsky. “The bigger camera is more impressive-looking and has been a very popular format for my peers for a long, long time. I don't feel entirely comfortable shooting with something that looks like a photojournalist camera in situations where I've mainly shot 6x7 in the past. I don't know if clients are comfortable either.”

That's one of the simplest reasons why so many photographers stick with medium format: it's the way it always has been. For professionals, repeatability is everything. You can't just hope for a good shot; it's your job. That's why pros are drawn to the highest-quality gear and consistent shooting techniques. That same medium-format quality they have known for decades is still there, but now it's digital.

“At this point, it's ‘traditional' to use medium format for the ‘important' work,” says photographer Howard Schatz. “I've been using and really like the Hasselblad H1 and the Leaf 22 digital back. But I use the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II for my underwater work and am pleased with the results. As I live with and learn more about the images from each, I'll have a better feel for what each can do.”

Like Howard Schatz, most pros don't ignore the wonders of the digital SLR. Instead, we rely on 35mm digital cameras when portability is essential, while relying on a tethered digital back in the friendly confines of the studio. That may be the biggest change in digital medium format over the next few years—all-digital cameras that don't require tethers or computers as an integral part of the shooting process.



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