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Monday, June 23, 2008

The Fall And Rise Of Medium Format

New technology, a commitment to developing the very best image quality possible and a thriving rental market all have contributed to a renaissance in the digital medium-format category



“There are incremental improvements to this new incarnation, but we also put a lot of thought into the ergonomics and usability of the camera,” adds Christiansen, “a larger more comfortable grip and buttons placed in different areas because these things matter in everyday shooting situations.” Not surprisingly, improved internal electronic communication with Phase One backs also has been developed, plus the aforementioned ability to use Leaf backs.

“This continues the Leaf philosophy of offering a completely open platform of backs for a number of different companies,” says Leaf America's Rezzonico of his company's place in the medium-format market. “In addition to the new Mamiya body, there's still a high number of Hasselblad H systems in use, plus over 50 years of Hasselblad cameras still in rotation. But our own new integrated system is something that nobody else in this category can offer.”

As this issue went to press, new pricing wasn't available for the Mamiya 645AFDIII.

Leaf AFi & Sinar Hy6
The camera to which Rezzonico refers is jointly marketed by Leaf and Sinar—the first 6x6 medium-format digital camera. Developed in collaboration with Jenoptik and its manufacturing partner Franke & Heidecke (manufacturer of the Rollei MF cameras), it will be marketed by Leaf as the AFi and by Sinar as the Hy6 (Hy for Hybrid). While each manufacturer possesses different camera firmware, imaging software, digital backs and power units, the cameras are basically the same with different company backs.

“The main difference is that our back is integrated into the camera, so one battery in the handgrip also powers the back,” explains Rezzonico. “Sinar's Hy6 requires two batteries—one for the body and the other for its own back.”

The AFi and Hy6 both possess Schneider Autofocus Digital (AFD) lenses specifically designed for 30-plus-megapixel camera backs, and the camera operates in both portrait and landscape configurations—each orientation created without turning the camera, merely by twisting the camera back. Plus, the camera shoots as fast as signal processing will permit.

“All in all, one is tempted to say that we strived to create medium-format quality with D-SLR simplicity,” says Lorenz Koch, PR and Communications Manager at Sinar. “The electronically controlled between-the-lens shutter tackles every lighting situation with ease with leaf shutter speeds up to 1⁄1000 sec. Perfect sharpness is also assured through the body's fast and accurate autofocus system, plus a very low-vibration mirror reflex mechanism erases any movement during exposure.”

Adds Rezzonico, “It's really the state of the art. It's the finest focusing system available, and there's nothing else out there that's like it. The camera is truly designed for the future.”

Just as D-SLR photographers clamor for full-frame equivalents of 35mm, so should medium-format users who appreciate the wealth of possibilities with the 6x6 format. It endows visually creative thinking with a 48x36mm sensor, delivering 33.3- or 21.4-million-pixel resolution with an image ratio of 4:3 for the AFi and Hy6, respectively. It's the kind of camera that makes Rezzonico feel good about today's medium-format market.

“I think Leaf's position has never been stronger,” he says. “We've actively taken steps to control our own destiny by working with companies like Jenoptik to develop the AFi camera. We've developed new software and incorporated features that make our backs more usable, of higher quality and with enhanced functionality, offering more value to the photographer.”

 



 

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