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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What’s New In Medium-Format Digital

When nothing short of maximum resolution and image quality will suffice, medium-format digital is still at the top of the pyramid

The Phase One IQ line of medium-format backs continues to evolve. The current lineup consists of the IQ 180, 160 and 140 at 80, 60 and 40 megapixels, respectively. The IQ 180 and 160 have CCD sensors that measure 40.4x53.7mm, and the IQ 140's sensor measures 32.9x43.9mm. All three of the IQ backs shoot 16-bit files with 12.5 stops of dynamic range, and all of the backs have a 3.2-inch LCD touch screen. IQ backs are available for Phase One 645DF/AF and Mamiya 645DF/AFDIII, Hasselblad H1 and H2, Hasselblad V (555ELD, 553ELX, 503CW, 501CM) and Contax 645AF. Compatibility with the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and RB67 is via an adapter. Contact: www.phaseone.com.

Who Needs A Medium-Format Camera, Anyway?

Considering the costs involved and shooting limitations, and the fact that many pros make a fine living using DSLRs, not everyone needs medium format. For example, action shooters are far better off with DSLRs. So are photojournalists, and those who specialize in low-light photography. Shooters who need (or want) to travel light are better off with a DSLR or even a mirrorless model, and so, of course, are those on limited budgets.

Medium format is an excellent option for those for whom image quality trumps all. It's suited to pros who work at low ISOs in controlled studio light or outdoors from a sturdy tripod or shooting platform (you can shoot medium format handheld, but camera shake will negate much of the sharpness benefit; currently, there are no medium-format bodies or lenses with built-in image stabilization). Medium format also is ideal for fine-art photographers who want to make huge prints.

Who are these photographers? In a nutshell, studio photographers, product photographers and portraitists are good candidates for medium format, as are high-end landscape photographers.

Is medium format for you? The foregoing should give you an idea, but also consider the computing power necessary for medium-format file sizes. While the highest-pixel-count DSLR currently tops out at 36.3 megapixels, there are 80-megapixel medium-format digital backs—80-megapixel files are huge. Many medium-format shooters save their images directly to portable (or even not so portable) hard drives rather than memory cards. And you need a very robust computer system to handle files so big. What's perfectly adequate for 20-megapixel DSLR images may not be able to handle larger medium-format files.

Medium-format digital has its benefits and believers, but it's not the ideal system for everyone.


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