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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Will Full-Frame D-SLRs Take Over The World?

DPP talks to several photographers who weigh in on the future of full-frame, APS-C and medium-format technology and the potential for professionals

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Pentax K-7
For some photographers, full-frame may not yet offer the benefits of medium-format sensors, but compared to film, it’s a different story.

“I consider a 21-megapixel, full-frame camera to be the equivalent of 6x9 in medium-format film,” says Stephen Matera. “When I look at a high-quality drum scan of a medium-format image at 100%, it looks kind of fuzzy. Even if it’s a sharp image to start with, the scanning process introduces fuzziness, and you know film isn’t as sharp as we always thought. When we look at a high-quality digital image zoomed in to 100%, it’s very sharp, so you can interpolate it up to increase resolution. I always figure you can just about double the resolution, and it will still look fantastic printed.”

Douglas Dubler recently used a Nikon D3X to shoot a national ad for that camera. He questions whether medium-format manufacturers can sell enough cameras to pros like him to be able to fund the research necessary to compete with Canon and Nikon—especially if one of those companies is able to innovate and remove the Bayer filter from the full-frame sensor for improved color and sharpness. That would signal Dubler’s holy grail of D-SLRs.

“When the next level of technology comes in that gives us uninterpolated color,” Dubler says, “you’re not going to need 33 megapixels. If these guys can produce a camera that uses some kind of technology for uninterpolated color, they’re going to be able to get rid of the anti-aliasing filter, which is the big problem for me in the sharpness on these D-SLRs. My prediction is that the next big jump in technology will be the death toll for this medium format. Already they’re struggling and having a difficult time. This current crop of D-SLRs is not going to put them out of business, but it’s very clearly the writing on the wall.”

Adds Dubler, “And now, just look on the horizon for this next jump in technology. The world is in a bad economic state, and money is tight. I’m a photographer. I’ve got limited funds. You come to me and say, ‘Listen, here’s this D3X coupled with this software that rocks anything else out there.”

Dubler continues, “I did a photo shoot out in California. I had the opportunity to photograph Touareg nomads from North Africa in a studio. It was a two-day shoot. The first day, I started shooting with a medium-format 33-megapixel camera and I shot some with the [Nikon] D3. That night, I looked at the files. I said ‘You know what? I got better pictures from the D3.’ I shot the rest of it just with the Nikon.”

An Uncertain Future
Whether or not the full-frame revolution is at hand, it’s hard to argue with momentum. Digital SLRs with full-frame sensors are poised to take over as the camera of choice for most pros, for most of what they do.


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