Advantages of medium format digital cameras over 35mm.

For the last two years Canon camera company has tried to slyly convince photographers that a Canon EOS 5D or EOS 1Ds Mark II was as good as a medium format camera. Kodak tried that with less subtlety: Kodak showed a medium format studio set up in their ad and their 35mm digital camera on the facing page.

Of course Kodak’s camera was no match for any medium format system, and Kodak’s pro division went belly up.

Canon is more clever but their camera is not as good as it claimed. I have a Canon EOS 5D and it lacks many professional features. When my assistants process the files for exhibits, they can tell when the shot is from a medium format back, and when a photo is from a mere 35mm camera. The images from the medium format back are better.

Plus it is a matter of professionalism: if you show up with a 35mm camera, you don’t get the same welcome as you expect when you show up with a medium format camera. If you have ever driven a Porsche or comparable car, you get treated differently than if you drive a Ford or Chevy.

Naturally I use a Canon and Nikon for normal photography. But when I want something special, then I prefer medium format or large format. My critique is not against 35mm cameras (I have used them for years), but only against the misleading advertising of Canon. Read most evaluations of Canon lenses and you get a list of their defects real quickly. In fact Gary Kerr, Fine Art Impressions, said he occasionally uses his Canon digital camera mounted onto a large format camera so he can use Schneider and Rodenstock lenses. He says they are vastly superior to the Canon lenses.

Cambo and other large format camera manufactures make special attachments so you can remove the lens of your 35mm digital camera and mount it onto the back of the large format studio camera.

Canon got complacent when medium format digital backs were only 6 or 11 megapixels. Now that Hasselblad, Leaf, Phase One, and Sinar-Jenoptic have 22 megapixels and up to 39 megapixels, this blows away Canon’s hollow claims.

With medium format digital backs you get a wide choice of options:

Today’s Hasselblad backs are updates on the traditional Imacon branded medium format backs. The following backs are available today:

CFV, 16 megapixels

CFH-39, 39 megapixels, intended to work on the H2 Hasselblad camera

CF-39, similar to the above but fits on Rollei, Contax, Mamiya, Fuji GX 680, and Horseman DigiFlex II or PrecisionWide 35.

Ixpress CFH, 22 megapixels for the Hasselblad H-series cameras; one-shot technology

 

(Imacon) Ixpress CF 132, 528; 1-shot, 4-shot, and 16-shot. This and the Sinarback are among the few remaining multi-shot medium format backs. The back is portable, but requires a tethered computer to use the 4-shot and 16-shot features. And the computer must be powerful enough to run these advanced features (implies max RAM that is possible with a Mac Titanium 17”; my former aged Mac 15” Titanium lacked both RAM and remaining disk space to handle the multi-shot features. But the 1-shot worked just fine.

Other models from Imacon are now available through the Hasselblad system: 132C, V96C, 96C, 384C, and 528C.

Where and how to learn more about medium format digital backs:

If you are trying to decide between a 35mm digital SLR and a medium format camera, FLAAR can assist in several ways: first, we have two courses on digital photography. Second, we evaluate camera stores with as much bluntness as we review cameras and printers. If you are buying a point-and-shoot camera, go to any low-bid store. But if you want to be treated like a pro, and if you prefer a camera dealer that actually uses and knows the cameras that they sell, consider Global Imaging Inc.

This is the only large-format inkjet printer company in the world, that we know of, that sells all four major brands of medium format digital backs: Hasselblad-Imacon, PhaseOne, Leaf and Sinar-Jenoptik.

If you would like to try out each different medium format back, you can rent Hasselblad-Imacon, PhaseOne, Leaf or Sinar-Jenoptik digital backs from Global Imaging Inc. This is where FLAAR gets its medium format backs. We like the company because they are also a large-format inkjet printer dealer: Epson, HP, and UV-curable flatbed printers: ColorSpan, Dilli, and Zund.

The advantage of renting a medium format camera are many: you can write off the cost as a business operation expense (not as a capital expense that has to be depreciated). Plus, you can charge the rental cost to your client as part of the expense of the photo shoot.

Most busy pro photographers don’t buy their cameras, they rent them when needed. Call today and the camera is delivered tomorrow. That’s how we got our Phase One. It arrived as we were walking out the door to catch our flight to Guatemala, Central America (where we do most of our testing of digital cameras). Their telephone # for information is 800 787-9802. An additional number is 800 787-9801.

 

First posted June 15, 2006.

 

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