Why is the Mamiya ZD 22-megapixel medium format digital camera still not ready to ship?

The Mamiya ZD 22-megapixel camera is a real first for Mamiya, and beats Pentax’s 645 by a year. It has been tantalizing to see the unfinished Mamiya ZD prototype at Photokina, PhotoPlus, and PMA, and never to know when, or if, it would be finished.

Look what happened to the vaporware of the Fuji 20-megapixel chip at Photokina 2000, and the Foveon chip went from bang to bust rather quickly. The Foveon was a great idea but who needs it nowadays? I enjoyed test-driving the Sigma SD9 in Malta for a month; good experience, but I would rather have a medium format or Nikon D-200 any day.

The Mamiya ZD uses a 22-megapixel CCD sensor from DALSA. The Pentax 645 will use an 18.6 megapixel Kodak CCD.

The impact of the Mamiya ZD (if it works) will primarily be its competition to lower prices against other brands of backs. If a 22-megapixel back costs $27,000 (or the newer larger backs that cost over $30,000), and if the Mamiya ZD entire camera costs less than $14,000, it ought to become popular (as long as it has no glitches such as the Contax Digital N, the infamous Kodak 14n, or even the Kodak SLR/c or SLR/n (not as bad as the 14n, but too flawed for most pros; I have used both; great images, but has serious downsides for a daily companion).

It will be interesting to see the politics of Mamiya America Corporation which sells both Leaf backs and Mamiya 645AFD cameras. Sales of the Mamiya ZD may eat substantially into sales of the Leaf. But… so far, a year after it was announced, and a year after it was set to ship, still no Mamiya ZD in the USA.

Worse, no Mamiya ZD is available to evaluate or review. If they made a Mamiya ZD available to evaluate at least I would believe it really existed and that it functioned.

Additional options to consider

Although we currently use our older Hasselblad ELX bodies to test the new medium format digital backs, if you are considering buying a new medium format camera, remember that Bronica is long gone, as is Contax. Neither reacted fast enough to rapidly evolving digital reality. The last independent medium format digital camera manufacturer is Rollei, now regrouped as Franke & Heidecke in Germany. The Rollei family of cameras is technologically sophisticated. The Rollei 6008 AF is one of the best medium format cameras ever designed and manufactured.

We can’t say anything about the Mamiya ZD since we have not seen one or handled one. But we have seen the Rollei 6008 AF; just had one in my hand a few days ago. I would classify this as the most solid and well thought out medium format designs that has come from traditional European workmanship in the German tradition.

Compare prices; is it best to buy by lowest price comparison?

Your best deal is to buy from a respectable camera dealer who can provide tips and assistance. Buying from a box-pusher, gray market, and other dubious outlets are not advisable.

But since the Mamiya ZD is not available yet in the US, one wonders whether Mamiya will last long enough to produce it. We hope so, since MAC is a good distributor in the US.

Most recently updated July 20, 2006.
First posted February 28, 2006.