Review of medium format digital photography options
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Although I prefer digital photography in 4x5 format with Better Light or PhaseOne, other studios prefer medium format digital photography with Leaf, MegaVision, EyeLike, PhaseOne, Dicomed, Color Crisp, and others on a Rollei or Hasselblad system.

Medium format companies have realized they need to offer full perspective correction possibility. Half-way solutions may have attracted photographers with limited exposure to the joys of large format cameras, but anyone who is accustomed to a real (traditional) 4x5 camera is disappointed with partial solutions such as Hasselblad's first attempt at a flexible camera.

Hasselblad first tried out the shift-lens approach, grossly overpriced at several thousand dollars (which would buy an entire 4x5 system from Wisner). Then Hasselblad tried the FlexBody, a great idea except for the fact that no medium format Zeiss lens was designed for perspective control, so the extra movement was wasted because the lens could not fill the image area after shifting the perspective.

Hasselblad took a year or so to solve this oversight with the new ArcBody. Unfortunately the ArcBody is severely hamstrung by the limited square field of 6x6 cm format and does not accept the more practical 6x7 or even better 6x9 format. So far only architectural lenses are available, albeit the high quality Rodenstock lens. If these are APO they would be especially appropriate for using a Dicomed BigShot digital back. Using any digital back with a measly 30x30 mm CCD would be a waste. I believe PhaseOne and Dicomed offer the full 6x6 cm frame. Both Dicomed and PhaseOne offer quality products. Unfortunately Dicomed went bankrupt. BetterLight took over it's technical support for the FieldPro and Studio Pro, but those are for large format; these are not the medium format BigShot.

Rollei in the meantime introduced the PCS 6000, which is basically a bellows with no attachments. Since most German companies shut down for Christmas time, I did not get an opportunity to visit. Rollei is only a few hours train trip from the FLAAR office in Halle an der Saale (near Leipzig). We moved to Essen-Werden, so at least we are still in Germany.

Overall, the evolution of the medium format "bellows camera" is a slow discovery, namely that the camera body is primarily useful merely as a holder for the film magazine (or digital attachment). There is no need to fill the camera with expensive light measurement systems since in a digital system no more light meter is needed! You see your picture immediately on the computer monitor and can correct the exposure by eye or by looking at the histogram scale.

The expensive camera body is obsolete. Bellows-cameras are the format of the future. Even Leica has a digital camera. Even Leica understood that traditional lenses did not offer enough image circle. The disadvantage of the Leica digital system is that it requires inserting a card into the computer. This means you cannot use a portable computer. Working on location is awkward unless you bring your mainfarme computer from your studio or office. For this reason we continue to prefer the Better Light portable version of the Dicomed Field Pro. It works on a Mac portable and uses a battery.

In digital photography the computer replaces both the exposure meter, the focusing part of the camera, the view finder, and completely replaces the darkroom.

Later this year FLAAR. anticipates beginning testing medium format digital photography systems, so check back in for test results. In the meantime, you can see the test results on 4x5 format. Better Light and PhaseOne are the two winners. We happen to have a Better Light system, so can best provide information on Better Light models but we have visited Phase One headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark as well as at the Phase One booth at Photokina '98 in Cologne, Germany.

Our first test results of digital camera systems is based on inspecting everything which was available at Photokina, PMA, and PhotoEast. This information is not in our web pages but instead is a convenient Adobe Acrobat PDF format download via e-mail. Just find the Inquiry Form (which is being added to this site along with the new design). As soon as we receive the Inquiry Form from you; our staff will send you the report in return.


Last edited Aug. 5, 2001.