Nicholas Hellmuth, FLAAR Reports, reviews Leaf AFi medium format digital camera from Rollei Franke and Heidecke with Leaf Aptus 75s.
The Leaf AFi and Sinar Hy6 are both manufactured by Franke and Heidecke, the grandsons of the founders of Rollei. Since the brand name Rollei was sold to the Japanese several years back, this brand name can’t be used any more (at least not officially). So they have to use Franke and Heidecke.
My first look at the Leaf AFi and Sinar Hy6 was at Photokina 2006. It was very confusing as to what Rollei (Franke and Heidecke) were doing, since the Rollei 6008 AF had been coupled with the Phase One. But since the money is coming from Jenoptic, and not from “Rollei”, there is no camera body for Phase One. Jenoptic is the owner of Sinar (though that is also confusing with Leica being in the middle for a while).
Jenoptik, as the source of the funding for the Leaf AFi and Sinar Hy6, so far is providing their camera only to Leaf and Sinar.
But it is easy enough to use a Phase One back on any old Contex, Hasselblad V-series, Rollei 6008 AF, or Hasselblad H1.
I then visited the Leaf headquarters in Israel and spent a day seeing their EverSmart Supreme scanners and the manufacturing of the Leaf Aptus 75s, Leaf Aptus 65s, and Leaf Aptus 54s. Very impressive.
I have been to Israel now three times this year: to inspect Objet Geometries 3D rapid prototypers, NUR Tempo Q UV flatbed printers, NUR Expedio Inspiration UV printers, NUR Expedio 5000 Revolution roll-to-roll UV printers, Kata Bags, Bordeaux ink, and to test medium format digital cameras (I had a Phase One P25 with me, since so far do not have any Leaf Aptus camera back).
Comparing the Leaf AFi and the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
Every Canon sales rep, every Canon conference, and many Canon PR releases make it clear they wish to take over sales of medium format cameras with their Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with 20 megapixels.
There are substantial as well as subtle differences between a Leaf Aptus 54s and aCanon EOS 1Ds Mark III but if the review is by a Canon partisan it is too slanted to Canon, and if by a Leaf partisan naturally they will not be impressed by the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III.
This is why an independent review by FLAAR will be helpful. Since a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III is not yet available, we are testing and evaluating medium format digital backs in the meantime. Next in the schedule is a Phase One P25+ which should arrive in two weeks.
If you shop by compare prices, that is not the way to buy a serious camera. Comparing prices will result in the cheapest camera, not the best camera system.
The advantages of the Leaf AFi and Sinar Hy6 over the Hasselblad H3DII
The Hasselblad H1 was designed during a downward spiral of medium format. The original team is probably no longer around; besides, the camera is manufactured by Fuji in Japan, as are the lenses. These are not Zeiss lenses.
The Leaf AFi and Sinar Hy6 can use a wider range of lenses, made in Germany.
If a Hasselblad H3DII landed in my Christmas stocking or under the Christmas tree I would test, evaluate, and review it thoroughly. But the Leaf AFi and Sinar Hy6 have so many advantages because they are made from scratch as totally digital for the new generation digital backs of today and tomorrow.
Sinar and Leaf have much more experience with digital photography and software than Hasselblad and Fuji did. Indeed Fuji’s own medium format sensor was a complete bummer (it was announced with great hype but never appeared because it did not function adequately). And Fuji 35mm digital cameras have to fake double the pixel size to complete with even Nikon, and are no competition to the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with 20 megapixels.
Evaluating medium format cameras is always a challenge to obtain access to the equipment, but at least we now have access to all Phase One backs, one model after the other. So we can continue to gain experience with Phase One. When Leaf AFi and a Leaf Aptus back are available, we have a head start due to our background.
Our background is in medium format cameras for architecture, medium format digital cameras for fine art photography, and medium format cameras for digitizing paintings for giclee.
First posted Nov 19, 2007.
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