Medium format cameras are irrelevant, aren’t they? Their numbers are dwarfed by those of full frame (35mm) cameras. And the progress of said full-frame cameras has made them even more irrelevant, until their inevitable extinction, right?
Well maybe, but maybe not. 4 recent entries into that very limited space indicate that “someone” believes this demise is not inevitable. Indeed, that it might be worth investing in what could become a growth space.
To be fair, those 4 entries do not include the heavyweights that form Canikony, or even 4 all-new cameras. Those are the latest version of the Leica S, the S3, the reincarnated version of the Hasselblad X1D into XID II, of the Fuji GFX 50S into the GFX 50R, and the novel Fuji GFX 100.
4 cameras, and 4 different approaches. With the S3, Leica MF (small MF, as sensors sizes go) gets a new, upgraded sensor. With the R version, the GFX 50 gets a smaller body and a smaller price. With the “II” moniker, the Hasselblad X1D also gets a smaller price, and improves on most of its predecessor’s weaknesses. And the GFX 100 gets colossal resolution, with a first in the MF space: IBIS.
At this stage 2 other MF players deserve a mention: Pentax, and Phase One. That they did not conveniently come out with new gear in time for this post doesn’t exactly rule them out, does it?
What do these 4 cameras tell us? Basically 2 things, and they “might” matter.
Why is that happening? Because in photography gear history, larger meant more unpleasant to use. Barnack’s genius, as he invented the 35mm format, was not in performance, it was in ease-of-use. Now, it seems the MF crowd “get the message”, and make new and highly desirable gear easier to own (lower price) and to use (basically like a bigger mirrorless).
It also creates a new class of “prosumer MF”, around 5-6k$, very much cheaper than pro-MF, at 20k$+ (think Hassy H6, Phase One). Leica being alone in offering prosumer gear at pro prices, but that is what they do in other segments as well.
Will this be successful? No-one knows yet. But, for sure, such developments are good for us gear buyers, because it means we get to have even more options than before, some at lesser-but-still-high cost.
PS: I won’t get drawn into the controversies whether a 100Mp camera is even desirable, or of performance vs quality. I know that their are strong opinions on both sides of the fence. To each his/her own.
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