For years medium format cameras were confined to studio spaces with occasional excursions to theme-rich locations. Medium format was a persona non grata in street or travel photography due mostly to its size and slow operation. The problem was partially solved with the release of the original Hasselblad X1D, which was a very portable medium format system. Indeed, the latest iteration of this camera, the X1D II 50C is a very capable, street and travel camera.
In 2018 Fujifilm released the GFX50R. With its rangefinder-style design, the camera could finally be taken out and used on the street. The only missing part was a small, pancake lens which would make the system extremely portable and light. With the release of the GF50mm F3.5 lens R LM WR, Fujifilm finally offered a whole street and travel photography package.
The lens weighs only 11.82oz or as Fujifilm describes it: “less than a can of your favourite soft drink.” So together with the GFX50R, which weights 27.3oz (with one battery and card) it gives you a total of 39.12oz or just above 1kg – not bad at all for an entire medium format system!
Given that this new lens is weather-sealed, the GFX50R plus the GF50 F3.5 R LM WR become the medium format equivalent of the X100 series.
In other words, those who like to travel light and shoot street photography can now grab this new combo and enjoy medium format quality without the usual weight and cumbersome size. Our contributors and I will be testing this lens extensively so stay tuned for our imagery and reviews.
Make sure to check out an excellent review by Jonas Rask here and a great video by Patrick La Roque here.
Fifty years ago, on July 20th at 20:17 UTC American commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong was equipped with a silver Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) paired with a Zeiss Biogon 60mm F/5.6 lens and 70mm film magazine. The second camera, with a Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 lens, was used to shoot from inside the Eagle module. Michael Collins had the third machine onboard the command module Columbia in lunar orbit. Due to stringent weight requirements, only Michael Collins’ camera returned to earth.
In New York, Medium Format Magazine recently participated in the special event announcing the brand-new modular system comprised of the 907X digital camera and CFV II 50C digital back. The special black edition of those units is the beginning of a major launch of this innovative system rooted in the rich history of the brand.
Key features of the 907X Special Edition include:
Large medium format 50MP CMOS sensor
Up to 14 stops of dynamic range
Captures 16-bit RAW images and full resolution JPEGs
High-resolution 3.0-inch 920K dot touch and tilt screen
Smooth live-view experience with a high frame rate of 60fps
Focus peaking, enabling more accurate focusing (especially advantageous on the manual-focused V System cameras)
Intuitive user interface with swipe and pinch touch controls
Internal battery slot with the option to recharge in-camera via the USB-C port (same battery used on the X System)
Dual UHS-II SD card slots
Integrated Wi-Fi and USB-C connection
Portable workflow with Phocus Mobile 2 support
One of the most important pieces of information for medium format photographers is the price of this special edition release. The 907X Special Edition is $7,499 or €6,500. Why is it important? Given the special edition version of the camera, we can assume that the regular version, which will be released later, could be priced even more attractively introducing the Hasselblad system to a new generation of photographers and enthusiasts. We will be covering the system as it becomes available for testing.
Hasselblad provides a link where you can download the images taken on the lunar surface with the HDC and read the original 1969 press release. You can check it out here.
Also, for those of you who would like to learn more about the history of Hasselblad, make sure to check out Take Kayo’s article, “The Ingenuity and Serendipity of the Hasselblad V-System,” in the July issue of the Medium Format Magazine. Take Kayo guides us through the history of Hasselblad’s camera development which will impress you and help you to appreciate the latest announcements from this iconic brand.
An excerpt from the PDF Exclusive “20 Stories” by Ming Thein.
I am used to having two kinds of clients: the first type wants things that have already been done before. They don’t want to take risks because previous photographers might have over-promised and under-delivered, or they lack the imagination to see something that hasn’t been done before. Or they simply are unwilling to pay for creativity over duplication. These are the kind of shoots that never go into your portfolio because it’s not the kind of work you want to be known for, but we pros have to do them because they put food on the table and keep us in business, hopefully long enough to get the chance to work on a project when we have full creative control and feel the pressure of our own limitations. It’s the kind of project where the client is willing to seriously consider your crazy ideas and trust in your ability to deliver them.
My introduction to Koenigsegg came through Hasselblad and DJI. I suggested to Christian (von Koenigsegg) that we combine a bit of everybody’s technology: long exposures on a moving car to show dynamism and suggest a journey; high speed flash to freeze the car to make it distinct; very large prints and expansive compositions to fully use the camera’s resolution, and then top it off with an aerial perspective by putting the H6D on DJI’s largest aircraft. Execution would be tricky as there were a lot of moving pieces to coordinate and a very small window in which ambient daylight would be sufficient to see the surroundings, but not so much as to overpower the car’s lights. It would require a long exposure and a stable aerial platform. Hon- estly, I wasn’t 100% sure we could pull it off. And there was a backup documentary shoot in the factory to detail the construction process for the times of day when ambient light wasn’t suitable for the outdoor car sequences.
In the end, the shoot only produced five images, each one requiring a couple of hours of set- up, test positioning for car, lighting and aircraft. We had to have a coordinator in touch with air traffic control and override codes from DJI HQ to allow us to fly as the Koenigsegg test track was on the edge of a live airfield. In the end I landed up triggering the lights manually with the trigger in one hand, a radio in my ear to direct the driver, and an iPad with the camera gimbal controls in the other, with the pilot next to me. The only time I’d had to multitask more inten- sively was during another automotive shoot—a TV commercial where we added a crane car and crane operator to the mix.
I always feel mentally fried at the end of these shoots but in a good kind of way when you know you’ve pushed your limits, the team’s limits, the hardware’s limits, and come out with something pretty special. I’m just grateful there are still clients like this giving us photographers the chance to keep pushing.
PDF Exclusives is a series of highly informative ebooks in which great medium format photographers share their knowledge of the craft with special emphasis on medium format. So far, we have released PDF Exclusives from Vincent Lions, Patrick La Roque , Lloyd Chambers and Ewan Dunsmuir. We have three more in the works including some about medium format film photography.The best news? These exclusive publications are included in the price of the Medium Format Magazine!
To access the full PDF Exclusive “20 Stories” by Ming Thein make sure to SUBSCRIBE NOW and get immediate access to all previous issues of the Medium Format Magazine and highly regarded PDF Exclusives. Join your fellow medium format shooters from around the world who are already enjoying their MediumFormat membership.
The news from the Hasselblad event last week left me hopeful and excited about the medium format market. Having a marketing background, I am interested in how the market is changing and how the major companies are playing their hand. I want to see their long-term allegiance to me as a customer plus a decisive, long-term game plan so I know there is a committed company standing behind the products I invest in.
Two things captured my attention at the Hasselblad event. First, Hasselblad has lowered the price of the X1D II 50C. Although there is always a danger in competing on price, I actually think this strategy is an opportunity for Hasselblad. If they play it well, it can still allow for stratification of specialized high-end gear for professionals but will bring new customers and renewed prestige to brands that remain unreachable for most consumers. Leica is a great example. They aren’t selling $999 intro cameras, but at $4-6K the market is opening up enough to feel achievable someday compared with a $40K Hasselblad or Phase One. (Note: after writing this I saw that Leica has just announced an intro rangefinder at sub 4K!)
The second thing that excited me was the deep connection to Hasselblad history and the brilliant play on nostalgia! Hasselblad has the opportunity to use their reputation for high-end cameras (they have had 100+ MP for years!), and if they can build an on-ramp into their ecosystem for younger professionals who will build their career on that system, then I think they stand to win long term. Basically, they should play the Fuji game plan in reverse, they have the high end market chops already. Fuji has been smart at making new cameras look retro and focusing on the “feel” of the camera and the “feeling” of shooting with it. They made the rangefinder cool again with the medium format 50R.
I think Leica may be the only company with an equal or greater claim to nostalgia than Hasselblad so they should use it the way Leica does! When I was young and saw a photographer walking around or shooting in the studio with a V-series Hasselblad it was the epitome of cool, or as cool as we photographers can be! The beautiful chrome lines, the sound of the viewfinder popping open and the commanding plop of the shutter…for me, it’s a visceral and romantic feeling working with those cameras. And you knew if someone had that camera, they were serious and committed, and had an aura of creativity and fresh visual thinking. So there is no question in my mind that the idea of the new modular retro system is a great one, of course, if Hasselblad delivers on its promises. Just imagine seeing those cameras with a new generation of photographers, looking down into their finders exploring the world in that way, or carrying the recognizable black and chrome digital body and lenses to travel lighter. The entire Instagram would blow up with photos of digital creatives looking down their viewfinder—a marketing hallmark on its own. If they priced it in the range of the current, entry-level medium format offerings like the GFX50R I would buy it myself, buy a couple of lenses over the next couple of years, and then I would be all in. And when I upgraded next time, I would have used the Phocus software, and it’s not such a leap! I would be a customer for life.
Did I mention I could use all of my older V-series gear and body, which gives me so many creative options?
If on the other hand, their target market is the retired “bon vivant” in their video, he may buy it but we will never see it on the street, and he will keep it with his other expensive cameras until he puts it on eBay in 10 years’ time as a retro camera. At that point, in my opinion, Hasselblad will have missed the opportunity to remind a new generation of what it meant and what it felt like to shoot with a Hasselblad.
I’m not ignoring the X1D II 50C, and I think it seems like a robust camera from the first tests with the pre-production model, but I don’t think it’s an emotional and compelling purchase-driver like the CFV II 50C AND 907X. Instead, it’s a stylish option in the ecosystem and a balance for those who like the nostalgia the brand is creating but want a more contemporary package or traditional feature set. My point here is that they don’t need another good camera because they have that! Hasselblad needs to create a compelling reason to buy and an entry point to the Hasselblad system, and personally, I don’t think the X1D II 50C can do the work alone even with the new pricing structure. But the new CFV II 50C and 907X can do it big time! Although this introduction may not be overly profitable initially it would certainly bring a new wave of customers who, with time, will keep upgrading and buying more and more expensive products. That is priceless.
After years of working on the GFX system, it appears that medium format photography is reaching a wider audience. With this awareness of the power of this larger format, what do you think is the future for the medium format mirrorless?
In the last two years we feel the GFX system has widened the market. The new GFX100 brings a new era GFX with IBIS, PDAF, large format 4K/30p with 100M sensor. So we hope and expect 100M is more popular as one of highest resolution level cameras. It reaches a wider audience.
The design of the GFX100 is very different from the GFX50S or GFX50R. Notably, most dials have disappeared from the top plate. Did the same team that worked on the GFX50S and GFX50R work on the new GFX100? What was the reasoning behind the changes?
It’s the same team. We have two reasons behind the changes:
Minimizing the body size and weight with IBIS, Shutter, and two batteries.
For the professional scene we know the need to change still and movie more quickly in the studio or in any environment. Dials sometime limit the quick change.
There are lots of NEW in this medium format camera: the worldʼs first in-body image stabilization in any medium format camera, first on-board Phase Detection Hybrid AF and first 4K/30p video. Why was it important for the Fujifilm team to implement these solutions in medium format?
Old medium format cameras had limited use in the photographic market with high image quality. But now we have many new technologies to produce mirrorless system cameras with the experience of the X-series. Then we tried to produce the best performance digital large format camera for still and movie even compared with the 35mm format mirrorless cameras for wider use in the market.
Designing this new 100MP BSI sensor, what can you tell us about the difference between it and the previous 50MP sensor other than just megapixels? How will this sensor differ from the competition?
BSI structure has two big benefits in both quality and speed.
BSI photodiode can receive light with even more oblique light incidence. It will be better especially at corner quality with fast aperture.
BSI supports backside wiring; the new copper wiring at the back will support fast reading out from sensor of 100M pixels signal or 4K/30p video signal.
Was it so difficult to implement IBIS along with a larger sensor? Was there a need to design a new co-processor to work with IBIS, or is it basically the same one used in the X-H1? Is it basically the same core system as the X-H1 that has been made larger for medium format, including a shutter dampening system?
The basic system is almost the same especially in terms of the detection of vibration. But because of sensor size and weight, stabilization torque and distance are definitely harder to adjust and manage with more power. Even the shutter dampening system focal plane shutter is totally different for motion and shock. We spent a long time optimizing every system just for the GFX100.
Is it safe to assume you are using the X-Processor IV in the new GFX100, especially to handle the improved AF and video features? Are there any other performance enhancements that this processor can offer the GFX100that is not possible on the X- T3/X-T30 due to sensor size/megapixel limits? For instance, 16bit colour depth for the image files: is this due to the more powerful processor along with the new BSI sensor?
About the “X-Processor IV” — originally, we had started to develop both X and GFX systems. Both systems can bring out 100% performance anyway. And for GFX the number of pixels is totally different from the X-series. So if the same scenes were taken by both systems the level of pixels will be different. One pixel for X is 4 pixels for GFX100. But our processor will process them with optimizing image quality.
Even though pixel shift is not available at launch, can we expect this feature to be added by a software update in the future? In addition, will there be any other new computational photography features?
It will depend on demand. But we can’t say anything now even about other features.
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