Why the GF50mm F3.5 is such an important release.

Why the GF50mm F3.5 is such an important release.

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.

 2019 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.   

Hasselblad celebrates the moon landing with the Special Edition 907X

Hasselblad celebrates the moon landing with the Special Edition 907X

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. 

2019 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond

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.

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The new CFV II 50C and 907X are a brilliant idea and a massive opportunity

The new CFV II 50C and 907X are a brilliant idea and a massive opportunity

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. 

 

2019 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.

Photographing Chernobyl

Photographing Chernobyl

I remember well the days following the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. I was at school and each of us received a dose of iodine…three days after the disaster. Back then in the communist area, the news about the disaster was kept secret in the first crucial hours and days of this cataclysm. Only when some Scandinavian countries started to register unusually high readings of radiation in the atmosphere, the news started to spread. 

Even today 33 years later, the impact of this largest nuclear disaster in the history is unprecedented. The site of the disaster and the surrounding area, called the Chernobyl exclusion area, is now closed to the public. The city of Pripyat, which is located just 3km from the nuclear reactor is now mostly a ghost town, as the entire population was evacuated leaving everything behind. 

Michael Zahra visited Pripyat with his medium format Pentax 645z and captured truly stunning imagery. You will find his entire story from this remarkable trip, including preparations, in the February edition of the Medium Format Magazine. Here is an excerpt from this article. 

© Michael Zahra
© Michael Zahra

We decided on August. After finding an appropriate guide and completing the government paperwork, my flights were booked – Toronto to Warsaw to Kiev. Gear preparation was next on the agenda.

My local guide, Nikolai Fomin (gamma-travel.com), would have a Geiger counter, but I thought it would be interesting to bring my own. I’m an engineer, we’re like that. I found a nice, small, inexpensive one on Amazon. The background radiation in the general area is quite moderate, lower than what you experience on an airplane flight or an MRI, and the so-called “hot spots” are well documented, hence the need to have an experienced guide. I decided on a disposable 3M hazmat suit and disposable booties and medical gloves. The beta radiation would penetrate those materials, but it made cleaning off dust at day’s end a non-issue. A medical-grade face mask was an absolute must. Dusting off mildly radioactive beta particle dust from one’s clothes wasn’t going to be a problem but inhaling radioactive dust and having that radiation in your lungs permanently was a no-no. I decided I wouldn’t protect my 645z and would just use compressed air and disposable cloths at the end of each day for clean-up, a true test of how the hardware would hold up!

© Michael Zahra
© Michael Zahra

I brought my Pentax 645z, an abundance of Lexar SD 64GB memory cards, a Hyperdrive backup drive, and my Pentax 28-45mm, 80-160mm and 90mm macro lenses. My favourite is the 90mm and it turned out I would use it a lot. I would bring my carbon fibre Really Right Stuff tripod and ball head. There was going to be a lot of heavy gear to manage. I didn’t need a flash. I wouldn’t need any grad filters, but I brought my assortment of Lee Filter ND filters and a polarizer. And of course, my iPhone for those mandatory Instagram and Facebook selfies.

The plan was for a full four days of shooting in Chernobyl and Pripyat while staying in a very utilitarian, Soviet-era hotel within the controlled perimeter. Belarus, not far from Chernobyl, had some interesting abandoned sites related to the incident, but the focus was Chernobyl: the epitome of urbex photography, in my mind. 

© Michael Zahra
© Michael Zahra

There were a few key things to shoot in Pripyat / Chernobyl: the amusement park, hospital and nursery, vehicle graveyard, Duga radar array and related buildings, the Jupiter Factory, school and kindergarten, music school, community sports center and pool, cooling towers and various other buildings and equipment sites. We left the sequence to Nikolai to decide. He was very experienced with the sites and what photographers want. One can’t actually go inside the damaged reactors. They are major radiation hot-spots and crews were working on the replacement metal sarcophagus. You could see the action as we drove by each day. The hospital was a major radiation hot-spot with residue left over from first-responders being treated there some thirty years ago. We would leave that until the end as we would have to suit-up for that site. Most things were indoors, so any rain wouldn’t be a major factor.

© Michael Zahra
© Michael Zahra
© Michael Zahra

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9 Frames by Patrick La Roque

9 Frames by Patrick La Roque

The Medium Format Magazine is not the only publication available to our members. We also publish the PDF Exclusives – high-quality, in-house designed educational and inspirational pieces on a variety of subjects related to medium format film and digital photography. Our subscribers have already downloaded and enjoyed a number of such exclusive publications. Vincent Lions authored one about still life photography and Lloyd Chambers about the technical aspects of shooting digital medium format. The latest production was from Patrick La Roque – the master storyteller and visual virtuoso. In his “9 Frames – On Being Moved and Why” Patrick deciphers nine images and shares his mechanics of seeing and capturing them. It is a revealing and fascinating read. Here is one of the images with accompanying text by Patrick La Roque.

 

A few leaves in a simple space

© Patrick La Roque

For years, I’ve worked with an architecture and design firm that creates stunning spaces. I have a shed load of images from these projects that I’m extremely proud of and could have included here. But I keep coming back to this rather muted image. When I shoot spaces I’m always looking for small vignettes that tell a story beyond any grandeur. Sure, I’ll capture the spectacular super wide frames as part of the job, but I also try to find innocuous views, the kind you’d vaguely notice from a bed or a sofa while reading a book on a lazy afternoon. Because these, to me, feel like life as opposed to stagecraft. And this is one such image: I love the light, the angles, the tones and the leaves on the outside porch. It seems unintentional and real.

A small aside about general technique: 99% of my interior work is shot in available light as in whatever-light-is-part-of-the-space, natural or otherwise. In high-end designs, lighting isn’t random: every lamp, spot and window is intentional. Capturing this intent is something I consider important because it’s part of the initial vision. The trick is to remember that timeis also part of our gear because with a still subject and a tripod, the camera shutter can remain open for as long as it takes. So I keep my ISO low and set the camera to aperture-priority, turning the exposure compensation dial until I get an exposure that provides the look I’m trying to achieve. I use the built-in timer to delay the shutter (to avoid any sort of shake) and click away.

Unless we want to re-lighta space, there’s no need to overcomplicate matters in this type of situation. I do bring a small flash with me just in case and I’ve used it to create different moods. But as I said, this is the exception rather than the rule.

 


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