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Some thoughts on the Status of Medium Format Cameras

November 24, 2016

It’s now been about 5 months since the public launch of Hasselblad’s entry into the mirrorless camera market with their large sensor X1D offering. Now as we are about to see the X1D finally ship it is on the heals of Fuji’s announcement for their own mirrorless medium format entry, the GFX 50S (expected in 2017) that uses basically the same Sony 50 megapixel sensor.

So what does all this mean in a market already saturated with competing camera formats, sensor sizes and lens mounts?

Are these new mirrorless medium format cameras anything more than halo products not designed to make huge profits but rather enhance the line with an aspirational product at its top?

We postulate that the case for each of these manufacturers and their somewhat similar offerings are two completely different end games.

For Hasselblad, the X1D is a lower cost camera that can open up new users to the brand while at the same time providing a very useful second camera offering to their existing client base for those times when the bulk of their current cameras is a hinderance. It could also be that the X1D is also the final nail in the coffin for Hasselblad’s attempt at extending their brand with the rebadged Sony cameras (Stellar, Lunar, HV and Solar) from several years ago.

We believe that if Hasselblad can build the X1D fast enough to satisfy demand while at the same time create a brand worthy platform that grows quickly with lenses and accessories they will have a real winner on their hands. The sales volumes could easily eclipse their main line and help drive down the cost of sensors across the complete medium format market.

Now the case with Fuji is completely different.

The Fuji GFX 50S will be sitting at the top of their line vs the bottom for Hasselblad X1D. So the basic premiss would be that Fuji is looking for an aspirational product to sit on the top shelf and help create that rising tide that lifts all boats.

However for Fuji they have skipped a step in the conventional digital halo market game – they skipped full frame 35mm all together!

Now this is where the game really changes for them. Will they be able to steal market from the other medium format players with what most likely will be a very cost effective system? Again, if the price is right, will the amateur/enthusiast market that has always dreamed of shooting digital medium format finally stampede to this new format?

And remember, with all the medium format players in the market using these Sony sensors perhaps we could see sensor prices really come down such that within a year or so mirrorless medium format could be very close in price to the Canon and Nikon 2nd rung full frame DSLR’s.

If this was to happen then maybe we could finally start to see even larger sized medium format sensors systems (like true 645, 6x6, 6x7 and maybe even the elusive 6x17) come to market at less than car like prices.

And finally this is where the whole discussion comes full circle - we would have a lot of delighted clients if Fuji could finally create a digital 6x17 camera like they used to back in the film days? Success for both Hasselblad and Fuji in these new ventures in medium format may just help bring this dream to the digital age.

So how many more years will we have to wait for an 8x10 inch sensor?

We hope all of these things come as we have been waiting way too long for sensor sizes to catch up with the classic film sizes of yesterday.

Where will it stop?

Remember there was even an instant film 20x24 inch format. Will we see a sensor in this size before mankind lands on Mars? We hope so.