Digital MF - my initial gear research

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by Iron Flatline, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Ok, here’s what my research is showing me thus far… which is hard to show easily in a table without taking a week off to compile it. Shouldn't this be DP Review's job?? It is EXTREMELY difficult to find a comparison between the various systems or backs. There are none available online in English or German. I think if I set up a side-by-side feature list and comparison I would be the first on the internet.

    I won’t even get into lenses at this point, but one important thing to notice: all of the big brands now make lenses specifically for digital sensors, and over 20 MP it becomes abundantly clear why. The sharpness digital photography requires can’t be achieved without optical optimization. Nikon and Canon are finding that out really quickly right now, and the MF crowd has been working on this for a couple of years already.

    Sinar Hy6 / Leaf AFi / Rollei Hy6
    It is a new system introduced at Photokina 2006, and gets sold under various brands. It was actually co-developed by a company called Franke & Heidecke (who own Rollei) together with Jenoptik (who own Sinar). Leaf is owned by Kodak… the Sinar sensor is made by Dalsa.

    Rollei doesn’t make a digital back, though they throw in a film back. Sinar’s eMotion series is quite different from Leaf’s Aptus backs. The biggest difference is in the User Interface. Leaf has a giant display that is controlled via a touch screen, whereas Sinar uses soft buttons around a smaller display. All these backs work untethered, and communicate directly with the camera. They have LiveView.

    The Sinar back can rotate from landscape to portrait orientation (with an adapter). Also, the Sinar uses DNG files, which I like, they’re great in Adobe. And finally, the Sinar back seems able to move between cameras and systems the most easily.

    However, the Leaf seems to have the most sophisticated UI, meaning the touchscreen offers the most LCD to look at, and a deep menu system that is relatively intuitive.

    For additional geekiness (some of which is actually highly relevant) here is a thread from the LL MF Forums:

    The official Sinar site:

    The official Rollei site:

    The official Leaf site:

    A slick presentation of the Leaf AFi:

    A nice video on the Leaf site:

    There’s lots of Hasselblad vs. Sinar thoughts on the Net, here’s an interesting one:

    I’ve not paid too much attention to Hasselblad. Their modern H system is currently a closed platform, and the older V / 503 system is simply not prepared for high-end digital. The new lenses don’t mount to the old V cameras, although Hasselblad lenses are considered excellent to begin with. The backs can’t communicate directly with the camera, and there is no auto-focus. I’d rather do that kind of “hand-made” photography with a nice technical or view camera and sliding Ground Glass adapter like an Alpa, Horseman, or one of the new Sinars, should I figure out a way to go that far. I prefer to keep some automation in my regular dMF workflow.

    The Hasselblad corporate site:

    …and if I change my mind, there are Sinar to Hassy V adapters.

    …and if I want a film back, there are some available from Rollei for the Hy6 system.

    Phase One / Mamiya
    Phase and Mamiya have co-ventured on a new camera. The cameras are identical, except for the logo, and they play well with P1 backs. I’m not a fan of Capture One, and prefer working with Adobe Raw Converter for my workflow, but I haven’t tried a recent version of C1.

    It seems to be a relatively compact system, but their lenses are beefy. One thing the P1 backs do well is long exposure, which considering I want to work at night is not something to sniff at lightly. I don’t know much about the Mamiya backs.

    The new Phase One camera:

    …and here’s the Mamiya site:

    I have to admit the P1 backs are highly regarded and well thought out, so they warrant closer inspection. The camera itself seems less interesting to me – no waist-level viewfinder, for instance. Not sure how often I’m going to need that feature, though…

    Like the old Hassy 500 V series, Mamiya has their RZ line, which can also be digiback mounted. But it doesn’t make sense for me to spend a fortune on a new back and then hang it on an older camera… but it’s nice to know that the option exists.

    Anyway, I hope to rent as much of this gear over the summer as is reasonable and affordable before veering into diminishing returns. The acquisition of such a system is extremely expensive, but I have a feeling which way I want to go, and the rental places will only credit a limited amount to the ultimate purchase price. Heck, most of this stuff isn't even rentable from one business, I'd have to go to several.

    Please, those of you with knowledge of these systems, please add or correct this thread.


  2. Tyjax

    Tyjax TPF Noob!

    Jul 23, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Akron, OH
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit

    Sir I really must thank you for sharing this investment of your time. Just so you know it is now printed and filed in my tickler file. I spent too much time with film MF to not want that in digital.

    Again I thank you. If I can add to what you have already lined up I will.

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