Photokina 2010 Day 2: Hasselblad Drives a Ferrari (and an Economy Model); Leaf Shoots a Gumpert; Manfrotto Looks Cool Behind the Wheel


SEPTEMBER 23, 2010

Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

How are medium-format camera companies and high-end car manufacturers alike? If your first guess were the exorbitant pricetags on their products you'd be right. If you're second guess was that they're both struggling in the current economy you'd be right as well.

Logic would dictate then that combining the two in the midst of a world-wide economic downturn would not be a good idea, right?

Try telling that to Hasselblad and Leica which both collaborated recently with car manufacturers to release limited edition, über-pricey versions of their cameras at this year's photokina imaging show in Germany. As we reported earlier in the week, VW's chief of design Walter de'Silva, created the new Leica M9 Titanium model unveiled at photokina on Monday.

Though VW is hardly a high-end car company -- the "people's car," anyone? -- it's partially owned by Porsche and includes quasi-luxury car brand Audi. (VW also produces the Bugatti Veyron super-duper-car, one of the most expensive automobiles in the world.)

The de'Silva-designed Titanium M9, which is limited to 500 units, will sell for a rumored $28,730. In a seeming effort to top that, Hasselblad announced on Wednesday that's it will release a limited edition (499 units!) Ferrari version of its H4D medium format camera.

The Ferrari Hasselblad, which features a Ferrari logo on the side, is offered in "russo fuoco," a red color that loosely translates as "hot burning love."

No rumors on the price yet but expect it to be somewhere between the cost of a Ferrari sports car and a VW Golf.

200 Megapixels Strong

The other big headline from Hasselblad on Wednesday was that it didn't intend to just win the megapixel war, it was going to completely krüsh the competition. During a presentation in a sweaty ballroom at the Kollenmesse conference center, Hasselblad's Peter Stig said the company was designing an "extended multi-shot" device that could "create a 200MP capture."

Yes, he said 200 megapixels. (Hasselblad's previous highest resolving camera was the H4D-60, which can capture a 60MP image.)

According to Stig -- no relation to The Stig -- the sensor in the multi-shot device moves to different positions to create a series of captures of a subject; the various image captures are then combined to build one huge photo. Of course, since this is an extended multi-shot device that will take 30 seconds to complete one capture, it's really only usable for shooting photos of still objects.

The Stig said commercial photographers who shoot cars, jewelry and watches would be potential customers as would museum photographers who capture artwork, sculpture or historical artifacts. No price on the device but expect it too to be more expensive than a VW Golf.

The "200 Megapixel Capture device," as Hassleblad is currently calling it, will be available in the first quarter of 2011. All current H4D-50MS (multi-shot) cameras can be upgraded with the new extended multi-shot back.

Medium Format on a Budget

Arguably Hasselblad's most important announcement Monday though was its new "economy" model: the H4D-31, a 31-megapixel medium-format camera that will sell for the surprisingly low price of $9,995. (Yes, you try explaining to your significant other that ten grand is a "low" price.)

In my PDN review of the H4D-40, I called that camera Hasselblad's "entry-level" model. I'm happy to report now that I was wrong: the H4D-31 is a veritable bargain basement entry-level model in the world of medium format, putting it nearly on par with top-of-the-line full-frame digital SLRs like the Nikon D3x and Canon 1Ds Mark III.

Hassellad also announced a new back for V-camera customers, the 50MP CFV-50.

A New Leaf
Photokina is typically a very medium-format-focused show but that's died down in recent years as medium-format companies have either struggled or gone out of business. Also making news at the show was Leaf which nearly went under a couple years ago before it was purchased by Phase One.

After the collapse of its well-reviewed but flawed (and now doomed) AFi series of medium-format camera systems, we were happy to see Leaf back at photokina, promoting its new 80MP Aptus-II 12, the current world champ, in terms of resolution, for one-shot medium format backs.

The back, which is compatible with the Phase One 645D and AF models; the Mamiya 645DF and AF cameras; and most Hasselblad V models, uses a full-frame 53.7 x 40.3mm 80MP CCD sensor.

Leaf's Ziv Argov told us that he believes the new back solves one of the biggest imaging challenges for medium-format photography: moiré.
 
"With one shot, we eliminate the moiré problems with an 80MP sensor," Argov said. "The other choice is using a multi-shot device but you need to put a multi-shot device on a tripod and there can't be any motion (in your subject.)"

And if you thought there was no car connection with this new back, your were wrong. Leaf was showing off images of a Gumpert Apollo its booth that were shot with an Aptus-II 12 by photographer Steffen Jahn.

The 80MP Aptus-II 12 will ship at the end of November for $31,995. There's also an Aptus-II 12R version with an internal rotating sensor that will sell for the same price. (No word when the limited edition Gumpert version of the back will be available.)

Argov also hinted that the discontinued AFi cameras still figure, however abstractly, in Leaf's future. "We don't intend to bring the AFi back but we do intend to use the technology for a future camera platform," he said while nodding and winking at us.

Manfrotto's Turn on the Runway

And finally, tripod and accessory manufacturer Manfrotto gave a press conference on Wednesday to say it was getting out of the photography business and into the fashion business. Well, not really.

Along with announcing a new series of tripods and heads for professionals and enthusiast-amateurs (a group the Italy-based Manfrotto calls "social recorders"), the company said it would begin selling bags and clothing.

"The garments and bags are fully functional and have the full Italian design to them," a Manfrotto exec assured us at the presser.

One little number that caught our eye was listed as the Lino Pro Filed (Field?) Jacket. This wind-resistant all-black zip-up affair has reinforced shoulders with epaulets to thread your camera strap through so it won't fall off your shoulder.

Not sure what the price is but you'll look damn fine wearing it as you drive your Lamborghini to your next photo shoot.

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© Charlie Engman
PDN April 2014

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