The Digital Shootout: Does size really matter?

by Benji Aird

The ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have Nots’ in the digital single lens reflect camera industry makes a big difference, size matters! Laying the smack-down on full-framed digital slr’s are the medium-format digital slr’s. Don’t let the distinction in the title, medium, fool you. Medium formats’ capture images starting out with 30 mega pixels. We see the tip of the ice berg in a short comparison between the full and medium framed cameras.

Chattanooga, Tenn(UTC/TheLoop) — On set at a photo shoot in between the firing of  strobe lights, hair-stylist crofting hair, make-up artist reapplying foundation, and wardrobe repositioning garments, photographers patiently wait to capture a single image. I think this one of the greatest times in history to be a photographer. The evolution of the camera has taken leaps and bounds in every decade.

In my not so distant past, I began shooting with a Kodax 110. The number ‘110’ refers to the size of film measuring not quite 111 mm. Fast forward a few years to Christmas 1998 when I received a 35mm automatic camera. The simple point-and-shoot helped me see, and develop an artistic eye. Now, I have a Digital SLR that allows me to instantly see what I photographed! Oh how I am easily amused.

Some pro-amateurs and professional photographers alike use full frame digital SLR. To get you up to speed click here to read what a full-frame digital SLR is all about. Just when I thought it could not get any better…IT DOES! The lion has entered the den with a presence that commands respect, the medium format digital SLR. Medium format brands include Mamiya, Hassleblad, Hola, and others. These cameras are  fashion’s equivalence  to Gucci, Fendi, Prada, and Chanel.

In digital, medium format is a very expensive option, with typical brand new all-digital medium format cameras retailing for $10,000 (Mamiya ZD) to $32,000 (Hasselblad H3D) in 2008, though, older and used equipment can be substantially cheaper.

Derek Blanks in a helicopter shooting the New York skyline with the Hassleblad.

Celebrity photographer Derek Blanks recently shot with a Hasselblad medium-format digital SLR in a shoot on-location in New York. Derek said, “Ok guys, I think I am in love with this new camera! The Hasselblad! Check out my beauty shots…”

Digital medium format SLR’s shoot at an astronomical 30 to 60+ mega-pixels. Lets put this into perspective:

  • Camera phone at best is 5MP-8MP.
  • Average point-and-shoot digital camera for adventures in the club is 10MP-12MP.
  • Canon T2i Digital SLR is 18MP.

The Fuji most conservative medium format camera starts at 30MP!!!! If your head is about to explode, this sensation is perfectly normal. As Derek would say “That’s dope.”

Image of Tomiko Fraser Hines taken by Derek Blanks with a medium format digital SLR.

Up close and 'Pore'sonal. The 30MP+ hides no problems defining each pore with crisp definition.

Notice how in the DSLR image (left-side) the image of the bird is not seen. This is a result the the smaller frame size of the DSLR. The Medium format on the right captures more of the image.

I get goose bumps looking at a side-by-side comparison of the full-frame and medium format.

Does size really matter? Well, thats relative to your level of photography. If you have the money to spare and really, really, I do mean really want to go all out you can rent a medium-format from as well as other equipment to keep your shutter-finger happy.

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  1. That is awesome. I would love to shoot medium format digital — we just got 5dmkiii’s and we’re amazed by em but man the detail on the Hasselblad is unreal