Phase One A/S announced today that Mamiya Imaging and Leaf Imaging would be merged into Mamiya Leaf Imaging. The merged company will enter into a licensing agreement with Kodak, which likely means their sensors and image processing will be under the hood of the merged brand.
Whether medium format is merging to optimize service and support as the company claims in their press release, or if the companies are clinging together for survival in the face of rapidly improving DSLR competitors, remains to be seen. Right now it’s all sunshine and lollipops from Phase One. From the press release:
“We’re pleased to be part of this effort. The combination of products brings together the best in medium format photography delivered with service and options to expand the capabilities of professional photographers,” says Henrik Hakonsson, President of Phase One.
The real question is will photographers feel compelled to purchase an 80-megapixel Mamiya Phase One combination which, at over $40,000, is more than the cost of a shiny new BMW sedan. Compare that to Nikon’s new D4, which is just under $6,000.
This is where I have to remind people that comparing cameras by their megapixel rating is like my wife picking a new car because she likes the color. The number of megapixels has very little to do with the quality of the final image. Color, tone and sharpness will have far more sway over the quality of the final image, one of the reasons the highest rated cameras are all over the road when it comes to the megapixel rating of the sensor.
The difference in megapixels does effect the resolution of the final image, but even that is a geometric comparison and not a linear scale. In order to really notice a difference in resolution, you have to nearly double the chip size. Doubling the chip size quadruples the number of megapixels.
That’s why comparing the Canon T3i to the Nikon D5100 just on megapixels would be a mistake. While the T3i boasts a 17.9-megapixel chip and the D5100 a 16.1-megapixel chip, the difference is meaningless. Overall the D5100 is generally considered the superior camera.
Which brings us back to megapixels in the digital age and the continued quest of medium format to stay relevant in a camera market where DSLRs are producing incredible quality at a price point that’s a fraction of what you’d pay for a medium format camera.
Another factor impacting the debate is the march of software. In the old days of digital photography, like five or ten years ago, trying to scale low-resolution bitmap images, like JPEGs, was quite hard and most often the blow ups looked like doody.
Today software is much better at scaling JPEG images and you can, for all intents and purposes, scale them indefinitely with little loss in quality.
It should be interesting to see if medium format can find a way to stay relevant in the digital market, or we’ll see the medium format camera go the way of Kodak.