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Reader Comment: Medium Format vs Nikon D810 and Future Nikon

See my Hasselblad X1D wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list and compact camera wish list.

Michael Erlewine writes:

Unfortunately, I can’t afford both the GFX and the X1D, barely one of them, but I have sold enough older lenses to pay for one complete system. I like the X1D intuitively, because I am trained in “fine things,” but the larger battery, Retina-LiveView screen, and on and on, tells me I should just get the GFX.

It is the Nikon D810 replacement I have been waiting for and what I need to continue forward. But the thought of just taking photos with the minimalist X1D is very, very tempting. I can’t do both.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar

I feel, as you must, that this is a good time to add a section for Medium Format. The posters on many forums can make fun all they want of these two new mirrorless and claim that they are not really large enough (megapixel-wise) to qualify as MF, , but those are mostly old-timers. The high-end DSLR folks like me are ready for this level of MF. To us, this “IS” MF, period. Call it what you want.

Now, if Nikon came out with a 54 megapixel beast, Ouch! The fact is I cannot own all the good camera stuff I would like. The D810 is, by far, the very best camera I have ever used.

Things I have been asking around on forums about about with these two include:

  • Can I get the Hasselblad color look with the GFX?
  • Does the GFX have a baked in “too vivid” look, perhaps even in raw? Is that possible?
  • To know more about exactly what lenses that we love on Nikon (or Canon) will fit on the GFX adapter to F-Mount, when it appears.
  • Compare Leaf and Focal-Plane Shutters. Show us more about how to use the leaf-shutters as fill light, chapters and verse. Don’t assume I know much about flash, because I never us it.

Anyway, right now many of the big posters in this DSLR/MF genre are asking questions about this new format. If I were building a MF section, I would aim it at folks like me: DSLR owners ready to jump toward MF.

DIGLLOYD: it’s crazy that Nikon has kept loyal users waiting, since now the competition is both from Sony mirrorless and from medium format. You snooze, you lose. But Nikon could pull a rabbit out of the hat with the right feature set (50MP, EVF option Pentax style pixel shift, mirrorless design with Nikon F-mount like the Sigma sd Quattro).

We already have 50 megapixels in the 35mm format: the Canon 5Ds R. I’ve had trouble finding more sharpness with it than the Nikon D810, even with Zeiss Otus. Thus it may be more a matter of per pixel image quality, including things like the Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift mode to take up the quality banner. But hopefully the technology now allows 50 megapixels in a “D900” successor with similar same per-pixel quality as the D810 (noise, dynamic range in particular). A base ISO of 50 might do the trick like the super-nice ISO 64 of the D810.

John G writes:

I notice that I’m not your only reader who is thinking about making or has made the move to MF. And for very similar reasons.

The Nikon D810 may be, arguably, the most complete and sensible choice even now, when you consider its intrinsic IQ combined with an overwhelmingly large and flexible choice of lenses. Aside from the D810’s wonderful image quality, and per-pixel beauty, lens selection itself is the most compelling reason to return to or stick with a camera like the D810, especially when you begin comparing the full-frame lens cornucopia to the meager selection of MF. The Nikon (and Canon) systems not only grants access to an embarrassment of lens choices, but state-of the-art quality, too.

There are no economies of scale currently in MF, and so little motivation for a company like Zeiss to push the envelope in the MF arena. The market is just too small. Although, that being said, there is small chance this could change with Fuji’s entry, to a lessor extent, with the Pentax and X1D.

Pentax could be ostensibly credited with being the author of this market movement, but, unfortunately, Pentax lacks the cutting-edge mentality requisite to attract and keep the very audience who is drawn to MF in the first place. The pragmatic folks at Pentax seemingly lack any understanding of the concept cachet.

Medium format is not an entirely rational choice, and is fueled to a large extent by a (un-pragmatic) desire to uniquely push the envelope. Pentax has little idea of how to create and maintain the kind of mystique necessary for this group of buyers. Too bad, though, because, unlike perhaps Leica (aside from those wonderful lenses), there is a substantial chunk of meat on Pentax’s performance bones.

Would that you could combine Leica’s (or, better yet, Zeiss’s) expertise for great glass with Hasselblad’s or, for that, matter Pentax’s penchant for building truly high-performance sensor/processors. Kind of like the Hassy/Zeiss days…. Ironic, isn’t it, that Zeiss themselves have abandoned the very market segment originally responsible for creating their legendary status.

DIGLLOYD: a Nikon D810 with very high quality lenses (Zeiss Otus) already rivals medium format. A future “Nikon D900” could make that contest even closer.

I do not see medium format as an irrational choice; it serves a need, assuming its benefits pan out (file quality, lens quality, usability, etc), all vs the best DSLR shot with high-grade lenses like Zeiss Otus.

But if one takes medium format as irrational, then the Leica SL is surely insanity as compared to the medium format Fujifilm GFX or Hasselblad X1D systems: pricing is comparable or better for medium format, lens choices are already superior, far superior total image quality, twice the resolution, etc. Thus I see medium format as far more 'rational' as per the above comment than the Leica SL could ever be. I don’t even see Leica as viable given the haphazard visionless management.

I agree that it is unlikely that Zeiss would take up medium format lenses for Fujifilm GFX or Hasselblad X1D. However, a future Sony and/or CaNikon medium format entry might change the market considerations. If the market segments itself into a lower-cost but still high-end medium format tier which carves off the top tranche of the high-end DSLR market (presumably the most profitable segment of all), then the potential changes.

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