I have been looking at slightly newer cameras than my ancient Canon 1DS III. There are two big things that have happened since I last took a serious look at cameras :-
- Serious cameras are increasingly going mirror-less; last time I looked, electronic viewfinders were too low in resolution and suffered too much lag to really replace optical view finders.
- So-called “medium format” digital cameras are becoming slightly less expensive.
Funny thing is that whilst the “film vs digital” argument has gotten a bit quieter, it is still bubbling away. And as a solely digital photographer, my position on “film vs digital” is simply: it is the final print that counts however you got there.
Back in the days when film was the only viable choice the quality difference between 35mm film and medium format film was dramatic. And similarly between medium format film and large format film.
In the digital world, the difference is more nuanced, and there is more choice in the size of the sensor (“film”) – Micro 4/3 (which is equivalent to the old 110 film format), APC, “full frame”, and “medium format”.
The least honest phrase is of course “medium format” – medium format film came in a variety of different sizes; all of which are actually larger than the medium format digital sensors. The largest “medium format” sensor is approximately 54mm x 40mm; the smallest film medium format is 60mm x 45mm.
Comparing digital and film sizes is pretty irrelevant; with film, quality is directly proportional to size whereas with digital many factors contribute to quality; sensor size being just one.
Part of that quality increase in size is simply down to the increased cost – if you have to make a digital sensor expensive because it is big (fewer sensors per wafer and a higher proportion of them won’t meet the quality standard), then you need to make it better in quality or nobody will buy it. Of course there are also scientific reasons why a bigger sensor is better – or the fancy car priced Phase One cameras wouldn’t have big sensors.
But back to digital sensor size – let us stop calling so-called medium format sensors “medium format” and come up with a new phrase – perhaps “super-frame” and give the crop-factor – 1.67 or whatever it is.