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Medium Format Photography in decline

Why medium format companies like Hasselblad, Mamiya and others have faced such tough times since the rise of digital imaging.

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Medium Format Photography in decline

  1. 1. Ever since the rise of digital  imaging, the Medium Format  segment of the camera segment of the camera industry has has  been in decline.
  2. 2. Medium format cameras are bigger than ’normal’ cameras. During the normal cameras. During the  analogue era, they were defined as  products which used a larger fil d hi h d l film  format than the standard 35 mm.
  3. 3. Instead they used 4 5*6 6*6 or 6*7 4,5 6, 6 6 or 6 7  centimeter film, thus enabling a  much hi h i h higher image quality. li
  4. 4. In the digital era, medium format  In the digital era medium format cameras use larger image sensors  than the standard 35 mm sensors. h h d d 35
  5. 5. Those cameras were often used for  wedding and portrait photography. and portrait
  6. 6. This segment has always This segment has always been very small small  in comparison with 35 mm cameras.
  7. 7. With the introduction of autofocus and other features in  small format cameras, the segment kept declining during the 1980s and 1990s the 1980s and 1990s.
  8. 8. Medium format players like Hasselblad,  Mamiya, Contax, Pentax and Bronica were fighting each other in these years to obtain an  increased share of a shrinking market.
  9. 9. Mamiya went bankrupt once in the 1980s and had to  be reconstructed. Tough competition and a shrinking market were the main reasons for the decline.
  10. 10. In the early 1990s, digital imaging started to prosper in  this segment in the form of digital backs. The film  magazine was removed and instead a device which and instead, a device contained an image sensor was attached.
  11. 11. It is striking to what It is striking to what extent those products were supplied by companies that  were not manufacturing medium format cameras… di f t
  12. 12. Leaf
  13. 13. Imacon
  14. 14. Phase One
  15. 15. Kodak also Kodak also made some digital backs digital backs
  16. 16. Cameras are after all about precise mechanics rather than electronics – that’s probably why none of them succeeded in developing a digital back.
  17. 17. Digital imaging initially increased the value of  medium format cameras…
  18. 18. The camera companies h i made sure that their sure that their products were compatible with these new devices.
  19. 19. This setting also enabled g photographers to choose whether they th would shift t di it l ld hift to digital or not.  t It was a hybrid that worked It was a hybrid that worked reasonably well until no one really demanded fil d d d film any llonger.
  20. 20. Once that was the case, very few photographers were willing to buy to buy one camera and one digital back  which together b hi h h became very expensive and bulky. The high‐end p y g models from Canon and Nikon were good enough for most applications for most applications,  much cheaper and lighter.
  21. 21. Around 2002‐2003, the medium  d h di format players faced huge problems. p y g p
  22. 22. Hasselblad had to lay Hasselblad had to lay off about 50 percent of its work force in 50 percent of its in  2004, and was forced to leave their office (the building on the  picture) two years after having moved there.
  23. 23. Contax was busted later on…
  24. 24. … And so was Bronica.
  25. 25. Mamiya was also in a lot of trouble.
  26. 26. It became increasingly obvious that the medium format  companies had to move closer to the manufacturers of  digital backs in order to deliver a complete digital solution.
  27. 27. Hasselblad merged with Imacon, and Mamiya started to  collaborate more with Phase One.
  28. 28. This strategy kept the companies alive…
  29. 29. … but nevertheless, the climate did not  favour medium format photography.
  30. 30. Who wants to  pay 25 000 25 000  USD just to  USD just to have 39  Megapixels i l instead of of  ’only’ 20?
  31. 31. As DSLR cameras become better and better, the medium  format segment becomes smaller and smaller.
  32. 32. And trying to compete with the big guys in their segments  isn’t really an option for a company with 150 employees.
  33. 33. Hence, these firms don’t really have an option.
  34. 34. The medium format has been declining ever since the early 1980s and will continue to do so until there’s nothing left.
  35. 35. Image attributions I ib i Hasselblad photos: Christian Sandström Hasselblad photos: Christian Sandström
  36. 36. Christian Sandström is a PhD  student at Chalmers  student at Chalmers University of Technology in  Gothenburg, Sweden. He  Gothenburg, Sweden. He writes and speaks about  disruptive innovation and  technological change. Find out more: