Exclusive: After Franke & Heidecke's closure, open system is a thing of the past, says Hasselblad's CEO
Franke & Heidecke’s closure and the recent consolidation in the medium format camera market could spell the end of open systems, Hasselblad’s CEO Christian Poulsen tells BJP
Almost 90 years after its launch, the Germany-based medium format camera maker Franke & Heidecke is to close its doors, bringing into question the future of countless companies such as Leaf and Sinar.
This recent development, as well as Phase One’s acquisition of Leaf’s assets, could mark the end of the open system as we know it, says Hasselblad’s CEO Christian Poulsen in an exclusive interview with BJP.
In 2006, Hasselblad was the first medium format camera player to lock out competitor backs from its H3 camera. This decision led to a partnership between Jenoptic, Sinar and Franke & Heidecke to develop a new 6x6 digital camera body, which would be released under the Sinar Hy6 and Leaf AFi brand names.
‘I think that Canon and Nikon for quite some time have proved that the way to go to make better and more affordable cameras is to make a complete camera system - not just a camera back on a camera body,’ Poulsen tells BJP. ‘We at Hasselblad saw this trend quite some time ago, and have made a huge effort to make the Hasselblad H3D.’
Poulsen thinks that ‘all the talk about open system and the advantages of such a system is meaningless.’
He continues: ‘I don’t think there are any open and at the same time modern systems left. Phase One is claiming they are in favour of such a system but they still have a completely closed software system if you own any other camera back than a Phase One back. Probably one should think that opening Capture One would be a really good thing if you are so “open minded”. The rest of the camera system seems also to be closed for the rest of us. Open for Phase One apparently means open when it is to their benefit.’
Phase One manufactures digital camera backs and has one medium format camera system – the Phase One 645 – using technology from Mamiya. The latter is majority-owned by Phase One.
Poulsen also comments on Phase One’s recent takeover of Leaf’s assets. Last month, Phase One confirmed rumours of an impending wave of consolidation in the medium format camera market by agreeing to form a new company, Leaf Imaging Ltd, which will purchase Leaf’s assets and enter into an intellectual property licence with Eastman Kodak Company.
‘Regarding Phase One taking over some of the Leaf employees and some of the Leaf technology, this could be seen as an attempt to save Leaf, but it could also be an attempt to pretend that there is still an “open” camera back market left,’ says Poulsen. ‘I think there is a good chance that Capture One will be the new software platform for Leaf users, which will lock the Leaf users into a new closed software platform.’
Finally, Poulsen also addressed Sinar’s position, which appears grim as the company, which markets the Hy6 based on technology provided by Franke & Heidecke. ‘I think the Hy6 will be too costly and take too long for anyone to make this platform a competitive full blown solution, with all the lenses and accessories available,’ he says. ‘But, let’s see.’
He adds: ‘At the end of the day what matters is not whether somebody makes open or closed platforms but who makes the best camera systems, and continues to develop them, so that photographers around the world can take full advantage of their system components while also seeing the system evolve and continue to keep its state of the art performance.’
For more on the impact of Franke & Heidecke’s closure, check next week’s issue of BJP.
Return to the top of The British Journal of Photography Return to the top of The British Journal of Photography
© Incisive Photographic Ltd. 2009
Incisive Media Limited, H