Something just doesn't sit well with me about the new investment protection program. Not to be a party crasher, but the math would have to be so incredibly in Phase's favor to prosper so there's more to it than meets the eye. If someone buys a P65+ for $39K and in 18 months buys the new $39,001 eighty megapixel Phase back (hopefully new design, better screen and 20 more features to actually justify why these are needed by so many working pros, that's another argument all together) and only has to pay $3.9K and change to upgrade, I call B.S. Too much Kool-Aid to drink here.
I truly feel it's thrown out there so current users and owners keep going after the carrot. Nothing else really makes sense. We are talking about an item that costs as much as a car. I don't know any car makers who will sell you a new car after 18 months and buy the prior equal version for only a 10% sale price. I love how dpreview.com uses the word "scheme" in describing the program. That word fits well, has a shifty connotation.
All I can figure is that the margins are getting much higher on the backs along with wealthy hobbyists buying and outpacing pro shooters to be the core reasons for the "50% increase". It's all such an odd business model, constantly a moving target. Around me I see some top shooters who have gone from DSLRs to digital backs to DSLRs as a 5DII, 1DsIII or Nikon D3x as new current king of the hill for commercial work.
Any dealer have the cohones to give the percentage of hobbyists vs working photographers who buy Phase backs? I would really be interested in knowing this little tidbit.
The single biggest life and business lesson I have learned is that it's easier to sell the buyer's dream than your own dream. Digital backs have their place for certain, but what I see overwhelmingly is the insecurity of hobbyists and photographers that is so easily prayed upon by the allure of medium format digital as a holy grail of photography. Content is the holy grail of photography regardless of the tool used to create it. And content comes from our heads.
I greatly enjoy all the images I created while I owned a digital back, but I hated using the digital back, clunky, slow, crappy screen, shitty focus (and no MFDB has the focus of a D3x type of camera so don't even try). And the whole time you can look at a sub $1K camera or phone or whatever and have more enjoyable features that make the process smoother.
Here is my list of innovation in the last 5 years w.r.t. to digital backs:
Phase/Mamiya leaf shutter lenses No that already existed 20 years ago with Mamiya 645
Sensor + technology allowing a large raw to be recorded as a smaller size raw and actual file dimension No Canon did that well before hand
2-3 years for a vertical grip on Phase/Mamiya 645 No wait Contax and nearly every DSLR has that
better screens Don't make me go there
5) Hasselblad's newest focusing design, ding! I honestly think that may be the only innovative thing yet, to fix very old focusing designs.
6) the use of iphones and ipads is at least interesting, but the practicality of adding more things in the chain requires more time and people to make it work or act as tech support
7) physically larger sensors does require due respect, but the hodge podge of sensor sizes is silly. Was only needed in film to get better detail or different lens draw. But the physical sensor sizes are all squashed into a relatively small differential.
The reality is that the sensor is by far the only "new tech" that goes into these cameras now. All the other components are far behind the tech curve with no way of surpassing that curve. So innovation winds up being quite banal.
John, I guess we'll see when we get the details and the fine print. Honestly, we are scratching our heads as well, trying to figure out how this can work for them. I don't know how it can or how it will, but if it is as they state, and there aren't any details or gotchas (not saying there won't be, but I need to see them), then if the bottom line is a great deal for our customers, we're down with it. As long as our customers get the benefit and it's valid for them
, I don't care how Phase does it, how much money they make, etc. Though I hope they make a lot of money.
Hobbyists vs Pros has always been a much higher ratio than was realized, and this has been for a long time. I've been told that 60% of Hasselblad customers even back in the 1960's were hobbyists. Working Pros shooting medium format has been reduced for some time, going back at least 6, 7 years as the type of photography demanded for commercial purposes has changed and DSLR technology has rapidly evolved.
Medium format has always been the slower big brother, and always will be. It trails 35mm in terms of speed (primarily), but also additional functionality that is largely a product of small scale CMOS technology. Medium format will never match the swift of foot that DSLR's represent. If they seem far behind, it is because they are working on it and it is difficult and time consuming. I don't see that as their fault.
We have an amazing range of clients who use these products. Yes, working pros - which is an extremely general/generic term as far as a categorical classification is concerned - that encompass many photographic niches, table top product, architectural, portrait, wedding (though not too many), fashion, lifestyle, non table top product, stock, reproduction, and more, as well as in-house studios for retail and product, fine art photographers - which is also a general/generic term - that encompass landscape, nature, travel, archival, abstract, and more. Our hobby clients - enthusiasts, amateurs, whatever you'd like to call them - often do impressive work under challenging conditions. Not to mention forenzic, medical, educational, and reproduction segments.
All of these clients have demanding applications from an image quality standpoint, and even from environmental and situational standpoints. If their needs stray outside of what medium format offers, they turn to Canon/Nikon and other products.
While medium format may be considered slow and cumbersome, it does produce work under the conditions it excels in that no other products can match. If it doesn't work for one's style of photography or the demands of one's clients, then it's an easy choice to not use it.
List of innovations in the past 5 years:
*Leaf shutter lenses that capture at 1/1600th of a second and also auto focus quickly (this wasn't available 20 years ago) that also are high resolving and minimize chromatic aberrations.
*Sensor Plus - yes John, Canon has optional smaller raw files (big deal), but they don't offer it on a sensor that is 54mm x 42mm and that also gain 2 stops of sensitivity.
*No wait for Contax on a vertical grip? Ok, I want a new Contax vertical grip. How long before I can get one? And I also want wireless built in to the grip that sync at 1/1600th. Oh, right...Contax never did that.
*Better screens? Well, well.....ah, ok. Well, Sinar has a good one!
*iPhones and iPads for client use to get them away from the monitor. Oh...this was a bad thing?
*Sensor sizes (for Phase One, as an example) are currently available in 44x33, 49x37, 54x41. Three sizes doesn't seem like such a hodgepodge to me. Canon has, oh let's see...36x24, 28x19, 22x15, 8x6...
But wait, there's more -
*The ability to do long exposures of 30, 60 minutes with minimal noise. Maybe extreme, but also had the benefit of getting 60, 120, 240 second images that are noise free a snap.
*Getting super clean images up to 80 megapixels at large sensor sizes. This is innovation to some, maybe not you.
*Getting 40-60MP images to show on screen tethered fully resolved in 2-3 seconds.
There's more, but my point is that some see what digital backs can do as innovation, rather than what they cannot do as the lack of innovation. Medium format will always have the handicap of SIZE as the restraining element in their innovation. But I don't expect them to ever abandon that. Shaping it to resemble innovation that is available in smaller scale technologies will certainly continue to be their focus. Believe me when I say it is now. They don't just blow off technical innovations and decide to only focus on big sensors with tons of megapixels. The focus is there for those technical innovations as well, but they are challenging, time consuming, and....expensive (as a result).
I agree, content is King. But the chariot that delivers it is often a factor. I don't think medium format is guilty of preaching this anymore than any other manufacturer - Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Samsung, Casio, BenQ...