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01/21/14 Hassleblad shakes up/wakes up the Medium Format Digital world with new 50MP CMOS back

With this announcement on Hasselblad’s main site, they have just rocked the world of Medium Format Digital.  Yes, in one quick paragraph, Hasselblad has taken the possible lead and stolen the thunder from Phase One on this technology.  Not much has been written so far on this on the Hasselblad site only that more information will come with pricing in March.  It appears to be a 50MP CMOS medium format back, the first of it’s kind.  There is mention of Live View, however it does seem that at first to gain Live View you have to be tethered and using phocus (the Hasselblad photo software).   For Live View usage this will be a major step forward since for the first time maybe the photographer will have the ability to see the subject without the constant blooming and other issues that occur when using Live View with a CCD MF camera, tethered or non-tethered.

The other area that will interest me will be the higher iso range.  Currently with any CCD Medium Format back, you have only a couple of true iso stops, beyond that you start to get into some issues.  The exception to this is Phase One’s sensor plus technology, which allows pixel binning from 4 to 1.  This cuts way down on the final resolution, but still gives the photographer a big advantage in situations where a fast shutter speed is required.  This becomes an even greater issue when you are using a tech camera.  Here in most cases the the optimum F stop is around F11 to F16 especially if you are using Schneider lenses.  So many times the base iso of 50 or base iso plus one stop to 100 just won’t get it done.  CCD technology doesn’t really keep giving increased gains as CMOS does so pushing a CCD chip much past max 2 iso stops from base begins to become a negative process.   With CMOS chips, which add increasing processing power to the chip itself (very basic description), you can expect to get a much larger high iso range.

I am also very curious as to who makes this chip.  Odd’s are favorite is that it came from Sony.  This also means that Sony’s rumored 54MP chip for 35mm format may be closer to reality than some think.  Sony has shown excellent leadership in CMOS chip technology the the necessary on board processors to work with such high MP output chips.  Sony also has produced some very very clean chips recently for Nikon.

No mention was made about tethering cables.  If Hasselblad is using a tethered solution via phocus for Live View, hopefully they will have a USB3 or thunderbolt connection.  Thunderbolt is not the way Phase One went for a high speed connection, instead they moved to USB3 and they have given a successful implementation of USB3 across all their IQ series of backs the their latest firmware.  I am also curious if there will be a Wi-Fi solution for this new back.  Phase One has Wi-Fi on their latest IQ 2X backs and it’s gradually being to show some very real advantages, especially in the field where you need to be able to check your focus on a tech camera using a screen larger than the one provided by the IQ back.

Much is more to come on this for sure, however it’s exciting to see that CMOS technology has finally come into the world of Medium Format Digital.