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Author Topic: Medium Format Camera Market  (Read 5241 times)
Gary Ferguson
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« on: February 26, 2006, 04:54:03 AM »
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The photographic press recently reported the 2005 figures from the Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA), a Tokyo based industry association that represents the Japanese camera manufacturers.

No surprises in their figures, DSLR shipments at 3.8m units in 2005 have just overtaken film cameras, and the trend is expected to accelerate with DSLR shipments surging to 4.7m units in 2006 before growing more slowly thereafter, reaching 5.3m units in 2007 and 5.6m units in 2008. They also seem to believe that the world market for total digital cameras has pretty much peaked at about 65m units, with much smaller growth in the future.

However, buried in the raw data on CIPA's web site were some figures that did surprise me. They split out production and shipments of "Medium & Large Format Cameras", the haemorrhaging declines weren't a shock, but the miniscule scale of the remaining business was.

CIPA members (which include all the Japanese names you'd expect such as, Pentax, Fuji, Contax/Kyocera, Mamiya, etc) shipped a grand total of just 7,950 medium and large format cameras in 2005, down from 10,507 in 2004, and 18,006 in 2003.

Furthermore they're clearly winding down existing stocks because in 2005 the entire Japanese camera industry manufactured (as opposed to shipped) just 5,842 medium and large format cameras! Even if Hasselblad (excluded from these figures) absolutely dominates the medium format industry it's hard to see how the total world market could amount to more than about 40 or 50k cameras a year.

I once heard that the market for medium format digital backs was only about 30k units per year. But I was hoping that the digital MF announcements by Pentax and Mamiya might herald a renaissance in the industry, with more products and competition leading to a virtuous circle of falling prices and growing sales. In this commercial environment it's difficult to see why any company would bother.

Rather it suggests that although medium format, digital or film, occupies so much of the enthusiast's attention, from a commercial point of view it looks like a trivial sideshow that simply doesn't warrant any serious investment.

It's sobering to think what we might expect in the future. Even the DSLR business is just the cherry in the camera cocktail, medium format isn't even the stick!
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John Camp
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2006, 09:11:26 AM »
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Many people think the problem is that the companies making digital backs (and now, integrated digital medium-format cameras) have tried to get too much of their investment back too quickly -- that is, that a 22mp camera/chip sold at $30,000 represents a huge margin per camera, even given low chip yield for the larger sensors. That, combined with limited utility (slow frame speeds, low ASAs, uncertain reliability, buggy software) has kept the market down. I believe, and apparently a lot of other people believe, that if the manufacturers begin producing a MF camera at about $10,000, with better reliability, usable software, etc., then sales would increase dramatically. But there are a lot of issues to be worked through before we get there. Manufacturers seem to be driven by a simplistic marketing idea --- more megapixels are better -- when I suspect that what most of the market wants now is better software and more reliability. After all, what market is a 40mp camera going after that a 22mp camera can't handle just as well? The art market, maybe, but that is a tiny niche. As for professional commercial photography, I'm not sure anybody could tell the difference between a 22mp shot and a 40mp shot in even the best standard-sized magazines (Vanity Fair, etc.) given that the final reproduction is done on high-speed presses...

I really don't think the MF market is disappearing; it's waiting for maturity. Whether the all the camera companies survive their own marketing is another question.

JC
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Hank
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2006, 11:41:23 AM »
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If I was making digital MF backs, I'd take a hard look at making them compatible with all the older models sitting in people's closets and on bargain tables.  Talk about a renaissance!  I suspect sales volume would jump sufficently to cover a price drop, which in turn would lead to even more sales.

I don't know about anyone else, but DSLR's killed our use of MF, and I'm not about to dump a bunchabucks into a MF back, meanwhile also having to completely revamp our MF holdings.

We've got 6 Mamiya 645 Pro bodies and something close to 20 lenses sitting in a box in our studio.  They haven't been out of the box in two years.  But give me a digital back that will work on that body for under $10K, and the DSLRs are likely to become the dust traps.
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crspe
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« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2006, 11:45:15 AM »
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As for professional commercial photography, I'm not sure anybody could tell the difference between a 22mp shot and a 40mp shot in even the best standard-sized magazines (Vanity Fair, etc.) given that the final reproduction is done on high-speed presses...
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=59101\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Now think about what will happen once Canon comes out with a 22mp 1Ds-MKIII ..
That will make the MF industry shrink even more. The semiconductor industry has this effect of making everything mainstream - the immense investments required to make a new chip mean that you have to aim for mainstream.  If there is a niche close by, make sure you cover it as well.

I think that in the end, digital will make everyone shift 1 camera format smaller - those who used to shoot LF will swith to digital MF, ex MF film will go to FF digital, and 35mm photographers will go to APS-C.
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Vihta
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2006, 12:20:10 PM »
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I know next to nothing about digital backs so I have to ask.. How big are the smalles MF digital backs? Are there any 10Mp backs for example? Maybe some older ones? How expensive are thay these days?
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BJL
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2006, 01:46:25 PM »
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MF might not be quite as badly off as those numbers suggest; many MF users might be keeping their existing bodies and putting their money towards digital backs for them. Some for example might be keeping their current body until they can get an integrated digital MF body, like the ones that Mamiya and Pentax have promised but not yet delivered. (The Mamiya ZD is available in Japan only so far.)

On the other hand, the Hasselblad H series 645 MF bodies are made in Japan by Fuji (and sold under the Fuji brand in Japan only) so they might be included in those numbers, which would make the situation sound even worse.
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2006, 04:02:49 PM »
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I'm not 100% sure but I think the Hasselblad H series bodies are made in Sweden, including the ones sold in Japan under the Fuji name, the lenses however do come from Japan.
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BJL
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« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2006, 04:17:50 PM »
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I'm not 100% sure but I think the Hasselblad H series bodies are made in Sweden, including the ones sold in Japan under the Fuji name, the lenses however do come from Japan.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I stand corrected: according to this excerpt from a Popular Photography article, it is a bit of both, with final assembly in Sweden. That is probably enough that these Hasselblad/Fuji bodies are not included in those CPIA numbers, even if every component inside is made in Japan by Fuji or Minolta. So, a little bit of good news for 645 format body production levels.

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The H1s main body module is still made in Sweden, and many design elements (such as the unique electromagnetic interlens leaf shutters) are of Swedish origin. However, finder screens and cross-field AF-sensor technology are supplied by Minolta. The lenses, shutters, meter finder, and film magazines are all made by Fuji in Japan. Fujis engineers also had a hand in the H1s design and production engineering. Indeed, Fuji is marketing a Fuji-branded version of the H1 in Japan only.
Source: [a href=\"http://www.popphoto.com/article.asp?section_id=2&article_id=714]http://www.popphoto.com/article.asp?sectio...&article_id=714[/url]
« Last Edit: February 27, 2006, 04:18:52 PM by BJL » Logged
bob mccarthy
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« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2006, 04:39:45 PM »
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I would offer that the medium format camera/back now belongs in the "large format" realm. The better DLSR's now offering the image quality of medium format.

How much inventory is sitting on the dealers shelves around the world. Can't be trivial. I surprised I can't find some really tasty "close out" deals though.

The categories have been scrambled by the increasing capability of digital sensors. If one added in the roll film back view camera, would the numbers improve. I sort of doubt it.

For ultimate image quality, the latest backs have to be coming close to 4x5 from a practical vantagepoint.

Bob
« Last Edit: February 28, 2006, 10:36:49 AM by bob mccarthy » Logged
bob mccarthy
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« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2006, 10:47:59 AM »
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Just how close to 4x5 does the new 39 mpxl backs come?

Is film dead even at the larger sizes?

Is the only reason for large format to soldier on, the high cost of backs?

I see that Epson is releasing a newer scanner - Epson Perfection V750 Pro.  Perhaps a sub $1000 scanner is now good enough to get most of quality out of a big piece of film. May hold off the inevitable.

I have been on the edge of buying back into large format for hobby reasons. I just can't seem to pull the trigger.

Bob
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Let Biogons be Biogons
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2006, 05:17:13 PM »
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Just how close to 4x5 does the new 39 mpxl backs come?

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=59211\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Close but no cigar, but I think one more step up in pixel count might do it.
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jani
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2006, 06:13:11 AM »
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Just how close to 4x5 does the new 39 mpxl backs come?

Perhaps the articles about Phase One P45 and Horseman SuperWide D Pro and 4x5" Drum Scanned Film vs. 39 Megapixel Digital are of interest.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2006, 06:13:25 AM by jani » Logged

Jan
Ronny Nilsen
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2006, 06:58:22 AM »
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No surprises in their figures, DSLR shipments at 3.8m units in 2005 have just overtaken film cameras, and the trend is expected to accelerate with DSLR shipments surging to 4.7m units in 2006 before growing more slowly thereafter, reaching 5.3m units in 2007 and 5.6m units in 2008.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=59094\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

A side note, I just saw the figures for Norway on digital vs. film, and here in Norway film is dead. In 2005 the total sales of cameras was 471 000, and of that only 7000 was film cameras. DSLR was 30 000+ cameras.

Even my  grandmother (80 years old) got a digicam last year.  
« Last Edit: March 02, 2006, 07:01:40 AM by ronnynil » Logged

bob mccarthy
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2006, 10:04:56 AM »
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Perhaps the articles about Phase One P45 and Horseman SuperWide D Pro and 4x5" Drum Scanned Film vs. 39 Megapixel Digital are of interest.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=59365\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Thanks, I guess I passed by w/o reading them the first time. It really comes down to cost then. I doubt I'll ever shoot enough film to make a positive comparison to a digi back. This is supposed to be a tool to relax with, not to work with.

I guess I'll make a decision when we see what the scanner market offers this summer/fall in the way of reasonably priced product. The new Epson has caught my eye.

Off topic, film is dead. The Hassy is the last hope to maintain a manufacturing base. Gives the Imacon a leg up over, Phase, Leaf, etc. Truely tragic about Contax, I took them to be a surviver over Minolta. But this has been discussed to death, sorry!


Bob
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Let Biogons be Biogons
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« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2006, 06:45:26 AM »
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A side note, I just saw the figures for Norway on digital vs. film, and here in Norway film is dead. In 2005 the total sales of cameras was 471 000, and of that only 7000 was film cameras. DSLR was 30 000+ cameras.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=59367\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Small sales of film cameras doesn't necessarily mean that film itself is dead.  Find the statistics that show how much FILM was sold.  I think you will find that there are still quite a lot of people still using the film cameras they already own, and will continue to do so for sometime.  Film sales probably have slowed somewhat, but they are far from "dead".
« Last Edit: March 04, 2006, 06:45:58 AM by Let Biogons be Biogons » Logged
Curt
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« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2006, 07:08:42 AM »
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I would surely love to resurrect my several MF cameras. I did use Hblads for weddings & travel, but now take DSLR's.
I will not pay anywhere near the current asking price for a digital MF back when my Nikon D2X makes wonderful 20x30's.
But, offer me a digital back for my Hblad at the price of a D200 & I will consider.
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BJL
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« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2006, 06:09:57 PM »
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Find the statistics that show how much FILM was sold.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=59508\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
FujiFilm provided such statistics recently: film sales are down about 80% from what they were five years ago, and still declining. This news of a five-fold reduction in film sales went with FujiFilm's announcement of plans to close down a number of film-related facilities, as Kodak has already been doing (not to mention Konica and Agfa!)

Clearly film is not dead but is leaving the mainstream of photography, at every level from snapshots to high end professional work.
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #17 on: March 05, 2006, 07:06:04 AM »
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"But, offer me a digital back for my Hblad at the price of a D200 & I will consider"

Maybe your wish, or at least something close to it, may be granted before too long. If not new then from the falling prices of second hand digital backs.

Here in the UK factory refurbished P20 and P25 stock is now being sold off at half price, and that's equipment supported with a Phase One guarantee. In a year or two's time the P45 will be replaced, so current P45 stock will likely follow the same discount route, which in turn will push the P20 and P25 down to even lower prices.

The general view is that today's digital backs, with no moving parts, have a healthy life expectancy in front of them. The world's kitchens and bathrooms are full of thirty year old transistor radios that still work just fine, so why will digital backs be any different? And the market price of today's digital backs is only going one way.

Many pundits are expecting a new flagship Canon DSLR of about 22MP to be shipping by early 2007. Sometime in 2007 I'll probably sell my current P25 back, my guess is that when I do it'll be worth the same or less than the new Canon uber kamera.

If that happens then it will present photographers with an interesting choice.

I'm already seeing that there's little practical difference between the quality I get in an A3 print from a Canon 5D and from a Canon 1Ds mkII. In other words a combination of depth of field restrictions and lens quality conspires to negate the benefit of those additional pixels. If I look at the difference with hand held shots, even with IS, then there's absolutely no difference in an A3 print for 99% of my photography.

Consequently I'm not expecting much practical quality benefit from a new 22MP Canon DSLR. But the shots I get from a 22MP P25 digital back are noticeably better than those I get from a 1Ds MkII, and I am expecting that difference to be maintained (at least with the majority of my lenses) when there's equal pixel counts for the 35mm FF DSLR and the digital back on an MF camera.

So going forward photographers may be presented with a choice for approximately the same money. They could take the superior flexibility, lens range, and general convenience of a 35mm digital system. Or they could get superior quality from a second hand MF digital back with the same pixel count.
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