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Author Topic: Will Sony Make a Digital Back?  (Read 13559 times)
ibear88
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« on: March 18, 2013, 08:51:15 PM »
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In making the move from 4x5 to digital, I rented a Canon dslr with a Schneider tilt shift lens. It was not my cup of tea. So, now I'm back to exploring medium format.

I can see the allure of the Canon, Nikon and Sony products. They include a lot of digital sensor and its attendant technology for the money. You can buy a whole dslr camera, including the full frame sensor, for the cost of used digital back that is several years old of only incrementally more pixels.

Does anybody see Canon, Nikon, Sony or another digital back maker or assembler marketing a medium format digital back at a significantly lower price than the current line up of new Phase One or Leaf backs?

Intuitively, it seems like Sony and others already have comparatively efficient sensor and lcd technology and could uncouple it from the camera itself without a huge investment in new engineering. I'm wondering why they have not done it. Is the medium format market too small? Is the sensor uncoupled from the camera more complex when compared to engineering the two together? Is, for example, a P21+ back really better than a full frame sensor house in a dslr?

Just curious about why it has not happened and really hoping that a quality lower priced digital back will come to market soon.

Thanks, Jeff
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RFPhotography
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« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 09:29:48 PM »
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Does anybody see Canon, Nikon, Sony or another digital back maker or assembler marketing a medium format digital back at a significantly lower price than the current line up of new Phase One or Leaf backs?

Not likely.

Quote
Is the medium format market too small?

Yes.

If you want MF that's more 'reasonably' priced than some of the others, the Pentax 645D is out there.  Reputed to be a terrific camera.
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JohnCox123
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« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 11:12:11 PM »
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My theory on this is that Pentax is going to take the CMOS sensor that is in the Sony NEX 5r/Nikon D7000/Pentax k-5 and stitch it together a few times and make a 1.1x crop sensor. This is a Sony sensor. I think (if this was even possible) would be the extent of sony's involvement in medium format.
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torger
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« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2013, 03:11:17 AM »
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The market is too small for the big players to care.

I'm quite sure lower prices and higher volumes would be possible with a different business strategy and some strong investors to back it up. But I don't think Phase One etc is capable or interested, they rather sell few at high price units than many at lower. And photographers seems to accept it and think the prices are well-motivated for the quality you get, at least for now.

Today the second hand market is quite attractive though I think. If you look at what you really *need* rather than what the best available is you can get it at a quite reasonable price. To reach 4x5" quality most agree that the 33 - 39 megapixel 48x36mm backs is enough. In that range Aptus 75 is one of the best price/performance and appears quite often on the second hand market. Combine that with a digital view camera like the Arca-Swiss MF-two or Linhof Techno and you have a nice digital drop in replacement for the 4x5" camera.
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FredBGG
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2013, 03:15:54 AM »
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Sony would not make an MF back for many reasons.

The main reason is that it does not make MF cameras and never has.
IF they made an MF back that is cheaper than the Phase One or Hasselblad backs that worked on those cameras
they would be shooting themselves in the foot. The reason why is that neither Hasselblad or Phase/Mamiya are sustainable without the
huge margins on their backs. They would not be able to stay in business making lenses and bodies with Sony taking away the digital back market.

The other reason why Sony would not be interested is that they know very well what the D800 sensor is capable and what the d7100
scaled up to FF would be able to do.

They know fully well that the MF market is only for those companies that are stuck in that format and don't have the resources to compete in the 35mm DSLR market.

IF there were a feasible market for an back only manufacturer I think Fuji would jump onto it as they have already made MF digital backs.
They to know the MF market well being the manufacturer for much of the Hasselblad. Fuji chose to go in the direction of high end smaller cameras.
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Paul2660
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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2013, 08:15:57 AM »
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Over three years ago, on Canon rumors, there was a big deal about Canon and their patents for a Medium format sized chip.  This brought up a bunch of pondering, on that site and others  that Canon was going to come out with a new lineup.  I used to have the link to the paper that talked about the fab process etc.  Canon is unique in that they still make most of it not all of their chips, unlike Nikon.  Sony also makes most of their chips.  This was a CMOS chip in MF size.

At the time of the posting it was though that this chip would be used by Pentax, in the very much delayed Digital 645, which eventually came out with CCD. 

If any company was going to do it, and had the production line I would think it would Canon, however as Fred already posted, the market is much smaller and returns would be much less. 

Paul Caldwell
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2013, 08:55:13 AM »
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They know fully well that the MF market is only for those companies that are stuck in that format and don't have the resources to compete in the 35mm DSLR market.

LOL.

This is like saying the only reason a successful Bespoke Suit Maker continues to make suits by hand is because he is stuck without the resources to produce 10,000 suits a year on large industrial machines. That's true, but it misses the point. He does it because it makes the best fitting suit; not everyone can afford to buy it and that is ok with him.

Or that the only reason a high-end wedding photographer who charges $10k per wedding only shoots 12 weddings a year is because he is stuck without the (time) resources to shoot more weddings. That's true, but it misses the point. He does it because he can offer 100% of his time/energy to each wedding and give them the best possible experience. Not everyone can afford to him, and that is ok with him.

I guess in a technical sense it is not false. Phase One would have a hard time competing in the Canikon dSLR market. But it misses the point. Some companies purposely position themselves to provide solutions only to a small % of the market. Not everyone wants to go the route of competing in a commodity market where considerable debate is had over whether the R+D department can use a $5 part in a new product when a $4 part would be 80% as good.

"stuck" -  Grin

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/is_mf_dead.shtml
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 09:00:28 AM by Doug Peterson » Logged

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torger
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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2013, 09:13:15 AM »
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Canon does make (very) large sensors that have been deployed in telescopes and such, but there's been no indications that they have any interest in traditional MF photography.
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torger
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2013, 09:51:03 AM »
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Very interesting interview. It does seem like the independent pro market has become weaker due to the increased capability of DSLRs, but the advanced amateur market is growing so times are good. I hope that does not lead to a Hasselblad-like answer, i e make "luxury products", but perhaps rather try to make more affordable products so the advanced amateur market can grow further.

Also interesting to hear that "CMOS is coming eventually"... actually not heard that from Phase One before.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 09:56:54 AM by torger » Logged
fredjeang2
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2013, 09:54:41 AM »
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They know fully well that the MF market is only for those companies that are stuck in that format and don't have the resources to compete in the 35mm DSLR market.


At least, it shows that small companies that do not have the NASA R&D budget can make tools for a niche market with craft in mind, and it's nice. Look at Hartblei for ex.

It happened and happens in the car industry and why not in digital photography?

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michael
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2013, 09:59:46 AM »
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Not in the interview, but something that Phase One executives have made clear to me over the years (and again as recently as last week) is that they have no interest in building and selling "carriage trade" products, such as a Limited Edition Masserati Red camera body covered in reticulated ostrich testacal leather. None. Zero. Nada.

Michael
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KLaban
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« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2013, 10:09:43 AM »
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Not in the interview, but something that Phase One executives have made clear to me over the years (and again as recently as last week) is that they have no interest in building and selling "carriage trade" products, such as a Limited Edition Masserati Red camera body covered in reticulated ostrich testacal leather. None. Zero. Nada.

Damn, there goes my dream camera!

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torger
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« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2013, 10:28:06 AM »
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Not in the interview, but something that Phase One executives have made clear to me over the years (and again as recently as last week) is that they have no interest in building and selling "carriage trade" products, such as a Limited Edition Masserati Red camera body covered in reticulated ostrich testacal leather. None. Zero. Nada.

That's great to hear! Smiley

The part that the advanced amateur market has become more important is really interesting news. What does the advanced amateur shoot? My guess would be that there's a lot of landscape photographers in that group, and a lot of tech camera users. I would also think that the growth potential is huge if you not only wait for new Chinese millionaires to appear but also actually make a tech cam friendly entry level product that is resolution-wise competitive with the latest DSLR offers. Tech camera landscape photography is really the best representation of "slow photography" as was emphasized in the interview.

I wonder if Phase One has any interest in *that*, i e try to expand their market by trying to get lower priced products. In-between the lines I got the sense that the answer is unfortunately "no", they're open to answer to most customer feedback except that on pricing Undecided.

I'm not expecting prices as low as DSLRs, but say if you could get a 48x36mm 50 megapixel back for $8000 (same price as a new Aptus-II 5) that would be a huge difference from today's offers and make a landscape tech camera much more accessible to amateurs. Getting a complete system (back, tech body, a few lenses) for $20K rather than $50K makes a large difference in terms of how many amateurs that can afford it.
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2013, 10:39:01 AM »
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I'm not expecting prices as low as DSLRs, but say if you could get a 48x36mm 50 megapixel back for $8000 (same price as a new Aptus-II 5) that would be a huge difference from today's offers and make a landscape tech camera much more accessible to amateurs. Getting a complete system (back, tech body, a few lenses) for $20K rather than $50K makes a large difference in terms of how many amateurs that can afford it.


I think they feel that there is already opportunity for that part of the market to explore pre-owned or refurbished solutions at that price point and similar capability. For example:

https://captureintegration.com/pre-owned-cambo-phase-one-bundles/

And Phase One does indeed take part in this - while some of these bundles can be pre-owned product, other bundles (like the P65+ units) are factory refurbished product via a Phase One program. As a result, this does provide some lower priced solutions for this end of the market without the need for Phase One to try to produce new product that poses the difficulty in producing acceptable revenues from this price point.


Steve Hendrix
Capture Integration
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torger
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« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2013, 11:02:22 AM »
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I think they feel that there is already opportunity for that part of the market to explore pre-owned or refurbished solutions at that price point and similar capability.

If so, they think the market is small. To get a pre-owned unit someone must have owned it first Smiley. The deals you show look pretty good, but also very rare. I cannot get that type of deals around here.

I don't think that it would be too difficult to get an "acceptable margin" on such a product, the thing is that you would sell more volume.

You need some marketing aimed towards advanced landscape photography amateurs, there's very little currently to make people more aware of that these systems exist and what they are good at. You could for example show Joe Cornish working in "slow photography" fashion with his tech camera (instead of his Mamiya camera which is in the marketing material now, I think it is like 10 times easier to impress amateurs with a tech cam than with a MF SLR), see how it relates to traditional large format photography like Ansel Adams etc. Lots of opportunities to make amateurs interested.

When you look at Phase One's web site and hear the interview you get the impression that Phase One doesn't really know/care much about tech cameras at all, more than that they know they exist.
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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2013, 11:24:37 AM »
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If so, they think the market is small. To get a pre-owned unit someone must have owned it first Smiley. The deals you show look pretty good, but also very rare. I cannot get that type of deals around here.

I don't think that it would be too difficult to get an "acceptable margin" on such a product, the thing is that you would sell more volume.

You need some marketing aimed towards advanced landscape photography amateurs, there's very little currently to make people more aware of that these systems exist and what they are good at. You could for example show Joe Cornish working in "slow photography" fashion with his tech camera (instead of his Mamiya camera which is in the marketing material now, I think it is like 10 times easier to impress amateurs with a tech cam than with a MF SLR), see how it relates to traditional large format photography like Ansel Adams etc. Lots of opportunities to make amateurs interested.

When you look at Phase One's web site and hear the interview you get the impression that Phase One doesn't really know/care much about tech cameras at all, more than that they know they exist.


That's really the key (the bold type). I think if they saw a benefit to being in that part of the market, meaning producing a profitable product at that price point with similar specs - they would probably already be doing it. I think also that "markets" for their product, their core product, are not so much professional, amateur, etc, as much as they are who can afford the product. Anyone interested in shooting medium format who can afford a Phase One solution is their market. And the evidence indicates that this market is quite ample. Resultingly, this also casts a light on whether it indeed would benefit them to produce a low cost solution.

If it would not negatively impact their core market - people interested in photography who can afford $20K to $40K photographic products - then if they could produce adequate profit from a low priced solution, they would do it. However, the amount of volume at the pricing you have in mind would have to be much higher, and I do not feel confident that the level of volume required would necessarily emerge. This level of volume also has significant costs above and beyond just product profits, there's expanded infrastructure in terms of marketing, sales management, and especially technical support for many, many more users. These are not insignificant considerations.


Steve Hendrix
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torger
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« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2013, 11:44:26 AM »
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This level of volume also has significant costs above and beyond just product profits, there's expanded infrastructure in terms of marketing, sales management, and especially technical support for many, many more users. These are not insignificant considerations.

Yes, I think that is where the core problem is. The company is too small and has too little financial backing and perhaps too little business knowledge to be able to pull it off, too high risk. It's not about technology, they would to some extent need a different business strategy. The trade-in dealer-centric business model is probably very solidly infused in the whole company structure, and this is made for low volume with huge margins and they are stuck in that. Probably happily so though. I would have loved to talk about this with the Phase One CEO though.

High prices is an advantage too, in the interview he said several times that MF is about being different from everyone else, and if too many can afford it then it is not exclusive any longer. Unfortunately (for Phase One) I don't think that MF contribute that much to "being different" concerning photographic results, it's all about what the photographer can do creatively. But for amateurs (and some pros) "being different" can simply mean having different gear than the others, preferably something that the others can't afford Smiley.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 11:50:54 AM by torger » Logged
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« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2013, 11:54:04 AM »
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Hi,

Keeping the system expensive can of course give a possible competitor an option to enter the market at a significantly lower price point. That may be what Pentax is doing, at least if they really introduce a significantly new model in the coming time.

Those Cambo/Phase offerings Steve Hendricks mentioned could be quite attractive, IMHO, but it is not exactly what I'm looking for and I'm not really ready to  go for MF anyway.

Best regards
Erik


Yes, I think that is where the core problem is. The company is too small and has too little financial backing and perhaps too little business knowledge to be able to pull it off. It's not about technology, they would to some extent need a different business strategy. The trade-in dealer-centric business model is probably very solidly infused in the whole company structure, and this is made for low volume with huge margins and they are stuck in that. Probably happily so though.

High prices is an advantage too, in the interview he said several times that MF is about being different from everyone else, and if too many can afford it then it is not exclusive any longer.
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FredBGG
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« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2013, 12:04:26 PM »
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LOL.

.......Some companies purposely position themselves to provide solutions only to a small % of the market. .......
"stuck" -  Grin

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/is_mf_dead.shtml

Yes Stuck. Just look at reality.
Hasselblad and it's investors made a desperate attempt to get into smaller formats and it was a colossal failure.

Phase One purposely chose to not try to enter such a market. Smarter choice. But the reality is that they are "stuck" in the MFD market.
Phase One has made the smart choice to enter somewhat into other formats through it's software.
They also snapped up Leaf and Mamiya because that is the world they are in.

Another important aspect is brand recognition in the market outside of MF. Both Hasselblad and Phase One
really do not have the type of brand recognition that could carry them into other formats.

The way the gear is marketed is also a determining factor. Canon's and Nikon's etc sell on the highstreet
and sell based on reputations and the shinny logos hanging around millions of people necks.
MFD is sold in a very different manner. Specialized dealers that market the living daylights out of the stuff
and mainly to immediate buyer candidates. This is what is needed to sell this stuff. However this type of
business model is not conducive to growing a brand and expanding into other fields.

Then there is the R+D difference. Giants like Nikon and Canon due to their huge resources put much more development
into products and the manufacturing process. They already work on technology that is maybe two three product generations
away. For this reason they know what the possibilities are and as a result see no reason for entering the MF arena.
Not only do these companies make their own sensors ... they make the type of utra high end equipment that makes sensors.

MFD is in a sense a dead end road. There are two ways it can go. Turn into a dead end back ally or be a posh and high quality Cul de Sac.

Phase is in the high quality Cul de Sac, Hasselblad almost blew it buy building a small Wallmart in it's Cul De Sac and thought that hiring
a fancy shop window decorator could save them.

Just look at the direction of technology.
Phase One comea out with a new back. IQ2 series. Through some endogenous tinkering they have improved long exposure.
Canon on the other hand demonstrated ultra high sensitivity sensor technology, yes still prototype, but technologically
a huge leap.

Then there is the synergy that both Nikon and Canon can get from their growing motion picture products.
Canon will benefit enormously as far as optical design goes with it's ultra high end motion picture lens designs where
lenses sell for $ 30,000 and have waiting lists. We are already seeing Canon lenses being used in front of MF sensors due to their
high quality.

In the past a Nikon or a Canon might have wanted to get into MF for prestige reasons, but that is not the case any more because their is no
longer the quality gap that there used to be between the formats. Also I think the Lunar project has pretty much killed the glory of MF as a noble
group of MF manufactures. I think it is safe to say that it has also pretty much killed off venture capital interest in MFD.


« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 12:06:57 PM by FredBGG » Logged
JoeKitchen
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« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2013, 12:40:33 PM »
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I know that it would only be a matter of time before the hawks would get into this discussion.  I just made the leap and can't wait for the camera to get here. 

What made me jump was the access to different camera systems like Arca Swiss.  The ability to work with sysmetrical lenses that are much sharper than the DSLR wide angle retrofocal counter parts.  Also, the ability to do multiple exposures in a single digital capture; now I never have to worry about not having enough strobe power.  None of these are available for Nikon/Canon. 
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