Location: San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA
Editing OK?: No
Constructive Critique?: Yes
Gallery | Blog
Re: Is It All Relative ?
Digital medium format in the 645 size is here to stay. Phase One is one of the few camera companies actually turning a profit, and all but one of their currently-manufactured products is "full frame" 645.
Most digital medium format stuff lives in rental, and Phase has become the dominant player here, though there are some holdouts still renting Hasselblad H. Not sure what the percentage of private ownership of Phase One products are, but I can tell you based on attendance at Phase events that there are a heck of a lot of Phase One owners in the San Francisco Bay Area alone. I think the majority of them don't spend any time on internet photography forums.
In the Kodak CCD days there were a number of "crop" medium format backs in various sizes in that range (some smaller and some bigger than 44x33mm). When they moved to Dalsa CCD and later Sony CMOS sensors, Phase One clearly slotted one 44x33mm product as the entry level; the rest of the product line is all 645.
The Leica S medium format DSLR system has always been 45x30mm. That's their chosen size, and they've always done their own thing. This system had a lot of potential but is on the verge of becoming a non-player by some design defects and horrendous customer service/handling of issues. There's a Sinar-branded digital back using the Leica S innards, but I don't think they've sold a single one.
Pentax and Fuji are exclusively making digital medium format cameras in the 44x33mm size. Hasselblad's mirrorless system is 44x33mm as are many of its H system digital backs, but Hasselblad usually only has two or three current backs on the market at any given time, essentially one entry level (44x33mm) and one high end (645).
The bulk of the serious camera market is still APS-C digital, which is where the early "affordable" DSLRs started (Nikon D1 in 1999 and quickly followed by the Canon D30). Nikon wants you to think the trend is 24x36mm, something they've been pushing since 2007-2008 when they released their first 24x36mm cameras. , and Sony does too, pushing their A7 (and now A9) series hard. More expensive products means better margins.
The main footholds for 24x36mm "full frame" cameras are photojournalism, because the big honking durable and fast sports cameras from Canikon only come in that size, and wedding photography, though many weddding photographers are happy to use other sensor sizes if they can get equivalent or close to equivalent depth of field and looks from the other systems' lenses.
Note I said "other" sensor sizes for weddings. Over the years, I have seen wedding photographers try digital medium format, but most end up going back to 24x36mm or smaller due to convenience as digital medium format backs and cameras used to be very limited in certain aspects, namely higher ISO performance. It's a pain to lug around a giant system you can only use for part of the day. The most recent products can be shot anywhere a DSLR can, and as they come down in price* we may see some more widespread adoption.
Then again, we might not, but who knows. Hard to go back to 5-6 pound+ cameras when a 24x36mm "professional" DSLR lens and flashset up averages 2-3, and mirrorless cameras weigh even less.
Mirrorless cameras (especially APS-C and Micro-4/3) get a lot of the talk and buzz, especially on photography sites and forums, but most consumers in the U.S. are still using Canon APS-C DSLRs. Mirrorless only really has a significant foothold in the market in Japan (one of the major issues with the various camera companies is that they focus on the domestic market)
*I think Phase One actually made the bulk of their money (at least, from individual photographers; I'm not including corporate, scientific, and industrial clients) by controlling the secondhand market size of their backs; they used to offer incredible incentives to trade in old products directly to them, which they would then refurbish and redistribute in their dealer network. By discouraging private sales of their used products, they attempted to control the value of secondhand digital backs, and actually did it rather successfully for the longest time.
Last edited by cyclohexane; 09-20-2017 at 11:00 PM.. Reason: Typo... many vs most H digital backs