I was spending a few minutes this morning trashing folders full of digital photos that are no longer relevant to me or anyone else. But sprinkled in between the commercial dreck I had fun finding a few gems.


It's good to throw stuff out. I'm so tired of reading about people's archiving strategies and how they are going to save their work for future generations. They are not doing anyone any favors. There's about 1-2% of my entire lifetime photo output that I'd want to save for any reason and I can't imagine that everyone's keeper rate is enormously better. 

So, every once in a while I comb through some of the hard drives attached to the studio computer and ruthlessly cut away the crap, toss it into the trashcan and move on. In my mind I am giving my son a fabulous gift. The gift of not having to sift through an almost endless torrent of uninteresting and unimportant photographs. I have a few folders of family images set aside. After I'm gone he can look through them and keep what he wants. But the idea of the poor kid having to go through his dead dad's endless collection of street scenes, lens tests and boring stuff shot for commercial consumption sounds like the worst sort of unintentional torture. Hereditary Hell.

I know this for a fact because I had the sad task of cleaning out my parents' house after the last one passed away. It took months. It was an emotional train wreck. They never threw anything away. 

So, while I was in the reduction mode, I came across a folder of images from the time in 2008-2010 when I was reviewing medium format digital cameras for Studio Photographer Magazine. I'd been reviewing cameras and lenses for them for several years and when three big camera makers started aggressively moving into the MF digital market the magazine's editor thought I might be interested in kicking the tires, twisting the knobs, working with primitive firmware, and generally getting to know three different system solutions.

Since no one was in quite the hurry then that they are now the camera makers weren't driven by a fantastic pace of getting the test cameras in and out to reviewers. I usually had something like a month or six weeks to evaluate each camera. 

The  MF cameras I worked with during this period didn't have the little "weeny" sensors that you find in current, mainstream digital "MF" cameras. No. The Leaf AFi 7 camera with a 48 by 36mm sensor. It resolved 33 megapixels and used a series of incredibly expensive (for the time!) Schneider lenses that were designed specifically for these cameras. Back in 2007 these cameras were tossing out 16 bit raw files with over 12 stops of dynamic range. 

We shot with the Phase One cameras, the Mamiya cameras and the Leaf cameras. It was a fun time but in the end I could not justify the sheer cost of the systems. The Leaf camera with the Schneider zoom lens tipped the dollar scale at a little over $45,000 at the time. If memory serves me the Phase One (shipped to me with two lenses) was in the same ballpark.

It's funny see YouTube "experts" and photo bloggers just now "discover" medium format digital cameras from Fuji and H-blad. As though nothing of the sort existed before 2021. I wonder what they would say if they knew that there were wonderful MF digital cameras available and in use back in 2006, and earlier.

Anyway, we got some interesting images from the cameras and I thought we'd see a lot more development in this niche over the years but the MF digital market is just now becoming accessible to the general market of (well-heeled) photographers. I'm just a bit surprised that sensors haven't gotten larger. I don't care about resolution increases but the dynamics of more surface area are related directly to the look of images. Sad we can't seem to get back to the basic 6cm X 6cm sizes we enjoyed for decades in MF film cameras....
This was my favorite eccentric working camera of that era.

Thinking about MF digital and how a system would make a really nice Christmas present for a blogger/working photographer. But not the obvious  choices. Leica makes a beautiful MF camera called the S3. That's the one I'd at least like to play with and review some time soon. I think I'll reach out and see what we can arrange....