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Wednesday, 02 June 2021


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If 44x33mm is large, or max, you’ll need another term for 53x40 sensors from Phase, etc. Even then, what will you call this?...

[I don't see the conflict. Was not "large format" anything from 4x5 inches to 8x10 inches? Larger than 8x10 was "ultra large format." Perhaps anything appreciably larger than 53x40 could be called Ultramax. Max format is anything larger than "full frame"--which by the way is the exact same size that once upon a time was called "miniature"!

It's a rat's nest. --Mike]

Well that’s a lot to sift through and maybe I missed the point ? Back in the film days anything larger than 35mm was always referred to as medium format whether it was 645, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, and others in 120 film.
Regardless if the digital sensor is only slightly larger than 35mm then I am OK with the designation medium format digital camera. Perhaps I’m being too simplistic ? Have I not gotten your point or message in your well written, (as always) post ?

(You see what I did there?) Sorry but I didn’t!

What should I call 120 film? Should I call 4x5 film Super Ultra Max?

Given your professed enjoyment of Fujifilm's X bodies I think you'll really enjoy the GFX 100s, Mike. It's quite an amazing camera. I had the GFX 50s since 2017 and was loathe to swap it for the 100s. I really love the 50s's modular and tiltable EVF, which the 100s doesn't have. But so far, not a big deal. And the reduction in profile is terrific. In fact, it's downright diminutive and light.

And the image quality is lovely.

You'll want one.

This body with the 50mm (40mm-e) could be a perfect "last" camera as a person in my mid 60s.

Aquiring the new 27mm Fujifilm lens for my X series bodies has led me to think that the 40-ish millimeter focal length just might be the most useful optic for general photography. My 23mm and 35mm lenses are faster and probably sharper, but that right in the sweet spot 27mm is always on my camera since I got it.

Gear reviewer, Jonas Rask said that he never "got" the 40mm-e focal length until he got to review the Fuji GFX and the 50mm, and then he saw it as that perfect compromise. He has some great sample photos from this combo on his site.

I could be quite happy with the larger than full frame and 50mm lens as my one and only kit.

Nice counterpoit to the previous Sony post.
That in itself was quite depressing re: the outlook of (still) photography from a market perspective.
When my MFT gear will stop working soon after the demise of OMD and the Lumix brand, i'll have a good alternative with Fuji, it seems ;-)

You're correct that Fuji is the only manufacturer taking APS/C seriously. I use m4/3s but if I were starting from scratch, I'd probably choose Fuji. Although, you know, I have come to prefer the 4:3 aspect ratio over 3:2.

We can standardize on teeny format for 4/3 or smaller, small format for APS-C and 135, medium format for the roughly 645 to 67, and large format for anything larger. Also available is itt-bitty format, and itty-bitty teeny-weeny format if you're feeling whimsical.

The term "medium format" still makes sense in digital because 3 of the available 5 systems (well, actually, 4, by means of adapters) use or can use "legacy" optics from film days---and lots of people are still shooting those film cameras---in Pentax's case with newer, digital era lenses.

Thus it's a legacy thing, yet works as well as "horesepower" or , ahem, Full Frame.

Agreed that legacy terminology is irrelevant. So then why not borrow a ubiquitous system already known to many? "Grande", "Venti" and "Trenti" for sizes larger than "full frame". No less arbitrary or imprecise than "medium format", but more widely known and understood. (The reference is to Starbucks Coffee's ad hoc size designations, btw.)

It's a tall order, but I'm only half-joking, I think ;)

I would like to think that anyone considering a $6k camera body knows what size the sensor is, notwithstanding the terminology. I looked at the Fuji GFX system and from what I can tell, unless one is doing prints, yes prints, 24x36 inches or larger, it's hard to tell the difference from "full frame" 24x36mm sensor output. That won't stop some folks. I read somewhere that one needs to quadruple the resolution to see differences without pixel peeping, that means 200MP or more to "beat" a 50-60MP full frame camera.

I met a fellow at the Portland Japanese Garden who had the original GFX100. We had a nice chat but I was gobsmacked when he told me he did not print. I managed to contain my amazement. People should buy and enjoy what they want so long as they are not taking food from their children's mouths, but I'm not in the market for a GFX100S at this time.

The term "Full Frame" is a marketing trope.

Regardless of the size of the sensor (film or digital) I was taught to use the full frame. Or in simple terms, all of the available sensor area when taking images. When referring to to sensor size, I say APS-C or 135. The term 135 comes off of the box of a roll of 35mm film.

I just want the term "full frame" to go away. It's 35mm. Same old size. That would untangle most of the rest of the mess, and eliminate the need for cyberphilac neologisms.

Did you mean rational in your subhead, or rationale?

My pal, who is a pro-photographer, passed me one (I think it's a GFX 100S + 50mm lens) to handle for a few minutes. And after a few minutes, I passed it back. Nothing wrong with it except that it's too heavy for my style of traveling, walking and shooting street photography with light equipment.

I think the rat’s nest of naming different formats already has a solution.

“Medium Format” was always ambiguous, so we routinely referred to 6x6, 6x7, 6x9 and so forth. Yes, those numbers were approximations but they were specific, which is exactly what’s needed now.

In the digital formats the ambiguity is eliminated by using “36x24”, “44x33” and “54x40”. Simple.

Careful, Mike.

I pre-ordered the GFX 100s three minutes after preorders went live and got mine a while back. I'm not a gear nut but I think that nothing else compares. I've been saying "it's like having a large-format camera in your pocket" which ignores both view camera movements (which the GFX 100s does not have) and the fact that I'm really only talking about extraordinarily large coat pockets, but still, the sentiment is genuine.

So, as I said, be careful. Once you try it you won't look at other cameras in the same way...

You made several good points. But max is just bad name for a larger digital format. Large format is good, it is anything larger than, well something smaller. But max is obviously short for maximum, which is the largest. And there can ever be only one largest format. You could not call 8x10 largest. Phase One could try to call their ‘almost 6x4.5’ largest unless you include scanning backs which are much larger and until someone makes an even larger, say full 6x4.5 or even 6x7 digital. The key point you raised is the futility to refer digital backwards to film which developed from the opposite end. Large glass plates switching to flexible films and then gradually becoming smaller when better optics, film and technological development made it possible to make large prints from small negatives (Leica’s advertising slogan). Digital started with tiny sensors that were possible to manufacture at somewhat reasonable cost and as technology developed the sizes became larger. I would just call the Fuji large format digital. That would include the even larger but still large Phase One etc. And full frame is established as the standard size, so medium in that sense. Anything smaller is small format digital. But whatever words are used, max is just the wrong word.

Anything larger than full-frame is simply a large-sensor camera. "Medium format" is a film term that sounds like marketing malarkey in the digital realm, especially since those sensors are only moderately larger than full-frame.

I just wish digital medium format camera makers would be up-front honest about their frame size.

Medium format traditionally encompassed frames sizes ranging from 6 cm x 4.5 cm (645) to 6 x 9, with some panoramic outliers.

Digital camera makers and reviewers should insist on naming the current cameras as 345 (nominally 3cm x 4.5cm) which makes clear the modest improvement over “full frame 35mm” and how far the rendering and field of view equivalencies are from classical “medium formats”.

Why don't we just use the sensor size in mm as the "name" of the so-called format?
Then we would not have to guess or research the sensor size. Instead of names that make no sense like Full Frame, Medium Format, 1" (ridiculous name), APS-C, APS-C (Canon), APS-H, 4/3", 1x1.7 etc...
I know this has been proposed many times, but most of us could use this terminology when discussing cameras.

We would have
Diagonal - Dimensions
(rounding to nearest mm)

67mm - 54x40 - Phase One P65+
55mm - 44x33 - Pentax, Hasselblad, some Fuji
43mm - 36x24 - Full Frame
28mm - 24x16 - APS-C
22mm - 17x13 - Four Thirds
16mm - 13x9 - 1" Sony RX-100
6mm - 5x4 - various smart phones

I know the manufacturers and industry may use the legacy names, but we could be more practical.

But the maximum is the most, how can you then have Large... back to the drawing board I suggest. Maybe X, XXL, XXXL, etc haha!

oops, I forgot to say, medium format film is between 35mm and large format, not between something dubbed 'Full Format' and something larger. Blame whoever decided 35mm film sized sensors are 'Full Format', they got that wrong...

“ yet balancing it with large-format digital...”

Sorry, Mike, I nearly choked. LARGE-FORMAT digital??? Given that Fuji haven’t yet given us a properly MEDIUM format digital camera, your phrasing is perplexing choice.

IMHO it is both confusing and misleading for that these 33x44mm sensor cameras are called medium format.

It is a mini-MF sensor size, with a crop factor of only 0.8/1.25 compared to FF. I don't consider it a difference worth having.

Attributing to this camera the visual qualities of real Medium Format emulsion size, and the lens perspectives of those cameras, is a bit of a stretch IMO.

Let’s face it: When Hasselblad and Pentax started putting digital sensors into their medium format cameras, they did exactly the same thing as Canon and Nikon did when they started putting digital sensors into the SLR cameras. Namely, they made the sensor about half the area or less of the emulsion film size that those earlier cameras were made for, and the lenses were made for, and put it into a body of similar size.

However , whereas Canon and Nikon had the integrity not to describe these early cameras as 35 mm cameras with 35 mm sensors, it appears that the medium format companies had the shameless audacity to go marketing-speak and start with the spin, spin, spin. I can’t believe that the community fell for this nonsense.

If you are going to call these mini-MF sensors medium format, then you had better start calling APS-C sensors 35 mm. We don’t want to be hypocritical.

In digital camera world, the size of the sensor is paramount in naming a camera’s format. We don’t lump crop-sensor cameras in with FF, we give them distinct names like APS-C and Four Thirds, and we use the name not just for the sensors but for the cameras too. For extremely good reasons. Well, the same rules apply to MF. I suggest Mini-MF, but Crop-MF is good too.

As for calling it LARGE FORMAT..... LOL.

Note to Robert E. In Starbucks-speak,"tall" is actually smaller than any of the sizes you mentioned.

And about sensor sizes - when I was a youngster, what is now "full-frame" was called "miniature."

It's pretty clear to me that Fujifilm has read the book on product innovation, Blue Ocean Strategy, with respect to their product portfolios. Put as briefly as possible, the main thesis of Blue Ocean Strategy was to innovate in "blue oceans" where there were few competitors and thus you can develop and innovate products where you can become the "dominant incumbent". The entire point is to stay completely out of the "red oceans" where the water was red from the blood of sharks engaged in a feeding frenzy for the same market share (aka, "full-frame").

Fujifilm has effectively done this, as they are clearly the dominant incumbent in mirrorless APS-C, with the best developed set of bodies and, most importantly, lenses* developed specifically for Fujiflm's APS-C sensors. And...Fujifilm has also effectively innovated to become the dominant incumbent in the digital MF market segment, as well, with effectively no statistically significant competition in that blue ocean, either.

If you were a camera company, in an industry with a year-on-year decline in overall sales, which ocean would you rather be in? The "red ocean" infested with sharks, or the "blue ocean" with no sharks?

Uh, yeah. Fujifilm nailed this one.

*- Fujifilm's APS-C bodies are not, like Canikon APS-C cameras, "crop sensor" bodies, as the image circles of Fujifilm's lenses were designed specifically for the size of their sensors; nothing in the lens' image circle is being "cropped" by the sensor. It's technically most accurate to classify them as a "full frame APS-C camera and lens system." Just sayin'

Actually the entire terminology problem you speak of stems from the pretty much meaningless phrase full frame.

It is that silly phrase that causes the problem really. Throw it out and the original term medium format still makes sense.

The phrase is a travesty in my opinion. Alas that ship has sailed and there is no putting the genie back in the bottle at this point.

If 24x36mm is full-frame ("FF") how about calling the Fuji GFX100's format "G"?

Unlike Mike, I'm no wordsmith (by a long shot), but "G" follows "FF", alphabetically speaking, and is also part of the camera line's name, and so, to me, it sounds natural and logical.

The GFX system cameras have G format sensors.

I'd go for "LArge DIgital Data Acquisition" format - could be abbreviated nicely ;)

I liked Large Format Digital as a LFD camera would be cool!

Maximum format?
OK, consider the gauntlet thrown down.
It’s all a bit ridiculous, so with the aid of a Thesaurus for inspiration, and tongue half-in-cheek...
Maybe abbreviate to Max Mat (or MM). Adds a bit of snap to it (yeah, pun intended).
Fuller Format, or Full-on Format, but that’s still FF.
Over-Full Format may just be OTT.
Full Plus Format - F+P - although that’s starting to sound like an apple device.
Or we can just go for a bunch of similarly meaningless marketing terms: Great Format (works for GFX), Total Format (bit too Hollywood - I was half-tempted by Loaded Format after that), Super Format, Whole Format, and maybe so far as Elite Format or Supreme Format (take me to your...). Lead Format could work in that vein, although too easily confused with the heavy metal (as in “it went down like a lead balloon”).
Terms such as Colossal Format, Copious Format etc have been discarded as unsuitable.
OK, I’ll take myself to the naughty corner now.

Maybe 'medium format' really is appropriate for the GFX cameras. If 35mm is 'standard' format lets say, then really what is 'large format'? I doubt we'll have 4x5 or 8x10 digital sensors so the new 'large format' would likey be something more similar to the old medium format size and the GFX size sensor will then truly be the 'medium format'. Just a slightly different way of looking at it. Maybe somebody really needs to define what large format is so then we'll know what medium format is.

We need to replace the current names for the various sensor sizes for names that give them appropriate relationships to each other. I like Micro Fourthirds and dislike Fullframe. Except for Micro Fourthirds we are stuck in the 20th century. With your large community we should come up with an appropriate progression of names for the sensors.
What do you say?

Also I hate the term "crop sensor" and the use of a 20th century name ISO is so not correct.

Why did Fuji use Bayer sensors in the GFX cameras? Does X-Trans have problems with the larger format?

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/physicists-unlock-multispectral-secrets-of-earliest-color-photographs/ This might be of interest.

Thanks for the puff of sanity. Fresh air is always welcome and you got a lot of good comments on this one.

Maybe since 20th century photography was mostly done on 135 film and digital sensors are overwhelmingly smaller, even today, one gets to thinking about the olden days when things were perfect and you got the full deal -- all 24mmx36mm of it. But full of what? Filled up to where? And there is that "frame" part hanging there begging for the nail clippers to come around -- annoying.

A while ago I decided to skip the "full frame" marketspeak and instead think of "Barnack" format, which removes the comparisons and the measurements. No "35-e", but "Barnack Equivalent Units" (BEU) if anything. No sensor envy. I try to think of what hardware is right for what purpose. And 135 was not any kind of miracle anyway, but a cludge cobbled together from 18mmx24mm movie film. The stuff was there, the system worked for its time, and that's it. Gone now.

The whole camera world is a hash of formats, terms, and technologies and always been. Does anyone remember when 4.75"x6.5" was not "large format" but "half plate"? Get a 24mmx36mm sensor that captures 60 megapixels of data, and I'm calling that one large format. It's not the size of the silicon, but the amount of data coming out that matters.

It's all goofy.

And I continue wondering why camera companies still put room for a film spool on each side of the bodies they make. It's a true sign that things have not sorted out yet. Years ago someone suggested that cameras be made in the Pentax Spot Meter format (img: https://www.amazon.com/PENTAX-DIGITAL-SPOT-METER-36141/dp/B00009V3FV ). Which makes sense. So any day now, right?

Why does a digital camera have room for film spools, a hand grip on the right, and a viewfinder on the left? Try that one if left handed. I'm not, but I've had to once or twice try using scissors with my left hand. Ow. Cameras are just as nuts.

With a grip on the bottom and a lens on top, in the middle, there would be room for batteries and memory, and several ways to hold the dang thing, for everyone. In small, medium, and large format too, as if it really mattered. Maybe Canon's "Monocular PowerShot Zoom" is the beginning. Maybe I'll buy one for the hell of it, and get modern already.

If You call Fujifilm MAX Format, What do you call Phase One?
PhaseOne is up to 150MP and Hasselblad has had 400 MP multi shot for years.
Medium Format always had variation in Film Area, 6x4.5, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8(Fujifilm) & 6x9 which was both Roll & Sheet film.
We even had 6x12 & 6x17

I just don't see it as a big problem. Most folks who care about such things understand the MF Digital spans a couple of sizes, and much fewer than in the film days.

"Full frame" happened because nearly all photographers were 35mm photographers when digital started being significant in the market (early 2000s). Even the people who used medium-format film or sheet film nearly always also used 35mm; it was the core thing every photographer knew.

And making things smaller is what chip manufacturing is good at. Plus, it became apparent quite quickly that a 24x36mm sensor would surpass all film formats for most purposes; sheet-film / "large format" photographers got a distinction more from the capability of shifts and tilts than from size, at least for most print sizes any photographer ever makes (I know people who make 4x6 foot prints, but I don't know very many; and those are commercial work, for trade shows, not for art collectors).

There have always been exceptional film formats or sensor sizes that nobody thinks of or talks about (as part of the ordinary spectrum of photography) -- aerial reconnaissance used 9x9 and 9x18 films, and wasn't there 11 inch roll film? I never heard anybody mention that as a "photographic format" :-). Or those immense Polaroid sheets! Dunno what sort of sensor sizes Earth-based astronomical observatories use; they (and Hubble) have been doing stitching of multiple captures pretty much from the beginning (having already got nice stable supports!). So the objection to "Max" that it's not in fact the biggest doesn't bug me much.

I recently celebrated the ninth anniversary of my D800e still knocking out beautiful files but the older we grow together the less likely I will take it along.
If the Fuji came out back in the days I carried a Pentax 67, three lenses and a Tiltall maybe I would go for it but too late in the life cycle for me.

"Makes a big difference as to whether they've sold 50,000 units or 150,000 GFX units so far."

Actually what would be a bigger determining factor would be net profit per unit not total number of units sold. That's why Leica isn't Sony. That's why Rolex isn't Timex.

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