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How To Get 39 Megapixels From a 53-Year-Old Camera 347

Posted by timothy
from the was-always-envious-of-ex's-hasselblad dept.
G3ckoG33k writes "An article at The Register Hardware describes how Hasselblad film cameras dating back to 1957 can be given a new life using a digital back to get images at a super resolution of 39 megapixels. From the article: 'The CFV-39 digital back allows you to get those cameras out from the last century and use the V-System cameras with their beautiful glass once again, it simply fits in place of where the roll film used to be. Hasselblads have never been inexpensive, but talk about a return on investment. Here is a manufacturer looking after a fiercely loyal user-base and along with it offering what could be seen as the ultimate green camera system.' Oh, by the way most pictures taken during the Apollo space program in the 1960s were taken with Hasselblad." Hasselblad's been making digital backs for quite a while now, but this one's very impressive in speed (and cost — "only" about $14,000) compared to earlier models.
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How To Get 39 Megapixels From a 53-Year-Old Camera

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  • H3D (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:49PM (#31977854)

    Unfortunately, Hasselblad is trying to do away with "old cameras" by integrating everything into a single body with their next generation medium format. For the last decade everything was modular, with the digital back attaching to the body, but now they're integrating those two parts. Still, it's an expensive proposition, starting at $20k I believe, and with the way the economy is going and the direction of art buyers demanding more video rather than megapixels and renderings, I can't justify spending that kind of money for extra sharpness and shallower DoF.

    But if you have $20k just laying around, by all means, buy one. My Canon 1Ds is handling the bulk of my business, and a lot of magazines still take 8 megapixel images (if they even care at all).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:53PM (#31977886)

    The same reason I don't back up DVDs by pointing a video camera at my TV screen.

  • Re:H3D (Score:4, Insightful)

    by networkBoy (774728) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:59PM (#31977934) Homepage Journal

    I own a blad, but there is no way I can afford this back (yet). Nor would it be justified for the shooting I do. That said, if Nikon would offer backs that would fit their older cameras I would be in the market, especially if they were <$1000 and FX sensor size, even if "only" 6 to 10 MP.

    Dear Nikon:
    I want a digital back for my F3HP and my 90s please.
    -nB

  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:00PM (#31977944)

    That's not the point, cellphones can have a ton of megapixels but with their tiny lens setup the image will be garbage no matter how fine grained the sensor is. This isn't about getting more megapixels, it's about getting digital images out of expensive old cameras with very expensive lens setups.

  • by jjoelc (1589361) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:07PM (#31978014)

    When you spent $2500-$3000 for the camera body, and close to that much for EACH lens (and photographers, while maybe technically able to get by on 2-3 lenses, usually have several more than that) Plus flash, tripod, other accessories... By the time you get to the full setup, it is pretty easy to get into the $15,000-$20,000 range. And you want them to throw all of that away, because "they should get with the times already" ? Tell you what.. Throw away (NOT trade in) your Ferrari and buy a Prius, and see if you think it was worth it.

  • by BetterSense (1398915) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:10PM (#31978034)
    I never made any such claims. I suppose if you can afford 14,000 on a piece of gear that is going to last at most a few years before its obsolete, just so that you can avoid shooting film like people (including NASA and the Apollo astronauts) managed to do for 125 years or so, go for it. I'm sure there are working professionals that can afford to do so.

    TFA implies that this miraculous invention 'allows' you to use these old cameras from "Last century". Like they stopped working when the CCD was invented. Nothing is stopping anyone from using them the way they have been used since 1955. You don't have to spend 14k to get a 40 megapixel hasselblad. Shoot film in them like they were made to do, scan the film, and then you can do everything else you can do with digital imaging. Photoshop away.

    If people weren't so allergic to tech that still works after a few decades, maybe these old cameras wouldn't be sitting around in closets so much. It's as if actually loading a roll of film in a classic camera reduces your l33tness cred or something, and now, for only $14,000, you can use your Hasselblad without having to ask your lab to send orders in unmarked boxes so that you don't have to face the embarrasment of the mailman finding out that you are ordering Ektachrome through the mail.
  • by Moofie (22272) <lee@ringofsaturn.3.1415926com minus pi> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:20PM (#31978112) Homepage

    Do you really, really think that somebody who owns a Hasselblad is going to drop $14k on it just because digital is the new hotness?

    No.

    They're going to do it if they have a job they can do with the digital back that can't be done with film.

  • by imroy (755) <imroykun@gmail.com> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:26PM (#31978148) Homepage Journal

    Two problems. The sensor is barely what could be called "medium format". The article says these sensors are 36.7 x 49 mm. That's basically twice the size of the standard 35 mm frame (36 x 24 mm). Even 6x4.5 is bigger than that.

    The other problem is bigger - price. For $14K you could get several medium format film cameras and lenses (e.g Hasselblad/Zeiss, Mamiya, Fuji, Bronica, etc), a very good film scanner (e.g Hasselblad Flextight X5 [hasselblad.com]), a big server to store your scans on, plus a fridge full of film.

    You'd only go the digital route if you need fast turn-around. For everything else, I'd rather go the film option, thanks.

  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned&gmail,com> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:33PM (#31978218)

    LOL, you think those CDs are archival? You think magnetic hard drives aren't vulnerable to data loss/corruption? You think flash memory can't go bad?

    Of course you can lose data on a computer. BUT, it's way easier to back up a computer file than it is a film negative. I can copy it to a second USB hard drive and leave it at a friend's house. I can upload photos to Mozy. I can rent a server somewhere and upload my data to that.

    Way easier than arranging some way to copy all my film negatives, figuring out somewhere to store it in a proper environment, etc., and even then it wouldn't be lossless like backing up data is.

    In the "which is easiest to prevent data loss" wars, digital wins hands down.

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:46PM (#31978300)

    B&W is for Art.....color is for porn.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:52PM (#31978336) Homepage

    My camera will also work after an EMP - I doubt yours will, and I also doubt your digital pictures will remain intact after such an event.

    Ditto my manual-everything lenses.

    The photographer on the other hand probably won't survive the nuclear blast that produced it. Yes, there's a few other ways but it's more experimental science than a practical weapon. That goes both if you're going to a war zone or you happen to be a terrorist victim, they prefer the conventional bombs.

  • by jedrek (79264) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:00PM (#31978412) Homepage

    Are you out of your mind? Every time I finish a shoot with medium format and Polaroids I throw out a small baggie full of trash: boxes, wrappers, polaroid crap, etc. Then I use a couple liters of distilled water (that I burn gas, to get it to my house) and a bunch of chemicals to actually get an image - oh yeah, that generates trash too (film cassettes, 120 film paper backing, spools, etc). The landfill space needed to cover 5 years of shooting is magnitudes greater than for digital.

    Hell, they just stopped making Neopan 400 because a toxic chemical was used to make it.

  • by imroy (755) <imroykun@gmail.com> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:00PM (#31978414) Homepage Journal

    You think [digital photography] is just a "fad" and we will go back to using film?

    No. But I think it has definitely been overhyped. Over the lest several years many photographers have "gone back" to shooting film because they've found digital not living up to the hype. I know the photography world will never go back entirely to film - the mainstream market never will. But there has been a bit of a swing back to film in the professional and enthusiast market.

    I clearly acknowledge there are advantages to digital. I can see that photographing events (sporting, news, etc) pretty much requires digital nowadays because of the need/expectation for fast turn-around. And the ability to check every shot is very important to other types of photography, particularly for weddings (you don't fuck up wedding photos).

    But film is a tried-and-true medium which still has some advantages over digital. Film cameras can be very simple and are generally much more rugged than digital cameras. Many are all-mechanical designs that don't require any batteries, others only need a battery for the light meter. That's very useful when you're travelling, especially to remote locations. And film offers a huge amount of variability in appearance. Not only do you get to choose a type and emulsion, but in B&W you influence the result by your choice of developer and how you use it (e.g concentration, agitation, etc). You might be able to imitate many of these effects in Photoshop and the like (or maybe not), but it's not the same.

    Yes, I admit I am a bit of a film bigot. But I'm not entirely unreasonable. Some digital cameras have started to interest me in the last few years.

  • by jedrek (79264) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:01PM (#31978426) Homepage

    Considering that MF backs are a professional tool, the analogy I always use is: I don't see you bitching about the price of F1 cars.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:09PM (#31978476)

    It's not just fast turnaround, but convenience. How many rolls of film can and will you reasonably carry around with you? How fast can you load one in to your camera? Then once you've shot the photos, do you take the time to develop and scan them all for review?

    That is one of the major benefits of digital (fast turnaround being another) is that you can take so many more photos. Getting 16GB+ flash storage devices is cheap and easy, and even when you take extremely large RAW photos, you can store a lot. They are also easy to carry many replacements. You can carry around thousands of pictures worth of storage without a problem. You just can't do that with film realistically. You can also shoot fast and continuous. Since a card will generally hold a couple hundred pictures, even in 14-bit RAW format, you can snap a bunch of shots of something without worry. You don't have to conserve and worry about not getting picture while you are reloading.

    Then of course there's the ability to review. With digital you just load the photos on to a computer and you can review them, and choose the shots you like. You can see them in full detail, zoom in, etc. With film you have to develop any shot you want to review in detail, and realistically you have to either scan it in or make a contrapositive print, as you won't be able to see much detail or balance looking at the negative with a magnifier. That scanner you linked to is saying it takes a bit over a minute to scan a frame too. Means you are going to be waiting a good bit.

    Digital really does have a whole lot of advantages, it isn't just turnaround time. There's something to be said for just being able to shoot and shoot and shoot and not worry about it. This is particular true if your subject is anything in motion, or is a person. Capturing the perfect moment can be luck as well as skill. Facial expressions are particularly that way. We go through a lot of micro expressions as we speak and can go from highly photogenic to goofy in a fraction of a second, as anyone who's played with a jog dial on video editing software can tell you. If you can take a lot of shots, you have a much better chance of getting a great one than if you are limited.

    I'm not saying film is dead or there's no reason or anything like that. I'm just saying there's reasons why people would want to buy something like this, despite the cost. It isn't about trying to save money over film, though you probably would in the long run, nor is it just about being able to have pictures out quickly. It is about being able to take a lot of shots, and then to easily review those shots and find the ones that are the best.

  • This isn't news. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jedrek (79264) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:09PM (#31978480) Homepage

    They've been doing this ever since the first digital backs came out in 1992. You put the back on your 'blad (or, generally speaking, any MF cam you can mount your back on to - I've seen hacks putting them onto Rollei TLRs), connect a cable to PC sync port in the lens (where the shutter is) and you're good to go. If you need to trigger strobes, most backs have their own PC sync. Ta-da.

    Seriously, you can put a MF back on a shoebox with a pinhole in it and you'll get a picture, just short the PC sync cable to fire it. Soooo not news.

  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10MENCKENlink.net minus author> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:35PM (#31978638) Homepage

    Maybe it will if marketing wants it to but if it does they will be shit 50 megapixel shots.

    The trouble is putting lots of megapixels on a small sensor doesn't work very well for a couple of reasons.

    Firstly the coverage factor is poor on small high resolution sensors, most sensor types need some space between the active cells for various reasons, so more pixels means LESS active area.

    Secondly as I understand it (i've done a little bit on optics but i'm not an expert) depth of field is related to the ratio between aperture and sensor size. So if you want lots of light (and you DO want lots of light because of "shot noise") AND a reasonable depth of field you need a big sensor.

  • Re:In color? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:54PM (#31978786)
    Yes, but that's for 35mm format. You're talking roughly $3 per frame for the developing alone, no prints. And if you want them to do the prints you're probably talking about at least another $7 there. At that rate, you'd break even at only 1400 prints.

    You're definitely not going to equal the quality with any 35mm or digital of similar frame size. It's just not going to happen, even with expert technique.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:56PM (#31978796)

    My mother has one of their cameras. It is, quite simply, the only way to shoot landscapes if you're doing professional work. Considering that between lenses and camera body, her set up is worth on the order of $15k-20k, being able to bring the same old camera she's used to in to the digital age is a pretty nice feature. It means she can keep the same old workflow she's always had when shooting. Nothing changes except a new back. That's really really nice for old school photographers looking to take the digital leap with minimal retraining. Not to mention, try convincing Canon or Minolta to develop something like this for your old SLR and you'll get a big "Uh, no"

    Hasselblad supports digital on 50 year old cameras? How many other manufacturers do that at ANY price?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @07:23PM (#31979008)

    It's as if actually loading a roll of film in a classic camera reduces your l33tness cred or something ...

    Of course not, but with digital you don't have to bother hauling around film, and then processing it, and then scanning it.

    That $14K you spend is probably peanuts compared to the salaries of talented professionals in the entire workflow of the project. If you can start sending files to post 30 minutes after a memory card or hard drive fills up and is swapped, instead of 2-3 days for processing and scanning, you can be recouping your investment quite quickly.

    Generally speaking, materials and equipment is comparatively cheap, it's labour that's usually more expensive. Anything that can raise the efficiency / productivity of labour (which is what I think digital files do) helps with the ROI on an equipment purchase.

  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sahonen (680948) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @07:45PM (#31979192) Homepage Journal
    And i you want to to make a moving picture, you're gonna have to settle with even lesser amounts of light per frame/photo per unit area,

    Actually, when shooting motion pictures on film, the typical shutter speed is 1/48th of a second to provide proper motion blur, while that shutter speed is considered fairly long by still photography standards. You can get away with shooting movies with a lot less light than a still photographer is going to be able to get away with.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:19PM (#31979754)

    If you can get film. Kodak stopped making Kodachrome (permanently) a few years ago. When I was in university I took a photo course (liberal arts university), and we used b/w tri-x and T-max. Now even those stocks are starting to dwindle, and as more people use film less and less, it becomes uneconomic to produce. Sadly, digital in general is not as good as film. There was a time when you could get 35x24 mm worth of photons into a black box and get an image from all of those photons. Camera producers are trying to tell us that 3.5x2.4 mm of photons (1/100) are the same number, just stuff more light-absorbing glass in front and turn up the sensativity. I haven't gotten a decent night shot out of any digital camera I've owned. Auto focus can't focus on what my old SLR could, and my old SLR had two small batteries I had to replace about every 3 years. Now I have to replace 3 large AA batteries twice per day.

  • by Neoprofin (871029) <.neoprofin. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:49PM (#31979908)
    Great, as someone who has had to dispose of a photo development machine I can tell you it starts with a big jug of liquid that according to the MSDS cuases death with sufficient exposure, and ends with another big jug that will only destroy all of your membranes.

    Good thing regular photography with all the wasted shots, deadly chemicals, and printed paper is so safe for the environment.
  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:55PM (#31979944) Homepage Journal

    In other words, a high end camera with no lens will have significantly better color and contrast, and as a result better detail and clarity, than a cellphone camera even if they have the same number of megapixels.

    A high-end camera with no lens will give you grey or black, or occasionally multi-colored blurry, fuzzy blobs at the very best. I think you meant "a high end camera with the most basic kit lens"

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