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Input Devices Media Upgrades

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

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:50PM (#31977856)
    Medium format film will cost you far more than $4.
  • by schnikies79 ( 788746 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:52PM (#31977880)

    But much less than $14k.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:55PM (#31977904)

    "Far more"? $20 buys me 5 rolls of Portra 160 NC/VC.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:57PM (#31977918)

    You seriously don't see the advantages of digital photography? You think it is just a "fad" and we will go back to using film?
    Ok, assuming you are completely ignorant, I could try to seriously answer your questions.
    First, a medium format film is not $4. Second, the inconvenience of switching rolls of film every dozens of pics is not comparable to switching batteries every hundreds of pics. Third there is no immediate way to view your shoots and every failed shot costs. Fourth, you need to process film, which is something that costs, takes time and could be detrimental to your shots if not done properly (ok, you could do some effects, but still much harder than photoshop). Fifth, scanning a film not only takes time, but also cannot capture the same quality as it is an extra analog->digital step. Sixth, the "archival backup slide" is useless when you can have thousands of non-degradeable perfect copies of what you shot on a digital backup medium.
    I could go on...

  • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:59PM (#31977932)

    $4.09 for name-brand film that happens to be one of the highest resolution and finest-grain color negative films available.
  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:04PM (#31977976)

    I use Fomapan 400 and it sells for $3.09US a roll. []

  • by AnonymousClown ( 1788472 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:05PM (#31977994)
    A roll of medium format color film runs a little more than $4 for everything but specials [] but that's just nitpicking.

    But to develop said roll of film, will cost you another $5 roughly, $4 if you're just getting processing which you want if you're scanning. []

    A decent medium format scanner (that will give you the quality of a digital back) runs you $2,200 + S&H [] that's assuming you can even get them! Film scanners, aside from the cheap crap, are getting harder and harder to come by. Flatbed scanner kind of suck and get you no where near the quality of a digital back especially a 39 MP one.

    So, for the price of a digital back: $14,000 - $2200 = $11,800. $11,800/ 8 per roll = 1475 rolls of film - doesn't include postage.

    That medium format back can shoot hundreds and hundreds of thousands of pictures before shitting the bed. So, each shot is less than a penny. Even if you can only get 300,000 shots of a typical pro level DSLR, that's $0.05 per shot.

    Digital wins!

  • goodie (Score:3, Informative)

    by pydev ( 1683904 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:15PM (#31978072)

    There have been digital backs for Hasselblads before. But it's not really such a great deal: you're connecting an expensive digital back to an optical system that wasn't designed for digital image capture, and a heavy mirror box, film crank, and viewfinder that you don't need with modern digital sensors. Oh, and for all that trouble, your lenses don't even work the way you're used to since the sensor is rectangular and smaller than medium format film. And at the rate sensor technologies improve, you can expect that this thing is obsolete in a couple of years.

  • RAW (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:29PM (#31978178)
    It is called raw, but the other reply is otherwise incorrect. Some older DSLRs (early 2000s) used to have a TIFF option, but that isn't the same thing, just a lossless version of the processed image. RAW output is the data read off the sensor, and is pre-bayer, and other processing (usually with some lossless compression applied). Meta-data is also included, like focal length, and exposure settings.
  • Re:Nice (Score:4, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:44PM (#31978280)

    What controls did the cameras you tried lack?

    Or do you want one with no option to turn on the automatic stuff?

    Its the UI. On my old K1000, the front ring on the lens is focus, back ring is D.O.F / F-stop, Mostly-Single-Function rotary dial on the top for shutter speed (and a complicated way to change film speed for the light meter, etc), a film advance lever, and a shutter release. Also a combination film rewind/back opener dial on the top. The UI is physically fast, simple, intuitive, instant to learn, lifetime to master. Like a CLI.

    On the other hand, on an automatic digital Cannon from a couple years back, its clicky heaven, definitely a windows style interface. Clicky Clickly Clicky thru the menus and dials, no rhyme or reason, and maybe you can adjust the shutter speed, but not really interactively or easily. Like a GUI. Like trying to use a real camera while wearing oven mitts.

  • by SimonTheSoundMan ( 1012395 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:45PM (#31978284) Homepage

    A cheap, fairly slow film can resolve 140 lines per mm. Even on a 135 (35mm) film, that equates to 17MP. Obviously, a 17MP digital camera does not resolve 17MP, you have to anti-alias, so the actual resolution is less. I have never tested a DSLR, but I have tested the Red One film camera with a 4.5k sensor, with Master Prime lenses, resolution is close to 3.2k after debayering, anti-aliasing and low pass filtering.

    This is worth a read: []

    A good emulsion will resolve 25-30 MP on 135.

  • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @05:48PM (#31978306)
    That's why you carry more than one back, loaded with various different types of film.
  • by SimonTheSoundMan ( 1012395 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:00PM (#31978416) Homepage

    JPEG2000 never took off because it has problems with it's wavelet compression, details just blur out. Have a read: [] []

  • by mirix ( 1649853 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:12PM (#31978504)

    But apparently they're still too bloody expensive.

    For the same price you could get a nice full-frame 35mm DSLR, and some good glass. I'd wager it would be a wee bit more usable too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:24PM (#31978570)

    It would store some sort of raw format (DNG?),

    Hasselblad's got its own raw format called 3FR, actually.

  • Loss-less would be ideal but would run even modern data cards down to nothing in meantime.

    Lossless RAW is the only way anyone will shoot with such a camera and back, but it's not a problem. A 64 GB CF card would hold over a thousand images, and medium format is used for shooting landscapes, not action. The cameras are big, heavy, used on a tripod and taking photographs with one is normally a process of minutes to hours of setup followed by a handful of shots.

    There are a few photographers that use medium format for portraits, but it's rare. And even then you're talking about dozens of shots, not thousands.

  • by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @07:04PM (#31978864) Homepage Journal

    Back when I was a photo assistant a roll of medium format film (transparency) cost about $29, including the cost of getting it processed professionally, not down at the drugstore. So, being a bit lazy I'll figure $35 a roll now, which means that $14K can buy you about 400 rolls of film. To a pro photographer that is not a lot of film. The digital will pay for itself fairly quickly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @07:09PM (#31978900)

    i'd prefer a fridge full of beer

  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:32PM (#31979496)

    It's not just the lenses, the image sensors are much smaller in cellphones and cheap cameras. High end cameras use larger image sensors, which allow more photons per-pixel. More photons means more accurate light sensing.

    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. Add in the lenses, and high end cameras are better in every way. Because of this, a professional grade 5mp camera is almost always better than even a consumer grade 10mp camera. It all comes down to physics.

    Note that that's also why professional grade cameras tend to be very large - bigger image sensors means everything connected to the image sensor needs to be bigger as well, and the feature-sets of these cameras only add to that size.

  • by Estanislao Martínez ( 203477 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:00PM (#31979654) Homepage

    I've only used 1 DSLR and the shutter speed and f-stop/aperture were both settable, using a dial (the same dial, with some sort of mode button to switch between them or whatever, I wasn't really doing anything dynamic, so I don't remember very well).

    Having to control all camera options with the same dial is a big deal, because it leads to mode errors: you turn the dial thinking that you're going to change the aperture, but instead it changes the shutter speed, so then you have to turn it back to the aperture you were at, change the mode to shutter speed mode, and do it again. In the meantime, you missed your shot.

    The higher-end DSLRs have more than one control dial and are therefore less prone to this issue. However, the problem is that DSLRs allow per-shot ISO changes, so they really should have three control dials: one for shutter speed, one for aperture, and one for ISO (or in P mode, one for exposure compensation, one for program shift and one for ISO shift).

    Manual focus was an option, by turning the lens.

    The problem there is that the low-end DSLRs have really bad, small, dim viewfinders that don't allow good judgement of critical focus. The viewfinders are small and dim compared to old manual focus 35mm film SLRs because the frame size on common DSLRs is smaller, which means that there's less light compared to a 35mm frame. Also, because of the autofocus systems use a significant fraction of the light, they have to use a focus screen that's not as good for manual focus as what existed on old manual-focus only DSLRs.

    To make it worse, the manual focus rings on autofocus lenses tend to be bad compared to old manual focus lenses. This is usually because autofocus systems work best if the lens focus system has a very short travel from infinity to closest focus, but that makes it very bad for precise manual focus. Newer lenses with electronic focus rings can probably be made to have nicer focus action than the old manual lenses, though.

  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:31PM (#31979816)

    A bit more on your second point: if I understand things correctly DOF varies with the relative aperture (a.k.a. f-stop) and with the square of the object distance or focal length. The key point is that it's dependent on *relative* aperture, which incorporates both focal length and the size of the lens opening.

    So DOF on a 50mm lens at (say) f 1:5.6 won't vary. I suspect a much greater problem with the tiny sensors is diffraction. My dslr is able to resolve far more than my point-n-shoot, though it has only 2/3 the megapixels. Of course, neither can hold a candle up to that 4x5 sheet of FP4+ stand processed in 1:1 Xtol.

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

    by mk_is_here ( 912747 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:38PM (#31979856)

    The f-number which decides the depth of field is the ratio between the aperture and the focal length.

    The real reason behind why small sensors does not work well with many pixels, is because it will make less light retrieved by individual pixel sensor (i.e. sensel). Since manufacturer tries to cramp as much pixels on a small patch, the image will worsen especially in low-light environment.

    This is why FF (full-frame sensor, 135 film equivalent) and 6x6 (Hasselbrad V-system in TFA) has its market.

  • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @10:22PM (#31980052)
    You're probably right about the sheer volume of halide crystals that could be shoehorned onto one square cm of film - but it would be very slow film. Low-speed films are composed of small uniform-size crystals. Faster film comes from adding larger crystals to the mix.
  • by Achra ( 846023 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @10:32PM (#31980100) Journal

    IDE has been around quite a long time now, and it's still plenty accessible. At most you'd need to give it some attention every few years.

    Once you are gone, is anyone going to give a shit about your photos to bother with the trouble of preserving them digitally?

    OTOH, if no one does, how much does it really matter?

    Besides, it's not like you can't make hard-copy printouts from digital, and there are some photo inks that "should" last comparably to film.

    Actually, you really just made the GP's point. IDE? Are you kidding me? It's only been around 10 years. What if those images were on an old ST225 MFM drive, hm? You going to put together the PC-XT that can read that sucker so you can get your images? Too easy? Ok, what if your images were stored on a Floptical disc? Good luck with finding a working floptical drive buddy. These sound hard to believe? Wait until 20 years from now and you're wondering how to get those images off of an IDE drive that is NTFS formatted. The PC industry is REPLETE with old standards that came and went. Filesystems, physical storage systems, etc, etc, etc. The GP is absolutely right that digital requires constant vigilance and effort. It comes with the territory, you can't argue against it. Is it something that we buy into when we shoot digital? Yes, absolutely. As for inkjet prints that last as long as silver-halide films? You've got to be seriously kidding me. Check back in 100 years and let me know how those prints are looking, because the films are doing great. How do I know? There's lots of silver-halide negatives from 100 years ago that still look great. Shit, I found a big box of 4x5" negatives in my family's ancestral home, and I printed them in my darkroom. Still look great. and That, my friend, is my last point. Just because you don't care about the longterm archival of your photos doesn't mean that 3 generations from now might not be interested in seeing them.

    Disclaimer: I have a darkroom and shoot my Minolta XD-11 almost as much as I shoot my Nikon D3000. Different tools for different jobs, in my opinion.

  • Re:Cool! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 25, 2010 @10:59PM (#31980246)

    Sure, if you use a fish-eye lens on any camera you'll get distortion, moron.

  • by reub2000 ( 705806 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:04AM (#31980600)
    Not exactly. According to the specs the sensor has a 37mm x 49mm frame. 6x6 film has a 56mm x 56mm frame. So part of the lens circle will be "cropped" making those old lenses slightly more telephoto.
  • Re:Big Deal! (Score:2, Informative)

    by ^Bobby^ ( 10366 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:36AM (#31980738) Homepage

    Not quite.

    Noise is dependent on sensor size. The bigger the sensor, the less noise you have in the image.

  • Re:In color? (Score:3, Informative)

    by T-Bone-T ( 1048702 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @12:59AM (#31980810)

    It costs a lot more than $3 to develop a roll of medium-format film.

  • by Estanislao Martínez ( 203477 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @03:50PM (#31988252) Homepage

    The reason Hasselblads (and pro level Leicas, Nikons, and Canons) are expensive is because the shutter and film advance were designed to work reliably for tens of thousands of pictures, and they could be refurbished when necessary.

    You're missing one of the big reasons those cameras are expensive, which is that they are niche products and don't benefit from the economies of scale in mass-market cameras.

    High-end amateur cameras are capable of taking just as high quality pictures.

    Not if the sensor is smaller. All else being equal, larger sensor or film means higher quality pictures. And need I remind you that the Hasselblad is a medium format camera?

    The lenses are every bit as good as pro lenses [...]

    This is very often demonstrably false, but granted, there are some truly excellent non-pro lenses.

    But once more, one of the reasons larger sensors lead to better image quality is because it's less demanding of the lenses. Even if you use the exact same lens on two cameras with different sized sensor, you'll get higher resolution with the same lens from the larger sensor.

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:09PM (#31989118)

    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 []), a big server to store your scans on, plus a fridge full of film.

    You cannot get an equivalent Hasselblad at that price, and replacing all your lenses will cost you a fortune (lenses run $2,000-$7,000 each).

    Remember this is for people who already have a Hasselblad film camera and want to go digital.

    The Hasselblad H4D-40, which has the same sized image sensor, is $20,000 and is their "entry level" camera at that resolution.

    As for film, look at the max DPI listed for that Flextight X5. 2,000 DPI at 6x5 (a standard 120 frame size) is significantly less than you'll get with a 40mp camera. To get 40mp level resolution out of film you need a drum scanner, and those start at $35,000.

    Theoretically 120 film is the same as about 176mp digital. In practice though, you really only get 16-20mp out of it unless you're willing to shell out the cash for a drum scanner (at which point, why bother?), or you work exclusively in non-digital prints. Good luck with that, since non-digital print shops are going the way of the dodo.

    Other than a lower entry point (which is only true because film cameras are not in demand), film doesn't offer any advantages over digital any more.

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