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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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  • There's a product to fit any budget. I am doing something wrong here.
    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:12PM (#31979712) Journal

      I've still got the Hasselblad I bought when I graduated college. It cost me $1000 and was all the money I had back then. With a kid in college now, there's no way I could ever afford a digital back for my camera. But the notion of being able to shoot in that beautiful square format and then upload the huge RAW file to Photoshop is a dream.

      While I'm dreaming, I'd like to be able to afford a digital back for my 11x14 Deardorff, too.

      (my wife says "Dream for 10 million dollars and a thicker cock, while you're at it". Thanks a lot, hon.)

  • by BetterSense ( 1398915 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:45PM (#31977822)
    Film. You know, that cellulose acetate image capture and storage medium that uses silver halides? You might remember it from "last century".

    Why not just shoot a $4 roll of film, and scan it on a $200 flatbed scanner at a mere 2400DPI for a fat 30 megapixel image, plus you have an in-camera archival backup slide, which can later be drum-scanned at an even higher resolution if needed?

    And you don't even need batteries.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Medium format film will cost you far more than $4.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

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

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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, whic

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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. No
        • by Moofie ( 22272 ) <lee@@@ringofsaturn...com> 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?


          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 jjoelc ( 1589361 )

            They will do it the first job that they can justify it.. If they are getting paid for the work, it is a deductible expense for the equipment. That can turn a $500 wedding into a $13,500 job when tax time comes around... (fuzzy math, I know... But the point IS valid.)

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          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 co

      • 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 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 [freestylephoto.biz] 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. [dwaynesphoto.com]

      A decent medium format scanner (that will give you the quality of a digital back) runs you $2,200 + S&H [adorama.com] 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!

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Khyber ( 864651 )

        This is probably the best car analogy I've seen on slashdot.

        And yes, only 2 or 3 lenses is a PITA. I have more than that: http://i50.photobucket.com/albums/f349/khyberkitsune/camera.jpg [photobucket.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedrek ( 79264 )

          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.

        • Wow. That looks almost exactly like my friend's set, down to the hippy strap!

          I used to have very similar setup until one trip in Chinese (this one didn't happen in Tibet) countryside when the lenses were destroyed (smashed but not stolen) by the Chinese "Public Security" (aka police). Luckily the body(ies) w/ good normal lens and short zoom were kept elsewhere at the time...

          So this system is for Hasselblad and way out of my range, but I kinda hope that one day they'd start making affordable digital backends

    • Why not just shoot a $4 roll of film, and scan it on a $200 flatbed scanner at a mere 2400DPI for a fat 30 megapixel image...

      Because film doesn't have infinite resolution. You can only fit so many of those silver halide crystals on a bit of film, and that limits how much "data" can be stored in the frame. 35 millimeter film at normal ISOs (aka that $4 roll you mentioned) can't really be printed larger than 8"x10" unless you have an artistic attraction to extreme graininess.

      • 35 millimeter film at normal ISOs

        Epic fail. Medium format isn't 35 mm. 35 mm is full frame, and smaller than medium format.

        Even the cropped medium formats digitals are much larger than 35 mm (typically 36x24 mm) and starts at around 33x44 mm making it at least 68% larger.

    • 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: http://www.audioguy.co.uk/files/pdf/Arri_Digital_Camera_Basics.pdf [audioguy.co.uk]

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

    • by jedrek ( 79264 )

      Because to get 30 quality megapixels with a decent dmax from a film scan you need at least a dedicated film scanner, something along the lines of a Nikon 9000 ED, and even then, you can't see your work as you go.

    • I have done this with 2 1/4" and 4'x5" negatives. Fine grain films have an effective resolution of about 8000dpi and actually record in 3D (not like a stereoscopic camera, more like a hologram) which is actually a problem rather than an advantage. The other problem can be the mask. If you use a regular film scanner, even a $1,000 Nikon or Olympus film scanner, you get refractive glare that highlights the grain in each layer of color film and reduces the resolution. I have found wet-mount drum scanners t
  • Nice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fauxhemian ( 1281852 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:55PM (#31977900)
    It's nice to see a capability like this being added to such an old design. Personally I'd like to see a camera manufacturer or third party come out with digital versions of old manual focus SLR greats like the K1000, or produce reasonably priced digital backs for them.
    • apparently we were thinking the same thing...
      that would be the most awesome thing ever to see:
      The old school workhorse K1000 with a digital back :)
      I'd seriously consider trading in a tooth or two, maybe even a pinkey finger for a 10MP FX CCD (not CMOS) for my F3hp...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by maxume ( 22995 )

        Good luck finding someone to take the other side of that bargain.

    • by vlm ( 69642 )

      Yes, gimme a digital back for a K1000. I had one of those in the 90s.

      A fairly common set up is a telescope or microscope with an industry standard lens t-mount, then a ridiculously overcomplicated digital camera, complete with all kinds of useless gimmick features. Great, I can now take micro-photographs in sepia tones. Fan freaking tastic. All that junk does is get in the way.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-mount [wikipedia.org]

      A dig back for a K1000 would be about perfect, since all I really need the camera for, is to

      • A dig back for a K1000 would be about perfect, since all I really need the camera for, is to act as a light-tight spacer between the t-mount and the dig back's CCD. It should be cheaper, also?

        Probably not. Think of the small number of cameras on T-mounts compared with the number of DSLRs whose owners don't know what a T-mount is. It's easier to put all of the features in that normal users want and have edge cases just ignore them than creating custom cameras.

        I use a couple of Nikon DLSRs entirely in RA

        • by jedrek ( 79264 )

          A noted Nikon writer, Thom Hogan has been writing about a more modular system and how it would make financial and market sense to Nikon (or whoever adopted that strategy). Probably won't ever come to fruition as the Japanese camera makers are very, very conservative and the cost to enter the market very high,.

          It also makes no financial sense to create a system like this. A camera company could approach it in one of three ways:
          * Put a cheap sensor on a back, price it low enough that people can get it instead of a cheap DSLR and put it on their old manual SLR. Cons: the low-end dslr market is among the most lucrative in digital photography; the support for this item would be a nightmare as thousands of buyers try to mate their backs with cameras that haven't been touched in 20 years.
          * Put a cheap sensor on a back,

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

    Jpeg is okay, but it puts it's pictures into 32x32 blocks which doesn't always make sense (made more sense in the days of 640x480 pics) and jpeg2000 never seems to be implemented anywhere for some reason, especially the browser level.

    • by imroy ( 755 )
      This digital back would not create lossy, 8-bit JPEG. It would store some sort of raw format (DNG?), either uncompressed or using lossless compression (e.g LZ/LZW), and with 16-bit components.
    • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

      JPEG2000 never took off because it has problems with it's wavelet compression, details just blur out. Have a read: http://x264dev.multimedia.cx/?p=317 [multimedia.cx]

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/JPEG_JFIF_and_2000_Comparison.png [wikimedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by swillden ( 191260 )

      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,

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

      "Each image is approx 50MB in its RAW form from the card - or transferred, which equates to a 117 TIFF file (8-bit) when unpacked and saved. So the supplied 2GB CF cards could hold just over 30 images when in the field. "

      And much bigger CF cards are available if you want them. Newegg sell ones up to 128GB!

      Really the only reasons to shoot lossy on any DSLR now is either because you are shooting thous

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 )

      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

    • I don't think you have your prices quite right...

      Hasselblad Flextight X5 Scanner

      * Virtual Drum, Vertical Loading
      * Glare-Free Path to Film
      * Scan 35mm to 4x5" Film & Prints
      * 4.9 D-max
      * 8000 dpi Maximum Resolution
      * Fast 300 MB per Minute Speed
      * Batch Scanning Capacity
      * Auto Crop

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 )

      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 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

  • She's got a purty mouth... worthy of a Hasselblad!
  • 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.

  • 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 lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:40PM (#31978672) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to see a hack of old movie cameras. If someone would replace the film cartridge area with a cheap, off-the-shelf elctronic video system, that would be awesome.
  • Don't believe me? Measure it yourself...

  • The other way around (Score:4, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady ( 462530 ) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @06:54PM (#31978782)

    I routinely shoot the other way around: old Pentax and Nikon lenses on my DSLR (Canon Digital Rebel series), with suitable lens adapters. The best adapters are the M42 to EOS adapters, which let you use Pentax screwmount lenses. The digital imaging doesn't cut you any slack, a crummy lens makes crummy pictures, while a good lens makes good pictures. Plus all that old-fashioned lens flare, cool bokeh, and more. Fun.

    The Nikon adapters aren't as solid. Maybe it's the fault of my cheap Ebay adapter. Nikon made some amazing lenses in the F2/F3 era.

    Forget automation, of course: stop down metering, manual focus.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 )

      Yeah, unless Hasselblad (never owned one) has changed the lens mounts on the digital versions, the box itself is really not a huge deal. I'd rather get the integrated camera and sensor.

      Personally, I just switched from an old Nikon F4s to a D3. It might have been nice to get a digital back, but there's just not enough space to get all you can with a fully digital body. I've got a truck load of learning to do, too - I've done nothing but point and shoot for a decade, and while I like bokeh as much as the nex

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