Fujifilm and Hasselblad (and Apple), Oh My…

Camera & Technology

September 10, 2022 ·

Dan Wells

We are entering what I used to call PhotoPlus season, although there hasn’t been a PhotoPlus Expo since 2019. We lost 2020 and 2021 to COVID, and the 2022 event was supposed to be in a changed format with fewer and smaller booths and more photo walks. The new format was very focused on TikTok creators instead of traditional photographers – PhotoPlus events in past years had featured National Geographic Explorers, White House correspondents and legendary portraitists, while the biographies for 2022 all prominently featured the (non)word TikTok, and none of them mentioned art school or print publications. Very few of the featured speakers had any resume to speak of in still photography, even online. For a much more image-focused, less gear-focused show, the limited range of image-makers who were going to be featured was extremely disappointing.

I had my ride all saddled up and ready to go to New York for CreateNYC (what once was PhotoPlus), when it got cancelled again!

As a journalist who writes about the industry as a whole, but specializes in medium format and in fine-art printing (and who has never had a social media account), I was feeling like I was expected to ride up to the Duggal Greenhouse on a dinosaur. This year’s event was cancelled at the last minute, seemingly because it didn’t come together from an administrative perspective – or did Emerald Expositions realize there were rather more dinosaur riders around than they had thought? And that we were more likely to attend a tradeshow (since we love prints and a print is what’s hardest to convey online) than online content creators were?

Will PhotoPlus be back in 2023? Photokina is already gone, probably permanently – what’s left as major national and international photo industry gatherings? CP+ has historically been conducted largely in Japanese, and Japan is a long flight for folks from North America and Europe. If PhotoPlus comes back, will they keep pushing the social media angle as hard and as exclusively as they tried to in 2022, or will they provide dinosaur hitching posts for those of us who love printed photographs? I am looking for another tradeshow to attend in the next six months, hoping to see cameras and lenses, but also new papers and other printing media. I have an article coming on printing technology, and my next major review is expected to be a 340-lb, 12 ink 44 inch printer. I’m hoping to get my hands on Fujifilm’s new 20-35mm wide-angle lens for the GFX system – the specs look very exciting. I’d also love to try out the new Hasselblad X2C as a very experienced GFX shooter.

What may be the last PhotoPlus – view cameras

There are three major losses with the (potentially permanent) loss of PhotoPlus. The first is that it was a place to connect with industry contacts in person, without visiting individual companies located around North America and the world. Individual company visits can be absolutely fascinating – the major printing article that will be up soon revolves around a visit to Epson’s Carson Tech Center, and there are people there who wouldn’t be at PhotoPlus, as well as machines that simply don’t travel well. On the other hand, PhotoPlus allowed at least quick check-ins with dozens of companies in a few days, for the price of a train ticket from Massachusetts to New York and a few overpriced convention center meals. The best opportunity remaining for that in the Northeast is retailer Hunt Photo’s annual expo, and they certainly don’t get all the companies that PhotoPlus did, nor do companies bring some of the larger gear they had at PhotoPlus. With PhotoPlus possibly out of action, will Hunt’s make their expo a bigger event? Twenty years ago, they used to rent a convention hall instead of just holding the show in their store. There may be an opportunity if they wanted to do that again. If there’s no show in New York, B&H or Adorama could fill the gap by doing what Hunt’s has done in Boston.

And chemistry (yes, there was a lot of digital stuff, too – the show was 95% digital, I’m just feeling nostalgic)

The second loss is the ability to see prints in person. PhotoPlus had samples of EVERYTHING, often very well-made prints 30×40” and larger. Paper manufacturers, camera makers, printer companies, labs and even dealers had their samples up, and the number and variety of prints was amazing. You could find a sample print from just about any individual piece of gear, although not necessarily every combination. The prints Canon had showing off their bodies and lenses were, of course, on Canon printers and Canon-distributed paper – “Canon camera and lens on an Epson printer” was always one of the tough combinations to find. Fujifilm almost exclusively used C-prints on their own Crystal Archive paper, while almost everybody else was printing inkjet. Still, between the various sample prints, it was usually possible to come pretty close to what you wanted to see.

The third loss is the large and/or exotic gear that manufacturers brought to PhotoPlus that was simply hard (or even impossible) to see otherwise. Very few camera stores have running demo models of 24” and larger printers, while PhotoPlus always garnered both Canon and Epson’s latest, occasionally along with a solvent or resin-ink printer or two. Exotic telephoto lenses are a similar example – even a big camera store would be lucky to have one or two on display, and the longer they are, the rarer they are. PhotoPlus brought ALL of them together in one place – not only up to a 600mm f4, but several models of 800mm lenses and an occasional 1200mm as well. Even the Sigmonster – Sigma’s 35 pound 200-500mm f2.8 lens – was always there, and Carl Zeiss once brought one of only two 1700mm f4 lenses in the world.

And random tripods and heads – will we ever see the like under one roof again?

Many of the odd brands that are normally found on Kickstarter had booths, giving a rare opportunity to actually use some gear that is generally ordered sight unseen. In the last two years of PhotoPlus, there was a resurgence in interest in large-format film photography, and there were multiple 4×5” and even a couple of 8×10” cameras around. Venerable enlarger company Beseler could be counted on to show up with several products largely unchanged since the 1950s, sometimes topped off with 21st Century digital lightsources. Brand-new gear also made it to PhotoPlus, often months before most stores had it on hand to demo – the Hunt’s Show also does a good job of this, as manufacturer tech reps tend to bring the new and scarce.

Welcome back, Hasselblad – their brand new X2D-100C

There have been quite a few major camera and lens introductions in the early days of September (the beginning of PhotoPlus season, as PhotoPlus itself was traditionally in mid to late October), continuing the very odd 2022 trend of everything EXCEPT full-frame. We haven’t seen any full-frame bodies at all released, from any manufacturer, since mid-January of this year (discounting a couple of exclusively video-focused models). If you ignore Leica’s pricey and unusual M11 rangefinder, you have to go back to October of last year to find the Nikon Z9 and Sony A7 IV, both indisputably major introductions. Since the beginning of 2022, we’ve seen five APS-C cameras, with three of them being higher-end models that increase APS-C’s competitiveness for serious photographers. We’ve seen the two highest-end Micro 4/3 cameras yet, although neither brings a significant improvement in core still image quality, the place where Micro 4/3 has lagged the market. We’ve seen a new medium-format body that is, interestingly enough, NOT from Fujifilm – all since anybody last introduced a full-frame camera.

Lenses have been a bit more even across formats – by my count, we’re looking at four medium-format lenses, twelve for full frame, ten for APS-C (although a few of those are Fujifilm X-mount versions of lenses that already existed in Sony E-mount) and three for Micro 4/3 since the beginning of 2022. The most interesting lens news might not be who’s producing what, but who’s telling other people NOT to produce something. Sony has been very open with the E-mount standards (both full-frame and APS-C), at least tacitly encouraging Sigma and Tamron, who have, in turn, made very valuable contributions to the lineup. L-mount and Micro 4/3 are both standards organizations that lensmakers can join, and L-mount is only as viable as it is because of Sigma’s continuing contributions. Nikon and Fujifilm have been increasingly open to third-party lenses in Z-mount and X-mount, respectively, and we’re beginning to see additional choices, although nothing like what’s available for Sony, L-mount and Micro 4/3 yet. Nikon could really benefit from the fast Sigma Art primes in particular.

Canon, contrary to the trends in the rest of the industry, has effectively eliminated third-party autofocus lenses from the RF mount. None of the big manufacturers were making RF lenses, but Viltrox and Samyang/Rokinon had released a few, using the physical RF mount but the older EF communications protocols (which the RF mount is compatible with to allow adapters to function). Canon has threatened even these modest efforts with patent lawsuits, which doesn’t bode well for Sigma and others to release higher-end lenses. In my opinion (and that of most industry commentators), this is a stupid move on Canon’s part – RF is already behind many of its competitors in lens development, and stopping Sigma and others from jumping into the gaps doesn’t make a lot of sense.

We’re still expecting a few more cameras and lenses this year – Sony simply can’t go a whole year without introducing a full-frame body, and Nikon and others may join them. From what rumor sites are reporting, we’re expecting at least one full-frame Sony, probably the A7r V, by the end of the year. The most likely A7r V uses some version or derivative of the A7r IV’s 61 MP sensor, with improvements in autofocus, video and speed. Both Canon and Nikon also have possible full-frame bodies, neither confirmed, and either or both could slip into next year. The specifications on the Canon and Nikon bodies are very unclear – but Canon’s would most logically be a lower-end body, since both the EOS-R and EOS-RP are getting long in the tooth, while the upper end of the line is in decent shape. There has been very little mention of a potential high-resolution Canon recently, and I would be surprised to see anything beyond a development announcement of a camera to be released next year. Nikon’s potential announcements could replace or augment the Z6 II and/or Z7 II, or a high-resolution camera could come in above the Z7 II. Again, very little clarity, and we could see either a real announcement or a development announcement. Beyond the full-frame world, Fujifilm, Sony and possibly Canon or Nikon probably have APS-C bodies left to announce, likely before the end of the year. Fujifilm’s most likely announcement is an X-T5 using the X-H2 sensor in a slightly smaller body with more traditionally Fujifilm controls, while Sony is reputed to have a very video-focused body on the way. OM System probably has one Micro 4/3 body left, and there’s always the possibility of a surprise.

We could see lenses from just about anyone, although Nikon has several lenses on their roadmap that we are expecting. We’re waiting on a 600mm f4 and an 85mm f1.2, both with prices to match their specifications. In less exotic full-frame lenses, we’re waiting for a 200-600mm zoom and a 26mm compact prime, while APS-C (DX) lenses might include a 24mm prime and a 12-28mm zoom. Even with Nikon’s recent pace of lens introductions, we probably won’t see all of these in 2022, but some of them are in the “likely” category. Fujifilm is the only other company that generally roadmaps lens introductions, and all that we are missing from them that has been promised for 2022 is a 30mm macro lens for X-mount. We might see an off-roadmap lens from Fujifilm or less likely Nikon (they have so many roadmapped lenses that they are likely to concentrate on those), and I would expect to see some lenses from Sony, Sigma and perhaps Canon before the end of the year, although I have no idea on the specifics.

A Fujifilm X-H2

The most interesting recent introductions to the LuLa audience are from Hasselblad and Fujifilm, although I’ll also touch on a couple of products recently introduced by some fruit company in California. I was somewhat surprised to see Hasselblad back on the scene, after three years without a new camera from them (and the X1D II 50C was only a minor overhaul of 2016’s X1D). It was approaching three years since their last lens introduction, so a brand-new body and three new lenses were a very pleasant surprise. Fujifilm has also released several new products of great interest to many of the LuLa audience, including one of the most intriguing APS-C cameras I have ever seen, a new version of their beloved 56mm f1.2 APS-C portrait lens and a medium format wide-angle zoom lens I can’t wait to try.

The headline announcement from Fujifilm on September 8 is the 40 MP X-H2. It’s a 40 MP APS-C camera – the densest APS-C sensor we’ve ever seen. Other than the 26 MP Panasonic GH6 sensor, it’s the densest sensor we’ve seen in any interchangeable lens camera with a standard-size sensor (some Nikon 1 and Pentax Q sensors were denser). Sensor density (with sensors in this density range) has historically been a problem for Micro 4/3, while Fujifilm has historically gotten a lot of image quality out of their sensors, but has never used anything close to this dense. What will happen with this new sensor? Looking at JPEG samples from a pre-production camera, it looks quite promising. The highest ISO sample I could find from the new camera is ISO 800, so I looked at full-resolution, ISO 800 samples from the X-H2, the GH6, the OM System OM-1, the Nikon Z7 and Fujifilm’s own X-T3 (it was surprisingly hard to find a sample at exactly ISO 800 from any Fujifilm camera of the 26 MP generation, and the one I found was from an X-T3 – they should all have the same imaging pipeline). I was looking at actual pixels, not resized to image area, which gives the hardest possible test to the X-H2 and gives a significant advantage to the larger-pixeled X-T3 and Z7.

Clearly bringing up the rear was the GH6. Very roughly, in this unscientific test (the subject matter ranged from portraits to still lifes – it was a question of what samples I could get), the GH6 was about a stop behind the pack in shadow noise. It has the densest sensor of the bunch, and it has not gotten especially good reviews for still photography, although it is a very well respected video camera, so that is no surprise. I found an ISO 400 image from the GH6, and it looks a little worse than ISO 800 from the X-T3 The OM-1 was a bit blotchier than the two Fujis, but a lot closer than the GH6 (remember this is actual pixels, and the OM-1 is a 20 MP camera…). The X-T3 looked pretty darn good, with only a bit of film grain like noise in defocused shadow areas. It had significantly less chroma noise than the Micro 4/3 cameras, with a similar amount of luminance grain to the OM-1. The surprise winner of the world’s least scientific noise test was the X-H2 (I was expecting the X-T3’s larger pixels to prevail). Even the full-frame Z7 was only comparable in noise level to the X-H2 (and I actually liked the X-H2’s noise pattern better). We’ll have to see if this holds up with better testing, but I’d certainly put it in the “highly promising” category. If it holds up with raw files in a production camera, and at a range of ISOs and with a range of subjects, Fujifilm has a legitimate APS-C pixel monster on their hands.

The densest APS-C sensor around – Sony probably makes it, but will they use it themselves or stick with sensors from 2015?

Apart from the sensor, and a couple of things that go with the sensor, the X-H2 is just like the X-H2S. It’s exactly the same body as the X-H2S, a style best described as the GFX 100S’ little brother. It’s a bit less wide than the GFX, very close to the same thickness, and notably less tall. The X-H2 cameras are somewhat lighter than the GFX (660g versus 900g) A few buttons have moved, and the APS-C cameras have four-way buttons and a dedicated movie record button the GFX doesn’t have, but they are very, very similar. I suspect that Fujifilm’s goal in designing the X-H2 and X-H2S this way was partially to appeal to Nikon (or Canon) DSLR to Fujifilm mirrorless switchers who have been disappointed at the lack of higher-end APS-C cameras from their manufacturer, but also to make life easy on X/GFX shooters who have both Fujifilm systems. They come with Fujifilm’s excellent modern IBIS system, the high-capacity NP-W235 battery that is rapidly becoming a standard among Fujifilm’s higher-end bodies (camera reviewers who have a lot of different batteries around beware: it’s all to easy to mistake for a Nikon EN-EL15), and a top panel display that looks like it’s from the GFX parts bin. The viewfinder is an excellent 5.67 million dot unit, and the rear screen is the same fully articulated 3.2”, 1.62 million dot unit we first saw on the X-T4. I haven’t seen one, but I have 14,000 shots on my GFX 100S, and I really like how that camera handles (I also like the X-T4, which seems to be the inspiration for whatever didn’t come from the GFX parts bin), so I expect I’ll probably like this one too.

One body, two sensors – the XH2S gets a 26 MP stacked sensor, while the X-H2 gets a 40 MP conventional BSI sensor. The XH2S is a REALLY fast camera – it can shoot at 40 fps with its electronic shutter. The only other camera I’m aware of that shoots that fast without serious restrictions is the OM-1. The few other cameras that shoot above 30 fps lose AF, or the viewfinder blacks out, or they’re shooting small JPEGS, or a combination of the above. It has a buffer of hundreds of images and generally fast, reliable AF. It’s very close to the experience of something like a Z9, an A1 or an R3 at half the price, if 26 MP images will work for your application. The X-H2 is a pixel monster, although it’s a 15 fps pixel monster. It has the same autofocus, the same fast throughput, the same viewfinder – but it has a high-resolution sensor instead of a very fast one. They’re both capable still-video hybrids. Although only the high-resolution X-H2 shoots 8K video, the X-H2S is usually the choice for serious video work. That stacked sensor has pretty much eliminated rolling shutter artifacts, while the first few videos from the X-H2 are showing significant rolling shutter on fast-moving subjects or when panning. The X-H2S is probably the best hybrid video camera under $5000 – amazing to think that Fujifilm really wasn’t a consideration for video work until 2018 or so! They are now making a camera that beats Panasonic’s best at video, while being a much better still camera than any GH6 (although they are still missing some of the sophisticated monitoring tools unless you use an external monitor that has them). The X-H2 costs $2000, while the X-H2S is $2500. $10,500 buys a bag of bodies that includes both plus a GFX 100S – and it’s a rare shot indeed that one of those three isn’t a near-perfect tool for. Fujifilm is certainly hoping that this unique combination that all handle very similarly will appeal as an alternative to a pair of A1s or Z9s. The catch is, of course, two sets of lenses…

The new 56mm portrait lens

Fujifilm’s 56mm f1.2 has been the APS-C answer to the popular 85mm f1.8 since its introduction in 2014. The old lens wasn’t ideal for video, due to a slower and noisier micromotor focusing system, and it had no weather sealing. The 2022 update is weather sealed and features updated focus motors as well as a new optical design with two additional elements (13 in 8 groups instead of 11 in 8 groups). No word yet on an update to the APD version of the lens, which features an apodizing filter for really special bokeh at the cost of some light transmission.

Fujifilm’s new 20-35mm f4 on the GFX 100S

Fujifilm’s second lens introduction is a special one, and it’s a lens that I would have said couldn’t be made at the size and the price they made it. They had announced a 20-35mm (15.8-27.7 mm in full-frame terms) GFX zoom on their roadmap earlier this year, which would be a first in medium format. Even ultrawide medium format primes tend to be big, bulky, expensive lenses – and they’re not especially common. Nobody had ever made an ultrawide medium format ZOOM. While it was pre-announced, I was sure it was going to be a big lens, and probably the most expensive GFX lens, eclipsing the $3299 250mm f4. It turns out to be smaller and lighter than the 32-64mm f4 zoom that is the standard lens on many GFX cameras, and, at $2499, it’s a pretty average-priced GFX lens and not much more expensive than a pro ultrawide zoom for a full-frame camera.

In a recent roundup, I said with confidence “it won’t look like a full-frame 20-35mm lens, nor even like a full-frame 16-35 mm lens with a similar angle of view”. I was wrong – the darned thing is actually shorter and lighter than Canon’s RF 15-35mm f2.8L, or than Sigma’s 14-24mm f2.8 DG DN Art, and it is the same size and weight as Sony’s 16-35mm f2.8 FE G-Master, and the same length and only a couple of ounces heavier than the Nikkor Z 14-24mm f2.8 S. Yes, those are f2.8 lenses while the Fujifilm is f4 (but it gains quite a bit of that back from the big sensor – it’s equivalent to something like a f3.2 lens). Yes, the Sigma and the Nikkor have a somewhat wider angle of view, and the Canon is a tiny bit wider. Yes, it’s the most expensive of the four (but it’s within a few hundred dollars of all but the Sigma, which is a huge bargain). Yes, Sony makes a 12-24mm that’s quite a bit wider (it’s also bigger, heavier and more expensive and it doesn’t take filters).

The Lens That Shouldn’t Be – how did they make it the size of a lens for a much smaller sensor? Wide-angles are supposed to grow as sensor size does…

Even given all that, it’s the world’s first medium format ultrawide zoom lens, and it’s comparable in size and price to similar full-frame lenses, while covering a sensor 70% larger. Until I saw the specs, I thought it shouldn’t exist. It’s an internally zooming lens that doesn’t grow when zoomed, and it takes relatively ordinary 82mm filters. How good a lens is it? I’m dying to find out, and I’m requesting one for review ASAP!

In a somewhat surprising announcement from Hasselblad, , the X2D 100C is a totally new camera, and a fascinating one. It shares its sensor with the Fujifilm GFX 100 and 100S, and a lot of its specs will be very familiar to GFX shooters. In addition to the best sensor in the world, it has picked up two other headline GFX 100S features – it has a hybrid phase detect/contrast detect AF system (with 294 points to Fujifilm’s 425, which should make little difference in real-world use). It also has in-body image stabilization, a “how did they do that in medium format?” feature on the GFX 100, 100S and 50S II. This is the first time we’ve seen it on a non-Fujifilm camera, and Hasselblad is claiming one more stop of stabilization over Fujifilm’s already excellent six-stop system. Other features that are very similar to the GFX 100S are the size and weight (it’s within five grams!), the top-panel display, although Hasselblad’s is actually color (which you only see when charging the battery), the 16-bit raw format that sets medium format apart and its tilting (but not fully articulating) rear screen.

Hasselblad’s new X2D-100C – note the minimalist controls

For a photographer who doesn’t yet own medium format digital gear, the somewhat more expensive Hasselblad ($8200 to $6000 for the Fujifilm) has a few differentiating features. The big one, and it could be huge for studio and portrait photographers, is that the Hasselblad X cameras use leaf-shutter lenses. You pay (dearly) for the shutter in every lens, and the Hasselblad lenses tend to be simpler designs than the highly corrected Fujinons, although I am not an optical engineer and don’t know if that has to do with the leaf shutters. While the Hasselblad lenses average about twice the price of a similar Fujinon (there’s one bargain 45mm lens for $1099, then everything else is over $2500, with a lot of lenses in the $4000-$5000 range), they offer flash sync at all shutter speeds, and they use very fast leaf shutters with maximum speeds of 1/2000 second (and, in one case, 1/4000 second). For studio and portrait photographers who use a lot of flash, Fujifilm’s 1/125 second flash sync could be a deal-killer, and a 1/4000 second sync on a 90mm portrait lens might be EXACTLY what they want. The X2D makes those leaf-shutter lenses available on a fully modern body with a current-generation sensor and IBIS.

While the leaf shutter is the big feature differentiating Hasselblad from Fujifilm, there are a couple of other advantages for Hasselblad’s design, as well as several for Fujifilm. Hasselblad includes an internal 1 TB SSD and a single CFExpress Type B slot, while Fujifilm goes with two UHS-II SD slots. Either is a good set of fast storage options, but Hasselblad’s is clearly better, both because the SSD is equivalent to about $1000 worth of memory cards (either top-end UHS-II SD or CFExpress) and because CFExpress is a more durable format. The only catch is that you have to use the camera as a card reader to extract images from the SSD. I have always far preferred removing cards and putting them in a $30 reader, rather than risking a port on a multi-thousand dollar camera. Modern cameras including the X2D use USB-C, which is far sturdier than Micro USB or most of the early proprietary ports, so I may simply be superstitious due to a long-ago problem? Of course you could get the images off the ‘blad using WiFi (it supports very fast standards, but nobody has actually tried it yet, so I don’t know if it’s fast enough to be viable), never touching either the card slot OR the USB port).

Hasselblad also has an advantage in viewfinder resolution (5.76 MP versus 3.69 MP), a slightly larger rear screen and a unique electronic diopter adjustment. Their batteries have about 150% the capacity of Fujifilm’s NP-W235, although they are also around 150% the cost and weight per battery, so it’s more or less a wash? Many users prefer Hasselblad’s menu system and touchscreen over Fujifilm’s, although user interface is a matter of taste. Hasselblad has a couple of apparent spec sheet advantages that may or may not play out in real life. While I haven’t seen the continuous shooting speed for the X2D on any spec sheet, it has a continuous shooting mode at any image quality setting, while the GFX 100S becomes single shot only in 16-bit mode. Hasselblad also claims that the camera never runs out of buffer when shooting to the internal SSD, due to the write speed of the SSD. It is relatively easy to run the GFX out of buffer in 5 FPS continuous shooting mode (it’s something like 16 shots). For a lot of medium-format work, it simply won’t matter – you aren’t going to run out of buffer shooting landscape, architecture or still life.

Hasselblad also offers a minimum ISO of 64, compared to 100 on the Fujifilm. For two reasons, this may not be as big a deal as it is between Nikon and other users of full-frame Sony sensors, where Nikon offers a unique ISO 64 setting that adds dynamic range and eliminates the last traces of noise. First, Fujifilm tends to rate their ISOs a little differently from other manufacturers – they actually use a different standard. What’s marked 100 on a Fujifilm camera is pretty close to the actual exposure of ISO 64 on most cameras. If Hasselblad is rating the sensor as Sony would (I don’t know exactly how Hasselblad rates sensors), it may not have different gain at all – it may simply be a difference in markings. The other interesting fact about this particular sensor is that the ISOs below the rated range gain, rather than lose dynamic range. The GFX 100S has a viable ISO 50 setting. I expect that is true of Hasselblad as well, at least to some extent, so ISO comparisons will have to wait until people have more experience with the X2D.

The user interface is very different from Fujifilm’s – most things on the X2D happen on that big touchscreen. Fortunately, it’s well thought out.

There are also a number of advantages to Fujifilm’s entry – as of right now, Fujifilm’s autofocus system is much more developed. Fujifilm offers a number of AF area sizes, ranging from pinpoint to “camera chooses from the whole viewfinder”, along with a relatively sophisticated face and eye tracking system. At introduction, the Hasselblad only has a couple of variations on narrow area and pinpoint autofocus, with no face or eye tracking. They say that various AF modes will be added in firmware, but they aren’t there to start with. Many photographers who choose medium format prefer to choose their own focus point, so the pinpoint modes are the right place to start – but having additional choices is useful (and face and eye tracking are important). Fujifilm also offers a lot more control points without using the touchscreen. Hasselblad has minimized external controls to the point where there is no autofocus joystick – you move the AF point by swiping the touchscreen. Again, ergonomics are a matter of choice, but it is important to realize how touchscreen-dependent the Hasselblads are.

Hasselblad has eliminated video entirely from the X2D, while the GFX 100S is a very capable video camera with a unique look due to the large sensor. Will most people use the GFX 100S as their primary video camera? Probably not – it doesn’t offer an especially wide range of video modes by today’s standards, although the quality is excellent. Where the video modes matter most is in a system that includes both Fujifilm X and GFX gear. The X-H2S and X-H2 both offer superb video modes on a relatively standard-size APS-C sensor – the X-H2S offers more versatility, while the X-H2 adds 8K. They both offer every video mode the GFX 100S does and many more– except that the GFX is using the full width of a sensor that is approaching the size of 65mm film. If you think full-frame looks cinematic, try shooting 65mm! It’s an extra tool in the Fujifilm shooter’s toolbox (if you have GFX gear around for its still capability), and it’s a unique one. Because they share color science, it’s easy to inter-cut X-series and GFX footage. Hasselblad doesn’t have a set of more versatile video cameras to pair the X2D with, even if it DID shoot video.

System cost and completeness is an important advantage for Fujifilm, with one significant exception. Fujifilm offers significantly more lens options, and they range from about $1000 up to $3299 for the 250mm telephoto. Fujifilm and Hasselblad have roughly comparable prime lens lineups, except that Fujifilm adds a 250mm telephoto – but most of the Hasselblad lenses are close to twice as expensive as their Fujifilm equivalents.

Fujifilm also has five zoom lenses (with some duplication in focal lengths), all under $2500 and reasonably sized, including the brand-new 20-35mm f4 ultrawide zoom like nothing that has been seen before in medium format. Hasselblad has ONE 35-75mm zoom lens that is 40% heavier than Fujifilm’s similar 32-64mm, and it costs over $5000. Even something as simple as a battery charger carries a significant “Hasselblad tax”. Neither company includes a battery charger with the camera, and both make very nice USB-C dual-bay accessory chargers. Fujifilm’s costs $69, while Hasselblad’s costs $155.

The lone exception is that Hasselblad has better flash compatibility – they actually use Nikon’s TTL protocol, and literally everything supports Nikon and Canon. Most flash gear now supports Sony as well, and an increasing amount of equipment adds Fujifilm to the list. If you are buying flash gear, it doesn’t really matter – there are a lot of options for either Nikon or Fujifilm. Where it can matter is in renting lights. If you’re renting from a local camera store and you want a Nikon strobe or a Nikon-compatible trigger for a bigger setup, that’s easy. If you ask for Fujifilm, they may not have it, and you may be limited to non-TTL flash. Big rental houses like Lensrentals have quite a bit of Fujifilm-compatible flash gear, but an average camera store might not.

It’s good for all of us who love medium format, including dedicated Fujifilm shooters, that Hasselblad has recommitted themselves to the medium format market in a big way. Another viable system will push Fujifilm harder, just as the existence of Mamiya and Bronica pushed Hasselblad in film days. Leaf shutter lenses are a huge, even defining feature for certain genres of photography, and Fujifilm has never made any for the GFX system, despite rumblings that have gone on for years. Having a modern sensor in a Hasselblad X body that uses leaf shutter lenses is a really big deal, and I also suspect Hasselblad might come out with a version of the CFV 50II digital back using the newer sensor. Paired with the 907X camera body, a “CFV 100” back would provide a very compact and ergonomically unique alternative. Paired with a classic Hasselblad V-system body, some of the most beloved lenses of all time have a chance to work with the finest sensor yet made, albeit with a significant crop factor. Paired with a small view camera or a Hasselblad Flexbody or Arcbody (might Hasselblad release a digitally optimized version???), the result is a very compact system with full large-format movements, live view and 8×10” image quality. Welcome back, Hasselblad.

This is the camera most people were thinking about on the day Hasselblad introduced the X2D.

To medium format photographers, the Hasselblad X2D and three great new lenses were the defining photographic announcement of September 7, 2022. To the other 7 billion plus people on the planet, they were overshadowed by the news from Apple. The iPhone has been updated again, and Apple claims that three trillion photos were taken with iPhones in the past year – certainly more than have been taken using medium format cameras since the introduction of the Hasselblad 500C in 1957 . Is it 1000 times more? I’m not sure – the data just aren’t there. Using any reasonable estimate of medium format camera production and use, it’s certainly at least 100 times more. Since there are about a billion iPhones active in the world today, that means that the average iPhone user is shooting about 3000 pictures a year. That’s a lot of pictures, and a ridiculously successful camera that is very important to casual photography. The iPhone is a wonderful tool for a lot of things, and it is by far the safest smartphone on the market from a privacy perspective. I care a lot about online privacy, and I’ve used iPhones of various vintages since 2010. It’s also a wonderful navigation device (as long as you’re within cell coverage – they STILL haven’t learned to cache maps), a great music player, etc. We all have our own ways of using iPhones, and it’s relatively configurable to an individual’s lifestyle (I have most notifications turned off on mine, so I don’t get dragged too far into the digital world).

A beauty shot of the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max

It’s pretty hard to live without a smartphone now (although I have an academic friend who does), and the iPhone is the best, as well as the least intrusive smartphone on the market. What it’s not (nor is any smartphone) is the right camera for a type of creative photography a lot of LuLa readers care a lot about. If you’re photographing with the intent of careful, creative editing, and your final goal is a print, a smartphone camera won’t give you the initial image data you need to start your journey – and no amount of computational photography will change that! We didn’t see Ansel Adams on top of Half Dome with an Instamatic, even though a lot of people captured personally meaningful memories of their trips to Yosemite with them in the same years.

How big are Apple’s camera improvements in the iPhone, especially in the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max? Perhaps the headline camera feature of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max is a “48 megapixel” sensor. The biggest difference from last year’s sensor actually isn’t the “48 megapixels”, it’s that the sensor is about 1.65x the area of last year’s sensor. I put the “48 megapixel” number in quotes because the Bayer filter array on the camera is actually 12 megapixels – the pixels are filtered in groups of four. This is true of most really high-resolution smartphone cameras – and the modes that break the pixel groups and capture the “full resolution” are inevitably disappointing. The Micro 4/3 OM-1 and Sony’s video-centric A7S III are also quad-Bayer designs, although they are (honestly) labeled as 12 (Sony) and 20 (OM) megapixel cameras instead of 48 or80 megapixels, while smartphone manufacturers invariably quote the higher figure.

What the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max main camera sensor really is is a very modern (probably) Sony 12 MP sensor with a total sensor area of 71.5 mm^2. That’s a little more than half the sensor size (and a little more than half the resolution, so pixel sizes are pretty comparable) of a 20 MP 1” sensor that we find in a lot of drones and better compact cameras. It’s about 1/3 the size of a Micro 4/3 sensor, with significantly smaller pixels. It’s about 1/5 the size of an APS-C sensor, again with significantly smaller pixels. It’s about 1/12 the size of a typical full-frame sensor, and about 1/20 the size of a GFX/Hasselblad X medium format sensor. It’s about 1/30 the size of a Phase One sensor. Very roughly, modern Sony sensors scale in overall image quality by sensor area – if Sony knew how to get more real image quality out of a little phone sensor, why wouldn’t they use the same technique in a medium format sensor? They don’t seem to be doing anything that doesn’t scale – an iPhone sensor is a current generation BSI sensor with all the tricks, and nothing more (except that the phone’s processor is doing a ton of AI editing).

Even counting it as a 12 MP sensor, it’s a very dense sensor – trying to split the pixels to 48 MP makes it an extremely dense sensor. The binned pixels are each about 40% of the area of Sony’s “standard pixel” found on everything from the Fujifilm X-T4 to the Phase One IQ4 150. Un-bin them, and they only have 10% of the light-gathering area of the “standard pixel” apiece – plus, they’re laboring under the wrong Bayer filter. Beware of the “2x” telephoto mode – it IS an optical zoom in a manner of speaking, but what it does is that it un-bins the pixels in the center part of the main camera sensor, using the tiny subpixels individually and demosaicing differently to compensate for the incorrect Bayer filter.

Making the situation worse, although not proportionately to how much a physically larger sensor makes the problem better, is the fact that the lens has to be very flat to fit in the phone, and the bigger the sensor is, the flatter the lens has to be (proportionally). The more you flatten a lens, the trickier it is to get a good optical design. It’s also a cheap lens – Apple will also sell the entire camera module (the three rear cameras, each with lenses) for the iPhone 13 Pro as a repair part for $111.75. The cost for the iPhone 14 Pro is not up yet, but it isn’t likely to be massively higher (if it’s 20% more, I’d be surprised) – and that’s what Apple will sell it for, making a profit on the repair. If Apple is paying $20 for the lens for the main camera, I’d be amazed – and I’d be unsurprised if it’s closer to $10. The actual optical system in even the fanciest iPhone is a tiny, but high-tech sensor behind a very flattened $15 lens! It’s better than a $100 kids’ compact camera, but significantly worse than any 1” compact, which start around $500. Oddly, there are no compact cameras (at least that B&H knows about) using sensors intermediate in size between the tiny sensors (a little more than 1/3 the size of the main camera sensor in an iPhone 14 Pro) in $100 cameras and a 1” sensor almost twice the size of the iPhone sensor.

What an iPhone does to compensate for the optically compromised camera is a tremendous amount of computation. Apple claims that they are making 4 trillion calculations per image. The processor in an iPhone is not only much faster than anything you’d find in a compact camera, it is much faster (tens of times faster, possibly more) than the CPU in most mirrorless cameras. Real performance specs on camera CPUs are very hard to find, but what little is out there suggests that they are often related to smartphone CPUs from 5-10 years ago, and not the ultrafast Apple variants, either. They don’t seem to have any of the fancy neural net processing Apple uses to analyze images, although they have some application-specific circuits doing things like autofocus. Apple is so good at processor design (and camera companies don’t tend to use the latest processors) that, rather than having the power of a phone from 5-10 years ago to play with, they have the power of a desktop computer from only three years ago or so. Additionally, they are processing much smaller images than a high-resolution camera would be, so they can do a lot more computational photography in real time.

With what might be as much as a hundredfold total advantage in image processing power per pixel compared to many dedicated cameras, Apple can do things almost instantly and without the photographer knowing that take powerful image processing software in post-processing on a conventional camera. Some of them involve stacking or combining images, but many of them are just pure computation – excellent noise reduction algorithms and the like. It may or may not be the same type of algorithm (both companies just say “we use AI”), but could Apple be using something similar to DxO DeepPrime to demosaic and reduce noise? DeepPrime is not especially fast – but how quick would it be with some dedicated hardware and a 12 MP image?

They are certainly stacking images to increase dynamic range – but that is possible on any other camera as well – it doesn’t happen automatically, but it’s easy enough to do. A camera with more dynamic range doesn’t have to stack images as frequently – at a guess, even the most recent iPhone only has about eight stops of real sensor dynamic range (the Sony 1” sensors are between eight and nine stops according to Photons to Photos, and the iPhone sensors are much smaller). Anything more than that in the final image comes from stacking and computation. if you have a camera with another four or five stops natively, you don’t need to stack as often (although you certainly can to capture a scene with a really long tonal scale).

One way to think of an iPhone camera might be as a mediocre compact camera attached to a powerful computer running an AI-based editor like Luminar in full-auto mode. In one way of looking at it, if it produces a pleasing image, who cares? That’s true for certain genres of photography, especially family snapshots and the like – you are probably not going to edit a snapshot of the kids at the beach to match an artistic vision, and an AI-edited image preserves the memory beautifully. Where the strategy fails is with an image you might be planning to edit by hand. The nice image produced by the AI editing doesn’t have a lot of headroom for further edits, and turning off the AI reveals that the actual sensor data aren’t especially good. True raw files shot with an iPhone (the built-in camera app won’t shoot a real raw, but third-party apps do) reveal what you’d expect – a compact camera raw file with limited headroom, restricted dynamic range and plenty of noise. Yes, it’s a raw file, but it’s not the kind of raw file we’re used to from DSLRs and mirrorless cameras – it’s closer to some of the Canon or Sony compacts with 1” and smaller sensors that have had raw modes, but get little advantage out of them.

I’ve never worked with any iPhone with the ProRAW mode (the Pro versions of the last few generations have ProRAW support, but my non-pro iPhone 12 does not), but reviews say that those files look much better. They’re DNG files, but with the computational photography the iPhone does already baked in. They’re generally stacked exposures with significant noise reduction applied. The phone decides whether and how to stack exposures, and doesn’t even tell the photographer. iPhone motion compensation when stacking images is very good (much better than handheld multi-shot modes on full-size cameras – remember how much processor it has to play with), but no motion compensation is perfect – and the stacked image might take several seconds in low light. You don’t even know what ISO the iPhone is using – how do you even define ISO in a file that is produced from an unknown number of exposures of unknown length? They’re nice looking files with pretty good dynamic range, if somewhat lacking in detail due to the 12 megapixel sensor and the baked-in noise reduction, not to mention motion compensation. If you’re posting the image to social media or sending it in a text message, it doesn’t matter – but if you’re trying to print it, you’ll run out of resolution pretty quickly.

What’s my aperture? ISO? Shutter speed? The AI will figure all of that out and take an image or several – photographers don’t have to bother with that boring stuff, do they? But what if you LIKE creative control? Then get a different camera – from Fujifilm, Hasselblad, Nikon, Sony, Canon, etc…

If any camera manufacturer other than a smartphone maker tried to pass this off as a raw file, the photographic press would explode in criticism. There are scathing editorial pieces aimed at camera companies when modest amounts of noise reduction get baked into raw files above ISO 6400 or so. Apple (and all other smartphone manufacturers offering anything resembling a raw image) are baking in much more significant noise reduction at every ISO (assuming the photographer KNOWS the ISO, or that the ISO of the image can even be defined, since it’s a composite file). They are also baking in motion compensation and other computations. This is NOT a raw file – the raw file is that compact camera monstrosity! This is a heavily edited composite file that gets stored in a DNG format. The disadvantages of that not-really-raw file appear when you’re trying to edit further, or to print.

This isn’t to say “use an Android phone” – Apple is better at computational photography than anyone else, and the actual quality of their image sensors is also just about the highest on the market. A few Android phones use oversize image sensors, but they’ve never caught on because they also come with oversize camera bumps. There are plenty of good reasons to choose an iPhone over Android (starting with privacy), and I’ve never used anything else. There are even good reasons to use an iPhone camera – it’s a great tool to capture fleeting memories. Both of my brothers and sisters-in-law have recent iPhones that they use to the exclusion of all other cameras to capture pictures of their kids and dogs that they send around in text messages. What it IS saying is that smartphone image files in general are not a good place to start for serious editing and printing. No matter how much editing you do, you’re starting with a file captured with a very small sensor and a very flat $15 lens. It’s a nice Instamatic that edits for you just as minilabs used to, but it’s not a Hasselblad 500 C/M or an 8×10” Deardorff from the same years that Kodak sold millions of Brownies and Instamatics.

The Apple Watch Ultra displaying a LOT of information while trying not to ruin night vision…

In terms of its relevance to the type of photography I prefer, the most important introduction Apple made on September 7 may not have been an iPhone at all – it was probably the Apple Watch Ultra (which I am requesting for review). I’ve been looking for the perfect photographer’s watch for a decade or more, and I’m currently wearing the Yes Watch I reviewed here a couple of years ago. I love the Yes Watch’s solar tracking – I can glance down at the dial and see sunrise, sunset and the phases of the moon laid out in easy graphical form. Because it’s NOT a smartwatch, its battery lasts forever – a couple of months between charges. Before the Yes Watch, I wore Garmin GPS watches for years.

What I miss most about the Garmins is that they would record a GPS log file that I could match with the image files from the camera. They wouldn’t communicate with the camera, adding the GPS data to the EXIF information for the image – I had to do that later in post-processing, but they DID log it. The Yes Watch isn’t a GPS (nor could it be while keeping its extraordinary battery life), so it can’t do that. The Garmin watches never offered any decent form of sun and moon data, though – it was always hidden on some other screen, hard to get to, and somewhat cryptic. Garmin’s Connect app store never popped up a photographer-friendly sun and moon app. I’ve more recently chosen light over location on my wrist, and am using the Yes Watch, but I’ve always wanted both.

I have tried an early Apple Watch (I think it was a Series 3, maybe even a Series 2), and wasn’t happy with it. It had decent GPS – not as good as a Garmin at the time – and very nice solar tracking. The early solar watch faces were different from the Yes Watch, but equally functional. There were two problems with the Apple Watch – one was that it constantly tried to pull me into its world, and the other was the battery life. When I’m out on a serious photographic expedition, I don’t WANT to be bothered with e-mail or text messages. 90% of e-mail I receive, even after spam filtering, is bulk mail or advertising in one form or another, and the LAST thing I want in a beautiful, spiritual place, contemplating an image, is my wrist vibrating with a furniture ad or a political solicitation. Text messages are a closer call because more of them are from humans, but I don’t even want to be disturbed by a text when I’m photographing unless it’s from a close friend.

In daily life around my hometown of Cambridge, MA, I want texts and phone calls to come in on my watch, but not e-mails, because of the bulk mail. in a lecture or out in nature, I want none of the three (except, perhaps for a text from my friend Erica in Guatemala, since she’s a long way away…). The early Apple Watch I had was hard to silence to that level – I’m guessing they’ve made improvements to its controllability, perhaps even to the point of letting it get e-mails only from certain senders (I could come up with a list of friends and colleagues easily enough). The second problem was that its battery life with the GPS on was not even always sufficient to get through a day hike. It would get through any half-day adventure relatively easily, but sunrise to sunset was far from guaranteed. When Apple said 18 hours, that was with only an hour or two of GPS use. True GPS-enabled battery life was in the five to seven hour range.

The Apple Watch Ultra claims 36 hours of battery life, and, at least from what they intend it for, that had better be with GPS! 36 hours would still be a pain for multi-day trips, but Apple Watch charging in the field has also improved – there are battery packs that include Apple Watch charging, and Anker makes a sub 1 oz USB charging puck without a cable that plugs into any USB-C port (and extended photo trips always include USB-C batteries). I might be willing to live with 36 hours (and the 60 hours that Apple claims will be enabled by an update is as good as a Garmin, although not close to the Yes Watch), if everything else were there. A clever camera manufacturer could even produce an Apple Watch app that allowed the watch to log GPS data to the camera’s EXIF files directly, without going through the added step of matching a track file. Everybody’s iPhone apps already do that, and WatchOS is just a cut-down version of iOS. Ideally, it would talk to the camera over Bluetooth or WiFi even if it had no internet connection – many of the places where I want GPS info on my images don’t have LTE or WiFi!

I’d love to try one, looking at how the mapping apps had evolved and how much control there is over the internet-centric functions. It offers a lot of the kind of information I really do want to see in the field, if it can differentiate that from the noise of the online world!

I’m recently back from an extended photographic trip to Callifornia and Alaska, making sure that all my images are secure, and thought this would be a good time to review how I store images, and how I WISH I could store images. My total image library is around 11 terabytes, growing at over a terabyte per year, and I have a terabyte or so of “everything else” – writing, applications, system files, miscellaneous PDFs I have downloaded, etc. that I also keep backed up. Of the “everything else”, a few gigabytes of my writing and presentations are irreplaceable, and the rest might be a pain, but all exist online. All of the applications are, of course, easy enough to download from the developers (I don’t have anything left that came on CD or DVD, and everybody has my serial numbers recorded in account info, so there’s no issue with losing registrations any more). The PDFs, which are mostly technical documents from camera and printer companies, would take a while to find and re-download, but are replaceable.

I have 4 terabytes of internal storage space on my MacBook Pro, plus about 10 terabytes of modern external SSD storage (an 8 terabyte OWC Express 4M2 and a 2 terabyte Crucial external SSD). I am presently not using any “spinning rust”, although I have considered buying a large hard drive to hold a local backup copy of everything on the three SSDs. My backup strategy is Backblaze, which has a copy of everything – all 12 terabytes of it – plus selected parts on Apple iCloud, Adobe Creative Cloud and Dropbox. The internal drive has the most recent year or two of photos (depending on what fits at the moment) plus the terabyte of non-photo content, mostly applications (which have to be on the internal). The OWC has the most recent five or six years of photos (including a copy of what’s on the internal), while the Crucial holds older photos. Because of the size of recent photo files, most of the space taken up by my library is from the past few years (darn super-sized GFX raw files!)

I keep the most recent year or so of photos, plus the relatively small amount of irreplaceable non-photo material, on iCloud for easy access. Backblaze has everything that iCloud has, of course – but iCloud is easy to reach from anywhere while Backblaze requires a time-consuming restore. Creative Cloud is very useful for uploading images, and for keeping a portfolio on my iPad. The great strength of Creative Cloud is that it deals intelligently with keeping images in the cloud and on the iPad – it takes images from camera to iPad and stores the raw file on the iPad at first. As soon as I reach WiFi or fast cellular, it automatically uploads the raw file and stores a smart preview less than 1% of the size of the original file. If I have a few days in civilization with good WiFi (some hotels block upload speeds to a very low number, while others don’t, so be careful) scattered through a trip for the iPad to handle file management, a 512GB iPad with Adobe Creative Cloud can handle quite a bit more than 512GB worth of files, and the whole system is very simple. Dropbox is really for files I’m sharing, although I also stash videos and large presentations there.

There are a couple of bugs in this system, although it allows fast access to everything (there’s at least one SSD copy of every image, so I can edit anything without copying it anywhere). One is that all backup except the most recent year of images (and the few gigabytes of writing and presentations) is in the cloud. That’s mostly a plus, because it’s automated and a major cloud provider like Backblaze, Apple or Adobe is unlikely to lose data (their legal liability would be huge, so they use highly redundant storage strategies including multiple datacenters). What it does leave me vulnerable to is having to go to Backblaze if I lose a drive. I could fix this easily enough by adding a single large hard drive with a capacity greater than 12 TB (plus some room to grow) to the extra Thunderbolt port on the OWC and using Time Machine or Acronix to keep a copy of everything on the hard drive(a USB drive would work, although it wouldn’t let me daisy-chain MORE peripherals beyond it). Any NAS-grade hard drive would be fine (I don’t trust consumer drives for anything, since they’re really made for storing low-value movie downloads) , and that would cost me about $400 to $500 for a decent 18 TB drive and enclosure. Why haven’t I added one? Sheer laziness!

The other catch is the foibles of various cloud providers – none of them is perfect, although iCloud would come close for Apple users if they allowed users to buy more storage. Their limit is 2 TB, with another 2 TB possible by buying a bundle with Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+. Since I neither game nor watch TV, and don’t own an Apple Watch, the bundle is unattractive to me, but iCloud can be a 4 TB service to someone for whom the other parts of the bundle are attractive, and it’s a VERY easy service to manage.

To get 4 TB, you have to subscribe to Apple One Premier for $29.99/month AND buy an additional 2 TB for $9.99/month. Unfortunately, you can’t buy two 2 TB packages or a 4 TB package – the only way to 4 TB is if 2 TB of it comes with Apple One Premier (and there’s no way to get beyond 4 TB). The other catch is that there’s no way to spread your local copy of your iCloud Drive across more than one drive on your Mac, meaning you need a single SSD as big as your iCloud storage for decent editing (it will move older files to cloud only, but that means darned slow edits on archival files and can compromise other backups). This is a pain for everybody, and it’s worse for laptop users, who’ll almost certainly want their iCloud on their internal drive. If Apple allowed it and fixed the single drive bug, I’d seriously consider giving them $60 or $70/mo for 12 or 14 TB. If they offered unlimited storage for $50/mo, I’d be the first to sign up.

Adobe Creative Cloud is somewhat expensive, but works extraordinarily well with Lightroom workflows – although there’s one catch that is far more likely to affect the average LuLa reader than the average photographer. If you’re syncing files between Lightroom in the cloud (any mobile version of Lightroom, including the very useful iPad version, or Lightroom CC on a computer) and Lightroom Classic on a computer, Classic will not download any single file over 200 MB. The big files will upload to the cloud just fine (assuming they’re photos, videos have different rules), and they will show up correctly in any version of Lightroom CC, but Classic will not download and store them on your local disk (Adobe calls this a feature, not a bug). There is apparently no way to change this limit so far.

The catch is that a few specific types of raw files are over 200 MB apiece – specifically 100 MP raw files from Fujifilm’s GFX 100 and 100S (and almost certainly Hasselblad and Phase One raw files as well). The other files that might be over 200 MP (I don’t have a camera that does this internally to check) are merged multi-shot files. You can have Lightroom running just fine, syncing files from your iPad to your desktop (assuming you are using Classic on the desktop and not Lightroom CC), when you discover that you’re only getting jpegs from your GFX, although all your other cameras are fine! Even more confusingly, if you have both a 50 MP GFX and a 100 MP GFX, ONLY the 100 MP camera will be affected. If you have a camera you sometimes use in multi-shot mode, it will affect ONLY the multi-shot files. The workaround is simple, but GFX shooters need to know it. You need to fire up Lightroom CC on your desktop and export the big raw files as originals, sending them to whatever drive you want. They export from CC just fine, and you can import them into Lightroom Classic, DxO, Capture One or anything else from there. Hopefully Adobe will fix this before 100 MP appears outside of medium format!

Backblaze isn’t a cloud storage service in the sense of Apple, Adobe or Dropbox – they’re a backup service with a rather more complex restoration procedure. Their pricing is hard to beat for large data sets – $130 for two years of unlimited data on one computer (and they haven’t complained that I consider “unlimited” to include 12 TB and growing). There are three catches to be aware of – one is that they can be aggressive about pruning seldom-seen external hard drives (the default is 30 days, I pay them a little extra to set that to one year), and they won’t recognize an external that changes name – you have to set that manually in their (easy to use) control panel. If you have a desktop computer that always comes up with the same drives, no problem – but be careful with laptops that are sometimes connected to large external drives, especially if the external is an archive that’s usually sitting on a shelf somewhere. Backblaze may prune the external drive and leave you in for a surprise if it ever goes down. I’d certainly enable the one-year version history to avoid that).

The second catch is a business decision by Backblaze (and it’s an understandable one, given the size of many affordable NAS devices). Backblaze’s core personal backup product WILL NOT back up your NAS. They WILL back up RAIDs and the like connected over USB or Thunderbolt, but NOT anything with an Ethernet port. This gets especially confusing with devices like the QNAP hybrid Thunderbolt NAS boxes (it’s a NAS – it’s just using Thunderbolt network connections – and Backblaze won’t touch it) and similar-looking Thunderbolt RAIDs like an OWC Thunderbay (that’s an external drive, and Backblaze should get it – I haven’t tried the hard drive version, but it does back up my Thunderbolt OWC Express). These things look very similar, and both often connect via Thunderbolt (some inexpensive NAS boxes even offer USB instead of Thunderbolt as an alternative to Ethernet). Some preconfigured NAS boxes are relatively inexpensive and have only one or two drives, while some non-NAS devices are expensive and have five to eight drive bays, so “that has a lot of drives, it’s probably a NAS” doesn’t work. The best way to tell is “if there’s an Ethernet port anywhere on it, assume it’s a NAS and Backblaze doesn’t want it”. Hopefully nobody makes a WiFi NAS that doesn’t have any Ethernet ports ☺.

The final catch is true of any cloud storage or backup – beware of internet providers (Comcast Xfinity, I’m looking at you) with very slow uploads and/or data caps. Any cable internet is going to be asymmetrical, with downloads much faster than uploads (fiber and other technologies tend to be symmetrical), and some gaudy download speeds come with very slow uploads. You’ll probably have to pay for gigabit download speeds just to get anything decent in the other direction, and “decent” may still be less than 50 Mbit (6 Mbyte) per second. It’s annoying to pay for gigabit if you neither game nor watch movies – I wish the US had more of the hundred-megabit symmetrical service that is both prevalent and cheap in so many parts of the world! If you’re lucky enough to live in a neighborhood served by Verizon FIOS, municipal fiber or some other fiber provider, you can probably get it, and quite likely something faster as well. If not, you’re likely to be stuck with uploads (which are what matter for cloud storage) of half that or less, possibly with data caps .

Dan Wells

September 2022

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Dan Wells, "Shuttterbug" on the trail, is a landscape photographer, long-distance hiker and student in the Master of Divinity program at Harvard Divinity School. He lives in Cambridge, MA when not in wild places photographing and contemplating our connection to the natural world. Dan's images try to capture the spirit he finds in places where, in the worlds of the Wilderness Act of 1964, "Man himself is but a visitor". He has hiked 230 miles of Vermont's Long Trail and 450 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail with his cameras, as well as photographing in numerous National Parks, Seashores and Forests over the years - often in the offseason when few people think to be there. In the summer of 2020, Dan plans to hike a stretch of hundreds of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, focusing on his own and others' spiritual connection to these special places, and making images that document these connections. Over years of personal work and teaching photography, Dan has used a variety of equipment (presently Nikon Z7 and Fujifilm APS-C). He is looking for the perfect combination of light weight, ruggedness and superb image quality.

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