Yearning for a new camera – a modern condition


by Jonathan Bourla (


I’m sure it’s very common amongst photographers to hanker after a new, better camera. Is this yearning for something better the same now as it was when the photographic world was dominated by film cameras? Or is it different today?

I was thinking today about a typical professional film photographer who used a Hasselblad medium format camera. The decision making that may have gone into his decision to use and invest in a Hasselblad system may have been seeking better quality than 35mm could offer, yet offering more convenience and flexibility than a large format camera could offer, – large format users will attest to the slow, methodical operation and dedication needed. Would he hanker after an improved camera to satisfy his photographic needs? I doubt it

What about today’s digital world? This photographer would probably be using a medium format digital single lens reflex, like the rebadged Mamiya Phase Ones, with a medium format digital back. These backs are regularly superceded by similar models with incremental improvents in megapixel rating. I read of photographers who go through a sucession of upgrading of their medium format digital backs. Have you seen the prices of these backs? It must cost these photographers a fortune, and will there come a time when they say “enough is enough”? Professional cameras – well, all digital cameras –have much in common with technology purchases, such as computers. Every year or two we are faced by new models with increases in processing power, and through marketing we are encouraged to discard our “ageing” computer in favour of the very much better one on offer. I wonder if this equipment we are buying, including cameras, are made to a much inferior standard to what we used to enjoy, as the manufacturers know in a year or two we are more than likely to want to upgrade anyway.

Having written the above, which must seem quite negative, I have my eyes and heart set on a new camera to join my Mamiya 7 medium format arsenal. Although I am sorely tempted by a digital solution, the costs are great. I would love to have “front rise” movement of my big Gandolfi camera in the smaller Mamiya 7 size. I have come across a camera made by the firm of Plaubel called the Proshift. It’s an unusual looking camera, down to the shape of the integrated film back, which is very similar to Mamiya backs from their old 6×9 press cameras. The Proshift also has the 6x9cm format, with a fixed Schneider 47mm Super Angulon lens, which has the same field of view as, if I recall correctly, a 17mm on a full frame 35mm camera. The Plauble has a clever viewfinder, which tilts up and down to mimic the effect of the rise dialed in. Originally these cameras came with a centre filter, which is quite important, but sadly lacking from many being sold online. I will keep my eyes open.

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