Phase One Acquires Mamiya – Which Means What for Hasselblad, Leica, and Medium Format Shooters?

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

Famed medium format camera manufacturer Hasselblad has a new CEO who wants to return to core values – whatever that means — but with Phase One’s acquisition of Mamiya it feels like Phase One has the momentum and focus in the medium format market, Leica’s S notwithstanding.

I recently visited the Leica booth at PhotoPlus Expo in New York – it was humming with activity — and mistook a Leica S Typ 007 medium format camera for the new SL.

Doh.

The medium format S has a brilliant viewfinder, weighs a ton, shoots 4K video, and costs almost $17,000 for the body alone (B&H has an instant savings on the Leica S Type 006 – no 4K — through the end of this month reducing the price to $13,995).

Over at the Hasselblad booth, things were pretty sedate.

Somnambulant.

I didn’t make it to Phase One nor Mamiya, because I’m not one of perhaps 6,000 people who buy a medium format camera each year (figures are hard to come by, but a shout-out to Diglloyd for pointing out an article in Forbes from 2013 which gives us a hint).

I guess the questions are these:

  • Is Phase One going whole hog into a tiny, collapsing marketplace?
  • Whether or not that market is collapsing, what does Phase One's consolidation of their stake in Mamiya portend for Hasselblad's H5D, H4D and H5X series?
  • What does this portend for Leica's S series?
  • With the Sony a7r II [B&H|Amazon] on the one hand and Leica’s S and SL on the other,
    will PhaseOne/Mamiya broaden into video capture?

In the end, this is just one more transaction in what seems like the always-consolidating imaging industry, but what strikes me as different is that technology appears to be trickling up into the most expensive cameras, rather than the other way around. Each of these brands – Hasselblad, Mamiya, Leica, and even the more recent Phase One – are beloved, but this new wrinkle begs the question “will they remain so?”

Or will they fade, like old photographs, into the sands of time?

Phase One buys Mamiya, gains ownership of camera and lens production

Phase One - Mamiya

Via DPReview:

Digital medium format brand Phase One has bought the whole of the Mamiya Digital Imaging Company and has taken over Mamiya's Saku factory for its Japanese HQ. The Danish company has had a long-standing relationship with the Japanese camera and lens manufacturer, and since 2009 has owned 45% of the company's shares. Phase One sold customised Mamiya bodies and redesigned lenses under its own brand name, with the 645DF+ being a very close relation to the Mamiya 645AFD III – cameras the two companies launched simultaneously in 2012.

For Phase One the move will almost certainly be about acquiring a closer control over the manufacturing side of its business so the company can enjoy a freer reign over what happens in the factory. What Phase One has been able to do in terms of the bodies it offers has so far been dependent on what Mamiya could or was prepared to do, and with no products of its own Mamiya may not have been able to invest sufficiently to develop significantly different new cameras.

The new president of Phase One Japan, Makoto Honda, hinted that optical design and lens upgrading would also be a major focus in comments in the press release: ‘Phase One Japan is committed to developing new and custom designed masterpiece leaf shutter optics in close partnership with top photographers, imaging companies and long term design partner Schneider Kreuznach.'

At the moment lenses branded ‘Phase One' are made by Mamiya and require in-body focal plane shutters. All the compatible leaf-shutter lenses are made with help from Schneider in Germany. That may not change, of course, but the buyout gives Phase One more control of what can and can't be done. What the deal will mean for the future products of the company we'll have to wait and see.

Read full article at DPReview “Phase One buys Mamiya, gains ownership of camera and lens production”

(cover photo credit: snap from DPReview)


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