11.5.21

Britain is Self-Destructing— And It’s a Warning to the World

James Hawthorne - United Photo Press

What Happens When People Become Too Foolish, Mean, and Backwards for a Democracy to Function?

Something strange, funny, tragic, and grotesque is happening in — or to — Britain. It’s imploding as a modern, functioning society. And that’s a warning to the world. Let me tell you the story.

In Britain, the conservative party (the Tories), will have been in power for fifteen years by the end of their current term. That’s a veritable eternity in modern politics. Take America, for example, where concurrent Presidential terms are limited to eight years.

Around the turn of the century, Britain was the envy of the world — a textbook example of what it meant to be a modern society, with expansive public institutions, rising standards of living, and a prosperous middle and working class.

But fifteen years, it turns out, will be long enough to wreck a society. During that time, the conservative party has made three catastrophic decisions. It botched a bank bailout during the financial crisis of 2007, which launched it to power, which set the stage for the second catastrophic decision, austerity — because all those bad debts had been shifted onto the public. The government, telling people the country was now “poor,” began a vicious program of cuts to basic public institutions. That led to the third catastrophic decision — Brexit. Because as austerity bit, people really did grow massively, suddenly poor — and now a scapegoat had to be found for their woes, which turned out to be, funnily, weirdly, stupidly, Europeans.

Wait, aren’t Brits Europeans, too? I’ll come back to that.

These three catastrophic decisions led to the most disastrous decline of any developed society in modern history. One of the sharpest since the Weimar Republic, one more accurately described as a collapse. British living standards fell off a cliff. Incomes, savings, happiness, trust, mobility, life expectancy — take any socioeconomics indicator you like. All of them have imploded in the last fifteen years. Yes, all of them. British living standards have plummeted across the board, and they’re now approaching American levels.

So the conservative party in Britain has presided over the most ruinous decline in living standards of any developed society in modern history, save perhaps America’s Republicans.

And the plan is to keep going. Remember the NHS? It was the world’s best healthcare system around the turn of the decade. Now it’s been eviscerated — and it’s being sold off to American health insurers. Remember the BBC? It was one of Britain’s crown jewels. Now the BBC News is like a miniature version of Fox News, replete with uncredentialed American pundits, spewing nonsense and hate. The conservatives plan to make Britain a mini-America, a brutal, cruel, stupid place, with no functioning public institutions or social systems.

Now here’s the problem, and it’s a big one. Brits keep voting for the conservative party. Not a little bit. But in massive landslides. To the point that the Labour Party — Britain’s centre left party, it’s Democrats, to Americans — has been wiped out.

Who on earth wants to become America? Who wants to pay “healthcare” bills into the millions? Who wants an education to cost as much as a house? Who wants to live in a dog-eat-dog society where nothing matters, and anything goes? Who’s foolish enough to want all that? The answer to that question is, forebodingly enough: Brits do.

Just this week, Labour’s lost its few remaining strongholds among the working class, in industrial, Rust Belt towns. The only places left that it really has a base are urban centres like London and Brighton — places now openly despised by the rest of the country as “metropolitan elites.” Labour is finished as a party, it seems. And the conservatives, despite destroying Britain with austerity, Brexit, cronyism, corruption, and sleaze, enjoy a tide of support that seems unstoppable — at this point, they’ll easily be in power for the rest of this decade…despite presiding over the most ruinous collapse in living standards in modern history.

What the? What on earth? Even American politics isn’t this perverse. Americans came to their senses, and elected Biden, after four years of Trump. But in Britain, the extremist implosion has gone on for fifteen years — and it shows no signs of stopping, at all.

So what’s going on here? British political scientists — many of whom lean so far to the right they might as well fall off its cliff — explain all this away by saying their people have chosen “sovereignty” over common sense. But nobody took away Britain’s sovereignty. There aren’t invading armies billeted in houses. Britain is and always has been its own country. This is no explanation at all, just foolishness. What really happened is much, much darker.

What happened is that Brits have become dumber than Americans. I don’t mean that as an insult — I mean it in a precise, formal, technical way. Brits, on average, don’t vote for rises in their standards of living anymore. They vote for declines in them. They don’t vote for things that will benefit them. They vote for their own self-destruction. They don’t vote for healthcare, retirement, education, childcare, as public goods and social institutions anymore — they vote against them, and for, well, the bizarre buffoonery and open corruption of the conservatives, for austerity and poverty and ruin, over and over again, as if nothing matters.

Let me explain what I mean by “Brits have become dumber than Americans,” and why it matters, in a more precise way.

British pundits and political scientists blame the Labour Party for this state of affairs. But there is a darker truth to confront. Yes, it’s true the Labour Party is insipid and uninspiring. But Joe Biden is not exactly Barack Obama, either. Anyone — and I mean anyone — is better than the conservatives. At least to anyone with a modicum of thought and common sense. They’ve presided over the fastest, sharpest collapse in living standards of any developed society in modern history, remember?

Mickey Mouse would be better. At least he wouldn’t give sweetheart Covid supplies deals to…the guy that ran his pub, like the Health Secretary did. Wouldn’t make an enemy of his biggest trading partner and closest friend, Europe. And so on. Anyone would be better than the party that has destroyed your society, your chance at a better life, your trust, happiness, income, savings, mobility, possibility.

But Brits do not think that way anymore. They are not thinking at all.

I said something dark and strange has happened here, so now let me come to the point.

What happens when people fail a democracy? Fail at democracy? That is what is really happening in Britain. We’re used to thinking of democracy as infallible — as long as it “represents” people’s preferences accurately, then all will be well — because, by and large, people don’t tend to want their own self-destruction, to be plunged into poverty, despair, chaos, and ruin. But what if they do?

Then democracy fails.

Not in the way we tend to think of it — it’s been manipulated and corroded and so on. It fails in a much, more serious way. The political system is working just fine — but people themselves have become incapable of making sensible decisions.

Let me put that more formally. Democracy relies on some level of rationality. It’s not the strict rationality of homo economicus. Democracy is emphatically not just me voting for what’s best for me. But it is me voting for what’s best for everyone, in some broad, basic sense. Democracy relies on rationality in a cooperative, expansive, sophisticated way. And when that breaks down, democracy, too, can fail. Or more accurately, people can fail at democracy.

That is what is happening in Britain. Britain is a society that is failing at democracy in the most fundamental way. It’s not that the system has been captured by elites — like it is in America. Something even worse than that is happening. The average person appears incapable of thinking democratically — in terms of the basic public interest, in terms of what’s in the best interest of their class, social group, country, society, people — whatsoever. That’s very, very serious. It is the worst kind of democratic failure there is. It’s much more severe than, say, elites capturing a democracy — that can be undone easily enough. But what happens when people themselves vote for their own ruin and self-destruction?

Let me make that visceral. Why would anybody — and I mean anybody — want American style “healthcare?” By now the whole world knows the gruesome stories that come out of America. Think of the young man — just 26 years old — who was left to die because he couldn’t afford insulin. Think of million dollar medical bills. Why would anyone want that? And yet Brits do.

Brits appear have become people who are now incapable of thinking sensibly in the most basic or fundamental ways. They look at the privatisation of the world’s best healthcare system — selling it off to American health insurers — and cheer and vote for it. But when people cannot make sensible decisions about what’s best for all, beginning with themselves, then democracy will only be a lever of self-destruction — not a solution to the problem of managing a society for the common good — and that is what’s happening in Britain. British democracy has become a suicide pact.

How have the conservatives gotten not just Britain’s elites, but its average voters to sign onto this suicide pact? How have they produced the perverse magic trick of getting people to vote for their own self-destruction? Through the age old art of demagoguery. First, conservatives made people poor — through austerity, slashing budgets, shrinking public services, producing a wave of unemployment, that led to falling incomes. Then, they blamed all that on hated others.

And so, presented with scapegoats to demonise, the average Brit did what human beings — flawed and foolish creatures that we are — tend to do. Not admit their mistakes. Instead of saying: “Wow, we were pretty dumb to vote for the conservative party, our living standards have gone down the tubes!” The average Brit now says — parroting the conservative party — “our living standards have gone down the tubes! Why? Immigrants! Foreigners!! Interlopers! Anyone different or strange! Liberals! ‘Metropolitan elites’! Londoners!! Get them!!”

In other words, the conservative party in Britain has played a game of demagoguery, of identity politics, with perfection. It’s made the average Brit believe that xenophobia and hate and aggression and hostility are what will somehow rescue them from collapsing living standards and cratering lives — not the simple act of investing in themselves. And if you think I’m kidding, consider that Britain just sent massive naval gunboats to a protest by French fishermen.

(This culture war has been taken to such an absurd degree that the British government now wants to criminalise being “woke.” But in this case, “woke” just seems to mean any form of modern thinking, like, say care for the environment, or an admission that racism and bigotry still exist, or the idea that minorities matter, too. Say something like “slavery happened, and it was terrible,” as a teacher, journalist, or public figure, and the British government wants that to be illegal, a criminal act.)

What the? You cannot have a democracy if people aren’t capable of a basic level of common sense. If they are going to fall for anything, democracy will only lead a people down the abyss of their own self-inflicted ruin.

The average Brit, sadly, has been foolish enough to fall for exactly this charade, this masquerade. He or she really now believes that having no healthcare system is less dangerous than being “woke.” That hate and xenophobia are worth more than functioning social systems and public goods. That turning a blind eye to corruption and folly are just fine — because the conservatives are “really” British, macho, tough, aggressive, hostile, indifferent, while the Labour Party is effeminate, warm, open, modern, and kind, and those are all things which are weak, suspicious, and despised. That clinging to a fictionalized, romanticizing identity as Brits, rulers of the seas, masters of the world, buccanneering swashbucklers — is this 1750? 1850? — matters more than having a modern society in the 21st century. That hating Europeans and minorities and anyone remotely different is somehow going to solve the problem…of voting time and again for a government…which has driven Brits themselves into the most stunning collapse of living standards in modern history.

And Brits show no signs of waking up from their comas of stupidity anytime soon. The conservatives seem able to get away with anything, and I mean anything. To a level that makes America look functional. No level of corruption or sleaze or incompetence or malfeasance seems to matter to Brits at all anymore. None.

Here’s a simple example. Brexit was long predicted to be catastrophic by anyone with a working mind. It turned out to be even worse. In plenty of sectors, exports to Europe have simply died. The figures are unbelievable — cheese and dairy, down by 96%, fish and chips now have to be imported, manufacturing, off by 60%, and more. It’s unreal — figures like this have never been seen outside the Weimar Republic. And yet they don’t matter to anyone at all, more or less.

Of course, it was all those farmers and fishermen who voted for Brexit. But as a result of Brexit, they’re now becoming unemployed, going bankrupt, being driven into penury. And yet they still back the conservatives, more and more heavily each year.

Why? If you ask them, they’ll give you some nonsensical answer. The real one is that the Labour Party isn’t nearly nationalistic, xenophobic, ugly, and foolish enough to appeal to these ninnies. It is not giving them the brutality and aggression and rage and hate they want — but the conservatives are. And that is what the average Brit wants — a chest-beating ape as a leader, threatening to tear down the world, even if it means beginning with their own society — because they appear to have lost the ability to reason altogether.

That is why the ugly spectacle of an entire working class now voting for its own self-destruction is now gathering force and fury. If you’re working class, you need the following things: healthcare, retirement, affordable education, childcare, housing, and so on. The British working class began to flip conservative in 2007, and is now solidly ultra conservative. Why is that? Because the conservatives have convinced them that demonizing and scapegoating everyone else — foreigners, immigrants, all those hated “metropolitan elites,” Europeans — for the lack of a functioning society matters more than having a functioning society.

It’s important to call this what it is. Stupidity. Folly. Idiocy. There is no other word for it, and words shouldn’t be minced. Brits are failing at democracy — their democracy is not failing them. You see, I say that because the choices now are few and far between. What should the Labour Party do, to appeal to a country of idiots? Should it go out and demonise and scapegoat vulnerable and powerless groups? Should it become nationalistic and xenophobic? Should it back austerity and hate and poverty and aggression? That is what pundits tell it to do. But they’re wrong. Doing that is self-destruction, too. What’s the point of a centre-left party that isn’t one? Why should the Labour Party become a party of stupidity, ugliness, folly, and hate? Better for it to go down nobly than become everything it shouldn’t be.

The problem isn’t the Labour Party, and it’s not politics at all. It’s people. Brits have become violent, selfish, backwards idiots. You know how the American Idiot is a legendary figure around the world? Welcome to the British Buffoon. He’s a figure that doesn’t care about anything, will accept any level of indignity, any collapse in living standards — as long as he gets to wave the Union Jack, shake a fist at the world, and sing Brittannia Uber Alles.

Maybe he’s a fisherman, who voted for Brexit, now doesn’t have any fish to catch, and instead of understanding that he was lied to, that Europe was just a convenient scapegoat…he still votes ultra conservative. Maybe he’s a farmer, who’s now facing bankruptcy, since exports to Europe basically don’t exist anymore in many farming sectors — and yet he still votes ultra conservative because he’s been taught that xenophobia is worth more than having a living. Maybe she’s a working class single mom, raising a family in public housing — voting against public housing and income because she’s been taught that billionaires will fix everything. Or maybe she’s a middle class professional — who’s savings have been drained after more than a decade of austerity, now paying for college, healthcare, childcare — but still votes conservative because she’s been taught that being “woke” is a threat to her kind, culture, identity, place in the world.

What happens when people fail at democracy like this? Well, it’s pretty simple. Democracy fails. A society becomes a failed state. Not in the way we’re used to thinking of it — there’s a coup, there’s a revolution, the army rolls in, the government collapses. But in a softer, altogether more dangerous way. Consensually. A country commits suicide as a modern, functioning society not with a bang, but with a million whimpers, shrieks of rage, howls of xenophobia, guttural snarls of nationalism. And soon, there’s nothing left but poverty, despair, rage, and hate.

That is what former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned is happening. Britain’s becoming a failed state. He’s not wrong. He’s right. In the deadliest way of all. Brits are failing their democracy — their democracy isn’t failing them. They are willing their own society to self-destruction. Americans, coming to their senses, voted, finally, for Joe Biden. But Brits aren’t coming to their senses. They seem to have had the sense beaten out of them. The conservatives will be in power until the end of this decade — that’s a generation. And by then, what will Britain be? A little forgotten island, of fools, drunk on egotism, shouting at the world, shaking their fists in desperate, stupid, impotent rage. “We’re number one!! You fools!! Bow!!” And the world, being the world, will laugh pityingly, and move swiftly on.

Umair Haque
United Photo Press

9.5.21

The fourth edition of MAFF gets set to showcase projects from twelve different countries


Director Michael Labarca, whose project Muchachos bañándose en el lago, a co-production between Venezuela and France, 
has been selected.

The Malaga Festival Fund & Co Production Event will be held online till 11 June, treating audiences to a taste of the rich diversity of Ibero-American cinema.

The Malaga Spanish Film Festival has announced its pick of projects for the MAFF (Malaga Festival Fund & Co Production Event), section of MAFIZ (Malaga Festival Industry Zone). This year’s selection includes entries from Portugal and Spain, reflecting the festival’s commitment to celebrating the Ibero-American world’s diverse linguistic and cultural identities and promoting its audiovisual industries. MAFF is organised by Malaga City Council and the Malaga Spanish Film Festival, in partnership with the Spanish Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA), the Conference of Ibero-American Audiovisual and Film Institutes (CAACI), Ibermedia, the Federation of Ibero-American Film Producers (FIPCA) and European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE).

Part of the 24th Malaga Spanish Film Festival, it promises a packed programme of online activities that will run till 11 June. The selected projects — each receiving a grant to cover two months of training in creative filmmaking and production — are: Amanda, directed by Sandra Gugliotta and Madreselva, by Ernesto Aguilar (both from Argentina); Bala perdida, by Juan Vicente Manrique and Esta bestia tan salvaje, by Valeria Ariñez (Mexico); El arte de la guerra (Peru) by Grecia Barbieri and Gonzalo Benavente Secco; Ida Vitale (Uruguay), by María Inés Arrilleda; Silencio (Brazil), by Enrique Santas; Sugar Island (Dominican Republic), by Johanné Gómez Terrero and Trenzadas (Puerto Rico), by Raisa Bonnet.

Featured European coproductions will include: Muchachos bañándose en el lago (Venezuela/France), directed by Michael Labarca; Os livros restantes (Brazil/Portugal), by Ralf Tambke; Tú no eres yo (Spain/Portugal), by Marisa Crespo and Moisés Romera; and Un hombre en un puente (Spain/France), by David Martín de los Santos. Finally, courtesy of Portugal comes Terra vil, directed by Luis Campos.

Meanwhile, the Social MAFF section will focus on topics that invite us to reflect on current issues impacting life in Spain, Portugal and Latin America. This section will feature El viaje del cocodrit (Panama), by Elio Barrigón, alongside a number of other projects presented in partnership with Sanfic Lab (Santiago International Film Festival) — Gemelos celestiales (Chile, directed by Niles Atallah — Cinemundi (Paralaxe (Brazil, by Ricardo Murad and Cao Guimarães) — Bolivia Lab — Las almas (Argentina, by Laura Bosombrío) — and the Directorate of Audiovisual, Sound Production and New Media) (DAFO) at the Peruvian Ministry of Culture — Devenir (Peru, by Ricardo Adolfo Amador Yui Hifume).

MAFF defines its mission as follows: to be the leading communication and networking platform for fund executives to get together and discover new projects in the early stages of development; to encourage innovative business and production models for new films with potential to attract international coproducers, with a view to distributing and promoting them in different markets and through different channels; to offer high-level creative, economic and financial advice to help filmmakers create viable, quality projects with strong prospects in the global market, thus boosting their international presence; and to provide a platform for new entrants in the world of film, creating content that reaches and resonates with viewers and engaging new audiences in a continuously expanding audiovisual scene.

United Photo Press photographers live in Malaga
Frank Ramos
Chus Gonzalez

7.5.21

Hasselblad 907X Review: Beautiful Photos, Frustrating Experience


Despite lots of gorgeous resolution and a beautiful solid metal design, the $6,400 Hasselblad 907X 50c is not without its problems. It lacks a traditional viewfinder and has noticeably slow autofocus.

It’s a system that took a fair bit of practice to get used to, but once you manage to figure out the camera’s quirks, you are sure to fall in love with the images you create with it. It’s up for debate if that effort is worth it in the end, as as much as the 907X gets right, frustrating design limitations hold it back from truly spreading its wings.

Hasselblad’s latest medium format digital system is not only a throwback to the classic looking film systems of the companies early days, but also a beautiful metal 50-megapixel box that can operate as both a standalone digital system or as a digital back for classic Hasselblad V-System cameras that were made from 1957 and beyond. While it is slightly smaller than the other medium format bodies that the company has made in the past, it is still jam-packed with every feature you have come to expect from the Hasselblad name.

One of the first things you’ll notice about this system is the lack of a “traditional” viewfinder — electronic or optical — built into the camera. That said, there is an optional optical viewfinder for $499 that you can mount onto the system that has a fairly wide field of view and is detailed with markings for the XCD 21,30, and 45mm lenses to give you some idea for your image framing. It is definitely a neat-looking addition that adds a touch of flair to the system, but I didn’t find much use for it personally, even when shooting outdoors in bright light. In fact, shooting in bright light, in general, is tough with this camera.

If you’ve never shot with a top-down system before, the first few hours using this system can feel a tad awkward since you have to look at the rear touch screen display by holding it at eye level, or taking advantage of flipping the screen out a full 90 degrees to give you a little more flexibility with positioning. Luckily, I have been shooting with an old Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) system for a few years so the transition wasn’t hard to get used to. You can shoot this system using a shutter button located on the bottom corner of the camera much like traditional film systems, or by mounting an optional grip ($729) that provides you with four additional button, two dials, and a small joystick for more manual control over the system. Personally, I preferred using the grip to shoot since it allowed for much faster and easier setting changes.


The battery and dual SD memory card slots are found on the right side of the camera behind a “hidden” USB-C port on the left-hand side that is used to tether or charge the system. Under the touch display, there are a series of ports hidden under a rubber door that includes connections for headphones, mic, and flash ports. It is worth noting that while all of these connections and slots are hidden, there are zero claims of weather sealing anywhere on the product pages for this system. So if you plan on taking the 907X out in any sort of non-perfect weather, do so at your own risk.






Overall Performance

If you have ever used traditional TLR systems or any of the classic Hasselblad film cameras, using the 907X will feel quite familiar. If not, then it’s definitely going to shake things up and leave you with a bit of a learning curve to figure out, especially if you opt to use the camera without any of the optional accessories for added functionality.

Without the grip, you’ll notice there’s only one dial on the system that encompasses the shutter button on the front of the camera. By default, this will adjust the f-stop, but holding the small button on the opposite side of the camera down while spinning this dial will adjust your shutter speed. All other controls like ISO and shooting modes are only accessible via the touchscreen display on the back of the system. That’s not something that everyone will like, but the nice thing is the touch screen is incredibly responsive and smooth which makes even zooming in on image previews and moving forward/backward an absolute breeze.



The menu system on the 907X is actually quite refreshing. Compared to systems like Sony and even Nikon, the Hasselblad 907X menu is incredibly simplistic and easy to use. There are 5 buttons below the 3.2-inch touch screen with almost every function you need access to accessible by the touch functions. The menu is fully customizable letting you place your “favorites” in the order you’d prefer.

Another feature worth covering in this section is the Phocus 2 app for mobile devices. Connecting this system is incredibly easy and allows for some very handy camera controls if you decide to shoot it remotely. If you set it up, you can also download full-size JPEGs right to your phone or mobile device for fast client or social sharing.



There’s a lot of good things packed into this medium format system, but it is worth mentioning that battery life is not one of those things.

It is by no means the worst I’ve experienced and since many camera manufacturers are able to offer all-day life in batteries much smaller in size, I was hoping for even just a little more out of them. In the real working world, I would recommend having no less than two spare batteries with you so you’d not have to worry about a full day of shooting. This should let you keep a rotation of charged batteries going if you’re not in a position to plug the camera into a USB-C power source while on set.

The 907X can also shoot video. However, there is no stabilization available and the max resolution for video is 2.7K at 29.97fps which crops the image to 16:9. This crop was surprising to me given the native 4:3 ratio of the system for stills but, despite these not-so-impressive video specifications, the incredible colors you get from your stills also apply to your video. Just be sure to have things locked down on a tripod and pre-focused before you start shooting as even light jostling of the camera is extremely noticeable in the footage.
Image Quality And Dynamic Range

The photo quality is where things really stood out for me and my testing. The 907X system with the CFV II 50C is capable of capturing 50MP images at 8272 x 6200 pixels, which is significantly larger than a standard full-frame system but the sensor isn’t exactly new — It’s the same sensor as the X1D released in 2018.

Even without a brand new sensor, there’s just something about the colors that come out of this rig that are jaw-dropping. I’ve worked with a lot of systems over the years and there’s just something about the color you get out of the Hasselblad systems that I love. Maybe it boils down to personal editing style, but the image colors are almost exactly where I want them straight out of the camera, and I find they require very few adjustments.

The Hasselblad 907X has 14 stops of dynamic range available. While this was incredible at one point, it isn’t anything crazy anymore. However, what I found is the 907X will leave you with an incredible amount of detail in those recovered highlights and shadows to a degree that I feel exceeds expectations for those coming from full-frame or smaller.

While the camera can shoot from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600, there is a very noticeable grain present once you hit that ISO 6400 mark. It is not “bad” as it really reminds me of shooting on film, but be aware that the low-lit shots will have noise in them that is very visible.

RAW Highlights and shadow recovered

Highlights and Shadows recovered by 100%
Autofocus

Once you get comfortable with the intricacies of the system, you’re bound to notice the first major “flaw” in this camera and that’s just how slow and noisy the autofocus is. The 907X with the CFV II 50C back will definitely force you to change the way you shoot. In a weird way, it is kind of like jumping back to film shooting after years of digital-only.

Unlike some of the other recent cameras I have been testing which have made speed and burst shooting a primary feature, the Hasselblad makes you slow down, stop, and really appreciate what you’re putting into the photo. Clearly, this system isn’t aimed at action shooters since you have to frame, adjust the ISO, shutter, aperture, and then adjust the focus before snapping the final shot.

This is not a deal-breaker in the grand scheme of things, but it’s definitely worth being aware of if you’re a shooter who needs faster autofocus for your work. The system isn’t really designed with a street photographer or action shooter in mind but is instead meant for more thought-out, planned shoots in controlled environments. I missed focus on so many photos just trying to photograph my dog while doing some testing with the system.



What I Liked
Discreet, vintage-looking system (if you leave off all the accessories)
Very responsive touchscreen
Mobile app is very easy to setup and use
Gorgeous color science and medium format image quality
Classic historic feel
Additional accessories increase “usability”
Modular design makes using with older systems easy and fun
Not exactly cheap, but still one of the more affordable modular Medium Format Systems on the market


What I Didn’t Like
Additional accessories are expensive
Very slow and noisy autofocus
Weak battery Life
Video features are available but very limited
Lack of a “true” viewfinder makes shooting outdoors in bright conditions difficult
Missing traditional hot/cold shoe mounts for accessories and triggers

For the Love of the Photos, Not the Experience

This system is aimed at a professional studio, fine art, and commercial photographer. The ideal customer is one who is looking to combine the unique look and shooting experience with photos that reach incredible quality. If money isn’t an issue, and you want to flex a retro style with your medium format digital system, then perhaps the Hasselblad 907X and CFV 50C should be on your radar.

For most everyone else though, as much good as the camera offers it has so many other major pitfalls. It’s expensive, slow, the battery life is poor, and while its design is great for use in a controlled environment like a studio, it’s not really good for anything else. It’s a bit frustrating, to be honest, and expensive: everything together without any lenses is going to cost around $7,500. The camera body retails for $6,400, the grip kit is an additional $730, and the optical viewfinder adds on $500 more. Adding lenses is going to rack that price up even higher.

What there is to like here is bogged down by other issues that come very close to souring the whole experience. Are There Alternatives?

There are several other medium format systems available for a similar price including the $5,750 X1D II 50C, the $4,499 Fujifilm GFX 50R, the $5,499 Fujifilm GFX 50S, and then some Phase One XT & XF Medium format systems that range in price from from $6,000-9,000. All of these systems offer you a suite of capabilities and lenses that’ll let you capture nearly anything you want to shoot. Each brand can offer more options, and more expensive medium format systems as well should you really want to dive down that rabbit hole. Specifically, the X1D II solves some of the issues that plague the 907X by offering a dedicated viewfinder and more buttons, but it doesn’t fix the slow autofocus or the battery life.

The bottom line is, there are a lot of systems out there for you to choose from at very similar prices. The decision on what to buy boils down to your personal preference of design, color science, and specific features available within each system. One benefit the Hasselblad system has going for it is the ability to use older film bodies with the digital back, along with its wide variety of lenses, which should make it an easier decision if you have some of those cameras in your kit already.
Should You Buy It?

Probably not. The 907x is a fantastic-looking retro camera that is undeniably fun to shoot. Hasselblad should be commended for the design here, as medium format cameras rarely look this good. Additionally, if you already own Hasselblad cameras and lenses, want to do more with medium format systems, and want to do it in style, then yes, it can be recommended.

But there are not a lot of people that fit into that extremely tight niche.

The colors and detail of the raw files straight out of the camera are honestly some of the best I have ever worked with and shot on to date. But, to be fair, while the colors may not be as nice straight out of the camera, with proper lenses you can get just as much detail out of the similarly priced Sony Alpha 1, get a better overall experience out of any of the current Fujifilm GFX cameras, or save yourself a few thousand dollars and use the Nikon Z7 II.


DAVID CREWE

5.5.21

Pentax K1000 review: classic film cameras revisited


It may have been simple, but the Pentax K1000 went on to be one of photography’s standout film SLR cameras.

The Pentax K1000 35mm SLR was launched 1976, the same year that saw Canon release the groundbreaking AE-1. While the Canon AE-1 bought an array of technical advances, the K1000 was very much a fully mechanical SLR.

Incredibly it was still in production in 1997, though was now being made in China as opposed to Japan (while it was also made in Hong Kong for a time as well). Over its lifetime Pentax managed to shift millions of K1000s, and while its fair to say it didn’t have any standout features, it’s popularity can be attributed to the fact that it was simple and easy to use, affordable and there was a wide range of lenses readily available for it.

Pentax K1000: Specifications
Camera type: 35mm film SLR
Lens mount: Pentax K
Exposure control: Manual
Shutter speeds: Mechanical 1/1000 sec to 1 second, plus bulb
Exposure metering: Center-weighted
Battery: 2x 1.55V SR44 / 1.5V LR44 batteries
Dimensions: 143x 91 x 48mm
Weight: 620g

Pentax kept things simple with the K1000, with it featuring a completely mechanical shutter mechanism. This meant that you could happily fire the shutter without any batteries (just like the Nikon FM2 that was released in 1982), with the K1000 only requiring a couple of SR or LR44 batteries to power the metering system. Speaking of metering, the K1000 uses a full-scene averaging method to obtain an exposure. It’s worth noting though that the K1000’s meter does not automatically switch off - to avoid draining the battery unnecessarily, you’ll need to pop the lens cap back on first.

The maximum shutter speed possible was a pretty unremarkable 1/1000 second, while the flash sync was rated at a modest 1/60 second, while there’s a PC sync socket as well.

The Pentax K1000 features the company’s now long established K mount, which means owners have access to a large catalogue of lenses. Even some of Pentax’s newer autofocus lenses will attach to the K1000 and can be used happily in manual focus, though Pentax’s latest lenses that lack an aperture ring won’t offer any exposure control.

Pentax K1000: Design and operation

The Pentax K1000 started off with satin-chromed brass top and bottom plates and an aluminum and steel film rewind assembly, but the quality of materials changed throughout the camera’s life and by the end when it was being made in China, there were significantly more plastic parts being used. This saw the overall weight drop from 620g to 525g in its lifetime.

As you can imagine, the original Japanese-made models are the sturdier and more sought after cameras. A good trick to determine if you’re looking at an earlier model is if the ‘Asahi’ branding is present on the pentaprism - something that disappeared as the production moved away from Japan.

With such a limited set of features, the K1000 is nice and straightforward to use, though its fully manual exposure mode will be a bit of a shock to those coming from cameras that automate everything. Focusing is via a microprism spot in the centre of the viewfinder that’s not the easiest to get on with, though the Pentax K1000 SE (and upgraded model) featured a split-image in the center.


Pentax K1000: Should you buy one?

How much you send on a Pentax K1000 depends on what generation of K1000 you’re after, but the more desirable earlier versions will set you back getting on for $200 with a 50mm f/2 prime lens.

It might lack some of the more sophisticated features that other cameras at the time enjoyed, but it was this stripped back and simplified approach that helped make it the success it was. An SLR that was perfect for beginners, the K1000 was responsible for millions of photographers learning the basics, and for that it should be applauded.

4.5.21

Leica launching a budget line… starting with a rebadged Sigma 24-70mm?


Leica will reportedly release an "economy line" of lenses, starting with a rebranded Sigma 24-70mm… but it's still $3,000.

Leica is set to launch a new "economy line" of lenses, starting with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–70mm f/2.8 ASPH – which, according to a new report, is actually a rebranded Sigma optic.


The words "Leica" and "economy" aren't typically uttered in the same sentence, but the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–70mm f/2.8 ASPH could be set to be the first budget optic in the Leica lens lineup.

The new lens would provide a constant aperture alternative to the existing Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 ASPH. However, it will apparently be a rebodied version of the brilliant Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 AF DG DN optics

Leica Rumors, which broke the news, was initially skeptical. "The optics of the new lens will be based on the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens," wrote the website. "This is hard for me to believe – Leica will take a Sigma lens and put a red dot on top of it?"


As it posted later, though, we have seen this from Leica before. "A reader reminded me that this is not the first time Leica is rebranding Sigma lenses. Back in the 90s Leica offered the Vario-Elmar 28-70/3,5-4,5 as a kit lens for the R7 – this was a Sigma lens, but the body and mechanics were totally different from the original Sigma lens that had plastic-like housing."


And of course, Leica has a tradition of rebadging Panasonic products, including the Leica D-Lux 7 (Panasonic LX100 II) and Leica SL2 (Panasonic S1R).

Whether or not it's a repackaged product from another manufacturer, according to Leica Rumors this is what we can expect from the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–70mm f/2.8 ASPH

The Leica VARIO-ELMARIT-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH lens will be a part of a new “economy line” from Leica (not sure for the exact name of the new product line)

The official announcement should be in May

The lens will be priced just slightly higher than the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for L-mount (still under €3,000/$3,000?)

The lens will not have an all-metal body like other Leica SL lenses

The design and construction will be very similar to the current Panasonic Lumix S PRO 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for L-mount.


James Artaius

29.4.21

Legendary Technics SL-1200 deck gets its MK7 release next month


Technics will next month release the SL-1200MK7, the silver finish of its legendary DJ turntable with specs matching those of the SL-1210MK7 released two years ago.

A club staple since being adopted by disco DJs soon after the deck's initial release in 1972, the SL-1200 is one of those rare components that blurs the lines between hi-fi and musical instrument thanks to its direct drive, high-torque motor, and the genius of some of the millions of fingers that have manipulated its platter.

With the silver top being part of what makes this record player such a cross-industry icon, this is also one of the few occasions where a new finish constitutes actual news. For those waiting out to adopt a MK7 Technics for that reason, May 2021 is the time – in Europe, at least.

Otherwise, the SL-1200MK7 is identical to the SL-1210MK7 the company released in January 2019. It features the same coreless direct drive motor with powerful torque, S-shaped tonearm, pitch control and reverse play function.

Both decks also boast a highly rigid cabinet and high-damping insulator, alone with a two-layer platter also with improved vibration damping – essential for stability in the face of 12 hours of bruising kicks.

The SL-1200MK7 will be on sale in Europe from next month, with RRP set at £799 (€899), with information on wider release to follow.

Those after the Technics sound in a more traditional home audio package, meanwhile, will be pleased to find the company has also detailed a new entry-level record player to follow the Award-winning SL-1500C.