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Phase One takes driver's seat in Mamiya camera partnership

There's consolidation in the rarefied realm of medium-format digital cameras. Phase One is investing in and assuming some control over Mamiya.

Phase One, a Copenhagen-based maker of professional-grade digital camera technology, has invested in and assumed some control over Japanese camera maker Mamiya.

Phase One

Phase One and Mamiya already had a partnership for one medium-format camera through a partnership begun in 2006, but now the alliance is much tighter, with Phase One in the driver's seat for some key areas, Phase One said Wednesday.

"Phase One is making a significant financial investment in Mamiya Digital Imaging, thus becoming a major shareholder in the company behind the Mamiya brand of medium-format cameras and lenses," Phase One said in a statement. "To ensure clarity of brand positioning and minimize product overlap, in close cooperation with Mamiya top management, Phase One will take on strategic leadership for the companies' research and development, marketing, and distribution management."

Medium-format cameras feature a sensor that's much larger and therefore more expensive to manufacture than those even in high-end $8,000 SLRs from Canon and Nikon, but that offer more megapixels for large, high-quality printing demands.

Toshio Midorikawa, president of Mamiya Digital Imaging, argued that the companies bring complementary abilities: "Together, Phase One and Mamiya Digital Imaging own all competencies required for developing superior, innovative medium-format camera systems. Our combined expertise comprises digitalization, camera fine mechanics, optics design and production, and broad ranges of software and firmware capabilities," he said. "And as a result of our close collaboration, new products are just around the corner. We plan to introduce both new leaf shutter lenses and even more super lightweight focal plane shutter lenses in 2009. We aim to offer the world's widest range of medium format lenses for Mamiya and Phase One camera platforms."

Medium-format cameras are used chiefly by professional studio photographers; Phase One's P65+ image sensor back offers 60 megapixel resolution on a sensor measuring 53.9mm by 40.4mm, much larger than the 36x24mm sensors in high-end conventional SLRs from Canon, Nikon, and Sony. Phase One and Mamiya competitors include Hasselblad, Sinar and Leaf.