That was the question I had when I called Bear Images in Palo Alto California, distributor of Phase 1 digital backs for medium format and large format cameras. You read lots of claims about 35mm digital exceeding medium format film, approaching large format quality but you have to be careful since so many of the "experts" have a vested financial interest in what they are promoting. My interest, I was a medium format shooter before digital(I also shot 35mm film but loved medium format), and gradually adopted more digital, now I shoot 35mm digital almost exclusively. However, unlike most, I did not sell my medium format gear, I just could not part with with those Zeiss lenses and so I wait. For what? A reasonably priced back that I can shoot landscapes, and fine art. Wildlife is always 35mm digital because of the speed, as well as event shooting because of the ISO range ability. But those medium format chromes are breath taking, and I long for a solution in digital that will not require a second mortgage, or a foundation endowment. I have not found it yet but did have an interesting discussion with Jim at Bear Images. He explained that the current 35mm digital cameras place a blurring filter over the sensor to account for differences within pixels (on the sensor). This is done for economics of manufacturing and has an obvious image impact. Phase One backs have no filter or blurring effect and therefore the image is much sharper and with a significantly higher pixel count(backs have variable MP counts up to 65MP). The downside, the backs are very expensive, normally reserved for clients who demand this quality. For file size, a 30MP back will produce a 180MB 16 bit tiff file. A Nikon D3X at 21.5MP produces a 130MB file, but the big question is, "are these files equal in quality" or does the 35mm filter significantly reduce the comparatively quality. I'm told the Leica M8 sharpness, which is talked about, is the result of removing the filter from the sensor. I plan on visiting Bear Images and taking my 35mm digital Nikon to compare the images. They offered to compare the cameras, and I'm curious about the difference. Update on the print, recall my photog friend John created an HDR psd file entitled Green Street, and sent off for an Epson print of 42" X 63". The print has returned and it's great! It is going to look fabulous framed and matted. I don't think it would have been possible for a print of this size and quality in 35mm film format. The file was enlarged with Genuine Fractals 6, and sharpened selectively with Nik's output sharpening software. Nik allows sharpening based on the printer model you are going to use so the effect is specific. Maybe more than you want to know or care about.
I'm off to the DC area in the morning, taking just my Leica D-Lux 2, which is great for travel when you need to be light.