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09/17/12 Big Phase One news announced today at Photokina–New DF+ body and Schneider Kreuznach 28mm LS f/4.5 Aspherical lens

Phase One DF+ Body

Phase One DF+ Body--Click on image for a larger view

Well it’s a big day for Phase One, as they finally announced a new version of the rather long in the tooth 645DF Medium Format Body.  Based on the reactions I have read to this announcement it seems that most photographers were disappointed with this announcement as they were looking for more from Phase One.

Outwardly the 645DF+ looks just like the older 645DF body, however from reading the announcement it seems that there are some significant improvements over the older DF body.

    1. Phase One has incorporated a new Lithium Ion battery pack in the new body which replaces the older battery clips that took 6 AA batteries.  This same pack is available for the older DF body and has been for about 6 months now.  If you purchase the DF+ it is now included.
    2. AF micro adjustment.  This has been referred to some as being able to shim your digital back to the body.  However I strongly doubt that there is any shimming being done, instead just some form of AF micro tuning just like Nikon and Canon have had for years. This is first for a medium format body that I know of and it the solution works as well as Nikon or Canon it could be significant.
    3. All types of internal improvements.  I love this.  How do you figure out what was “improved” unless you take it apart!.  Some things I could think of that needed improvement are the current AF design, Mirror slap, battery life, Metering to mention a few. But if the body was reworked/hardened to some extent this should be seen as positive.  I have been hard on my DF and it still works as it’s supposed to.
    4. The ability to use the Leaf Shutter lens at up to 1/1600 of a second shutter speed. This is possible with the older DF bodies.  It seems also that Phase/Mamiya did not fix the single biggest issue the internal shutter.  If you use the leaf shutter lenses, you still have to fire the internal shutter and the mirror.  This brings back the same problems as before, mirror slap and vibration when using certain lenses at certain shutter speeds.  This mainly seems to be a problem with the telephoto lenses but many folks were hoping to see a solution that allowed the internal shutter to be left open when using the leaf shutter lenses.

That’s about it really and all of this for a U.S. price of $5990.00 make it 6K.  Right now it would be a tough call for me as I have used the DF for over 2 years and have found the design acceptable.  I have not ever found the manually focusing with 645DF easy so if the AF system has been improved I am all for that..  For 6K, I do hope that the improved AF is more accurate, no longer needs the 3 hits to really get focus and has more focus points. .  Any modern body should have more than 3 focus points that are so close together they really act as one which is how the AF works on the DF body. I have always just used the center AF point on mine.

Phase One Schneider 28mm LS Lens
Phase One Schneider 28mm LS Lens–click on image for larger view

The new Phase One Schneider 28mm LS lens is more interesting to me, however I have to wonder if it’s a total rework from the ground up or just a re-name of the older Mamiya 28mm F4.5.  The only reason I am wondering is the fact the older Mamiya was also a F4.5 lens.  I would have hoped that if Phase One/Schneider were going to rework a lens that would have tried to make it a bit faster?  This lens is more than many of the Schneider/Rodenstock tech camera wide lenses that are on the market now and close to others.  The Rodenstock 32mm and 28mm are more, and the Schneider 28mm Digitar is about the same.  The Schneider 35mm is much less even after you add the price for a tech camera mount.  Outwardly all I see is that the lens now has a leaf shutter, which is not a big deal for me as I don’t currently have any need for a flash speed of 1/1600 especially with a 28mm lens.  However I am sure an interior photographer might find this faster shutter speed to their liking.  This is a 17mm equivalent with a 35mm camera so it’s pretty wide.

The big issue with the old Phase One/Mamiya 28mm lens is that it was so soft in the corners.  At F4.5 to F6.3 the corners are not useable, as you move up to F71. to F11 the corners start to get better but still really can’t be used.  If you take the aperture to F16 to F22, you can move times get the corners to where they will be useable but by F16 diffraction errors start to show up pretty fast.

This lens has a list price of 6K, so it might not be running  off the shelves.  It will have to be tested to see just how well it holds up in the corners.  I will safely assume that it will do just fine on center as the older lens did excellent here.   I am very interesting to see just how well the new Schneider LS works corner to corner in the F4.5 to F8 range.

Phase One did announce a newly designed Lee filter holder that works with both the older 28mm and the new one.  This appears to be just like the setup that Lee makes for the the Nikon 14-24 and may actually share parts.  I don’t have any details on this unit but from the one picture I have seen it looks like it take the 150 x 150 filter size that Lee makes for the 14-24.  This is a good move for Lee as they can now sell more of these 150 x 150 sized filters as before the only player for them was the Nikon 14-24.  Here is a quick picture taken off the web.

Filter holder for Phase One 28mm Schneider lens
Filter holder for Phase One 28mm Schneider lens

This is a good thing and long overdue.  I am glad to see that Phase One worked out this solution as before there really was nothing.  For over 5 years Mamiya has had the older lens on the market without any filter solution other than a gel holder.  What a joke!.  Lets see I have this 5K lens and I am going to use a gel filter with limited quality.  I just amazed me that there was never a solution for this.  While I owned the Mamiya 28mm lens for over 3 years, I had a solution that allowed me to use both a CL-PL and ND filter on it.  I modified the older Cokin Pro filter holder much in the same way that Lee is going to make this new solution work.  The Lee solution will be much better in that it will lock on the lens and be much more secure.  When I used my solution I was always worried that the whole rig would fall off.

What does all this mean to me?  Well not too much.

  1. I am over chasing the latest and greatest.  I personally don’t see much reason to upgrade to the DF+ as for me I have moved on to a Tech camera and the Rodenstock 28mm.  I sure can’t carry both of them in the field and I know I prefer the abilities I get from the Tech Camera and various lenses. If a body upgrade was offered I still might consider the DF+ if the AF was improved considerably.  My only issue I have sold my 28mm Mamiya lens so I would have to sell some more gear to make the Schneider a reality.
  2. Phase One priced the DF+ at the same price as the older DF body, 5995.00 U.S.  For current DF owners this may be a bit high so hopefully by year end Phase One may offer a trade-in like they did when the DF was announced about 2 years ago.
  3. Unless the Schneider 28mm LS lens offers a huge improvement in overall image quality, it’s a non-event for me.  Actually it is anyway as I can no way justify having both a 6K Schneider 28mm LS lens and a Rodenstock HR 28mm.  The Rodenstock has proven image accuracy.  In fact it may be the single sharpest wide angle lens I have ever used.  The Phase One Schneider has a lot to prove.
  4.  I sure hope  that Phase One sees that the DF is very long in the tooth and works out a new more advanced body like Hasselblad  has for their users. Something without a mirror might be nice but then that would involve Live View or an ETF viewfinder which means CMOS and that is a ways off I think.





  1. Just a nit-pick: list price on the Phase One DF+ is the same as it was on the Phase One DF. So yesterday they offered a DF at $5,995, and today they offer a DF+ at $5,995 with more features and more refined mechanics.

    One of the primary markets for the Schneider 28mm LS is those who want to sync with flash. Think about the requirements to overwhelm ambient/daylite in a large hall with lots of windows. With the ability to sync up to 1/1600th with studio strobes you could take a pair of Profoto D1 Airs and create your own lighting regardless of how bright it is inside.

    We’ll be testing the quality of this new lens compared to the Phase One DF and will report back with raw files and 100% jpgs on our blog:

    I’m a big fan of tech cameras, so if you’re comfortable with the workflow (which obviously you are) a Schneider 28XL (for the IQ160 and lower) or Rodenstock 32HR make more sense. But for many people a tech camera won’t work for their needs; if you want 28mm with autofocus, through the lens metering and composition, and electronically controlled aperture than this is a great option.

    • Doug:

      Thanks for the catch on the price. I will change that. I had it in my mind that the list was 4995.00 for some reason. I do hope that Phase offers a upgrade path especially if the shutter has an improved design or better AF (real big issue to me)

      I actually hate the tech camera workflow, but have considered it a necessary evil to getting good sharp images with a wide angle which what I use about 95%. Good points on the interior shooting and flash I need to think outside the box more often.

      I will look forward to seeing your results with both the DF+ and the 28mm Schneider. I agree with you the 28LS will be a great option if Schneider has improved the overall corner to corner quality of the lens. If they did then alone it’s worth the
      the 6K cost.

      Have fun in Germany.