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03/23/13 Copal no longer to be in the manual leaf shutter business–possible bad news for Tech Camera users

On the Luminous Landscape website, I ran across a posting about Copal and the possibility that they will no longer be manufacturing leaf shutters.  Copal is a large company and appears to still be involved with many other aspects of electronics and cameras.  The leaf shutter that is in question, is commonly called a Copal Shutter 0.  This shutter is a leaf design and manually operated.  The main area for the use of this type of shutter is with large format cameras (view cameras), and the emerging tech camera market.  All of the lenses that are made by Rodenstock and Schneider use this type of shutter.

Copal shutter mounted to a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

Copal shutter mounted to a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

The Copal shutter like the one shown in the picture above is a very critical component to a tech camera solution as currently Rodenstock and Schneider both don’t make a shutter.  The shutter is placed in between the lens elements during the manufacturing process of the lens.This type of shutter is called a “leaf” shutter and is totally independent of the camera body.  The leaf shutter is fired by a manual cable release that screws into to the shutter.    I have never seen a Rodenstock or Schneider  lens that is sold without a leaf shutter installed.  The process of placing the shutter in the lens, should be done by the lens manufacturer to ensure the optics maintain the best alignment.

For out of warranty repair I know of only one location in the U.S that can work on a lens like this is Precision Camera Works, in Niles IL.  They are specialists in the entire Arca line of cameras and also can work on a lens like the Rodenstock 28mm with a Copal Shutter installed.  Outside of this you would have to contact the lens manufactures to see how they would handle a repair.   Of course Precision Camera works is a non-warranty type of service, but they might be able to save a shutter that has broken or has become misaligned in the camera lens.

Copal Shutter mounted on a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

Copal Shutter mounted on a Rodenstock 28mm HR lens

As this issue starts to hit the various large format camera forums, I am going to try and get a better handle on just what the scope of this announcement will mean.   Currently I don’t know of any other solution other than the Copal shutter for all of these lenses.  I have seen old Nikon large format lenses with a Nikon leaf shutter, however I have been told that this type of shutter was actually made by Copal.  Copal has a electronic shutter that can be used on these lenses, but it requires power and it has a very limited shutter speed range.  I don’t feel that this type of shutter will work in the field.

For now Copal really is it and I am going to try and find a used Copal 0 and keep it as a spare.  I noticed that B&H photo is out of stock of these currently, and plans to get more in sometime in early April.  I am also going to call Schneider in NY some time soon to see what their solution will be since without a leaf shutter, Schneider and Rodenstock both will not be able to produce a workable lens. I am hopeful that Copal may revisit this issue and continue to make this style of shutter, but it also shows just how few of the Schnieder and Rodenstock lenses are being sold currently.

I emailed some questions about this issue with Copal to Rod Klukas, the U.S. Arca Rep.  Rod is much closer to this type of concern since he is talking to Schneider, Rodenstock and other similar companies on a daily basis.  Here is Rod’s answer and it does illivate some of my immediate concerns, but I am still going to purchase a spare Copal in the near future.

“Currently, Rodenstock is still refining their Electronic shutter, though it is hard to use on recessed board-actually impossible and has a
top shutter speed of only 125.  Unacceptable to many portrait fashion shooters.  
Schneider has the SES, which is not so portable so great for studio but…   I believe they are working with Mamiya on a replacement mechanical shutter using some parts of the current Mamiya shutters in the LS lenses on the Mamiya/Schneider lenses.
The HartBlei is really not very precise.
There are some others working on things right now as well.
Copal is currently manufacturing what they say is a 2 year plus supply, by the end of the year, when they will stop.  So there should be at least a year or so of shutters.  And by then some of these new shutters should be available.”

Here is a link to the post on the  Luminous Landscape forum.

03/15/13 Interesting Feedback on the new Phase One IQ2X Digital Backs

Phase One IQ260 and IQ280 Digital Backs

Phase One IQ260 and IQ280 Digital Backs



After following some of the more prominent web forums it has been interesting to see how the feedback on the new Phase One IQ2X backs has filtered down.  I have watched the frenzy from the first day back on the 4th of March drop to more of an even pace.  The reactions have been mixed to say the least.  For sure the greatest single comment has been why Phase One did not implement CMOS and come out with a more useable form of live view.  This is true across the entire lineup.  But as you filter down to the 260, 280 and Achromatic  back, opinions seem to vary.


  1. The biggest interest  has been over long exposures again coming to a current MFD digital back.  I have already written a lot about my thoughts on this, and you can read them in this post.   Net it seems that many people are still fascinated by the ability to have a MFD digital back that will reach 1 hour in a continuous exposure.  I am not, at least for my current photographic needs.  I am still much more interested in how much improvement is at base iso 50 if any.
  2. Can the noise coefficient at base iso 50 be improved over the current IQ160.  I feel this a huge issue.  Nikon has proven it can easily get 3 stops of DR at the base iso of 100.  I don’t know of any other current Digital camera that can do this.  It’s really amazing as just how much you can push the shadows and still get a useable image.  Many seem to feel that the IQ180 can do this also.  I strongly disagree as even at it’s base iso of 35, I found more noise in the shadows of image when pushed, considerably more than the IQ160 at iso50. The IQ260 is a new chip and I am hoping all new controller cards, thus hopefully the DR at the base iso can be improved maybe as much as 1 to 1 1/2 stops.  
  3. What will the IQ260 allow for it’s longest exposure at base iso of 50.  Currently the IQ160 is rated to about 30 seconds.  I have taken mine to 45 seconds at iso 50, but that is a real push.  I am hoping that photographers will be able to get up to 2 minutes at iso 50 before things get out of control
  4. I am surprised that more photographers are not concerned about the hit that their current IQ160’s just took on residual value.  NET, there is not point in the purchase of a new IQ160 and used ones will start to fall in value as soon as the IQ260’s start to ship.  I feel this will start to max out in about 8 months from the first ship in June.  There will be folks out using a P65+ that may want to upgrade to the IQ160 instead of the IQ260, but I feel that is a big waste of money.  The chips in the P65+ and IQ160 are the same, so the only gain you get is the new IQ interface.  It’s pretty hard to justify the upgrade cost from the P65+ to the IQ160 just for this interface.  On the other hand it does make very good sense to upgrade from a P65+ to a IQ260.  You have the IQ interface and an all new chip set.
  5. What will the IQ260 do the value of the P45+?  More than likely it will increase in value as the hurdle to get to a IQ260 is much higher in most cases than a use P45+.  But used P45+’s carry some possible baggage. 
  6. There has been a lot of good talk about the WiFi abilities  of the IQ260.  My opinion on that is still out.  Personally, I am not going to try to communicate to a ipad or Macbook air in the field.  Just adds more to carry.   You can’t begin to transfer a full raw file and if you could to a ipad? What good is that.  To a Macbook air maybe you work on the file but unless you own the most current generation of Macbook air, you can only get to 4GB of ram and that is nowhere enough to process out a IQ back file from any camera.   Does wifi for preview make any sense maybe.  You will have a larger screen with a ipad or ipad mini, but it’s still a step away from the camera to review the file and then come back to delete it.  Studio shooters have a different set of needs.  I can assure you that in the outdoors on the normal day, the screen of a ipad or Macbook Air will be just as hard to see as the screen on the IQ260, basically next to impossible.  I have not read about any capabilities to control a DF camera via wifi.  That might be interesting.


  1. Basically there seems to be no interest in the IQ280 from current IQ180 users.  I can understand this as it’s the same chip tweaked to get 1/2 a stop of DR.   IThis might help the IQ280 in shadows with noise.  Phase One did not offer a very aggressive deal to IQ180 owners to make the move.   Also their current IQ180’s won’t take as near a residual hit since the chipset is same, just with newer features like wifi.  That is a stretch for the price of the upgrade.
  2. New buyers considering a IQ180, more than likely will just move over to the IQ280. 
  3. There has been no mention of upgrades to the Leaf Credo lineup of backs so for now it seem that all the new features will only come with the IQ2X backs.
  4. Since the IQ280 has the same 80-MP chip set it will have the same issues with certain tech camera lenses, namely the Schneider wides of 28mm, 35mm and 43mm. 
  5. Many also seem to feel that Phase One will be coming soon with a CMOS 80mp solution.  They might be but I not found any reference to any chip maker and a 80mp CMOS solution in the MFD size.  Not to say one it not out there and Phase is coming out with it.   However I still feel that if and when this happens it will 36mp to 45mp first and then the next generation will move to the 60MP and up sizes.

Achromatic Back

There has been a lot of talk about this back but in reality at the price point you have to be pretty much a dedicated black and white shooter to justify one.  I realize that it will have some amazing resolution at 60mp since there will be no color interpolation being done.  But the software conversions that are out there now such as Silver Efex pro or just the conversions that can be done in Capture One or Lightroom, make this a very expensive back indeed.


For now I am moving forward with plans to purchase a upgrade to the IQ260.  I have yet to really see any files that represent my style of photography.  If I don’t see a difference in the shadows of a base iso 50 file when pushed 2 to 2.5 stops I will cancel the upgrade.  I already know that I won’t need the IQ260 for longer exposures like 30 minutes or longer.  I also feel that none of the current Phase digital backs are good candidates for night photography utilizing stacking.  Stacking is by far the best way to maximize both the night sky and the foreground in a night landscape image.  Hopefully I will be able to shoot the IQ260 in mid April in Dallas with Digital Transitions.  Odds are it will be only a indoor shoot which is a total waste of time for me, but I may get lucky and they will allow for some outdoor shots.  Digital Transitions has a IQ260 in New York and they have been adding new images to their blog daily.




03/13/13 30 minute or Longer Exposures and IQ260, Do they make sense

Since Phase One announced the new IQ260, the majority of the talk has been about the use of this new back with long exposures, exposures up to 1 hour in length.  One aspect is the use of this back in night photography, where the photographer is working to capture the movement of the earth against the stars in the night sky which creates star trails.  If you dial down in to the features of the IQ260, you will find that it is going to operate pretty much the same way the older P45+ did, expect it will be using a higher base iso of 140.  If you have done a lot of night photography (I have logged hundreds of hours maybe over a thousand in the past 4 years) you may want to consider some of the points I have brought up.

Night Skies over Roark Bluff on the Buffalo River in Arkansas

45 minute single exposure taken with a Phase One P45+

I have been fascinated by the idea of longer exposures since I started in photography over 30 years ago.  More recently my  interests moved to  long exposures of the night sky of 1 hour or longer. Needless to say, when Phase One first announced the P45+ back in late 2007 I was quick to get on board, as it was really the 1st true digital camera that could handle this.  Yes the first.  Consider what was out there on the market in the Canon DSLR lineup. The Canon 1ds MKIII was announced but still not shipping the Canon 1ds MKII could barely handle iso 800 and no way could it do a exposure close to 1 hour long. The Canon 5D MKI was on the market and amazing folks with it’s clean files but it still had trouble when moving into longer exposures than 10 minutes.  Nikon I believe still did not have the D700 on the market and none of their pro bodies marketed at the time  would get a clean  1 hour exposure.  So when Phase One announced 1 hour, on a CCD it was big news.  Of course it didn’t happen until much later, more like mid 2008 and it took Phase One a few upgrades to get there, but they did it.  More importantly, it worked, and worked quite well within some limitations.

  1. Iso 50 only for exposures 30 minutes or longer
  2. Outdoor ambient temperature max 69 degree F for 1 hour exposures
  3. Lower humidity the better
  4. Mandatory dark frame after each long exposure (Long Exposure Noise Reduction)
  5. No more than 2 long exposures of 40 minutes or longer per battery

I was able to work within these limitations, some of which I found out about as I went out and started shooting, mainly the outdoor temperature limitations.  Trust me, if you try it past 69 degrees you will get a ruined image.  However during this time the DSLR world caught up with Phase One and quickly passed them with newer CMOS solutions.  All of a sudden, Canon had the 5D MKII and it truly was a wonder camera.  The 5D MKII set down some baselines in both noise and exposure length, standards that are still being used today 5 years later.

Canon allowed you to have a 22mp sensor in CMOS that would take a exposure as long as you wanted, (within reason is about 4 hours).  You still had to take a dark frame after this shot, but that is pretty much the norm on any exposure this long.  If you need to go longer, it’s back to film.  Canon did however allow you to control the LEN (Long Exposure Noise Reduction).  So for shorter exposures, you could elect to turn it off.  I believe Canon was the first camera company to allow this, quickly followed by Nikon and Sony.  One of the main reasons this is important is that if you are a night photographer, the best way to capture the night sky in by stacking.  Stacking allows you to work with ambient moonlight.  This moonlight will both illuminate the foreground of your shot so you have a true landscape image and it gives the night sky a wonderful blue hue.  If you leave the camera open for just one long exposure, your night sky will be overexposed and thus only the brightest stars will show.  So I quickly learned that stacking was the way to go for my work.

I was enamored enough by Phase One and the P45+ to continue to work with it in my night photography.  However with stacking the Phase One solution begins to have some pretty harsh limitations.

  1. the mandatory dark frame creates gaps in the star trails
  2. no interval timer for the Mamiya/Phase one camera body
  3. lack of corner sharpness with most Mamiya/Phase One wide angle lenses
  4. quick fall off of image quality with increases in iso past 50

Let me examine each of these in more detail.

1.  Mandatory dark frame creates gaps in the star trails.  This is a big problem.  Stacking requires that you figure out the best combination of iso, aperture and exposure for the specific night.  This will always be different due the amount of moonlight available.  For example a on a recent night shoot I found the combination to be iso 400, F4.5, for 2 minutes.  The best aperture for star work would be fully wide open, however no lens I have works that well wide open, so I tend to shoot at F3.2 to F5.  If you go any higher you will start to miss the faint stars.  This an easy solution for any current Nikon or Canon DSLR body, however with the P45+ or IQ260 you are going to be locked into a mandatory dark frame after each shot.  So here I would have 2 minute gap between each exposure.  This will ruin the flow of the star trails.  However there are 3rd party software applications out there that will fix this. I have found  they don’t play well with medium format lenses and I was never able to figure out the correct FOV to get the software to work.   This issue quickly made me move back to a single continuous exposure with a Phase One back.

2.  No interval timer for the Mamiya/Phase One camera body.  The only remote for the Phase One DF body is a basic single fire remote.  You can lock it for a longer exposure, but you can’t set it to take intervals which is necessary for stacking.  Thus you have to either hold it down for 2 minutes, and release, or lock it and watch a timer for 2 minutes.  Trust me over time say 40 minutes, you will make mistakes and end up not getting a even exposure process. This is an issue around the medium format camera body, so no matter which digital back you use, P45+ or IQ260, you will have to manually control it.

3. Lack of corner sharpness with most Mamiya/Phase One wide angle lenses.  This is just a given and the main reason I moved over to a tech camera for medium format as most of my photography requires wide angle lenses.   With night photography you are after the sky as your main subject which main you need to lead with a wide angle lens. You need to use as large an aperture opening as you can within reason.  The Mamiya 35mm F3.5 is really soft at F3.5 and does not really begin to get sharp until F8.  At F8, you will miss most of the stars in the sky.  The Mamiya 45mm F2.8 has the same problems  I briefly tried the Mamiya 28mm F4.5 but it really has trouble wide open and mine would not get sharp on the corners until F11.  With DSLRs you have a lot more lenses to try and odds are you will find one that will get the job done.  For example the Samyang 14mm F2.8 has really shown that it can get the job done from F4 on up and it costs less than $400.00.

4.  Quick fall off of image quality past the base iso of 50.  Phase One pretty much designed the longer exposures on the P45+ around iso 50.  You could try it longer at iso 100 and iso 200, but by 200 you were picking up  dark spots on the sensor.  These are not really noise but some form of digital reticulation.  I will get these same spots on Canon imagers when they start to get hot or are working in really hot evening temperatures past 85 degrees F.   These dark spots will ruin your image as nothing will really remove them.  You also will start to pick up enough noise that the quality of the image is compromised.  The iso 50 limitation was the other main reason I moved back to DSLR 35mm cameras since many times I will need to stack at iso 400 and sometimes as high as iso 800 which is beyond the realm of the P45+.  The newly announced IQ260 may handle this a bit better since it moves up to iso 140 when you start to take a longer exposure.

My point of all of this, is when you move away from the marketing hype and start working with long exposures of the night sky, you will start to realize that you are going to limit yourself to very specific shooting situations with a medium format digital back.  I am still hoping that with the new CCD sensor in the IQ260, photographers may be able to gain as much as 1.5 to 2 stops on range in the lower iso ranges of 50 t0 200.  The fact that the IQ260 is showing very good results up to 8 minutes in current testing is promising.  However I am much more interested in see exposures of 1 minute or less at iso 50 to determine if the shadow noise is less than what is contained in the current IQ160.



03/06/13 Follow up on New Phase One IQ260 Medium Format Digital Back

I received a detailed email response from Doug Peterson at Digital Transitions.  Digital Transitions is one of the largest Phase One dealers in the United States and has been very helpful in informing me about the features of the new IQ260.  There are the questions I asked immediately followed by Doug’s response.  Needless to say the sleeping giant has woken and hopefully these new announcements are just the start of series of new products from Phase One.

After reading your notes, I was wondering if the live view features are any easier to work with, or since it’s still CCD technology, with it work they same way as the Live works with the current 160?.
Live View is the same as the 160. No better. No worse.
The one hour exposure is amazing, and I was curious if this also had any effect on noise for higher iso work, on the 260?  mainly iso 400, to 1600?  Not as much in long exposures but just lower overall noise.  I am sure the iso 50-200 range will still be very clean
Normal high ISO is going to be similar to the 160, with some modest improvement.

Using the “long exposure mode” for standard high ISO work at short exposures: I have no clue, and honestly hadn’t thought about it. I’ll check into this right away.
Does the 260 still have sensor plus?
Yes. Up to ISO3200 (and my guess is ISO1600 will be decent)
Will phase be offering any upgrade incentives for 160 to 260? upgrades, like they did for the P65+ to 180?
Yes. There will be a cross grade offer. Michelle can provide you details.
Wi-Fi to any iOS device, will that allow you to use live view on a iPad? to help focus?
Live View WILL be implemented for iOS wireless, but that will not be ready out-of-the-gate. Only review of captured images (immediately after capture) will be ready at the time of launch. When Live View support is added it will still be the same quality as when you use it on the LCD of the digital back; this doesn’t suddenly make it CMOS.

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03/04/13 Big Day for Phase One–New IQ2x backs are announced

Phase One IQ260 backs new for 2013

Phase One IQ260 backs new for 2013

What a surprise to open my email and find that Phase One has announced a new series of IQ backs, the 260 series.  I received a very informative email from Doug Peterson at Digital Transitions this morning in regards to the new Phase One IQ260 backs.  In a nutshell it seems that the following features have been added:

  1. Wifi to any iOS device, at 1st ship playback, later to follow live view.  I am assuming this means ipad or macbookpro.
  2. Up to 1 hour exposures with the IQ260 @ iso 140 (interesting but I like this as it definitely should improve overall gain for late evening or night shots) I don’t know what the outdoor temperature range is as on the P45+ your 1 hour was limited to 69 degrees F.
  3. Slightly higher overall Dynamic Range with both the IQ260 over the IQ160 and the IQ280 over the IQ180.  About 1/2 a stop so now 13 for the IQ260 over the 12.5 on the IQ180
  4. Geotagging via GPS, I assume this is through the attachment of a Garmin or similar unit to the back.
  5. A new Archromatic back which offers B&W capture, with no color interpolation which should provide a very sharp file at 60MP.
  6. Remote operation of the camera and the ability to attach the camera to a TV for image review
  7. A new physical chip is being used in the IQ260, not sure if the IQ280 has a new chip or just some tweaks to get the 1/2 stop of DR

I feel that the base iso performance of the IQ260 will be better than the IQ160 as a new chip is being used for the IQ260 over the IQ160 and

It looks like the first actual units will ship sometime in June 2013 and some customers might be getting a few units a bit earlier.  Digital Transitions is having open houses in both their New York and and Dallas locations, where the new backs will be displayed and hopefully attendies can have some hands on with all three backs.  Pricing has been announced and will be handled in the U.S. by Phase One authorized dealers, like Digital Transitions.  I have seen that there are many upgrade paths available:

  1. P65+ to IQ280 $17,500
  2. P65+ to IQ260 (seems to be a more specialized offer)
  3. P45+ to IQ260 $22,500
  4. IQ160 to IQ260 $13,990
  5. It also appears that an existing value add warranty will carry over if you upgrade from a 160 to a IQ2x back.  Example, I have a 5 year value add warranty on my IQ160 with 3 3/4 years left.  If I upgrade in June 2013 what is left of my Value add will move to the IQ260 giving me about 3.5 years or so. That’s fair!

What all this means will vary depending on the needs of the photographer in question.  Everyone will have an opinion and I of course have mine.

Personally I moved from a P45+ to a IQ160 back in the fall of 2011 and still feel it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.  The increase in overall dynamic range between the P45+ and the IQ160 was huge.  For my landscape work, the ability to most times just take once shot and then work it for both shadows and highlights instead of having to bracket as I did with the P45+ made a huge difference in my workflow.  At the time I made the move to an IQ160, I also moved from a Phase One DF body and all Mamiya lenses to a Arca rm3di and several Rodenstock and Schneider lenses.

For my workflow, the one issue that has come up over and over is live view.  Since Phase One is using CCD’s instead of CMOS, it seems that it’s impossible to get a balanced image on the live view screen, especially in normal to bright outdoor light.  This is not new information to anyone using a Phase One back/tech camera solution, net it’s not going to look like live view on a Nikon, Canon or other DSLR.  I had hoped that the next refresh from Phase One would have fixed this or somehow found a work around.  They found a way to get back to 1 hour exposures!! surely some type of buffer could be figured out.  I feel it must not be a big priority for them which is a surprise to me.

For me with a Tech camera, the sweet spot is the IQ160-260 camera.  I don’t want to make the added investment in tech camera lenses that a IQ180-280 takes (Rodenstock 32mm, 40mm).  The cost of the 32mm Rodenstock with physical CF in an Arca mount is around 10K U.WI also found that in the few times I was able to shoot in the field with a IQ180, that it’s shadow noise was considerably more noticeable past iso 35.  In my work, being able to shoot at iso 35 is rare since the available shutter speeds will be too low as I have to take into account wind and stopping motion.  So now with a IQ260 on the table things get very interesting.   I feel that I should be able to get a better noise coefficient in all of my iso ranges, 50 to 800 before having to to use sensor plus, and then better for 1600 and 3200 with sensor plus.  The IQ160 does a very good job with Dynamic range in my shooting allowing me easily 2.5 stops of room in most shooting situations.  I have never worried about slightly overexposing my highlights to give my shadows a bit more reach.  With the IQ260 this may now stretch to 3 stops or more which would be impressive.

The ability to shoot clean exposures up to 1 hour again with all the features of a IQ series can only make me say I am glad I did not attempt to purchase a used P45+.  Sure Phase backs are well made but I would hate to send in a P45+ for a repair if Phase can even repair it now.  This new feature really won’t do much in daylight as I have often taken my IQ160 to exposures of 45 seconds to 1 minute with very good results at iso 50.  However for night photography, this is a bit deal.  You can now attempt to stack with a IQ260 and stacking is the way to go.  You will still have to tolerate the dark frame which will create a gap in a star series but there is software out that that will join the gaps and I have often joined gaps longer than 2 minutes.  The fact that you are starting at iso 140 to me a plus for night photography.

Geotagging, not a big deal to me. Even though I am in the field 98% of time I don’t use it with my DSLR’s as it’s just something else to keep up with.

Wifi, may be in the future but I don’t see wanting to add complexity to an already pretty complex setup with a tech camera.  Electronic firing of the shutter won’t be a factor on a tech camera as all the controls are manual and in the lens.  If Phase had implemented a more useable Live View option, then I feel this would be a bigger deal for me since you could gain more knowledge about your shot on a ipad or ipad mini.

USB3 will be working with these new backs when they ship (and it’s supposed to be coming very soon to the older IQ140/160/180 backs.  This will let you tether in the field, with a smaller laptop or possibly to a ipad.  Being able to tether to a macbookair 13″ has been a feature I would like to do.  My macbookair only has usb2 but I should be able to still run to a usb3 IQ back.  I only have 4mb of ram on this mackbook air and I know that is way low, so I may to come up with a upgrade in the future.  This is one feature I would like to see at any open house I attend, solid tethering oriented to the field not studio.

This is largest Phase One announcement I can remember since the rollout of the original IQ backs in 2010.  The fact that there is a somewhat competitive upgrade path for a IQ160 user is commendable for Phase One as this announcement has  overnight just killed the residual value of my IQ160.

Many thanks to Doug Peterson at Digital Transitions for his help in answering my questions.  You can read more from Doug here: