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06/28/13 Working with a RocketRaid 2640X8 Raid Card and a hard drive replacement

I recently had a failure of a Rocketraid 2640 2 channel Raid 1 card.  The process of replacing the hard drive that had failed was a bit more involved than I thought it would be.

Rocketraid 2640 PCI Express card

Rocketraid 2640 PCI Express card

If you work with a lot of data, you eventually will find yourself using some forum of a Raid solution to protect your data from loss.  There are many implementations of raid (redundant array of inexpensive disks) but the most common are Raid 0, 1, and 5.  Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages in regards to speed, protection and implementation. Here is a brief overview of the 3.

  1. Raid 0 writes data over multiple disks (call striping) but does not write any multiple records.  So for example if you have a 2 disc raid 0 array, your data will be written over both discs.  However there will be no redundancy, so if you lose 1 of the 2 discs, you have lost everything.  The only real advantage to Raid 0 is that it’s very fast and allows you to spread your data over multiple discs which will decrease your overall write times.
  2. Raid 1 (also called mirroring).  Raid 1 requires at least 2 total discs.  The raid implementation writes 1 record to both discs at the same time.  The theory being, both discs won’t fail at once and if one does, you can still continue to work in a degraded state until you replace the failed disc.  The total capacity of n/2 n being the total amount of storage. So if you have (2) 2 terabyte hard drives in a Raid 1 array, you will have 1 TB of usable space.
  3. Raid 5 allows you to have multiple discs in a array and gives you better utilization of storage with a n-1 capacity solution, n being the total number of drives.  So if you have (4) 1 terabyte hard drives in a raid 5 array, your total available storage will be n (4TB) – (1TB) for 3TB of total storage.  Raid 5 can have 1 drive in the array fail and then run in a degraded state.  You replace the damaged hard drive your array will run slower until the data has been replaced over the new drive.   Raid 5 tends to have more overhead and slower overall performance over a Raid 1 solution.

Only Raid 1 and 5 offer any data protection.  When using a PC or Mac, you have many ways to implement a raid solution.

  1. Raid implemented from the system board (most times a raid 1 solution)
  2. Raid implemented from a raid card installed in the PC or mac.  This off loads the system board from having to process the raid array and is much easier to work with.
  3. Raid implemented from an external device like a Drobo.  The Drobo can allow the user to pick the level of raid and all of the processing is handled by the Drobo.  The Drobo is attached to your PC or Mac via Fireware, USB3 or network.

In my setup I use both internal and external raid arrays.  Over the years, I have started using the Rocketraid brand of card for my internal raid arrays.  Rocketraid cards are inexpensive, work in all PC’s and have a very good track record on both performance and reliability.  The Rocketraid card I use is the 2640X8 card which uses a port on the systemboard.  I tend to use the Rocketraid cards that have the 2 channel implementation in a Raid 1 array.  The cards are made in China or Taiwan, and they really don’t have a very good tech support setup.  They list a phone number for tech support which is a California number, but when called, you won’t ever get an answer.  They expect you to open your issue over the web, which requires getting the serial number of the raid card.  Once a card is installed, the only way to read the serial number is physically remove the card, something I do not prefer to do especially if the card has been installed for a period of time over 6 months.

Rocketraid cards will scan the bios of the card each time you boot.  If there are any problems, the system will stop the boot and bring up the Rocketraid bios screen.  Most times you will get a message that your array is “critical”  Critical means that a drive or channel on the card has failed or is failing.  With modern hard drives like the Western Digital lineup allow raid cards to query the hard drive to see if there are any errors starting to show up.  The raid card will have a certain tolerance level and once this level has been exceeded, the array will go “critical”.  NOTE, you may get this on one boot and the next time the machine will boot up clean, but it means you do need to watch your array since once a drive starts to show errors, it eventually will fail.

The Rocketraid 2 channel cards in a raid 1 array don’t allow you to have a “hot spare” since they only have 2 channels and both have to be active.

Recently I booted up my main production machine and found my Raid 1 array was critical.  I knew I had a hard drive that had either failed or was started to throw enough error codes that the card was hitting it’s tolerance level.  I opened the web based utility that allows you to view the array and get the status and found that one of the 2 drives was “critical”.  The software tool will show which hard drive needs to be replaced by serial number.  So I know which drive to pull, however getting the array back on line was a big more trouble. As I already mentioned, Rocketraid has no tech support by phone (at least not a realistic one).  Their manual that ships with the card does not cover drive replacement after a failure, which surprised me.

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06/15/13 Phase One failures using Silver vs Black batteries

Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt Lithium Ion Batteries

Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt Lithium Ion Batteries

As many Phase One users may know the main battery used in most modern Phase One Digital backs, is based on a Canon Video camera battery.  In fact in the older Phase One cameras which had the battery external to the back, like the P45+, P65+ etc. you could use Canon’s AC adapter/battery setup on Phase One cameras which gave you a much longer life in the field.  This all ended however when Phase One decided to place the batteries inside the case as in the newer IQ series of backs.

One issue I have had with all Phase One batteries, is that they don’t’ tend to last very long in the field.  The older batteries were 2600 millamp hours and in most cases with a IQ160 I would get about 2 hours or less in the field.  When Phase One announced the IQ backs, they also increased the millamp rating on their batteries to 2900.  In a nutshell millamps tells you how long a battery will last at charge i.e. 2600 will last a shorter period of time than 2900.  However as I also moved to a tech camera setup with my IQ 160, I found that my battery use increased considerably.  Since the IQ backs don’t really have a very good live view I tend to do a considerable amount of checking after a series of shots.  In the past 6 months, I have found that some of this review is no longer necessary as I have gotten much more confident with my tech camera and focus.  The ultimate solution is still a better live view but as long as Phase uses CCD technology, I have been told this will not happen.

So what do you do when you know you will be in the field all day or maybe two or three days?  You carry a bunch of batteries.  About the time I was introduced to the Phase One IQ series of digital backs, I also discovered that there was a much cheaper battery alternative.  Ebay and some U.S. Phase One dealers sell a silver battery which looks and feels just like the black Phase One branded cells.  They are all 2600 millamp but at 1/2 the price.  My thoughts were  to just purchase more of the silver cells and then carry them on trips.  They don’t weight that much and charged up with the same Phase One charger.  In fact I designed a battery sleeve that I could carry over my shoulder, based on a hunters belt.  The Phase One batteries will fit into the same size as a 12 gauge shotgun shell!

At first, I really noticed no differences and pretty much stopped using my older Phase One LI batteries.  Lithium cells in theory should not have a “battery life” issue but I noticed that my batteries that dated back to 2008 and 2009 where definitely getting shorter run times.  There is no way to “re-condition” a lithium cell like you can with Ni-Mh cells.  However in early 2013 I started to notice some strange issues with the Silver batteries, on my IQ160.

I had been shooting with the Arca rm3di, with various lenses, for about 1 hour.  The battery installed was starting to get low, not blinking yet.  In the past I have seen an error where the camera will tell me “no storage available” when I have plenty of room on the card left, and that has que’d me into looking at the battery level.
 On this day, I got that same error, looked and the battery indicator was on the last indicator.  So I powered off the back, and replaced the battery.  Here is where the strange behavior starts.
  1. The first silver battery I installed, did not power the back up.  I double checked that it had locked and it did.  This battery had come straight from the Phase charger, and showed 100%, one of the silver batteries.    I went back and pulled the 2nd silver battery from the charger, which also showed 100%
  2. The 2nd fully charged silver battery did power up the back.  All seemed fine so I continued to shoot.  However after each shot, I noticed that the battery indicator would drop from full, to 1/2, to the lowest indicator while the back was writing the file.  As soon as the file was finished writing the battery indicator would return to 100%.
  3. When I attempted to zoom to 100%, the zoom went to over 200% and locked.  I could not go back down to normal view with a double tap.  I had to power off and power back on.  This series of errors happen several times, then I noticed on the right side, where the histogram should be there was nothing even though I could double tap the histogram to view it at 100% and then it showed up. Also both focus mask and the highlight warning would not engage when tapped.
This all went on for about 5 minutes as I tried to work the back.  I finally took out the 8GB scan disk ultra card and tried a different card, but the same things happened.  In frustration, I powered off, went back and pulled yet a 3rd battery this time a black Phase One cell, which had been charged up a couple of days’ ago.  This time all the functions came back and the back seemed to work correctly.
All of this strange activity happened in about 20 minutes, the outdoor temperature was about 92 degrees and I was working in the sun.  I finished up the testing with the black Phase One cell, but contacted my dealer Digital Transitions on Monday about the problems.  I was concerned that something might be going wrong with the back and it needed to be sent off to Phase One.  Digital Transitions took a different tack and asked me to try out the back in the same conditions but only to use the black Phase One cells, which I did, in fact  on 3 separate shoots total hours 12 to 14.  No problems and no repeats except  for the low storage warning when the Phase One cells shows low.  NO other problems which was a relief.
All of this strange activity happened in about 20 minutes, the outdoor temperature was about 92 degrees and I was working in the sun.  I finished up the testing with the black Phase One cell, but contacted my dealer  Digital Transitions  on Monday about the problems.  I was concerned that something might be going wrong with the back and it needed to be sent off to Phase One.  Digital Transitions took a different tack and asked me to try out the back in the same conditions but only to use the black Phase One cells, which I did, in fact  on 3 separate shoots total hours of back usage 8 to 10 hours.  No problems and no repeats except  for the low storage warning when the Phase One battery indicator shows low.  NO other problems which was a relief.
Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt batteries no 2

Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt batteries no 2

Out of curiosity I went back to the silver cells and worked with them in the IQ160.  I had two of them that had been in my pack which had been sitting in the sun.  The batteries were at 100% full charge, and when I placed one of them in the IQ160, I noticed that it was not fully engaging the brackets that hold the battery in place.  When a new battery is placed in the IQ160 back (or older P series backs) the back always powers up.  What happened when I placed the silver battery inside was that the back powered up, briefly then the screen went blank and the back powered off.  I double checked that the battery was still locked into place and it was.  However even locked in place you could still move the battery around and as I did this the back powered back on again.  It seems that over time the outer casing material of the silver batteries, may expand, and contract and as it contracts it slightly deforms the shape of the battery enough that the slot where the battery fits on the IQ160 does not hold the battery firmly.  I have also had several silver batteries that did not want to come out of the back after they were used.  I first noticed this about 6 months ago, on silver batteries I had been using for about 8 months.  This behavior implies that as the silver battery is used it gets hot (normal for a LI battery during discharge) but the silver case is also expanding and contracting causing deformations.  Over time these deformations can cause the silver batteries to either:

  1. Stick inside the IQ back, and become very hard to remove
  2. Not fit snug enough in the case and allow movement which will either not give the correct voltage to the back and cause errors.

With the older P series backs where the battery is external to the back, this issue is moot since the battery is held in place by a hard metal sleeve and it can’t slide around.

I have not noticed any cracks in the silver batteries, but as a safety measure, I have stopped using them.  I would not have any issues using them on a older P series back however like  P45+.

These are the results of one person’s usage of a IQ160 and the silver batteries that are sold to replace the standard black Phase One cells.  If you have using these silver batteries and are experiencing any of these issues, before you send your IQ off to Phase One, try working only with the black Phase One batteries and see if your problems persist.

06/15/13 Gunner Pool Campground and 5 others closed to swimming due to e-coli outbreak

Fall view of Gunner Pool CCC dam at Gunner Pool Campground

Fall view of Gunner Pool CCC dam at Gunner Pool Campground

After reading the Arkansas Gazette yesterday, I noticed that several noted Arkansas swimming areas were closed due to a outbreak of e-coli in the water.  One of the areas mentioned was one of my favorite spots in Arkansas, Gunner Pool.  Sad to here this, and surprised to hear it due to the recent spell of high water we have had in Arkansas.  However Gunner Pool does tend to get a lot of use and the road will allow larger RV’s to make it into the campground.

This picture is of the CCC dam that creates the actual Gunner Pool, which is off to the far side of the campground and missed by many people who think the large pool in Sylamore creek is Gunner Pool.  This rock dam was made with local stone and created in the 1930’s by the CCC.  There was a formal CCC camp at Gunner Pool for many years.  I took this photograph of the dam back in 2008 after a rain storm.  The fall colors were just starting to peak.

Gunner Pool Campground and Barkshed Campground swimming areas were both closed along with the larger swimming area at Blanchard  Springs.  This implies that the problem is in Sylamore Creek itself and may be from some farm effluence running off into the creek.  These types of breakouts tend to occur later in the summer after the water has started to stagnate.  However Arkansas just had record streamflows less than two weeks ago and I am sure that Sylamore creek was effected.

Hopefully this ban won’t be for the rest of the year, but with all of the layoff and cutbacks in the federal programs, it’s hard to tell what’s going on anymore.  Just recently a large number of campgrounds along the Buffalo river had their facilities reopened since locals volunteered to keep them clean.  Gunner Pool is a full service campground with facilities, Barkshed is more of a primative site with tents sites only.  Both are bordered by Sylamore creek.

Sylamore creek is a great spot to visit in cleaner times.  It’s one of the best small creeks in the Arkansas for day hiking and if you hike up the creek from Gunner Pool you will be treated to several nice small bluffs and rapids that make for great photographic subjects.  There is also a formal backpacking trail that runs from Gunner Pool to Barkshed.  This same trail also runs all the way to Blanchard Springs caverns.

06/13/13 Review of recent highwater levels in Arkansas Ozark and Ouachita streams

Bills Thrill rapid on Richland Creek in low water

Bills Thrill rapid on Richland Creek in low water

In Arkansas, there are times of drought and times of heavy rains which create high  flows in Ozark and Ouachita mountain streams.  In a normal year, most of this high water will happen in mid to late March and most of April, and starts to wind down by mid May.  Usually by June stream flows in all but the largest trunk streams will be down to a very small flow.   However this year, all of that logic was thrown out the door as Arkansas had quite a late spring with freezing temperatures still happening into late April.  As May rolled in strong storms developed several times during the month, however by the heaviest amount of rainfall came in a period over 2 days, 05/30/13 and 06/01/13.

The heaviest amount of rain fell in the southwest part of the state, and this brought up all the main streams.  There was locally heavy flooding and some fatalities occurred during the flooding.  I tend to gauge the stream flow in Arkansas by reviewing the levels of what I determine are critical trunk streams:

  1. The Cossatot River in the southwestern corner of the state
  2. The upper end of the Buffalo National River near Ponca Arkansas
  3. Richland Creek in the center of the Richland Wilderness

I use the USGS gauges, which are online at this location.  You can get an excellent feeling for how much rain has fallen by looking at the stream flow increases.  If you look at the series of images from the gauge on the Cossatot, you can see that the stream rose to around 30,000 CFS (Cubic Feet per Second of flow) in around 2 hours.  This is classic flash flooding and is a very dangerous time to be out driving around on local road.  What’s also telling is just how fast the Cossatot fell back to a “normal” level.  By looking at the charts, you can see that really before daylight, the Cossatot had already dropped back down to a much lower level.  What is even more interesting, is that in the 2nd heavy rainfall on the night of 06/01/13, the Cossatot rose back up to close to 20,000 CFS again in less that 2 hours.

The first graph shows the two peak levels, of 30K and 20K in a total overall time frame of less than 24 hours.  The 2nd graph shows the final peak reading on 06/01/13 where the river recorded over 20K CFS. I have seen a video taken by Max Wellhouse way back in the late 1990’s of the Cossatot at 10,000 CFS, so I can only imagine it at 30,000.  The 6 falls of the Cossatot would be a site to behold if you could even get down to shoot around them.  I am assuming that the water would be pretty maxed out in the narrow canyon that is created around the 6 falls and any viewing would have to be done from above the level of the falls on the surrounding bluffs.  So what about the northwestern part of Arkansas, well not quite as much rain fell, but Richland creek most definitely saw the same double peaking like the Cossatot.

Anyone who know me or my work, knows I am a bit partial to Richland Creek.  Hands down it provides some of the best photographic studies in Arkansas.  This is true in winter, spring, summer and if you are lucky fall.   Catching Richland with a good flow in the fall is very prone to luck.  Richland is enjoyed by a huge cross section of recreation seekers in Arkansas and other local states.  This includes:

  1. Kayakers
  2. Hikers/Backpackers
  3. Photographers
  4. Hunters
  5. Fishermen

There is a great primitive campground about 1/2 way of Richland’s length where forest road 1205 crosses the creek.  Since 1974 I have hiking, photographing, or kayaking on Richland and know it very well.  By gauging Richland creek you can get a great feel for how high the smaller tighter streams are running, like Falling Water Creek, Bobtail Creek, Big Devils and Long Devils creeks.  All of these smaller creeks have individual features that make them appealing.  On the 30th of May, Richland rose up from around 150 CFS to over 9000 CFS in less than 3 hours.  This much water on Richland is easily what I would call a flash flood, and would most definitely cover the bridge at FS 1205.  This amount of water may also start to flood into the lower level of the campground. What also has to be remembered is that at the campground, Falling Water Creek also comes into Richland.  Falling Water Creek would be the largest tributary to Richland, with Bobtail creek being the 2nd.  If there was 9000 CFS at the Richland gauge, easily 1/3 of it was coming in from Falling Water Creek.   In the images below you can see just how fast Richland rose up.

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06/11/13 The Cut on Forest Road 1205 in Searcy and Newton Counties of Arkansas

The cut along Forest Road 1205 in Newton County, Arkansas

The cut along Forest Road 1205 in Newton County, Arkansas

Image was taken with a Sony Nex-7, Sony 16-80mm Zoom Zeiss lens @ 16mm (effective 24mm on Nex7), iso 200.  This is a composite image taken in 3 vertical segments then stitched together in Photoshop CS6 to get the final image.  Raw files were converted using Lightroom 4.1

If you have traveled the back roads of Arkansas much, you will have driven on forest road 1205.  This single road passes some of the most impressive scenery in the state.  1205 runs pretty much north and south and for about half of it’s length it parallels Falling Water Creek.  Falling Water Creek has some very impressive features including Falling Water Falls, which is a ledge drop that covers the entire width of the creek and is about 13 feet high.  1205 follows along Falling Water Creek, and then crosses over Richland creek, which is one of the best places to hike, camp and photograph in Arkansas.  From the crossing of Richland, 1205 begins a long climb up the adjoining ridges and then tops out about 1000 feet higher at Dicky Junction.  1205 can be driven in a car, but there are places where it might be a bit tough as the road has started to really fall apart here it enters Newton County.   There are many people who live along 1205 and it’s a road that is important as a U.S. mail connection.

Many people won’t remember back to March of 2008, but during this time in Arkansas there were several really heavy rains that fell in close succession to each other.  The first one of these rains started a minor slide in a weak hillside along 1205.  This spot was about 2 miles south from the Richland Creek Campground.  The slide was minor and with some bulldozer work most of it was cleared up.  In the next few weeks, more heavy rainfall caused a further weakening and eventually the entire mountainside slumped away.  The damage was tremendous and for about 1/16th of a mile where 1205 had been was only a mass jumble of downed trees and huge rocks.  Several times I attempted to hike through to the other side, but the damage was such that you really could not make much progress before coming to a huge tree or rock which required a long detour.

The plan was to have the U.S. Forest service repair the road and do a repair that would last.  In the interim, Richland Creek campground was closed and one of the most vital links for transportation was no longer there.  For about the next 2 years, not too much was done.  Many people complained about the campground being closed, but the Forest Service felt that they could not get access to this area fast enough if there was an emergency.   Traffic was routed back around the upper end of 1205 if you wanted to get to Richland.

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06/07/13 Phase One starts to ship IQ260 units to both dealers and customers

Phase One IQ260 Medium Format Digital Back

Phase One IQ260 Medium Format Digital Back

 

It looks like Phase One has started to ship the IQ260 Medium format digital backs to some customers and dealers.  U.S. dealers will be receving a back for demo purposes and it also seems that some customers, mainly overseas have already received a production version of the IQ260.  It’s my understanding that with Capture One version 7.1.1 and up,  the new IQ2xx backs are supported for raw conversion and tethered support.  The production firmware that comes with the IQ260 will support USB3 for tethered capture.  This same firmware or a variant will also support USB3 tethered support for the older IQ140, 160 and 180, which is a real kudo for Phase One.

Currently I am working with the largest U.S. dealer for Phase One, Digital Transitions, based out of New York.  I have had a upgrade on order from my IQ160 to a 260 since the announcement.   I have owned my IQ160 since December of 2011 and it’s been a excellent digital back.  I made the transition to a Arca rm3di tech camera at the same time and the two products have allowed for excellent photographic results.  With the announcement of the IQ260, I was very concerned about the residua value of my 160.  Phase One dropped the list price of the IQ160 by 3K U.S. the same time they announced the IQ260.  Some of the extra features of the IQ260:

  1. Long exposures up to one hour in length
  2. Increase in  dynamic range over the IQ160
  3. Wifi support for viewing captures on remote devices like ipad, iphone etc.
  4. Fully supported USB3 tethering

As I don’t shoot in a tethered environment, I was not too concerned about  USB3, however the fact that Phase One now has USB3  working on the 260 and will have it working on the older IQ’s is good.  Long exposures up to 1 hour in length which brings the 260 up to the relm of the P45+ is good for many shooters, but for my night work, I really don’t need it.  It would be nice to be able to take some longer daylight exposures up to 3 to 4 minutes which the new 260 will easily allow and is beyond the exposure range of the 160 or 180.  However I was much more interested in the improvements to dynamic range.  This one subject has been glanced over in the press and user forums, but I feel strongly that it’s possibly one of the key improvements.

Since the announcement of the Nikon D800 family of cameras, there have been tons of comparisons between medium format digital and 35mm digital.  I have owned a Nikon D800 since April of 2012 and have found it to be an excellent addition to my photographic tools.  However I still prefer the look of the work I produce on the IQ160.  One asset that the Nikon D800 has is it’s ability to produce very clean files in the iso ranges of 100 to 400.  There is a huge improvement here from any 35mm DSLR that I have shot, and this included most of the current Canon line up and all of the Nikon line up.  With the Nikon D800, you can push a file shot at iso 50 easily as much as 2.5 stops and possibly as much as 3.5 depending on the shot.  You have the ability to pull up shadows from parts of the image that are basically close to black.  With the higher iso ranges of 200 and 400, you don’t have as much leeway with pullup with shadows and noise, but you can still take a very clean exposure in the iso ranges of 200 and 400.  So in landscape shooting situations where I need a faster shutter speed to stop motion, with the Nikon D800, I have no reservations of moving to iso 400 and shutter speeds of 1/250 and 1/500.

The current IQ160 produces very clean files at it’s base iso of 50.  In fact I have often found that I can push the shadows up as much as 2 stops when working with Capture One.  However in many cases it may be a better solution to push the highlights at time of exposure which gives more room to the shadows.  Often as not, you can recover the highlights, something that was not so easy with the P45+.   However there are times in the field where you need to be shooting at iso 200 and even 400.  This occurs with windy situations when the tree movement will just be too extreme if shot at the base iso of 50.  Also since I am using a tech camera, with a manual copal shutter, I don’t have the advantages of a a fully electronic shutter which allows for a wider range of exposure settings.  The copal shutter is fixed at 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/250th, and 1/500.  You can’t get the full range that all modern DSLR’s and medium format bodies give, like 1/45th, or 1/3 of a sec. etc.

When you move the iso on the IQ160 up to 200, you will start to find some limitations of the Dalsa chip, especially when you start to limit the light with exposures like 1/30th and 1/60th of a sec.  At these faster shutter speeds and at iso 200, you will start to catch considerable noise in the shadows enough that you can’t pull them up at all, and even a bit of color/saturation fall off.  If you go up to iso 400, this issue gets much worse, enough that shooting at the shutter speeds of 1/30 and 1/60 become too noisy in most situations.

I am hoping to find that the IQ260 will alleviate some of these concerns, in fact these are the 3 areas I am most interested in seeing a comparison of.

1.  Color/look etc.  I am just wanting to make sure the color clarity of the 260 will be similar to the 160.  I realize that the P65+ and 160 use the same Dalsa chip  and after working with the 160 for 6 months, I only wish I had moved from the P45+ sooner.  I personally love the look of the 160 files at iso 50 and hope to see a similar richness in the 260 images.  This one issue to me is probably the most important.  The 260 is a new chip not the tweaked 180 to 280.  I realize this requires possibly a side by side shoot and this might not be possible.  I don’t care if the camera used is tech or Phase One DF, realizing that the DF would allow for faster shooting.

2.  Range of iso50 on the 260.  Is it the same as the 160, or will there be a slight improvement from the 160 to 260.  Hoping to see the ability to pull up shadows better on the 260, when exposing for the highlights.

3.  iso 200 and 400.  How do they compare to iso 200 and 400 on the IQ160.  Does the 260 have better performance with iso 200 and 400 at base settings, or do you have to go to the long exposure mode base iso 140.  If forced to go there, is there a loss of details at 200 and 400.  There are many times where I need iso 200 to get to a shutter speed of 1/60 or 1/125th, and 400 would be even better.  This is to stop wind blur on leaves when shooting water scenes.   Also do color and clarity start to fall off with these new “enhanced” iso settings.

I have done limited work with the 160 and sensor plus.  What I have seen is that sensor plus does do a better job in medium to low lighting situations where I need a faster shutter speed.  It holds very good color clarity and saturation and very low noise.  For iso 200 in regular mode you will usually have the same clarity and sat, but much more noise.  With sensor plus I still get caught up in the 15mp vs 60mp. and final print size. I have worked up a few prints form 15mp Sensor plus shots and they do look good, and with a good uprez tool I feel you can get 2x to 2.5 the size OK, but still not close to the 60mp base output of the IQ160.  This for a while had me thinking that the 180 may be a better upgrade as it’s sensor plus mode gives the photographer 20mp output.
In my work, I will most times have a CL-PL and ND 9 or 6 on to allow me to get to the slower shutter speeds I need.  Getting the exposure correct can be harder since it’s easy to get shadows to go too dark when trying not to over expose the water.  So any improvement from the IQ260 that give a bit more room in these situations will be a welcome addition.  I am hoping to get some sample files from Digital Transitions in the next week or so, to help solidify my decision on whether or not to upgrade.