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07/17/13 IQ260 Arrives in Little Rock Arkansas–The unboxing

Phase One IQ260 in Box

Phase One IQ260 in Box

I can remember back when I was a  fan of collecting watches, when someone purchased a new watch, they always published an “unboxing”.  I never did it for a watch, but did go ahead for the IQ260.  I am pretty sure this is the first one in Arkansas and I am very happy to be the owner.

After a lengthy decision process, I upgraded my IQ160 go the new IQ260.  I have been on the fence for quite a time on this but after working with Digital Transitions, out of New York I found that there was enough value in the IQ260 to move from the 160.  I was able to demo the IQ260 in Dallas TX, on a hot clear day.  The outside temperatures were approaching 100 degrees so longer exposures were out of the question.  However I was more interested in the file quality of the IQ260 vs. the IQ160.  I was hoping to see a bit more room in the shadows and a bit more top end with highlights.  I was also interested to see if there was much improvement in iso 200 and iso 400 results in the long exposure mode.  These are areas where I tend to get pushed with my  my outdoor photography.    The IQ260 at first blush does seem to provide a bit more top end at iso 200 and 400 and definitely seems to show a smoother tonality in the shadows.   Since I moved to the IQ160, I have never seen the need for any larger MP output.  The IQ280 loomed on the horizon but since I am mainly a tech camera user with Schneider lenses, I was not ready to make the switch to 80mp.

One consideration that I considered was where Phase One was in the development stage of the IQ160 vs the IQ260.  The IQ160 was the same chip as the older P65+.  Images are identical.  However with the IQ160, you picked up the excellent IQ interface to the back.  I feel that Phase One will continue to produce enhancements to the IQ260 over the next year or so, whereas I don’t think there will be any more improvements to the IQ160/P65+.  I am betting on the future here.  It’s also the 1st new chip that Phase One has brought to the market in over 2 years.  The IQ280 is still based on the same chip as the older IQ180, however it does have a newer processor/logic card that supposedly gets a bit more DR from the current chipset.

I had also looked at the financial situation on the upgrade (something many people don’t seem to consider when making such a large purchase).  My IQ160 was fully depreciated so I wasn’t going to take a book loss.  Also after reviewing the numbers that Digital Transitions shared with me for the trade in, I felt better about trading in my IQ160.

One nice new feature is the ability to review the images in Black and White.   It’s not a black and white conversion, but if you are looking for focus checks, depending on the lighting, viewing the image preview in black and white is sometimes easier.  It’s my understanding that the latest version of the firmware for the IQ160/180 also will have this feature.

As I mentioned I worked closely with Digital Transitions, my dealer out of New York, I was able to demo the IQ260 against my IQ160.  So far I have found several areas where I believe the IQ260 is superior to my older IQ160.

  1. Better tonal transition from shadow to lighter areas at iso50
  2. Very clean 60mp image at iso140, cleaner than my IQ160 at iso100
  3. The ability to glean an extremely clean file at iso140 in Long Exposure Noise Reduction mode
  4. Wifi connectivity to an iPad for checking focus on Tech camera shots.

I have not been able to do anything in the long exposure mode due to the extreme heat we are experiencing here in Arkansas and more than likely will not be able to test this feature until late September or October.

Opening the box on a Phase One IQ260

Opening the box on a Phase One IQ260

It’s interesting to note, that the wifi feature has actually become a more positive feature for me than I first realized.  I originally felt that the wifi feature would be moot for me, but with a bit of trial, I am finding that it’s actually a very important feature, especially for tech camera work.  Since all the IQ’s (for that matter all current Phase One backs) use CCD instead of CMOS chips, live view as most people are used to does not work.  Yes Phase One offers Live View on the IQ backs, but in actual daytime use it’s not very helpful.  With the wifi feature, you can shoot a series of images with the back on a tech camera, then view them with Capture Pilot on a ipad,  This allows you much more flexibility to check your shots.  Sure the IQ LCD is loaded with features, but it’s still small and it’s also locked into position on the tech camera.  Many times I will setup a shot on my knees or bent over double.  Exposure is easy but bending over to see the screen is harder and even then it’s a bit difficult to see all the details.  With the wifi feature, you can leave the camera in position, and pull out the ipad and find a comfortable viewing position to check the images.  You can also delete them from Capture Pilot.   Sure it adds one more thing to carry, but it’s not a bad compromise.

I hope to add a lot more to this report as I get out and shoot the IQ260.  One thing I found surprising, it seems that speed of the processor in the IQ160 and 260 is about the same.  I base this on the fact that the latency between shoot and review is pretty much the same.

Thanks again to Digital Transitions for all of their help in making this upgrade possible.

Phase One IQ260 in the box

Phase One IQ260 in the box




07/10/13 An example of Breathing Color’s excellent customer service

800M canvas print from Epson 9900 and Matte Ink with Breathing Color Profile

800M canvas print from Epson 9900 and Matte Ink with Breathing Color Profile

Breathing Color, is a Canvas and Paper company based out of Austin Texas.  They make a wide range of paper and canvas solutions for both solvent and inkjet printers.  I have worked with Breathing Color products  now for over 7 years and the results have  been excellent.  In a world where an issue with a product tends to get pushed to a long waiting list that requires a series of conversations back and forth, Breathing Color on the other hand can address issues immediately with a  working solution.   Here are a few examples of this:

  1. Recently I started moving my matte printing over to the Epson 9900 from my older 7800 as most of my jobs were moving to sizes that the 7800 could not handle at it’s maximum width of 24 inches.  If you are using a Epson 7900 (24″) or 9900 (44″) print with canvas, one of the biggest issues has always been getting the running length of the print to come out correctly.  For some reason Epson printers can’t handle the flexibility of canvas, so on all prints, you had to add to the dimension that was the running length of the print.  (on a 40 x 60 inch print, 60 inches would be your running length)  In the past with canvas, most profiles were generated with the Water Color Radiant White (WCRW) media setting.  This made an excellent image but the Epson printers with WCRW media setting for canvas would never get the running length correct.  With the advent of the 9900/7900 series, Epson addressed this with the “canvas” media setting.  When you select canvas, the running length on most prints will be exact or withing 1/16 of an inch which is totally acceptable.  This is true on longer prints like 36″ x 72″ and anything shorter.  The only drawback to the canvas media setting is that has a different ink density.  So if you use the canvas media setting with a profile generated with WCRW media setting, the colors will  tend to look washed out.   So the key is to get a new profile generated with the canvas media setting.  Breathing Color over the past 2 months has been releasing some excellent profiles, they are so good, that I have pretty much stopped trying to use my i1 profiler to generate the custom profiles.  Breathing Color had released profiles for the 9900 matte ink set for their Lyve canvas but had not yet generated one for 800M matte.  I was working on a big job that required canvas prints ranging from 24 x 36 to 40 x 60, but due to the amount budgeted by the customer I had to bid with 800M canvas.  The results I have been getting with the new Lyve 9900 profile have been nothing short of spectacular, especially  details in the shadows.  I wanted to be able to get the same results from 800M, but the Lyve profile is not a good profile to use on 800M.  I contacted Justin at Breathing Color as asked if he could generate a new 800M profile for the 9900 matte.  Justin agreed to do this an was able to turn it around within 4 hours.    I was running on a short timeline and needed to get the prints off, so I was very pleased with this type of customer service.  The profile generated excellent prints and hopefully it has been added to the Breathing color website for general use.
  2. With modern profiling you now have the option to generate a Bradford icc profile in vr 2 or vr 4.   With CS3 and CS4 I have noticed a problem with the profiles generated as vr 2 on one machine, not transferring well to another machine if they are generated on a windows platform.   Most commonly when this problem occurs you and you soft-proof, with a vr 2 profile the image seems to look inverted or almost like a color negative.  However if you generate all the profiles as vr4, this does not seem to be an issue.   The only way to fix this is re-generate the profile as vr 4 then it seems to work fine.  The issue is that most people now seem to be using CS5, CS6 or Lightroom for their printing not CS3.  I still prefer to use CS3 for certain prints as I like the workflow and CS3 still allows for the transfer selection.   The first version of the Breathing Color 9900 matte ink profile for Lyve came in a vr 2 variant and thus would not work on my CS3 prints.  I contacted Breathing Color on this issue and within 2 hours I had a new vr 4 variant of the profile.  This profile worked perfectly and I was able to get the job finished on time.

Breathing Color has always handled typical customer service issues like damage shipping, or defective product in a very professional manner, however issues like profile generation  tend to be beyond day to day customer service and quick turn a rounds.  With the high quality prints I am now seeing with the 9900 matte ink set on both Lyve and 800M from these new Breathing Color profiles  I am now very confident to take on any canvas printing job.

This type of customer service is what I like to term “added value” and Breathing Color delivers on it.  I hope that other photographer/printers etc.  will discover this aspect of Breathing Color and take advantage of it.

You can find out more about Breathing color from their website.  They offer a sample program for all of their products and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in fine art printing on inkjet or solvent printers.

07/08/13 Phase One announces new deals on refurbished Digital Backs

Phase One has just announced a summer promotion where you can pick up a refurbished medium format back, DF+ camera body and a 80mm LS lens.  You can read more about it here:

Phase One summer promotion

Phase One summer promotion

But in a nutshell, there are 3 camera systems that you can pick from

  1. Phase One P45+ with DF+ Body and 80mm LS lens @$15,990
  2. Phase One IQ160 with DF+ camera body and 80mm LS lens @ $24,990
  3. Phase One IQ180 with DF+ camera body and 80mm LS lens @ #29,990

If you are wanting to start out in medium format digital, this is a good offer to consider.  Each of these three medium format backs has a set of unique features and with the DF+ camera body (which lists for $4995.00) and 80mm LS lens (leaf shutter for $3,000) it’s a great place to start.

The P45+ was the first digital back to have the ability to shoot for 1 hour and is a 39 mp CCD sensor.  You can get very clean 1 hour exposures with this back in ambient temperatures of 69 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.  It uses a Kodak CCD and has always been noted for it’s great color.  You can use the P45+ with a tech camera or the Phase One DF+ body which is going to use Mamiya or Phase One lenses.  The P45+ has iso ranges of 50 to 800.

The IQ160, is one of the three original IQ backs which were announced by Phase One back in 2011.  The IQ160 took forward the same Dalsa chip as the older P65+ which was 60mp.  The Dalsa chip set gave the P65+/IQ160 an increase in overall dynamic range that was considerable over the older P45+.  The longest exposure however could only be 1 minute and that at iso 50.  However the IQ160 brought about the IQ interface which is really one of the most significant improvements in medium format digital.  With the IQ interface you gained a wonderful touch screen LCD similar to appearance to the apple iPhone screens.  Phase one also added many new usability features like focus mask, level, touch screen, zoom to 100 to 400 percent, a LCD screen that a user could gain detailed information about foucs, Live view on the LCD, USB3 and many other features.  Considering that the original list price of a IQ160 was around $39,990 U.S. this is a very good deal to get into a large format digital back, which excellent Dynamic range which has a DxO score of 89.  One other very important feature of the IQ160 is sensor plus which takes the gain of 4 pixels into one, thus giving a very detailed image which can be helpful in higher iso needs.  You do loose the 60mp output which drops to 15MP but it’s still a very usable file.

The IQ180, which has all of the above features of the IQ160, however it’s a 80mp sensor and has a base iso of 35.  The sensor plus output is 20MP.

If you have interest in one of these offer, the best way to purchase is to contact a dealer, one of the best in the U.S., is Digital Transitions.