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04/13/17 A few misconceptions on the Fuji GFX that continue to swirl around the web

I have continued to be impressed with the Fuji GFX.  I finally found a solution to my needs for a longer lens with the older Mamiya 200mm F 2.8 APO lens.  I will be sharing more on that in the future.

What has been a bit disappointing is how some reviewers continue to spread “mis-information”about the GFX.  This seems to have started with some early comments made in regards to the “inability” to not measure a Fuji GF lens for focus shift and now has moved into areas like magnified live view, and manual focus capabilities of the GFX.  It also seems that many of the problems  appear to be from users who have not taken the time to work with the Fuji menu system, which is very similar to the X series cameras from Fuji like the X-T2.

There have been a lot of comments on lack of quality of the Fuji Glass:

My comments are that the optics are excellent, and yes they are light weight but I am happy to have 1/4 the weight of a P1 Schneider LS lens if I can see the same optical quality, which I do with all three of the lenses I have. They are overall excellent to my findings. The 32-64 has a bit of rectinier distortion @ 32mm and on the far left side mine is a bit softer. So I can’t give that lens a 100% great overall review. But so far I have found it to interfere with any photography. The 120mm is amazing and so is the 63mm. The fact that Fuji did not use a LM on the 63mm is a BIG disappointment to me as it’s AF speed is much slower and it will hunt much more often.  The AF in low light could use improvement as it will tend to hunt.

There have been a lot of comments on the issue of baked in sharpening on the Fuji Raw:

If you use non supported raw converters on the Fuji Files, which would have no way of reading anything baked in, the files appear fine and sharpen up just they do in LR. I personally don’t believe it’s possible to bake in a sharpening setting to any file but I will leave it at that. Yes, Fuji bakes in the optical corrections to the files that has always been the case with all Fuji cameras, and yes LR will see these and apply them, there do not include sharpening.  Note to test this open any Fuji GFX raw which has been converted to a dng in Capture One.  Even if the RAF to dng conversion by Adobe keeps the “baked”in sharpening for a raw file, Capture One would not use it period.  Capture One DOES NOT support the GFX thus any form of raw sharpening would be dropped.  To use a converted Fuji dng in C1 you have to totally drop both the company name and camera name so C1 will open the files with it’s information for a Phase IQ250, not a Fuji GFX.

There have been several comments on the fact that Fuji bakes in diffraction corrections to the raw:

If you use any Fuji camera and turn on “lens Optimization” yes, Fuji will bake in diffractions corrections to the jpg files.   These corrections are not supported by raw converters like LR or ACR or even C1 (on the supported x-trans cameras). This has been published many times as these raw converter developers did not want to take the time to figure the algorithm that Fuji used. I have no reason to believe that for some reason, this now works on the RAW for the GFX. I have contacted Fuji US and they have told me the “Lens Optimization” only applies to jpg and “in camera raw” conversions where the Fuji optimization data can be read.

There have been many comments on the lack of ability to use Magnified Live View to manually focus:

Again, it’s possibly that users don’t have a good understanding of Fuji cameras. With Fuji you have two options for the EVF to display the file. As it is with exposure taken into account. And a more wide open max lighted view (display preview off). This 2nd option will give a fully lit view for live view display but you can easily over expose the image since you may forget to read the exposure meter on the far left. With the preview effect off, even in very low natural lighting I have no problems with manual focus in Live View.

There have been many comments on the lack of sharpness in magnified Live View:

Yes, if you zoom in all the way the details will be hard to see. Please understand if you are zoomed in all the way, you have zoomed way past a 100% view, more like 150%. This is similar to attempting to view an image on a D810 in live view with the magnification zoomed all the way in. Net you really can’t tell much. You have 3 zooming options for the Magnified live View, and I tend to use the one in the middle. If you are attempting this without peaking enabled, I believe you will have a lot more trouble determining good focus.

Also, please understand that in preview mode, if you hit the zoom button one time, the camera’s default zoom is WAYYY past a 100% view, and you can’t determine accurate focus. I no of no way currently to dial that one touch zoom down like you can with Nikon. But you can pinch the screen like with an iPhone to shrink the maxed out view back down. In my experience you need to zoom out close to 1/3 of the default view.

I can’t compare to the X1D as Hasselblad is still shipping these in a very limited amount.  I also refuse to place a camera on order and then wait up to 8 months to receive it.  That basically freezes a capital expenditure for my business that I can put to good use elsewhere.  No doubt Hasselblad has totally failed on their ability to deliver this camera in any worthwhile amount.   It’s my opinion that this will possibly have an effect on repairs also as if Hasselblad can’t even make enough cameras to cover orders from as far back as June of 2016, how can you expect to have them repair one.  Also what is the current Hasselblad repair process on the X1D?  Fuji has clearly stated their process of using the current US repair center and has trained current staff on the GFX system.

I just have issues with the fact that it appears that some reviews don’t understand anything about Fuji’s design, and dive in, and then start making claims that the camera is defective, when it’s clear they don’t have a full understanding of Fuji’s focus by wire setup. It’s not perfect but it works.  I made a mistake on the Fuji focus by wire setup on the GFX as I assumed it worked the same as with the other X-series cameras, which is not true.  With any X-series Fuji, if you are in S mode and switch to M for manual focus, you will receive the message “focus check” as many times the movement from S to M, will move the existing focus point throwing your image slightly out of focus.  It is also true with an X-series camera, if you turn off the camera even with the camera in M mode, you will again be asked to “focus check” as the process of powering up the camera will cause you to lose the existing focus point.  With the GFX, I have found that neither of these issues exist.  You can switch from S to M and or turn off the camera and the current focus point is not lost.  I have checked this out a multiple number of times.

If there is a fault for sure the way Fuji designed the neck strap lugs is a bit stupid? They make the use of any other type of strap hard to do and the lug will flip around and get in the way of the memory card door. I prefer to use the Peak Design straps.

03/23/17 Fuji Sales Managers in the UK are talking up the GFX–A few thoughts

I noticed this post in Fuji-Rumors today: Fuji Rumors and Fuji UK Sales Manager comments 

On reading this post, I had to ask myself, is this the same person who told a group of UK photographers 1 week before the 02/28/17 release of the GFX that Capture One would support the GFX? A similar story was told to a group of photographers in Dubai also about 1 week before the UK Sales Manager made his comments. I had to write about this, as I feel that the situation between Fuji and Phase One (who makes Capture One) was very poorly handled.

I have to believe that Fuji was having conversations with Phase One on getting Phase to add support for the GFX in a future release of Capture One (C1). My assumptions are based on the following:

  1. As soon as images of the GFX started to show up on the web, there were many shots of photographers using a GFX while tethered to a computer running C1.
  2. Many of the photographers that had the GFX while under a non-discloser agreement (NDA) made comments on their various blogs that C1 “would” support the GFX.
  3. At least 3 Fuji officials made public comments in early sales roll out meetings that Capture One would support the GFX, several of these comments were captured on video.
  4. Fuji currently doesn’t have a very good tethering solution, and C1 and Phase One are considered state of the art for tethering.
  5. Since the GFX sensor was not designed with Fuji’s x-trans filter array, it would have been easier for Phase One to add support for the GFX since Phase One already uses the same 50MP Sony sensor in several of their own digital backs.

In the past Fuji has given users a scaled back version of Silkypix which is a very limited piece of software and no ability to upgrade to the full license of Silkypix for a discounted price.  Now with the release of the Fuji GFX, it’s a clear fact that Phase One will not be supporting it with C1. In the past Phase has made a point of not supporting other medium format cameras as they see them as competition. However Phase currently has no mirrorless platform and their IQ150 (which is the lowest priced back using  the 50MP Sony chip), is still close to two times  the price point of the Fuji GFX. Long term this will effect sales for P1 but not immediately. Phase did agree to work with Sony to make a special pro version of C1 which supports the various Sony mirrorless 35mm cameras and provides a great tethering solution.

From reading various notes, blogs, and on-line reviews, I have no doubt that Fuji was having some conversations with Phase One in regards to getting support for the Fuji GFX. Fuji executives have mentioned that the conversations broke down and they did not see anything coming soon. I have to feel that all of the Fuji Sales Managers in the field who felt it was OK to state that the support would a done deal was a huge mistake and a poor example of how to handle a possible future deal. Once the fact that Fuji and Phase One were talking, local U.S. Phase One dealers became very adamant that NO THIS WOULD NOT HAPPEN, PHASE ONE WILL NEVER SUPPORT THE GFX. The fact that Fuji corporate executives and Phase executives may have been trying to work out a deal was not something that local U.S. dealers would possibly not been aware of.  However after word leaked about possible Phase One support for the GFX U.S. dealers may have added pressure to Phase One to see that no deal between Phase One and Fuji could happen.

For Phase One, this is not a big deal.  They will continue to sell their high end and very expensive digital backs to the photographers that can afford them.  But for Fuji I see it as a huge loss.  Fuji currently has a few software solutions for raw conversion; Iridient Developer, Lightroom/ACR, and Silkypix.  None of these have a very good tethering solution and studio photographer want this.  As a landscape photographer there are times prefer to work tethered also.  Each of the raw converters I have references all have some issues.

Lightroom/ACR

Adobe tends to make one pass on a raw conversions and they either get it right the first time or you get a less than perfect conversion.  Currently the Lightroom conversion has problems with high ISO images from the GFX.  As you get past ISO 1600, you will start to see more noise, a red cast to the files and color/detail smearing.  It’s possible that Adobe will never re-visit this conversion for years.

Iridient Developer 

While Iridient has an excellent raw conversion, I did not find that their dng conversion was that good for the GFX files, unlike their similar conversion for the Fuji X-T2 which is excellent.  Iridient’s conversion while good still is limited by the lack of image adjustment tools that both Lightroom and Capture One have.  Both of which allow you to work on your image as a raw file not a tif.  I doubt that Iridient will ever be able to approach the tools that Lightroom or Capture One offer.

Silkypix

Where do I start?, Silkypix is made in Japan, the English translation in the interface is less that stellar and their help is about the same.  Silkypix is lightyears behind Lightroom or Capture One in how image adjustments can be used.  Even with Silkypix Vr 8 the software leaves a lot on the table.  The version of Silkypix that ships with the GFX is not even the full version of the software, and is dialed back, disabled version.  Basically it will convert a raw file to a tif, and that is it.  This has been the way the Fuji has handled raw conversion as long as I can remember.

With Lightroom Fuji has a start on a good process, but there is no reason to believe that Adobe will continue to improve the raw conversion demoacsic, which is the real key.  If Fuji had been able to work out a deal with Capture One they would have had a wonderfully powerful solution and a huge competitive edge over Hasselblad and the X1D.  For now Capture One has a vastly superior raw conversion of the Fuji GFX files especially if they are taken at ISO ranges past 1600.  I still have to believe that some of the Fuji Worldwide Sales Manager should have kept quiet about the possibility of Fuji and Phase working out a deal. 

Paul Caldwell Photography

03/22/17 Dpreview takes a 180 degree opinion on the GFX–my thoughts

It’s interesting to see the opinion of the GFX at Dpreview take such a 180 degree turnaround from their first posting. But if you take their points to task, there is not too much to complain about.

1. Low Light Performance, here Dpreview compares with the Sony
A7RII, which in their own side by side tests, does not hold up
well at ISO’s above 1600. The touted BSI design, did not really
do that much from my testing. I was not impressed with the
A7RII past 800 and in fact was surprised to see that many
times the D810 seemingly outperformed it up to ISO 3200. Also
the A7RII is pretty worthless for any long exposure work unless
you turn on LEN, as it has some of the worst noise I have ever
seen. If you use LEN, then you can’t stack without gapping.
AGAIN, I am sure that Dpreview is using Adobe for their raw
conversion, (I hope that they are testing raw not jpg) and not
using C1. YES, LR/ACR do not favor the GFX currently on high
ISO conversions, considerably more noise.

2. Base ISO Dynamic Range, comparing with the D810 @ ISO 64.
Sure the D810 has a lower range, but from shooting the both
cameras side by side, the shadow push on the GFX is amazing
at ISO 100 and 200. I would say equal to at 64 compared to 100
and the GFX will still perform better at ISO 200 over the D810 @
ISO 200.

3. Shallow DOF, this one surprised me. Not too many MF
photographers on Dpreview? MF has a shallower DOF out the
gate over 35mm, so you don’t need a F 1.2 lens, a F2 lens
should be acceptable. Only time will tell as Fuji has not given
an idea as to when the 110mm will ship. I have shot MF for
years and have spent thousands on tech cameras to allow for
tilt to counter act the inherently shallow DOF of MF film and
sensors.

4. Resolution Canon 5DS-R compared to the GFX. Totally
surprised me, based on my use of the Canon and especially
Dpreview’s own reviews of the 5DS-R. Even at it’s lowest ISO
range, I can’t see the Canon holding the same or better
resolution than the GFX, and past base ISO the noise and
banding will defeat the image quality.

Fuji has some warts with the GFX however.

1. No C1 support, they should have figured out a way to get
C1/P1 to write a Pro version for this camera. Current tethering
support is not that good and as I mentioned LR raw conversion
is not that good for higher ISO images, (could be better).
Fuji continues to push a scaled version of Silkypix. If you want
to make it in the pro world (where this camera will be the
most appreciated since the iPhone and similar devices have
now placated the masses, you have to come out with a better
software interface for your raw (NOT JPG) files.

2. Fuji totally missed the mark by not having all 6 lenses available
at first release. Why? Were they no 100% sure the camera
would be successful? Fuji needs to get the 23mm and 45mm
out now. As to the comments by Dpreview there is no way
Fuji will ever catch up the number of lenses available for 35mm
cameras, period. Moot point. However the lenses that have
shipped optically are stellar, and that can’t be said for many
35mm lenses.

3. MF Clutch on the lenses. Due to the focus by wire design
of Fuji, you really NEED to have a MF clutch on the lens.
Fuji incorporated this on many of their X series primes but so
far none of the GF lenses have this. Since you lose your focus
point (even in MF mode) when you either turn off the camera or
switch to playback mode, it would be nice to have a clutch that
over-rides this just like the X series primes.

Paul Caldwell03/22/17

03/15/17 Fujifilm GFX 50S–An example of excellent Dynamic Range

The FujiFilm GFX 50S uses the same 50MP chip that has been used by several camera companies over the years.  Phase One uses this chip in the IQ150,250 and 350, and Pentax used it in their 645Z.  Recently Hasselblad used the chip in the 50c Medium Format back and the new X1D mirrorless camera.

In tests I had made with the Phase One IQ250 and IQ150, I saw that the Phase One implementation provided some excellent dynamic range in the ISO 100 to 800 range, but still seemed to be a bit noisy past this.  Especially when shadows were pushed.  I was hoping to see the same amount of push with the Fuji implementation in the GFX.  I was able to test this on a recent shoot at Calico Rock.  I worked as series of 5 part panos all hand held.  My goal was to only shoot 1 shot for each segment and not have to bracket the exposures since I was hand holding the camera.  The last segment on the far right was a classic shot where half of the image was in shadow and the other half in full shade.  I was metering more to protect my highlights, so the shadows were exposed very dark.  This can be seen in the side by side shot below.

Fuji GFX testing Calico rock

In this side by side view you can see the original shot on the left and where I have pushed up the shadows on the right side.  From this view it’s a bit hard to really tell just how much room there is in the file taken at ISO 200.  So I have taken a few crops at a 100% view.  In this view notice the amount of details that are present in the rock bluff and trees along the bluff.  Also note how well the light green leaves show up.

Fujifilm GFX 50S dynamic range

Shadow push from the Fujifilm GFX 50S

 

In this shot, by far the most impressive, look at how much color and detail were still available.  Look for the green pine needles and the brown fall leaves on the oak.  Also you can see again a lot of finer branch details that were not visible before I pushed the image.  The key here is the image before is basically black, so the amount of push is close to 3 stops total, between exposure push and shadow adjustment.

Comparison for Fujifilm GFX 50s on shadow push.

Comparison for Fujifilm GFX 50s on shadow push.

Not bad!! In fact excellent for ISO 200.

This type of push would easily hold up in a large print.  So what I have learned so far:

  1. The Fujifilm GFX allows easy hand held work with the 120mm lens and 32-64mm lens
  2. There is a huge amount of room in the shadows for push from the base ISO of 100 up to around ISO 800
  3. You can get easily 1 to 1.5 stops of push up to ISO 1600
  4. The files hold up very well with no loss in color saturation, no smearing or excessive noise
  5. By far the best raw converter is Capture One on files where you are attempting to push shadows

 

08/15/16 Phase One Cable Release–New product announced

Recently Phase One finally announced the “final solution” for a cable release for the XF camera.  Not what I had hoped for but this is it as shown in the photo below.

Phase One cable release

New Phase One Cable Release Bob

Back in the June 2015 time frame, Phase One announced their new XF camera body, which replaced the aging DF/DF+ bodies.  The only difference in the DF and DF+ was improved AF performance.  But as all who follow Phase One know, the XF, was a big announcement and a all new camera body.  The features of the XF are endless and since the announcement, Phase One has continued to add more features via firmware updates.  But one little issue was either overlooked or just not important enough and that was the remote release.

In the past, the DF/DF+ and for that matter all previous modern camera bodies made by Mamiya all took a standard 8 pin coiled cable release.  This was a basic simple design, that allowed the remote shutter button to fire once or lock down.  Period.  But it worked and was pretty darn hardy.  I have dropped mine in the water several times, and once the pin outs were dry, it worked fine.  Phase at the announcement of the XF did not make any statements about a remote, only that the camera could be fired remote via Capture Pilot/iPhone etc.  But there are times that you don’t either want to carry the additional gear or just don’t want to mess with the wifi issues so a basic cable release is a nice feature.  I have also heard from plenty of studio shooters who also prefer having a true cabled remote release.

Briefly during early 2016, Phase One did release some of the older Mamiya 8 pin cable releases, modified with the 12 pin connection.  These were from what I have been told only made in limited numbers since Phase One had something else in mind for a cable release.  My thoughts went to a modern intervalometer, so something with a digital readout like all modern cable releases, but instead Phase One came out with the Bob.  See in the above picture the basic Bob.  Note also the cost is $399.00 U.S. Yes, I said $399.00.

The basic Bob, is just what you see in the picture.  Note that it has two addition ports towards the bottom.  These can accept a older style cable release (Mamiya 8 pin) and the new and still not released XF external power supply.  In the picture below you can see all of this put together.

Phase One remote Bob and various connections

Phase One remote Bob and various connections

Now you can see where all this was heading.  Which is great for power users.  There is no information on the XF Power supply that I can find, i.e. NiMh or Lithium battery.  Hopefully the later.  But you can now see the why Phase One put 12 pins on the XF for the remote connection, so that the power can be transmitted via the 4 additional pins.  There is also no information as to if the IQ100, or IQ350, or IQ380 all of which have the Phase One Power Share feature, can also be powered when the XF Power supply is attached.  This would be a nice feature.

So I guess when all is said and done, more than likely you will be out around 700.00 for the whole solution.  Only you can state if this is all worth it.

Photographer’s Notes:

I am disappointed that this all that Phase One will now offer.  And I would have much rather had the offering to just purchase the old style Mamiya DF cable release modified to the 12 pin layout.  These were briefly available in the US, but not by my dealer and I waited too long to purchase this cable release as I was under the impression that “more were coming soon”.  Live and learn, when you see it if you need it buy the damn thing.  I find it very surprising still that nothing was available when the XF was announced.  But even worse Phase One knew that they were not going to make many of the modified Mamiya remotes, (8 pin to 12 pin) and should have allowed those of us who know that they would have gained considerable use from this order one while the limited supply was out there.

This is overkill for a photographer working the field, outdoors as look at the total number of cables that will be hanging around if you use the XF power supply.  And if you don’t you still have a lot of non weather sealed connections on the Bob as it appears that all three ports are just standard pin outs.

There may be some great new yet to be announced feature still coming, but it still can’t justify the $399.00 cost for this type of solution, when the basic Mamiya 12pin Phase One solution was $139.00.

In my work, I would still prefer to have a cable release, but one with the button style that the older Mamiya release had as it will be a lot easier to hold in the hand.

Old style Mamiya Cable Release

Old style Mamiya Cable Release

If there is any good news from this, at least you can add the old style remote to the Bob on the right side as the Bob also seems to have a shorter straight cable instead of the coiled one.  But you are still out the $399.00 or so and there is still no date as to when any of this equipment will start to ship.

12/17/14 The Phase One A Series cameras–a few thoughts from a tech camera user’s persepective

Phase-One-A-Series-medium-format-mirrorless-camera-2

With the announcement of the A250, A260 and A280, Phase One has a new line of Phase One branded cameras.  The cameras consist of a Alpa TC (travel compact) mated to one of three different Phase One IQ2 backs.  There are 3 different lenses that can be purchased, all Rodenstock HR series of lenses.  You can pick from the 23mm, 35mm or 70mm HR lenses (note, I believe this is the case since as of 12/15/14, there is no information on the Phase One A series on Phase One’s main site or any dealer in the US that I could find).  I might be that the product was leaked a bit early, not sure.  However when it was first leaked, quite a bit of information was put out in regards to the details and I have posted more information here:  Phase One A series cameras.

Prices of the equipment has now been published:

  1. A280 $55,000.00
  2. A260 $48,000.00
  3. A250 $47,000.00

All of these units ship with the 35mm HR lens standard.  You can purchase the other lenses separately.

  1. 23mm HR Alpagon @ $9.070.00
  2. 70mm HR Alpagon @ $4,250.00

There is one brief post on the main Digital Transitions blog which shows some more pictures but very little actual information.  However it’s more than Phase One’s site offers.  Digital Transitions Blog on Phase One A Series

You can also read about these new cameras on www.dpreview.com of all places.

 

02/15/14 News from the CP+ Show in Japan–Pentax 645DII CMOS 50MP Camera

Pentax 645D 2014

A view of the Pentax 645D 2014 from the back showing new LCD design

CP+ the Japanese eqvilent to the U.S. CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is going on through tomorrow. and one of the highlights as far as larger camera systems goes, is the information about the upcoming Pentax (now Ricoh) 645D2014.  Instead of calling it the 645DII, it seems for now that the camera will be just called the 645D 2014.  Interesting name indeed.

From looking at the announcement literature by Ricoh, this will be a pretty significant camera system for Medium Format users.  Here are some high points that I gleaned from the overview.

  1. The camera will have a larger sensor in total Megapixels than the current 645D (which is 39-40MP) and will be CMOS.  The CMOS chip is more than 98% going to be supplied by Sony, but I have not seen anything in print on that.  Based on the testing I have seen on the Phase One IQ250 which does use the Sony 50MP CMOS chip, the results should be impressive.
  2. Pentax/Rioch have totally redesigned the body, and have given it a much larger/higher pixel count LCD that has a tilt feature.  To me a bit plus.
  3. The camera will have USB3 support, so it’s highly possible it will tether.  As to if Capture One (Phase One’s premier imaging software) will allow it to tether is a different story.   However I will assume that there will be support provided by Pentax/Ricoh.
  4. Pentax is working on improving the current lens offerings for this camera and a new wide angle zoom is also mentioned in the press releases from CP+
  5. WiFi is still a question, as the only mention is a FLUCARD and I am not familiar with that.  It may be some form of WiFi enabled SD card which would imply that WiFi will not be built into the camera.
  6. As it’s CMOS, it’s far to expect Live View support and very clean images at up to 1 hour in length or possibly longer.
  7. From conversations held at CP+ the price being talked about for just the body is one million yen (9811.00 U.S.), which if this happens will be a significantly lower entry point for a 50MP CMOS chip.
  8. First deliveries will be April 2014, not sure if this is U.S. or Japan.
Pentax 645D 2014 50MP

Side by side shot showing the original 645D and the new 645D 2014

Pentax first shook up the Market 5 years ago, when they first started listing a new 645D Digital camera, that would be based on the Film Pentax 645II.  I was originally excited by this announcement but Pentax did little more than talk about it for several years and showed mock ups.  I owned several good Pentax 645 lenses, that I was using on my Canon system with a Zork adapter, so the 645D would have been a perfect fit for me.  However the long delay, pushed me to the Phase One camp and I purchased the P45+.

Pentax did finally ship the 645D about 1 year later, with a similar sensor to the one in the P45+ (it’s my understanding it’s not the exact same sensor) and they brought out basically the body with no new lenses.   About 1 year before the actual ship date of the 645D, Pentax had a pretty good lineup in their primes and zooms for the 645II in the FA lenses.  I had both the 35mm FA (excellent) and the 55mm FA, and had been thinking about the 35mm to 55mm zoom.  Since Pentax still had a manual aperture ring on all the FA lenses, you could stop them down on other camera systems, like the Canon with a Zork adapter.   However by the time the 645D shipped Pentax was no longer selling the 35mm FA in the U.S. (it’s my understanding that this lens is still sold in Japan).  Also there was not much of a dealer network in the U.S. so anything that involved service would be possibly a bit of an issue.  All repairs were still done in Japan, and there was only a 1 year warranty.  Phase One at the time had their 3 year (now 5 year) value add warranty and I found that I preferred that type of warranty, even though the cost of the 645D was much less than the P45+.

Now with the 645D 2014, Pentax is showing that they have listened to the photography market and it seems that they are bring out this new camera with some much needed refinements. For studio photographers, the lack of a tethering solution on the 645D was a big issue.  I am assuming that the 645D 2014 will have tethering since it’s shipping with USB3 support.  The LCD on the camera is significantly larger, has more resolution and provides more information to the photographer, not to mention it has a tilt option which allows the camera to be used at waist level (a big plus to me).  The CMOS sensor should be 50MP, not a huge jump over 39MP from the first 645D, but if it’s the same sensor that’s in the Phase One IQ250 or a similar Sony design, then I think you can expect some great things from this camera.  The IQ250 (see this article I wrote on the IQ250) has shown to have an amazing dynamic range and this should cross over to the 645D 2014 when it ships.

What’s key here is that Pentax ship this camera on time i.e. April of 2014.  If they miss their dates and push it back then they will loose momentum and photographers will look elsewhere.  I don’t think they will have any problem showing good quality images, as I don’t think this chip can take a bad picture.  I also hope that Pentax steps up with their dealer support in the U.S. and possibly offers a similar program to the Phase One Value add warranty.  Time will tell on this.  If the price does come out at under 10K U.S, I expect that it’s possible the flood gates may be opened in the U.S. since this chip is showing to be such an excellent performer and is definitely changing the game in the world of medium format digital.  One thing that Pentax does not have here in the U.S. is a strong dealer channel pushing the product to the market, and allowing demo’s for both landscape and studio shooters.

Here are two translated links that give more detailed information from the press conference at the CP+ show in Japan.

Google translation for first information from CP+ show

Google translation for Ricoh imaging new from CP+ show

I have no idea how long these links will stay up, but hopefully they are kept in good order as they contain quite a bit of details on this new exciting MF camera.

 

 

 

 

02/14/14 Why I didn’t purchase a Sony A7r–Thoughts from a Nikon shooter

Sony A7r 36MP sensor view

Sony A7r viewed from the front showing full sized sensor

When Sony Announced the A7r I was very impressed.  In the past Sony has produced some very impressive camera solutions and I was almost moved enough by the A99 DSLR to purchase one.  However my local dealer, Bedford Photo in Little Rock Arkansas, pointed me toward the fact that Sony was working on a full frame Nex style camera.  A camera that was going to revolutionize the market.  It was enough to make me wait a bit.  

It’s now been about 4 months since the initial roll out of the A7 family of cameras.  Sony ended up producing the A7r without a low pass filter at 36MP and the A7 with a low pass filter at 24MP.  Both cameras are mirrorless and were put into a very compact mostly all metal body.  I was in line at Bedford’s when they had their Sony day in late December 2013 and was able to work with an A7r.  My reaction was different as I did not purchase one.  Instead I backed off to evaluate the entire A7r solution and after giving it some consideration, I found for me it did not make much sense.  Here are the main reasons:

  1. Sony FE lens support current and future
  2. Concerns of current Sony Alpha (A) lens support for the A7r
  3. Nikon lens support issues on the A7r
  4. No on Chip image stabilization on the A7r
  5. Concerns with non-Sony lens adapters
  6. Sony history of 1 and done firmware updates
  7. Weight of body with larger lenses
  8. Lack of intelligent remote or intervalometer

Let me give a bit more detail behind each of these.

Sony FE lens support current and future: 

With the new Nex A7r, Sony also announced a new line of Full Frame lenses, the FE lineup.  Currently there are 4 lenses announced with more to come. 

  1. Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-F5.6
  2. Sony FE 35mm F2.8 (Zeiss optics)
  3. Sony FE 24-70 F2.8 (Zeiss optics)
  4. Sony FE 55 F1.8 (Zeiss optics)

This is a start but only one of these four lenses has OSS (image stabilization).  With a 36MP sensor in such a slim body, there are going to be situations where vibration may cause some overall sharpness issues.  I used the Sony Nex-7 for over 2 years with many of the older E lenses before moving to the Fuji X cameras.  The E mount lenses are mainly plastic bodies and on the Nex-7 they were not the best solution.  Fine for video work, but detailed sharp landscape images, I was not impressed.  It seems that Sony is moving up in overall quality with their newer FE glass, but however these lenses will only work in full mode on a Sony A7 family camera body.  They won’t work on a Alpha body even though they are full frame.  I also don’t see much movement in the ultra wide solution for this camera.  In the field for my work, I most often lead off with a 14mm lens and so far I have not seen anything from Sony showing a platform with a 14mm in the native FE mount.

Concerns of current Sony Alpha (A) lens support for the A7r

With my Sony Nex-7 I used the Sony LA-EA2 adapter which allowed me to have the ability to mount standard Sony Alpha lenses.  This adapter had the translucent mirror technology that Sony uses in the A99.  Of course Sony puts OSS on the sensor on their DSLR bodies which is a great idea.  So all of the Alpha lenses I used would not have any OSS (image stabilization).  The AF with the Sony LA-EA2 adapter was good, a bit slow but most times accurate.  The adapter added a lot of mass to the Nex-7 but with the Alpha 16-80mm lenses it was a good solution.  When I demoed the A7r I used this same adapter and the Sony Alpha 16-80mm lens.  I found that with AF on, almost all of the shots were just a bit out of focus, but when I switched to manual focus and peaking I was able to produce some very sharp images.   AF is important in my work and many times I would prefer to lead with AF instead of a manual focusing option.  My medium format solution is a Arca rm3di which is always manual focus so I when I work with cameras like the Sony A7r, I want a rock solid AF solution. 

Sony also announced a new Alpha lens adapter when they brought the A7r to market, the LAE4.  I was not able to try this adapter to see if it produced more consistent results with AF. 

Nikon lens support issues on the A7r

I should have listed this closer to the top.  With Nikon lenses, there is no current adapter that allows for AF or VR.  This is a huge deal for me since most Nikon lenses really aren’t designed with precision manual focus in mind.  This is especially true with the new G lenses.  It’s possible the the manual focus rings are just not that well calibrated and just a tiny amount of movement can make a major change.  Since Sony did not put any stabilization on the A7 cameras sensor,  you will need to rely on the stabilization in the lens.  Several of Sony’s new FE lenses will have OSS (Sony lens stabilization), however all the Nikon lenses I have with VR, the VR and AF will not work.  This is only true with Nikon lenses, as Metabones makes an adapter for Canon that allows the use of both IS and AF on the Canon lenses.  If I was still heavily invested in Canon lenses, the Sony A7r would make perfect sense especially since Canon has yet to announce any new full frame DSLR with any more than 21MP. 

A view of the Sony A7r showing the tiltable LCD screen

A view of the Sony A7r showing the tiltable LCD screen

No on Chip image stabilization on the A7r

Many users of the A7r are reports issues with vibration from the focal plane shutter on the A7r.  It appears that the A7 has a different shutter design that does not cause this problem.  However depending on the lens and selected shutter speed, the A7r can impart a slight blurring that may or may be able to be recovered in post.  This oversight should have been expected with such a high megapixel count sensor in such a lightweight body.  Some photographers are bothered by this worse than others, depending on the equipment they are using and shutter speed ranges selected.  It’s a bit of a disappointment since Sony has such a good implementation of the sensor based image stabilization on their pro DSLR bodies, like the A99.  I don’t see this being fixed via a firmware update.

Concerns with non-Sony lens adapters

Currently there any many different brands of adapters on the market to allow the use of non-Sony lenses on the A7 family of cameras.  These range from exotic Lecia lenses to more common Canon and Nikon.  The problem with many of these adapters is that they don’t seem to maintain the correct tolerances so that within a brand two of the same adapters may not reach the same degree of focus accuracy.  Also it seems that some of the adapters can create either reflection issues or contrast issues when shift lenses are used.  These issues may be worked out over time, but currently it poses just another problem that may or may not be correctable in post processing.   For example the Metabones adapter for Canon lenses has shown definite problems contrast shifts when any of the Canon TS-E lenses are used, especially the excellent 17mm and 24mm TS-E2 lenses.  Some people are fixing this by gluing a non reflective material inside the adapters, which is not an easy task due to the interior layout of the Metabones adapter. 

Sony history of 1 and done firmware updates

Sony has a history of not releasing any major firmware updates to a camera once it ships, similar to how Nikon operates.  This implies to me a pretty closed system and is unlike Fuji, Canon or Phase One.  An example of this is the Sony Nex-7 which was shipped in early 2012.  This camera had a huge issue for most shooter, myself included, where the video button was just too easy to engage while shooting stills.  It took Sony at least 9 months to release a firmware to allow the user to change the button from always on.  Sony seems not to release firmware updates that have any effect on image quality.  The Nex-7 was a great camera in the ISO range of 100 to 400, however after than the amount of noise that developed became destructive to the image and by ISO 1600, the files were so noisy to make them only equivalent to 16MP images.  I had hoped that Sony would add some firmware enhancements that would allow for some improvements on the higher ISO ranges for the Nex-7, but it never happened.  Canon and Fuji both have had several major firmware enhancements to several of their camera lines that allowed for major improvements in image quality.  I like to see a company continue to develop a camera’s capabilities after the initial announcement, and this is not a practice of Sony.

Weight of body with larger lenses

The body of the Sony A7r is so light that most modern 35mm lenses seem to unbalance it.  If you are only using a older prime lens this might not pose much of a problem, but try placing the Nikon 14-24 on the A7r!.  The weight of the lens totally outweighs the camera’s small mass and it makes it pretty much impossible to just shoot by holding the camera.  So both hands are occupied in holding the lens/camera and you really don’t have a free hand to switch a setting once you are lined up for a shot.  If you are using the camera/lens combination on a tripod, then most definitively the lens will need a tripod mount (which none of the current FE lenses do) or the lens adapter (like a Metabones or Novoflex) will also need a tripod foot.  The lens mount flange on the Sony A7r cannot handle the sheer mass of many of the lenses you might want to use and long term you will either bend the flange or pull it out of alignment.  Either way the fix will be out of warranty and depending on how the mount flange is installed may or may not require an entirely new A7r body.

Lack of intelligent intervalometer for A7r

As with all Sony DSLR’s and Nex cameras, there is no intervalometer for this camera.  Sony once again is depending on a app called Timelaspe that will run on the iOS or Android OS.  This tool limits you to the power left on your phone and since it requires the phone to be on for an extended period of time, it will drain the phone’s battery.  The timelaspe app is designed to give the user the ability to create the actual video on the camera so for the night photographic use I would need it’s not a tool I could use.  I much would prefer to use a cabled intervalometer that will let me set the time of the necessary exposure and the interval needed, removing all of this from the camera.  I have also not found any built in timelaspe tool that will let you take a shot longer than 30 seconds since they all are dependent on the camera’s built in set shutter speed of 30 seconds.  This is the longest shutter speed that most cameras will allow.  Sony once again has used their proprietary port for a wired remote so that none of the third party intervalometers will work.  This limits tremendously the use of the camera in night photographic applications and even limits it in the more traditional timelaspe applications.  Personally I don’t want to be tied to my iPhone for any type of intervalometer use.  The amount of heat that may build up in the Sony A7r may preclude it from night photographic operations anyway.

The Sony A7r is a great concept and for many photographers, it’s a great way to reach the 36MP threshold, especially a Canon shooter.  In my situation, I already have the Nikon D800 and find it’s mass/weight are a benefit in keeping everything in sharp focus.  I love the idea of a EVF that allows 100% magnification at the viewfinder level like Sony has along with the excellent focus peaking that Sony has had for several generations of DSLRs and Nex series cameras.  However the inability to use my current lineup of Nikon lenses (with AF and VR) is a huge issue for me.   This is a first round release for Sony and no doubt they will follow up with a more refined product either later this year or early 2015.  I can also hope that Nikon improved their Nikon1 lineup of mirror-less camera to include either the Sony 24MP or 36MP sensors as then I should be able to use all of my excellent Nikkor lenses to their best capabilities.

01/22/14 Phase One to announce IQ250 with 50MP CMOS Date Uncertain

Phase One IQ260 in Box

Phase One IQ260 in Box

01/23/14–Just a bit more information.

Phase one obviously has a camera done as briefly yesterday they has some image posted on the main Denmark website from the IQ250.  So at least the name is certain.

It will be interesting to see if this back is full frame or 1:1 like the old P45+ or even 1:3 like the IQ140.  Hopefully Phase will be able to continue some development to the IQ260.

The latest rumor is that the Phase One sensor may be made by Canon.  To me this would be even more shocking by far as Canon has yet to bring anything new to their 35mm lineup in about 4 years.  I don’t count the 5dMKII as that was just a refreshed 21MP sensor that is also in the 5D MKII and 6D.  Canon has yet to cross the 24MP barrier and as it’s taken them so long it’s very possible that they do it in great style by bringing a larger 35mm sensor out at the same time Phase One brings the IQ250 (name is a guess and more than likely it won’t be called this since photo rumors already leaked this).  I would love to see Canon pull out such a rabbit from their hat and thus allow themselves to become a leader again.  My only concern would be that Canon has made some form of revolutionary chip development that allows them to get the same DR at base ISO as Sony did for Nikon’s D800.  The Nikon D800 at base ISO of 100 was a major game changer for me.

Original Post Begins Here:

If you believe in large scale rumors, and in reality most rumors are from leaked from fact, then Phase One is set to announce a 50MP CMOS back, the IQ250 soon.  Hasselblad may have beaten them to the punch so Phase One may hold off the announcement for a while so that they won’t be seen as a “me too”.

Here is the Link to Photo Rumors.

It was always pretty clear that Phase One was headed this way and I had assumed since around late 2011 that a CMOS back was coming from Phase One, but I also did expect to see 50MP in a medium format chip for another year.  Sony has been rumored for months now to be creating a 54MP 35mm chip for a new Sony DSLR and a version of this chip was going to the Nikon D4x.  Neither of these have showed anything more than a distant rumor, but now with the Hasselblad, then Phase One news, it’s pretty clear the Sony has been busy.

As the owner of an IQ260, this news from Phase One is a bit disconcerting in that it followed so close on the heels of the IQ260.  The main advantage the to the IQ260 was the fact that it would allow for exposures up to 1 hours in length, same as the older P45+.  Still the only CCD Medium format backs that allow this.  Most other backs in this range will only go to 60 seconds, IQ160 and 1:45 seconds IQ280.  Now with a CMOS chip, Phase One or any camera company should be able to have 1 hours exposures or even longer than 1 hour exposures due to the nature of a CMOS chip.

Anyway, the IQ260 possibly  took a considerable hit.  It may turn out to the be the shortest lived back on the market, as if you have a Sony chip in the this upcoming Phase, then it’s fair to expect:

  1. Amazing DR at base ISO.  This should be the same as the DR of the Sony 36MP chips out currently in the A7r and Nikon D800 family.  These chips show an impressive range of DR at their base iso of 50 (Sony) and 100 (Nikon), which allows the photographer to have as much 2.75 stops of exposure.  Shadows details that are the most impressive I have seen when pulled up 2 stops and the ability to handle highlights much better. 
  2. Long exposures at 1 hour or longer at the user’s whim, no need to dial in a special ISO 140 like on the IQ260
  3. Potentially no longer a need for sensor plus which is Phase One’s pixel binning technology on the 60MP and 80MP backs to allow for higher iso shooting.  Instead if you extrapolate up from the current 36MP Sony chips on the market today, it would be fair to assume ISO 1600 and maybe even 3200 at full resolution of 50MP with a useable file instead of having to drop down to 1/4 of the total resolution which is how it works with sensor plus.
  4. Color rendering differences between a CCD and CMOS.  This seems to be one of the only remaining advantages that CCD’s have over a CMOS chip.  Many photographers seem to feel that the CCD can render tones better i.e. skin tones or green hues.  I actually have not personally seen any measurable differences between the Nikon 36MP CMOS and IQ160 or 260 in my work.  I also feel that most of not all of the “implied differences” are going to be lost when the image is printed or even worse placed on the web.  To me this is a moot issue.
  5. The perceived gap between 50MP and 60MP will not be that great especially since the newer CMOS back most likely will have a workable live view from the back’s LCD, which on an IQ back is stellar.
  6. Will Phase One continue to improve the image quality of the IQ260?  This was one of the main reasons I moved to the 260 vs staying on the 160

As the owner of a IQ260 purchased in August of 2013, am I concerned by this announcement?  In two words, YOU BET!.

Financially, the value of the IQ260 just took a hit.  If a 50MP CMOS back with the same features that all current IQ backs have is brought to the market, I dare say it will be the end of the IQ260.  If this same technology had been brought out in a 40 to 45MP size, then that may to be as true.  CMOS should actually work better for both types of shooters, tech camera and Phase One DSLR bodies in that you should expect to see these types of improvements:

  1. Faster frame rates, so the user of a DF+ body or follow on body would enjoy the ability to possibly shoot some action photography
  2. Real Live View from the back’s LCD, if you are the user of a Tech camera like I am, then you already know just how important this will be
  3. Much better AF since most new CMOS chips are starting to incorporate a phase detect AF system on the actual chip so both fast and more accurate AF may be possible
  4. Considerably cleaner files at base ISO and I can’t state just how important it would be to have a medium format back with the shadow range of the Nikon D800
  5. Possibly faster activation times on the back i.e. on/off, loading of images on the screen, faster write times to the card
  6. Better overall use in colder weather

I can’t blame Phase One for this announcement as a company they have to stay competitive.  However I do tend to fault the lack of overall information that seems to be passed down to the average user.  This can be pointed to both Phase One and the dealer channel.

I don’t understand why both Phase One and dealers can’t use a non-disclosure type of agreement, and they might but it seems only in limited offerings.  This type of decision is a huge one for a company of my size and knowing that such a product would announced inside of 9 months from the delivery of my IQ260 would have been most helpful.

But more importantly what does this say for any more development to the IQ260 and image quality.  In the past with the P45+ and P65/IQ160,  Phase One made many firmware updates that provided better image quality from the first ship date.  In fact Phase One has been one of the only camera companies I have seen that has continued to improve on a back/camera after the first ship.  Nikon and Sony both are pretty much done at ship, I have never seen any firmware updates from them that improve image quality, where as Canon has made some impressive updates, notably on the 5D MKII, 7D, and 6D.

I bet with my purchase that Phase One would give at least one more firmware update to the IQ260 that allowed for a bit cleaner files at base ISO.   So far nothing like this has occurred and now with the launch of the IQ250, it may never happen.  Phase is a small company with limited resources and a new CMOS back will take a lot of their focus.

I would expect to see this 50MP CMOS out sooner than later as Hasselblad has taken a lead and there are only so many qualified customers at this price point.

 

 

 

01/21/14 Hassleblad shakes up/wakes up the Medium Format Digital world with new 50MP CMOS back

With this announcement on Hasselblad’s main site, they have just rocked the world of Medium Format Digital.  Yes, in one quick paragraph, Hasselblad has taken the possible lead and stolen the thunder from Phase One on this technology.  Not much has been written so far on this on the Hasselblad site only that more information will come with pricing in March.  It appears to be a 50MP CMOS medium format back, the first of it’s kind.  There is mention of Live View, however it does seem that at first to gain Live View you have to be tethered and using phocus (the Hasselblad photo software).   For Live View usage this will be a major step forward since for the first time maybe the photographer will have the ability to see the subject without the constant blooming and other issues that occur when using Live View with a CCD MF camera, tethered or non-tethered.

The other area that will interest me will be the higher iso range.  Currently with any CCD Medium Format back, you have only a couple of true iso stops, beyond that you start to get into some issues.  The exception to this is Phase One’s sensor plus technology, which allows pixel binning from 4 to 1.  This cuts way down on the final resolution, but still gives the photographer a big advantage in situations where a fast shutter speed is required.  This becomes an even greater issue when you are using a tech camera.  Here in most cases the the optimum F stop is around F11 to F16 especially if you are using Schneider lenses.  So many times the base iso of 50 or base iso plus one stop to 100 just won’t get it done.  CCD technology doesn’t really keep giving increased gains as CMOS does so pushing a CCD chip much past max 2 iso stops from base begins to become a negative process.   With CMOS chips, which add increasing processing power to the chip itself (very basic description), you can expect to get a much larger high iso range.

I am also very curious as to who makes this chip.  Odd’s are favorite is that it came from Sony.  This also means that Sony’s rumored 54MP chip for 35mm format may be closer to reality than some think.  Sony has shown excellent leadership in CMOS chip technology the the necessary on board processors to work with such high MP output chips.  Sony also has produced some very very clean chips recently for Nikon.

No mention was made about tethering cables.  If Hasselblad is using a tethered solution via phocus for Live View, hopefully they will have a USB3 or thunderbolt connection.  Thunderbolt is not the way Phase One went for a high speed connection, instead they moved to USB3 and they have given a successful implementation of USB3 across all their IQ series of backs the their latest firmware.  I am also curious if there will be a Wi-Fi solution for this new back.  Phase One has Wi-Fi on their latest IQ 2X backs and it’s gradually being to show some very real advantages, especially in the field where you need to be able to check your focus on a tech camera using a screen larger than the one provided by the IQ back.

Much is more to come on this for sure, however it’s exciting to see that CMOS technology has finally come into the world of Medium Format Digital.

01/05/14 A bit of trouble for my IQ260–WiFi top plate loose

Top of an IQ260 showing the WiFi cover plate

Top of an IQ260 showing the WiFi cover plate

If you own a IQ260 or IQ280 and you purchased it early in the product life cycle, you may want to see about having the top plate (WiFi cover) replaced.  There is a possibility that the plate may loosen up and start top pop up.  This will create an gap in the top where the plate has lifted up and out of place.  In the long run I am assuming that it’s possible for the plate to loosen up enough that it might totally pop out.  The WiFi card for the IQ back sits directly below this plate and this could cause some damage to the internals of the back.

The good news is that Phase One has realized that this plate can loosen and pop out and they apparently re-designed the plate or the method that is used to fasten the plate to the top of the back.  If your back is showing signs of this, you need to contact your dealer and see about having the back returned to Denmark.

You can read about this in more detail here. Link to my Article on the WiFi plate issue with early model IQ260 and IQ280 digital backs.

10/13/13 Popular Photo Missed a critical couple of Cameras in the “30 most Important Digital Cameras of all time”

Popular  Photography missed a big one

Popular Photography missed a big one

In the latest issue of Popular Photography, they have an featured article, “30 digital cameras that changed photography”.  Usually I read these type of articles and move on, but I was amazed by a couple of cameras that were totally overlooked.

1.  The Canon 1ds MKI

This camera revolutionized 35mm digital photography, at least landscape.  This was the first full frame 35mm digital camera every produced.  Nothing from Kodak, or Nikon or anyone else could come close.  Kodak had the 660 but this was a 6mp 1.5x crop sensor that basically had only 1 or 2 usable iso settings.  Nikon was still riding the D1x which at 6mp and a strange sensor layout could not come close the 11mp full frame sensor of the Canon 1ds MKI.  Canon brought this camera out and stunned the world.  Many landscape shooters made a switch to Canon, I was one of them as I knew that this camera would be the method that would get me to a large print size.  The 1ds mkI had a lot of short comings, but it was built like a tank on a pro body and worked with all of the available Canon lenses, but the single most important feature to me was the full frame sensor, no longer the need to buy lenses in the DX mode and for landscapes finally a camera that would pull in a lot of real estate.  Canon then followed the 1ds MKI with the  1ds MKII and with 16mp, they really had a winner, but the 1ds MKI did start it all.  Nikon for example was stuck with the D700 and D3 both a 12mp/full frame sensors and just not enough sensor size/resolution to really get to a large scale print.  Nikon only fixed this issue with the release of the D800 in early 2012 and interesting Canon has still not answered with a large megapixel solution.  Popular photography mentions the Canon 5D, which camee out quite a few years later also at 11MP but no live view.  Again I think they missed the mark, as the Canon 5D MKII really was the game changer, and the camera that really started to set Nikon back as the price point of the 5D MKII was much less than the 1ds MKII.

2.  Phase One P45+

I was surprised in this article to see that no medium format cameras were mentioned.  What an oversight!.  Phase one announced the P45/P45+ in 2007 and started shipments of theP45+ in March of 2008.  This single camera changed how medium format digital photography was viewed forever.  Before hand, there were scanning backs, (mostly a non-useable item in landscape photography due to movement of subject matter) and digital backs that were in the 20MP range and limited to iso 50/100.   But the single greatest limiting issue was the time of exposure since most digital backs were limited to exposures of no longer than 15 to 30 seconds and the later was a push.  With the P45+ Phase One announced 1 hour exposures at iso 50.  They did not deliver this on day one, but within 9 months they had added firmware fixes that gave the P45+ exposure times up to 1 hour at iso 50.  I was lucky enough to have used a P45+ in my landscape work from March 2008 to around November of 2011 when I upgrade to the IQ160.  There were a lot of limitations to using the P45+, mainly around the camera’s LCD which was very limited in playback.  However at 40MP and iso 50 to 800, the P45+ added a very powerful tool to the landscape photographers toolkit.  With later firmware updates, the P45+  the quality of the images taken at iso 400 and 800 improved dramatically.  The P45+ is still holds a very high resale value 5 years after it’s initial roll out which is the world of digital photography is pretty much unheard of.

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

 

 

 

07/08/13 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.

Updated 08/10/12 Nikon D800 Left Focus point issues–Much ado about nothing? some more thoughts

Due to several readers comments I have added some updates to the bottom of this post.  Depending your shooting style this may be more serious than it is to me.

Since the Nikon D800 and D800E have been announced, one issue that seems to come up over and over is the Left Focus Point on some cameras is not accurate.  The amount of variance seems to vary from a huge amount of difference to just a bit off.  This difference seems to be most often compared to using the center focus point.  The auto focus system on the Nikon D800 is the same that is in the D4, yet it only seems that people using the D800 or D800E have problems.

I have used a D800 now for about 2 months. I was aware of the issue regarding the Left focus point but went ahead and purchased the camera.  I would have been much more concerned if the problem was coming from the center focus points as I tend to use them much more often then the left points or right points.  In fact I can rarely think of a time in my 30 years of landscape shooting where I found that I needed to have the left focus point utilized instead of the center.  I am sure if was working on a very selective scene or a portrait shooter who was working on a off center subject, the left focus point my be important.  However I still don’t see the reason for people to be trying to test it, post pictures of it, write up complaints about it, or feel that for some reason that they were wronged by Nikon.

With my D800, I feel that the center focus point is very accurate enough so that I rarely go back and check focus on the LCD unless I am working a smaller subject like a bird or wildflower.  For landscape wide-angle shooting I am very comfortable with just using the center focus point and then setting up the shot.

There are a few things that people may not be considering before they get upset with the fact that their left focus point is off.

  1. For a lot of my work, still or moving I will use the “auto” AF mode, not the single.  I have found that over time the auto AF setting brings more total focus points in to play and seems to give a more accurate focus.  Note, that when shooting a smaller subject in DX mode, i.e. a bird or animal I will drop back to the center focus point only and take the “auto” setting off.
  2. With a 35mm full frame camera when shooting a landscape there really is not that much difference in subject matter from the center focus point to the left or right.  There is a lot of empty space in the viewfinder that is not covered by any focus point.   So when shooting a traditional landscape at say F8 or F11 where I am working with a hyper focal distance of infinity at 400 feet to 10 feet, the center focus point is a better tool to use.  At this focal range, if you have the center in focus then surely your left and right will also be in focus, or your lens is out of calibration.
  3. If you feel your left focus point is not accurate, and you are concerned that the left side of your composition needs to be in critical focus, then simply move the camera over to the left, place the center focus point on that part of of the image, get your focus and then turn the lens off of AF or use AF lock.  I feel this is actually faster then taking the time to move the active focus point all the way to the left, with the command dial.

[Read more…]

07/28/12 Screen protection options for Phase One IQ Series Digital backs (IQ140,IQ160, & IQ180)

One of the most impressive features of the Phase One IQ Series of Digital backs, (IQ140, 160 and 180), would have to be their LCD screen.  This screen, which has been compared to the quality of the Apple retina displays, is a vast improvement over the LCD screens that were used on the older Phase One backs like the P45+.  With the IQ series, you have a screen that gives the photographer 100% positive feedback during the image capture processes.  The most critical piece of feedback being the ability to quickly zoom in to a 100% view of your image and check for focus.  The LCD size on the Phase One IQ series backs are 3.2 inches.  The screen on the IQ backs is a touch screen and thus allows you to move around the information being displayed without having to hit any physical buttons.

The ability to zoom into 100% to check the image for critical focus is one of the most important features for my work since I use a Tech Camera.  Anyone using a Tech Camera knows that obtaining critical focus is one of the most challenging aspects to their use.  Phase One’s sensor does not work well with “live view” so most people myself included will take the shot based on focus settings they think are close, then view the captured image on the screen and from there fine tune the focus if needed.  The touch screen design of the Phase One IQ back lets a photographer do this in seconds rather then minutes.  If the LCD screen is damaged, scratched, or has had some of the anti-reflective coating rubbed off, this process of zooming to 100% and checking the focus can become much more difficult.

[Read more…]

07/22/12 A quick look at the Nikon MB-D12, Nikon’s vertical grip–external battery holder for the D800 Series of cameras

Click on any of the thumbnails for a larger view of the image.

Since I purchased my Nikon D800, I have added the new Nikon MB-D12 battery grip.  I am planning to write a full review of the grip in use with the D800, but this is a quick view of the grip.  The pictures show the grip installed on a Nikon D800, the various battery holders that come with the grip and the grip and an L bracket.  Overall the grip is nice addition to the D800 and with it installed you gain quite a bit of extra run time by using either another Nikon battery or a series of 8 AA batteries.  It’s a nice feature to be able to use AA batteries as if you are in the field/remote parts of the United States, you can almost always find somewhere to purchase AA batteries.  Also if you used the energizer AA lithium AA batteries, you may be able to last for 3 to 4 days without having to change out the cells.

[Read more…]

07/20/12 Panther Cloth from Kinetronics is amazing–for photos, cameras, and much more!!

I have been a photographic printer now for over 30 years, the first 15 with the traditional photographic paper/chemical process and the last 15 with inkjets and photoshop. One of the biggest problems that you will run into is the handling of a fine photo. If you are working to mount it either dry or wet mount, the cloth you use to help with the process has to be free of any type of material that will scratch a print. This is especially true with a glossy or semi-gloss print as it seem that just the slightest rub will sometimes scratch a perfect print and send it to the trash can. Over the years I have used the static free brushes from Kinetronics for cleaning my print before and after I mount them. I also use these same brushes to clean my printers as a lot of trash seems to build up in and around the platen area of my inkjets. This trash will eventually fall onto the print surface. When this happens, most times the printer will print over the trash and when you wipe the print the trash comes off and then the ink. Another one hits the trash! But even worse, after you get a good print, is finding a cloth that will not scratch the surface of the print when you are mounting it. Enter the Panther cloth from Kinetronics.

Kinetronics Panther cloth in package
Kinetronics Panther cloth in package

The panther cloth is made from  a black, very soft, anti-static material.  I believe it’s about 10″ x 10″ when fully unfolded.  A single cloth from the company is $6.95 and you can purchase a box of (10) for $41.00 which is a very good savings on the single price.  As good as these clothes are I would recommend purchasing the box.  I was able to work with a 25″ x 45″ glossy print for a dry mount and the process was smooth and generated no scratches.  You can actually use these clothes to press down on the print as you lay the print down (I don’t use a dry mount press)  When I dry mount I  use a spray adhesive and then lay the print down, applying pressure as I do this.  During the process you need one hand holding the print and other to apply slight pressure over the print to help keep bubbles from forming.  I tested the Panther cloth in my dry mounting and found no scratches at all. [Read more…]

06/16/12 Popular Photography May have Missed the Key Point in their D800 Review

I have always enjoyed reading Popular Photography’s lab reviews on new cameras.  Over the years I have always found their reviews to be very accurate and straight to the point.  In fact many purchasing decisions I have made have been influenced by reading a review of the product in Popular Photography, so I was surprised after reading the reviews of both the Canon 5D MKIII and Nikon D800 in the July 2012 magazine.   I should also preface this by stating that I have been a 100% satisfied Canon shooter since 1999, and have used their Digital solutions since 2003.  However with the release of the Nikon D800, I have begun a long process of moving back to Nikon.

In the review of the Nikon D800, I felt that Popular Photography missed one key point, and this is very key, the Dynamic Range of the sensor.  The D800 scored 95 in the Dxomark tests, which is the highest score of any Digital Camera ever produced, including the highly placed Phase One IQ180.  The fact that you can underexposed the D800 by as much as 4 stops and still pull up the shadows is an amazing feat.  Where as if you try this with a Canon %D MKIII, you will just get an extreme amount of noise in those same shadows.  To me this capability means that you have so much more leeway when shooting,  You can go ahead and expose for your highlights, (which if you blowout will be always gone) and then pull up your shadows for amazing details.   Again try this with the Canon 5D MKIII, I have and the results are terrible.   The Dxomark score of the Canon 5D MKIII is 81, basically the same as the 5D MKII.  This is very telling in regards to the dynamic range you can expect from the 5D MKIII

Popular Photography seems to be more focused on two aspects of the Canon 5D MKIII which are:

[Read more…]

05/31/12 Nikon MB-D12 to grip or not to Grip

I spent sometime today at my local dealer, and got to look/feel the Nikon MB-D12 grip. Strange design IMO coming from Canon.  I just find it strange, that such a well designed grip doesn’t allow the user to have (2) EL-EN15 batteries running in the grip at the same time, instead to have (2) installed, you have to keep one in the camera and to get that battery out to charge/change everything has to come back off.

Pro:

Well made, good feel. When added to the camera it gives you a very nice addition in both balance and weight. However:

Cons:

1. You can only add (1) EN-EL15 within the grip. This struck me as a bit strange as the conventional design of most vertical grips is that you remove the battery from the camera body, and then double them up in the grip. (At least the Canon grips I have used in the past). Here you can leave one battery in the camera body, and then have your 2nd battery in the grip. Which means of course each time you need to charge the battery in the camera body, off comes the grip. 😡

2. Even if you don’t mind taking it off, I use an L bracket. Currently RRS is not shipping the L bracket for the D800 and has no pics gets on their site, however I am hoping that it will allow you to slide out the tray that holds the batteries. I am using an older RRS generic L bracket and the only way it mounts is to block the battery tray from opening. Long term not where I want to go.

[Read more…]