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09/23/16 Fall is starting a bit early in Arkansas–Buffalo River Trip

Late afternoon light creeping along Roark Bluff on the Buffalo National River

Late afternoon light creeping along Roark Bluff on the Buffalo National River

Another example of the amazing Dynamic range of the Phase One IQ100 digital back.  This is one exposure and I was still able to hold my shadows and keep the highlights in line.  This camera still continues to amaze me. What an amazing improvement over the CCD technology of the past.

On my recent trip to the Buffalo, I was surprised to see that the fall colors have already started to display.  This shot was taken on the upper end of the Buffalo River at Steel Creek featuring Roark Bluff.  The water is low, as expected for this time of year, but I was surprised by the amount of color already starting to show.  Along with several tree species that have just turned brown.   In this shot you can see that the Sycamore tree on the right side has a nice golden brown color and the trees to the immediate right edge are also showing some color.

The trees on the left are all Maple and Gum trees and since the sun was setting through them, I really could not see enough to tell what the colors might be.  But looking upstream you can see that several oaks are getting the same yellow look.

This is tough shot to take in the late afternoon, since the sun will set right at your left side.  But the reward is that the entire bluff will be lit up briefly by the sun.  In the summer months, the effect is more pronounced since the sun is higher in the sky, but in the fall you can still catch a nice yellow tint to the rocks.  I love to see the transition from yellow to grey on the bluff.

If you are lucky, you will not have any wind and can catch a wonderful reflection.   This shot is also an excellent photographic study in the morning as most times there will be some fog on the river.  You can catch the reflection and the fog both.  I opt for the other solution which is to climb to the top of the bluff and catch the same shot but from the top of the bluff.  Either way you can expect to find excellent shots.

This part of the Buffalo also is close to the Boxley Valley, which offers Lost Valley, and Elk among other great things to photograph.

08/16/16 A few notes on the Dynamic Range of the Phase One IQ100

Early mornings are some of the best times to photograph the Buffalo River.  This is from Buffalo Point.

Early mornings are some of the best times to photograph the Buffalo River. This is from Buffalo Point.

I am starting to get a better feel for the Phase One IQ100 and just where the dynamic range of this amazing digital back performs.  You can read a lot more this in a new article I just published over on photosofarkansas.  This article covers some discoveries I have made in regards to handling both shadow details and recovery of highlights.  You can read more about it here.

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.

01/03/16 Phase One announces 100MP Camera in full frame Medium format and its shipping now here–a first

Phase One 100MP camera

 

NOTE, this picture was obtained from the Digital Transitions website, if you need all the details, they will have them along with raws to download, www.digitaltransitions.com.  You can also expect Capture Integration to have a similar link, soon as it seem that some may have jumped the gun a bit on this announcement. 

I guess that to many folks, this is great news: FULL FRAME CMOS MEDIUM FORMAT.  Wow,  I guess Phase has been busy for a while on this one.   Outwardly, it appears to be a 100MP CMOS 645 back, by Phase One, which will work with either the new Phase XF camera body or various tech cameras.  This has been rumored for some time on the Phase One site, as when you looked up their latest lenses, there was always a banner: claiming good enough for 100MP!!. So it did not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Phase had this coming.

Now we can all expect that this will be the best back ever made, it will answer all the issues that previous medium format backs had, and it will be THE MOST EXPENSIVE BACK EVER to upgrade to from previous Phase backs.  However if you are looking to buy new, then gosh it’s a bargin at 48,900, as you apparently get an XF and 80mm Schneider lens along with the 100MP back.

Since Phase announced their 50MP CMOS back, about 2 years ago, (based on a chip made by Sony), I have been waiting for this, basically a full frame CMOS back.  I had really hoped that Phase One would not just to 100MP, but instead maybe make a 75MP chip also or even 80 or 60 but still full frame.  You really have to ask yourself, “DO I REALLY NEED 100MP”. I don’t.

This shows me that Phase is a bit out of tune with the market, as the “still” market is not really needing 100MP, at least the vast majority of it.  So instead of working towards a goal that would be more cost affordable, at first glance Phase has made a back that only a chosen few will be able to afford or cost justify.  Surely all the web review sites that have had their hands on this back for the past month or so will be telling the world “ITS’ THE BEST THERE IS”.  But really, is it?   Let’s dig in bit deeper.

 

  1. Who makes this chip, Sony, Dalsa or yet someone else.  From all notices it appears to be another Sony chip.  So if you use a Sony or Nikon Camera, you know what to expect, great dynamic range, and decent high iso performance.
  2. Will Pentax be able to put this chip in their 645 body? Like they did with the 645z? If so you can expect the Pentax offering to be much more reasonable, and still probably have a more forward based solution from the chip.
  3. Is the chip using BSI technology? It’s amazing to me that will all the friggin talk on the web, it seems no one has tested this great 100MP back with current tech cameras, like Alpa, Arca and Cambo and the various lenses that had harsh color cast issues when movements were used on the 50MP CMOS.  Like the 23mm, 28mm and 32mm Rodenstocks.  Time will tell on how well the chip handles movements without massive color cast as the 50MP Sony CMOS has.
  4. Why 100MP?, net the files in 16 bit conversion will be huge at least 450MB and maybe larger, so you will quickly be at 2GB or larger working files.  Expect LR and Adobe CC to being bogging down.
  5. Why 100MP? is this necessary for video? NO, is it necessary for large prints approaching 100 inches long, NO, is it necessary for increased dynamic range? maybe, but just how much over say the Sony A7rII and Nikon D810?
  6. Why 100MP?, is this needed for web based output? NO, is it needed for landscape photography, NO,
  7. Why 100MP, Does Phase One have any type of Vibration reduction for their lenses like Canon, NIkon Sony, etc, NO, Does Phase One have sensor based stabilization like Sony and Olympus? NO, so well I guess hand holding this back will be a bit difficult?  It’s hard enough with 60MP or 50MP.
  8. Why 100MP, is it needed for tech camera use? NO, as the tech camera market seems to prefer backs with large pixel pitch, not the pitch of 100MP, which has to be smaller than the already troublesome pitch of Phase One’s 80MP backs.
  9. Why 100MP, without sensor plus, NOW it makes sense to pixel bin, as many and or most times, you won’t need the full 100MP output from this back.
  10. Why 100MP, which current Phase One lenses will work reasonably well with 100MP?  I can think of 2, the new 35mm LS and 40-80mm LS zoom.  Maybe the 150mm 2.8, but none of the older primes will be working well at this resolution.  Phase has also made it quite clear that the cost to get to these new lenses is quite expensive, in the 6K and 8K range
  11. If Pentax brings this same chip out in a 645Z+ at 12K, then once again the gap between Phase and the rest of the world is pretty large and also hard to justify.
  12. What about diffraction on such a dense chip?  Where will it start to show, F8? Right now on the 80MP chips, much past F8 seems to show diffraction and past F11 on the 60MP chips, so this will be interesting to discover, especially for tech camera shooters who tend to shoot only F8 to F11 or so.

 

Now I am going to look at it from my business point of view.

If the upgrade from an IQ260 to 100MP back, whatever the name is IQ3-100MP Big Boy (for example), is 30K, I am out.  That is more than I paid originally to get into Medium Format Digital.  I base this price on the fact that the listed price to upgrade an IQ180 to the 100MP back appears to be 26,500 or so.  So it’s pretty clear the 60MP backs will suffer even more.  Back with the announcement of the IQ380 in June, the cost to upgrade to the IQ380 from the IQ260 was 17K, as I recall and that was a price only offered during the first couple of months.

The main reason I had moved to Medium Format Digital was that since 2002, I had been stitching various 35mm camera output to make higher resolution prints.  This means that less interpolation would be needed to get the final output to a 20 x 30 @ 360ppi, or 40 x 60 @ 360ppi etc.  However since 2002, cameras and lenses have improved dramatically, but even more the software used to both convert digital raw files and stitch these files into larger final sized prints. has gotten much better.  It’s very possible that you can stitch 3 Sony A7rII 42MP files into a better final output for printing than the single file from the 100MP back by Phase One.  But I guess you could always stitch that 100MP back also, but again the output will be huge in megabytes and I am pretty sure you can expect to see some major slow down in processing.

After using a tech camera since late 2011 for most of my work with medium format, I realized that CMOS would be a better solution since the CCD technology just can’t allow much shadow push especially on shifted parts of a file. Plus the CCD backs are really best in the base iso to 1 step up, so say 50 ISO to 100 ISO.  They do offer a nice file in sensor plus but at a cost of 3/4’s the resolution.  After using the Phase One 50MP back for 2 weeks I was concerned about using it with a tech camera due to the extreme color cast on shifts and the loss of potential image due to the 1:3 crop of the sensor.  Now with the 100MP chip, at least it’s full frame so no loss due to the crop factor but at what a cost?  30K, I feel it might be time to look at a used 50MP back and just live with the crop factor!

I am sure that many photographers will be lining up for this new 100MP back and what is even more interesting is that Phase One has them already to ship.  So to the lucky few that can afford this back, I wish you the best. Maybe Phase One will release a 75MP or even 60MP full frame CMOS before I reach 60 years of age? Not to far away.

Paul Caldwell

 

 

 

11/15/15 New Filter information from Lee and HiTech

I have been trying to get a simple filter solution for both a 28mm HR Rodenstock and the 32mm HR-W Rodenstock.  Also, now that Phase One is shipping their new wide lenses, the Schneider 35LS and 40-80LS which have 105mm filter threads.  The 105mm size is large for sure, but these lenses all use coarse threading which makes things more difficult.  Most of your traditional filter companies are not using coarse threads, but instead medium threads.  Medium threads are used on most DSLR lenses, and so coarse threading is not required near as often.

The Center Filter for the 28mm Rodenstock is outside threaded to 95mm, and these are coarse threads, as are the 105mm threads on the CF for the 32mm Rodenstock.

I have used the following CL-PL filters on both of these CF’s,

Lee 105mm (new filter, a bit warm, but excellent glass and very very thin)
Heliopan 105mm, Huge filter by far the thickest piece of glass/frame I have ever seen
B+W 105mm is in between the Lee and Heliopan

All of these 105mm CL-PL filters will fit with ease on the Coarse threads of the Rodenstock 95mm and 105mm openings on their Center filters. I believe it’s safe to assume that the outer threads on the 35mm LS and 40-80mm LS Schneiders are coarse threaded. So any of the filters I listed should work without binding. Note, I used the Heliopan 95mm to 105mm step up ring on the CF for the 28MM HR to get to the 105mm opening. Still no issues.

Currently I know of no ND filters in the 105mm size that are SHIPPING and are of a good quality glass. HiTech has listed their Firecrest in 105mm for over a year and I have had 2 on order that long. Last I heard they will ship sometime in late 2015 or Jan 2016. I am not holding my breath. However I will assume these filters will come with coarse threading. BTw, the firecrest glass is AMAZING. No tints at all and they do have an IR coating. By far the best ND I have used in 25 years of usage. The Hitech is shipping these filters in the the large SW-150 size for Lee and the 100 x 100 also that fit the Lee holders.

Lastly, by far the best news, Lee is going to make a 86mm, 95mm and 105mm Ring to allow you to use the SW-150 holder on lenses with these larger openings!!!!!!!!!!!!. This was officially announced at the NY Photoexpo show by LEE. Now when they will start to ship anyone’s guess. However I am assuming that they will be some form of a wide angle design. The SW-150 mounts totally differently than how the 100 x 100 Lee holder mounts, as the inside has a smooth round opening, which the ring fits into. You then screw down a pinch screw that holds the adapter into place. Lee also is using a much improved Light shield on the SW-150, and this will retro fit to the older SW-150’s if you have one. I have all three of these rings on order from the filterconnection, www.2filter.com but still have not heard when they will ship.

Note, due to the weight of the massive front element of the 32mm Rodie, adding a 2 filter SW-150 might not be a great idea, but in theory if Hitech gets off their A** and finally starts to ship the 105mm Firecrest, you have that option. The Lee SW-150 should be a perfect fit for a 35mm LS or 40-80LS as you ain’t going to hurt those massive pieces of glass with a SW-150. I believe that the 28mm HR with a CF (a must for that lens) will work great with the SW-150 and 2 filters. But you can also just take the 95mm to 105mm Helipan step rings and use the HiTech firecrest if they ever ship.

Just wanted to pass this on.

Paul C

11/12/15 Adobe Lightroom still has no support for the Phase One IQ150–my method of fixing this

When Phase One first announced their flagship CMOS digital back, the IQ250 over 2 years ago, many photographers felt that the price point of $39,995 was way too much for a 50MP 1:3 cropped sensor back.  This issue became even more inflamed when Hasselblad came out with the 50c later that year with a price tag in the $15,995 range, more than half the price of the IQ250.  However both cameras shared the same sensor, the Sony 50MP CMOS chip for medium format cameras.  Later on Pentax announced the 645z, and a third camera hit the market with the same Sony chip and it’s price was 8.4K.  With the Pentax announcement and pressure from Hasselblad, Phase One made the decision to sell a “cheaper” version of the IQ250, and announced the IQ150 @ $34,995.  For 5K less you did not get a 5 year value add warranty or wifi support.  Also 1 year past, with the announcement of the Phase One XF camera body, IQ1 cameras did not receive the full support for all the new features the XF would offer.  But Phase One did allow for Capture One support for the IQ150.

I first tried out the IQ150 in April of 2015.  I was very tempted to purchase it with a trade it of my IQ260.  However after giving it a lot of thought, I held on to the IQ260.  The IQ150 would be a great fit for a XF or DF+ (both Phase One camera bodies).  With the CMOS chip, you now have an excellent implementation of Live View so manual focus was much easier using the excellent IQ LCD.  Use with a tech camera was not so positive as there was considerable color shifting past 10mm or so of shift.  So I felt that using the IQ150 would allow for a easier route for software conversion, as now I could pick from Lightroom (LR) or Capture One (C1).  However when I tried to open the IQ150 raw files IN LR, I received this screen.

Screen shot of LR import for IQ150 files before exif change to IQ250

Screen shot of LR import for IQ150 files before exif change to IQ250

Basically, LR can’t see the files since they have a exif header of IQ150.  LR had long ago picked up support for the IQ250, but back in April 2015 when I was testing the IQ150, I could only use Capture One.  Sure Capture One should be the best software as it’s made by Phase One and the IQ150 is also.  However there are times, more often than not, that LR due to it’s newer panorama and HDR tools may be a better fit.  Both of these tools work better on raw files rather than imported tiffs.  I naturally assumed that Adobe would pick up IQ150 support later on in a update to LR, however as of November 2015, you still can’t import the IQ150 raw files.

I have seen this issue before when new cameras first roll out as it takes sometime for the raw converters to catch up.  However when I tried the IQ150 in April of 2015 it had already been announced for over 6 months so I was surprised then that LR did not support it.  Now finding 6 months even further out, there is still no support I guess it’s safe to say, “Adobe plans not to support the IQ150″.  I am not sure what that is all about as it’s a very simple change on their side.

The good news is that you can easily make one change to the exif information on the IQ150 file and LR will work fine and allow you to import the images.  Just change the head from IQ150 to IQ250.  It’s as simple as that.  As the IQ150 and IQ250 share the exact same chip and CFA screen from Phase One, any profile from Adobe for the IQ250 will work fine with the IQ150, THEY ARE THE SAME CHIP 100%.  So what is the best way to do this? You will need an exif editor software.  These come in many types, some are command line other have a GUI interface.  As I am not a programmer, I prefer GUI.  So I found a neat little freeware program call ‘EXIFTOOL”.  You can find it here:

When you go to the site search for the GUI part of the program.  You have to have the base code loaded to your PC first then the GUI runs on top.  Works great and will take care of stupid oversights like this one where Adobe overlooked the IQ150, or they don’t care about it.

The GUI will look like this when you open it:  click on the image to view it larger.

Part One using ExifTool

Part One using ExifTool

Notice you have the standard windows folder interface on the far left, and when you click on a folder the files in that folder will open up in the middle part of your screen.  When you click on an individual file, the far right panel will open, will all the exif details for that particular file. Notice in the far right panel, that the “model” line lists this file as from an IQ150.

All you have to do is click on that line, the model line which then selects that item to be worked with.  When you click on the model, it will load into the box at the bottom of the screen in the right hand panel.

2nd Screen shot from ExifTool

2nd Screen shot from ExifTool

Now just click on the IQ150, and change it to IQ250 and hit enter.

3rd Screen shot of ExifTool

3rd Screen shot of ExifTool

Once you do this, notice “model” line has now changed to IQ250.  All you have to do now is hit save and you are done.  Exiftool will do the rest.

That’s all it takes, you don’t have to do anything else to the file.  If you are good with command line coding, then you can drop a large number of IQ150 raw files into a folder and then run ExifTool on that folder.  It will change just the model type for each image, if you can figure out the correct command line code structure.  The only drawback to the Gui is that you can only select one image at a time.  So if you have an IQ150 and are wishing to use it a lot with LR, then you might want to press Adobe to fix this issue with a update later on in both camera raw and LR.

Here is a screen shot from LR CC on the import screen.  You can see that LR now has no problems reading the images.  All it took was a SIMPLE HEADER CHANGE.  Not sure what either Phase One would not want Adobe to make this change as there will always be someone out there that is not going to use Capture One.  Since the issue has not been resolved now for over 1 year, I have to wonder what the acceptance rate of the IQ150 is inside the United States.  It can’t be that large or there would have been a fix for this by now, as it’s not that big a deal to fix in the first place.

LR import dialog after the IQ250 header change

LR import dialog after the IQ250 header change

 

Maybe this will be fixed sometime in the future, but for now this will get you the support you need in LR.  Also, don’t worry about this change for Capture One support.  Capture One will just use the profile for the IQ250 on the IQ150 files and all is fine as they are the same exact chip.  But more importantly they share the same CFA algorithm so all color profiles will work between the two with no problems.  NOTE, this is not as true with the Credo 50.  Here the CFA was developed by Leaf and there are some subtle differences in color profiles.

 

 

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.

 

09/18/14 Phase One Announcements from Photokina 2014

Phase One Silver Fleet

Phase One Corporation

As the big show starts to wind down, I though it would be good write about what Phase One considered to be significant announcements during the Photokina Photo Expo, current being held in Germany.

You can list out the major announcements here:

  1. The new IQ150
  2. Capture 1 version 8
  3. Enhanced trade in for P65+ backs (an additional 6K)
  4. Phase One & Alpa Strategic Alliance
  5. Major Change in the Value Add Warranty for IQ2 Digital Backs Value add only now, no classic 1 year.

What was not announced was a new medium format camera body, one to replace the aging Phase One DF+.  Many photographers felt that Phase One would at least talk about the progress on this.  The DF+ body is a good solid body, but at a list price of approximately 5K, it’s a bit overpriced for the feature set that it contains.  From reading between the lines, I feel that the new camera body is something that will made by Sony and when it does come out, will be revolutionary.  Many are looking for mirror-less, but I don’t see that, but possibly the first Medium Format  body with an EVF would be something to talk about.  But for now that’s all speculation.  Lets look at what was announced.

1. The New IQ150

Not too much to talk about here, expect it appears that Phase One is a bit concerned about the Pentax 645z and Hasselblad 50c.  Both of these solutions list for much less than the Phase One IQ250 (at around 34K US).  The new IQ150 is the same chip, same case as the IQ250, but no WiFi.  It appears to have all the other features like focus mask, built in level, high end LCD touch, etc.  However looking on the Phase One site, it’s really hard to tell.  The IQ150 ships with a 1 year warranty, that also appears to be non value add and the IQ150 lists for $29.990, lets say 30K.  So all Phase One did, is take off WiFi, lower the price by 4 K, but if you purchase the IQ150 and add the 4K value add, (which is what the cost has been in the past), you are right back to the base price of the IWQ250.   It’s also not clear if you can purchase a value add warranty for the IQ150.  You would have to talk to your dealer on that.  It will also be interesting to see how the new “lower” priced model has any effect of the Hasselblad 50c or Pentax 645z cameras, both of which are less expensive.

2. Capture One Vr 8.

Everything good here.  Phase One has taken an already excellent software to a new level.  They added a lot of new features and re-worked the processing engine.  If you are a current user of Capture One Vr7, the upgrade is still 99.00.  If you are new to Capture One, you can opt for a monthly subscription service or wait until Phase One sees the need to sell the base licenses for $150.00 as they recently did for Vr7.  Hope if you recently purchased Vr7 you are able to get a grace period to move to vr8 as it’s a much better software.  The advances that Phase One made to the Local Adjustment layers alone to me are worth the cost to upgrade.  You can still download the software for a 60 day trial.  I believe there is also a pro version if you want to just use the software with a Phase One Digital back, which in the past has been free.  Capture One Digital Back, not Pro.  Pro allows you work with other camera platforms like Nikon, Canon, and Sony.

3.  Enhanced trade in for P65+ upgrades to IQ280

If you are looking for a upgrade, this is great deal.  Currently it appears that the trade in is 21K for a used P65+, and now you can add an extra 6K to that, so 27K.  That is a great offer if you are looking to upgrade.  This would bring the cost of the IQ280 to about 25K or so.  You would still have to add in the cost of the Value Add Warranty.  Phase One is now claiming that the value add warranty is cheaper than before. so that is also a good thing.  In the past I have been quoted between 4.5K and 4K for various Value Add Warranties from Phase One, back dependent.

4. Phase One and Alpa Strategic Alliance

From 50 thousand feet, Phase One has decided to partner with Alpa Camera.  Alpa, based in Switzerland, is one of 3 major players in the technical camera (pancake) market.   It’s safe to assume that soon there will be a Phase One branded tech camera made by Alpa on the market.  Not sure yet what this means for the rest of the tech world, namely Cambo and Arca, but this move by Phase One may have  them looking to partner with Hasselblad.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the future.  I do hope that any improvements to the LCC processing that Phase One develops with Alpa can be passed down to users of non Alpa tech cameras, like myself.

5. Major Change in the Value Add Warranty for IQ2 back.

From what I have been able to pick up from the dealer community in the US, if you purchase a IQ2 back, (250,260 260 achromatic, 280), the value add warranty is now included in the purchase price.  THIS IS BIG DEAL, as before a value add warranty was always an additional purchase feature, in the range of 4 to 5K.  The value add warranty includes the use of a loaner back while your back in for repair.  The photographer is still responsible to pay for the shipping of their back to Phase One.

If you purchase a IQ140, 150, 160 or 180, the 1 year classic warranty is still included with the purchase price.  I assume that you can purchase a 5 year value add if you prefer.  However if you are looking at either an upgrade from an older back or purchase of a new IQ back, the purchase of the IQ2 should be a better alternative.  Kudo’s to Phase One for changing this policy.

 

 

 

 

09/17/14 Arca FP (Modular Focal Plane Shutter) and R cameras has full wide lens support

I just heard this morning from Rod Klukas, the U.S. Arca representative, that the new Arca FP  will work with the wider lenses, Rodenstock 23mm and 28mm, and possibly the 28XL Schneider.  This is very good new for me as I did not want to have to break my current system into two parts.  My widest lens is the 28mm HR Rodenstock and it’s a great lens on my IQ260 Phase back.

I will still need to purchase a new lens tube for the 28mm as with all of my other lenses, but I can have come to grips with that now.  My temper is sated as I now can use this wonderful lens, the Rodenstock 28mm HR.

I look forward to taking delivery of an Arca FP sooner than later and will report back once I get one and the other equipment needed to operate it.

rm3di focal plane shutter

New Arca Swiss Focal Plane Shutter for R series Cameras

Here is another picture of the Arca FP, showing where the back will mount and the various connection ports to the side.

 

 

 

09/16/14 Capture One Vr 8 is announced and is now available for download

Capture One Version 8

Capture One Version 8 is out

Well, one bit of good news from Photokina, Phase One has released Capture One Version 8.  This is a major update to the software with some very nice enhancements.  As a long time user of Capture One, I welcome this update and find it well worth the price of admission, $99.00 to upgrade from Vr 7.  You can still download the full version for Phase One digital backs, (non Pro) for no charge as I understand it.

Here is a list of new features and or improvements from Version 7.

  • New Capture One 8 processing engine
  • Improved image quality for HDR
  • Improved image quality for local moiré suppression
  • Improved image quality for luminance noise reduction
  • Improved black and white conversion quality especially for aggressive adjustments
  • New clarity method called Natural
  • Live view focus meter for Phase One IQ250
  • Live view direct capture
  • Live view depth of field button
  • Live view force orientation
  • Customizable tools and tabs in the live view windows
  • Repair tool for cloning and healing
  • Film grain tool
  • Target colors and other curve tool improvements
  • New crop ratio “Original”
  • Freehand rotation with the crop cursor by grabbing just outside the corners of the crop frame
  • Double-click thumbnail to show viewer and entry in the keyboard shortcut editor for toggling the viewer on/off
  • Batch chromatic aberration analysis
  • Local white balance
  • Local HDR
  • Local noise reduction
  • Local purple fringing
  • Layer selection points in the viewer
  • Hierarchical keywords
  • Metadata terms editing in the filters tool
  • Synchronize folders for catalogs
  • Split importer settings for sessions and catalogs
  • Export collection as catalog
  • Import sub-catalog
  • Session and catalog templates
  • Refined metadata editing

I was a member of the beta testing for the software.  From version 7, I see a totally new look and feel, the background now is pure black by default instead of the grey it has been in version 7.  Phase One claims there is a new processing engine and so far I have found that the processing speed does seem faster.  I am running a i7 Win 7 64 bit machine with 32GB of ram.  All the mention of open GL, I believe is only for the Mac side.  Phase One always seems to give the Mac side just a bit more.  One of these days, they may realize that there are way more windows users out there than Mac.  So if you want to increase your user base, take a hint.

For me the single greatest improvement is that Capture One 8 has greatly increase the support for Local adjustments.  Unlike Lightroom, Capture One allows for the user to create up to 10 local adjustment layers.  In the past color adjustment in these layers was very limited.  Now you can have White Balance adjustment in each local adjustment.  You also have local adjustment control over highlights and shadows and noise reduction, something that was missing totally in version 7.

However there still is no history, just the old undo switch.  I guess Phase One doesn’t feel this to be very important.  Sad as it’s one huge strength for Lightroom.  Both Lightroom and Capture One offer so much capability for raw conversion and image correction, not having a history of adjustments is really a handicap.

 

 

09/15/14 Big news from Arca Swiss–New FS (Focal Plane) shutter for R series cameras

rm3di focal plane shutter

New Arca Swiss Focal Plane Shutter for Arca Swiss Cameras

##################UPDATE LATE 09/15/14#######################

09/15/14 Final details from Rod Klukas–U.S. Arca Representative

I heard from Rod a while ago, he is out at Photokina.  Here are the missing details.

“The FPA is similar in depth to Rota slide ot mount.  But you will need a new lens tube to use the FPS.
You can send me the lens, for measuring and checking.  I take precision measurements and check out another thing.
Then I can return the lens to you or the customer for use without FPS shutter.  A new tube to be used with the lens and the FPS combo will be custom made
in France.
If using FPS, you use the new FPS tube, if not go back to the old tube to use lens with Rotamount or Centerl/Leaf shutter.
Cost for FPS tube is $350.00 each lens.  Still far cheaper than a whole set of lenses.  And quite compact.
 
32mm lens is widest useable lens.”
I am not sure, even though I own and use one, exactly what the lens tube is, but it sounds like it’s part of the various set of rings that come with each R mounted lens.  From Rod’s notes, it’s apparent that if you wan to use the FPS on your existing lenses, you need to send them to Rod, (if in the US) or your Arca dealer to be measured.  Then Arca/France will make a new tube for the lens.  Sounds a bit tedious, and is not what I had expected, but I guess it works.  The cost of 6 tubes @ $350.00 is $2,100.00, the estimated price of the shutter unit itself is $1,800.00, and I can safely assume the electronic module to control it another 1,200.00.  So I guess you would be close to 5K to move to the “shutter”
This is disturbing enough, but the lack of being able to use the 28mm Rodenstock HR is a real killer for me.  Sounds like if you want a wide lens and use the shutter, you will have to upgrade to the 7.5K Rodenstock 32 HR-W.  Not what I really wanted to do.

 

ORIGINAL POST BEGINS HERE:

I opened my email this morning, and I found this link!!  Well all I can say is that it’s about time.  Arca Swiss has been working a new modular shutter for their R series cameras for over a year now.  I first heard rumors about this shutter back in January of 2014,  and was told that users should expect shipments of the Focal Plane version in the May 2014 time frame.  May rolled around, and nothing happened, and then June, July, etc.  Finally now in early September, Arca as taken the bull by the horns and announced what may be one of the most significant single additions to their R camera line since the original R cameras were first announced about 8 years ago.

What is this, well, it’s a Focal Plane shutter, that will fit as a module in a R camera, examples, rm3di, factum, rm3dl.  I also should work in the large scale Acra cameras for 4 x 5 setups.  This could not come at a better time, (well I sure would have liked to see Arca not wait till September) as the Copol manual leaf shutters are no longer being made.  You can read more about that in this article I wrote over a year ago.  If you use a tech camera, with Schneider or Rodenstock lenses with a Medium format back, then the stoppage of the Copols is a big deal.  There are some still left in inventory, but within 2 years, I expect those to dry up.  Which means that all the lenses need some form of a new shutter.

Arca answered this actually two ways:

  • The announcement of the Focal Plane module that fits into the existing cameras ( I would love to see just how the shutter fits in the camera)
  • The announcement of a new leaf shutter that is electronic and fits around the lens.  This is much larger situation and could have some fit problems as all these style shutters do.

Here is a picture of the new Leaf shutter that will fit on the actual lens.

The new Arca electronic leaf shutter

The new Arca electronic leaf shutter

If you have any existing Copol shutter mounted lens, then you will have to send it back to Arca an maybe even Rodenstock or Schneider to have the shutter replaced.  As this will need recolimation and I am not sure if Acra can do that but it’s very critical.

Both of the shutters will be controlled by an controller that is a separate purchase.  I am assuming that it will connect to the back somehow maybe via the PC port or via USB.

If it’s only USB, this can possibly cause a big issue for users like myself who are using Surface Pro computers in the field to tether to.  You only get the one USB connection on the back, and if it’s taken up by the tethering connection, then you would not be able to use the shutter.  Not good.

You can see the controller unit here:

Arca Swiss dEx controller

The Acra Swiss dEx controller

From looking at these pictures the dEx controller has a mini USB port on the right side, which implies to me that it’s going to attached to the back via the USB port, which will eliminate the use of the port for tethered operation.  THIS IS A HUGE SHOW STOPPER FOR ME IF IT ONLY ATTACHES VIA USB, AS IT MEAN, NO MORE TETHERED OPERATION IN THE FIELD.  Being able to shoot tethered in the field with a Surface Pro 2 is major advantage for me.

Looking at this, I am imagining the following.  The control unit is attached to the FP shutter via USB.  But what does the shutter to connect to the back with?  When you look at the shutter, there are several ports with different labels.  Maybe it connects via the flash sync port or the one directly below??

From talking to various Arca reps, I know that this shutter has been in the works now for almost a year or longer.  I am glad to see Arca announce it, and hopefully they will be able to ship it in volume soon.  More pictures are needed maybe even a video!!,  MAYBE EVEN A WEBSITE WITH LINKS!!!!!!  I know that’s too much to ask.

 

 

07/02/14 New lens in the Phase One-Schneider LS lineup the 40-80 zoom

About 2 weeks ago, Phase One made a new lens announcement, the LS 40-80 F4 to F5.6 zoom.  This is an all new design, not a reworked Mamiya lens as some of the other LS lenses appear to be (28mm LS, 75-150mmLS, and 80mmLS to name a few). 
You can find some examples of photography taken with this lens at F11 on the Digital Transitions blog.

Schneider LS 40-80 zoom lens

Schneider LS 40-80 zoom lens

In this picture you can get several different views of the lens, it’s not small or light weight.  The outer lens shade is close to the size of the built in shade on the 28mm LS ultra wide angle.  So what do you gain here? I have looked over some early shots taken from this lens at F11 and they look good, corner to corner, however the real test to me would be more wide open or close to it say F5.6. Most of the other wides from Phase One/Schneider (28mm, 35mm, 45mm) are not good performers wide open or even close to wide open.  The 35mm (which is not an LS but sold in the newer D digital name) doesn’t really get very sharp in the corners until F11 either.

Looking at the features besides picking up a short zoom range, that can be covered pretty well by a 45mm D and 55D or the 55mm LS with much less weight and or bulk, I am not sure what the net gain is.  Sure there is the LS (leaf) shutter but unless you are looking for a really fast flash sync, this is not a big advantage, especially in landscape work.  Also, remember that Phase One’s DF and DF+ camera bodes both still fire their internal focal plane shutters when the leaf shutter in the the lens is fired.

Phase One zoom lens

Phase One 40-80mm Zoom lens side view

From this view, you can tell that it’s a well thought out design.  The manual focus ring has the built in clutch, where you can pull the ring down over the “auto focus” wording, and enabling Manual focus.  The lettering and hyperfocal scale is very easy to read, with the usual white letters on black background.  The large hood is detachable and the filter threading is 105mm, yes 105mm it’s big.  You can read all the detailed featured/specifications here: Phase One 40-80mm Zoom.

As a landscape photographer this lens seems to be similar to the older Mamiya 55-110mm zoom a real tried and true lens, in that it has a very limited focal range and is big and heavy.  It weighs 4 lbs!!.  Looking at the lens and knowing what I like to shoot I have a few more detailed thoughts.

  1. Weight, if you attempt to carry this in the field, you will be paying a high price for a very limited zoom range.  This lens at 4.1 pounds weigh just a little less than my entire Arca rm3di, IQ260 and 40mm Rodenstock lens.
  2. Price, well this should be number 1, folks at 9K this lens is very much a specialty unit.  Not sure what the thought process is here from Phase One.  There must be a market but consider that that NEW Rodenstock 40mm lens from Arca, Cambo or Arca will cost about 1/2 of this lens price.  Sure you have to have a tech camera but if you are working with landscape in medium format and want the best wides, a tech camera is pretty much a given.
  3. No tilt or swing.  This is very important to me as I don’t want a shallow DOF for my work.  Phase One even points out that this lens features a “great shallow DOF” (DOF = depth of field).  The advantage of having tilt alone to change my DOF with a tech camera is priceless
  4. Huge outer filter threading of 105mm.  This means very expensive filters as a circular polarizer in the 105mm range will be at least $250.00 (but when you purchase a 9K lens I guess this an additional drop in the bucket)
  5. The 105mm filters are thicker by design and more than likely you will not be able to stack a Neutral density and CL-PL without getting some vignetting at 40mm
  6. Pretty limited aperture range for a 9K lens, at F4 and moving to F5.6 at 80mm
  7. Extremely limited zoom range for 9K only 40mm
  8. No Image stabilization which would be a nice feature for a lens that tops the scales at over 4 pounds
  9. More than likely soft corners at 40mm until you get to around F11 (but to be fair to Phase One, I would need to have the lens and test it)

I would say that this is very specialized purchase and I am overall disappointed to see Phase One continue to price their lens in the upper stratosphere. But this lens has to take the award for most expensive medium format zoom ever made.

Lets take a look at just how much some of these lenses really cost with a similar zoom, the excellent Mamiya 75-150 F4-5.6.  This is zoom which has been on the market for over 4 years or so, first under the Mamiya brand, has always been an expensive lens listing for around 4.6K U.S.  I first looked at this lens about 3 years ago but found the price point just too much, however on ebay there were several examples (new) being sold for $2,500.00, close to half price.  These lenses were being shipped from Japan, but they still had the full Mamiya warranty.  Plus on a lens like this if it works from day one, odds are the lens will continue to work unless you drop it.  So my point is that the 40-80 at 9K, costs much less than this and the price has been totally over inflated for some reason, as if to limit sales.  Trust me not too many photographers are going to line up to purchase this lens for this price.  For 9K, you getting into the cost point of a Nikon or Canon 600 F4 lens.  Yes I understand these are not medium format lenses, but they seem to warrant the price point more to me than this limited range zoom.  Why Phase One choose to price this lens at 2x of the original Mamiya 45-90 AF zoom is pretty disappointing, and is yet another reason I am glad I shed this type of gear over 2 years ago when I moved to a technical camera.

One thing is certain, this is not a re-worked Mamiya lens as some of the other Phase One LS lenses are.  NO, this is all new and a totally different optical design.  Users of Mamiya medium format cameras may be able to remember back about 4 years ago, when the 45-90AF lens was announced. The aperture was a fixed F4.5 and the zoom from 45 to 90 gave it a bit more reach and it  filled a big hole in the Mamiya modern digital zoom range.  The only lens close was the much older designed 55-110 lens.  Optically it was great for film backs, but past 33 megapixels, the optical quality of the lens really started to show.  I owned one and used it for several years, but rarely carried on long hikes, due to the limited zoom range and the weight.

Mamiya zooms 45-90

Older Mamiya 45-90 zoom–NOTICE THE WEIGHT 2LBS

For a while this lens showed up on B&H photo and other camera reseller website, but it never shipped, possibly may never have really existed.  Sure mockups like the image above were made but I never read any reviews from anyone that was able to test and shoot with this lens.  No it did not have a LS shutter but it was still very expensive listing at around 4.5K, but since it fit into such a great spot in the Mamiya zoom line up I was excited about it.  Now you could work in the field with only 3 lenses, the 35mm F3.5, the 45-90 F4.5 zoom and the 75-150mm.  The 35mm suffered on the corners and really wasn’t that great a lens, but the hopes were that the 45mm focal range on the new 45-90 would be good.  This lens quietly just went away, and Dr Frankphase has brought it back as the new 40-80 zoom, at 9K.  wow, that’s all I can say.

As a Phase One user, sadly I find their directions seem to be moving away from mine.  It doesn’t seem to be an attempt at enabling growth just as their upgrade price from a IQ260 to IQ250 was financially unrealistic .  Realistically, sure there are photographers that will buy this lens, but WHY?  Do you just have to have the LS shutter?  And for 9K.  For 9K, it should be darn sharp corner to corner at F5.6.

Before purchasing this lens, I strongly recommend that the photographer with the budget for it (and the physical stamina to carry it all day) demo it on their existing equipment.  You can find demo’s with Phase One authorized dealers like Digital Transitions based out of New York.  They have recently added some new images taken from this lens to their blog.

 

 

02/24/14 Silver Fleet purchases 60% of Phase One–what may happen

This is old news now and has been hashed back and forth in various discussion forums for the past 2 weeks.  The net of the announcement is that Silver Fleet a venture capture firm purchased the controlling share of Phase One.  Phase One based in Denmark, was a privately held corporation, with all the shares of stock being held as preferred or private stock.  In the past it had been Phase One that was busy buying up either entire companies or purchasing a part of a company.  Deals such as Phase One’s purchase of the Leaf corporation and their investment in Mamiya Corp (a Japanese based medium format company which manufactures Phase One camera bodies and lenses) and possibly Schneider Corporation.  This last example is only speculation on my part, but the relationship between Phase One and Schnieder in the past 2 years has become very close since Schneider manufactures all of the Leaf Shutter lenses that Phase One sells.

Here is the link to the announcement.

I read over this announcement and then talked to a few friends of mine that are much more knowledgeable about these maters and came away with a few talking points.

No company would do this unless pressured by some force, in this case more than likely financial.  By giving up 60% of the company, Phase One can no longer control it’s direction, instead only make suggestions.  There is no mention about any of the company leaders being given their walking papers.

Silver Fleet’s history is not to hold on to a company for a long period of time.  Phase One shows up as a company with between 55-99 total employees, so it’s not that large.  I am not sure if this number includes the Phase One office in New York City and their Mellville NY location where some repair services are done.

If one reads into the announcement, it does seem to appear that Phase One’s liquidity ratio was in trouble.  Here is a quote from one of the reviews about the purchase that caught my eye.

“If the report and the figures are correct then Phase One was valued at about $180 million USD / £110 million GBP, which seems incredibly low if all the previous profitability reports were to be believed. Based on figures from www.proff.dk/firma/phase-one-as/frederiksberg/fremstilling-af-optiske-instrumenter-og-fotografisk-udstyr/13477705-2/ , though their net operating profit and return on assets looked good, the liquidity ratio** did not. If true, this could explain why Phase chose to sell out sooner rather than later.

** the liquidity ratio expresses the company’s ability to meet its short-term financial obligations, and is calculated as receivables plus cash as a percentage of short-term debt.”

From reading this, it appears that Phase One may have needed this influx of cash to help pay off short term debt.  Phase One’s recent roll out of the new IQ250, the first Medium Format Digital Back in existence may have created a larger debt position than Phase One was willing to accept.  This could be debt to Sony corporation, who makes the chip or costs from the development and production of the new camera.  However those costs should not have been that great since Phase One already had the camera back body, LCD screen, and other shared components in production with other backs.

What does this mean to a user of a Phase One camera system?  (That is the real question)

After looking over this announcement and other reviews, I do take a bit of concern over this and here are some reasons.

Phase One is no longer the same Phase One corporation that I have known since early 2008.  Phase One is now being run by a Venture Capital company, and their goal more than likely will not be customer driven.   They are focused on only one issue, make a profit and sell the company to retain that profit level.  I don’t think that Silver Fleet is interested in being a Medium Format Camera company long term.

1. What will happen to current Value Add contracts in place.  The Value Add warranty is one of Phase One’s selling advantages where they extend the base warranty from one year to 5 and offer a loaner back if yours has to be serviced.  In my location of Arkansas, there is no dealer closer to me than Atlanta GA, and they are not my current dealer.  So if my back goes down, (which every Phase One back I have owned has done) will I be able to get it serviced? and will this new company still honor the Value Add contracts that are in place currently.  Since Silver Fleet now runs Phase One, it’s anyone’s guess.

2. Will Phase One continue to develop on their current backs like the IQ260 and 280?  Also will they continue to develop towards a full frame CMOS back in the 60MP to 80MP range?  This will be a directive by Silver Fleet now as they own the controlling shares.

3. What about the new Phase One 645 camera?  The current DF+ is pretty long in the tooth and the cost of it at $4995.00 is pretty extreme when compared to the feature set it offers.

4.  How will Capture One, which is Phase One’s excellent raw software and tethering solution for both Phase One cameras and other brands be effected.  I feel that Capture One is one turn away from being a really excellent software platform, but the new companies direction may be to follow what most companies do and outsource the further development of the software.  Or even worse sell it off.

5.  Will Phase One keep it’s New York Office open, along with the Mellville service location?  It seems that Phase One’s sales volumes are growing, but growing how fast.  If you grew 1% over last year, you are growing, but possibly not keeping pace with your industry.  I believe that Phase One’s largest customer is the far East, Japan and China.  These are growing countries with a great amount of potential  Due to this, Silver Fleet–Phase One may decided to close their New York offices.

You have to remember that Phase One is 90% or more dependent on their dealers for U.S. sales.  Yes, Phase One has an inside sales force but in the past I have never been too impressed with this group in either follow through or product knowledge.  The dealer channel in the U.S. is still pretty small but they can offer demo’s, rentals and support.  In fact, the dealer channel is the primary place to go for support on a Phase One back as attempting to contact Phase One in New York, is next to impossible.  This is true for either software or hardware support.  Hopefully Silver Fleet–Phase One will continue to understand this and offer the same level of contacts, support and communication to their current dealer channels.

Much is still be to brought out and I am sure that it will be shown over time just what Silver Fleet is planning to do with their controlling interest of Phase One.  I keep mentioning this as it’s very important to understand that Phase One is no longer Phase One, but now Silver Fleet–Phase One.  Having a 40% share of a company is about the same as having 1%, you don’t have control over any decision making.  Sure you can make recommendations, but that is all.  Of course the other thought that comes to mind is that the select group of owners of Phase One were ready to move one, and choose Silver Fleet to make this possible.  This thought continues to make me wonder what the future will bring.  The only financial details that seem to stand out is that the Phase One liquidity ratio was in trouble and that definitely would effect Phase One being able to borrow to continue to develop new and existing products. This large influx of cash should cover both the outstanding debt and possibly cover new development of products.

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.

 

 

 

 

02/13/2014 The First Testing of the IQ250 on a tech camera–More details on my testing of Digital Transitions files

As posted on this site and many others, Phase One, about 2 weeks ago, announced the IQ250, the worlds first CMOS digital Medium format back.  The announcement also stunned quite a few folks out there when it was discovered that Sony was the chip being used, not a Dalsa.  Dalsa has been the main chip company that Phase One has used since the announcement of the P65+ about 4 years ago.  I saw the announcement and also noticed the mention of Sony and I had a suspision that the results when posted from the various dealers out there, would be pretty revealing.  I have used the Sony 36MP chip in the Nikon D800 since May of 2014 and believe me I saw the light early.  Enough that I sold pretty much all my Canon Digital gear save for 1 6D which I use  for night photography.

Digital Transitions, my Phase One dealer based out of NY, just released a huge test where they shot the IQ250 with a very good selection of current Tech camera lenses.  This was an indoor shoot in the Morgan Library in NYC so the subject matter was a bit different for me, but the results from the tests are very impressive.  I just finished downloading and comparing the IQ250 and IQ260 shots taken with the Rodenstock 32mm.  To be honest, after shooting the D800 for so long and seeing what it can do with 1 frame at base iso 100 in regards to total range, I was pretty sure what I would find.  However I did try my hardest to make the 260 images come close with all the tricks in Capture One that I have learned over the years, and the net is, you can’t!

You can download and read more about the testing that Digital Transitions did here:  DT Tech Camera tests IQ250 and other MF backs.

In my landscape work, I tend to focus on shifting 3 images to create a short panorama.  So for me, the rise and fall results were not that important, but if you interested DT (Digital Transitions) did post these as well.  I took the 3 shifted images from the IQ250 and IQ260 on the 32mm Rodenstock.  I don’t own this lens, but have the 28mm Rod and 40mm Rod.  The shifting characteristics of the 32mm and 40mm Rodenstocks are pretty close.  After completing work on the images in Capture One, I went ahead and combined the IQ260 stitches into one image, them went back to the IQ250 images to compare certain parts of the files to see how the 2 cameras reacted.  In the four images I have in the article, I will explain the areas that stand out the most to me.

Morgain library IQ250 and IQ260

Left corner comparison of IQ250 and IQ260 Morgan Library

NOTE web conversions really don’t do these files justice, if you are interested in my results, please visit the DT website and pull these files down to get the full effect.  Capture One is free for all digital back users you can pull the latest version which is 7.2 from the Phase One Website.

IQ 250 is on the right in this comparison. In this image you see a part of a large panel that runs vertically in the left most portion of each test.  At first when I looked at the panel with the IQ260 shots, I thought it was made from wood, however when I looked at the IQ250 shot, I realized that this panel was in fact covered by fabric and the IQ250 actually showed the detail of the fabric.  If you look to the right edge you can see that this panel is part of hinged setup and is covered which red (appears to be red) fabric.  The iq260 shot is too noisy to really tell very much.  The only thing that really translates between the two are the two scratches that show up.   The IQ260 was shot at a base iso 50 for 6 seconds and you will see that even at that ideal setting the darker parts of the image are pretty much pure noise and not worth recovering.  It should be be noted here that the shifts were made without a Center filter on the Rodenstock 32mm.  The center filter would have helped to balance  out the IQ260 shift exposure an possibly bring out less noise giving a better final result, but it would have also benefited the IQ250 also, so it would have been even cleaner!!

Also noticed the amount of aliasing form the Metal X bars over the front of the book cases.  You can clearly see red, blue, banding on these parts of the IQ260 file.  The IQ250 is clean from aliasing and I have to assume it’s an advantage of the smaller pixel pitch of 5.3 microns over the large 6.0 micron pitch of the IQ260.

You can notice that the books definitely are different colors, and I could only guess at the correct WB in this room.  The IQ250 seemed to want to go more to a red favored tint and I had warmed up the IQ260 image in Capture One.  WB is selective and is something that can easily be adjusted once the correct value is known.

comparison of IQ250 and IQ260 moderate light

Comparison No 2 of IQ250 and IQ260 in moderate light

What is most striking here is the depth of the details the IQ250 pulled out of the balcony railing supports.  IQ250 is on the right. Zooming in you can make out the details on the base of the railing support much more clearly on the IQ250 shot, also notice the wood grain and patina on the edge of the balcony.  (I am not sure if this wood or metal, I am assuming metal since the finish matches the railing and railing supports).  There is a red hue to the IQ250 shot and that was also in the IQ260 shot, but I took it out with a local adjustment in Capture One.

Other areas of interest are the 2 rows of beaded material on the outer face of the balcony.  You can see the individual details of each bead much clearly with the IQ250 shot.  But most telling is the detail underneath the balcony.  Zooming into 100% you can see all the grain of the material on the bottom and the details are still very clear.

On this shot what caught my eye over and over was just how much of the notching around the based of the railing support standout as well as the head of the two bolts holding the plate in place.

Comparison of IQ250 and IQ260 in low light

Comparison No 3 IQ250 and IQ260 back center of center image

In this comparison the IQ250 is on the right.  This is a crop taken from the back center of the center frame of the three stitches.  This image should have the best exposure opportunity from both cameras as not shifting was done.  Quickly, notice the curved portion of the balcony, again the material’s patina is just so much more clear on the IQ250, where as with the IQ260 it’s pretty featureless.  But what really stands out is the the very back underneath the balcony.  They are watching you!!.  Yes there is a small camera mounted next to the white box on the right.  This camera did not catch my eye on the IQ260 shot, but when looking at the IQ250 image I saw it immediately.  Notice here again the amount of details under the bottom of the balcony, again you can clearly make out the lighter material of the light shades and black piece on the middle balcony support.  You can also make out the grain in the material of this same piece of material.  The base of the railings also look much much better to me.  Yes the IQ250 is still showing a red tint, but again that is because I saw no need to take it out since I was looking for DR range improvement.  WB/color casts on this image are very hard to know without a true grey card shot to assist in WB.

Comparison IQ250 and IQ260 right shift

Comparison No 4 IQ250 and IQ260 lower right corner

In this comparison the IQ250 image is on the right.  This is a crop from the lower right corner.  You can see two things quite clearly here, the base of a glass box stand and the back wood wall.  Here again the shifted IQ260 has suffered quite a bit, not as bad as on the full left shift, but still the details just fall apart.  The two things that are most telling are the insert of darker material on the box and wood grain of the outer section of the box.  Working up the IQ250 image you can make out grain in the wood with no problem but on the IQ260 shot you are losing the wood grain by the time you add enough noise reduction to get the image workable.

Here you can also see a lot of stuck pixels in the IQ260 image.  In looking at all of the test shots from the IQ260 stuck pixels show up in any of the more underexposed parts of the files.  This was very surprising to me as I would have expected the mandatory dark frame to handle this.  The dark frame is taken immediately after the regular exposure.  In my experience with CCD cameras and long exposure, I owned for about 3 years a Phase One P45+.  This camera was also rated to 1 hour exposures and I did use it for quite a few.  I can state that I never saw this many uncorrected stuck pixels in a 45 minute exposure as I am seeing in a 6 second exposure with the IQ260.  As the owner of a IQ260 I find this alarming.  You can remove some more of the stuck pixels by using the “single pixel noise” reduction slider to 100% in Capture One, but normally this is not needed unless a dark frame was not taken immediately after the long exposure.   With a Nikon D800 which I regular use for up to 5 minute exposures for stacking in my night photography actions, you will see some stuck pixels, but no where as many as seen in the IQ260 shot.  With the Nikon I am not using long exposure noise reduction in camera since it would not allow me to operate the camera for a corresponding amount of time, in this case 5 minutes.  However using Capture One in post processing I can always get a clean file by using the single pixel noise reduction slider.  In the case of the IQ260,  a dark frame was taken as you have no options with Phase One, so the vast majority of the stuck pixels should have been removed.

The back wall however is even more telling  Here you can see the details in the engraving of the back wall much better on the IQ250 shot and the base board is full of rich details.  The crop I took also shows the floor clearly has more details in both the tile around the fireplace and the actual wood floor.  The IQ250 file is so clean it almost looks like I needed to add a bit of grain, as the bottom of the stand is very smooth, but that may be how it is in real life also.

Conclusions from these side by side tests:

  1. The CCD chip of the IQ260 was pressed harder than it could deliver on this test series of exposures and the results show both excessive noise (especially on shifts) and any area of the image not being stuck by artificial illumination.
  2. The 6 second exposure of the IQ260 contains a lot of stuck pixels, mainly blue, that were not removed by the dark frame exposure that would have followed the exposure on the back.  The IQ250 is clean of all stuck pixels with the Capture One defaults of noise reduction loaded.  I had to increase the “single pixel noise reduction” slider to 100% on the IQ260 image and it still did not get all of the stuck pixels out.
  3. Clearly the IQ250 image has much more room in the shadows.  This is shown over and over by looking at pieces and parts of this test.  The IQ260 in the darkest parts of the image (mainly the left shift) became too noisy to really use in a print larger than say 13 x 19.  The IQ250 has a much cleaner transition between the light and dark parts of the image allowing things like patina and wood grain to stand out much more clearly
  4. The IQ260 suffered from very harsh aliasing, mainly on the metal X bars that cover the books.  I was able to remove the worst of it with a local adjustment layer in Capture One on the IQ260, but on the IQ250 there is really none to start with.
  5. Yes the 1:3 crop factor size is important.  Just from looking at the sides of the completed stitches you can see that the IQ260 pulled in about 3 more feet of image on both sides.  This image is also pretty badly distorted by the time the IQ260 makes the extreme shift (as would be expect on a ultra wide shift).  As the owner of a full frame digital back, I am a huge fan of the full frame size chips as I tend to work in close in Arkansas landscape shooting and the crop factor will make a composition/framing consideration.

As the owner of a IQ260, I was impressed by these results.  I already knew the Live View worked and it even works well in low light as test by Alpa and now DT.  I had hoped with my investment in a IQ260 that Phase One could somehow work magjc on the the CCD one more time since the IQ260 had a totally new chip.  However based on these tests at iso 50 and some I have seen at iso 140 (the being of the long exposure noise for the IQ260, I am not seeing any improvements between the IQ160 and IQ260.  I was hoping that the IQ260 would allow for a useable image at iso 400 in the long exposure mode so I would not have to drop down to sensor plus, but so far I have not see that result in my work.  The shadows when pushed on a IQ260 pretty much appear to have about the same amount of range as my IQ160 had.

Seeing these results from the IQ250 and knowing just how good the Sony 36MP chip is in the D800, I have to make a decision to stay with the IQ260 or attempt a downgrade to IQ250.  I don’t see Sony coming out with another full frame medium format chip anytime this year or early next year.  They seem to be working on a 54MP chip for the 35mm camera world as they have announced it and are planning to bring it to the market in 2015.  This leaves Dalsa who is Phase One’s main chip supplier, and boy I hope they are looking at these results.   If any company is going to bring a full sized CMOS chip to market in 2014 or early  2015, I figure it will Dalsa.  But they are also unproven in this space, only have CCDs.  Sony has been working on the Exmor processor and their high dynamic range CMOS chips since around 2012 now have a fab process setup so that they can replicate this technology across many fronts.

02/12/14 My testing of some Phase One IQ250 raw files on a tech camera–Most impressive

IQ250 dynamic range increase

Comparison of IQ250 and IQ260 showing the dramatic increase in dynamic range of the IQ250

Over the past week Digital Transitions , my Phase One dealer based out of New York, NY, has been doing some series comparison testing of the IQ250 and IQ260 with various tech camera lenses.  The scene was the Morgan Library Room in New York City.  This was an indoor test with very difficult lighting and no flash or strobes were used.  Digital Transitions (DT) used a series of different tech camera lenses on both the IQ250 and IQ260, at 50MP and 60MP respectively.  These tests included shifting at 0 rise and then shifting with various degrees of rise.  I only looked at the images that were shifted at zero rise as I felt that was closest to the work I do.  Here is link to the DT blog where their testing was reported: DT Tech Camera Testing

The results were very impressive when comparing just the IQ260 and IQ250 and I have published an article on my website which goes into much more detail and my observations from looking at just the images from the 32mm Rodenstock, it’s very apparent that the IQ250 is going to have much greater dynamic range than the IQ260, even though the IQ260 is a larger chip, with larger photocells.  The IQ250 is a 5.3 micron back and the IQ260 is 6.0 micron, and I had hoped to see a bit more room coming from the IQ260.  You can read more details here:   Impressive results from IQ250 low light testing.

On shifts it quickly became obvious that the IQ260 just could handle the shifts without excessive noise.  The noise was so great in fact on the left shift that most of image captured was destroyed by noise.  Whereas the IQ250 image showed fine details of fabric on the large room partition that is a large majority of the left shift image.  But it’s not just shifts as you can clearly see much more detail extending into the shadows on the center image also.  Features like wood grain and patina of metal just really start to stand out better on the IQ250.  The IQ260 also had a much bigger issue with aliasing and I point to areas of this in my article.

As the owner of a IQ260, I was impressed by these results.  I already knew the Live View worked and it even works well in low light as test by Alpa and now DT.  I had hoped with my investment in a IQ260 that Phase One could somehow work magjc on the the CCD one more time since the IQ260 had a totally new chip.  However based on these tests at iso 50 and some I have seen at iso 140 (the being of the long exposure noise for the IQ260, I am not seeing any improvements between the IQ160 and IQ260.  I was hoping that the IQ260 would allow for a useable image at iso 400 in the long exposure mode so I would not have to drop down to sensor plus, but so far I have not see that result in my work.  The shadows when pushed on a IQ260 pretty much appear to have about the same amount of range as my IQ160 had.

Seeing these results from the IQ250 and knowing just how good the Sony 36MP chip is in the D800, I have to make a decision to stay with the IQ260 or attempt a downgrade to IQ250.  I don’t see Sony coming out with another full frame medium format chip anytime this year or early next year.  They seem to be working on a 54MP chip for the 35mm camera world as they have announced it and are planning to bring it to the market in 2015.  This leaves Dalsa who is Phase One’s main chip supplier, and boy I hope they are looking at these results.   If any company is going to bring a full sized CMOS chip to market in 2014 or early  2015, I figure it will Dalsa.  But they are also unproven in this space, only have CCDs.  Sony has been working on the Exmor processor and their high dynamic range CMOS chips since around 2012 now have a fab process setup so that they can replicate this technology across many fronts.

 

02/06/14 Low light viewing of Live View on the Phase One IQ250–most impressive

Live View IQ250 Phase One

A view provided by Alpa camera corp of the Live View at night on IQ250

From some night photography testing that was done by Alpa, maker of fine Tech camera solutions for Medium and 35mm format, it appears that the Live View Screen of the IQ250 is going to work exceptionally well in low light.  This is a huge deal!!.

Currently the only other DSLR with Live View in the 30MP or greater size is the Nikon D800/D800E and to be honest their Live view implementation suffers here..  Nikon is working with a 36MP CMOS sensor and in normal or bright light, you can see the image fine to get a good sharp focus.  However in low light or near dark, the screen is covered up with noise and it’s really impossible to see anything well enough to focus the image.  I have tried many different solutions, but no matter what you do the image will be covered up in large banding and noise.  I have tried increasing the gain by temporarily increasing the ISO to around 3200, which makes things much worse, and by opening up the camera to the widest aperture, but you still can’t really get enough information.  The other issue is with many Nikon lenses, you will see a bit of focus shift from say F2.8 to F 5.6.  So what may look in sharp focus when focusing with Live View at F2.8 will be out of focus enough not to get a good image.

What Alpa noticed during their testing is that when using Live View on the IQ250, in low light or even dark conditions (see image above taken after dark), is that the Screen almost becomes a night vision device.  This is really a nice feature and one that is not getting much notice, which surprises me.  This is truly a revolutionary feature for sure.

With Canon, I have found that starting with the 5D MKII, and up, it seems that Canon developed a way to buffer out the noise when using live view in low light.  For my night photography working with a 3/4 moon or more, most times I can still use Canon live view with my lens wide open to help frame the shot.  Not really as much to focus as the image will not be that sharp.  But if you tried the same thing with a Phase One IQ250, it seems that you would be able to not only see the entire subject clearly, but be able to gain full focus on it.  I am sure that Alpa was using one of their tech camera for the testings not a Phase One DF+ camera body so no AF was used.  Since the image can be seen so clearly it would be most interesting to see just how well Auto Focus does work!

This is not a cheap camera by any means, but it’s clear that Phase One thought ahead on this one and designed a way to allow the photographer to best utilize the IQ LCD in all lighting conditions.

Here is close up of the same shot showing a bit more of the details that can be captured from a totally dark scene.  This reminds me of some of the middle of the line Sony all in one cameras, like the Sony Cybershot F828,  which some people felt actually did have a night vision system since you could see so well at night with it.  Of course that was a 8MP solution from 2004, and now Phase One seems to have something similar in a 50MP solution.

IQ250 live view night

Alpa test shot showing Live View very low light capabilities

Photo credit goes to Alpa camera, of Switzerland

Read the entire Alpa Blog post here: Alpa Blog post on IQ250

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

02/05/14 Capture One 7.2 is released to the field

Capture One 7.2 is out

The newest version of Capture One is 7.2

If you are using Capture 7.x, look for the latest version of the software which is 7.2.  Capture One has finally released this newest version to the general population, about 1 week after they announced their latest digital back, the IQ250.  It looks like no new tools were added, sigh!!.  I keep hoping to see the ability to have noise reduction in a local adjustment along with the ability over lapping color adjustment levels that don’t cancel each other out.

Here are the main improvements in 7.2, besides support for the new IQ250 are:

  • Improved live view frame rate on Mac.
  • Improved live view alignment between Mac and Windows.
  • Fixed a number of live view issues.
  • Improved tethered stability on Mac.
  • Fixed some XMP syncing issues.
  • Improved importer performance on Mac.
  • Fixed a stability issue related to collapsing of stacks on Mac.
  • Fixed a stability issue related to reordering jobs in the batch queue on Mac.
  • Fixed some LCC issues.
  • A number of other bug fixes.

In my workflow, I don’t see too many things that make me want to upgrade my main production machine to 7.2.  I am going to check out 7.2 on my MAC and see if any new tool sets were added or if anything else was modified.  Obviously, if you purchase a new IQ250, you will have to have this version as there will be no support in prior versions of Capture One.

From looking over this list, it seems that most of the bug fixes were around Live View, but this must all be about Live View on the PC or MAC while tethered, again not anything that will help me in my outdoor workflow.

However there is mention of “fixed some LCC issues”, I am wondering if this might have fixed an issue I had with 7.16 where somehow my LCC processing was corrupted.

I work in session mode. After I started to working with 7.16 during some processing of IQ260 and IQ280 files a strange issue occurred.  When you process an LCC in Capture One, you process the LCC image, and then Capture One allows you to save the processed LCC as a preset.  Once the LCC is processed, you will see the check boxes of 1, color cast, 2. Dust removal, 3. light falloff selected by default.  I noticed that all of a sudden even though the saved LCC showed these defaults selected, when I applied the LCC to the image, nothing happened.  So the color casts and light falloff that was visible in the image did not change.  I could go back to the saved LCC and all three check boxes were now unchecked, and greyed out.  I could not select anything.

To fix this I tried first to delete the current LCC, and re-create it.  This worked as it should but as soon as I tried to apply the LCC, the check boxes greyed out again.  I closed Capture One and re-opened it which fixed nothing and then I rebooted my PC, and still it was broken.  Not a good deal as all my images are from tech camera.

What was interesting was I could could go to another folder of images and the LCC’s worked like they should.  It only seemed to apply to this one folder of images.  The only thing I had done differently was move some IQ280 raw files into the same folder as my IQ260 raw files as I was working up a comparison.

The only way I could fix the problem was to delete 7.16 from my PC and reinstall 7.15.  Then all thing worked correctly.

Hopefully this fix mentioned in 7.2 addresses this problem.  But I will wait a bit longer to load 7.2 on my production machines.

 

 

 

 

 

01/25/14 Phase One IQ250 Arrives and Changes the game in a big way

CMOS Medium format Phase One

The new addition to the Phase Digital Back Line–IQ250 CMOS

It was hard to miss that this announcement was coming sooner than later, and photo rumors tagged this correctly.  On Friday the 24th of January 2014 with the IQ250, Phase One has set the wheels in motion that will change Medium Format Digital forever with the introduction of a CMOS Medium format back.

There are several good reviews up, but most of these are sponsored by the Phase One corporation and they rightly so are keeping this back close to home.  I am sure they have made a huge investment in bringing this technology to market, and also by having the back available to ship on Monday the 27th of January.  This is unheard of with any previous Phase One back announcements.

One of the best overviews I have seen so far is the blog post by Digital Transitions which shares the 11 most important things you need to know about the IQ250 which can be found here: Phase One IQ250.

As a photographer who has owned several Phase One backs since 2008, I have to agree this is probably one of the most important announcements that Phase One has made in that time frame.   The reason is that with this announcement, Phase One is beginning to shift to CMOS for their chips.  In this case the chip partner is Sony not Dalsa.  However I would not rule out Dalsa in the future from coming out with a new medium format CMOS chip line.  Dalsa gave Phase One a bridge to this point with the new chip that was developed for the IQ260 and brought to the market in mid 2013.  However this chipset (which brought back the ability to have 1 hour exposures again) still has some of the basic limitations of all CCD technology.  Example of this are severe Live View limitations and lack of high iso support in full resolution.

Sony shocked the world in January of 2012 with their announcement of the Nikon D800 at 36MP.   The results of this chip in a 35mm camera were most impressive.  Simply stated, you now had the ability to push a photo taken a base of 100 as much as 2.75 stops and at times 3.25.  This advantage was made clear to me once I worked with a few Nikon files.  The range that these files have is impressive and when pulling up shadows for the first time you don’t see the color noise and banding that was common with earlier CMOS chips from both Canon and Nikon.  The ability to do this is a combination of the 36MP chip and Sony’s exmoor  processor.

Now Phase One has taken this up a notch and brought this same technology to the world of Medium Format.

Phase One IQ250 sensor size comparison

Size comparison between the Phase One IQ250 and a normal full frame 35mm digital sensor

Notice the difference in overall dimensions between a 35mm full frame chip and the IQ250.  You are gaining over 1/3 more image area.  In this case the largest 35mm digital sensor currently is the Nikon 36MP chip and now Phase One has produced a back with 50MP and with CMOS.

What are some of the benefits that are immediately apparent?

  1. Live View will work as it does on all 35mm cameras.  Phase One claims 24fps on theirs and this should be enough to allow the user to zoom into 100% to check focus.  I only hope that Phase One implements their version of Live View so that your get a stop at 100% magnification.  Nikon’s Live View Magnification zooms seems to zoom past 100% and makes the user have to back it off a bit before it’s possible to really see anything of usefulness.
  2. High ISO capability should now be vastly improved.  Phase One limits this back to 6400 ISO, which for me is plenty.  I have yet to see any file from any camera rated higher that is really worth that much.  In the past Phase One allowed a very good ISO 1600 and decent ISO 3200 on their CCD backs by using sensor plus which utilized pixel binning.  The result gave a much cleaner file but also cost the photographer 3/4 of the overall resolution.  Thus a 60MP back output became 15MP.  The only back where I saw this as a true advantage was on the IQ280.
  3. 14 stops of dynamic range.  Most impressive and 1 full stop better than what Phase One claims for both the 60MP and 80MP backs.
  4. A faster frame rate and 2GB of on board memory to assist with processing and Live View generation
  5. Long exposures of up to 1 hour are available at any rated ISO.  However I would also assume that as you approach ISO speeds past 400, noise will start to degrade the image just as it does with 35mm digital.  A 1 corresponding dark frame is still required.
  6. Ability to work with all the current line of Phase One/Mamiya Medium format 645 lenses, including the more advanced LS (leaf shutter) Schneider lenses sold exclusively by Phase One.

As is shown in this image, the overall size of the new IQ250 is smaller than the older 60MP and 80MP backs, by about 30%, but it should still offer some great new opportunities for photographers in the near future.  When Phase One brings out their replacement for the DF+ camera body things will really start to get interesting for sure.

Phase One sensor sizes

Phase One diagram showing the 3 IQ2 backs and respective sensor sizes.

More information about the new IQ250 can be found in either of the links below:

Phase One Corporation

Digital Transitions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.