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


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 of all places.


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.



02/13/2014 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.


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.




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

Phase One IQ260 in Box

Phase One IQ260 in Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opening the box on a Phase One IQ260

Opening the box on a Phase One IQ260

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

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

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

Phase One IQ260 in the box

Phase One IQ260 in the box




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

Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt Lithium Ion Batteries

Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt Lithium Ion Batteries

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

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

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

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

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

Silver vs Black Phase One 7.2 volt batteries no 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase One IQ260 Medium Format Digital Back

Phase One IQ260 Medium Format Digital Back


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



04/11/13 My thoughts on the Phase One Investment Protection Policy

New Phase One IQ2X Medium Format Digital Backs

Phase One is the company that produces one of the largest lines of medium format digital backs.  They were pioneers in the production of Medium format digital products from the first scanning backs to their newest lineup the IQ series of backs.   One of the marketing tools that Phase One uses is the “investment protection policy”, in a nutshell:  From the Phase One website.

The program is simple

  • Phase One / Schneider Kreuznach lens purchase is protected for 50% of original purchase price for 12 months*
  • Phase One camera body purchase is protected for 50% of original purchase price for 12 months*
  • Phase One digital back purchase is protected for 90% of original purchase price for 12 months*
Until about 6 days ago, the period of time for the digital back  “investment protection” was 18 months instead of 12.  Just recently Phase One changed this time frame and shortened it by 6 months.  I was surprised to find out that both of the dealer contacts I work with were not aware of this change.  The change of time frame concerned me since I am considering yet another upgrade, this time to the IQ260.  Depending on you interpret the “original purchase price”, I would have qualified  90% of the original purchase price of my IQ160 towards a IQ260.  The real question here is,  what is the purchase price? [Read more…]

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

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

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

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

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