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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.



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

Top of an IQ260 showing the WiFi cover plate

Top of an IQ260 showing the WiFi cover plate

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

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

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

03/15/13 Interesting Feedback on the new Phase One IQ2X Digital Backs

Phase One IQ260 and IQ280 Digital Backs

Phase One IQ260 and IQ280 Digital Backs



After following some of the more prominent web forums it has been interesting to see how the feedback on the new Phase One IQ2X backs has filtered down.  I have watched the frenzy from the first day back on the 4th of March drop to more of an even pace.  The reactions have been mixed to say the least.  For sure the greatest single comment has been why Phase One did not implement CMOS and come out with a more useable form of live view.  This is true across the entire lineup.  But as you filter down to the 260, 280 and Achromatic  back, opinions seem to vary.


  1. The biggest interest  has been over long exposures again coming to a current MFD digital back.  I have already written a lot about my thoughts on this, and you can read them in this post.   Net it seems that many people are still fascinated by the ability to have a MFD digital back that will reach 1 hour in a continuous exposure.  I am not, at least for my current photographic needs.  I am still much more interested in how much improvement is at base iso 50 if any.
  2. Can the noise coefficient at base iso 50 be improved over the current IQ160.  I feel this a huge issue.  Nikon has proven it can easily get 3 stops of DR at the base iso of 100.  I don’t know of any other current Digital camera that can do this.  It’s really amazing as just how much you can push the shadows and still get a useable image.  Many seem to feel that the IQ180 can do this also.  I strongly disagree as even at it’s base iso of 35, I found more noise in the shadows of image when pushed, considerably more than the IQ160 at iso50. The IQ260 is a new chip and I am hoping all new controller cards, thus hopefully the DR at the base iso can be improved maybe as much as 1 to 1 1/2 stops.  
  3. What will the IQ260 allow for it’s longest exposure at base iso of 50.  Currently the IQ160 is rated to about 30 seconds.  I have taken mine to 45 seconds at iso 50, but that is a real push.  I am hoping that photographers will be able to get up to 2 minutes at iso 50 before things get out of control
  4. I am surprised that more photographers are not concerned about the hit that their current IQ160’s just took on residual value.  NET, there is not point in the purchase of a new IQ160 and used ones will start to fall in value as soon as the IQ260’s start to ship.  I feel this will start to max out in about 8 months from the first ship in June.  There will be folks out using a P65+ that may want to upgrade to the IQ160 instead of the IQ260, but I feel that is a big waste of money.  The chips in the P65+ and IQ160 are the same, so the only gain you get is the new IQ interface.  It’s pretty hard to justify the upgrade cost from the P65+ to the IQ160 just for this interface.  On the other hand it does make very good sense to upgrade from a P65+ to a IQ260.  You have the IQ interface and an all new chip set.
  5. What will the IQ260 do the value of the P45+?  More than likely it will increase in value as the hurdle to get to a IQ260 is much higher in most cases than a use P45+.  But used P45+’s carry some possible baggage. 
  6. There has been a lot of good talk about the WiFi abilities  of the IQ260.  My opinion on that is still out.  Personally, I am not going to try to communicate to a ipad or Macbook air in the field.  Just adds more to carry.   You can’t begin to transfer a full raw file and if you could to a ipad? What good is that.  To a Macbook air maybe you work on the file but unless you own the most current generation of Macbook air, you can only get to 4GB of ram and that is nowhere enough to process out a IQ back file from any camera.   Does wifi for preview make any sense maybe.  You will have a larger screen with a ipad or ipad mini, but it’s still a step away from the camera to review the file and then come back to delete it.  Studio shooters have a different set of needs.  I can assure you that in the outdoors on the normal day, the screen of a ipad or Macbook Air will be just as hard to see as the screen on the IQ260, basically next to impossible.  I have not read about any capabilities to control a DF camera via wifi.  That might be interesting.


  1. Basically there seems to be no interest in the IQ280 from current IQ180 users.  I can understand this as it’s the same chip tweaked to get 1/2 a stop of DR.   IThis might help the IQ280 in shadows with noise.  Phase One did not offer a very aggressive deal to IQ180 owners to make the move.   Also their current IQ180’s won’t take as near a residual hit since the chipset is same, just with newer features like wifi.  That is a stretch for the price of the upgrade.
  2. New buyers considering a IQ180, more than likely will just move over to the IQ280. 
  3. There has been no mention of upgrades to the Leaf Credo lineup of backs so for now it seem that all the new features will only come with the IQ2X backs.
  4. Since the IQ280 has the same 80-MP chip set it will have the same issues with certain tech camera lenses, namely the Schneider wides of 28mm, 35mm and 43mm. 
  5. Many also seem to feel that Phase One will be coming soon with a CMOS 80mp solution.  They might be but I not found any reference to any chip maker and a 80mp CMOS solution in the MFD size.  Not to say one it not out there and Phase is coming out with it.   However I still feel that if and when this happens it will 36mp to 45mp first and then the next generation will move to the 60MP and up sizes.

Achromatic Back

There has been a lot of talk about this back but in reality at the price point you have to be pretty much a dedicated black and white shooter to justify one.  I realize that it will have some amazing resolution at 60mp since there will be no color interpolation being done.  But the software conversions that are out there now such as Silver Efex pro or just the conversions that can be done in Capture One or Lightroom, make this a very expensive back indeed.


For now I am moving forward with plans to purchase a upgrade to the IQ260.  I have yet to really see any files that represent my style of photography.  If I don’t see a difference in the shadows of a base iso 50 file when pushed 2 to 2.5 stops I will cancel the upgrade.  I already know that I won’t need the IQ260 for longer exposures like 30 minutes or longer.  I also feel that none of the current Phase digital backs are good candidates for night photography utilizing stacking.  Stacking is by far the best way to maximize both the night sky and the foreground in a night landscape image.  Hopefully I will be able to shoot the IQ260 in mid April in Dallas with Digital Transitions.  Odds are it will be only a indoor shoot which is a total waste of time for me, but I may get lucky and they will allow for some outdoor shots.  Digital Transitions has a IQ260 in New York and they have been adding new images to their blog daily.