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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,  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