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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.





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 , 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.

02/06/14 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








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.




06/24/12 Why I won’t be purchasing a New Macbookpro 15″ with Retina Display==for a while :-)

After really looking over the new Apple macbookpro 15″ laptop, with the retina display, I have decided to wait on my purchase.  I have read over 12 reviews of the new machine and they are all very positive, however I am starting to see a pattern of possible issues with the new technology.  I have listed a few of these here.

  1. All or nothing, you have to get what you want when you purchase it, as there are no possible upgrades.  In the past, you were able to upgrade: memory and hard drives after the purchase.  So for a machine of this caliber, I would have to order it with at least a 500GB hard drive and 16GB of ram which takes the price point to over 3K, before sales tax. (note, with Apple, you can’t purchase from the Apple website or local Apple store without paying sales tax)  There are other options like BH photo, but for this class of machine I wanted to purchase it from Apple mainly for support after the sale.
  2. Cost, did I mention this already?  You are looking at $3,400.00 for a machine that will work for a good imaging processor (16GB of ram, 500GB hard drive)
  3. There is no way to have a 2nd hard drive installed now.  In my current 15″ macbookpro which was the last generation, I have a 256 SSD as my boot drive and moved the stock 765GB hard drive to where the optical drive was installed.  I like this as I run both Win7 and Mac OS on this machine. You need a common drive, so you can easily move data between the two environments (BTW this is true even you have Parallels or VM ware running).  I have the 765GB drive formatted as FAT 32 which allows me to move the data easily between the two.
  4. Resolution of the 15″ at 2880 x 1800, is going to cause some issues for my 53 year old eyes.  Plus is seems for some reason that many current applications are not friendly with the highest resolution setting.  This causes scaling and other issues.  Most external monitors like the NEC 3090 30″ or NEC PA271w only support 2560 x 1600 so this high setting will not be used.
  5. I have realized that for my workflow, a 15″ monitor is not enough real estate for me.  The 17″ screen gives me just enough space to get things done, but I still prefer at least a 27″ screen.

[Read more…]

06/11/12 Nikon D800 creates a massive sell off of Medium Format Digital Equipment

As the Nikon D800 has started to ship in mass, I have noticed that more and more established Medium Format Digital users are selling off most of or all of their equipment and making a permanent move to the Nikon D800.  Many of these users have a Phase One IQ180 and either several of the Schneider leaf shutter lenses or they have a tech camera with Rodenstock or Schneider lenses. I am seeing this mass exodus with many of the landscape shooters that I have maintained contact with over the years.

I have used the D800, and have seen results from the D800e and I will be the first to admit that this the Nikon has definitely allowed the gap between Medium Format Digital to get smaller, but I still feel that the results obtained when shooting a Tech Camera/medium format digital back solution will be superior.   Of course if you are using one of the older digital backs, say over 3 years old, this may not be the case, however if you have a Phase One P65+ or newer, the results should still be be in favor of the Digital Back.  Here are some considerations I have discovered. [Read more…]