Leaf Aptus II 10 on PhaseOne 645DF

Originally published: April 3, 2011

My review of this camera is going to be much shorter then that for the comparable PhaseOne P65+. That is because this camera quite frankly didn’t work when I demoed it. I tried twice well technically 3 times to get one of these guys to work the way it should. First time was at PDN Photoplus 2010 at the digital transitions booth, I tried to use it on a PhaseOne 645AFD Body and it wouldn’t recognize any of my Sandisk memory cards ranging from 64GB to 8GB, so thats one strike against it. Then I tried another one at PDN Photoplus that Digital Transitions had attached to an ALPA TC (very cool camera by the way). This one wouldn’t even turn on, so thats now two strikes. Of course since then I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth about the Leaf digital backs. My feelings were further confirmed when I demoed it side by side with a PhaseOne P65+. Needless to say by this point you can figure out this review is going to me complaining about the short comings of the Leaf Aptus-II 10 and your right, because its awful.

So, to my first gripe. Google Leaf Aptus, go ahead do it right now. Look at all those pictures! doesn’t it look great? like a PhaseOne with a giant touch screen on the back! ha. ha. ha. you fell for it. Let’s start debunking these guys. Well for starters lets talk about that battery. Those press shots make you think that batter goes on the inside or something, however it doesn’t. It sticks out the bottom as you can see in the picture I put on the top of the page. Well this angers me for a plethora of reasons. First I will tell you the reality then, I shall rant. The reality is that battery is required if you are not shooting tethered (oh thats a great story when we get to it too). This makes me quite angry because they are marketing their cameras as something they are not. They need that battery, without that battery, that back won’t give you the time of day. It needs it and they don’t show you that anywhere. Why would they do this? Oh, I don’t know, maybe because every other company has managed to integrate that battery except them? PhaseOne, Hasselblad, they got it. Heck the Hasselblad draws its power from the body. It really enrages me that that they blatantly lie about this in every one of their advertisements, so much for truth in advertising.

Build quality is not applicable to this back. Let me say though, I think that PhaseOne 645AFD (and the Mamiya) are the best built 645 camera bodies on the planet. They are solid robust, and sturdier then other comparable cameras. Read my Hasselblad H3Dii-39ms review to find out more about this. This is a plastic piece of garbage. If it doesn’t feel solid in my hand, thats another strike against it. Its plastic and cheap feeling. Its funny because this supposed to be comparable to a PhaseOne. Let me tell you a PhaseOne wouldn’t be caught dead in the same room as a Leaf. They don’t physically show up to Mamiya board meetings, they video cast the whole thing so there is no chance they can be directly associated with each other (background on that one, Leaf and PhaseOne are shareholders in Mamiya Corp. Japan). Also as you can see there is a fan on the side of the camera to help cool the camera down because these things get hot. Now thats Ok, however theirs is totally exposed, meaning this thing is not weatherproof at all. So another strike against it.

Now to the screen, ugh what a drag. So it sounds like its an iPhone screen but on a camera when you say “touch screen” ha yeah right. This thing could be one of the worst camera screens ever. Its awful even for medium format, who’s screens are notoriously sub-par. Touch screen thing also sounds nice, you have a little stylus and you touch the screen. I hope it comes with about 100 extras and they send you 100 on the first of the every month. Because you will loose those suckers. Thankfully I found out you can use your fingernails to use the screen for when you drop the stylus down the fjord your photographing in Iceland, before your camera freezes. So yeah now off to the user-interface.

In my PhaseOne and Hasselblad interviews, I am able to acknowledge the user interface in one sentence. I am able to say they are exactly what you would expect from a $30,000 camera superb. Same applies to the Leica S2 which took the PhaseOne Design cue for 4 buttons. Well, it pains me to even remember dealing with this. For starters I plugged it into a mac and it spent a solid 20 minutes doing a mandatory update that we couldn’t bypass. This meant the back and the computer were tied up and unusable, and we were helpless. Damn the robots. Anyway, so that was one awful thing. Now Phocus and CaptureOne are formidable, superior tethered shooting programs. The Leaf Capture software looks like it was designed by a part time IT consultant. It’s very spartan, nothing fancy just what you need. Haha, yeah no its awful. Not very good at all. Oh yeah and adding to the comedy of errors, it crashed the computer and we had to restart. Remember in my P65+ review when I said the back automatically recognized the camera? thats right you guessed it this back was clueless. You have to navigate from the main menu first to a settings menu called CAMERA and then from there monotonously scroll through a list of options to find CAMERA PROFILE or whatever its called. Then you have to scroll through a list to select the camera you want which is inevitable at the bottom of the list. Then you have to manually exit this menu and go back to the main menu you. Oh so you want to take a picture? well you have to select SHOOT from the main menu. OH NO you selected the wrong ISO, your shutter speeds wrong, guess what you have to do now. You have to exit shooting mode go back to the main menu, select CAMERA go find ISO and select the proper ISO then get yourself out of that menu and back to the shoot menu. I’m crying right now even thinking about it. Also it wouldn’t recognize my cards for a while, which is to be expected at this point right? There were also numerous errors with communication between the digital back and the camera body. All and all an awful experience.

One word to describe this camera is awful. It really is. I don’t actually care if your shooting in it a studio, tethered, in the field, or in space. Its awful. Its shoddily made nothing about this camera is good. The only thing it has going for it is its a few thousand dollars cheaper then the PhaseOne’s and Hasselblad’s. Percentage wise, I believe it would be comparable to a Canon v.s Nikon price difference. It’s User Interface is subpar, its build quality is subpar, its software is subpar, absolutely nothing good to say about this camera, it has left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I cannot believe that anyone would ever seriously consider buying this system.


5 Responses to Leaf Aptus II 10 on PhaseOne 645DF

  • Doug Dolde says:

    You come off as a total nut job with this review. You really think anyone takes this bullshit seriously?

    • This was one of my earlier reviews, nut job maybe, but MamiyaLeaf has sent me a Leaf back to review because they were displeased with the experiences I have had with their cameras…..sooo….It certainly seems like someone takes it seriously.

  • Pingback: Initial Impressions: Leaf Credo Announcement | Brian Hirschfeld Photography

  • Shlomi says:

    This review is very strange indeed.

    I’ve been using Leaf backs for years with absolutely no problems.

    Battery outside: Oh no, the back looks less sexy! What to do? Life has no meaning!
    I use almost only tethered but that’s just me. In the field I put the battery in and everything works – so what’s the problem exactly?

    Auto recognize camera: Really, going to the menu once in the back’s life to select the body – that is really the end of the world?

    The screen: It is resistive and not capacitive. Who told you it is like an iPhone screen? It is still very large and clients love to look at it while shooting. I don’t buy a back for the screen, but for the pictures coming out of it.

    Exposed fan: Well, I’ve never considered splashing water on my $20,000 back, but again, that’s just me. It is well known that Phase backs are more trauma resistant than Leaf – but I believe very few photographers are seriously interested in what happens if you forget your back on the roof of your car and drive, or drive over it like some Phase video showed us. If you respect your equipment, then a Leaf back will last for many years, speaking from experience.

    Leaf Capture: Have you heard about Capture One? Why in the world would you be using Leaf Capture?

    This review is about as serious as a Kim Jong Un war declaration.
    A serious review focuses on the images coming out of the back and the workflow, comparing to images coming out of comparable priced backs. How about comparing colors, noise, dynamic range?
    UI quirks may be mentioned as well, for they are the main issue for nobody except the OCD.

    Due the the small market size of these items, you can see how few articles appear in search results.
    It is very easy to write and disparaging article and get it to show high in search results, and then the company will probably make an effort to make you change it. If you were doing this for Canon or Nikon and they got back to you, then I would say there’s an accomplishment, but for such a tiny market, you can’t take their getting back to you, as you being taken seriously.

    • While this is an older article, I stand by my comments, that for my purposes this back was largely useless. The battery on the outside is a matter of personal taste, if you need to be able to use larger batteries then it might be a boon and not something that takes away from the form and function of the camera like it would if you are spending an extended amount of time walking around with the camera.

      When I tested it, it was incapable of knowing what camera it was on from one second to the next. Further it was demonstrated to me at the time with Leaf Capture, we are all well aware that the files can be used in CaptureOne, but that was besides the point at the time.

      On the fan, A) it makes noise and B) if you take your camera out anywhere beyond a studio or someplace like SoHo, say I don’t know if you are shooting landscapes or wildlife, or more exotic locations this should be a concern, if not for the extreme of water, but also humidity.

      I would have compared colors, noise, and dynamic range if the thing worked long enough for me to take some test shots.

      For some, the Aptus may be a great back, for others it may be an economic option. However you will note that I said some perfectly lovely, if not exemplary things about the newer Leaf Credo, which is a much better back…mostly because its a lesser or “different” IQ series camera.

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