Hands on Experience: Leaf Credo 80 with Full Resolution Sample Images

Last week Digital Transitions was nice enough to host me all day while they had an event at which their Mamiya Leaf rep brought a Leaf Credo 80 digital back. Throughout this day, I was able to shoot with the camera for extended periods of time, and observe how it performed on both the PhaseOne / Mamiya Leaf 645DF but also on the Cambo Wide Anniversary Edition technical plate camera.

As you may have seen in my Initial Impressions Report I had some high hopes for this camera, after having been previously let down during my personal experiences with Leaf digital backs. This camera offers a number of improvements (and even a few little innovations) which certainly make it a big improvement over the previous designs. Its good to see that Leaf was able to learn a thing or two from PhaseOne and still apply some of their technology to the camera. It will has specific characteristics which will allow it to appeal to different people then those who would be shopping for a PhaseOne IQ180. That being said, it also has some limitations on features which the PhaseOne IQ180 has; this has allowed them to create a place for this camera in the PhaseOne / Mamiya Leaf lineup of cameras.

At the bottom of this article, there is a link to the dropbox folder which contains the full RAW images from the Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 discussed in this article, as well as the comparison files from the PhaseOne IQ180 and PhaseOne P65+ which are referenced.

Design

 

Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 Digital Back

The camera shares some of the same parts as the PhaseOne IQ series, that is to say an all aluminum body, and if you put them side by side, you see on the mount side of the back they are identical. That being said, the Leaf Credo is still built in Israel, and of course the PhaseOne IQ is made in Denmark. Leaf has distinguished their Aptus line of digital backs by their touch screens. They were not as high quality as the smaller screens on the PhaseOne P+ line of backs and offered a different interface. They have kept the touchscreen capabilities on the Credo line of cameras. They have used the same screen technology as the PhaseOne IQ series which means that they have gesture controls. However, Leaf has taken it a step further then Phase did and have gotten rid of the buttons all together from the back of the camera. The back is now one sleek sheet of glass. There are still the four corners which are now icons instead of the 4 button set up established by Phase. The power button and the status light have now been moved to the top of the camera. The power button is sort of irrelevant in its positioning because of the fact that you have to press it either way and as long as its not excessively difficult there isn’t going to be an issue. However, placing the status light, which lets you know if the Credo back is processing your files, ready to shoot, and so ons position can make a difference. Especially if you are a PhaseOne shooter you are used to looking at the digital back’s screen for everything. Leaf’s decision to move the status light to the top still works based on my experience. This is because, I found that the times when I was interested to see what this light was indicating were also when I was fiddling with dials or something like that, at which point the camera was not right up against my face. So, in this way looking at the top versus the back, although minor, may offer some improved functionality which could also help when using it on a tripod or with technical cameras depending on how you have the camera set up. This was one of the more minor changes to the system.

The removal of buttons from the back is interesting, and might not be something that everyone likes. Personally, I don’t mind the buttons on the IQ180 and honestly don’t think that there is any advantage to one over the other. That being said the Leaf Credo is certainly a bit cooler in this area. The icons are backlit which certainly would help with seeing them in darker environments. This is something that I absolutely love about my Nikon D4 since I am usually shooting it in excessively dark conditions being able to light up the controls is certainly a feather in the cameras cap. Again, whether this is a bonus depends on you, but I think it is nice to have a camera out there which offers this feature in medium format digital. The icons are also intelligent. By this I mean that they are only illuminated when there is something that you can do with them. A perfect example of this is the icon in the lower right hand corner of the Credo screen surface. This icon, is the contextual menu’s icon and it is only illuminated when there are sub-options for you to access.

The backs touch screen functions in exactly the same way as on the PhaseOne IQ series. However, they do not use the same software. For the Credo, Leaf has developed their own firmware which handles functionality slightly differently then the PhaseOne IQ’s software. I had always found the Leaf Aptus software to be cumbersome and counter-intuitive to getting anything done. I appreciate that like anything, once you learn it is easy, but it certainly has more of a learning curve then other cameras out there. Again, this has been totally changed with the Mamiya Leaf Credo, you can see this right away when you look at the new home screen. It again, steps forward by introducing an entirely new user interface for quicker and more efficient access to everything. It has been greatly clarified and functions in many ways like the IQ series’ software. Its changes are actually, slightly better if you ask me. Here Mamiya Leaf has innovated. Instead of scrolling up and down menus, Leaf’s software engineers have embraced the touchscreen display and created a system, not unlike Apple’s iOS system, in which you scroll to the side to access the different panes of the menu screens. An added benefit of this of the pagination of the menus rather then a system where you scroll up and down is that without pagination you are scrolling up and down and menu times don’t have a set or specific location that can be memorized. It is much easier to direct someone in the use of the camera, because you can say “scroll to the 4th page” instead of “scroll down until you it”. This works really well and helps more then anything else to make this camera as useable as others on the market. Here, Leaf took a cue from Canon’s multiple utility menus. As an aside, they also have created backgrounds to the pages which have lightly watermarked labels for what menu you are in. As you can see in the Youtube Video that we made when you are in the White Balance menu, there is a light “WB” watermarked on the background and this carries through to other means like the ISO screen (which is much more accessible in Leaf’s new software) as well as others. Another change is that, when you look at a picture on the back of the PhaseOne IQ series, the Histogram, Roll and Pitch, and Highlight warning are on the right side of the screen, on the Leaf Credo, they are now on the left side  All and all the user interface has been totally overhauled and is now something that is not a strike against the camera but a point in the cameras favor.

Other then that the body of the Mamiya Leaf Credo back is pretty much what you would expect and set up like the IQ series. Another one of the major grievances I had with the Aptus series digital backs, and a bit of a gripe I have had with Leaf is that they had made it virtually impossible to find a product shot of the camera which illustrates the fact that the battery hangs off of the bottom of the camera and is fully exposed, along with its electronic contacts to the world. Obviously, this means that this is someplace where dust and moisture could have gotten into the body and messed with your thousands of dollars of electronics. Also on a bit of a digression, the thankfully got rid of the open grilled fan on the side of the camera, opting for the passive cooling technology of the PhaseOne IQ series, which allows for better weather sealing. Aside from its obvious benefits to the help of the back, the internally stored battery is considerably more aesthetically pleasing and unquestionably increases its usability because of the battery’s repositioning. My gripe with Leaf was also resolved in this, and anecdotally when I questioned someone with the company about why they didn’t show the external battery attached to the Leaf Aptus digital back, their humorous response was “would you have?” which of course, could only be answered with a simple “no.” on my part. Also, now that the battery has been moved internally, instead of being on the bottom, covering the firewire port, the Credo is less prone to voltage issues which have been a problem in the past when shooting digital backs tethered. Even though there is an IEEE standard for firewire, like any standard, just because it exists doesn’t mean that it is met by manufacturers. Mac’s haven’t had the best track record with firewire voltage, and when using a Leaf Aptus digital back with PC’s you had to use a powered firewire hub. The Leaf Credo fixes this with its internal battery.

The camera features the same Firewire connection as the IQ series as well as the USB 3.0 port on the left hand side of the back placed below the card slot door and sync ports like the PhaseOne IQ series. USB 3.0 would seem to be the technology of the future. It is the type of USB connection which is featured on Apple’s new line of MacBook Pro’s  along with their proprietary thunderbolt ports. While the PhaseOne has included USB 3.0 in the IQ series, it has not yet been enabled in firmware. I am told that we will be hearing about USB 3.0′s future with the IQ series later this summer. Although, not to fear because there is a Firewire to Thunderbolt dongle available so you can still shoot firewire tethered on the latest generation of MBP’s. The battery in the new Mamiya Leaf Credo also acts as a regulator for the Firewire and USB connections. It will trickle charge the battery, however if you are running on a better powered laptop you can disable this function in the menus, and simply carry more batteries. Conveniently now the Credo uses the same batteries as the IQ series with a small exception. Unlike the PhaseOne IQ series, which shipped with 2600 milliamp batteries, the Credo will be shipping with 2900 milliamp versions of the battery…..or so my sources tell me.

Performance 

The serial number on the bottom of the camera that we had for testing at DT was number 000025 which shows where it stands in the production line, and it is in fact only the second Credo body to be brought to the United States. While it is still pre-production we were given the go-ahead to publish images taken with it for analysis of its performance and comparisons to other medium format digital backs out there, specifically its competition from PhaseOne.

Leaf has always been known for the special profiles which, through clever programming, have allowed for their files to become renowned for their skin tones by some. Personally, for me this sounds sort of gimmicky and like people have drunk the cool aide on it. But, that being said when looking at the sample images below, and as we discuss them, judge for yourself which you like better.

PhaseOne IQ180 and Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 Comparison Sample Images

Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 (Left) and PhaseOne IQ180 (Right)

PhaseOne 645DF with Profoto D1 lights and PhaseOne SK 80mm f/2.8 LS D at f/11 1/200th and ISO 50

Here are our first two sample images from the Leaf Credo 80 and PhaseOne IQ180. They both use the same 80 megapixel Dalsa chip, and the files were taken on the same camera with the same settings for both shots. This means that any differences are in the profiles and processing which the cameras did while recording the data captured when the photograph was taken. They were processed through capture one with absolutely no corrections to white balance, sharpness, contrast or anything else.
As we can see these images a very close. Certainly in terms of resolution and sharpness there is absolutely no difference. The PhaseOne IQ180 (right) seems to me to be a to have a tiny bit more contrast and a slight bit of saturation in the colors. For reference, I am looking at the eyes, scales to the right and carpet in the background when making these assertions. All and all very very close and nothing that couldn’t be changed in one to make it look like the other, so here we see no real difference.
Our next test images, were shot using a live subject’s hand to show off the skin tones capabilities of these cameras. This test was done for someone who came in, a PhaseOne P65+ user who works in fashion and wanted to compare the P65+, IQ180 and Leaf Credo 80. He knew he wanted the upgraded resolution offered by an 80 megapixel sensor but was now unsure as to whether he should be a PhaseOne or Leaf 80mp back. For me it would be a no-contest, however as he mentioned, he had heard things about the way that the Leaf digital backs handle skin tones and wanted to have some shots for reference to see if this was correct. Leaf made their name with their ICC profiles released for digital backs in 1992 with Leaf DCB. They have always focused on creating a range of profiles to accommodate and accurately render different skin tones.
PhaseOne P65+ and PhaseOne IQ180 and Leaf Credo 80 Sample Image Comparisons
PhaseOne IQ180 (Left) PhaseOne P65+ (Middle) Leaf Credo 80 (Right)
PhaseOne 645DF with SK 80mm f/2.8 LSD and Profoto Lights at ISO 50 f/11 and 1/200th
As you can see the 80mp files beat the 60mp PhaseOne P65+ in hand. They are more then acceptable files and of course all beat anything else out there in terms of resolution, dynamic range and so on. When looking at the 80mp files up against the P65+ we can see that they are worlds ahead. Looking at the joint above the ring we again can see that the Leaf and the PhaseOne are very close. As we observed above the PhaseOne seems to be slightly more contrasty and saturated then the file from the Leaf Credo 80. The Leaf Credo 80 seems to have recorded the skin tones in a much more neutral way which I suppose might make it more accurate and give you a blank slate to work from. Personally, having never compared a Leaf and PhaseOne file side by side would have been that the Phase and the Leaf results would have been flipped. I like to start with the a file when I am editing as natural as it can be and then work my way up to the results I want, the Leaf would certainly allow me to do this, but the PhaseOne IQ180 is right up there and certainly the Credo 80 File could be made to look like the IQ180 file and the IQ180 file could be made to look like the Credo 80 file with a little bit of work. That being said the Leaf certainly has a bit of an edge in the accurate skin tone reproduction category.  The P65+ isn’t even in contention here, seemingly possessing a slightly greenish hue to it.
Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 Sample Images ISO Series Performance
As you can see from this ISO series the Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 handles its entire ISO range very very well. This is not surprising since the PhaseOne IQ180, also handles its ISO range very well. Of course, by very well, I mean better then the higher ISO’s on previous MFDB’s. But since I own and use the IQ180 I can say with some confidence that these files look a little better coming out of camera then the IQ180 files do in noise performance. This could also be attributable to the fact that the cameras process the images differently as we talked about above. This is also a good transition into our next section, looking at the differences between the Mamiya Leaf Credo and the PhaseOne IQ series of MFDB’s. Especially if you look at the complete file (again, dropbox link below) you can see that, although there are significant impacts on the image quality at the higher ISO’s, if you step back and look at the file as a whole, its very impressive the way it these backs are still able to handle subtle graduations and shadows; of course not as well as the lower ISO’s. And it should be noted that this is still pre-release firmware so it is possible that in subsequent updates they will improve the cameras handling of high ISO’s before the camera starts shipping.
Compared to the Competition 
PhaseOne owns Leaf and is a majority shareholder in Mamiya. It seems that they will eventually merge them into one company (starting with Mamiya + Leaf becoming “Mamiya Leaf” which they have now decided to market jointly ) but no matter what they do the fact remains that these companies are not exactly competing anymore. This is more then apparent in the fact that they Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 and the PhaseOne IQ180 share the exact same sensor and more or less the same body work. However, there are still differences in the cameras, which will make one or the other appealing. On the surface, the differentiating factor between the PhaseOne and the Leaf is the price. So, what do you get for your extra ~$5,000. One major feature that should be noted is that the PhaseOne IQ series, includes the focus mask (which you know from Capture One) on the digital back itself. This is extremely helpful for checking focus in the field. This is especially helpful when using technical cameras, because you lack the ability to check focus through a viewfinder like on SLR style medium format cameras.
Another key difference is Sensor+. Sensor+ is PhaseOne’s technology, which allows for the use of the entire sensor, at lower resolutions to allow for an extended range of improved ISO performance. It lets the IQ180 get up to ISO 3200 at 20mp and significantly increases the shooting speed of the system. This feature is not included on the Mamiya Leaf Credo series of digital backs. The feature, may not be useful to some, especially if they are only shooting the camera in a studio where they will almost always be using the lower ISO’s. However, there are times when I have been caught in situations where I had the wrong camera, and it was nice to be able to pop the camera into Sensor+ and be able to still create useable shots in the ISO 800 to ISO 1600 range.
Now, going the other way, there are some things that the Mamiya Leaf Credo has that the IQ180 does not. The Mamiya Leaf Credo, as we discussed changes the button layout, and entirely removes them from the back of the camera. It also has a USB 3.0 connection on the left hand side of the camera, which is something that the PhaseOne IQ series does not have. Another interesting development, for the Hasselblad V mount version of this camera, is the ability to mount it vertically or horizontally, which had previously only been possible with the Aptus-II 12R with its internally rotating sensor. The Credo on the other hand can either be mounted in one direction or the other, which can be helpful depending on how you use your camera. I see it as less of an advantage when using a Hasselblad V series camera, but more so on technical cameras and for scientific applications where the cameras orientation can effect workflows and results.
There are also some features absent from the Credo which were available on the Aptus series of digital backs, other then the aforementioned rotatable sensor available on the V/AFi mounts of the Aptus. The flip up screen is also gone from the AFi interface, so if this helped you, you may be missing it. Unlike the Aptus series, the Credo cannot apply profiles in camera, i.e the ability to add metadata and so on. Another feature, one that will not be missed, is the old Leaf .MOS format is now gone. The Credo now uses the same format as the PhaseOne IQ ( IIQL/IIQS) and with that Leaf Capture is no more, and and the Credo is fully supported by PhaseOne’s excellent Capture One and it is also supported by Adobe Lightroom and ACR.
Conclusion
All and all the Mamiya Leaf Credo is a much better camera then its predecessors from Leaf. If you had been previously put off of Leaf for some of the issues addressed above, then it might be worth another look, since they have fixed some of the main gripes against the camera. Mainly, its all around exposure to the elements through its open fan on the side of the camera, and externally mounted battery and its poor user interface which had lead the Aptus series of digital backs to be considered by many as studio cameras. The Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 is certainly just as capable of being taken outside like PhaseOne’s digital backs, which have become known for their strength and physical durability.
Deciding whether this camera is for you, now comes down to features and price. The prices for medium format digital cameras are very high, Leaf’s less expensive option for a serious 80mp back for less money will help to open it up to those who had been put off by the slightly higher price of the PhaseOne IQ180, especially if they did not need its added features . If you do not need the features available for the extra money from PhaseOne’s IQ series, then the Leaf is worth a look. Certainly, if you like the way your Leaf back makes images at the moment the Credo is worth a look simply for its improvements ergonomically and functionality wise.
RAW Files
This is a link to the raw files used in this article which were captured with the Mamiya Leaf Credo 80 (also PhaseOne P65+ and PhaseOne IQ180). These files are for private use only and cannot be re-published anywhere else without written consent. By click on the link, you agree to these terms.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/uziquezt32yhrjy/z4PGro1cGv


 

5 Responses to Hands on Experience: Leaf Credo 80 with Full Resolution Sample Images

  • Looks like a bit of camera shake in the ISO35 image.

  • Christoph says:

    Did you use a color chart to calibrate the three backs as well as possible for the hand shots?

    • The hand shots were slightly impromptu, they were all shot at ISO 50 and they were taken with the “Flash” white balance selected (you can check this in the .IIQ files) and no further editing was done to them beyond processing through CaputureOne

  • Anders_HK says:

    Mmm… oh dear, another biased P1 review Brian…

    Specifically I note the slashing towards older Leaf backs. A proper review should be without such.

    I have been a Leaf user since early 2008 and am on my second back, an 80MP AFi-II 12. The Credo seem great, just as does IQ. However, if I should point out some of the features I much enjoy on my current back;

    1) rotating sensor
    2) tilt screen
    3) large 6x7cm display
    4) external battery

    The AFi-II goes on Rollei Hy6 which by seeming all who have used it seems to be claimed best camera in medium format. i agree Mamiya current 645 cameras are pretty much crap. For Hy6 which has a 6x6cm focus screen in folding finder, the rotating sensor and tilt screen works brilliant, as does also what I find as the lovely large 6x7cm display. The external battery makes so simple to change battery!!! And no, I did not even complain on my old Aptus display…it is a tool, not a toy :). And indeed largest still.

    Above not to fan boy my particular Leaf, but rather to point out that there are different preferences and ways to look at. Phase One and Leaf cater to different usaers which is smart, though I confess that I really wish it was Rolleiflex Leaf instead of Mamiya Leaf… Mamiya really disappointed me in some of their products and service from Japan. The Hy6 brought me precise focus and top quaity, and service by a simple call to one of top guys at DHW.

    More so, Hy6 + my AFi back has given me a joy in photography as an extension with which to intuitively make images, in visuaizing them first prior lifting camera, then through that lovely finder and last on need basis on that really great large tilt display.

    Sure Brian, you like your IQ and P1, others simply much value in far greater regards what Leaf put out. As much as I like Leaf I am perfect happy with my AFi and do not see sense or need to upgrade to a Credo. I simply found y tool!

    Not to mention image quaity… the 80MP in AFi mount is awesome!

    Then comes price… IQ vs. Credo vs. P+ vs. AFi-II vs. Aptus-II… And that indeed is very well worth to look at too…

    Best regards,
    Anders

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