Press Release: PhaseOne IQ2 Series Digital Backs
Rather unexpectedly, PhaseOne soft released the new IQ2 series digital backs in an e-mail press release (which you can see here, if you are not on the PhaseOne mailing list). In this move, other then releasing a few new products, they did us all a favor by demystifying why the IQ series had that “1″ before the mp count of the backs…..so thank you PhaseOne for that. The full press release can be downloaded here from the PhaseOne website.
These backs offer a few small improvements, and offering some interesting accompanying news about the much anticipated (if your into that sort of thing) USB 3.0 tethering option which has yet to be enabled. As Digital Transitions explains in this blog post, USB 3.0 tethering is in Beta testing, and essentially if you ask nicely you can receive this firmware for you IQ back.
These backs are physically identically similar to the IQ1 series digital backs, however they have a new locking mechanism for the digital back to the camera where the sliding lever must be pushed forward and held in place while the button is then pressed to allow for the release of the back. This function makes it slightly less convenient to remove the back from the camera, but this small sacrifice in convenience adds to the safety of the camera by ensuring that the back is always locked on the camera.
The IQ2 series is fairly well covered on the PhaseOne website, but I will highlight a few of the key points. Firstly and most prominently, the IQ2 series digital backs feature wireless remote control and “wireless check” through the Capture Pilot iOS App which will be updated to communicate with the IQ2 series digital backs over the wireless connection that the IQ2 will transmit for itself from internal components built into the camera. This field generated by the camera (which is totally safe by the way, and if you are afraid of it, then are you also afraid of cell-phones???) will be functional for a small to medium radius around the camera, and should do fine for most shoots, however a repeater is recommended if you wish to use these features at distance.
the PhaseOne IQ280 is now the flagship product replacing the IQ180. It has been upgraded with the wireless connectivity discussed above. It also will feature USB 3.0 Connectivity at launch. Also, interestingly, through the retooling of all of the electronics including the A/D converter, the firmware and supporting electronics the IQ2 adds an extra half-stop of dynamic range to the camera bringing it from 12.5 stops of dynamic range in the IQ1 series to 13.0 stops (+0.5 stops) in the IQ2 series. This is certainly a nice little boost to the camera, although not something that you will sorely miss in most applications if you have an IQ180.
The more interesting additions to the IQ2 series line-up are the IQ260 and IQ260 Achromatic digital backs. These backs, offer all of the improvements and added features discussed above, plus a few extra things. the IQ260 digital back now offers long exposure capability of up to an hour, like its forerunner the P45+ which also featured this capability. Now, in the IQ260 the Dalsa sensor is specially used in a mode where it utilizes the outside of each pixel allowing for heat to escape through the center of each pixel. This allows for the sensor to stay cool long enough to yield usable exposures for extended periods of time just like on the P45+. Because of the way that this special use of the sensor works, the base ISO is raised to ISO 140 when using this mode.
I am unsure whether the mode is usable with ISO’s other then ISO 140, but more to come on that in the near future **Long exposure mode works from ISO140-ISO800**. Updating another interesting model in the PhaseOne line-up the IQ260 Achromatic replaces the aging P-series Achromatic+ digital back. The IQ260 Achromatic captures images in the same was as the Achromatic+, i.e with a dedicated monochromatic sensor. However, the IQ260 offers a couple of improvements over the Achromatic+, namely the 60mp resolution (as well as the full-frame size of the sensor) and the IQ series digital back interface. An issue with the Achromatic+ was that it suffered from missed AF because of the added IR sensitivity of the sensor which resulted in focus shift, this was not easily identifiable in the field with the P45 based Achromatic+ back, where now on the IQ260 Achromatic back you have the ultra-high resolution screen of the IQ series to allow for you to check focus. I suspect that this camera will be very popular because of the recent resurgence in interest in monochromatic digital imaging. It is sort-of ironic that all digital imaging (35mm and medium format) started with black-and-white monochromatic sensors, and now we are again going that way for the aesthetic. With the overwhelming popularity of the Leica M9 Monochrome (I love mine) and the announcement of the insanely popular Red Epic with a monochrome sensor (Epic-M), the IQ260 fits in very nicely so that there are options across 35mm, medium format and motion pictures for true monochromatic imaging.
Unfortunately though, the IQ260 Achromatic does not offer the up to one hour long exposures of the regular IQ260 camera. I’m sure that there is some technical reason why this feature is not possible with the monochromatic sensor in the Achromatic but I do not know what this is.
Personally, the IQ280 doesn’t offer any compelling reason for me to personally upgrade since I do not shoot tethered that often and .5 of a stop of dynamic range, while nice is not a earth-shattering revelation in this upgrade. Its unfortunate that it could not just be done through firmware, which would have been a nice little surprise for IQ180 (and IQ160 and IQ140 owners out there). The IQ260 Achromatic with a hot mirror filter could be a very interesting option for some monochromatic imaging, as well as IR with differing filters. The IQ260′s long-exposure capabilities are certainly a boon for it and certainly make it an even more marketable camera then it already is, considering its jump in MP over the P45+ while maintaining the same long exposure abilities. The only thing that I regret, as mentioned above is that the Achromatic does not have the long exposure feature, but I guess we can’t have everything. All and all this is a nice little unexpected release surprise from PhaseOne which brings some new backs to market with some unique features. To me the stars of this release are the IQ260 Achromatic and the regular IQ260. The IQ280 will be a great camera, I know this because the IQ180 is a great camera, and the features it adds are certainly great improvements for new users but may not be compelling for current users to upgrade. I believe that for a limited time there is an upgrade path for IQ1 owners to IQ2 backs at a discount.
I’m sure that Digital Transitions will be one of the first to have the new IQ280, IQ260, and IQ260 Achromatic backs, and a slew of used/refurb IQ1 series backs in the near future, so head over there for more info on pricing and availability.