Monthly Archives: November 2014

Press Release: PhaseOne A-Series

PhaseOne-A-Series-Alpa-TC

Today, as part of their long-term partnership with Alpa of Switzerland, PhaseOne announced the A-series.

It should be noted that although the PhaseOne A-Series does contain Alpa components, it is being sold at all PhaseOne authorized dealers, even if they do not carry the full Alpa product line. My preferred PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (digitaltransitions.com) located locally in NYC will be one of the first to have the new PhaseOne A-Series. I will be working extensively with Digital Transitions as well as PhaseOne to help bring more content about A-Series in the near future.

The A-Series is more then it appears at first glance. On the surface, it is an Alpa TC (travel compact), combined with a one of three flavors PhaseOne back and three Rodenstock lenses, and it is all of these things, however it is also a lot more.

While still usable, the PhaseOne A250 (IQ250), PhaseOne A260 (IQ260) or PhaseOne A280 (IQ280) sold with as part of the A-Series kit, will feature LCC’s for each specific lens applied in camera meaning that what you see is what you get on the back of the camera. This can be accomplished because the Alpa TC which the A-Series is based off of does not have movements. I believe that this is a huge boon for this as a compact travel system because there is much more certainty that you have got the shot, as well as the fact that it makes editing much easier. Most importantly however, it means that you can take pictures in rapidly changing conditions without having to worry about capturing an LCC (which requires a second exposure to be made, identical to the first in every way immediately after an image is taken). LCC’s vastly improve resulting images (especially with movements, but also for single-shots), however they are time consuming to capture. Being able to know that you have three lenses where your resulting images will be the absolute best on the planet straight out of the camera with no further steps required is huge.

The PhaseOne A-Series is pretty much the newest, latest and greatest “Most expensive point and shoot in the world”, not only does it capture this title, but it also captures the title of “most expensive mirrorless camera”. It does require manual focusing, however this is aided both by live-view on the camera’s rear screen (and live-view soon to be available in PhaseOne CapturePilot 1.8) as well as via image review on both the cameras rear screen and on iOS devices via CapturePilot. Further mitigating any complications presented by manual focusing are the PhaseOne IQ-series’ premium features including a focus mask available during image review that shows you which part of your image is in focus, as well as flashing highlight warning. Further, with all three of the lenses 23mm, 35mm and 70mm the PhaseOne A-Series can easily be set to a hyperfocal distance (http://www.dofmaster.com) where the focus distance can be calculated and set such that maximum DoF can be achieved at any aperture making shooting a breeze.

Since the PhaseOne A-series is sold as a package is has a number of other advantages. First, since it is delivered as a single package, its 5-year warranty is extended to all components of the package. The Rodenstock lenses are calibrated at the Alpa Factory with their HPF focusing rings which means that they will be as precise as humanly possible. Also the PhaseOne digital back will be shimmed by Alpa. Shimming is a very meticulous process where effectively an offset is created spacing the digital back and the lens just precisely to yield the sharpest possible image. Considering the extremely high-tolerences that Alpa products are manufactured too this is a process where changes are happening at the level of fractions of a millimeter with extremely thin pieces of metal being placed in the digital backs mount to create the required distance for the ultimate image quality for the PhaseOne digital back.

Another great thing is that, while this is a kit, the parts can be used with other camera systems. For instance, if you decide you want more control over your photography, you can opt for an Alpa body with movements, like the STC (stitch travel compact) or SWC (Super wide compact) as well as add additional lenses and accessories for more creative control. Also you can take the IQ2 series digital back off of the PhaseOne A-Series and put it on any Mamiya M mount medium format camera like the PhaseOne 645DF+ and enjoy the full range of autofocus and leaf shutter lenses from PhaseOne and Schneider-Krueznach.

Alpa’s are often compared to fine Swiss-watches or luxury performance automobiles because of their absolutely impeccable mechanics, finishing and attention to details. Alpa’s are well loved by commercial and fine-art photographers for their luxurious feel and absolute precision. Combined with PhaseOne digital backs they can produce some absolutely stunning results.

the PhaseOne A-Series is not a technical camera, it is a compact medium format digital travel camera. If you are looking for a technical camera, you can read my review of the Cambo WRC-400 or my upcoming review of the Arca-Swiss RM3Di. All of these cameras are distributed by my PhaseOne Dealer, Digital Transitions and comprehensive information as well as their proprietary online visualizer application for technical cameras can be accessed through this link.

PDN PhotoPlus 2014 Coverage

Last weekend, I attended PDN PhotoPlus 2014, and recorded a number of videos with various manufacturers that interested me. These include, Digital Transitions (PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Arca-Swiss), Cambo, Alpa, and Arca-Swiss as well as Blazing Editions a print making service. Don’t really have much of a set up for this but I think the videos give a nice look at some of the new products that were announced at Photokina 2014 that we haven’t gotten to see in the flesh yet. If you weren’t able to make it to NYC for PDN PhotoPlus 2014 then I hope these videos will help you get to see and better understand some of the products that where on display.

Capture One 8 Pro Tips from Digital Transitions

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My PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (http://www.digitaltransitions.com) and my friend Doug Peterson present 6 tips for the new CaptureOne 8 Pro software from PhaseOne. CaptureOne 8 produces a lot of important workflow and efficiency improvements as well as introducing a updated user interface to Apple’s refined interface in OS X Yosemite. Aside from the features highlighted above some tools have also been improved, however you will come across most of these in the course of your use of the software which can be downloaded here (http://www.digitaltransitions.com/page/capture-one-downloads).

A couple of other notable features are the improved Shadows/Highlight and HDR features as well as the new Black and White / Grain features. Shadows/Highlight controls in capture one have had their algorithms refined to produce more realistic and natural looking results. This is especially apparent when there are bigger exposure differences between the foreground and background (like you might encounter with a landscape).

Generally regarded as a joke, pieces of software that attempt to introduce grain into a digitally converted black and white image (or even a monochromatically captured one) fail to produce anything resembling the true character of the real silver-nitrate grains that make up actual film. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you that PhaseOne has cracked the code for this in their latest software but they have created a very nice feature. Getting overly obsessive about minor details as PhaseOne is want to do, they chose to attempt to create a better, more realistic model for grain in CaptureOne 8. They started by studying the physical grains of film under microscopes, and eventually wound up researching the way that those grains behave in gradients and different lighting situations. From this they created an algorithm that produces much more realistic grain. That being said, its not real grain, and it never will be. However, there are a few situations where I can see this feature being very helpful. For starters, one of the cameras I own and use is the Leica M9 Monochrom, at low ISO’s this camera produces files that are almost “too” clean for certain applications. The way that I generally get around this is that I simply shoot the camera at higher ISO’s where there is some grain introduced, since it is rendered very differently in a monochromatic image and generally gives me the results that I want. However, I am going to be interested in testing out this new feature to see if it yields more pleasing results. Pleasing results in the sense that the image looks more natural, not that it looks like film, but that it looks more natural. This is a very important distinction and is also the other situation where I think that this feature may come in handy. If we have converted a color image into black and white and want to make it look more pleasing and natural this feature will help (I believe) in making interesting results and nice images, but not replicating actual film grain which is entirely different and not something that to date a computer has been able to replicate.

Alpa Switzerland

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In an exciting change of pace for the PhotoPlus, Alpa was here again and showing off their full line or products. At Photokina 2014, they presented a number of potentially very interesting mounts for the Alpa FPS (which can be used in conjunction with all of their Alpa 12 cameras including the TC, SWA, SWC, STC, MAX and XY or on its own as a separate camera). These mounts are for a number of different medium format digital lenses. Alpa has had adapters for Canon and Nikon lenses, and the Canon Tilt-Shift’s have been particular favorites of owners of Alpa FPS’s particularly because of the Canon 17mm TS-E’s ability to cover a full medium format digital sensor. These new mouths include Hasselblad H, Rollei 6000, and Contax mounts with electronic communication planned for them in the future to allow for some potentially very interesting control of these electronic lenses which could lead to stepping which would be great for focus stacking.

Cambo

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Rene Rook from Cambo (and also my host when I toured the Cambo factory in the Netherlands) presents the new Cambo Actus miniature view camera. This is an extremely small, extremely rigid view camera platform for both 35mm and medium format mounts. Here it is shown with the Sony A7R and a medium format digital back, both of these configurations are interchangeable on the same camera as well as a number of lenses, there are a number of interesting options for using this camera in conjunction with the Sony A7R since you can use medium format and large format lenses to get a lot of area out of the image circle of larger image circled lenses. And further as a miniature view camera, with a medium format digital back and digital lenses from Schneider-Krueznach and Rodenstock this presents a very compact and portable option for using movements on the go, very tempting in both configurations. I hope to get a sample of this camera soon to review.

Digital Transitions (PhaseOne, MamiyaLeaf, Cambo, Arca-Swiss)

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My preferred PhaseOne dealer, Digital Transitions (digitaltransitions.com) was showing the full line of PhaseOne and MamiyaLeaf backs. I asked Lance to help go over some of the differences between the PhaseOne and MamiyaLeaf models, especially since now we have the IQ1 series (including the new CMOS IQ150), the IQ2 series (new CMOS IQ250) as well as a CMOS censored camera from MamiyaLeaf (as well as standard CCD models). Its important to understand the differences between these models to help decide which camera is right for you.

PhaseOne has also relatively recently released the PhaseOne 40-80mm LS f/4.0-5.6 Zoom lens which is an absolutely massive zoom lens that is not to far off in size from the Hasselblad 50-110mm f/3.5-4.5 HC AF Zoom Lens. Hopefully I will be able to do some testing soon, but I have been told that this lens preforms very nicely, this is something that I will be interested to see since zoom lenses are particularly difficult to make. Hasselblad has had some real winners, especially with the Hasselblad 35-90mm f/4-5.6 HCD lens which was one of my favorites for the system when I owned it. 

Arca-Swiss

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Arcs-Swiss released a number of extremely exciting products at Photokina 2014. Most excitingly they announced a number of new electronic accessories including two new shutter modules that work with all of their cameras! Arca-Swiss released a number of new products that I will detail below;

- The Arca-Swiss Central Shutter (CS) this is a direct replacement for Copal mechanical shutters which are the industry standard though no longer being made. The Arca-Swiss CS can take Copal 1 and Copal 0 lenses (which covers almost all modern digital lenses) and is controlled by their dEx Controller. The CS can go up to 1/250th of a second with a Copal 1 lens, and higher with a Copal 0 lens (since the opening is smaller). The CS can be used with all Arca-Swiss cameras, including the new Universalis, all R-series technical cameras, and all Arca-Swiss view cameras through their proprietary screw mount used on all of the lens boards for these various cameras.

- The Arca-Swiss Focal Plane Shutter (FP) mounts between the digital back and the camera, and thus can be used on all Arca-Swiss cameras up to 6×8 (possibly 6×9) and tops out at 1/3000th of a second which is very impressive as well. This allows for shutterless lenses to be used like older “vintage” lenses as well as the potential to start being able to use 35mm lenses like Nikon and Canon’s tilt-shift lenses (among others with lens mounts coming soon).

- The Arca-Swiss Cloud DM Wireless Distometer (DM) is a much more compact (and wireless) followup to the eModule Cloud and helps you find the distance you should focus the camera (its effectively a rangefinder). This becomes a powerful tool when coupled with a few of Arca-Swiss’s other new products.

- The Arca-Swiss dEx which includes the Arca-Swiss Remote Control Unit (RCU) and Micro Power Unit (MPU) allows for wireless control of devices attached to the dEx system and will display information from the DM module as well as the FP and CS shutter modules. The MPU is a better pack that will power the whole system, Arca-Swiss is selling a special mount with an AS plate on the bottom so that they system can conveniently be mounted to the bottom of a camera next to the tripod head where it is accessible and out of the way. This system, again, can be used on the Arca-Swiss R-Line, M-Line, and F-Line system cameras as well as the new Universalis.

- The Arca-Swiss Focus Rail Readout (or trolley) is probably my favorite of the new products because of its implications for use with the system as a whole. This is a small item that mounts on the rail of a rail system camera like the M-Line or F-Line and most importantly the new Universalis. It then will communicate with the dEx command module and display the distance that the camera is focused at digital allowing for precise focusing when combined with the DM module.

- The Arca-Swiss Universalis is very similar to the Cambo Actus (though the Universalis is slightly larger, and the Cambo is impressively robust for its smaller size) and also very compact. However a defining difference between these two cameras (for me anyway) is the ability of the Arca-Swiss Universalis to communicate with all the new goodies detailed above from Arca-Swiss. Arca-Swiss’s new products have radically changed the medium format technical market with their modularity and complex set of features which combines for endless possibilities and the most digital control in a sector that was caught between the analog and digital world. Now the Universalis brings all of these benefits in a small package that is compatible with both 35mm cameras as well as medium format digital backs. I actually think that there is a place in the world for both the Cambo Actus and the Arca-Swiss Universalis since they will appeal to people who want different things (as well as those who are already committed to one system or another). I’m very happy about these cameras, because while technical plate cameras are very nice, versatile, and compact nothing beats the control or tactile feedback of a rail camera, and now that these have been effectively miniaturized they allow for themselves to be much more user friendly.

Blazing Editions – Metallic Printing

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Immediately behind Digital Transitions Booth (where Arca-Swiss was housed as well) was Blazing Editions (Blazing.com) who offer a number of printing and photographic services but also interestingly a wide array of printing options on Metal. Metal can produce some very interesting effects (which some may see as kitschy) however Blazing Images also offers printing on a metal substrate without the metal showing through and their process (explained in the video) yields some extremely detailed results. Digital Transitions had provided a number of medium format digital files for Blazing Editions to print and show off at PDN PhotoPlus 2014 and the files looked amazing printed. Anecdotally a fun little detail is that Blazing Editions can CNC Machine a photographer’s signature onto the print for a very interesting (and I think very fun affect).

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I hope you have enjoyed my PDN PhotoPlus 2014 conference, it was very exciting because there were a number of medium format players there in force and ready to show off their new products that we all lusted after from Photokina 2014. If you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comments.