PhaseOne Lenses

New PhaseOne XF Camera Body Announced

PhaseOne XF

It’s finally here, after all the years, after all the rumors, and after all the late breaking leaks, the new PhaseOne XF body has been announced. The new PhaseOne XF body replaces the aging 645DF plus platform and replaces it with a truly modern medium format digital platform for those who need that. The last model of Mamiya 645 based cameras, the 645DF+ didn’t differ that much from the original Mamiya 645AF which was released in September of 1999. Yes improvements were made and compatibility added for Digital Backs and Leaf Shutter lenses, but the fact of the matter is this system (as well as the Hasselblad H released at Photokina in 2002) have remained substantively unchanged for over a decade. As digital backs have become more advanced and as users have come to expect more out of their modern cameras (due to rapid advancements in ILC’s and DSLR’s), the MamiyaLeaf / PhaseOne 645DF+ and Hasselblad H bodies could not keep up. It should also be noted, that the XF camera body will be exclusive to PhaseOne, and will not be offered in a MamiyaLeaf variant.

Before beginning to comment on this camera, it should be noted that I have not handled it, but I hope to as soon as possible, and hopefully also be able to produce a video showcasing some of its features. For more information, head over to Digital Transitions website to read more about new features on the PhaseOne XF.

After seeing the basically the same camera body on all PhaseOne cameras for the past decade, it is refreshing to see a new design on the PhaseOne XF. Other then for aesthetic reasons, this camera is necessarily physically different because of all of its new features. I like the design, its reminiscent of more robust earlier film cameras like the Mamiya M645 as well as others. The PhaseOne XF takes design cues from the PhaseOne IQ series of digital backs and seems to flow as an extension of this.

The design is much more then a pretty face, and it has modularity, and customizability at its core. The most notable design feature, and one that was noted as lacking on the 645DF+ (compared to the Hasselblad H System) was a waist level viewfinder (WLF), which has been added on the PhaseOne XF camera body. Even with added modularity (which could create weak points), PhaseOne has beefed up the camera to make it significantly more durable and robust. This comes at a price, of a slightly heavier camera body. I can only speak for myself, but I am happy to carry a bit more weight for a lot more durability. Another interesting physical feature is that all ports are now covered like the firewire port on an IQ series digital back without the need to worry about loosing the small rubber covers that plagued the 645DF+ (and earlier models).

In terms of physical added modularity, there are two big changes. The addition of a modular viewfinder has opened up new doors in creative uses of the PhaseOne platform. Medium format photography was created with the Hasselblad V system, with the idea of modularity and this is something that has carried through to today allowing photographers to create a camera that works for them for their applications. The waist level viewfinder will be a great addition to the system that many photographers across different types of photography have requested. Hasselblad V series users have enjoyed this feature for 60 years, and Hasselblad H users, and Contax 645 users have also had access to WLF viewfinders for years. One slight bummer with the WLF is that you will not be able to see exposure information when using the WLF the way you will with the normal 90 degree viewfinder. Speaking of the 90 degree viewfinder, it is supposed to be much brighter then the 645DF+ which should allow for some interesting improvements in the uses of slower lenses including my Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO lenses.

More exciting (also in the vein of manual focus lenses), as the addition of interchangeable focusing screens on the PhaseOne XF camera body. You can now choose between Matte, Split, and Center Prism screens on the XF camera body. I am sure that others like Bill Maxwell will also offer focusing screens for these cameras in different flavors. One of the problems with the Mamiya 645AFD and PhaseOne 645DF platforms was that, while their screens were interchangeable it was a much more difficult process (I am not the foremost expert on this but I will try and explain as best I can). Basically, the way the 645DF (and earlier) bodies were made, the focusing screens would be warped during manufacturing, this wasn’t a problem because calibration of the sensors was done after this process occurred, this meant that despite an individual body/screens warping the camera would be correctly calibrated. However, this also meant that if you swapped out the focusing screen for a new custom one, the camera would have to be recalibrate. This is because the new focusing screen would be flat, and this is not what the Mamiya/PhaseOne bodies were calibrated for. So while these screens were interchangeable, they were not easily interchangeable because of the re-calibibration that was necessary. I assume the modular PhaseOne XF will feature a focus screen changing system similar to the Hasselblad V and Hasselblad H series cameras, which is very easy taking mere seconds.

The PhaseOne XF camera body brings in amazing new customizability thanks to its many user programmable buttons, as well as its new touch control panel on the top o the camera. This means that users will be able to decide what they want where, and more interestingly how they want it to act. You will be able to customize not just the feature that the controls access, but also how the controls function. If you like you shutter speed or aperture dials to rotate in a particular way, you will now be able to do that. This is great customizability that the 645DF+ was lacking due to its confusing and arcane menu system. One feature that I am particularly excited to be able to map to a specific button is the Automatic Hyperlocal Focusing mode, which does exactly what it sounds like based on the lens attached. This is great and will allow for “mystical”  hyperfocal focusing to be done with ease.

Speaking of focusing, the PhaseOne XF camera body has a new, in-house autofocus system that they are calling the Honeybee focusing system (don’t ask me why). I’m not the best person to explain the intricacies of this focusing system, but the fact of the matter is it should be much better then the current focusing system which isn’t always the best. I believe it does this through a small new CMOS style AF sensor that should decrease focusing errors. While this is all very exciting, one thing that users have cried out for is movable auto-focus points, unfortunately we will have to keep waiting. While more accurate, center point focusing only is a great disappointment. I don’t really care what reasons (excuses) are offered for this, its a extremely important feature that all DLSR’s have, and would be a defining feature of a modern medium format camera body. As far as I am concerned, this is really the biggest blunder of this camera.

But now to something much more exciting! The PhaseOne XF camera body will now use the same rechargeable batteries as the PhaseOne digital backs! This is huge, and awesome and makes life much easier. An independent company and then PhaseOne released a different rechargeable battery solution for the 645DF+ camera body, however this was a pain since it meant another charger, and an oddly shaped battery to carry. So I am quite pleased with this improvement since the PhaseOne DB batteries are very easy to carry and use. Also, the XF and IQ3 series will be able to share power when put together, which is one of the interesting new features of the IQ3 series (discussed below).

More of a line-item then anything else, yet still worth talking about a Profoto wireless trigger is now integrated into the PhaseOne XF camera body with a 20m range. It seems as if they may have done away with the V-Grip Air, which is a bit of a bummer. Yes, one part of the V-Grip Air was the added Profoto wireless integration, but the biggest things for me were the additional battery compartment and the added ergonomics of the shutter release, the V-Grip basically lives on my 645DF camera body. Hopefully this is something that they will bring back.

Update: I have been told that, if there is enough demand a vertical grip solution of the new XF camera body will be provide, so make sure you tell your dealer that you want one! I sure do. 

The PhaseOne XF also features an accelerometer and 6-axis Gyro. Which I understand will become powerful tools as new features are added to this body through firmware upgrades. At release, an interesting feature resulting from these components is the “Seismographic mode”. This mode, uses mirror lock up (MLU) + a timer, with the aforementioned sensors to reduce vibrations when taking long exposure images. It does this by monitoring vibrations until they are reduced and then fires the camera shutter at this optimal moment. I believe this feature may only work with Leaf Shutter lenses, but I will update when this has been confirmed for me. Either way, really cool feature that takes advantage of these fancy new components, it will be exciting to see what else they will be able to do in the future (maybe tracking motion, so that a image-stabalization like de-blur feature can be used in C1?, after all once you have the movement data, its just math SEE BELOW).

Update: Seismographic mode can be used with all lenses, however it will be most effective with leaf shutter lenses, given the vibration reduction inherent in not using the focal plane shutter. 

Also, we should be very excited about the possibilities of the accelerometer, at the time of my initial writing I was not aware of this, however a US Patent #US6747690 B2 entitled Digital camera with integrated accelerometers filed by PhaseOne a number of years ago suggests in its abstract that “Data relating to static and dynamic accelerations are stored with recorded image data for further processing, such as for correcting image data for roll, pitch and vibrations … Data may also be used on-the-fly for smear suppression caused by vibrations.” There are other  PhaseOne patents that deal with the accelerometer, but this one would suggest that what I alluded to above could very much be on the menu in the not too distant future, and would certainly be a modern feature!

Along with the large degree of user customizability in the physical features, the Firmware of the PhaseOne XF will also be easily upgradable as new features are enabled. While details of future features are scarce at launch, there are a number of exciting possibilities given the large degree of integration between digital backs and the camera body that the XF platform offers.

CaptureOne 8.3, will also feature much more integration of camera body controls (as you would expect) with the PhaseoOne XF body. This is great since it opens up new possibilities for remote control of the camera for stability as well as creative image making where the camera controls might be inaccessible.

The PhaseOne XF camera body will be compatible with the new PhaseOne IQ3 series cameras (launched with the XF) as well as with IQ2 and IQ1 series digital backs. P+ back compatibility will not be included, which I imagine has more to do with their being less useful given their lack of potential for integration into the XF then anything else. IQ3 series backs will be fully integrated into the PhaseOne XF, which (to me) is hauntingly reminiscent of the Hasselblad closed system that started with the H3D under similar auspices. However, will tighter integration is offered, it is still very much an open system. IQ2 series digital backs will be able to access most of the integrated features that the IQ3 will enjoy through a firmware upgrade. The IQ1 series of digital backs will not be able to enjoy this integration, however will still be usable on the PhaseOne XF, and will be able to enjoy the new features of the camera body.

Two new lenses have been announced. A Leaf shutter 120mm f/4 macro lens (which has been a long time coming), as well as a new leaf shutter 35mm f/3.5 wide angle lens with a new optical formula. I’m sure people will love the LS ability on the 120mm lenses, but I am most excited about the new design 35mm lens which should be a nice upgrade to the aging Mamiya 35mm f/3.5D lens (which I have been using a lot more recently). An exciting new feature of the PhaseOne XF camera body is that it will have new, lens specific focus calibration that is user customizable. For these two new lenses, it will be based on serial number, allowing for the greatest customization possible for optimal focusing. With older lenses, these features will be available but they will be focal-length specific rather then lens specific, great new feature to help improve image quality if you ask me.

As mentioned the PhaseOne IQ3 will offer higher integration with the PhaseOne XF camera body. This will be done mostly through the greater control given to the entire system through CaptureOne. There will also be a new power share feature allowing for the back and body to power each other which is also nice to allow for extended shooting if one runs out of power. I will be following up in much greater detail about the IQ3 series digital backs later today (and will link to that here).

To conclude, I will say that the PhaseOne XF camera body offers many neat new features that we have wanted for a long time. It is the most modern medium format digital camera body, however it is still far off from the most lame DLSR. That being said, its the best we’ve got (re-modern features) so thats something. I will be interested to see how some of the new features discussed above work (particularly the autofocus with AF lenses as well as how it helps in Manual Focus only lens focusing). All of these new features are all well and good, but lets see what they are going to cost…

First, according to Lance Schad (link to direct email) of Digital Transitions, there will be an upgrade program for PhaseOne 645DF and 645DF+ users, with more information to come on this in the near future. For the moment, pricing stands as follows:

  • XF Camera Body, Prism Viewfinder, 80mm LS Lens -$8,990.00
  •  XF Camera Body with Prism Viewfinder – $7,990.00
  •  XF Camera Body (no viewfinder) – $6,490.00
  •  XF Prism Viewfinder – $2,490.00
  •  XF Waist Level Finder – $790.00

You can also find a full summary of the PhaseOne XF camera body’s features below courtesy of Digital Transitions my preferred PhaseOne Dealer:

PhaseOne XF Featurese

PDN PhotoPlus Expo 2012 and ShootNYC 2012

Welcome to my PDN PhotoPlus Expo 2012 (and ShootNYC 2012) coverage. This year did not bring too many shocking changes however there are still some noteworthy products, especially from lens makers Carl Zeiss and Schneider Optics (as well as others) which highlight good trends in photography for the next few years. It also features interviews with Multistitch, Nikon, Cokin Filters, Olympus, PhaseOne, and Hasselblad (ShootNYC).

PhaseOne

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I will be doing a full and In-depth review of PhaseOne CaptureOne 7 Pro in a week or so. However, until then, Doug Peterson from Digital Transitions introduces and goes through some of the key features and improvements in C1 7 Pro.

Carl Zeiss

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At Photokina 2012, Carl Zeiss announced a number of new products, and most notably two new series of lenses for markets that that they had not previously addressed. They also announced the 135mm f/2.0 APO-Sonnar lens which is available in both ZE (Canon) and ZF.2 (Nikon) mounts. This lens had only previously been available in the CP.2 cine series of lenses and is now re-housed like the rest of their prime lens series for 35mm cameras. Next, Carl Zeiss announced (at Photokina) the production of lenses for the Sony NEX mount as well as the Fuji X mount (for the X-Pro 1 and X-E1 digital cameras). These are in fact, all metal lenses, with superior optics as well as autofocus. Carl Zeiss’s 35mm lenses (excluding designs for Sony) have all been manual focus and this is a pleasant change. It is in fact good that they are recognizing that a) not everyone wants to shoot manual focus 100% of the time and b) that manual focus is sometimes less practical on smaller format cameras. The final and most interesting new series of lenses that Carl Zeiss has announced are their new line of high resolution lenses for digital cameras. The first lens they have announced in this series is the Distagon 55mm f/1.4 ZF.2 lens (which I believe will also be available in Canon mount). This is an outstanding lens, and I look forward to it as well as the other lenses that they will produce in this series. All of these lenses are excellent and show us that serious lens manufacturers are starting to see the potential in smaller formats, and are now producing lens for them like they have in the past. To a sceptic of the smaller formats like myself, this is an interesting development (especially in sub-35mm formats) because considering the pedigree of these companies and lineage of lenses they have produced, their nod of approval can be seen to offer confirmation of the quality of these smaller cameras. Of course, it could also be a directive from the business office to boost profits, but hey I guess I am an optimist. 

I have always enjoyed the 135mm focal length when I have had chances to shoot it. I say when I have had chances to shoot it because, I have not owned a 135mm lens ever. I have eyed the Nikon, Canon (and Leica) lenses of this focal length, however have not committed to them. The Nikon 135mm f/2.0 DC AF lens is outdated and due for an update with newer lens coatings, autofocus, and overall build quality. The newer Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is superior to the 85mm f/1.4D (I still have both but thats another story) and the change between these two lenses (the 85mm f/1.4D is comparable to the 135mm since they were from the same time period) is enough to make me wait for Nikon’s updated version of this lens. Canon has had an autofocus 135mm f/2.0 lens for some time and by all accounts it is supposed to be absolutely amazing performance wise and I would have to agree. Of course these lenses have Autofocus, something that this Carl Zeiss 135mm lacks. However, the control afforded by manual focus (something which is executed excellently by Carl Zeiss) combined with the accurate focus confirmation systems of newer DSLR’s makes it a wholly usable lens, and not a significant inconvenience. The lens is built excellently (of course) and preforms very well (as you can see from the samples below taken on the Canon 5D MrkII).

My first introduction to the Carl Zeiss telephoto lenses was the 100mm Macro, which preforms excellently both optically as well as functionally with a smooth and long focus throw which is pleasant to use. This 135mm preforms very similarly in terms of its functionality and its optics are no slouch, when this optic becomes available later this year, It will definitely be coming home with me.

Carl Zeiss only offered prototypes for viewing at PDN PhotoPlus Expo 2012 showing the final designs for the lens bodies which are all metal and come with screw in metal lens hoods. These touches are very nice considering that the majority of smaller-format lenses lack these touches. The lenses also have autofocus which is a pleasant change from their manual focus lineups of lenses. I have no doubt that they will preform very well and am curious to see their performance as well as what other focal lengths they will announce in the future. These lenses are a pleasant and realistic change compared to the Carl Zeiss lenses which are provided for the Sony system which are manufactured by Sony and not Carl Zeiss. However these lenses are produced in Germany by Carl Zeiss and I have no doubt that this difference will show in their performance. I am slightly disappointed that Carl Zeiss has not announced any plans to produce lenses for Micro Four-Thirds cameras (which you would assume would be an easy thing to do considering they have developed these lenses for the NEX and X-Pro 1 systems already) but I am willing to bet (and this is 100% conjecture) that this may happen in the future.

The Carl Zeiss Distagon 55mm f/1.4 is an entirely new design produced by Carl Zeiss for newer high-megapixel 35mm cameras (specifically like the Nikon D800 and D800e) which are considerably more demanding on lenses then older smaller megapixel count sensors and cameras. The lens is exceptionally well built and has a very very nice rubber focusing ring which is silky smooth to touch and operate. One concern that I have however is that the focusing distance “screen” does not seem to be weather sealed which can be an issue when taking this lens outdoors (where you will be wanting to use it). Considering the exceptional built quality of this lens, and the fact that it is not obviously a studio lens, I am willing to be that this lens is in fact either weather sealed or will be before it ships. The staff at the booth, were not briefed about this subject and could not offer any insight into whether it was currently weather sealed or would be prior to launch.

 f/2.8

 f/1.4

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However as we can see, optically it preforms great. These sample shots were taken with my Nikon D3s and were shot at f/1.4 and f/2.8, and even on the D3s which has a lower megapixel count (then the newer D4 which I was shooting the videos with, and the D800/D800e) the excellent sharpness and overall performance of this lens can be seen.

Multistitch

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Multistitch is accessory/tool/solution for use with 4×5 cameras and digital capture. It allows for every conceivable medium format digital mount as well as 35mm cameras to be used with it (or course on different versions of the plate). The Multistitch is essentially a plate which is attached to the back of a braflok back 4×5 camera (almost every 4×5 camera) after focusing and composing and removing the ground glass focusing screen. The premise is by flipping the orientation of the digital back 4x times you can cover a larger image area (with overlap) to extend the usefulness of older digital backs (a 22mp will become approx. a 75mp effective resolution) through stitching in photoshop (or other software). The video demonstration above demonstrates this tool rather effectively, and I will be getting my hands on both the 35mm version (most likely Nikon mount) as well as the PhaseOne 645DF M-Mount versions for review since it seems to be an interesting solution for using full view-camera movements in the studio (and possibly the field?) from a 4×5 camera with digital capture technology.

 Nikon

Nikon was not terribly interesting for me this year, considering they did not announce anything of any terrible significance to me this year. They did just announce (and show for the first time) the new Nikon V2 camera, the successor to the V1, which I am only pleased with in the sense that it is good that it gets back a real grip, and some of the practical form factor of DSLR’s. I believe that the most serious small-sensored cameras are those which do not abandon the SLR / DSLR form factor. One lens that I would be interested in experiencing on this camera was the also newly announced development of a 30mm (32mm?) f/1.2 lens for the Nikon mirror less system. Mirrorless systems afford great low-light opportunities with a slew of f/1.4, f/1.2, and f/0.95 lenses which offer all sorts of creative possibilities. While in this case, this one lens does not sell a system to me, if they continue with some ultra-fast autofocus lenses, it could have some potential, however knowing the larger camera manufacturers, they live to disappoint. Micro Four-Thirds has considerably more fast lenses available which makes it a considerably more attractive system since it has a number of native f/1.8, f/1.4, f/0.95 lenses across a number of focal lengths, not to mention the ability to accept Leica M lenses (via adapters) which are generally f/2.0 or faster. Anyway they had these two mirror less products, as well as my favorite part, the ultra-telephoto section where they had all of their extreme telephoto lenses mounted on D4′s to play with. Included in these is the spectacular 800mm f/5.6 (their longest production autofocus lens) which will unquestionably be accompanying me on safari if I ever so choose to go on one.

 Olympus

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Olympus has been doing a considerably good job of late surprising me with the quality of products they are putting out. The OM-D EM-5 is the closest I have come to date to buying a Micro Four-Thirds camera. It preforms very well and has a number of very interesting and high quality lenses available for it. Olympus has made some absolutely and insanely impressive Four-Thirds lenses, which can be used on this camera (with autofocus via adapter) as well as a number of Micro Four-Thirds lenses which do not disappoint. They have released a series of high quality metal bodied lenses, which are a step up from their normal Micro Four-Thirds fare in the past which has been quite pleasing. Now, they have shown to me for the first time the outstanding new 75mm f/1.8 and 60mm  f/2.4 Macro lens which are exceptional to say the least. Unfortunately, I forgot an SD card, so you will have to believe me that these cameras and lenses offer exceptional image quality.

 

The 75mm f/1.8 is Olympus’s high-quality / fast / telephoto solution  which is a very substantial lens. It is heavy, all metal and can be felt to contain some serious glass. While it is large, it does surprisingly fit very comfortably in the hand, and on the camera when being held and is not oppressively big like a Leica Noctilux on an M9. Olympus has done a very good job of balancing the weight of this large lens with the diminutive weight of the OM-D EM-5 body. The lens offers very quick autofocus, as well as buttery smooth manual focus, which is atypical of lenses for this system, however should be expected of this ~1000 dollar beast of a lens. Bokeh is nothing short of astounding and focused areas are rendered beautifully sharp. If you plan on doing street photography, or any kind of portraits with this camera, the 75mm f/1.8 lens is THE lens to get. If I get a Micro Four-Thirds camera system, this will absolutely be one of the lenses that I buy. The lens also offers silent focusing for both still and more relevantly movie recording. (I am not sure if this lens is weather-sealed but I would assume so)

 

The 60mm f/2.4 Macro is another exceptional lens for the Micro Four-Thirds system. It is built just as excellently as the 75mm f/1.8 lens and offers the possibility of 1:1 macro photography. This lens is fully weather-sealed and features a clever autofocus control dial on the left hand side of the lens barrel. It offers close-focus, full-focus, and far-focus switches as well as a clever fourth switch which sets the lens to its closest 1:1 macro focus setting. This then allows for the user to move the camera closer and further from the subject until it is in focus. This may sound tedious or confusing, and I may have poorly described it, but it is a good feature which makes macro work easier, and certainly faster which can be essentially when photographing things like insects.

 Schneider-Kreuznach

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Schneider is currently doing the same thing as Carl Zeiss in terms of diversifying their lens portfolios. To me, Schneider is personally the finer of the two companies, considering they still make Large Format lenses etc. They also happen to make the excellent series of Leaf Shutter lenses for PhaseOne/MamiyaLeaf. At Photokina Schneider announced plans for expending their 35mm lens line from just Tilt-Shift lenses to regular lenses as well. They also announced plans for Micro Four-Thirds lenses as well (which makes sense they are part of the Micro Four-Thirds consortium). Both of these series of lenses seem to be very high quality, and I was able to get some hands on time with one of the lenses in their new 35mm line up, the 85mm Makro lens in Nikon mount. They will also be producing a normal and wide lens in this series which will be manual focus exactly like the Carl Zeiss lenses. The lenses are amazingly superbly made, and I slightly prefer them to the Carl Zeiss lenses however they are are all excellent in terms of built quality. Unfortunately they did not their Micro Four-Thirds lenses on display at PDN Photoplus. but hey they did have the iPro iPhone lens and case system, lol. 

Schneider had two new lenses that they announced at Photokina 2012 on display. They had a new 28mm f/4.5 perspective control lens in Nikon, Canon, Sony or Pentax mounts. It features 8 degrees of tilt and 12mm of shit and offers the same fully rotatable design feature like the companies other perspective control lenses. The other and more significant series of lenses they announced are a new line of standard lenses for 35mm cameras. The lens that they had on display (still a prototype) was the 85mm Makro f/2.4 Symmar lens. This series is also announced to have 50mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.8 variants which are very high quality lenses for DSLR’s. They offer electronic integration for control of the aperture with Nikon (and possibly Canon) mounts. As you can see from these samples, the lens is very however seems to suffer from chromatic aberration (purple/green) but this seems to be something in the coatings which will be worked out before the lenses are shipping, this I have no doubt. However as can be seen in the second shot, the lens offers very nice out of focus elements, and sharpness which are quite pleasant and this lens is a pleasant focal length to have for macro especially if you want to take advantage of it for creative portraiture at close working distances. I am pleased to see these lenses as well as the the other lenses in the series and these along with the new Zeiss lenses may compliment each other nicely for a high quality lens set.

Schneider’s Micro Four-Thirds lenses are a very good sign, because these are some high quality optics which offer autofocus and excellent built quality. There are a ton of very high quality optics which can be used on Micro Four-Thirds however many of them are not purpose built (e.g Leica lenses et al.). There are some higher quality and unique optics available for Micro Four-Thirds like those offered by Voigtlander (manual focus f/0.95 lenses) and SLR Magic’s less high-quality and more creative lens solutions. So Schneider’s lenses will be welcome additions to the line-up of high quality optics like the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 and 60mm f/2.4 and other m4/3′s lenses. Again, do not doubt that they will be excellent, and certainly if I decide to purchase a Micro Four-Thirds these will also be coming home with me.

Cokin Filters

Hidden away in a distributors both (notice I say A distributor to hide the fact that I don’t remember which one) were these new Cokin UV MCUltra-Slim screw in filters. These are absolutely categorically the thinnest filters I have ever seen. You cannot believe how thin these are and pictures do not do them justice. They will be available around January and I am very eager to get my hands on these. If when tested they do not degrade image quality in any observable way (only the worst quality filters do this of course) then they will be unquestionably going on all of my lenses (except PhaseOne but that’s a different story too). It’s always great to find these little things that do in fact make a difference, however are almost never covered by anyone and consequently never noticed, but areundeniably still gems.

 

[Vulture Camera Straps]

Shoot NYC / Hasselblad 

Hasselblad announced the H5D, and the world sighed because they also released the Lunar which we will not even honor by discussing. However the H5D, like the PhaseOne 645DF+ also launched this week with CaptureOne Pro 7. The Hasselblad H5D offers slightly changed esthetics which were partially required for the technological changes which took place. However, we can all agree that it would have looked significantly better in all black. Officially, I was told that the camera looked “too small” in all black (which was done as a prototype) to which I sardonically replied “oh god, who would want a camera to look smaller!”. It would have looked better in all black like everyone else, but oh well we can’t have everything. The user interface which has remained virtually unchanged in the H series camera since its creation has finally been giving a 21st century re-vamp. The bottoms on the digital back portion of the camera (I pause before saying digital back because if its a closed system, is it originally a back?) have been changed and now function considerably better then they did before. The GUI on the back of the camera has also been improved and is much more responsive and fluid then the previous version, although maintaining the same design it is entirely new and much better then previous versions. The camera’s weather sealing has been improved and a number of small places where water could get in have now been sealed. The CF slot door, is no longer a flip open, but must be slid back to be opened and has silicone/rubber weather. The viewfinder has now had the seam treatment (since it is removable from the body) and the contact areas between the back and the camera have also been given this treatment. The camera also runs off a battery that is 50% more powerful, since the new electronics in the camera require more power. However the new battery can also be used on previous generations of H series cameras giving them a longer lasting battery.The camera’s top controls have been rearranged. However most importantly, the back of the camera can now be scrolled through using the two wheels available to the right hand when gripping the camera. These can be used to pan through images (which is considerably more responsive and does not need time to buffer on the higher quality screen on the back) as well as to zoom in and around an image which makes shooting with the camera considerably more pleasant. These controls can also be used when accessing the menus on the back of the camera to make selections.

The firewire port has also received a bit of a revamping which could be a curse or a blessing depending on how you look at it. First the firewire port has a protective door which can be slit back (and will snap back into place when released) which is part of the weather sealing improvements on this camera. The firewire cable itself has also received some improvements. Firstly, it should be noted that any FIrewire 800 cable can still be used with the camera, however Hasselblad has

produced their own cable with a few unique features. Rather then sticking directly out of the camera, Hasselblad has introduced a Firewire cord with a 90 degree bend in it, which helps to manage wires. If this was the only reason for this unquestionably expensive Firewire cord, it would be ridiculous however, it also features a proprietary mechanism (known to us lay folk as a groove) in it, which allows for it to be locked into the camera when inserted. This means that the cord cannot be accidentally pulled from the camera during shooting. Conversely as Hasselblad acknowledged, this means if the cord is pulled, the camera is going down with
it…..So you decide for yourself if this is an improvement or a poor idea. However this new connection is quite strong, another thing which Hasselblad was eager to point out, and demonstrate by inserting the cable and then tugging on it, while smiling, nodding its head and  saying “ah yes see it is quite strong!”. However, a comment was then made that the cable could support the weight of the camera entirely. Of course, being a bit of a sado-masochist I then encouraged/berated the gentleman helping me into holding the camera by the firewire cord in the air. At first he sheepishly did it holding his hand under the camera (not supporting it). However, I now fully engaged in this experience goaded him into removing his hand. Which, to his eternal credit he did in fact do, and the camera’s weight was in fact entirely supported by the cable. So Hasselblad (a term which I have used both to describe the company and the representative helping me) gets a few points for this, but again whether it is useful or not to you is an entirely different matter.

The next time you are in the Kandahar Valley in Afghanistan standing on the precipice of a extremely high cliff creating some fine art landscape images and are ambushed by the Taliban’s crack karate team, and within the tussle, your camera is thrown off the ledge and you are only able to grab the firewire cord right before it slips over the edge and into the abyss, you can feel safe in the knowledge that the camera will be safe and remain firmly affixed to the Firewire cable. 

In all seriousness though, the camera does offer some minor improvements over the older generation of H series cameras which may make it an attractive upgrade, however not as attractive as the H4x since the H4x is in fact an open system camera (meant to appease H1, and H2 owners who were pissed about Hasselblad’s closed and proprietary H3D and H4D systems. The sensors and image quality from the H5D are exactly the same as those within the H4D series of cameras, and the changes are entirely in the body of the camera. And while I, like may others dislike Hasselblad for a (growing) number of reasons, this camera does offer some improvements to those already invested in its system.

Hasselblad also had a few other announcements for us. They have released a new macro extension tube type device, which accomplishes closer

focusing not through adding distance between sensor and lens, but by adding optical elements which decrease the size of the adapter (which is

 

pleasant) making it much more comfortable to use on the camera with almost all of the lenses to allow closer focusing. To me, simply hearing about the idea, and not commenting on its image quality and optical performance, this seems like a very good idea, since I always like to be ableto have the option to get closer to a subject (thinking like when I am using the 80mm, 100mm, or 150mm lenses etc). Hasselblad also released a 24mm f/4.8 lens. It is a 1/3 or more stop slower then the Leica (Super-Elmar-S 24mm f/3.5 ASPH) and PhaseOne (Schneider-Kreuznach 28mm f/4.5 LS D) equivalents which are going to be discussed further in my PhaseOne 28mm lens review which comments on both its namesake and these other newly released medium format ultra-wides. But anyway, the Hasselblad 24mm accepts huge 95mm filters, which is sort of an inconvenience but necessary evil for this lens. It is built and functions in the same was as all of the other Hasselblad lenses, which is to say excellently.

 

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens Review with Sample Images and Comparisons

*Update* – I know this article pops up when you google the “Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO Lens”, well I also happen to own this lens and have begun review it starting with my Field Report from Costa Rica of the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and Mamiya 500mm f/4.5 APO lenses (click to view).

Image taken at f/5.6 with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO @ f/5.6 on the PhaseOne 645DF with IQ180 

Telephoto lenses are not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of medium format cameras. Initially you think of their resolution, advantages and disadvantages in certain situations, and of course with the advent of digital, their price. However there is a long tradition of medium format cameras having telephoto lenses in their line up. The standard telephoto focal length for medium format is 300mm which is equivalent to approximately 200mm on a full-frame 35mm camera (specifically 193mm). However some companies have pushed the limits by creating 500mm lenses. Mamiya has made two, the 500mm f/4.5 APO and the older 500mm f/5.6 lenses. They have also made a 2x Tele-converter which works with their MF telephoto lenses. In this review we will look at the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO, Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APo, and the 300mm f/2.8 APO with the 2x Tele-Converter.

Of course as we know, telephoto lenses are used for photographing wildlife, so I thought it would be funny to use an animal as my subject for the images in this test. And as it turns out, it is really really hard to make an owl not move for an extended period of time, so I went the taxidermy route. So a special thanks to the Connecticut Audubon Society for providing this ~100 year old owl for testing.

Physical Comparison

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO vs Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO Lens Size Comparison

As we can see here, there are some major physical differences between these two lenses. Most obvious is their size. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO is quite a bit smaller. After having hiked with it in Oregon, I can say that it is very carry-able for an extended period of time. The same cannot be said for the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO which weighs about 6.4 lb on its own. Also, theoretically the 300mm f/4.5 could be handheld, however the same cannot be said for the 300mm f/2.8. Both lenses are provided with tripod collars which like other telephoto lenses allow for them to be mounted at a position which places the center of gravity at a point which will make the lens and camera more balanced and stable. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5  offers a slide out lens hood which is the same design as the Mamiya 210mm f/4 ULD lens. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 is also an autofocus lens and this should be considered when comparing these two lenses.

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Lens Review

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO lens has a much more substantial lens hood which screws into the front of the lens (starts where the first black band is) and provides a significant amount of glare protection and is coated with black felt on the inside to decrease reflections. It also has some unique features. The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 APO lens is Autofocus but it also has electronic aperture control. Mamiya does not make a teleconverter with electronic contacts so it is not possible to use the Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N with the Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 lens. The Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N is very well built and as we will see preforms very well optically when paired with the 300mm f/2.8 APO. The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO, like all of the M645 lenses has a manual aperture ring. On the side of the lens there is a switch which can be flipped and then the aperture can be controlled via the aperture ring. The aperture ring is very solid and large and easy to use even when not looking at it.  Like many modern telephoto lenses, the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO lens has drop in filters and the original set was sold with filter pouch and standard filters. It accepts 52mm filters. The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO can be used with the PhaseOne V-Grip AIR which makes it very easy to use in portrait orientation making it even more comfortable to use. For this review the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO was mounted on a Wimberly WH-200-S head which I purchased for use with the lens and mounted on my Gitzo Series 3 legs.

Functionality

The Mamiya 300mm f/4.5 operates as you would expect, it is an autofocus lens which also offers manual focus. You put the lens into manual focus the same way that you do on many of the other Mamiya Lenses by sliding the focus ring up or down. Of course the autofocus speed does not lend itself to action like sports or wildlife (most applications) photography but it does work well for nature, still life etc.

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8′s aperture ring and tripod collar have already been commented on. Like many of the purpose-built manual focus lenses the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 has a very nice focus ring. It is covered in rubber which makes it easy to control. The focus throw is not very long, which is good if you are trying to focus on a moving subject, but at the same time the focusing ring offers enough resistance that it is possible to fine tune focus without too much of an issue. The f/2.8′s minimum focus distance is 3.5 meters or or around 11.5 feet. One of the great things about the PhaseOne 645DF is it’s focus confirmation feature. I have already addressed the usefulness of this feature in my initial report on the 645DF and IQ180. It works exceptionally well with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 allowing for accurate focusing however as you stop down the camera it will eventually become to dark for the camera to be able to confirm focus through the lens. This means that when shooting still subjects that you will have to focus at a wider aperture and then stop down. This also means that if you are shooting under changing lighting conditions and with moving subjects that it is possible to not realize you have stopped down past the point at which the camera can focus which can lead to errors in focus.

Image Quality

Image quality is what everyone really cares about. It will decide for you which lens better fits your needs. Full aperture series (f/2.8-f/22, f/5.6-f/45, f/4.5-f/22) are available on my Flickr page with 100% center crops of each of the images provided and labeled. Here we will look at examples which illustrate the different qualities of these lenses. All of these images were taken in M/UP mode to decrease vibration.

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 Aperture Comparison

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO at f/2.8 and f/4 (Left and Right Respectively)

Full Image

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO Aperture Comparison 100% Center Crop

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO at f/2.8 and f/4 (Left and Right Respectively)

100% Center Crops

As would be expected, the 300mm f/2.8 has some significant vignetting at f/2.8 however one stop down at f/4 there is significantly less vignetting. Looking at the two files, it would appear that the f/2.8 file is underexposed if looked at quickly, however exposure was kept constant for these shots and the darkness is entirely attributable to vignetting. f/2.8 also offers excellent bokeh which is pleasing to the eye and very good at isolating the foreground subject. Another effect of the 300mm f/2.8, just like with the Mamiya 80mm f/1.9N is the very shallow depth of field. When you look at the 100% sample of the f/2.8 file you can see that the center is very sharp (point of focus is around the beak / forehead / nose area of the head of the owl) and then the shallow DOF makes the sharpness fall off very quickly. Again, when stopped down to f/4 there is already an increase in the in-focus area along with vignetting being controlled and still pleasing bokeh which helps to isolate the subject.

Now we will compare the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO to the 300mm f/4.5 APO:

Mamiya 300mm lens comparison at f/8

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and 300mm f/4.5 APO at f/8.0 (Left and Right Respectively)

Full Image

Mamiya 300mm Lens Comparison 100% Crop

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and 300mm f/4.5 APO at f/8.0 (Left and Right Respectively)

100% Center Crops

Both of these images were taken at f/8. When comparing the two images you can see that the 300mm f/2.8 is more contrasty then the 300mm f/4.5. While very similar to my eye the 300mm f/2.8 exhibits more pleasing bokeh at f/8 then the 300mm f/4.5 APO. When looking at the 100% center crops of the f/8 comparisons, it becomes apparent that the 300mm f/2.8 is slightly warmer in its rendition of colors then the 300mm f/4.5 which is slightly cooler.  As far as I can tell, the 300mm f/2.8 is also sharper then the 300mm f/4.5. While the difference is very slight, it seems to me that the 300mm f/2.8 APO does a better job at rendering fine details then the 300mm f/4.5 APO at f/8.

The next set of images will look at the Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N on the 300mm f/2.8 APO

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 Teleconverter Comparison

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and M645 Teleconverter 2X N wide open (f/2.8 and f/5.6 Respectively)

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO with the M645 Teleconverter 2X N yields of a focal length of 600mm which is approximately equivalent to a 400mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera (exactly 386mm). As commented on before the effects of the vignetting on exposure are again apparent when comparing these two images where the image taken with the M645 Teleconverter 2X N where wide open vignetting significantly darkens the image. However as we will see just like without the TC as the lens is stopped down the effects of vignetting disappear. The TC does however maintain the sharpness and optical quality of the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and as far as I can tell does not significantly effect image quality. It’s biggest disadvantage is in function where at smaller apertures it is too dark for the camera to accurately confirm focus (discussed above) which can create an issue for some field use.

Mamiya M645 Teleconverter 2X N with 100% Crop

Images taken with the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO and M645 Teleconverter 2X N at f/11 with 100% crop on right

When stopped down to f/11 (f/5.6 + TC) the vignetting issues experienced at smaller apertures are all but gone. As we can see here in this example, especially when looking at the 100% crop, the image is very sharp and there has not been any degradation in the image quality with the addition of the teleconverter. This shows how well designed the teleconverter is, which can also be used on other lenses, like the Mamiya 150mm f/2.8 N to yield a 300mm f/5.6 (if you need it in an emergency).

Conclusions

Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 Owl Final Image

Edited image from the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 with M645 Teleconverter 2X N shot at f/5.6

The Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO is capable of producing some stunning images in certain situations. It excels as a as a telephoto lens for portraits when shot wide open at f/2.8 where the subject is isolated in a dream like world because of the vignetting and shallowed depth of field. It is also excellent for applications where a significant telephoto magnification is needed because of its ability to work with the teleconverter without any noticeable differences in image quality. These make the 300mm f/2.8 a very versatile tool when applied correctly.

The 30mm f/4.5 APO has some advantages over the f/2.8. Firstly, its size lends itself to use in landscape photography since it is significantly more practical to carry. Secondly, its autofocus capability makes it all the more appealing. Also, its electronic aperture control should not be overlooked since it helps to keep your hands on the camera when shooting and not fiddling around with the lens.

I like the 300mm focal length on medium format cameras, as I have discussed before when reviewing the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC and for this reason both of these lenses have a place in my kit. They can both technically excellent images, however I will give a slight edge to the 300mm f/2.8 APO in terms of its renditions of fine details at smaller apertures.

Full aperture series from the Mamiya 300mm f/2.8 APO with and without the M645 Teleconverter 2X N and the 300mm f/4.5 can be seen here on my flickr.

As an aside the 300mm f/2.8 APO can be used with adapters on 35mm cameras. There are some examples of it with an adapter on my Nikon D4 here.


PhaseOne IQ180, a love story

PhaseOne IQ180 mounted on the PhaseOne 645DF camera body

When writing a review about the highest resolution consumer camera in the world, it is really hard to come up with a good opening. There really isn’t anyway to get around it, this camera is, as of the writing of this review the best camera in the world*.

Of course there is the caveat that this is a full-frame sensor sized medium format digital back, it is very different from any other type of camera. You can’t expect to get high-resolution images of sports or fast moving wildlife; the autofocus speed isn’t there. You also cant expect great high ISO performance, if you want that, then you should get a D3s like I have, which would also cover the first condition.

PhasOne 645DF Camera Body

This camera is the best not only in terms of resolution, but also in terms of optics, ergonomics and functionality. The optics are superior Schneider Optics which have been specially designed for the PhaseOne 645DF. Not only are they made to a higher standard then the Mamiya lenses (still not anything to be scoffed at) and they also have leaf shutters, which allows for higher shutter speeds with strobe or off camera lighting. Ergonomically, I believe that the PhaseOne 645DF is far superior to the other widely used systems, the Hasselblad H series (currently H4 and H4X) and the Sinar/Rollei/Leaf Hy6 which apparently people use. Of course there are other cameras out there including the Hasselblad V series (most modern being the 503CW) and slightly older systems like the Contax 645 system (which has autofocus and vertical grip and most comparable in terms of accessories but no longer made). Again, this is only counting cameras, which are Medium format Digital Back DSLR’s meaning they have a mirror box, and removable digital backs. So this analysis excludes the Leica S2 and Pentax 645D, if you are interested in these cameras, you can read extensively about the Leica S2 here, and in brief about the Pentax 645D.

It is true, the PhaseOne 645DF camera body, is most similar to a 35mm DSLR, in terms of feel, form, and functionality. It feels good to hold, it feels sturdy, albeit plastic, and you wouldn’t feel terribly out of place picking it up coming from professional grade DSLR’s since the control scheme is fairly straightforward and similar. The shape of the PhaseOne 645DF body has every element that a 35mm DSLR body would have. It has a flash sync input, cable release input, and tripod screw mount. The On/Off function of the camera is achieved by placing the dial around the shutter in the (L) position, meaning lock. Now interestingly, here, there is also an (S)(C) and (M.UP) option. The (S) is, single shot, the setting that you will most often use. (C) Is the continuous setting that lets you blast away at 1fps with the IQ180 (smaller resolution backs are faster but not significantly.)  I like the positioning of the Mirror up function on this camera. On others it is sometimes hidden, or slightly confusing to find, however here it is right on the dial and easily and quickly accessible. If you do not know what Mirror up means, it is a way of decreasing shutter vibration when making exposures. The difference wont really be noticed or significant until you get below 1/30 of a second and are invariable on a tripod. This means it is mostly for work where the highest resolution and focus is desired, like Landscape, Architecture or reprographic work. Normally, in an SLR, when you release the shutter, the mirror box goes up, the shutter opens (shutter speed), the sensor is exposed, and then the shutter is closed and the mirror reset. When the mirror is up, this is the time that you cannot see through the viewfinder. This is the step that mirror up takes away. It is very difficult to control the vibration of the mirror moving so quickly. In Mirror up, the first time the shutter is pressed the mirror goes up but the shutter remains closed. This means at this point, you cannot compose through the viewfinder, which means you must have pre-focused and all that. Then the second press of the shutter will open the shutter (you will notice this is significantly quitter because there is no mirror going up and always remember, sounds is vibration…) and then after the exposure has finished it will close itself. This significantly reduces shutter vibration, which will be especially noticeable with finely focused subjects and an 80mp digital sensor, which is not very forgiving. Adding another degree of separation from the camera and vibration, the very good Mamiya/PhaseOne shutter release is a must accessory.

Vertical Grip (V-Grip AIR)

PhaseOne V-Grip Air for the 645DF Camera BodyOne of my favorite features of this camera is that is the first PhaseOne camera to be offered with a vertical grip. This is something I sorely missed with my Hasselblad H, and envied about the Contax 645 and Leica S2. When deciding on what camera system to finally purchase, it came down to the Leica S2 and PhaseOne IQ180 with 645DF body. I did not consider the Contax, even though it fit the requirement of a vertical grip because its not longer made or supported so really, there won’t be anything new for it ever (until the impossible project decides that the world sorely misses it or something). In the end the price of a Leica S2 system, coming in close to the cost of upgrading to the IQ180, was not justifiable because the Leica sports a 40mp sensor and the PhaseOne is rocking a 80mp sensor. One of they key things I considered was the vertical grip, since it something I use quite a lot on my D3s. The PhaseOne V-Grip Air, not only allows you to add an extra battery (same as the back but can be used to power the body as well if your AA’s fail) but also has a Profoto Air remote built into it. This means when using equipped Profoto lights, you have can trigger the lights without needing to use a Pocketwizard or other trigger. When I discuss the back, I will have a more in-depth decision about my process for deciding on the PhaseOne.

Honestly, there really isn’t that much else to say about the PhaseOne 645DF camera body. It should be noted that it is very similar to the Mamiya 645AFD (I, II, and III) in form and basic functionality. Some noted differences include a more robust construction as the option to use Leaf shutter lenses, which is not available with the older Mamiya 645AFD camera. The PhaseOne 645DF is the perfect camera for anyone wishing to do portraiture, landscape and some other types of photography. The great thing about the modular design of PhaseOne (and leaf, and some Hasselblad’s) camera system is that you can remove the digital back and mount it on various other technical cameras for higher precision as well as complex tilt shift abilities.

 

Lenses (Schneider-Kreuznach 80mm f/2.8 LS D,  Mamiya 120mm f/4 Macro MF D and others)

Close-up of PhaseOne Schneider-Kreuznach 80mm f/2.8 LS D Leaf shutter lens and Mamiya 120mm f/4 Macro MF D

What is a camera without its lenses? Pretty depressing actually, you just get blurry pictures of the colors of a scene if you’ve ever tried it, anyway lenses really matter, and with 80mp you can tell the difference. Lenses designated by a “D” somewhere in their title, are inherently better then those without this moniker. Examples of these are the Schneider-Kreuznach leaf shutter lenses, the 75-150mm, 120mm Macro D, and some others. These lenses were designed with digital backs in mind (not just for film backs) and you an really notice the difference.  The camera body kit, comes with the Schendier 80mm LS, and this lens is absolutely perfect. It is built to high quality German optical specifications. This lens is solid rubber and metal, unlike many of its Mamiya cousins. The 80mm is the most similar to a 35mm full frame camera’s 50mm lens. Consequently, this lens could possibly be the only lens you ever need if you want superior optical performance as well as a fast aperture (for medium format anyway). There are also 55mm, 110mm, and new 150mm variants of leaf shutter lenses, that I do not doubt are stellar optically.

An interesting feature of note, and one I was negligibly unaware of, was it’s focus confirmation. I had assumed that when using a manual focus lens on the camera, like with the still produced Mamiya/PhaseOne 120mm f/4 Macro MF D and the popular 80mm f/1.9 C lens, or the 25mm Fisheye lens, you had to do your best using the focusing screen and viewfinder which would generally be inconvenient. However, two details that I neglected were that of course, the MF lenses, were purpose built to be manual focus (not to the same standards, but a similar concept of Leica’s M lens focusing mechanism), which makes lenses like the 120mm f/4 Macro MF D a pleasure to use. But also, the focus confirmation feature makes these manual focus lenses quite usable. Within the viewfinder, three symbols will appear. (>) and (o) and (<) to determine whether you are focused in front of, perfectly, or behind what the AF system would have focused on. This makes it quite easy to use these lenses on the PhaseOne 645DF body. Also, it should be noted especially with the 120mm f/4 Macro MF D, which the lens extends quite a bit when you are focusing close. Of course, this is similar to a bellows system, in that it extends and closes to change the focus and the lens elements distance from the film plane allowing close focus. If you are coming from Nikon macro lenses, like the 105mm f/2.8 Macro-Nikkor you will not be used to this side of the equation, however you will be aware of the changing minimum aperture (as the lens internally focuses, changing distances and lessening light). As the distance of lens elements, changes in relation to the film or digital sensor (Think other lenses like the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Macro), there is a fall off of light, which is why the minimum aperture will change, to effectively compensate for this with the meter. The 120mm f/4 Macro MF D lens offered from Mamiya and PhaseOne is a latest generation lens designed for digital photography (hence the “D”) designation. It produces wonderful images that are quite sharp and has no noticeable CA or diffraction in the situations I have tested it in (Albeit limited so far).

Also this lenses is superbly built, it has been pointed out to me, that a lot of the lenses are built out of metal, some particular examples of this are the Mamiya 105-210mm f/4.5 and the 35mm f/3.5 D lens which incorporate significant metal construction into their designs. However a lot of the other lenses I own, while still having metal barrels, tend to feel a bit plastic-y and overall like normal Nikon lenses instead of superiorly built Hasselblad or Leica lenses. However the Mamiya 120mm f/4 Macro MF D is amazingly well built, and heavy in the hand. You know you are holding a good lens when you hold it. You can feel the optical elements in it and know that this lens has been well built.

**Note about the Mamiya 105-210mm f/4.5 ULD**

This lens, has been produced for a number of years now, and it has been, because it is well built, well designed lens, comprising Ultra-Low Dispersion (ULD) elements, allowing for superior resolving power when combined with digital backs. The lens was originally released, to work with Mamiya’s 645AFD (i, ii, iii) cameras, this lens requires slight modification to work with the Mamiya/PhaseOne 645DF camera body. Since some of the contacts have changed between the Mamiya AFD and 645DF, to allow this lens to work with the 645DF, you must send it back to Mamiya to be upgraded. This upgrade, is relatively inexpensive being about $250, which to modify a $3400 lens which I purchased, new for less, from my dealer Camera Wholesalers in Stamford, CT all and all not a bad proposition.

Without this upgrade, the contacts will not fully touch, and you will receive, at best intermittent aperture control, and not autofocus what so ever. Making this lenses useless to use without the upgrade.

PhaseOne IQ180 Digital Back ~ Build

PhaseOne IQ180 80mp Medium Format Digital Back view of the rear of the camera and touchscreen

This is of course the most important, and equivalently priced, part of a PhaseOne 645DF camera system. This is where all the money is, and what really matters. The stunning, full frame 80mp sensor in this digital back, at times, defies words. However, I will do my best to address some important parts of it.

PhaseOne has been one of the biggest innovators in digital medium format photography. Leica has even adapted their iconic 4-button layout for their S camera system. I personally, as many others do as well, use Leica as a benchmark for quality in photographic imaging. They are iconic, recognized by everyone whether they know a lot about photography, or only the most cursory knowledge. Most people who also know that Leica is known for their minimalistic, simplified, and streamlined design. In this case, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and a major compliment to PhaseOne’s design team to be emulated by Leica, instead of the other way around. This does not happen often and should be noted as a unique and important event.

Of course, the elephant in the room, is that this camera has a TOUCHSCREEN. Yes, Leaf has had touchscreens for a while, but IN MY PAST EXPEREINCES, they have been less then acceptable for my purposes. PhaseOne however has introduced a scree, that rivals an iPhone retina display in quality and functionality. Of course, this is what PhaseOne keeps touting about the IQ series, and I can definitively say that this is true. While it does not have as complex a multi-touch system of the iPhone, its quality and speed of functionality are superior. The menu system is for the first 20 minutes a little disorienting. This is because some of the functions are controlled through scrolling and touching gestures, while others are run through the hard buttons on the camera. But, within the first half hour, you will have mastered this system and it will be second nature.

The screen. The screen is bright and responsive. Using your finger on it is a breeze and everything happens when you click it, no lag, or significant load time. If you have used a PhaseOne P+ back or Hasselblad back, you know that when you press buttons on the back, things happen immediately. This is what happens, and this is the way that it should be. The screen is miles ahead of other digital medium format back screens, which are generally atrocious, or at least not relative to their cost. I would go so far as to say, it is one of the best screens on any professional camera right now (including 35mm DSLR but not consumer P&Ss’ and m4/3 cameras which I don’t know enough about to comment on).

Other then this, the back is built like a tank. As I previously commented on the build quality of the Mamiya 120mm f/4 Macro MF D, in that you know it has presence when you hold it, the same applies to the IQ180 digital back. It is a solid chunk of metal. Nothing on it feels flimsy, and it’s a stunner aesthetically. All metal construction with no holes or anything for fans or such sticking out (making it better for some outdoor applications where there might be sand, salt, or water if you ask me). The battery cover, and the door where you insert the CF card are also made of metal, and feel quite sturdy.

Also, just a side note of something I found entertaining….the back comes with a cover, for if you take it off your camera to switch it to another or whatever. This cover for the digital back, feels like a blast door. When it is on the camera, it feels as if it couldn’t be pried off if you had industrial strength tools. Of course this is what you expect, when this is your last line of defense between the outside world and your precious sensor. Now, of course there is a glass over in front of the sensor, so there is a chance that only this would be scratched or damaged, but even this costs like $3500 dollars or more to replace. Suffice it to say, you don’t want this getting scratched at all and PhaseOne does a wonderful job of providing you with the means to protect your back.

 PhaseOne IQ180 Digital Back ~ Performance and Image Quality

PhaseOne IQ180 Medium Format Digital Back ~ Town Plot Clothing Photoshoot

Amazing. Simply amazing. I have posted in the past, my thoughts on the PhaseOne P65+ and Hasselblad H4D-50, and this back obviously trumps that. Now the PhaseOne P65+ is also a full frame back, I believe the H4D-50 is not full frame (again I could be slightly wrong). While this fact isn’t a direct commentary on the image quality of the sensor, it does directly effect the effective focal lengths of the lenses; just like on DSLR’s crop factor must be taken into account with most digital backs except these and a few others. It allows for wider wide angles, and the proper focal lengths, which in most situations is desirable. Exceptions to this are some sports and nature applications where you want to get closer to the subject. But then again you probably wouldn’t be using medium format for these applications, so it is indeed better to have focal lengths be what they say they are.

A full frame, medium format digital sensor, is quite large. Which means that it will have improved dynamic range, particularly over smaller sensor-ed digital cameras (think m4/3 and 35mm). While straight OOC it is possible that empirically some of the results when comparing dynamic range in terms of color are similar, as you starting beating up your files in post/Photoshop, you will see the difference. You will see that a lot of what has happened to smaller files has been things the camera changed, in terms of saturation and what not which effect color. Seeing the colors that an 80mp file is capable of producing, straight OOC, but also with some gentle massaging is truly amazing.

Something else, which should be noted, is the amount of light and detail it captures. A comparably exposed image taken with say my Nikon D3s and the IQ180 would look fairly similar in terms of exposure. However, if I start to futz with levels or something, you will see I can bring back incredibly large amounts of detail from in particular shadows, but highlights as well, which on a smaller sensor would not have been recorded. While you should always attempt to do as much right in camera as possible, this is one of the elements which allows for greater flexibility when fixing/editing.

The elephant in the room, in terms of performance, is of course having 80mp of cropping flexibility. While, again this shouldn’t be your primary motive for using a camera like this, you do have the incredible ability to take a picture, crop it and still be able to print huge files. Of course a 50% crop will retain 40mp and this can be done 2-3 more times and still have an acceptably sized file, which will still out resolve a 10mp camera (assuming you cropped it to 50% its size 3 times). The extra detail an IQ180 file will hold, allows it to endure even more abuse, when put through something like Perfect Resize 7 (formerly Genuine Fractals) as you can see in my review of the Hasselblad 300mm f/4.5 HC lens on my H3Dii-39ms and the PhaseOne P65+ on Hasselblad H. The flexibility provided in all forms is definitely a selling point for these high-resolution medium format digital cameras.

 

PhaseOne IQ180 Digital Back ~ ISO and Long Exposure

PhaseOne IQ180 Astrophotography at ISO400 long exposure test Traditionally, medium format digital backs have had poor ISO performance. This is the second point of irony in medium format digital, beyond the previously unanimous presumption of god-awful screens. However more recent cameras have greatly improved this. The PhaseOne P65+ was ok, not exceptional but not god-awful. The H3Dii-39ms wasn’t usable above ISO400 and the H4D-50 had similar results to the P65+ in terms of noise, while exhibiting other shortcomings. My personal favorite, was the Leica S2 which I felt had pleasant results at almost all of its ISO’s while of course the higher end was less usable, it was still useable for certain applications, where the aesthetic of grain can be accepted (See this Flickr Gallery for Leica S2 ISO Samples).

The IQ180, preforms nice with high-ISO’s as well as long exposures of up to 1 minute (its recommended maximum). I tested both of these in my IQ180 Astrophotography Flickr set. At this point in time, I had a sever chest virus and some other ailments which precluded me from leaving the house. So I had someone else take my camera, and tripod outside for me (which I was incapable of carrying independently) because I had read a Luminous Landscape forum post about people and their results doing it, and it seemed like good fun. The results were not surprising. Straight out of camera, all ISO’s were usable, while of course the last two stops of ISO are the worst of the series. Now, with the P+ series of backs, PhaseOne introduced one technology, which changed ISO on medium format digital greatly. Their proprietary Sensor+ technology, allows for the utilization of the full sensor, at a smaller resolution, in the case of the IQ180, 20mp and it consequently extends and improves the ISO range and performance. The range is extended to 3200, meaning that 3200 and 1600 are less acceptable with ISO’s before that being very nice. Sensor+ is really only important for the higher ISO’s, although I believe it goes down to 400, and possibly 200 because you can get an increased capture rate, when asking the camera to process less data per image file.

Backs like PhaseOne’s P45+ have long exposure times rated at 1 hour, which is quite long. However, for whatever reason, which I cannot explain, but yet sort of makes sense conceptually, is that this is not possible with the cutting-edge IQ180, whose recommended for best results longest exposure is 1 minute. Now usually this is no problem, because even if you want to make waterfalls silky smooth, you typically don’t need over a minute. And if you desperately need more, then you’ll just have to sacrifice some megapixels. My tests, consisted of using the camera continuously over about a 12 minute period of time doing exposures from 10 seconds to 60 seconds in rather cold New England weather. When using a camera for an extended period of time, especially for long exposures, where the sensor is active for long periods of time, the sensor can get got. This will cause heat spots, and possibly lateral banding (although simply poor high ISO performance can be directly attributed to this phenomenon) of images. These will effect Long exposure images, although they are correctable. For heat spots, you can take a “dark slide” which consists of placing your lens cap on your lens, and making an exposure. This will only record the heat spots because no other light will hit the sensor. Then, in post, you can transpose these two images and cancel out the heat noise.

In my tests, the least desirable effect caused by the camera was lateral banding. I attribute this, to what I have said about, being a combination of extended use in a difficult (all is relative) fashion for the sensor and short comings in high ISO performance. However, in post, I found that using levels it is possible to simply get rid of all of this noise, and what not when making the sky black, which is what I did in one of the images. This way the only things visible are the points of light (starts) that you recorded, which I like, since I was photographing a constellation (Orion’s belt) and not trying to contextualize it with interesting foreground elements.

I’m pleased by the high ISO performance, and not bothered by the short-long exposure time, which isn’t usually an issue for my shooting style. Usually I wont ever have an exposure longer then 30 seconds, while 99% of the time I don’t drop below 1/30 of a second.

Where to Purchase?

Deciding where to purchase your medium format digital camera system, is actually an important decision you have to make, because you are not just buying a camera; your are buying service as well. Various companies offer various levels of service with the purchase of a camera from them. Initially, I had done some basic web searching, and had found Digital Transitions in NYC. I e-mailed them and dealt with Jeff Lin, who was very good about answering questions, and in the end, making the deal. PhaseOne as a whole is very good about converting to their system and offers very competitive upgrading options that Leica and Hasselblad do not. In fact, Hasselblad’s upgrade paths are downright awful. Also I’m pretty sure, that Leaf offers very similar options to PhaseOne for their cameras (go figure they are both owned by the same people). Anyway, if you have some other digital back, like a Hasselblad and say it was an H3Dii-39ms (yes, we are talking about me here), this is a 39mp back and consequently, you receive a 39% discount on the price of your new PhaseOne camera. Obviously, if you have an older but, high resolution back, this will amount to a significant gain over attempting to sell your camera on your own to fund a new purchase.

Digital Transitions, also offers 24/7 E-mail (and maybe phone?) support. Especially when starting out with the camera, you may have questions, and calling PhaseOne is not an option, when you buy a Mercedes, you don’t call Germany every time something goes wrong, you call your cars service department. And seeing how as the IQ180 costs more then a Mercedes-Benz C-Class (Sedan or Coupe) it is a fitting analogy. You really rely on your dealer; and Digital Transitions is not slouch. I have at times, e-mailed my sales representative with questions, which are promptly answered. They also have a support department, which is your main source for technical support with your camera or any of PhaseOne’s offers, whether it is Software or Lenses. They always respond quickly and in detail and are happy to hold your hand through whatever problem you may be experiencing. Digital Transitions, also offers a 2hr private lesson with your camera, where you can go over anything you want, whether it is with the camera, or PhasOne software. The latter, is what I wanted to focus on because, the Mamiya 645AFD is fairly similar to the 645DF in form and function. And the IQ180 is of course painfully simple, and not really something which needs much further understanding, that you wouldn’t receive by simply using it more. As a Photoshop CS5 Extended user, not a Lightroom user, I have a feeling that the switch to using Capture 1 in my post processing has been notably awkward. While I don’t plan to use it for my archiving and editing, I know it has more then the very simple things that I am doing with it and it is what I wanted to learn more about.

Conclusion

While not practical for the 99% of photographic enthusiasts, the IQ180 demonstrates the future and offers outstanding image quality. As DSLR’s gain larger chips, especially with the next round of DSLR’s likely to have sensors pushing 30+ megapixels, people question medium format digitals relevance in the perpetually and infinitely improving world of technology. However, there are things that matter more then megapixels, and medium format has quite a few of these. Chief among these attributes would be, to me dynamic range and flexibility. Medium format digital backs, don’t typically lock you into One body, One camera, One system. With the IQ180 it is possible to use your back on scores of technical (think Sinar or Arca-Swiss) and plate cameras (Think Alpa or Cambo) , not to mention other medium format systems (with adapter plates of course) like the Mamiya RZ/RB series of 6×7 cameras (cropped to 645 of course) or the Fuji GX680 series of cameras, all of which offer different styles of shooting and features, which some may want to use for various applications within their  bodies of work.

Is it worth the investment? If you want, or need the best, yes. The IQ180 is the premier digital camera on the market today, until tomorrow when something new will come along and seize the throne and drag the then pathetic IQ180’s body through the streets. Of course, I jest, but the fact remains that technology is always improving and what is the best today, will be second best tomorrow, and even worse the day after that. However, some things can outlast this trend. The Nikon D3 is still a relevant camera, and the PhaseOne P65+ is still very much a capable and not obsolete. I believe, the IQ180 holds a certain place, in terms of ergonomics, built quality, functionality, and image quality which will remain capable for many years to come. Although, I’m sure I’ll still upgrade when something new comes out, but that is the Kool-aide I have drunk and it tastes goood ;)

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Couple of unrelated side notes, all of these images were taken with my Nikon D3s and 105mm f/2.8G Macro shot at f/22 and 50mm f/1.4G at f/16 on a tripod, with the self timer. Then they were all processed through raw software and edited. Finally they were processed through JPEGmini ( http://www.jpegmini.com/main/home ) which I think is absolutely amazing, it can take a 6.2MB image and make it into a 450KB image with no significant loss of detail. For all intensive purposes it is exactly the same image, and it is very hard to tell the two apart, they are the same dimensions, resolution etc. The software is great, free, and entirely internet based. Definitely something useful to know about for when you are working on pictures to go online to decrease load times. And side note, it retains exif data if your curious.

PDN Photoplus 2011

Originally published: November 2, 2011

Featured on Photorumors: http://photorumors.com/2011/11/01/pdn-photoplus-show-2011-report/

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Left: Inside the Javits Center. Right: A poor representation of the scene outside the Javits center since the image fails to capture the blizzard of snow and ice whipping by every second with the wind.

Saturday October 29, 2011 was a day to remember. Leaving my house in Connecticut at around 11:30 with flurries falling I wasn’t to concerned about the weather; I was going to PDN Photoplus after all. Around Greenwich when the snow intensified I continued on but started to question my resolve. Nonetheless I made it into the city and to the Javits Center. Usually when I attend these sort of shows, I take with me some significant camera either my D3s or my M9 because I like to have a nice camera for me for the rest of my time wherever I am. Of course they don’t hurt your credibility when asking to see expensive gear. This year however I only took my D-Lux 4 point and shoot tucked away in my pocket. As a whole I was pleased with the way I was treated and glad to confirm my suspicions that it wouldn’t affect my credibility if I was clearly knowledgeable about different products. I didn’t address Leica in this review because, as always they are amazing, they let you play with everything, and love talking about it. And of course again much to my torment, they have all of their glass their, all of that rare glass that is impossible to get new from a dealer. They had M9P’s which look great. I will have mine converted when the demand or the conversion is lower and the back order isn’t at January for the conversion. It looks good and adds to the camera’s aesthetic and functionality by making it that much more subtle. The only new thing with the S system was the 30mm Lens which no one really cared about anyway. They need more lenses there is no denying that, and I harp on that many times in the reviews below. But they are a great company with great service and that’s undeniable, even more importantly they make the best optics in the world (if you ask me, which you did since you are reading this). There are pictures of some lenses and the M9P and S2 on my Flickr page. I should add that these are as much my opinions as well as coverage of the show since I really only talks about things that I found interesting and because I’m a narcissist how they relate to me. This should be noted before giving me too much grief in the comments section although I welcome corrections and criticism in a friendly and proper manor icon wink 2011 PDN Photoplus show report For more pictures see http://www.flickr.com/brianhirschfeldphotography.

COOL THINGS THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED – SCHNEIDER-KREUZNACH PC TS SUPER ANGULON’S

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It would’ve been very easy to walk by the Schneider booth at PDN Photoplus simply because its kind of intimidating. Its German, and its not Leica. They make great optics, most of which you’ll never use because they are large format. And they are pretty damn expensive since they are pretty damn good. Not to mention there are D3’s, 1D’s and Leaf Backs being shown with GIANT TILT SHIFT LENSES on them. Since most people (myself included to a slight extent, although I’m getting better) don’t entirely grasp the concept of tilt shift lenses. All of this leads to a pretty quite, although quite large booth.   First off, these lenses are amazing, they really are. They are built so well they almost defy explanation. They can’t be compared to Leica’s because they are not. They are Schneider’s. Leica’s lenses are very simply; straightforward and streamlined like the brand. This lens is big, bulky and high in functionality and all metal. It has so many moving parts it defies description and I won’t even endeavor to explain all of them. It’s a fully manual lens, no communication with the camera, you set your aperture and everything on the lens and set your exposure on camera and bam there you go. It’s a perspective control, tilt shift lens on steroids. Its mostly similar to Nikon and Canon’s tilt shift lenses in that they tilt and shit. Schneider’s is inherently bettered designed because of the optics house it hails from. This goes without saying. What doesn’t go without saying are the different an amazing ways this camera interacts with cameras. Most interestingly to me is the mount to the camera. It is possibly by turning a nob at the back to have 360 degree rotation of the camera, but not the lens. The lens will stay in a fixed position but the camera can be repositioned. This is an amazing feature for stitching. Although I don’t remember the dimensions exactly, its possible to take an image, flip the camera mount upside down, so the camera is upside down, take another exposure, merge them together and have it was either a 6x17or a 6×24 image. I thought this was great. Combined with many other perspective modifying features of this lens its really amazing for architecture and landscape work. While less relevant to me in the Nikon and Canon mounts because these are quite small and don’t benefit a huge amount from lens/camera movements, I was more interested in the PhaseOne mount version which has all of the same features of the Nikon Canon models which apparently also have interchangeable mounts according to the sprite and chipper German Schneider rep who clearly knew what he was talking about. I was really pleased with this lens as well as the service delivered by the Schneider rep by his in-depth knowledge and eagerness to talk about the product to someone. I will definitely try and find an excuse to buy this lens.

IOSHUTTER

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Despite appearances, ioShutter had a rather prime location at the end of an isle and right next to borrow lenses; this product may have been overlooked by some. It is a fairly simple idea that you would’ve expected to come about by now. The App is currently available for download in the app store but it won’t really do you much good without the cable which will be available in December according to their website. Also I THINK NOT SURE it might just be for Canon at the moment and will be available for Nikon and I think Hasselblad was mentioned and PhaseOne in the pipeline. Anyway it’s a shutter release cable driven by your iOS device. It has time functions as well as interval release functions useful for time-lapse photograph. While I don’t know if only as a shutter it is that useful since how much room does a cable release really take up anyway? But with the added time-lapse and easy locking features combined with the fact that almost every person on the planet has an iOS device, and the ones that don’t are currently in-line to get one, and so many people have DSLR’s and pro-sumer models that might benefit from this feature, I really hope this concept succeeds.

GIGAPAN SYSTEMS GIGAPAN EPIC SMALL UPDATE

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First of all, my first victory in my crusade for the underrated 300mm f/4 lenses! There’s one mounted on a canon on a Gigapan Epic. Second since my primary interest is in medium format photography, anytime I see anything cool and techno-gadgetry as relates to camera’s I ask, does it work with PhaseOne 645DF? What about a Hasselblad H? So often the answer is no, but here the answer was YES! Kind of. Works with Hasselblad which is great, except I’m trading that in for a PhaseOne. The rep pictured left, explained that they are currently working with PhaseOne to get the cable right to communicate properly between the Gigapan Epic and the Phase 645DF body, just an interesting note, no real thoughts on it one way or another.

FUJI

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Fuji has come a long way in the last year, and I am very impressed with them. They released the X100 and its ridden a wave of hype to almost being widely available a year later. It’s a great little camera, really vintage looking, and kinda sorta opening up peoples mind to the arcane but magical world of rangefinders once again. After holding the X10 and being able to directly compare it to the X100, I have to say I walked a way with a very favorable impression of the X10. That is not to say the X100 isn’t a pretty cool camera but it isn’t that valuable of a tool to me as an M9 shooter. It is a very fun camera and certainly has some novelty value masking its true potential as a camera. But anyway back to the X10 I thought it took everything that was good about the X100 and added in some useful point and shoot features like, smaller size and zoom lenses. Again being an M shooter as well as a fan of prime lenses the X100’s lack of a zoom lens was by no means a deterrent from it in my mind. All that said about Prime lenses, the lens most often on my D3s is my 24-70mm 2.8 because it is the most convenient for general and most travel photography for me. The X10 adds a nice little zoom lens into the equation and it preforms admirably. The X100 had a pretty fast autofocus speed and the X10 seemed to be faster to me. In terms of functionality the X10 seemed on par if not better then the X100. The X10 however, excelled in the size war. I felt that it really did take the good things about the X100 and put them in a smaller, more point and shoot, sized body. It clearly can compete with the big pro-sumer model’s from Canon and Nikon The G12 and P7000 respectively. It does beat them if you ask me, it looks better, it is faster, it has better controls and its manual zoom lens is nicer if you ask me. It gets you more involved in the photography. While you loose the fun and total involvement of an aperture ring it does get both of your hands on the camera and gets you more into being a photographer which I like and think will do wonders for those who use it and photography as a whole if more cameras follow this trend of reverting to the basics (so well exemplified in the M series) and bringing thought and understanding back into mass photography. Again, that said it’s a double edged sword you get all these really cool, back to basic features, but you still wind up paying a premium, not Leica insane but its still kinda like buying a Porsche GT3 where you pay more to have them take stuff out of the car. A note about the upcoming Fuji interchangeable lens camera system. I after fondling the X100 and X10 in silence and not acknowledging the presence of their rep since there really wasn’t any need to talk to him, surreptitiously snuck in an out of no where question, catching him completely off guard, which I hoped would lead to him slipping up and revealing something. “So when will this new interchangeable model with an M mount be announced?” rep “Uh Hi, well it will be out in the spring [I already knew that part] and I should add no one said anything about it being an M-mount system.”. And this guy was really no fun at all so I didn’t bother mentioning about the m-mount patent being up and all that stuff. At the same time I would and wouldn’t be surprised if this new system was a modified m mount to allow for autofocus and a like while accepting all Legacy M lenses. But that’s not a prediction, that’s a hope.

NIKON

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Left: Red Rock Mirco with an appropriately blue styled DSLR rig with large LCD finder and Nikon’s Microphone Right: Zacuto HDSLR rig with their new-ish electronic viewfinder solution which I thought was really great. It can be used with or without the hood and give a really nice BIG electronic viewfinder for precise focus control with the attached follow focus.

Oh Nikon you wonderful behemoth the things you give us are so great. You even Dane to support other brands that compliment your system, how wonderful! I was really intrigued to see that Nikon had a Zacuto and Red Rock Micro DSLR video kit available to be fondled to advertise not only their cameras and lenses but the viability of their cameras as a HDSLR solution. I had never held one of these contraptions before and as the eager sales rep pointed out “they take a little while to get used to” but once you have figured it out they become fairly natural and easy to use. Both setups are pictured with a Nikon D7000, 85mm 1.4G and Nikon Microphone attached.PDN PhotoPlus Show 2011 New York7 2011 PDN Photoplus show report1

Nikon had a really great display of a lot of their future concepts for the mirrorless system including of course lenses as well as some very nice viewfinders and LED lighting setups for photography and video; not to mention a almost tasteful myriad of color options that totally blew Pentax’s mind since some of theme even seemed tasteful. Pictures of these can be seen with many others on my flickr page. I thought the Camcorder design pictured above was one of the best. It adds a side handle, which has a built in continuous light source for easy video recording. It also featured a hot shoe mounted large viewing screen for control over the various options while recording video. Not to mention it does this all off of one body and with interchangeable lenses. I wouldn’t ever really consider it since it isn’t my thing but I can really see this catching on if they can implement enough different accessories that it lens itself to creativity as well as convenience for the less creative consumer segment. Also its really great that they feature all of these different lenses as future concepts and describe who they will be useful for on the description cards for each but they decidedly aren’t working prototypes since they aren’t touchable or even if they are working no one would know it since you cant touch them. I understand Nikon is having a tough time at the moment but wouldn’t have been better to wait and have a fully developed lenses line when the camera launched? For the moment Canon is still without a mirror less system and there haven’t been any leaks of a Canon mirror less prototype, which suggests they, are either holding the designer’s and production staff’s families hostage or it doesn’t exist. Nikon probably could’ve waited, designed, and produced a few more lenses and released them with it, but then again that’s kind of like back seat driving since I’m sitting on my bed and not in the Nikon boardroom. But seriously if Pentax could do it, couldn’t Nikon? (and I know the Pentax lenses feel like you got them out of one of those gumball machines with the prizes but still you get the point.PDN PhotoPlus Show 2011 New York81 2011 PDN Photoplus show report 1

Continuing my purely scientific interest in Nikon and Canon’s 300mm f/4 telephoto lens offers, and confirming that no one has every actually used one by talking to multiple Nikon reps, I investigated the Nikon Offering. It is certainly better built then the Canon equivalent in terms of weather sealing and overall build. It’s a true Nikon lens through and through. That said I liked the way the Canon version felt more, honestly. They both autofocused about the same speed (very unscientific test) with a slight favor towards the Nikon in this respect. They both seem to be really nice compact lenses and I don’t know if people buy them but are ashamed of it or if they haven’t been deemed to be worth anyone’s time to review? But I’ve decided to make it my personal crusade to do these lenses justice!

PENTAX

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After being acquired by Ricoh I was curious to see what Pentax would bring to the table. See that was funny to me since all Pentax really had were to tables, albeit very nice open wooden ones with a nice aesthetic. I was expecting a heavier focus on the Ricoh product line, but there was only one camera present. One that frankly I was a bit remiss in not investigating further, the A12 M mount cartridge for the Ricoh GXR. The rest of the combined Ricoh/Pentax space other then the limited corner of the table the Ricoh GXR M mount was on (it had its own sales rep though) was taken up with Pentax Products. Essentially one of the whole tables was devoted to the new and amazing Pentax Q the cutest damn little camera I’ve ever see. From what I’ve seen its images haven’t been that impressive, but look at it! Its so Tiny and cute and you can fit all the lenses (including the zoom), and optical viewfinder in a small-medium sized pocket! And don’t even get me started on that cute little faux leather case, it just makes it look so quant and old fashioned!PDN PhotoPlus Show 2011 New York10 2011 PDN Photoplus show report1

All joking aside though, it is tiny. I mean tiny. I mean I’m pretty sure a PhaseOne battery weighs more. And better yet (all other manufacturers should note this) IT WAS ANNOUNCED WITH A FULL RANGE OF LENSES granted collectively I’m pretty sure they use as much glass as a 20 fl oz plastic coke bottle but they are all there, in the flesh, and touchable. They aren’t carefully protected from the public behind glass like the Nikon V1 / J1 concept lenses, or promised like Leica S lenses, they exist. They are there, and they are damn cute. The Jury is still out on this camera, I don’t expect it to be that great image quality wise, but hey its tiny, its complete, and its got all the buttons, who am I to badmouth it. Did I mention its absolutely adorable?PDN PhotoPlus Show 2011 New York11 2011 PDN Photoplus show report1

Pentax 645D – I’ve always had a bit of interest in this camera. It’s the closest I can come to saying that a reasonably priced new medium format system exists. Of course like the S system from Leica, it is a closed system, the back cannot be removed. But especially for Pentax this is less of an issue since they have all of the legacy 645 lenses a large number of which have autofocus. It can also use Pentax 67 lenses with an adapter that expands the lens range even wider. It seems like a nice entry point considering its cool 40mp and weather sealed body for more then half the price of a Leica S2 (don’t give me crap I’m being a jerk, of course the S is superiorly designed, built, and has better although limited optics.) At Photoplus, the camera wasn’t on display. I asked the sales rep who had shown me the Q about this and he said that it was because the 645D rep had left the day before, awkward. Anyway the Pentax sales rep did give me an interesting line which I thought may be obvious but anyway….He said that Pentax is treating the 645D as a response to Pentax users who want a step up from the K-7. This make sense although I did want to point out that there is a major gap in their pricing structure between the price of a K-7 and the 645D. But I guess if you can afford a D3x category camera you can afford a ~10k medium format system alternatively. I think the 645D does a lot of what the S2 doesn’t that is to say, be affordable. It really does a good job of this. It has all the buttons of, controls, and functionality you want in medium format, it has nice (not superior) build quality, a developed system of lenses and some cool features like the tripod mount hidden by my thumb in the below picture. Pleasing entry-level system (although this has an awful awful stigma [stigma not sigma, sigma does have a stigma attached to it] it shouldn’t) or an amazing go anywhere backup to a large mp sized medium format system. Honestly, I think the S should be more in the 15k range and that would convert more people to Leica and competitively compete with a system like this.

CANON

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Frankly in stark contrast to the jumpy and excited Nikon floor staff the Canon staff were all seated in chairs and look unenthusiastic. This doesn’t lend itself to inspire you to engage these people. But being the brave soul that I am I dared to disturb them and once you broke the ice they were more then happy to talk with you about any aspect of the camera and eager to let you put different lenses on it. OMG OMG it’s the Canon 1Dx have you seen those videos of the 12 FPS!!! CRAZY!!! And the 14 FPS in mirror lock-up WOWZERS. Pretty cool stuff but its hard to get to excited about it. It’s pretty amazing to operate the camera in motor drive at 12 fps but not life changing. I liked the 1984 F-1 Canon High Speed Motor Drive which had 14 fps a long time ago. Anyway the most important development I noted was in talking with a Canon rep. That is, that the limit on video length has been raised and will not be limited like on the IDs Mrk IV. This is important since more and more these cameras are being used on film sets. One thing I made a point of looking at at the show were the Canon 300mm f/4L and Nikon 300mm f/4 because I had never had any experience with them or read anything coherent about them. I found the Canon version to be nicer actually, pretty nice and an interesting, compact fairly fast telephoto lens. Overall this was really all that Canon had to offer, frankly the show as a whole didn’t present that many new products, but it did showcase some of the latest and greatest which have been announced over the past few months. A little disappointing but I’m not one to complain.PDN PhotoPlus Show 2011 New York13 2011 PDN Photoplus show report

A BRIEF VISIT TO POLAROID

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Frankly one of the stranger booths in the room was Polaroid’s. It kinda sorta seemed like they pulled some stuff from storage, threw in some of their new products and put some poor sales reps in for good measure. They had some strange things there, like legacy polaroid land cameras and other peculiar eclectic treasures. They also had some I assume new to them reflex-mirror lenses which I don’t understand since these are typically now a days made by second-rate manufacturers and I think that these may mean that Polaroid has gone off the deep end. They had there new little pocket printer thing in a case with some sample images printed from it which weren’t very impressive. I don’t really see the point to this item, I guess its supposed to make it like a polaroid addition to digital since it prints it on the scene? I don’t know or really care. The most interestingly strange part of the already peculiar Polaroid booth was the new camera flashes and LED hybrid. I guess its cool and a good concept. Why carry around an LED continuous light for when your doing video and a strobe with your HDSLR. It works as a concept. But I question whether anyone can feasibly put all this into a cohesive package that works, especially Polaroid. But who knows brands like quantum exist so go figure. Maybe Polaroid will be the next great camera peripheral maker, who knows, with Lady Gaga on the team (she still is right?) the sky is the limit and nothing can go wrong.

DIGITAL TRANSITIONS ~ PHASEONE AND ARCA SWISS

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Arca Swiss RM3Di Technical Camera

Tucked away in the far corner of the convention area was the Digital Transitions booth. They are PhaseOne, Arca Swiss, and Schneider dealers among others. After finishing up a deal to trade in my H3Dii-39ms for a IQ180 I explored some of the other wares they had there. They had the other IQ series backs there (IQ140 and IQ160) and they preformed just as nicely as the IQ180, no complaints about any of them.

PhaseOne 645DF and V-Grip Air – Of course they had the PhaseOne 645DF and V-Grip Air which are a wonderful combination that I think is one of the most comfortable out there for medium format.

Lenses – They also had some of the newer PhaseOne (some Mamiya and some Schneider lenses). The Schneider LS lenses are beautifully made and are definitely a step above the focal plane shutter Mamiya rebranded lenses. Now, don’t get me wrong a good sample of a Mamiya or PhaseOne 645 lens preforms very nicely, I don’t mean to cast them in a bad light by saying that they are Mamiya lenses rebranded. The Schneider lenses other then being built like tanks are of course optically better. This is a fact that may be overlooked when seeing their headings as “Leaf Shutter” lenses.

1. PhaseOne 120mm AF Macro Another highlight of the PhaseOne lens lineup present was the new 120mm AF Macro. I am sure there are some macro diehards and persnickety people who will suggest you don’t need autofocus on a macro lens. To which I will present the following. I own a Nikon 105mm f/2.8G macro; I don’t do that much macro photography. Since it is not my main area of interest I don’t use for its intended purpose that often, and when I do it is more as a novelty. But rather it is a close focusing short telephoto portrait lens (its also weather sealed and the 105mm f/2 DC is not). And this IS something that needs autofocus for convenience. This is where the 120mm AF Macro will really shine. As a fashion and portrait lens allowing the photographer different working distances with the subject. Also like the new Schneider 110mm and 150mm LS lenses, the 120mm AF Macro has a really nice new non-fluted bayonet hood. It is made of metal I believe and very solid and capable of protecting the lens. This is a feature I have disliked on many of the Mamiya designed lenses, their lens hoods are too plasticky. The 120mm AF Macro will definitely be a lens that I will be adding to my lineup in the near future.

2. Schneider 110mm f/2.8 LS lens Unfortunately as my time with Hasselblad winds down, I have come to appreciate one of its lenses in a new light. The 100mm f/2.2 has become one of my favorite lenses recently preforming admirably wide open and stopped down. Aside from its optical performance, I have found, the focal length (which is exactly 78mm in 35mm format but effectively 85mm) is my favorite focal length. I don’t leave for any shoot without either my 85mm 1.4D or 85mm 1.4G, more recently the 85mm 1.4G because of its G series weather sealing. Anyway I digress. The 100mm f/2.2 has been great and yielded some of my favorite images of all time in the past few months. The Schneider 110mm f/2.8 while lacking the widest aperture of the Hasselblad 100mm f/2 retains the focal length that I enjoy and will also be coming home with me in the near future if I have my way. It is a superiorly built lens and a real stunner optically.

Arca Swiss RM3Di – While not my main area of expertise by any means and I know there are certainly others better versed in this field, I was interested in this technical camera. It is a competitor to the Alpa series of cameras and is also in a category of non-bellows technical cameras. I like the way Micheal Reichman called it this subset of technical cameras “The Worlds Most Expensive Point and Shoot” specifically referring to a Cambo in this case. Again, anyway I digress. Having handled Alpa’s in the past (actually at PDN Photoplus 2010), I would say the Alpa’s have an edge on build quality. However I have heard from a dealer that they are rather slow in sending out simple part requests for replacements and orders. Apparently Arca Swiss is better and this should be a noted consideration. Also because of its modular nature, I understand that a lot of other Arca accessories can be used in Tandem with it. System development should be noted and is important when considering a camera, one of the clear advantages when choosing a PhaseOne over something like the Leica S2. The Arca Swiss uses a different focus system then these other technical cameras which usually use a focusing system that is on the lens which is arguable more imprecise. The Arca uses the silver knob on the front, which is more precise and takes many turns to rack the focus from minimum to infinity or visa versa which is beneficially to typically OCD landscape photographers (the OCD is one of the reason they are so good, not an insult). The RM3Di also has a full line of its own accessories like viewfinders, reflex hoods and so on and uses many large format lenses (pictured with a Schneider). The RM3Di also accepts either film backs or digital backs like those from PhaseOne. Something interesting that should be noted about the

IQ Series backs is that they have a special mode, which allows them to detect when the shutter on a view camera has been released, and an exposure made. This means that you can use view cameras without a sync cable, which is very nice, if you work outdoors or in conditions where a sync cable would get in the way (or you just hate wires like me.) For the most precise work and long exposures, I understand that it is better still to use a camera-lens sync cable anyway though. The RM3Di is a very nice camera and through my limited knowledge of the niche, I see no major complaints with it other then size issues and some lackluster build quality (everyone else uses wood why did you choose resin grips Arca?). I personally would lean towards Alpa in these matters because of finish and build quality. But in the end these systems are all about facilitating the use of typically ultra-wide but also regular large format lenses on medium format sensors with the theory that they large image circle will yield a sweeter sweet spot on the smaller medium format sensor. It should also be noted that they allow you to shit and tilt the lens and back for stitching possibilities.

 

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.

 

PhaseOne P65+ and PhaseOne 645DF

Originally published: April 3, 2011

Wow, this is one heck of a camera. I have been looking to replace my Hasselblad lately and I Demoed this one at Digital Transitions in NY. I would have to say that this is the best digital back on the planet. With that moniker it also carries one of the heaviest price tags in digital cameras weighing in at around $32,000 for the back alone. Of course for this amount, you get 60.5 megapixels. Many would argue that this is 48.5 megapixels than anyone ever needs. However with it you get an extraordinary amount of data to work with. The dynamic range according to DxO mark is the highest of any digital back. It is simply superb.

It can be purchased with just about any mount out there. It is available currently for the Mamiya 645 (PhaseOne 645 is the exact same camera), Mamiya RZ, Hasselblad V and other mounts. As of last week, PhaseOne won (haha alliteration) a law suit against Hasselblad closed system H mount.

Hasselblad’s H mount 645 camera was the industry standard for many years, until they closed their system. Before this their H camera (also produced by Fuji as the GX645 same camera) had been closed. However PhaseOne won the antitrust proceedings and will now, along with other digital back manufacturers be able to build cameras with the H mount. This was a major victory for PhaseOne and a significant defeat to Hasselblad. Also in a cruel twist of fate, Hasselblad was ordered to pay the legal costs of the (I believe) 6 year long case. Anyway the purpose of this paragraph was mostly to say, you can get it for just about any medium format camera system that you own.

One interesting feature that really astounded me was its ability to shoot fewer megapixels and higher ISO as well as frame rates. Ingeniously PhaseOne has figured out who to create a system where their digital back shoots at 15 megapixels and is able to shoot up to ISO 3200. Of course this is nothing for most of the current DSLR’s on the market however it is a big feat for the medium format digital back industry. I marveled at the fact that this was able to be done and thought it was really cool. Of course ISO 3200 is not useable at all. However 1600 becomes tolerable under extreme situations or where the grain might be aesthetically pleasing.

The Screen on this camera is the best of any digital back I have seen except the Leica S2. The screen is decently clear and responsive. It no where near is good as a computer screen, the first iPhone’s screen or even a $500 Nikon’s. However in medium format digital back’s screen quality is something that has fallen by the wayside. The manufacturers have always been more focused on the sensor then trivialities such as the screen. This is easily explained, these backs are usually shot in studios and tethered; at least in the manufacturers eyes that is. Many professionals use them outdoors for either fashion or fine art landscape photography. The latest batch of screens are decent enough however little can be gained by looking at them in all honesty. That said PhaseOne’s screens are leaps and bounds above the competition, especially Leaf.

Side note: Leaf and PhaseOne are shareholders in Mamiya, this is why the PhaseOne 645AFD cameras and Mamiya 645AFD cameras look hauntingly similar, your eyes do not deceive you, they are exactly the same.  PhaseOne is the majority shareholder and are able to decide the direction for the company. Leaf is a major shareholder though and the Mamiya branded backs are nothing but rebranded Leaf backs. Which are well, not that great to be perfectly honest. I say this in terms of my needs, they may be perfect for some other people. This topic is covered in my Leaf Aptus-II 10 Article. Anyway back to my camera industry background…The PhaseOne 645AFD is truely an “open source” camera body. It will accept any digital back without prejudice. A similar thing happened with the Hy6 camera system. Lens maker Jenoptik created a design for a medium format camera body; the Hy6. They then commissioned Rollei (Rolleiflex) to make the camera. They did. It caught on and for many years Leaf, as well as Sinar had their own branded Hy6 cameras.

I Digress. On Build Quality these things are unstoppable. If you look at PhaseOne’s youtube channel (PhaseOne DK) you can view videos of them supporting jeeps, being frozen, cooked, dropped from balloons, off the backs of speeding cars, oh yeah and stood on by elephants. So they are pretty damn tough. They are solidly built and are weather sealed. It feels like a solid hunk of metal in your hand, a solid hunk of metal worth more then some BMW’s. Quite frankly they should all feel this way but they don’t (cough cough Leaf cough cough). After holding it and shooting with it, I proclaimed that it was “the Leica of medium format interchangeable digital backs”. I stand by this, it is ridiculously well built.

Shooting Tethered and with Strobes are seamless with the PhaseOne 645AFD (yes, and the Mamiya). When shooting tethered you easily slide the Firewire cable into a designated and protected port on the back of the camera, and it is quickly recognized by the computer without having to do anything on the computer or back. Shooting with strobes is equally pleasurable, simply plug a flash sync cable into the body et voila, strobes. Everything works perfectly, this system is truly at the top of its game.

I Shot this camera at the same time as a Leaf Aptus-II 10, you can see my full review and comparison in my Leaf Aptus-II 10 review. However one item of note the PhaseOne automatically recognizes the camera profile. This means without pressing any buttons it knows that camera body you just put it on. This is one of the many features that make it a more refined machine, worthy of respect.

In conclusion, one must ask themselves, is this the camera for me? Well if you don’t need ridiculously good low light performance then thats a check. If you do go check out a Nikon D3s or Leica M9 with Noctiulux depending on your style. Do you need 60.5 megapixels? the answer to that one is a resounding NO for 95% of photographers. Do you want 60.5 megapixels? the answer to that is a resounding YES from 95% of photographers. Except for hipsters who only shoot film and Ken Rockwell. This system is wonderful nothing short. The PhaseOne camera body and lenses are equally excellent to the digital back that they compliment. If you need this, or want this and you have an income to match, its a great buy. I have been told that they will be rolling out an 80 megapixel version soon just like Leaf (Mamiya Digital Backs) and Hasselblad already have. Since those are heading into uncharted territory sensor wise, I think this will remain the premiere digital back for a few more years. PhaseOne has created a true “City on a Hill” with which all lesser companies should compare themselves. I do not know if this is the back that I will choose, I must do some soul searching and pixel peeping to decide that; but P65+ is definitely a man among men.

Scroll Down for Sample Pictures, Tech Specs, and Real life Pictures of what the camera looks like.

SAMPLE IMAGES

Full Image

PhaseOne P65+ with Schneider 45mm LS lens on tripod at f/2.8 1/60 ISO 100

Profoto Acute with Softbox to the left of the lizard.

33% Center Crop

PhaseOne P65+ with Schneider 45mm LS lens on tripod at f/2.8 1/60 ISO 100

Profoto Acute with Softbox to the left of the lizard.

100% Center Crop wow.

PhaseOne P65+ with Schneider 45mm LS lens on tripod at f/2.8 1/60 ISO 100

Profoto Acute with Softbox to the left of the lizard.