PhaseOne moves to 80mp

My original medium format back was a Kodak DCS 16mp.  When PhaseOne offered a nice trade-in credit for their 22mp back, I decided to upgrade since it was obvious Kodak was not moving forward with higher resolution backs.  One advantage of PhaseOne backs is they offer aggressive trade-in allowances to each new back as it comes along.  Phase recently purchased Leaf, so this really means there are only 2 players in the medium format back business, Imacon/Hasselblad and Phase One/Leaf/Mamiya.  Last fall Leaf announced their 80mp back, which was basically the same back with a higher resolution sensor.  It’s been surprising that PhaseOne had no such announcement, and was pretty quiet about their plans.

This week the reasons were finally understood, as Phase decided not to just roll the new 80mp sensors in the old backs, but instead introduced an entire new series of back, complete with a very high rez display (almost the same resolution as the iPhones retina displays), and a touch screen interface that has borrowed gestures from Apple’s iOS devices, including tapping, scrolling, and pinch zooming.  There are 3 models, the IQ180, IQ160, and IQ140. Unlike previous backs whose naming schemes didn’t make much sense (the p65 is a 59mp back), the new backs reflect the approximate resolution in the name.  The two lower models duplicate the current p65+ and p45+, adding the new features of the design, while the IQ180 offers 80mp. The new backs have much better weather sealing, including the battery which is now enclosed in the back similar to most cameras, with a door that seals the battery.  The new backs use a Dalsa sensor (something which I personally am not sold on, as I miss the ability to do long exposures with the p45+ and it’s Kodak sensor.  I also think Kodak sensors render colors slightly more accurately and thus require less tweaking, but I can’t really back that up with any hard evidence).  One reason Phase is using Dalsa is they have been able to work with the engineers to tweak the sensor. I’m also guessing they don’t want to be stuck on Kodak sensors, since the future of Kodak is really up in the air (and has been for over a decade).

Among the many new features of the back, the one that intrigues me the most is the new display and the rumor the back will support a form of live view.  The LiveView will be quite slow, in the range of about 3 frames per second, but this means you could conceivably use live view to compose and manually focus with a technical camera, eliminating the need of the ground glass.  I’ve found it very challenging to work with the ground glass, both for composition and focusing.  Most lenses for the Alpa are only 5.6, so not much light to the ground glass.  This feature in the IQ series of Phase backs may make it much easier (and more enjoyable).

There’s lots of info on the internet out there, the three best being Phase One’s site,  Luminous Landscape and getDPI.  There are lengthy discussion threads in both the last two sites as well regarding the new backs.

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