PhaseOne Chief Executive Henrik Hakonsson is bridging a vast digital photography divide.
His company makes top-end image sensor housings called digital backs, each costing tens of thousands of dollars and attaching to high-end medium-format cameras with similarly high price tags. But he just signed a partnership with Microsoft, which gears its products for the broadest possible audience.
The Phase One product that brings these two worlds together is Capture One, software that helped pioneer the area of processing "raw" images taken directly from image sensors without any in-camera processing. The software exists chiefly for Phase One's high-end customers, but it also supports many mainstream cameras.
Through the partnership, terms of which were not disclosed, Microsoft will help Phase One tackle technical challenges of improving that software, Hakonsson said. And according to Josh Weisberg, Microsoft's director of digital imaging evangelism, Capture One will be able to handle files encoded with Microsoft's HD Photo format, which the company is advocating as a higher-quality replacement for the ubiquitous JPEG and is standardizing as JPEG XR.
Phase One, based in Copenhagen, was founded in 1993 and is owned by its 130 employees. On the hardware side, its top-end P45+ back uses a 39-megapixel sensor from Kodak. It sells two versions of Capture One, the $499 Pro and the $99 LE, but with the upcoming version 4, the LE version will simply be named Capture One 4.
I chatted with Hakonsson about his company's software, hardware, and Microsoft alliance earlier this month. Here's an edited transcript.
Q: Most people haven't heard of Phase One. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch? Hakonsson: Phase One is the world's leading digital camera back manufacturer. If you take a copy of Vogue magazine and look at the first 50 pages, approximately 80 percent of the images are shot with Phase One digital back and Capture One software. Our position in the market is the very top maybe 1 percent of the photo segment--shooters who work with the biggest clients and the most demanding photographic applications.
What's your sales volume for digital backs? The global market will exceed 10,000. Phase 1 has more than 50 percent of the market. Some of our digital back competitors are working to make less costly solutions. We try to target the most demanding photographers.
What will result from the Microsoft partnership? For Phase One, the main reason for doing this was the ability to get access to some tools which will help us provide better services for the kind of photographers we're working with. We're getting into file sizes that may be two to three times what we have today, and the speed of being able to handle these files requires other tools than what we have in our portfolio.
For me, performance is No. 1. The parameters on which we position our product are speed, image quality, and ease of use. On the performance side, we needed a partner.
How big are your image files? Typically 150MB. We expect larger file sizes for the next two to three years. The ability to make sure that people can browse and process images is important going forward. Microsoft has a range of tools for assuring that we can serve our high-end customers, who are the ones we are predominantly concerned about. … Read more