Phase One medium-format camera gear goes wireless, B&W

The new IQ2 line of digital backs lets photographers use Wi-Fi for remote camera control, and a black-and-white version offers sharper detail while venturing beyond the visible spectrum.

The Phase One IQ280 digital back along with the 645DF+ camera body and the 80mm Schneider-Kreuznach leaf-shutter lens.
The Phase One IQ280 digital back along with the 645DF+ camera body and the 80mm Schneider-Kreuznach leaf-shutter lens. Phase One

Phase One said today it's updating high-end medium-format camera line with three new Wi-Fi-equipped digital backs -- including one model that shoots only black-and-white images.

The $43,990 IQ280 keeps the same 80-megapixel sensor of its predecessor, the Phase One IQ180 , but it's got a better 13-stop dynamic range -- a measurement of image's span from bright to dark. That's up from 12.5 stops on the IQ180.

The IQ280 has a large 80-megapixel image sensor measuring 53.7x40.4mm. The digital back also has Wi-Fi abilities for remote control and monitoring.
The IQ280 has a large 80-megapixel image sensor measuring 53.7x40.4mm. The digital back also has Wi-Fi abilities for remote control and monitoring. Phase One

Phase One announced the cameras today along with the IQ260, which has a new 60-megapixel sensor, and the IQ 260 Achromatic, a black-and-white variation. The three new digital backs will ship in June but can be ordered now, Phase One said.

The digital backs are image sensors that mount to Phase One or Mamiya camera bodies, which handle chores like gauging exposure and moving the shutter. They're geared for professionals who shoot subjects such as fashion models, cars, architecture, and jewelry.

All three new IQ2 models have can be used to control the camera and back digitally using Phase One's Capture Pilot software for iOS. It lets the photographers take photos, control settings such as exposure and shutter speed, give photos with star ratings, check focus after a shot is taken, and remotely monitor photo shoots.

The $36,990 IQ260 has a 60-megapixel sensor and the same wireless abilities. Because of its sensor design, it can shoot exposures up to an hour long "with virtually noise-free images," Phase One said. That's an unusual attribute given that very long exposures with digital cameras often are plagued with noise.

More exotic is the $44,990 IQ260 Achromatic that captures only black-and-white images by shucking traditional digital cameras' color filter array -- something that competitor Leica also has done. The Phase One sensor can record more detail by capturing just monochrome information. A color filter array means each pixel records only red, green, or blue information, and a mathematical process called demosaicing estimates full color information for each pixel by interpolating values from nearby pixels. No such interpolation is required for the IQ260 Achromatic's sensor.

In addition, the IQ260 Achromatic captures not just visible light but infrared and ultraviolet, too. Usually those invisible parts of the spectrum are filtered out, but the IQ260 lets photographers capture them if desired for unusual effects. They can mount filters to the outside of the camera lens if they want to narrow the spectrum they're photographing.

All three models also have accelerometers that record orientation information, letting photographers automatically level out photos after the fact if desired. Like their predecessors, the sensor backs record 16 bits of data per pixel, two more bits than the high-end SLRs from companies like Canon and Nikon.

The medium-format market has been a tough industry, with several players falling by the wayside during the transition to digital photography. Large digital image sensors are extremely expensive to manufacture, and SLR makers have much higher sales volume.

The Phase One IQ260 Achromatic takes black-and-white images only, and can capture infrared and ultraviolet light as well as colors visible to the human eye.
The Phase One IQ260 Achromatic takes black-and-white images only, and can capture infrared and ultraviolet light as well as colors visible to the human eye. Phase One

Copenhagen-based Phase One also sells Capture One software, which can be used to edit the raw photo data from the Phase One digital backs and from many other cameras as well.

Although much of the digita photography world has moved to sensors built with the same CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) manufacturing processes that's used to make microprocessors, the Phase One cameras use the earlier CCD (charged-coupled devices) technology.

Teledyne Dalsa builds the sensors, which can reach ISO sensitivity settings as low as 35 for minimum-noise shots on the IQ280 and 50 for the IQ260 models. Although Phase One digital backs have stood at the top of DxO Labs' DxOMark sensor tests, the newest full-frame Nikon SLRs and Sony's RX-1 have pushed past them to claim first place through better dynamic range and low-light performance.

They don't offer as many megapixels, though, which can be a constraint for those printing large or very detailed high-resolution photos, and the Phase One IQ180 still edges them out in its color ratings. And the IQ2 family has yet to be tested.

 

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