This week, Phase One announced a brand-new camera platform, the Phase One XF, and three new IQ3 digital backs. Every photo media outlet in the world has the press release and various levels of speculation and information, all focused on those two main announcements. Here’s the thing: it was only one of a half dozen announcements Phase One made, and some of the best announcements are getting obscured by the announcement of their body and backs. Read on to see some of the other exciting stuff they have coming out this week.
I cannot wait to see and play with the XF body and IQ3 backs, and I bet there are a few of you that would love to as well. I figure I should mention that my friends at Digital Transitions, who sold me my original Phase One IQ140 and 645DF+ body, is having Phase One XF Open Houses this month in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Birmingham where they’ll have all the new toys. A lot of the new XF features, like the Honeybee Autofocus system and brighter viewfinder, are something I need to see before I could usefully comment on them, but I have been hearing great things from my friends that have tried the new tech firsthand.
But some of the sleeper announcements I don’t need to see to comment on. So here are four things that I am personally excited about in this week's announcement.
1.) Phase One IQ2 Firmware Upgrades, IQ1 XF Compatibility
Easily missed in all the talk about the IQ3 digital backs is that many of the IQ3 features will come to the IQ2 via free firmware update. Digital backs are less expensive than many think (hint: they aren’t all $30,000), but there is no getting around the fact they are expensive, and the list price and street price often diverge (just ask my dealer Digital Transitions, whom I am happy to plug because they helped gather the additional information for this article and they've honestly always taken care of me above and beyond). When you buy something in this price range, you expect the company to have your back. Providing most of the IQ3 improvements to existing IQ2 clients, for free, is pretty awesome and great customer service.
Just as nice, the new XF body supports the IQ1 and Credo backs, which is great to know that my IQ140 back will work with the new body. I know that I will probably pick up the new XF body later this year.
2.) Schneider 120mm LS Macro Lens
This new leaf shutter macro lens fills a much-needed void in the Phase One lens lineup. It can reach 1:1 magnification without extension rings for tight beauty shots or product details, and if it's like any of the other prime leaf shutter Schneider lenses, it will be wickedly sharp. The previous Schneider 120mm Macro it replaces is a focal plane lens, which can only sync at 1/125, a major limitation once you get used to syncing with leaf shutter lenses. The release of the 120mm LS addresses that limitation, providing native flash sync of 1/1600. Anyone want to buy my Phase One 120mm Macro? It’s in great condition!
3.) Schneider 35mm LS Wide-Angle Lens
I am pretty excited about the new 35mm leaf shutter. Until this week my only wide-angle leaf shutter lens options were the Schneider 28mm LS, which is often too wide for my taste/needs, or the Schneider 55mm LS which... is not all that wide. So I had to buy an old Mamiya 35mm focal plane lens if I needed to shoot with a wide lens somewhere between 28 and 55mm, but as mentioned above, it is limited to 1/125 shutter sync speed. There are also 45mm D, and 50mm shift lenses that I could use, but again, these are all focal plane lenses. In conclusion, the 35mm LS fills the leaf-shutter lens void between the 28mm LS and 55mm LS. For me it will be the "Goldilock" lens; just the right amount of wide.
4.) Camera Controls in Capture One 8.3
Capture One has been my go-to raw software and tethered shooting solution for years now. One of the reasons is that you can tell tethering is a core function, and not just an afterthought. Unlike Lightroom, Capture One offers live view for Canon, Nikon, and Sony.
In Capture One Pro 8.3 you can now also change any of the settings/preferences of your attached camera. As noted by just about every blog I have read, this is true for the Phase One XF. But it is also true for supported Canon and Nikon cameras. The list of settings is even text searchable, meaning that some of the more obscure camera settings are actually easier to find in Capture One than they are in Canon or Nikon's convoluted menu systems.
Since switching to a digital medium format Phase One body and back a few years ago, I don’t use my Canon 5D Mark III DSLR cameras often for still work (except as a backup body and for occasional events), but when I do, this is just one more reason I’ll keep using Capture One for tethering. I should also mention that if you are unfamiliar, Capture One Pro 8 is way faster and less buggy than Capture One Pro 7. Also, if you have never tried out Capture One Pro before, you can demo the full software free for 30 days.
Waking Up to These New Features
Waking up to a free firmware update with super useful tools, two new lenses that hit sweet spots that I’ve hitherto missed, and improved camera controls in Capture One? This week's announcements were like Chrismakah, even without mentioning the new body or IQ3 backs.