It’s safe to say that this camera doesn’t suck, and in the hands of someone like Tim Kemple, who’s at the top of their game, the results are pretty incredible. I got the chance to chat with Tim about his thoughts on using the new Phase One XF 100MP camera, including what happened when he flew it on a drone over a waterfall.
This all got started when Tim had a commercial job lined up, which involved shooting Amtrak trains from a helicopter. Hoping to get a high-resolution, full frame camera system to demo for the project at first, he initially had no idea what would end up in his hands.
It was a rad project, hanging out of helicopters in LA, Utah, Colorado, NYC, Philly etc. The folks in Copenhagen (Phase One Camera Systems) were keen and the next thing I knew I was signing NDAs again. I thought… well hopefully its cool, and hopefully it actually works. I’m all for being on the front lines on technology but I get nervous when it involves a commercial job.
After experiencing the prototype XF 100MP, Tim wanted to do something more. The train shoots went great, but he wanted more time to work with the system and capture other images with it. You may recall that Tim was recently in Iceland for another project, and what do you know, he brought the XF 100MP along too!
The next thing I know I’m literally calling the guys in Copenhagen, from the lip of a waterfall in Iceland asking them why my remote trigger won’t work on the XF100 to be able to shoot images from the the RC Heli. They told me that because the body was still in the testing phase, the ports for remote release hadn’t been made functional yet. But then they suggested the Capture Pilot App that lets you control the camera from a phone. I downloaded the app while sitting at the lip of the waterfall, connected it to the camera and we were in business.
After having properly put this camera through it’s paces, Tim had a much better idea of its capabilities, and what it was like to work with these images in post. Of course most folks will look at the huge resolution first, but there’s more than just megapixels that make the XF 100MP a stellar camera. Tim explained that there were four reasons why this kind of system is a big step above a DSLR.
1 - Dynamic Range. The amount of information in these files, and the ability to push them around in post is nuts. And to push them around and have things look clean, and real… Nothing else compares.
2 - Client Experience. From the moment you pull the medium format camera out of the bag clients know that you are the real deal. The image review with the capture pilot app just works… rain snow or shine. It's hard to explain but the ability for the client and crew to be able to be involved in the shoot/process even though you might be in a remote location with a small team is so valuable.
3 - High Speed Flash Sync. 1/1600 all the time at all power levels. No mucking about with hyper sync.
4 - Medium Format look. Especially with the full frame sensor… yeah the look you get from the lenses. The bokeh. It's hard to explain… but man is it nice.
Tim went on to say that it’s like a Nikon D810 on steroids. The all around sharpness of the files, even at 100%.
Tim told me that when shooting with a Phase One system he tends to slow down, being more thoughtful about his process while not “spraying and praying.” With file sizes in the 600-700MB range, that’s a good thing! Images from this camera would quickly eat up drive space. You can see what’s going on with all that data when you go look at the images though; Tim and his retoucher noticed that images were sharp. Like, really sharp.
These files are sharp. Not just a ton of resolution… but sharp as hell. The dynamic range is through the roof! Miss an exposure by 3 stops? No problem. Push the highlight slider to 100 not a problem. It's everything you love about the Sony sensors in the A7Rs and D800s only bigger and in 16bit.
I made sure to ask Tim about ISO performance, as some other writers and readers here on Fstoppers were curious about how well such a high-resolution camera would work. Tim seemed to think the ISO performance is on par with the best cameras out right now.
I shot the kayaker going on the RC Heli at 6400, but you’d never guess that when you look at it.
Here are a few other shots that Tim captured while had the XF 100MP.
All images by Tim Kemple.