Using the Phase One XF100 to Photograph Prototype Mars Helmets

2015 gave us two great things: the incredible and groundbreaking Phase One XF100 digital back and the Academy Award-nominated film, “The Martian.” While the XF100 brought us to a new frontier of image quality and performance, “The Martian” has brought the idea of Mars exploration back into the spotlight. NASA has even gone so far as to build a prototype Mars mission astronaut helmet. It just so happens that Doug Sonders, one of our own contributing writers, photographed this space-age helmet with the XF100.

Doug photographed the helmet for Popular Science earlier this year. This short video was put together to showcase the camera's dynamic range and resolution. It also offers a behind the scenes look at the setup that Doug used. Doug was kind enough to provide the final images for me to share with you, as well as this crop to showcase the detail of the camera. 

It's interesting that NASA is taking the time to prototype something like this, even though it will likely be a long time before we see anything come of these helmets. Phase One is seemingly the perfect choice for a subject this important. What are your thoughts on the new camera now that we've seen it out in the wild for a few months?

Images used with permission of Douglas Sonders. 


Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

Spencer Lookabaugh is a lifestyle and portrait photographer located in Columbus, Ohio, as well as an employee of Midwest Photo Exchange. He is a firm believer in printing, shooting film and digital, and the power of photography. He also shoots landscape work in his spare time.

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What's up with the shade banding in the first two? Was that a result of the upload/view here, or part of the actual photo? I tend to think the first, because I don't see any of it in the closeup.

I think the surface isn't perfectly flat, but I may be wrong.

Doug needs to flatten and stretch that paper backdrop a little better next time. I've honestly seen better pictures of helmets on eBay, taken with an iPhone.

couldn't spring $10 to use the song? hahah it says audio jungle every 15 secs

Haha! I immediately noticed the same thing. The irony here is that they are showing a several thousand dollar camera taking pictures of Astronaut helmets that represent a multi-billion dollar cost associated with traveling to space.

I guess I don't understand the point. The images don't really show anything more impressive than what my 5D can do. Maybe it's more impressive if you see the originals.

wow, this is an underwhelming use of a multi-thousand dollar camera... video too is loooooooowwwww production.

Another video that shows nothing about the lighting or provides a reason to use a MF digital camera.