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Phase One Released The First Amazing CMOS Medium Format Camera And It's Ready To Ship

For years, medium format cameras have been stuck with digital CCD sensors that are poor-performing at high ISO's because creating medium format CMOS sensors was prohibitively expensive. Well, that has all changed now. Hasselblad teased their new CMOS medium format camera earlier this week, but today Phase One announced their new CMOS digital medium format back and not only is it ready to ship on Monday, but it already looks like it will be a class dominator.

CMOS vs. CCD Medium Format Backs?:

First of all, to learn the difference between a CMOS vs CCD sensor in digital cameras, you can visit the how stuff works website where they wrote a great article describing the differences. Although if you want the quick version, CCD sensors create BEAUTIFUL images at low ISO's in comparison to CMOS sensors, but raise the ISO up a bit and you get a lot of noise. Also, CCD sensors consume many times more power to run than a CMOS sensor. Also, based on current manufacturing processes, it was much cheaper to manufacture a medium format CCD than it was a comparable CMOS, until now. A well manufactured CMOS medium format will give you much better dynamic range than a comparable 35mm, higher max resolution, the ability for easy live preview, and the chance to shoot low light environments with higher ISO. Essentially, a the introduction of a CMOS medium format will change everything we can do with a modern digital medium format.

You see, I love shooting with my Phase One 645DF+ with IQ140 digital back (CCD system). It has created some beautiful crisp, richly detailed, high dynamic range images in controlled lighting environments. I originally switched from Canon cameras and was thrilled with the performance of my IQ140, but any time I want to venture to a low light scenario I'm afraid to raise my ISO to 400 or higher because my images would be on the cusp of being a bit too noisy for print advertising applications. Although, Phase One does offer Sensor Plus shooting mode which allows cleaner shooting at higher ISO's with their CCD cameras, but at the same time only allows you to use part of the camera's full resolution in that mode. So up until today, a shooter like me could photograph with a camera that yielded the best quality on the planet, as long as I kept the ISO under 400. You can imagine how excited I am to know that my next Phase One digital back will allow me to do nearly everything I've ever wanted it to do. I knew something was coming down the pipeline when Phase One started asking photographers like myself what I'd like to see in a new back and it's apparent they have listened.

The Specs And Details:

"Phase One today introduced the world’s first CMOS-based medium format digital camera back. The new 50-megapixel IQ250 brings unprecedented image capture flexibility to the IQ2 family of wireless-enabled high-end camera systems. Whether photo sessions are held in the studio or on a mountainside, the IQ250 lets photographers capture stunning imagery in available light -- virtually anywhere and any time."  - Phase One press release

  • "A sensor size of 44x33mm, the IQ250 offers 68 percent more image-capture real estate than any full-frame 35mm DSLR camera and the widest usable ISO range of any medium format camera system" - Phase One press release
  • The new CMOS model is 50 Megapixel and is called the IQ250
  • Available for shipping January 27, 2014 unlike the Hasselblad CMOS back which apparently won't be released until at least March.
  • Impressive 100-6400 ISO range.
  • Has a 1.3x crop factor on a 645 body. 2 gigs internal ram. 1.2 FPS shooting.
  • 14 Stops dynamic range. This is class-leading. A standard 35mm DSLR only has about 8 to 9 stops of dynamic range and the highest dynamic range medium format before today that I am aware of had only 13 stops.
  • Shutter speed ranging from 1/10,000 to 1 hour. WOW.
  • Now offering easy to use Live View mode that displays at 25fps like you are used to seeing on 35mm DSLR's to make composing images easier. Apparently live view mode will transmit to Capture One Pro tethering software and even to the Capture Pilot app on your iPad or similar mobile device directly since the back also has built in WIFI transmitting capability. "Live View on the IQ250 offers great composition and focus assistance -- whether it is used directly on the digital back, connected via USB3 to Capture One on the computer, or displayed wirelessly on iPads or iPhones running Capture Pilot."
  • Prices start at $34,990 USD which may seem like a lot to some but considering that this is in the same ballpark as their current IQ260 (60 megapixel CCD) this is MUCH cheaper than I thought it would be.
  • Digital Transitions, the NYC-based Phase One reseller (they are great and sold me my camera and many cameras to my friends) put together an awesome list of the 10 things you need to know about the new IQ250 : http://www.digitaltransitions.com/blog/dt-blog/phase-one-iq250-10-things-to-know 




The Rumor Mill:

I have received info from various reliable sources on the following rumors. Nothing is confirmed or officially, obviously, but lets just call these well-informed rumors...

  • It looks like the Hasselblad CMOS medium format that was teased recently will be overshadowed by the new IQ250. Why do I say that? I hear that Hasselblad has only updated the sensor and nothing else. That means that unlike the Phase One backs, it still does not have a high definition touch screen or built-in WiFi capability. I've shot with Hasselblads and I find this to be unacceptable for those of us that like to shoot untethered on-location. You simply cannot visually identify if your shot is in focus or not unless you are tethered. It's one thing to update to a CMOS sensor from CCD, but you have to upgrade your functionality as well. They are way overdue for an update to their on-camera interface. Although, please bear in mind this is an unconfirmed rumor...
  • Phase One has some more really cool gear announcements to make that I DO know about, but that's all I can say. Stuff that I know I personally want to buy. Stay tuned is all I can say for now.


Read First Impressions By Photographers That Have Tried The IQ250 Out Already:

  • According to the Phase One press release: Award-winning Australian wedding photographer Dan O'Day has found the IQ250’s abundant dynamic range to be a game changer. He said, “I shoot the majority of my work on location, and I prefer to shoot only using available light. With the IQ250, I can shoot portraits of couples any time of day, under just about any conditions Mother Nature offers me, and still retain all the details. Couples rely on me to capture one of the happiest moments in their life, and they expect the outcome to be perfect. With the IQ250 I can deliver on this expectation with greater confidence, quality and detail than ever before."




Learning More About The IQ250 Including A Demo Event Coming To NYC:

  • You can learn more on Phase One's website: www.phaseone.com/iq2 
  • Interested in buying or possibly demoing any of the current Phase One backs, you can find a dealer close to you here: www.phaseone.com/partners. Although, I am biased, but I bought my Phase One from my boy Lance Schad at Digital Transitions in NYC. They can ship you a demo unit anywhere around the US and DT has taken car of / sold / educated numerous photographer friends of mine that wanted to make the leap to medium format photography.
  • If you are in NYC on February 12th and are interested in seeing what the CMOS back can do, I am actually co-hosting an event with Digital Transitions where I will be doing live shooting demonstrations with the IQ250 as well. Come by and say hello and try it out! You can see links to sign up on www.Digitaltransitions.com or my Facebook page www.facebook.com/sondersphoto
Douglas Sonders's picture

Commercial Photographer (mainly Phase One medium format digital) and filmmaker based out of NYC. Started a site called Notabully.org to spread stories about well-behaved and positive pitbulls. Love cars, 80s movies, dogs, and adventure. Free time is spent traveling, sleeping, adventuring, or working on my baby, a 1969 Mustang Mach 1.

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Previous comments

This is just a groundbreaking camera! I would love to try it out one day!

come to one of the upcoming demo events!

If I have money for a MF, I'd just throw money at Zeiss for their Otus.

Why would we pay more for a sensor that has lower quality. If the only benefit is better low light performance, why are you shooting medium format in the first place. Now if they improved the low light performance of the CCD sensor, the price would make sense. BUT it is absolutely cheaper to make CMOS medium format sensor than a CCD sensor. Grab your full frame if you want to shoot at 1600 iso or hell, use film. I have beautiful images at 1600 iso on medium format film. Marketing is at its best here.

I honestly cant speak for lower quality since I havent tried the 250 out yet, BUT as medium format systems go, I do love things like the high flash sync speed of the leaf shutter and super high quality optics and installed WIFI and it certainly is appealing to imagine I can have all that AND not have to switch between a canon body and my P1 CCD back just because it cant perform well when i want to increase the ISO. I mean Ive been carrying FF and MF in my camera bag in case I want to shoot something at higher ISO but man I would love it if I could upgrade my IQ140 to a back that can DO more AND have the pre-existing benefits of the Phase one MF system that I personally like.

"14 Stops dynamic range. This is class-leading." Barely state of art, D800E and A7r have more than 14 stop at base ISO (not to mention all cinema cameras and their dragon-esk sensors ...) ...

thanks for sharing!

wow, those are... really not at all impressive.

Should be interesting to see whether Pentax uses the same sensor in their 645D-II MF camera. It's due for an update this year according to rumors...

Oh hey thats not a bad thought! good to know

On a comical side-note, everyone was bent out of shape when Nikon introduced the Df with no video capability, but no one ever complains that MF cameras don't have video. ;-)

34k? why do businesses feel like its necessary to take advantage of people... I want to see how much R&D costs go into making something like this and their overall costs to warrant such a pricetag... My bet is on that they have already had 80+150+ mp sensors developed and just slowly release to public to make tons of money. Thats the sole problem with our race.. we would be so much further ahead and have much more enjoyable lives if we all just kept helping each other moving forward.. #justmyrant

one more hashtag.. #film

A digital back with touchscreen is like a Korean car with spinning rims,
I'd rather go bare wheel.

You pay $35k for 1.3 crop MF, which makes all your lenses cropped by 1.3... Hell, why?