Friday, February 18, 2011

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NEW! Phase One IQ Backs

Back in late January, Phase One announced an awesome new series of digital backs, the 40MP IQ140, the 60MP IQ160 and 80MP IQ180. Click on the names to download the respective PDF datasheets. The IQ backs represent the biggest leap in digital back functionality that I have seen in a very long time.  This is no subtle warming over, rather Phase One has given us a completely new system with an innovative user interface and stunning hardware.

The most obvious change is the new high resolution (290ppi - 1.15 megapixel) 3.2" multi-touch LCD on the back. This may sound familiar to you since it is apparently very similar to the display used on the iPhone 4, so it should provide stunning clarity, accurate colour balance and very intuitive touch-screen operation of the camera.  This is clearly a huge step up from Phase One's previous LCD screen and indeed a huge step up over anybody else's display as well! In addition, Phase One has kept the traditional 4-button interface as well for those familiar with that, or for easier operation while wearing gloves.

The user interface of these new backs has been completely redesigned to take the full advantage of the new touchscreen LCD. As with an iPhone, you can swipe back and forth to change images, pinch-to-zoom and more. You can also tap on certain elements of the display to enlarge them.  For example, the normally unobtrusive small histogram can just be tapped to enlarge it for more detailed analysis.  The LCD also adjusts its brightness and contrast automatically, based on ambient light conditions and has extremely good viewing angles as well.  This display and new user interface is going to be a true revolution in usability for digital backs I'd say.

The body of the new IQ backs is also significantly different from before, having a more integrated design, with the battery pack now completely sliding inside the back's shell.  It is no longer exposed and "hanging" off the side like on the older Phase One backs.  In addition due to this more integrated design, the IQ backs are even more weather resistant than before and have retained all of their legendary durability with a hard anodized black finish on their aluminum shell and a very scratch-resistant cover on the new LCD.

The new IQ backs now have FireWire 800 interface so that allows for even faster tethered shooting than before and this couples well with all the newer Apple MacBook Pro laptops that only have FW800 ports, not FW400. In addition, Phase One is thinking ahead and has also equipped the IQ backs with the latest, a USB 3.0 interface port.  USB 3.0 promises even faster speeds than FW800, although its rate of adoption seems slow at the moment.  Maybe the next generation of laptops and desktops will have USB 3.0 included...

Another outstanding new feature of the IQ backs is their focus-mask focus confirmation tool, similar to what is in Capture One software. The focus-mask will superimpose a coloured, transparent overlay on the image being played back on the LCD, showing the areas of maximum contrast, past a certain threshold. What this means is that you can tell, with a fair degree of accuracy, precisely what parts of your image fall within your depth-of-field plane of sharpest focus. Having this available on the computer in Capture One software was great, but making this available right on your digital back for confirmation in the field is truly groundbreaking!

The last couple of items I'll mention is the fact that the new IQ backs are better integrated with the 645DF body, for example, you now can just power-cycle the body and the back will automatically switch on and off, and while shooting tethered on AC power, the digital back will be continuously charging its battery internally, so if you suddenly have to go shoot in the field untethered, you can be sure that the battery in the body is fully topped up.  Very nice!

We now have CDN pricing as follows, although for an accurate quote, especially if ordering a complete system or for upgrade pricing, please contact me at Beau directly:

IQ140 digital back: $23,100
IQ140 with 645DF+Schneider 80mm LS: $27,300
IQ160 digital back: $38,800
IQ160 with 645DF+Schneider 80mm LS: $43,000
IQ180 digital back: $46,200
IQ180 with 645DF+Schneider 80mm LS: $50,400

The above prices are for the classic 1 year warranty. An extended value-added 5-year warranty is also available for the IQ backs at additional cost ($4200), the longest warranty in the industry for a digital back at this point. Note that Phase One makes their digital backs available with compatibility for many camera systems, including Contax 645, Mamiya 6x7 and 645, and Hasselblad V and H-series as well (H1, H2 and H2F).  However Phase One's new 645DF is a superb body and coupled with the excellent new Schneider Kreuznach leaf-shutter lenses, you will get the most from your Phase One back by using their system. Note that the 645DF body will also take all your older 645 Mamiya lenses, whether autofocus or manual focus, so lens compatibility is extensive.

Lastly, the 645DF body has a new V-Grip Air available for about $1,400. Not only is this a vertical grip, unique among current 645 camera bodies, but it can also accept an optional internal Profoto Air-Sync module for compatibility with Profoto lighting, probably the most popular brand with pros and rental houses the world over. Finally, the new grip also has a USB interface that will allow for 645DF body firmware updates as improvements are made, so you no longer will have to send your body to the factory for those updates.

If you have an existing Phase One back, there is some very aggressive upgrade pricing available, up to a whopping $30,000 off the price of an IQ180, as an upgrade from a P65+ for example. In addition, should you be using a competing system or competing digital back, Phase One does allow for a competitive trade-in, even on bodies and lenses sometimes.  Please contact me at Beau for more details on upgrades.

We have a Phase One IQ back launch event planned for April 14th, showcasing the new IQ backs and the 645DF, so please keep your eye on this blog and our website for more information.

In addition, we have a demo IQ140 on order and should be receiving it sometime in April as well, so if you want a personal demo at that time, please contact either myself or Ken Shymka at Beau Photo.  The IQ140 will also be available to rent, so you contact Jason in rentals for that. I will be looking forward to some actual hands-on time with the new IQ backs next week as I am attending the WPPI trade-show in Las Vegas! Look for a blog update with some updated feedback when I am back from the show...

[Update 2011-02-18]: I just found out that the IQ140 backs may not start shipping until June, so at the moment I am doubtful that ours will arrive in time for the April 14th event. However rest assured that we will have at least one demo IQ back there regardless!


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