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Phase One at Rottnest

February 7th, 2011

I was over at Rottnest the other day and i had borrowed the medium format Phase One camera and P30+ digital back.  This was the 30.5 megapixel version, the P30+ not the mega huge 60.5 mega pixel P65, but none the less, its an impressive file size and it works just the same.

The first thing i noticed was how good it feels in the hand, its well balanced and weighty enough to feel substantial but not too heavy, with the aperture and shutter dials in just the right places for the thumb and forefinger.  The one i tested had the 80mm lens on it, which is the 35mm equivalent of about a 50mm lens, rather than the wide angle lenses i prefer, but a very nice lens none the less. (click here to read about the Depth of Field dilemma of medium format)

Rottnest Island sand ripples, Rottnest Island Western Australia

Rottnest Island Sandscape 1

The auto-focus is a bit agricultural compared to DSLR like the Canon 5D Mk II, but then medium format has always been bigger and slower and the Phase One focuses where you point it so it does the job required.  There is solid thunk when you press the shutter, so you’ll never be in any doubt you’ve taken a picture and it does take a while to write to the card before you can take a second shot, so its not ideal for sports photography, but then why would you use a camera like this for sport photography?

I didn’t have the camera for very long, so i didn’t get a chance to become really comfortable with it, but that wasn’t really the point, i wanted to get a few nice detailed shots to see what the files processed out like, after all, the results are the key i think.  There are several advantages to medium format digital backs over even the high end professional DSLRs, the size of the file is the obvious one, this one being 30.5 million pixels (mega pixels) which is in fact one of the smallest of the current range of medium format backs.  There are also a couple of other major advantages, the actual size of the pixels is significantly larger allowing for a much higher resolving power of detail within the image, a true 16 bit RAW file as opposed to the 12 or 14 bit file produced by professional DSLRs and a massive 12 stop dynamic range within that file.  All these things combine to produce a significant increase in file quality, resolving power and colour rendition.

Rottnest Island sand ripples 2, Rottnest Island Western Australia

Rottnest Island Sandscape 2

What are the results like?  Well,  the detail and range is superb, even though these are only web jpegs (click on the images) you can see each grain of sand.

So what is the verdict, do i want one?  You bet, this is an awesome bit of gear.  Phase One also have a 40.5 Mp (P45) back and a 60.5 Mp (P65) back, which is the one i would like to own… or was that is, until tonight when they are launching the new series of “IQ” digital backs, they now have an 80 Mp back with a large hi definition touch screen… That is right at the top of my wish list.  Just one power ball…

Sandscape at Rottnest Island 3

Rottnest Island Sandscape 3

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