There probably aren’t that many people who can say they truly need a 100 mega pixel camera but that doesn’t stop you from wanting one!

Resolution isn’t everything but generally, the higher the resolution, the better. DSLR manufacturers have been steadily increasing resolution since they started making digital cameras. The current 35mm DSLR’s currently top at around 45 – 50MP which is more than enough pixels for almost any application, so why would you want more?

At the start of 2016 , Phase 1 released a 100MP medium format digital back for their camera system, which is around twice the resolution of the Canon 5DSR. Medium format has a larger sensor size enabling this resolution without any real downsides associated with increased pixel density. Resolution is one thing but you also need lenses that are high enough quality to be able to utilise that resolution and produce sharp images. Along with the new back came a range of Blue Ring lenses from Schneider Kreuznach that are rated to above 100MP.

Apart from the resolution, what’s so special about the sensor? It’s produced by Sony and uses CMOS technology, with 15 stops of dynamic range and 16 bit colour. It’s a ‘full frame’ medium format; although the sensor sizes with medium format aren’t as well defined as with 35mm. Medium format can be anything larger than 35mm and smaller than large format!

Although a large number of people have been switching to mirrorless cameras, especially Sony, I’ve been looking at medium format instead and considering a potential change away from 35mm.

After seeing this new sensor, I had to try it and the Phase 1 Camera out.

I worked with Teamwork Photo in London to get a trial of the Phase 1 Camera body, lenses and digital back. They’re an authorised Phase 1 Dealer, the staff there were great to deal with and very helpful. We scheduled a period of ten days, I provided the insurance and the kit was couriered to me.

They sent me:

  • XF Camera body
  • 80mm prime lens
  • 35mm lens
  • 120mm macro lens
  • IQ3 100 digital back
  • Assorted batteries, chargers and cables

 

Phase 1 Loan Kit

The gear comes in a reasonable sized Pelican case and was much heavier than I expected; though most of the weight was in the case itself.

My initial impression of the camera was that it’s big and heavy and that’s considering I use a Nikon D4 which is far from small or light. I went through the menus and checked the settings were as I wanted them – back button focus, full res RAW file, center spot focus and so on.

I took a few test shots to play around with the camera and get used to it. Looking at the images on the screen on the back, I could already get an idea how much detail there was. That evening I headed out to some location along the Antrim coast to take a few test shots that I could compare with my current camera. Not that I thought there would be any comparison in terms of resolution!

 
 
 

So, pictures taken I headed home. I was impressed with the battery life and the overall handling of the camera. The controls are easy to use and nicely within reach and shooting with it was a real pleasure. The only thing that I found difficult was focusing and getting the autofocus to lock onto what I wanted.

So, how good were the images? I had to use Phase 1‘s Capture One software to process the files, as Adobe Camera Raw and hence Lightroom or Photoshop couldn’t open them. Capture One took some getting used to but my initial impressions were good. Where captured images had been in focus, the detail was impressive. What caught me out slightly was some of the images were overexposed to a point where I couldn’t recover the highlight detail, it was completely blown out. Shadow recovery in Capture One and from the sensor was really impressive. I found in most situations, I needed to under expose slightly, not to blow out the highlights.

The image below is a sample of the quality produced by the Phase 1 camera kit.

 

Follow the link to a Goole + Gallery, where you can see other samples that you can zoom in on as well – https://goo.gl/photos/7v9a6C27bPRpgpHV6

I used the camera as much as I could over the time I had it and it soon came time to package it up and get the courier to collect it. I was sad to see it go; I had grown quite attached to it.

My final thoughts were that if I could justify the price (even to myself), I would buy one. The kit I was loaned was insured for £40,000, it’s far from cheap. Given the size and weight of it, it’s a serious camera for taking out to do serious photography. What I mean by that is that it’s not a camera you’ll take out casually, on the off chance that you may see something interesting to shoot.

Maybe I’ll buy a Phase 1 in the future but for now, I’ll be sticking with my DSLR.

Hasselblad have recently launched a new camera body, similar to the Phase 1 XF and a 100MP digital back, using the same sensor. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here – http://www.hasselblad.com/h6d