Basic Specifications
Full model name: Phase One XF 100MP
Resolution: 101.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: Medium format
(53.7mm x 40.4mm)
Kit Lens: Non-Zoom
80mm
(51.5mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 50 - 12,800
Extended ISO: 50 - 12,800
Shutter: 1/4000 - 3600 sec
Max Aperture: 2.8 (kit lens)
Dimensions: 6.0 x 5.3 x 6.3 in.
(152 x 135 x 160 mm)
Weight: 95.1 oz (2,696 g)
includes batteries, kit lens
MSRP: $48,990
Availability: 01/2016
Manufacturer: Phase One
Full specs: Phase One XF 100MP specifications

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101.10
Megapixels
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image of Phase One XF 100MP
Front side of Phase One XF 100MP digital camera Front side of Phase One XF 100MP digital camera Front side of Phase One XF 100MP digital camera Front side of Phase One XF 100MP digital camera Front side of Phase One XF 100MP digital camera

Phase One XF 100MP Review -- Now Shooting!

Preview posted: 01/04/2016
Updated: 07/23/2018

Updates:
07/25/2016: First Shots posted
10/03/2016: Gallery & IQ3 100MP Field Test posted
10/05/2016: Performance test results posted

07/23/2018: IQ3 100MP Trichromatic Field Test posted

For those looking for our Overview of the camera's features and specs, please click here.

 

Phase One IQ3 100MP Trichromatic Field Test

A superb image sensor inside a slow and expensive camera system

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 07/23/2018

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 60mm (38mm equiv.), f/11, 0.6s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

I recently had the opportunity to shoot with a Phase One XF camera and the new IQ3 100MP Trichromatic digital back. This 101-megapixel medium-format camera system is expensive, precise and impressive. Make no mistake, this is not a typical camera system and is not something many photographers, myself included, ever expect to have a chance to use.

In this Field Test, I will be discussing the XF camera in general and then speak more specifically to the IQ3 Trichromatic digital back itself, as they are separate components and you can use the XF camera with different digital backs.

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 60mm (38mm equiv.), f/11, 1s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Key Features and Specs

  • Phase One XF camera system is modular and allows for use of different digital backs
  • The IQ3 100MP Trichromatic digital back has 101 megapixels
  • 16-bit CMOS sensor
  • 15 stops of dynamic range
  • ISO range of 35 to 12,800
  • 60-minute long exposure
  • Lenses feature leaf shutter system
  • XF camera with Trichromatic digital back and 80mm kit lens is available for around $50,000 USD
The Phase One Trichromatic is quite large, but also easy to hold and use.

XF camera system design and handling

The Phase One XF camera is quite large by normal standards but isn't overly large in real use. It's very comfortable to hold thanks to its ample front grip. It features customizable dials and buttons, all of which feel very well-built and are located in convenient places. It's not very much larger than a pro-oriented DSLR camera.

However, when you attach the digital back, the size of the camera changes quite a bit. The digital back protrudes far from the back of the camera, and it weighs quite a lot. In the case of the IQ3 Trichromatic, much like the standard IQ3 100MP back, the display is a touchscreen, and it looks quite good. There are also four buttons around the edge of the display, which handle menu navigation tasks.

The digital back protrudes quite far, but the camera fits nicely in my medium-sized hands.

User interface

Speaking of displays, one of my favorite parts of using the XF is that the top display is also a touchscreen. You can press various elements to change settings, shooting modes and more. You can press and hold to change the available settings and organize the display. It works very well and is a convenient way to adjust common settings.

The user interface as a whole is excellent. The menus are easy to navigate and you can set the camera up exactly the way you want it. It can be a little daunting at first, but once you get used to it, it's an enjoyable camera to use.

With that said, there is sometimes some sluggishness with respect to menu navigation, particularly when viewing images. Of course, the files are very large so it makes sense that there would be some delays and overall slowness when viewing images on the camera.

Equipped with a touchscreen, the top of the camera is very well-designed. It's easy to see shooting settings and then quickly change them via the top display.

Overall, the user interface is good because it's very customizable. Aspects of it could be faster, but generally speaking, it's an enjoyable camera to interact with.

IQ3 100MP Trichromatic digital back

The star of the show for the IQ3 100MP Trichromatic is its sensor. Phase One markets the sensor with the tagline "The art of expression. The science of color." What these words amount to, in the end, is a fantastic 101-megapixel image sensor. It's a special sensor, and the quality of the images it produces are second to none.

The Sony-made CMOS sensor is all new and features unique Bayer Filter color technology. The sensor is designed around the concept of not compromising color. I'll save you the super in-depth science, which is quite complex, but the gist of the sensor is that it picks up wavelengths of light in a different way than traditional sensors, allowing for more subtle tonal transition, more accurate colors and a more accurate look. For me, this was most evident when looking at the sky and natural greens. These colors are tricky for many cameras, with blue skies typically tending toward a more magenta hue, but the Trichromatic sensor shows a richer, more natural blue. It's a small difference, but these are the kinds of differences people desire at the cutting edge of photographic technology.

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 40mm (26mm equiv.), f/16, 0.1s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Looking closer at the color rendition from the Trichromatic sensor, let's allow Phase One themselves to describe the technology:

"In the average sensor, the degree of color separation between the wavelengths of blue, green and red light is where the color compromise begins. The color filter array of the Trichromatic sensor, however, is designed to pick up exactly the right wavelength of light that allows us to get the most color nuances in the most natural way possible. This means that we achieve fully saturated colors, and that we can get every shade of blue, green, and red exactly as the scene reveals itself. The uncompromised nature of the color rendering from the sensor in the Trichromatic means that straight out of the camera, the possibilities in the RAW capture and color are wide open."

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/16, 6s, ISO 35.
Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

As I said above, the difference in practical terms is subtle. Importantly, however, it is there, and you can see it. Granted, it isn't like many of these differences in color rendition could be achieved via post-processing, but it would take time and some of the tonal transitions would be very difficult to replicate, particularly without sacrificing the integrity of the image file and quality. It's not necessarily the case that the Trichromatic is a groundbreaking advancement from the regular IQ3 100MP sensor, but it is superior and the technology involved is interesting and powerful. I can't speak to whether it'd be worth upgrading, but I can confidently say that if you want the ultimate in image quality and you care greatly about color rendition, you'll be hard-pressed to top this latest sensor.

In addition to "purer color," the Trichromatic sensor's unique array also allowed for the engineers to tune the sensor for a lower base ISO, 35 compared to 50. This also allows for images from the sensor to be pushed further when post-processing, resulting in images with cleaner tones and more sharpness even after making extreme adjustments during editing.

Something I hadn't considered at first was how the better color rendering and cleaner separation of individual tones might affect optical aberrations, but Phase One states that the IQ3 100MP Trichromatic is more resistant to purple fringing than the IQ3 100MP digital back. For what it's worth, the 80mm kit lens I used struggles a fair bit with chromatic aberration, so I'm not sure if I was in the best position to show off the sensor's resistance to fringing.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

Sharpness

It should come as no surprise that the Trichromatic 100MP digital back delivers very sharp image files. There's a lot of resolving power at work and it shows. At base ISO and up through ISO 400 or so, the sharpness is superb. There are some artifacts along very fine edges, but they aren't bad and they're barely noticeable in most cases.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/11, 0.5s, ISO 35.
100 percent crop. Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.
Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/11, 1/20s, ISO 400.
100 percent crop. Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.

Consider the image below, you can literally count the fine hairs along the stem of the lupine! Sure, there are full-frame DSLRs that capture very sharp images at a much lower price, but there is a degree of separation between a true medium-format digital back and high-end 35mm DSLR cameras when it comes to resolving power.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/20s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/5.6, 1/20s, ISO 35.
100 percent crop from the above image. Click for full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
 
Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/10, 0.2s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/10, 0.2s, ISO 35.
100 percent crop from the above image. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image. Not only are edges occasionally problematic, but the sensor is also prone to moiré.

High ISO

The ISO range of the sensor is 35 to 12,800, although the usable range is of course much narrower. At ISO 400, there's already a decent bit of noise, although it's easy enough to control via careful noise reduction. By ISO 1600, the noise is fairly high, although very fine and evenly-distributed, which means it's not particularly distracting nor difficult to remove if you so desire. At ISO 3200, the files are harder to deal with, and there's more color noise, but it could still be finessed into something usable. At ISO 6400 and ISO 12,800, the images are muddy and honestly, I'd avoid these two ISO settings altogether.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/11, 1/80s, ISO 1600.
100 percent crop. Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.
Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/11, 1/640s, ISO 12,800.
100 percent crop. Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.

Dynamic range

I don't have the means to test the 15 stops of dynamic range Phase One promises with their latest sensor, but I've shot a wide variety of camera sensors of various sizes and capabilities and the IQ3 Trichromatic is the best one I've used. When looking at the back of the camera, it might seem like you've lost highlights or shadows, complete with histogram evidence and blinking warnings, but it's very easy to recover them during post-processing.

It's not only that the files are very flexible and offer a lot of room for recovery, but also the camera itself does a really good job of getting a good dynamic and tonal range in-camera. It can't quite match up to the human eye, but it comes closer to capturing what a scene looks like to my eyes than any other camera I've used. Pair that with the fantastic color rendition, and it proves to be very impressive.

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 60mm (38mm equiv.), f/11, 1/20s, ISO 35.
Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.
This is not a spectacular image by any stretch of the imagination, but having shot this location many times, I can safely say that very few cameras I've shot would be able to capture this scene with the exposure in the foreground being what it is without losing the highlight detail in the sky. Per the RAW histogram, this file has no highlight clipping, which is a true testament to the Trichromatic sensor. In the crops below, we can take another close look at the camera's ability to resolve incredible detail as well.
Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 60mm (38mm equiv.), f/11, 1/20s, ISO 35.
100 percent crop. Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.
Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 60mm (38mm equiv.), f/11, 1/20s, ISO 35.
100 percent crop. Click for the full-size JPEG conversion. Click here for RAW image.
With great detail also sometimes comes some artifacts, as you can see in this crop in particular. It's a delicate balance being struck between sharpness and overall image quality.

Autofocus and performance

As good as the image quality is, there is still a lot more that makes for a good camera. With respect to speed and performance, the Phase One is, unsurprisingly, a slow system. There's a considerable amount of data that has to read from the large sensor, and with 16-bit files, the camera can only shoot at a maximum speed of 0.7 frames per second. If you're fine 14-bit files instead, you can shoot at 1.2 fps, but if you're spending upwards of $40-50,000 on a camera, why sacrifice any level of file quality?

This camera is designed for the ultimate in image quality, not speed, and so the sluggish shooting speed is not unexpected. A bit more frustrating is how slow the camera is with respect to starting up and switching between shooting and playback modes. Also, the autofocus is slow and not very versatile, with only a central autofocus area. Focusing and recomposing is nearly always necessary, which isn't a big deal if your subject is stationary and you don't need to work quickly, but it can be an issue if your subject is moving.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO 200.
This image has been modified. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
This is not a particularly challenging scene for most cameras. However, with a bit of a breeze, this was very difficult for the camera's autofocus system. It cannot keep up with even small movements and missing focus by a short distance is an issue fully exposed by the large, high-resolution sensor.

To aid in autofocusing and recomposing, Phase One recently added an AFr mode, which is a dedicated focus recompose mode. This feature works similarly to utilizing back-button autofocus and performing focusing and recomposing on your own, but it's a bit more complex. When the mode is enabled, you focus on your subject using the center of the frame. The camera beeps to let you know focus has been acquired. Then, you recompose and any tilt is compensated for by the camera's 3D autofocus sensor. The camera is reading shifts in the axis and then compensating for them and then it beeps again to let you know it's all set once more and you shoot. It's a neat option and it does help compensate for the limited AF point coverage.

Shooting experience

The XF Trichromatic offers the standard assortment of metering modes, with my preference being the matrix metering mode. Generally, the metering works pretty well, but there were times when the camera behaved in a way I did not expect. For example, I could shoot two consecutive frames with nearly the same composition and scene, and the camera's automatic white balance would produce dramatically different results. Likewise, exposure could vary a fair bit across similar scenes, which required regular use of exposure compensation. It's a camera that's meant to be used slowly and with care, but I do want the camera to behave predictably.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 35.
Click here for the lefthand image
. Click here for the righthand image.

Live view is a relative strength of the XF system, even if it does struggle with some of the same slowness as the camera's playback functionality. When manually focusing, live view is a saving grace, as manually focusing in the optical viewfinder can be tricky. The electronic shutter functionality works well too, proving to be much quieter than the leaf shutter mechanism.

Schneider LS 80mm f/2.8 lens at 80mm (51mm equiv.), f/2.8, 1/160s, ISO 800.
This image has been modified. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
In photographing my cousin, the XF camera and Trichromatic back were very much challenged. Babies are not known for their ability to sit still. Nonetheless, I found the camera to do a nice job with the skin tones.

The camera has a variety of interesting shooting modes. There's a built-in seismograph, which allows you to shoot the camera with a vibration delay feature. This means that the camera will not shoot until the seismograph detects that the camera is still. The camera also has a built-in exposure calculator, a built-in thermometer and more.

Field Test Summary

Fantastic image quality within a modular, expensive camera system

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 65mm (42mm equiv.), f/10, 1/20s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

What I liked:

  • Excellent image quality
  • Accurate color reproduction
  • Fantastic dynamic range
  • Good ergonomics for the XF camera
  • Great touchscreen functionality

What I didn't like:

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy and a bit bulky
  • Slow autofocus
  • Slow overall performance

The Phase One XF Trichromatic is not a camera I would purchase, simply because I don't have $50,000 to spend on a camera. With that said, the image quality is basically unparalleled. For users who demand the absolute cutting-edge in imaging technology, particularly with respect to sharpness, color reproduction and dynamic range, good luck topping a Phase One XF camera and the Trichromatic 100MP digital back, in particular.

Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 65mm (42mm equiv.), f/11, 1.3s, ISO 35.
This image has been modified. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.
Schneider LS 40-80mm f/4-5.6 lens at 65mm (42mm equiv.), f/11, 1.3s, ISO 35.
100 percent crop from the above image. Click for the full-size image. Click here for RAW image.

In the end, this camera is not for me, and it's not good fit for many photographers. However, for those who desire the kind of images the Phase One XF + IQ3 Trichromatic 100MP digital back can produce, its shortcomings will be small nagging issues you simply must deal with in pursuit of the ultimate in image quality. Where this system falls short, it falls very short, but what the Trichromatic does well, it does superbly well.

 

• • •

 

Phase One XF 100MP Review -- Overview

by
Preview posted: 01/04/2016

Just before CES 2016 kicked off in Las Vegas, Phase One announced the result of a collaborative development effort with Sony, a 100-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor back for Phase One’s medium-format XF camera system.

Unlike some digital medium-format camera sensors, such as the IQ250 sensor, this new IQ3 100MP sensor has no lens crop factor; it is a true full-frame medium format digital sensor. This isn't Phase One and Sony's first collaborative effort, they also worked together on the IQ250.

The 53.7 x 40.4 millimeter sensor offers 16-bit color output, a 15-stop dynamic range, and an ISO range from 50 to 12,800. With this incredibly high-resolution sensor, Phase One’s hardware and software teams have created a new, exclusive file format to bring the most out of the XF 100MP camera system, which “will offer unprecedented image quality.”

Capable of 60 minute exposures, the XF 100 MP system is very versatile for its class. The XF camera system also utilizes Phase One’s Electronic First Curtain Shutter technology. EFCS reduces the effects of vibration on high-resolution images by allowing “less mechanical dependency.” EFCS activates automatically when using Vibration Delay or Mirror Up modes.

The Phase One XF Camera System, which was introduced in June of 2015, was built around the concept of optimal 100-megapixel performance. The system utilizes features such as Honeybee Auto Focus, Vibration Tracking, and Vibration Detection technologies in addition to the EFCS mentioned above. Utilizing a new series of Schneider Kreuznach Leaf Shutter lenses and interchangeable viewfinders, the XF system allows photographers to fine-tune their own personal shooting experience and bring out the best that Phase One’s high-resolution sensors have to offer.

The Phase One XF 100MP kit which includes the XF camera body, the new IQ3 100MP digital back, a prism viewfinder, a focusing screen, a 52mm-equivalent Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 lens, four 3400mAh battery packs, a charger, a 16GB CF card, a card reader, a Pelican Storm carry on case, Capture One Pro 9 software and various other accessories and cables began shipping in January, and retails for about US$48,990.

 

• • •

 

Phase One XF 100MP Field Test

A test-drive with the highest-resolution camera we've ever used

by William Brawley |

The Phase One XF 100MP: A camera on another level
I've had the opportunity to test and use a number of different kinds of cameras, from pocketable point-and-shoots to big, full-size DSLRs. For me, while I've known about medium format cameras for a long time, they were always sort of "out there;" a camera system that for the most part was way too expensive for a mere mortal such as myself to ever own, let alone even have the need to rent one. So, when Phase One came knocking at IR's proverbial door asking us if we wanted to test their new XF camera system with a 100-megapixel digital back, well, color me intrigued.

Getting the Phase One XF System is much different than just ordering from Amazon!
Right off the bat, the experience with this camera system was different than any other camera I, and most of the IR staff, have used. For starters, just acquiring the camera was out of the ordinary. Phase One won't just ship you a camera and some lenses. I mean, the base MSRP for this Phase One XF100 Kit rings up at just under $50,000! No, you need to get in touch with a Phase One partner retailer and have them hand-deliver the system to you. In our case, we coordinated with Capture Integration here in Atlanta for a hands-on demonstration session with the camera at their shop before we were set free with the gear.

The Capture Integration product tour of the Phase One system, as it turns out, was very helpful, as there are tons of minor tips and tricks as well as extensive tether-based shooting features that we do not typically see or use on "run-of-the-mill" interchangeable lens cameras. Sure, you could slap a lens on there, slide in a CF card, and fire away, but tethered shooting opens up a lot of expanded versatility.

Buy the Phase One XF 100MP

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