Thursday, September 17, 2015

Phase One XF & Peak Design Strap

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the new Phase One XF camera.  Most of these discussions have centered around the overall performance of the camera; faster more accurate autofocus, the LCD screen on the camera, the interface between the camera and digital backs, etc.  There has been a limited discussion on the look and feel of the new XF; however I have not read or heard much about the (at least to me) crucial part.  How does one tame the camera?
Okay you’re asking what the heck do I mean by taming the camera…
One of the design changes is the method of installing a strap.  The new XF has a more streamlined design with smooth, rounded corners and sides.  This shows up in how the designers almost hid the three mounting points for a neck strap; almost as if it were an afterthought. 

The new mounting points on the XF are smaller and smoother than ever before which is both a good and bad thing.  The bad part is that it makes it much more difficult to find a neck strap that will actually fit the mounting points.  The neck strap I had been using with my older DF wouldn’t fit unless I trimmed the strap which I did.  And while I made it fit it nevertheless became a weak point and eventually slipped right out of one of the mounting points.  The good news is that even when I have the camera around my neck I’m still supporting the weight so no catastrophic damage was done other than a change of underwear.
This got me looking for a new solution which lead me to Peak Design and their “Slide”.  It appears that I’m not the only person who has had an issue with finding a strap.  Two people that I have a lot of faith in are Michael Reichmann and Kevin Raber of The Luminous Landscape.  Kevin notes in a video he and Michael recently released that he is using the Peak Design strap which reinforced my decision to have ordered it a couple days prior to me actually seeing the video.  
Close-up of the mounting end of the camera strap.

Long story cut short.  It works. And it’s so simple to use.  There’s a 2-part system that comprises of an anchor and the strap.  The anchor fits on the camera and the strap attaches to the anchor.  What’s even better is the strap can be removed using just one-hand.  The anchors are small and very lightweight however don’t let the size fool you.  There’s no getting around it, the XF is heavy.  Put the digital back and a lens like the Phase One 40-80 LS on it and it weighs even more.  The good news is that the anchors are built to withstand over 200 lbs (90kg) of absolute force. Instead of writing more on the anchors I suggest you click on this link that will address their construction.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear – I have no affiliation with Peak Design.  I don’t know any of the owners and I ordered and paid for my strap.  I also wasn’t asked to write this; instead I decided to share what I had learned in hopes of helping new XF owners who like to use a strap. These are available directly from Peak Design or through B&H Photo.  

Best way to show the size of the anchor point.

There is a little bit of bad news about my experience. I also ordered the Peak Design Clutch hand strap thinking I’d use it as a hand-strap much as I did while I shot with a Canon 1DsII only to find that either the XF is too large or the Clutch was too small.  Either way I couldn’t get it to work to my satisfaction.  This in no way diminishes my thought on the camera strap which I intend to keep using.
Once again, thank you for allowing me to share.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Mamiya 28mm D and Lee SW150 filters

Years ago I used a Mamiya 28mm lens with a Mamiya AFD body and Phase One P30+ digital back.  I used it so much it was almost like it was welded to the body.  As much as I used it, it was very much a love hate relationship.  I loved the wide angle field of view, likewise the sharp images.  I hated the fact that there was no real way of attaching/using any filter.  The lack of filters was due mainly to the front element and fixed lens hood; there just wasn’t any way to attach a filter to the lens.  I ended up selling the lens shortly after upgrading my system to a technical camera and hadn’t thought much of it since then.

This year I’ve begun using my Phase 645 camera body much more than the Cambo WRS technical camera.  The new improved Phase One XF body is light years beyond the older Mamiya AFD or the Phase One DF body I had been using; couple this with the advancement of lenses being offered by Phase One.  I recently began using a Phase One/Schneider 40-80 leaf shutter lens which got me thinking about the 28mm again. 

As much as I liked the 28mm focal length (equivalent to 17mm in full frame 35mm terms) I hated the fact that there were no filters for it.  Or so I thought.  Seems that Phase One partnered with Lee Filters and their SW150 filter system (150mm filters) to make a system that would work on the Phase One 28mm lens.  Sit a Mamiya 28mm D lens side-by-side to a Phase One 28mm LS lens and you cannot see any outward difference.  They are both the same size. 

I normally don’t shoot blank walls however I did with the above to get a feel for any issues. Each sample shows the end result of the test and while the third test shows a darker area, that area on the top is the result of the .6ND filter.

Based on my lens comparison and the fact I got a smoking hot deal on a Mamiya 28mm D lens I decided to go for it.  I now have the 28D and have successfully mounted the Lee SW150 filter system to it. 
f/11 1/250 ISO 100 Handheld at 4:18 PM using the .6 ND Grad filter. Processed in Capture One Pro using Mamiya 28mm D lens profile and setting of 7 on clarity and structure.
I do have to point out something here.  Following the instructions and watching a great video on the installation I ran into a problem.  At this point I’m uncertain if it was user error on my part or it just didn’t fit as it should.  In either case the adaptor ring is a three part system that consists of a ring that fits on the front of the lens and sits in the lens hood.  The second part is a compression ring that fits from the rear and a third ring that fits from the rear and attaches to the front ring compressing everything together to make a tight bond.  I’ve actually seen how this works on another lens.  What I encountered is not having as tight a fit as I felt necessary.  I kept installing and removing the three-rings until I got to the point I couldn’t unscrew then.  Talk about a tight fit! The only problem was the compression ring was wobbly.

f/11 1/250 ISO 100 Handheld at 4:18 PM using the .6 ND Grad filter. Processed in Capture One Pro using Mamiya 28mm D lens profile and setting of 7 on clarity and structure.
All’s not lost.  Figuring I’d keep the adaptor ring on the lens as a near permanent filter solution I went and made it permanent by using super glue.  Not to laugh because it works great.  I now have a perfect filter solution on a Mamiya 28mm D lens using a Lee SW150 filter kit.

f/11 1/250 ISO 100 Handheld at 4:18 PM using the .6 ND Grad filter. Processed in Capture One Pro using Mamiya 28mm D lens profile and setting of 7 on clarity and structure.
So the question to be asked is just how well does it work.  I’m very pleased to say it works great.  I have tested the lens using just the ring attachment and had no problems.  I’ve tested the lens using the filter attachment and likewise no problems and finally using the SW150 .6ND soft grad filter with no problems or concerns.  Simply put, if you have a Mamiya 28mm lens that you longed to put filters on; and you don’t mind thinking outside the box for installation then I can recommend the SW150 kit for the Phase One 28mm lens.
The retail cost on these is around $490 and while they are listed on B&H’s website they are always listed as “More Coming Soon”.  I got mine from Capture Integration and am told they have them in stock.



Friday, September 4, 2015

Mamiya 28mm D; the lens I wasn’t supposed to like


One of the first images I took shortly after getting the Mamiya 28mm D lens. Top sample is full frame 80-megapixels; the bottom is cropped to 60.

I used to own a Mamiya 28mm lens years ago using it successfully on a Phase One P30+ and P45+ digital backs.  The P30+ was 31.6 megapixels with a crop factor of 1.25 while the P45+ was 39-megapixels and a crop of 1.15 and when it was introduced was said to be “near” full frame medium format. A full frame medium format digital back sensor size is 53.9x40.4mm (Phase One P65+, IQ160, IQ180 as well as the newer IQ260 and 360 and 280 and 380 are all “full frame” digital backs) Bear with me as I’m about to make a point.

Full frame no cropping
The P30+ has a sensor size of 44.2x33.1 while the P45+ a sensor size of 49.1x36.8mm.  These two backs were ideal for a 28mm lens due to the cropping.  However once full frame backs were released the lens no longer was ideal since there wasn’t any cropping and we shortly found the corners of the images were soft. I stopped using a 28mm lens shortly after I traded the P30+ for a P45+ mainly due to the fact I had begun using a technical camera. 

Full frame no cropping
The other aspect was just how well software processing was at the time.  Capture One Pro (C1) is currently as of this writing at v8 while I’m uncertain the time frame I believe C1 was around 4 in 2005. A lot of improvements have been made especially for wide angle lenses.

Full frame sample, handheld f/9 1/800 ISO 35
I cropped this more to taste than to remove softness on the bottom (which there were). Handheld f/11 1/250 ISO 35

I’ve recently begun using my new Phase One XF much more than my Cambo WRS and have also revamped my lenses switching to the new leaf shutter system and the 40-80LS, 75-150LS and the 240LS lineup.  With this I also began to wonder about going wider than the 40 or the new 35mm LS lens and began to look at the 28mm again.

In researching the 28mm (both the older D model and newer LS) I was told that the 28 wouldn’t work well with an 80-megapixel back.  Soft corners and color problems were just some of the concerns mentioned.  I had to see for myself.

Shot directly into the sun, f/11 1/640 ISO 35 (full frame)
I found a Mamiya 28mm D lens at a price that was hard to pass up. I figured I’d try it to see for myself.  My biggest concerns was color cast, figuring that I could work around soft corners.  I began thinking that the 28mm would make a good 30-32mm lens which was what I was after.
I’ve had the Mamiya 28mm now for a little over a week and have seen no problems with color cast. Let me make that very clear. I’ve had zero color cast problems.  I’ve tested this lens indoors as well as outside in soft light as well as hard afternoon light. So in the end my biggest concern never appeared.  Have I mentioned I have had no color cast issued?

Handheld, f/9 1/320 ISO 100 (full frame)

Handheld, f/11 1/200 ISO 100 (full frame)
As stated earlier I’ve been using this with my new Phase One XF body and an 80-megapixel IQ180.  So far the majority of the outside testing has been handheld with the indoor samples on tripod. This is what I’ve seen so far…

The center is sharp; but then I’d expect that. The top corners are sharper than what I thought they’d be while the bottom corner tend to be soft or mushy.  The bottom may be due to the height and angle I’ve captured the images.  They also might be due to the fact that the majority of captures are with auto focus.  I’ve been using aperture settings of f/8 to f/11 and it appears that f/9 and f/11 work the best.  I’ve also seen that I can generally crop the image and achieve a very pleasing image that is generally in the 60-megapixel range after cropping.
Full frame no cropping
The sore spot when I first used the 28mm was a lack of filters as the lens shade is a permanent fixture.  Thankfully that’s been fixed by Lee filters with their introduction of the SW150; and to be honest I wouldn’t have thought about the 28 if I couldn’t use filters.  I have the SW150 on order and will add my thoughts after I’ve used it for a while.
This is my first 2-shot handheld then stacked for focus test image. f/11 1/125 ISO 35 (full frame)
2-shot on tripod then stacked for focus. f/11 1/250 ISO 35 (full frame)

So there you have it.  The 28mm does work well with an 80-megapixel digital back due in large part to the improvements of the software of Capture One Pro.
As always let me know if you have questions or comments.