Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Queston on Testing the Phase One 645AF and P65+

Sometime ago Henry Domke posted the following comment in reply to the "Testing the Phase One 645AF and P65+". As I was busy at the time in Jackson Hole I was unable to adequately respond until now.

"Thank you for the ongoing discussion of high-end gear. I wonder if you could offer some advice again. My goal is to be able to create landscape images that will look good when printed 20-feet wide. Now I have a P65+ back with a Contax body. Could you help me understand the Pros and Cons of Medium format vs. Technical camera?"

Twenty-feet? Wow! And here I thought I printed large images....
I've used a Phase One P30+ and got excellent results. I've been able to produce a 2-image stitched panorama of the Grand Canyon that is now almost sold out of the edition. This image has been licensed by Phase One for use in trade shows and has been used in several print articles. I used a Mamiya 645 AFD body connected to the P30+ for the capture.

The P30+ was replaced with the P45+ when I went to using a technical camera. I've been using a Cambo WRS1000 for slightly over 3-years now and still love it. In terms of keeping equipment longer than 12-months, keeping something for 36-plus months and still constantly use it shows how well the gear is. I continue today to use the same body and 3-lens kit I bought when I first moved into using a technical camera; there's a saying, "if it isn't broke why fix it" and it applies here.

I've used the P45+ for well over 30-months and finally upgrading to the P65+. I'm now kicking myself for waiting so long.

Enough of digital backs; now for the body.

No matter what you use, be it a Contax, Mamiya or Phase DF you will run into the same problems in capturing multiple images for a stitched panorama. I've used a Canon 1D, 1DsII and 1DsIII attempting to capture multiple panoramic images and ran into the same difficulties.

Really Right Stuff has a great article on obtaining multiple images for a stitched panorama and recommend everyone read it. The bottom line is that the entire camera moves thus creating a cylinder set of images. When you go to stitch the images together you end up with what I call a bowtie effect. The sides are taller than the middle and you end up with wasted dead space. Try and be as careful as you may, spend countless minutes in setting up you tripod and camera finding what you think is the lens nodal point and you'll still end up with the same result. Sometimes you get lucky and there's less wasted area and sometimes more.

This bowtie effect is what drove me to a technical camera. And boy am I glad I did.

A technical camera allows for a flat set of images. The lens remains static and only the digital back moves around the lens. Try this. Make a circle using your left hand - that becomes your lens. You right hand is the digital back and is flat open. Place you flat open palm up against the "lens" and move it side to side and up and down. You're seeing the same principal as what a technical camera does. The back is moving around the lens while the lens stays in one place. A DSLR can't do that. The lens and body move side to side and up and down. The technical camera uses the full image circle of the lens by being able to move around it. The DSLR doesn't.

So what are the Pros and Cons of using a technical camera vs a DSLR (medium format or 35mm)?


The lens used in a technical camera are in my opinion superior to that offered by 35mm or for that matter medium format. The medium format lens are getting closer. Remember - using a technical camera and a digital back and shooting a 645 Contax, Hasselblad, Mamiya or Phase One - they're all medium format. Only the camera bodies and lens are different.

A technical camera allows for flat stitching. Set it up correctly and you'll get near 99.99% of usage image on a stitched panorama.

A technical camera offers a very slow workflow and everything is manual. Manual focus, manual f/stop, manual shutter. You'll be on a tripod over 99% of the time. However the end result is well worth it.


A technical camera offers a very slow workflow and everything is manual. Manual focus, manual f/stop, manual shutter. You'll be on a tripod over 99% of the time. However the end result is well worth it. And yes, I know I have this as a Pro as well.

From a landscape and nature point of view the pros outweigh the cons. Otherwise I wouldn't still be using one.

So just how good is a technical camera when combined with a great digital back such as a P65+? I shot a 2-image capture at Ox Bow Bend WY this past trip. The printed image is 60x30 and can go larger. While checking the image at 100% for dust spots I noticed an "image within an image". That image has been printed at 40x30 and while an abstract is sharp enough to stand on its own.

I hope I've answered your questions Henry. And again sorry for the delay.

Capture Integration has been my "go to" source for many years when it comes to medium format.  They offer Phase One, Leaf, and Cambo to name just a few.  They are also Canon and Leica dealers as well.  Doug Peterson is one of the brightest minds in the industry and following Dave Gallagher's lead, everyone you'll meet is well versed and very willing to help answer any questions and solve any problem.  When it comes to finding the right dealer I did and count them as both friends and partners.  I highly recommend contacting Capture Integration to discuss any questions you may have regarding the use of technical cameras, medium format DSLR or 35mm.  


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Leaving Jackson Hole WY

Jackson Lake
Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/11 1/250 ISO100

Coulter Bay
Canon 1DsIII 50mm f/11 1/250 ISO100

Phase One 645DF P65+ 150mm f/11 1/350 ISO100

Coulter Bay
Phase One 645DF P65+ 80mm f/11 1/700 ISO100

This is the day before we leave Jackson Hole heading home; to say we have mixed feelings would be an understatement.  We were here last October for just shy of 30-days and we made plans then to return and stay even longer; and we did, 2-months.  The past 2-months have gone like a blink of an eye.  We saw colors in late fall and have experienced early winter colors. 

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/11 1/250 ISO100

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/11 1/250 ISO100

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/11 1/250 ISO100

Phase One 645DF P65+ 300mm f/11 1/350 ISO100
So what have we gotten for the time spent?  We've got well over 300 GB of images taken with Sandy's Canon 1DsIII, Don's Cambo WRS1000 and the Leica M9 and a Phase One 645 AF and DF.  We've set aside 24-images we believe are "Gallery Images" and have already sold 7-prints, and may very well double the number of gallery images once we load and process them on the studio computer.

Phase One 645DF P65+ f/11 1/250 ISO100

Phase One 645DF P65+ 300mm f/8 1/250 ISO100

We've been able to reconnect with friends we made last year and gained new ones on this trip.  Thanks to a wonderful chef named Kelly we've enjoyed great meals Friday night at the Jackson Elks Club.  Don has given rides into the backcountry demonstrating the off-road capabilities of the 2011 Ford Raptor.  He was even successful in helping one person in ordering one.

We feel we've accomplished way more than we set out to in the beginning.   It's easy to say we were here to capture the beautiful landscape of Jackson Hole and while we did, we accomplished much more.  We've made friends, tested equipment and more importantly discovered the heart and soul of Jackson Hole--the people.  Everywhere we've gone we met friendly open honest people.  People who made us feel welcome.  This isn't about tourist dollars, it's a genuine feeling of being welcomed.

Buffalo at Sunrise
Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/8 1/200 ISO200

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/7.1 1/200 ISO250

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/6.3 1/200 ISO250

Don made a deal to purchase the Phase 645DF and lenses he used during the testing/evaluation and he's very pleased.  The Leica M9 and lenses will be going to a new home upon our return to Arizona.

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/6.3 1/200 ISO250

Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/6.3 1/200 ISO200

We'll be returning to Jackson Hole in February 2012 to deliver the images we've sold and to hang additional ones for display and purchase at the Homewood Suites in Jackson.  We've also been informed the hotel will be hosting a gathering to introduce our work while we're here.

Phase One 645DF P65+ 300mm f/11 1/700 ISO100

Buffalo at Sunrise
Phase One 645DF P65+ 300mm f/8 1/250 ISO100

Phase One 645DF P65+ 300mm f/8 1/350 ISO200

We highly recommend the Homewood Suites as a place to stay while visiting Jackson.  The staff is first rate, the food is wholesome, and it's within walking distance of the Town Square with great restaurants, shops, art galleries, and much, much more.

Kelly Hotsprings
Canon 1DsIII 300mm f/6.3 1/200 ISO200

Sandy at Kelly Hotsprings
Phase One 645DF P65+ f/11 1/250 ISO200

We'll be sharing more information and images in the coming weeks so please stay tuned.  Also remember, your comments, suggestions and questions are always welcome. 

Enjoy the images, and safe travels.

Sandy & Don

Friday, December 2, 2011

Phase One 645DF

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+

100% Crop (Handheld)

Phase One introduced the 645DF the end of 2009 which makes it 2-years old.  I've been away from shooting either the Mamiya or Phase One 645 for slightly over 3-years having instead gone to using a Cambo WRS1000 technical camera to capture landscape.  A lot has changed in 3-years - for the good.

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+

100% Crop (Handheld)

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+

I had a conversation with Dave Gallagher of Capture Integration several weeks ago.  The conversation was part gloating on being in the Jackson Hole area for so long and part just catching up with one another.  Dave asked if I'd be willing to take a Phase body along with a couple lens and try to capture landscape and wildlife.  I accepted.  The original plan was to use the Phase 645DF however I had to "settle" for the AF for a couple days until Dave's DF demo became available.  I'm glad I did. 

100% Crop from above. (Handheld)

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+

100% Crop (Handheld)

As reported in previous posts I've been using a Phase One 645AF along with a Mamiya 300, 150D and Phase One 80D lenses with what I consider great results.  The weather pattern here has made getting any meaningful landscape image nearly impossible so I've become what I like to say a junior wildlife photographer.  The lens I've used the most has been the Mamiya 300 followed equally by the 150 and 80mm.  The 300mm has proved its worth in capturing Buffalo, Elk, Moose, Mountain Sheep and horses not to mention close-ups of Aspens.

Phase One 645 DF Mamiya 300mm P65+
Can you see the Sheep?

100% Crop (#1) (Hanheld)

100% Crop (#2) (Handheld)

What I found was the AF was slow to focus often hunting for several seconds before locking in.  The hunting occurred in both morning and afternoon light and more often than not I'd have to switch to manual focus.  I also found that I had no real problems in capturing landscape however I did when trying to capture a moving subject.

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+

Phase One 645DF Mamiya 300mm P65+ with a slight crop

I received word Monday the DF was available and on its way.  I went out yesterday morning to shoot with the AF waiting for DF to arrive.  The DF arrived earlier than expected and after letting it warm up a bit (its been cold here) headed out to the National Elk Refuge in search of Mountain Sheep.  I figured Mountain Sheep are just the right size to test the auto-focus of the DF as they tend to be much smaller than anything else I've photographed.

I followed this guy as he came down from the top shooting as he walked down.  I never had to hunt the focus and I captured his journey.

All the literature I've read on the DF says it's 30% faster on auto-focus.  What I found is it's light-years ahead of the AF.  I ended up shooting 124 images yesterday afternoon and ended up hunting only twice.  I also had 2-images that were out of focus due to user error on my part when I  inadverently moved the auto-focus ring on the 300.  The images captured were all handheld standing on a level dirt road with the sheep ranging high in a cliff several hundred feet above to as close as 50 feet. 

The following are 100% crops of the images above.  Again these were all captured hand-held.

I found the auto-focus to be very quick and decisive which resulted in a much smoother shooting session than I've had before. 

I've made a big deal of letting everyone know the images during this testing were captured handheld.  While I prefer to shoot on tripod that simply isn't always available.  I also thought that if I could capture sharp or near sharp images using a method that invites movement then I can prove the usefulness of the equipment used.  I've been pleased to see that I have added several images to my gallery folder; a folder I keep with an eye on images that deserve processing and printing with the real possibility of offering them for sale. 

I've got a couple more days in Jackson Hole before heading to Tucson and will continue to test and repost my findings.  Again, Dave thanks bud! 

Let me know if you have any questions, concerns or comments and I'll see about addressing them.

Stay tuned for more to come.