The Achromatic+ has actually been available for about a year. It's made by PhaseOne in Denmark, but it was developed and spec'd by Bear Images Photographic, Inc., in the San Francisco Bay area, and it is only sold in the U.S. through them. (It's available from PhaseOne dealers outside the U.S.)
It's a 39-megapixel, 7216 x 5412-pixel, wide-spectrum back that has mainly been purchased and used for scientific and classified military applications—aerial IR, photogrammetry, preservation, and other technical uses. Jim Taskett of Bear Images tells me that so far they have only about a dozen photographers using them purely for pictorial photography (not altogether surprising considering the $42,990 pricetag—and that's without the camera and lens), although he says many of their scientific clients also experiment with using the backs to take ordinary pictures with.
The camera is available in two versions: the CV for classic visible photography and the ER for extended range infrared and UV—the first with, and the second without, a permanent IR filter. Jim says most clients, even those buying them for visible photography, buy the ER version and then simply use lens filters to limit IR and UV response. The available camera mounts include Phase One 645, Mamiya AFD, Hasselblad 500 Series, Hasselblad/Fuji H1 and H2, and the Contax 645, and of course you can use them on non-viewfinder cameras such as the Alpa or Cambo, or view cameras. The 49.1 x 36.8mm sensor is made by Kodak.
Jim does say that the results are considerably sharper than you'd get from a similar back with Bayer-array interpolation.
If you're interested in reading more, here's PhaseOne's page about the Achromatic Plus, here's the link for Bear Images, and here's Bear's dedicated Achromatic+ mini-site. There are some small examples at the last link, which of course won't do justice to what the back can actually do.
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Maggie Osterberg: "$42,990? Most. Expensive. Roll of Tri-X. EVER."
Featured Comment by Pete Myers: "Many years ago, I wrote about my experiences with the Kodak DCS 760m for The Luminous Landscape.
"Since that time frame, I have lobbied many camera companies to add a monochrome version of one of their cameras to their product line. This included PhaseOne, Leica, Nikon, et al. PhaseOne certainly did not listen to me, and on repeated occasions one of their VPs gave me strong lectures on how Bayer-based cameras could do it all.
"The Leica M9 continues to be the most logical platform for a monochrome version. But I am afraid Leica does not see the market potential. Few do.
"What I can say from my own experience is that there is nothing like a digital monochrome camera. I currently shoot a Nikon D3x (24 MP Bayer), and though I can make nice monochrome images from it, they are not in the same league as those that I produced with the DCS 760m (6 MP monochrome).
"Will we ever get a cost effective digital monochrome camera into the market? Hard to say. I can only imagine how either a Leica M9m or a Nikon D3xm would perform. The key is that they must be sold at the same price point as the color versions, and there is no reason why this cannot be done. Most all of the camera or back software is the same for the color or monochrome versions of the product. There is very little added development cost for a monochrome version.
"I applaud PhaseOne for giving this market a try. I am sad that us digital monochrome pioneers cannot afford to set the product through its paces and show how innovative digital monochrome really is."
Featured Comment by Paul Glover: "Out of curiosity, I decided to see how much Acros 100 I could buy for that amount of money. Sadly, Adorama will only let me add 9,999 of any one item to my cart, which works out at $26,897.31, plus another $961.90 for the lowest-cost shipping option to where I am. I suppose the other $15,130.79 I have left can go toward chemicals and archival sleeves (maybe a buck a roll, combined?), plus some sort of large walk-in freezer to put the film stash in, since it obviously won't fit in the one I have now even if I do take the pizza and ice-cream out first."