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Wednesday, 03 February 2016


Überkamera is not a real word in German, unless it's entered the unobserved vernacular when I wasn't looking … at any rate it's not to be found on beolingus (http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de) and they're usually pretty up to date.

Mike, TOP is so exceptionally and consistently literate that it was a jolt to read "The price of these cameras make Leicas look cheap." This aging (just turned 70, however did that happen?) schoolmarm manque (wrong sex to be a schoolmarm, though I suppose there's more latitude on that score these days) notes that the subject of the sentence is "price" (singular) and so the verb must be "makes" (singular); alternatively, the subject could be made plural: "prices," and the verb left as is.

You might reasonably object that my second sentence is too long, and I would agree with you (but perhaps that can be construed as pedantic humor … ).


Man, I just saved $40,000!

Rationalization and justification are two traits that I find improve with age.
The cost of the PhaseOne as always allowed me to rationalize my Leica S purchases as being oh so much less expensive than the next more expensive alternative.

Überkamera is a possible word in German, actually a combined word. But it's extremely unlikely to be used. The whole “über“-thing is much more common in english that in German nowadays.

I am fascinated by the Canon and its bleeding edge technology but I might buy the Sony A6300 announced today. It may come down to what an A6000 is worth in trade.

Unfortunately, the motorcycle is gone.

Looking at the specs of the two cameras, EOS 1D X Mk II and D5, it appears the latter has a considerable edge as a still camera, while the former, the Canon, is stronger in some respects in video, with its 30 minute 4K recording time, vs. 3 mins for D5. While this difference might seem significant, though, the D5, like the D4 before it, outputs uncompressed video through its HDMI port, while the latest Canon is still limited to outputting 1080P. In any event, I'm fairly confident most pros who are serious about shooting video have given up on the idea of trying to dual-purpose a DSLR, no matter the brand and features, due to its being in this regard kludgey, awkward, and add-on intensive. (I could be wrong, of course.) And as is invariably the case, people will go with whichever brand they are already invested in, and can't go wrong either way.

When the D5 was announced I briefly toyed with the idea of selling my Fuji gear and switching back. I put together a package at B&H consisting of a D5, a D500, three lenses, memory cards, and some odds and ends. Then I looked at the resulting $15,000 price and all the weight involved. Then I looked at my Fuji kit sitting on the table in front of me, all obedient and fashionably trim and paid for. Then I gave thanks to Tokyo and the high heavens for what I already have and went for a photo walk and forgot about the idea. It was a nice fantasy for a moment, though (and it didn't cost me a dime).

As for the Phase One A-Series, I could just die for one or more, especially with an Achromatic back, but I have absolutely no use for it and besides that don't have the money. C'est la vie.

Can someone explain the optics on that Alpa setup? The lens and sensor seem to be too close together to work. I don't understand it at all.

The Phase One product looks to be almost an afterthought. They make an aerial camera line where more pixels is simply better. The more pixels you can put in the air, the less flying time you have to pay for and flying time is *expensive*.

My take is that the new Phase One body looks like an industrial camera because it is an industrial camera, slightly bodged to make it a "professional still camera" aimed at the overly-monied amateur class.

Niemand würde so ein Wort wie Überkamera in Deutschland benutzen, "über" wird als Steigerungsform so gut wie nie benutzt.

Überkamera isn't a german word, and none over here even uses "über" as a comparative.

The top end Nikon and Canon cameras look so out of place in a world of small cameras. The Canon you show looks as big as a Phase 1 camera, we are in Sherpa territory now.

Überkamera? That's where you put the flash right?

To answer Dan MacDonald: Horizontal shots are worthless to a professional photographer because vertical shots of celebrities are the only things that sell, and newspapers and magazines are still vertically oriented. The reason it has to be vertical is because of shoe sales... if you cannot discern the starlets shoes, the editor cannot create a link to shoe store/fashion label, and everybody ends up in the poor house. This is why 90% of shots you see of red carpets etc are wide angle verticals.

I crossed the rubicon the day I bought an Oly EM5-II.

I enjoyed the Oly EM 1 (sold it a few weeks ago). I liked, not loved, the Nikon 800. I loved but did not like the Multi-shot Hasselblad kit, I loved and liked the Sony a850, but I waited, waited, and waited for a wider selection of lenses. I gagged when Sony introduced that silly FF pellicle camera.

My next camera will be the Oly EM-1 II. Since I no longer shoot professionally, I've lightened the load. The Olys are by far my favorite cameras of all time.

Note to Canon marketing department. Please simplify the names of your cameras. My head is beginning to hurt from not being able to tell them apart. Nor can I tell from glancing at the camera name which model is newer, and which older.

Hint: D1, D2, D3, D4, D5...
That's clarity.

Dan MacDonald wrote "I continue to be mystified why neither Canon or Nikon will sell a top spec camera like the 1Dx or D5 without the vertical grip being integrated into the body."

It isn't really a vertical grip, rather space for the batteries. In olden days (I have a 1Ds) they needed large batteries to supply the current for the electronics and I suspect they may still do for the mirror, shutter etc. And GPS is likely to be a battery hog.

My guess is that quite a large part of the market for such cameras likes a vertical grip (and it certainly helps handling with large lenses, even a 24-70).

Could it be that the coinage Ueberkamera (or Uebercamera and the like, such as Ueberlens) follows the logic of Nietzsche's Uebermensch, meaning 'Overman, Overhuman, Above-Human, Superman, Superhuman, Ultraman, Ultrahuman, Beyond-Man', according to Wikipedia?

[Right, I think that's the origin of it. --Mike]

I've been pixel-peeping the .tiff files from the Phase One for a few weeks now...and let me say this:

1. It's got close to a real 645 chip size, compared to the weird 33X44 chip people seem to be using now and claiming is "medium format". It seems to visually make a difference...

2. It has 16 bit color instead of the 14 bit color "medium format" seems to be sliding back to since adopting the 33X44 cmos chip (CCD chips in medium format were virtually all 16 bit), and that means something like 200 million more shades, which to my eye, makes a difference (I don't know why it hasn't moved up to 24 bit).

3. The output I've seen makes it virtually indistinguishable from film. Except for the work-flow, it's all over but the bank-loan.

I would think you'd have to bill well in advance of 500K a year, just to cover this for the 5 year usability cycle digital seems to have. I knew plenty that billed that much 15 years ago...not so much today...

Canon and Nikon at one point both had 'bifurcated' high-end D-SLR lines, with one model dedicated to high resolution and the other to high speed. For Canon, the Eos-1Ds line had the resolution, the Eos-1D brought high speed. This made perfect sense to me; I have little use for 12 frames per second, but greatly appreciate an indestructible weather-proof high resolution body. My Eos-1Ds from 2002 still works just fine despite years of abuse and multiple drenchings in back-country downpours. The Eos-1Ds III has likewise been unbreakable in my (clumsy) hands. The same generation Eos-5D mk II, by comparison, has been known to fail in wet conditions.
Evidently Canon have decided to provide a high-resolution sensor only in the equivalent prosumer body, while providing their high speed sports/journalism Eos-1Dx II model in their solid pro body. I guess it's a tiny market segment these days, but I would much prefer the high resolution 5Ds sensor in that rock-solid weather sealed body for the way I use my camera.

In reply to Alan: Nikon has had *deep breath*: D1, D1X, D1H, D2H, D2X, D2Hs, D2Xs, D3, D3X, D3S, D4, D4S, and now D5. Phew.

PS: there was never a D2!

It has 16 bit color instead of the 14 bit color "medium format" seems to be sliding back to since adopting the 33X44 cmos chip (CCD chips in medium format were virtually all 16 bit), and that means something like 200 million more shades, which to my eye, makes a difference (I don't know why it hasn't moved up to 24 bit). -- Tom Kwas

I agree. The larger sensor is nice, but it seems to be the greater bit depth that makes all the difference: if you ever see color prints from a recent Phase One back, they will have you pulling out your wallet straight away, or calling your banker / leasing agent. It's that good.

Absent the increased bit depth, though, I'm not sure there's much point to medium format digital - given what Sony can now do with smaller sensors. If the upcoming medium format camera from Fuji isn't 16-bit they might as well not even bother, at least as far as I'm concerned.

+1 for Doug Thacker...

I still maintain that I saw a 24 bit, 3 megapixel image at the dawn of digital (maybe it was a scan back for 4X5), and it was virtually transparency-like.

I would be perfectly happy if full frame 35mm digital froze at 24 megapixel, but upped their bit rate to 16 or even 24!

@Tom Kwas: "It has 16 bit color ... and that means something like 200 million more shades, which to my eye, makes a difference (I don't know why it hasn't moved up to 24 bit)"

It doesn't mean that at all. You can only talk about "the number of shades" for a given bit depth on data that has been gamma corrected to give it a "perceptually uniform" tones when presented to the eye.

The gamma corrected output compresses the number of linear levels in the highlights (when you get lots of similar values that the eye can't distinguish) and stretches them in the shadows. Overall it gives a more even distribution of tones. A larger linear bit depth gives you the ability to distinguish values in the shadows very close to black that you couldn't with smaller bit depths. You get more very dark shadows values in the gamma corrected output.

In a similar way it improves color fidelity in the dark shadows (as you get more levels of R, G and B).

With any ADC system like this (for sound or audio) you'll generally have the lowest bit in the system noise (for dither) so you'll have something like 15 bits of real data. The same is true of other bit depths used in imagers: 12 bits ADCs give 11 bits of real data which maps very nicely to the number of tones an 8 bit JPEG (that's 8 bits of perceptual levels) can't encode.

The other consideration for using 16 bit ADCs (rather than 14 bit ADC) is the pixel might be able to deliver valid output from read noise level (i.e. an black/empty pixel) to full well saturation that actually covers 15 bits of dynamic range (remember 1 bit for dither). If the pixel's dynamic range doesn't exceed 16 bits there there's no benefit in going to higher bit depths. You don't encode any more information with a higher bit depth (in the way that Spinal Tap's amplifiers aren't any louder because they go up to 11).

The Sony 100Mpx sensor dimensions are 53.7 x 40.4mm which is bigger than the usual 645D 44.0mm x 33.0mm and only slightly smaller than a 56 x 42 mm 645 film frame. That's impressive for a CMOS image sensor.

Re: The new Canon 1Dx II, nobody knows how to make a rugged, environmentally-reliable camera body better than Canon. I've no doubt that this new body will be a superb replacement for its aging predecessor. I no longer needed my 1D-class bodies and sold all but one (sentimental) last year. But if I again need speed and rugged reliability I'd jump on this new 1Dx II in a heartbeat.

Re: PhaseOne, in 2008 I swallowed hard and bought into the system. Frankly, it was a little crude back then. The primary body at that time was an old Mamiya 645AFD (that still accepted 120 film backs). Today it's a very different ballgame, particularly with the recent introduction of the XF body system and the newer IQ backs. This is now very much a 21st century imaging system.

I realize that few readers care much about PhaseOne. But there are three points I'd like to offer to expand or counter general assumptions and knowledge about the system.

- PhaseOne is the most modular of all digital camera systems today, particularly now with the XF body. The lens, the body, the digital back, and now even the viewfinder are each discrete components. This modularity is exactly why I chose PhaseOne over the closed Hassy system and is part of what makes it worth the expense to me. I can use my IQ back on a technical camera and large-format lens setup just as I can use it with my XF body and 645 lenses.

- The idea that PhaseOne is appropriate only for commercial photographers with gross annual billings of, say, $500,000 is, well, a whiff. (C'mon, even a bad dentist bills that much.) I suspect that the primary market for PhaseOne systems is rental and leasing houses. It makes much more sense for many commercial photographers to rent or lease this gear rather than to capitalize it.

But the system's modularity also greatly expands its market to various institutions outside of commercial photography. Institutions such as museums and libraries use PhaseOne equipment for various documentation projects that greatly benefit from such precise high resolution. Digital Transitions, my own dealer, has a group dedicated to this significant segment of the market.

- Yes, entry into PhaseOne is very expensive. But once you're in your incremental costs to stay current are greatly mitigated via fairly generous dealer trade-in offers. That's something not common for other equipment, which you usually have to sell at great discounts. Likewise, you can also tremendously lower your cost of entry by starting with used / reconditioned equipment offered by dealers at much lower prices. Or, as I remarked earlier, if you're in a major city just rent the equipment from a dealer.

@Doug Thacker: "Absent the increased bit depth, though, I'm not sure there's much point to medium format digital - given what Sony can now do with smaller sensors." You have a keen general point, Doug. In many respects my Sony A7R II can meet, or best, my PhaseOne for many tasks especially in low/uncontrolled light. And it certainly gets more frequent usage! In fact that's why I am very skeptical of seeing a new interchangeable lens system in my lifetime. But I am certain that there will long remain a sizable market for larger-than-35mm digital imaging in cultural and industrial operations. In fact I would not be too gobsmacked to see a larger-than-medium-format system in my life!

For Anthony, RE Alpa
Both Rodenstock and Schneider make lenses optimized for digital capture in focusing mounts . The mounts themselves provide for appropriate back focus. Alpa has made several bodies, some of which included x-y shift or rise and fall.
This latest one appears to be more of a collaboration between Phase and Alpa.with less in the way of movements but more in the way of integration.
A lot of it is about the ability to use those lenses on the HR Back.
I hope this helps.

My interest in the new Canon is the potential eventual incorporation of some of the basic sensor and operational improvements in the non-gripped non-failsafe less expensive bodies. I want to be pleasantly surprised when my 6D gives up the ghost and I need to buy a 6D3 or whatever.

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