The Phase One IQ4 series has just been announced. Here are 17 surprises features and facts that we expect will surprise our clients who have been waiting for a small update with a new sensor and not much else.
1) Three Models; all Full-Frame 645
The IQ4 will come in three flavors: the flagship Phase One IQ4 150mp, the black-and-white-only IQ4 150mp Achromatic, and the Phase One IQ4 100mp Trichromatic.
Each of these sensors is full-frame 645 sized, which is 2.5 times larger than full-frame 35mm and 52% larger than the 44x33mm sensors in the X1D and Fuji GFX. With the release of the IQ4 it is clear Phase One’s sole focus is on the no-compromise Full-Frame 645 format.
2) IQ4 > IQ3 + 1
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Romeo and Juliet
Judging by the name, one might assume the Phase One IQ4 is an incremental improvement over the Phase One IQ3. The same judgement could be made based on history: the IQ3 was only an incremental improvement over the IQ2.
But the IQ4 is much more than an “IQ3 Plus”. The Phase One IQ4 is a hugely-upgraded next-generation platform, with large improvements to resolution, image quality, speed, user interface, tethering options, and computational headroom. The IQ4 is to the IQ3 what the Phase One XF was to the Phase One DF. Not just a little better; a huge step forward.
3) 150. Million. Pixels.
The Phase One IQ4 150mp features a 151mp sensor – one hundred and fifty-one million pixels. We recommend against trying to count them to verify; it would take around 60 years of counting.
Resolution is not the end-all be-all of a camera. In fact we’d say it’s the fourth most important technical attribute of a camera (after lenses, color, and dynamic range). But when it comes to large prints, cropping flexibility, and immersively tactile levels of detail: resolution matters.
At roughly 16,204 pixels long and 10,652 pixels tall the native raw file size from the IQ4 150mp will print just shy of 4 feet long at 300ppi.
Need to print larger than 4 feet by 3 feet? No problem: a reasonable two-row 7-shot stitch with an IQ4 150mp yields a 180ppi print as large as Picasso’s Guernica, a size that would take five dozen captures from a Nikon D850.
Prefer square crops? No problem! A square crop from the IQ4 150mp is 10,652 pixels by 10,652 pixels, for a print size of three feet by three feet at ~300ppi. This is the highest resolution square-format camera in the world.
Long for your old 6×17 panoramic camera? A single shot from the IQ3 150mp can make a four foot wide panoramic print at 300ppi. That 17” x 47” print could me made without any uprezing; simply crop to a 6×17 and go. Or if that’s not big enough, a quick three-shot stitch would yield a file ready to print 10 feet by 3 foot at 300ppi.
Do you sometimes need to crop verticals from horizontals? We’ve all been there; you created beautiful landscape-orientation images according to all the pre-shoot communications, and now the client wants to run the images as verticals instead. Starting with a horizontal 150 mp image a vertical crop will still be 83 megapixels!
Of course you don’t have to process all of your files out at full resolution; not every use-case requires that kind of resolution. If the client wants 16×20” files at 600ppi you can set a process recipe for exactly that size, and, notably, images that were cropped won’t have to be uprezed and will be just as sharp as the uncropped images.
4) Available Soon
Living up to Phase One’s goals of announcing a product only when it’s nearly ready to ship, the IQ4 150mp will ship in early October (update: November). As the largest dealer in the world, Digital Transitions will have beta units at events across the country next week. Contact us for a personal demo in NYC or LA, or to sign up for our upcoming roadshow.
5) Its sensor is Back-Side Illuminated
The Phase One IQ4 150mp and Phase One IQ4 150mp Achromatic both use back-side illuminated (BSI) sensors. This is the first made-for-photographers medium-format camera with a BSI sensor. Technically the Phase One iXM 100mp was the very first medium-format camera with a BSI sensor, but is intended for industrial and scientific imaging.
We have a whole article on BSI, but the long and short of it is that traditional (non-BSI) sensors are a bit like a pickup truck with the truck bed placed out in front of the driver, where it got in the way and limited performance. With a BSI sensor, the electronics are behind the light path and don’t get in the way. This improves dynamic range which means less noise in shadows, better shadow color accuracy, stronger high ISO performance, and a larger range of flexibility to shift and tilt on technical cameras like the Cambo Wide RS and Arca Swiss R series.
In other words, BSI could also stand for Better Sensor Inside.
6) The Internal Processors are Much Faster
The IQ1, IQ2, and IQ3 all shared the same basic brains. That is, they used very similar CPUs, auxiliary processors, and other internal electronics. At the time the IQ platform launched these electronics were years ahead of the competition, with plenty of computational headroom for Phase One’s software/firmware team to add new features via firmware update. But the IQ1, and therefore those brains, date from 2011. As Phase One dreamed up more interesting and more dynamic (pun intended) in-camera features it was clear the current brains of the IQ platform were going to become a constraint on their creativity. So in the IQ4 the brains have been hugely upgraded.
The IQ4’s core processor is far times faster than its predecessor and provides enough computational power to provide continuous capture and processing of losslessly-compressed 150mp raw files. Even while shooting continuously, the IQ4 can create class-leading in-camera JPGs, provide wireless control/review/rating to an iOS device, communicate histograms or vibration data to the LCD of an XF body, and calculate a precise focus mask, all at the same time. Shooting in continuous mode is so consistent that you could conduct a symphony by its rhythm.
The increased horsepower inside the back, along with an emphasis on modular design, will allow Phase One to add meaningful feature and capability improvements for years to come, without requiring clients to buy a new back. That is what Phase One is calling the “Infinity Platform” We have an entire article about this marketing phrase and the history and future it represents.
There are even hardware tools in this back that won’t be turned on (or discussed) at launch.
7) Improved Live View
Focus Mask (or “focus peaking” as some companies call it) has been available in every IQ model (as well as in Capture One). But until now it was only available during image review (after the capture). In the Phase One IQ4, focus mask is also available during live view. Not only that but a Live Histogram is available in Live View, along with exposure simulation.
The speed, responsiveness and image quality of live view have also been improved.
8) Touch-Screen Gestures
The IQ4, at launch will support pinch-to-zoom. This gesture has become so ingrained in modern culture that even 3-year olds instinctively try it. Moreover, the IQ4 is ready to support multi-finger gestures. We can’t wait to see what Phase One will do with this in the future!
9) Phase One’s Lenses Handle 150mp
From our initial testing we expect excellent performance at 150mp from nearly all the full-frame 645 lenses that have seen optical improvements within the last decade.
Phase One has updated nearly every lens in their current lineup during the 80mp and 100mp era, so we expect good results for most of their lenses. We’ll be testing every Phase One lens when we get our first beta unit, so check back in next week for our results!
We recently finished a full article evaluating the Phase One D, Schneider LS, Hasselblad HC and HCD lenses for the Hasselblad H in the context of 100mp sensors. Head over to Lenses for 150mp for a more detailed write-up.
10) Tethering is Faster and Easier Than Ever.
Phase One is the go-to camera for fast, reliable, and feature-rich tethering. The IQ4 builds on that reputation by switching to modern USB-C and Ethernet ports.
The USB-C port is used on every MacBookPro, iMac, and most high-end PCs. USB-C availability is expected to increase to ubiquity with the next-gen Mac Pro, so USB-C was a natural choice for tethering on the IQ4.
However, USB-C cables are inherently limited on length (powered repeaters, hubs, and extenders can be used but come with their own limitations and hassles). So Phase One also included an industrial-grade Ethernet Port. Ethernet cables provide a simple locking mechanism and can provide (given the right port/hub) enough power to run an XF IQ4 150mp kit all day long. Moreover, Phase One is officially supporting up to 330 feet of Ethernet cable for tethering (assuming a high-quality cable and hub).
Notably USB-C is backwards compatible to USB3 with the appropriate cable or hub. So USB-C, USB3, and Ethernet are all viable ways of tethering the IQ3 150mp.
11) Wireless Tethering to Capture One
The addition of Ethernet and USB-C is a boon to tethered shooters, but the IQ4 also offers the photographer the chance to ditch cables entirely: the IQ4 can wirelessly tether raw files directly to Capture One on a Mac or PC.
Phase One already offered wireless review, rating, and control from an iOS device with a tool called Capture Pilot. This is very handy for on-location work and for interacting with art directors, stylists, and others. Capture Pilot is included in the IQ4, and should be even faster and easier than with the IQ3. But Capture Pilot is NOT wireless tethering; with Capture Pilot the raws are captured to card or sent to the computer via a tethering cable.
In contrast to Capture Pilot, IQ4 wireless tethering sends the raw files directly to a Mac or PC running Capture One. It’s normal tethering (with all the professional workflow that enables), but without the cable.
12) Capture One Already Supports It
When most new cameras ship there is usually the agonizing wait for the main high-end raw processors to add support for those cameras. Fortunately, since Capture One is made by the same company as Phase One cameras (the teams are literally down the hall from each other inside the same building in Copenhagen) the IQ4 is already fully supported.
Actually that understates it a bit. The world of high-end raw processors is dominated by Capture One and LightRoom, which makes Phase One the only camera company with an industry-leading raw processor, and the only camera company whose in-house software development is paid for by customers who don’t use their cameras (i.e. buying Capture One Pro to use with their Nikon D850). While Capture One supports over 400 cameras, it’s no surprise that they spend an inordinate amount of time tweaking their algorithms and tools to get the most out of their own cameras. The Salzburg Philharmonic Orchestra plays works by many composers and doesn’t give short shrift to any of them, but of course they put extra hours in practicing anything by Mozart.
So not only is it supported, it was designed with Capture One in mind, and Capture One has been tweaking its algorithms to get the most out of the IQ4 for months already. They’ve ensured the tethering speed and stability (whether Ethernet, USB3, or USB-C), color, noise, and detail were polished before the IQ4 was ever announced.
Capture One 11.2.0 has preliminary support for the IQ4 series, and 11.2.1 is due out soon with full support.
13) Capture One is Inside the Back
Many photographers rely on Capture One for on-set tethering, including the ability to immediately see the image with color-grading and other adjustments; the IQ4 brings this experience to untethered shooting by having Capture One’s color and image-processing engine inside the camera.
Initially only a small number of factory presets will be available. But the idea is to grow this feature so that a photographer or digital tech can load Capture One styles into the IQ4 and select them while shooting so that the image on the camera screen closely matches the result they’ll see later in Capture One on their Mac or PC. These styles could be commercially available styles such as the DT Capture One Style pack or styles the photographer or digital tech makes on their own.
Building Capture One into the back is a core part of the Infinity Platform. We can imagine Phase One leveraging their powerful raw processing algorithms for all sorts of interesting in-back features. For a more in-depth look, check out our article on some of the possibilities this feature enables.
14) It Uses the Same Batteries and Charger
Sometimes in life, it’s the little things. Phase One batteries are only $70 but nobody likes having to buy a new type of battery and charger when buying or upgrading to a new camera.
Fortunately, the Phase One IQ4 uses the same model battery as previous Phase One backs. Do note that this battery has been offered in increasing capacities over the years, and Phase One only recommends the 3400mAh generation of batteries for use in the IQ4, but these have been around for many years, so most IQ owners will already have a good stash.
The charger that comes with the IQ4 has been changed to an industrial-grade dual charger, but the legacy flip-open Phase One charger can of course also be used as a backup or to charge two additional batteries at the same time.
15) Dark Frame Control
Phase One knows that mandatory dark frames can be a pain. But dark frames are an essential tool in providing the absolute best image quality. So Phase One has revamped the dark frame system on the IQ4, providing the user complete control over the creation of dark frames. We’ll have more on this new feature in the coming weeks.
16) In-Camera JPGs – Finally!
A first for Phase One, the IQ4 allows the user to shoot Raw or Raw+JPG. The resulting JPGs are ideal for rapid/immediate use or proofing (imagine sending a 150 megapixel JPG to a client by email). Moreover, these JPGs can be created using nearly any Capture One Style (more on this in “Capture One inside”) so that the JPGs natively come out of camera with the color grading and adjustments used on the raws downstream.
It’s still our contention that, for the vast majority of workflows, it’s still preferable to shoot raw-only and using tools like Capture One’s QuickProof JPG system. However, there are use-cases for having a ready-made JPG, and since they can be generated with your style we expect many users to leverage this new feature.
17) It has Dual Next-Gen Card Storage
Every Phase One digital back since 2004 has used CF Cards for portable storage. But the maximum speed of CF Cards is around ~167 MB/s, and while that was (just barely) fast enough to make full use of the IQ3 platform, it’s not nearly fast enough for the blazing fast IQ4 platform.
In place of the CF Card slot are dual slots for SD cards and XQD cards. Better yet, the XQD slot will support CFexpress in the future.
As you’d expect, the user can choose to shoot everything simultaneously to both cards, split raws and JPGs between the two cards, or use the second card for roll-over space after the first card is full. You can even use any combination of storing to cards and computer when shooting tethered using USB-C, Ethernet, or wireless tethering.
If you like curling up with long articles that detail the technical and industry-support minutia of storage card formats, head here where we explain why Phase One selected the XQD instead of CFast cards. If you’re more of a “executive summary” kind of person, the take home message of that article is that CFast is at a dead-end and XQD and CFexpress are the future. The King is dead; long live the King.