A Case of Camera Envy?

After getting the Canon 5Dmk2 a few months after it was released I have to admit that any kind of camera envy I had vanished. My trusty 5Dmk2 has been around the world with me, photographed countless weddings and fashion assignments. So much so that the paint it rubbing off, however I love my canon and couldn’t dream about using another camera.

That is until Phase One came knocking at my email door, their rep wanted to pop into our photographic studio in Ashford to show me their current model. The 645DF+ and IQ250 Back along with some lenses. I got to have a little play around and started to notice the huge differences between this medium format camera system and the canon DSLR. Price being one of the bigger, painful differences, but I’ll get into that in a moment..


After an hour or so of playtime the Phase One rep had to pack up and take it back home with him and that’s where the envy started. I wondered what the camera could really do and a couple weeks later I decided that I should put it through its paces for a couple days of real shooting.

Two assignments booked on a weekend, a hair and beauty shoot and three shoots with models from BMA, I went up into London to pick up the system from TeamWork Photo. The pelican case include the 645DF+ and the IQ250 back along with three lenses, an 85mm, 105mm and a 24mm, all in all about £30,000 worth of kit.

As I mentioned that’s one of the larger differences with getting a system like this, however there are plenty more interesting things that make medium format different than standard DSLR’s.

The Dynamic Range is quite impressive, 14 f-stops compared to around 10 or 11 with the 5Dmk2. This means that it will capture more difference from light to dark, which means things are not lost to the dark and highlights.

Higher megapixel, the IQ250 has 50 megapixels, which are not the most important thing, however the overall size of the sensor is much larger than one on a full frame DSLR, this means the pixels have room to move and thus ISO sensitivity is a little more lenient.

The larger sensor also plays a part on the way lenses work, which then follows onto depth of field and how you can throw something out of focus.

Focus however was something I didn’t enjoy too much with the Phase One system, instead of the multiple focal points on the Canon camera, this system has a large one in the center of the however bright view finder. It took a bit of getting used to where it will actually focus, especially when close up to the subject. After some use however it wasn’t too difficult to get it right.

Speed is something to note as well, because the camera is 50 megapixels it does take a little longer to write to the card, however that’s not what slows shooting down, it’s the leaf shutter inside the camera body. It certainly means that using the system for sports photography would be a bad idea, however in the studio, compared to anything else I’ve used I’m not sure there is much better.

One other noticeable feature that the phase one system had over my Canon 5dmk2 was that it already had wifi built into it. Using this with addition to the Phase One app on the iPad means that images are whizzed right to the screen for clients to see.

Assignment one.


Working for Trend Hair and Beauty the brief was to provide the new studio with some images for their website and printed media with a number of models, styles and looks.
This is where the ipad app really came into use, the client could check over the images without looking into the camera to check if the direction was the right one.
They could also tag the shots they liked so when put into Lightroom we knew exactly which images were shortlisted.

As this was a hair and beauty shoot the additional dynamic range really came into play as it captured all the highlights and darks in their hair and clothing.

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Assignment two.


BMA model agency needed to get some updates for some of the people on their books, Michael was a great choice and really showed off the quality of the cameras use of tones, its ability to keep the eyes bright as well as the skin dark was a massive bonus when editing.

Laura and Dani we also fantastic to shoot as well, both very different in their style the Phase One really did a fantastic job at creating high quality beauty and fashion images.

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After packing up the case and taking the kit back up to London I did feel a slight sense of loss, wondering if I could in fact go on the run and take the gear with me, just to see what images I could capture before I end up getting captured myself. Holding the Phase One feels different, it feels expensive and when that leaf shutter slides down and opens there is a sense of quality and expense that you don’t get from DSLR’s.
The images are also fantastic, albeit slower to edit because of the file size. I personally didn’t get on with Phase One’s own editing software Capture One and decided instead to use Lightroom. This did a good job of getting files ready for Photoshop and I had no problems editing images once it was in Photoshop.

The focus system took a bit of getting used to and the extreme shallow depth of field when wide open made it hard to focus, but once I got used to it then there were no major problems.
The speed however is quite a lot slower than my canon but in a studio there is no reason to shoot too fast.
Its a bit heavier than I’m used to and a tad cumbersome, however it does feel nice to use and the client did get a kick out of seeing something a bit different.

All that said, the question is, do I still feel camera envy and is that envy great enough for me to switch from the DSLR to medium format? At this point, I’m not quite sure, the price point is high but I think in time and as the fashion assignments continue to come in then it’s very possible that I will be making the change. However, there will always be a space for the Canon, weddings continue to be fast moving environments and I don’t think the Phase One system would cut it.



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