I recently returned from a week with Phase One in Bali, Indonesia. They held their first 2015 PODAS (Phase One Digital Artists Series) in the township of Ubud. What a wonderful cultural centre. Only about 50km from the international airport in Denpasar, it took us about an hour and a half to get to the resort where we were staying for the week. Bali roads are notorious for being not so good and very winding, and road sharing with oncoming vehicles is very interesting to say the least. Anyway, we eventually got there. By Balinese standards the resort was beautiful. It was to be our base for the next seven days.
The first evening the ten of us met each other as well as being given a 645DF+, IQ280 back, 80mm leaf shutter lens, battery charger, a couple of batteries and suitable carry bag. So for the first three days that was my kit. My normal kit is a 645DF+ with a P30+ back so I was was on a real learning curve with the IQ280. What a change, and pleasure, by comparison. It really allowed me to appreciate the differences in the technology between the two, given the release dates, 2007 and 2013 respectively - a 6 year gap. Touch screen technology, live view, higher ISO, 80 megapixels versus 30 megapixels and fast.
On day three I was given the opportunity to play around with the, just released, XF body and IQ350 back. Now the body has no resemblance to the previous DF+. It is a little heavier, approximately 300 grams I believe, but the feel is more logical and as a result you don’t notice the weight increase. I ended up using the camera for the next two days. In that time I was, mostly, hand holding it and only using my tripod for landscape shots. The touch screen controls are seamlessly integrated with the IQ3 back. As an example, I could power both the body and back from with either power button. This is achieved by a new high bandwidth port that exists between IQ3 backs and the XF body. Also, I was able to adequately adjust camera settings in low to no light as the LCD touch display (known as the OneTouch UI) is easily read day or night. As for the images, I could shoot as high as 6400 ISO without decreasing image size via “Sensor+” functionality (For high quality I probably wouldn't go much over 3200 to keep the noise out). This is acheived by the IQ350 deploying a CMOS sensor instead of the usual CCD used in the 60 and 80MP models. The only real negative is that 50MP CMOS sensors have a 1.3 Lens crop factor.
I would have to say that this particular body/back combination is as close as you will get to using a DLSR making it ideal for wedding and event photography. For pure landscape work you will probably want to use the IQ360 or IQ380 models. With the 50 I will end up stitching landscape shots where the higher pixel count is needed but I think the IQ350 is a better all rounder unit.
This shot was taken hand held at ISO 1600 80mm f4 at 1/20
But what about all the other features. Firstly, the same battery is now used in the XF as all Phase backs - Hooray - only one charger needed and a few spare batteries. plenty of reprogrammable controls to use with many differnt setup controls. In my DF+ if I wanted back button focus it was a bit of a challenge to remember the codes but on the XF it was one setting. Speaking of focus it is fast and very accurate and most notably it worked in low light. The DF+ use to hunt and hunt but the XF got it nearly right straight up. There are three wheels to play with and you can set what you want to each. Simply - speed, aperture and ISO is my preference but you can set them any way you like. There is also a secondary release button which I found handy when rotating the camera.
Another really nice feature is that the XF has a built in gyroscope. There will no doubt be a number of new functions that will slowly become available as a result of this but right now one that I found useful is when using Capture One 8.3 (You MUST use this release if you have an IQ3 back) you can click on the Auto function in “Keystone” and it will correct the levelling of the camera in software. Again, particularly useful when shooting by hand or a quick and dirty tripod shot.
For a feature by feature look at the unit check out this site. http://www.digitaltransitions.com/blog/dt-blog/phaseone-xf-first-look