Phase One IQ140: Here Comes A New Challenger!

As you've read, I've been looking at all of my options for making the transition to Medium Format Digital in the last few weeks. The Fuji GFX prompted the decision that it was "time", as MFD is becoming more affordable for the professional and enthusiast. 

Initially I had only considered the GFX-50S, older Hasselblad systems, and maybe the Pentax 645Z in a distant third. I never considered Phase One because of their prohibitively expensive price point — Their top-of-the-line 100MP system costs over $20,000(!) more than the Hasselblad equivalent, so the thought to look up pre-owned Phase One never entered my mind.

My short list for Medium Format considerations based on my budget of ≈$10,000 USD consisted of:

  • Fujifilm GFX-50S — $6,500 new, plus $1500 for the 63mm f/2.8 or $2,300 for the 32-64mm f/4 Zoom. Total: $8,000-8,800.
  • Hasselblad H4D-40 — $5,200 - 5,400 CPO, plus about $800 for a used 80mm f/2.8 or $2,100 for a 100mm f/2.2. Total: $6,000 - $7,500
  • Hasselblad H5D-40 — $6,500 - $7,000, plus plus about $800 for a used 80mm f/2.8 or $2,100 for a 100mm f/2.2. Total: $7,300 - $9,100

My point of contention with the GFX (and I guess the Pentax 645Z by transitive property), had always been its 1/125 sync speed. For what and how I shoot, this wasn't really acceptable. I own Profoto and Broncolor strobes that can do HSS and HS, respectively — but I like to avoid that whenever possible and besides, there is not currently any Fuji support from either company. So even if I wanted to, I couldn't. There are rumors of a Profoto Air Remote TTL-F coming, so there's that. But still, I like to avoid HSS/HS because you lose flash power and consistency when cranking up that shutter speed. Leaf shutters and being able to sync at any shutter speed is a big reason people move to Medium Format.


This is when I ran into the Phase One IQ140. In doing my research and some shopping, I found that IQ140 backs were becoming very affordable and fell within my price range. Here's what got me looking into the Phase system:

  • 1/1600th Flash Sync. 1/800th is good, 1/1600th is better. One stop better than Hasselblad offers at this range. I may not ever need it, but it's there if I do.
  • The screen. Oh god, the screen. Touch-enabled, and high-resolution ("retina", 290ppi). The screens on the back of anything earlier than the current-generation are almost useless for image review. The touch screen and high resolution of the IQ140 is a very welcome feature.
  • Firewire 800 AND USB 3.0 tethering. This is another big one for me. Other MF cameras in this range (save the Pentax 645Z), only do Firewire tethering, an old standard. I do not own any Thunderbolt-equipped devices or computers, so I would have no way to tether with these cameras unless I made an additional investment into something like a new Macbook.
  • Features. The IQ backs are packed with little features for customizing. Quick white balance, focus and exposure check, Grid overlays, "Sensor+" to extend the ISO range, 
  • Continued support & User-upgradeable firmware. Being able to upgrade the firmware without having to send it in for service is a big plus. Phase continue to support its cameras and backs — The IQ1 series has firmware as late as November 2016.
  • Capture One. Admittedly, I have no experience with Phocus, but I have been working with Capture One for some time for tethered shooting initially with my 5D Mark IIIs, the Nikon D810, and now with my 1DX Mark II. I'm familiar with the interface, and the tethered shooting in Capture One is light years ahead of any other application.

All of the above are great selling points for me, and ultimately why I may end up with a Phase system. I've got to try one out first, but I hear their bodies are less than stellar, which could be a deal breaker. Another solution is an H4X or H5X body with an IQ140 back...

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