Phase One is known for its highly customisable camera systems offering the best available image quality and longevity. If there was one weakness in the current Phase One system it would be its weight, which should not come as a surprise given the quality of lenses and sophistication of the gear.
Despite the weight, many fine art landscape photographers travel and shoot with the Phase One XF system to achieve the highest quality capture and produce massive and highly detailed prints.
Today, Phase One has announced a brand-new camera system, the XT, designed exclusively for landscape photographers. The key features of this new system are the highest image quality, portability and “travel-friendly” design. Phase One has built this new system on the Phase One’s IQ4 Infinity Platform, fully integrated in this compact portable system.
The XT camera system has the latest 150MP “full frame medium format sensor,” which is 1.5x the size of crop sensor found in mirrorless medium format cameras. We recently had a chance to view large prints crafted from the same sensor and the level of detail was stunning.
The small, brand-new camera body is “the most compact digitally integrated field camera to date.” In its press release, Phase One cites fine art landscape photographer, Reuben Wu:
“I can easily fit the camera with two lenses in my small shoulder bag, and still barely feel like I am carrying anything.”
This could be a game-changer for those who want the best image quality available in the current market in such a small package.
To achieve this level of portability without compromising image quality, Phase One called on its partner, Rodenstock, the less known but highly respected producer of the highest quality lenses. “All lenses are fitted with Phase One’s new, digitally integrated, X-Shutter—an intelligently controlled electromagnetic shutter—born from Phase One’s industrial applications.” At the moment of this release, Phase One offers three lenses:
The XT – Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 23mm f/5.6
The XT – Rodenstock HR Digaron-W 32mm f/4
The XT – Rodenstock HR Digaron-W 70mm f/5.6
One of the most important features of the cooperation between Phase One and Rodenstock is 24mm of shift on both the X and Y axis. Phase One explains: “The shift movement allows the photographer to correct perspective distortion and create stitched images at a tremendous scale/resolution.” The XT camera body integrates the shift position in the image file for later reference.
Phase One emphasises the simplicity of use of the new system. The XT camera system is built to “obviate the steep learning curve of a technical camera.” We found this approach quite promising—something our Medium Format Magazine team will be eager to test and experience in the field. The same design logic prompted the Phase One design team to go with manual focus which “gives greatest control and precision—yet its operation is intuitive. The XT camera movements are simple due to large prominent dials. The image in Live View displays the results of a composition and focus in real time.”
We haven’t yet had a chance to test this new camera, but we found this product focused on landscape photography refreshing in an industry whose camera releases more often than not try to please everyone, resulting in confusion and gear that is difficult to operate. We believe that the future of high-end photography lies in specialized tools tailored to a well-defined audience. Once the XT system becomes available, our team at Medium Format Magazine will be delighted to test this new product and share our findings with you. This may well be the ultimate landscape photographer camera.
Look for our extended coverage of this release in the Medium Format Magazine including an exclusive interview with Drew Altdoerffer, product manager, and LauNorgaard, the chief visionary officer of Phase One.
For years, I have been a proponent of “the camera doesn’t matter” philosophy, engaging in multiple and sometimes fiery online debates on the subject. In my core I still believe it but my views on the subject have altered drastically over the last two years. The revisions didn’t happen overnight but were formed through a slow and gruelling process of observation and honest self-assessment. They are side-effects in my search for new seeing, propensity for visual risk-taking and for meaning in my work. They are not the final answer but rather a snapshot of my photographic state of mind at this moment.
It was 2012 when I first bought the Fujifilm original X100. In fact, this small camera was a Fujifilm entrance into the digital camera business after a brief absence. It was the beginning of the X-series APS-C sensor-sized, mirrorless cameras. At the time, I was shooting with the Nikon SLR as were most of my friends. Even though the X100 was slow and quirky it totally altered the way I shot. Its small size, portability, electronic viewfinder, physical knobs and the fusion of old-fashioned design with the latest technology made me go out and experiment – photography became fun again.
Over the years, the small X100/S/T/F became my camera of choice along with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 paired with a few other lenses. During this period, I moved through several transformations as a photographer: from landscape to travel, from classical street to visual experimentations, which are difficult to box into one genre. I became expert in going out, observing, experimenting and creating unique visuals. I gained traction and a large following.
There was one thing that always rattled me for some reason – a thought that kept coming back to me like a boomerang. Given my dedication to seeing and the craft of photography regardless of the gear involved, these medium format thoughts were strange indeed. Each time I saw an image taken with medium format I somehow paused and pondered over it. Whether it was a portrait or a photo of a simple chair, the images had a depth and richness that pulled me in like a magnet.
Over time my obsession became a dream to shoot with medium format one day. It was a very distant dream, indeed. There were rumours about new, upcoming cameras but the only reasonable choice back then was Pentax, priced near $10,000 with one lens.
Then the GFX50S came on the horizon, a camera which I had an opportunity to test not long after its release. Finally, I had a digital medium format camera in my hands. During this time, I had the chance to go with the GFX 50S on several trips as well as shoot some urban photography here in Vancouver.
The files I was getting from the medium format were astounding but it wasn’t my biggest surprise. It was the way I had to alter my shooting to accommodate a much larger and more demanding tool. Along with my fascination for what my new companion could do came the feeling of confusion and evaluation. Why, after years of having the freedom of a small, playful tool which had helped me to produce so many great images, would I go back to a large, heavy camera like that? Aren’t you Olaf, the street photographer? After all, medium format doesn’t belong there.
Those initial thoughts led to more questions and mental tribulation. Who are you as a photographer? Is your seeing articulate? Where are you heading? What are you trying to say with your photography? Strangely enough, the camera I didn’t even own knocked me out of my comfortable warm photographic equilibrium. As much as I tried to push back with “the camera doesn’t matter” mantra I had been preaching for so long, I couldn’t stop this whirlwind from gaining strength. And it was of my own making!
Despite some concerns I soldiered on! My process of seeing and crafting images slowed down even more. I no longer felt the need to run around town or after my subject. I started observing more and more without pointing my camera. My thought process went from slow to snail-like to the point that on occasions I missed my small camera companion. I felt I had committed treason abandoning everything I believed in.
For weeks, I was experimenting and shooting with medium format. Over time, the storm clouds inside my head started to dissipate. No, it wasn’t all clear and sunny right away but it became way more welcoming. I started to focus on the long-term projects and pulled away from the constant temptation of creating something new. It is not that I abandoned the idea. Quite the opposite! Now this new thing had to be articulate. I knew that I had to say something important with my photography. At that moment, the pieces started falling into place. This medium format camera I had been dreaming about for such a long time stopped being just an itch, but started becoming my seeing machine which aligned with my current visual aspirations and plans.
It happened as I started work on my Renatus Project. This project of a lifetime – which I have been dreaming about for years – has finally started taking shape and since its start, I knew that it had to be shot with medium format. After all, I was dealing with remarkable human stories of people who had been through unimaginable drama but found redemption and kindness. These stories carry so much emotional and narrative weight that they must be matched with equally powerful visuals.
At that moment, my seeing, my photography, my future and medium format came together as one. This was the point of no return. Of course, such deliberations are often met with the cruel reality of life and financing the medium format camera became a major issue for me. One evening, one of my students who had become a friend, called me with a proposition which absolutely stunned me. He said, “I would like to purchase the medium camera for you” adding “please let me do it and this way I could photograph with you.” Despite some initial objections, I humbly and gratefully accepted his generous gift and promised to make great use of it.
Since then, I have worked almost exclusively with medium format and finally understood what Vincent Lions meant when he wrote “loss of interest in other platforms may occur” in his excellent piece, “Five unexpected side effects of medium format photography.” It was just the beginning. Who knew that my new tool would take my photography to unexpected but familiar places.
For years, everyone agreed that medium format has no place on the street. After all, the camera of choice for street photographers must be small with fast autofocus. Regardless, I started photographing urban areas with medium format. And more self-discoveries occurred. I lost interest in traditional street photography and started creating visuals which could not be easily defined.
Whether it is the first light hitting my hotel room or the mosaic of light inside the diner, I have been slowly and deliberately working to turn those temptations of light into my own imagery. What has become really appealing are the transitions of light occurring within the frame, which in medium format are gentle and borderless. I have learnt to use them as my painting tool over the canvas of my own imagination. Indeed, my medium format camera has become my new, irresistible brush.
In sum, I still believe in the truism that “the camera doesn’t matter” but based on my experience, a new tool might play an important role in the fascinating journey of self-discovery and seeing.
We would love to hear your stories. My team and I will be happy to choose the most interesting and publish them in the next issues of the Medium Format Magazine and/or on this website.
For years medium format cameras were confined to studio spaces with occasional excursions to theme-rich locations. Medium format was a persona non grata in street or travel photography due mostly to its size and slow operation. The problem was partially solved with the release of the original Hasselblad X1D, which was a very portable medium format system. Indeed, the latest iteration of this camera, the X1D II 50C is a very capable, street and travel camera.
In 2018 Fujifilm released the GFX50R. With its rangefinder-style design, the camera could finally be taken out and used on the street. The only missing part was a small, pancake lens which would make the system extremely portable and light. With the release of the GF50mm F3.5 lens R LM WR, Fujifilm finally offered a whole street and travel photography package.
The lens weighs only 11.82oz or as Fujifilm describes it: “less than a can of your favourite soft drink.” So together with the GFX50R, which weights 27.3oz (with one battery and card) it gives you a total of 39.12oz or just above 1kg – not bad at all for an entire medium format system!
Given that this new lens is weather-sealed, the GFX50R plus the GF50 F3.5 R LM WR become the medium format equivalent of the X100 series.
In other words, those who like to travel light and shoot street photography can now grab this new combo and enjoy medium format quality without the usual weight and cumbersome size. Our contributors and I will be testing this lens extensively so stay tuned for our imagery and reviews.
Make sure to check out an excellent review by Jonas Rask here and a great video by Patrick La Roque here.
Fifty years ago, on July 20th at 20:17 UTC American commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong was equipped with a silver Hasselblad Data Camera (HDC) paired with a Zeiss Biogon 60mm F/5.6 lens and 70mm film magazine. The second camera, with a Zeiss Planar 80mm f/2.8 lens, was used to shoot from inside the Eagle module. Michael Collins had the third machine onboard the command module Columbia in lunar orbit. Due to stringent weight requirements, only Michael Collins’ camera returned to earth.
In New York, Medium Format Magazine recently participated in the special event announcing the brand-new modular system comprised of the 907X digital camera and CFV II 50C digital back. The special black edition of those units is the beginning of a major launch of this innovative system rooted in the rich history of the brand.
Key features of the 907X Special Edition include:
Large medium format 50MP CMOS sensor
Up to 14 stops of dynamic range
Captures 16-bit RAW images and full resolution JPEGs
High-resolution 3.0-inch 920K dot touch and tilt screen
Smooth live-view experience with a high frame rate of 60fps
Focus peaking, enabling more accurate focusing (especially advantageous on the manual-focused V System cameras)
Intuitive user interface with swipe and pinch touch controls
Internal battery slot with the option to recharge in-camera via the USB-C port (same battery used on the X System)
Dual UHS-II SD card slots
Integrated Wi-Fi and USB-C connection
Portable workflow with Phocus Mobile 2 support
One of the most important pieces of information for medium format photographers is the price of this special edition release. The 907X Special Edition is $7,499 or €6,500. Why is it important? Given the special edition version of the camera, we can assume that the regular version, which will be released later, could be priced even more attractively introducing the Hasselblad system to a new generation of photographers and enthusiasts. We will be covering the system as it becomes available for testing.
Hasselblad provides a link where you can download the images taken on the lunar surface with the HDC and read the original 1969 press release. You can check it out here.
Also, for those of you who would like to learn more about the history of Hasselblad, make sure to check out Take Kayo’s article, “The Ingenuity and Serendipity of the Hasselblad V-System,” in the July issue of the Medium Format Magazine. Take Kayo guides us through the history of Hasselblad’s camera development which will impress you and help you to appreciate the latest announcements from this iconic brand.
An excerpt from the PDF Exclusive “20 Stories” by Ming Thein.
I am used to having two kinds of clients: the first type wants things that have already been done before. They don’t want to take risks because previous photographers might have over-promised and under-delivered, or they lack the imagination to see something that hasn’t been done before. Or they simply are unwilling to pay for creativity over duplication. These are the kind of shoots that never go into your portfolio because it’s not the kind of work you want to be known for, but we pros have to do them because they put food on the table and keep us in business, hopefully long enough to get the chance to work on a project when we have full creative control and feel the pressure of our own limitations. It’s the kind of project where the client is willing to seriously consider your crazy ideas and trust in your ability to deliver them.
My introduction to Koenigsegg came through Hasselblad and DJI. I suggested to Christian (von Koenigsegg) that we combine a bit of everybody’s technology: long exposures on a moving car to show dynamism and suggest a journey; high speed flash to freeze the car to make it distinct; very large prints and expansive compositions to fully use the camera’s resolution, and then top it off with an aerial perspective by putting the H6D on DJI’s largest aircraft. Execution would be tricky as there were a lot of moving pieces to coordinate and a very small window in which ambient daylight would be sufficient to see the surroundings, but not so much as to overpower the car’s lights. It would require a long exposure and a stable aerial platform. Hon- estly, I wasn’t 100% sure we could pull it off. And there was a backup documentary shoot in the factory to detail the construction process for the times of day when ambient light wasn’t suitable for the outdoor car sequences.
In the end, the shoot only produced five images, each one requiring a couple of hours of set- up, test positioning for car, lighting and aircraft. We had to have a coordinator in touch with air traffic control and override codes from DJI HQ to allow us to fly as the Koenigsegg test track was on the edge of a live airfield. In the end I landed up triggering the lights manually with the trigger in one hand, a radio in my ear to direct the driver, and an iPad with the camera gimbal controls in the other, with the pilot next to me. The only time I’d had to multitask more inten- sively was during another automotive shoot—a TV commercial where we added a crane car and crane operator to the mix.
I always feel mentally fried at the end of these shoots but in a good kind of way when you know you’ve pushed your limits, the team’s limits, the hardware’s limits, and come out with something pretty special. I’m just grateful there are still clients like this giving us photographers the chance to keep pushing.
PDF Exclusives is a series of highly informative ebooks in which great medium format photographers share their knowledge of the craft with special emphasis on medium format. So far, we have released PDF Exclusives from Vincent Lions, Patrick La Roque , Lloyd Chambers and Ewan Dunsmuir. We have three more in the works including some about medium format film photography.The best news? These exclusive publications are included in the price of the Medium Format Magazine!
To access the full PDF Exclusive “20 Stories” by Ming Thein make sure to SUBSCRIBE NOW and get immediate access to all previous issues of the Medium Format Magazine and highly regarded PDF Exclusives. Join your fellow medium format shooters from around the world who are already enjoying their MediumFormat membership.