Phase One Announces IQ Series Digital Camera Backs

medium format digital Jan 24, 2011

Phase One today announced their new IQ series of medium format digital backs. Sporting 40, 60.5 and a whopping 80 megapixels each, the three new backs also incorporate hi-res (1.15 megapixel) “Retina-like” touch displays, weather sealing, limited Live Mode viewing, Focus Mask (which highlights what parts of the image are in sharp focus – amazingly useful for tech camera users who would have to swap in a ground glass and loupe affair to achieve focus), 12.5 stops of dynamic range (DR), USB3 & FireWire 800 support, plus an improved buffer so that memory card write speeds are improved and continuous shooting can run until the card is full. All three backs feature Phase One Sensor+ technology allowing 4x the sensitivity while shooting at reduced image sizes.

I, for one, am not surprised by this development. Leaf Imaging, former Phase One competitor and now wholly owned subsidiary of Phase One, has long used a touch screen interface on its digital backs. This is not a simple component update, but a total redesign of the digital back. The new IQ Series of digital backs sets the standard for high-end photography.

The “limited Live View” is surprising on a CCD sensor. Live View is more easily accomplished on CMOS sensors. Still, the limited Live View + Focus Mask will be a godsend to tech camera users.

The “Retina-like” (my words, not Phase Ones’s) display was something this market desperately needed. Medium format digital backs, up to this point, were always crippled by rear displays that were essentially only good for menus and not images.. This update changes all that with a rear display that is larger and higher resolution that anything currently on the market. With Canon, Nikon and Sony encroaching on medium format digital pixel-wise, along with Pentax who has put forth a very strong medium format digital offering, this move by Phase was necessary in order to prevent the others from “stealing their lunch”.


Full press release after the jump.

Copenhagen, January 24, 2011 — Phase One, the world’s leading pro photography equipment provider, today announced a bold new generation of medium format digital camera backs. The Phase One IQ180, IQ160 and IQ140 digital camera backs feature maximum resolutions of 80, 60.5 and 40 high quality megapixels respectively. This series sets new standards for medium format camera system handling and performance.


The Phase One IQ180 captures at full-frame 80 megapixel resolution, with a dynamic range of 12.5 f-stops. It is the first product of its kind to feature a USB3 connection, facilitating faster image transfers in the future. The IQ180 also features a FireWire 800 connection, ensuring the fastest tethered capture speeds possible today. For untethered shooting, the IQ180 digital back’s new memory card interface is so fast that it eliminates buffering delays, supporting continuous shooting until a card is filled.

“I am amazed by the image quality I’ve gotten ‘out of the box’ with the Phase One IQ180 on the Phase One 645DF camera. I can create images with more detail and unique looks than with any other camera out there. It helps me develop styles unique to me,” said lifestyle photographer Jens Honoré. [website:]

A newly-designed 3.2 inch retina type, multi touch screen features 1.15 megapixel resolution, providing the highest resolution and largest display of any SLR type camera available today. This means that very fine details can be checked instantly during a photo shoot — for instance using Phase One’s unique Focus Mask and the instant zoom function. The automatic adjustment of brightness and contrast ensures that the display is visible under various light conditions.

Context-sensitive controls, such as the instant zoom function, allow a photographer to zoom into an image using one finger only. Small histograms and highlight warnings can be enlarged to full screen view by a simple touch. The new Focus Mask available during preview helps validate depth-of-field and image focus. The wide format display allows for a full 4:3 aspect ratio VGA resolution image next to histogram, highlight warning, focus mask, EXIF data, and touch controls. This touch screen display is complemented by Phase One’s intuitive 4-button navigation.

“The new high-resolution multi touch screen with its intuitive controls is a perfect tool for checking image quality right at the moment of capture. With this display quality, I can leave my laptop at home, and ultimately this makes my work easier,” said architectural photographer, Eugeni Pons. [website:]

Phase One’s patent-pending Sensor+ technology, built into the Phase One IQ180, supports a variety of shooting conditions. One can capture images with full 80 megapixels resolution or, using Sensor+ mode, switch instantly to capture images with 20 megapixels resolution at 4 times higher sensitivity, up to ISO 3200. This flexibility is very useful under low light conditions; there is no need to slow down to change cameras, and there’s no crop or lens factor. One gets the maximum wide-angle performance from the existing lens, higher ISO levels, and a faster workflow.

According to fashion photographer Stefan Kapfer, “The new IQ180 suits my work very well. I can use the full 80 megapixel resolution for my high end fashion shots, and the 20 megapixel images I get from the Sensor+ technology give me a faster workflow when I do work for catalogue production. It’s really two perfect solutions in one system.” (website:

Compatibility is improved between the IQ digital backs and the Phase One 645DF camera body. The power state of the digital back can now be controlled directly from the 645DF camera. An integrated battery charger ensures that the battery is charged while one is shooting tethered, offering more shooting versatility.

Capture One 6 Capture One 6 has been optimized for shooting with Phase One IQ digital backs. Together with the IQ series backs this professional RAW converter and image editing software will deliver the world’s highest image quality with excellent color and detail. The software comprises all the tools required to capture, organize, edit, share and print images for an efficient workflow.

Reliability and Service Pro photographers can rely on Phase One IQ digital backs to get their jobs done. Their highly durable build quality is designed and tested to work in the toughest environments, including extreme heat, cold and humidity.

All Phase One products represent long-term investment value with superior service. For professionals, this protection is priceless, especially when shooting in unfamiliar situations and locations around the world.

Various service levels are available for Phase One IQ digital backs. For example, a value-added option includes a life-time (5 year) warranty, a free loaner unit during repair and other options. Phase One offers 365 days round the clock support delivered on-line and backed up by dedicated partners and a global support team. For a complete list of all the new Phase One IQ digital back features, including supported camera bodies, please see

Availability and Pricing The Phase One IQ180 is expected to be available end of April 2011. The Phase One IQ160 and IQ140 are expected to be available end of May 2011. The products may be ordered now through Phase One professional photography partners worldwide:

Prices for new digital backs start at 16.990 EUR / 21.990 USD. Attractive upgrade offers are available for all existing Phase One photographers. People interested in a demo of the new products can sign up for a live demo here:

About Phase One Phase One is the world’s leader in open-platform based medium format camera systems and solutions. Phase One medium format cameras, digital backs and lenses are designed to deliver superior quality image capture and investment value. Phase One’s Capture One software helps streamline capture and post-production processes. Phase One products are known for their quality, flexibility and speed enabling pro photographers shooting in a wide range of formats to achieve their creative visions without compromise. For more information, please visit Phase One at Follow Phase One on Twitter at

Phase One is an employee-owned company based in Copenhagen with offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Cologne, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Phase One and Capture One are registered trademarks of Phase One A/S. All other brand or product names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.


Some videos from Phase One have been posted. Here they are:

[UPDATE] has posted a YouTube video of their test of the IQ180 prototype digital back. Enjoy!