The Phase One P 45+ Medium Format Back

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Phase One P 45+ Medium Format Back

My friend Kostas Mallios loaned me a Phase One P 45+ digital back for a week, a full-frame 39 megapixel capture system I tested with a Mamiya 645 body. The resolution and dynamic range are astonishing. It’s not just that the files look creamy smooth, but the dynamic range approaches that of the human eye, far exceeding other technologies. As my friend Scott Stulberg says, it’s yummy.

Operating a digital medium format system slows you down. I felt as if I was using my old 4 x 5 view camera again. It’s a much more deliberative process, and by slowing down, the compositions are better considered with fewerof the small flaws I would catch later. With the resolution so high, I can get away with a shorter focal length lenses by cropping quite a bit without losing much in terms of resolution and nothing at all in terms of dynamic range.

My SLRs are more flexible, lighter, quicker, and offer a much wider range of lenses. The best of them surpass medium format film in my opinion. For my work, they’re indispensable. However, if I were a fine art photographer looking for the last iota of definition, the nearest approximation of perfection, I would be sorely tempted.

I forgot to mention the last, greatest, and for me only significant disadvantage. For the price of a Phase One P 45+ camera system including a couple lenses, you could buy a luxury automobile. A fast one.

PS I am afraid to try a P 65. A man can only take so much temptation.

11 Responses to “The Phase One P 45+ Medium Format Back”

  1. D says:

    Art, you only go around once and for someone who has made a career of his passion it would be an awesome buy. But luxury automobile. Ouch!

  2. You know something, it won’t be long till they have a SLR body with a large format camera inside. With your current camera and lens’ you don’t need to goto this back… although I understand your temptation and you only live once :). The P65+ looks amazing, 60 MP, full frame you would need a faster computer and much, much more drive space.

    I was always a fan of David Muench and Tom Till large format images, when you see them in large print its so breathtaking.

  3. D says:

    I got that. I was just contrasting how expensive the camera back was. 😉

  4. Caitlin says:

    That does sound like a very impressive piece of technology. Too bad you couldn’t lease it for a couple of months.

  5. Art,
    It was such an honor to meet you today at your gallery. I would’ve never thought I’d be so lucky to actually see you there get to chat for a bit. For being such an icon and big name in photography, you sure were welcoming and down to earth. Not that I expected something else… I’m just sayin… 🙂
    We’ll definitely invite you down to our photo gallery in Hood River when we get it going, hopefully within the year. We were more inspired today than ever before to get the gallery going after seeing your work. Incredible stuff!

    Tomorrow we’re off to Thailand/Cambodia for a month, with our two new 5D Mark2’s in hand… can’t wait!

    We’ll hope to see you again soon.

    Blaine Franger
    http://www.blainefranger.com/blog/
    http://www.blaineandbethany.com/

  6. Tareq says:

    Hi Art,

    I wish to buy this digital back, but i am dreaming about 60mp or more, very very expensive cameras, how can we use those expensive cameras?
    I am not sure if i should be happy with my Haaselblad H3DII-39mp as many saying it is a closed system [can’t change the digital back], so is it a bad choice then? As i bought it, that 50mp was available, and soon the H3DII-60mp will be available as well, oh no, now that 39mp is not much.

    • Art Wolfe admin says:

      If you don’t have a need for the highest resolution cameras, why buy them? I plan to create very large exhibition prints so the higher resolution cameras make sense for that application. Unless you plan to use multiple bodies, the only argument that matters against the Hassy is that you have to buy a new camera for each upgrade where with the Phase One, you can keep the same body. You could shoot with the Phase body most of the time and use view camera lenses on other cameras for the highest resolution of all, with no automatic features and no autofocus.

    • Art Wolfe admin says:

      One more thing, Tareq. Your camera has so much more resolution than what I captures on 99.9 % of my photography. I love the new stuff but artistry beats technology every time. Upgrade if you wish, but work on composition and best practices first. Good luck.

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