Now Here's Something I Can Get Behind

Phase One today announced the IQ3 100mp Achromatic Back. That's 100mp in a medium format, but monochrome. When I say medium format, I mean the 40 x 54mm size, not the smaller 33 x 44mm size of the recent mirrorless "medium format" cameras. That's an impressive 11,608 x 8708 pixels with 4.6 micron photosites on as big a digital sensor as is available (at least at the commercial consumer level). Yowza! 

Why do I like this?

Many, many years ago—at least a decade—I wrote that I wanted a true black and white digital camera. I even polled my site readers and found that almost 20% of them were with me on this. The benefits are these:

  • About a 1.5x increase in resolution/acuity due to not needing to run the Bayer demosaic
  • Typically a stop or more increase in sensitivity
  • In the IQ3's case: no IR cutoff

We've had a few monochrome cameras along the way, most notably the Leica Monochrom. Pretty much every black-and-white image I've seen from such cameras has been mind-blowingly good compared to what you could do with the equivalent Bayer camera of the time. If you want to talk about micro-contrast, whatever that is, I'm pretty sure you'll find it in images taken from a true monochrome sensor camera. 

I don't often get into the black-and-white world these days. Mostly because it just triggers a post-processing parade that I'd rather avoid. But with the right monochrome camera, I might jump back in. Of course, at US$49,900 for the IQ3 back—you still need the camera body and a lens—I don't think the new Phase One offering is for me. 

Still, people ask me from time to time if I'm ever envious of some gear. Yeah, sure. Send me out into the backcountry with an IQ3! Or, Nikon are you listening? Maybe a D5x Mono at 70mp? That would even give me an excuse to buy the 19mm PC-E lens ;~). 

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