Experiences with the Phase One System

I've had the pleasure now of using the Phase One 645DF with an IQ160 back on and of since December 2011, it's an impressive beast, sat in between the 'entry level' IQ140 and mind-blowing IQ180 in terms of spec and price. Im going to run through a still life shoot I did a couple of weeks ago in order to give it a proper review in a shooting environment.

The theme on this particular shoot was 'Apples' and the various products that draw their key ingredients or inspiration from them.

So, the PhaseOne is fantastic in the studio, but if you're reading this you probably knew that! So this next section of the post is more about taking the PhaseOne out of it's natural subjects of Portraits, Still Life and Landscape.. and taking me out of mine. I am not a catwalk photographer, nor am I a hardened London press photographer. I like to work with a subject over a period of time, solving problems, building their story.

Recently I was loaned a 645 DF and a top of the range IQ180 by the folk over at The Flash Centre London to shoot something a little different. Unlike everything I'd shot previously with the IQ160, this wasn't in an area the Phase is traditionally associated, but hey - any excuse to try something new! Canon UK had offered Ravensbourne the chance to experience life shooting from the pits of the London Fashion Weekender, so I naturally leapt at the chance!

As if being thrown in to the pit for the first time wasn’t challenge enough, taking the Phase IQ180 rather than my usual Canon rig would add a whole new level to the learning on the job experience.

A little background info for you: The IQ180 is PhaseOne’s top of the line 80 megapixel Digital Medium Format back. If we were in an American resatuant and it were a burger it would be the 16oz behemoth described on the menu as 'fully loaded.' The same form factor as the IQ160 and 140 it packs the same firewire 800 and USB 3.0 ports, 12.5 stops of dynamic range and a whole host of PhaseOne's awesome technical wizardry! It also happens to weigh around 600g with its battery... when combined with a 1kg body and similarly weight lenses, the system certainly isn’t something to pop in a bag for a casual wander.

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So, with this loaded in to my camera bag, I headed out to meet Indi, Ope, and the rest of the guys who would be shooting an Autumn/Winter collection from various designers at the catwalk in Somerset House’s courtyard.

Before I go further I must express on you that it really is an absolute brute of a camera. Before the first show had even begun I was thanking my lusky stars that I'd managed to secure a seated position on the first row of the media pit! This is not a camera that I'd want to spend much time hand-carrying around town, though I did (without much success) give it a go after the show.

Once the show began, the slower frame rate of the PhaseOne made itself immediately apparent. Whilst those around me were able to machine-gun the models as they walked toward us, autofocus on servo to track their every move, I had to alternate between snapping three frames, one far, one distant and one close or framing up and prefocusing for the shot I wanted. After a while though this stopped being an inconvenience and became more of a creative challenge.

This, in my eyes, is where the PhaseOne excels. It helps you slow down and start thinking about the way you shoot. Much like shooting with film, you consider whether the shot is worth taking, and begin to anticipate the fabled 'decisive moment' that make your images what they are. Instead of motoring away at 3, 6 or even 10 frames per second as some of my colleagues were I was shooting two, three or four frames per look.

Canon had challenged us to deliver images to them within 30 minutes of the show ending. Let's just say that didn't really happen for me. A combination of no on-site internet, my trusty mac being rather slow processing the files, and the horrendous connection speed in the equally horrendous and rather infamous high-street coffee-retailer led to me sending in most images a good 15-30 minutes after the deadline. A camera for the paparazzi this is not!

I'd like to thank The Flash Centre and its staff at the London branch for their help in making this possible, Frankie Jim at Canon UK for the catwalk experience, and my housemates for tolerating my using them as models whilst first getting used to the camera!

If you want to try out the kit I used, you can hire it from The Flash Centre for a fraction of the retail price. 

BlogDrew