PHASE ONE XF IQ3 TRICHROMATIC
A camera designed to capture the highest colour fidelity possible for photographers who need the very best
The 100MP medium-format camera gets put to the test
The IQ3 Trichromatic is Phase One’s most recent 100MP medium-format digital back compatible with the XF body. It uses a 53.4 x 40.1mm sensor that was designed in partnership with Sony with the aim of capturing natural colours with very high fidelity. Crucially, the sensor is almost 1.5x bigger than the 50MP sensors in the Fujifilm GFX 50S and Pentax 645 Z. That’s also about 2.5x the size of a 35mm full-frame sensor. As a result, the photoreceptors are comparatively large (4.6 x 4.6 microns), which is good news for noise control. Consequently, the sensitivity can be set in the range of ISO 35-12,800.
While having a single AF point seems a bit old-school, the XF has some nice modern flourishes and clever technology. There are two touchscreens for example, and both can be used for adjusting settings. There’s also a seismograph built in to detect vibration. In a stroke of genius, it can work as a type of self-timer to trigger the shutter to fire once the vibration caused by pressing the shutter release has died down.
In addition, there’s a Focus Stacking option that makes it easier to capture a series of images with different focus points and a Hyperfocal focusing option that maximises depth of field. Both are useful with the more restricted depth of field that’s captured with a medium-format sensor at any given aperture.
As it has a large sensor and a suitably sized reflex mirror, the XF IQ3 Trichromatic is a substantial camera. In fact, it weighs over 2.5kg with the prism viewfinder and an 80mm standard lens. Fortunately there’s a hefty grip so it can be used handheld, but it’s more likely to be used on a tripod.
The images from the XF IQ3 Trichromatic are nothing short of stunning, and they leap from your computer screen. Thanks to the 100MP sensor, there’s an incredible amount of detail visible and it feels like you can zoom into images forever. One of Phase One’s aims with the Trichromatic sensor design is for the RAW files to require less post-capture processing. In most instances, they look great
“The images from the XF IQ3 are nothing short of stunning, and they leap from your computer screen”
with rich colours and wonderfully smooth gradations, and they have an incredibly realistic appearance. Reds, which challenge many cameras, are handled particularly well.
There are a number of different display options when reviewing images on the XF. One called ‘exposure Zone’ shows the image with colours that indicate the brightness. Magenta areas are burned out while red areas are very bright but recoverable. You don’t have to use this feature for long to realise that the Trichromatic has a very wide dynamic range – Phase One claims it’s 15eV. It means the RAW files are very forgiving and you can make pretty dramatic exposure or contrast adjustments if you need to. That’s helpful with very high-contrast situations but it can also be a life-saver with the odd exposure accident – the Matrix metering system isn’t the most reliable around so a test shot or two is advisable.
As mentioned earlier, Phase One has given the Trichromatic a wide sensitivity range so you can use it in low light. However, in most instances it would seem an odd decision to spend so much money on a camera and use a very high sensitivity setting when a few lights would probably solve the problem. On the whole, images look good up to around ISO 1600. You can push higher, but it seems to rather defeat the point of the camera. You’d certainly want to avoid the uppermost values.
Although the XF has a dedicated AF sensor and it usually gets the subject sharp, the speed of focusing lags behind the likes of
the Fujifilm GFX 50S and the Hasselblad X1D. That single AF point is also a bit fussy about what it will and won’t focus on, so it’s often easier to focus manually. This is fairly easy to do through the viewfinder but the magnified live View image makes it even clearer when you’ve got the right focus. It’s essential to get the focus spot-on because the depth of field is extremely shallow when shooting wide open.
On the subject of shallow depth of field, you can really separate your subject from its surroundings. The bokeh created by the XF-mount Schneider kreuznach lenses is also lovely. Small distant highlights are nicely rounded and smooth, without harsh edges.
Right DYNAMIC RANGE With 15 stops of dynamic range to playwith, you can reveal plenty of detail in the shadows while retaining highlights1234
13STORAGEThere’s a single Type 1 CompactFlash port. UDMA 7 cards are recommended.LIVE VIEWThe Live View and Focus Nudge features are useful for very precise focusing.24DUAL BATTERIESBoth the camera body and the digital back both require a battery.M MOUNTThe back has the M mount for use with XF or Mamiya DF+ bodies.
Inset GLORIOUS COLOURThe colours are ideal for product and commercial photography as images look wonderfully vibrant yet natural and lifelike100%