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A behind the scene look at the Phase One XT Camera System

I’ve been using the Phase One Camera System for about 5 years now. It is simply the best medium format camera system in the world. It performs well across all fronts. The modular nature allows for easy transportability when traveling. The 150mp capture allows for versatility in post-production.

I recently had the opportunity to take the new Phase One XT Camera System which consisted of: IQ4-150 & IQ4-150 Achromatic backs, Phase One-Rodenstock 23mm, 32mm HR and Rodenstock (WRS Mount) 138mm HR lenses on a trip to Southern Asia (Sri Lanka, Northern India and Nepal). My usual set up for landscapes previously was the Cambo WRS-1600 Camera, Phase One IQ4 backs, in combination with the 32mm, T/S, 50mm T/S and new 138mm Rodenstock lenses. So, how did the new system compare with my old standard?

The advantage was most obvious with the XT allowing for a much easier and integrated workflow. In that regard, the fully digitally integrated nature of ISO, F Stop, and shutter speed coupled with live view on the IQ4 back was very valuable-especially in difficult lighting conditions, no more reaching around to the front of the camera or messing with multiple cables.

One example is the landscape photo of the terraced fields in Nagarkot Nepal with the Himalayan mountain range in the background. The XT camera made it easier to deal with the somewhat challenging dynamic range as well as the desire for a sharp image across this wide expanse. I found the focusing mechanism on the XT to be easier and more efficient to use over the traditional focusing helicoid that my older Cambo mounted Rodenstock lenses utilize, a benefit not to be dismissed lightly when you are standing on a winding one lane mountain road with traffic coming both ways!

ISO 80, 1/60s, f/8, 2mm

ISO 80 1/60s f/8 32mm

I think that it is important to note that the same capture would have been possible with my old setup, but with more effort and experimentation. As a result, the new system is probably the best option for folks who are new to photography with a technical camera. The learning curve and workflow are much improved with the integrated XT camera system.

I had to go back to this location the next day to try to get a better sky. With the clearing sky, the Gauri Shankar mountain peak became the star of the show. Shooting with the 138mm lens allowed me to get a close frame. The golden light illuminated the terraces below to show the layers leading into the snowcapped mountains beyond. Fortunately, the Phase One IQ4 back with the XT camera supports the 138mm lens with an electronic shutter albeit without the advantages of having the metadata and other integrated features. Regardless, the system performed flawlessly.

ISO 50, 1/125s, f/11, 138mm
“Gauri Shankar”

ISO 50 1/125s f/11 138mm

One of the largest forts in India is located in Jodhpur. The fort sits high above the city and the best vantage point is therefore from the rocky hillside above it. With a tripod resting on an uneven rocky surface and the light fading fast, the fully integrated features of the XT Camera System combined with the Wine Country Filter System ( allowed for a flawless capture without me slipping off the rocks!

ISO 100, 1/40s, f/8, 23mm
"Raju Fort"

ISO 100 1/40s f/8 23mm

Outside of Kathmandu, high in the hills, rests Namo Buddha Monastery. Overlooking the terraced hills and Himalayan Mountains beyond. The 32mm Rodenstock lens with the XT Camera system captured the expansive scene beautifully, holding its resolution with the crop below.

ISO 50, 1/160s, f/11, 32mm
"Namo Buddha Monastery"

ISO 50 1/160s f/11 32mm

ISO 50, 1/160s, f/11, 32mm
"Sacred Ground"

ISO 50 1/160s f/11 32mm

I purchased the Phase One XT Camera system primarily because of its integration with the Phase One IQ4 and the Rodenstock lenses with the Phase One Xshutter (modern digital leaf shutter). Quite honestly, the all manual Cambo set up that I still have has some advantages such as tilt and shift and increased movement range but has the major disadvantage of needing to maneuver around the tripod in precarious conditions to change settings. This is what drove me to try and ultimately invest in the XT system. Also, since the XT is compatible with the same lens panel mount as my Cambo WRS, I can still leverage my investment in existing lenses on both systems and go back and forth as needed.

I continue to turn to Lance Schad and the team Digital Transitions for all of my Phase One needs as they have been providing the best pre and post sale support, which has been instrumental to allow me to focus on capturing the highest quality images.

The stilt fisherman in Galle, Sri Lanka was also captured with the 138mm lens, evidencing its versatility. Mounted on the XT camera, it did a great job capturing this bright scene.

ISO 50, 1/125s, f/11, 138mm
“Stilt fishermen”

ISO 50 1/125s f/11 138mm

ISO 100, 1/125s, f/11, 138mm
“Stilt Fisherman” detail

ISO 100 1/125s f/11 138mm

In summary, the XT Camera System performed exceptionally well on this trip in a number of difficult and demanding situations. I would recommend this system to anyone who is looking to photograph with a system that provides the ultimate in image quality.

David Shedlarz

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