Phase One IQ4-150: Built to Last (a long time)

 In News, Phase One, Steve Hendrix, XF IQ4 Blog Series


How do we buy cameras today? How do manufacturers sustain a camera business? The answer is we always look to the next. What we have is great, but how can it be better? And this propels the purchase of new cameras. It sustains camera companies, and inspires photographers. That’s a nice way of looking at it, I suppose.

What are we used to? We’re used to taking photographs with our beloved cameras, wanting more, and then grabbing that new model that added this feature or that. It is standard in our industry. In practice, this means every few years (fewer for some, more for others) you purchase a new camera because the latest and greatest has added something important enough for you to spend your hard earned money on.

The Phase One IQ4 150 XF Camera System 

With the IQ4 150, Phase One may be changing that paradigm. On the face of it, while there are many, many desirable features of the Phase One IQ4 150 that merit consideration, there are 3 aspects of the IQ4 150 that I find particularly compelling. Stand by for marketing terms:

  • Infinity Platform
  • Capture One Inside
  • Phase One Labs

Oh, these are catchy. Hats off to the marketing team, they did a great job! But while we often think of marketing as hyped, in this case, the potential of what these terms are alluding to may, in actuality, be under-hyped. So let’s dig into them a bit. But first, let’s examine what makes the above possible.

POWER – 10x Computational Power of IQ3

This is not a marketing term or an exaggeration. As you know, cameras today are, in a sense, mini computers. I mean, what isn’t a mini computer today? Almost any electronic product today has circuit boards and some level of computational capability. I don’t know if we’ll see computerized brooms in the future, but I’m betting we will. Even analog, non electronic devices will become computerized. Cameras today are computers with imaging wings, a quality recording sensor behind a (hopefully) elite level optical lens.

So a 10x jump in computational power is in a way, staggering. Imagine if the next Mac you purchased wasn’t between 10% – 20% faster, but had a 10x increase. This is not a linear example, but you get the idea. 10x is a lot! Because our cameras are little computers, you cannot dismiss the relevance of that. Almost everything depends on that level of computational power.

For your developmental future, you can thank the FPGA Board


If you purchased an XF Camera in June 2015 when it was first released, you bought a camera that was an obvious major jump compared to the previous AFD/DF cameras based on the original Mamiya AF. That alone was huge. But the XF Camera was designed as a development platform, and what no one at the time was aware of, was the sheer number of substantial features that would be added to the XF over the next 2 years. FOR FREE.

Some Samples: Automated Hyperfocal Setting – Bullseye Virtual Level – Camera Focus Control from Capture One – Vibration Delay Drive Mode – Automated Focus Stacking – Customizable Bulb Mode, Time Lapse Tool, HDR sequence Bracketing, Electronic Shutter, Flash Analysis Tool, Customizable Rear Curtain Sync, Customizable UI, Profoto Air Trigger Control, Autofocus & Recompose, Automatic Focus Stack Calculator, Automatic Lens Focus Trim, Post Capture Vibration Analysis, Auto Focus Rear Dial Nudge, AFR Zoom to 100% Focus.

There’s more, but you get the point. These were all features that were added after you purchased the camera. Today, an XF Camera has had these features added to it FOR FREE. You upgraded your XF Camera, but you didn’t pay for it.

The one on the right has a LOT more than the one on the left, and not just pixels.

Infinity Platform promises a similar path for IQ4 150 owners. You have the digital back as a development platform. Why is this so important? Because the digital back is by far the most expensive component of the entire system. Upgrade a camera and spend $4,000? But upgrade a digital back and spend $20,000 or more. Now, Infinity Platform promises the ability to upgrade or add features to your IQ4 digital back FOR FREE.

That’s the promise. Does that sound great? Yes, of course it does. Now comes the hard part. You don’t know what they’ll do. Today, we have among other features, Frame Averaging. The ability to extend dynamic range and reduce noise, the ability to smooth water without ND Filters, the ability to shoot long, long exposures with no black frame, those are some of the advantages Frame Averaging brings when applied in camera. So what will come next? But we don’t know what comes next. So – yes – there is a bit of faith that someone purchasing an IQ4 150 must place in the Infinity Platform.

If there were no precedent for this, no track record, this might constitute a true leap of faith. But there is a track record, and the XF established that. So think of it not as a leap of faith, but as an opportunity to experience wonderful surprises that expand the capabilities and value of what you invested in. And this potentially means that industry standard method for grabbing new camera capability – the new model upgrade – is something that you can put off for much longer if you invest in an IQ4 150.


What will this do for me? They must have put it in there for a reason …

So we’ve covered the Infinity Platform, or at least what we know today. Capture One Inside poses another potential free upgrade scenario by promising to add Capture One-centric features in camera. Initially that means starting out with the ability to apply Styles in camera as you’re shooting. Studio shooters have been using this for years. Why? Because they are right there, actively shooting and they can make shooting decisions based on the editing style they are likely to apply on the spot. Does this mean you will be applying full editing with layers and be ready to print out of camera? No … not really (at least I don’t think so). But it does mean you can make some decisions at the time of shooting based on your editing. While many of us (I am included here) love the idea of trying different looks after the capture session, being able to do so at the time of capture may in some cases inform your photographic decisions in real time.


How many of you have ever participated in beta software trials? I bet a lot of you have. It satisfies the early adopter mentality of some, while expanding the testing arena for the manufacturer to see what issues may crop up outside of their limited scope of experience. Phase One Labs brings this mentality to the hardware side (in a way) by revealing early versions of feature updates for the IQ4 150. This presents an opportunity for the user to have advanced access to the feature, and assist with reliability reports, but also have direct input for how the feature may ultimately be implemented. While the software in camera is enabling the feature, the ultimate use of the feature will be directly related to the operation of  the hardware. So now you are potentially a hardware beta participant. This is not some secret select group of photographers who can sniff, and brag that they are involved in super secret beta testing of a new camera. This is open to everyone. And who wouldn’t want this?

Would this legendary photographer have loved to push limits with the P1 Labs?

So I felt compelled to write this article because I know that catchy terms like infinity Platform, and Capture One Inside are going to be short changed compared to the tangible here and now benefits like the 151 mp BSI sensor, the dual card slots and advanced tethering options, the improved performance with shifted lenses, the fast shooting speed. But I find the Infinity Platform and Capture One Inside just as relevant. An IQ4 150 is a relatively expensive product. How long would you like to resist the upgrade bug? Longer is better, right?

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