The Ideal Tethered Setup

 In Support, Tech

Tethering Checklist for Max Reliability


Phase One, Leaf, and Mamiya tethering is extremely robust; digital backs are designed from the ground-up to tether, unlike dSLRs which add tethering as an after-thought feature. Out of context this document may make it seem like any minor thing can cause problems. Instead we encourage you to understand the document in the context of its intended audience: 1) digital techs who are fired on the spot if something goes wrong, and 2) photographers trying to troubleshoot an unusual problem on their own.

What Do We Mean By ‘Ideal’?

Saying that the below recommendations comprise an ideal tethered setup is not to say that other setups can’t be stable. Many of our customers have great success with a variety of other setups, and following these recommendations often needlessly safeguard against rare problems that may never arise. They are extremely conservative guidelines. So use these options if your goal is to achieve the absolute highest reliability or as a way to troubleshoot any problems you experience.

Phase One Tethering

Use Default Settings as a Starting Point

While there may be settings you wish to change from defaults, such as the [Configuration > Power] Setting, it’s a good idea to restore defaults so that you begin at a known-point, and then change whatever settings you know you want to change. Obscure settings such as [Camera Mode] and [Shutter > Zero Latency] can have adverse and unexpected results when accidentally set (e.g. by a well meaning assistant or by the previous user of the digital back in a rental situation). Other settings like [Configuration > Storage > CF Card] will directly prevent tethering.


This file format will ensure the highest quality. IIQ-Small has slight compression, which is unnoticeable most of the time, but can cause inferior image quality when an image is very overexposed or underexposed. The quality of IIQ-S is better on a Phase One IQ series back than on previous Phase One backs and may warrant consideration.

Back Powered From Battery

[Menu > Configuration > Power Source > Battery]

This is ESSENTIAL. Many laptops, and even some desktops, have firewire ports which do not produce consistent and sufficient firewire power. Low or variable firewire power can cause many types of hard-to-diagnosis problems. Using the computer’s firewire power will work with most of the time. However, for maximum reliability and for troubleshooting, use battery power.


You can also use a powered firewire hub such as the one we sell (FireWire 400 Hub) which has been tested for this purpose. This replaces the firewire voltage from the computer with a more consistent and full firewire power based directly off AC power.

Power Management > Battery Charging set to Fast if Relevant

The Leaf Credo and Phase One IQ series will intelligently charge the battery in the back either “Fast” or “Slow” (you can also disable charging if desired). The “Fast” setting is useful when the laptop or desktop it is tethered to is powered from AC and you are shooting quickly. It will ensure the battery in the back is charged faster than it is disspated – making sure you always have a charged battery and do not suffer from any quirks caused by a nearly depleted battery. However, when shooting methodically, the “Slow” setting is generally a better choice.

Phase One, Mamiya, and Leaf Tethering

15′ Double Shielded Firewire 400 Cable – unkinked

Specific 30′ and 33′ cables often work reliably (we sell one of each which we’ve tested with good success). Likewise there are many 3rd party firewire cables which work well. However, for maximum reliability, and for troubleshooting nothing beats the 15′ cables provided by Phase One. In addition you should wrap your cables carefully and avoid hard angles (both in storage and in use) and sources of crushing/kinking such as rolling over the cable with a cart. A good quality such as the cables we sell on our eStore have been proven to take a lot of abuse, but at some point any cable will mechanically wear to the point where it may short. A digital back connected to a computer with a shorted, cheap, or kinked cable may not connect, may take longer to connect than normal, or may lock up or not fully boot.

Gaffe Taped Firewire Cable

Firewire 800 cables have the tendency to “walk out” as the cable is strained in each direction. A small piece of gaffe tape on both the bottom and top of the MacBookPro-to-FW800-cable connection does a lot to ensure the cable will remain securely plugged in. This is good advice whether you are working with a digital back, an external hard drive, or any other FW800 device.

Any FW cable can cause problems when slightly pulled out, including, but not limited to failure to connect, taking longer to connect than normal, and locking up the back (e.g. it will not boot past the splash screen).

No Other Firewire Devices Plugged in (e.g. a Firewire Hard Drive)

For maximum reliability or if you are experiencing problems be sure that no other firewire devices are plugged in to the bus. This includes different firewire ports because depending on the computer’s internal configuration these ports may well be routed through the same internal bus.

Careful of Computer Heat

While Phase, Mamiya, and Leaf digital backs can handle the heat the computer used to tether may not. We have seen early MacBookPro laptops in particular which stop working well when in direct sunlight. Specifically the firewire port on these laptops may become non-responsive and lose the connection to a digital back. Keeping the laptop shaded, or using a program like SMC Fan Control to keep the laptop from getting to hot can increase stability.

Any Tethering to Capture One

Use the Right Version of Capture One

Capture One can be activated as “Capture One Pro” or “Capture One DB” or “Capture One”. If you want to tether a dSLR such as a Nikon or Canon or older Leaf digital back then you must use Capture One Pro. You can check the current version activated by going to “About Capture One”.

Cleanly Installed Capture One

Phase One always tests new versions of Capture One to make sure that if you upgrade from the latest version that installing the new version over top of (and replacing) the last version won’t lead to problems. However, it is always a good idea to uninstall the previous version before installing the new one (how to uninstall Capture One on a Mac). This is especially critical if you are upgrading from an installation which is several versions old.

Tether to a Mac Pro (rear port) or MacBookPro

The Macbook, Mac Mini, and iMac are all consumer grade computers which are not well suited for a professional tethered workflow. These computers can and will work, but for the best and most consistent results use one of these professional Apple computers. On a Mac Pro use the rear port.

Absolutely Fresh Batteries

Some camera bodies such as the Mamiya 645AFD will continue to function when batteries are low but not empty. However, they may occasionally misfire as the battery approaches empty and this can cause a variety of strange symptoms on the digital back. The same applies to the digital back. The back will continue to work when the back is flashing an empty battery icon, but may experience glitches or hiccups and if the back dies while writing a file this can cause the last image to be lost. Likewise some Nikon and Canon Cameras will start to misbehave prior to turning off as the battery nears empty.

Updated Firmware

Each camera and digital back has firmware. Firmware should be kept up-to-date at the same speed as the rest of your system. So if you’re using a version of Capture One from 2010 but you’re two versions behind on the firmware version of your digital back then it would be advisable to update your firmware. Make sure after a firmware update to reboot the back and set [Menu > Configuration > Restore Defaults] on the P+ series or [Menu > Restore Defaults] on the IQ series.

In particular the P40+ and P65+ firmware 5.2.2 (and later) increases the speed and reliability of the reconnecting the back after a firewire cable has been disconnected. This firmware update greatly improves the experience of tethering when using Firewire 800 cables which tend to disconnect (physically) easily.

Leaf and Mamiya digital backs automatically update/sync their firmware version with whatever version of Capture One you use them with. This prevents the possibility of using older firmware with newer software.

Some Canon and Nikon cameras had firmware updates which may effect performance while tethered. Capture One is always developed and tested with the most recent firmware available and using Capture One with a Canon/Nikon with old firmware may result in bugs/quirks.

Fresh Computer with as Few Other Programs Running as Possible

Macs aren’t known for spyware/crapware (at least compared to windows), but any computer can become burdened down with background programs and processes that can wreak havoc with the computer’s stability. Capture One can work perfectly fine while a hundred other programs are launched, but for a production environment it is best to keep your tethering machine as clean as possible. Our Backup Solutions for Before and After the shoot White Paper includes a way to backup your OS and applications. It’s a great idea to install just the OS, Capture One, and essential photo applications and utilities and then make a backup of that setup from which you can boot (plug in via firewire and hold option when booting) for times of trouble and confusion.

Capture Folder Should be on a Internal Hard Drive with Plenty of Free Space

Shooting to an external hard drive is not recommended. Some photographers shoot to an external hard drive to maintain a backup of the shoot. If this is desired see our Backup Solutions for Before and After the shoot White Paper.

The stability and speed of the entire computer (and therefore Capture One) is compromised when the hard drive is almost full. It’s a good idea to always have 10+ gigabytes of space free on your tethering machine, and avoid shooting it all the way to capacity. The computer will become unstable and slow far before Capture One finally tells you there is no space remaining.

Cleanly Installed and Up-to-Date Operating System

The Migration Assistant is a handy way of moving all of your data, documents, images, and programs from your old mac to a new mac. However, it is not perfect, and often leaves behind problems (extraneous or corrupt system files, permissions issues, missing library files etc) – it also perpetuates any crap that has been accumulated over the course of many years, system updates, program installs/uninstalls etc. We strongly recommend that when you buy a new computer you do not use the migration utility but instead go through the hassle of transferring files from the old computer to the new computer manually and installing all of your programs from the most recent download available of them.

Avoid Interference

If a firewire cable passes over a major source of electromagnetic interference it can create lines in the image or other forms of image-errors. Avoid draping the firewire cable over power packs, generators, APCs, strong magnets, or cell phones, strong speakers, or microwaves.

Avoid Rapid Reconnection

When a digital back or camera disconnects from a computer it takes the operating system 3-5 seconds for it to realize it is no longer connected. If the back is reconnected during this 3-5 second period the system will likely produce an error message or simply fail to connect. If/when you unplug a back or turn a back off or camera you should wait 5 seconds before reconnecting. A Phase One back should reconnect in under 10 seconds every time. If this is not the case try turning the back off for a full 5 seconds and then turning it back on.

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