Highlight Tech: V Mounts for Digital Phase Backs
Highlight Tech is a weekly series where we show off the best-kept secrets of ARC’s photo & video arsenal.
With the transition of photographic technology from film to digital, many film cameras have been left behind to collect dust while being replaced by their digital relatives. But the modular nature of medium format allows some flexibility for those not fully satisfied with all things digital.
Phase One created a solution to allow die hard Hasselblad V system body lovers to marry classic film bodies with the convenience of digital medium format capture. A V-Mount is built onto the digital back so that it only attaches to the older Hasselblad body. For example, you could not attach a V mount to a H2 body. That requires an H mount. (Adapters to attach the digital back to a Mamiya RZ and 4×5 are available and we’ll cover these in a later post.)
This configuration offers a great way to shoot handheld with a waist-level viewfinder and still make use of your old CFi and CFE lenses! We offer the 503CW and 555ELD bodies as well as a prism viewfinder. With a couple of film backs on hand, the V Mount is a great way to quickly change from film to digital, or vice versa, during a shoot.
The digital back offers a larger sensor than a 35mm DSLR, as well as higher resolution, larger dynamic range, and larger output files for archiving and printing. The Phase backs we have available in V mounts are the P65+ and P45+. The P65+ has 60.5 megapixels and shoots full frame. The P45+ has 39 megapixels with a 1.1 lens factor, so be aware that there is a slight crop. Masks are provided in the Phase kits for you to put in the viewfinder should you wish.
Of course, there are some caveats to consider while using this system. Since it is an electronic back connected to a mechanical body, there are no electronic pins to communicate between the two parts. A sync cable is provided in the kit that needs to attach to the back and the lens in order to fire the shutter and record the image. We also have wake-up cables, which work like the sync cable, but keep the back from going to stand-by.
The backs can use Compact Flash cards to store images, but this system is often used tethered to a computer via firewire and Phase’s Capture One software. Digital backs produce much larger files than DSLR cameras. For example a P45+ small unprocessed IIQ RAW file is about 27MB, while the large is about 44MB. The P65+ small unprocessed IIQ RAW files is about 40MB and the large is about 60MB. Obviously, storage is a big factor when using these systems, since a single shoot could leave one with a multiple GB of files to work with. Shooting to card only limits the number of shots you have if you don’t plan accordingly.
Digital backs must be handled with care. When a back is removed from a body the full sensor is exposed to the elements. This makes it easy to scratch, damage and get dust on it. Cleaning kits are provided with the system kits, but it is recommended to avoid touching the sensor whenever possible. The full replacement value (which is held on your credit card during your rental) for the P45+ V mount back alone is over $28,000.
Jacquelyn Allen is a Digital Technician at Adorama Rentals. You can find her product and still-life photography on her website.