Phase One Announces New 80-Megapixel Medium-Format Camera Back

January 24, 2011

By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

The world of medium-format digital photography crossed another milestone this morning with the announcement of a new 80-megapixel digital back from Phase One. Called the Phase One IQ180, the 80MP digital back is part of a trio of new products from the Copenhagen, Denmark-based medium format company, which include the 60.5MP IQ160 and 40MP IQ140.

Phase One didn’t announce specific pricing for the top-of-the-line model at the time of the product unveiling. The company only said that prices will “start” at $21,990. That price tag is likely to be for the 40MP IQ140 model.

As we found out while reporting a story for February issue of PDN entitled “The $64,000 Medium-Format Question,” medium-format companies are notoriously shy when it comes to announcing pricing for their cameras, especially in a down economy. So if you’re interested in the IQ180, we suggest you start saving now. It will be considerably more than $21,990, and that doesn’t even include the price of an actual camera (not to mention, a lens).

But what you get from the Phase One IQ180 along with that extraordinary 80MP resolution, sounds intriguing. According to Phase One, the IQ180 is a completely redesigned product and boasts “a dynamic range of 12.5 f/stops.” It’s also the first digital back to feature a USB 3.0 connection to help transfer those gigantic image files.

The IQ180 also has a FireWire 800 connection for tethered shooting. A new memory card interface in the digital back is designed to “eliminate buffering delays,” and supports continuous shooting until the card is filled.

Phase One has also amped up the back’s review display to a new 3.2-inch touchscreen with 1.15-megapixel resolution. The company claims the screen provides “the highest resolution and largest display of an SLR type camera available today.” This is a bold assertion considering that displays on medium-format systems have been notoriously of poor quality in the past. The screen also automatically adjusts for brightness and contrast, making it easier to see under variable lighting conditions, Phase One said.

For more information, see the press release below.

Phase One Announces IQ Series Digital Camera Backs

Designed for Ultimate Creative Freedom

Copenhagen, January 24, 2011 — Phase One, the world’s leading pro photography equipment provider, today announced a bold new generation of medium format digital camera backs. The Phase One IQ180, IQ160 and IQ140 digital camera backs feature maximum resolutions of 80, 60.5 and 40 high quality megapixels respectively. This series sets new standards for medium format camera system handling and performance.

The Phase One IQ180 captures at full-frame 80 megapixel resolution, with a dynamic range of 12.5 f-stops. It is the first product of its kind to feature a USB3 connection, facilitating faster image transfers in the future. The IQ180 also features a FireWire 800 connection, ensuring the fastest tethered capture speeds possible today. For untethered shooting, the IQ180 digital back’s new memory card interface is so fast that it eliminates buffering delays, supporting continuous shooting until a card is filled.

“I am amazed by the image quality I’ve gotten ‘out of the box’ with the Phase One IQ180 on the Phase One 645DF camera. I can create images with more detail and unique looks than with any other camera out there. It helps me develop styles unique to me,” said lifestyle photographer Jens Honoré. (website:

A newly-designed 3.2 inch retina type, multi touch screen features 1.15 megapixel resolution, providing the highest resolution and largest display of any SLR type camera available today. This means that very fine details can be checked instantly during a photo shoot — for instance using Phase One’s unique Focus Mask and the instant zoom function. The automatic adjustment of brightness and contrast ensures that the display is visible under various light conditions.  

Context-sensitive controls, such as the instant zoom function, allow a photographer to zoom into an image using one finger only. Small histograms and highlight warnings can be enlarged to full screen view by a simple touch. The new Focus Mask available during preview helps validate depth-of-field and image focus. The wide format display allows for a full 4:3 aspect ratio VGA resolution image next to histogram, highlight warning, focus mask, EXIF data, and touch controls.  This touch screen display is complemented by Phase One’s intuitive 4-button navigation.

“The new high-resolution multi touch screen with its intuitive controls is a perfect tool for checking image quality right at the moment of capture. With this display quality, I can leave my laptop at home, and ultimately this makes my work easier,” said architectural photographer, Eugeni Pons. (website:

Phase One’s patent-pending Sensor+ technology, built into the Phase One IQ180, supports a variety of shooting conditions. One can capture images with full 80 megapixels resolution or, using Sensor+ mode, switch instantly to capture images with 20 megapixels resolution at 4 times higher sensitivity, up to ISO 3200. This flexibility is very useful under low light conditions; there is no need to slow down to change cameras, and there’s no crop or lens factor. One gets the maximum wide-angle performance from the existing lens, higher ISO levels, and a faster workflow.

According to fashion photographer Stefan Kapfer, “The new IQ180 suits my work very well. I can use the full 80 megapixel resolution for my high end fashion shots, and the 20 megapixel images I get from the Sensor+ technology give me a faster workflow when I do work for catalogue production. It’s really two perfect solutions in one system.” (website:

Compatibility is improved between the IQ digital backs and the Phase One 645DF camera body. The power state of the digital back can now be controlled directly from the 645DF camera. An integrated battery charger ensures that the battery is charged while one is shooting tethered, offering more shooting versatility.

Capture One 6
Capture One 6 has been optimized for shooting with Phase One IQ digital backs. Together with the IQ series backs this professional RAW converter and image editing software will deliver the world’s highest image quality with excellent color and detail.  The software comprises all the tools required to capture, organize, edit, share and print images for an efficient workflow.

Reliability and Service
Pro photographers can rely on Phase One IQ digital backs to get their jobs done. Their highly durable build quality is designed and tested to work in the toughest environments, including extreme heat, cold and humidity.  

All Phase One products represent long-term investment value with superior service. For professionals, this protection is priceless, especially when shooting in unfamiliar situations and locations around the world.

Various service levels are available for Phase One IQ digital backs. For example, a value-added option includes a life-time (5 year) warranty, a free loaner unit during repair and other options. Phase One offers 365 days round the clock support delivered on-line and backed up by dedicated partners and a global support team.
For a complete list of all the new Phase One IQ digital back features, including supported camera bodies, please see

Availability and Pricing
The Phase One IQ180 is expected to be available end of April 2011. The Phase One IQ160 and IQ140 are expected to be available end of May 2011. The products may be ordered now through Phase One professional photography partners worldwide:

Prices for new digital backs start at 16.990 EUR / 21.990 USD. Attractive upgrade offers are available for all existing Phase One photographers.
People interested in a demo of the new products can sign up for a live demo here: