Mega Pixels Digital is based in the American West. That means we have some of the most dynamic testing grounds in the country. Since Moab, Utah is just a few hours drive away, I figured the desert’s dynamic rock formations and stunning canyons would make for a great field test for the Phase One XF100MP.
One fine Friday afternoon I loaded up my Isuzu Trooper and headed out towards Utah.
There’s something special about the area around Moab. Its tumultuous geological history has created a mesmerizing landscape consisting of brightly colored rock and mineral deposits, gaping canyons, monolithic rock formations, and towering mesas. No matter how many times I go back, I never get tired of the amazing textures and natural sculpture.
I went on this trip admittedly without much direction. I knew I wanted to go to Moab, but after that I didn’t have a specific shot in mind. Normally My wife and two dogs are along with me, but being all by my lonesome gave me an almost uncomfortable level of flexibility. I finally decided on my sunrise location and dozed off.
I’m a morning person, so I set off well before sunrise to Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands doesn’t get the same level of attention as Arches National Park a few minutes drive away, but I prefer its vastness over Arches’ (relatively) small size.
Shooting with the XF100MP
I didn’t have a ton of gear with me- just the XF body, 35mmLS, 80mmLS, and the IQ3100. I set up my tripod and mounted the 35LS on the XF100MP. It wasn’t quite time to start shooting, but I figured I’d test some compositions.
At a shutter speed of 4 seconds, nearly any movement would be visible; especially on a 100 megapixel file. Fortunately, Phase One takes vibration control very seriously. In my scenario- I had three different features working in unison to ensure I had vibration free images.
-Raises Mirror to ensure no residual vibration. Easily engaged on touch screen, or can be programmed to a physical button on the XF body
-Using its accelerometer, the camera waits until vibrations are at an acceptable level before beginning exposure.
Electronic First Curtain Shutter
-Unique to the 100 Megapixel, the first physical curtain is lowered before the exposure has technically begun. Once capture is initiated, the already exposed sensor electronically scans downward at the same rate the second curtain covers the sensor. This removes any vibration that may be caused by the initial curtain during exposure. This works in the background with shutter speeds shorter than 125/s.
After viewing the image at 100% on the rear LCD and checking the focus mask, I knew my image was as sharp is it could possible be. But now, I had to adjust exposure for the changing light.
Exposure is a crucial element a photographer needs to feel 100% confident about before leaving the scene. This is where the “zone system” graphical display of the XF100MP comes in.
This viewing mode provides users with a multi colored graph of the image after capture with 8 different “zones” of exposure. Each zone is assigned a color that is then overlaid on the image, thus telling the photographer which sections of the image are within the photographer’s preferred exposure range. I can’t overstate how excited I am for this tool. The ability to see data displayed on top of the image provides far more useful information than being forced to rely on the LCD screen, or a disassociated histogram (useful though, they are). In this way, the photographer can be sure he or she has the highlight and shadow detail necessary (WHERE necessary) to create their preferred image.
From my vantage point in Canyonlands, I would be shooting directly into the sunrise. Although not ideal photographically, I wanted to see how the new Schneider Kreuznach 35mmLS performed in a practical lens flare test.
The newly redesigned SK 35mmLS is a marvel. I often refer to images shot with technical camera lenses to be the sharpest photographs I’ve ever seen. This lens comes the closest to that level of corner to corner crispness I’ve come to expect from only the best Schneider and Rodenstock technical camera lenses.
I was quite impressed with how the SK 35LS handled the direct sunlight, especially considering its large front element. Overall, even though I was shooting straight into the sun, contrast remained and what was lost was easily recovered. This is also where the 100 Megapixel’s 15 stops of dynamic range proved vital. The above image was created with just one exposure. Using Capture One’s high dynamic range tool, along with a few local adjustments, I was able to recover harshly overexposed sections of the sky and deep shadow detail in the canyon.
After having shot the sunrise, I had the rest of the day to explore.
Obviously one of the hallmarks of the 100 Megapixel is its resolution. Within a singe photograph, any number of other compositions can be achieved just through cropping. I chose that route when I photographed the sunset hitting the La Sal Mountain range from Arches National Park.
The resolution of the 100 Megapixel back gave me the ability to crop to a tighter image without having to use a telephoto and stitch a panorama. Because of the sheer size and quality of the file I knew that I could crop into any number of different compositions and still have resolution to spare.
Having yet to use this system for a personal shoot- I wasn’t quite sure how it would behave with my workflow. I don’t particularly like just looking at my images on the rear LCD. I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my exposure is spot on and my images are in perfect focus. After finishing my first sunrise shoot with the XF system- I knew I wouldn’t have any surprises after I loaded the images into Capture One. And I didn’t. True story.