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What do we want to see in the next generation of digital backs and MF cameras?


Well-known member
People here seem to know what they want in a next-gen camera, so I am hoping we can put some thoughts down in one place where they are easy to find. I will make a few comments to get things rolling but I am not particularly well qualified to do that. I spent much of my professional life developing systems for quantitative imaging, but my knowledge of photography is that of a simple hobbyist.

1. Sensor improvements.
This is entirely dependent upon what the sensor manufacturers do. If Sony or someone else comes up with an improved sensor, it will be in our next cameras. If not, what we already have is pretty good. We are always looking for more dynamic range but that is difficult to engineer. DxO provides extensive measurements of DR for various cameras (thanks @dchew for the citation) and things don't seem to change much year-to year. Readout can be multiplexed to extend range - sort of a built in bracketing and HDR re composition - and maybe we can do more with that. The traditional approaches to high DR (slower readout, active cooling) are not very relevant to portable devices. Once you get beyond a certain level of task difficulty (e.g a true 14 stops of DR), it is not the sensor that is the primary practical limitation. It is various forms of flare.

2. Coded functions and UI. If you can't be better, improve user access to what you already have These are what will really sell the new cameras to me.
a. Frame averaging is the single easiest way to improve SNR. Some cameras already offer it (eg IQ4) but it is clumsy. Make it easier to use. Now, P1 make you go into a special mode that must be set up each time. Instead, we should be able to siimply turn on averaging and the system will use that mode until it is turned off. It would be like switching ISO or exposure compensation. Set it and the rest of the user interface remains the same.
b. Improve computer integration. Tethering should present the user with the same set of functions and user interface as they camera uses. Is there some reason we have to set up some functions withing the back and others on the computer? Silly. When you are tethered, the back should vanish and we deal entirely with the computer.
c. User manipulation of the input response function. Scientific cameras can be set to respond optimally (with greater precision) within a part of the input flux range. Film also does this in that it compresses response as the silver saturates. Our CCD and CMOS sensors, in contrast, are linear. You may want to optimise camera response for deep shadows or highlights. and now that involves various strategies that combine actions in camera and in post. Give us better ability to tune in-camera response in the field. For example, select film-type response, linear, shadow+, run 'n gun etc. from a menu. In each case, the system would would optimise itself by adjusting bit depth, selecting readout speed and so forth. Stuff like this is already going on (looking at you Fuji) but users have no real control over it. Provide a UI for it and make it into a feature.
c. The big one. We need better focusing. Improve our ability to compose and to maximise our keeper proportion. The 100 and 150 MP Sony sensors are already at the limit of my ability to achieve critical focus with any viewing method I have. We may stuff more pixels into the same space (not really recommended) but we will be unable to take advantage of that density without better ways of achieving critical focus. Above all, we need focusing displays that are not useless in sunlight and that make the task easier for older eyes. After all, it is the established professionals and hobbyists that have the funds for new MF cameras. Many of these people are not eagle-eyed 20-somethings. We are talkin' next gen EVFs here. They exist. Interfacing needed.

Now I have to mention the one that we are all wistful about - a larger version of MF. Like other sensor improvements, this is not up to the camera companies. Someone in the senosr industry must see a major market for a larger sensor. When (if) that happens we will be here for it. The market is ready for smaller MF sensors and camera manufacturers are serving that end of things well. A different market segment is ready for a bigger sensor. I don't need to go into the benefits of larger format digital. Point is, the tech is doable for the chip folks (but challenging) and there are industrial, institutional and advanced professional clients willing to pay for cameras that use it. How big a sensor? I would say 250 MP over a full 6 x 9 format would do nicely and, with those fat pixels, we'd see a resurrection of lens manufacturing as the old designs get refreshed and reissued. This is the grail.

OK, that's enough from me.
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Bill Caulfeild-Browne

Well-known member someone who finds the IQ4 more than adequate for very large (2 metre+) prints, I would think the market for even bigger sensors would be vanishingly small. They would require even bigger, heavier gear and would likely be only for studio use. I agree with you on frame averaging - I use it a lot but it could be quicker to operate.
I'd actually settle for some modest Improvements - much faster start-up being one.

As for focus I don't see the issue. Autofocus is awfully good these days - even Phase One's very limited field works OK and most other MF cameras are much better. I'm guessing that most of us use manual focussing for critical work anyway, and with focus peaking and magnification, what more could be done? (I admit I'm also a rangefinder user so perhaps I'm just too old fashioned!)

Thanks for starting this thread - I'm going to be interested in other responses and will probably learn a lot!



Subscriber and Workshop Member
Frame Averaging is the one I want. I'd love a larger sensor, but the weight of even current 645 digital is at the edge for my usage. I suppose the Mamiya 7 43mm would be a good lens, but a lot of new (and heavier) glass would have to appear.


dj may

Well-known member
I am happy with the Leica S3; so happy that I no longer check out alternatives. However, I agree with @MGrayson that frame averaging would be a good addition for future cameras.

In general, I think all manufacturers are missing the boat with respect to performance. Instead of more pixels, more dynamic range, etc. they need to put more emphasis on useability (is that a word?) and reliability. For example, flawless tethering, a mobile app that accesses all camera functions.

Pieter 12

Well-known member
Not sure focus has anything to do with the back, it's the camera body and lens. I would rather see less expensive backs in the 70-100MP range, and more universal adaptability to existing camera bodies such as Hasselblad C, Contax and Rollei Hy6. A bigger sensor would be fine, but not at an astronomical price.


For me, improvements to the phase one system would be, USB C PD (power delivery) allowing for full speed charging and fully powered by USB, 10gb ethernet to have near USB speeds over long cheap cables with no issues, Change of battery system providing longer use. These are things that could happen pretty easily. Ibis and better focusing would be nice. the iq4 sensor is pretty good, i can see much more need for more...


Well-known member
For me, improvements to the phase one system would be, USB C PD (power delivery) allowing for full speed charging and fully powered by USB, 10gb ethernet to have near USB speeds over long cheap cables with no issues, Change of battery system providing longer use. These are things that could happen pretty easily. Ibis and better focusing would be nice. the iq4 sensor is pretty good, i can see much more need for more...
P1 has this basically with the iXM-RS series, all have 10g and USB-C. Not sure if power is via USB though. And of course, you'd need your own screen ;)

Based on some Ebay sleuthing, the iXM-RS is very closely related to the Iq4 internally so they could literally drop an IQ5 that had what you wanted with little effort. It would be like the wifi upgrade between the IQ1 and IQ2 series, not much change in the image quality but an overall improvement is usability.

More generally, I do wish someone would create a super open platform that allows for custom processing pipelines from the sensor and higher. Very niche but it would allow very fine grained control over the final image.
Global shutter (before anyone shoots me down on this, I mean when the quality is not compromised) is the big on for me. I reckon that would also allow for some tricky frame averaging/exposure + type approaches to be implemented that help improve DR too.

And as to 2. Coded functions and UI. I've already filed a few requests with P1 about just that. Even with the current IQ4 there are plenty of things they could do with the UI that would improve usability. For instance the different way of getting into the frame averaging and exposure +, having to go to a menu to switch between e-shutter and Copal shutter, and not having access to the metering you get with e-shutter while in Copal mode. We don't all have XShutters and until we have global shutter sometimes the only option is a real shutter.

My other requests:
• split focus screen — as in the screen is divided into two parts, specifically for focusing when using tilt/swing. There's a mode on the GFX range that would be nice too with a smaller magnified area displayed over the main viewfinder view (some of these features are available to some extent when tethering in C1)
• custom grids/overlays and crops. The IQ4 has C1 built in apparently, but very limited ability to access features.
• usable wireless. Sure it's usable now, but not practical compared to tethering with a cable.

Otherwise I think a system that boots faster and is more power efficient would be great. We've seen the huge improvements Apple has made with their ARM based system. Hopefully we'll see similar power efficiency advancements. It would be great if they could make the backs smaller, depth-wise if greater power efficiency allowed for that.

P. Chong

Well-known member
I agree with Bill that 150MP is enough...for me, more than enough, and I actually prefer smaller as I don't have the need to make humongous prints, nor crop much. 50Mp is sufficient.

And I also agree with Rob that the only thing I could wish for is frame averaging.


Well-known member
I seem to be almost alone in ranting about focus. I am surprised at this, given that this topic relates to digital backs (as opposed to integrated cameras) and most DB users are primarily using manual focus. At least I think they are.

Here's an experiment. Put any back/lens on a tripod and point it at something detailed on a sunny day. Take ten shots, squinting at the screen zooming up and down, bending over to put your eye into a good viewing position, wondering where you left your loupe, and feeling about 100 years old. Recompose for each shot, to get the full experience. Now, take a camera with a good viewfinder, like the GFX II, and do the same thing. Then rate the two setups for ease of use, in camera composition, and number of keepers. When I do that (well, I've never actually done it but you get the drift), the viewfinder camera kills the back. Sure, we can do it all with just the little screen on the back. We can even do it without live view. But we don't need to do that any more.

I love my IQ4 and the lenses I use with it. It is good enough that, if P1 want to sell me an IQ5 (and they do), they will have to improve the user experience in a major way. After using the GFX II for a couple of months I can tell P1 that the easiest and most meaningful change they can make is to put a good VF on the digital back. DO NOT PUT IT ON THE XF or its irrelevant replacement. Put it on the back and include a flexible attachment that lets the user move the VF eyepiece - like the Fuji flippy thingy. So many other companies already offer good viewfinders. How hard can it be?

Paul Spinnler

Well-known member
I think better I/O is also the way, alongside better batter life. When I mounted that Zacuto EVF and had HDMI streaming on ... I literally blased through batteries. Think like 5 batteries for a shoot and then the experience was subpar on top.

There must be an efficient way. Only problem I see that the current XT is not engineered to have an EVF as even the hotshoe mount is at the top left. So it would almost need to be a new compact body with a special adapter shoe on top to connect the EVF.

Or something one can attach at the top-side of the back, but this would compromise the structural ruggedness of the IQ series backs which are so well shielded against environmental forces.

I agree it would fundamentally improve the offering, although the next thing then is the focus mechanism while hand holding the camera.

That's why using Alpa lenses with HPF rings and a shift stick on the side is so genius – its by far the easiest way to focus a Rodie HR.

Its really cool.

Another thing that's botering me is that the X shutter cable port is the same port used for remote triggers. I'd appreciate a second port to trigger the back and have x shutter lenses if I am non-native ... e.g. Alpa X shutter.


New member
My biggest issue with the IQ4 is the low resolution display. This makes it hard to evaluate focus in tough lighting situations. I don't need more resolution!

Paul Spinnler

Well-known member
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, and may will say I don't need that, but if they'd add a non-bad implementation of video the IQ4 could actually all of a sudden be used in some productions wanting that 65mm look. Alpa has PL mount adapter for example.

This would open up the whole world of cinema optics.

Also if the new Hassy Back can record non-sucky video (ie raw, log, etc.) then with an Alpa and P&L mount ... you enter a whole new dimension of applications!

I'd be super excited to mount Leica S optics and do video with it.

And in cinema you don't need AF – just the richt connectivity to attach power, audio, video.

In fact, the old H back supported video, but in my understanding not in a really useable fashion for high-end cinema. I don't have time to look into the details, but it may be a combination of sensor readout speed, supported raw formats and ability to loop in professional audio.

If they add these comparatively "easy elements" with additional ports it could drive sales.
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Well-known member
My biggest issue with the IQ4 is the low resolution display. This makes it hard to evaluate focus in tough lighting situations. I don't need more resolution!
WOW..... I've never experienced or heard of the IQ4 display as being low resolution. From my experience it was super resolution and along with a good loupe I could see anything and everything I would have ever needed for composition and focus. Display of the taken image was always super sharp and extremely detailed and at 100% pixels for focus the resolution never, ever failed me. I missed it when I first got into the Fuji system.....

Victor B.


New member
Your eyes are better than mine! I have a hard time evaluating focus on the display particularly compared to my X2D. I prefer not to use a loupe in the filed - just one more thing to keep track of. Perhaps low resolution is a bad choice of words but compared to the X2D it seems to be a generation behind.


Well-known member
For me, a loupe has always been necessary with a digital back. Otherwise I am not confident that the focus is right. I don't find that I need a loupe with the Fuji though.


Well-known member
I wonder if some of it is practice. I was able to nail focus with a GFX 50R, which doesn't have a great LCD. The trick was to realize what "in focus" looked like on the screen (because it didn't look particularly in focus some times). The 100S is a bit better. Apparently the 100 and 100 II had better screens (but I've never seen that for myself).


Well-known member
For me, the screen. If you look at your iPhone screen compared to the screen on a digital back it is like night and day.

Another area would be to update the firmware to improve the user experience.

One example…

Previewing crop modes on a Fuji camera is a great experience. Being able to visualize what the final crop could look like when composing. The IQ4 is a big sensor. Why not have a function where you can choose a format like 3:2, 4:3, 16:9 etc. Along with the option to choose the aspect ratio, you can also grab a corner and change the crop, or move the whole frame to a different position on the sensor. The IQ4 could easily handle this and the final resolution would still be quite impressive.

Then when you open the file in C1 the crop remains intact. Of course, the crop could always be changed or thrown away completely if you decide later that you don't like it.


Well-known member
The ability to choose crops would be wonderful. I'm not a firmware programmer, but would it really be that hard to let us type in X and Y and add it to the list of available aspect ratios?