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Thread: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

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    Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    The majority of my photography is now done at night, using ambient light and longish exposures (typically 13-30 seconds at f5.6 and ISO 100), and I convert the majority of my images to B&W.

    I am presently photographing with several m4/3 bodies and a pair of Olympus 4/3 f2 zooms, as well as a couple of other lenses, and frankly, the results Iím achieving with them are quite a bit better than I had expected.

    Nothing is perfect, though, and my issue is that prior to switching to digital, I was using an 8x10 and I miss the resolution I routinely achieved as well as the ability to make large prints (12x16 is about as large as I can print from my m4/3 files and still be happy).

    So Iíve started investigating alternatives. A friend has a previous generation 33MP Leaf Aptus back (not sure of the model number) and while it does a great job in daylight with short exposures, with dim light and longer exposures (i.e., anything over 1-2 seconds), its images are unacceptably noisy, so I suspect it will be absolutely horrible in this regard for out-and-out night photography. Other than his Leaf, though, I have very little experience with the last few generations of digital backs, so I am curious as to the state of the art that is available on the used market these days.

    Assuming I have a budget of no more than $10k, are there any digital backs that can be bought used in this price range that will perform well for my purposes? My gut feel is that Iím probably better off going with one of the big 35mm DSLRs instead, especially as I like to compose with Live View, but I donít like the 3:2 format at all and I would then be throwing away pixels when cropping back to the 4:3 format. And although I donít use my view cameras much, it would be a plus if the back can be readily (and inexpensively Ö Yes, I know) adapted for use on a Toyo 23G or 45G.

    Thanks for any input or advice you can offer me!

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    A refurbished/used Phase One P25/25+ or maybe P30/P30+ would fall in your price bracket of ~<$10K. The + backs go to about 1 hour exposure, the non-plus about 30 min. as far as I know. Maybe not quite that much, bust certainly much more than a few seconds. Someone else, more of an expert will probably comment soon.

    Cheers, -Peter

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    If I read you correctly, you are wanting a DB that renders clean images with ~30 second exposures?

    The Aptus 75S you mentioned above (Leaf 33 MP back) should be okay if using base ISO (50) and good conversion software like C1. Note that the conversion software used makes a HUGE difference in the final file with DB's, and this is especially true re noise handling.

    Any of the Phase "+" backs will easily do a minute with very little noise, but again at base ISO which is usually ISO 50. Some Phase + backs can handle up to an hour, but do get noisy.
    Jack
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    Senior Member Steve Hendrix's Avatar
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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Audii-Dudii View Post
    The majority of my photography is now done at night, using ambient light and longish exposures (typically 13-30 seconds at f5.6 and ISO 100), and I convert the majority of my images to B&W.

    I am presently photographing with several m4/3 bodies and a pair of Olympus 4/3 f2 zooms, as well as a couple of other lenses, and frankly, the results I’m achieving with them are quite a bit better than I had expected.

    Nothing is perfect, though, and my issue is that prior to switching to digital, I was using an 8x10 and I miss the resolution I routinely achieved as well as the ability to make large prints (12x16 is about as large as I can print from my m4/3 files and still be happy).

    So I’ve started investigating alternatives. A friend has a previous generation 33MP Leaf Aptus back (not sure of the model number) and while it does a great job in daylight with short exposures, with dim light and longer exposures (i.e., anything over 1-2 seconds), its images are unacceptably noisy, so I suspect it will be absolutely horrible in this regard for out-and-out night photography. Other than his Leaf, though, I have very little experience with the last few generations of digital backs, so I am curious as to the state of the art that is available on the used market these days.

    Assuming I have a budget of no more than $10k, are there any digital backs that can be bought used in this price range that will perform well for my purposes? My gut feel is that I’m probably better off going with one of the big 35mm DSLRs instead, especially as I like to compose with Live View, but I don’t like the 3:2 format at all and I would then be throwing away pixels when cropping back to the 4:3 format. And although I don’t use my view cameras much, it would be a plus if the back can be readily (and inexpensively … Yes, I know) adapted for use on a Toyo 23G or 45G.

    Thanks for any input or advice you can offer me!

    Auddi

    I was ready to also recommend P30+ until your last sentence. Option to use on a view/movement camera will kick out the P30+, as it typically produces uncorrectable aberrations when used with movement-based cameras and most lenses. That leaves the P25+, unless you scarf up one of those P45 non-plus deals that come around once in a while under $10K.

    I don't see the Leaf as a strong option for you. Since the primary use is really pushing the envelope with a Leaf back (ISO 100 at 30 seconds in dim light will not look good), I would focus on the Phase One P+ models. Doesn't mean Leaf isn't a great back (every back has its strengths), but what you're wanting to do is really at the edge of capability for a Leaf back, while it's more in the sweet spot for a Phase One + back.


    Steve Hendrix
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    Digital Cam: ē Phase One | Leaf | Leica | Sinar ē Authorized Reseller
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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    I own the P25+ and will say that it handles longer exposures very well. I have achieved good results to ISO 200, but as others mention, base ISO has the advantage. For me, 15 to 30 second exposures are quite common; 1 to 1.5 minute pretty common, and two to three minute exposures done at times, but not that often. Most of these type of exposures are handled very well by the Phase One P25+ (and by extension, the P45+).

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    I apologize for not checking in sooner, but I was out photographing last night until 3:30am and am just now getting on with my day...

    In any event, thanks for the input so far. I should point out that while I'm typically using 15-30 second exposures at f5.6 and ISO100 with my m4/3 bodies, to achieve a similar DoF with a medium-format back will require me to stop down another three stops or so, so the exposure range I'm likely to be using is actually 2-4 minutes, not 15-30 seconds, and -- yikes! -- 4 to 8 minutes if I shoot at ISO50. And while being able to use the back on my view camera is a plus, it's not a deal killer if I can't.

    Based upon what I've seen from my friend's Leaf, I agree with you, Steve ... even at just 2 seconds at its base ISO (whatever that is), it's far noisier than any of my m4/3 bodies. So Phase One it is then...

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    A-D, your last comment suggests that a P+ (25 or 45) is your most logical choice if choosing medium format digital. Each will also allow use with a tech camera if you so choose.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dale Allyn View Post
    A-D, your last comment suggests that a P+ (25 or 45) is your most logical choice if choosing medium format digital. Each will also allow use with a tech camera if you so choose.
    Agreed, but Doubtful you will find a P45+ for under $10K, so you should probably be looking for a P25+ --- which you can mount and use on your View camera pretty easily.

    It should be also noted that the P25 and P45 non-Plus backs won't do long exposures well, being more like the Leaf you tried.
    Jack
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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Right, Jack. I did not mean to suggest that one is likely to find a P45+ for under $10K, just keeping the "family" together regarding the exposure times. My reference to the P45+ was therefore off-topic. Sorry.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Fortunately, my budget has some flexibility as my limit is self-imposed in recognition of my present hobbyist status. If I can convince myself it's worth spending more, I can, but I enjoy doing less with more, as my present m4/3 gear collection attests.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    one nice thing about phase is that you can start with the p25+ and move up. I dont know the rules on trades from a refurbised or 'non-first owner' (I hate to call a Phase of anysort '2nd hand'
    The P25+ is a sweet back, in an image sense as well. I had the 25 and the look and resolution were quite good. do NOT class it with any ideas it is similar to a DSLR.

    If you can trade up as I have (actually was one of the first to get the P='portable' phase backs (never found out what H meant. Home? ) then you investment is well preserved.

    Anyway i have had really good experience with my 5 phases and have btw no connection to the company. i am sure steve here can help a lot

    regards
    victor

    ps i also use on a tech camera alpa, and have had no issues-it just works

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    On a different note, there is a H3DII-31 kit for sale on FM at moment that was just dropped to $9000. have no idea on seller, etc. caveat, etc., but they do have a buyer/seller feedback system (I am Conner999 there). Not sure it fits all your requirements, but just as a heads-up in case it's close enough.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    I currently have over two hundred Phase One non plus backs installed in Florida prior to the Phase One Plus backs being introduced. Some of the finest images I have seen shot by great photographers using these backs and some at exposures longer than 2-3 minutes. The P25 and P45 with the Kodak CCD should be fine at those longer exposures.

    The Plus series allows for exposures up to 1 hour. Any of the Kodak based CCD in Phase One backs are going to produce better results on these long exposures. A request we get as dealers all the time.

    And all backs with micro lenses like the P30 and P30+ are not recommended
    or supported by Phase One on technical and view cameras. As the image is moved up and down or tilted, it causes artifacts that the software simply cannot resolve.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Agreed, but Doubtful you will find a P45+ for under $10K, so you should probably be looking for a P25+ --- which you can mount and use on your View camera pretty easily.

    It should be also noted that the P25 and P45 non-Plus backs won't do long exposures well, being more like the Leaf you tried.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Digitalcameraman View Post
    I currently have over two hundred Phase One non plus backs installed in Florida prior to the Phase One Plus backs being introduced. Some of the finest images I have seen shot by great photographers using these backs and some at exposures longer than 2-3 minutes. The P25 and P45 with the Kodak CCD should be fine at those longer exposures.
    Chris, thanks for confirming this. This was my understanding as well.

    Cheers, -Peter

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    I have taken the P25+ to at least a 1/2 hour with nice results, even the P30+ to 35 minutes. But if your using a tech cam use a P25+ for it as Chris mentioned. I know they go longer just never got that far myself.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    MFDB long exposure samples

    Could you show any samples, including crops, of long exposure captures?

    The level of acceptable noise is very subjective. As far as I understand the dark noise degrading the image gradually increases with the exposure time as the sensor builds up heat. So it would be great to actually see how the different backs handle these long exposure times.

    The only MFD samples I found on the internet were from Michael Reichmann in 2006. I guess that's the P45 without the P45+ hardware improvements for long exposures.

    -Dominique

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    P30+ 35 minutes. All I can find at the moment. Shot in about 55 degree temps. The cooler the better for sure. No back on the planet will do better than a Phase back for anything over 5 minutes. I personally think the P45+ is the best at it as I have seen Jack go a full hour with his.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Digitalcameraman View Post
    Some of the finest images I have seen shot by great photographers using these backs and some at exposures longer than 2-3 minutes. The P25 and P45 with the Kodak CCD should be fine at those longer exposures.
    Chris,

    Would love to see some crops from a few examples of the P25 and P45 files at between 2 and 3 minutes as compared to the P25+, P30+ or P45+ at similar times...
    Jack
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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Well, Guy, that's a fairly convincing image ... guess I know in which direction to head now. Thanks!

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    P30+ 35 minutes. All I can find at the moment. Shot in about 55 degree temps. The cooler the better for sure. No back on the planet will do better than a Phase back for anything over 5 minutes. I personally think the P45+ is the best at it as I have seen Jack go a full hour with his.
    Thanks for the sample, Guy. Looks good at this size though I'm not sure about the color. There's something strange going on in the red channel. While the green and blue channel look quite smooth the red channel is all blotchy even at this size, assuming it's not a crop.

    -Dominique

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Hard to say it is lit by one single lightbulb in the distance and the mountain there has multiple layers of colors.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Although I hadn't planned on moving quite so quickly, as it turned out, I found what appeared to be a good deal on a used P30+ yesterday and bought it. I guess this means you'll be seeing more of me around these parts now... :-)

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    Re: Do any sub-$10k digital backs fill the bill or is this simply wishful thinking?

    Congrats the P30+ is a great back. Enjoy
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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