Hands-On with the New 150MP Phase One XF IQ4 Medium Format Camera System at Photokina

All photos © Dan Havlik

After getting to shoot with the 64MP Leica S3, we paid a visit to the Phase One booth at the photokina show in Germany this week where we got a chance to try out the 150MP XF IQ4 medium format camera system. Notice a pattern here?

Photokina has traditionally been a place to show off the latest powerful and expensive digital medium format systems and this year’s event was no exception. The prices for these beautiful imaging machines seem to be continuing their upward climb, which is unfortunate for those photographers who don’t belong to the 1%. The Leica S3 will sell for in the neighborhood of $20K, but the Phase IQ4 150MP blows the doors off that pricetag, retailing for nearly $52,000, which includes the XF camera body and prism, a Blue Ring prime lens of the buyer’s choice, a 5-year warranty and 5-year uptime guarantee.

Since the tech in these luxury models often trickles down to other cameras in the enthusiast and professional market, it’s still, nonetheless, fun to take medium format’s latest and greatest systems for quick spin. In the case of the Phase One XF IQ4, it represents the top of the heap in this category.

The Phase One XF IQ4 uses a 151MP backside illuminated (BSI) sensor that’s 1.5x the size of what you’d find in the “crop sensor mirrorless medium format,” imagers used in models such as the new Fujifilm GFX 50R, which was announced at photokina. Phase One has built the XF IQ4 on what it is calling the “Infinity Platform,” which is designed to be easily upgradable, making the camera system “future proof,” according to Phase One.

The XF IQ4 150MP offers dual storage with both XQD and SD card slots, along with new tethering options including wireless, USB-C and Ethernet connectivity. The camera also integrates Phase One’s Capture One Raw imaging software inside the system, allowing for Raw images to be processed by the camera itself.

In terms of use, the IQ4 150MP offers a different shooting experience from the Leica S3. Where the Leica model is designed like a DSLR and fits comfortably and ergonomically in one hand, the new Phase One is definitely a two-handed camera system, that handles more awkwardly, at least at first.

We liked the redesigned touchscreen-based menu system that is designed to operate more like an intuitive smart phone than those static, often low-resolution menus you’d find on medium format cameras from just a few years ago. In fact, we remember dinging the GUI of a Phase One menu system in a camera review from about a decade ago, saying the company should try to emulate the iPhone’s interface. It’s nice to see they finally listened! :-)

Obviously, the key to a medium format system like the XF IQ4 150MP is its image quality, which we did not get a sense of during our brief time with camera at Phase One’s booth. But if it’s anything like the company’s stellar previous models, it should be exceptional. For $56,0000, we wouldn’t expect anything less!

Read the rest of Shutterbug's photokina coverage here.