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Phase One’s latest camera drags 150 megapixels out of the studio and into the field

The Verge logo The Verge 9/11/2019 Dan Seifert

a close up of a camera: Phase One XT camera system.

Phase One XT camera system.
© Image: Phase One

Phase One is expanding its range of medium format cameras with the new XT body that’s designed to be used out in the field. The new body pairs with Phase One’s existing medium format backs that provide either 100 or 150 megapixels of resolution, and it utilizes a new range of lenses with an electronically controlled electromagnetic shutter system. The XT system is available starting today and is priced at $56,990, including the 150-megapixel back and a lens.

The base of the new XT system is the camera body, which is basically a frame that mounts the lens on the front and the digital back on the rear. Since the digital back is where the sensor, processing, and controls are, the XT body is very thin and light compared to Phase One’s XF line of the cameras. Aside from a handle and shutter button, the only controls available on the body are dials to shift the lens horizontally and vertically. Phase One says the whole system is designed to be modular, so parts can be upgraded over time as they are developed.

Unlike the XF system, the XT is fully manual, and there is no autofocus system. Phase One developed a new carbon leaf shutter system for the XT lenses, which are built by Rodenstock, that is electronically controlled, so the camera can be remotely triggered. The first lenses available for the XT system are a 23mm f/5.6, a 32mm f/4, and a 70mm f/5.6. The XT mount can also accept older lenses that have manually cocked shutters. 

Phase One says it designed this camera for professional photographers who are out in the field shooting landscape photos and want to have the same level of image quality and resolution that the company’s studio cameras provide. It is not like the lower-resolution, lower-cost medium format cameras from Fujifilm or even Hasselblad that are designed to cater to both enthusiasts and event photographers. Instead, it is a specific camera built for professionals with specific needs, such as landscape and architectural photography. The system is much smaller and lighter than prior Phase One cameras, and it can be carried around in a backpack or easily traveled with.

That explains why the cost of the system is that of a well-equipped BMW. Phase One insists that its priority with its cameras is to provide the best image quality possible, and its customers are professionals who are willing to pay the price that image quality demands. 

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