Rumour: Phase One to release digital back with live view, RAW video

(Thanks to Glen Ryan who brought this to our attention)

Medium format looks set finally to enter the world of live view, and that means video capabilities. There is a rumour circulating which suggests Phase One have a digital back for medium format / Hasselblad cameras which records RAW video.

The rumour originates from a creative house in Sydney, Australia. They may have been privy to something like a prototype for testing purposes, or an early presentation at Phase One HQ.

This is not definite news and nor is it clear whether it’s a digital back module or a full camera system (more likely a digital back with live view and video).

But what is clear is that live view and video would be the next logical step for medium format sensors, which are 4 times larger than even the 35mm photographic full frame sensor in the 5D Mark II.

Some possible strengths and weaknesses of the product…


• Dynamic range – from such a large sensor dynamic range would be impressive, current Phase One digital backs have 12.5 stops, only 2.5 away from 35mm motion picture film latitude. RAW and HDR modes would unlock even more.
• Overall image quality, colourspace, etc – medium format digital backs are designed for the ultimate image quality for high end studio work, advertising billboards and glossy magazines. They are the industry’s gold standard.
• Resolution – medium format cameras are designed to have the highest possible resolution, and PhaseOne’s latest digital back has 60.5 megapixels. I am positively sure that raw video on a 60MP+ unit won’t just be 1080p in video mode – more probably 4K or even 5K.
• Raw – this would improve post production options and dramatically increase image quality, especially for green screen keying and FX work


• High ISO – since medium format cameras are designed for the studio little attention is paid to high ISOs, since rarely anything above ISO 1600 is used under studio lighting
• Rolling shutter – such a large sensor would really need a global shutter readout, I’d be surprised if it were possible to get a fast enough rolling shutter going for reduced skew video at 24p
• Price – it would not be cheap!

Medium format sensors have typically been CCD, and this technology has to date lacked the high output read speeds necessary for live view and video. It may be a breakthrough has been made in CCD technology or a very high resolution CMOS has been developed. It could be a cross between the two. Panasonic say their NMOS sensors used throughout the Lumix G series (GH1,etc) and AF100 have the image quality of CCD with the fast readout speeds of CMOS so maybe Phase One have developed a medium format NMOS sensor.

The back end circuitry and CPUs for such a chip would have to be very beefy. If it does fit into a digital back I’d be very surprised but Phase One have all the building blocks already in place. They have their own RAW format for stills, their own sensor technology and their own image processors and they’re the most technically advanced in the business. This is stuff that makes a Canon 1Ds or 5D look like a compact camera. Check out their current digital backs for medium format.

Don’t bet against it being true!

Even if this rumour is a complete fabrication I am sure medium format will get video at some point and Phase One will be the company to do it.