Phase One H-20

H-20 PhaseOne Digital Back

H-20 Phase One Digital Back

The digital back, the heart of the system, this is what made it possible for me to convert some of my beloved old Film cameras to Digital capture.

This back can be mounted to a large range of cameras, Hasselblad 500 series cameras like the 501CM or the 555 ELD as well as the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and 2×3 or 4×5 View cameras with appropriate adapters even the old Rolleiflex cameras.  There are adapters available from OEM’s as well as Phase One and third party vendors like Kapture Group.

Do a Google search for Digital MF backs and get ready for sticker shock, yes they are still not cheap, but they are coming down into the range where a person can buy one without taking out a mortgage on your kids future.  With some prudent searching one can find used backs at reasonable prices.  Reasonable is in the eye of the beholder actually because if you are as bad as me with a very limited budget you can manage if your willing to forgo mobility, on board image storage and some of those other niceties that you enjoy with your DSLR’s.

In return you get to play with a wide range of cameras and have super files you can print the size of your wall if you want to.  The results are spectacular, really, and I did it for less then the current cost of a Nikon D600.  I am not saying you will get as good a deal as I did, heck you might get a better one.

This is the working side of the H-20. Yup the Sensor is hanging out in the open.  Don’t worry it makes cleaning it a breeze but you do need to be careful just the same  as you could drop  it and damage the IR filter.  The H-20 is 3.96cm x 3.96cm Square, the Hasselblad is 6cm X 6cm giving you approximately a 1.5 crop factor, much like a crop sensor Nikon, so “angle of view” is cropped.

example: the wide angle Hasselblad 50mm lens has the same field of view as if you where using a 75mm or 80mm lens.  This means your widest lens is not as wide as it used to be and your telephoto crops in a bit tighter.  A side benefit is you are always using the sweet spot of lenses and therefor can expect edge to edge sharpness.

Wow so whats the catch! well that is one more magic question, because each adapter can cost as much if not more then a lens. Yup you can expect to spend $400.00 to $1500.00 just for an adapter plate.                        Sensor side of the H-20 digital back

I look for deals on used gear, there are many places and just as many people selling used gear on the side of the road.  There is an old saying Caveat emptor or buyer Beware.  I try to purchase from reliable dealers used stock that way if needed I can return the item, but you have to ensure they allow it in their policy.

Ok lets look at the digital back and what I need to support it in the field, here’s the list.

  • cables; 6 pin Firewire cables (2), Power cable (1), shutter/trigger cable(1)
  • Firewire HUB (powered 12 vdc)
  • small portable battery 12 vdc
  • Laptop with a 6pin PCIcard
  • Sturdy tripod, crossbar, 3 way head & laptop support
  • appropriate capture software (Phase One supplies Capture One free to users of their backs)
  • Camera (MF or LF)
  • Lenses
  • carry case

That is the basics, there are many additional items as we know that we always need.

Winter in Yosemite

Winter in Yosemite

I will let the results speak for itself, this picture hangs on my living room wall and is 60″ X 32″ and I love it.

Here are the specs on the H-20 digital backs for those who want them.

  • Color Depth:            48 bit color (16 Bit per color)
  • Dynamic range:      12 f-stops
  • Single exposure:    4,080 X 4,080 pixels
  • file size 24 bit RGB: 48 MB
  •                 48 bit RGB: 96 MB
  •            64 bit CMYK: 128 MB
  • ISO Range :               50 or 100
  • exp times:                16 sec to 1/20,000 sec.
  • capture rate:           3 sec per image
  • File types:                TIFF-RGB, TIFF-CMYK, JPEG

I mainly capture in the TIFF-RGB file type at 48 MB size, these I can import or capture directly into either (LR4) Lightroom 4 or Capture One.  Usually I will go with Capture One then output to a working file I import to LR4.   The files are just incredible which have only just recently been available to the average DSLR shooters starting with the D3x, D4, D800, and most recently the D600.  These cameras are using mega packed sensors and there are pros & cons to the sensor size verses pixel density, but that is another discussion. Latitude or Dynamic range between shadow and highlights.

Well that’s enough for this post . . I will just say this. I have found it very rewarding to take my old Film cameras and bring them into the digital age.  Does it work with every camera system? No.  Is it cost effective, well that depends on what you have to buy.  I will leave you with this as food for thought.  Until my next post, happy shooting.



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