This is fairly technical and not for everybody, but this article is a eureka moment for me, because I value accurate color rendition, and marketing honesty among the Japanese camera manufacturers is hard to come by. Hopefully, Phase One, a Danish, medium format camera company will challenge Nikon and Canon into improving their color, and not just going for high ISO.
Phase One even improved the high-ISO noise to be more pleasing to the eye!
From: Luminous Landscape
…Color. Color. Color.
But Phase One is not a speed and feature obsessed company. They are a company that cares first, second, and third about image quality. So when Sony approached Phase One with an offer to build what would eventually become the IQ250 sensor there was one looming questions, could Phase One tame CMOS color?
Historically, CMOS has not had the best reputation for color rendition. But teasing apart cause and effect has been, up until now, very difficult. CMOS and CCD were being used by very different companies in very different systems. Most CMOS cameras are built for the broadest possible range of applications. They are built by consumer electronics companies with a volume sales business model, where features and price are higher priorities than image quality.
As one example, the selection of a CFA, the color pattern put in front of the sensor, is a choice between quality of color, and ISO performance. If the CFA allows each pixel to see a broader spectrum of color (e.g. for the green pixels to see a bit further into yellow) a camera’s ISO range can be modestly increased. The resulting loss in color quality is subtle – subtle variations in color are missed and a handful of specific colors become difficult to photograph. In a market where a ISO 25,600 camera has a leg up on a ISO12,800 camera, the engineers are under enormous pressure to pick the modestly increased ISO over subtle color quality. …
After several hours of talking about technical details I asked Niels [Niels V. Knudsen – Phase One’s Image Quality Professor – editor] what he has concluded from all of this work. He spoke like a proud father: “I have fought with color from CMOS cameras for many, many years. I’ve always assumed that CMOS itself was not the issue, but rather the issue was the priorities of the companies using CMOS sensors. Getting to test that thesis was very satisfying. When we first started this project we were not sure we could take a CMOS sensor and craft the color our customers expect from Phase One.” His gaze drifted, as if taking in the totality of the journey he has been through – or perhaps his eyes are just still adjusting to bright lights after entire days spent in front of a carefully calibrated Eizo monitor. His focus returned and, with a reassuring nod, he concluded, “But now we know: yes we can. We can make CMOS sing.”
The World’s First CMOS Medium Format Back: An Interview and First Tests A more pleasing noise is mentioned, making 6400 ISO very useable