Color Not Compromised for ISO – The Phase One IQ250 Camera

I’ve spent thousands of hours researching various aspects of photography, but still, every once in awhile, I’ll see something that blows away what I’ve thought for many years. This is one of those very exciting, eureka-moment articles that has blown away my previous paradigm, so I thought I’d share.

Color used to be determined by the film companies, mainly Kodak, and then Fuji. But then came digital, so now the camera companies are in complete control of what color their cameras can capture. I’ve thought that Nikon and Canon would never compromise color for anything, until I read this article a few months ago.

Apparently, they’re compromising color in order to get higher ISO, low light sensitivity, which isn’t good news for me, since I go to great lengths to get the best color I can, but can’t afford to switch from full-frame Canon to medium format, at this time, where color has not been compromised for ISO.

Here is the scoop. Apparently, most photographers are completely unaware of this. So far, every pro I’ve mentioned this to didn’t know. Very interesting how marketing works. Sometimes high ISO is more important than color, for shooting the northern lights and night photography, for example, but for most of what I photograph, I’d rather have the best color possible.

It would be nice if Canon and Nikon offered two versions of their higher end cameras: one tweaked for ISO (current models) and the other for color.

Note: apparently, this is the first time a medium format camera is using the CMOS sensor, which is the current standard in 35mm cameras, such as Nikon and Canon.

From: Luminous Landscape

The Phase One IQ250 CMOS Fully Realized
by Doug Peterson

Prerequisite Reading

If you haven’t heard about the IQ250 yet, I’d suggest before you read this article you read this site’s preliminary review and Digital Transitions’ 11 Things to Know About the Phase One IQ250

[…]

…Color. Color. Color.

…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. Copenhagen, We Are Go / No Go For Color

This sort of mentality is blissfully lacking in the R+D at Phase One. …color and image quality were far more important than a marginal improvement in ISO. …

Niels [Niels V. Knudsen] has the informal title “Image Professor,” and is best known inside Phase One as the dark wizard of color. He is responsible for the fine tuned profiles made for all the cameras that Capture One supports.

This has meant that for over a decade he has produced color profiles for every major CMOS camera. He has come to know CMOS color from dSLRS like a friend or perhaps like a frenemy. As he describes it, “I am always fighting with profiling CMOS dSLRs to control accuracy while allowing for subtlety and robustness. Every time I fix one color another color jumps out and bites. These cameras’ color response is brittle.”

Entire Article Here

Related:

The World’s First CMOS Medium Format Back: An Interview and First Tests (A more pleasing noise is mentioned, making 6400 ISO very useable)

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