Exploring 16-bit color with the Phase One XF-100 MP By Andrew Paquette

Exploring 16-bit color with the Phase One XF-100 MP

By Andrew Paquette



The Phase One XF-100 has two primary components: the camera (XF) and the digital back (IQ3-100). Together they are the XF-100. To be exactly accurate, one could say it has a third major component, the viewfinder. For the XF, photographers can choose between a normal viewfinder oriented in the same direction as the lens, and a waist-level viewfinder that allows the image to be viewed from above. This is particularly handy when shooting from a very low angle, or with the camera resting on the ground. When I first tried out the camera at a basketball game several months ago, I was blown away by the 16-bit color and the 15 stops of dynamic range.

I’ve had the chance to shoot with the XF-100 camera several more times since my first outing and continue to be impressed by the color it produces. Every time I take a picture, the color stands out above anything I’ve seen from my D800, A7r, or even the Phase One IQ250. Because the color is so strong, I’ve started deleting images from my website that were made with the D800 or A7r, purely on the basis of inferior color. The resolution plays a role also, because at 100MP, even cutting an image in half leaves a very large 50MP image. However, I find myself cropping images less often with the 100MP than I did with the IQ250. This is possibly because the IQ250 was a crop sensor and the 100MP isn’t, and I like the aspect ratio of the 100MP better than the IQ250.
Over the last ten days, I did three shoots with the XF-100, each of which was designed to emphasize color in a different way. The first featured model Pauline, styling and hair by Moons Vinties, and makeup by Loes Ijmker makeup artist. In it, we went for vintage seventies clothing shot in a Victorian drawing room tucked into a sprawling restaurant and tavern. Pauline’s other photos had a tendency toward a strong hue influence over scene colors. I wanted to use the XF-100 to do the reverse by emphasizing the difference between every color in the scene.

The second shoot took place in the same restaurant/tavern as the first, but in a different room. It featured the model Fabienne van den Kieboom, styling by Kiki Vogels Styling, and makeup by Fadim Kurt. Sweaters by Vila, Skirt by Fashion Room, Shoes by Sacha Shoes, Jewelry by Clouds of Fashion, Dress, scarf, suit, and jeans by Mango. The room was an old tap room on the ground floor. For this shoot, the goal was to use the XF-100 to extract a rich tonal range from within a limited palette of yellows, reds, and violets.

The last shoot was much shorter than expected, giving us only a couple of hours. That shoot took place at an abandoned indoor swimming pool that was being remodeled. It was a large space with a huge bank of windows on one side. I wanted to take advantage of the light streaming in through the windows before it was gone, so we shot near them first and then moved into the pool. However, almost as soon as I took my first test shot in the pool, we were kicked out. I did snap about half a dozen more images before we left, but I would have liked to have had another few hours in there. The goal for this location was to make use of the 15-stop dynamic range offered by the XF-100 to deliver the feel of bright back lighting and rich foreground color. The model for this shoot was Lola Borghgraef, makeup by Mandy Glasbergen, and location scout/assistant Neville Marcinkowski.
For all of the shoots I used a Phase One XF camera with an IQ3-100 digital back and 2x Profoto B1 strobes. For the Fabienne shoot I also used a small gold reflector. For lenses, I used the Schneider-Kreuznach blue ring 80mm and 150mm LS lenses.
Here are the photos:

Shoot 1: Pauline

Figure 1 Pauline in stripes, f/5, 1/125s, ISO 200, 80mm


Figure 2 Pauline with bag, f/3.2, 1/320s, ISO 50, 80mm


Figure 3 Pauline oval, f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 200, 150mm


Figure 4 Pauline in blue, f/5.6, 1/40s, ISO 400, 150mm


Figure 5 Pauline portrait, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 50, 150mm


Shoot 2: Fabienne

Figure 6 Fabienne skirt, f/4, 1/100s, ISO 100, 80mm


Figure 7 Fabienne portrait, f/3.5, 1/125s, ISO 200, 80mm (lit with a reflector and low intensity strobe side light)


Figure 8 Fabienne bar, f/3.5, 1/50s, ISO 400, 80mm (lit with reflector)


Figure 9 Fabienne glam, f/8, 1/500s, ISO 50, 80mm


Figure 10 Fabienne suit, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 200, 80mm


Figure 11 Fabienne sweater, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 200, 80mm


Shoot 3: Lola

Figure 12 Lola diving platform, f/5, 1/160s, ISO 100, 150mm


Figure 13 Lola window, f/3.5, 1/320s, ISO 200, 150mm


Figure 14 Lola ledge, f/3.5, 1/160s, ISO 400, 150mm


Figure 15 Lola blue, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 200, 80mm



  1. Hey Steve, glad you like the XFIQ3100. I’ve had mine now since January 2016 and even now shooting with it regularly, I’m still amazed with the colours and detail from what it can capture, simply stunning. You can see some of the images that I’ve captured with this camera system here: https://www.instagram.com/_markkellyphotography_/


    Mark kelly

  2. 1,2,6,7,8,10 really deep rich environment captured : even on web.

    For those of is can’t afford IQ100, Sigma Merrill DP3 will get near deep rich colour as IQ100.
    100% pixels Sigma Merrill DP3 as sharp as IQ100.

  3. do people really need to be that negative?

    Thanks for making the effort to share your experience Andrew!


  4. You dont have to spend 30k to produce blown highlights like we see here. Smartphone would be enough. Perhaps they are gone by the time you blow the picts up to 20feet size..

    • LOL. I don’t want to be harsh but it just the straight to the point.
      CCD sensors for MF is still the best for me, only it is not being produced anymore.

  5. Some astonishing image quality here and some nice compositions.
    One or two not so strong images as well perhaps ? I would suggest a ruthless editing process (with the input of a fellow photographer).Otherwise a great post thanks.

  6. Wow! I like what I see. Very life like. Right now I can’t even afford to have anyone photograph me with one of these.

  7. The colors of the surrounding scenes render beautifully but some of the skin tones seem a bit distracting. The first few shots are gorgeous.

  8. Not to take anything away with your photos as they are very good but I just dont understand the love affair with medium format. Forgive my untrained eyes but these shots look like it can be acheived by APSC or even Micro fourthirds cameras.

    • It must be like 1,000-dollar speaker cables: you only see/hear the difference if you’ve been told beforehand how expensive the gear is.

      I think you could take similar pictures with an e-m10, eg, and a good lens.

    • The photographs in general can be taken with anything. So in that sense, you’re correct. But there is a reason why people pay more for bigger sensors. And it’s not for the show-off value.

    • Always remember you see downsized pictures on a internet side…..maybe you would
      judge the other way if you see the same at poster size ?

      To be true I don´t like the pictures or style but this is not the topic
      but I honor the guy showing them and share his experience with
      this equipment………you should too !

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