A week in Switzerland with the Phase One XF-100 By Andrew Paquette

A week in Switzerland with the Phase One XF-100

By Andrew Paquette – http://www.paqphoto.com 

Two weeks ago, I discovered that I had a week-long vacation coming up. I had been wanting to spend the week taking photos, but because I’d forgotten about the holiday, hadn’t set anything up. Although I had wanted to make portraits, there was no time to find anyone to pose. Instead, I decided to shoot some landscapes nearby, where the only issue would be transportation and lodging.

After looking at some locations in the Bavarian Alps, Iceland, and Switzerland, I settled on Interlaken, Switzerland, as the location I would visit. Interlaken was the closest of Alpine locations, but was at a comfortably low elevation (1900 feet) and within 40 minutes driving distance to all the places I wanted to go (3000 feet + elevation). As an added bonus, Interlaken is flanked by two beautiful mountain lakes, the Thun and Brienz. The Thun had the added feature of being a strong turquoise blue color due to crystals in the lake bed.

The weather was predicted to be bad for the week (rain, snow, and sleet), so I spent a day making several custom-fitted rain protection bags for my camera and other equipment. I had some bags that I had bought for this purpose earlier, but I didn’t like them because 1) they were designed for DSLR equipment, not medium format, and 2) they were so long that I couldn’t easily manage the controls or mount the camera to a tripod. I would be shooting tethered to a MacBook Pro, so the computer also had to be protected (figure 1). I got lucky with that because I found a bag that fit the computer perfectly. After poking two holes in it for the tether and the hard drive cable the computer was well-protected.

Figure 1 Rain protection at Lake Thun (this shot taken by my assistant)

My assistant, Ivo, and I drove to Interlaken on a Monday, then stayed until Friday. The plan was to shoot in the area of Grindelwald on Tuesday, Lauterbrunnen on Wednesday, Innertkirchen Thursday, and then drive home on Friday. This was approximately what we did, apart from a couple of changes made because a friend of mine, Richard, who worked at CERN in Geneva until his recent retirement, was in Geneva at the same time we were in Interlaken. He came up on Wednesday night, thus providing some opportunities to shoot a portrait of Richard the next morning. He also arranged for us to go to CERN the next day, so we went there before driving home.

The weather turned out to be as bad as advertised. There were some short periods without precipitation, but for the most part it was raining throughout each shoot. At first I worried that it would compromise the shots because the rain obscured the view considerably on the first day, but once I got the images into Capture One 10 for processing, it was clear that many of the shots were fine. In addition to having Ziploc bags for all the equipment, I also had good rain protection for myself (Meidl waterproof boots, Fjall Raven waterproof trousers, and Mammut waterproof jacket and gloves). In combination with an assistant to hold umbrellas over the gear, the rain wasn’t a serious problem. Only in one place did it ruin a shot. I was shooting a waterfall, intending to make a stitch out of twelve 100 MP images, but the filter kept fogging up after every shot. By the time I had the exposure and focus set, the rag we used to clean the filter was useless, so I only got two of the twelve shots I needed for the composition, not enough to make a decent image.
The equipment I used were: Phase One XF body, Phase One IQ3-100 digital back, three Schneider lenses, the 28 mm LS, 80 mm LS blue ring, and the 150 mm LS blue ring. I also had a Lee ND .6 filter and their “Little Stopper” to stop down the light in the scene. I used a 13” MacBook Pro to capture images. For the portraits of Richard, I used a ProFoto B1 flash. My tripod is an Induro carbon fiber model. The only problem encountered with it was that in deep snow, it had a tendency to bounce unless the spot it was placed on was first tamped down.

Here is a selection of the shots from the trip:

Figure 2 Breithorn cabin

Figure 3 Eiger glacier

Figure 4 Finsteraarhorn

Figure 5 Gallauistock

Figure 6 Grindelwald forest

Figure 7 Harder Kulm from Lake Thun

Figure 8 Lake Brienz log

Figure 9 Lake Thun castle

Figure 10 Lauterbrunnen hillside

Figure 11 Lauterbrunnen hillside [2]

Figure 12 Lauterbrunnen valley

Figure 13 Meiringen waterfall

Figure 14 Pfinnstegg

Figure 15 Richard at Interlaken hotel

Figure 16 Wasserfall farmhouse

Figure 17 Wasserfall forest

Figure 18 Wasserfall

Figure 19 CERN machine shop

Figure 20 Ivo at CERN


  1. Seems like Greg is a little jealous. What would possibly hope to achieve by saying they are blurry or not good images. Small people make these kinds of comments. If you can’t afford a $50K camera, don’t act like a jerk and blast a guy who is sharing his experiences on a shoot. Sure you can take good images with any camera…even an iPhone sometimes. But, if you had a chance to shoot with a phase one, I doubt you would pass it up for your $150 Nikon F3 film camera…so don’t be petty.

  2. I have a half-plate Thornton Pickard view camera with its original wooden tripod, canvas case, plate holders and weighted cloth shroud etc. A delight to look at and everything except the tripod fits into the slightly moth-eaten green velvet lined case. I’ve successfully used it a number of times (with inserted sheet Tri-X). Contact prints with lovely tones.

    However, friends and acquaintances have gently mocked the size of the set up.

    But the Thornton Pickard has nothing on the Phase One setup shown here! Nothing! Tethered computer, camera, tripods and an “assistant” to boot. No doubt the last would be needed.

    I’m thinking the T-P is almost compact. What happened?!

  3. Most of these are good images and I would be happy with them as it is very difficult to shoot great landscape in tourist mode.
    I would never see them as examples of the performance of digital MF though.
    I go to a lot of photo exhibitions and digital MF is awesome . Of course it depends on the subject matter as well .
    I have seen many with blurry reproduction done deliberately.
    Of course I am always seeing prints- so to sum up let’s all start doing more prints then you can really appreciate the power of your photo kit !

  4. This is a test response because I have tried several times to post responses, but not have appeared online. This time I am using my iPad, in the hopes it works.

    Regarding the general theme of sharpness, this really comes down to downsampling from very large image sizes (between 11,000 and 22,000 pixels on the long edge) to the low red image on the site. Another factor could be that some of these are very long exposures (6-10 seconds), but I doubt that because when inspected at full resolution, they are sharp where they are supposed to be sharp. Moreover, I will agree with a couple of other comments here by saying that there is no comparison between anything produced by any DSLR and the Phase One IQ3-100 sensor. DSLR-produced images are considerably inferior as far as sharpness and color depth are concerned.

    When I first got the Phase One system, I was amazed at the color, sharpness, and resolution of the images. Now that I am used to it, I look at it the other way. Now, I am amazed at how soft DSLR images are, and how thin the color seems.

    Getting back to these shots, they are indeed quite sharp, shockingly so in some cases, with individual grasses or tree branches visible from great distances.


  5. Usually in an 11X14 size and up, I can pick which one was the medium format one. Many of these were at a distance and in that weather I have no idea what the air was like. When you travel you can not always wait for the optimum shot. The light does effect the detail and contrast. The resizing method can also effect apparent detail (which is usually micro contrast that people see as more detail). In a tiff would be the only way to look at them with other than 8 bit RGB. But this is all we have. I appreciate the article and time to share it here. And if the tiff of one of them looks like I expect, I would like to have a nice sized print on my wall.

    • I reread the article. Most of the landscapes were taken in rain. I do not know how the camera did this well through rain. Maybe someone needs to take out that F10 or XT2 and shoot distant landscapes in the rain with all of their equipment in ziploc bags and the lens fogging up to be cleaned after every. I am actually amazed he got these in the rain. And I think a big part of it is all the mps as he would resize and make most of the rain disappear. I do not expect great highlights when it is raining. I do not even expect the ultimate detail I am still surprised at the good looking photos in the conditions he was shooting in. These are not the conditions to show the cameras best output. But they do show it is usable in rain with nice output if not great. I say well done. Thank you Andrew Paquette for sharing photos of a place I will never get to see. My purpose of photography is to share the majesty of life with those who cannot see it for themselves. You have done this for me. Thank you again.

  6. I often times hear people question the image quality of a medium format camera and if the quality is much better than a full frame. Unless you have witnessed the difference, either on a high resolution monitor or original prints, it’s difficult to see the difference on a website. I have owned multiple full frame cameras (Nikon, Canon, Leica, Sony) and I currently own a Phase One IQ3-100. Without question, there is little comparison. The 100mp sensor made by Sony in my opinion is the best sensor on the market today.

    BTW, I like the images (yes, I would post-process differently but we all have different tast).


  7. I think the images are strong and well chosen. they have lots of potential.

    I understand the want to use such a camera, I love my 6×9 Linhof Technikardan. I’ve chosen the film path. The rendering of medium format is totally different from 35mm or full frame.

    Personally, I ‘d convert them all to black and white and burn and dodge. they’ll get much stronger that way.

    The real impact of the 100MB images would only show up on large prints. The 1024 pix wide images on this site show nothing. I have the same problem showing 300 megapix shots from my Fuji GX617 on the Net. It needs five feet long prints.



    • If there’s highlight information in the file it should show up wherever they’re shown, be it on this site or a large print.

  8. It seems that even though the bad weather you were able to enjoy the shooting and your holiday. Good for you! ; )

  9. I altough think that pics made with PEN F an eg Oly 25/1.8 will be sharper and the oly colours will be nicer.

    The figure 17 “Waterfall Forrest” seems to be out of Focus?

  10. Is that really the output of a camera that costs the best part of $50,000? I’m not commenting on their composition or artistic merit, but the image quality looks, well, like it was made using a $150 Nikon F3 with Portra 400. Something just isn’t right. They don’t even look in focus.

    • Hi Greg, Hi Andrew, I honestly had the same reaction. Only figure 19 appears crisp. The photos of the forest, and the mountains need to show gobs of resolution, but it just isn’t there. Were these compressed images, massive crops?

      As Greg says, something isn’t right.

    • I have to agree with you about the focus in most of the shots and it does not appear to be just a shallow depth of field issue or just an atmospheric haze issue. Maybe exporting to smaller jpeg files didn’t go well but the machine shop shot looks pretty good so it is who knows? I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to post their work. Even though I’m not in the market for medium format, I’m very curious about it so this post was welcome.

    • Yes I must agree. The photos are blurry despite clicking in as Steve always advises. Not sure what exactly is the issue but is there some problem with the workflow downsizing the images from 100MP? Or is it something else?

    • Greg, did you click on the pictures to see the better resolution files? Or, just view them in the post shown above? FWIW, it makes a difference when clicked and viewed in the higher resolution. Shown above, the images are poorly scaled and create artifacts that I believe you might be referring to.

      On a different note, do you think that a Nikon F3 (or most any film camera body) + Portra 400 is supposed to look low quality? Not meant to inflame or insight an argument for/against. Just a question of, is that your expectation? I’ve had excellent results from Portra 400 and just thought I’d share.

      Best Regards,

      • “On a different note, do you think that a Nikon F3 (or most any film camera body) + Portra 400 is supposed to look low quality? ”

        Gosh, no far from it. I shoot film myself (both 35mm and 120mm) and I love the way that film represents a scene.

        But a Nikon F3 costs about $150 with a lens and a roll of film costs maybe $10?

        A PhaseOne IQ100 costs $50,000!

        My point is, if you’re output looks no better than with the Nikon, why are you spending $50k on a camera?

        You’re free to do whatever you want of course, but the question is still valid. Why are you buying a camera that costs so much?

    • They look fine to me. I enlarged them and the quality came through.

      There is a point where the monitor can’t do justice to the image. I guess you could call it diminishing returns.

      I really like the skin tones and interior shots where the colors are richer.

    • nono, they are pretty good.
      maybe you would develop them in a different way, sure.
      and don’t forget, you see them downsized by a huge margin!

      You surely could have had similar results with a D810, a XT2, m43 or whatever you chose. especially for the web or your personal archive or heck, even for commercial use.
      but high detail in full resolution? MF has to win.
      reliable use and raw files that can take a beating? MF has an advantage there too.

      only question is, if you would need it. I don’t, but then again I ain’t be paid for my photography and I do not want to take an assistant with me 🙂

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