Photographing One WTC in New York City with the PhaseOne IQ260 Achromatic
I didn’t have very high expectations, not because I thought the PhaseOne’s weren’t great cameras, of course they are, but because as a fine art photographer I’m simply not that interested in technology and high end cameras. My Canon 5DIII served me well and provided me with plenty high quality raw material that I could use as a more than sufficient basis to express my artistic vision without any restrictions.
Shooting With The PhaseOne IQ260 Achromatic
That’s what I thought until the moment came that I could test drive this IQ260 Achromatic. The PhaseOne IQ260 Achromatic has a full frame 60MP CCD sensor with a size of 53.9 x 40.4mm. That is big! The Canon 5d MKIII only has a 36x24mm full frame sensor.
It’s also a camera that will capture Black and White photographs only. It doesn’t have a color filter array on the sensor and hence no color interpolation is needed. The camera is very easy to use and intuitive and of course a bit heavier than the average DSLR. I had no problems getting around with it and getting used to the camera and after a really short intro of a few minutes on the camera by Lance Schad, I was soon shooting with it as if I’ve been shooting with it for years. I’ve been photographing the recently finished One WTC building in New York City with this camera. The results of that you will see further along in this article.
Before And After Photos
After I got home and looked at the photos I took with the IQ260, and more specifically the photos from One WTC, I surprisingly became aware that the restrictions I thought I didn’t have with my Canon 5D and my black and white photography workflow method, were actually there, but I just didn’t know about it. Even more surprising that those technical restrictions I always had to deal with when shooting with my Canon 5D, became manifest only after shooting with the IQ260 and even impacted the way I expressed my artistic vision. So what do I exactly mean with that?
Let’s take this example: when I took this shot and looked at the LCD display on the Achromatic I thought the photo wasn’t that bad: the sky was a bit overexposed with no details in it since I had to expose on the buildings to retain the details in there. I wasn’t entirely dissatisfied with the result at that point in time. Nothing to write home about, since the composition is a bit of a cliche and not the type of work I would normally shoot these days. But as I said, it wasn’t that bad either. Just look at the shot as it came out of the camera with only a bit of perspective correction.
When I sat down behind my computer and imported it into Photoshop, after some minor corrections in Capture One, the sky was still completely white and overexposed. As expected. But then I started my Black and White processing workflow (iSGM2.0) and used luminosity masks to fine tune the image. Much to my surprise I was able to pull out all details in the sky in a way that would never have been possible with any other camera. That is: I personally, have never come across camera results that are similar. I can assure you that I know how to get the most out of an image with my specific method of processing black and white photographs. I can make images with my Canon 5DIII that look fantastic as 100 inch large prints for galleries in Las Vegas and New York, completely transforming a raw image according to my artistic vision to something that most people would deem impossible with a 5DIII.
But what I could see and do with the IQ260 Achromatic raw files in Photoshop was way beyond expectation: so many details, and such an incredible dynamic range that reveal things that have a profound impact on my artistic vision. It simply changed my artistic approach to that specific photo.
Look below what the luminosity masks were showing in the sky: so many details and contrasts that I could bring out with just a few curves adjustments, layer masks and the right luminosity masks in the final photograph.
The Final Result
After using the luminosity masks in a smart way and transferring my specific style of black and white post processing onto this image, I’ve come up with the result as you see below. Quite a difference with the original straight out of the camera photo. A sky that looked white and containing no detail had in fact so much detail and it only needed to be brought out in post processing.
If you want to know more about my specific black and white post processing method and how to get the best out of your photograph in black and white, then I can highly recommend reading either the 424 pages eBook From Basics to Fine Art – Black and white photography, architecture and beyond, written by me and co-author Julia Anna Gospodarou or view my new 3.5 hour B&W post processing Speed workflow tutorial that is all about my black and white photography post processing method.
The PhaseOne IQ260 Achromatic is simply a camera that redefined how I always thought about camera gear. I was convinced that good gear was not important at all and that the artist’s vision is sufficient to create great art, and actually I still think it’s sufficient, but having fantastic gear can help you go rethink or improve on your artistic vision. Just because it can help you see things that a normal camera can’t due to the fantastic dynamic range. On top of that, and that’s the most important thing to me: I can print much larger prints with less loss of quality compared to printing large prints with a 22MP native file. I always process my images with a very large print in my mind where you can see every little detail, and every little mistake.