A couple weeks back Phase One revealed the IQ3 Achromatic, a black-and-white medium format digital back with a 101MP 53.4 x 40.1 mm CMOS sensor that forgoes the use of a Bayer color filter and infrared cutoff filter for true achromatic imaging. This may seem unusual, especially for a company that boasts outstanding 16-bit color rending (and delivers), but there is precedent from both Phase One and Leica for a black-and-white digital sensor to deliver astounding detail and improved low-light performance.


To jump back quickly to black-and-white digital imaging, I have to say it is one of the best tools available today. Much like how photographers used to pick a film stock, having the option for a black-and-white camera should be easier to do. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with a Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) which really opened my eyes to the advantages of a purely achromatic imaging system. It dramatically changes the way you think and compose photographs due to how you can no longer decide to switch back and forth between color in post. It also is a really nice way to shoot if your subject deserves it as the images are notably sharper and have less noise due to the removal of the color filter array.

From a more personal perspective, I have always felt like I am doing something wrong when I take color digital images and convert them to black & white. Shooting directly in an achromatic space just feels right. The IQ3 also has another trick up its sleeve since it eliminates the IR filter, and that is more control over your images. You can pick up classic IR filters to get more “natural” images or you can forgo their use entirely to capture unique scenes.

This new Phase One offering is a truly incredible tool, and I personally believe it to be the best digital imaging system on the market today.

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