Wednesday 23 March 2011


I'm always looking for, no searching for 'IT'

'IT' is rather indefinable, it can be found anywhere come in any shape or size, and be just about anything.

For 'IT' is something new (or old) which gives me and my photography the edge, and helps  me to create or reinforce my signature

At the moment 'IT' comes in the form of the unique, exotic and rather pricey Phase One Achromatic+ digital camera back.

The Achromatic back is unique because it shoots in Black and White only

Instead of using a colour sensor, it is the first medium format digital back which uses a black and White sensor.

To quote Phase One

'The Achromatic+ is the first commercially available medium format back that is a true replacement for almost all scientific black and white film types at much higher quality and with far more consistency.
Traditionally, most camera sensors have a Bayer pattern of individual red, green and blue filters for each pixel. These individual colors are then interpolated through numerous methods to create RGB data for each pixel. The Achromatic+ back is designed to be a black and white only product with no color filters on the sensor'

What this means is not only do you get digital black and white quality like never before, but you can shoot in non visible spectrum of light.

Like ultra violet or infra red........

Now this got me excited.

So I decided to try some shots

Not of the traditional black skies and glowing trees (an easy decision to reach in the depths of an English winter) and sweeping landscapes but I thought I would try shooting people.

Some with available light and some with artificial light.

I used a Lee 87 Filter

Which really spiced things up in that I could not see to focus

At all.

Yes, the infra red focusing mark maybe present on some lenses but I found this to be variable in accuracy to say the least.

So tethered shooting it was

Even then it was a pretty 'willow the wisp' to get in focus.

When shooting in the non edible spectrum with things that move, like people and animals, it was a challenge.

But boy what a challenge!

I have not had so much fun taking pictures in a very long time

When digital photography came along so did an immediacy, which meant the 'heart in the mouth' moment of 'has it come out?' was gone forever.

Until now.

You simply never know how things are going to work out when you shoot in infra red.

Fun is back.

But like so many things fun has it's price.

And that price is high, very high.

More than £20,000


Black and White sensors are made in such small numbers that the price is sky high.

Who knows they may one day have an offering which sells for less? I would not hold my breath though.

Perhaps some of the more switched on rental houses will get them in?
In the meantime there are companies which will convert your DSLR to infra red for much less.

But this is still with colour sensors and infra red only, I hope to be trying a conversion out in the future.

I still think it is worth looking into, though.

 It is an 'edge' in a world of 'me too' predictable photographic results.

Very unpredictable and exciting, and a great way to stand out from the rest of the pack.

Something great to go into a meeting with and impress clients


Parkylondon said...

When I first saw this article it was on my iPad and the white text on the white background of Feeedler left me looking at the pictures alone.

I could see that the images were made using a PhaseOne Achromatic+ back but nothing more.

Aha thought I! PhaseOne have gone infrared - the images shown look just like some of the infrared ones in my collection. Pasty "Edward Cullen" skin, white foliage etc.

My question is could you explain the difference in result between what you are getting with the Achromatic+ and a "standard" converted IR camera?


Unknown said...

Hi Parkylondon,

Thanks for the comment

Not sure about the white on white situation.

I just checked it on my iPhone and Mac and it seems to be fine, but if anyone else is having an issue do let me know.

As for your question, I would gather it is all about the back and white sensor.

There is more of an explanation here

As readers know I do not profess to scientific knowledge in this area, but I will enquire and try to get a brief answer.



Lee Ramsden Photography said...

Hi Drew,

I logged onto Google reader, and also experienced viewing problems. But easily fixed with opening up your blog rather then viewing through an RSS reader.

Interesting post and really look forward to you pushing this new "toy" through your creative processes and producing outstanding work.


Parkylondon said...

@Drew Thanks for the info. As Lee says, I too enjoy your blog and although owning some of the gear you use is a lottery win away I get great enjoyment from your work. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Hi Parkylondon,

Thank you very much for your kind words.

I have lots more new work from the series which will be out in the next couple of weeks.

I have worked out what happened with Google reader.

It is lighting fast and 'grabbed' my posting while it had the text error, before I could correct it.

Lesson learned and thanks to You and Lee for pointing it out



Paulo Rodrigues said...

That's quite a unique look. It somehow seems finer that infrared images I've seen before even at web sizes.

If they provided filters to fit between the sensor and the body you would be able to see through the lens to compose wouldn't you?

Parkylondon said...

No worries Drew - just keep up the great photography!

Unknown said...

Hey Paulo,

Nice to hear from you

Good point.

Perhaps something they may wish to consider in the future?

Just where to mount them?