Digital Backs

    Whether you’re thinking about upgrading your current digital back, or pondering the possibilities of switching to the quality of medium format from your DSLR, there is a solution for you and it might even be more affordable than you think.  Here we’ll explore the available backs, some of their individual features, and the many advantages of shooting medium format.


Which back should I be looking at?

    In our opinion, there are a few major manufacturers worth considering. Phase One, Leaf, Sinar, and
the Achromatic+ all produce exceptional quality camera backs with a focus on image quality and platform integration.  Between these manufacturers, there are several backs on the market and each one has a particular set of features which make it unique.  One of the biggest misconceptions about medium format backs by those who are unfamiliar is that each back only differs from the others in terms of resolution.  While this is certainly true, there are other inherent traits in each one which could make it particularly well (or ill) suited for your application.
    Interchangeability and versatility are among the first things to consider.  If you have an existing medium format camera system leftover from the film days, perhaps the smartest move is a back which will integrate with that camera.  You may also have an interest in dabbling in technical or view cameras, and the ability to take the back from your medium format camera & mount it to any number of view cameras can be a huge advantage.  Or maybe you’re looking for a completely new camera platform with autofocus and a bit more of an SLR feel.  Most digital back on the market these days can be transferred from one camera
to another with ease, usually by way of an adapter plate.

    The Leaf line of backs is perhaps the most dynamic, with the 22mp Aptus II-5 at an entry price of less that $9k, all the way up to the stunning new 80mp Aptus II-12 and the new Credo series (40, 60 and 80).  Leaf also offers four different chip sizes between its backs, which allow for slightly different aspect ratios. The most notable of these is the Aptus II-10, whose sensor measures 56x36mm, creating a more panoramic-looking image. The other, very notable, feature is the huge 6x7cm LCD screen on the rear of the back which creates a convenient user-interface when shooting un-tethered.  To take it up another notch, the new Credo series backs offer the next generation display (3.2” high resolution touch screen), USB 3 and Firewire interfaces.   The color produced by Leaf backs has been said to be favorable for skin tones, so it’s come to be unofficially known as the go-to portrait camera.

    Sinar has been in the camera business for a long time, and most of us know them for the engineering that goes into their view cameras like the F, P2, and P3.  Their line of digital backs have been known to be particularly well suited for studio use as many of them are capable of multi-shot. Also, while they do offer CF-supported portable backs, the flagships of the line have always been the tethered-only firewire backs like the legendary 86H and the new eXact (offering variable resolutions and shooting modes with a range from 12MP to 196MP, all from the same back) .  If your intent is to shoot strictly studio work on a view camera, this might be the solution for you.

Phase One has certainly made a splash in the digital photography world over the last few years, and with plenty to show for it. They continue to innovate new technologies in their digital backs as well as in the ever-popular Capture One software.  The new Sensor Plus technology in the P40+ and the full-frame P65+ is a prime example.  They’ll shoot in their full native resolution, or 1/4 of that resolution (via pixel binning) for faster shooting speeds and higher ISO capabilities. Alternatively, if you’re interested in shooting long exposures, you’ll definitely want to think about the P45+, which has been around for a while but is still one of the only backs on the market capable of extremely long exposure times without sacrificing image quality.
    Last but certainly not least is the Achromatic+ back, which is 39mp of true, unfiltered black & white photography.  Simply the finest quality Monochrome Digital back.  Since it does not separate the information it receives into colors, the resulting images are completely un-interpolated, offering incredibly fine & accurate detail.  The Achromatic+ back is commonly used for scientific and photogrammetry applications, but equally by black & white
photographic purists with a discerning eye.   The Achromatic+ is capable of much more than just black and white photography though. Through selective color and/or wavelength filtration, there’s virtually no end to what can be accomplished with the Achromatic+ digital back.  True creative freedom and highly selective control over your imagery means you can create art in the camera instead of the computer; False color, Infrared, Ultraviolet, or true black & white.  Exposure time up to one-hour.  To learn more about the Achromatic+ digital back, please visit

    The sheer number of options can be confusing, but the key is in the details.  Each back offers something unique, and one of them is sure to have what you’re looking for. If you’d like to discuss your particular needs and requirements, please feel free to give us a call at Bear Images.  •


These are just a few of the digital solutions we carry and recommend. If you’d like to discuss your specific requirements, please give us a call at Bear Images. 650-321-2327

Digital Backs