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Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review: it is not only pixels that count.

Last week I have a chance to play with top of the Leaf’s line of digital backs, Leaf Aptus-II 12, 80-megapixel digital back mounted on Phase One 645DF camera. Many thanks to Steve Hendrix from Capture Integration for bringing all this beauty to the studio. I’ve got a video as well, it will be posted in a few days.

So, here is it, Leaf Aptus-II 12, a monstrous 54×40 digital back:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel sensor digital back
Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel sensor digital back

Side view:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel sensor digital back side view
Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel sensor digital back side view

Tech specification:

Leaf Aptus-II 12
CCD Size mm 53.7 x 40.3
Active pixels 10,320 x 7,752
Resolution 80 MP
Capture Rate sec/fr 1.5
File Size MOS 165 MB
MOS Compressed 107 MB
TIFF 16-bit 480 MB
8 bit RGB 240 MB
8 bit CMYK 320 MB
ISO Sensitivity 50-800
Leaf SensorFlex Yes
Dynamic Range 12 f-stops

Detailed datasheet (pdf): Leaf Aptus II technical data.

Leaf Aptus-II 12 touch screen:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel digital back review
Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel digital back review

Leaf back mounted on Phase One 645DF and MF 120mm F/4 macro lens:

PhaseOne 645DF Medium format camera 120mm macro lens Leaf Aptus-II 12
PhaseOne 645DF Medium format camera 120mm macro lens Leaf Aptus-II 12

As usual, it was interesting for me to see how camera + back will be performing in a studio, in the controlled light condition. I shoot particularly product, jewelry and food, and ability to recover shadows and highlights is very important to me, along with resolution and IQ (image quality).
Many times I am dealing with subjects contained high glossy pieces and dark areas where it is hard to direct the light. Therefore, a high dynamic range does really help in post-production.

This is not a comparison test, but unintentionally I was comparing Leaf Aptus-II 12 to Hasselblad H4D-50 I did half a year ago. I was using the same technique, and have a few references to IQ from Hasselblad in the article. It is interesting to see how both manufactures has managed “extension” of the sensor dynamic range.

BTW, there is an interesting post-review of Phase One IQ 180 on getDpi.com forum:Phase One IQ180 Initial Review and Impressions, you may like to check it out: both, Leaf 12 and IQ 180 has the same Dalsa sensor(I believe) and should have the same performance. Plus, IQ180 was tested outside, under ambient light, which is a very different story:-)

All the test were performed at ISO 50, F14, tethered shooting to Capture One 6.

Image quality test:

The original, correctly exposed image. I’ve got together everything I wasĀ  interested in: jewelry (very tricky to capture one), textured plain object, along with blurred and dark areas around. I did not put everything in focal plane, as usually they do on DpReview.com: such tests looks too synthetic for me, I’d like to see IQ in out of focus areas, under different color and lighting.

leaf aptus II 12 80mpx studio test review original
Leaf Aptus II 12 80mpx studio test review original

Few 100% crops from the above:

leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx  in studio test, 100% percent crop details
leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx in studio test, 100% percent crop details
leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx  in studio test, 100% percent crop details
leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx in studio test, 100% percent crop details
leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx  in studio test, 100% percent crop details
Leaf Aptus-II 12 80mpx in studio test, 100% percent crop details

Glossy pieces:

leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx  in studio test, 100% percent crop details
leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx in studio test, 100% percent crop details


Amazing, insane resolution, isn’t it?Ā  It also handles highlights very well: looks like Phase One MF 120mm F4 macro lens didĀ  a better job than Hasselblad HC 120mm macro, below is the image from my Hasselblad H4D-50 test (read the full review):

Hasselblad H4D-50 & 120mm HC macro lens 100 crop
Hasselblad H4D-50 & 120mm HC macro lens 100 crop

H4d-50 suffered from chromatic aberration (CA), while Phase One did a great job in the same situation. This is not a digital back issue though, but the lens.

The most interesting for me was not the resolution and amount of details itself, but more the ability to capture more color information to recover details in problematic areas. Overexposed and underexposed in particular.

So, the next tests was conducted using the same composition, but under/over exposed. I did not count f-stops I changed the power of the the lighting: this is not important to me. I was needed to see a relative difference between as-is and fixed (in Phase One RAW converter) images.

I was using shadow and highlights recovery sliders to bring details back. There are another methods exists, like manipulating with curves, but I did it the simplest way.

Shadow recovery test:

Slide to see the diffeernce:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-studio-test-reviewas-is-shadow_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-studio-test-reviewas-is-shadow.jpg” title=”leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx studio test review underexposed shadow recovery, full image”]
100% crops of the areas I was interesting to see from the image above. Slide left/right to see the difference before/after a correction.

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-jewelry-as-is_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-jewelry-as-is.jpg” title=”leaf aptus-II 12 80mpx studio test review underexposed shadow recovery, full image”]

Interesting result: while Leaf Aptus-II 12 was able to recordĀ  huge amount of details I’ve noticed more noise than I’ve seen in a similar situationĀ  from Hasselblad H4d-50 I had tested last year. It is obviously that higher pixel density works against Leaf Aptus II 12 back.

Hasselblad H4D-50 shadow recovery performance:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”http://www.photigy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/hasselblad-h4d50-vs-canon-1ds-markIII-underxposed-100-crop-test_h.jpg” alt=”http://www.photigy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/hasselblad-h4d50-vs-canon-1ds-markIII-underxposed-100-crop-test.jpg” title=”Hasselblad h4d-50 vs Phaseone 645DF and Leaf Aptus-II 12 underexposed 100 crop test”]

Another 100% crop areas:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 shadow recovery performance

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-as-is-green_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-as-is-green.jpg” title=”leaf aptus II 12 80mpx shadow recovery test”]

Green was never a problem for digital cameras, and Leaf back has no problem recovering shadows here. Another crop of a dollar bill.

Leaf Aptus-II 12:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-as-is-bill_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-as-is-bill.jpg” title=”leaf aptus II 12 80 megapixel camera shadow recovery test 2″]

Great job here, texture has all the details I usually see under a microscope.

One more test of shadow recovery, the same composition but with 1:1 magnification ratio on the MF 120mm F4 Macro lens. Almost all the jewelry I shoot at 1:1, and I’d like to see how Leaf Aptus will perform here. Also, that Hassellblad image I’ve shared above was made at 1:1 ratio with HC 120mm F4 macro lens, so it will be cool to see the resolution difference between 50 and 80 megapixel sensors as well.

Full crop:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-1-to-1-macro-full-shot-as-is_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-1-to-1-macro-full-shot-as-is.jpg” title=”Leaf Aptus-II 12 1:1 macro full shot”]

100% crop from the above, un-sharped from RAW. Mouse over to recover:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-1-to-1-macro-crop-shadow-as-is_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-1-to-1-macro-crop-shadow-as-is.jpg” title=”Leaf Aptus-II 12 1:1 macro 100% crop shadow recovery test”]

Enormous resolution (even comparing to 50 Mpx H4D-50 Hassy sensor. A little bit more noise, but because overall sharpness is higher, I think it will be easy to remove this noise in Topaz DeNoise and sacrifice some sharpness. Meaning It may give us the same (by amount of noise) as a H4D-50.

Now, the last test for the shadows,Ā  just to see how it will work with reddish colors. The subject came from a highlights test (our next one, blow):

Mouse over to see more:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-as-is_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-shadow-as-is.jpg” title=”Leaf Aptus-II 12 extreme shadow recovery test”]

Amazing, simply amazing. Even though I see artifacts (which might be due to the method of recovery I’ve used), the result is extremely well.

Highlight recovery test.

For this test I’ve used our little hero, Frau Piggy Piggylevsky. She was doing great job on my previous comparison shot between canon 1Ds Mark III (btw, camera is on sale now) an Canon 5D Mark II I had recently.

Below is the overexposed shot (left chick) :

Mouse over to see a corrected (highlight recovery almost 100%) version:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-in-studio-test-review-overexposed_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-in-studio-test-review-overexposed.jpg” title=”Leaf Aptus-II 12 80mpx MFDB in studio test review: overexposed”]

100% crop from the above, mouse over to see fixed version:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-review-studio-test-highlights-as-is_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-review-studio-test-highlights-as-is.jpg” title=”Leaf Aptus-II 12 80mpx MFDB in studio test review: overexposed”]

Pretty cool to see the edge of sensor’s ability to recover color information. But where it lost, it is lost, and nothing can help it.

Ok, now the last thing I did: Unsharped v.s default sharped image. I remember how pig’s feather looked like on Canon’s battle and couldn’t resist doing the same here:

Capture One Pro + Phase one 645DF + Leaf Aptus-II 12 no sharpening. Mouse over to turn default sharpness on:

[wpw_ba_viewer width=”auto” disable_intro=”false” alternate_skin=”true”]
[wpw_ba_img src=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-review-no-sharpening_h.jpg” alt=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/leaf-aptus-II-12-80mpx-review-no-sharpening.jpg” title=”Leaf Aptus-II 12 80mpx MFDB in studio test review: overexposed”]

UPDATE: a video from the shoot was posted.

Hope it was interesting.
Now I’ve got an old PhaseOne P25+ 22 Mpx back, and soon will run a test between it and Canon 1Ds mark III…before my 1Ds will be sold on eBay. Such comparo between same pixel count but 2x different in size sensors will be very interestingĀ  for me.
Also, video is coming for this Leaf Aptus II 12 review, I need few more days to finish editing. Do not miss anything, subscribe to blog’s RSS feed: there are so many cool things will be published soon!

One more thing: my “Mastering Splash” Masterclass is coming June 11th in Atlanta, and the early birds price ($298 v.s regular $400) will expire in just two weeks! Hurry up, it is better to plan ahead then to pay more later:-)


16 responses on "Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review: it is not only pixels that count."

  1. alex

    We have spoke before i shoot jewelry and you info is interesting to me i have been looking to upgrade to a alpa 12 max or alpa 12 xy or arca swiss rm3di. I see you have chosen a cambo ultima just wondering why not the other cameras i have mentioned if it was the price or the interoperability. The 120 lens is my choice for sure but stuck on which back the p25+ with larger pixel size or the p45+ looks fine for my work.
    1. how often do you use the swing adjustments
    2. if you had any choice would you suggest the back you would purchase? (for jewelry exclusively)
    3. did you have to shim your back to get proper sharpness across the frame?
    Ive read your site but its January now and things change, i am ready to purchase now and make a choice regarding what is available in the marketplace at this time. I value your opinion because your experience being able to have already tried many options goes a long way.

    you can also email me you answer at [email protected] it would be easier for me.

    • Barry,
      If you have a budget, got for 45=, it will give you a better results in a long run.
      I’ve selected Ultima over sinar p3 because it was a good deal on ebay. Would it be a good deal for sinar P2/p3, I would get them. there is not much difference between the systems; more of the personal preference, but non of them will give you a big advantage over another. However, Sinar is more convenient 9especially if used with electronic shutter), as you can built a fully integrated system.

      so, answering your questions:
      1. I rarely use this system for jewelry, as it have only advantage to shot flat pieces like necklace or pendants. it own’t give you all in focus for a rings, for example. remember, when you do tilt/swing, you reducing effective DOF. yes, focus plane will be tilted, but DOF will be reduced. In many situations i ma getting better result with canon macro lenses closed down to f16 or 18.
      2. I would prefer more megapixels. Stay away from any back with microlenses on it.
      3. Shim back? Sorry, do not know what do you mean.

      I would suggest you to try first before buying; you may find that such system won’t suit your needs. Only you can decide will it work or not…
      All the best!

  2. cud u pls tell me alex which one to buy ,hasselblad h4d 60,mamiya with leaf 80 or phase one with 80 in case u don’t want to tell me here u can pls mail me at [email protected],it will be very helpful to me

  3. Thanks for taking the time to post this test. I just ordered mine :)

  4. Very Nice Camera, but not for everyone.

  5. Very impressing what today’s gear is able to do. Looking at the lens performances of the two in this test here i wondered if you already tested whether your Rodenstock lens is able to deliver enough sharpness for those digital backs.
    More Megapixels don’t mean anything if your lens produces blurred pictures or a bad resolution.

    You might have to consider buying a better lens for your Cambo viewcamera if the Rodenstock doesn’t perform good enough.

    But anyway congratulations to your jump into MF and good luck for your future work!


  6. Alex, very interesting test. I learn something new everyday. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Very nice review! I use an Aptus-II 7 (33MP) on a Cambo Ultima and Sinar X everyday. My preference is Schneider Apo-Digitars. The 7 is a workhorse and a performer; I’d probably pass out over a 12! That big sensor looks amazing. Anyway, all of that dynamic range and headroom is why I could never step down to a DSLR, even mounted to a technical camera, even with the anti-aliasing filter removed. There is no going back!

    • Matthew,
      I’ve just ordered phase One Flex Adapter, hopefully will utilize its functionality to produce stitched images up to 60 Mpx from my P25+. So anxious to try it!
      Thank you for stopping by:-)

  8. I think Leaf makes an adaptor back (if not Calumet might) for your new 4×5 Cambo…

  9. Alex, very impressive indeed for the recovery point of view. More resolution = more retouching work for jewellery photography though :P hahahah But wow, the highlights and shadows… nice stuff. Look forward to your next tests :) Thanks for the post!

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