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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 digital back review

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 Megapixel sensor digital back

Side view:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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 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 was  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 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 80 megapixel digital back review

Leaf Aptus II 12 80mpx studio test review original

Few 100% crops from the above:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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

Glossy pieces:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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


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

Leaf Aptus-II 12 80 megapixel digital back review

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:

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.

Interesting result: while Leaf Aptus-II 12 was able to record  huge amount of details I’ve noticed more noise than I’ve seen in a similar situation  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:

Another 100% crop areas:

Leaf Aptus-II 12 shadow recovery performance

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:

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:

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

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,  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:

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:

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

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:

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 interesting  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:-)




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