Man did Phase and Leaf get a pass on this one.
I don't know who the intended market is for $30,000 camera backs and maybe it's rich dentists and Wannabe Westons, but I would bet the majority of these cameras are sold to working professionals.
People that shoot 60 gigs a day, have to make jpegs fpo, web galleries and deliver final files in days, sometimes hours.
I've use the Aptus 22 for a little over a year and I love it, but I can honestly say from experience that you can't really learn these systems in a week, much less a day and you can't tell how they really perform until your under pressure in a real high production situation.
To begin with anybody that spends this kind of money on a camera usually has to show the image to someone to get input, feedback or god forbid approval and I have yet to meet a person that can use the Phase LCD to tell anything other than the basic composition.
That said, if you take 60 gigs of images and drop them into LC10 and try to batch adjust and process these images your going to be in for a world of hurt, even if your running the latest Quad 5.
Both these companies make good equipment that is robust, pretty well thought out and in my genre worth the money, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement and that doesn’t mean that they are exactly equal.
Anyone that owns a medium format back and camera will have a lot of instances where they have to tether to a computer.
Phase's C-1 may be the gold standard of software, but working portable with a powerbook the thumbnails load slow, the previews even slower and the capture rate can crawl to a standstill. In my world crawling to a standstill can cost $5,000 an hour or more.
Consequently Leaf's old software V-8 allows you to shoot very fast and preview quickly to a power book with minimal slowdowns, even when shooting hundreds of images to a single folder, even to an ancient G4 powerbook pulling a 30" monitor.
These are the things a prospective buyer needs to know and any real test of this equipment should address.
Shooting and pixel examining is one thing but can these backs let you get the shot and more importantly can you confirm you have the shot before going on to something better?
The Phase LCD works in bright sunlight? Well you can see it in bright sunlight but judging your shot well enough to know you have it, like focus, highlights, collapsed shadows, I don't think so, not unless you put it in a computer.
The Leaf LCD doesn't work in bright sunlight? I chuckled at that one. I've shot it on white rooftops in Miami, mid day in Jamaica and just cupping my hand gave me a better view than even the canon lcd's so to say that the Leaf lcd is really for inside or shaded areas is like saying it would be better to always shoot with the sun behind you to cut lens flare.
I'll admit I'm partial to the Leaf because I like the company and use the product but would move to another back in a heartbeat if it made my photography better, my workflow easier or faster.
Workflow is not addressed at all in this "test" and anyone that shoots for a living can tell you digital editing, processing, storage and archiving is getting to be a full time job. I know, because as of today I have 40 terabytes of stored and archived data, representing millions of dollars of production.
Raw conversion also weighs heavily in the decision of anyone purchasing one of these systems. C-1 is robust and full featured and probably does more than any one software, though with Phase C-1 is pretty much your only real choice and the software is so heavy that it takes a lot of computer to run it fast.
As I've stated Leaf's LC10 is still a work in progress (a very long progress) and way behind C-1 in functionality, but since the Leaf offers an in file Tiff for previewing, I-view and Photo Mechanic allow for very fast editing, sorting and file naming and Leaf had the foresight to open their file to other software developers a long time ago, so processing options in C-1 range from pscs, CS2, Raw Developer, LC10, Leaf V-8 and Lightroom.
To this day Leaf V-8 is amazingly stable and the fastest tethering software for any digital system I have used.
Still, it doesn’t matter to me what anyone purchases, but I do think that any test of these very important systems should be more than a few frames at different iso's.
There are so many genre's and instances where these cameras will be used in the real world that it is impossible to test every situation, but any examination should test highlights, intentional flare, high iso, over/under exposure, client review on the camera, a powerbook or a desktop, setup, workflow and mixed light Processing options and post production should also be tested with large volumes of images in multiple lighitng and exposure changes.
In my opinion, these products are not exactly equal. If I was a digital tech I would use a Phase, as it requires a Tower to run fast , a computer monitor to give any type of useable preview and a thorough understanding of the software. This is the perfect business model for a digital technician.
As a photographer the Leaf is my choice. It offers fast tethering, even to a powerbook, a workable lcd and many options on processing, which equates to having multiple labs and multiple films. If you work in photoshop cs 1 or 2 you can process a file on a 17” G-4 powerbook in 11 seconds, on a G5 Quad in 5 and with a much quicker learning curve. Phase processing is double that time and when your working thousands of files, it adds up quickly.
In regards to the portable setup of these two systems, the Phase looks easier, but is also more limited, sending most of the tasks to post processing.
With the Aptus, the controls are intuitive and more importantly allow for very customized settings. Iso, white balance, even specific setting to a color chart with exact accuracy.
With the Aptus you also have highlight and shadow warnings, focus check, and using V-8 can load very specific settings to the cf card or Digital Drive.
In medium format with the file sizes so large every minute you spend upfront of the capture can save hours one the backend.
Somewhere, someday, someone is really going to test these systems side by side for not just hours but days and publish the results of how well these cameras work in the real world of professional photography.
If I was Leaf and/or Phase I would want to see a robust test from pre production to final delivery and I would want the results published to know how my product stacks up, what is needed to go forward and most important how it is received in the market.
So far nobody has done that in anything but a relaxed situation.