What you forget when you compere scanners to one-shot backs is that
the scanners are 100% true colours with no interpollation.
So compared to a oneshot back with same "mp-size" the scanner is superior.
The most used Betterlight back, Super 6k is uninterpollated 48mp.
That is more resolution than the new Phase one iq180, which is just guessing 2/3 of the colours.
A few days ago a 8000x10600 pixel Betterlight was sold on Ebay for just 3.200$.
For that price you might get a 16 mp one-shot back ..
If you have the time, there is still nothing better than the scanbacks.
Uninterrupted color is better than interpolated color - no doubt. But for most kinds of photography the difference is pretty small. It was a much bigger difference back in the day but the math used by Capture One, LightRoom, Aperture et al is very good at interpolating the color from Bayer patterns.
But I would put forth that "if you have the time" is not the only qualifier for whether a scanback is the best option for someone's needs.
In their element scan backs produce utterly fantastic images. But subject motion creates weird artifacts/schmeering, changing light in the scene creates weird bands and effects, the camera has to be very stable for the duration of the scan (though not as stable as you might think since during a 20 minute exposure each line of the image is still only being exposed for a short period), the lens has to be sharp and well focused and shot at a middle-aperture where DOF can be challenging. In other words there are many many situations in which a scan back is simply not workable.
There is also the issue of service/reliability. I speak here only
about Phase One as I have very little experience with or knowledge of Betterlight, their service, or their business. I can however tell you about the situation for Phase One Scan Backs. The support department at Phase One really hates ending support for products - it's a matter of principal. So the firewire based FX+ (from 2000) is still serviceable and service for older scan SCSI-based scan backs was only ended because SCSI has gone the way of the floppy disk. But the reality is scan backs are mechanical products and any issue with the mechanics can lead to streaks in the image (just google for, and most of the scan backs Phase One ever produced are now pushing, or over, a decade old. Likewise the software to use an FX+ has been kept "in service" - they patched it to work with Leopard, and Snow Leopard, but that's where it will end. Lion is not supported and Mountain Lion won't be either. That's not "game over" - it's not that hard to find decent deals on older Apple computers, but it does make it harder and harder for me to recommend them.
We've sold a handful of scanbacks (mostly Phase One FX+) over the years that I've been here, but I don't think we've sold even one in the last 12 months. We sell a refurbished Leaf Aptus 22 back for $5k with warranty, dealer support, and confidence of support well into the future. Put that back on a Cambo Wide RS with a Schneider 60mm XL and you can easily shoot three frames within the image circle (shifted left, centered, shifted right) and end up with a blazingly sharp 54 megapixel image in less time than it takes to do the "prescan" on a scan back. The same back can be slapped on a 645 Autofocus body to shoot fashion/portraits/lifestyle etc. And the weight and size of the kit is tiny compared to a 4x5.
Now all that said, I did have a hell of a fun time shooting the FX+ with an infrared-pass/visible-block. But as far as infrared-quality-vs-price goes I can't think of anything else that comes close to a scan back - with the huge caveats of how hard it can be to account to compose and focus (accounting for focus shift) when using a view camera. All and all I'd still much rather have the DM33-IR we've recently started selling (I was just playing with it in Death Valley last week).
Generally the market prices things pretty efficiently. I don't think the current price for used scanbacks is an aberration from that.
Doug Peterson (e-mail Me)
Head of Technical Services, Capture Integration
Phase One Partner of the Year
Mamiya Leaf, Leica, Arca Swiss, Cambo, Profoto, LaCie, Canon, TTI, Broncolor & More
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