Leaf Credo first impressions

Before you start reading I have to make a few things clear.
I got my Credo last Friday night, so I’ve shot 1 session with it and a few loose shots (but put it thought it’s paces), I hate to do reviews like this to be honest if they are too technical, that’s why you will hardly find any 100% crops of resolution charts with my reviews, I just tell you how I think about the product. And of course you can ask whatever you want 🙂


In the market of digital photography it’s always interesting to see what manufactures come up with to draw the people to the stores and buy their newest gear. In the Medium format market it’s a bit more “relaxed” than in the DSLR market. Most medium format cameras are used in controlled areas like studios or with strobes on location so for example the whole high ISO race is of less importance (I do have to add that I don’t agree with this, I would love a digital back that can shoot noiseless ISO1600).


Somehow when we compare the medium format cameras and backs to modern DSLRs one could easily say that medium format is not interesting anymore, and with the release of the Nikon D800(E) a lot of people even claimed that medium format was “dead”, I was even interviewed by a magazine about the release of the D800 and the interviewer was surprised that my answer was that, although I love the way the development goes for DLRs, I really did not think you can compare a medium format camera with a DSLR, it’s all about the term “horses for course”. Now I hear you ask “Really, come on Frank”. So let me explain.

Let’s just only look at the sensor size, a medium format sensor like the Credo60 measures 53.9 x 40.4 mm while for example the Nikon D800(E) “only” is 24 x 35.9 mm which is a huge difference. Now what does that mean ? (and yes after that I do the review of the Credo 60).

The difference in sensor size is in my opinion very important for the “look” of the image, but also for the resolution and overall sharpness. The smaller the sensor the more problems you will run into when placing a lot of pixels in that area, this will translate for example in diffraction (loss of detail on smaller apertures) but also in noise (in which the D800 by the way performs great, so hats of for the Sony sensor). But more importantly for me is the DOF (Depth of Field), the larger the sensor the more you are able to shoot with a shallow depth of field in conditions where you normally can’t. For example an 80mm lens on a medium format camera is about 50mm on a full frame DSLR, this means that if you’re shooting from the same distance you will already get a lot less depth of field than with a DLSR. But we can also drop the ISO down to a real ISO50 with for example the Credo60 (even lower on some of the other Credo’s), this will give you another stop…. however it doesn’t stop there.

When using LS (Leaf Shutter) lenses you can sync all the way up to 1/1600, although you will loose some light around 1/1000 is the sweet spot for me, and this also gives you a lot more “playroom” to play with shallower depth of field. In real live this means that if you are shooting outside with strobes you can still get a very shallow depth of field but also cut down the ambient light. You can do something similar with a DSLR with small flash, ND filters or hyper sync with pocket wizards but those are all extra measures while the medium format camera does is by itself.


If that was the only thing… well one could say stay with a DSLR, it has faster AF, better High ISO, more frames per seconds, video etc. And that’s all true, actually I always use a DSLR as second camera and I would not want to be without it, but there is something about the quality of the images in the medium format files that is just so jaw dropping that for me not wanting to be without my DSLR also goes for not wanting to be without my medium format camera, the “roundness/3D” look of the images is stunning, the sharpness and color are without a doubt steps beyond any DSLR I’ve ever seen, when you look at skin tones the medium format cameras still rule.


So when Leaf announced their new Credo series I was more than interested to see what they would offer.
At first I was in doubt if I would upgrade my Leaf AptusII to the Credo40 or Credo60, there is rather big price difference but I decided to go for the Credo60 because of the full frame sensor (the Credo40 has a crop sensor).

The Credo 60
Let’s first make clear that I think 60MP is a lot.
Probably if they would have also made a 33MP version in full frame I would have upgraded to that one, but let’s be honest 60MP is also very cool, you can see detail that is just jaw dropping.


For fashion the high resolution backs were always a bit of a problem, I’ve been very active with the older Aptus 10 and 12, with the Aptus 10 I even shot a few sessions with the beta camera and loved it (although I did not really like the 3:2 output to be honest when looking back) so I’m used to the high resolution outputs, so it’s not the “new/wow” factor that makes me say this. The older backs were all great in detail which helps a lot with fighting moire (a problem that occurs on cameras without AA filter, but the missing AA filter also makes sure you get much more sharpness etc.) but they were also too slow for fashion shooting. In fashion shoots I love to shoot slow but I also love to say to the model “go wild” and just put the camera on auto shooting, with the AptusII 7 the pace was app 1.1 seconds per frame which is very nice to keep the model into her “groove” but also make sure she/he has time to change poses, with the Aptus 10 and 12 I always felt the pace was just a little bit too slow and the Aptus 12 for example slows down sometimes just a little bit, but enough to break the “pace”.

The Credo60 somehow solved this problem, it clocks in at a very nice 1 frame per second, I know it doesn’t sound like a big difference between 1.1 seconds per frame and 1 second per frame but when shooting it makes a huge difference, the Credo60 is perfect for the “go wild” sessions. I used the Credo60 this weekend in a workshop with a model that knows the Aptus II7 and even she commented that the Credo60’s pace was much nicer for her to pose to. And the fun thing….. it keeps the same pace on the card…..

This is also something I love about shooting with backs like the Credo and Aptus(II), there is NO buffer, meaning I can keep shooting until my hard drive is full, and even on the card I never ran into the buffer, when I try to keep the same pace with my Canon 5DMKIII I will run into buffer problems at about 1/3rd of the amount of images I like to shoot with those sessions, and waiting for the buffer to clear when the model is really getting into her thing is the most annoying thing you can imagine (and no shooting JPEG is not an option).

One of the things I always hated about the Aptus(II) series (and many many other medium format backs) was the display, to be honest I cannot imagine why the display was SO INCREDIBLY bad, the only thing you could use it for outside was making sure the strobe went off, but when using fill in flash you could really not see anything to check if you were getting the shot you wanted. This is one of the reasons I always shoot to my laptop on location, when I can’t I will use the DSLR. When looking at the money you pay for the backs one would expect a great display. This is also why I said after my last upgrade that I would only upgrade when there would be a kicka$$ display on the back that would destroy my DSLR experience….


When Phase One released the IQ series I have to be honest that I got a little bit excited, the display was gorgeous, but pricing was way out of my range to get the back I wanted, so I just hoped that Leaf would “borrow” that technology in their next series, when the AptusII12 (80mp) was released there was still the old display, but finally I got the information that there would be a new series with an amazing display, I could not wait 🙂


Well let’s make a long story short, the display on the Credo series is AMAZING.
During the workshop last weekend we took the camera outside in the bright sun and while one of my students struggled to see all the details on his Nikon display the Credo blasted out detail and light (on 80%) and made judging even the effect of dragging the shutter (very dark background) a breeze, holding my hand slightly above the display to block of the direct light even showed me the deepest shadows…. wow. Also zooming in has GREATLY improved, on the old back I actually never used it, way too slow, but on the Credo60 it’s tap tap on the place you want to see 100% and 1-2 seconds later (depending on the card you use, with 60mb/s cards it’s just under 2 seconds) you will see a razor sharp (if you focussed correctly) 100% view. However it does not stop there, you can use the strips around the display to scroll through the image (or just swipe on the image), or zoom in all the way up to 400%. This alone would give you a reason to upgrade from the AptusII to the Credo, it makes the camera from usable in the studio only (or tethered on location) to 100% usable on location even without the laptop, although I still love to shoot tethered.

Now I know people also wants to know about the high ISO noise.
Well it’s no DSLR that’s for sure, however for me it’s a step forward from the AptusII 7, I’ve shot some outside images on ISO400 and they were still very detailed, did show some noise but that was very fine and looking “nice” so ISO400 is without a doubt good enough for big prints and publications (remember it’s a 60MP back), but also ISO800 was very good, you can see noise which is usable, but there is also some smearing of details which is less attractive, on the other hand when I downsized the images to 30MP it was still showing loads of detail and the noise was hardly any problem. This is something that people will have to get used to, when you look at 60MP full res on a good monitor you will see “stuff” that you will NEVER EVER be able to see on a magazine print or even a big billboard. So I’m almost willing to say that even for publications I will have no problem using ISO800 outside, however for the moment I will say that ISO50 and ISO100 is great, ISO200 is no problem at all, ISO400 is more than usable and ISO800 can be used when you downsample the image (but only because other wise the client will look at 100% and maybe complain). I will do some tests under tungsten the coming weeks and will report on that via Google+ and add it here also as addition.


But there is more:
The Leaf Credo now supports USB3. Well it will soon, at the moment the connector is there but it still has to be activated.


Long exposures were a problem with the older Leaf digital backs, now exposures up to a minute should be no problem at all (still have to try this, but I believe them).


There is no more fan for cooling.


The battery changed from the outside to the inside, although this is a big advantage it’s also not possible anymore to use my very nice (but large) replacement batteries, on the AptusII 7 I used replacement batteries to run the back almost a whole day on just one battery while the original batteries lasted maybe 1-2 hours (when lucky), However in the Credo you can now use the Canon BP series batteries and they are rated at 2900mAh Li-ion which is already a lot better than the 2300 old batteries. I will search online to see if I can find some alternatives with more power. But I think the originals will also do just fine, and seeing the price of the BP batteries you can always throw a few in your back, they are cheap.

So are there no problems ?
Well yes and no.
At the moment there is no support for the Leaf IIQ files in Lightroom or Photoshop, BUT…. this will be solved within a few weeks (hopefully less), the IIQ L files will be supported in the next release of Adobe Camera Raw and therefore lightroom and Photoshop, so this is just temporary. For Aperture users there is big problem as it looks now, I see no support for Phase One in Aperture so I’m afraid the Credo’s will never/or very late be added to Aperture (this was also one of the reasons I switched to Lightroom a few weeks ago, and never looked back to be honest).


Also the firewire cable is in a weird location, when the cable is in the camera and you use a straight cable (most people use those) it hits my face when I’m not careful, however I will loose firewire as soon as USB3 is supported so also this is just a moment of annoyance to be forgotten when we have USB3 support.


And (but this is my problem) at the moment I can’t shoot tethered on my new MBP, this is not Leaf’s fault by the way but Apple still did not release their TB to Firewire cable 🙁 On the other hand the USB3 card reader from Lexar is so incredibly fast that I can shoot images on the card and download them very quickly, and this will also be solved soon when the cable is released.


For the tech lovers, some specs:
CCD size : 53.9×40.4mm
Active pixels : 8984×6732
Resolution : 60MP
Aspect ratio : 4:3
Pixel size : 6.0 Micron
Dynamic range : 12.5 f-stops
Exposure time : 1/10000 – 60 seconds
Full resolution capture : 1 frame per second
Color depth : 16 bits (65.536 levels per channel)
Display : 3.2″, 1.15MP bright light touch display with 170 degrees viewing angle
Image viewing : 6 images at once on the display, zooming till 400%
Onboard tools : Live view, spirit level, ISO, white balance, Histogram, Exposure alarms, Image rating, custom functions.

Supported cameras:
Mamiya: Mamiya 645DF/645AFDIII, Mamiya RZ (all types), Mamiya RB
Phase One: 645DF, 645AF, iXR
Hasselblad: V-series (except for 200 and 2000 models), H1, H2
Contax: 645AF
View/technical: Most 6×9 and 4×5 in cameras via Leaf Graflok or 3rd party adapters
Other: Fuji 680 and Bronica ETRSi/SQAi via 3rd party adapters


And how big are the files ?
Let’s say my wife will sell a bit more hard drive space to me in the coming year.
The retouched tiffs (16 bits) weigh in at a stunning 363MB, yeah won’t be mailing those to someone.
The raw files are around 35MB on the IIQ S setting, but I would not advise to use that because for the moment only the IIQ L files will be supported in Adobe products and those files are a still manageable 58-68MB in size. This does mean that I will change my 16GB cards to 32GB cards, which is not a real problem with the pricing of the CF cards today.


I LOVE the new Credo 60, it’s a very “sexy” back with a great display and it’s FAST.
The resolution is nice (and I can’t wait to do some real detailed shots with this back).
Color and sharpness are amazing like I’m used from Leaf, the “roundness/3D” look is even better than with my old AptusII 7.
USB3 is a really good addition seeing that Apple is dropping Firewire800 from their MacBookPro series.

Now the big question, “should I buy a Phase One IQ or the Leaf?”
There are differences between the two, and not only in price.


At first the Phase One uses hard buttons while the Leaf uses a touch bar and touch buttons (which I prefer)
The Gui is different and some things are “missing/different” like focus masking which is missing on the Leaf, the IQ has sensor+ and would be better for longer than 1 minute exposures.


To be honest I think the Leaf is the better buy, it’s cheaper and I love the design more but this is very personal of course, however the price difference is more than enough to even if you don’t like the design better, to start loving the design.
And for the people who are wondering how a 100% crop looks…. (taken from the third image in the post)

And because you guys asked…. another 100% crop of one of the blog shots.