Magazine Article


Phase One's LightPhase H20 Digital Back


Phase One's
LightPhase H20
Digital Back

Lightweight, Easy to Use, Powerful


The H20 is about the same size as the LightPhase, which is an earlier version of Phase One's single-shot digital camera line. The LightPhase captures an 18MB file using a Philips CCD. The H20 captures a 48MB file using the 4K by 4K CCD from Eastman Kodak Company.

The H20 mounts easily on the Hasselblad 555ELD, as well as the Hasselblad 501CM, 503CW, and 553ELX. It also mounts on the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II and a wide range of 4x5 view cameras via optional adaptors. Just connect a Firewire cable into the back of the H20 and plug the other end of the cable into the port on the back of your laptop or desktop.
This technology is called Firewire on the Macintosh platform and IEEE 1394 on the Windows platform. Many people get confused because they don't realize that Firewire is a trademarked name by Apple Computer for IEEE 1394 technology. At one point, Sony was calling the IEEE 1394 technology I-Link. All you need to know is that you plug it in and it transfers your images to your laptop or desktop very fast. I have to say, it's the easiest digital back I've set up in years. Install the software, connect the Firewire cable, restart your computer, and you're ready to go.

The Phase One Image Capture Software that works with the H20 is a newer version of their software that works with the LightPhase camera. So if you're familiar with the previous version, you'll love the enhancements. The software is based on the "WYSIWYG"—what you see is what you get-concept. One of the reasons I like the software is that the menus and controls don't get in the way of shooting. You set up your controls for ICC profiles, calibration, film curves, sharpness, etc. and then shoot to a contact sheet mode. You can customize how your images appear and where your windows are on the screen. There are also added controls for contact sheets.
Another thing I really like about the software is that you can easily set it up to mirror your personal style of shooting. So if you're accustomed to a very "contrasty" saturated film, you can customize the software to capture that way. I always recommend you do a gray balance at the beginning of a shoot using the GretagMacbeth Digital Camera Color Chart. This is the best in the industry. The software also enables you to batch process, and on the new G4 it's fast.

The question is, "Is there ever enough resolution?" The 50MB files we generated were really clean. This means there was no pixelation or noise. What is amazing about capturing with this camera's CCD is there's almost too much resolution.
Take a look at the blowup image of the model's eye. Notice how you can see every little line, pore, mascara flakes, and the edge of a contact lens on the model's eye. [Film is more forgiving in most cases.] It is essential that you have a really good makeup artist. The H20 uses a 4,080 x 4,080 pixel CCD chip, which enables image captures from 48MB (24 bit RGB) to 128MB (64 bit CMYK).
Over the years, we have had to take small digitally captured files and make them bigger. I truly believe that you don't need more than 48MB from a digital capture. Many years ago, when I was retouching, I wouldn't take a job unless the client was willing to have at least a 250MB scan so we could generate a really high-quality file.
With the 48MB captures from the H20, I can generate billboard-size images and great 8x10 transparencies. What else do we need?

So if you're thinking about purchasing a new digital camera back, I recommend you test the new LightPhase H20. It's really important when evaluating digital cameras to do a test shoot in your studio with your lights, camera, computer, and client to make sure everyone is happy with the results!
For more digital camera tips, see "Ready to Buy Your First Digital Camera?" in SP&D November 2001.

For more information on the Phase One H20, visit

Model: Erin Thornbury, Click NYC, Makeup: Deanna NYC

Helene DeLillo is a digital imaging artist and photographer based in Tribeca, New York. Her photographs have appeared in the pages of Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Time Digital, as well as on the covers of Digital Camera and Studio Photography & Design magazines. Her company, Dancing Icon Inc., works with high-profile clients, including some of the most demanding in the beauty, fashion, and entertainment industries. Dancing Icon Inc. was recently hired by Sotheby's to design their Digital Photography Studios, where they photographed and uploaded 14,000 images in six weeks. More information at http// Helene can be reached in her studio at 212/334-6705 or by email at