Today, Phase released the first real firmware upgrade for its IQ4 Infinity Platform, and it’s starting to look like the investment will pay off. There are several new features in the update, but the one that has garnered the most attention—and deservedly so—is Automatic Frame Averaging. AFA effectively decouples the shutter speed from the length of the exposure. In the past, those two components of photography were essentially the same thing. If your shutter speed was 1/60 of a second, that’s how long your exposure was. If you wanted a long exposure of say 3 or 4 seconds or even minutes or longer, that’s how long your shutter had to stay open.**
This presented some serious challenges, and often required photographers to employ neutral density filters to reduce the amount of light reaching the film or sensor while slowing time for things like clouds or water movement. Folks familiar with our work know that the capture of extended time is a key element of our artwork. Phase has changed all that. With this new update, shutter speed and exposure time can now be two different things. And it opens up worlds of possibilities.
In my first testing of AFA, I shot a 10-minute exposure in our backyard, with the lens set at f/8, ISO at 50, and the shutter speed set at 1/125. And no ND filter on the lens. With no clouds in the sky, the exposure time effect is discernible only in the fluttering palm fronds. Everything else in the shot is clear and crisp with zero color shift. This truly is a game-changer.
** Yes, there are methods by which multiple frames can be stacked in software—e.g., Photoshop or Long Exposure Stacker—to achieve a similar effect, but as far as we know, this is the first in-camera process to produce a RAW image without resort to intervalometer or any manual calculations on the photographer’s part, other than the four elements of the exposure itself.