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Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M: Streamside Macro

See my Zeiss DSLR lenses wish list at B&H Photo.

Macro photography has long irritated me for being tedious and typical (my own conceptual fault). So on this trip I opted for trying more unconventional shooting: high ISO in full glaring mountain sun, and all handheld.

A few examples are shown below, processed while sitting in my car while munching on blueberries outside Vons in Mammoth (a resupply mission)—not ideal for assessing of course. What I found very interesting is in seeing what I did not see—details and styles of rendition that I would walk right past for 30 years and never see (speaking of myself). I also am pleased in capturing some sense of both the beauty and the raw elements of the high Sierra.

The Nikon D810 sensor quality is sensational. It reminds me just how disappointing the Sony A7R II can be when the files have to be pushed a couple of stops and from ISO at 400/800/1600 to boot. The D810 images feel artful; the Sony images feel digital. How unscientific! But that’s what my eyes tell me.

No filters used.

Out of focus lens bokeh is very pleasing on the Milvus 100/2M in spite of some secondary color.

 
Violet Flower and Lens Bokeh @ ~ 1:10
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This one was devilishly hard: the bubbles move very fast, focus perched on slippery rocks is a major challenge, and depth of field is nil. 100 frames or so yielded this one acceptable result, but every bubble pattern is different 1/10 of a second later; these things gyrate around.

 
Backlit Flowers against Blindingly Bright Gneiss Boulder @ ~ 1:5
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Bubbles @ ~ 1:2.5
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The scene, including sunstars and ripples, changes many times a a second due to water movement.

 
Streamside Greenery @ ~ 1:10
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The naked eye cannot see this standing-waver pattern. Not until I had shot this image did I realize just how much subtlety the rippled water entails.

 
Water Patterns, Small Scale @ ~ 1:5
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Scrub Blueberry in Gneiss Boulders with Insect @ ~ 1:3
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Healthy Year’s Growth of Small Pine, Scrub Blueberry Bushes, Gneiss Boulder @ ~ 1:5
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Close Range with a Wide Angle Lens

See my Sony mirrorless wish list at B&H Photo.

See my reviews of the Zeiss Batis lenses.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of shooting everything at medium-far distance; this close range stuff is great fun as an alternative. Depth of field is minimal of course, but context need not be sharp in many cases.

The about $1499 Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 focuses quite closely, making juxtaposition of near and far elements possible. The autofocus helps hugely when contorted into low positions while trying to avoid sliding into the lake.

 
Yellow Flower at Spuller Lake
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Sony 50mm f/1.4 ZA: Gorgeous Rendering

See my Sony mirrorless wish list at B&H Photo.

While Sony IBIS (SteadyShot) can damage image sharpness, handheld shooting at dusk can be a huge win, as with all these handheld examples.

The about $1498 Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA looks to be a winner, with high sharpness and micro contrast wide open coupled to gorgeous bokeh. Its only downside is size and weight as compared to the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar and/or the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar.

 
Wild Onion Flowers
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Flower Stalks at Creek’s Edge
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Log Bridge over Rushing Creek
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Dusk Reflections on Winding Grassy-Banked Creek
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Support that is Solid as a Rock
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Pale Yellow Flowers, Creekside
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Sony A7R II IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) Destroys Sharpness on a Tripod

A few years back I reported on damage to sharpness from Sony IBIS when used on a tripod. At that time, I thought it was only at longer shutter speeds: 1+ seconds. But I am fastidious about disabling IBIS (SteadyShot) when on a tripod.

This image was one of a panorama, thus gapping it and rendering the entire series worthless. Two of the six images of the panorama were blurred this way; I forgot to turn off SteadyShot (IBIS). Operator error.

But at least I can complain about one thing Sony can and ought to fix: that distracting flashing shutter speed warning icon shown at lower shutter speeds, all while I’m working on a tripod, and no way to turn it off.

 
Sony IBIS destroys sharpness on a tripod (actual pixels crop from entire frame)
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Zeiss Icon Hubert Nasse Passes Away

Hubert Nasse of Zeiss has passed away, confirmed by Zeiss USA. I do not know the details.

I had great professional respect for Hubert. But he was also a rare individual with a spirit that I liked and admired greatly. I corresponded with him for years, and we hit up a friendship, and when I finally met him personally last October in Oberkochen, he was vibrant and full of life, with the promise of decades more to come. I am grateful that I had that opportunity, but it is hard to accept this news as real; it doesn’t want to sink in somehow. I will miss him.

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Season Changing Even as Flowers Bloom

See my wish lists at B&H Photo.

Scrub blueberry bushes redden even as many species of flowers bloom with vigor, making full use of the short alpine summer.

 
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Canon Announces EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II

See my wish lists at B&H Photo including my Canon wish list.

Canon 5D Mark IV and new lenses.

I’ll be reviewing the 5D Mark IV and 16-35/2.8L III in September.

30 megapixels is disappointing (for me), but almost certainly hits the sweet spot for the 5D Mark * marketplace.

 
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis on Sony: Ideal for Hiking

See my wish lists at B&H Photo including my Sony mirrorless wish list.

 
Zeiss Loxia 35/2 Biogon for Sony

Out hiking, I’ve come to a firm conclusion over the past few years: Sony mirrorless with Zeiss Loxia (or Batis) offer a combination of image quality, size and weight and usability that is unrivalled. The Zeiss Loxia lenses concretize the promise of full-frame mirrorless.

Anyone tired of still lugging a DSLR can only hope that CaNikon come to their senses within the next year or so, because while the Sony A7R II has its negatives, the lens line for Sony Mirrorless from Zeiss alone is superb, and I expect that more lenses are coming.

The Sony G Master lenses are excellent, but striking to me based 0n actual “lugging” on this trip is that while excellent, the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM and new Sony 50mm f/1.4 take too much space in the pack (huge hassle for long day hikes!) and are too heavy and too unbalanced on the Sony A7R II for outdoor rough terrain situations. The Zeiss Loxia lineup (manual focus) is perfect, with Zeiss Batis a close second.

See my review of Zeiss Loxia and review of Zeiss Batis.

Fisherman show up right on schedule when the fish stop biting. Warm and sunny is perfect for fishing—if the goal is a day out in the sunshine and a few beers.

 
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Below, best fishing time just ended, with the fisherman all gone two hours ago. I should know, as I caught a 2.5 pound rainbow trout, which made a very fine dinner when grilled as shown further below.

 
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The Zeiss Loxia are wonderful, but sometimes an iPhone 6s Plus is just handy as below—this little yakitori grill can be had for about $28. It is portable for travel (I put it in the rooftop carrier in my SUV), and it does a bang-up job on trout like this one. A 16.5" 2.5 pound rainbow trout looked like King salmon and tasted quite similar. It was fantastic. Smaller trout cook fine too, but are harder to grill because they are so thin on the tail end. Here I cut the trout into two large chunks. I shared some with nearby campers as it was a bit much for me.

 
Grilled Rainbow Trout
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Nikon D810 Rear LCD with Zacuto Loupe vs Sony-style EVF

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Zacuto Z-Finder

This is a re-run; the issue keeps coming up in reader emails. B&H Photo has $75 off the 3X Zacuto loupe (recommended).

Miguel B writes:

How does the Nikon D810 + Zacuto Z-Finder compare to the best EVFs you've used in terms of image quality and usability.

This is more like a Live View question, but usability when your eye is in the loupe can highlight issues like needing to see or find buttons without looking.

DIGLLOYD: Readers know I like an EVF, and I sure wish one were an option on the Nikon D810; it solves focusing issues with manual focus lenses (and autofocus, done right!), it eliminates glare, it eliminates mirror slap (mirror already up), some optional EVFs can flip up for shooting at low or high angles, etc.

These are big advantages and when an EVF is offered together with an optical viewfinder, that’s sweet (the Leica M40 does this, but the Leica EVF is marginally better than toy grade, and no match for the Sony A7 series EVFs).

Eyeglass wearers might find an EVF problematic, but a loupe on a rear LCD much more usable. I’ve heard various comments in this regard (I wear contact lenses and skirt the issue).

The D810 rear LCD is excellent, but more or less useless for composing/shooting without a quality loupe like the Zacuto Z-Finder (at least for me, due to glare and presbyopia, both).

I think I actually prefer the D810 rear LCD with the Zacuto Z-Finder over the Sony A7/A7R/A7s EVF in quality and ease on the eye terms, but the Z-Finder is really only useful on a tripod for me (I simply hold it against the rear LCD, no mounting hardware due to conflict with the L bracket). While it is possible to strap a Z-Finder to the rear LCD in various ways, this has never been viable for me, and it’s awkward at best. Good for a dedicated video rig but that’s a pile o' stuff anyway.

The big strength of the EVF is being built-in with little or no extra bulk, and no extra dangling thing around my neck (the loupe). But the D810 rear LCD seems to deliver better contrast and an image easier on my eyes (with the Zacuto Z-Finder).

At about $375, the Z-Finder is not cheap, but the optics are superb and it is absolutely essential to my work, simply the #1 accessory I use (if I drove 200 miles and forgot it, I’d have to turn around and go get it—no kidding). The Z-Finder comes with a base plate, which is entirely useless for me as it cannot be mounted together with the Really Right Stuff L-bracket I use, but it might be useful for handheld shooting for some shooters.

See also:

Michael E writes:

I use the D810 with an early Z-Finder, strapped on with their elastic bands
and balls. I strap it right over my L-Bracket and find it easier that way
that trying to hold it there. I need to be able to focus and hold diffusers
at the same time, so straps work best for me.

Believe it or not I have yet to look through the OVF, even once, and I shoot
everyday.. I use it in the field also, but forget the OVF because my work is all close-up.

DIGLLOYD: works well in a studio; I found it unworkable for field use where I also want to be able to use the OVF. But for some work styles, it might work well and/or be preferable to the OVF.

Panoramas with Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon (Oneida Lake)

See my wish lists at B&H Photo including my Sony mirrorless wish list.

Panoramas with the iPhone 6s Plus are unbeatable for being fast and easy and finished product, but this 72-megapixel stitched image (5 frames handheld) can’t be touched in detail or tonal range by the iPhone. It was a few minute job in Photoshop to make this pano.

The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon on Sony mirrorless is an outstanding choice for such panoramic work.

Oneida Lake, Just Past May Lundy Mine
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Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8 IN STOCK
A gem of a lens.
Reviewed in: Guide to Mirrorless

Back from Overnights

See my wish lists at B&H Photo including my Sony mirrorless wish list.

Good morning. All subscriptions and renewals and emails have been handled as of 11:30 AM Aug 21.

I was off-grid for several days, shooting 50mm lenses and the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM and a few more things.

The Anker PowerCore 20100+ charged fully-drained Sony A7R II batteries 4 times, as well as some iPhone 6s Plus time and still had half a charge left. No need for solar charging on a trip spanning only 3 nights—better to just take battery power than a solar panel.

The human element gives scale to outdoor images. I played it a little here: what else to do when tired after hiking for 13 hours up in that cirque?

Selfie Clones, Mt Dana
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Solo Overnight Camping
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