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Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

Get Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens at B&H Photo

I shot the new Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD tonight against the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. I’ll have some comparisons up this week.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Pescadero Creek
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Deal Zone: Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports
In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White) $19.99 ($40 off).

I ordered these for a particular reason: when I talk on the phone it crooks my arm too sharply, and this irritates the nerve in the arm near the elbow, which is still recovering from an insult from an antibiotic last November.

Hardly any earbud style headphones fit my ear canals (Apple-supplied ones do not fit at all).

So I’m hoping these might work and allow phone calls to be less troublesome for nerves.

 

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Buckeye Leaves and Peach Blossoms Aperture Series

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, these two lens rendering aperture series are intended to give additional insight into the bokeh (blur style) of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A.

Aperture Series: Buckeye Leaves (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Aperture Series: Peach Blossoms (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

The Nikon-mount version should be out relatively soon, so it will be interesting to see more from this fine lens on a sensor with better noise, color and resolution.

California Buckeye Leaves
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Peach Blossoms
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Shootout: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 11-24/4L

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art or Canon 24mm at B&H Photo.

This 4-way shootout utilizes a subject that allows a good examination of sharpness and contrast (fine wood detail), field curvature, color correction and distortion.

Three primes, one zoom, all 24mm. In DAP:

Shootout: vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8, 11-12/4L (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

See also review of the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II and review of the Canon 24/2.8 IS and review of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

     
Sigma 35/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon 24/1.4L II, Canon 24/2.8 IS, Canon 11-24/4L
(not necessarily to scale)
Bench
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Emerging Features that Are Essential: Make the Camera Work for YOU

Features I think ought to be standard on all higher-end cameras soon, because they extend aspects of the shooting and quality envelope:

  • Sensor stabilization on all DSLRs, APS-C and full frame.
  • Hi-res multishot mode like the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II.
  • True raw histogram with auto-ETTR metering.
  • Ultra high dynamic range (20 bit) in RAW by multiple electronic exposures (no shutter movement). Similar to hi-res multishot mode idea. Could be combined (both). Gimme one big honkin' raw file that has it all.
  • 4-megapixel EVF (current ones are ~2.3 megapixels).
  • Retina-grade rear LCD at camera rear.
  • 15-bit file format for ultra high quality at low base ISO of 64 or 32 or similar.
  • Image transfer (including raw) to any paired iPhone or iPad or Android.
  • Overlay on EVF showing peak contrast graph for manual focus, with auditory feedback so one can in theory focus with eyes closed: cold, warm, warmer, hot, beep, click!

Michael M writes:

Great list, particularly agree with your Retina-level rear LCD (make it tiltable while we’re at it) and connectivity. In high-volume shooting situations like sports and events, clients are looking for almost real-time transfer/publishing for a variety of purposes including social media, while at the same time appreciating the back-end quality of RAW. We can satisfy both file requirements with RAW + JPG to separate cards but the workflow just sucks from that point on. Photographers caught in that squeeze (like yours truly) can’t realisitically develop their own solution like the 4-cellular-modem backpack that NYT photographers are using.

The Canon 1Dx II whenever it arrives better have built-in wi-fi, but if Canon was truly thinking out-the-box they’d also build in cellular capability so our cameras could transmit when out in the wild. Kludgy $600 wi-fi add-ons won’t cut it. Camera makers should partner with Samsung or Apple to integrate the cellular capability, as they've proven time and time again they just don’t understand the connectivity imperative. Hell, if phones get any thinner, a camera maker could conceivably provide a slot/hardware dock to slot the phone into, and it would handle the image display and connectivity while opening up a limitless ecosystem of apps and software enhancements. KickStarter anyone?

DIGLLOYD: as an analogy morphing to reality, the camera industry is still in the days of flip phones. The iPhone has not yet arrived in the real camera world except for the iPhone itself, which is eating the camera industry from the bottom up, like an ice shelf being undermined by warm water. Yet the players in the camera industry doze on.

Nikon and Canon: Catatonic?

Get Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless Digital camera and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

How to make a small fortune? Start with a large one.

How to lose a dominant camera franchise? Offer nothing truly innovative for 5 years while ignoring the mirrorless trend.

Yes, the Nikon D810 is terrific as a DSLR, the current pinnacle, but it offers little real innovation. It can’t even support a proper EVF and why do I want the optical viewfinder at all most of the time? Many shooting situations are far better served with an EVF.

And 50MP from Canon with apparently the same lame 5 year-old dynamic range would be a total yawner if the Canon 5D Mark III weren’t half that resolution.

The point is, both the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS are incremental advances with minimal non-obvious thinking. Kick the can down the road. Well, it ain’t coming back CaNikon, so sober up and take action.

Why can’t Nikon and Canon just for starters make a mirrorless like the Sony A7 series that takes the current DSLR lenses for 100% compatibility. It would be thicker than an A7 due to backfocal distance, but so what if it takes all the current lenses? Lose the optical viewfinder, add a high grade EVF and 4-inch Retina-grade rear LCD and throw it against the wall. It would probably stick pretty well as a transition product, and more importantly, reset market thinking that CaNikon are paralyzed. Why take a loss doing nothing meaningful when at least a market failure is a lose-and-learn?

Heck, I’d love a D810 sensor in a Sony A7 style mirrorless just to shoot Zeiss ZF.2 lenses; the EVF makes manual focus so much more pleasant than the rear LCD or trying to focus through a crude optical viewfinder that is optimized for AF.

Sony A7R

Roy P writes:

Interesting that your column “Nikon and Canon: Catatonic?” should appear exactly at the same time I have been mulling over this very issue. After having just bought a Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, I returned it because Canon announced its new 100-400mm lens. I was getting ready to buy that and pre-order the new 5DS R, but it kept bothering me that both Nikon and Canon have been stodgy companies that have shown very little innovation over the past 5+ years.

The most visible “innovations” from Canon and Nikon have been sensor resolution. After years of languishing at 12 MP, Nikon finally came out with a 36MP camera in the D800/D800E, but it was a Sony sensor. And now, after languishing for three years, Canon is responding with a 50MP sensor.

Great. Leave aside the resolution for a moment. What are the 2-3 big other innovations from either Nikon or Canon?

I have no idea. I would have to think hard to come up with some answers like “Well, maybe better noise at higher ISO”, or “maybe a little better AF accuracy”, or “a little more resolution in the rear LCD”, or “better live view support”.

On the other hand, I can rattle off a bunch of innovations from Sony, without even thinking – mirrorless cameras, ability to intelligently use manual focus lenses, ability to use as universal bodies for a wide range of lenses of any make (except for the acute ray angle issues with M-mount lenses), super high resolution sensors, electronic view finders, sensor stabilization, focus peaking, zebras, far superior live view that lets me zoom into any corner of the frame down to the pixel level, the best 1920 and now, 4K video capabilities in 35mm cameras designed for still photography, compact designs, swivel LCD back that lets me shoot from waist level / knee level / camera held above my head, dual mode (contrast, phase detection) autofocus, compact designs, light weight, WiFi, NFC, GPS, lower prices, … to list a few, not in any particular order

I was getting ready to buy the new Canon 100-400mm lens, along with a Canon 5DS R body. But I worry that except for the 50MP sensor, there’s nothing new in the camera. Its AF speed is only so-so – it has a burst speed of only up to 5 fps.

It is inexcusable that this latest and greatest $3900 Canon DSLR can offer nothing better than 1080 video. Which means if I were shooting still images of wild life on a safari with a 400mm Canon lens and the Canon 5DS R, but then wanted to also shoot a video clip in 4K or at least, 1920, I would need have brought along an entirely different camera, with a different 400mm lens? How ridiculous is that?

Over the past 4-5 years, I got rid of my Leica M9 and M240, and switched to the Sony NEX initially, and then the A7x. Over that time, I also transitioned all my Nikon F-mount manual focus lenses over to my Sony A7x bodies. I can’t remember the last time I used either of my Zeiss Otus or any of my other Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on a Nikon body.

These days, about the ONLY use I have for my Nikon D810 is when I need fast, accurate autofocus and high frame rate. But Sony is quickly catching up in that, too. The Sony A6000 and A77-II both have very fast AF with subject tracking that are already pretty darned good, and I think it’s only a matter of time (perhaps even this year) that Sony will have FF cameras that can give the Canon 1DX and Nikon 4DS a run for their money in action photography.

I’m saying goodbye to Nikon / Canon, and switching over to Sony entirely. Yes, Nikon / Canon have a few lenses that are really outstanding. But Sony isn’t exactly chopped liver. Sony has a pretty decent portfolio of its own lenses, plus a lot of very nice Zeiss lenses. In addition, I think third parties like Sigma and Tamron are increasingly supporting Sony.

For anyone who plans to build a system, I think Sony provides a fundamentally superior platform and technology roadmap. This is not just a matter of a few products or features at a given point in time – this is something that runs much deeper. As a company, Sony is far more aggressive, innovative, willing to experiment, ready to take a risk, and willing to invest. I can’t imagine Nikon / Canon having had the intestinal fortitude to come out with a camera like the A7. Nikon and Canon are culturally not there. That will be the hardest thing for them to overcome, and I don’t think they will.

By playing its cards right and staying aggressive, Sony could run away with it. I’ve had enough of Nikon / Canon. I’m already waist deep in Sony anyway, and I’m transitioning over to Sony 100% (except for my Leica S).

DIGLLOYD: These are existentially concerning sentiments (and actions) for Canon and Nikon.

And this is from the high end. With the low end (iPhone 6) undermining the ice sheet with warm water from below, the Sony onslaught from the land of the rising sun beats down from above. Paralysis will give way to panic will give way to collapse unless Canon and Nikon show some leadership.

I like the Nikon D810 a lot, and it serves a very fine place. But boy is it fun and easy under many circumstances to shoot an Olympus E-M5 Mark II or a Sony A7 II or Sony RX1R. Nikon and Canon have zero to offer in that category of experience.

Reader Comments: Sony File Format

Get the Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless Digital camera at B&H Photo.

Sony A7R

Dan B writes:

I'm subscribed to and enjoyed your publications for a few years.

My question is: do you have any inkling of the relative effect of Sony's fake 14-bit lossy compressed raw files would have on a probable future 50mp camera? More specifically, would the effect be greater than currently seen with the 24mp and 36mp a7MII and a7r cameras, given the higher pixel density of a 50mp camera?

I had hoped that given the complaints Sony has received about that issue that they would have issued the A7 Mark II with w/o that issue. But no such luck. I would suppose therefore that the rumored forthcoming A7R II camera will have the same issue. Also, I am wondering that, not only will Sony never fix this issue, but with their new 50mp they will compress the files EVEN MORE! After all, their cameras are selling fairly well so their marketing folks may say 'why change'?

While this issue affects perhaps only up to 5 to 10% of my photos (obvious to a picky person like me) it does stick in my craw and makes me think of going back to a D810. I'd prefer not to go back to the D810 because I like autofocus Zeiss lenses (like the FE 55mm 1.8, with more good ones to come, perhaps sometime in the next year) more than what's available for Nikon and I like the somewhat smaller footprint of the mirrorless camera outfits and I LOVE not having to fine-tune the AF for each SLR lens!.

I'm not interested in Otus (expense, huge, and manual focus only), and the only lenses for the D810 that interest me are the new 24mm Sigma, the 35mm Sigma (which I had before), and perhaps the new Nikon 300mm F/4 diffractive optics version. But if Sony is not going to ditch their compromised files I just may do the switch. I'd spend the money for a Pentax 645Z if (a) they had better lenses near the 35mm effective focal length and (b) the camera had EFC, so that's out as well.

It really makes me angry that Sony Imaging has done such as stupid thing as to hobble the image quality of their cameras, at this late stage. Could it be some kind of bizarre non-competition agreement with Nikon and Pentax - you use our chips and we'll cripple our raw files so that we won't gain too much market share.

Well, probably not, but really, if Nikon and Pentax can pump out real 14-bit files with non-lossy compression using Sony chips there doesn't seem a rational reason for Sony's approach. Perhaps it's the buy-every-next-generation-of-our-cameras-to-help-our-bottom-line type of thing and we might provide a real high class raw file one of these years.

DIGLLOYD: Sony could make the whole file format concern go away by offering a 14-bit lossless compressed mode like Nikon has long done. But that begs another question: would it matter? Because from what I see, the Sony raw files are already cooked, with a lot of preprocessing going on—a half baked pizza, so to speak. What I’d really like to see is a high quality uncooked 15-bit raw file format that is lossless-compressed (variable file compression rates would mean varying raw file size, more detail = bigger file).

As for the Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression used by Sony cameras, it is less and less important with more noise. So the higher the per-pixel noise, the less it matters (higher ISO for example). Thus if a 50MP camera has noisier pixels (per pixel), then the lossy format would have less impact, not more. I would expect Sony to offer the same algorithm run on more pixels, so the files would be larger on a 50MP camera by the ratio of 50/36, just as the 36MP A7R files are larger by a 36/24 factor vs the 24MP A7 II format.

I see the Sony file format as one aspect of the Sony mindset; terrific parts, but it’s not a camera; it’s an electronic gadget—this is reflected in various design choices. And therefore I don’t hold out much hope for a change in the file format. But I do hope to be mistaken.

But the more pressing issue by far is eliminating the Sony A7R shutter vibration (“shutter shock”) issue in the Sony A7R, since under some conditions, the vibration cuts 36MP down to 24MP or even 18MP (a tiny 2 micron movement suffices to turn 36MP into 24MP). The shutter vibration ruined a lot of my work, and with telephotos, it’s a multi-pixel bang-bang nightmare. An EFC shutter is mandatory for a high-resolution camera of any brand.

So in my view, if Sony offered a zero-vibration electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter) on a 36/50MP A7R II (as with the Sony A7 II), along with a 14-bit lossless-compressed file format and sensor stabilization, the camera would be compelling. Even if the crapware Play Memories menu remains there like a brain-fart in the menu system.

Finally, I’d like to see the camera made slightly larger because the total size just drives down the size of all the controls, which makes them fiddly, error prone, and hard to work with stiff hands (cold) or gloves and just in general. I vastly prefer Nikon style controls.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Vignetting and Distortion

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

I offer some context and perspective on the distortion and relative illumination (vignetting) characteristics of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Vignetting

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Distortion

 

Relative Illumination (Vignetting) for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Relative Distortion for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Flare Control: Aperture Series 'Extreme Backlighting, Cherry Blossoms'

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

I fought off aggressive mosquitos on a very warm March day to shoot this image. Sort of summer with mosquitos, except that it’s too dry in summer for them to appear.

This scene was shot against the fading dusk sky, and given a massive boost to shadow areas by +100 (maximum) in Adobe Camera Raw in order to open up very dark areas (some contrast added to counteract the inevitable 'flat' look from so doing).

If the lens does not resist flare, attempts to do this would result in poor contrast in these dark areas.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Extreme Backlighting, Cherry Blossoms

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Also of interest is the lens sharpness and contrast given the radical processing, as well as the control of color aberrations. This scene would be serious trouble for many lenses, e.g., massive violet fringing.

Magenta Flower
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Aperture Series 'Magenta Flower' and 'Poppy'

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

This series follows the Bird of Paradise flower shot by adding a “noisy” background to the scene in order to evaluate total bokeh quality across the f/1.4 - ƒ/13 aperture range. In DAP:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Magenta Flower

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Another near range macro series:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: California Poppy

Commentary is on bokeh and color correction. The lens is exceptional. It appears to be the best 24mm f/1.4 lens ever produced for a DSLR.

At about $849, it’s a no-brainer for any Canon or Nikon or Sony A shooter. It’s too bad that it cannot be mounted directly to a Sony A7 series camera, because the size and weight are very acceptable.

Magenta Flower
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California Poppy
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, MTF

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

MTF vs high end

I discuss the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art MTF chart using the Leica 24/1.4 Summilux for comparison.

MTF for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The lens world is advancing, with (from what I see) Sigma and Zeiss leading the charge for ultra high performance.

Canon and Nikon shooters: run, don’t walk and order this lens (about $849 plus 4% rewards at B&H Photo).

 

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art MTF @ f/1.4
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art optical design

Reviewed: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art just arrived. In the waning daylight I shot a number of things. I immediately noticed the exceptional bokeh, superior color correction and very close focus range. After years of shooting so much gear, I know a winner when I see one.

In DAP is the first look at the new Sigma 24/1.4:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bird of Paradise Flower

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Canon and Nikon shooters: run, don’t walk and order this lens (about $849 plus 4% rewards at B&H Photo). The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Bird of Paradise Bokeh
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode EXAMPLES

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). This delivers higher resolution, but also higher image quality, processed appropriately.

These examples were carefully evaluated and are presented after processing to a 32-megapixel size (twice the native sensor megapixels). The results should be intriguing for any Micro Four Thirds shooter.

Examples with Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode (Historical Items)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops.

Mechanical ingenuity
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A portrait with a view
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard-res, NOISE Compared

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). This delivers higher resolution, but also raises the question of lower noise.

This scene makes a superb example of how hi-res mode can improve the noise behavior, even using an ideal ETTR (expose to the right) exposure (see also the ETTR area in DAP). The standard-res image is compared to the high-res image at standard resolution; the results are remarkable. In Guide to Mirrorless:

Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard Resolution, NOISE (Mining Artifacts)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with many pairs of large crops.

Here’s a small crop comparing the two modes. The article shows several very large crops including blurred and sharp areas, high key and low key areas, as well as the entire frame images.

Noise — Hi-Res vs Standard-Res

Digital cameras have suffered from a lack of imagination in their approach to features for some years now; this example shows how a smart company can add significant value right in the camera simply by asking “what if”—and then acting. Kudos to Olympus for extending the shooting envelope.

What if this technology (which requires sensor stabilization) were put to use in 50 megapixel full-frame cameras? Canon and Nikon seem asleep on the job, but perhaps Sony will up the ante with a 50-megapixel stabilized A9 or whatever.

Mining Artifacts
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Reader Comment: Olympus E-M5 Mark II High-Res Mode

UPDATE: see the noise comparison of hi-res vs standard-res on the E-M5 Mark II.

Gary L writes:

Thank you for the great article on the EM5 Mark II's sensor shift technology. I agree, this technology is very exciting.

It seems, not only does one get a higher resolution image, but also less noise and more accurate colors. I was wondering if one of the benefits of the hi-res image might also be a higher dynamic range. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

DIGLLOYD: dynamic range and noise are interrelated in that a higher noise level raises the black level off of black. Since dynamic range is the range of dark to bright, higher noise reduces dynamic range.

To quantify noise, a doubling of exposure time cuts the main type of noise by √2. With the multiple exposure hi-res mode of the EM5 Mark II, there are eight (perhaps nine) exposures made that are interwoven in hardware by the camera in a complex way. It seems likely that the actual usable dynamic range would be higher as a result by reducing (averaging out) errors from noise. However, the file format is 12 bits and that places a hard upper limit on the DR to 12 bits. Still, if the usable dynamic range increases from 10.5 or 11 bits (due to noise) to 12 bits, that would be a significant gain. The effect is probably minimal at base ISO, but might accrue at higher ISOs. But the hi-res mode requires a tripod, and up to 8 seconds exposures are possible, so the use of higher ISO would be unusual in hi-res mode.

I have not set out to prove or disprove whether the actual usable dynamic range is improved, and I don’t have a clear read on it in a technical way. However, I would say this: the huge 9216 X 6912 images 64MP / 105MB raw files themselves are all those samples containing differing data values that are merged. Downsampling that file size 2X linearly (to native resolution) improves per-pixel quality, which includes averaging out per-pixel noise. So in this sense there is lower noise, at the least. Downsampling to ~40 megapixels has similar noise reducing benefits while retaining the increased detail.

Compared: Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD vs Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 (Mannequin and Glass Bottles)

This environmental portrait style image compares the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD with the non-APD Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R on the Fujifilm X-T1. In Guide to Mirrorless:

56/1.2 APD vs 56/1.2: Mannequin and Glass Bottles

To assess the effects over aperture, the series ƒ 1.2, 1.4, 2, ..., 8 is presented with both lenses for comparison for both the entire frame images and crops. Thus one can see the progression and compare both optics at any aperture. The differences are multiple and which lens is better is shown here to fall under the “it depends” category.

Includes HD and UltraHD entire frame images, as well as five large actual pixels crops to show all the various lens performance and bokeh behaviors.

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Compared: Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD vs Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2

More is coming, but I kick off my analysis of the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD with a comparison to the non-APD Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R on the Fujifilm X-T1 using a strongly blurred background as shown (several variants of this type of scene were shot, each showing the same results/conclusions).

In Guide to Mirrorless:

56/1.2 APD vs 56/1.2: Defocused Bokeh

To assess the effects over aperture, the series ƒ 1.2, 1.4, 2, ..., 11 is presented with both lenses for comparison for both the entire frame images and crops. Thus one can see the progression and compare both optics at any aperture.

Includes HD and UltraHD entire frame images, as well as three large actual pixels crops to show all the various bokeh effects.

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Adobe Camera Raw Now Shows that a Built-in Lens Profile is Applied

It’s been a long time coming, but the recent update to Adobe Camera Raw 8.8.0 (397) in Photoshop now shows explicitly that a lens profile is being applied.

As shown at bottom right, a small note with the (i) notes that a built-in lens profile has been applied. Clicking this note pops up an info window with details.

This new behavior is welcome, because it makes clear what is happening; ACR has long had the behavior of some cameras having such lens profiles and some not, but never indicating which.

The dubious aspect is the fact that there is no choice to enable or disable this behavior; if the vendor supplies a lens profile, then it will be applied. Thus there is no way to see the actual lens performance.

While removal of chromatic aberration might arguably be good most or nearly all of the time, vignetting is a creative tool that I value with some lenses for its ability to focus the viewer’s attention.

Vignetting contributes significantly to the feel of an image when shot wide open; see for example 50/0.95 Noctilux Rendering Style or 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Rendering Style.

Ideally, ACR would turn this info note into checkboxes to apply or not apply each lens correction.

 

DEAL: Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478D Light Meter and X-Rite ColorChecker Passport with Sekonic Gray Balance Card

Through late today only, B&H Photo has the Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478D Light Meter and X-Rite ColorChecker Passport with Sekonic Gray Balance Card for just $319.

I’m a big fan of ETTR and histograms, particularly in the field, but a light meter and color and gray cards have their uses in certain situations.

Hi-Res Sensor Shift: Can 16 megapixels become 40 megapixels?

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

Whether or not you have or plan to have an Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II with its hi-res sensor shift mode, my latest EM5 Mark II hi-res mode evaluation should be intensely interesting for the promise it holds out for ultra-high resolution images from any brand that might implement sensor shift technology. Barring something horrible: some sort of patent standoff that keeps other players out, and thus deprives us of this tech.

BTW, I don’t much like the form factor of the E-M5 Mark II: the grip is just lousy for my relatively large hands; I much prefer the grip of the E-M1. An E-M1 Mark II would solve that.

Sensor shift already has existed for some years now in very high quality and at very high cost: medium format Hasselblad digital backs, intended for studio work).

But it is Olympus that deserves kudos for delivering a version of the technology at a lowball $1099 price point. The Olympus results do not deliver the quality of the Hasselblad system by any means. But the writing is on the wall—more and better implementations are sure to come. And it is far easier technologically than to linearly double or quadruple sensor resolution.

And so I now consider two technologies must-have features that ought to find their way into all cameras: (1) sensor image stabilization along with (2) ultra high-res sensor shift technology. Consider the following if implemented only as far as Olympus does it:

  • 24MP full-frame sensor could generate 96MP raw files delivering something approaching 60 megapixels of detail under ideal conditions.
  • 36MP full-frame sensor could generate 144MP raw files delivering something approaching 90 megapixels of detail under ideal conditions.
  • 50MP full-frame sensor could generate 200MP raw files delivering something approaching 125 megapixels of detail under ideal conditions.

The above is only true for tripod based shooting with no camera or subject movement; it is not a general solution. However, with smart enough hardware, even handheld operation could be possible with powerful image processing hardware (semi-randomized shifts by some camera movement handheld, combined for one better image, this is actually already implemented in specialized software programs, but I for one want the camera to deliver to me one raw file).

With appropriate design, the camera itself could be smarter than what Olympus delivers, e.g., delivering smaller raw files large enough to include the extra detail, but not wastefully large files containing much less detail than the numbers would imply. By using the camera itself to process appropriately. Better to get 95% of the gains with 50% of the file bloat in my view.

Since the Sony A7 II already has image stabilization and a Sony A7R II ought to have the same stabilization, the possibility of a firmware update for the A7 II which supports sensor shift technology is intriguing. Actually, it’s startling that Sony has not already done so, but perhaps there is a hardware limitation or some other reason. Also, any A7R II would have to move to an EFC shutter and eliminate the the sharpness-destroying shutter vibration.

Oversampling

The sensor-shift approach used by Olympus is a type of oversampling, an idea that I have long advocated for higher image quality.

Oversampling using a double-resolution sensor would be much better than shifting the sensor, but this happens slowly over time. However, an ideal existence proof for the validity of oversampling will soon present itself: comparing the 50-megapixel Canon 5Ds R against the current 23-megapixel 5D Mark III in June or July 2015, depending on when Canon delivers.

Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Just How Good is the Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode?

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). There is definitely not 64MP of real detail in the files, but there ismuch more detail than its 4608 X 3456 resolution mode. As well as other benefits.

I shot a variety of images to explore the EM5 Mark II hi-res mode, but this example turned out to be outstanding for seeing the differences, at least under ideal conditions and with excellent shot discipline. In Guide to Mirrorless:

Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard Resolution (Mining Museum)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with many pairs of large crops.

The sensor-shift approach used by Olympus is a type of oversampling, an idea that I have long advocated for higher image quality. Oversampling using a double-resolution sensor would be much better than shifting the sensor, but Olympus deserves kudos for delivering a remarkable feature in a $1099 camera.

Of course, one ponders what Sony (or Nikon or Canon) could do with sensor shift, since the equivalent would be to deliver 144 megapixel images from a 36MP sensor, or 200 megapixels from a 50MP sensor. Or 96 megapixels on the 24MP Sony A7 II, which has an image-stabilized sensor already.

Mining Museum
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Boulders Near Mt Williamson (5DM3)

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM at B&H Photo.

In DAP, this aperture series explores of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L on a classic landscape scene.

Aperture Series: Boulders Near Mt Williamson (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white, as well as the usual large crops from f/4 through f/16.

Analysis includes sharpness and peripheral focus shift, and some discussion of what one might expect on a 50 megapixel sensor.

Boulders Near Mt. Williamson
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Ghosting Flare Series at 24mm

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM at B&H Photo.

This 4-photo series shows the behavior of the 11-24mm f/4L at its 24mm zoom setting with respect to flare—even when the sun is well out of the frame.

Flare: Angle to Sun vs Bulbous Front Element (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

View near Mt. Williamson
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Examples at Manzanar

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM at B&H Photo.

This photo essay at Manzanar explore performance of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L, particularly at the wide end.

Examples: Manzanar (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

Includes both color and black and white renditions, which I felt was appropriate for the subject matter, but also gives an excellent idea of just how good the 11-24mm f/4L can be for documentary photography in B&W.

Pleasure Park, 1943
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Carrizo Plain Flower Status

I stopped for half a day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, and was surprised to see much more greenery than last year’s desert-like conditions. Fields of purple and yellow flowers are evident, with even some smaller patches of poppies. This week through next week will be the peak.

It won’t be like the phenomenal 2005 bumper crop of flowers, but it’s decent. Still, the plants are clearly suffering, already showing signs of drought and heat stress (starting to droop), not at all the rich verdant tapestry I enjoyed in 2005.

Some pleasing images could be made by waiting for better light in late day, but this one I made as I had to leave, in mid afternoon.

Flowering plants in Carrizo Plain National Monument, March 15 2015
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Defunct Mining Hotel Bar (5DM3)

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM at B&H Photo.

In DAP, this aperture series explores the performance of what might be the new ultra wide angle zoom champion.

Aperture Series: Defunct Mining Hotel Bar (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images and large crops from f/4 through f/16. Analysis includes sharpness, field curvature, focus shift, and some discussion of what one might expect on a 50 megapixel sensor.

Toil, then gamble and drink it away.
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Manzanar (WW II Relocation Camp for Japanese Americans)

Two well-known photographers documented Manzanar: Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange

It’s always a risk to bring up a subject like this, with some readers inferring far too much from my remarks, and judging without understanding my meaning. But I don’t like to shy away from reality.

I finally stopped to see Manzanar (near Lone Pine, CA), where up to 11,000 Japanese* were relocated during wartime. Conditions there were physically harsh, but not inhumane** from what I saw and read, including gardens and other aspects making it more tolerable than a plain prison, which is what it was of course— a prison for those having comitted no crimes.

My reaction to Manazanar has always been one of disgust that this country violated its core principles, but that started with slavery and we are hardly free of the same failings today. But the greatness of a country is in doing what is right without too long a delay, and in owning up to what was wrong. Little solace for those on the short end.

It’s easy to judge history safe and sound here in the USA today, but those who lived through it for good or ill have perspectives that may be hard to grasp (so many aspects: real wartime fears, racism, political goals, propoganda, deprivations, loss of sons and families, the list goes on). A country at war is at best a morass of conflicting values and actions. So I restrain my possibly naive judgment of Manzanar vs the founding principles of this country in the context of war, where destruction of the entire Pacific Fleet was a distinct possibility. BTW, the gun emplacements on the headlands near San Francisco can still be visited; they seem rather curious and almost quaint, but there they are. Can anyone of my generation really understand the wartime context properly?

* If I have my facts right: 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry, about 2/3 of which were United States citizens. Citizens or not, these people were forcibly relocated during wartime, entirely disrupting their former lives. Of course, the hypocricy of Japenese American soldiers fighting for the USA while their fellows were relocated is hard to reconcile with the camps.

** Being forcibly uprooted and treated like a criminal was surely hard to bear, let alone the physical conditions. It’s a sad chapter. All war is terrible, with many losers.

Shot with the Canon 11-24mm f/4L (about $2999 at B&H Photo).

Where would anyone escape to, when facial features alone would betray?
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No original cabins remain; this reconstruction is made of better materials than the original “green lumber”version
Numerous other cabins stretched away into the distance in several directions (see small marker posts where they once stood)
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Inside a reconstructed cabin, made of much more tight-fitting wood than the 'green' lumber used for the originals,
which shrank and gapped as it seasoned
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View of the Sierra Nevada from a reconstructed Manzanar communal house (zero privacy)
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Japanese pond and garden area, once fed by a small reservoir not far away, in turn fed by a mountain stream
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Back From Trip (and Carrizo Plain)

I’m back from my trip.

I stopped for half a day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, and was surprised to see much more greenery than last year’s desert-like conditions. Fields of purple and yellow flowers are evident, with even some smaller patches of poppies. I expect that this week through next week will be the peak. It won’t be like the phenomenal 2005 bumper crop of flowers, but it’s decent. Still, the plants are clearly suffering, already showing signs of drought and heat stress, not the rich verdant tapestry I enjoyed in 2005.


The Speed You Need
The Speed You Need

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