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Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction (Leica M240, but applies to any/all)

Cameras lacking anti-aliasing filters tend to suffer from color aliasing and moiré. Usually this is not an issue, but it can all but ruin some images. But there is a workaround that is easy and practical for many purposes, with a “balancing point” of best results (sharpness and contrast versus mitigating aliasing).

In Making Sharp Images:

Diffraction vs Color Aliasing (Leica M240)

This example confirms and expands upon the principles discussed in Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction (Leica S2).

Canon shooters contemplating the 50-megapixel 5DS or 5DS R might find the discussion particularly interesting on the value of 50 megapixels vs 23/24 (Canon 5D Mark III).

Actual pixels from Leica M240

Death Valley Photo Tour, Early March, or Carrizo Plain in late March

Contact me immediately if you’re interested in a personalized photo tour in Death Valley in early March. Combination cycling tour also an option if you are a road or mountain cyclist. As a personalized tour, we can do whatever you like, though of course I have some favorite locations in mind; I know both the time of year and the places to go.

Dates: March 5/6 or March 8/9/10/11 range.

I expect to have the new Canon 11-24m f/4L with me on this trip, which might be of interest to Canon shooters.

ALSO: Carrizo Plain National Monument just before or after March 22nd.

Hardcore option: FAT (snow bike) photo expedition to Patriarch Grove in White Mountains.

For you northeastern folks enjoying real winter: Death Valley in early March is exceedingly pleasant, dry and with temperatures reaching about 80°F during the day, and 50°F at night (at lower elevations).

See Death Valley Snapshot, Exploring Death Valley, Death Valley Double Century.

Eureka Dunes    
Eureka Dunes    
Eureka Dunes
(about 700 feet high, highest in USA)

Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction

Cameras lacking anti-aliasing filters tend to suffer from color aliasing and moiré. Usually this is not an issue, but it can all but ruin some images. But there is a workaround that is easy and practical for many purposes, with a “balancing point” of best results (sharpness and contrast versus mitigating aliasing).

In Making Sharp Images:

Effects of Diffraction Blur on Color Aliasing (with Leica S2)

The example presented is with the Leica S2, but it applies to any camera with any size sensor. The discussion includes a full size image as well as three large apertures series from f/2.8 - f/11 that illustrate the effects.

The Nikon D810 and D800E have no anti-aliasing filter; the new Canon 5DS has such a filter, but the 5DS R does not. Similar considerations apply to other models and brands.

Actual pixels from Leica S2

It’s 2015: Where Does Leica M Stand?

It’s now 2015. Nearly two years ago in May 2013 the Leica M Typ 240 appeared, a 24MP CMOS-based camera body that delivered minimal resolution gains over the 18MP CCD-based Leica M9 (as per my tests).

But it enabled Live View, and that at least for me was a huge plus, because sharpness starts first and foremost with accurate focus (I never use the rangefinder, which demands perfect adjustment for every lens used, and I’d like to see it eliminated).

So here we stand in 2015 with 24 megapixels and along with an optional (!) low-res EVF with lousy contrast that can zoom and thus allow focus only at frame center. Hello? It would be funny if it were not pathetic and an ongoing slap in the face every time the M240 is used. One need only pick up a Sony A7 series camera, or Olympus E-M1 to see just how poor the Leica EVF is.

Meanwhile, 50 megapixel cameras have started to appear (Canon 5DS / 5DSR), with Nikon and Sony surely not far behind (Canon 50MP is vaporware until June or later). Well, 50 is more than twice 24.

So we are left with a situation where it’s fair to ask (with flagging enthusiasm for M):

  • Where is the (at least) 36 megapixel Leica M?
  • Why does the M240 still sport a low-res obsolete EVF? I want steady progress from Leica, sincere efforts to improve the usability and functionality, not 5th place science-fair efforts for my money.
  • If Leica M lenses are so great, what are they doing on a camera with half the megapixels that Canon will have soon? Maybe they aren’t so great...
  • If Leica M lenses are so great, why do I feel without reservation that the new Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is better than any Leica-produced M lens, at far lower cost.

And (groan), will it cost me another $8K for the privilege of a new red-dot body when Leica gets around to offering one?

It’s a darn shame to see Leica stagnate and fail to deliver improved value over time. But even more frustrating is this: the M platform still offers one of the most attractively compact systems on the market for full frame. A 50MP M body would be 'killer'. And that’s my real beef here: is Leica M a dead-end? Or is there hope?

  Photographing the Photographer Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Photographing the Photographer
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

Roy writes:

Where does the Leica M stand? On thin ice, I think. Re. “I never use the rangefinder, which demands perfect adjustment for every lens used, and I’d like to see it eliminated”, IMHO, the RF today is about as useful as a slide rule would be in a world of programmable digital calculators with 64-bit floating point precision. After the calculator came out, the slide rule crowd stubbornly continued for another 10+ years before becoming gradually fading away.

I gave up on the RF in April, 2011, when I said goodbye to my M9 and switched to a Sony NEX-5. It took three more years to get to the full-frame A7/A7R, and while they were not and are still not perfect digital backs for the Leica M lenses, it’s getting closer.

The Sony E-mount FF cameras offer many advantages over a Leica M 240, such as superior EVF, competent live view, focus peaking, greater resolution, video, the ability to easily work with a wide range of third party lenses, etc. But there is one other advantage that is really big, I think: the ability to chop the minimum focusing distance from an absurd ~1m down to about 0.5m with close focusing helicoid adapters. Several companies make these now, including some real cheap ones (not recommended). I like the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focusing Adapter (pictured below). I think Metabones also makes one now.

DIGLLOYD: Roy also owns Leica S. And it’s true that a M-like body with a high res EVF would allow new lens designs with close focus and higher performance. Odd that no effort towards that goal has been made by Leica (Leica T is APS-C).

A writes:

Lloyd, I have no clue what you are on about. You can order the M Safari! And the M something Lenny Kravitz! What more would you want?!?!

And hey, since there are zero pre orders for the new S with its whopping 37MP, you may get one first, ummm between May and November sometimes, at a newly discounted price of only ~$ 27,000.

No news through the bush drums (the 28/1.4 is superb, but I paid a fortune for it as I had to buy the 100 year edition case … where is the normal version??? ), i am not hopeful overall.

Only using one MP body and the M60 (yes, good fun, disregarding the price). Selling a few lenses, too. WATE and >=35 are good to great on Sony. Rest is going, replaced by Zeiss for Sony.

Honestly, if I could i would sell Leica stock short now. With hindsight, the accelerated opening of the posh boutiques should have me you that it was going downhill.

DIGLLOYD: from a longtime Leica M and S fan. As far as can be told, the new Leica 28mm f/1.4 M does not exist except in special edition.

Jorge Torralba writes:

Leica. What happened? (Nov 22, 2014)

John P

Not everyone agrees with the priorities.

I agree that Leica needs to update its M series camera and accessories: it would be preferable to have more versatile live view and viewfinder.

I don’t think that a 36MP or 50MP sensor is the right next step, however A you make clear, to make the best of even a 24MP camera, you need impeccable technique, ideally with tripod ,etc. If I was engaged in that style of shooting, I would take a D810 and be done with it. Since I use my Leica when travelling light or I don’t want to take a tripod, or want to shoot fast lenses wide open and retain quality, I take the Leica. Those Leica lenses are high quality, but just as importantly, they are small. The Zeiss is a great lens, but it is bigger than the Leica, especially with the non-reversible lens hood that adds 10% to the cost of the lens and has to be hunted for separately, as it’s not supplied with it.

[Incidentally, while I admire the performance of the Otus lenses, they’re not well thought out: manual lenses that are that large seem designed for the studio, since they really do need to be used with a tripod to achieve their full potential, but who needs f1.4 in a studio?]

What I really would value from the next M is better high ISO performance and better dynamic range from the sensor, not more megapixels.

We’ll see how things are shaping up when they release their b&w camera update within the next month. Perhaps it will have a better sensor in an M240 body; perhaps it will push the envelope unexpectedly. I don’t plan to buy one either way, but it should give us some indication of direction of travel.

Also, I would not say that Leica is stagnating. They are a small company offering cameras for every segment from compacts to medium format. The other manufacturers seem to be targeting a smaller range.

DIGLLOYD: Actually, 50 megapixels would help tremendously in dealing with hideous aliasing artifacts via oversampling, even if the resolution gains were modest (which will be the case, and yet there will be be gains under many circumstances; the above is way too pessimistic).

As much as I’ve written on oversampling and its benefits, as soon as megapixels is mentioned, the blinders go on and “image detail” is all that’s heard. It’s just not the right way think about megapixels.; it’s about the synergy of somewhat more detail and significantly higher image quality (few artifacts of several kinds). The best scenario would be something around 144 megapixels with highly optimized hardware downsampling. But high density sensor technology has quality limits as yet.

Regarding “stagnating”—just because there are various point and shoots and the world’s worst-designed usability in a digital camera (the Leica T*) does mean there are any advances in the full frame area, or EVF fixes, or modern lenses designed specifically for full frame digital and for closer focus. Hardly anything has really changed since the introduction of the M9 in late 2009; the M240 added no real resolution gains, and its EVF/Live View remains crippled and laughable compared to even 2-3 year old DSLRs. So yes, Leica is stagnating, and for those having invested in the digital M platform, the value proposition looks increasingly like a rip-off. I did not buy an M240 as a collector’s piece; I expected aggressive forward progress on the functionality. Basic things like arbitrary menus (no “my menu”), center focus only, low-res EVF—all of these could be addressed. But Leica does not do so. Look at vendors like Fujifilm and Olympus, which deliver significant new value after the sale. THAT is a real committtment to the customer, no some damned leather-padded box.

*The Leica T gets my vote for the most frustrating digital camera ever designed. I found it absolutely frustrating as anything but a point and shoot. And for about $700 a nice butt-ugly Sigma DP Merrill delivers far superior texture and detail.

Death Valley Photo Tour, Early March, or Carrizo Plain in late March

Contact me immediately if you’re interested in a personalized photo tour in Death Valley in early March. Combination cycling tour also an option if you are a road or mountain cyclist. As a personalized tour, we can do whatever you like, though of course I have some favorite locations in mind. Dates slightly flexible around (but not including) March 6/7.

Hardcore option: FAT (snow bike) photo expedition to Patriarch Grove in White Mountains.

ALSO: Carrizo Plain National Monument just before or after March 22nd.

For you northeastern folks enjoying real winter: Death Valley in early March is very pleasant, with temperatures reaching about 80°F during the day, and 50°F at night (at lower elevations).

See Death Valley Snapshots and Exploring Death Valley and Death Valley Double Century.

Eureka Dunes    
Padre Crowley Point looking towards Death Valley
Eureka Dunes    
Death Valley, Eureka Dunes
At the Death Valley RaceTrack Playa    
At the Death Valley RaceTrack Playa

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon, 35/2 Biogon, 35/2.8 C-Biogon, Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH, Leica 35/1.4 Summilux, Leica 35/2 Summicron

Order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M at B&H Photo. See also gear pages for other Leica M cameras / lenses.

With focus at far distance (infinity), this 3rd 6-way lens comparison complements the prior 6-way Wyman Cabin comparison and close-range Aspen Trunk comparison.

Together, these three comparisons are surely themselves alone worth the price of Guide to Leica alone for anyone researching a 35mm lens for Leica M.

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Pine Creek Morning (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images ƒ/1.2 - ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16 along with large crops.

Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon   Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon   Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon  
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH   Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH,    Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(not to scale)
  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Pine Creek Morning, Frosted Peaks

Reviewed: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, Wildlife at the Beach

  Nikon D810
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Get Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM at B&H Photo.

I put the new Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM to the test on a beautiful windless 70° winter day at the beach yesterday.

Included are extreme backlighting shots, a closeup and general variety, focusing on the mid to long end of the zoom range using image stabilization handheld.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II (Overview)

Examples Handheld, Beach Wildlife (Canon 5D Mark III)

Includes HD and UltraHD images in as well as large crops.

I discuss the ergonomics and “fun factor” and usability aspects also. I am impressed with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. It is a huge bump up in multiple ways over its predecessor (which I never liked).

At about $2199, the new 100-400 is a lens every Canon shooter looking for range should be taking a hard look at (review includes discussion of that also). And it might well displace the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II for some shooters.

  diglloyd img
Opportunists and Waves

Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon on Nikon D810: Aperture Series 'White Mountains Landscape'

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

A suitable distant landscape can be very instructive as to the general performance behavior of a lens when the subject is carefully arranged to show near to far and across the frame sharpness.

Here, the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon is put to it on a scene that is an unforgiving test of any lens. In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: 'White Mountains Landscape' (D810)

This scene has fine details that really require more megapixels than the Nikon D810 offers. That’s because the majority of interesting subject detail in the scene is only a few pixels in size: small rocks, sagebrush texture, tree branches, etc.

A thought immediately came to my mind in light of recent developments: a 50-megapixel sensor might possibly be just enough extra to add that extra persuasiveness to the details, while also reducing various artifacts on the finest of edges. It also brings to mind an early lesson years ago with the Nikon D1: pine needles quickly become green mush instead of pine needles if the resolution is inadequate. Ditto for many natural subjects. There is of course always a magnification that falls just a little short of what the subject might demand, and of course there are many subjects for which only the broadest strokes are important. But not this one.

Includes HD and UltraHD images in as well as large crops from wide open through ƒ/16.

  diglloyd img
White Mountains Tree Line

Apple Aperture: Taking It No Further (EOL)

As noted back in June, 2014, Apple is ending its Aperture software (EOL = end of life, which means SOL for those who invested in an Aperture workflow).

I’ve been advising my consulting clients for years to avoid Aperture. Not on the feature set; that was always a better/worse thing depending on one’s own workflow needs, but on the attitude towards professional needs.

The problem with EOLing professional software is that some users have invested years of learning and workflow techniques. When a vendor abandons the software, that investment is doomed.

While Aperture will soon be unavailable for sale, it’s not clear how long it will continue to function as new and increasingly buggy OS X software releases are delivered. But it’s a safe bet to say Aperture fixes will be a non-priority, so if your workflow relies on Aperture, it’s a good idea to start transitioning away from it now, possibly locking down a machine for existing work (no updates to anything, a “toaster”)—just as one might do with any dedicated printing setup or similar “must work this way a long time” setup.

Apple Aperture messaging juxtaposition
“When Photos for OS X is available this spring,
Aperture will no longer be available for purchase from the Mac App Store.”

150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Hyper ZoomSigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Hyper Zoom

PRE ORDER Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM at B&H Photo.

Sigma states that its new 150-600mm zoom will be available in Canon and Nikon mounts in March for about $1069.

Anywhere 200mm on up is a tricky business shooting handheld, but for the traveler or specialty situation where all-in-one is needed, this 150-600mm solves a challenge (who wants to lug around a 400/4 and 600/4?). Optical image stabilization is critical, but keep that shutter speed high on the long end.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens comes to mind (about $2199). I like the idea of 150-600mm more than 100-400mm, but a lot depends on handling and performance and I’m not sure how realistic it is to think of shooting in the 400-600mm range without great care being taken, tripod or handheld. It’s not easy.

Now how about a DSLRs that has an EFC shutter with an optional EVF usable in all shooting modes so that the vibration doesn’t screw the pooch? See the Sony A7 II examples with the Leica 180/2.8 APO.

As for the tripod collar, light and strong are not the qualities by themselves that matter. All super teles today come with a tripod foot good for groans and cursing at best (terrible oscillation and vibration issues in the lens itself—just mount the lens, put camera into 10X Live View and do little more than breathe on the rig). The only lens I’ve seen that does it right is my old Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED, which has a wide and chunky collar wrapped around the lens barrel with no gap, just a big hunk of solid stuff, and with a proper balance point near the middle. As good as it gets. Sadly, no one builds super teles in this way any more (why not?). The approach to the tripod food is just engineering garbage (all brands) as far as vibration goes. And why isn’t there a compatible dovetail for Really Right Stuff style clamps built in already?

diglloyd image
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Hyper Zoom

Sigma Corporation Announces Pricing and Availability of 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens

Hyper-telephoto zoom from the Global Vision Contemporary line offers enhanced functionality for better portability and usability

YOKOHAMA, Japan — February 11, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, has announced pricing and availability of its 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. The lens will become available in Canon and Nikon mounts in March for the street price of $1089.

The 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens is the first hyper-telephoto zoom lens from the Global Vision Contemporary line, and features a light-weight and compact construction for higher usability. In order to allow for mobile, handheld shooting in the field, it has a new and improved Optical Stabilizer, and features a new water and oil-repellent coating on the front and rear lenses. Its dimensions will be 4.1 inches by 10.2 inches and will feature 20 elements in 14 groups – including one FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements – with a minimum aperture of F22 and minimum focusing distance of 110.2 inches. Its maximum magnification ratio is 1:5.

“This hyper-telephoto zoom lens offers photographers superior image quality and high performance that is both customizable and portable for use in various photography situations,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America.

The 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens will feature:

  • An updated Optical Stabilizer (OS) with an accelerometer for improved vertical and horizontal panning, essential for bird, wildlife and motor sports photography
  • Enhanced functionality for better portability and usability
  • Dust and splash proof mount
  • Excellent optical glass elements to minimize chromatic aberration and achieve best-in-class image quality
  • Two new switches added for ease-of-use, including a new zoom lock switch capable of locking at any focal distance and a Manual Override (MO) switch for improved control of focusing performance
  • An enhanced auto focus (AF) algorithm and Hyper Sonic Motor ensure quiet and fast AF
  • MO included to make two full-time modes switchable
  • A detachable tripod socket made of magnesium which is light and strong so the lens can be carried by itself

The lens will be available in Sigma, Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts. It is also compatible with Sigma’s lineup of Global Vision teleconverters as well as the company’s USB dock which allows for advanced customization of AF speed, OS viewing modes, focus limiter and firmware updates.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens: Pricing and Availability

diglloyd image
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A

PRE ORDER Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Also recommended: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Sigma has announced aggressive pricing on the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: $849 for Nikon, Canon, etc. Assuming performance in the same league as its 35mm and 50mm siblings, (both of which outperform their Canon and Nikon competitors) this represents tremendous value.

A 'steal' in other words, and quite possibly the king of the hill at that speed and focal length.

B&H Photo has the 24/1.4 available for pre-order. The Canon version is due out March 20, the Nikon version a month later on April 20.

Not Sure Which? (Canon or Nikon) Three Years and the Choice Still Looks Clear Enough

Get Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS at B&H Photo.

Back in March 2012, the choice looks little different than today, 'today' meaning June 2015 when the Canon 5DS / 5DS R is supposed to ship (probably meaning darn hard to get until July or August).

Since a 50-megapixel 5DS/R won’t ship for ~3 months, it does not exist in market terms. On that basis, it’s laughable to see it proclaimed as the new champ. Nikon is surely not idle, nor Sony. Let’s see what they come up with.

The Nikon D800/D800E was excellent two years ago (still is), but the Nikon D810 now 'rocks' as the king of the hill, being superbly balanced in its resolution, dynamic range, Live View, EFC shutter, and overall superb file quality.

Those who went with Nikon when the D800 debuted will have enjoyed the dynamic range and the megapixels more than three years—more since it will be at least June before Canon ships its new 50MP 5DS/R models with the same dynamic range as the existing 5D Mark III, and as yet unclear noise properties. The dynamic range does make me scratch my head in bewilderment a bit; it’s not competitive. I love being able to shoot the D810 in just about any lighting, confident that it can handle the range. Often it has a stop or two to spare, to my ETTR consternation (poor histogram computation relative to raw data on sensor).

I expect Nikon and Sony to offer ~50MP cameras this year, and I expect a superior sensor to the Canon offering, my thinking being that Sony sensors are the best available today. It just doesn’t compute that a 50MP evolution from the current 36MP sensor will regress in capabilities. So even if a Sony 50MP sensor improves in no way but resolution, it would be the clear-cut winner.

So the equation three years later here in mid 2015 looks scarcely different than 2012.

Still, the Canon lens line is very appealing for some types of work (tilt/shift* and also the new 11-24mm zoom and certain long telephotos). For specialty work, the camera should be thought of an accessory (barring real specialty stuff like medium format and view camera movements and special sensors, etc).

* AKA tilt/shit when shooting on a steep slope and the tilt involves the tripod a tad too much for gravity to bear. Which do shit in the woods.

Sigma Announces dp0 Quattro with 21mm (equiv) Field of View

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo.
Pricing and availability TBD for the Sigma dp0 Quattro

Sigma now adds a 4th wide angle model to the Sigma dp Quattro lineup (dp1/dp2/dp3 Quattro have lenses equivalent to 28mm, 45mm, 75mm). This is an aggressive strategy that I applaud; if only Sony had taken that approach with the Sony RX1R and Ricoh with the Ricoh GR.

It’s interesting that Sigma went with f/4 as the maximum aperture, which is quite “slow” (on APS-C, f/4 is equivalent to f/5.6 in full-frame depth of field). The lens itself is relatively large; as an f/4 design for an APS-C sensor, it suggests that the optical performance is highly optimized. Giving up a stop (f/4 instead of f/2.8) may well be the “payment” for ultra high performance.

diglloyd image
Sigma dp0 Quattro
14mm f/4 lens equivalent to 21mm f/5.6 in full-frame terms

Sigma Corporation of America Announces Fourth Camera in dp Quattro Series at CP+ Imaging Show

New compact dp0 Quattro offers wide angle view with 14mm F4 fixed lens

YOKOHAMA, Japan — February 10, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today announced the new Sigma dp0 Quattro, the fourth compact camera in the series that was announced last year. The news comes at the start of the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2015, which begins on Feb. 12 in Yokohama, Japan.

The dp0 Quattro incorporates a fixed, high performance 14mm F4 lens, which is equivalent to a 21mm lens on a 35mm DSLR and is optimized to maximize the performance of the series’ Foveon “Quattro” Direct Image sensor. The Quattro line is great for photographers seeking a unique product, and the 14mm F4 lens is meant to take full advantage of the Foveon sensor.

“The Quattro series is such an unique line of cameras and we couldn’t be more thrilled to add the dp0 Quattro camera to the line-up,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “It’s this wide angle lens combined with the high resolution sensor, that makes this perfect for architectural and landscape photographers, and something the dp fans can be excited for.”

In order to achieve the highest optical performance, the dp0 lens features four “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass elements, which have performance equal to fluorite, two Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements, and two aspheric lenses, including a wide double-sided aspheric lens. This reduces chromatic aberration and distortion, which are characteristics typically present in super wide angle photography. The camera offers sharp rendering performance from the maximum aperture, and the superior telecentric optical design improves image quality throughout the frame and maximizes the sensor’s ability by passing on information about subjects to the sensor. In addition, the wide angle of view of 91 degrees and depth of field are ideal for architectural structures, interior photography and landscapes. With this powerful lens and sensor, numerous glass elements to reduce distortion, and a 91 degree angle of view, this lens is ideal for landscape and architecture photography.

As with all the cameras in the Quattro series, the dp0 Quattro features the distinctive styling of the line. The Quattro sensor is the equivalent of a 39 MP conventional Bayer sensor in resolution testing. The next generation sensor builds on the distinctive properties of the X3 technology, which uniquely records red, green and blue wavelengths at each pixel location within three layers.

The Quattro sensor is a three-layered, panchromatic silicon chip whose green-sensitive middle and red-sensitive bottom layers each have 4.9 MP and record only color/chrominance information. The top blue layer captures chrominance and resolution/luminance information with 19.6 MP, resulting in greater detail capture and resolution capabilities that are higher than the Merrill DP camera line. The Quattro sensor’s architecture also contributes to true color rendition, more detail capture, and faster image processing, all of which delivers even more realistic images.

With four cameras now in the line-up, photographers can select the most suitable camera based on their photographic needs with the Sigma dp0 Quattro 14mm F4 lens, Sigma dp1 Quattro 19mm 2.8 lens, Sigma dp2 Quattro 30mm 2.8 lens, Sigma dp3 Quattro 50mm F2.8 lens and Sigma dp3 Quattro with dedicated conversion 1.2x lens 90mm.

The dp0 Quattro camera will also feature:

  • Optional dedicated Optical Viewfinder VF-51 that offers accurate framing and makes composition easier as it is unaffected by external light conditions
  • The TRUE III Image processor, providing ultrafast processing of an immense volume of image data without any deterioration of the final image
  • Better high ISO performance with one to two stops of improvement
  • Improved 3A performance: Auto Color Mode, Auto Focus and Auto White Balance

Sigma Announces 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A Lens for DSLRs, Joining its Superb 35mm and 50mm Siblings

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

Also recommended: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

The Sigma 'A' lenses are superb performers. A requirement for autofocus will make them the best choice on the market today (Zeiss Otus are manual focus), but besting the Nikon and Canon offerings handily. See existing review of Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A and review of Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A. Both highly recommended.

The new 24m f/1.4 DG HSM seems likely to continue the trend of impressively high quality at an impresively low price (relatively speaking)—huge value. Given the focal length progression so far, might an 85mm focal length be announced late this year?

What I’m hoping to see in the 24/1.4A would be very low field curvature (a severe issue with the Canon 24/1.4L II), very low distortion (severe distortion with most 24-70 zooms makes them unusable at 24mm without correction), combined with high performance across the field by f/2 or so. And color correction superior to the chromatically challenged Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G.

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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A

Sigma Corporation of America Introduces New 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens at CP+ Imaging Show

Latest Global Vision Art lens offers highest-quality optical performance in its class

YOKOHAMA, Japan — February 10, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today announced the new Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens, the ninth Global Vision lens to join the company’s iconic Art line-up. The announcement comes at the start of the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2015, which begins on Feb. 12 in Yokohama, Japan.

The much anticipated 24mm F1.4 Art wide angle lens is designed for full-frame DSLRs, and when used on digital cameras with an APS-C size image sensor, it effectively becomes a 38mm.

The lens is ideal for capturing a variety of photography subjects, including cityscapes, mountain ranges, astrophotography and weddings and is great for videography work as well.The 24mm also excels at indoor photography in low illumination thanks to the combination of exceptional focal plane sharpness, and gorgeous bokeh rendered by nine rounded aperture blades.

The lens achieves a maximum magnification of 1:5.3 with a minimum focusing distance of 9.8 inches. The 24mm incorporates both "F" Low Dispersion (FLD) glass and Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass in a design of 15 elements in 11 groups to minimize chromatic aberration of magnification especially in the edge of the image field. Moreover, the optimized power layout includes aspherical elements that are positioned in the rear of the lens for improved wide open performance. This helps to ensure minimal distortion through the correction of axial chromatic aberration and sagittal coma flare. The new lens element design also delivers excellent peripheral brightness.

“The Sigma Art lenses are recognized by photographers for world-class performance, and the new 24mm F1.4 DG HSM will be a significant contribution to our selection of fast aperture prime lenses which is quickly becoming a strong force in the industry” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “Sigma is redefining the expectations of fast-aperture full-frame prime lens performance, especially wide-open, and the results the 24mm F1.4 will deliver will be up to the exacting standards set by the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM and 50mm F1.4 DG HSM .”

Other updates to this lens include a new full-time manual focusing mechanism that switches to manual focusing, simply by rotating the focus ring, even when AF is being used, first introduced on the 50mm Art. This allows the photographer to make focus adjustments quickly and easily. As with all new lenses under the Global Vision categories, every 24mm will be tested using Sigma’s own MTF measuring system, “A1,” in the company’s factory in Japan.

Other lenses in the Art line include 35mm F1.4 DG HSM, 30mm F1.4 DC HSM, 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM, 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, 50mm F1.4 DG HSM, 19mm F2.8 DN, 30mm F2.8 DN and 60mm F2.8 DN.

The 24mm F1.4 is compatible with Sigma’s USB dock, allowing photographers to update the lens’ firmware and change focus parameters as well as manual focus over-ride using Sigma's Optimization Pro software. It is also compatible with Sigma’s Mount Conversion Service. The lens will be available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts, at a price of about $849 (late March for Canon, late April for Nikon).

Nikon D810a ('a' for Astrophotography)

Get Nikon D810a at B&H Photo.

Nikon D810a

The Nikon D810 is the best workhorse DSLR on the market; the my in-depth review of the Nikon D810.

Nikon will soon offer for sale a modified version of the D810 suitable for astrophotography:

  • Modified DSLR designed exclusively for astrophotography
  • Ideal for capturing red hues of diffused Nebulae and other cosmic gases
  • Enhanced long exposure settings
  • Virtual exposure preview, electronic front curtain shutter to reduce vibrations
  • Powerful D810 features (36.3 MP full-frame sensor, EXPEED 4)
  • Not designed for everyday photography
  • Available in late May; Price TBD

I like this trend: variants of camers as specialty tools. It adds value to the system.


The D810A Provides New Features Specifically for Astrophotography

MELVILLE, NY (February 9, 2015 at 11:01 P.M. EST) - Today, Nikon Inc. announced the new D810A, a DSLR optimized for astrophotography and other scientific applications. By modifying the infrared cut filter for the hydrogen alpha wavelength, Nikon has created a camera that gives photographers the ability to capture the diffuse nebulae in the night sky and to create colorful, breathtaking celestial images. The D810A shares its architecture with the powerful and professional high-resolution Nikon D810 DSLR and includes other new features designed uniquely to help capture the cosmos, letting users achieve sharp and vibrant images of the universe.

“The Nikon D810A is engineered exclusively to meet the unique demands of professional and hobbyist astrophotographers,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “The camera’s distinctive feature set and powerful imaging capabilities make it an appealing option for those who are ready to discover the fantastic cosmic features that are hidden among the stars.”

I AM Star Struck: DSLR Optimized for Astrophotography

The Nikon D810A provides hobbyists as well as professional stargazers with a powerful combination of impressive resolution and features specifically created for astrophotography and scientific applications. The infrared (IR) cut filter has been optimized to allow transmission of the hydrogen alpha spectral line, resulting in four times greater sensitivity of the 656nm wavelength. The resulting images capture the brilliant red hues of diffuse nebulae and constellations in striking detail and fidelity. While not recommended for general photography, the D810A is an excellent option for photographing the universe with either NIKKOR lenses or third-party adaptors for telescopes.

In addition to the optimized IR cut filter, the D810A adds other features that are useful for astrophotography applications. A new Long Exposure Manual Mode is implemented, giving users the ability to set shutter speeds from 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 or 900 seconds (15 minutes), as well as Bulb and Time settings. Building upon the D810’s excellent low-light capabilities, the ISO range has been optimized from 200 to 12,800 (Hi-2 51,200), for maximum sensitivity with the optimal signal to noise ratio.

The D810A also adds a new Virtual Exposure Preview Mode, which displays an estimated preview image and is available when shooting at shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds when in Live View. The brightened preview image represents a 30 second exposure, simplifying focusing and composition.

The Best of Both Worlds

The Nikon D810A is based off of the Nikon D810 architecture and retains all of the features that make it a powerful tool for creating images. Users will be able to produce photos of the heavens in super high resolution thanks to the 36.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. The image sensor works in tandem with Nikon’s exclusive EXPEED 4 Image processing engine to deliver images with low noise and a dynamic range that is nothing short of stellar.

The D810A also features an Electronic Front Curtain Shutter Mode, letting the electronic front curtain act as a shutter when in live view or first composing through the optical viewfinder in mirror-up mode. This feature minimizes vibrations to attain maximum sharpness when shooting subjects at very slow shutter speeds. The camera also features a durable magnesium alloy body that is sealed against dirt and moisture, giving users peace of mind when getting away from the city lights means a trek off of the beaten path.

The Nikon D810A is compatible with a wide range of high quality NIKKOR lenses and accessories, including wireless infrared remotes, cable releases and the new WR-1 wireless remote system. Additionally, Nikon’s Capture NX-D software is available as a free download, and it will feature a new option for Astro Noise Reduction for use with D810A image files.

The Nikon D810A will be available in late May 2015 and pricing will be announced at a later date.

Reader Comment: Ricoh GR

Get Ricoh GR digital camera at B&H Photo (about $679).

If there were one compact camera I would take on trip as the only and only one option allowed for space reasons, the Ricoh GR would be it. I named the Ricoh GR camera of the year back in August 2013, and I still think it offers the best total combination of quality and features on the market today. See the in-depth review of the Ricoh GR, or search this site for Ricoh GR coverage.

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Ricoh GR

Jon L writes:

If I may bore you with one more shot: This was 10 minutes later, sun behind my back. Composition not that good, just messing around. I was focusing on the cobweb, but what really struck me later was the detail of the fungus on the tree branch. (At 1:1 on the screen, the detail is impressive). In the full size files (7.2 MB JPG, the individual water droplets on the web are resolved.)

I am simply amazed at how easy the Ricoh is to use (focus) and still get images like that. Note also the numbers on the shots: these were among the first 30 pictures I took with the Ricoh! I bought the Ricoh based on your reviews. I can't tell you how much fun I have had with it.

Thanks again for all of your reviews as well as the instructional (for me) materials in DAP, MSI and Guide to Mirrorless. I can't tell you how much I have learned.

DIGLLOYD: Other than a few more pixels, Leica M at 24MP has nothing on the Ricoh GR in my view.

Sony A7 II as an Accessory: Can it Turn a Classic 180mm f/2.8 Into a Keeper?

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Leica 180f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R

Following the short focal length examples with the Sony A7 II, a challenge came to mind: the Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R had been a nettlesome failure in field usage on DSLRs for years (on both Canon and Nikon). If not for missed focus (optical viewfinders with manual focus are a cruel joke at 180mm), then shutter issues and/or mirror slap. Very high failure rates.

Might not the Sony A7R II with its Live View EVF (for focusing) along with image stabilization and zero-vibration exposure be just the ticket for turning a venerable 180mm design into an eminently usable medium telephoto?

Moreover, for a fraction of the price of the Leica M240 with its toy-grade EVF, might not the Sony A7 II be a real solution to the challenge of shooting at 180mm manually?

Sony A7 II @ 180mm: Focusing and Field Shooting (Leica 180/2.8 APO)

Commentary is on both results and shooting experience.

I considered shorter focal lengths for the “challenge” (85mm, 135mm), but for me 180mm is the cutoff for success rate with manual focus—very hard to reliably focus and expose at 180mm on up. And the shutter vibration of the Leica M240 makes 100mm on up problematic for use with R lenses and the Leica R-Adapter-M (very unstable rig).

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