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Sony RX10 III: 24-600mm Zoom!
Ultimate travel camera? Top image quality! Bright f/2.4-4 lens, 4K video + WiFi + high-res EVF!

Pentax K1 On the Way

See my Pentax K1 wish list at B&H Photo.

See my earlier discussion and coverage of the discussion and coverage of the Pentax K1. Review coverage will go into my review of the Pentax K1 in DAP; see my February review of the Pentax K3 II to get an idea of what pixel shift technology can do.

The Pentax K1 has some innovative features, but is it too late for Pentax, given the dearth of high performance K-mount lenses, particularly in a market that is hot to trot with mirrorless? Where is pixel shift mode for Sony anyway?

The Pentax K1 and various lenses are now on the way from B&H Photo as follows; I expect this stuff to show up next week, perhaps even by this weekend. My initial focus will be on the quality potential of pixel shift mode (see in-depth coverage of pixel shift mode of the Pentax K3 II), because the full-frame K1 holds the potential to beat the pants off the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R if everything is done just right. Pixel shift mode is however likely to be useless with moving subject matter, or moving camera, so it may be more of a studio setup thing, or absolutely still subject matter outdoors.

Pentax K1 gear coming for testing
 
MacPerformanceGuide.com

REVIEWED: Sony RX10 III

Get Sony DSC-RX10 III (and Sony RX100 IV) at B&H Photo, and see my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

Back in 2012, the Sony RX100 (v1) was introduced and at that time it was mighty impressive for a small-sensor camera. In fairly rapid succession, the RX100 II and RX100 III and RX100 IV plus RX10, RX10 II arrived, all sharing the same sensor size and resolution. Then in May 2016 the RX10 III arrived, the camera reviewed here.

Now the Sony RX10 III arrives, and with an impressive 24-600mm zoom range (equivalent) with a f/2.4-4 aperture range. While it’s no lightweight at 1145 grams (with battery but without strap), it’s like a small DSLR. With its 24-600mm zoom range plus 4K video and image stabilization plus excellent EVF and rear LCD and grip, Sony once again proves itself as a technological powerhouse.

At about $1498, the Sony RX10 III may fit the bill for many travelers: one camera covering just about everything. The sensor quality is sensational, at least at lower ISOs. The do-it-all camera for some perhaps. Lens quality looks good so far and will surely have weaknesses, but a 600/4 on full frame is no fun at all.

Initial coverage in my review of the Sony RX10 III:

My interest in the Sony RX10 III stems in part from the fact that if its sensor were scaled up to full frame, that would be a 148-megapixel full-frame sensor. As the ISO series shows, such a DSLR could offer unprecedented image detail (though few lenses could deliver the required resolving power). But even if 148 megapixels were used as oversampling in order to downsample to “only” 74 megapixel images (from 148MP), that would be stunning by virtue of eliminating digital artifacts, for exceptional pixel quality. The idea is exciting and I hope to see it come to fruition relatively soon.

Below, reduced version of the 4488 X 2844 crop for the Sony RX10 III dolls ISO series.

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Zeiss Batis 25/2 and 85/1.8 Now In Stock + Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo which includes Zeiss Loxia.

B&H Photo now has the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 in stock.

Many people have waited a long time for those two lenses, so finally they are now readily available.

The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 (world’s best extreme wide angle, and eclipsing the ZF.2 18/3.5 Distagon in performance) will likely be hard to come by, so pre-order the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 now to get in the queue. See my review of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon in Guide to Mirrorless. I’m really looking forward to using the Batis 18/2.8 in the Eastern Sierra/Yosemite and White Mountains soon.

See also my review of the Zeiss Loxia lenses.

Zeiss Batis family for Sony

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art

Separately, the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art (for APS-C is now in stock). Looks like a 'killer' lens for APS-C shooters. As compared to full frame, it is equivalent to 75-150mm in field of view and f/2.7 in depth of field / blur potential.

Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

B&H Photo Mother’s Day Specials

B&H Photo has a large selection of Mother’s Day specials. Some specials require promo code MOMDAY16.

The MacBook at $999 is a nice little computer that I tested last year—really nice for travel needs, and hardly a powerhouse, adequate for many things and very thin and light. The latest April 2016 models are faster, but of course more expensive.

Some good choices for teenagers, or the Mom who want sleek and lightweight or unusual.

With free expedited shipping on most items.

And... what every Mom needs: 15% off Custom Photo Props for newborns! (I bet my daughter’s cat would love 'em too!). And Ted Cruz really needs one of these.

LensRentals.com has 10% off all wedding packages with promo code WEDDING10.

Pentax K1 Now Shipping

See my Pentax K1 wish list at B&H Photo.

According to Pentax, the K1 is now shipping. I expect one soon from B&H Photo for testing. See update at bottom of this post.

See my earlier discussion and coverage of the discussion and coverage of the Pentax K1.

Review coverage will go into my review of the Pentax K1 in DAP; see my February review of the Pentax K3 II to get an idea of what pixel shift technology can do.

The Pentax K1 has some innovative features, but is it too late for Pentax, given the dearth of high performance K-mount lenses, particularly in a market that is hot to trot with mirrorless?

Where is pixel shift mode for Sony anyway?

Shown below is a crop from the pixel shift mode of the Pentax K3 II.

Pentax K3 II pixel shift mode (actual pixels crop): no loss of fine detail from demosaicing
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UPDATE 4 May

The Pentax K1 is on the way from B&H Photo as follows. My primary focus will be on the pixel shift mode, because the K1 holds the potential to beat the pants off the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R if everything is done just right.

Pentax K1 gear coming for testing
 

Canon CarePak

Sony and Nikon and Sigma and Leica, take note. And Canon too—why the limited time offer? Canon seems to see it as a short-term sales tool, but I see that as a strategic blunder.

Make it a compelling differentiator of Canon DSLRs by offering it upfront at low cost. This sort of thing ought to be bundled with product purchase, at least as an attractively-priced add-on. And it ought not to be restricted to an enumerated selection of lenses—this just sows confusion and undermines the message. Surely a company like Canon can figure out if a $50 or $100 upcharge is a good business model—figure it out—the camera market is sloppy and lazy in all sorts of areas, including warranty and service ideas.

Of course, Nikon has long had a 5-year warranty for lenses (1+4 years with registration) here in the USA, though not for camera bodies. Raise brand appeal and value, that being not just the physical product but support and service and warranty.

Sony has a long way to go to anything like this, I wonder what might happen if Sony used some good sense and made all of its full frame mirrorless cameras available for guaranteed 72 hours in-house turnaround? Pros would feel a lot more comfortable.

Heck, some automobiles cost less than some of these camera systems with a few of the nicer lenses. Who would buy a car with with a 1-year warranty? So why (at the least) do high end camera systems provide such short-term warranties?

Canon CarePAK Plus Special Free Promotion Turns ‘Whoops’ Into Whoopie!

Accidents happen all the time. One minute you’re embracing your creativity and capturing amazing photos and the next minute you’re staring down at what’s left of your Canon camera after its been dropped off a cliff, smashed by an overeager toddler, knocked off the picnic table and into the pool, or had an extra-large latte (no whip) spilled all over its LCD screen. Talk about a creativity buzz kill.

Canon U.S.A., Inc. wants you focused on taking great photos, not on worrying how much it will cost to get your camera repaired. Beginning May 1, 2016 and running through July 30, 2016, Canon U.S.A. is offering a complimentary CarePAK Plus Protection Plan good for a 13-month period from time of purchase, when you purchase an eligible camera or lens product at a Canon Authorized Dealer.   

With Canon CarePAK Plus Protection your camera is repaired by Canon factory trained technicians using only Genuine Canon Parts. No third parties. No confusion—just the promise of protection from accidental damages,   for a 13-month period— absolutely free. Any camera repaired under this promotion will receive priority service, free return shipping and support direct from Canon. And once the 13-month period is completed, Canon camera and lens owners have the opportunity to purchase an extended CarePAK Plus Plan.

Eligible Canon DSLR camera bodies include the EOS-1D X Mark II, EOS-1D X, EOS 5DS, EOS 5DS R, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS 6D, and EOS 7D Mark II. Eligible lenses include the EF-17-40mm f/4L USM, EF 100mm f/2.8L Macros IS USM, EF 50mm f/1.2L USM,  EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, EF 70-20mm f/2.8L IS II USM, and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. All eligible product(s) must be registered on the Canon website, www.usa.canon.com/protection within 30 days of purchase date to take advantage of this special promotion.

Accidents do happen— but with Canon CarePAK Plus Protection life can go right on being picture-perfect.

Learn more about this promotion at usa.canon.com/carepak-plus.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

EVF Mirrorless vs DLSR

With pro-grade DSLRs, we at least enjoy a quality view through the optical viewfinder; good solid reasons make the OVF still relevant, at least for some shooters some of the time. That said, I’d use an optional hot-shoe area EVF most of the time on my Canon 5DS R or Nikon D810, if such as EVF option existed (but I’m not a sports/action shooter).

I got to thinking about APS-C DSLRs: invariably, the optical viewfinders on APS-C DSLRs are miserable porthole affairs with poor magnification, poor eyepoint, etc. Some may be decent, none are excellent, and most suck. Worse, they are total garbage for manual focus: it is impossible to achieve critical focus for the tiny photosites of an APS-C DSLR, and the focusing screens are very poor for manual focus, being designed solely for the AF system.

Sony A6300
Nikon D3300

And so, CaNikon moving to EVF on APS-C DSLRs makes a lot of sense: size would shrink, lens compatibility would remain—the closest thing to mirrorless CaNikon could offer with minimal effort in a short time frame. If the high end demands convetional AF, so be it, but I don’t see how the vast bulk of APS-C DSLR cookie-cutter models need an OVF for the vast majority of usrs.

So why do CaNikon sit on their collective hands? Cost is likely an issue, but it would net against the removal of the optical viewfinder. Patents and sourcing of EVFs might be another issue.

David S writes:

I think that the thing that's holding CaNikon back from producing DSLRs with EVFs is more about the type of autofocus system that is possible with a DSLR with an OVF. The autofocus sensors used in DSLRs can inherently have greater depth separation between the AF sensors which allows for faster AF, especially with long lenses. In the case of Canon's higher-end DSLRs, 3 AF sensors are used. Each sensor is set at a different focusing distance: one is at the same distance as the focal plane of the sensor, one set in front of that distance and one behind. Such a degree of AF depth perception cannot yet be achieved on the image sensor itself. The speed of AF performance that CaNikon DSLRs deliver with long lenses is the reason why they are the cameras of choice for almost all wildlife and sports photographers. They offer unbeatable AF performance for action photography.

Strides have been made to improve the speed of Image sensor based AF systems. Some image sensors now use phase detection (depth perception) to improve AF speed. Canon now includes it's image sensor based, phase detecting, Dual-Pixel AF technology on several of its DSLR models including the new 1DX Mk II. However, it is still not fast enough to replace the AF system that the 1DX and other DSLRs use in 'reflex' mode. The main purpose of Dual-Pixel AF in DSLRs is therefore faster video autofocus (faster than contrast only AF systems) with no or minimal focus hunting.

Perhaps one day sensor based phase detection will be fast enough to match or surpass 'reflex' AF. But until then, CaNikon will likely continue to produce DSLRs with OVFs.

DIGLLOYD: I suspect that 99% of APS-C DSLR shooters have the kit lens on the camera. It may be less skewed at the high end, but I’d still argue that most APS-C DSLRs are used by consumers with the kit lens and little more. If so, the idea that AF is designed for long lens shooting would be an anti-optimization.

I confess to ignorance about this market on several counts, but I would make several counterpoints that are hard to ignore:

  • I do not know whether the A6300, Sony’s “world’s fastest and most tenacious autofocus” holds up in the real world for sports/action (side issue: is the lens selection even viable?).
  • What fraction of the APS-C DSLR market is sports/action and moving wildlife? Saying that every shooter on a nature trip to Costa Rica has a Canon 7D II is meaningless in market terms (such a group is rarefied regardless of camera!) Less than 1%, 2%, 5%, 20%? I'm guessing 1% at best in context of the total APS-C DSLR market, but maybe I’m way off? I expect that the fraction is notably higher for a very few specific camera models which are essentially pro bodies for what David S refers to—and thus essentially out of scope for this entire discussion.
  • Frame rates with APS-C DSLRs are stuck at ~10 fps. What about 60 fps at 24 megapixels (the high end for APS-C)?. Real burst mode is physically impossible with mirror up/down. Thus mirrorless offers the only hope for high frame rates where it really matters—and with no mirror slap. Add in an Eye AF for animal eyes—that’s a wowee combination.
  • Sony Eye AF works better than anything I’ve ever tried for portraits. Nature shooters with long teles might find such a feature a 'killer' one since animals aren’t always flying or running; many opportunities exist with relatively static subjects (even for a second or two), where critically sharp focus on the eye makes or breaks the shot. This is awkward with a DSLR (placing a high accuracy sensor right on the eye, then often recomposing at least slightly). An Eye AF feature for animal eyes holds big potential for eliminating one source of error.
  • The Sony A7R II had a 100% sucess rate in my test on a static subject, and Nikon’s best camera (D5) had a 10% success rate on the same (D5 success rate was higher but still miserable on a different static subject). I find it hard to believe that a camera like the D5 will magically exhibit superiority when it can’t even focus properly on a static subject. I *do* understand that it *may* work better with long teles and in tracking moving subjects. But the damn things can’t even track the face of a cross-country runner coming at the camera—very high failure rate when I’ve tried to do so. Can Sony do it with Eye AF? Dunno.
  • Mirrorless AF is getting better by leaps and bounds, with rapid advances in sensor technology and CPU speed offering enormous potential. My points are not about “here and now” but about the next few years. There is huge potential to see more and more sophisticated focusing algorithms made possible by special sensors and real-time image processing. It hardly matters that right now Sony model ZZZZ does or does not currently beat CaNikon model YYYY tracking flying egrets or whatever. For now, the issue is probably lenses anyway!

Given my recent study of outdoors real-world D5 autofocus and Sony A7R II autofocus (the D5 putting in a pathetic performance), theories on “depth perception” do not ring true for Nikon’s D5, at least not for accuracy and precision, which is what matters for a sharp image, and consistently sharp results for any situation with relatively static subject matter. OTOH, I expect that the D5 performs exceedingly well with long telephoto lenses and AF tracking. But AF tracking aside, I’d argue that any camera should do well with the razor thin DoF and relatively high micro contrast of super teles and similar; focus pops in and out by tiny margins. Those multiple sensors may allow the camera to predict subject movement better, but I doubt they have anything do with with obtaining critically sharp focus—or the D5 would not have made a mess of things in my tests.

I say, retire the old and tired AF technology starting at the low end and build up from there. I think there is a strong possibility that Sony will take the lead in all areas of performance before long, particularly if a higher-end A9 appears. That includes being able to analyze the entire sensor in real time, not just a few AF points. All that’s required is a fast CPU. For the A6300, Sony claims “world’s fastest and most tenacious autofocus system with coverage density that no separate autofocus module can match”. Claims and reality are two different things, but consider what might be possible in a high-end Sony.

And so I’m not buying the argument that real-time image analysis of the entire sensor along with dedicated imaging points is going to remain inferior to CaNikon’s best: these things are subject to Moore’s Law (computer chips) and the advances in just a few years compress what took decades for CaNikon to develop with their AF systems.

Jason W writes:

People aren't obsessed with keeping their OVF's, they just want the camera to feel a certain way in their hands. The biggest resistance I hear to mirrorless is form factor. That goes for professional and consumers.

Make it look like a DSLR, handle like a DSLR, and make it cost the same or less, and it will sell. I work at a regional sports network and the Sony A7 series was universally rejected entirely on this basis before any other criteria was evaluated. The placement of the video record button was enough to stop all inquiry, and nobody liked how it handled.

A Canon Rebel with the same form factor, EF mount, EVF and lower overall cost for the kit would sell big, in my opinion.

DIGLLOYD: I agree and here’s an example: take my D810, turn it into a D810e with EVF and “I’m done”.

As for the video record button, it’s a confusing nuisance: I handed the A7R II to someone to take a picture of my daughter and me—the camera would not shoot and why? It was busy recording a video due to the idiotic placment of the video button. I had forgotten to deprogram that “land mine”. The #1 flaw (many flaws) of Sony are lousy haptics, lousy ergonomics. I work around them, but for some users they are show stoppers. And so the “love/hate” thing applies to Nikon and to Sony but for very different reasons!

John G writes:

Loved and was fascinated by your discussion/debate re EVF Mirrorless vs DLSR. Your points were thoughtfully and convincingly made.

They also happen to mirror (no pun intended) my own experiences with the SL/A7Rii vs D810/D4S. (Forget about MF autofocus—it never even enters the race.)

For most types of photography, the DSLR simply cannot compete with the autofocus capabilities of the best EVFs. But like you, I don’t shoot wildlife or sports. And as you point out, it’s hard to comprehend that these anachronistic systems would suddenly morph into superiority.

DIGLLOYD: I expect there will be a place for phase-detect AF for some years to come, but probably only as an adjunct. The first role of the AF system is a tight group of bullet holes in the target (precision*) and all right in the center of the bullseye (accuracy*). Let’s get that failure rate from autofocus error down to 0.1%.

* 'Accuracy' and 'precision' used in the scientific sense; see my discussion on the Autofocus AF-S Accuracy and Precision: Lens Align Target page.

Our trusted photo rental store

Leica Releases new Firmware for M240 and Monochrom, includes “black dots” fix

Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts with
Leica M Typ 246 image (actual pixels)

Of particular note is the fix for the Leica M Monochrom black spots issue which I reported back in July of 2015. It must have been a difficult fix, since it took 10 months, with irreparable damage to images in the interim. See my examples in my review of the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246. [I don’t have a Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 to verify the fix; the foregoing is taking it on faith].

Maybe the camera freeze bug is what caused the lockup issues I have had (and still have) with the M240? They were not generally “fast sequences”, but there is some hope that the fix may be real for my usage.

Firmware 2.0.3.0 for Leica M/M-P (Typ 240)
Firmware 1.0.0.6 for Leica M (Typ 262)
Firmware 1.0.1.0 for Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)

Go to Leica Download page.

Performance Improvements:

  • Implemented optimizations that prevent the camera controls from becoming unresponsive after a series of continuous burst photos fills the buffer.
  • The selected user profile will be displayed even when exposure compensation has been adjusted. Exposure compensation is no longer saved to the user profile.
  • Memory cards with a capacity up to 512 GB are supported
  • The default file format settings upon camera reset have been changed from JPG to DNG+JPG
  • The time-out period for the last GPS Position, when no GPS signal is received, has been extended to 2.5 hours (GPS is not available with M (Typ 262))
  • It is now possible to display DNG files from the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) in all zoom steps, also with the M/M-P (Typ 240 and 262)
  • When using SD-cards that are too slow for movie recording, a message appears in the viewfinder display Leica Camera AG / Page 1 of 3 Bug Fixes:
  • Bugs, that led to a camera freeze when shooting fast sequences, have been fixed
  • The accuracy of the internal clock has been improved
  • When using „AUTO ISO in M mode“ the used exposure metering mode is now being displayed in play mode
  • Files larger than 2GB can now be transferred from the camera to the PC via USB
  • The display of the histogram has been optimized for high ISO values
  • The display of flash exposure compensation values has been improved in the menu
  • A misleading message (“check battery age”) has been removed
  • In case of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246): A bug that led to black pixels in fine pattern has been fixed
  • Further system optimizations have been implemented
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Off Topic: High Sierra Fishing + Recommended Spinning Reel and Rod

 
Shimano Stella STLC2000SFI Spinning Reel

See also Gear for the Mountains <===

Many years ago as a teenager (too many!), I used to fish every day I could. Fishing evolved out of my life over time, but the circle turns and I now find it very enjoyable again, particularly the exploration of remote areas and with my cameras—a good combination. I am most definitely not a boat or lake or chair+ice chest fisherman: if it’s easy to hike to, I’m not usually interested. And I am most interested in fishing anything that no one else fishes. The spirit of exploration intrigues me; the well-trodden path offers little appeal.

See also: Steaming Trout in a Dutch Oven over Campfire and Back Home, the Snow Show Was Fun + Lloyd’s Dutch Oven Trout Recipe

I most enjoy wily high sierra trout—Brook Trout mainly, but also Golden Trout, and sometimes Rainbow Trout (Brown Trout are generally not stocked in the Sierra). I do not fly fish because it is impossible in many of the small streams with brush and such nearby. And I do like a good trout dinner—I have yet to observe any fly fisherperson land a fish in the waters that I fish.

I buy few things, but just as with lenses, I prefer to buy quality for a lifetime of use, such as the Benchmade Osborne knife seen below (if you’re into high-end check out Benchmade Gold series). Ditto for spinning reel and rod. So here are my recommendations:

The knife is 7.75 inches, which gives an idea of the fish sizes. The two larger ones are exceptionally large for the extreme elevation at which they were caught, the largest fish I’ve caught in 30 years at similar elevations.

 
Golden Trout Dinner
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

2016 Photo Tours in Yosemite High Country and/or White Mountains

This year I’m planning a number of outings to the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite high country and White Mountains and I like to offer what I call photo tours at those times that coincided with my outings (since it’s a 600-1000 mile round trip for me).

Photo tours are personalized tours with me as your guide, intended to cater specifically to your interests (limited to three participants, but 1:1 is typical, sometimes couples). We shoot in peace and quiet, and enjoy the best of the area. And while I have a specific itinerary in mind, our schedule is flexible, so lucky weather conditions can be utilized as they arise. See the photo tours page for general info.

Tentative dates for 2016; often I have some wiggle room on start/end dates. Typical engagements are 2 to 4 days.

  • The June 1-4 and June 6-8 range.
  • June 20-30 range
  • Mid to late July (exact dates flexible, TBD)
  • Mid August (exact dates flexible, TBD)
  • Late September/early October.
  • Custom time by arrangement.

Contact

Cost is $850 per day. You are responsible for your lodging, transportation, food. I can advise on those things as well as clothing, gear, fitness, etc. Days are typically pre-dawn to post-dusk, but it’s all up to you.

Contact Lloyd.

  Photographing the Photographer Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Photographing the Photographer
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Spring Growth, Yosemite
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  Earth Shadow Rises as Black Horse Grazes  Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Earth Shadow Rises as Black Horse Grazes
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Upper Tenaya Creek
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Light Searches for the Forest Floor + Water Surges Through Boulders + Rush to the Ocean

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

The performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is at its best at the 24mm end, without a doubt.

I liked this scene, and it also has the bonus of showing off how the Sony 24-70/2.8 GM handles a strongly backlight portion of the frame—those branches against a bright cloudy sky.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Light Searches for the Forest Floor

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

This image looks stunning at large size filling the screen on a late 2015 iMac 5K. Wow! Seriously, if you don’t have the late 2015 iMac 5K (see my review), if nothing else think of it as a 5K display with a computer built in. It’s just an amazing viewing platform for images—like a large 'chrome'. See my top-end iMac 5K recommendation and my computer gear wishlist.

Light Searches for the Forest Floor
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Also, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Water Surges Through Boulders.

Water Surges Through Boulders
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Also, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Rush to the Ocean.

Rush to the Ocean
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High Performance 480GB Thumb Drive only $265
USB3 high performance rugged thumb drive.

Poking the Hornet’s Nest... Sony vs Fujifilm: Which is the Better Deal?

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist and Fujifilm X wishlist at B&H Photo.

See my in-depth review of the Fujifilm X Pro-2 and lenses as well as my in-depth coverage of Sony mirrorless. Having shot the X-Pro2 system extensively in the field (as well as its predecessors), I offer my perspective on relative value here below.

Seems like a no brainer.

With Sony, for $260 LESS (includes the B&H 4% reward), you get a full frame sensor with in-body-image stabilization, Eye AF, a grip that’s solid and not a toy, many more programmable buttons for working efficiency, and the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lens lines in addition to all Sony lenses AND these lenses will cover future full-frame Sony cameras, which are almost certain to yank forward the high end this year. And there are two other Sony full-frame bodies to choose from that make sense for outstanding video (A7S II), or for higher resolution (A7R II). And most likely something even more impressive coming this year.

Sony A7R II: full frame, image stabilization, excellent grip, Zeiss Loxia and Batis lens lines and Sony too!

With Fujifilm, you pay $260 more for a toy grip, a much smaller APS-C sensor, no full-frame Zeiss lenses (the Touit line is moribund), no in-body image stabilization, and inferior depth of field control (all but one lens has DoF equivalent of f/2 at best, even the 56/1.2 APD is only equivalent to f/1.8 in full frame DoF terms). AND you have to REPLACE ALL YOUR LENSES* if/when Fujifilm goes to full frame.

* Should still be usable, but won’t cover full-frame and/or may be of marginal quality outside the APS-C crop area. Point is, new lenses will be mandatory for proper support on a Fujifilm full-frame camera.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: APS-C, NO image stabilization, toy grip, NO Zeiss Loxia and Batis lenses, MORE expensive!

A camera is not specs of course, so choose your passion and what feels good to you.

But the foregoing (particularly full frame and IBIS and full frame lenses) are irrefutable values that there is no getting around. As for myself, I greatly prefer the Sony controls and buttons over Fujifilm: setup and programmed to my working methods (far more flexibility there), in the field I can work faster and more efficiently. And with Sony, I do not have to deal with special raw converters to avoid ugly fractal-like artifacts. Wasting my time on post-processing raw-conversion hassles is an unacceptable burden.

My guess is that a Sony A7 III is coming soon, probably with 4K video and some other improvements (and maybe will bump up in megapixels to slot in against a future 70-80 megapixel sibling?). Sony has a clear path forward with no lens problems; Fujifilm makes you start over with lenses.

Ari D writes:

These are reasons why I like FujiFilm's APS-C cameras as an option in my kit. That said, I also do full frame and larger in my kit.

...

Optical viewfinder in the X-Pro2.
   - Being able to see outside of the frame as your subject moves into position is a bonus. So much so that I miss it when using other mirrorless and DSLR systems.
  - The total lack of EVF/LCD blackout is a huge bonus with the X-Pro2's optical viewfinder. And the OVF doesn't seem to affect subject tracking or basic AF-C when in use either. This is huge for me.
  - Minimizing EVF/LCD refresh lag is critical when working with moving subjects in low light. And I'm not just talking about low theater light with fast-moving dancers, but anything with humans moving in less than direct/diffused sunlight. The OVF has no refresh lag at all obviously, and this is a big bonus.

When I rented the A7SII and A7RII I found them hideous to use for rehearsals. The EVF and LCD lag were intolerable, as was the embarrassingly terrible battery life, and total camera lock up when files were writing. Same with the X-T1 in terms of refresh lag. Unusable for this type of fast work, still.

Mirrorless in general is still nowhere near ready for action photography in any indoor environment in my opinion. I'm still using heavy, bulky, durable DSLRs with great button placement and ergonomics (mirrorless has some way to go here) for anything with movement in low light. I'm still seeing DSLR AF performance blow away any mirrorless camera I have owned or rented in even moderately low light. This includes sports, dance, events and news work. I don't anticipate this will change for another couple of years and I've stopped seriously evaluating mirrorless systems as DSLR replacement, but now evaluate only as supplement, and for this FujiFilm fits my needs.

DIGLLOYD: Well put and completely fair on principle—my comments are of course about general usage—tools for any particular job may be more or less well suited. Every camera system has some pluses and minuses.

The above comments are a good example of how particular features and behaviors for specific purposes can be key. Still, I’ve not had any camera lockups as referred to with the A7R II, battery life has been just fine, so that’s a puzzler for me. I’ve also had sports shooters (volleyball, basketball) write and praise the A7R II as yielding a higher hit rate than the former DSLR. Since I don’t do these types of shooting, I would advise as Ari does: rent first, and find out for your own purposes. Moreover the A7S II if video were the purpose would far outperform Fujifilm in the above scenarios—so it all depends on the particulars.

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 28mm: Sidelit Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Near the short end of the zoom range at 28mm, this scene explores field curvature in particular, wide open performance at f/2.8, and helps to verify the Rushing Water Loop @ 30mm example.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @28mm: Sidelit Redwoods

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

Sidelit Redwoods
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 30mm: Rushing Water Loop

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Near the short end of the zoom range at 30mm, this scene looks for sharpness across the frame and near to far, and finds some interesting behaviors.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @30mm: Rushing Water Loop

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Pescadero Creek High Water, Rushing Water Loop
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LensRentals (highly recommended) rents lenses and cameras and more. It’s an excellent way to try out gear before buying it.

OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
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Why 28 Megapixel / 8K Images?

In my reviews, I’ve started posting images at sizes up to 28 megapixels (for 3:2 aspect ratio images). That is, the new largest size for viewing is now 6480 x 4320.

4K = 3840 X 2160
5K = 5120 X 2880 (iMac 5K)
8K = 7680 X 4320

I’ve chosen 28 megapixels because at 6480 x 4320, the 3:2 aspect ratio image will fill the screen vertically with its 4320 pixels (actually overflow slightly due to the menu bar and such).

So when an iMac 8K appears, images will look just as stunning as on today’s iMac 5K, but there will be a size to fit the screen (2.25X as many pixels as to fit the screen on the iMac 5K).

See What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?. The future for jaw-dropping viewing pleasure is NOT (and will never be) prints with their dull dynamic range and marginal color gamut; it is 8K television and 8K computer displays. And perhaps 16K a decade from now.

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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 49mm: Pescadero Creek High Water, Downstream

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Near the middle of the zoom range at 49mm, these scene incorporates a good near/far challenge: will the lens be able to deliver deep depth of field and sharpness across the frame with some stopping down?

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @49mm: Pescadero Creek High Water, Downstream

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

The flow here is substantial though well below peak flow. The rocks at very bottom are scoured durking heavy rainstorms. I keep looking for steelhead here, but I’ve never seen any.

Pescadero Creek High Water, Downstream
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 70mm: Side Stream Across The Creek

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

The long end of a 24-70mm zoom is often weaker, so how does the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM fare, given the strong results seen at 24mm? Taken at a distance of ~15 meters, this creekside view offers a look at sharpness and bokeh in a relatively narrow zone, and across the frame.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @70mm: Side Stream Across The Creek

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Side Stream Across the Creek
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 70mm: Two Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @70mm: Two Redwoods

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13.

Another very fine image from the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in terms of bokeh and overall rendering, but the 70mm end looks to be less strong than the 24mm end.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Two Redwoods
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 43mm: Rising Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range. The 24mm focal was most amenable to the subject matter at Purissima Creek, but this 43mm series worked out reasonably well also.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @43mm: Rising Redwoods

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

Another very fine image from the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. Its 43mm setting looks good here, with a few operational caveats to be aware of.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Rising Redwoods
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Purissima Creekbed

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed landscape scene includes a moderate near/far composition that requires some depth of field to render fully sharply. A wide contrast range demands the full dynamic range of the camera to record.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @24mm: Purissima Creekbed

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

Another very fine image from the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. Its 24mm setting offers outstanding performance.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

 

Purissima Creekbed
__METADATA__

 

Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Mossy Maples, Stately Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed landscape scene at far distance yields another look at peak imaging performance for a real-world landscape scene that includes a strong contrast range.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @24mm: Mossy Maples, Stately Redwoods

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM appears to be a particularly able performer at its 24mm setting. Every series I shot looks strong, so I’ll be presenting a few more to drive the point home. I have my doubts about intermediate zoom settings, but I have not yet finished my assessment—examples coming.

 

Mossy Maples, Stately Redwoods
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Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Redwoods Reaching for the Sun

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed landscape scene at far distance yields a good look at peak imaging performance for a real-world landscape scene that includes a strong contrast range.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @24mm: Redwoods Reaching for the Sun

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with many large crops.

The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM appears to be a particularly able performer at its 24mm setting. I have my doubts about intermediate zoom settings, but I have not yet finished my assessment—examples coming.

 

Redwood Reaching for the Sun
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Distortion Examples, Uncorrected vs Corrected

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I take a look at distortion with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM showing uncorrected versus corrected performance across the zoom range:

Each series includes large images that can be toggled for comparison along with commentary on the relative success of the distortion correction.

 

 

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Jury Duty

I had to get up unusually early for jury duty, a bit of a cruel twist when the alarm goes off and proper sleep is a challenge I regularly face these days. But I roused.

Arriving at 8:30 AM at the county courthouse, we enjoyed about an hour of education on how important all of us are to the process. Which is true as a point of fact of course. And the jury herdsman did a very fine job, so I cannot fault him in the least.

I wonder how many of those people, like myself, are self-employed and thus lose a day’s work (and more if selected)? A forced donation to the State which corporate employees do not suffer, since nearly all large companies pay employees for jury duty. And some people really have it tough with additional daily obligations (like a nursing baby)—but they too have to show up and wait like everyone else. Well, it could be far worse: being on call for a week for federal court an hour’s drive away in Oakland. I just wish I weren’t called every 18 months—one has to wonder just how random the process really is with the millions of people in San Mateo County—what are the odds? The jury pool is selected primarily from DMV records, but also voter registration records and possibly other sources (see California legal code 197).

Around 11:30, we were told to have a long lunch and come back at 13:30, but not to leave since parking could become an issue with another group arriving. So I had a lovely two hours in the parking lot which had no usable cell service. Returning at 13:30, another group was now with us, 200 or so prospective jurors sat until 15:30.

The presiding judge appeared to thank us around 15:30, and even to hand out our 1-year exemption forms. I appreciated the presiding judge taking his time to do this; it showed respect for the jurors and their time, and that’s about all the judge can offer, the system being what it is. It’s good PR.

The presiding judge told us something remarkable: there were 100 potential jury cases that morning, but of the 100, 98 (!) decided to not go to a jury trial and the remaining two were vacillating. But we were off the hook since those cases would have to wait until tomorrow. Apparently, letting defendants know that 200 jurors are down in the basement ready for voir dire* has a certain influence on the decision to plead or go to trial.

* Voir dire : From old French, the legal phrase means "to speak the truth" or "to see them say." Voir dire is the preliminary examination of a prospective juror by a judge or lawyer in the case to decide whether that person can serve on the jury.

It would be very interesting to actually sit on a jury, but so far I have never made it to the voir dire stage. Being selected would be tougher still, since the California juror pledge 232(b)** would require me to check my own moral compass at the door, that is, among other things, I view jury nullification as a fundamentally important check on the legislature and judiciary. Since the California Supreme Court recently rejected jury nullification, no judge would want such a nettlesome person as me on the jury. Which makes this message from the Chief Justice of California rather rich:

Trial by jury is one of the fundamental ideals of American democracy; serving as jurors reminds us that these ideals exist only as long as individual citizens are willing to uphold them.

“Uphold” what? It is an interesting choice of words when jury nullification is deemed grounds for dismissing a juror. Exercising independent judgment as to the validity of the law itself is a prerequisite to any concept of justice, unless one views the State as infallible. But of course the courts do not concern themselves overly much with justice, but rather, The Law. If I am asked to render a judgment that may incarcerate a person, I cannot suspend my moral compass just because it makes the judiciary or legal scholars squirm.

Apropos a day after I wrote the above: at least one US Supreme Court justice understands prosecutorial abuse, as per the quote in the 28 April 2016 Wall Street Journal:

“We’re worried…because, like any other organization, the prosecutors, too, can be overly zealous,” Justice Stephen Breyer said at an oral argument in the case. He and other justices said they feared the government’s legal theory potentially could make a congressman a criminal if he accepted lunch from a constituent and then sent a letter on his behalf.

It’s too bad the supreme court hasn’t figured this idea out before; what about police or prosecutors faking or losing or suppressing evidence, biased judges, racism, etc? And yet the idea of jury nullification is for repudiated in this country as criticized as “dangerous”, as if police killings and judicial and prosecutorial misconduct does not exist—far more insidious and dangerous than a juror of principle. Checks and balances are very appropriate, and to have 10 guilty people go free so that one innocent person may walk remains a valid operating principle.

I also object to the threatening tone of the voire dire pledge of California legal code 232(a), which demands that all questions be answered “accurately and truthfully”. It’s not truthfulness that concerns me. Rather, given rampant prosecutorial abuses and the grotesque politicization of the judiciary (up to the Supremes), the idea of agreeing to this pledge given the threat of criminal prosecution ought to chill anyone’s blood, particularly anyone contemplating being a nail to stand up and be hammered down (jury nullification). According to that pledge, one is a criminal simply by refusing to answer a question or by virtue of prosecutorial assertion/opinion no matter how absurd as to whether the answer is accurate or truthful. I pride myself on honesty, but I am not stupid enough to put my head into a noose. The threat of fines and imprisonment were already upon me simply to appear for jury duty: a summons for jury duty need only be mailed via first class mail; the threats of fines and imprisonment do not require proof that the mail was received (see 208, 209, etc). In other words, the US Post Office stands between you and prosecution (what if you are on an overseas trip and don't pick up your mail for months—y0u finally arrive home with a warrant out for your arrest).

** California legal code: emphasis added:

232. (a) Prior to the examination of prospective trial jurors in
the panel assigned for voir dire, the following perjury acknowledgement and agreement shall be obtained from the panel, which shall be acknowledged by the prospective jurors with the statement "I do":
    "Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will accurately and truthfully answer, under penalty of perjury, all questions propounded to you concerning your qualifications and competency to serve as a trial juror in the matter pending before this court; and that failure to do so may subject you to criminal prosecution."
(b) As soon as the selection of the trial jury is completed, the following acknowledgment and agreement shall be obtained from the trial jurors, which shall be acknowledged by the statement "I do":
    "Do you and each of you understand and agree that you will well and truly try the cause now pending before this court, and a true verdict render according only to the evidence presented to you and to the instructions of the court."


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