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Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Examples at f/1.4 (Pescadero Creek, Sony A7R)

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

In my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA in Guide to Mirrorless are published a number of examples at f/1.4 using the bad sample previously discussed.

The images are shown in part as an aid to understanding the asymmetric blur that can result from a lens that is “off”.

And yet the overall look of the images is still worthwhile in getting a feel for the rendering style, which is very nice, with high contrast overall, similar to its FE 35/2.8 Sonnar and FE 55/1.8 Sonnar siblings.

Examples at f/1.4, Bad Sample Lens (Pescadero Creek, A7R)

Sizes up to 6048 wide are included for examination (24 megapixels). Commentary on each image is made, including evaluation of the correction for chromatic aberrations.

The 35/1.4 Distagon is going back to be exchanged for another sample, along with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon and the Sony 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar for some comparisons.

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UPDATE: I’ve added an aperture series showing and discussing lens performance with stopping down, analyzing how much stopping down is needed ot overcome the right side blur.

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Don’t Confuse Focusing Distance with Reproduction Ratio aka Magnification

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

See my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art in DAP (covered on both Nikon and Canon.

Damian S writes:

Thanks to you I am now on the waiting list for the new Sigma 24mm for Nikon.

I wanted to give you one thought: I was an early adopter of the Nikon 24/1.4 and I've always really liked it. I found it's image quality unique in being able to get a nice narrow DOF because of the fast aperture and the *close focusing distance*.

Looking at the specs of the new Sigma vs. the Nikon 24/1.4G can focus approx 6 inches closer. This *may* be a game changer and may make the Sigma unable to replace my favorite feature of the Nikon - we'll see. I also wonder if your Nikon 24 is exceptional in its bad focus shift: mine seems fine but certainly I haven't tested as you have.

DIGLLOYD: First, focus shift is a property of lens design and while it can vary slightly due to build variances, it does not fundamentally change (again barring some serious quality control problems). However, focus shift can vary quite a lot by focusing distance, particularly at close range, e.g., for a lens poorly corrected for spherical aberration when focused at close range.

The way to test for focus shift at close range is with a ruler as I showed in my comparison; that makes it obvious if present. At distance, it’s harder but a suitable outdoor subject can make it easy. For an example that’s more subtle see in Guide to Leica the Aperture Series: 35/1.4 — Glacial Erratics (M240). See also the case studies of focus shift in MSI.

Focusing distance vs reproduction ratio—Nikon and Canon and other vendors often play focal length shortening tricks at close range in order to maintain a constant aperture. So a 60mm lens might actually have a 45mm focal length at close range, ditto for a 24mm that could be 20mm at close range (this change can be a usability headache if implemented in a macro lens). Thus, close-focusing *distance* is not a useful metric because the focal length might be reduced. And it is misleading (and silly) for a vendor to list this figure without specifying actual focal length and free working distance from the front lens element.

See also Real vs Actual Focal Length — Breathing and Comparison: Actual Focal Length at Close Range.

Rather, one must look at reproduction ratio aka magnification. For example, a reproduction ratio of 1:5 means that 1mm on the sensor captures 5mm of the real-life object.

The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art has a specified reproduction ratio of 1:5.3 while the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G is specified at 0.179X = 1:5.6. Hence assuming accurate specifications, the Sigma delivers an image at greater magnification (which might actually occur at a greater physical distance!). Note that free working distance to front element or lens hood can be critical for lighting in particular.

       
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art and Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Quality Control Issues, Right Side Blur at f/1.4

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

See my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA in Guide to Mirrorless.

When Sony released the FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar and 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar for the A7 series, there were various reports of quality control issues, some I read of and some reported to me by readers. Such things are rather common with most brands.

I am disappointed to report that after shooting the new FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon extensively on many different scenes this evening, one consistent issue emerged with the test sample in every scene I shot: at f/1.4, the lens could not make a sharp image on the right 1/3 of the frame, even as the center and left sides delivered the quality that so impressed me with my original portrait shoot. Stopping down, the issue cleans up nicely, but clearly this sample has something amiss. My feeling on this verges on anger, since my images cannot be fixed, and quality control this shitty at this price is an insult to the buying public. The factory could catch problem lenses like this, but it did not. Still, I will be showing several series, because the core lens qualities are visible over most of the frame at f/1.4, and because the issue itself has to be seen to be understood, and because stopped down there is a lot to like.

My advice to anyone remains as usual with any brand: don’t assume the sample is good; examine a variety of scenes for consistent issues, like blur on one side and not the other. See How to Test a Lens in Making Sharp Images. One reason I like the Zeiss ZF.2 / ZE DSLR lenses and particularly the Otus line is that over the years I’ve had hardly any issues—the best quality control of all the brands IMO. A lens design is only as good as it can be built, one reason why computed MTF charts supplied by most vendors are a joke.

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Breakthrough Photography X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter

X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter by
Breakthrough Photography

Get Breakthrough Photography X3 filter at B&H Photo (starting Apr 18).

Breakthrough Photography introduced a line of high-grade filters in 2015, dubbed the “X3” line. See the in-depth description of the technology used to manufacture these filters.

When contacted by Breakthrough Photography, I elected to try the 10 stop neutral density filter, because other brands have disappointed with severe color and tint shifts: could the X3 deliver what other filters had failed to do?

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter

A 10-stop ND filter is very dark. With some stopping down, much longer exposures can be made than would otherwise be possible. Purposes include water blur in sunlight, very bright subjects, or photographing subjects that would otherwise be obscured by transient objects (cars, people, etc). By greatly increasing exposure time, these objects can be made to disappear.

In the field, it can be useful to have carry densities of 3, 6 and 10 stops which covers most shooting situations. Using a step-up ring allows using a larger fitler size on lenses with a smaller filter size (so that one does not have to carry sets of ND filters in too many sizes).

Testing the X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter by Breakthrough Photography

State of the Camera Market

Received this in email today.

LMAO. It’s spot-on.

Canon should buy Nikon, dump most Nikon lenses, all Canon bodies, then either sell the remaining company to Sony or buy Sony.

Every time I go to sonyalpharumors.com, I see things like Sony dropped the price of every A7x body by $300, and Sony has a new brain implant that that [editor: brain implant needs a firmware update] adjusts the concavity of the sensors in its cameras to match your retina, so the camera can register exactly what you see. And a roadmap to 14 new Zeiss and Sony lenses for the next year.

Every time I go to the Nikonrumors.com site, I see something like Nikon has announced the 3572 entry-level DX DSLR that replaces the 3571, a 673 DSLR that replaces the 672, and a 763 DSLR that replaces the 762, and there are two new DX zoom lenses, a 45-235mm and a 15-735mm, and a 28-400mm FX lens. OK, all f*cked up, but at least, they are making some noise to show they still have a pulse.

Then, every time I go to the leicarumors.com site, I see something like there’s a new Leica store opening in Ho Chi Minh City, 50 of the shittiest images you ever saw selected for the 2015 Oskar Barnack award, and there is a new M-LU body designed by Lulu Lemon that has a transparent outer case, and only a shutter button and nothing else, with a transparent 35mm Summilux mit der floating elementen for only $23,995, and new titanium soft release shutter buttons with an onyx accent (default case), with diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire as options.

DIGLLOYD: At NAB (with my press badge on, which I felt was fair warning), Canon tried to tell me that the DSLR market was doing great, with a lot of pre-orders for the new 5Ds. My BS meter squacked so loud I almost went deaf (hey, I ask around and know my business). Even what is not said or body language is eminently useful (and in-person or voice communicates a ton more than email). Well, there was a lot of communication in only about 10 minutes, very useful to me.

I asked Canon about an EVF option and got clawed. Miller’s Law repudiated. Later, when I got home, I discussed the matter with my cat, and she gave it 5 purrs.

I wrote about the value proposition with Leica and it’s only gotten worse now; it asymptotically approaches zero.

Chris L writes:

My compliments to your correspondent, it's exactly the creeping impression I get every time I look at those CanoNikoLeiOlympiSonyca-rumors sites.

The other day I was asked to evaluate two reproductions, by two different photographers, of the same archaeological object; one shot taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, the other with a Phase One MF camera. The catch: I was expected, based on my evaluation, to recommend a new Canon 5DS in replacement of the Mk III, to match the pixel count of the Phase One MF.

But the images could have been produced with iPhones for what mattered. All the difference was in the lighting: the one taken with the Canon was utterly flat, whereas the Phase One shot lighting was carefully modelled, almost sculpted in 3D. It was just the photographer, not the camera, or the lens. (And just to be clear, I am in no way camera-agnostic, but here the camera-lens-combo didn't even begin to matter, going against the photographer's grain.)

DIGLLOYD: even iPhone 6 images can look great with the right conditions and within reproduction limits. But of course many other practical and usage factors come to bear. Obviously, NAB and the gear shown there exist for strong reasons, for still and video.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L in stock

See my review of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM.

At about $2999 the Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM is unusually priced. But it is also unusually good in delivering high quality across its focal length range as well as sharpness near and far.

Highly recommended for all Canon shooters needing anything in that range.

Nikon D750

Save $300 or save $900 with lens.

Whirlwind NAB

I’m off to NAB in Las Vegas for a whirlwind tour.

Update: I hadn’t realized the sheer enormity of the show in cavernous halls stuffed with gear including ultra high end gear that probably cannot be seen in any place together except at NAB. This is not a show with iPhone cases and so on! You’ll get a very long hike trying to see it all and a full four days is what I’d recommend to see the show properly.

I had my own agenda at NAB so this is not a report, but here are some impressions.

If for example all you want to do is see a topic of interest, say the latest in lighting technology, or video booms from small to huge, or video storage and processing for satellite dishes and so on, the depth and breadth of the product lines was stunning.

Canon had an enormous booth with video, DSLRs and so on, printers and more, and a 2nd Canon booth I did not have a chance to visit. I liked their metallic whatever ist was paper they were showing, and the floor padding was really nice on the feet. Nikon had a large booth, but it modest in size by comparison with the Canon booth.

Zeiss had a very nice setup with all their lense lines (including cine). Zeiss is not standing still in any area.

Leica had a visually attractive boutique booth perfectly matching the current M gestalt—stylish but lacking substance.

Sigma was not present at all, and I never did see a Sony booth, but the halls are so cavernous that I might have missed it somehow. I did see Fujifilm banners, but did not visit (I flew into Vega, 6 hours, flew home).

Lots of gear for video processing including storage. OWC was showing their Jupiter system with 10 gigabit NAS or SAN up to 512TB and other storage.

BlackMagic Announces Slew of new Video Products

BlackMagic design announced a slew of new and cool video products.

 

B&H Photo has the new BlackMagic video products available for pre-order including the new 4.6K video offerings.

Making Sharp Images: Updated Bokeh Examples

I’ve updated several bokeh pages in Making Sharp Images as well as a flare example.

Shootout on Nikon D810: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Nikon AF-S 24mm f/1.4G ED

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

For anyone looking for a 24mm autofocus lens for Nikon, this is a must-read. In DAP:

Shootout: Sigma 24/1.4 Art vs Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G (Dolls, NikonD810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images up to actual pixels for the DX frame area from f/1.4 through f/13, along with a large crop at those apertures also. Assesses focus shift, color aberrations and overall performance at a reproduction ratio of about 1:11.

       
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art and Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G
Dolls and Rulers
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FOR SALE: Leica, Canon, Nikon Lenses

Selling this gear—not meant as a statement on anything, purely a business decision.

All lenses excellent to perfect glass (no scratches, dings, etc), lightly used, working perfectly, USA market lenses. Some have wear on lens hoods or similar, most pristine. In original packaging/box as shipped. Local buyers welcome to inspect firsthand.

Contact me. Buyer pays FedEx insured shipping of choice or picks up locally.

Nikon

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

Nikon AF-S 24mm f/1.4G $1325 (sells for $1929 new)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED $1400 (sells for $1886 new)

Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G $525 (sells for $696 new)

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G $1250 (sells for $1619 new)

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G $1250 (sells for $1599 new)

Nikon AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8G IF ED $660 (sells for $879 new)

Canon

Canon 50mm f/1.2L $1099 (sells for $1449 new)

Canon 85mm f/1.2L II $1575 (sells for $1999 new)

Canon 135mm f.2L $700 (sells for $999 new)

Leica

Leica 50/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH

28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH $3250 firm (sells for $4045 new).

35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE (2010 version) $3600 (sells for $4900 new).

50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH $8950 firm (sells for $10745 new).

50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH $3050 firm (sells for $3745 new).

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic: Works for My Ears

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

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White) about $29 with $31 instant savings

I wrote about ordering these for a specific reason: when I talk on the phone it crooks my arm too sharply, and this irritates the Ulnar nerve in the arm near the elbow, which is still recovering from nerve damage from an antibiotic I took last November.

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

I had been hoping these would work, and YES, these work well for my ears. And that’s no easy thing; most all earbud style headphones are very uncomfortable for me.

These earbuds fit well and are far more comfortable than the stock Apple offering included with the iPhone.

The sound quality is very good, which I evaluated during a one hour conversation with a client; we could both hear and understand each other quite well.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Assessing Focus Shift and Color Correction (Dolls, Sony A7R)

 
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

This series assesses the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon over the f/1.4 - f/16 aperture range.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Assessing Focus Shift and Color Correction (Dolls A7R)

Shot on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R, presented with HD and UltraHD images, including large images up to 24 megapixels, along with crops.

Dolls Posing Patiently
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: 'Green Ranch Shed' and 'Mining Camp Church'

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 is a high performer well worth looking at for the M shooter.

Compact and very nicely built, I enjoyed using it in the field.

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Mining Camp Church (M240)

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Green Ranch Shed (M240)

These aperture series are presented with up to full-resolution (5976) images in order to show just how strong a performer the lens is (very).

The late-day church scene shows strong contrasts as compared with the bluish dusk light of the Mining Camp Bunkhouse series.

Mining Camp Church
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The Green Ranch Shed series offers a much deeper 3D (near to far) look at sharpness as compared to the Green Barn series.

Green Ranch Shed
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Click to view blog entry for each image below.

 
 
Other series for the Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M: Bokeh for Defocused Point Sources

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Bokeh for Defocused Background Point Sources

Bokeh is also shown for the full aperture series from ƒ/2.4 - f/16 using two aperture series, one strongly defocused and one moderately defocused. See also the Veiling Flare discussion which also can be studied for bokeh behavior.

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M uses an 11-blade aperture. How does it behave across the aperture series?

This study might be interesting in its own right even for readers with no particular interest in the Leica 75/2.4 Summarit-M.

Bokeh at f/4
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June 22nd Photo Tour in Yosemite High Country

See the photo tours page for general info.

4-day photo tour: June 22, 23, 24, 25
(2 or 3 days negotiable, but itinerary planned for full range of sites)

This tour will cover Yosemite high country and nearby areas, the best and favorite places I’ve found, at a stunningly beautiful time of year. These are personalized tours intended to cater specifically to participant interests (limited to three participants). 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.

There are various lodging options, but the best possible place to stay is Tioga Pass Resort*, which is located dead center of where we want to be, and allows for a mid-day break if desired, and of course a hot shower and a place to process images, etc. Regular roads on this trip accessible by any car. I can advise on clothing, gear, food etc.

Contact

Act now and reserve your place in this photo tour. Cost is $800 per day (you are responsible for your lodging, transportation, food).

Contact Lloyd.

* TPR books out for the season very quickly, so act quickly if you want to stay there (but contact me first for advice on cabins). There are other lodging options in the area (including camping), but the non-camping options involve at least a 40-minute round trip, which makes your day longer than need be. I also advise arriving one day early in order to acclimate to altitude of 10,000'.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Spring Growth, Yosemite
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Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Flooded Tuolumne Meadows
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Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Upper Tenaya Creek
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M: Veiling Flare, and Bokeh

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Veiling Flare + Bokeh, Barn Interior

This series shows a disturbing issue with veiling flare that might warrant a recall of the lens.

The example merely isolates the issue to make it totally obvious; it was previously commented upon and shown in the Mining Camp Bunkhouse and Green Barn series—the issue arises commonly during field use.

Bokeh is also shown for out of focus items from ƒ/2.4, ..., f/8.

Flare for no good reason
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series 'Green Barn'

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 has an “industrial design that offers improved optical performance” over its ƒ/2.5 predecessor, though the details are left unclear and the optical formula is apparently unchanged.

What is left unsaid is that it might be a better lens than its Leica 75mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH sibling.

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Green Barn (M240)

This ƒ 2.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 aperture series is presented with up to full-resolution (5976) images in order to show just how strong a performer the lens is. But it does have one disappointing weakness that was also observed in the Mining Camp Bunkhouse series.

Discussion includes sharpness, flare and distortion.

Green Barn
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Table of f-stops: Full Stops, 1/2 Stops, 1/3 Stops

Sometimes I need to refer to these scales for certain reasons. Also, cameras round f-stops and exposure values, and this leads to inconsistent exposure values with some cameras.

For example, when a camera displays ƒ/5.6, is it ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/5.657 (the actual one-stop difference from ƒ/4)? And is ƒ/1.2 actually ƒ/1.19 or ƒ/1.122?

Of course, in the latter case of a bright aperture (ƒ/1.2), the T-stop matters a whole lot more. It’s not much of a difference but video shooters doing precision work presumably care.

One also has to wonder whether 1/13 second is twice 1/25 second: is it really 1/13 second, or actually 2/25 second and displayed as 1/13?

I see minor variations all the time with aperture series when there ought to be none, so I suspect that cameras by and large either are doing it wrong (rounding the actual exposure not just rounding for display), or else have errors for aperture or shutter speed, or both.

ƒ = √(2^AV) where AV is the aperture value.

f-stop scales whole stops, 1/2 stops, 1/3 stops

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Commentary vs Other 35mm f/1.4 Lenses

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

In Guide to Mirrorless in my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA, I offer a thought-provoking commentary on how the FE 35/1.4 should be thought of in the context of a variety of other 35mm f/1.4 lens designs by Leica, Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, Sigma.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Discussion and Alternatives

This should be well worth your reading if the choice is to be made on a 35mm f/1.4; it incorporates my years of working with all these brands in an easy summary form.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek at 11mm, 13mm, 16mm, 24mm

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

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

This group of four aperture series spans the zoom range with similar subject matter in order to paint a comprehensive picture of the remarkably consistent imaging quality of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

Aperture Series @ 11mm: Pescadero Creek Downstream (Canon 5DM3)

Aperture Series @ 13mm: Pescadero Creek Upstream (Canon 5DM3)

Aperture Series @ 16mm: Pescadero Creek Downstream (Canon 5DM3)

Aperture Series @ 24mm: Pescadero Creek Pool (Canon 5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images with various sizes including full resolution 5760-pixel wide images. One can thus see performance in its entirety at any of the apertures.

I’m impressed—I deem the Canon 11-24mm f/4L the best wide angle zoom that Canon has yet produced. And I love having that extra 11-16mm zoom range (as compared to the 16-35 or 17-35 lenses). Having the 11-24/4L plus 24-70/2.8L II covers a lot of range.

If I had to hazard a guess, the 11-24mm f/4L was expressly designed to hold up well on the new 50-megapixel Canon 5D S (though virtually all lenses will show some weaknesses at 50 megapixels). At about $2999 it’s hardly inexpensive, but given the unprecedented range and image quality, it’s a winner.

Pescadero Creek, 11mm
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Pescadero Creek, 13mm
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Pescadero Creek, 16mm
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Pescadero Creek, 24mm
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Adobe’s Plans for Photoshop and Lightroom for OS X

Jeff Tranberry of Adobe details the plans for which versions of OS X will be required for the next versions of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.

In order to leverage the latest operating system features and technologies, the next major release of Photoshop CC will require Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or above.

The next major release of Lightroom currently plans to support OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) and above.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: the First Lens that 'Makes' the Platform

 
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

The Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon showed up late in the day. I decided to check it out on the Sony A7R by shooting portraits using natural light.

Well...

A camera system needs at least one outstanding lens that makes owning that system worthwhile. Or rather, a lens that is so appealing that the camera body becomes an accessory.

Until now, that Sony A7 series platform has been a study in “good enough”. That system mediocrity ends now with the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. The question is whether lens siblings of similar quality will emerge to complete the nucleus of a complete system that demanding photographers hunger for.

Dang, where is that 50 or 80 megapixel Sony A9 with real 14-bit files?

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Portraits

Shot on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R, presented with HD and UltraHD images including the entire frame up to 24 megapixels (!). The lens deserves it.

Perfection
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Roy P writes:

Very nice coverage of this lens, and terrific portraits. You’re lucky to have a cooperative model. I used up all my goodwill on that front with my kids a long time ago!

There are three other E-mount FE lenses that while perhaps not quite in the “lens shall wag the camera” class as the new Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon, are nevertheless, easily in the “mirrorless shall wag the DSLR” category, IMHO. These provide enough catalysts to switch to mirrorless for a lot of photographers, I think.

These are the Zeiss 55/1.8 Sonnar, the Zeiss 16-35 Vario Tessar and the Sony 70-200 f/4 G lens. These easily hold their own against the Nikon equivalents on a D810.

Even the Zeiss 24-70 f/4 is not bad. It’s not a great lens, but a pretty good lens. At f/5.6 on an A7R, I think it holds its own pretty well against the aging Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 at f/5.6 on a D810. And it is so much lighter and easier to handle.

I haven’t tested the Sony 90/2.8 macro, but it’s probably not too shabby vs. the Nikon 100/2.8.

While Nikon’s total universe of lenses is far more extensive, the universe of really standout lenses is much smaller, and I suspect the same is true for Canon. When you filter out the mediocre legacy lenses and start comparing the group of “very good” and better lenses, the Sony E-mount starts looking pretty decent!

The long focal length primes and zooms for pro sports and wildlife photography is the one area where Nikon/Canon still reign supreme. But even that is likely changing...

DIGLLOYD: my comments should not be construed to mean that the other lenses are bad; they are quite good and I’d recommend the ones that Roy mentions (excepting the 70-200, which I have not tested and so no opinion there). Particularly the 55/1.8.

Rather my statement on the Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is just as I wrote: “a lens that is so appealing that the camera body becomes an accessory”. Just because I say I prefer chocolate ice cream does not mean that strawberry and vanilla are no good.

After 8 years working with just about every system and lens and at least 10,000 hours of doing so (the magic “10,000” hour rule—apply it to any area of expertise), I do feel that I have a sense of which lenses make it to another level, the cut above. Examples (not a complete list) include the Zeiss Otus line, the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 APD, the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, and now, the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

This one the focus is just off a few millimeters, but it’s the total rendering style that is so appealing.

Poise
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5-way Shootout at 24mm: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 24-70/2.8L II, 11-24/4L

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art or Canon 11-24mm at B&H Photo.

Three primes, two zooms, all 24mm. In DAP:

Shootout: Sigma 24/1.4 Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 24-70/2.8L II, 11-12/4L (Pescadero Creek, Canon 5DM3)

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

This comparison complements the close-range 4-way shootout.

Also, click each lens for its own review.

     
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon 24/1.4L II, Canon 24/2.8 IS, Canon 24-70/2.8L II, Canon 11-24/4L
(not necessarily to scale)
Pescadero Creek Green and Blue
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Canon 24mm f/1.4L II: Field Curvature (Metreon)

 
Canon 24mm f/1.4L II

Get Canon 24mm at B&H Photo.

I went back and redid an older take on the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, in part to confirm my findings in the recent comparisons against the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.

In DAP:

Canon 24mm f/1.4L II: Field curvature and Aberrations (Night-time)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images .

Commentary on the behavior should prove quite useful if you’re shooting this lens, but also of general interest in understanding field curvature behavior—a poster child case. Also, the demonstration of aberrations is revealing.

Metreon area, San Francisco
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: 'Water Wears Its Way' Aperture Series (Nikon D810)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

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

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this scene on the 36-megapixel Nikon D810 offers a closer range look to follow up the Glistening Rocks and Running Water series. The rich dark tones are very enjoyable. Discussion is mainly around the contrast and image quality overall, the visual impact.

Water Wears Its Way (Nikon D810)

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

Water Wears Its Way
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Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD: Focusing Problems and Lens Skew

Get Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens or Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G at B&H Photo

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

I spent another several hours reshooting some very nice material with vibration control (VC) disabled. I had some high quality material (or so I thought) to compare with the Nikon 14-24.

But the Tamron has delivered focus problems: even though 10X Live View showed crisp focus, the lens somehow delivered focus badly off even as the Nikon 14-24mm remained spot-on (focus shift aside) doing the same darn thing. Multiple instances of errors, not a one-off issue. It’s as if the Tamron lens glitches somehow, and destroys focus. Immensely frustrating. At this point, I’d advise caution on the Tamron, though that’s a weak point: it could just be a bad sample and it looks to have strong optical potential.

At least three scenes show a severe left/right skew in the plane of focus in the 20mm to 24mm range. Maybe it has a loose lens element or some such thing that accounts for both issues.

And so my review of the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD must be delayed: I’ve requested a replacement sample and that should arrive in mid April (B&H is closed for Passover). No point in testing a bad sample.

As an aside, the Tamron 15-35mm f/2.8 is very much NOT parfocal; the slightest change in zoom throws the focus substantially off.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: 'Glistening Rocks and Running Water' Aperture Series (Nikon D810)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

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

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this scene on the 36-megapixel Nikon D810 offers superb insight into sharpness and contrast, bokeh, correction for aberrations and color aberrations. Large crops with discussion paint a very pretty picture.

Glistening Rocks and Running Water Aperture Series (Nikon D810)

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

Glistening Rocks, Running Water
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Choosing Image Resolution and Scaling, Series and A/B Comparison for Images at diglloyd.com

The how-to page for controlling image resolution, scaling, compare mode is updated.

This mainly applies to publication pages to subscribers.

HOW TO: diglloyd.com controls for scaling and comparing images

Processing Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II Hi-Res RAW with Adobe Camera Raw

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

Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II

 

I previously reported on the 64-megapixel hi-res mode of the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II in terms of resolution and noise, following those up with examples.

This instructional piece discusses the process I developed to process the 64MP raw files into finished images.

Processing Steps for Olympus EM5 Mark II 64MP Hi-Res RAW with Adobe Camera Raw

The step-by-step discussion shows a suggested conversion route with downsamping and sharpening to produce high quality finished 38.8 megapixel images all but free of digital artifacts—not bad considering that the EM5 Mark II sensor resolution is a modest 16 megapixels.

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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for NIKON

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

I just received the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art in Nikon F-mount and I will be working with it on the D810 vs various other lenses, including the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G (I don’t expect much of contest there, but that’s the point—prove it out).

I’m rather overloaded (new gear tends to show up in piles, then go dry for a while!). I have some work with the Sigma 24/1.4 on Canon to present, more on the Canon 11-24mm f/4L, and I have to reshoot the Tamron 15-35mm. And there’s still more Leica 75mm f/2.4 and Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II work, but the interest level on those two items might not warrant further effort—unsure.

Basically, I have loads of material and what I prioritize is driven in large part (but not entirely) by subscription metrics—the only viable and rational way it can work for one guy trying to support a family. 7 X 12 or so. Subscribing to the “everything deal” is very helpful.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art optical design

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series 'Mining Supplies Wagon' (M240)

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 offers a high performance design with very pleasing bokeh at a modest price (speaking in relative terms for Leica M). It offers a compelling alternative to the Leica 75mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH.

This scene is at closer range than the Mining Camp Bunkhouse series, evaluating lens performance at a medium distance in terms of sharpness, bokeh and color correction.

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Mining Supplies Wagon (M240)

Series is ƒ/ 2.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 13, 16, is presented in the usual HD and UltraHD sizes.

Mining Supplies Wagon
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series 'Mining Camp Bunkhouse' (M240)

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 has an “industrial design that offers improved optical performance” over its ƒ/2.5 predecessor, though the details are left unclear and the optical formula is apparently unchanged. One might say that the ƒ/2.4 version is a “tweaked” design.

This scene is at distance, and shows that the 75/2.4 can deliver very high quality results, with a twist. In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Mining Camp Bunkhouse (M240)

This ƒ 2.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 13 aperture series is presented in color and black and white along with large crops.

Discussion includes all aspects of lens performance, including and especially flare control.

Mining Camp Bunkhouse
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Tamrac TEK Rolling Office/Computer Case $200 off

I pick out deals that seem particularly good from time to time; here’s one: Tamrac TEK Rolling Office/Computer normally $249 now $49 ($200 off), 24 hours only with free shipping.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD: Image Stabilization Aperture Series on Tripod, Showing Sharpness Damage

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

In DAP:

Image Stabilization on Tripod Destroys Sharpness (Nikon D810, Dark Rocks)

This ƒ 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 13 aperture series runs from 4 seconds to 81 seconds and shows the damage to image sharpness caused by the image stabilization function (“VC”) of the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD.

See also the Canon 200mm f/2L IS example. Image stabilization needs special attention for tripod shooters and indeed is not always a win, even handheld.

Dark Tones
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Bruce Z writes:

Being a low light, theatre Photographer by trade, I NEVER use a tripod with the I.S. switched on.

I remember when I first started using I.S. lenses, it took me about 3 performances to figure out that it was impeding image sharpness. The sad thing is, the local Canon rep had NO idea what was going on.

Good information for any of us starting out new with I.S. lenses …

DIGLLOYD: know your gear; never assume.

Beware of Image Stabilization on a Tripod

Get Canon 200mm f/2L IS at B&H Photo

Canon 200mm f/2L IS

In DAP I’ve updated an older article with high-res images and larger crops and a 3-way comparison showing the damaging effects of image stabilization on a tripod.

Image Stabilization (IS) on a Tripod (Canon 200mm f/2L IS)

While this comparison is with the Canon 200mm f/2L IS, the issues exist with every brand I’ve tried, including the new Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom.

Shootout: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD vs Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED (Nikon D810, Pescadero Creek)

Get Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens or Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G at B&H Photo

In DAP:

Tamron 15-30mm vs Nikon 14-24/2.8G (Pescadero Creek, Nikon D810)

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

This comparison turns out to be one of the very best yet for showing the awful focus shift in the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G.

It also makes a good demonstration of how image stabilization can damage image sharpness. This comparison won’t answer all the optical questions (some reshooting needed), but I deem it more interesting and thought provoking than most comparisons!

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
Pescadero Creek
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Max Your Mac Pro at OWC
Max Your Mac Pro at OWC

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