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OWC Black Friday deals. Deals run out when stock runs out, so buy early! Some deals will sell out quickly, some may run over the weekend too. Items that caught my eye:


B&H Photo Black Friday Deals

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An Odd Thanksgiving

My daughter wanted to see snow. So with an arctic storm hitting the Sierra, up we went. I’m glad I put on the wheels with snow tires (Blizzak’s) the night prior (at 01:00 AM in cold rain), because (got up at 4:45 AM) Hwy 88 closed not long after we got thru, and those Blizzak’s hook up super nice on snow and ice.

Anyway, no turkey or mashed spuds on Turkey Day but Oreos and a nice triple cream brie filled in some corners.

Last night was 14°F but still warm and cozy—it’s all about the right gear. Tonight... well, it’s 7°F now and all my 1-gallon water bottles are solid ice. I kept one 1-gallon in the car to stay liquid, along with other stuff (fresh fruit and similar). A cooler helps (it’s a “warmer” when ice is a lot warmer than ambient!). White bunnies run around here and there. The full moon makes things bright, we were treated to an awesome vertical shaft of light through some cloud cover. The snow is not deep at all in the White Mountains and access is easy all the way to Patriarch Grove (with 4WD strongly advised for traction).

Thanksgiving Night Lodging at 10,600' and 7°F
Christmas Tree on Thanksgiving
Christmas Tree on Thanksgiving

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon Examples: Post-Snowstorm Climb (Sony A7R II)

Get Sony A7R II and Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia B&H Photo.

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

In my review of the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon, I present a 4-page documentary series with numerous examples, all taken on a late October day hike near Mt Dana on a glittering post-snowstorm day:

Includes images at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with large crops also.

This project took a while—sorting through hundreds of images, then processing them with care was no quick task, particularly with images utilizing the full dynamic range. But I confess to so much sheer enjoyment in that day’s outing that it was a real incentive to process the images. At the same time these images are very fine examples I think—and they show off just how fine a lens and camera the Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon can be.

The images are spectacular on the 14.7 megapixel display of the iMac 5K. If you’re viewing them on something else, it’s like 1080p vs super 4K UltraHD—no contest. Really, there is nothing else that can touch display satisfaction of the iMac 5K*. Any and all readers out there who enjoy photography really must have the late 2015 iMac 5K because it sets a new standard for viewing pleasure: it’s like looking at an 11 X 14 'chrome', only bigger. If nothing else, buy one only for the display—seriously—because it costs less than a lot of displays.

OK, that sounds like hyperbole, but have you experienced it properly? The 4320-wide image sizes that I publish just about perfectly fill the iMac 5K screen vertically (the 6048 size is great fun too, even if a bit of scrolling is needed). Skeptical? Don’t assume; look. It is fair to wonder what is the point of a ~12MP or ~16MP camera that falls short of filling the display or just barely manages it when surely 8K displays are only a few years off. A 4K display has a measly 8.3 megapixels. BTW, anyone using a HiDPI or Retina display should be viewing at 50% magnification (which is actual pixels on a 2:1 retina display), so that no scaling is done.

* Clearly the highest quality view available, but not the best choice for professional image editing or color management—use the NEC PA302W or similar.

Wind-swept boulder field with sun wind-whipped snow flurries
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Get a Gorgeous 5K Display—with a Free Computer Included!

See also Apple iMac 5K: 8GB and 16GB Configurations can *ADD* Memory While Keeping the Two Modules You Already Paid For.

Meaning that the 14.7-megapixel iMac 5K display is a wonder to behold. A photographer must-have, amateur or pro, soccer Mom or casual snapshotter—for unprecedented detail, contrast and color, a total combination that has no peer for sheer eye-popping beauty*.

If the iMac 5K display were offered as a display only, say at $1629, it would be worth it. So why not get one, and with a free iMac computer included? But that computer just happens to trounce the fastest 8-core Mac Pro in many tests (the high-end model at least).

Why pay full price at Apple when B&H Photo is discounting the iMac 5K like this?

Recommended with iMac 5K: OWC memory upgrades, OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, TRIPP LITE USB3 hub, OWC Mercury Elite Pro external drives for backup, OWC Thunderbay for storage and/or backup.

* Not necessarily the best choice for professional image editing or color management however.

iMac 5K (Late 2015) with 64GB: a Good Option for Many Photographers

Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the MPG computer gear wishlist.

MPG recommends this iMac 5K: 27" Retina 5K Display, 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 (Skylake), 1TB Flash, 8GB memory, AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU (4GB GDDR5) + 32GB or 64GB OWC memory.

OWC 64GB Memory kit for late 2015 iMac 5K

See my ongoing review of the late 2015 iMac 5K.

All prior models of the iMac 5K have long been handicapped by a 32GB memory limit, thus forcing professionals to the Apple Mac Pro.

The late 2015 iMac 5K changes the game by accepting up to 64GB memory, which makes it far more viable for professional photographers, videographers, etc*.

My everyday photography work cannot be done efficiently on a system with only 32GB memory, as the screen shot shows from work just last night, where Photoshop alone uses 40GB of real memory.

Apple does not even offer a 64GB memory option, but OWC has a 64GB memory kit that costs only a little more than what Apple upcharges for 32GB, making the iMac 5K an awesomely fast Photoshop or Lightroom workstation at a far lower price than the Mac Pro. If a full 64GB is not needed, add memory to what shipped with the iMac 5K.

* Some iMac 5K drawbacks remain, name only two Thunderbolt ports (on one bus), which is problematic for multiple displays in particular, but also for multiple high performance devices, or device-to-device copies (bandwidth restrictions). Also, the Mac Pro can go to 128GB for really huge jobs.

Photoshop CC using 39.6 GiB of real memory, 7.8 GiB of compressed memory

BH Deals

Canon Speedlite 430EX II $100 /33% off.

Sony A6000 deal

Some of the lenses are HALF OFF.

Save up to $300 when you Buy a a6000 and Bundle it with a lens

Click Add to Cart to get the bundle popup window and be sure to see all the choices at left (Feature, Photo Software, Mirrorless System Lenses), like this.

Two very nice lenses for the A6000 are the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 and Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8, both 30% off.

4K UltraHD televisions

Disc0unts of up to 50% on televisions.

Apple Macs

Biggest discounts are on the 15" MacBook Pro, and there is even $300 off on the MPG recommended top-end 2015 MacBook Pro Retina.

See also all deals on Macs at B&H Photo. <== bookmark this page

=> Peruse deals by brand discount UP TO 70% OFF <==

Photoshop and GPU: Blurry Image Scaling Damages Image Assessment Workflow

Back in November 2014 I reported on blurry image scaling in Photoshop with the GPU enabled. This issue has not been addressed even here in November 2015.

For my work in assessing images, I must be able to see a non-blurred image at Fit to Window when I evaluate my images in Photoshop CC 2015. Because of this bug, I am forced to disable the GPU. Which mean impaired performance for a variety of operations.

Specifically, Fit to Screen on a 2560 X 1600 display results in a blurry image with large digital files. This makes it impossible to assess batches of images without a time-wasting zoom in/zoom out hassle. And it is not a pleasure to look at a blurred image, if not an outright eyestrain.

Photoshop allows enabling or disabling GPU support in Preferences => Performance => Graphics Processor Settings.

Different cache levels and GPU settings are all broken. GPU support is just plain broken for zooming in Photoshop; some zoom levels are sharp and others are awful. Actual pixels is fine of course, but then one cannot see the image as a whole. Surely a fast GPU can render a reduced size image far better than is being done (dual GPUs in Mac Pro!). But I’m told by Adobe that fixing this is not easy. But since when is such a damaging bug acceptable for three years in an image editor?

Note that the GPU blur depends on the amount of zoom relative to screen and image size, so a different size image or display might be fine for some users. And indeed some zoom levels are reasonably sharp—but never Fit on Screen with my typical images.

I reported this to Adobe over three years ago, but nothing has been done.

The image below is a crop of the whole. Observe the blur with GPU enabled and sharp image with the GPU disabled (toggle). Click for a full size image.

Photoshop CC 2014 image scaling, GPU on/off
Photoshop CC 2014 image scaling, GPU on/off
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Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Examples in Lundy Canyon (Canon 5DS R)

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss ZF.2 or ZE 15mm f/2.8 Distagon at B&H Photo, with $300 savings and 4% rewards as this was written.

A super wide angle lens is a handy thing. The ZF.2/ZE Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon make an excellent complement to the Zeiss 21m f/2.8 Distagon.

The 15/2.8 Distagon is suitable for Nikon or Canon or (with lens adapter) Sony mirrorless or on Leica M240.

Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Lundy Canyon, Early Winter

Images up to 24 megapixels, including crops. All examples were shot with the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R using the ZF.2 model (with lens adapter).

Fresh Snow on Aspen and Pine

Apple iMac 5K: Sony A7S II Doesn’t Even Fill the Retina Display

Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the Lloyd’s computer gear wishlist. Save money on 32GB or 64GB OWC memory (about $400 savings vs Apple!). MPG recommends this iMac 5K: 27" Retina 5K Display, 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 (Skylake), 1TB Flash, 8GB memory, AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU (4GB GDDR5) + 32GB or 64GB OWC memory.

See the ongoing review of the late 2015 Apple iMac 5K at Lloyd’s MacPerformanceGuide.com.

The iMac 5K has a display with 14.7 million pixels (5120 X 2880). That means that a 12-megapixel Sony A7S II image (4240 X 2832) won’t even fill the screen, though it comes close vertically.

Food for thought: the Sony A7S II or any camera with less then 50 megapixels won’t even fill the computer screen you’re likely to have in 2-3 years: an 8K display.

Apple has 5K (5120 X 2880) as of 13 months ago. How long before Apple has an iMac 6K or 8K? An iMac 6K would require a 24-megapixel image, and 8K would make even the Nikon D810 inadequate to fill the screen.

Sony A7S II image at actual pixels on Apple iMac 5K

Apple iMac 5K Color Gamut Discussion

Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the Lloyd’s computer gear wishlist. Save money on 32GB or 64GB OWC memory (about $400 savings vs Apple!). MPG recommends this iMac 5K: 27" Retina 5K Display, 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 (Skylake), 1TB Flash, 8GB memory, AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU (4GB GDDR5) + 32GB or 64GB OWC memory.

See the ongoing review of the late 2015 Apple iMac 5K at Lloyd’s MacPerformanceGuide.com.

The color gamut of the iMac 5K is the best ever delivered by Apple, covering the DCI(P3) gamut. That is a very good thing for iMac users—well, sort of: 99.99% of camera users (including iPhone users) shoot in the sRGB color space (derisively aka “sad” RGB). Shooting in sRGB clips off all the colors one might hope to see on the new display!

There is also one glaring issue with the Apple-supplied display profile...

Read more: iMac 5K (Late 2015) vs Mac Pro: Color Gamut

iMac 5K color gamut

Apple iMac 5K Trounces 3.3 GHz 8-Core Mac Pro on my Most Important Job in Photoshop

Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the Lloyd’s computer gear wishlist. Save money on 32GB or 64GB OWC memory (about $400 savings vs Apple!). MPG recommends this iMac 5K: 27" Retina 5K Display, 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 (Skylake), 1TB Flash, 8GB memory, AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU (4GB GDDR5) + 32GB or 64GB OWC memory.

See the ongoing review of the late 2015 Apple iMac 5K at Lloyd’s MacPerformanceGuide.com.

This test is as real world as it gets: it is my most performed job in Photoshop, one that idles further activity while it runs. The task is long-running, so it is the #1 bottleneck to my photographic workflow (preparing multi-resolution image series in a layered Photoshop document, typically aperture series or ISO series or similar).

To have $8K invested in an 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro, and yet have an about $4200 machine trounce it (iMac 5K 4.0GHz 8GB/1TB/M395X with 64GB memory)... well, ouch!

iMac 5K (Late 2015) vs Mac Pro: Real World Photoshop Performance

Make multi-res output image series in Photoshop, iMac 5K vs 8-core 3.3 GHz Mac Pro

Zeiss ZE 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar: Examples in Lundy Canyon (Canon 5DS R)

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2 at B&H Photo.

Razor sharp to the corners, with all but zero distortion, the Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar offers stunning imagery even on a 50-megapixel sensor. It’s clear that the 100/2 has reserves even for a higher-res sensor.

All examples were shot with the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R.

Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar Examples: Lundy Canyon, Early Winter

Images up to 24 megapixels, including crops.

Aspen Generations

Apple iMac 5K vs 8-Core Mac Pro: iMac is Looking Darn Good

Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the Lloyd’s computer gear wishlist.

Save money on 32GB or 64GB OWC memory (about $400 savings vs Apple!)

MPG recommends this iMac 5K: 27" Retina 5K Display, 4.0 GHz Intel Core i7 (Skylake), 1TB Flash, 8GB memory, AMD Radeon R9 M395X GPU (4GB GDDR5) + 32GB or 64GB OWC memory.

The two machines tested are the fastest possible CPUs as of late 2015. The iMac 5K as tested here is well into Mac Pro pricing territory, approaching $4K as configured, though of course it includes the display.

See the ongoing review of the late 2015 Apple iMac 5K at Lloyd’s MacPerformanceGuide.com.

Drowned Conifers in Beaver Pond
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Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon: 4 Pages of Examples in Lundy Canyon

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Milvus 21mm at B&H Photo. The older Nikon-mount Zeiss ZF.2 21mm f/2.8 Distagon was still available at $300 off + 4% rewards as this was written.

I’m pleased to present what I think is some of the best work I’ve ever done with the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon, at least as a group of images.

These were tough images to process, having extreme contrast for many, which required some experimentation for best results. Also, I’ve included black and white variants which took additional time and care. Finally, I show ACR processing settings for many of the images.

Examples were taken from October 30 through November 4th from idyllic late autumn to early winter snowfall. All examples were shot with the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R.

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Lundy Canyon, Before The Snow

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Lundy Canyon, Drowned Conifers at DuskR)

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Lundy Canyon, Early Winter

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Lundy Canyon, Brilliance at the Big Beaver Pond

Images up to 24 megapixels, and many with both color and black and white versions.

The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is surely a must-have lens for any wide-angle shooter, but it is discontinued. However, it reappears now with the same optical formula but with more flare-resistant lens coatings as the Zeiss Milvus 21mm f/2.8 (see the Zeiss 21/2.8 Flare page).

Note that Zeiss has regrettably dropped the venerable 'Distagon', 'Planar' and 'Makro-Planar' designations from the Milvus line branding/sales/PR, etc, but it remains engraved on the lenses themselves. I asked Zeiss marketing/sales about this; the official name is “Zeiss Milvus 2.8/21” (does not include “Distagon”).

Drowned Conifers in Beaver Pond
Fresh Snow on Peaks and Meadow
Apple iMac 5K NOW IN STOCK
Click to view configurations
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Wish Lists from Lloyd and Others

Wish lists at B&H Photo from myself and others.

I was asked to provide a Lloyd’s computing gear wish list for this promotion.

I’ve included the gear that I use myself and/or would buy if the budget allowed. Naturally, that includes the 2013 Mac Pro, the MacBook Pro Retina, the best iMac for photographers, the OWC Thunderbay 4, and various upgrades. Notes:

  • I’ve annotated each item in the wish list with my concise thoughts.
  • There is an Add All to Cart on the wishlist (scroll down). This is handy for seeing the actual price of items (actual price might not appear for some items until put into cart.)

Lexar SDXC for Sony 30P/100M 4K Video

Get Sony mirrorless digital camera and Lexar 2000X 64GB and Lexar 256GB 1000X at B&H Photo.

I wrote about the Sony A7S II and Lexar SDXC a few weeks ago and there was definitely interest in the topic of SDXC cards for 4K video. So I’m posting again with a title to that effect, and with an update.

On my recent trip I used two cards to record 4K video on the Sony A7S II and A7R II. Both worked flawlessly.

First, I filled the Lexar 64GB 2000X card to capacity, then continued using the Lexar 256GB 1000X card. But I lost some video because I was doing a selfie “how to” and the A7S II did not warn me (I kept on talking for another 8 minutes or so!). So from now on it’s 256GB cards only when shooting video.

I prefer the 64GB card because it is hyper fast at downloads. But 64GB is a bad idea for 30P/100M 4K video; it’s too easy to run out of space at the wrong time. And Sony mirrorless sucks in using card speed; it doesn’t matter between the two (the camera is not a fast responder for saving or reviewing images). So the smart move is just to use 256GB cards if shooting video at all.

So I now use the about $142 Lexar 256GB SDXC cards in Sony mirrorless. The price is very reasonable, and the about $275 2-pack Lexar 256GB SDXC is even a little better deal. (Prices as this was written).

Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: It Has the Magic No Other Normal Lens has

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon at B&H Photo.

To the lab rats who claim that the Sigma 50/1.4 Art is an Otus: enjoy that six pack while shooting the test chart.

An Otus shot at f/1.4 doesn’t make you think “wide open”; it womps you on the head with “that lens looks darn good at f/5.6—I want one—wait! It’s f/1.4—OMG”.

So go get one.

And yet—do not expect perfection, even with perfect technical execution. The nuanced flaws are plain to see, particularly on the Canon 5DS R. It is why I wish for better-than-Otus f/2.8 designs, even if the price were the same.

See my in-depth reviews of all the Otus lenses.

Frosted Peak #1
Frosted Peak #2

If I could shoot only one lens on a DSLR, it would probably be the Otus 55/1.4. Outstanding imaging, and a reasonable size and weight. Nikon mount can be shot on Nikon or Canon or Sony mirrorless.

Fresh Snow on Aspen Sapling, Forlorn Yellow Leaves
Clinging Yellow Leaves

Camping in the cold. No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus and the Sigma 50/1.4 Art is an excellent lens but it is not an Otus, even at f/8. But enjoy your lab-test results by the fireside.

Cold Camp

Professional product photographer John G writes:

I fully agree with your post on the Otus today. When you have the Otus in your bag, it’s hard to shoot with anything else. As you know, after a loyal run with Nikon/Zeiss/Nikkor, most recently with the D810 and D4S, I sold that gear to purchase a Pentax 645Z. As you also know, I’m contemplating a move back to Nikon/Zeiss.

I’ve included two shots, one from my studio of Wilson Audio's wall-mount speaker, the Alida. This is interesting because the background is a big softbox with a studio flash blasting right into the front element of the lens. But with the Otus, there is no flare, not weird color artifacts, just the image as I hoped it would be when I shot it. This one was shot at F/5.6. with Nikon D810. [image omitted]

Here is a crop showing the detail right up to the edge where the studio strobe is blasting the front element. [image omitted]

This shot is a landscape shot at F/1.4. With the Otus, I never hesitated or second guessed shooting it wide-open. I had fear of CA, or of softness, or other aberrations other lenses routinely exhibit at their widest apertures—just a calm sense that all would be as I expected it to be. In other words, because Zeiss has created a technical masterpiece in the Otus, it is a tool that truly creates artistic freedom. It’s a tool that helps the photographer realize his vision, without having to think about or compensate for the tool’s flaws or limitations. Here, I was going for selective focus, and the effect was just what I had hoped for. D810/Otus 55 @/f1.4.
[image omitted].

DIGLLOYD: With stopping down, lenses like the Sigma 50/1.4 may approach the Otus, but in my view still lack a certain something. But it is from f/1.4 - f/4 in particular that one pays for Otus.

Jef M writes

A strong 2nd on the Otus 55mm. No other lens* in the world reveals itself to be better and better time and time again as you challenge it against any composition. The lens doesn't get in the way for what I am wanting to capture. It just does what I want it to, what I need it to, every time.

* The 85mm Otus might but it's just too big to carry everyday.

DIGLLOYD: well, except when it cannot be focused fast enough. It will be sickening if Nikon and Canon release their next DSLRs with no EVF support; the rear LCD works but this means that it is awkward except on a tripod. Optical viewfinders (OVF) are worthless for critical focus.

For me, half the utility of Otus (or any manual focus lens) is lost on a DSLR without an EVF. As for mirrorless, that is at least half the appeal of the Sony A7R II. If and when I get a 50+ megapixel Nikon D900 with EVF, much of the allure of the Sony evaporates , particularly if Nikon is smart enough to shrink the camera by eliminating the OVF.

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