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October 2013

Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R Examples Leica M Typ 240, White Mountains

Added to Guide to Leica are examples in the White Mountains with the Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R, shot with the Leica R-Adapter M on the Leica M Typ 240.

Examples in the White Mountains with Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R

HD and Ultra-HD images are included, along with large crops.

     Sierra Nevada across Owens Valley from White Mountains, Sunrise 1/1`25 sec @ ƒ/4, ISO 400 Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R  
Sierra Nevada across Owens Valley from White Mountains, Sunrise
1/1`25 sec @ ƒ/4, ISO 400
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
     Campitos Peak from Above Patriarch Grove 1/180 sec @ ~ƒ/5.6, ISO 400 Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R  
Campitos Peak from Above Patriarch Grove
1/180 sec @ ~ƒ/5.6, ISO 400
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R

Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R on Leica M Typ 240, Aperture Series (Telphone Poles and Snowy Summit)

Added to Guide to Leica is an aperture series with the Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R, shot with the Leica R-Adapter M on the Leica M Typ 240, though fortunately the 280/4 APO has its own robust tripod lens foot.

This subject was chosen for its rigorous demands on lens and camera alignment.

Aperture Series: Telephone Poles and Snowy Peak (M240)

HD and Ultra-HD images are included, along with large crops.

     White Mountain telephone poles with snowy summit Leica M Typ 240 + 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R @ ƒ/5.6  
White Mountain telephone poles with snowy summit
Leica M Typ 240 + 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R @ ƒ/5.6

Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS Study of Imaging Performance: What is Warping and Blurring the Image?

In DAP, I’ve posted an aperture series from ƒ/4 through ƒ/11 at 350mm with the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS super-tele.

Surely the series here is fascinating in a sort of baffling and frustrating way that does not appear to be optical, and is entirely consistent with other field results with the 200-400mm and (last year) with the Canon 800mm f/5.6L.

I believe it is an atmospheric effect, and at the very least anyone shooting a long telephoto on any camera platform ought to have a look as a point of reference.

     
     1/1250 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 350mm Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM  
1/1250 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 350mm
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS Examples: Studying Image Stabilization

In DAP, I’ve posted a study of Image Stabilization (IS) versus IS off at 400mm with the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS super-tele.

Some puzzling results are found, for which I have no good explanation.

     
     1/1600 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 400mm Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM  
1/1600 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 400mm
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

Pentax K3 On the Way

B&H Photo has K-3 and the HD Limited lenses, which are available for pre-order.

See prior notes on the 23.3 megapixel Pentax K-3.

The Pentax K3 is in transit as are the Pentax HD lenses. It will take some time to get through them all, but I plan on covering the K3 and all the HD Limited lenses, partly on being so impressed with the feature + quality + usability synergy of the Ricoh GR.

Shown below is the silver premium edition, which includes the battery grip. I am not a fan of larger and bulkier in general for carrying a camera, but I do like the 'mass' for shooting, so I’ll have to see on that aspect when I try it.

Pentax K-3 silver premium edition with 15mm f/4 HD lens and battery grip
Pentax K-3 silver premium edition with 15mm f/4 HD lens and battery grip

Nikon AF-S 58mm f/1.4G

The Nikon AF-S 58mm f/1.4G in on the way and I expect to have it on Friday.

Pre-order the 58mm f/1.4G at B&H Photo.

Update: the good news is that I have located a good copy of the famed 58mm f/1.2 NOCT-Nikkor (now a collector’s item long out of production), a lens that I can compare directly to the 58/1.4G.

The reaction to an about $1697 “normal” lens can be a bit odd: expectations seem to run lower on price. Yet building a high performance 50mm or 58mm or 55mm normal lens is similar in cost to building a high performance 85mm or 35mm f/1.4 lens. Accordingly, pricing will naturally fall into a similar range, which is also well above the pricing for an ordinary-speed lens of the same focal length (e.g. 50mm f/1.4G). In short, the proper value context is the high-speed and higher performance designs of other focal lengths: the existing 50mm f/1.4G is a good lens, but not especially notable.

For example, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L is about $1620 and its similar pricing is no accident: it would be easy enough to make an $800 or $3200 lens also with a corresponding decrease or increase in performance: certain optical aberrations at ƒ/1.2 are around 9X more difficult to control than at ƒ/1.8. The higher optical efforts to correct well for ƒ/1.2 greatly increase the cost, and the same applies at ƒ/1.4 when the target is higher performance (ƒ/1.2 is considerably more of a challenge than ƒ/1.4, but so-too with ƒ/1.4 and a high performance bar). The only question is how strong the efforts and quality control, and whether the market will accept the offering.

The new 58mm f/1.4G AF-S lens uses a more complex 9-element design with two aspherical elements to correct focus shift/spherical aberration and various optical aberrations, along with nano crystal coating and autofocus. Those two latter points alone are a real inducement for some applications. By giving up half a stop (ƒ/1.4 vs ƒ/1.2), going slightly longer to 58mm, and using two aspheric elements, we can hope to see a notably higher performance level than the f/1.2 Canon or Nikon, or the 50mm f/1.4G. But this remains to be experienced of course.

     Nikon 58mm f/1.4G  
Nikon 58mm f/1.4G

50/1.2 AIS, 58/1.2 NOCT-Nikkor and AF-S 58/1.4G

Nikon still makes and sells the manual focus Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS (about $650), though 50mm is notably wider in angle of view than 58mm, and the slightly longer 58mm focal length is a bit easier to design with for higher performance. And of course ƒ/1.2 is a half-stop faster and some aberrations are much harder to control than at ƒ/1.4 by factor of 4-5X.

The 50/1.2 AIS is a much simpler 7-element spherical design with loads of hazy spherical aberration and hence focus shift. It offers the classic soft-focus look typical of spherical designs, but it should not be considered high performance at wider apertures in a technical sense. Shooting in the ƒ/2 - ƒ/4 range is also a challenge because of the focus shift.

Even the Nikon 58mm f/1.2 NOCT-Nikkor with its custom ground front aspheric unlikely to perform to the level of the new 58/1.4G (at one point I had cherry picked a best-of-4 sample of the NOCT, which I regrettably sold). The fact is that ƒ/1.2 is “hard”—very hard—and that the newer 58/1.4G design is likely to easily outperform it, though this remains to be seen via testing.

     Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS  
Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS

Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS Examples: Bighorn Sheep

In DAP, I’ve posted a first batch of Bighorn sheep examples with the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS super-tele.

Some puzzling results are found, for which I have no good explanation.

     
     /dap.Canon200_400/examples-SilverCanyon-BighornSheep.html  
Bighorn Sheep
1/2500 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 560mm, cropped
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

Moonrise over Mono Lake

Getting an image of the full moon is no easy task, but as the orange harvest moon rose over Mono Lake I gave it a go at 560mm.

The contrast was too great to capture both the moon itself and its beautiful sheen off the lake, but a composite image gives the idea.

Full moon, actual pixels Canon EOS 5D Mark III + Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS @ 560mm, 1/400 sec @ ƒ/5.6, ISO 400
Full moon, actual pixels
Canon EOS 5D Mark III + Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS @ 560mm, 1/400 sec @ ƒ/5.6, ISO 400

The water is not entirely sharp at 1/4 second, but amazingly I was able to get a usable image using the image stabilization feature.

Full moon rising over Mono Lake (composite image) Canon EOS 5D Mark III + Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS @ 270mm, 1/4 sec @ ƒ/46, ISO 400
Full moon rising over Mono Lake (composite image)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III + Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS @ 270mm, 1/4 sec @ ƒ/46, ISO 400

Richard Franiec Grip for Canon EOS-M

Canon EOS M
Canon EOS M

When I tried the Canon EOS-M I found its handling to be very awkward. Richard Franiec makes grips for a variety of cameras (such as a grip for the Sony RX100) and now is offering one for the Canon EOS-M, which ought to help that camera handle better.

One of the most frequent complaints in reviews and in feedback from users was its less-than-stellar handling characteristics, especially with the heavier EF/EF-S lenses mounted via EF-EOS M adapter. The custom grip for the EOS M was designed to address this problem and ensure greater comfort and safer handling of the camera.

The grips are individually CNC machined from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, glass-bead blasted, and anodized to closely match the camera’s body finish. A proven VHB (Very High Bond) transfer tape is then applied that allows the photographer to securely attach the grip to the camera body. The grip won’t let go until you want it to, but if that time ever comes, it can be removed using dental floss without damaging the camera or grip.

A limited number of Canon EOS M grips will be available in the second half of November 2013 for $34.95 plus shipping. Preorders are being accepted now.

Trout Food

A moth caught in water beats its wings, producing concentric ripples that sparkle in mountain sunlight.

Trout wait patiently in deeper water. A gentle breeze and the moth’s own struggles slowly waft it to its dinner date with destiny. After 10 minutes, the fatal splash is heard.

     A moth struggles, making concentric ripples pending its destiny as trout food Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH  
A moth struggles, making concentric ripples pending its destiny as trout food
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

Out of the Canyon

After a long day, the hike out of the canyon, headlamp soon a necessity.

     Aspen leaves and grasses on still creek Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH,~ƒ/11  
Aspen leaves and grasses on still creek
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH,~ƒ/11
     Warm glow on granite  Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH,~ƒ/8  
Warm glow on granite
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH,~ƒ/8
     Last light on Half Dome from nearby canyon Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, 3 seconds @ ~ƒ/5.6  
Last light on Half Dome from nearby canyon
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, 3 seconds @ ~ƒ/5.6
     Last light of the day kisses the ridgeline  Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, 8 seconds @ ~ƒ/5.6  
Last light of the day kisses the ridgeline
Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, 8 seconds @ ~ƒ/5.6

Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar: Bokeh Study (Aspen at Dawn, Nikon D800E)

Added to Guide to Zeiss is an aperture series with the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar on the Nikon D800E. It has been some time since I worked with the 85/1.4 Planar and it never really had much attention on the D800E.

Aspen in Pre-Dawn Canyon Light

HD and Ultra-HD images are included, along with large crops.

     Aspen in Pre-Dawn Canyon Light  Nikon D800E + Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar @ ƒ/5.6  
Aspen in Pre-Dawn Canyon Light
Nikon D800E + Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar @ ƒ/5.6

Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R on Leica M Typ 240, Aperture Series (Green Machine)

Added to Guide to Leica is an aperture series with the Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R, shot with the Leica R-Adapter M on the Leica M Typ 240.

This subject was chosen for its semi planar nature which allows an analysis of across the frame sharpness. The same subject was shot with the 90/2 APO to give a perspective on relative performance of the two lenses.

Green Machine with 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R on Leica M Typ 240

HD and Ultra-HD images are included, along with large crops.

The Leica 100/2.8 APO could be a contender on the new Sony A7R as a high quality all around lens with macro capability (using an adapter), though its size and weight are notably greater than the 90mm f/2 APO.

     Green Machine Leica M Typ 240 + 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R @ ƒ/4  
Green Machine
Leica M Typ 240 + 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R @ ƒ/4

Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH on Leica M Typ 240, Aperture Series (Green Machine)

Added to Guide to Leica is an aperture series with the Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH, shot with the Leica R-Adapter M on the Leica M Typ 240.

This subject was chosen for its semi planar nature which allows an analysis of across the frame sharpness.

Green Machine with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH on Leica M Typ 240

HD and Ultra-HD images are included, along with large crops.

The Leica 90/2.8 APO could be a contender on the new Sony A7R as a high quality portrait and short tele lens (using an adapter).

     Green Machine Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ f/2.8  
Green Machine
Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ f/2.8

Reader Comment: Sony RX1R Focusing at Shooting Aperture

See the review of the Sony RX1/RX1R in Guide to Mirrorless.

Buy the Sony RX1R.

Paul I writes:

I’ve been blown away by the files from my Sony RX1r, and would love to get an A7 and/or A7R.

The one extremely annoying thing about the RX1r is that it only focuses at the shooting aperture, rather than wide open like an SLR. The increased depth of field at smaller apertures makes it more difficult to achieve precise focus. (Of course focus shift might come into play, but I haven’t tested that).

Do you know if the A7 and A7r can behave like an SLR and focus wide open, and then stop down for the exposure. Sure would be nice.

DIGLLOYD: The RX1R offers outstanding results, and is equal to or superior to the Leica M240 + Summilux 35/1.4.

One algorithmic flaw with Sony and most other mirrorless cameras is that they focus stopped down, an issue I’ve remarked on repeatedly over the years in my reviews, including both the Sony RX1/RX1R as most recently the Leica X Vario. I would expect the Sony A7 and A7R to behave the same way (like the NEX-7 and RX1R). Which is a pity. But I don’t know as yet.

Suppose the exposure is to be made at ƒ/8. If the camera focuses at ƒ/8, it sees a deep zone of peak contrast, hence it cannot descriminate the precise point of focus accurately; the autofocus system might place the zone of sharp focus biased forward or rearward, depending.

The solution I use in the field (constantly) with the RX1R and other cameras that behave this way is to focus wide open or one stop down (ƒ/2.8 for the RX1R), then switch to manual and shoot at the desired aperture. In this way I obtain exactly the focus I wish. But it is a nuisance that could easily be addressed with a firmware update (preference). The saving grace is that an aperture ring makes this relatively fast, even if tediously wasteful of my time.

Still, I also shot ad-hoc enough to find that the RX1R does a very good job focusing to my linking in the ƒ/4 and ƒ/5.6 range, but I also unconsciously aid the camera in my choice of focus. But by ƒ/8 - ƒ/11, relying no AF this way is not the way to obtain peak results where desired; it’s a sub-optimal and casual approach.

Another approach

Using a manual focus Leica R or Leica M or Zeiss ZM or Zeiss ZF.2 DSLR lens (using an adapter), one has complete control over the choice of aperture and focusing. This approach is my preference for contemplative photography (still-life, landscape, anything relatively static). That is, provided the lens offers performance that is at a level that exceeds the autofocus alternative.

See also:

Sony RX1R with EVF and Really Right Stuff grip (my preferred shooting configuration)
Sony RX1R with EVF and Really Right Stuff grip
(my preferred shooting configuration)

Leica R-Adapter M Discussion

Added to Guide to Leica is a discussion of shooting R lenses on the Leica M Typ 240, including an in-depth discussion of the shutter vibration issue and its mitigation.

     Leica R-adapter M  
Leica R-adapter M

Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH on Leica M Typ 240, Aperture Series (Barcroft Blue Building)

Added to Guide to Leica is an aperture series with the Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH, shot with the Leica R-Adapter M on the Leica M Typ 240.

Barcroft Blue Building with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH on Leica M Typ 240

HD and Ultra-HD images are included, along with large crops.

Note that the Leica 90/2.8 APO is highly relevant to the new Sony A7R as a possible high quality portrait and short tele lens (using an adapter).

     Barcroft Blue Building Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ f/2.8  
Barcroft Blue Building
Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ f/2.8

Iridient Developer Updated for Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Leica

Iridient Developer from Iridient Digital

This release brings support for all the newest RAW camera models along with a couple other bug fixes and improvements.

Update can be be downloaded here:

Iridient Digital releases Iridient Developer 2.3.1 for Mac OS X Pacific Grove, CA, October 24, 2013

Iridient Digital has released Iridient Developer 2.3.1, an update to my photo editing software for Mac OS X. The Iridient Developer 2.3.1 update can now be downloaded here: http://www.iridientdigital.com/products/rawdeveloper_download.html

This release features support for 10 of the latest new RAW camera models, improved handling of decimal number entry in text fields (commas, periods and native localized decimal separators are all now accepted for decimal separators regardless of your system locale or system preference settings) and a bug fix for a couple of the Fujifilm X20 auto dynamic range modes. RAW image support has been added for the following new cameras:

  • Nikon: D610, D5300 and 1 AW1
  • Sony: ILCE-A7, ILCE-A7R and DSC-RX10
  • Fujifilm: X-E2 and XQ1
  • Panasonic: DMC-GM1
  • Leica: C (Typ 112)

The complete Iridient Developer version history including full release notes for version 2.3.1 can be viewed at the web site here.

Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG HSM OIS zoom for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Sigma DSLRs

Sigma’s new 24-105mm f/4 DG HSM OIS zoom looks to have similar build quality to two other Sigma lenses that are strong performers, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A1 and 120-300mm f/2.8 DG HSM S. I’ll probably take a look at it, since a 24-105mm f/4 zoom is a compact lens suitable for some travel scenarios (not my 'thing', but it is a handy lens in some cases).

Get the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG HSM at B&H Photo.

Sigma 24-105mm f/4 OIS DG HSM for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Sigma DSLRs
Sigma 24-105mm f/4 OIS DG HSM for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Sigma DSLRs
Specifications:
    Lens Construction: 19 elements in 14 groups
     Minimum aperture: F22
     Filter size: ø82mm
     Angle of view (35mm format): 84.1°-23.3°
     Minimum focusing distance: 45cm/17.7in.
     Dimensions (Diameter x Length): ø88.6mm x 109.4mm/3.5in. x 4.3in.
     Number of diaphragm blades: 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
     Maximum magnification ratio: 1:4.6
     Weight: 885g/31.2oz

NEW YORK, NY — Oct. 25, 2013 — Sigma Corporation of America (www.sigmaphoto.com), a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today from PhotoPlus Expo 2013 announced the pricing and availability of its new 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM Art lens.

This new Art lens was developed as part of the company’s Global Vision and will be on shelves next month, starting with Canon mounts, for the street price of $899. The full frame lens, which will also work with APS-C sensor cameras with an effective increase in focal length, will be available in Nikon and Sigma mounts in December, and Sony mounts will soon follow. All but the Sony mounts will incorporate Sigma’s proprietary Optical Stabilizer (OS) technology to compensate for camera shake. This functionality is omitted from Sony mounts to accommodate for that manufacturer’s in-camera image stabilization system.

The 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM covers the basic shooting range from wide to medium tele with an inner focusing system that eliminates front lens rotation, enhancing the lens stability and allowing the use of circular polarizing filters. Moreover, it was designed to surpass the required quality inspection of every Global Vision lens with Sigma’s own modulation transfer function (MTF) “A1” measuring system to create a new optical standard to align with the high-spec cameras on today’s market.

“This is a top-notch lens in its design and image quality. Our engineering team in Japan continues to wow the industry with the caliber of the new lenses we’re producing and we expect Sigma users to be just as pleased with this new 24-105 F4,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America.

The lens offers the largest possible fixed aperture to zoom ratio that will maintain optimal integrity for many kinds of photography, including landscapes, architecture, portraiture and still-life. With a minimum focusing distance of 45cm and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:4.6, this lens is also excellent for close-up photography.

High-performance glass elements, including SLD and FLD, which is equal to fluorite, and glass-molded single- and double-sided aspheric lenses have been included into the optical system to prevent aberration, field curvature, distortions and color aberration. The 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM lens is also able to suppress chromatic aberration very effectively at the telephoto-end, and can achieve superior image quality throughout the zoom range. Unlike lenses with similar specifications, this lens overcomes low peripheral brightness. Although it is designed for full frame cameras, it also works with APS-C sensors, giving an increase to focal length.

The lens’ Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) ensures a silent, high-speed auto focus function and enables full-time manual focusing capability. The 24-105mm is also compatible with Sigma’s USB dock allowing photographers to update its firmware and change focus parameters using Sigma's Optimization Pro software. It is also compatible with Sigma’s recently announced Mount Conversion Service.

Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Lens Adapter with Close Focus for Sony A7/A7R/NEX E-Mount

Voigtlander VM-E lens adapter for Sony NEX, Sony A7R

Thanks to reader Niels H for bringing this to my attention.

Voigtlander has a new variant of its VM adapter coming soon, the Voigtlander VM-E, which allows additional close-focus capability, long a limitation of Leica M and Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander rangefinder lenses.

The lens adapter itself provides 4mm of additional distance to the image plane, which allows substantially closer focus and higher magnification.

This not only allows closer focus, but potentially allows lenses designed for APS-C to reach out to the corners of a full-frame sensor (albeit with degraded quality).

Delivery starts December 2013, according to Voigtlander.

With this adapter, the minimum object distance of VM lenses can be shorter. You can get closer to the subject, when shooting. For the minimum object distance of each VM lens with this adapter, please check attached file.

Let us quote Robert Capa:
“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”

Please note that there is a possibility that low resolution of the edge and the colour cast will emerge due to the combination of camera body and lens.

Adaptable Body mount Sony E mount
Adaptable Lens mount VM mount
Diameter 62.7mm
Weight 125g
Helicoid extension 4mm
Other With infinity lock button
Can cover full frame 24x36mm

Roy P writes:

I saw your mention of the Voigtlander adapter that cuts down the minimum focusing distance of M lenses on E-mount cameras. Other companies have been making these, too.

Kipon makes a high quality adapter that I’ve been using for ~18 months. It’s only available on eBay – see for instance http://www.ebay.com/itm/280915630060.

The quality is very good, but I dislike the saw tooth shaped focusing ring on it. But it works very well and it’s much cheaper than the 289 Euro for the Voigtlander.

It is an interesting experience indeed to shoot with the Noctilux/0.95 from a distance of less than two feet! Score another point for Sony E-mount cameras, something else that the M240/M9 can’t do!

DIGLLOYD: I can’t speak to this alternative, but the Voigtlander VM adapter I have is well made (have not seen the new VM-E yet).

Leica M240: Shutter Vibration Appears to Damage Image Sharpness

Live and learn. On my recent trip, I shot extensively on the Leica M Typ 240 using 90/100/180/280mm Leica APO R lenses with the Leica R-adapter M, the camera + lens being mounted using the tripod foot.

How about a week’s hard work irreparably damaged by shutter vibration?

For example, sharp at 1/250 @ ƒ/2.8, 1/125 @ ƒ/4, visibly blurred at 1/60 @ ƒ/5.6 (peak performance aperture). And similar, depending on focal length and camera angle and so on. The danger range seems to be 1/8 to 1/125 second, varying depending on focal length and how the camera + lens are angled, which tripod is used, etc.

Blur due to shutter vibration (Leica M240) : 1/60 @ ƒ/5.6 vs 1/30 @ ƒ/8 Leica M240 + Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro Elmarit-R
Blur due to shutter vibration (Leica M240), actual pixels)
1/60 @ ƒ/5.6 vs 1/30 @ ƒ/8
Leica M240 + Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro Elmarit-R

My working theory is that the closing/cocking of the shutter in the Leica M Typ 240 induces vibration that persists into the exposure (in conjunction with using the R-adapter M tripod foot and 90+ mm lenses). I do not yet consider it a proof, but I have no other explanation as to the results in numerous aperture series that I shot with the M240, including some that are a total loss at 280mm over a wide range of shutter speeds.

Since the weight of the lens really needs to be supported to avoid stress to the lens mount*, the 100mm f/2.8 APO, 180mm f/2.8 APO and 280mm f/4 APO lenses must use the tripod foot (or a bean bag, or something to support the lens). One can get away with mounting the camera itself for the 90mm f/2 APO (much more stable), but I did not do so; I used the tripod foot of the Leica R-adapter M. Bad idea.

It is not a question of build quality (the Leica R-adapter M is the best adapter I have ever used) and the super-tele Nikon and Canon lenses vibrate (oscillate) like crazy which one can see easily at 10X Live View. It doesn’t matter how heavy or massive the tripod is, though too-light tripods exacerbate the issue. The problem is the tripod foot and the length of the lens; vibration oscillates through the lens and this is true of most every design, the old Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED being one notable well-built almost-exception. I covered and proved this years ago in Making Sharp Images at trivial megapixels, but it is far more of a concern in the 24-36 megapixel range. Serious long lens shooters take elaborate precautions (a tedious nuisance, but essential). However, Canon’s “Mode II” Live View feature is the ideal solution: zero vibration, making the image with the already-open shutter. But Leica does not offer this behavior in the M240, and it’s not clear that the sensor can even support it.

I’ve long known that the shutter itself can be a problem with long telephoto lenses on DSLRs (even with mirror lockup), but I had assumed that a rangefinder would be better off. Assumptions are never a good idea.

* Leica documents the advisory weight limits in the manual for the R-Adapter M.

Leica M Typ 240 Behavior

Behavior can be observed just by looking: set the exposure time to 1 second or so, remove the lens (but not the R-Adapter M), so that the shutter/sensor become visible, and observe:

1. The Leica M240 is in Live View mode.
2. Press release (2 second self timer). With regards to the shutter, nothing happens for the two-second duration.
3. 2 seconds have now elapsed. The open shutter slams shut, then reopens for the exposure.
4. Shutter closes at end of exposure, then reopens, restoring Live View.

The shutter cycling in step 3 is easily felt as a solid vibration into the hand if one grasps the camera. It appears that those ~6 micron pixels “feel” it too, resulting in a marked loss of sharpness at a shutter speed centered on 1/30 second (just about the same as the worst-case for DSLRs). The danger zone varies depending on the focal length and camera angle, the tripod mounting foot being the apparent weak point, just as with Nikon and Canon super-teles; the lens + camera length oscillates. It’s not that the tripod foot is weak so much as it is thin/narrow, and it allows the entire 'rig' to oscillate, amplifying even very small vibrations (easily seen by observing any long telephoto lens). With 6 micron pixels, even a small oscillation is a big deal, an amount that the eye cannot even see as camera movement.

The solution has to come from Leica: that shutter must NOT be cycled in this manner; a Canon “Mode II” solution is essential. Perhaps the shutter can be closed at the beginning of the self timer (half the cycle), or even closed and opened at the start of the self-timer. But why does it have to close/open at all? I don’t know.

[Aside: why is the self timer delay either 2 seconds or 12 seconds? 3/5/8 seconds would be useful, why such an arbitrary too-short or too-long?].

Possible mitigation

I was not aware of this subtle behavioral difference when shooting last week. It was foolish to assume that an exposure in Live View mode would be vibration-free.

In short: does exposure with the shutter closed/cocked to start with avoid the issue, e.g., if the shutter has only to open does that avoid the vibration blur? For the shutter to be closed/cocked and ready to open, both the EVF and LCD needs to be dark (off), e.g., classic rangefinder mode. But this is not an obvious thing.

Testing the M240 behavior, I found that with menu Light Metering Mode = Advanced the shutter is *always* open, even if both the rear LCD or EVF are dark/off. That prompts the close/recock cycle. To avoid this, set the M240 to Light Metering Mode = Classic; in that case the camera operates in a shutter-closed rangefinder mode provided that both the LCD and EVF are dark/off. This seems to be related to a sort of dual shutter internally, one a true shutter, the other a black/gray/light gray metering curtain(this can be seen by switching modes and observing the camera with the R-adapter M mounted, but no lens on the camera).

Leica speaks to this in an obscure way (pg 181 of M240 manual), but not to the implications as to vibration and/or the self timer:

For the metering methods based on the image sensor, the shutter must be open and it is then closed and re-cocked when the function is cancelled. Of course, this is audible and may result in a slight delay in the shutter release.

I was shooting in manual exposure mode, so no metering is needed or wanted. So the bad behavior ought to be moot; i.e., the camera ought to do the thing that minimizes vibration, especially with manual exposure in self timer mode!

In shutter-closed rangefinder mode, an exposure does not need to close and cock the shutter first; it only has to open the shutter for the exposure. While opening the shutter is not vibration-free, surely opening only is better than a close/cock/open cycle. Still, holding the camera, my hand can easily feel a solid click of the shutter opening (set to a 1-sec exposure, there is no confusing opening from closing).

This possible mitigation strategy means that one has to program Light Metering Mode = Classic and in addition exit LCD/EVF viewing for each and every exposure (LCD and EVF go dark/off). But is this sufficient to avoid the vibration issue? TBD. At any rate, it is an undesirable operational requirement, demanding a lot of the operator. One wonders if the new Sony A7R will be able to take a picture without shutter-cycling prior to the exposure.

Tell me how/why I am wrong!

I have compelling evidence that my theory is correct. Meaning I have days of careful effort in shambles from vibration-induced sharpness damage, which largely trashes it in terms of showing optical performance. It’s a serious setback in my plans to show the performance of the four Leica R APO lenses, though the lemons can produce some lemonade in showing the issue itself.

If readers think I am in error, tell me what I am missing. Really, I want to be wrong, and I want a simple 'fix'! It won’t fix my damaged images, but maybe there is something simpler than the Light Metering Mode = Classic mitigation strategy discussed above.

I have sent a link to this blog post to Leica technical staff, and I hope to hear something. The most egregious algorithmic error is that the camera does not immediately close/cock the shutter as soon as the self timer is started: this can be a software change that at least would avoid the close/cock part of the exposure cycle, see the discussion above. At the least, in manual exposure mode there is no rational excuse to not do so. In short, this is an error in camera logic.

Note also that the nature of the sensor might not allow a Canon-style vibration free “Mode II” exposure to be made. But if it does, then this is the one and only true solution.

Reader comments

It seems that Light Metering Mode = Classic as discussed above might be of real value—to be confirmed.

Herb S writes (excerpts):

Your post about shutter vibration using longer adapted lenses on the Leica M was very interesting. Something I would never have expected myself for a rangefinder camera.
I decided to test it as well to see if I could repeat your experience. Well to go straight to the point: I got (almost) the same results.

I shot a banknote at 4 meters distance from tripod and self timer. Leica M with Novoflex LEM/NIK NT adapter and Novoflex ASTAT MFT bracket with slight modification (see picture) and Zeiss ZF.2 135 mm.

Differences due to vibration are clearly visible at 100% view with exposures from 1/60s to 1/8s. Classic mode is always superior here and not showing real vibration in itself.

At 1/250 s and 1/125 sec I would even say the Advanced mode seems to perform a fraction better. So this is something different and quite unexpected. Vibrations can come and go in unexpected ways.

At 1/4 s I see no difference but this is possibly due to lower contrast and higher diffraction at f/16.

At 1/30 s the vibration of the Advanced mode is most clearly to see, but this might be also related to the best performance at f/5.6 of the Zeiss lens.

In short I can confirm your findings that vibration can show up in Advanced mode at shutter speeds from 1/60 s to 1/8 s with longer adapted lenses on a bracket / tripod.

DIGLLOYD: Makes perfect sense to me. As I noted in the field, there is some variance, and this is to be expected from the lens used, the angle of the camera (e.g. pointed up/down/level), and the resonance frequency interacting with the rig.

The somewhat good news (which I need to independently confirm) is that Light Metering Mode = Classic as discussed above apparently is a big improvement, though it might not be a cure.

Peter W writes:

Nice piece, and I do not think you are wrong. The general phenomenon with long lens vibration explains why VRII is important in Nikon's big glass, which I had not really realized before… I thought VR was largely a marketing gimmick aimed at amateur customers.

I think you have uncovered a design issue that Leica must have missed, and certainly the beta-testers of the M240 did not have R adapters to make the comparisons you have completed now. Your point is that until Leica offers a FW solution to use the self-timer as a means to allow for the dissipation of shutter-cocking vibration, then the M240 is inherently limited in use with long lenses.

Jef M writes:

Without knowing the force of a small fast moving shutter it's hard to make a prediction on whether or not it would be an issue for the combination of a number of factors including the weight of the system, the direction of the primary force and any counter force is applied in, the balance and damping factors of the mounting system, the leverage of the weight and length of the lens. As well maybe wind and minor earth vibrations could have been contributing or cumulative factors in your results.

The root cause fault analysis would be to experiment in a controlled setting and remove as many external factors as possible.

DIGLLOYD: All true, but root cause is of academic interest beyond the mitigation strategies it might suggest, so only the practical solution in the field in general is of interest to me.

Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH: Flare

I’ve added another flare example and discuss my approach to eliminating it on the Leica Noctilux worst-case flare page.

See also Flare Control with Leica M Lenses and Especially the Leica 50/2 APO Summicron-M ASPH.

The image below is a cutaway of an unshielded lens (left half) and shielded lens (right half), same aperture and identical exposure for both.

     Flare with the Noctilux Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4  
Flare with the Noctilux
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4

Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH: Aperture Series (Forest at Sunrise)

Presented in Guide to Leica is an Noctilux aperture series from ƒ/0.95 to ƒ/16 including the entire frame in HD and Ultra-HD sizes, and generously sized crops.

Leica M240 + Noctilux: Forest at Sunrise

Image intentionally processed “cool” (blue) with Daylight color balance. Looks eye-popping 3D effect with Retina quality on a retina display.

     Forest at Sunrise Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Forest at Sunrise
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95

Great Deal on the NEC PA301W Wide-Gamut Display

B&H Photo is blowing out the NEC PA301W wide gamut display with an instant rebate of $400 on the NEC PA301W.

NOTE: display with included hardware calibration and SpectraView II software (BK-SV) strongly recommended over display alone.

I have used the PA301W as my preferred wide gamut display for 2.7 years. The new PA302W is improved (see review), but the PA301W is a terrific display and now nicely discounted.

See my review of the NEC PA301W as well as my review of the new NEC PA302W.

     
NEC PA301W    
NEC PA301W

Instant Savings of 20% on Zeiss Touit For Sony NEX or Fujifilm X

The Zeiss Touit lenses (reviewed in Guide to Mirrorless) are designed to project an image circle to cover an APS-C sensor, e.g. Sony NEX or Fujifilm X. However, the new Sony A7 and A7R have a compatible mount and can use them in APS-C crop mode, or full frame mode, though in full frame mode results outside the APS-C are will degrade or vignette.

Zeiss is offering quite substantial instant rebates on the Zeiss Touit lenses. Click through the button links for Zeiss Touit on the gear page.

In time for the holiday buying season, ZEISS announces an Instant Savings Promotion for the Touit lenses. The savings amount to 20% of the List Price and is discounted by the dealer at the time of purchase.

The value of the instant savings for the Touit 2.8/12 lens totals $251 and effectively reduces the list price on the lens to $999.00. On the Touit 1.8/32 lens, the instant savings totals $180.00, reducing the list price to $720.00. The Instant Savings Promotion is valid on all purchases from an authorized ZEISS dealer from October 24, 2013 through January 31, 2014.

The ZEISS Touit lenses are premium quality lenses for the Sony NEX and Fujifilm X compact system cameras. Launched in the summer of 2013, the lenses have been well received in the market and recognized for their performance with the EISA Best Product Award for 2013-2014 and American Photo Editor's Choice Award 2013.

Both lenses feature elegant styling and the image performance ZEISS lenses are famous for. The third lens in the Touit family, the Touit 2.8/50 Macro, will begin shipping at the end of 2013.

     
Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 Distagon   Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8  
Zeiss Touit lenses

Pentax DA HD Limited Lenses Now Shipping

B&H Photo has the Pentax DA HD Limited lenses in stock as I write this.

Given the relatively slow lens speeds, my expectation is that the Pentax HD lenses were designed to deliver very high performance (by restricting the aperture brightness, many compromises can be avoided). I’ll be covering all of them with that question in mind.

The equivalent focal lengths in full-frame field of view terms are 22mm, 33mm, 52mm, 60mm, 105mm.

See also the notes on the new Pentax K3.

     
Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens    Pentax HD lens       Pentax HD lens    Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens    Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens
Pentax HD lenses in black or silver

Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH: Aperture Series (Green Aspen Trunk)

Presented in Guide to Leica is an Noctilux aperture series from ƒ/0.95 to ƒ/16 including the entire frame in HD and Ultra-HD sizes, and generously sized crops.

I include analysis of sharpness and bokeh and off-center effects, and color aberrations. But also why this particular subject is so sharp wide open; this example should provide useful working insights for Noctilux users. I’ll be presenting additional examples too.

Leica M240 + Noctilux: Green Aspen Trunk

One has to complement the Leica M240 on its imaging results with the Noctilux, but I eagerly anticipate seeing how the Noctilux performs on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R: the 50mm focal length should work really well, and the latest-generation sensor holds promise.

Image intentionally processed “cool” (blue) with Daylight color balance. Looks eye-popping 3D effect with Retina quality on a retina display.

     Green Aspen Trunk Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Green Aspen Trunk
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95

Sony RX10 Full-Sensor Readout = Higher Quality?

This piece over at EOS HD New Sony RX10 sensor has 5K full pixel readout caught my eye (it references the review over at ImagingResource.com, but is more to the point on this topic).

Essentially it says that for 4K video, the entire 5472 x 3080 sensor is read-out at 60 fps, then downsampled to 4K resolution. This is the right way to do it, but generally not the way it is done with most all cameras, since it requires very high CPU processing power.

What caught my attention is that it dovetails with mangled Live View on the Nikon D800/D800: the subsampling of every 3rd row explains the pixelleated staircasing of Live View quality at full magnification: the D800/D800E are not reading out the entire sensor, even at 10X magnification.

The Sony RX10 uses a RX100-size sensor of 20.2 megapixels in a DSLR-style form factor along with a 813g weight and 24-200mm (equiv) zoom. It’s massive compared to the RX100, but might be a good choice for some travel shooting. About $1298. I’ll be reviewing it later this year when it becomes available.

Sony RX10
Sony RX10
Sony RX10
Sony RX10

Eye Detection in Sony A7R: It’s About Time

It’s about time—

Old school (Nikon and Canon): choose a focus sensor, then try to put it precisely on a small target. But the focusing spot might be larger than the target (the eye), so enjoy sharp eyebrows and blurred iris.

Transition: face detection. Works OK for some things and stopped down, but aiming for the wrong thing, coarsely. And just plain dumb to not take the logical step to focusing on the eyes, specifically.

New school: eye detection. The Right Way. Nirvana for portraits with fast lenses, assuming it works well.

If the Sony A7R can really do eye detection well wide open, then that is a huge breakthrough for making portraits— getting the eye crisp has long bedeviled me. Even better if manual focus assist offers eye detection guidance.

The trend

What is really going on in general? (not just this idea) Sony is thinking and innovating. Nikon and Canon are in a rut, having done essentially nothing new in 10 years—a Nikon D800E is not very different from a Nikon D1 other than Live View, and that is badly done on the D800E.

See my thoughts from nearly a year ago in Sony vs Nikon and Canon — Lunch is Served, but WHO WILL EAT IT?.

Both Canon and Nikon are in serious danger of becoming irrelevant from a market share viewpoint and possibly to the point of finding R&D costs grow too high in percentage terms as the business shrinks. Believe it or not. Creative competition has taken down all companies eventually. That is Good.

To the point: I dislike carrying a heavy and bulky EVF-less DSLR on backcountry hikes, or even in general: traditionally it has been worth it, and it still is for the image quality of particular lenses like the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO Distagon. But what if I can shoot that same lens with high quality magnified Live View using a high-res EVF? (Assuming I can support the lens properly). For a faster shoot with a higher hit rate (focus). Why would I carry a D800E if the ergonomics work? This remains to be seen (DSLR lenses + adapter and their ergonomics).

Consider that with three lenses, one can cover a wide variety of material. With mirrorless, the lenses can be smaller due to fewer design constraints (no need to clear the mirror box or illuminate a mirror). Really top grade ones won’t be much smaller, but can also be optimized for current technology.

Gravitation to the 80% solution

That is not to say I would not want or need a DSLR for some uses, but it acknowledges a reality that many users are feeling these days: if one can have the same quality at 1/3 the weight and 1/2 to 1/3 the size, it’s a powerful incentive to do most work on the most convenient platform.

Which of course implies that the whole package has to have an ergonomic and operational efficiency*. DSLRs could make a big leap forward by offering an EVF; the lack of an EVF is a constant hassle for me (getting precision focus): it puts me on a tripod with a loupe with a mangled Live View on the D800. Which is a very different experience than with Sony RX1R or Leica M Typ 240.

* For examples, the Sony RX1R in the field to be far superior in hit rate and speed and pure enjoyment thatn the Leica M240, and indeed much faster and more enjoyable than my Nikon D800E. If the Sony RX1R behaves as well or better, it

Sony Alpha A7R
Sony Alpha A7R

Sony NEX A7 and A7r: Leica M Lenses to Work Well?

Please refer to Sony A7, A7R: Breakthrough in Image Quality in a Compact Package with Killer EVF and LCD Too.

I am getting emails asking whether Leica M lenses* will work well on the Sony A7r and Sony A7. The answer could be different for each camera! One might perform poorly and the other far better: my guess is that the A7R will fare much better than the A7 due to its microlens design which is absent from the A7, as per Sony:

Every gapless on-chip lens (OCL) is designed and positioned to cover every pixel and eliminate the spaces between the micro-lenses to collect significantly more light. Moreover, each on-chip lens is optimally positioned depending on its location to accommodate the sharper angle of light entering the periphery, which is caused by larger sensor dimensions being teamed with the E-mount's short flange-back distance.

The reason involves ray angle to the sensor and the sensor design; see Sony Full-Frame NEX A7r: Rangefinder Lenses, Telecentric Design for detailed discussion. There is existing coverage of ray angle behavior in the review of the Sony NEX. Sensor glass thickness is presumably the same in both models, but Sony makes no statement on that aspect; generally speaking thin sensor cover glass is best for peak sharpness.

Also, wide angle lenses of 28mm and wider are the real issue. Lenses of 35mm and longer generally fare well.

I’ll be testing Leica M lenses on the new Sony A7R and A7 exploring the performance issues, including color shading and sharpness (but note that Leica M and Leica R lens coverages goes into Guide to Leica, regardless of camera platform). I’ll also be testing the various native-mount lenses for the A7R and A7 such as the 35mm f/2.8 and 55mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm zoom; that coverage naturally goes into Guide to Mirrorless along with the A7/A7R review.

* In general, Leica M or Zeiss ZM or Voigtlander rangefinder lenses, which are for the most part not telecentric for wide angle designs.

Lens adapter

PROVISO: I don’t yet have a Sony A7R or A7, and I can’t state with certainty that these adapters work perfectly on those camera bodies. But the lens mount is the same and therefore they should work. But I just can’t say-so as yet.

To use Leica M lenses on Sony A7/A7R/NEX, use a good quality lens adapter like the Novoflex Adapter for Leica M Lens to Sony NEX Camera (Sony A7/A7R mount is the same as NEX). With heavier lenses the Novoflex ASTAT-NEX Tripod Collar for the adapter is useful for balance and reducing strain on the lens mount (e.g., Noctilux). There are other quality adapters, the Voigtlander one I also have and it is of good quality, but lacks a tripod collar option.

Sony Alpha A7R
Sony Alpha A7R

Brook Trout Spawning

Back home from the mountains

It was a golden day in Yosemite yesterday, one of those glorious mid-October pauses before the cold of November where the brilliant yellow aspen leaves flutter in a slight breeze and then drop in clusters to the ground or onto the creek surface, the sun shines warmly and low in the sky and the faintly pleasant odors of plants abound, all accompanied by auditory cues. There is no more pleasant a time to be found outside anywhere on earth. At least not for me.

Amidst the glorious spectacle of a beautiful day in a beautiful place, I observed many pairs of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) spawning behavior. Note the distinctive white stripes on the three bottom fins.

Brook trout are my favorite trout for their beauty and taste, but they have been steadily displaced by rainbow trout in this area (rainbows are fine in general, but they are the pellet-fed fish of choice for 'stockers' for beer-drinking and ice-chest and chair-seated fisherman types, and somehow they got into this drainage). So on the increasingly infrequent occasions that I fish, I de-barb my hooks, release the 'brookies' and eat the rainbows, even though the brook trout taste better. My small part to preserve this beautiful species.

Trout in this size drainage at this altitude typically do not exceed 9 inches in length; a really larger one might reach 1o to 11 inches—exceptional here.

Spawning

The lighter-colored gravel area (redd) is the clean gravel in which the eggs are deposited (muddy or silty areas will not do, they eggs will suffocate). This spawning pair stayed in this position by default, but the larger fish was constantly on guard against intruders (probably peripheral males), swimming out to chase them away, then always returning.

     Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in spawning position over gravel redd Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH  
Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in spawning position over gravel redd
Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH

I don’t actually know which fish is the female and which is the male, but only the smaller fish in front engaged periodically in this flip-flop behavior, which I presume is a mechanical aid in releasing eggs (or sperm).

     Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in spawning over gravel redd Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH  
Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in spawning over gravel redd
Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH

All the while, I was wishing mightily that I had brought a lens longer than 90mm, because they spook if approached too closely. And also wishing that the Leica M240 was 36 megapixels instead of 24; the crop below is 50% of actual pixels, e.g. a very small crop from the frame.

Watch a video of these brook trout. Regrettably I did not catch them doing the above.

Reader Jon L writes:

The bigger fish on the redd is generally the female. Like the human species, the males are the ones doing the stupid flopping around during the spawn.

But reader Eric S writes:

The fish doing the all the flopping around is the female (even though she's smaller); she's in the process of cutting her redd in preparation for egg depositing. The larger fish with more pronounced colors and jaw is the male; both of these are universal characteristics of salmonids (trout, salmon and in this case charr).

You're spot on with your "peripheral males" observation.

Your affinity for brook trout over rainbow trout though is misguided for the simple reason that brook trout are a major threat against native rainbow, cutthroat and golden trout populations (the native salmonids of the Mountainous West—depending on your locale). Brook trout are one of the very few salmonids that can spawn in both lakes and streams and are very adaptable in alpine environments. Further, they will almost always outcompete other species for available food sources.

Fishery biologists will almost universally agree that introducing the Brook trout to the Mountains West was a huge mistake. Your native Golden trout, especially, suffer from their introduction.

DIGLLOYD: There are no native Goldens or Cutthroat or Rainbows in this drainage or anywhere near it (Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita, Oncorhynchus clarkii, Oncorhynchus mykiss). So the biological 'native' point is moot along with the rest of the park, except certain areas in the Hoover Wilderness (Golden Trout) and perhaps a few other isolated areas. And, well, Brookies have that deep orange salmon flesh and just taste better. And I fished them as a youngster all over Colorado, so they appeal from memory also.

My observations in this particular creek had been that the rainbow trout population was on the rise about 10 years ago, following almost all Brook trout 20 years ago. But now the Brook Trout seem to be dominant again.

     Mixed-color aspen leaves and grasses on creek Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH  
Mixed-color aspen leaves and grasses on creek
Leica M Typ 240 + 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
     Black bear tracks cross sand Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH  
Black bear tracks cross sand
Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH as a Landscape Lens for Isolating Subjects

Yesterday I reported on the Noctilux used as a landscape lens. Its sibling lens, the Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH belongs at the party too, but it’s different in stylistic feel even with both lenses at ƒ/1.4. I’ll be discussing it and the Noctilux in that context soon in Guide to Leica.

Long day shooting... these images shot in early morning before the sun had penetrated the canyon.

These images look stunning on a Retina display at retina resolution.

     Sentinels at Dawn Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4  
Sentinels at Dawn
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4
     Beaver dam impounds a large area of Lundy Canyon Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4  
Beaver dam impounds a large area of Lundy Canyon
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4
     Aspen Graffiti Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4  
Aspen Graffiti
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/1.4

Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH as a Landscape Lens for Isolating Subjects

It has been a while since I took out the Leica Noctilux for field shooting, but I was reminded how unique its pictography is, and that being the reason to own it even if one also has the Summilux or APO-Summicron.

I’ll be presenting a variety of aperture series and examples with the Noctilux over the next few weeks. These images shot in early morning before the sun had penetrated the canyon. [Brightness and color balance might be off, my laptop is not so favorable for evaluation].

     Blue canyon light illuminates quaking aspen in Lundy Canyon at dawn Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Blue canyon light illuminates quaking aspen in Lundy Canyon at dawn
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95
     Logjam Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Logjam
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95
     Willow brush competes with aspen Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Willow brush competes with aspen
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95
     Spent, now frozen plants await being beaten down by winter snows Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Spent, now frozen plants await being beaten down by winter snows
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95
     Waiting for the light Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95  
Waiting for the light
Leica M Typ 240 + 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH @ ƒ/0.95

Leica M Typ 240 with Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH

See previous discussion of the Leica R to Leica M lens adapter.

I’ll have extensive coverage of four Leica R APO telephoto lenses over the next few weeks. I’ve been meaning to flesh out my coverage of these lenses which I’ve owned for some years, but only now has it really made sense: the Leica M Typ 240 with the Leica R-adapter M.

The world is changing: whatever is good on the M240 is likely to even better on the new 36-megapixel Sony A7R, so this new coverage in Guide to Leica actually will be more relevant than ever. [As always, lens coverage goes into the appropriate Guide, regardless of camera bodies used, which change constantly].

     The westering sun reflects off a high peak deep into upper Lundy Canyon Creek. Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/11  
The westering sun reflects off a high peak deep into upper Lundy Canyon Creek.
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/11
     Dusk settles over a shallow beaver pond Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/8  
Dusk settles over a shallow beaver pond
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/8

White Mountain Peak, Oct 17

See previous discussion of the Leica R to Leica M lens adapter.

Blue with a faint kiss of gold, the White Mountains lie poised for winter.

     Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/5.6  
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/5.6

Nikon 58mm f/1.4G

Nikon has announced a very high performance normal lens, the AF-S 58mm f/1.4G. I’ll be reviewing it in DAP of course and have more to say on it when I return.

Pre-order the 58mm f/1.4G at B&H Photo.

     Nikon 58mm f/1.4G  
Nikon 58mm f/1.4G

THE NEW AF-S NIKKOR 58MM F/1.4G LENS UNLEASHES LOW-LIGHT SHOOTING POTENTIAL FOR FX AND DX-FORMAT SHOOTERS

Fast, Sharp and Powerful, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G Lens Helps Capture Perfect Portraits and HD Video Even in Extreme Low-Light Scenarios

MELVILLE, N.Y. (October 17, 2013) – Today, Nikon Inc. introduced the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G, a professional grade prime lens offering a versatile 58mm perspective and excellent low-light shooting capabilities for FX and DX-format shooters. Designed to excel at night and in extreme low-light situations, this new NIKKOR lens sports a diverse feature set and optical design that make it a dependable and versatile option for daytime portraits, nighttime cityscapes or sharp HD video with a dramatic depth of field. Paying homage to the acclaimed original Noct NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 lens, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens is capable of capturing stunning photos and videos while achieving beautiful bokeh effects.

“With the development of every NIKKOR lens, Nikon aims to provide photographers with the powerful and versatile lensing options needed to capture stunning images and HD video in a variety of difficult shooting scenarios,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “Combining Nikon’s storied NIKKOR legacy with renowned optical technologies, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens presents the premier prime lensing option for FX and DX-format shooters who expect the best in low-light performance.”

Optimized for elite performance in even the most challenging low-light scenarios, the AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G sports a unique 58mm (87mm DX-format equivalent) fixed focal length, making it ideal for shooting both flattering portraits, landscapes and street photography. Both FX-format and DX-format shooters will appreciate a wide and fast f/1.4 aperture that helps to ensure professional-grade photos and edge-to-edge sharpness, combined with overwhelming rendering performance. Even while focusing at infinity, the lens’ high resolving power has the ability to process distant subjects with amazing clarity. Whether shooting dynamic nighttime cityscapes or astrophotography, top-class low-light performance is ensured with minimal sagittal coma, while light falloff is controlled to retain brightness and reduce vignetting, even while wide open

The AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens is also powered by core NIKKOR technologies designed to provide the user with the ultimate in clarity and control, and the capability to capture beautiful photos and HD video even in extreme low-light. The lens sports a rounded nine-blade diaphragm, providing both FX and DX-format shooters with a circular bokeh, allowing for dramatic sense of natural depth in landscapes and beautiful image blur. Additionally, the lens features a Nano Crystal Coat to prevent ghost and flare, as well as a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) to help ensure quiet AF operation, even when shooting HD video. For users who want the utmost control of every frame, two focus modes are available, including M/A (AF with manual override) and M (manual).

Price and Availability

The AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens will be available in late October 2013 for a suggested retail price (SRP) of $1,699.95*. For more information on NIKKOR lenses and accessories as well as other Nikon products, please visit www.nikonusa.com.

Leica R Lenses on Leica M Typ 240 Using R-Adapter M

See previous discussion of the Leica R to Leica M lens adapter.

Today I shot the Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH and 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R on the Leica M Typ 240 using the Leica R-adapter M (see details).

Initial results show that these two Leica APO lenses work exceedingly well on the M240, including ease of focus and sharpness. Results are stunningly sharp. I’ll be posting many Ultra-HD examples when I return, my goal on this trip being to explore the performance bounds on the M240, as well as bokeh and overall behavior.

One also wonders whether a suitable lens adapter (with necessary tripod mount) will be forthcoming for Leica R lenses on the Sony A7R. Now that could get interesting: a Sony A7R with these Leica APO lenses (36MP) versus the Leica M Typ 240 (24MP). But that Leica R-adapter M is a superbly built item whereas 3rd party lens adapters range in quality from marginal to adequate.

The worst problem: forgetting to change the lens profile when changing lenses.

It’s cold at 13,000' elevation. Colder than usual for mid October. My practical usage complaint about the Leica M Typ 240 is that its controls are badly designed for use in cold weather (gloves), really inferior to a Nikon or Canon DSLR which I can operate with even fairly thick gloves.

These images look terrific in Retina resolution on a retina display.

     Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/4  
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/4
     Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/4  
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/4
     Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R @ ƒ/2.8  
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R @ ƒ/2.8
     Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R @ ƒ/4  
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R @ ƒ/4

The slog up is the wind-rush down—Moots Mooto X YBB 29er.

     Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/2.8   
Leica M Typ 240 + R-adapter M with 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH @ ƒ/2.8

Sony A7, A7R: Breakthrough in Image Quality in a Compact Package with Killer EVF and LCD Too

Sony Alpha A7R
Sony Alpha A7R

I can’t possibly do justice to the new Sony offerings given my travel schedule, but I will be reviewing the A7R in great detail in Guide to Mirrorless, and probably the A7 along with it, and perhaps even the RX10 as well.

Search for the Sony A7 at B&H Photo for pre-order.

Readers know that the Sony RX1R was a stellar camera in my testing, but the A7R has a high-res EVF built-in along with an ultra-high-res rear LCD (much higher-res than Nikon/Canon) and hence is very attractive. But there is a lot more than that to the new Sony offerings and so the folks over at Nikon and Canon might want to change their soiled underwear: the Sony A7R (and A7) are the cameras that could really eat into the sales of the inertial nothing-really-new-it’s-still-2008 DSLRs. Heck, neither company has yet to understand than an EVF is a terrific addition to any camera. You see, the A7R offers the resolution, and the A7 covers the focusing and frame rate angle (excluding serious sports and action shooters, but that’s a small market).

Lens quality

Can the Sony/Zeiss lenses deliver fully to 36 megapixels? I’ll got out on a limb and tentatively suggest that the new 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar on the Sony A7R might well relegate the far bulkier Nikon D800E to 2nd place: the A7R sensor is 18-24 months further along (and is 14-bit), and the lens has been designed for it. It’s a pity that Sony did not simultaneously upgrade the fixed-lens RX1R to the same 36MP sensor as the A7R.

As well, lens adapters allow the use of Leica M lenses and many others (Nikon, Sony Alpha lenses, etc). It remains to be seen whether ray angle is a problem for wide angle lenses, but let’s cross our fingers on that one.

Sensor Sizes
Sensor Sizes

Size and weight

Is there anyone that still seriously insists that Micro Four Thirds is compelling on a size weight basis? Well, that’s still possible to insist upon in certain cases for certain lenses, but it breaks down pretty quickly when the facts are examined for all aspects.

As I wrote several months ago in those editorials, APS-C and full frame offer a vastly larger sensor at similar or lower weight. But now we are talking full-frame at lower weight.

Let’s look at one real-world case. Small variations are just not relevant to the core idea, which is that the weight difference is more modest than one might think. But look at the facts:

    Sony A7R: 465g with battery and card + 120g for the 35/2.8 lens.
Olympus E-M1: 497g with battery and card + 120g for the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 lens.

Wow. The Sony A7R full frame camera with equivalent lens is lighter than the equivalent Olympus E-M1 Micro Four Thirds setup.

Actually, the ƒ/2.8 lens on full frame would have to be ƒ/1.4 (!) on MFT to be equivalent in depth of field and blur potential. So the Sony wins there also.

Oh, and the Sony A7R has 36 megapixels in which each of those pixels is 30% larger in area than the 16 megapixels of the E-M1—2.25X the pixels in 3.8 times the area = more and larger and higher quality pixels. At least for the ~35mm focal length, the MFT solution looks seriously handicapped. The Sony A7R + 35/2.8 lens costs more, but not hugely more, and anyone looking at a multi-lens system surely prefers a more capable camera for the longer term. That said, the E-M1 is still an excellent camera, and its in-body image stabilization has great appeal for video use. But is not smaller and it is not lighter, at least not with the 35mm (equiv) focal length.

Cost

Consider that a good grip and high-res EVF are built-in on the A7/A7R. Thus, the A7R starts to look like a bargain relative to the RX1R, even after the $800 or so for the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/2.8.

The camera and lenses

Below are some photos of the new Sony A7 / A7r. The A7 and A7R are pretty awesome by the spec list, including 24 and 36 megapixels sensors respectively, along with the best EVF and rear LCDs yet seen together on any camera.

The lens line is a weakness, but with the range of 24-200mm covered high quality zooms, along with adapters for various lenses, this limitation is not so significant for most shooting.

Sony Alpha A7R
Sony Alpha A7R

With the 35mm f/2.8, the A7R looks to be about the same size as the Sony RX1R. The loss of one stop of brightness was almost certainly necessary to achieve that near match.

The built-in grip looks to be vastly superior to the no-grip of the Sony RX1R: one less extra to buy, which effectively lowers the total price of the camera, especially with the built-in high-res EVF included also.

But please Sony, eliminate the inane scene modes. And it’s about time that an exposure longer than 30 seconds can be made without needing a special remote release.

Sony Alpha A7R
Sony Alpha A7R

Try finding a tilt screen on a Nikon or Canon full-frame DSLR.

Sony Alpha A7R
Sony Alpha A7R

The 24-70mm f/4 zoom

The A7R with the 24-70mm f/4 zoom is a chunky package, but no doubt will appeal to those who like to cover a zoom range, my advice being that zooms serve a useful function in certain situations, but a fixed lens tends to make the photographer think more carefully about perspective and composition—less is more.

Part of the appeal of the A7R is its relatively small size, but with the 24-70 zoom at 460 grams, it becomes more substantial. Still, this is probably very acceptable, and that ƒ/4 aperture keeps the weight to a reasonable level. Whether it can deliver top image quality to a 36-megapixel sensor is an open question.

Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA Vario Tessar OSS lens
Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA Vario Tessar OSS lens
Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens
Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens

The 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar

At a featherweight 120 grams, the 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar looks to offer a really appealing package. It’s quite possible that the lens performance will be as good as the 35mm f/2 Sonnar found in the Sony RX1R, since the loss of one stop allows a higher degree of correction with less strenuous optical efforts.

Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar ZA
Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar ZA
Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar ZA
Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar

The 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar

The 281 gram 55mm f/1.8 is a Sonnar design, and it surely is not an APO-Distagon.

It is not hard to imagine carrying a 35mm f/2 + 55mm f/1.8 + 21mm f/2.8 (?), and calling it a solid kit. Of course the zooms can fill in too, and more lenses will come.

Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar
Sony Alpha A7R with Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar
Sony/Zeiss FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS lens
Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar

The 70-200mm f/4 OSS

The 840 gram (without tripod collar) ZE FE 70-200mm f/4 OSS keeps the weight down by its ƒ/4 aperture.

Expected availability 2014.

Sony/Zeiss FE 70-200mm f/4 ZA OSS lens
Sony/Zeiss ZA FE 70-200mm f/4 ZA OSS lens

Click for larger table.

Sony FE ZA specifications
Sony FE ZA specifications

Canon 200-400mm First Usage: Bighorn Sheep, Sampler

See previous notes on the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender.

Written at 10,500' up in the mountains. My analysis of the fine points of image quality have to wait for my home system on which I am “dialed”.

I’ll be writing up field usage notes in my review of the Canon 200-400mm when I return home. So far I am very favorably impressed with the Canon 200-400mm. The built-in teleconverter is just awesome in its ease of use, as is the core 200-400mm zoom range (the 1.4X applies to whatever focal length is used).

Image below was at 560mm at ƒ/5.6 (wide open) and had about 1/3 of the frame cropped at left and top. These sheep have a certain comfort zone; staying near ones’s vehicle helps, but they generally want to maintain a buffer of 150 feet or so. With that buffer, they just keep grazing with little concern other than the occassional “checkup” on the observer.

     
     1/2500 sec @ ƒ/5.6 Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM @ 560mm, cropped  
Bighorn Sheep
1/2500 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 560mm, cropped
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

October is never warm at this elevation but last week’s snowstorm cooled things down and it was dropping below freezing before the sunset.

     
     1/1250 sec @ ƒ/5.6 Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM @ 560mm  
1/1250 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 560mm
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

Contrast seems to be very high wide open.

     
     1/2500 sec @ ƒ/4 Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM @ 350mm  
1/2500 sec @ ƒ/4 @ 350mm
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

I shot a variety of bokeh shots and I’ll be presenting some very interesting variants at various focal lengths and apertures.

     
     1/2500 sec @ ƒ/4 Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM @ 350mm  
1/2000 sec @ ƒ/5.6 @ 300mm
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM
     
     1/2500 sec @ ƒ/4 Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM @ 350mm  
1/4000 sec @ ƒ/4 @ 400mm
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM

Headed to the Mountains

I am headed to the White Mountains to do some long lens shooting with the Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS as well as Leica R APO lenses on the Leica M Typ 240 using the Leica R-Adapter M.

I have a few other projects in mind too.

Regrettably, neither the Pentax K3 nor the Olympus E-M1 are yet in my hands, so they will have to wait for later this month and into early November. But I do expect to give them very solid coverage.

     
     Silver Canyon, White Mountains  
Silver Canyon, White Mountains

Canon 200-400mm Shows Up Today

See previous notes on the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender.

Arrived today from Canon USA is the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (about $11799). The lens is more compact than I had expected and looks like it will handle well.

I am leaving tomorrow for a mountains trip to shoot the Canon 200-400 as well as four Leica APO telephoto lenses (90/100/180/280 mm) on the Leica M Typ 240 using the Leica R-adapter M.

I’m planning on shooting general landscape as well as Bighorn sheep and perhaps some antlered mule deer bucks, in addition to various landscape stuff. But because Yosemite National Park is drive-through only on Hwy 120 (no stopping due to the government shutdown even though the park rakes in millions in entrance fees), the mule deer option as planned is likely unobtanium.

     
     Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender  
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender

For tripod mounting, the Really Right Stuff LCF-53: Foot for 200-400mm/f4 L IS 1.4xprovides the dovetail for locking into the clamp on the tripod head.

     
     Really Right Stuff LCF-53: Foot for 200-400mm/f4 L IS 1.4x  
Really Right Stuff LCF-53: Foot for 200-400mm/f4 L IS 1.4x

Sony Full-Frame A7 and A7r Tomorrow?

See the review of the Sony NEX-7 with its APS-C sensor in Guide to Mirrorless.

Rumor sites are abuzz about a new full-frame NEX.

Search for the Sony A7 at B&H Photo for pre-order. Thank you for pre-ordering through that link. (When it shows up, I don’t know).

Rumor sites indicate a 24MP full-frame A7 for $1698 and a 36MP full-frame A7r for $1998, the latter having no anti-aliasing filter for max sharpness. Lenses to include a couple of mid-range zooms, and Zeiss 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 primes. Rumors also state weather sealing, built-in WiFi, tiltable LCD screen, 1/8000 shutter (bummer not to have leaf shutter), high-res LCD, but apparently no built-in flash (TBD).

An interesting speculation is whether and by how much an A7r with the Zeiss 35/2.8 can outperform (or not) the Sony RX1R with its fixed Zeiss 35mm f/2 lens. One can hope that the sensor is fully optimized for peak sharpness and that at least one lens (the 35/2.8) will deliver to its full resolution. But neither is a given.

Shutter— a focal plane shutter has some vibration (shows up with long teles), and cannot do high speed flash sync as with a leaf shutter: the full speed flash sync as with the Sony RX1R and Ricoh GR and similar cameras is not possible with a focal plane shutter. This is a very practical issue for field use (subtle fill flash at any shutter speed) and one reason the RX1R might be preferred, at least if you frequent a 35mm focal length.

Really Right Stuff Tripod Mounting Plate for Leica R to M Adapter

See previous discussion of the Leica R to Leica M lens adapter.

Also: Camera Plates for Tripod-Mounting Small Cameras (Sony RX100, Nikon Coolpix A and similar).

     
     Really Right Stuff B9-E camera plate   
Really Right Stuff B9-E camera plate

The Really Right stuff B9-E camera plate is versatile: it works well for the Leica X Vario handgrip, but it turns out that short of a custom design (not yet available), the B9-E also works well on the Leica R-adapter M tripod mount.

The plate is needed to mount the rig onto an Arca Swiss style clamp, which is what nearly all photographers use these days.

Really Right Stuff offers a wide variety of mounting plates and ballheads and tripods using this mounting system. There is no other rational choice for mounting a lens or camera, at least if one wants proven reliability and support for a very wide range of gear.

Shown below is the screw-thread side of the Leica R-adapter M; the B9-E plate screws into that socket. The flange on one side helps prevent any rotation of the plate once screwed on.

     Leica R-adapter M  
Leica R-adapter M

Reader Comments: Sony RX1R

See the review of the Sony RX1/RX1R in Guide to Mirrorless.

Sony RX1
Sony RX1

With EVF and grip, the Sony RX1R is the most friendly premium-quality all-day shooter you will find as this was written. For me when shooting in the field, it was a “can’t put it down” camera coupled with an aversion to my Nikon D800 and Leica M Type 240, which I preferred to leave in my pack (size and weight and fun-factor, EVF quality, fast and reliable autofocus all in favor of the RX1R). I make a point of observing my own reactions to each camera I use, as I consider that factor critically valuable to report to my readers.

I have not purchased the RX1R, but this is because of budget reasons, and because I am constantly shooting new gear, and that displaces my efforts to the stream of new cameras. But the RX1R would surely be a preferred camera were that not the case.

The Sony RX1R and the Ricoh GR make an awesome combination for field shooting, but if both cameras were offered in additional focal lengths that would really nail it down (e.g., 21mm or 24mm for the RX1R and 19mm for the Ricoh GR, all in terms of equivalent focal length). In other words, the concept of the three camera system so boldly advanced by Sigma with the Sigma DP Merrill line would be terrific if taken up by Sony and Ricoh and in general by all vendors. Because interchangeable lenses are over-rated: optimizing for the 80% of 90% case is eminently sensible.

Reader comments

Note that both RX1R users express some initial skepticism, which is also where I started. But when a camera proves itself repeatedly over several thousand frames in all the important ways, that is the real test. Note well that the proper configuration of the RX1R is an prerequisite to my recommendation..

Paul R writes:

In regards to the RX1R, I did buy one after reading your most insightful review. I have a Leica X Vario (and D3x), and was skeptical at first.

But after using the RX1R now intensely for several days, I must agree with your review 100%, including your comparisons with Leica. Thanks so much for convincing me to go RX1R!

DIGLLOYD: my reviews cover the gamut of image quality, usability in the field and tips for getting the best. I ask myself what *I* would want to know, since my reactions and decision process must be similar to what many prospective buyers would want to know. This is no easy task, but by consciously asking myself that question repeatedly and calling a spade a spade or a jewel a jewel without equivocating, I think I arrive at a solid discussion. Which might not be perfect for everyone, but is surely useful to many.

Thanks for buying the Sony RX1R using the links on this site.

James H writes:

James H initially had some doubts.

After shooting with the Sony RX1R for a week I have warmed up to it, actually fallen in love with. I've decided to keep the camera and purchase the RRS grip.

This is going to be a great camera to use in conjunction with the Sony A99. Exciting!!! Even though Sony will be releasing a 36 megapixel system very soon I feel the RX1R and A99 IQ will hold very well compared to these new systems.

DIGLLOYD: Gains over the 24 megapixels of the Sony RX1R will be incremental, and significant gains in detail demand very high grade lenses. That remains to be seen on the new Sony NEX full-frame 36-megapixel camera.

See also:

Sony RX1R with EVF and Really Right Stuff grip (my preferred shooting configuration)
Sony RX1R with EVF and Really Right Stuff grip
(my preferred shooting configuration)

Sony Full-Frame NEX A7r: Rangefinder Lenses, Telecentric Design

See the review of the Sony NEX-7 in Guide to Mirrorless.

A full frame Sony NEX is expected soon. Questions arise about the suitability of rangefinder lenses on its full frame sensor, the issues being ray angle and color shading.

In general

The optical filter pack over the sensor has an influence on the image sharpness; it is why Leica went with a very thin cover glass on the M9: to preserve sharpness. See a suggestive but inconclusive exploration of that idea in Nikon D800E vs Canon 5D Mark III: the Nikon D800E Optical Low Pass Blur+Unblur Filter Pack.

But the core issue is chief ray angle sensor to the sensor: a short flange-to-sensor means a steep ray angle. Hence a telecentric lens design is needed in order to make the ray angle more friendly to the sensor. Even lenses newly designed for the camera will still be challenged in this regard, at least if the lens size is not to be too large. Therefore, I expect the A7/A7R to include micro lenses akin to the Leica M sensors, and to include color shading correction.

Adapting telecentric designs such as the Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon can be expected to deliver high performance because the ray angle is digital friendly (unusually orthogonal to the sensor). This is generally true for all DSLR lenses, which inherently have a long flange-to-sensor distance (because of the DSLR mirror box).

Leica M and Zeiss ZM lenses on NEX?

Leica M lenses (particularly wide angle lenses) suffer from ray angle and color shading issues even on the Sony NEX-7 with its cropped APS-C sensor (2/3 the dimensions and half the area of a full frame sensor). With Leica digital cameras, Leica mitigates this with a custom sensor having microlenses.

So the question on a full-frame NEX would be whether (a) the sensor cover glass is friendly to the ray angle (thick cover glass is a bad thing), and (b) whether there are micro lenses to avoid severe ray angle and color shading problems. I would expect Sony to minimize the thickness of the sensor cover glass, and to have micro lenses also.

The camera can include software adjustment (lens correction) to correct-out color shading issues. But that cannot fix sharpness losses from ray angle.

Whether the accommodation at the sensor is enough for 18/21/24/28mm Leica M lenses is an open question, since even Leica M cameras show substantial color shading there.

I’ll be testing Leica M lenses on the new NEX (but note that Zeiss and Leica lens tests go into their respective guides, regardless of camera platform).

As shown below, color shading with the Zeiss 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon is a worst-case due to the extreme ray angle to the film plane (sensor). For black and white conversions it is not an issue and the lens stays quite sharp to the corners on the Leica M9 or MM.

Color shading with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon on Leica M9  (worst case lens)
Color shading with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon on Leica M9
(worst case lens)

This Week’s Camera News

It could be an exciting week, depending.

Sony is expected to announce a full-frame high-resolution NEX (according to rumor sites and I deem this highly likely also). There is a decent chance that the sensor design could be friendly to Leica M lenses. Of perhaps equal interest to some users might be a NEX-7R, (it’s about time), perhaps with the latest Sony high-res EVF and other improvements.

Nikon is having some kind of announcement and there is an outside chance that a 54/56 Nikon D4x could be in the offing, though even if it were so, I’d not expect to see one prior to 2014.

Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon with Adapter on Sony A or NEX or Similar?

Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Hiep P writes:

Thank you for the thorough review on the Otus 55. It is an outstanding write-up.

I would have pre-ordered the lens but because of this very precise reason you brought up, no EVF option on DSLRs, that I have decided not to. I am currently shooting with the Sony A99 and my two Contax 55/1.2 and 85/1.2. Since these two are even less corrected for aberrations, precise focus is paramount to get a good image. So I understand your frustration. For me, Live View is a must for any critical work (certainly so since my main focus is on landscape and urbanscape). And only with EVF, such implementation is seamless (no awkward framing with the LCD).

[diglloyd: please pre-order using Zeiss lenses ordering page]

What I am contemplating right now is whether to get the Nikon version or the Canon version. With Nikon, I have to deal with the opposite focus direction and just do a Leitax conversion to A mount. With Canon, I can retain the ”right” direction, use a Metabones EF-E adapter to mount on the upcoming FF NEX.

After reading Roger’s articles on lens skew from using adapter and your articles on lens-camera alignment issue on Canon and Nikon DSLR, it gets even more complicated. Definitely going native would allow me to send the camera in for a proper alignment (or so we hope). David at Leitax would certainly make a very precise mount replacement. But without a MTF tester, I am not sure I can get a similar quality as the original lens. Going for the Otus means that one want the ultimate performance. There is no point to pay this much and to haul with much weight and size to have anything less than that (I can certainly get that with my smaller, lighter 55/1.2).

Since you’re savvy on this matter, I would like to hear your opinion. Thank you.

DIGLLOYD: Precise focus is critical to extract the best from a very high performance lens. This is where a DSLR optical viewfinder is a dismal failure and one reason I strongly desire an EVF.

First, I suggest reading Mount Flange to Sensor Parallelism in Making Sharp Images for some sobering thoughts. That page is not theoretical.

In general I have had good luck with lens adapter over the years, but most of that has historically been with lower resolution cameras. With high-res cameras (24 and particularly 36 megapixels), small issues show up much more readily.

The issues are complex and I will detail just the major ones here:

  • Lens mount to sensor parallelism is not guaranteed. Thus even without a lens there are issues starting with the camera body itself, see the link noted above. It is one reason that MTF lens tests are suspect: how was the camera measured for perfect flange to sensor parallelism?
  • Lens mounts can and do bend and warp if not used with care. Ditto for lens adapters. Amounts invisible to the eye become optical problems (e.g., 10 or 20 microns). Consider what it might take for a lens adapter vendor to guarantee 10 micron or tighter planar tolerances on a lens adapter (“my $39 lens adapter works great”—yeah sure it does).
  • Large and heavy lenses like the Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon should not be used with an adapter without supporting the lens somehow (e.g. with a hand under it). Lens mounts experience a lever-arm torque which can ultimately bend the lens mount, a very expensive repair. Not to mention “sag” while shooting. [Kudos to Leica for detailing weight limits in their R to M adapter brochure. And the Leica adapter is as robust an adapter as you will find.]
  • It is the rare lens that shows perfect symmetry left to right, and the likelihood of retaining symmetry as the elements move through the focusing range is slim to none for both manual and autofocus lenses. The Otus 55/1.4 is held to very high tolerances (to some extent the price contemplates a higher rejection rate), but this cannot be considered a guarantee of symmetry throughout its focusing range. Even Leica S lenses show symmetry issues.
  • The 55/1.4 APO-Distagon revealed a small problem with my Nikon D800E flange-to-sensor alignment back in the spring; Nikon gave my D800E special attention at my request. It was probably already “in spec” however. But it improved.

That’s a “sampler”. Bottom line is that when a lens adapter is inserted into the equation it is one more variable: one that can worsen an asymmetry or work to mitigate it! And by “left/right” I really mean any asymmetry in which the relevant geometric planes are not plane parallel, and that can mean through two axes.

As for Nikon versus Canon mount, a lens in Nikon mount is definitely more flexible in the range of cameras to which it can be adapted. But given the size and weight of the Otus 55/1.4, it is probably best to consider exactly which lens adapter is to be used, e.g. what the total system will look like (camera + adapter + lens), since the choices could vary in quality or availability. I’d want a very robust adapter for a heavy lens. An adapter for a Nikon lens will be 2mm thicker, and that could in theory work in its favor, depending.

In the end one just has to try, and also accept that things might not be perfect. Even my brand-new Leica 50mm f/2 APO ASPH on a brand-new Leica M240 showed lens skew! It’s one of those facts of life. If Leica can’t guarantee perfection, then perhaps no one can except for those $25K cine lenses.

All that said, remember that the lens is projecting an image that is sharp (assuming it is performing properly). The targets that show a problem are those in which the subject matter is planar: a wall or mosaic, a distant landscape, a group of people lined up, and so on. Otherwise, one is not so likely to notice.

iPhone 5s White Balance and Using JPEG vs DNG

I wondered if the iPhone 5s could make a good image under studio lighting, so I set up a FotoDiox DY-200 LED light source* and gave it a try. My Nikon D800E produces superb images under this lighting.

As far as I know there is no control over white balance with the Apple iPhone camera app, and it is JPEG only, so one has to accept the results as-is. Other camera apps might allow more control.

As shown, under daylight balanced lighting, the iPhone 5s makes an image with a strongly yellow and magenta cast. Every frame of a dozen showed this same strong color cast.

I’m not saying the iPhone 5s cannot take good pictures—surely it can under many conditions. But I am saying that this is near ideal lighting and yet the 5s produced a very poor result in terms of color balance. It is what is is: a single test which ought to produce excellent results. There are plenty of mixed-light and artificial light scenarios where the ability to make an accurate white balance is important. It appears that the camera was fooled by the strong colors in this test scene.

Sharpness is pretty decent for a JPEG image, on the order of a mid-grade consumer camera, so that can be said to be a plus. Applying some sharpening it looks decent. But it’s clear that it suffers from loss of fine details from the processing and JPEG conversion; the detail rendition looks like the same marginal stuff found in most all digital cameras—fair enough in context.

Noise is very high in the blue and cyan tones, the red channel is blown out, yellow highlights are blown, and on top of that color gamut is clipped to sRGB thus flattening and utterly destroying any tonal range or subtlety in the reds. Overall, this is a low grade image that will satisfy a lot of users. But not me.

What a shame that Apple does not see fit to let users choose AdobeRGB color space and to set the white balance, which would hugely improve the results here. Or is that possible, and I am something? Probably another camera app would do better, so I’ll have to look into that.

* My Gossen Color Pro IIIf color meter reads 6000°K +10M, meaning that the light is slightly blue and slightly cyan. Applying a 10CC magenta filter shows a neutral tint when measured that way.

iPhone 5s under 6000°K daylight balance LED lighting, Apple camera app JPEG
iPhone 5s under 6000°K daylight balance LED lighting, Apple camera app JPEG

Next I tried Digital Negative app, which allows shooting into DNG format. I then converted the file to 16-bit TIF in ProPhoto RGB. There is no Adobe profile for the iPhone 5s, so various aspects of contrast and color would have to be hand-tuned. I did add a little saturation here.

The white balance is far better by using the gray card to set it correctly and it appears that using DNG preserves more fine details. But the color gamut remains truncated in spite of converting into the ProPhotoRGB color space. In spite of a 1.2 stop pull for this image to preserve the highlights, the blue patches are pinned (no detail) and noise is exceedingly high. And this is an ETTR exposure.

Sharpness is similar to JPEG but seems to preserve more fine details in spite of the smaller reproduction ratio here (but detail for both is mangled in a very ugly way in areas of uniform color, like the blue and red geisha robes). Noise remains high and even seems worse from the DNG, probably because of some custom processing inside the camera when shooting JPEG with the Apple camera app (and JPEG also blurs away noise along with small details, noise being fine details after all).

My tentative conclusion is that if one could get the white balance right with the Apple camera app, there is probably only a small advantage to the DNG approach. On the other hand, if Adobe were to offer a profile for the 5s and perhaps some custom processing, there might be real advantages in detail and color gamut and white balance.

iPhone 5s under 6000°K daylight balance LED lighting, DNG conversion
iPhone 5s under 6000°K daylight balance LED lighting, DNG conversion

Larry G writes:

You may know this, but it wasn't clear in your write up. The DigitalNegative app doesn't actually store the RAW image data in the DNG file, so all it really does is bypass the JPEG conversion (see the docs http://digitalnegativeapp.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/digitalnegative_manual.pdf).

The color and range are still set by the iPhone.

I've only been playing with it for a few days, but the ProCamera7 app (http://www.procamera-app.com/#) seems to work better than the built in one. It has some white balance controls, which I haven't played with. The big thing I have noticed in limited testing is it gets the exposure correct where as the built in camera app tends towards over exposure. It also lets you set the level of JPG compression.

DIGLLOYD: I did not know that. This explains a few things.

Interview with Zeiss on the Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

My interview with Zeiss on the new Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon is now online.

Read my full review of the Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss.

Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Kevin M writes:

I read your new Zeiss article. Congratulations on your interview of the performance of the new Zeiss 55mm, your landscape images in California are no less than amazing. I was sad to read in the review comments the quick trolling of "BigD".

I've been a subscriber off and on for the last few years. As an enthusiast photographer, I lack the language and understanding of lens behaviors. Your reviews are excellent sources to understanding the qualities and characters of how photographic equipment works.

Congratulations on the honor to help launch Zeiss's new monster lens!

DIGLLOYD: I appreciate this kind of feedback, since my goal is to advance understanding of all aspects of photography, both technical and creative. I try hard to make my work approachable by including a range of coverage that should be comfortable for beginners and still useful for experts.

Iridient Developer 2.3 Update Improves Sigma DP Merrill X3F Support, Adds Olympus E-M1 et al

Iridient Developer from Iridient Digital

Iridient Developer is an innovative standalone raw converter. I highly recommend it as an alternative to the mainstream raw converters. Give the demo version a try.

This release greatly expands support for RAW image information based lens corrections to numerous new cameras including most all recent models from Canon, Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm and Panasonic.

The automatic chromatic aberration correction algorithm has also been greatly improved and should give better, more consistent results under difficult image conditions. Camera manufacturer RAW metadata and DNG lens profile (LCP) based chromatic aberration corrections can now be applied independently of lens distortion corrections.

Sigma RAW processing has been greatly improved for both the latest Merrill models as well as earlier generation Foveon sensor cameras. Numerous improvements throughout for the Foveon sensor processing!

This release also includes several bug fixes, various overall performance improvements and updated default camera profiles and settings for some cameras (particularly the Nikon D800(E) and D600).

RAW image support has been added for the following new cameras:

Canon: PowerShot G16 and S120
Nikon: P7800
Olympus: OM-D E-M1
Sony: NEX-5T and ILCE-3000
Fujifilm: X-A1
Samsung: Galaxy NX

 

DSLRs Still Have no EVF Option

See Old Geezers Need an EVF: the Rear LCD and Presbyopia are a Bad Combination For Aging Eyes and Why an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) is Not Optional, and Not Sufficient Either.

Olympus VF-4 EVF
Olympus VF-4 EVF

With the possible arrival of a 36-megapixel Sony NEX A7r soon, one might ask whether a high-res EVF could make it the camera of choice for manual focus DSLR lenses for many situations. Assuming the ergonomics are solid.

That is, for manual focus accuracy, vision limitations, leveling the camera while shooting handheld, for the sheer visual pleasure, for perfect 100% framing and so on. See the two references at top.

Piling on, DSLRs today are poorly suited to manual focus lenses—

  • The optical viewfinder (OVF) often has limited coverage and sometimes is not 100% accurate or even level to the sensor.
  • The focusing screens do not support fast lenses: ƒ/1.4 and ƒ/2 lenses cannot be “seen” properly; effectively focusing is happening at ƒ/2.8 or so (it has to do with the bundle of rays and the glass in the focusing screen).
  • The optical path to the OVF is separate from the optical path to the sensor and very likely to be off by at least 20 microns if not 40 microns or more. That amount is small physically, but means blurred results. And it is the difference between world-class performance and mediocre performance (or worse).

In short, the OVF is really only a framing device. The poster child for an OVF being problematic is the new Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon (because it is ƒ/1.4 and also a very high performance lens): the Nikon D800E focusing screen is a severe handicap in obtaining precise focus for it (or any high quality ƒ/1.4 lens).

It is not an either/or choice, or mirrorless vs DSLR choice

The real issue is having a camera get out of the way: smaller and lighter for carry comfort yet with high-grade image quality, a high-resolution EVF that allows precise manual focus (zooming in, focus peaking and exact framing and leveling). This sort of stuff dovetails into the keeper rate and efficiency and fun factors, a point driven home to me when shooting the the Sony RX1R for thousands of frames in the field: I did not want to put it down and I did not want to pick up my DSLR instead.

DSLRs are failing miserably in those regards.

Inertial thinking is involved here, with the design challenge being not violating the existing DSLR paradigm but enhancing it. And it is why Canon and Nikon are skating on thin ice: forcing buyers (like myself) to put up with arbitrary usability limitations for no technical reason is a serious danger to the C/N hegemony.

There is no reason why a DSLR cannot support a high quality add-on EVF in the hot shoe area, in addition to the OVF and the existing hot shoe. This is not a hard technical problem.

Pentax K3    Nikon D610
Pentax K3, Nikon D610: brand-new as of October 2013 but no EVF

Sony NEX A7 and A7r: 24 and 36 Megapixels on Full Frame?

SonyAlphaRumors.com has been reporting credible information of an announcement of a 24 megapixel and 36 megapixel NEX announcement very soon.

NEX A7: 24 megapixels (full frame sensor)
NEX A7R: 36 megapixels (full frame sensor)

I don’t normally spend much time on rumors, but questions from readers keep popping up and I deem it wise to wait just a little if one is contemplating a full-frame camera purchase soon.

See the review of the Sony NEX-7 in Guide to Mirrorless.

Optical filter pack

The optical filter pack has an influence on the image sharpness; see an exploration of that idea in Nikon D800E vs Canon 5D Mark III: the Nikon D800E Optical Low Pass Blur+Unblur Filter Pack.

What this means in practice is that the promise of 36 megapixels might or might not be met: the lens has to be high grade, and the sensor construction has to be friendly to various lens designs which might or might not be computed for optimal performance on a particular thickness of sensor cover glass. There are ray angle issues also, microlenses (or not), and so on. It is best not to assume that any particular lens will perform optimally.

However, telecentric designs such as the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon can be expected to deliver very high performance.

That EVF thing

See Old Geezers Need an EVF: the Rear LCD and Presbyopia are a Bad Combination For Aging Eyes.

One might go so far as to say that a high-res EVF on a full-frame NEX (likely built-in!) could possibly make it the camera of choice for manual focus DSLR lenses for many situations: for focusing accuracy and vision reasons and leveling the camera while shooting handheld, for the sheer enjoyment, for perfect 100% framing and so on. Assuming the ergonomics are solid.

Inertial trapped-in-the-past thinking means that DSLRs still have no EVF option. And it is why Canon and Nikon are skating on thin ice. Forcing buyers (like myself) to put up with impaired usability for no technical reason is a serious danger to the C/N hegemony.

Leica M and Zeiss ZM lenses on NEX?

Leica M lenses (particularly wide angle lenses) suffer from ray angle and color shading issues even on the NEX-7 with its cropped APS-C sensor (half the area of full frame). Leica handles this in the Leica M cameras with a custom sensor having microlenses that partially mitigate it.

So the question on a full-frame NEX would be whether (a) the sensor cover glass is friendly to the ray angle (thick glass is a negative), and (b) whether there are micro lenses to avoid severe ray angle and color shading problems.

The sensor must deal with ray angle isuses because of the short flange to sensor distance. Therefore I expect the A7/A7R to include micro lenses akin to the Leica M and to include color shading correction. Whether the accommodation at the sensor level is enough for 18/21/24/28mm Leica M lenses is an open question, since even Leica M cameras have some difficulty with those. But we can expect the native lenses for the full-frame NEX to use telectentric designs to minimize the ray angle and color shading issues.

I’ll be testing Leica M lenses on the new NEX (but note that Zeiss and Leica lens tests go into their respective guides, regardless of camera platform).

Color shading with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon on Leica M9
Color shading with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon on Leica M9
(worst case lens)

Reader comments

Steven K writes:

With the release of the new E mount cameras in the next week, yeah they look really nice but I hope in the future Sony does not do what Olympus did, basically release a hybrid type camera that accepts both e mount and a mount lenses via an adaptor.

I know everyone wanted a FF NEX which we are going to get, yet the lens situation looks very dismal. A few Zeiss primes nice but not shipping for a while and some F4 zooms. No way to make faster zooms or primes and keep the size small.. I would have preferred a new A mount mirror less camera with the improved EVF, 24 MP and no AA filter. Yeah it would have been larger then the new NEX but the lenses are all ready there.

I also think that all those people hoping to use there Leica/ Zeiss ZM WA lenses on the new FF NEX will be disappointed . The new Sony will not be a Leica killer. At least at 35mm and wider.

36MP FF NEX, I don't think any of the lenses being announced will do this camera any justice. I think Sony just should have stuck with a 24mp FF solution. 36MP is for the big boys only.

Don't get me wrong a new FF mirror less Sony is very cool, and I would buy one the day it comes out if they did what Fuji did, come out with the camera with 3-4 nice primes. 24/2, 35/2, 50/2, and maybe and 85/2. F2 to keep the size smaller. What I assume is going to happen is it will be literary at least 6 months for most of us to get our hands on the new Zeiss lenses. Heck remember how long it took to get a the E mount 24/1.8 lens? It took forever.

DIGLLOYD: The rumored Zeiss-designed Sony 35mm is an f/2.8 lens. By giving up one stop of brightness, certain aberrations are reduced by 9X, thus a 35/2.8 could in fact offer very high performance. The 35/2 in the Sony RX1R is a full stop faster, but it is also engineered to recess into the camera body (large than it appears), and for a specific sensor. If Zeiss can make a 35/2.8 matching the 35/2 at f/2.8 , then the quality will be as good as anything the Nikon D800E can deliver. So this does not sound disappointing to me at all. With any new camera line, it takes time for the lens lineup to fill out.

The premise that more megapixels exist primarily to capture images with higher pixel dimensions has been the case over the past decade, but it is an error to take that premise forward. Oversampling with more pixels is always higher quality assuming equivalent sensor tech; it is a signal processing and Nyquist sampling situation seen also in the audio world: the best 24MP image is one from a downsampled 36MP sensor (versus a 24MP sensor). So a 72-megapixel NEX could output a 24 or 36 or 48 megapixel raw (or JPEG) files from that sensor, files all but free of digital sampling artifacts. Ditto for any brand.

I’ve already covered the Leica M ideas in my post above. It will be what it is.

Leica Updates Firmware for M Typ 240

I went ahead and updated, and I will report on my experience as I use the camera.

Download the updater from the Updates link on the Leica M page.

Kudos to Leica for stating it plainly “bug fixes”. Most companies can’t own up to reality this way. I experienced some of these bugs myself so I am pleased to see progress. No word on whether camera lockups are banished, or when the VF-4 EVF might be supported (a major attraction, as in blurry and low contrast vs sharp and contrasty), and there is apparently little or no change to various usability issues.

M (Type 240) Firmware Version 2.0.0.11

Improvements in firmware version 2.0.0.11 versus version 1.1.0.2.

Improved performance of the white balance

The accuracy of the white balance presets and the auto white balance function is higher with version 2.0.0.11. This results in better skin tones and better general colour rendering.

Improved Video quality

The visibility of compression artifacts is reduced due to lower video compression.

Lens calibration

For coded Leica lenses, the image homogeneity (colour shift) has been improved.

General fixes

  • Improved stability using Live View, both with and without EVF-2
  • Issue with display settings in combination with “Sharpness high” - fixed
  • Issue with exposures after switching the camera on - fixed
  • The “Auto Power Off” function showed unexpected behavior - fixed
  • The recording dates for video files have been incorrect occasionally - fixed
  • Issue with Copyright and Artist Information in EXIF Data - fixed
  • Improvement of general system stability
  • Several minor bug fixes
Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Leica M Typ 240

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Night Shooting

A common disappointment with ƒ/1.4 lenses is the presence of coma-like effects or sagittal coma flare, the manifestation of which is a smeared “point spread function” away from optical center. It is often accompanied by color halos (particularly violet haloes) all of which degrade image contrast.

Two pages in my review of the 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon speak specifically to the low light shooting capabilities of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon:

Nikon D800E + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/2
Nikon D800E + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/2

Leica R to M Lens Adapter

See also the previous discussion of the Leica R to Leica M lens adapter as well as a mounting plate for the R-adapter M.

Just arrived is the new Leica R-adapter M.

At about $310, one might say that the Leica R-adapter M is expensive. But my experience with other brands of lens adapters make one thing stand out with the Leica offering: the quality is first-class, starting with the packaging and extending (most importantly) to the lens adapter itself (and the tripod mount). Very well done.

A tripod adapter is included along with the lens adapter itself. Even the right sized allen wrench tool for attaching the tripod adapter is included. There is also a small cloth bag for the adapter itself.

Since other adapters already are at around $270, the about $310 price is a bargain for the impressive build quality and exceptional fit and finish, and even more so when one considers the included and sturdy tripod adapter, which is essential for the larger and heavier lenses (the lever arm of even a moderate size R lens exerts a significant torque).

Additional notes and experience are found / will be found on the R-adapter M page in Guide to Leica. Test results will be reported under each lens for the four APO lenses noted in the previous discussion of the Leica R to Leica M lens adapter.

     Leica R-adapter M  
Leica R-adapter M
     
     Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R
Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R   Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R
Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R
Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
(not to scale)

Nikon D610 Makes Solid But Incremental Gains in Performance

Nikon D610 available for pre-order at B&H Photo.

Still no EVF option?

The Nikon D610 looks like a solid incremental advance. But like the new Pentax K3, it is yet another DSLR lacking an EVF option. An EVF is a huge advantage and there is no defensible reason that a DSLR should lack one, nor does an EVF preclude also having an optical viewfinder (OVF).

Why should the advantages of an EVF (which are legion) be restricted to mirrorless cameras? A DSLR could be a “better mirrorless camera”, offering the best of both worlds. The lack of an EVF is a compelling disadvantage to a DSLR, at least for my eyes.

Highlights of the Nikon D610

We might have hoped for a 32-megapixel or 36-megapixel sensor concurrent with a 48 or 46 megapixel Nikon D800E. And will a Nikon D810 be in the offing?

  • Large 24.3 MP FX-format CMOS sensor delivers high quality images and elite low-light performance
  • EXPEED 3 Processing Engine helps provide vivid colors and tonal range
  • 39-point AF utilizing nine cross-type sensors and Scene Recognition System ready to capture each and every fleeting moment
  • New shutter mechanism affords a faster frame rate allowing continuous shooting up to 6 frames-per-second
  • New Quiet Continuous Shutter Mode allows users to shoot discreetly and quietly up to 3 frames-per-second
  • Features a bright optical viewfinder (100% frame coverage) and high resolution 921,000 dot 3.2-inch LCD screen
  • Several Advanced and Creative Modes available including built-in HDR, Time Lapse Mode, Picture Controls
  • Full 1080p HD video at 24p and 30p that can feed 100% full screen, uncompressed video via HDMI to external devices
  • Alongside an optional WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter, users can wirelessly transfer images to a smartphone or tablet for easy social sharing
  • Dual SD memory card slots allow user to dedicate one card to stills, the other to video

Available in late October 2013 in a variety of configurations (pre-order Nikon D610):

  • Body Only ($1999.95 SRP)
  • With AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens ($2599.95 SRP)
  • With AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens, 32 GB Class 10 Memory Card and Large Laptop Bag ($3049.95 SRP)
  • With AF-S NIKKOR 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens, AF-S VR ZOOM-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED Lens, WU-1b Wireless Mobile Adapter, D-SLR Tablet Bag and 32 GB Class 10 Memory Card ($3249.95 SRP)
Nikon D610 frontal view
Nikon D610 frontal view
Nikon D610 top view
Nikon D610 top view
Nikon D610 rear view
Nikon D610 rear view
Nikon D610 rear oblique view
Nikon D610 rear oblique view

MTF of Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Wide Open

See also the overview discussion and Ordering the 55/1.4 and Cross-Platform notes and the mini review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon (free).

Subscribe to Guide to Zeiss for the full review of the 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

MTF charts can give us some indication of the performance of a lens. But don’t confuse the fantasy graphs* from Nikon or Canon or similar with Zeiss MTF charts, which are measured using production lenses at 10/20/40 lp/mm and thus inherently include the effects of diffraction and build variation

This MTF chart wide open at ƒ/1.4 measured with an actual production lens is as good as many lenses ever get when stopped down.

A full MTF apertures series from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16 from a production lens with analysis is found in my review of the 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

* Fantasy-land computed MTF (not from an actual lens) that also does not take diffraction into account.

MTF at ƒ/1.4 for Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon  MEASURED MTF FROM PRODUCTION LENS
MTF at ƒ/1.4 for Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
MEASURED MTF FROM PRODUCTION LENS

24-megapixel Ricoh Pentax K3, and Pentax DA HD Limited Lenses

B&H Photo has K-3 and the HD Limited lenses, which are available for pre-order.

See Pentax reviews in DAP.

See prior notes on the Pentax K-5 IIs, predecessor to the K3.

Pentax has announced the K3, with some innovative features. But the obvious gain is in 50% more pixels and a newer-generation sensor:

K-5 IIs: 16-megapixel sensor 4928 x 3264 at 14 bits
K3:      24-megapixel sensor 6016 X 4000 at 14 bits.

A 24-megapixel sensor that is downsampled to 16 megapixels (oversampling) will generate a higher quality image all but free of digital artifacts.

There are some real innovations in the K3, including the ability to turn the anti-aliasing filter on or off. When on, the anti-shake mechanism is used to blur the image slight (that’s what a fixed anti-aliasing filter does).

To its credit Ricoh Pentax offers several alternative focusing screens, but that is old school; there is one innovation missing: no EVF and no option for an EVF. An OVF (optical viewfinder) is all well and good, but an EVF is a huge advantage and there is no defensible reason that a DSLR should lack one (and it does not preclude an OVF). The signal is already there (to the rear LCD).

Why should the advantages of an EVF (which are legion) be restricted to mirrorless cameras? Not one DSLR has bridged that gap. A DSLR could be a “better mirrorless camera”, offering the best of both worlds. DSLR vendors ought to figure out this before the mirrorless vendors eat their lunch and eye the dinner.

Shown below is the K3 Premium Silver Edition, which includes the D-BG5 Battery Grip and nicer strap. This appears to be the only way to get the silver body.

Pentax K-3 in silver with 15mm f/4 HD lens and battery grip
Pentax K-3 in silver with 15mm f/4 HD lens and battery grip
Pentax K-3 rear of camera
Pentax K-3 rear of camera
Pentax K-3 front of camera without lens
Pentax K-3 front of camera without lens

KEY FEATURES of the Ricoh Pentax K3

  • 24 megapixels in an APS-C sized CMOS sensor
  • Fastest continuous shooting at 8.3FPS
  • Selectable Anti-Aliasing Filter
  • SAFOX11 Autofocus Module
  • Real Time Scene Analysis with 86,000 pixel sensor
  • FLU, Eye-fi Wireless, and SDX Memory card compatibility
  • Professional H.264 video
  • PENTAX body-based Shake Reduction (SR)
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Pentaprism Optical Viewfinder for 100% FOV and .95
    magnification
  • Fully weather sealed
  • Multi-pattern white balance
  • 100-51200 ISO
  • HDMI port
  • HDR Image Capture
  • Magnesium alloy body w stainless steel chassis
Pentax K-3 top of camera
Pentax K-3 top of camera

Pentax HD lenses

See the previous discussion of Pentax HD lenses.

In terms of evaluating lens quality it makes sense to use the K3 for its 50% higher pixel count (22% higher linear resolution). None of the HD lenses have delivered yet, but even so I won’t start testing them until I can obtain the K3. I am hoping Pentax can get me one directly.

     
Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens    Pentax HD lens       Pentax HD lens    Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens    Pentax HD lens   Pentax HD lens
Pentax HD lenses in black or silver

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: The Medium Format Look

See also the overview discussion and Ordering the 55/1.4 and Cross-Platform notes and the mini review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon (free).

Subscribe to Guide to Zeiss.

One of the hallmarks of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon is the “medium format look”. It results from a variety of optical design characteristics, including an exceptional level of correction for all sorts of optical aberrations, which lead to high sharpness and contrast of course. But even more important is the avoidance of distracting effects center to corner and even wide open. It is not hyperbole to say that it is unique in its rendering style and sets a new benchmark.

The medium format look is fully achieved on a full-frame DSLR at equivalent aperture, e.g. ƒ/2 is equivalent to ƒ/2.5 on a 70mm Leica S medium format camera. Yet the 55/1.4 Distagon offers another full stop of creative room and the gap is even wider with other medium format systems.

The examples in the review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon show the effect consistently and with all apertures and under all conditions. When I started shooting the 55/1.4, the images were striking in “jumping off the screen”. No veiling haze, no purple fringes, no uneven sharpness. One gets used to this, and then most other lenses feel disappointing by comparison, though some like the 135/2 APO-Sonnar approach the same level.

Peter Lim writes:

I hope it will have some image features that will shine on the 1Dx. At 18.1Mp I don’t think it will compare well with the higher resolving power of the D800E.

The rewarding thing about the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon is that the visual impact is first and foremost about the transparency and three-dimensionality. The resolving power is a sense a bonus effect for those with high-res camera. Whether the DSLR is 12 or 18 or 22 or 36 megapixels, the 55/1.4 Distagon delights with its image rendition.

Click to view larger. Focus is on the leading trees.

Redwoods, Purissima Creek Nikon D800E + Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Redwoods, Purissima Creek
Nikon D800E + Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/1.4

You really, really, really want this lens more than any lens you ever lusted over.

Clicking through these links gives this site credit:

Buy Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon
Buy Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon for Canon

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Ideal for Video?

See the general discussion of the 55/1.4 Distagon.

Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon

The Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon has bearings for focusing as with cine lenses and a very long focusing throw.

Well, there is no better manual focus experience.

With biting sharpness and spectacular bokeh and superb control of aberrations, think night shooting among other things.

Video users should be all over the Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Subscribe to read the extensive review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Sets a New Metric for Lens Performance to Rival the Best of Medium Format

See also the Ordering the 55/1.4 and Cross-Platform notes and the mini review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon (free).

Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon
Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon

This early discussion of the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon is by special arrangement with Zeiss.

Availability will be very limited, so pre-ordering is essential*. Clicking through these links gives this site credit:

Buy Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon
Buy Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon for Canon

* The ultra high performance design requires that production tolerances be held to rigorous levels, and this is likely to restrict initial availability.

Coverage

The deep coverage in Guide to Zeiss is based on extended usage and deep familiarity with the 55/1.4 by virtue of using a prototype lens over a period of many months (a big thank-you to Zeiss for this opportunity). I’ll be posting more over the next few days also.

In terms of data, Zeiss was rather coy about the 55/1.4, I sense that the team is particularly proud of the resulting lens, the reasons being legion as I soon discovered. Due to the high performance design, production standards are being held to very high levels, and this is likely to restrict supply initially.

I had no hard data on the 55/1.4 from Zeiss until very recently, but I applied my usual diligence, and I think I have documented or shown every strength and every weakness, if a plural meaning can even be applied to the latter. Those in-the-field findings are cross-coupled to some MTF data in certain pages of my review.

Anyone looking to own this alpha-dog-on-steroids lens will find the extensive review coverage of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss very helpful. My work was time consuming and extensive, so I hope that readers out there contemplating this lens will become subscribers. Thank you.

Nearly all images from the 55/1.4 are presented in both HD and Ultra-HD sizes, along with the usual generously sized crops and aperture series.

Never has it been such a challenge to restrain my excitement over a lens that advances optical excellence more than any lens I have ever used: I felt like a puppy on a leash watching a stick being thrown! But the wait is over, and the 55/1.4 Distagon makes images like no other lens can make.

At a time where dubious tradeoffs of true excellence and cost are invariably skewed towards lower cost and against excellence, Zeiss has kept the cost very reasonable in the context of what the 55/1.4 does: it offers a full-throated challenge to medium format cameras with the Nikon D800E, even ignoring future higher resolution DSLRs. Not just resolution but that “medium format look”, every bit the part.

I’ve gone over every detail of the performance of the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon from ergonomics and build quality and focusing to flare and distortion and vignetting, using it beyond its intended focusing range (using an extension tube) to extensive field shooting, to field curvature. And bokeh and apochromatic color correction and rendering quality and focus shift and so on.

I worked hard to find faults with the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon, and I’m pleased to report that I failed (in a way): the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon is the best lens ever made for a DSLR or even for a rangefinder. There is only one other (rangefinder) lens I would put in the same league, and that lens has flare issues.

Which gets me to medium format: this kind of build quality and optical performance is not only as good as the best medium format lenses, it is better than the vast majority. On the 36-megapixel Nikon D800E, it performs beautifully. For future higher resolution DSLRs, the 55/1.4 has optical reserves sure to bring new satisfaction.

I’ve prepared a mini review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon (free).

Black Cat Contemplating a Gopher Dinner Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Black Cat Contemplating a Gopher Dinner
Nikon D800E + Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon T* Specifications
Focal length 54.5mm
Aperture range f/1.4 - ƒ/16
Number of lens elements/groups 12 elements in 10 groups
- floating element design*.
- Double-sided aspherical rear element.
- 2 elements with very low index and dispersion and large positive partial dispersion ratio deviation** +
  4 elements of special glass having negative partial dispersion ratio deviation which together help to improve chromatic correction***.
Focusing range: 0.5 m / 19.68 in - infinity
Free working distance at MOD: 330 mm / 13.2 in (300 mm with hood)
Angular field (diag./horiz./vert.) 43.7°/36.7°/24.9°
Diameter of image field 43.2 mm
Flange focal offset ZF.2: 46,50 mm (1.83′′)
ZE: 44,00 mm (1.73′′)
Coverage at close range (MOD). 36 X 24mm frame 246 x 163 mm = 9.69 x 6.42 in
Image ratio at close range 1:6.8
Filter thread 77mm
Length with caps 142 mm (ZF.2) / 144 mm (ZE)
Diameter max 92.4 mm (lens only), 98.5 mm (hood)
Weight (nominal), ZF.2: ZF.2:  970g / 2.2 lb, 1040g with hood
ZE:   1030g / 2.43 lb, 1120 g with hood
Mounts ZF.2 (F bayonet), ZE (EF bayonet)

* The space between the basic double Gauss and the four-element front group is varied with distance, visible by looking into the lens from the front while turning the focusing ring.

review pages for Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
review pages for Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Portrait  Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/2.8
Portrait
Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/2.8

Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Ordering and Cross-platform Notes

See the extensive review coverage of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss, which is based on extended usage and deep familiarity with the 55/1.4. Subscribe here.

Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon
Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon

Getting one

You really, really, really want this lens more than any lens you ever lusted over.

Clicking through these links gives this site credit:

Buy Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon
Buy Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon for Canon

Availability will be very limited, so pre-ordering is essential*.

* The ultra high performance design requires that production tolerances be held to rigorous levels, and this is likely to restrict initial availability.

Not limited to DSLRs

While the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon is designed for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, it also can be used on the Leica M Typ 240 (as shown in my review), as well as current and future Sony APS-C and full-frame NEX cameras. And because it is a Distagon design, there are no ray angle issues: high resolving power is retained free of color shading issues.

For general cross-brand use, choose the ZF.2 Nikon mount version which can be used with a simple mechanical adapter (ZF.2 version has an aperture ring, the ZE Canon version does not).

Fruit Platter, Yummy Yummy Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Fruit Platter, Yummy Yummy
Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4

Night Owls Should Stay Awake

At 9:00 PM Pacific Time on Sunday October 6.

Night owls will find it apropos.

Nice to finally see it in the light of day, so to speak.

Update: this referred to the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Workflow: Organizing Your Files; Use Lightroom or Aperture or Keep it Simple? Or Both?

Josh I writes:

I remember reading somewhere in one of your blog posts or DAP articles that you do not use a catalog like Lightroom to manage your image files and I was hoping you could elaborate a little on your system.

I've been a Lightroom user for years and I've always used it for file management, but after an unsavory experience with Adobe customer service I am trying to cut as much of their service out of my workflow as possible (have to retain Photoshop for work, but I'm finding alternatives for Premier, InDesign, and Lightroom).

I will likely use Capture One for the majority of my RAW conversions but I dislike their catalog function, hence my interest in alternatives.

DIGLLOYD: Added to DAP is an introduction to organizing your files: is a simple solution better and lower overhead than Lightroom or Aperture or similar programs? What about your dependency on specific software programs and possible migration away from that software? And so on. I share my thoughts as to how I approach the organization of my voluminous shooting and how the best of both worlds is possible, and not in conflict when approached correctly.

Compared: Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Planar vs Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 (X-E1, Cabin Curtains)

Added to Guide to Mirrorless is a comparison of the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.4 Distagon to the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4.

This comparison shows a lot of fine detail at close range.

Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Planar vs Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 (Cabin Curtains).

Ellery Lake Abandoned Green House Fujifilm X-E1 + Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Planar @ ƒ/2.8
Kitchen Curtains in Cabin #9
Fujifilm X-E1 + Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Planar @ ƒ/2.8

Leica R to M Lens Adapter

Leica is sending me one of the first Leica R-adapter M units soon (about $310), which I will put to use testing these four Leica R lenses on the Leica M Typ 240:

Coverage will go into Guide to Leica.

The first order of effort will be to assess the practical issues of using the M240 with the adapter; handheld but also in a tripod scenario. Then there is assessing how well the R lenses actually perform on the M240 sensor, including especially flare or reflections, which can be an issue for traditional DSLR lenses uses on digital sensors.

     
     Leica R-adapter M  
Leica R-adapter M

Leica’s description. Note that it is practical for use only on the Leica M Typ 240, which has a Live View feature.

The R-Adapter M from Leica enables Leica R lenses to be mounted on the Leica M series cameras. It can attach R lenses to any M-series digital camera, such as the M-E or M Monochrom, however with the M Digital Rangefinder's Live View capability, use of the R lenses is optimized.

There are no electronic or mechanical functions between camera and lens that are bridged by the adapter, however, when the adapter is attached to the M camera, a list of 20 dedicated R lens profiles is made available on the camera, including EXIF lens recognition and calibrated imaging workflows for each lens.

While all R lenses can be mounted to the M camera with this adapter, only the last generation of R lenses can receive digital corrections, such as the reduction of corner vignetting, via the adapter.

This adapter opens up the creative doors for the Leica M by making available numerous R series lenses, including zoom lenses. Combine this adapter with an optional electronic viewfinder and you can shoot your M Digital rangefinder like a DSLR, including video capture.

I had the foresight (or dumb luck) to buy these four APO lenses back when no one wanted Leica R glass any more. I just finished reversing the Leitax to Nikon mount conversion on the 100mm and the 180mm so that now all four lenses are back on Leica R mount, ready for testing on the Leica M Typ 240.

  • Reportedly the 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R is optically the same as the 'M' version, an idea I like, since I prefer the ergonomics of the R version (and I don’t have the M version).
  • The 100mm macro offers a superb macro lens for the Leica M Typ 240 with a stop more speed than the Leica 90mm f/4 macro.
  • The 180mm is a perfect companion to the 90mm and is not so large or heavy to preclude regular use. It has terrific penetrating power for dusk shots.
  • The 280mm is quite a lens, but also quite a committment to carry and focus. Still it is a relatively compact package for that kind of reach.

With Live View focusing on the Leica M Typ 240, all of these lenses are now eminently usable options (even more so once Leica updates the M240 to support the VF-4 high-res EVF, since the VF-2 is marginal).

     
     Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R
Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R   Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R
Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R
Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R
(not to scale)

Canon 200-400mm

Canon USA has graciously agreed to send me the EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender for evaluation (about $11799).

It looks like one heck of a lens! I’m hoping to “shoot” some Bighorn sheep and perhaps some antlered mule deer bucks, in addition to various landscape stuff.

     
     Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender  
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender

Description

As per Canon.

High-performance super-telephoto zoom lens with a built-in 1.4x extender that converts the focal range and maximum aperture to 280-560mm f/5.6. The extender is located at the base of the lens and applied with a simple lever switch.

An Image Stabilization system offers up to four shutter speed stops of compensation against camera movement, which is ideal in low-light situations and when shooting at its long focal lengths. Three IS modes are available, each optimized for your shooting subject. There is a mode ideal for static subjects, one for panning with moving subjects and Exposure Only mode that applies stabilization only during exposure, offering you the speed you need to follow fast, erratically moving subjects.

Fast, quiet Auto Focusing (AF) is provided by a ring-type Ultra-Sonic Motor (USM), an internal focusing system, dedicated AF algorithms and a high-speed CPU. Full-time manual focus, which enables the adjustment and fine-tuning of focus even in AF mode, provides precise control over image capture. The Power Focus mode aids focusing during video shooting, allowing the photographer to smoothly adjust focus during filming by twisting the playback ring.

Three Focus Limiting Ranges are provided to enable quicker AF in specific situations and AF stop buttons allow you to pause the AF operation if needed. Focus Preset mode allows you to set a focus distance and automatically return to it with just a twist of the playback ring. Focus Preset is available in AF, MF and PF modes.

The EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens features one Fluorite and four Ultra-low Dispersion optical elements that deliver sharper images with fewer chromatic aberrations. Super-spectra lens coatings minimize ghosting and flare and a Fluorine coating on the front and rear lens elements keep oily smears and fingerprints to a minimum.

A rotatable tripod mount provides stable mounting to monopods or tripods and by loosening its orientation locking knob, the camera can be adjusted to shoot horizontally or vertically without removing it from the tripod. Inside the locking knob is found a security slot for wire-type security locks. Dust and water sealing keeps this reliable L-series lens functioning flawlessly in even the most challenging environments.

In addition to its standard accessories, included with this lens are a monopod mount, lens strap, hard case and case strap.

Image Stabilization

Four stops of shake correction are provided by the lens' Image Stabilization system which delivers clearer images when shooting in low light situations, when your footing is uncertain or when fast shutter speeds are unobtainable.

This lens has three stabilization modes: Standard, Panning and Exposure Only modes.

Standard mode (Mode 1) compensates for vibrations in all directions and is effective when shooting static subjects.

Panning mode (Mode 2) corrects vertical or horizontal shake depending on the orientation of the camera and is best when panning with moving subjects.

Exposure Only mode (Mode 3) applies shake correction only during image exposure and is best used when needing to follow a fast and erratically moving subject.

The IS system can also be turned off, and this is best when image stabilization is not needed, such as shooting on a tripod in bright light.

Fast and Accurate Autofocus

With an internal focusing system, Ultra-sonic motor (USM), high speed CPU and optimized AF algorithms, the 200-400mm f/4L provides fast, smooth and pinpoint accurate autofocus for use in a variety of applications.

Internal 1.4x Extender Switch

A built-in 1.4x optical extender allows you to extend the focal range of your lens with just a simple lever, avoiding time-consuming and potentially damaging lens changes. Located at the base of the lens, the extender has a lock mechanism that is easily disengaged to let you engage the extender. With the extender in place, the focal lengths of your lens increase to 280-560mm but the aperture narrows to f/5.6-45. With the extender engaged, the lens now contains 33 optical elements in 24 groups, its maximum magnification is 0.21x and its diagonal angle of view is 8º-50' to 4º-25'.

Focus Distance Range

You can set the focus limiting range to three distinct ranges for faster, more accurate autofocusing. The three ranges are: Full (6.56' to infinity); 6.56 to 19.69'; 19.69' to infinity.

Power Focus Mode

Using the playback ring, the Power Focus mode enables smooth, automatic focus shifts which are essential when using the EF 200-400mm f/4 for filmmaking. There are two speeds available in Power Focus Mode.

Focus Preset

It is possible to establish a preset focus distance and return to it immediately at any point while in AF, PF or MF modes with a simple left or right twist of the playback ring.
AF Stop Button

  • Four AF Stop Buttons located on the front grip ring allow you to temporarily pause autofocusing.
  • One fluorite and four UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) lens elements correct for chromatic aberrations and provide sharp imaging throughout the zoom range.
  • Optimized lens placement and coatings deliver outstanding color balance, while helping to minimize ghosting and flare.
  • 9-Blade Circular Aperture design helps to deliver beautiful, soft backgrounds.
  • Rotatable tripod mount is built into the lens and by loosening the orientation locking knob on the tripod mount you can rotate the camera for horizontal or vertical imaging without removing it from the tripod.
  • Drop-In Filter rear 52(WII)-series drop-in filter holder is included with the lens and allows you to place separately sold pre-cut gelatin filters into the back end of the lens for specific applications.
  • Water and Dust Resistant to dust and moisture and ready for shooting in harsh conditions.
  • Fluorine Coating on front and rear lens surfaces reduces smears and fingerprints.
  • Security Slot provided for a wire-type security lock. The slot is located under the cover of the orientation locking knob. The wire-type security lock can be purchased separately.

Ricoh GR Firmware Update

Ricoh has released a firmware update for the Ricoh GR. I ran the update successfully on my GR—no issues. I named the Ricoh GR camera of the year.

No word on whether the update fixes the circular ring artifacts I reported on*. I’m planning on some field shooting soon to check on this.

I supplied Ricoh with two DNG files showing the issue back on September 12th. No word yet other than a response acknowledging receipt of the files and the report.

     
     Ricoh GR  
Ricoh GR

Eastern Sierra Nevada Weather and Travel Conditions, Now with Two Webcams

Dennis Mattinson’s 395Travel.com offers great information on one of my favorite haunts: the eastern California Sierra Nevada and California White Mountains area.

Dennis writes:

I have been working with my friends over at Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District on placing two cameras atop one of the Inyo’s highest peaks.

Views from the Dry Owens Lake (Lone Pine area) all the way to Bishop and beyond! The cams are available from our home page under Owens Valley South / Owens Valley North on the left side menu. The view is awesome anytime.

DIGLLOYD: See the Owens Valley North Cam and Owens Valley South Cam pages and/or the Google map.

Great near the environmental disaster known as Owens Lake e.g., the toxic dust created from Los Angeles diverting the water supply, though recent court-ordered inflows have helped. As per Wikipedia (and my eyes in driving past it en route to Death Valley):

More commonly, periodic winds stir up noxious alkali dust storms that carry away as much as four million tons (3.6 million metric tons) of dust from the lakebed each year, causing respiratory problems in nearby residents.

395Travel.com
395Travel.com: web cam from Owens Valley north
395Travel.com
395Travel.com

Sony QX100 and QX10 Digital Camera Modules for Smartphones

Sony QX10 Camera Module for smartphone
Sony QX10 Camera Module for smartphone

Sony is shipping the new Sony QX100 and Sony QX10 “digital camera modules” for smartphones. These devices attach to the phone (or can be held separately), and transmit images to the phone wirelessly, for both shooting/framing and recording.

I applaud Sony’s innovation and indeed the mindset that even allows it to happen (versus most other camera brands). It is good to see such risks taken, it is good that such trial balloons are wafted.

But given that the QX100 costs as much as a real standalone real camera, and given the Sony RX100 II which also has wireless connectivity, and given its price and limitations and extra bulk and ergonomic issues, I see it more as a curiosity than as a tool I’d want to use.

Another unexpected and disappointing wrinkle is that the QX100 shoots JPEG only, so it’s not even a real replacement if one actually wants top image quality. Compromises are fine, and on that account I’d rather just shoot the camera built-in to my smartphone, and these just keep getting better. The camera smartphone has equally terrible ergonomics, but it fits into my pocket with ease.

It is the right blend of features that attracts me; here I see the QX100 as unappealing. Hence the fantastic attraction of the Ricoh GR and Sony RX1R and Sony RX100: each of those fulfill certain uses exceptionally well.

Sony QX100 Camera Module for smartphone
Sony QX100 Camera Module for smartphone

Canon Rebates, new Apple iMac, Nikon AW1 Waterproof Camera, Panasonic GX7

New items at B&H:

There are rebates and instant savings on Canon Speedlites and numerous Canon lenses.

A range of colors tested on the Canon PIXMA Pro-10 printer
Representative range of colors tested on the Canon PIXMA Pro-10 printer

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