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In Motion There is Great Potential

Leica v2016 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH Assessment of Focus Shift at MOD

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/2.8 Emarit-M ASPH

See also the evaluation with the Leica v2016 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH. The two studies together also provide additional insight between the lenses, such as performance at f/2.8 between the lenses.

One of the first things I check for with any new lens is focus shift, because it’s so critical a factor. This assessment is at minimum object distance (MOD) with the 2016 version of the Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH:

Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH Focus Shift Evaluation at MOD (Dolls, M240)

This is useful for anyone considering the 2016 Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH or the 2016 Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH.

See also my review of the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and review of the prior Leica 28/2 and review of the prior 28/2.8.

 

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Leica v2016 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPHAssessment of Focus Shift at MOD

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH

Significant focus shift inflicts serious damage to image sharpness where intended/desired and thus makes obtaining optimal results on high-res digital cameras much more challenging.

I’m often asked “which lens is sharper”. This is a complex question that involves many factors, but focus shift is the elephant in the room with some lenses, ignored when talking about sharpness.

Accordingly, one of the first things I check for with any new lens is focus shift, because it’s so critical a factor. This assessment is at minimum object distance (MOD) with the 2016 version of the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH:

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH Focus Shift Evaluation at MOD (Dolls, M240)

This is a MUST READ for anyone considering the 2016 Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH, whether it’s the 2016 version or its predecessor.

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Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Close Range, Dolls (645Z)

  Pentax 645Z   
Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 AL IF

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 35mm f/3.5 at B&H Photo.

In field of view and depth of field terms, the Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] is equivalent to a 27.3mm f/2.8 lens as compared to a full frame DSLR (using the long side of the frame). At about $1599 it offers high performance at relatively modest cost. Highly recommended for Pentax 645Z shooters.

The Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF]offers a close focus capability down to 1:4 which means that for its 43.8mm X 32.8mm sensor it can capture an image field of width 175.2mm.

This scene as captured is ~380mm wide, hence the reproduction ratio is about 1:8.6 at a subject to front lens element distance of ~12 inches, ~14 inches from subject to sensor plane.

Does image quality as seen in the landscape analysis also hold up at close range?

Pentax ID 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Dolls, Close Range

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP along with very large crops, at f/3.5, f/5.6, f/9, f/13, f/16 plus RawDigger exposure info and ACR conversion settings.

  Pentax 645Z  
Dolls
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Sony A6300: Oversampling for 4K Video Quality

Get Sony A6300 at B&H Photo.

I discussed the Sony A6300 a few days ago.

Over the years I have discussed the image quality gains to be had with oversampling, namely higher per pixel quality. For example, a 50-megapixel camera like the Canon 5DS R actually beats the leica M Monochrome when compared at 24 megapixels—an existence proof of the benefits of oversampling.

Now along comes the Sony A6300 and what caught my eye is the fact that there is no cropping of its APS-C sensor when shooting 4K video.

Rather, Sony employs oversampling in the A6300, utilizing the entire 6000 pixel width of the sensor to deliver 3840-pixel 4K UHD video [the 2.4X refers to area, since (6000/3840)^2 = 2.44].

Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the Super35mm recording area and effective 20MP (6000 x 3376) resolution, 2.4x oversampling renders greater detail and full pixel readout is possible, that is void of pixel binning, for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing.

What this means (assuming excellent downsampling code) is very high quality video, with reduced digital artifacts and reduced noise. Possibly there could be moiré issues or similar in some cases, but never in my still photography have I seen this to be a problem, so I expect that the quality will be outrageously good.

Contrast the $998 Sony A6300 to the approach of the far more expensive Canon 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 and D500 in their flagship cameras: a heavily cropped sensor area for 4K video. Since the sensors are full frame to begin with, the area used for 4K video will be similar, but it should be interesting to see if the A6300 delivers superior video quality. I expect that it will be superior by dint of reducing digital artifacts by dint of the downsamping from 6000 to 3840 pixels width, a benefit that I show (in essence) in all my reviews in the images derived from full-res.

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Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series @ 28mm: Pescadero Creek Upstream Blue (645Z)

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 at B&H Photo.

The Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR is equivalent to a 23-36mm lens on a full frame DSLR (long frame dimension).

At about $4697 it’s a substantial investment, but it does cover a very useful range. The main thing is that it is huge and heavy, much more so than its 35mm f/3.5 sibling.

This outdoor far-field scene explores the consistency of sharpness across the field and near to far at the 28mm zoom setting. There is a lot to learn from this scene as to the lens behavior.

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Upstream Blue

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP , along with very large crops, at f/4.5, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 plus RawDigger exposure info.

  Pentax 645Z  
Pescadero Creek, Upstream Blue
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Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series @ 45mm: Riparian Forest (645Z)

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 at B&H Photo.

The Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR is equivalent to a 23-36mm lens on a full frame DSLR (long frame dimension).

At about $4697 it’s a substantial investment, but it does cover a very useful range. The main thing is that it is huge and heavy, much more so than its 35mm f/3.5 sibling.

This outdoor far-field scene explores the consistency of sharpness across the field at a uniform distance at the 45mm zoom setting, giving an excellent insight into what apertures are required for peak quality.

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series: Riparian Forest

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP , along with very large crops, at f/4.5, f/5.6, f/9, f/11 plus RawDigger exposure info.

This finely detailed image cries out for viewing on the iMac 5K (or at least a 4K display) so as to render the fine details of twigs and bark and moss in a far more compelling way than a standard display.

  Pentax 645Z  
Riparian Forest along Pescadero Creek
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Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Upstream, Late Blue Dusk (645Z)

  Pentax 645Z   
Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 AL IF

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 35mm f/3.5 at B&H Photo.

I last looked at the Pentax 645Z back in 2014; see my in-depth review of the Pentax 645Z and/or view Pentax 645Z and 645D and Pentax medium format lens coverage.

In field of view and depth of field terms, the Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] is equivalent to a 27.3mm f/2.8 lens as compared to a full frame DSLR (using the long side of the frame).

At about $1599 the Pentax HD 35/3.5 offers high performance at relatively modest cost. Field shooting suggest that it is significantly better corrected than its 55mm f/2.8 sibling (about $925). In particular, field curvature is well controlled, and with only modest peripheral focus shift.

This aperture series with the new Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL IF yields highly useful insights into the performance of this relatively modestly priced wide angle lens for the Pentax 645Z or Pentax 645D. I think it will go a long way to answering questions about its performance capabilities.

Pentax ID 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Upstream, Late Blue Dusk

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP in both color and black and white*, along with very large crops, at f/3.5, f/5, f/6.3, f/9, f/11 plus RawDigger exposure info.

* Black and white conversion settings also shown.

  Pentax 645Z  
Pescadero Creek, Upstream View, Late Dusk
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  Pentax 645Z  
Pescadero Creek, Upstream View, Late Dusk
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Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

iMac 5K for Stunning Black and White Images

B&H has up to $200 of Apple 2015 MacBook and 13" MacBook Pro models.
Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the MPG computer gear wishlist and read the MPG review of the late 2015 iMac 5K.

Last week, I described the thrilling viewing experience of the wide gamut 14.7-megapixel display of the late 2015 iMac 5K.

Last night I happened to be reviewing some of my Leica MM Type 246 black and white images and I was enthralled: I have never seen black and white look that good before. Jaw dropping in detail and contrast—no print can touch that visual impact of a transmissive display. The contrast of the iMac 5K display adds a whole bump up in visual impact over other types of displays.

Some black and white examples:

View the 4320 sizes for nearly a perfect fit on screen, or go all the way to full-res.

Viewing a 4320-pixel image on the iMac 5K display

Sony Diffraction-Free Computed Fantasy MTF

Get Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM at B&H Photo.

I have little doubt that the new Sony 85/1.4 GM, Sony 24-70/2.8 GM and 70-200/2.8 GM OSS will be excellent, perhaps even outstanding (particularly the 85/1.4). The new lenses might even turn out to be superior to the equivalent Nikon and Canon lenses given the technology involved.

Sony’s press discussion places very strong emphasis on MTF of 50 line pairs per mm (lp/mm) in the new G Master (GM) lenses. So what’s with this 85/1.4 MTF 'picture' on the Sony web site?

  • Sony MTF is at 10 and 30 lp/mm... where is the 50 lp/mm stuff emphasized so strongly in the Sony press conference? What a strange disconnect. MTF at 50 lp/mm (or even 40) is far more demanding.
  • Sony MTF is computed from a design, not measured from a real lens. Real lenses have to be built, and can at best only approach the theoretical computed performance and only if built to perfection. When actual lenses are examined (like the 90/2.8 and 35/1.4), real images may paint a rather different picture.
  • Sony MTF does not take diffraction into account. While this has little bearing on the f/1.4 chart, the f/8 chart is pure fantasy (impossible). It tells us to expect strong performance at f/8, but it does not tell us what a real lens measured will deliver. At f/8, MTF of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (best 35mm lens ever made) even at 40 lp/mm falls short of 80% MTF. So this Sony chart hugely undermines Sony credibility—it’s not real. Furthermore, internal reflections can drop MTF at f/8 significantly in some conditions: let’s see measured results from a *real* lens Sony.

It’s worth pointing out the Zeiss delivers MTF charts that are measured from real lenses on the K8 tester using the appropriate thickness sensor cover glass (while in Oberkochen I was shown how it’s done). But Leica to this day publishes computed MTF that does not even take sensor glass into account, which is why MTF for the new 28mm f/2 (and 28/2.8) does not look better than the prior version—yet the new Leica 28mm lenses are tweaked to perform assuming a digital sensor cover glass. Sigma does well, offering both geometric and diffraction MTF, but Canon and Nikon show fantasy MTF like Sony.

Observe (below) that the claimed MTF for the Sony 85/1.4 GM is on balance claimed to be nearly as good as the MTF of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar.

MTF for Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM
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Sony’s Take on the Camera Market

Get Sony A6300 B&H Photo.

Sony states that its business is up 40% YOY. Sony says it’s about:

To create the whole new imaging experience that has never existed before.

Sony is succeeding, and they’re just warming up from what I can tell.

While I have much to fault Sony for, Sony aggresively improves its products with every iteration (some work is needed on ergonomics for sure). CaNikon should be more worried than ever. Ditto for every other brand because the camera business is about the volume that makes the technological R&D possible. While CaNikon take 3-5 years to deliver relatively minor updates in dinosaur DSLRs, Sony pushes strongly ahead every year with increasingly impressive features—incredibly impressive in context.

Sony says that the A6000 was the #1 selling camera of any kind (above $600, more than any DSLR or mirrorless camera, see video ~6:00).

With the new Sony A6300, Sony says it offers “world’s fastest and most tenacious autofocus system with coverage density that no separate autofocus module can match”. This is not just a warning shot across the bow to CaNikon, it’s a laser-drilled hole just above waterline. The technology pieces could come together within a year to blow CaNikon out of the water even in their prized sports-shooter market. Look at the core specs in focus points, frame rate, continous Live View at 8fps (very low blackout), etc and now imagine a higher-end camera released with a super tele or two, perhaps at 20 fps with near zero blackout and a thousand focus-tracking sensors.

Best 4K video from 20 megapixels (6K signal): “14 stop dynamic range delivers the best 4K video quality from Sony EVER in a consumer camera”. See video ~11:00.

Only a very foolish competitor would look at the Sony A6300 and not see the writing on the wall; it’s a test bed for higher-end products.

 
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Sony A6300, and the Fujifilm X-Pro2

Get Sony A6300 and Fujifilm X-Pro2 B&H Photo.

Sony says that the A6000 was the #1 selling mirrorless camera ever.

And so the about $998 Sony A6300 is a particularly intriguing camera in the context of the $1699 Fujifilm X-Pro2. Same resolution, a lot lower price, and key differentiators. These things and much more are well worth considering before taking the plunge.

Video: The Sony A6300 has advanced 4K video features; the X-Pro2 has no 4K video at all. I’ll put it simply: 4K video from Sony mirrorless is fabulous on my 4K TV, jaw-dropping. I just cannot see buying a mirrorless camera that shoots 1/4 the pixels (1080p) instead of 4K UltraHD. Moroever the Sony A6300 uses 2.4X oversampling (1.56X linearly) for quality gains. If all you want is 1080p, the A6300 does 120 fps; the Fujifilm X-Pro2 only does 60 fps. Game over on the video front. Plus there are the Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras for a growth path.

Lenses: I prefer to invest in lenses with a future: the lenses I want cover full frame (Zeiss Batis, Zeiss Loxia and some Sony lenses) whereas Fujifilm X lenses cover APS-C—no future there. Invest in a good lens once, keep using it for years to come. Fujifilm X lenses are a “start over” system should Fujifilm get around to full frame, and the Fujifilm lens line, while superb, is no longer superior to choices for Sony mirrorless.

Image quality: Fujifilm color is gorgeous. But the fractal-like digital artifacts show up at unwanted times with every Fujifilm body (image specific), since they all share the same solution-in-search-of-a-problem X-Trans sensor. I’ll happily take the Sony sensor any day.

Focus points: more than the X-Pro2 and Sony claims the world’s fastest focus. Sony says “world’s fastest and most tenacious autofocus system with coverage that no separate autofocus module can match”. This is not just a warning shot across the bow to CaNikon, it’s a laser-drilled hole just above waterline: the technology pieces could come together within a year to blow CaNikon out of the water even in their prized sports-shooter market. Wither my 56-megapixel Nikon D900 with an EVF?

Bottom line: the Sony A6300 offers a ton of value for a lot less money than the X-Pro2, and there is a clear path forward with Sony, which is aggressively expanding its product line. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 buyer needs very specific reasons to proceed down that path (“I shoot stills only and I love the controls and shooting experience). [I definitely do not love the shooting experience for my shooting style, but maybe it will be fixed in the X-Pro2].

  • 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-Dot OLED EVF
  • 3.0" 921.6k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
  • Internal UHD 4K30 & 1080p120 Recording
  • S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function
  • Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC
  • 4D FOCUS with 425 Phase-Detect Points
  • Up to 11 fps Shooting and ISO 51200

Sony A6300 as described by Sony

Key points highlighted.

Fast-focusing and 4K-shooting, the Alpha a6300 from Sony is a versatile APS-C-format mirrorless digital camera designed for multimedia image-makers.

Revolving around a redeveloped 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor, clean image quality is provided with a wide expandable sensitivity range to ISO 51200, along with accelerated readout speeds for internal 4K30 and Full HD 1080p120 video recording with full pixel readout.

Stills shooters also benefit from the apt processing speed, which enables continuous shooting at 11 fps for up to 21 raw frames in a burst, as well as 14-bit raw file output. Complementing both stills and video, the sensor and processor combination also avails 4D FOCUS, which combines a wide-coverage 425-point phase-detection system with a 169-area contrast detection system for quick and precise focusing performance. This focusing system also enables High-density Tracking AF for more efficient and accurate tracking of moving subjects across the image frame. A well-rounded camera for both photographers and videographers, the a6300 is characterized by its speed and further qualified by its refined image and video quality.

Complementing the imaging assets, the a6300 also sports a robust magnesium alloy body that is dust and moisture-resistant to permit working in harsh environments. The compact profile incorporates a high-resolution XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder for bright, clear, eye-level viewing, and this EVF features a 120 fps viewing mode for smooth tracking of fast-moving subjects. A rear 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD monitor is also available and has a tilting design to benefit shooting from high and low working angles. Additionally, for wireless remote control over the camera, or for just sharing imagery online, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC permits linking with a mobile device for intuitive wireless control.

24.2MP Exmor CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Processor

The APS-C-format 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor pairs with the BIONZ X image processor to realize smooth, nuanced image quality with minimal noise and high sensitivity from ISO 100-25600, which can further be expanded to ISO 51200 for working in low-light conditions. The sensor features a unique design that utilizes thin copper wiring and enhanced circuit processing to boost light-gathering abilities, reduce noise, and increase readout speeds to benefit video recording. The sensor and processor combination also avails a top continuous shooting rate of 11 fps for up to 21 raw frames in a single burst with AF and AE, 8 fps shooting in live view, and permits 14-bit raw file output for a wider tonal and color scale.

4D FOCUS

Covering nearly the entire sensor area, a powerful 4D FOCUS system incorporates 425 on-chip phase-detection points along with 169 contrast-detection areas for precise focusing in as little as 0.05 seconds. The density of focusing points from this hybrid AF system also enables High-density Tracking AF Technology, which is adept at tracking moving subjects in a variety of lighting conditions. The use of phase-detection points also enables the use of A-mount lenses via the optional LA-EA3 or LA-EA1 lens mount adapters with full AF compatibility.

The apt 4D FOCUS system also lends itself to a variety of focusing functions for refined accuracy, including Lock-on AF, which maintains focus on moving subjects throughout the use of a configurable frame that is set over the desired moving subject, and Expand Flexible Spot, which employs neighboring focus points to retain focus on moving subjects even if the originally selected point loses focus. Additionally, Eye AF can be used to base focus on recognized subjects' eyes for portraits and is available in both AF-S and AF-C modes. Autofocus can also be used in conjunction with the Focus Magnifier function for critical focus when homing in on minute subject details.

In addition to autofocus, the a6300 also features a Peaking MF function to benefit manual focus control by highlighted sharp edges of contrast for a more objective means of acquiring sharp focus.

UHD 4K Video Recording

Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the Super35mm recording area and effective 20MP (6000 x 3376) resolution, 2.4x oversampling renders greater detail and full pixel readout is possible, that is void of pixel binning, for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing. Full HD 1080p recording is also supported in frame rates up to 120 fps, and both resolutions utilize the 100 Mbps XAVC S format contained within an MP4 wrapper with 4:2:0 sampling. The high-speed, 120 fps recording also enables 4x and 5x slow-motion movie recording with the frame rate set to either 30p or 24p. In addition to high-resolution internal recording, uncompressed HDMI output also enables the use of an optional external recorder for clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.

Custom Color Profiles and S-Log3 Gamma

Support is available for the S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log-3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3 profiles that enable up to a 1300% wider dynamic range for smoother tonal and color gradations, along with enhanced sensitivity and clarity in shadows and mid-tones. These profiles also lend themselves to greater compatibility within a professional workflow and are well-paired to the Cineon Log gamma curve for versatile post-production grading and color control. The S-Log3 gamma setting also offers an impressive 14-stop wide dynamic range for greater control over the highlights and shadows, while the S-Gamut3.Cine profile can be used to mimic the qualities of scanned negative film with a wide gamut comparable to the DCI-P3 color space. Additionally, the popular S-Log2 setting is also available.

Zebra and Gamma Display Assist

An enhanced Zebra function is ideally suited to working with S-Log gamma profiles and aids in monitoring exposure values in high-contrast scenes. Video signal level targets can be set from 0 to 109, and specific ranges can be set to make exposure level adjustments easier.

In contrast, a Gamma Display Assist function is also available that displays scenes with natural contrast when recording with S-Log settings. This function converts imagery to the ITU709 profile for easier on-camera monitoring.

Time Code and User Bit Settings

A time code can be used to record hours, minutes, seconds, frames on image data for more precise editing while the User Bit function can record date, time, and scene number to aid in editing together footage from multiple cameras.

Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

  • A robust magnesium alloy body offers a durable profile, and also incorporates dust and moisture seals to protect against harsh environments.
  • The XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder offers a bright, high-resolution means for eye-level monitoring, and also sports a dedicated 120 fps mode for smoother viewing when tracking moving subjects.
  • A 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD screen can be tilted 90° upward or 45° downward to suit working from high and low angles. The screen also incorporates White Magic technology with an RGBW pixel structure for increased brightness to support use in daylight conditions.
  • Nine customizable buttons can be set to control more than 64 functions for more intuitive handling.
  • The included NP-FW50 rechargeable lithium-ion is rated for 350 shots per charge when working with the viewfinder, or 400 shots per charge with the LCD screen.
  • In addition to the battery, the a6300 can also be powered via a USB connection to a computer or mobile battery. This connection can also be used to charge the battery.
  • A rigid metal lens mount better supports working with larger, heavier lens designs.
    An ergonomic grip structure is ideal for long shooting sessions and facilitates easy access to the main control buttons and dials.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi enables the a6300 to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera's shutter.
  • PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera's features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

Other Camera Features

  • A Silent Shooting mode makes use of an electronic shutter function for completely silent performance that is ideal for photographing in noise-sensitive areas. When using this mode, up to 3 fps continuous shooting is available with autofocus and auto-exposure.
  • Multi Frame NR records consecutive images at a reduced ISO sensitivity and then composites them into a single image to realize higher effective sensitivity with minimal image noise.
  • Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.
  • Auto HDR automatically records three sequential frames of an image and composites them into a single frame to realize greater shadow and highlight detail with an extended range of mid-tones.
  • An advanced 1200-zone evaluative exposure metering sensor delivers consistent and accurate results using multi-segment, center-weighted, or spot metering modes.
  • When working with ISO Auto settings, you can configure a minimum shutter speed setting to better ensure sharp imagery.
  • Clear Image Zoom can be used to magnify the center of scenes by 2x to effectively extend the reach of any focal length lens. This digital zoom technology uses an intelligent interpolation process to minimize the amount of image degradation in order to produce realistic, high-quality images.
  • Picture Effect: Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R, G, B, Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.
  • Creative Style: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia; contrast, saturation, and sharpness can be adjusted across +/- 3 steps.
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Ming’s Queenstown Landscape Workshop

Due to a cancellation Ming Thein has a spot left in his Queenstown Landscape Workshop. Ming is a sharp guy; if you’re looking for something outside the usual photo class box, this opportunity may be for you!

Time for something different. This April, I’m offering more than a workshop: an intensive experience to raise your photography to the next level. The focus will be on landscape, in and around Queenstown, New Zealand. We (I) will be driving a lot, bringing you to locations I discovered on my last trip to both explore and develop your own work. But here’s the kicker: the workshop will limited to just three participants, and is inclusive of 4*+ accommodation and ground transport costs. It’s something I’ve been asked for in the past, but didn’t make much sense unless going to a location where driving/ground transport is necessary and we have much range to cover...

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Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

Get Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM at B&H Photo.

Is this 24-70mm f/2.8 GM the nail in the coffin for Canon and Nikon in terms of mainstream shooters? CaNikon still offers no meaningful mirrorless anything and the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II being niche cameras, the Sony onslaught continues. The 'game' approaches the 4th quarter.

With the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM and Sony 35mm f/1.4 and Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia and Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM, the vast majority of shooting scenarios are now covered for wedding and portrait photographers, most landscape shooting, and all other common and mainstream uses.

Still lacking are high quality wide angle lenses (11-18mm range), high grade 50mm and 135mm primes, and super teles. But with a high-grade 24-70/2.8 and a high-grade 85/1.4, the bread is now buttered.

I’ll be testing the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM as soon as B&H receives them. The optical specifications look good, assuming the lens is built with quality control that avoids symmetry issues.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • One XA Element, Two Aspherical Elements
  • One ED Element, One Super ED Element
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Direct Drive SSM Focus System
  • Internal Focus Design
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm

A fast standard zoom favored for its versatility, the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is a wide-angle to short telephoto lens designed for E-mount mirrorless cameras. Featuring a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, this lens maintains consistent performance throughout the zoom range and benefits working in low-light conditions and with selective focus techniques.

Complementing the apt light-gathering capabilities is an equally impressive optical design, which incorporates three aspherical elements and two extra-low dispersion elements. One of the aspherical elements features an XA (extreme aspherical) designation, ensuring its refined surface precision and notable ability to minimize spherical aberrations throughout the zoom range. Additionally, a Nano AR Coating has been applied to individual elements to significantly minimize lens flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality. Pairing a sophisticated optical design and versatile speed, this standard zoom is well-suited for use in a wide array of environments and lighting conditions.

Beyond the attributes of the lens system itself, this 24-70mm is also characterized by a Direct Drive SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) system that provides fast, quiet AF performance as well as responsive manual focus handling. The lens is also dust- and moisture-sealed, to permit working in inclement weather conditions, and nuanced details, such as a focus hold button and rubberized control dials, further the intuitiveness in handling.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • Covering wide-angle to portrait-length perspectives, this standard 24-70mm zoom is designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras and is also compatible with APS-C models, where it will provide a 36-105mm equivalent focal length range.
  • Constant f/2.8 maximum aperture maintains consistent performance from wide-angle to telephoto focal length positions and also contributes to greater selective focus control.
  • Of the three aspherical elements incorporated in the lens design, one is an XA element with superior surface precision to effectively reduce astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other monochromatic aberrations from imagery.
  • One extra-low dispersion element and one Super ED element are featured in the lens design, too, and help to control chromatic aberrations and reduce color fringing for increased clarity and color fidelity.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • A rounded nine-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing shallow depth of field techniques.
  • A Direct Drive SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • A dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures

Jason W writes:

The 24-70mm GM is great, but it's a drop in the bucket. They could re-brand Canon L glass at this point and sell it 20% off and it wouldn't ameliorate brand trust or lack of a credible service department.

And while Sony dominates sensors, I'm not seeing the dent in Canon or Nikon camera sales, even with their lack of entry into the pro mirrorless segment.

A recent Japanese report showed that Sony, previously #1 in mirrorless, was beaten by Olympus last year. What's going on out there?

DIGLLOYD: the “drop in the bucket” comment is not credible: the lens lineup on Sony now covers 95% of common shooting. As for Sony service and support, that is indeed a very weak area, but Sony does have a Sony Pro Service Program.

As for my own subscription business, interest in Canon and Nikon and Zeiss has dropped off a cliff even as interest in Sony mirrorless has surged. The interest in mirrorless is confined to Sony (Olympus interest is just about zero, Fujifilm slightly better). Of course, my business is at the high-end, but as for Canon and Nikon sales, a large number of APS-C models languished for six months at deep discounts and full-frame models were slow sellers too. The Canon 5DS/5DS R came into stock quickly and stayed there. These realities conflict with the viewpoint expressed above, at least in the USA. Finally, Sony claims a 40% year-over-year increase, which is might impressive when DSLR sales are down.

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Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS

Get Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM at B&H Photo.

With its 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and 85mm f/1.4 GM siblings and other Sony lenses along with Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia, the Sony 70-20mm f/2.8 GM fills out the lens line nicely (and with Sony FE teleconverters too!).

Sony now has a system for 95% of mainstream applications, as well as unassailable 4K video support with three full-frame mirrorless cameras and now the Sony A6300 as well.

How will Canon and Nikon survive this onslaught? Surely not by focusing on niche cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II: where is (at the least) the Nikon D900 and a Canon DSLR with decent dynamic range (even forgetting the gaping mirrorless chasm).

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • One XA Element, Two Aspherical Elements
  • Four ED Elements, Two Super ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating and Fluorine Coating
  • Linear SSM Focus System
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Internal Focus, Focus Range Limiter
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM OSS

A popular telephoto zoom focal length featuring a bright constant maximum aperture, the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS from Sony covers portrait-length to telephoto perspectives and is designed for E-mount mirrorless cameras. Characterized by both its fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and inclusion of OSS (Optical SteadyShot) image stabilization, this lens is ideally-suited for handheld shooting of distant and fast-moving subjects.

Equally refined, the optical design incorporates a trio of aspherical elements, including one XA (extreme aspherical) element, and six extra-low dispersion elements to minimize spherical and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range. A Nano AR Coating has been applied to lens elements to reduce flare and ghosting and the front element also features a fluorine coating to guard against smudges and markings from adhering to the glass surface. Pairing a versatile reach and sophisticated design, this professional-quality telephoto zoom is well-suited for a variety of working conditions.

Benefitting performance is an apt autofocus system comprised of a dual linear motor actuator to drive the rear groups and an SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) system to control the front groups for quick, precise, and quiet AF control. Further complementing handling and focus is a dedicated focus hold button, focus range limiter, and an AF/MF switch, and the included tripod collar has a rotating design for easier switching between horizontal and vertical shooting orientations. Additionally, the lens sports a dust and moisture-resistant design for use in trying environmental conditions.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • A popular telephoto zoom designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, this 70-200mm lens is also compatible with APS-C models where it provides a 105-300mm equivalent focal length range.
  • A constant f/2.8 maximum aperture offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range and also lends greater control over focus position for shallow depth of field techniques.
  • Of the three aspherical elements incorporated in the lens design, one is an XA element with superior surface precision to effectively reduce astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other monochromatic aberrations from imagery.
  • Four extra-low dispersion elements and two Super ED elements are featured in the lens design, too, and help to control chromatic aberrations and reduce color fringing for increased clarity and color fidelity.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • The front lens element features a fluorine coating to protect against smudges and dust from adhering to the glass surface.
  • A rounded 11-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing selective focus techniques.
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper imagery when shooting handheld with slower shutter speeds. This stabilization system can also be combined with select camera's sensor-shift type image stabilization for more effective control of camera blur.
  • An OSS Mode switch lets you choose Mode 1 for general image stabilization that is suited to most types of shooting as well as a Mode 2 setting that is specifically intended to be used with panning movements.
  • A linear SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • A floating elements system benefits image quality when working at the 3.15' minimum focusing distance with 0.25x magnification.
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions.
  • Removable rotating tripod collar permits quick switching from horizontal to vertical shooting orientations.
  • Focus range limiter and focus hold controls offer more intuitive handling and faster performance when photographing moving subjects.
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Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

Get Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM at B&H Photo.

I’ll be testing the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM as soon as B&H receives them. The optical specifications look promising, assuming the lens is built with quality control that avoids symmetry issues.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16
  • One XA Element and Three ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Linear SSM Focus System
  • Internal Focus Design
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Manual Aperture Ring
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm

A prized focal length for portraiture, the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM from Sony is a fast, short-telephoto lens designed for E-mount mirrorless digital cameras. Characterized by its flattering perspective and fast f/1.4 maximum aperture, this lens is adept at isolation focus for shallow depth of field effects, as well as performing in low-light conditions.

The optical design incorporates three extra-low dispersion elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and one XA (extreme aspherical) element, which significantly controls spherical aberrations for a high degree of image sharpness and clarity. Additionally, a Nano AR coating has been applied to limit ghosting and lens flare for increased contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions. Pairing a bright f/1.4 aperture with a short-telephoto focal length, this 85mm lens is ideally suited for portraiture and other situations where focus control is paramount.

Complementing the optical assets, this lens is also notable for its inclusion of an 11-blade circular diaphragm to produce smooth, soft-edged bokeh with selective focus imagery. For controlling focus, a linear SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) is employed that is quick and quiet, and also lends more responsive control for manual focus operation. The lens also sports a dust- and moisture-sealed design to support shooting in inclement conditions and a dedicated focus hold button, AF/MF switch, and manual aperture ring lend further control while shooting.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • A portrait-length prime designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, this 85mm f/1.4 is also compatible with APS-C models where it will provide a 127.5mm equivalent focal length.
  • Fast f/1.4 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions and also offers a wealth of control over focus position when using shallow depth of field techniques.
  • One XA element is incorporated into the optical design, which features superior surface precision for effective control over astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other spherical aberrations.
  • Three extra-low dispersion elements are featured in the lens design and help to reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing for improved clarity and color neutrality.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • Rounded 11-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing selective focus techniques.
  • A linear SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures.
  • Manual aperture ring can be de-clicked for smooth, silent aperture switching to benefit video applications.
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Breakthrough Photography Circular Polarizing Filters (CPOL)

The Breakthrough Photography X4 circular polarizer filters (CPOL) have an exceptionally neutral spectral weighting as can be seen in the three comparisons below (toggle). [The filters were previously designated X3, the X4 moniker does not indicate a change; it’s a trademark headache issue].

In particular, some polarizers transmit more green / yellow / red than blue. The Breakthrough Photography X4 circular polarizer filters maintain a nearly flat spectral transmission profile, meaning they generate a more neutral result that avoids color bias. The important range for visible-light photography is 420nm (violet)* to 650nm (extreme dark red, near infrared).

I’ve just received some CPOL filters for testing, and I’ll put them to use soon in some testing.

See also Breakthrough Photography X3 Neutral Density Filters and Breakthrough Photography Night Sky Filter.

* Most digital sensors utilize a bandpass filter around 420 nm, the 400-420nm range is of little importance with most cameras.

Graphs courtesy of Breakthrough Photography.

Spectral transmission graph for Breakthrough Photography CPOL filter
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Tiny Lenses: Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II

Yesterday I reported on the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P and the Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II, two diminutive lenses. All of these lenses fall far short of my wish for Otus-grade f/2.8 prime lenses, but all of them are very good by f/5.6 (the 90/3.5 is excellent wide open).

The Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II “pancake lens” (about $449 for Nikon or Canon) is the smallest lens available for Nikon cameras today, though it’s solid metal construction means that it weighs in at a surprisingly heavy 200 grams. For those that want to travel light and compact, it is well worth considering as an alternative is the discontinued Nikon 45mm f/2.8P.

The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL II is manual focus but an electronic (“chipped”) lens, so it acts just like any Nikon-made lens, supporting 1/3 stop apertures and auto aperture control. Ditto for the Canon version.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Aperture Series: Mosaic (Nikon D800)

I reprocessed a 2012 evaluation for images up to 24 megapixels from f/2 - f/22, along with large crops.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II

Breakthrough Photography Light Pollution Filter

The Breakthrough Photography Light Pollution Filter is a spectral-cut filter using special coatings to cut out spectral regions that are typically polluted by light from populated areas during night shots.

I’ve just received an 82mm sample for evaluation which I plan to shoot it in late February / early March in the Death Valley area [I have an opening for one or two people for a photo tour at that time].

The Breakthrough Photography Light Pollution Filter cuts out the orangish haze typical of polluted night skies and was designed in collaboration with a NASA scientist from the International Space Station.

The filter is a bandpass filter that uses coatings, so it shifts color outside the central area when used with wide-angle lenses. At 21mm, the shift is very strong (magenta into the outer zones), so it is best used with longer focal lengths.

Spectral transmission graph for Breakthrough Photography Night Sky Filter

I’m looking forward to seeing if the filter will clean up the background haze in skies like this for astrophotography, though regrettably a 95mm version is not yet available (the Otus 28/1.4 takes 95mm filters). But plenty of lenses take 82mm filters and the Breakthrough Photography step-up rings make 82mm good for 67mm and 77mm filter-size lenses.

NO FILTER USED
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Tiny Lenses: Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II

The Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO Lanthar is a tiny but high performance lens especially well suited to anyone looking for exceptional quality in a very compact package. It is a manual focus but fully electronic (“chipped”) lens, so it acts just like any Nikon-made lens, supporting 1/3 stop apertures and auto aperture control. It can be found in Nikon or Canon mount.

The Nikon version of the 90/3.5 has an aperture ring, and thus can also be used on Canon EOS with a mechanical lens adapter. Build quality is similar to Zeiss ZF.2 lenses. The relatively slow f/3.5 maximum aperture limits versatility compared to, say, an f/2 lens. But since top image quality begins wide open, this is easily forgiven, and the 90/3.5 can easily fit into a small pocket. It makes an excellent choice for a compact travel kit including a lens like its 40mm f/2 sibling or the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P.

I reprocessed my 2012 test with new and large crops, and images up to 24 megapixels. The lens delivers impressive results.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II Aperture Series: Mosaic (Nikon D800)

The Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II is discontinued but can be found on the used market. CameraQuest.com has some brand-new ones in Canon mount.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II
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Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Get Canon EOS-1D X Mark II at B&H Photo, now available for pre-order. See all related Canon EOS-1D X II gear.

Hot on the heels of the Nikon D5, Canon has announced the EOS-1D X Mark II.

Other than its orientation to high-speed sports shooting, here are a few points, see the full description below.

  • Increased resolution and fine detail, with lens aberration correction and diffraction correction via new in-camera Digital Lens Optimizer technology.
  • Built-in GPS provides geotag information including auto time syncing with Universal Time Code via satellites.
  • View and control high quality stills and videos via the 3.2-inch touch panel LCD with 1.62 million dots. [Nikon D5 has a 3.2" rear LCD with 2359K dot (2.3 megadots), the highest-res rear LCD yet seen in a DSLR, the closest thing to a Retina display yet].
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Bringing the shooting speed and video capabilities required by professional multimedia image-makers, the EOS-1D X Mark II is the flagship model within Canon's DSLR lineup, and is characterized by its robust processing capabilities and ability to enable a high-end multimedia workflow. At the heart of the imaging system is a full-frame 20.2MP CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 6+ image processors, which contribute to fast continuous shooting rates up to 16 fps in live view, 14 fps with full-time AF and AE, and an expanded sensitivity range from ISO 50-409600.

The sensor and processor combination also avails DCI 4K video recording at 60 fps and Full HD 1080p recording at 120 fps, along with the ability to record on-board to a CFast 2.0 memory card or via HDMI to an optional external recorder. Benefitting stills shooting is an apt 61-point High Density Reticular AF II system, which includes 41 cross-type points for a high degree of precision in varying light conditions, and video shooting is enhanced by Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which makes its first appearance in a full-frame sensor for smooth, quick, and controllable AF in live view. With a versatile set of imaging traits, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II takes its place as a high-performance tool for professional photographers and videographers alike.

Complementing the robust set of imaging specs is an equally robust physical design based on a magnesium alloy body construction that is both dust- and weather-sealed for use in harsh environments. Integrated within the body is a large 3.2" 1.62m-dot touchscreen LCD for bright, high-resolution live view monitoring and image review, and a large 0.76x Intelligent Viewfinder II is offered for clear eye-level shooting. For versatility in file handling, both CFast and CompactFlash memory card slots are available, and the 1D X Mark II also supports sharing imagery over Wi-Fi, as well as wireless remote camera control, via the optional WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter. Additionally, a built-in GPS module permits in-camera geotagging of photos and videos, and also allows for auto time syncing with the Universal Time Code for more efficient file sharing and organization.

20.2MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor and Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors

A redeveloped full-frame 20.2MP CMOS sensor pairs with dual DIGIC 6+ image processors to avail notable image quality and accuracy, as well as fast performance throughout the camera system. The sensor itself integrates a gapless structure with micro lenses to provide enhanced low-light performance and reduced noise levels, and when coupled with the processors an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 50-409600 is available.

The sensor and processors also work together to avail quick shooting performance, with continuous rates up to 16 fps when working in live view. When working with the viewfinder, shooting up to 14 fps is possible along with the ability to record up to 170 raw files in a single burst if using a CFast 2.0 memory card. If shooting JPEG files, an unlimited number of frames can be recorded in a burst, even at full-resolution. If working with a CompactFlash card, the buffer is rated at up to 73 raw frames in a burst, or infinite JPEGs.

In addition to the stills attributes afforded by the sensor, it is also used for recording DCI 4K video at up to 60 fps, and it is the first full-frame sensor to incorporate Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for precise, controllable, and fast live view focusing performance.

High Density Reticular AF II and Dual Pixel CMOS AF Systems

Benefitting accurate focusing and fast tracking performance, a 61-point High Density Reticular AF II system is employed, which incorporates 41 cross-type points for increased precision as well as a center point that is sensitive to -3 EV. All 61 phase-detection points support metering at effective apertures of f/8 or larger, which benefits the use of teleconverters and telephoto lenses. Additionally, a separate, dedicated DIGIC 6 processor is used for the AF and metering systems in order to maintain quick performance while recording 4K video or shooting at fast continuous speeds. As a whole, the AF system has gained approximately 8.6% in coverage in the center, and 24% in the periphery, for enhanced subject tracking across the image frame, and an AI Servo AF III+ algorithm is used to intelligently and precisely acquire focus in single-point, Large Zone AF, or any other focusing mode.

When working with live view during stills shooting or video recording, a Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is employed that provides incredibly quick and accurate focusing performance in a similar manner to how a camcorder acquires focus. This system integrates two separate photodiodes within each pixel to provide a broad and dense network of phase-detection gathering elements across a majority of the image sensor to reduce focus hunting for faster, more direct control of focus placement. When working with still imagery, this focusing system works to acquire focus quickly and accurately, making it ideally suited to shooting and tracking moving subjects so that critical focus is attained with each shot. When shooting video, a Movie Servo AF mode offers smooth and natural focusing when changing from different subjects or different distances within the scene, as well as the ability to specify tracking sensitivity, AF speed, and Face Tracking priority. Benefited by the Touch AF system, rack focus is possible simply by touching elements within the scene on the touchscreen in order to change focus in an intuitive manner. Subject tracking in movies is also heightened due to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system's ability to recognize subjects and maintain focus when working within changing or cluttered scenery.

DCI 4K Video Recording

Designed for both professional stills shooting and video recording, the 1D X Mark II supports DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) resolution recording at up to 60 fps at 800 Mbps, along with Full HD 1080p shooting at 120 fps at 360 Mbps for slow motion playback. When recording in-camera, or to an optional external recorder via HDMI for saving uncompressed footage, 4K video has 4:2:2 sampling and 8-bit color depth, while Full HD 1080p footage has 4:2:0 sampling. 4K video is recorded using a central 4096 x 2160 area of the sensor, while Full HD recording makes use of the entire full frame, and a top sensitivity of ISO 12800 is available with 4K or ISO 25600 with Full HD.

Audio can be recorded using the on-board stereo microphone or an optional external mic can also be used via the 3.5mm mic jack. Real time audio monitoring is possible, too, via the 3.5mm headphone jack. The 4K video recording also avails the ability to take 8.8MP still frame grabs during playback and save them as single images.

Body Design

  • A large 3.2" 1.62m-dot Clear View II LCD monitor is available and features an anti-reflective design for bright, vivid image playback and live view shooting, and its touchscreen interface can be used for intuitive touch-to-focus control.
  • Dual CFast and CompactFlash memory card slots allow you to extend your file saving capabilities by permitting overflow recording or in-camera file type separation while shooting. The CFast card slot is compatible with CFast 2.0 memory cards.
  • An Intelligent Viewfinder II uses a pentaprism design and offers a bright means for viewing, along with a 0.76x magnification and 100% frame coverage. When using the viewfinder, AF points are highlighted in red for greater visibility in low-light conditions, and the finder can also be configured to display a range of other shooting aids, such as an electronic level, grid, flicker detection, white balance, metering mode, AF information, and other settings.
  • A robust magnesium alloy body design is both dust- and weather-sealed to permit working in harsh environments.
  • An integrated vertical grip allows for comfortable, intuitive, and efficient handling when working in either vertical or horizontal shooting orientations.
  • The included LP-E19 rechargeable lithium-ion battery is rated to provide up to 1210 shots per charge when shooting with the optical viewfinder. The 1D X Mark II is also compatible with LP-E4N and LP-E4 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, however the top continuous shooting rate will be slightly reduced to 14 fps in live view and 12 fps with AE and AF.
  • A redesigned mirror mechanism helps to minimize mechanical vibrations in order to better ensure sharpness during long exposures or fast continuous shooting bursts.
  • The high-performance shutter utilizes lightweight carbon fiber blades for quick shooting speeds and is tested for up to 400,000 cycles.
  • Extensive connectivity ports allow for the attachment of various accessories, including the optional WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter for remotely controlling the camera from a smartphone or sharing files over Wi-Fi with support for the 5 GHz 802.11ac standard.

EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF

An advanced 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor works in tandem with the EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF system in order to maintain accurate and consistent metering results from subject to subject. High resolution, infrared sensitivity, and a refined detection algorithm all contribute to precise color and shape recognition, using the iSA (Intelligent Scene Analysis) system that quickens both exposure metering and autofocus performance. iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF also uses this exposure and subject recognition technology for improved moving subject tracking.

Other Camera Features

  • A built-in GPS module allows you to geotag imagery in-camera as well as auto time sync with the Universal Time Code via satellites. This module is compatible with American GPS, Russian GLONASS, and Japanese quasi-zenith Michibiki satellites for a wide coverage of support.
  • Digital Lens Optimizer technology compensates for a range of optical defects from various lenses, including chromatic aberration, distortion, peripheral brightness, and diffraction, and the camera can store lens data in order to avoid having to re-register lenses prior to each use.
  • In addition to full-resolution recording, files can also be recorded at reduced resolutions, including M-RAW and S-RAW sizes to save file size and memory card capacity.
  • Picture Style settings: Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Fine Detail, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and User Defined 1-3.
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Ibex Sale

Ibex NZM glove

I spend a fair amount of time in the outdoors, and one brand I use a lot (jackets, hoodies, pants, gloves, hats) is Ibex.

Ibex is having their annual 50% off winter sale.

See also:

In use below at 10°F: Ibex hoody, Ibex wool pants, Ibex wool jacket, Ibex gloves, Ibex Aire wool jacket, Western mountaineering down jackets.

Dad and Daughter at Sunset
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For Canon and Nikon (or Sony mirrorless with adapter)

Tiny Lenses: Nikon 45mm f/2.8P, Voigtlander 40/2 Ultron, Canon 40/2.8 STM

The manual focus Nikon 45mm f/2.8P is a pancake-style lens based on a Tessar design of 4 elements in 3 groups— extremely simple, yet in truth quite well corrected for such a small number of elements.

With lens hood and lens caps, the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P weighs only 156g, making it perhaps the lightest lens one can find for a Nikon DSLR. It is very compact as well. It thus has appeal for any high-res DSLR shooter looking to travel light, at least if the images to be made are in the f/5.6 - f/11 range.

A recent inquiry about the diminutive Nikon 45mm f/2.8P prompted me to redo the mosaic aperture series with images up to 24 megapixels along with large crops.

Nikon 45mm f/2.8P Aperture Series: Mosaic (Nikon D800)

The Nikon 45mm f/2.8P is discontinued but can be found on the used market.

A good alternative would be the Voigtlander 40mm f/2.8 SL Ultron II Color-Skopar, which remains in production and is about $449. In Canon mount, I’d suggest the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM, a very nice lens, and a steal at about $149.

Nikon 45mm f/2.8P
USB-C Dock for 2015 MacBook

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Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Examples: Lundy Canyon, Before the Snow (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

These images shot in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains (Lundy Canyon environs) in early November 2015, just before the rain and snow arrived.

In my review of the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon:

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Examples: Examples: Lundy Canyon, Before the Snow (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels.

 

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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Examples: Rain to Snow in Lundy Canyon, early November (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

These images shot in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains (Lundy Canyon environs) in early November 2015. The images are presented as a time-coherent documentary group from early morning to mid-day, showing the inexorable progression from rain to snow on an early winter day in which everyone flees the weather, which I relish, since I then have the place to myself.

All of these images were shot handheld with Sony IBIS enabled. Some were shot at higher ISO values and have some significant noise hence as a collection these images represent the outstanding ability of the Sony A7R II to perform in low lighting conditions with excellent sharpness from a very fine lens.

In my review of the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar:

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Examples: Rain to Snow in Lundy Canyon, early November (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels. The fine detail in these images (particularly small branches and streaking rain and snow) cannot be appreciated on a conventional display. An iMac 5K or at least a 4K display or Retina display is strongly recommended for enjoying the subtle detail in these images.

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Revisiting the Pentax 645Z with the Pentax 28-45mm and 35mm f/3.5

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 35mm f/3.5 and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 at B&H Photo.

I last looked at the Pentax 645Z back in 2014; see my in-depth review of the Pentax 645Z and/or view Pentax 645Z and 645D and Pentax medium format lens coverage.

On the way is the Pentax 645Z with two of the most recent lenses, the Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA645 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] and the Pentax HD PENTAX-DA645 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR zoom, equivalent in field of view to focal lengths of ~28mm and ~23-36mm.

The Pentax 645Z has a beautiful sensor, perhaps a little better quality than the Nikon D810. I’d love to see its sensor in a Mamiya 7 II style fixed-lens camera: might Pentax or Fujifilm or maybe even Sony deliver such a thing this year?

See also:

  Pentax 645Z    Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 AL IF and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR
  Pentax 645Z  
Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810

See the portrait examples. The Pentax 645Z with the Pentax 90mm f/2.8 is a great combination, the 90/2.8 being a must-have lens for the 645Z.

  Pentax 645Z  
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Examples: Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro on Sony A7R II

Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro Lens

Get Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro at B&H Photo. Available for Sony, Canon, Nikon.

See Reader Question: Lenses for Wide Angle Macro.

The Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro (about $479) is a DSLR design installed in a Sony E-mount mirrorless mount (also available for DSLRs). The lens is completely manual and communicates no EXIF info or aperture to the camera: manual unclicked aperture, manual focus, no EXIF info communicated to camera.

I had some fun shooting close range images with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro down to about 1:4. The Laowa 15/4 focuses as close as 1:1, but at that range there is only ~5mm of clearance to the front element and the lens shades the subject, so I found 1:4 about the practical limit withou special lighting aids.

Includes images up to 24 megapixels.

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Leica Data Sheet for MTF of 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH Error

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(without screw-on lens hood)

Thanks for reader Steven K for pointing this out.

Leica confirms that the data sheet for the 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH has an error in which the f/2.8 and f/5.6 charts are swapped.

I’ve updated my MTF page for the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH appropriately.

Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar Examples: Sierra Autumn to Early White Mountains Winter

Get Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M and Canon 5DS R DSLR and Sony A7R II mirrorless B&H Photo.

Zeiss ZF.2 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*

Examples shot on the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R, and also the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II via the Novoflex adapter (with ASTAT tripod collar). Performance of the 50/2 Makro-Planar should be identical to the Zeiss Milvus 50/2M, except that the Milvus 50/2M could be slightly better due to improved lens coatings on one element.

Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar Examples: Sierra Autumn to Early White Mountains Winter

Includes images up to 24 megapixels (6048 wide).

UPDATE: crops added.

Images look spectacular on an UltraHD display, and particularly stunning on the 14.2-megapixel retina display of the iMac 5K. The pinpoint sparkles and natural textures are particularly interesting on a 5K display.

Juniper Stump
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White Balance and Tint for Canon 5DS R in Adobe Camera Raw in Overcast Daylight

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M B&H Photo.

I wanted to check on some white balance and tint adjustments for a set of images I am preparing, so I went outdoors and shot the Datacolor SpyderChecker with the Canon 5DS R and the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar in order to establish the proper tint for daylight. The same or very similar results should apply to the other Zeiss DSLR lenses.

In my review of the Canon 5DS R:

White Balance and Tint for Raw Conversion in Adobe Camera Raw, Overcast Cloudy Lighting

Determining appropriate white balance and tint using Datacolor SpyderChecker
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What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?

B&H has up to $200 of Apple 2015 MacBook and 13" MacBook Pro models.

I've been using the late 2015 iMac 5K for about 6 weeks now, as both a compute station (script-driven jobs) but mainly as a viewing station, since my reviews include a variety of images sizes up to 24 megapixel images. I reiterate my enthusiasm for the late 2015 iMac 5K as a powerful workstation.

But the compelling and game changing feature of the iMac 5K is its unrivalled ability to display photos that look like 23.5 X 13.125 'chromes'. Nothing else even come close; no print can deliver the contrast or the perceptual impact: 14.7 megapixels (217 ppi) with per pixel contrast that 'pops' ultra fine details. Transmissive vs boring reflective media, just like a 'chrome' and with amazing contrast and 10-bit color with a wide gamut. Images are stunning on the iMac 5K.

If you enjoy viewing images, then the iMac 5K is your most important photographic accessory. Since there is no point to making images if they are not viewed, why not view them at their best? If all you want to do is buy the iMac 5K as if it were a gorgeous display, B&H has discounted late 2015 iMac 5K models.

I’m looking forward to an iMac 6K and eventually an iMac 8K, though I'd like to see the display go to at least 30" if not 32". And eventually a wall-size 16K OLED style thing, say 8 feet wide or so: digital display is the FUTURE of display photography for prime enjoyment (immersive, lifelike contrast and dynamic range). My main gripe is the screen ratio: 5120 X 2880 is an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 (more like 1.8:1 with the menu bar and window title bar), so its shape doesn’t fit a 3:2 (1.5:1) image all that well. It would sure be nice to have the same aspect ratio as my 2560 X 1600 NEC PA302W (e.g., 5120 X 3200), though I deem that unlikely.

See also:

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

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

James K, a NYC pro photographer, writes:

Images on my late 2015 iMac 5k Late are just fabulous. You don’t want to view prints after seeing illuminated photos on the 5K.

I always loved looking at 8x10 chromes on my light box. Hopefully some of the new OLED panels will be priced within reach in a couple of years. I would love a large, thin , high quality electronic view screen for my images.

The iMac 5K display shows the way forward: I am eagerly anticipating 6K and 8K displays. An 8K display would allow the entire image from a Nikon D810 or Sony A7R II to be displayed at once—every pixel. Which will be an incredible viewing experience.

One has to question the appeal of shooting a camera to fill 1/3 of the screen, which will be the case with an 8K display—future displays will make 16 and even 24-megapixel images look positively tiny. While 24-megapixels is a defensible low-end, APS-C cameras like Fujifilm X already do not fill the iMac 5K display horizontally(4896 X 3264 images vs 5120 X 2880 screen). If I’m going to shoot for viewing enjoyment for what will be available in just a few years, a low-res 16MP sensor doesn’t cut it. And 24 megapixels is the bottom-end.

How I use the iMac 5K

For daily work I use it as a slave workstation with Thunderbolt networking to free up my Mac Pro while it runs 2-10 minute scripted jobs (preparing high-res image size variants for my publications).

The contrast and color of the late 2015 iMac 5K are stunning (hyper realistic), so good that I stick with my advice of using a standard-res NEC PA302W when preparing images for prints since reflective media (print) cannot deliver the same feel as transmissive media. The iMac 5K color gamut is excellent (and 10 bits for the display), but the visual impact goes way beyond gamut.

Viewing a 4320-pixel image on the iMac 5K display

Leica Updates the 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH and 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

The revised lenses are mainly about bringing the physical design to current standards so that they are similar to the 28/1.4 Summilux and various other Leica M wides. Both 28mm lenses also incorporate optical tweaks, for claimed higher performance.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(without screw-on lens hood)
Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
(without screw-on lens hood)

I discuss the revised Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH and revised Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH in Guide to Leica.

I expect to have both lenses to test sometime in February, on the M240 for sure, and if things go well the Leica SL may be at hand.

The 28mm focal length is a favorite of mine, and the 28/2.8 Elmarit is a diminutive lens, really nice for 'carry'.

It looks like the 28/2 Summicron is the clear winner at f/2.8, and of course it also has an f/2 for blurring the background. So if those are key apertures, the 28/2 looks to be the choice.

Update: is Leica’s data sheet wrong? Perhaps the f/2.8 and f/5.6 graphs are reversed (as of 28 Jan 2016)? NOW CONFIRMED by Leica, the charts as posted by Leica had the f/2.8 and f/5.6 graphs swapped. Presumably Leica will correct the datasheet soon.

Death Valley Bush on Dry Plain
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Play 4K Videos on 4K TV: Load Onto USB3 Drive

OWC Envoy Pro Mini

Get OWC Envoy Pro Mini at MacSales.com.

See also: What to Consider for a 4K TV.

Have a 4K TV and any one of the many cameras now capable of shooting 4K video? Such as recent iPhone models, the Sony A7R II and Sony A7S II, and the Panasonic GH4.

Here’s a great way to enjoy those videos on a 4K TV using a USB thumb drive (or any USB3 drive, but I really like simple form factor + high speed of the OWC Envoy Pro Mini for this purpose).

It turns out that my Sony XBR-65X930C 4K TV has a USB slot which accepts a thumb drive for playing stills or videos. With over 100GB of 4K video (and I’ve hardly started shooting 4K), I wanted a fast USB stick of high capacity. Enter the OWC Envoy Pro Mini 480GB USB2 thumb drive. It took only about six minutes to copy 100GB of videos to the Envoy Pro Mini.

Here’s how to enjoy 4K videos (or still photos) on the Sony 4K TV:

  1. Format the drive as ExFAT using Disk Utility (as shown below).
  2. Copy videos to the drive, optionally organizing into folders.
  3. Insert the drive into the USB port of the TV.

With the Sony X930C, simply inserting the thumb drive pops up the Videos app; otherwise navigate to the Videos app using the menu system of the TV. Select the folder, enjoy the videos! There is also a Photos app for still photos.

The 100M/30P video quality from the Sony mirrorless cameras and the Panasonic GH4 is easily better than most 4K video streaming from Netflix (excepting my own technical errors), and that’s lovely—because I shot it direct to card in ready-to-play “.MOV” format, not S-Log or anything fancy requiring extra work: just press the record button to stop/star.

Moreover, the video from those cameras is entirely free of smearing and other ugly digital artifacts issues often seen with streamed 4K. Only UltraHD BluRay is likely to equal it. The poppies video from the GH4 was stunning; I’ve not seen anything as good on NetFlix—period.

 s
Formatting OWC Envoy Pro Mini thumb drive as ExFAT, videos as organized on the thumb drive

Shown below is the Sony 4K TV video app displaying the videos in a “Lundy2” folder on the OWC Envoy Pro Mini thumb drive.

Sony Videos app showing 4K videos on USB3 thumb drive
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4K TV Modern Art

iLike this a lot more than most modern art that I see. Can I sell it for a million bucks?

It’s the Sony X930C 4K TV, glitching while streaming Netflix.

4K TV Modern Art
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2TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD

OWC has a new 2TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD. It offers very high performance for a SATA SSD, and it has 7% over-provisioning for long life.

For photographers using certain MacBook Pro models, this makes a terrific upgrade. Also works internally in the 2009-2012 Mac Pro, PCs, etc. At present, not for use in external enclosures.

2TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD in MacBook Pro

Reviewed: OWC 2TB Mercury Electra Max 6G SSD

OWC 2TB Mercury Electra Max 6G SSD in 13.3" Apple MacBook Pro

Big Screen for the SuperBowl? And What to Consider for a 4K TV

See all 4K television deals.

See also Play 4K Videos on 4K TV: Load Onto USB3 Drive.

Personally I do not follow hockey, but the SuperBowl is coming, and every fan wants a big-screen TV. When purchasing a TV:

  • Don’t get suckered into “Full HD” which is half the resolution of a 4K Ultra HD TV. The 4K technology upscales Full HD beautifully: for example, The Bourne Identity (1st of series, Matt Damon) is only HD, but looks remarkably strong—looks great on a 4K set. But a Full HD television has no upside for 4K streaming or UltraHD BluRay (emerging this year).
  • Curved screen is a gimmick; stick with conventional flat screen.
  • OLED-based television is the emerging technology for best display quality but OLED-based televisions are still bleeding-edge expensive. At present only LG offers OLED, and I prefer the Sony 4K TVs myself.
  • Large size is not necessarily better: a 65" or 78" 4K TV will show all the flaws in the source material more obviously than a 55" or 45" 4K TV, and a lot of 4K and Full HD source material is technically mediocre (noise, sharpness, compression artifacts). However, screen size relates directly to viewing distance / viewing angle, the next point, so larger is warranted if viewing distance is not malleable.
  • Viewing distance should be measured because viewing angle is critical to the sense of immersion—this is no different from why viewing distance for a print matters. For example, I find a distance of 52" ± 5" to be ideal for a 65" TV for high quality source material. It’s just the right distance for an immersive feel, but any and all weaknesses are visible in the material.
  • Definitely get an extended warranty because it is a problematic to deal with a huge TV if something goes wrong. My own experience with SquareTrade warranty coverage has been positive (with an older Full HD TV).

I was and remain impressed with the Sony XBR-55X800B (now discontinued) and even more impressed with the Sony X930C. And yet the less expensive model is so good that it will surely make almost everyone happy (I was delighted, and I’m very picky). Even a starter Sony 4K TV is a better device than much of the source material out there (probably true of other brands too), akin to a mediocre lens on a high-res sensor. One can nitpick black levels and such, but the bottom line is that good 4K material on a 4K set is a game-changing viewing experience.

Recommendations — I am impressed with the two Sony 4K TVs I’ve tried (and one Full HD), so I’m going to stick to recommending Sony since I have no experience with other brands. These TVs should be at least as good as the XBR-55X800B mentioned above. All are discounted:

See also:

Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on Sony A7R II Aperture Series: Burghers of Calais

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Like all Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, the Milvus 85mm f/1.4 can be used on Sony mirrorless via a lens adapter. The Milvus 85/1.4 was adapted to the Sony A7R II using the Novoflex adapter with ASTAT tripod collar.

Bokeh of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on the Sony A7R II:

Aperture Series: Burghers of Calais (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.4 through f/5.6 as well as large crops on interesting out-of-focus specular highlight areas.

Burghers of Calais
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Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on Sony A7R II Aperture Series: Tower at Night

ZF.2 Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4

GetZeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Like all Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, the Milvus 85mm f/1.4 can be used on Sony mirrorless via a lens adapter. The Milvus 85/1.4 was adapted to the Sony A7R II using the Novoflex adapter with ASTAT tripod collar.

I explore night-time performance of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on the Sony A7R II:

Aperture Series: Hoover Tower at Night (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.4 through f/5.6 as well as large crops showing the very fine definition.

The Zeiss Milvus lineup does double duty on Canon or Nikon DSLRs and Sony mirrorless (with adapter). I particularly like the manual aperture ring on the ZF.2 model (so that no special electronic adapter is needed).

Tower at Night
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Reflecting on the Ricoh GR

Get Ricoh GR and Leica Q at B&H Photo.

Due to some reader inquiries, I happened to go back over some work with the Ricoh GR from 2.5 years ago. What is striking to me here today is just how fantastic the results are from the Ricoh GR, even in comparison to today’s standards.

     
     Ricoh GR  
Ricoh GR

There is something lovely about Ricoh GR sensor, plus its lens is pin-sharp with hardly any aberrations, its 240g fits easily into a pocket, black and white results are superb, and the total operational excellence and feature set remain unequaled by anything even halfway similar*. It’s an incredible camera: people go looking for reasons to buy a Leica Q (and there are some reasons), but bottom line is that 8X the price buys you both less and more**.

Just a sampler:

I have not tested the Ricoh GR II, so it’s an assumption that it maintains all the best behaviors of its Ricoh GR predecessor (specs seem to indicate this is so). There is also a wide angle conversion lens to get to 21mm for either the Ricoh GR or Ricoh GR II. One wonders what Ricoh might achieve by making a full-frame or even medium format equivalent with an EVF.

* Excepting lack of an EVF. Not even an optional EVF is offered on the Ricoh GR II, though it does have HDMI output.

** The Ricoh GR II not only has a leaf shutter supporting full speed flash sync with the built-in flash, it can operate wirelessly with slave flash units. The built-in flash alone is a major advantage over the Leica Q and the Sony RX1R II for many types of shooting, and a huge plus for any kind of portraiture.

ƒ/6.3 @ 4 sec, ISO 100 +1.0 push Ricoh GR
At the beach
Ricoh GR, f/9 @ 1/500 with fill flash at 1-1.7

Sohail K writes:

I’ve just read your entry on the Ricoh GR. I don’t dispute that it has an incredible sensor and superior IQ. In fact, as per your favourable reviews, I bought one when it came out, stuck with it for a year and a half, but ended up selling it. Frustratingly, I was not able to make a single satisfactory image with it largely because of no EVF support.

That said, despite your lukewarm praise of the Q, I did end up buying one. I’m willing to agree that its sensor and IQ are not the best on the market, but in purely operational terms it is the by far the best camera I’ve had with an already (for me) high hit rate. It’s a joy to use, sits perfectly in my hands, is just the right weight and does almost exactly what I want it to, which is mostly travel/street/reportage photography. My only gripe, as you rightly pointed out, is that it doesn’t have an off-centre manual focussing capability. Perhaps this could be fixed in a future firmware release. Will it be? Probably not. :-(

DIGLLOYD: the lack of an EVF is a serious handicap. I hope Ricoh figures that out—even if it were an optional hot-shoe variant. I made many fine images with the Ricoh GR in spite of that limitation, as have many, many readers who bought one and used it. But for some, the lack of an EVF is problematic and indeed it is now more of a problem than ever for me (presbyopia).

As for the Leica Q, it has very high sensor and image quality (though its 10% distortion means that edges can never be truly sharp due to distortion correction). I was unlucky enough to run into a bug on a personally important and unreproducible day. Though I was able to make some fine images in spite of it, it also killed many images. Leica ships all its cameras with bugs, and that particular one cost me. Still, I have no hesitation recommending the Q for most people and maybe that bug is fixed (?). But the Q is a much larger camera than Ricoh GR, does not fit into a pocket, and is hugely expensive by comparison. As for “street shooting”, the Ricoh GR could actually be preferred in some cases, because it calls no attention to itself. And the Q can never provide built-in fill flash and the self timer resets every shot (a serious headache for me)—so personal shooting habits come to bear on which is a better choice, as they ought to. For cycling, the Q is way too large; the Ricoh GR fits into a jersey pocket.

The Q is so expensive that the Ricoh GR can be considered an accessory: sales tax alone here in California on the Q is $393 while the Ricoh GR II is $557. Why do I have a Ricoh GR and not a Leica Q... the cost, or more accurately the value proposition! If money is no object, surely most people would pick the Q (it is a beautiful camera after all), but the Ricoh GR does some things the Q does not and will never do.

See also Will the Leica Q Kill the Leica M?.

As for my hike with the Q—it’s a fair question as I did have the Ricoh GR along as backup—which camera would I prefer? No question—the Leica Q, for its full-frame sensor and EVF. BUT I want that bug fixed which disabled autofocus with the leveling display enabled. And that self-timer reset every shot was actually dangerous on the summit: going back and forth each shot on slippery icy rocks, the risk of injury. That self-timer stupidity Leica probably won’t fix, and I don’t like willfully handicapped cameras for general use: the Q would not make the cut against the Sony A7R II on this type of hike.

Mt Dana Hailstorm with view to Mt Conness in sunlight
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Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 on Sony A7S II Aperture Series: Blue Dusk Settles on Snowy Lundy Canyon

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

Get Sony A7S II and Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

This series taken under extremely blue light, always a challenge for lens and sensor:

Aperture Series: Blue Dusk Settles on Snowy Lundy Canyon (Sony A7S II)

Includes images up to the native resolution of 4240 X 2832 from f/2 through f/9.

Native 12-megapixels resolution of the Sony A7S II happens to almost perfectly fill the iMac 5K screen (5120 X 2880), pointing out the interesting issue of inadequate camera resolution for future 6K and 8K and eventually 16K displays. Perhaps 24 megapixels should be considered a still-image minimum from here on out.

Blue Dusk Settles on Snowy Lundy Canyon
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Reader Question: Lenses for Wide Angle Macro

Get Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro and Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon and Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Luis F writes:

Do you consider that one can do wide angle macro shots with the Leica Q?

Something like the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro?

DIGLLOYD: This Leica Q evaluation at close range is the closest I got to testing out its closeup range, so I don’t have a solid answer on the Q in its closest-range macro setting. Note that at close range the angle of view cannot be assumed from focal length (and the focal length itself can change drastically).

I have not used the Venus Optics 15/4 lens, but it looks like fun. The Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon goes to 1:9, so it doesn’t get nearly as close.

The wide angle lens I’d suggest is the Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon, which goes to 1:2.3, and can be shot on Nikon (natively), or Canon or Sony (with adapter). It has a unique rendering style at close range and an 80° field of view—not nearly as wide as the 110° of a 15mm, but its rendering style is great fun (not highly corrected at all). The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is another excellent choice, going to 1:5. But if the desire is to go all the way to 1:1 and wide angle, then the Venus Optics 15/4 looks like about the only choice in that range.

For fast shooting fun at 28mm (equiv), the Ricoh GR is very enjoyable; see the macro range and close range portraits in my review of the Ricoh GR. Its performance is not terrific at close range, but it’s pocketable and has built-in fill flash with leaf shutter.

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Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2 Examples: White Mountains and Sierra Snow, Late November (Canon 5DS R)

Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2

Get Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2 and Canon 5DS R at B&H Photo.

These examples were taken on my late November field trip to the White Mountains and Eastern Sierra using the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R.

Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2M Examples: White Mountains and Sierra Snow, Late November

Includes images up to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), which is 70% of the linear resolution of the 8688 X 5792 Canon 5DS R originals.

Bristlecone Portrait, Patriarch Grove
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Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M Examples: Closeups after Rain and Frost

Get Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M

The Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M works great as a complement to its Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M sibling.

These examples were taken on a frosty morning as the frost started to melt.

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M Examples: Closeups after Rain and Frost

Includes images up to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), which is 82% of the linear resolution of the 7360 X 4912 Nikon D810 originals.

Images look spectacular on an UltraHD display, and particularly stunning on the 14.2-megapixel retina display of the iMac 5K. The pinpoint sparkles and natural textures are particularly interesting on a 5K display.

Juniper Stump
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Zeiss Milvus 50/2M and 100/2M Macro Metrics

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

The 50/2M differs from the Milvus 100/2M in free working distance, depth of field and various other metrics.In Guide to Zeiss I’ve added detailed macro lens metrics for the Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M and Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M, including a downloadable PDF.

The 50/2M differs from the Milvus 100/2M in free working distance, depth of field, perspective and various other metrics.

Metrics for Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M and 100mm f/2M
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Fujifilm X-Pro2

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Update: see my commentary on the Sony A6300 vs Fujifilm X-Pro2.

See existing reviews of Fujifilm X. Now, Fujifilm has upped the ante with a high-res EVF and 24 megapixels.

When the X-Pro2 arrives, I’ll take a fresh look at what Fujifilm has to offer, using the X-Pro2 along with the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2, Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2, Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 and Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4.

Note that the equivalent focal lengths / apertures on full frame vs APS-C would be 135/2.8, 52/2.8, 35/2, 15-36/5.6, so these are not fast lenses by any stretch—but that’s the trick to make APS-C cameras look smaller and lighter: non-equivalence*. That said, lenses of suitable speed for many purposes is an idea I generally like.

* See Format-Equivalent Depth of Field and F-Stop. While f-stop is always f-stop regardless of format size (sensor or film size), the feel is not the same: one has to use a shorter focal length and one-stop-faster aperture to achieve the same field of view and degree of blur or, alternately, the same focal length and f-stop at a greater distance, which changes the perspective. In practice (lens availability) APS-C lacks the ability to achieve wide aperture blur qualities, since APS-C needs f/1.0 to deliver the same blur characteristics as f/1.4 on full frame. Whether this matters at all is a personal choice.

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Sigma 24mm f/1.4A Examples in Mt Conness Watershed

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

Examples from last July.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Examples: Mt Conness Watershed (Canon 5DS R)

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Contemplation

Get Canon 8-15mm f/4L at B&H Photo.

What more can one ask of a day or a trip? The day was fabulous. From last July.

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Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Aperture Series at 500mm: Pomegranate

Get Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR at B&H Photo.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

Sometimes I shoot subject just to field check other results.

In this case, I shot this image to check across-the-frame sharpness, color aberrations, bokeh, etc, but it turns out to show something much more useful and important.

A must read for anyone considering the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR:

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Aperture Series @ 500mm: Pomegranate on Table (Nikon D810)

Images up to 6048 wide, and also large crops.

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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Movies: 'Revenant' and 'Star Wars: the Farce Awakens'

I hadn’t been to the theatre (movies) for over two years. So last night I did a double-header movie: Revenant and Star Wars: The Farce Awakens (oops, did I spell that wrong?). I have to wonder if there is any future at all for quality movies from Hollywood. Quality as in story line, character development, believability that comes from small but critical details, the judgment to not overproduce scenes, and so on. To use an analogy: tabloids vs literature. They give awards for this stuff? The pre-show movie previews pretty much nail that coffin shut: shut off your brain at the movie theatre.

For Star Wars: The Farce Awakens, I sat in the vibrating D-Box seats, in part because I wanted to try it, and in part because those seats can be reserved and are in a good location. The seat vibrates in distracting ways, helping to startle at loud noises and such. Or to disrupt the viewing experience at inappropriate times. For most movies, this may be perfect: stimulate the senses even more, since all intellectual functions are presumably disengaged or the viewer would not be there. I turned the vibrating function on and off several times to test my reaction—it’s definitely not something I want in my movie experience. And the seats are not good for slouching.

Revenant

I went to see Revenant* for one reason only: the cinematography. A reader had emailed to tell me that the wide open spaces and use of natural lighting reminded him of my still photography, and indeed that was so.

Its forte is the cinematography and visual grandeur of the scenery, and I can relate to many of the locations. At one point I thought to myself “Lundy Canyon”—and a moment later my daughter voiced aloud that same thought—funny!

Revenant was shot on the Alexa 65 in 6K with Hasselblad prime lenses: huge sensor and long focal lengths for wide angles are not quite view camera feel, but mighty impressive in visual impact (the big screen needs at least 8K IMO). I loved the wide angle views on the large format. Fantastic stuff; it is a tour de force of modern digital cinematography, particularly the dark forest and dusk scenes. Impressive scenes (and there are many) are the “river escape” sequence and the knife/hatchet fight scene late in the movie: a gentle dawn sunlight creeps up the hills as the fight progresses, beautiful and a nice symbolic touch too.

One visual defect marred it for me: the presence of lateral chromatic aberration (red/cyan fringes) was distracting: the moon had an obvious red fringe, edges of shadow and snow had mild red/cyan fringing, and much worse, the white lettering in early scenes had quite strong color fringing. Was this the source material? That would not explain the color fringing on the white lettering, so I’m all but certain that the theatre projector optics were off somehow. I considered complaining, but the thought of the blank stares that would result dispensed with that idea.

Ignore the predictable story line, the paper thin veneer of character development, and the collection of physical absurdities that should be self evident to any outdoorsman or doctor—focus on the visuals, which are spectacular.

Mini review: I can’t recommend the plot or character development or acting or anything else about Revenant, it’s a depressing story that lacks any intellectual or emotional rewards that a great movie offers. Perhaps most damning for a movie about suffering, it falls completely flat in emotional power, stringing together a series of contrived and shopworn cliches that just don’t go anywhere successful. It doesn’t even offer credibility, a huge failure for a film like this. For example the improperly-strung toy-store bows lacking any recurve that unerringly shoot arrows deep into tree trunks or bodies like an 80-pound-pull compound bow. It’s beyond idiotic for a former bowhunter like me. Then there are the single shot rifles, but dual-shot pistols (or was it three shots at times?). The self-fueling fires: apparently our hero and surviving native not only can start fire with flint and steel from damp grass, but they carry gasoline or some accelerant to make small branches of bushes flame in roaring wind for quite some time, an unseen helper always keeping ample wood on the fire which blazes like it was kiln dried and force fed with an oxygen tank, with no smoke. A bearskin from a huge bear that ought to weigh 100 pounds somehow reduced to the size of a jacket: it sprouts a neat poncho-style hole. Hyper-fast infection-free wound healing suitable for a superhero. Hypothermia or even shivering never an issue. A sweat lodge made of flimsy aspen branches and covered with (now grown very large) skins in a 50 mph wind; our hero awakes refreshed and warmed from a few stones after a few dried herbs are sprinkled on his body. Fish badly wanting to be caught with bare hands (I have caught trout with my bare hands and I know just how it’s done). Then there is the starvation diet while burning 8000 calories a day with the body healing up at warp speed: upon arrival at the fort, our shirtless hero is looking nicely filled out to the point of flabbiness, and in eminent health aside from scars.

The juxtaposition of the worst of human nature set amid the best of wild nature is jarring, and presumably intentional—so much so that this film’s metaphysical sense of life bludgeons the viewer: the story is utterly depressing. Just as with still photography, greatness must come from visual power and a keen story, but this story has no balance, no opportunity for the viewer to participate intellectually, no nuances or ambiguities to mull, not even a good twist to the plot. All the required correct viewpoints of white man vs native, man vs man, man vs nature, the futility of existence are duly passed upon, and this transparent and heavy-handed treatment robs Revenant of emotional or intellectual power to move. When the credits rolled, I remembered it not as a compelling and nuanced story, but a series of loosely-related vignettes of predictable violence strung together, albeit with gorgeous photography. Revenant is a tired cliché, and as noted above, does not even offer the satisfaction of believability.

* Present participle in French of revenir ‎(“to return”); even my rusty French skills knew that after many years.

Elaine D writes:

I much prefer the original movie “A Man in The Wilderness” with Richard Harris. I haven’t seen the new movie, but from your review, I kind of figured it would be as you have written it as not being accurate in many ways. You should watch the original movie, which the everyone seems to have detoured around by stating this is from the book, “The Revenant”. It is, but no one has made the connection to the same movie made before it back in the early 70s I believe. I grew up and saw the first movie and it made such an impression on me back then that I keep re-renting it from Netflix to watch it.

Star Wars: the Farce Awakens

I like the core storyline of Star Wars, but I have always been deeply disappointed in how badly its potential has been mangled. Sadly, Star Wars: the Force Awakens puts a huge spike into the coffin for the potential of the series in the sense of being compatible with anything of adult interest. Teenagers will love it, and it will no doubt make a lot of money for the next 18 episodes or so.

Virtually every scene or idea is recycled from past episodes. Refried beans. The galaxy is really small in Episode VII; hop to any planet seemingly in minutes. It feels disjointed; there is no time continuity.

Han Solo and Leia apparently could not get their shit together enough to stay together but their son becomes the Really Bad Guy (Kylo Ren). Plump and matronly Leia bores us to tears (no wonder Han left her), and Han seems wilted at best. At the urging of Leia, Han is naive enough to let his son Kylo Ren skewer him with a light saber. The father/son thing again. How original. But it looks like Leia slept around, because the son bears no resemblance to the father. No wonder they split.

The Death Star in Episode 6 was destroyed, but there is a new peril which is the same type of weapon, only far worse. How many of these things are they gonna make? The resistance needs to hold a bake sale or something, because their uniforms and fighters are the same crappy ones in Episode IV. Can’t they at least steal a few decent ships and fighters after a few decades?

Luke has disappeared for many years, pouting because his prize pupil Kylo Ren becomes a powerful Really Bad Guy prone to temper tantrums and sniveling, and worshiping his father, Darth Vader. So Luke hangs up his jockstrap and retires to a little island to wear a hoody and go fishing for a few decades. Apparently Luke did not bother to train any other Jedi, and Leia didn’t think it worthwhile to bother. Alrighty then.

Enter Rey and Finn. Fortunately, the beautiful new female hero Rey is a quick learner, picking up The Force in a few hours and expert light-saber skills in minutes, maiming Kylo Ren*, presumably so he can fulfil his destiny in a newfangled Darth Vader style pant suit in episodes eight through 23. Finn is maimed by Kylo Ren, but likely to recover. Teenage boys are gonna really dig Rey, and girls too: what’s not to like? And to give the actress credit, no one else is half as interesting or alive in the film. But Finn needs to grow somehow, otherwise he's a dud. In the end, Rey heads over to Luke’s island to see if sushi is better than her powdered fare.

* Plain names just don’t cut it for me for the bad guys. The Darth thing worked.

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More Thoughts on 4K Video + Good 4K is Better than a Movie Theatre

Last fall I wrote about 4K television and streaming in Impressions of 4K Television. See also Sony 4K Television: Wow! and 4K UltraHD Fascinating Visually, Selection Needs to Expand.

I’ve been evaluating 4K video some more, a fascinating study for me that I started last September—akin to how I first started assessing still imagery, but this time with years of experience studying hundreds of lenses and dozens of camera. My 'eye' is now well tuned enough to be a distraction: I can’t watch 4K video or even go to the movies without seeing all the visual flaws. 4K video is fascinating in its own right because unlike all previous formats, it gets close enough to real to be interesting for the visuals alone (and since nearly all Hollywood movies made today are dreck in terms of plot or character development, that’s a key point).

So now I’m studying 4K on the Sony X930C, which has a fabulous picture. While OLED TVs are just starting to appear, the X930C supports the new 4K HDR standard and so when source material starts appearing, it should gain another bump up in visual impact. OLED-based 4K TVs will be even better in picture quality, but the X930C is stunning right now, and way beyond really good.

Both the Sony 4K TVs mercilessly reveal limitations of the source material, and limitations are legion: depth of field, noise and posterization, focus errors, dynamic range, flare. And that’s best case: compression of streamed 4K material can at times deliver ugly tonal transitions, stuff that in a still image I’d eviscerate in a review, such as noses on human faces. There can also be network issues that sporadically reduce streaming 4K quality to sub-HD levels, and the pixellated result is not pleasing. If it doesn’t look good, it may just be the streaming quality, so keep that in mind (hint: unplug the TV and/or internet router if quality problems persist).

Observations:

  • High quality 4K is a whole new experience visually; I can’t go back to standard-res TV. Really good HD material can be quite satisfying on 4K also, and indeed better than mediocre 4K material, particularly movies originally shot on film (e.g., The Bourne Identity). Still, 4K TV cries out for high quality source material, and there isn’t a lot of that yet.
  • 4K is as much about dynamic range and color gamut than resolution. Just as with still image photography! All three have to be there in proper measure: resolution, color gamut, dynamic range. The dynamic range component is now standardized and with support starting to arrive in TVs like the Sony X930C; perhaps confusingly for still photographers it is called HDR.
  • Noise (film or digital) is a limitation with all sorts of 4K material shot in low light (Jessica Jones and Breaking Bad, show high levels of noise and sometimes posterization). Sometimes posterization is seen and sometimes pronounced: there is no magic bullet just because it’s video instead of still. Some recent movies are shot digitally on huge sensors (e.g, Revenant in 65mm anamorphic); I saw no such defects in Revenant, so large sensors apparently help tremendously.
  • The moving frames of video hide serious image quality defects as can be seen by pausing any 4K movie or show and examining any static details.
  • 4K footage that fully utilizes the resolution for more than a small fraction of the show is hard to find; movement, focus, lighting all reduce actual resolution. Ungraded 4K video at 100M/30p right out of the Sony A7R II or Sony A7S II makes a laughingstock of 4K streaming. UltraHD BluRay (due out in March 2016) should help a lot. The iMac 5K with 100M/30P 4K at actual pixels or at 5K looks fantastic, showing that 8K has serious potential for future 8K home TV (pixel density relates to believability of the image). Bandwidth is the main problem.
  • BluRay upscaled to 4K looks acceptable to very good, depending on the content. Blade Runner on BluRay cries out for a 4K remaster, but my guess is that the source material will have a lot of limitations. Plain DVD video is almost cartoonish in its coarse details, but old original Star Trek episodes on DVD work out just fine given the strong story lines; those were never about special effects.
  • Viewing distance matters. Anyone familiar with high-fidelity audio knows that listening position matters a lot. The same is true with video. I experimented with my preferred viewing distance to the 64.5" Sony X930C: 52 inches from the screen ±5 inches). Closer is too wide an angle for viewing comfort, farther feels out of the scene. This is one reason why most movie theatres suck: there are perhaps 6 optimal rows for seating (distance) and only a few seats in the middle (centered).

4K beats the theatre?

Having just seen two movies last night, I would say this: the theatre experience is challenged by the potential of high-grade 4K. The theatre image quality is not necessarily better than a high quality 4K movie on a high quality 4K TV. For starters, the theatre resolution is not commensurate with screen size: if seated too close then the image is less than sharp, and farther away the eye cannot necessarily discern any more than with a 4K TV. And that’s assuming the best seats in a good theatre.

More impressive in favor of the 4K TV experience (with future 8K and/or OLED becoming unbeatable): the reflected light of a projection system cannot compete with the rich blacks of the Sony X930C (or similarly with stills or video, an iMac 5K). Coming OLED screens will only widen that contrast gap: the black level of a movie theatre itself is not at all black (for starters), but reflected vs transmissive is like print versus screen. Get an iMac 5K and see the light. Now there may be specially-endowed theatres in which things are better than my local ones—so I’ll set that possibility aside. But I can get a better experience right at home on 64.5" 4K than at the theatre. What does this bode for theatres? I’d much rather see Revenant and Star Wars on 4K at home, assuming high quality UltraHD BluRay source.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Snow-Covered Bare Aspen (A7R II)

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R

This aperture series at relatively close range complements Pines in Heavy Snowstorm, which was taken at medium-far distance.

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Snow-Covered Bare Aspen (Sony A7R II)

There is no equivalent performer from Canon or Nikon or Sony or Zeiss at ~180mm. The ease of shooting the 180/2.8 APO on the A7R II is unrivalled by any adaptation to a DSLR and the EVF is a huge help. Shooting in heavy snow is so much easier on the A7R II with its EVF—what a terrific 'carry and shoot' combination.

Snow-Covered Bare Aspen
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Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Pines in Heavy Snowstorm (A7R II)

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R

Last fall I shot a lot of material with many different optics, and here is one result.

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Pines in Heavy Snowstorm (Sony A7R II)

The 180mm focal length is badly neglected by Canon, Nikon, Zeiss and Sigma. The Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R can be adapted for Canon, Nikon, Sony, but it is most useful on the Sony A7R II. There is no better solution for the ~180mm range as of early 2016.

Only a lens with outstanding performance characteristics could hope to record this scene in a persuasive way: snow coming down so heavily that it was thick to the eye, with ultra low contrast from both the lighting itself, as well as air thick with snow. A lens with less than outstanding performance will add its own dullness to an already dull scene. That fate is avoided by the Leica 180/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R ASPH.

The Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R and its siblings like the Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R and 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH must be obtained on the used market. But ironically they are more useful than they have ever been on the Sony A7R II: no Leica camera body (or Nikon or Canon DSLR) ever made them particularly usable.

Pines in Heavy Snowstorm
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Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Evaluated at 200mm, 340mm, 500mm

Get Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR at B&H Photo.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR offers relatively compact form factor for a lot of long lens reach. In this regard it is similar to the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, but with a fixed f/5.6 aperture and a bit more range.

Along with some overall commentary, I’ve evaluated it at 200mm, 340mm and 500mm on the Zeiss Siemens Star Test Chart, which affords repeatable focus accuracy and fine details at the periphery.

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LED Lighting Reviewed: Cineo Matchbox and Dracast LED 500

Get Dracast LED500 and Cineo Matchbox at B&H Photo.

Dracast LED500

See my previous blogs posts on the Cineo Matchbox and the Dracast LED500.

CRI (Color Rendering Index) and TLCI (Television Lighting Consistency Index) are two ratings applied to lighting sources, LED or otherwise. But how does LED lighting compare to real daylight in actual practice? Particularly in terms of the white balance and tint required for a neutral grayscale in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

Colorimetry is more complex than a simple color rendering rating because it involves spectral distribution, which can render some colors not quite ideally, due to the spectral distribution. CRI in particular is not good at describing the accuracy of some lighting sources which have a “gappy” spectrum.

Cineo Matchbox

But for this test I was curious what kind of white balance and tint these two lights would produce versus daylight, a neutral grayscale being a core requirement for good color. So I shot them under controlled conditions. Along with some general commentary on each, I show the white balance and tint with each as per what Adobe Camera Raw needs to produce a neutral gray scale at the nominal 5600°K output for each source.

There are very significant differences, which must be understood for good color. In DAP:

Cineo Matchbox and Dracast LED500 vs Daylight

Includes daylight as a reference, the two lights as the sole illuminant, and a mix of each with daylight. I recommend the Datacolor Spyder chart as seen below.

See also Sony A7R II: White Balance and Tint in Adobe Camera Raw and Leica SL: White Balance in Adobe Camera Raw, Gray Overcast Lighting.

Test scene for evaluating LED lighting vs daylight
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