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Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon Aperture Series: Creek Overview (Sony A7R)

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

See review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless.

This aperture series from f/2 to f/16 is a far-field image, a case where any weaknesses tend to pop out, and indeed a weakness is found, but whether it is lens or camera is unclear.

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon Aperture Series: Creek Overview(Sony A7R)

Entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.8 through f/16.

The performance is sure to delight any wide angle shooter, starting with its superb visual impact right at f/2. The Batis 25mm f/2 is the lens to have in that range for the Sony mirrorless shooter. At about $1299 (before the 4% reward and with free expedited shipping), it’s reasonably priced for what it delivers.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Sapling Above Creek (Sony A7R)

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

See review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless.

This lens rendering aperture series from f/1.8 to f/16 is intended to show the drawing style of the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 with a relatively close subject against a more distant background.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Sapling Above Creek (Sony A7R)

Entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.8 through f/16.

One might argue that bokeh for strongly out of focus areas is pretty much the same. But this is decidedly not so, as one can easily see in shooting the Leica Noctilux, whose strong field curvature layers a distinctly distracting effect over the image in some situations.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Sculptured Elegance (Sony A7R)

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. (thanks for buying with this link!)

See my review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless.

This extensive series offers entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.8 through f/16 as well as the usual large crop series. Sony SteadyShot disabled of course.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Sculptured Elegance (Sony A7R)

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar is a gorgeous lens that falls short of Zeiss Otus level in various aspects, but every lens is a combination of things, and the Batis 85/1.8 is relatively small and light and a very strong performer and it is autofocus. And it goes onto relatively tiny camera bodies (Sony A7 series). There’s a lot to like about it in all aspects. Zeiss has made a wise tradeoff in going for f/1.8, which keeps the size and weight down and makes performance easier to achieve at a lower price.

From what I’m seeing, the Batis lenses are MUST HAVES for Sony shooters. And short of Zeiss Otus, you’re not going to do better at 25mm and 85mm on Canon and/or Nikon. Let’s hope that Zeiss aggressively expands the Batis line. I vote for an 18mm f/2.8 next.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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Douglas S writes:

Your images with the 85mm Batis are quite superb, the best I recall including the Otus, superb colour as well as sharpness, added to my must have lens for the Sony A7R II with hopefully a quieter shutter that doesn’t try to throw the camera off the tripod.

DIGLLOYD: more coming. My Sony wishes include a vibration-free EFC shutter, 50+ megapixels, a non-lossy file format with less cooking of the raw file, IBIS, and a slightly larger and sturdier camera body for better controls (more usable with gloves and big hands),

Opening for June 1/2/3 Photo Tour

Yosemite or White Mountains. Details.

I’ll have the new Zeiss Batis lenses with me which a Sony shooter might get to try for a bit.

Snow conditions should look something like those seen in the image below.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Upper Tenaya Creek
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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Rocks

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. (thanks for buying with this link!)

See my review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless.

Last night in my haste I forgot to turn off Sony SteadyShot, so I went back tonight and shot some new material with it turned off, to guarantee peak results on a tripod. I’ll be presenting a number of series in the next few days in my review (more on the Batis 25/2 also). Then I’m heading to Yosemite for a few days (and BTW I have an opening for a photo tour on June 1/2/3).

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar rocks. What a gorgeous lens (the Zeiss Batis 25/2 also). MUST HAVES for Sony shooters.

Short of Zeiss Otus, you’re not going to do any better at 25mm and 85mm on Canon and/or Nikon. And the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 surely looks to be a better lens than the Zeiss ZF.2 25mm f/2 Distagon. Which raises a nagging question I’ve been wondering about for 2-3 years: when is Zeiss going to raise its wide-angle game in the DSLR arena?

A camera system depends on its lenses, and the Zeiss Batis line now solidly anchors the Sony mirrorless platform. Along with the Sony 28mm f/2 (more review coverage coming) and the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 and the prospect of a 50+ megapixel Sony A9, one wonders about Nikon and Canon and Fujifilm as distant runner ups in key markets like travel, landscape, wedding photography, etc. If only Sony would fix is dog excrement service and support.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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Douglas S writes:

Your images with the 85mm Batis are quite superb, the best I recall including the Otus, superb colour as well as sharpness, added to my must have lens for the Sony A7R II with hopefully a quieter shutter that doesn’t try to throw the camera off the tripod.

DIGLLOYD: more coming.

The Speed You Need

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon Aperture Series: Through the Boulders (Sony A7R)

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

In my review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless.

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon Aperture Series: Water Through the Boulders (Sony A7R)

With entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels from f/2 - f/13, and large crops.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Caution: Sony SteadyShot Destroys Sharpness on a Tripod

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

In my review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless.

The Zeiss Batis lenses are fully electronic, like any Sony FE lens, so they support the usual Sony A7 series camera features.

Image quality of the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar is superlative, but there is a gotcha: Sony’s SteadyShot destroys sharpness on a tripod (erratically), just as happens with every other vendor’s image stabilization. Does every camera vendor really think that image stabilization will be useful on a tripod for 2/5/10/20/30 seconds? It never is unless the comparison is between badly blurred (e.g. a fierce wind rocking things), and somewhat blurred.

Well, I goofed last night—racing to use the failing light, I swapped to the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar from the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon, I entirely forget about SteadyShot, buried as it is in the Sony kitchen-sink menu system. So some nice images ruined.

But my goof is to reader’s benefit as a reminder and didactic documentation, and so I show the series, which overall looks great, but with f/4 clearly damaged:

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.4 Sonnar On a Tripod With SteadyShot = Damaged Sharpness (Sony A7R, Through the Boulders)

So what is terrific for portraits is a liability for field use on a tripod. I have the human fault of not always remembering everything, particularly if I’m swapping lenses and/or shooting handheld sometimes and on a tripod a moment later (which I sometimes do).

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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In general

I vastly prefer switches on the lens and for this I fault Zeiss Batis design: it ought to be there. The Batis LED depth of field scale is incredibly crisp and readable but such scales are 100% ignored and useless for me, and I’d much rather have a SteadyShot indicator!

In general, camera systems are tools and tools should work for their users, not set up risks to stumble over. A car won’t start without the foot on the brake, for good reason. Smart system design includes thought about all aspects of usage.

With auto ISO, one can set the range of ISO values, so with SteadyShot, why is there not an operational range so the user can say “use only from 1/8 second and faster?”

Sebastian B writes:

Absolutely true, but there is also another and even more fail-safe way of doing it: automatically disable IS with the 2-second timer. Then as long as you're tripod-shooting with the timer, you don't even have to care about IS.

(Bonus: as soon as you disable the timer, IS will return to its previous setting, usually meaning it's again enabled for handheld shooting without user intervention. I've been shooting Pentax DSLRs like this for years and basically never had to even touch any IS controls.)

DIGLLOYD: Since Sebastian wrote the above, he clarified his comments:

Nah, misunderstanding — I was proposing that Sony should implement it like that. The problem is that they haven't, thus making it necessary for users to always check the IS setting. I'm sure the blur is exactly what you think it is, it's happened to me too on the A6000.

I was using the 2 second self timer; I always do so on a tripod to avoid disturbing the camera.

Note that my initial day's shooting had the Sony 1.01 firmware, now I’ve used the Sony root kit to get to verion 1.2 for the 2nd day’s shooting. The camera I’m using arrived in April; Sony keeps shipping stale firmware cameras, suggesting a warehouse full of unsold goods somewhere.

Henning K writes:

Also if you wish for other options regarding stabilizing,maybe natural is like Pentax to disable stabilisation together with self timer. I wish though for an option to decide ourselves about that. As the Sony could probably make stabilizing and self timer work at the same time. That helps for handheld and currently I have to make complicated workarounds to get near to that with Pentax.

DIGLLOYD: See above by Sebastian B.

Zeiss Loxia for Sony

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar: First Look, Portraits

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

In my review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless, I take a first look at portraits with both the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar on the Sony A7R.

Portraits with Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

Portraits with Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Images presented in various sizes up to 24 megapixels.

More to come, but the examples published above should give a good feel for the superlative image quality.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar: Here we Go

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

See initial review coverage of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless, as well as Zeiss Announces 'Batis' line: Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar: MTF Series from f/1.8 - f/16 + Distortion.

The Sony A7R meets two new optics tomorrow. :)

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2   Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 for Sony A7 series

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Defunct Ranch Buildings at Sunset

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

A lens that resists flare and holds high contrast all while delivering high sharpness right from f/1.4 is a keeper in your author’s book, and it is a key question for a landscape photographer, or for anyone looking to make images with a high dynamic range.

Does the lens hold contrast and resist flare enough to make faux HDR viable?

If the lens grays-out the shadows or belches ghosting or veiling flares, it’s game over for scenes like this.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Defunct Ranch Buildings at Sunset (Nikon D810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), along with UltraHD crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Defunct Ranch Buildings at Sunset
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Fred S writes:

Thanks for nailing this shot, inspiring me to think about the right equipment, exposure, focus, composition, and time of day, a beautiful reminder of the aesthetic of straight photography.

DIGLLOYD: Especially hard to do when the results have to be part of my lens coverage, and not simply shooting at will. :)

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Green Lichen on North Side of Barn (M240)

Get Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

A “wall test” is a very demanding test, because any lens with field curvature will have a difficult time making a sharp image across the frame for the first few apertures.

This series confirms and complements the Rusty Barn series.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Green Lichen on North Side of Barn (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images to full resolution, and large crops, from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/5.6 along with large crops.

The Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is a must-have lens for the Leica M shooter. It is a rare gem in being extremely sharp in a flat field, low distortion, excellent in correction for color errors, and gorgeous in its bokeh.

 
Green Lichen on North Side of Barn
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Hiep P writes:

I just want to say excellent coverage once again. Your thorough tests have always impressed me and helped me making sound purchase. I am now going full M-mount so I sold my SLR stuff and just placed an order on the 50 AA. As a 50 shooter, I think the wider companion should be a 28, though your praise of the ZM 35/1.4 is making it hard for me to decide. I'm looking forward to seeing your review on the Lux 28. I'm at the point of analysis paralysis :D juggling back and forth between 28 and 35. I shot a 35 before but feel like it's neither wide nor narrow enough for my purpose. I guess more shooting might change that, but I was more comfortable with my ZE 28 back then.

Anyway, my main point for this email is to ask if you can include a coma test in your test routine. A quick shot of a starry sky would be sufficient I think. Studio test with LED point light could be used (like Lenstip) but I'm not sure how to set that up. Besides astrophotography interest, coma performance would give others an idea of how a lens could be used in night photography. I think this would round out all the technical aspects. Thank you.

DIGLLOYD: stars are miserably dim where I live and it's often foggy to boot. And even at 3500 meters / 11,000' elevation, the number of “good star nights” is about 1 in 20 (that is, bright enough to avoid motion blur by having a short enough exposure with an f/2.8 lens). Coma isn’t quite the right term, since off-center there are often a conglomeration of optical aberrations, so testing the point spread function is a better way to describe it. A revealing test of the point spread function in the Huge Barn Interior, Sunlit and Skylit series for the Sigma 24/1.4 Art. I am thinking of building a target to simulate that kind of situation but a bullet-hold barn works darn well, and I didn’t even have to make the holes.

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Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Initial Coverage and Comments

Pre-order Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M APSH

Published in Guide to Leica is my initial commentary on the MTF, vignetting and distortion characteristics of the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH.

I’ll be reviewing the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH just as soon as I can get my hands on one (also the new Leica M Monochrom and hopefully the two together initially).

At about $5500 its price is similar to the Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. Leica bills it as “the perfect companion for reportage”. Roughly translated, that means it will be exceptional in certain ways (sure to be a hit with its disciples for a unique rendering style).

The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. rounds off the range of high-speed M wide angle focal lengths. It offers excellent image performance over the entire image field even at full aperture and in the close-up range thanks to a “floating element”.

With its exceptional contrast, the lens delivers the same recognized high performance level as the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH., and in some respects actually outperforms it.

The vignetting that is typical of every optical system is naturally more defined on a wide angle lens, particularly a high speed one like this, than on standard lenses or those with a long focal length. At full aperture in 35mm format it is a maximum, i.e. in the corners of the image, of around 3.4 stops, around 2 stops on Leica M8 models with their slightly smaller format. Stopping down to 5.6 visibly reduces this light falloff – to 1.8 and 0.8 stops respectively. Stopping down further does not bring about any notable reduction as essentially only the natural vignetting remains.

Distortion is extremely low for a wide angle lens at a maximum of 1.1% (pulvinate), which is rarely noticeable in practice.

A total of ten lens elements are used to achieve this exceptional performance. To correct color defects, seven of these are made of glass types with anomalous color dispersion (partial dispersion), while one has an aspherical surface.

To maintain performance in the close-up range, one element towards the rear of the optical system is a “floating element” that moves independently of the rest of the mechanism.

Summary: The Leica Summilux-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH. offers maximum image performance with a focal length / speed combination previously unavailable in the M system. This extends the composition options of M photography, particularly for available light shots, but also thanks to a previously unattainable reduction in the depth of field combined with large field angles.

MTF

Leica has published gross inconsistencies and omitted f/1.4 in the data sheet MTF. The MTF there is in extreme conflict with the MTF charts found in the instruction manual PDF.

I am assuming that the MTF in the instruction manual is correct, and I have rewritten my initial commentary accordingly.

Leica data sheet for 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH in apparent gross error (and missing f/1.4)

Specifications

Technical Data for Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
Focal length: 28mm
Aperture scale: f/1.4 - f/16
Number of elements/groups: 10 elements in 7 groups
floating group, one aspherical, 7 with anomalous partial dispersion
Focusing range: 700 cm
Angular field, diagonal / horizontal / vertical 75° / 65° / 46°
Coverage at close range: 526 mm x 789 mm (M8: 395 mm x 592 mm)
Image ratio at close range:            1:21.9
Filter thread: 49mm
Weight, nominal: 440g
Dimensions: length approx. 81 mm, diameter approx 61mm
Includes: TBD
Price: about $5500
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Leica S with the 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH @ 30mm: Aperture Series 'Pescadero Creek, Downstream'

Get Leica 30-90mm at B&H Photo.

The 30-90mm is a lens I hear about from some Leica S shooters as one that works great as an all-arounder and is good for travel, being about the same size as its fixed focal length siblings.

This example confirms the main weakness with the 30-90mm (seen also in the Rushing Water series and Mossy Boulders in Pescadero Creek series), and ought to be instructive to every prospective user of the Leica 30-90mm.

Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH @ 30mm @ 30mm: Pescadero Creek Downstream View

Includes images up to 24 megapixels and large crops across the f/3.5 - f/16 aperture range.

Pescadero Creek, Downstream
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Leica S with the 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH @ 30mm: Aperture Series 'Rushing Water'

Get Leica 30-90mm at B&H Photo.

The 30-90mm is a lens I hear about from some Leica S shooters as one that works great as an all-arounder and is good for travel, being about the same size as its fixed focal length siblings.

The CCD sensor in the Leica S is lovely, but this example shows the main weakness with the 30-90mm and ought to be instructive to every prospective user of the Leica 30-90mm. For myself, I’d find a kit consisting of the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH and the 30mm and 45mm and 100mm primes more satisfying—now that I’ve evaluated the 30-90mm in more detail. But 4 primes is a heavy load, and so the 30-90mm has its place.

Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH @ 30mm @ 30mm: Rushing Water

Includes images up to 24 megapixels and large crops across the f/3.5 - f/16 aperture range.

The Leica S CCD sensor is something special. I’m interested in doing more work on the S system. If an S showed up on loan for 3-5 months that would certainly help as I could interleave coverage with my other work.

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Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Plants Eking Out Light Inside Barn (M240)

Order: Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

There is a special visual quality to this image at all apertures resulting from the superb optical peformance of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. It is best enjoyed on a 4K display or iMac 5K, though the feel is apparent on a high quality conventional display.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Plants Eking Out Light Inside Barn (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images to full 24-megapixel resolution of the M240.

In my studied view in field use, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is the best lens available for shooting on the Leica M240—and yes I do own the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH. I much prefer its ergonomics and its image quality over the Leica 35/1.4 Summilux, and at about $2290, the ZM 35/1.4 Distagon is a steal by comparison (ZM 35/1.4 lens hood is extra).

 
Plants Eking Out Light Inside Barn
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Does the Nikon D810 Have a Problem in Sub-Freezing Temperatures? Or is it the card or something else?

UPDATE: see Finder preview shot and my thoughts that follow it.

Also, I’ve seen file corruption issues myself in other Nikon bodies with SanDisk cards; see 2011: SanDisk Extreme Pro Card Failures and 2012: SanDisk Card Errors in D800E. As far as I could tell, these had nothing to do with temperature.

   
Corrupted Images from Nikon D810

Salim M writes:

I meant to email about this earlier, but your current user feedback post provided a good context. In your email you suggested users to pack D810 for Antarctica, Iceland, etc.

Actually, I would recommend the D800 or D800e instead. I have had problems with image corruption on D810 when temperature is dropping to -10° C /14° F or colder. I noticed the problem when I upgraded to D810 and took my new camera back to a trip to Minsk Belarus. At first I assumed it was a problem with a card. But then I tried different cards.

The real objective result was when shooting with my old D800E side-by-side with the new D810 in the Canadian Rockies last Christmas. In a cold day 20-30% of images were getting corrupted on the D810 where as there were no issues on my old D800e. This was not a single day occurrence or limited to just one type of card.

Upon meeting another group of photographers in that trip, I also heard similar anecdotal stories. Point is, for real cold weather (though costal Iceland rarely gets that cold) the old D800e might perform better than the newer D810.

 

DIGLOYD: that’s troubling news, Salim confirms use of Nikon batteries and Sony and Lexar cards.

Salim sent me a raw file and I confirmed the corruption with the file by opening it with a variety of raw converters.

Interesting that only RawDigger reports an error, with both Nikon Capture NX-D and Adobe Camera Raw just blithely forging on and reporting no error at all (poor engineering).

 
Corrupted Image from Nikon D810 (f/0 indicates non-cpu lens)
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Image preview in Finder

This preview is embedded in the raw file by the camera. Hence it obviously read good data from the sensor to begin, and produced a perfectly normal image for the embedded JPEG preview.

The foregroing suggests that there is no issue with the sensor, and that the issue occurs in the processing pipeline or in a compatibility issue with the card, or a problem with the card itself.

I deem the most likely theory a card problem, and possibly a counterfeit card issue, since I once experienced such image corruption issues myself with a counterfeit.

 
Corrupted Image preview looks fine in the Finder

Maynard S writes:

After reading about the D810 cold weather corruption problems, I was reminded of the problems a friend of mine had with his D800e. It seems that when he looked at the photos on the back of his camera, everything looked fine, no corruption problems. When he tried to import them to Phase One , many of the photos were shown as corrupted.

The problem turned out to be that he was not formatting the cards in the camera. He formatted in the computer only & residue from earlier shots were imbedded in cards. As soon as he formatted in his D800e, all problems with corruption went away.
Could these people using the D810’s be formatting in their computers? Just a thought.

DIGLLOYD: the problem is strange enough that all angles have to be considered, and it is a good idea to format cards in the camera.

I always use high capacity cards that I format once every several weeks (in the camera), using the high capacity as a tertiary backup over that time span (rather than wiping out past shoots). See Downloading and Backing Up Images In The Field.

I particularly like 64GB or higher capacity fast cards because out in the field it means I can generally leave files on the card as backups even after downloading*.

Salim M replies:

This is not my case. I format in camera, anyways. Basically I had the same experience in Minsk Belarus. I took numerous photos on the card (BTW, in regards to your prior thoughts: I transferred the photos later after arriving back to US in the warmth of my house) to noticed the photos taken were corrupted. At first my assumption was there was an issue with the card. But then I noticed the same issues in Canadian Rockies. The camera is fine to -5 maybe -10 but if I stand in the cold for too long or it gets to -20 the number this is when I start seeing corrupt images and % of corrupt images increase as well.

I finally wised up and started using a hand-warmer I put one on the camera and one in my bag to put the camera back and warm it up and then shoot again and if I did that, the images had close to 100% corruption free rates. So, I'm pretty convinced it has to do with environmental factors.

The small thumbnail (preview image) that is usually embedded in the files (which is the first thing adobe bridge shows before actually reading the full raw file) looked fine at first. But after bridge has had time to analyze the actual image then you see what seem liked a good image turn to the corrupted thumbnails (the thumbnail screenshots I sent earlier). Based on that, I'm wondering if it has something to do with the circuitry that writes the files since the thumbnail preview images seemed okay at first.

The question I need to answer is if I should send the D810 for repair before the expiration of the its warranty. I haven't done it, since Nikon's operating temperature range higher than the temperature I was using the camera in.

DIGLLOYD: If adding warmth fixes th issue, this does nort necessarily implicate the camera itself. I’d like to see the issue happen with another brand that has been rock solid for me (Toshiba Exceria Pro 1066X 64GB), and known not counterfeit.

But if operation was below that specified by Nikon, maybe there really is a camera body problem.

Bridge will use its rendered version after first showing the embedded preview, so no mystery there.

Colin H writes:

Interesting piece on Salim M and the unfortunate file corruption issues. It seems this is most likely a camera or CF card created issue that is driven by weather conditions, especially given the antidotal information from others he was with on the trip. Other photographers who work with the D810 routinely in cold weather may be able to shed more light on the topic.

I’d encourage him to send the camera in immediately and get the issue on the record with Nikon.

Although far less likely, if he is using the same set of equipment to ingest the images once he returns home, checking his card readers and cables may be in order. I have had images be corrupt after ingest and assumed they were ruined on the card by the camera only to later learn that the card reader or cable used to ingest the images was bad. If he still has the images on the card it may be worth trying to ingest them with a different card reader or even an entirely different card reader and computer to see if any different results occur.

I realize this is a long shot given the additional information we have, but hardware does fail, too.

DIGLLOYD: Some stage of the process or some part is failing. I suspect the storage card myself, not the camera per se, since it generates a proper low-res JPEG. Salim indicates that he did try downloading again in warmer conditions.

Richard S writes:

Photographers who use photo equipment under cold conditions should be aware that there are very specific protocols to follow to avoid malfunctioning equipment. When camera equipment (or any other precision equipment) is moved between freezing temperatures and room temperatures, condensation will form in the camera and this can be very damaging to both mechanical and electronic assemblies, especially if the equipment is subsequently exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. It is generally not the fault of the manufacturer nor is it the result of poor testing.

DIGLLOYD: I don’t think anyone has made the claim of fault as yet. It is an issue being observed, and that is the point of the discussion, and the condensation issues is certainly a very important area to consider as a possible culprit. And if the D800E does not fail and the D810 does, one must first ask whether they were handled differently, or wether the model might matter.

Jef M writes:

One of the issues one has to watch closely in Texas is the dew point because it can be higher than the temperature in most air conditioned homes. To acclimate the camera and lenses I place my equipment in a Seal Line clear Dry Bag then move to a moderate temperature area where the temp is higher than the dew point. Once the equipment is warmer than the dew point it's safe to take out of the bag and use.

DIGLLOYD: always a good idea to pay attention to humidity, including fungus in humid climes.

Raul J writes:

I saw your article about the Nikon D810 issues in sub-freezing temperatures and I thought I should tell you about a similar experience I had. My experience was not in sub-freezing temperatures but on a normal summer day. I experienced the same problem a year ago with my then one week old Nikon D810. It was not a super hot day and I did not leave the camera exposed to any extreme conditions. I contacted Nikon's tech support upon my return to the U.S. and they just said to replace my storage card. I have continued to use the same memory card without issues for almost a year so I have no idea what caused it and I am pretty sure Nikon did not know either. Some of the distorted images were quite beautiful. A creative glitch...

DIGLLOYD: maybe just a bug or compatibility issue triggered by unknown factors. Or a batch of cameras with one faulty component.

Roy P writes:

I just read the comments from one of your readers about his Sony A7x system not performing in near-zero temperature, and also the subsequent poor service from. Being a user of both the Sony A7x system and Nikon D810, I have some counterpoints I’d like to share.

There is something profound your reader’s negative experience with the Sony is masking, and that is, the problem existed at all in the first place. Such a complaint would never have arisen with respect to a Leica M240 camera, for instance. Why? Most people would not even have considered bringing a $15K M system to tough it out in sub-zero temperatures. The aristocratic M system exists to be served by its fan boys, not the other way around!

My point is, the Sony E-mount system started as the modern day Leica M system – compact, lightweight and highly portable alternative to bulky and heavy DSLRs. What has happened is, within a very short few years, the Sony system has far exceeded its intended use, and is rapidly becoming a platform for various other use cases. People are pushing the Sony A7x cameras for demanding tasks as a pro-class tool, for everything except action photography like pro sports or wild life.

To me, that seems like enormous and unprecedented success of the mirrorless E-mount system. People are taking these cameras to use cases that Sony had probably never imagined, so a lot of this is cutting edge. Sony doesn’t necessarily have the answers for some of the problems thus encountered. Which is why calling the service center is not likely to be very helpful.

We just need to remind ourselves that as impressive as the A7x system is, it is still a first generation product from Sony, and it may not surpass a 7th or 8th generation DSLR from Nikon on every dimension! I think the A7x is on a fundamentally superior technology roadmap, and each new generation will continue to leapfrog the aging DSLR which is in the early stages of getting caught in a decaying orbit, IMHO.

Also, as you know, I just got back from a trip to the Antarctica. On this trip, I brought my A7R, A7-II, and the Sony-Zeiss 16-35mm f/4, 24-70mm f/4 and the 70-200mm f/4 lenses, along with a Leica 50mm APO Summicron-M. Every one of them functioned flawlessly. I took over 4,000 pictures in all. About 650 of them were with my Leica S, and the remaining ~3,400 were with the two Sony cameras. Not a single problem, with either of the Sony bodies or any of the lenses. In fact, a couple of times, my S-006 camera had trouble autofocusing, after being out in the cold for 2+ hours. No issues with the Sony.

I wouldn’t have believed it, but on this trip, my Nikon D810 became the odd man out, and I left it behind. There were some situations (flying birds, fast moving whales) when I wished I had my D810. But for the most part, I did not miss it, and it is tough for me to say that, because I’ve been a Nikon user for 20+ years, and I really like my D810.

Net-net: I think we’re in the early stages of the most profound change in photography since turning digital. Some of these frustrations with Sony are related to the growing pains, I think. In time, I think we’ll see the A7x system expand to more configurations and form factors that will provide more optimal solutions to different use cases. Until then, I think Sony deserves some slack – there’s more stuff coming out of Sony in months than there’s stuff coming out of Nikon / Canon / Leica in years!

DIGLLOYD: Good perspective!

Regarding the M240, it has had its share of issues (and I have shot it in sub freezing temps without issues too), but Leica does service their cameras and lenses, even if they do have to often to Germany. That is a “profound” difference with not having any meaningful service organization (Sony), or any at all (cameras/lenses get sent to a generic 3rd party).

It is true that the Sony E-mount system has been very well received, indeed groundbreaking. Ditto for the iPhone. Compare the service and support of the two.

I don’t agree that the camera generation is the issue; Sony has already done fine here technically. Rather, it’s an entire corporarate culture that does not see service and support as a priority. On the Cool New Sutff I said “grand prize at the science fair”: aggressive innovation moving the bar forward. But a wobbly “table” missing a leg (service and support).

 

The Speed You Need

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Rusty Barn (M240)

Order: Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

A “wall test” is a very demanding test indeed, because any lens with field curvature will have a difficult time making a sharp image at f/1.4. But the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon sets a very high bar that no Leica M lens can match. So it is best to show just what it can do.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Rusty Barn (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images to full resolution, and large crops, from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16 along with large crops.

I’m looking forward to seeing the ZM 35/1.4 Distagon and the Leica 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH perform on the new Leica M Monochrom Typ 246.

 
Rusty Barn
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Bicycling: the Right Bike Fit Adds Power, and Improves Comfort

I wanted to share some out-of-band info that may be of help to some, because I’ve found it valuable. For me at least, staying physically fit is the only way I can survive my 80 hour work weeks.

From my discussion of the Central Coast Double Century

I am grateful to Kevin Bailey at 3DBikeFit.com for his attention to details of my bike setup. A meticulous master of his craft, all aspects of my bike fit with Kevin resulted in maximum comfort, or properly speaking minimum discomfort, since 211 miles is a very long ride.

The afternoon prior, my right wrist went bonkers due to continuing issues with nerve damage and I had no ability to articulate/twist it without severe pain. I considered skipping the ride entirely. But because Kevin set my bar position and reach for three hand positions all keeping the body in the same optimal position (hoods, drops, bar top) and all keeping the wrist in optimal straight/unbent position, I had zero pain in my wrist/hand—non issue.

That and the other aspects of reach, saddle height, custom orthotic were all spot-on. Pretty amazing to have it all work so well. If the fit is right, the body can handle things, but if the slightest thing is off, 211 miles can be punishing by overloading some joint or muscle.

3DBikeFit.com

Sony FE 28mm f/2: Assessing Focus Shift and Color Correction and Sharpness at Close Range (Dolls, Sony A7R)

 
Sony FE 28mm f/2

Get Sony FE 28mm f/2 at B&H Photo.

Close range can be a challenge for some lens designs, so it’s nice to check out a lens there and see how it does first. This series assesses the Sony FE 28mm f/24 Distagon over the f/2 - f/16 aperture range at a image plane to subject distance of 18 inches / 46 cm.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony FE 28mm f/2 Aperture Series: Assessing Focus Shift and Color Correction and Sharpness at Close Range (Dolls, A7R)

Shot on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R, presented with HD and UltraHD images up to 24 megapixels, along with crops, over the f/2, ..., f/16 aperture range.

Dolls Posing Patiently
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Shootout: Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M vs Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH (Pescadero Creek Grass and Moss)

Get Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M and Leica 90mm f/2.0 APO-Summicron-M aspherical at B&H

In Guide to Leica, this comparison complements the Green Lichen Barn effort. Together, they both address the same practical question: in what ways is it worth spending for the half-stop faster APO 90mm?

Shootout: 90/2.4 Summarit vs 90/2 APO-Summicron: Pescadero Creek Grass and Moss (M240)

The Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH was used, which is optically identical to the Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH. The R version has the advantage of being directly usable on Leica M or Canon with a lens adapter, or convertible to Nikon mount, and I prefer its ergonomics over the M version.

  
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M and Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
Grass and Green Moss
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Canon 5DS / 5DS R

Reader Experience and Concerns: Sony Service and Reliability

Paul I writes:

With all of the interest in the Sony A7 series, and the expected arrival of even higher resolution full frame bodies, a recent experience has raised serious concerns about continuing with the Sony system. I’m writing you because of your excellent work on discovering and calling attention to the shutter vibration problem in the A7r.

I recently was in Iceland, where the temperatures were close to 32° F (0 ° C). I had purchased a Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, which I thoroughly tested before the trip. The lens immediately and consistently exhibited the following behavior when used outdoors, where it was always used in the manual focus mode: After a few minutes of use, when attempting to focus I would hear a “clunk” and the lens would go out of focus. At times it would make a high-pitch whining noise. Once this happened it was impossible to focus until the power was turned off and back on, at which time it would work for a minute or two before doing the same thing. This was not an intermittent problem, but happened every day during 10 days of use.

When returning I called Sony, and was informed that Sony no longer had their own warranty service. The only option was to send the lens to Precision Camera in Enfield, CT. Precision’s web site shows that they service multiple brands. The lens was sent to them with a clear explanation that the lens only malfunctioned at temperatures around 32° F. The lens was returned with a note “Checks out OK.” They stated they cleaned it. I called and asked if it was tested at 32° F, since it always has worked normally at room temperatures and consistently failed when cold. The person answering the phone had no idea. Furthermore, she refused to transfer me to a technician, supervisor, or anyone with technical knowledge.

I then called Sony, who said I could send it back to Precision, but had no idea if they could test it at temperatures in which it failed. Furthermore Sony would not transfer me to any supervisor or anyone with any technical knowledge. Eventually the situation was settled after multiple calls to customer service by Sony taking back the lens and refunding the purchase price.

Based on my experience, I have to consider Sony bodies and lenses as disposable. How can we invest in a professional grade system if there is no company support? I welcome your thoughts.

DIGLLOYD: Only last week I heard another story like this firsthand from a friend (camera body failure), and if anything it was more shocking to the point of total ragged incompetence—the service from Sony is a bad joke clusterf*ck.

My purchases for Sony compatible E-mount will be the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses (maybe an exception for the Sony/Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon ZA), since Zeiss supports and services those. Then the only “screw” you can get is on the Sony camera body itself, so you buy 2 or 3 and understand what you’re dealing with.

The way I see it, Sony is a gadget company that understands next to nothing about photography or what a pro or serious photographer needs (hardware and software and service/support); they do a fantastic job on sensors and putting cool parts together, but it ends there.

There, now I done it—Sony shooters with their ego melded into their camera can rage at me just as much as Fujifilm X shooters. :;

If I were traveling overseas and particularly to Iceland or Antarctica or Nepal or any relatively remote place, I’d be nervous as heck taking Sony gear. That is, unless I had 3 or 4 bodies and multiple lenses—lots of redundancy. Which defeats the small and light thing. And that even leaves aside the questionable build quality, particularly the toy lens mount not to mention weather sealing and the too-small form factor with tiny shitty buttons most of which are a female dog to operate in the cold and/or with gloves.

Rather, I’d take the trusty Nikon D810 (two bodies) along with Zeiss manual focus lenses (maybe not all MF lenses, but several key focals, because they have never failed me, and they have manual aperture rings even if the lens CPU chip should fail). I regularly shoot in below freezing temps in the mountains, including snowstorms, and never has Nikon or Zeiss failed me.

My comments above are NOT a conclusion based on anecdote; for that some statistics would be needed. At least one reader has already leaped to that idea, far beyond what I wrote, and missed the main point: that a camera system is a system including the camera itself, the lenses and (most important of all) service and support and usability under one’s shooting conditions (I cannot operate the Sony with gloves on without frustration, for example). Having shot many Nikon digital bodies outdoors since the D1 appeared, my confidence level in all aspects of operation, reliability, service/support is very high. Ditto for Zeiss. But it is not statistical.

Salim M writes:

I meant to email about this earlier, but your current user feedback post provided a good context. In your email you suggested users to pack D810 for Antarctica, Iceland, etc.

Actually, I would recommend the D800 or D800e instead. I have had problems with image corruption on D810 when temperature is dropping to 10 or more below Celsius. I noticed the problem when I upgraded to D810 and took my new camera back to a trip to Minsk Belarus. At first I assumed it was a problem with a card. But then I tried different cards.

The real objective result was when shooting with my old D800e side-by-side with the new D810 in the Canadian Rockies last Christmas. In a cold day 20-30% of images were getting corrupted on the D810 where as there were no issues on my old D800e. This was not a single day occurrence or limited to just one type of card.

Upon meeting another group of photographers in that trip, I also heard similar anecdotal stories. Point is, for real cold weather (though costal Iceland rarely gets that cold) the old D800e might perform better than the newer D810.

DIGLOYD: that’s troubling news, confirmed Nikon battery and Sony and Lexar cards. However, I’m waiting to see a raw file and see for myself, because the claimed corruption is a screen shot in Adobe Bridge, which could just as well be a bug in Bridge or the video card, etc. The term corruption means that the file structure is damaged, or there is damage to actual image data. A bad preview (particularly in Bridge) is not proof of any corruption, particularly when the camera itself shows no issue (as Salim M confirms).

Update: the D810 file is badly corrupted with massive color streaking (nothing odd about the exposure, ISO 100 at 1/400 sec). The only program that handles this correctly is RawDigger (it posts an error alert), but ACR and Nikon Capture NX-D must be faulted for not reporting any issue at all.

The coldest I have shot the D800E has been ~ 23°F, the coldest for the D810 ~ 28°F.

Roderick W writes:

Interesting your comment on Zeiss CPU failure possibility. I have had the CPU fail in two Zeiss 21 mm f2.8, both replaced free by Zeiss, and last week the CPU in my 55 mm Otus failed. I am debating whether to do without my everyday lens for 3 weeks or go on with it as a ‘Non CPU’ lens. Not a big deal on a Nikon 800E.

DIGLLOYD: I’ve had no CPU failures and I own most all the ZF.2 and ZE lenses. I wonder if the camera body is involved. With Nikon, the lens can still be used (aperture ring) even if the CPU fails (another reason to prefer Nikon). At least here in the USA, service is excellent and fast.

Ken C writes:

Anecdotes are all very well – not entirely worthless, that is – but, as ten minutes with a search engine will demonstrate, there are anecdotes about all makes of camera. Is there anything that could be called data about the failure rates of different brands? As a current Sony and Olympus user who has previously owned Canon and Fuji cameras, I have so far had marginally less trouble with the Sonys than any of the others (ie, none versus not much). This, of course, proves nothing whatsoever, I may be just lucky, but I don’t see that your post gives me much by way of reasons to think so, and if there are such reasons I would like to know them.

At this point I am not finding in my heart of hearts any inclination whatsoever to rage at you, only to express a certain mild puzzlement at the vehemence of your conclusions against the apparent paucity of your evidence. I also think you mix up two subjects – reliability of equipment and quality of after sales service.

While the latter – your main subject – is undoubtedly important to professionals, it is surely not much of a reason for taking several camera bodies to remote places. And out of 100 people taking two Sony bodies to Antarctica (your chosen number for Nikons), how many do you think would end up regretting not taking three or four – and what might the figure be for the person taking two Nikons? I mean that as a real question, against my working assumption that all makes, even Sony, are actually pretty reliable.

DIGLLOYD: The “mix up” is actually the only relevant issue and by intent: one shoots a system, which includes reliability and service and support. All camera gear can fail, hence redundancy is key. A NYC pro who takes one camera body to an expensive shoot won’t be a pro the next day. And when the gear does fail, how good is the support. The “mix up” is the point; I’m not Lens Rentals here—I worry about a camera failure in the field, which has happened exactly once for me with the Nikon D1x: shutter failure some years ago. Leica by contrast (M240) has shown me many lockup failures in the field (remove the battery and things recover at least).

All true about anecdotes. Statistics would be needed of course. But Ken has misread my intent—I am (primarily) making the main point about the total system, of which support is (for me), a key priority. Which in fact is the first sentence of my response to the first email—about the poor support and service. I follow on with my own experience with Nikon. It’s worth reading what I wrote for what I wrote and not inserting invalid assumptions, e.g., “nervous as heck” is not a statistical claim.

I’d lay odds that a dual camera Nikon shooter is likely to do better than a dual Sony. But I wait to hear from someone who has traveled to Antarctica and has much practical experience on the cold-weather subject, Kevin Raber of LuLa.

Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com writes:

DIGLLOYD: How do Nikon/Canon/Sony camera bodies and lenses fare on reliability/repair?

We haven't crunched those numbers anytime recently and it's a really big job that may not get done until the end of summer.

I don't think we see a significant difference in camera reliability. Lens reliability depends much more on type of lens than on brand. As you'd expect, a 70-200 f/2.8 image stabilized lens fails quite frequently. A non stabilized prime much less so, etc.

I don't know that we've had enough sample size to say Sony lenses fail more frequently with a huge comfort level of accuracy, but my gut says they do. I can say without hesitation, though, that Sony lenses are much more likely to be deemed "not financially feasible to repair" by factory service than the the other brands, but that probably has more to do with them having their repairs done at Precision Camera than anything else. Sony's are probably have more significant sample variation than the other brands too.

Not much help I'm afraid, but it will probably be months before we have specifics.

Only Sony and a few m4/3 lenses use the electromagnetic focusing system. I don't know if that might contribute to a low temperature failure like was described, but it's certainly worth investigating.

As an aside, we've now had 8 Sony lenses sent in to Precision for failure to focus, all sent back as financially not feasible to repair. All were repaired by us by simply regluing the components in the electromagnetic AF slider back together. It's not a simple repair in that it takes an experienced tech 45 minutes or so to disassemble and and another 30 to reassemble, but certainly not "financially not feasible".

DIGLLOYD: Most likely, few users shoot cameras in sub-freezing temperatures, so that question is tougher to address.

Milton M writes:

I had a very similar experience with a Precision Camera repair of my Sony a7R. I had the misfortune of having the USB connection to the camera go intermittent in the middle of a firmware update. This bricked the camera -- totally dead and unresponsive. Sony said the only alternative was to send the camera to Precision Camera for repair. I specifically asked Precision Camera to check out the USB connector on the camera and the USB cable (which I included with the camera). $400 later, I got my camera back with the firmware re-loaded. The included Explanation of Repairs made no mention of any testing or repair of the USB connector or cable. I called Precision Camera to ask about the USB connection, and after about 1 minute of ringing, Gail answered. She told me that the USB connector had "probably" been replaced. I told her that for $400 I wanted to be CERTAIN that the USB problem had been corrected, and asked to talk to the repair technician. Gail told me that the technicians were in another building and that it was not possible to transfer me. I then offered to wait on the line while she contacted the repair technician, and she said she could not do that either. She said she would check with the technicians and call me back in 2 days. She didn't call back. Pretty dismal customer service IMHO. I called Precision Camera back the next week. This time (after another minute of phone ringing) I talked to Charlene who was much more helpful. When I asked about the USB connector, she put me on hold to check. (I can only assume she checked with a repair technician!). A few moments later, she told me it had been replaced.

The larger question here is: why did the USB connector on a Sony a7R camera that was only 1 year old fail, especially since I rarely ever use that connector? I had updated firmware through that connector a couple of times, but I mostly use an external charger to recharge the battery, so the USB connector was certainly not overused for charging. I'm wondering if others are having problems with Sony's USB connectors. It' enough to drive a person to film!

DIGLLOYD: Ummm... why should someone buying a $2000 camera have to send it to a 3rd-party vendor for any level of service? See my comments above about Sony being a gadget company—Sony doesn’t get it. At the least, there could be some kind of +10% of price warranty offering that would result in a camera exchange or some such thing.

Why does Sony shit the bed for its products? A product is the harware + the software + service and support, ergo Sony doesn’t sell products, but science-fair projects (grand prize in that regard). The software is crap and there is no service and support. To this day I have not flushed my money down the Sony camera body toilet, if only from seeing the massive devaluation of Sony gear in a matter of months. But my Nikon D810 will hold residual value of significance for quite some time. Still, soon I’ll be forced to buy some kind of Sony camera body to offer the lens coverage I need to do.

Jorge Torralba writes:

We must be thinking in parallel.

http://jorgetorralba.com/2015/05/16/sony-still-needs-to-mature/

By the way, I need to update my rant. Sony is refunding my the purchase price since they did not have any in the warehouse to replace it with.

DIGLLOYD: I did like the A7 II (reliability concerns aside), but I’d put Sony purchases on hold pending a new “crop” of cameras.

Kevin Raber of Luminous-Landscape.com writes:

I have been to Antarctica 12 times and I have never had a camera failure. I have seen my share of others but I have not experienced anything related to weather. I had a screw come out of a Canon 5D MArk II and lock the mirror. Luckily I had s pares with me. In my travels to both polar regions and very cold weather elsewhere I have been fortunate to experience no problems. Batteries die a lot quicker but I am prepared for that by having numerous spares and in real cold weather batteries are kept on an inside parka jacket pocket with a heat pack. Many times batteries that does come back to life after warming up. Most failures I have seen can be related to moisture or condensation. Good practices regarding moving gear in and out of cool (cold)places to warm more humid places should be followed. I have seen this failure type in warn humid weather going into air conditioning as well as cold outside weather moving into warm indoors.

I shoot with just about every camera there is. I own Nikon D800e’s, Sony A7 II, Olympus OMD and Fuji X-T1. Plus an arsenal of lenses for each system. I have taken all of these systems to harsh environments and they have all performed without issue. So, I must a lucky one. My experience with service when needed has been OK. Fuji so far has been the best when something has to be sent in it comes back quickly.

In 2013 and 2014 I shot in Antarctica with the Nikon systems doing two trips to Antarctica and one to the Northern polar circle. I came back with superb images and no issues at all during the trip. This past February I took the Fuji X-T1 and the Sony A7 II to Antarctica and both performed great no failures at all. I have also taken the Phase One systems (DF+ and IQ180 back) to Antarctica and other cold enviroments and that system worked well except for very fast battery drain.

DIGLLOYD: lucky indeed!

MacPerformanceGuide.com

$200 off the True 4K LG 31MU97

The LG 31MU97 is now $200 off at B&H Photo, making it $1175.

See my review of the LG 31MU97 4K Display.

The late-2014 LG 31MU97-B 31-inch 4K display offers an attractive price, size, and form factor for a true 4K display (4096 X 2160). To use the 31MU97, a computer capable of driving a 4K display is needed. For Macs as of late 2014, that means the 2013 Mac Pro, 2014 iMac 5K or 2013/2014 MacBook Pro.

With a 4096 X 2160 resolution, I liked this display a lot. Image quality is gorgeous, particularly at a 2:1 eye-friendly display scaling of 2048 X 1080. The panel coating reminds of the NEC EA244UHD and has a very smooth but not shiny finish which makes the high resolution seem even more crisp. I prefer it to the iMac 5K display, because the iMac 5K has a mirror-like sheen.

See what screen shots using the LG 31MU97 look like in Photoshop.

LG 31MU97 4K Display showing an image at full resolution in Photoshop

Shootout: Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M vs Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH (Green Lichen Barn Exterior)

Get Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M and Leica 90mm f/2.0 APO-Summicron-M aspherical at B&H

In Guide to Leica, this comparison answers a practical question: in what ways is it worth spending for the slightly faster APO 90mm?

Shootout: 90/2.4 Summarit vs 90/2 APO-Summicron: Green Lichen Barn Exterior (M240)

The question is answered unequivocally.

The Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH was used, which is optically identical to the Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH. The R version has the advantage of being directly usable on Leica M or Canon with a lens adapter, or convertible to Nikon mount, and I prefer its ergonomics over the M version.

  
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M and Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
Lichen-Encrusted Ranch Barn
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Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Flare Series: Barn Interior, Angle of Light

Get Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2068 (12% instant savings and 2% reward as this was written) is a solid performer well worth looking at for the M shooter.

But the Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M does have one weakness (as with most Leica M lenses): veiling flare issues, even from things as common as an overcast sky.

In Guide to Leica, this eight-frame series shows how veiling flare develops or is minimized by small changes in angle to a light source, and how including the light source shows much less flare than having the source just out of the frame.

Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Flare Series: Barn Interior (M240)

The series is typical of most Leica M lenses as well as other brands, so it has general value in understanding how flare flares up.

Flare from non-image-forming light
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James K writes:

The Leica tele lenses and even some 50mm lenses have always had flare issues. As you have illustrated it does not take too much to create a significant amount of flare. Sharp shooters in a small package. A long lens hood with the front masked exclude as much unwanted light as possible is the way to go with Leitz optics. Nikon has always had good flare control.

DIGLLOYD: The advice to mask off the front of the hood is good.

As for Nikon, flare control can be excellent, or it can be deeply troubled by the same issue as shown above.

Our trusted photo rental store

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Collapsed Ranch House at Sunset

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this aperture series is a tour de force for the Sigma 24/1.4. It is doubtful that any 24mm DSLR lens could do as well.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Collapsed Ranch House at Sunset (Nikon D810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/16.

It’s pretty simple: any Nikon or Canon or Sony A or Sigma SA shooter should get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. Fast excellence with autofocus. It’s a no-brainer really, and with B&H 4% rewards and free expedited shipping on top of the ridiculously low price (compared to the inferior and hugely overpriced Canon and Nikon offerings), it’s frosting on the cake.

Collapsed Ranch House at Sunset
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Late May / Early June and Late June Photo Tours in Yosemite High Country and/or White Mountains

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

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

May 25/26/27/28 options, or June 1/2/3
(2 or 3 or 4 days negotiable within those time frames)

This tour will cover Yosemite high country and nearby areas, the best and favorite places I’ve found, at a stunningly beautiful time of year. June 1/2/3 offers the option of Yosemite or White Mountains (or both). Can be extended to June 4/5 if longer is desired.

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

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

This tour will cover Yosemite high country and nearby areas, the best and favorite places I’ve found, at a stunningly beautiful time of year. There should be lots of water flowing in late Many, and no mosquitos.

Contact

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

Contact Lloyd.

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

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Spring Growth, Yosemite
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Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Flooded Tuolumne Meadows
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Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Upper Tenaya Creek
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

FastRawViewer Updated to version 1.1.1

Going through a lot of image files after a shoot? FastRawViewer might be the answer.

See RawDigger now has a Workflow Complement: Fast Raw Viewer + Discount on RawDigger for Readers for more details.

Alex Tutubalin writes:

You (or your readers) may be interested in new 'major' release of FastRawViewer: version 1.1.x (currently 1.1.1)

It adds features that most requested by users of FRV 1.0:
- Folders panel (like in Adobe Bridge and many other programs)
- Filmstrip/Thumbnails panel
- Removable media change monitoring and opening 'freshest folder in \DCIM' on new media arrival (this is configurable).
- Custom background tone.

So, look and feel and navigation is now very common to other image viewers: http://www.fastrawviewer.com/sites/fastrawviewer.com/files/title-web_6.jpg

All panels can be moved outside of main program window, e.g. on secondary monitor: http://www.fastrawviewer.com/sites/fastrawviewer.com/files/mainwindow%2Bwindows-web_0.jpg

There are some other improvements and several bugfixes in 1.1x family: http://www.fastrawviewer.com/download#changelog

This is free upgrade for registered users of FRV 1.0 (so major version number not incremented).

For other users, who tried FRV 1.0 and was not impressed, this is 'relaunch':
- trial period is reset, one may try for additional 30 days
- another sale price, 25% off till June 15.

Also, we offer RawDigger + FRV bundles now (http://www.fastrawviewer.com/purchase at bottom of page, http://www.rawdigger.com/purchase middle of page)

Click for larger image.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Huge Barn Interior, Sunlit and Skylit

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this follow-on aperture series confirms the one just prior with absolute certainty of the behaviors by placing the focus appropriately so that everything can be told without any hesitation.

It is also a practical series in showing just what one must account for for obtaining peak results, e.g., where to focus and how much stopping down to expect. In short, essential reading for the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art user.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Huge Barn Interior Sunlit and Skylit (Nikon D810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/9.

Interior of Huge Barn, Sunset and Skylight
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Huge Barn Interior

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this aperture series uses an exceptionally demanding subject to show the limits of the Sigma 24/1.4A.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Huge Barn Interior (Nikon D810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/9.

It‘s a very fine performance, but clearly there is plenty of room for a Zeiss Otus in this focal length range. Still, the performance is likely unequalled by the Canon and Nikon f/1.4 offerings, so the price of $849 for the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is amazing (also, as this was written, there is a 4% reward and free expedited shipping, pretty much no-brainer for anyone looking for a first class autofocus 24mm).

Interior of Huge Barn
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Our trusted photo rental store

20TB for Photography or Video Storage

Every photographer needs storage. B&H has 5TB drives at an outrageously low price of $140; see How to save about $310 on a 20TB OWC Thunderbay 4.

My main storage is 20TB as four 5TB drives, though I have five (5) OWC Thunderbay 4 units for various purposes.

The OWC Thunderbay 4 with four 5TB drives can yield 20TB total as single volumes or RAID-0 striping, or 15TB in RAID-4 or RAID-5 mode (fault tolerance).

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR: Aperture Series 'Oak Tree at Dusk'

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

Get Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR at B&H Photo.

Following the Looped Oil Pipes aperture series at closer distance and the Oil Field Cogeneration Plant series at far distance, this series evaluates the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF at medium distance.

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Aperture Series: Oak Tree at Dusk

Series includes entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels and large crops, from f/4 - f/11.

It’s not easy to shoot a scene like this with a 300mm lens! Even the curvature of the tree trunk raises the issue of where to focus, let alone the near-to-far spread of the branches. Depth of field is not found in abundance, even at f/11.

California Live Oak at dusk
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OS X Photos App Corrupts Library if used with Leica M Monochrom Files

Get Leica M Monochrom at B&H Photo.

I feel spot on my Apple Core Rot position.

See The Best Way to use Apple’s Photos App.

Leica M Monochrom Typ246 DNG files are currently incompatible with Apple’s ‘Photos’ App in Mac OS X Yosemite causing the library to crash and potentially lose all existing image files in the Apple Photos library.

This is pathetic... corrupting an entire library from a program crash? It indicates programming incompetence along with very poor quality assurance procedures. Data corruption is inexcusable and there are many ways of defensively coding (I was a professional software engineer for 25 years and I know a little about the matter). Sadly, more and more bugs and increasingly blatant ones emerge with each Apple OS X release, sprouting like mushrooms after a rain.

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR: Aperture Series 'Oil Field Cogeneration Plant'

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

Get Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR at B&H Photo.

Following the Looped Oil Pipes aperture series, this series is doubly instructive: it shows both lens performance and the severe image degradation that accrues from atmospheric effects (perhaps the best example I’ve ever recorded!). Hence it is both evaluative of the Nikon 300/4E PF, and yet instructive for any long lens shooter.

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR: Aperture Series 'Oil Field Cogeneration Plant'

The series and analysis includes entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels and large crops, from f/4 - f/16.

Cogeneration Plant
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Get Vimeo Pro effectively at $150 / 75% off

B&H Photo is running a promotion with Vimeo.com: subscribe to Vimeo Pro ($200) and get a $150 B&H Photo gift certificate, making the price effectively $50.

I did it myself (I has some material at Vimeo anyway), and it’s the real deal: gift card code delivered immediately.

Suggestion: get that code, click any B&H ad on this site, and use the gift card!

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR: Aperture Series 'Looped Oil Pipes'

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

Get Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR at B&H Photo.

In my first look at the new Nikon 300mm f/4E PF VR ED, this aperture series yields insights into sharpness, bokeh, color aberration control at relatively close range, where atmospheric effects do not intrude on sharpness.

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF VR ED Aperture Series: Looped Oil Pipes (Nikon D810)

The series and analysis includes entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels and large crops, from f/4 - f/11.

My guess is that these carry gasses produced as part of the oil extraction process, since the pipes do not look robust enough to carry a liquid like oil.

Looped Oil Pipes
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Perspective, Telephoto Compression

Get Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR at B&H Photo.

With the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF on the agenda, telephoto compression and geometric perspective are relevant topics.

Reader Sohail K writes:

I wonder if you could clear up an issue about lens “perspective" on a cropped sensor. Take for instance a 17.5mm lens on a MFT sensor: as you know it’s often said to be the equivalent of a 35mm (on a full-frame sensor) and have a 35mm perspective. Some argue that such a lens can only ever have 17.5mm perspective -- even on a cropped sensor. What exactly is the truth here?

More practically, can these differences in perspective be discerned by a trained eye? i.e. between a true 35mm perspective (on full-frame sensor) and a 17.5mm on a MFT?

What about the question of compression? That is, an image can have the same field of view but a different degree of compression, hence a different perspective, no? Or am I missing something here?

DIGLLOYD: Perspective and “telephoto compression” are both a function of camera to subject distance (only). Neither has anything to do with the focal length or format size (35mm full frame or DX or MFT or medium format): at the same distance (lens entrance pupil to subject), one chooses the appropriate focal length for the format to achieve the same field of view, which thus has identical perspective.

To see that this is so, frame any subject with different focal lengths or camera formats (swap lenses, e.g., a 24mm, 50mm, 100mm, keep the camera fixed in place). Crop the results as needed to show the same angle of view. The perspective will be identical (but close range shooting requires matching the distance to the entrance pupil, so shoot at distance). There will be subjective differences related to optical design, but those are not perspective related.

It is physics: the inverse square law determines the relative sizes of objects. That said, the human brain plays all sorts of games to make our visual system more useful to us, which is one reason why the moon looks huge when it rises (the size invariance principle). Book: Perception and Imaging, by Richard Zakia.

Related: Format-Equivalent Depth of Field and F-Stop in MSI.

Format equivalence—use of a 50mm lens on 35mm full frame means use of a ~33mm on a DX crop sensor to achieve the same field of view from the same position (on MFT, it would be a 25mm). If one instead uses that same 50mm on the DX crop-sensor camera, then it becomes necessary to move away from the subject, and that is what changes the perspective (the distance). Focal length by itself does not imply any particular angle of view; it is only when a format size is specified that the focal length has a context for field of view.

There are effects of optical design and focal length that influence various rendering qualities including the sharp-to-blur gradient, but these have nothing to do with perspective or telephoto compression. See The Medium Format 'Look' in Guide to Zeiss for some insight into these matters.

This image shows the inverse square law: the apparent size of the mailbox shrinks as distance from the camera increases. Our eyes (brain) compensate for this reality.

One of the few mailboxes teenagers haven’t destroyed
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Here, the telephoto compression effect comes from a substantial shooting distance, not because the lens is a 200mm telephoto.

Telephoto compression is a function of camera to subject distance
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Canon 5DS / 5DS R

Site Overhaul

A site overhaul is in in progress*. It is a bit tricky due to both layout changes and a new dynamic-placement ad system.

A few things are still visually ugly (e.g., the superheader at top) but should function as always (search is temporarily at top/center).

Also, dynamic ad placement (new ad system) needs some algorithmic polish. But note that every page visit will vary in ad placement (refresh a page to see). However, as always, there are no ads in subscriber publication pages.

Please bear with me while these changes proceed; I have little choice but to interleave site update/maintainance work with my regular tasks of covering lenses and camera, so I’ve chosen to “push” the current site as it stands, so that I can deliver content without undue delay.

* The ultimate goal, but well down the line and much more involved, is a more “responsive” design: one that adapts to the type of client such as desktop or mobile.

Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

Get Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR at B&H Photo.

I was away for the weekend, and I did some shooting including with the new amazingly compact and light Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR. I’ll have a report on it soon.

  • F Mount Lens/FX Format
  • Aperture Range: f/4 to 32
  • One Phase Fresnel & One ED Element
  • Nano Crystal & Super Integrated Coating
  • Fluorine Coated Front Lens Element
  • Silent Wave Motor AF System
  • Nikon VR Image Stabilization (4.5 Stops)
  • Internal Focus, Manual Focus Override
  • Electromagnetic Diaphragm Mechanism
  • Lighter & More Compact than Predecessor

Specifications

Nominal except as noted.

Specifications for Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
Focal length: 300mm
Aperture scale: f/4 - f/32
Diaphragm blades: 9, rounded
Number of elements/groups: 16 elements in 10 groups
Focusing range: 4.6' (1.40 m)
Angular field: 8° 10' DX Picture Angle: 5° 20'
Image ratio at close range:            1;4
Filter thread: 77mm
Weight, nominal: 26.63 oz (755 g)
Weight, as weighed, Nikon F: 752g (lens only), 812g with hood, 841g with hood and caps
Dimensions: Approx. 3.50 x 5.81" (89 x 147.5 mm)
List price: about $1997
Includes 77mm Snap-On Lens Cap
LF-4 Rear Lens Cap
HB-73 Bayonet Lens Hood
CL-M3 Lens Case (Black)
Warranty Limited 1-Year Warranty Limited 4-Year USA Extension Warranty
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
Up to 960GB of Storage!
Review of Accelsior

Tested: Lexar 128GB 1066X Compact Flash Digital Camera Storage Card

It’s not as fast as the Lexar 2000X Lexar Professional 64GB SDXC card, but this kind of speed is more than adequate for all digital cameras, even the Nikon D810 and the Leica S. This card will be put into field use soon for diglloyd photography.

MPG tested the Lexar Professional 1066X Compact Flash 128GB in the Lexar USB3 card reader on the 2013 Mac Pro, with results as shown.

As shown below, the Lexar Professional 1066X Compact Flash 128GB can write at 134 MB/sec and read (download to computer) at 154 MB/sec over the entire capacity.

UPDATE 11 May: I used the Lexar 128GB in the field in the Nikon D810, and it performed flawlessly. It will see a lot more use as my primary card in the field (for my cameras that use CompactFlash).

The Lexar Professional 128GB 1066X Compact Flash is a card for cameras of course, and it requires a separate card reader. So if you’re looking for a fast USB3 thumb drive, check out the OWC Thumb Drive.

Performance of Lexar 64GB 2000X SDXC Digital Camera Storage Card using supplied card reader

Daryl O writes:

I tested this in my Leica S2, the specs say 64gb max, the card is ok mostly with episodic slow writes and lock ups, it did not work well in my mac pro 2013. When uploading files to my LR catalog it would not copy many files, not sure the card is the issue, perhaps the Delkin card reader.

I see you have two readers listed: Hoodman USB 3 card reader and Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader (UDMA 7). Will either limit write speed, which would you recommend for use with the Mac Pro 2013?

DIGLLOYD: older cameras could have issues (the Leica S2 is relatively old now)—128GB might be a crossover point into a later standard or protocol not supported by the firmware of some older cameras.

Ditto for card readers—the latest ultra high capacity cards might not play well in an older card reader. The about $20 Lexar dual slot card reader has worked flawlessly for me, including both the test above and downloading images from the field. The Lexar card reader can hit over 300MB/sec with a fast SDXC card, so I do not think the reader is limiting the CF card.

SHOOTOUT at 24mm: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD vs Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (Pescadero Creek Rushing Water)

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

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

Get Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED at B&H Photo

This comparison at 24mm is a critical counterpoint to the 15mm comparison, because zooms vary in performance by focal length.

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

As usual, presented with large images up to 24 megapixels, and large crops.

I like the 24mm focal length, and while a fast lens like the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is really versatile when the light gets low, scenes like this are ideal for a zoom lens, where a stable tripod position and dry feet restrict the shooting position.

Rushing to the Ocean
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Leica 24-Megapixel Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 Starts Shipping

Get Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 at B&H Photo.

See my review of the original 18-megapixel Leica M Monochrom in Guide to Leica.

I’ll be testing the new 24-megapixel Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 as soon as I can, but I am as yet unsure when I might be able to get hold of one. B&H says expected availability is mid-May, so perhaps that will hold true.

When Leica went from the 18-megapixel M9 with its CCD sensor to the 24-megapixel Leica M240 with its CMOS sensor, the natural question was how long it would take to deliver a 24-megapixel monochrome version—about two years as it turns out (the M240 shipped around May 2013).

Megapixels are not really the gain (if indeed there is/will be any gain in resolution, barring some surprise)—the 24-megapixel M240 with its CMOS sensor never persuaded me that it actually delivered more resolution than the 18-megapixel CCD sensor in the M9.

The two features that I see as key are Live View and high ISO performance. High ISO noise performance is likely to be much improved from the CMOS sensor (CCD has always been terrible at higher ISO).

Live view

The big deal as I see it is the addition of Live View. Because filters from yellow to deep red are a exercise in frustration—like shooting in infrared as per rearward focus, particularly with red and deep red filters. A large shift, and very, very difficult to deal with on a camera with only a rangefinder. See Filters and Focus Error / Sharpness and even with the 50/2 APO this is an issue, see Focus Shift with Color Filters on M Monochrom.

But focusing errors with color filters are a non-issue with a Live View camera, since focusing Live View uses the actual image striking the sensor (vs a separate loosy-goosy mechanical rangefinder coupling, which I stopped using entirely once the M240 replaced my M9).

Leica M Monochrom Typ 246, rear

Feature overview

  • 24MP Full-Frame B&W CMOS Sensor
  • No Color Array or Low Pass Filter
  • Leica Maestro Image Processor
  • Rangefinder with Image Field Selector
  • 0.68x Optical Viewfinder Magnification
  • 3.0" 921.6k-Dot LCD with Sapphire Glass
  • Full HD 1080p Video at 24/25 fps
  • ISO 320-25000, 3 fps with 2GB Buffer
  • Magnesium Alloy Body Construction
  • Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Download
Pine Creek Tungsten Mine
Image from the Leica M Monochrom (original 18MP version)

Description

It’s a shame that Leica can’t simply move forward, eliminate the rangefinder and put a high-res built-in EVF into a new camera, here in mid 2015. Or at least deliver a decent optional EVF instead of the crummy low-res one. Oh well.

Consistent with Leica's passion for classic designs mixed with contemporary functionality, the M Monochrom (Typ 246) Digital Rangefinder Camera is a unique digital camera dedicated to producing black and white imagery.

Lacking a color filter array, as well as an optical low pass filter, the M Monochrom's full-frame 24MP CMOS sensor records solely in luminance values, forgoing the need for color interpolation, in order to gain the utmost in sharpness, clarity, and resolution.

Complementing the imaging capabilities, the Leica Maestro image processor also affords a sensitivity range from ISO 320-25000 as well as a 3 fps shooting rate with a 2GB buffer for recording up to 30 frames in a sequence.

Full HD 1080p video recording is also possible in either 24 or 25 fps frame rates. Unique among digital cameras, the Typ 246 maintains Leica's preference for a rangefinder design and incorporates a 0.68x optical viewfinder with split and superimposed manual focusing, automatic parallax correction, and manual image field selection. Conversely, the camera also features a 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD with sapphire glass covering to maintain the overall durability of the magnesium alloy and brass body.

As with past M-series cameras, the M Monochrom retains the ability to utilize the vast network of M-mount lenses from 16mm to 135mm. When working in live view, and since focusing operation is entirely manual, focus peaking and 10x live view zoom can be utilized to ensure critical focus. An ergonomic body design places all of the necessary camera controls within reach during shooting, including top shutter speed and drive mode dials, as well as rear menu navigation buttons and selection dial located atop the thumb rest.

Monochrom

Distinct from most digital camera, the M Monochrom (Typ 246) is a high-resolution camera dedicated solely to recording black and white imagery. By omitting a color filter array, as well as an optical low pass filter, this camera records imagery only in luminance values in order to gain higher sharpness, as well as increased clarity, depth, and resolution. Additionally, this design also contributes to reduce noise values when shooting at higher sensitivities, up to ISO 25000.

24 MP CMOS Sensor and Maestro Processor

Featuring a full-frame 24 MP B&W CMOS sensor and Maestro processor, this camera is also characterized by its improved shooting speed and versatility. A continuous shooting rate of 3 fps is possible and a 2GB buffer permits recording up to 30 DNG and/or JPEG files in a sequence with instant review possible.

The sensor and processor combination also affords full HD 1080p video recording, in either 24 or 25 fps frame rates. An on-board monaural microphone can be used for audio recording, in auto, manual, or "Concert" modulation settings, or an optional external stereo microphone can be used when paired with a microphone adapter set.

Optical Viewfinder and Rangefinder

The optical viewfinder is a large, bright-line 0.68x-magnification rangefinder with automatic parallax compensation and LED-illuminated frame lines, which are set to match the image sensor size at a focusing distance of 6.6'. On the front of the camera, a viewfinder frame selector can also be used to manually change the apparent image field to help visualize the scene with varying focal lengths.

The rangefinder mechanism displays split or superimposed bright field images within the center of the viewfinder to benefit accurate manual focusing control. The effective rangefinder metering basis is 47.1mm (mechanical metering basis 69.25 mm x viewfinder magnification of 0.68x).

3.0" LCD Monitor and Sapphire Crystal Cover

Complementing the optical viewfinder is a 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD monitor, which is fitted with a scratch-resistant protective cover made from sapphire crystal glass for added durability. In addition to image review and menu navigation, this monitor also permits live view monitoring with the ability to utilize focus peaking and 10x zoom features to better ensure critical sharpness. Focus peaking highlights bright edges of contrast when they are in sharp focus, while the zoom control allows you to home in on fine details within the scene.

Body Design

Reminiscent of classic Leica designs, the M Monochrom features a black chrome-plated metal body design with a magnesium-alloy chassis, brass top and bottom plates, and a synthetic leather wrap. This minimalist and discreet appearance is further maintained by the unobtrusive Leica engraving on the rear of the body, with no front-facing or top plate logos.

Furthermore, the pared-down, ergonomic design allows direct access to necessary camera controls, including top shutter speed and drive mode dials and rear menu navigation controls.

Other Camera Features

  • Designed to accept all M-mount lenses, Leica R-mount lenses are also compatible through the use of an optional R to M adapter.
  • A download version of Adobe Lightroom is made available after purchase, and is ideally suited to processing of the M Monochrom's DNG RAW image files.
  • An electronic level display can be used to ensure consistently level horizons and plumb verticals.
  • After a JPEG is recorded, in-camera toning effects can be applied to imagery to simulate the look of film-based black and white processes.
  • Language support: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Russian, and Korean.
Canon 5DS / 5DS R

SHOOTOUT at 15mm: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD vs Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (dual focus, Pescadero Creek Downstream)

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

The Nikon 14-24/2.8G focus shift makes it virtually impossible to match the zone of focus across the aperture series, so this comparison present the Tamron 15-30 against two series with the Nikon 14-24, one focus a bit closer to show how compensation for focus shift can help. It is thus not only a comparison, but a tutorial on mitigating focus shift (by compensating by using a focus bias).

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @15mm vs Nikon 14-24/2.8G Dual Focus: Pescadero Creek Downstream (Nikon D810)

Presented with large images and crops as usual.

The Gauntlet Eventually Wears Away
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Leica Discounts Gear by 12%

Which if any Leica lenses and cameras to buy? Answer that question in my Guide to Leica.

Leica Camera is pleased to announce a consumer promotion to compensate for the current strength of the US Dollar against the Euro. This promotion runs from May 1st, 2015 through May 31st, 2015.

Just in time to devalue all my Leica gear (thank you Leica)—Leica has a 12% off promotion through May 31st. Which is to be doubled in June!

Just kidding (well I give it a 50/50 chance), but it used to be that I could sell M lenses for more than I paid for them, such was the shortage. But what I hear is that Leica dumped a sh*tload of inventory over in China a bit ago, but that went out of style as gifts (financially speaking) and there is a good year or so of inventory overhanging the Leica market, now being sold gray market all over the place. Serves ’em right for shorting the US market for so many years and catering to the dilettante market. And now with the strong dollar, the pressure on Leica prices is tremendous. Be that as it may (more than speculation, less than proven fact), 12% off for a USA-warranty Leica lens is a heck of a lot better than full fare.

See my Leica gear pages with handy links for Leica gear and all the Leica M lenses.

On Leica gear through May 31

But what really is the best lens for the Leica M platform anyway?

Now all Leica has to do is actually make a competitive camera, or at least honor the absurd investment M240 users (including me) made in a platform that goes nowhere on feature improvements. I do like shooting the M240. But there’s no excuse for laziness, which is the most apt way to put the Leica non-initiative in making the M240 more useful—all while more and more jackass models are dumped onto the market.

Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: 'Branches Over Creek'

Get Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2068 (12% instant savings and 2% reward as this was written) is a solid performer well worth looking at for the M shooter. Available in silver or black, but it’s particularly attractive in silver.

Compact and very nicely built, I enjoyed using it in the field. It is very similar to its 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M sibling; both are hardly noticed for their weight.

In Guide to Leica, the series is mainly about showing rendering style: bokeh and aberration controls

Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Branches Over Creek (M240)

This lens rendering series from f/2.4 through f/13.5 is presented in multiple sizes with up to full-resolution (5976) images in order to show the total picture, so to speak.

Branches Over Pescadero Creek
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Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD: Comparison Coming

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

I had some trouble with the first sample of the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, but the replacement looks like it’s OK (at least upon initial sorting of my images).

So I have some comparisons coming, including one in which I shot the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G focused at two different positions (since it has focus shift). The Nikon 14-24/2.8G focus shift makes it virtually impossible to match the zone of focus across the aperture series, so the dual series against the Tamron will serve both as a comparison and a tutorial on mitigating its behavior for the best results in the field.

I shot material at 15mm, 19mm, 24mm, 30mm for a good look at its behavior.

Fast Water Slowly Rounds Rocks
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Deal: Lexar Professional 1066X Compact Flash 128GB $139.95 ($130 off)

 
Lexar 128GB 1066X Compact Flash

At about half price ($130 off, deal ends May 3) and with free expedited shipping, this is the kind of capacity that lets you not have to erase the card on the trip, so it acts as one backup.

Lexar Professional 1066X Compact Flash 128GB $139.95

Not bad at about 1/4 the price of the 256GB card.

Other deals:

Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH Aperture Series @ 51mm: 'Pescadero Creek Pool'

 
Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH

Get Leica 30-90mm at B&H Photo.

This f/4.6 - f/16 aperture series evaluates the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH on the 37-megapixel Leica S Typ 006.

Aperture Series @ 51mm: Pescadero Creek Pool

Includes entire-frame images up to 6048 pixels wide (24+ megapixels) as well as large crops across the aperture series.

This is the third series, following the 30mm series and 90mm series.

Image below has been considerably improved from the dulling effects of diffraction by using the technique described in Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur.

As resolution increases, sharpening technique is especially critical for stopped down apertures; Leica S images go visibly less crisp by f/9.5 due to diffraction, and by f/11 on the image is greatly affected.

 
Pescadero Creek Pool
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Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH Aperture Series @ 90mm: 'Grass Clumps in Boulder'

 
Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH

Get Leica 30-90mm at B&H Photo.

This f/5.6 (wide open) to f/16 aperture series evaluates the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH on the 37-megapixel Leica S Typ 006.

Aperture Series @ 90mm: Grass Clumps in Boulder in Pescadero Creek

Includes entire-frame images up to 6048 pixels wide (24+ megapixels) as well as large crops across the aperture series.

See also Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH Aperture Series @ 30mm: 'Mossy Boulders in Pescadero Creek'

Image below has been considerably improved from the dulling effects of diffraction by using the technique described in Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur.

As resolution increases, sharpening technique is especially critical for stopped down apertures; Leica S images go visibly less crisp by f/9.5 due to diffraction, and by f/11 on the image is greatly affected.

 
Grass Clumps in Boulder
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Now IN STOCK

Get Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon lens at B&H Photo.

Over the past five years I’ve shot nearly all the Leica M lenses, and I own all of the best ones, including the 50/2 APO and the Noctilux and the best M wides.

My in-depth review of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is in Guide to Leica.

My view is that the best lens for the Leica M is not made by Leica, but by Zeiss. See my comments in Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: I rate it the best M Lens Available.

  The best lens for Leica M? Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, available in black or silver finish
The best lens for Leica M?
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, available in black or silver finish

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar: MTF Series from f/1.8 - f/16 + Distortion

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

   
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

The Batis line is a new lens line for Sony mirrorless cameras (Sony A7 series). See the general discussion of the Zeiss Batis lenses.

I expect to have the Zeiss Batis 25/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 Sonnar in for extensive field testing sometime in June. Coverage will go into Guide to Mirrorless.

Subscribe to Guide to Mirrorless.

MTF

The MTF chart shows excellent micro contrast wide open at f/1.8 with highly uniform sharpness corner to corner at all apertures. Overall contrast is superb wide open, even into the corners.

Peak performance is reached at center by f/2.8, but the variation (wave inflection) across the field looks to be a mild field curvature; stopping down a bit more delivers outstanding micro contrast at f/5.6, far exceeding most lenses and no less good than the very best Leica M lens. Minor astigmatism is present.

Diffraction drops contrast overall and for fine detail at f/8 (in effect what one hopes to see, indicating an excellent performer). By f/11 its effects are quite dulling. At f/16, the performance becomes much inferior to f/16. See Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur in MSI. These behaviors are all expected and good in this sense: a lens that shows little effect from diffraction is not very good to begin with! In other words, the better the lens, the more diffraction throws a wet blanket onto performance.

 
MTF for Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar from f/1.8 through f/16
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss

Distortion

Some pincushion distortion is typical for medium telephoto lenses, buy this level of distortion when uncorrected will be very noticeable. By comparison, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar has distortion so close to zero it can be called distortion-free, and the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar has about 0.2% distortion—about 15X less than the Batis 85/1.8. All lens designs are compromises, so it seems that distortion was traded off for uniformly high sharpness and a smaller/lighter design, knowing that the camera can correct for it automatically (or the raw converter).

To my eye, pincushion distortion is visually troublesome compared to barrel distortion, and this 3% pincushion distortion is unacceptable for many purposes if not corrected: skylines, buildings, etc would bow upwards, and filling the frame with a face is not going to look flattering—so plan on enabling distortion correction for the 85/1.8 Sonnar.

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Distortion for Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss

Vignetting

Vignetting to the extreme corner area is 2+ stops at f/1.8 without correction, and about 1.25 stops with correction. I’m generally not a fan of vignetting corrections, since vignetting is also a creative tool. It is potentially worrisome for gradient transitions, but if the camera does the correction in 14-bits internally (before the Sony 11+7 lossy compression file is saved), then it should nearly always be just fine.

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Vignetting for Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon: MTF Series from f/2 - f/16 + Distortion

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

   
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

The Batis line is a new lens line for Sony mirrorless cameras (Sony A7 series). See the general discussion of the Zeiss Batis lenses.

I expect to have the Zeiss Batis 25/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 Sonnar in for extensive field testing sometime in June. Coverage will go into Guide to Mirrorless.

Subscribe to Guide to Mirrorless.

MTF

The MTF chart shows modest micro contrast at f/2. However, overall contrast is superb wide open, even into the corners, and that very high overall contrast is critical to visual impact of the image.

Most notable, the performance is exceptionally uniform at all apertures from center to corner. This is highly unusual for a 25mm lens.

Peak performance is at f/5.6, but f/4 will be nearly the same. Astigmatism can be seen, a property rarely absent in wide angle lenses.

Diffraction begins to assert itself at f/8, and by f/11 its effects are quite dulling. At f/16, the performance becomes much inferior to f/16. See Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur in MSI. These behaviors are all expected and good in this sense: a lens that shows little effect from diffraction is not very good to begin with! In other words, the better the lens, the more diffraction throws a wet blanket onto performance.

   
MTF for Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon from f/2 through f/16
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss

Distortion

Distortion is typical for most wide angle designs in the 24/25mm range—about 1.5% with a mostly barrel distortion transitioning to pincushion at the edges and into the corners (“wave type distortion”).

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Distortion for Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss

Vignetting

Vignetting to the extreme corner area is 2+ stops at f/2 without correction, and about 1.3 stops with correction. I’m generally not a fan of vignetting corrections, since vignetting is also a creative tool. It is potentially worrisome for gradient transitions, but if the camera does the correction in 14-bits internally (before the Sony 11+7 lossy compression file is saved), then it should nearly always be just fine.

Toggle to compare.

   
Vignetting for Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss
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