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Server Changes in Place

About 2 weeks of intensive coding work 14 hours a day has now come to its fruition. The hard part wasn’t designing something new; it was achieving near perfect compatibility with material up to 8 years old. A goal achieved over several iterations.

“Delivery” comes with pain in my right “mouse arm”, of considerable concern and with due caution now in my head. Well, yesterday was 16 hours almost nonstop. This might slow me down for a few days to recuperate the injury.

The server now generates all gallery and crop pages on subscriber pages (the windows that pop up with large images and/or crops). This removes a significant chunk of effort from my workflow, since these pages are now automagical. It also guarantees that there cannot be “page not found” errors—because they are generated dynamically at runtime based on what actually exists. There is some risk that crops might be missed in some older material that used ad-hoc naming conventions, so please report any unusual glitches, apparently missing images, etc.

The structural changes offer further potential, which is why I expended so much time and effort—lots of behind the scenes work to do what I do here.

Visible changes

Above images in publication pages (subscriber pages), the available “gallery page” sizes are listed; each links to the appropriate page, e.g., “1284 | 2568 | 3852, and 4 crops”.

diglloyd image

Each gallery page has these links as well, so it is now quick and easy to toggle between the available sizes right on the same page. Future pages will have additional size choices so as to make the viewing experience better for the hugely varying screen sizes (from iPhone to small laptop to 4K to 5K.

diglloyd image

On publication pages (top right) is also a new toggle option for Retina On/OFF and image size Large/Small. The current state is show; click each control to toggle, e.g. from Retina ON to Retina OFF, or from Large to Small.

YouTube: Getting Infringing Content Removed

Two of my images were incorporated into a video on the Sigma DP Merrills (more than one video actually). YouTube did respond.

See Copyright Infringement Notification Requirements.

Probably there are thousands of my images out there being used without permission, but I’m just not going to worry about that battle.

YouTube confirmation of infringing content removal
YouTube confirmation of infringing content removal

David W writes:

I too am concerned about images on my website being stolen. Here's a quick, easy and free way to check the entire Internet to see if someone is using one of your images.

1. Open the Google "Chrome" browser on your computer.
2. Right click on the image you want to check.
3. Select "Search Google For This Image" in the drop down box.

That's it! I've caught many people who've stolen my images. If they have a legitimate website they will usually take down my image after I contact them.

DIGLLOYD: good tip, though it won't find images turned into video as was the case above, or at least I think it won’t.

Topics Menu System

Not everyone notices such things, so here I make it better known. See also all the various tips for using this site.

The topic menus at the top of most pages organize all content on this site. Not everything is included, so consider using search also. The three top-level menus organize three major areas.

Choose the menu for Cameras/System or Lenses or Optics/Technique.

Site Automation

From external appearances (this blog), I’ve been quiescent watching cooking shows and football while I bake cookies and munch carrot sticks. Not so.

Rather, I’ve been diligently coding new site capabilities to be deployed very soon. These capabilities will not only shrink my publication preparation significantly, but will offer new and useful behavior for readers. In short, I’ve been working 18 hour days coding server-side java, though I did take a break to do a 1.5 hour pitch-black and rainy night ride last night, with dual Lupine Betty II lampheads brighter than most car headlights. The ol' body doesn’t like 18 hours in a chair, so it needs a break. And after all, I was a software engineer for 25 years, and a damn good one. So I write my own server code.

Hang tight, and when it’s ready (soon), I’ll get back to producing content. Thank you for your support, the most helpful being the everything deal.

Meanwhile, head over to my MacPerformanceGuide.com for some interesting SSD stuff.

Leica M CCD Sensor White Spots

Kudos to Leica.

Leica Camera AG official statement:

Important Information Concerning the CCD Sensors of the Leica M9 / M9-P / M Monochrom / M-E

In some cases, particularly when using the camera models Leica M9, M9-P, M Monochrome or M-E with smaller apertures (5.6-22), effects caused by corrosion of the sensor glass may be encountered.

Leica offers a free replacement service for the CCD sensors of cameras affected by this problem as a goodwill arrangement. This goodwill arrangement applies regardless of the age of the camera and also covers sensors that have already been replaced in the past. Customers who have already been charged for the replacement of a sensor affected by this problem will receive a refund.

We have now identified the problem and are currently concentrating our efforts on finding a permanent technical solution. The marks on images mentioned earlier are related to the properties of the CCD sensor. The sensors are equipped with a specially coated IR filter cover glass to ensure optimum imaging performance. Should this coating layer be damaged, corrosion effects that alter the filter surface may begin to appear after several years.

The effect described does not affect the CMOS sensor of the Leica M (Typ 240). Should you be considering an upgrade from your camera to a Leica M or M-P (Typ 240), Customer Care would be pleased to make you an attractive offer following a check of your camera and under consideration of the model and its age.

If the imaging quality of your camera gives cause for complaint in this respect, we recommend that you send it directly to Leica Customer Care or the authorized Customer Care department of your country’s Leica distributor. As longer waiting times may otherwise occur, the camera should only be sent to Customer Care after prior arrangement.

Contact: Web site: http://de.leica-camera.com/Service-Support/Reparatur-Wartung. E-mail: Customer.Care@leica-camera.com. Telephone: +49-6441-2080-189.

For us, it is important that we offer only technically faultless products. We are therefore particularly sorry if the imaging quality of your camera should be adversely affected in any way. We hope that the goodwill arrangement we have decided upon will allow us to remedy the problem as soon as possible and rebuild and maintain the trust you have always placed in our brand.

Nikon D810 Instant Savings of $300

See in depth review of Nikon D810 in DAP.

My workhorse camera is the Nikon D810. Get it with the Otii if you want the best.

D810 $300 instant savings

Canon has similar rebates.

Nikon D810 with $300 instant savings
Nikon D810 with $300 instant savings

Sony Pictures Hacked: Do You Really Want to Update your Camera Firmware with a Sony Updater that Runs as 'root'?

A month ago I wrote in Sony Firmware Updater: a Security Risk that the Sony firmware carried serious security risks, because it runs as a kernel extension (complete control over the system). It was a prescient blog post.

If you have not been following it, the IT infrastructure of Sony Pictures was hacked, taking down large chunks of Sony’s operations for at least a week, according to news reports. As well as exposing all sorts of juicy stuff to public view, like internal emails, as the Wall Street Journal reports in At Sony Pictures, Drama in Email. And a lot more apparently.

Ask your self a simple question: do you want to run a Sony updater that runs as “root” (total control over the system) from a company that has been hacked in one of the most devastating IT attacks in memory? (update: Sony private keys have been stolen).

Why would the perp stop at Sony Pictures—what’s to stop malware from being inserted into the Sony updater, which having complete control over your system as root, could do anything it wants, such as keylogging all your passwords, and then emptying your financial accounts, or similar fun stuff. Without Sony having a clue. Or you. Until you find that all your your bank accounts are empty.

Sony private keys stolen

This was written after the previous paragraph was written, before your author knew that keypairs had been stolen.

A PFX file usually contains the private key corresponding to the public key.

Compromise of the private key of a public/private keypair is a massive security blunder with huge ramifications: all content signed by that key is reported as “verified”. Yet SecureList.com reports that Sony PFX files containing private keys have been stolen.

If the PFX files are not protected with unusually strong passwords, password cracking can be employed (using massively parallel services). Once a private key is compromised, hacker malware can be inserted into desired content, then signed with the now compromised private key. The software/content would be valid by definition, since it is signed. Sony should immediately revoke all of its stolen public/private keypairs for that reason. Yet so far, it seems that Sony is mum on the stolen keypair issue. Which if correct is grossly and perhaps criminally irresponsible, because of the huge worldwide potential for damage by compromise of user systems.

It is inconceivable that a private key used by a major corporation to sign software be on any web-accessible computer. It is gross negligence. Yet this is what Sony has apparently made its practice, for how could PFX files otherwise have been stolen.

Put simply, the smart move is to assume that ALL Sony digitally-signed content/software might be compromised (soon or in coming months). As per SecureList.com:

So far dozens of PFX files have been leaked online. PFX files contain the needed private key and certificate. Such files are password protected, but those passwords can be guessed or cracked. Not all of these PFX files will be of immediate value to attackers.

The importance of leaked code-signing keys cannot be overestimated. Software signed by a trusted publishing house will generally be trusted by the operating system, security software and first responders. It's an extremely powerful way for attackers to stay below the radar.

IEEE times hits the nail on the head with “cavalier” in How Not to Be Sony Pictures:

The scope of the recent hack of Sony Pictures — in which unidentified infiltrators breached the Hollywood studio’s firewall, absconded with many terabytes of sensitive information and now regularly leak batches of damaging documents to the media — is only beginning to be grasped. It will take years and perhaps some expensive lawsuits too before anyone knows for certain how vast a problem Sony’s digital Valdez may be.

But the take-away for the rest of the world beyond Sony and Hollywood is plain: Being cavalier about cybersecurity, as Sony’s attitude in recent years has been characterized is like playing a game of corporate Russian roulette.

Sony counter attacks?

Stolen content has appeared on various sites, and apparently Sony is attacking sites hosting the content, a dubious practice at best, and possibly illegal here in the USA. That article does not cite its sources, other than “two people with direct knowledge of the matter”, so it could be incorrect, but it would not be out of character with Sony’s past ethical lapses.

The Cloud

Now forgetting Sony, consider whether the 'Cloud' is safe: Apple and Google and so on are tempting targets for all hackers. Do you want to store your stuff in the Cloud? The idea of storing anything sensitive in The Cloud is a really bad idea, just by the constant and ongoing security breaches one can read about every week. The advice here is “think about it”. But hey, cats don’t do it and celebrities do.

But all such stuff is trivial in the Big Picture. And Sony is just the canary in the coal mine. News reports indicate USA power infrastructure has been hacked. Consider the taking down of critical infrastructure of all kinds by skilled hackers backed by a foreign government. The recent turkish pipeline explosion was a non-event in terms of all the internet-connected gear that was supposed to monitor the pipeline and report failures. But stuff blew up and burned nonethelss.

Now consider the same 'turkish' ideas applied simultaneously to every power plant, nuke plant, electrical and pumping and substation, dams, ventilation systems, pipelines and railroads and hospitals and even home power meters (installed by mandate on every home here in California by jackasses with no concept of security risks). All at once with a few keystrokes, everything everywhere stops working. Stuff shuts down, blows up. Maybe a nuke melts down for good measure. Well, to put any critical infrastructure on the internet is criminally negligent by design. Cut off the water and power and nothing works—possibly for weeks and month if hackers persist. Millions die in urban areas from deprivation of food and water (consider even simple things, like cutting off natural gas supply in a severe cold front in winter). Riots and anarchy reign. Or just shoot out a few key transformers across the country. Yet this national security threat hardly registers with any of our professional politicians. The next war may not have a shot fired.

See also

Reader Comments: Sigma DP Merrill vs Alternatives

Sigma DP1 Merrill
Sigma DP1 Merrill

See in depth review of Sigma DP Merrill cameras in Guide to Mirrorless.

Also, the Sigma DP Merrill topics page and Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill.

Elaine D writes:

I subscribed to your Mirrorless for one year to read the Sigma DP Merrill reviews. I know everyone, including non-photographer bloggers who have no expertise at all love to bash these cameras. I bought the Sigma DP2M based on your review. Most people and non-photographer bloggers hate the cameras due to all the listed reasons. Their reviews stop there.

I understand all the annoying quirks, but the end result is the picture. I can honestly say that out of all of my digital cameras, this one is the most annoying, and yet the most exciting. I am always excited when I print and viewing the details. Nothing gives me the 3D detailed imaging for a camera of this size like the Merrills. I could get the Nikon D800E or the latest greatest camera. I’ve had the Leica system.

I sold all my expensive gear, except to keep a few quirky items. The reason I did this was picture results. Some camera, lens, sensor combos produce lovely results, and others look like crap. The Leica gear was way overpriced for what it produced. Loved the rangefinder and the M6 film cameras were the best to use, but I’m talking digital. Sold it all. I wanted to LOVE the Fuji X-E1 but hated the pictures coming out of it, (except the color). The smearing, slow focus, not sharp photos drove me insane! I sold it and was deeply upset as I loved the body's design, but wished for the tilted screen like on the Sony NEX camera. Everyone is jumping on the Fuji wagon with the X-T1 and such, but I can’t get past my first experience of slow, inaccurate AF focus coupled with smearing files. What does everyone see in those cameras? And what’s changed? Is it better now? I still see the same sensor going into slightly different bodies.

I wanted to get the Sony A7 series camera, but the shutter vibration issue and then lack of lenses kept me from delving into it. Plus, I had the Sony NEX 6, which is as much as I wanted to delve into Sony right now. But I think the files are nicer coming out of the Sony than the Fuji. Am I the only one who thinks so? Am I crazy?

My Sony NEX 5 & 6 which everyone dismissed was much faster and smaller, with tilted screen too. It’s great for a carry-all in my bag, though not the sharpest results..

But the Merrills with all their annoying quirks beats all of my cameras in the final result…Files!. It is closest to that 3D film look, kind of reminds me of Kodachrome and Ektachrome slide film. Kind of shoots like that too in its unforgivable nature. Ha! So, unless I break out my old film cameras, the next best thing is the DP2M, and DP3M. I almost got the DP1M, but many reviews showed that it wasn’t sharpest of the three. I kind of regret that. Sharp in the Merrill world is pretty sharp, and I love that wide angle view. It’s between the Ricoh GR and DP1M. I have no doubt the Ricoh would be easier to use. I know Sigma moved onto the Quattro and I hate the look, and the fact that it shoots more like all the other Bayer sensors (read in your review). I am so happy I got a much-reduced DP3M the other day from B&H Photo. Both cameras I purchased at much lower prices, because no one is buying them. I know everyone hates Sigma Photo Pro, but it works fine on my Macintosh. An occasional crash, but not since I updated both the OS to Yosemite and the Sigma Photo software. I live in Arizona, so the Merrills are perfect here. I just need a good tripod. I have never owned a good one and think most of the gear is overkill.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your reviews. While less knowledgeable people bash these gems for their faults, which they do have, again, the final result is worth the hassle. One day Sigma will get it all right with that Foveon. I think they should dump the Quattro and focus on coming out with a workable solution for their Merrills. I’m happy with them. but it would be great to work in low light with them, and on moving subjects. LOL! I know it’s wrong of me to say, but I hope no one uses them, because I want my photos to stand out. Hahahaha!

DIGLLOYD: Agreed. And I always try to do more than review—hints, tips, how to use, etc I try to incorporate whenever possible. See Sigma DP Merrill pricing on gear page.

Richard R writes:

I can't miss this opportunity to second Elaine D's conclusion and observations about the Merrills. And nod to your not small part in introducing your readers to these marvels.

I have a 16x22 black and white of an Easter lily framed in a guest bathroom. People have actually gone in and been so blown away that they have walked out forgetting why they went in!

DIGLLOYD: Agreed. My tulips shot from the DP2 Merrill is still my favorite print ever.

Henning K writes:

I must say I really enjoy your site. I subscribe to Mirrorless guide, and I guess as many of the readers I value light weight, as I travel a lot.

I have used DP2M for a long time and recently bought DP3M as well as Ricoh GR.
Until now I have treated the Merrills as low ISO cameras only, but today I decided to try High ISO BW converting using blue channel 100 percent in SPP.

What a missed marked opportunity for Sigma, they could easily have advertised this great behavior or even made a firmware with this as a feature from start. Please see the included 2 photos, ISO 2000, one Sigma default BW(in-camera) and the other one Blue Channel BW only no noise reduction, sharpness minus 1. This is my first attempt and only a grab picture of my son.

For people who wants the phenomenal low ISO for instance when travelling but still be able to take photos in low light and not be left with a useless camera in many situations; I find it really expands the shooting envelope as Ming Thein would have called it.

According to Sean Reid it is only 2/3rd of a stop worse for noise than Leica Monochrom at 6400,when using Blue channel.

Actually this trio GR,DP2M and 3M is growing on me.

DIGLLOYD: the Merrills are keepers in many ways. Mixing color channels or using singly for black and white is another terrific application. I’ve long felt that the DP Merrills are better black and white cameras than the Leica M Monochrom: far more flexible in applying a color filter after the shot for starters.

Aspen, late autumn f/5.6 @ 1/13 sec handheld; ISO 100, Curves Sigma DP-1 Merrill
Aspen, late autumn
f/5.6 @ 1/13 sec handheld; ISO 100, Curves Sigma DP-1 Merrill

NEC PA322UHD: Reviewed (partially) + Which Colorimeter?

Some review coverage of the 4K UltraHD NEC PA322UHD is now published.

Mario A asks:

Do you need to purchase the PA322 model with the software/hardware calibration if you already have the software and sensor that came with the NEC3090.?

Is there a new hardware unit for this new display or is it the same?

DIGLLOYD: I’ve confirmed with NEC that the colorimeter is the same.

Using Adobe Photoshop: Raw Conversion, Color Management, Dual Display Issues

To DAP, I’ve updated and added to what I consider some key tips and issues for working with Photoshop. Some basics but also some issues/bugs that one ought to be aware of.

Site Maintenance this evening.

17:20 PST — This site might be erratic or unreachable for short periods tonight as some server upgrades are performed.

20:00 PST — server update finished, no known issues.

RawDigger now has a Workflow Complement: Fast Raw Viewer + Discount on RawDigger for Readers

I’ve been recommending RawDigger for some time now (histograms from yesterday’s post are from RawDigger). RawDigger is discounted for site readers, see links at end of this post.

Now LibRaw LLC has released version 1.0 of FastRawViewer (FRV) which aims to provide the most efficient possible culling and selection of images for time pressed photographers. Anyone shooting sports or weddings or other high-volume jobs will surely want to take a look at FRV.

Note that FastRawViewer can be used as culling program prior to importing into Adobe Lightroom, potentially saving tremendous time over the LR Import/Wait-A-Long-Time/Cull alternative.

At just $14.99, how can you lose?

I’ve been working with Alex Tutubalin (CTO of LibRaw LLC) for some time on RawDigger, and he has gained my respect as a developer who responds quickly to good suggestions. I expect that FRV will get better and better.

Full PDF description and see FastRawViewer web site for more.

FastRawViewer is designed for:

  • Quick viewing of a large number of RAW files (for example, taken while shooting events, competitions, on vacation, or during a photo expedition)
  • Selective viewing of RAW files
  • Culling of images from the points of view of composition and technical quality
  • Analysis of the shot — assignment of tags and ratings, moving pictures to working and archive folders, and to _Rejected folder
  • Preparation of files for conversion — adjusting orientation, tuning white balance, setting exposure correction, with optional automatic account for baseline exposure compensation used behind the scenes in Adobe converters (CameraRaw and Lightroom)
  • Transfer of files to an external RAW converter directly from the FRV (up to 3 different external programs can be specified)

Note: FastRawViewer never modifies original RAW files. All adjustments are recorded as auxiliary (sidecar) files in a standard format (xmp and rpps) and picked by RAW converters from there. Extremely fast viewing of RAW images

Thanks to its internal RAW converter, FRV provides instant display of RAW images (in full color, but also as per channel R/G/B view), as well as the means for technical evaluation of the shot: histogram of RAW data, focus peaking, highlighting of areas of overexposure and underexposure based on RAW data, opening shadows to check the noise.

Again, all of those are based directly on the RAW data, and not on the internal or external JPEG, as it common in other viewers.

  • RAW browsing speed on an average laptop — 4-8 frames per second
  • Support of almost all RAW formats and cameras, including cameras with removed CFA (those are offered by maxmax.com, or home-made), with the only exception being Sigma/Foveon RAW files (in this case, embedded JPEGs are displayed)
  • Reads files from any media without creating intermediate “collections” or image databases, thus avoiding unnecessary delays and waste of drive space
  • The ability to switch between viewing RAW and embedded JPEG (if one exists)
  • Fully customizable shortcuts: all basic operations can be performed without the menu or the use of the bottom bar.
  • Extended display of EXIF data: FRV allows you to see almost all of the information contained in EXIF. The list of EXIF fields to be displayed is customizable. 

Click for larger image.

FastRawViewer main window
FastRawViewer main window

RawDigger discount

RawDigger is the best tool available for anyone looking to hone their exposure (ETTR) techniques. LibRaw LLC is extending a discount to diglloyd.com readers of 20% off thru Jan 1st 2015:

David C writes:

I installed the trial and had an issue with the file chooser, sent something to their support and got an email back in 5 minutes. now I’m doing whatever they ask and reporting.

You can believe I’ll never see this kind of response from adobe (I bet not even *you* get it, and I’m sure not big enough).

DIGLLOYD: the RawDigger folks are very responsive—truly excellent.

Sony 11+7 Bit File Format: Gapping

Sony uses an lossy-compressed 11+7 bit file format in all their A7 series cameras as well as most others. Meaning bits are thrown away to keep the file size down. Most of the time, it works very well.

In theory “should not be visible” is the operative principle in this Sony lossy format.

If this is so, surely all medium format camera vendors and Nikon and Canon could all save us a huge amount of wasted storage space by lopping off all those unecessary bits, e.g. 8 bits is plenty, so why this 12-bit / 14-bit / 16-bit wastage? But all my experience with Nikon and Sony and other brands tells me that “should not be visible” is a crock—fine enough most of the time, but brittle.

This new page shows what a Sony histogram and a Nikon D810 histogram look like, using RawDigger to show the gapping of both. It proves nothing, but is provocative enough in the glaring differences.

Sony 11+7 bit Lossy Compression: Gapping

Click for larger image. This is a crop of the full histogram.

FastRawViewer main window
Sony A7R raw histogram gapping

On the Road: a 1TB Bus-Powered SSD for Backup

Photographers on the go should have a backup drive, which should be stored separately from the computer (consider a backup drive in the same bag as the laptop, and the bag is stolen).

On the road, I clone my laptop internal drive to the external backup after every day’s shooting download. I prefer SSDs for speed and durability.

OWC now offers a 1TB SSD for just $449 which can go into an external bus powered mini case (about $34).

B&H Photo: Apple Mac Pro for $2599, Hasselblad Price Plummets

See my review of the 2013 Apple Mac Pro.

Apple Mac Pro Quad-Core $2599 (instant savings of $400). AppleCare at B&H is also discounted substantially over the Apple Store price. AppleCare for 2013 Mac Pro.

The CPU in the 2013 Mac Pro can be upgraded after the fact, and thus it is a solid investment to start with—many users will find 4 cores more than adequate.

View all Mac Pro models

Hasselblad huge discounts

Perhaps the Pentax 645Z is having an effect. The H5D without lens for $9995 or with the 80/2.8 for $12495. CCD sensors are beautiful, but no Live View as with CMOS sensors (like the 645Z).

Hasselblad discounts up to $8505
Hasselblad discounts up to $8505

Photoshop CC 2014: Display Scaling Broken on 4K Displays (and Retina MacBook Pro)

See my review of the NEC PA 322UHD.

I’ve encountered a troublesome and erratically problematic bug: Photoshop CC 2014 Actual Pixels is not so. That is actual pixels (100%) might be drawn at 4:3 or 1:2 or something else. This is independent of display scaling mode.

Photoshop Scaling Bug

Photoshop CC 2014: incorrect image scaling
Photoshop CC 2014: incorrect image scaling

NEC PA322UHD 32-Inch Professional UltraHD 4K is Here

See my review of the 24inch NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD display.

Order NEC PA322UHD with calibration software and calibrator unit
Order NEC PA322UHD WITHOUT software/hardware calibration

XRite i1 Display Pro | SpectraView II software

The PA322UHD 32-Inch Professional UltraHD 4K display is here and attached to my 2013 Mac Pro. Setup was flawless; absolutely no configuration or special action required, just plug and go. The PA322UHD runs at all resolutions at 60 Hz, as it ought to.

  Dual displays: NEC PA322UHD UltraHD 4K display with NEC PA301W
Dual displays: NEC PA322UHD UltraHD 4K display with NEC PA301W

There are system bugs too (not unique to the PA322UHD). At scaled resolutions, the native resolution is not reported correctly.

  Dual displays: NEC PA322UHD UltraHD 4K display with NEC PA301W
Dual displays: NEC PA322UHD UltraHD 4K display with NEC PA301W

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS @ 16mm: Aperture Series, Mosaic

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

Presumably a 16-35mm zoom is bought in good part for its 16-24mm range, that range often being hard to cover with good quality lenses, particularly on the Sony platform. And at least for me, the 16mm is of keen interest.

Sony FE 16-35/4: Aperture Series @ 16mm: Mosaic (Sony A7R)

Include the usual HD and UltraHD images and large crops from f/4 - f/16. This series laso includes a a frame with overlay showing the prime imaging area.

  Mosaic and Pavers Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 16mm @ f/8
Mosaic and Pavers
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 16mm @ f/8

David B writes:

Just wanted to say thanks for your marvellous coverage of the FE 16-35.

For one thing I wasn’t sure that I wanted it, and I’m pretty sure now that I do.

But more importantly I think that without having read your coverage I wouldn’t have been able to use it to best advantage. Finding out exactly where there is focus shift, and what to do about it, is something that would have been a huge job, and I’m guessing that I would just have gone out into the field and shot with it, and been surprised by an apparently inexplicable mixture of bad performance and outstanding performance.
Your lens reviews really hep one know exactly what to expect (modulo sample variation!)

DIGLLOYD: whenever I can, I like to show how best to use a lens or camera.

Head to Head: Sony FE 16-35/4 vs Sony FE 35/2.8 Sonnar

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS or Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar at B&H Photo.

This head to head shootout turns out to be not only an excellent counterpart to the closer range studies, but an illuminating prime/zoom comparison as well. As well as a good example of a bad sample.

Sony FE 16-35/4 vs vs Sony FE 35/2.8: Mosaic (Sony A7R)

  Mosaic and Pavers Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/8
Mosaic and Pavers
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/8

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4: Aperture Series at 35mm Pumpkin + Mitigating Focus Shift

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

This study is superb in showing the focus shift of the Sony 16-35mm f/4 OSS. Never before have I seen behavior this extreme, and certainly not from f/5.6 - f/8. It is the most extreme behavior I have ever encountered form any lens on any platform.

This series also shows (like the others), the truly exceptional bokeh of the Sony 16-35, which I place beyond that of any zoom I have used, and most primes. The flip side is that the bokeh extracts its price (focus shift); I think the two are related.

Aperture Series @ 35mm: Pumpkin, Focus Shift (Sony A7R)

But what to do? I speak to that in Focus and Focus Shift Mitigation. The discussion applies to any lens with focus shift, not just the Sony 16-35/4 OSS, but it also speaks to the specific behavior of the Sony A7r and siblings.

  Late November Optimist Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/4
Late November Optimist
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/4


Tero N writes:

Just wanted to drop a note and say that the coverage of FE 16-35/4 OSS has been superb. Understanding zooms behavior is always more complicated and when one has such quirks as the FE 16-35 the coverage is hugely valuable for a Sony FE system shooter such as myself.

Regarding the Live View Setting effect on/off; you are right on mark on it's behavior. I've spent a lot of time trying to figure that out, but there seems to be no pattern on how much and when the cameras will open up on it's own for AF when Live View Setting Effect is on leading quite random behavior on lenses with focus sift.

On the other hand the the Setting Effect Off is hugely valuable for handheld stopped down shooting with lenses without noticeable focus shift. When shooting for example Zeiss ZE lenses on the Metabones smart adapter these lenses are nicer to focus than native mount Loxias, one can focus wide open and the lens will stop down on shutter press; this gives always best possible EVF quality and refresh rate + easy to place focus; something not available in Loxias with their manual aperture control.

DIGLLOYD: more coming.

The Zeiss Loxia lenses are very compact and I like their 100% predicatable behavior. But it is true that being able to focus wide open and have the lens stop down upon exposure is all but a necessity for some types of photography (people or anything moving).

Cyber Monday Deals

This discount is hilarious ($2300 off a $3300 item). Gotta make you feel like a chump if you bought one before. Stick to the Red Dot if you have that kind of cash.

Adobe Photoshop Elements $39.99 ($60 off)

Sigma

The Sigma DP Merrill cameras are at their lowest prices ever. The DP3 Merrill is a favorite of mine and it is only $540 now.

Nikon and Canon

Wow, Nikon really wants to move the Coolpix A.

Sony

Sony really wants to move out those A7 cameras, now that the A7 II is arriving. The A7 is a fine camera and with a vibration-free electronic shutter. The A6000 with built-in EVF and hyper fast autofocus and 12 fps is a nifty little camera and discounted as it is, a new model might be in the works too.

NEC

Fujifilm

Storage

Update on LG 31MU97 4K Display

Get LG 31MU97 at B&H Photo.

See updated notes regarding LG 31MU97 support in Readers Inquire About LG 31MU97 31-inch 4K Display.

On a related note, the NEC PA322 UHD is due to arrive Dec 3 for my testing. It is not yet listed on Apple’s 4K display support page, but I’ve advised NEC to get it listed there.

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4: Aperture Series at 34mm, Persimmon Cluster

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

This close range study at 34mm shows highly unusual behavior, albeit with lovely bokeh.

Aperture Series @ 34mm: Persimmon Cluster (Sony A7R)

  Persimmon Cluster Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 34mm @ f/13
Persimmon Cluster
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 34mm @ f/13

Two Touits for $959

See the review of Zeiss Touit in Guide to Mirrorless.

The Touits are excellent lenses for APS-C sensors, but as shown in my review, they can be also used on full frame well beyond the APS-C crop area.

Touit 12mm f/2/8 and 32mm f/1.8 for $959

  Two Touits for $959
Two Touits for $959

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4: Aperture Series at 17mm, Persimmon Wagon

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

This close range study at 17mm shows useful behaviors of the Sony/Zeiss 16-35m f/4 OSS at fairly close range. The performance is excellent.

Aperture Series @ 17mm: Persimmon Wagon (Sony A7R)

  Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 17mm @ f/8
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 17mm @ f/8

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar: Bokeh Series, In-Focus and Defocused

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

This 5-frame series at 31mm at f/5.6 evaluates the bokeh and rendering of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS, from sharply focused to strongy defocused.

Bokeh Aperture Series @ 31mm: Buckeye (Sony A7R)

  Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 31mm @ f/5.6
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 31mm @ f/5.6

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar: Aperture Series at 35mm, Yellow Blue Bike, Close Range

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

At 35mm, the results are distinctly at variance with the 21mm and 25mm results, meaning no focus shift at 35mm. A very interesting lens, and one with beautiful bokeh.

Sony FE 16-35/4: Aperture Series at 35mm, Yellow Blue Bike, Close Range

  Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/5.6
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/5.6

NEC PA302W 30-inch Display for only $1799 (with Calibration option)

XRite i1 Display Pro | SpectraView II software

The NEC PA302W has been my wide gamut calibrated workhorse display for some time now. I strongly prefer its 2560 X 1600 resolution in 30-inch form factor over the 2560 X 1440 shape in a 27" form factor: significantly more working area in a more useful aspect ratio, and slightly larger pixels (lower pixel density).

Now, get the NEC PA302W with calibration option (BK-SV) for $1799, which is about $800 down from its usual selling price. The BK-SV model includes the hardware calibrator and SpectraView II calibration, both essential for getting the best out of the PA302W.

NOTE: don’t be put off by the listed price; click the Price button and the actual price is then shown in the cart. ALSO, checkout is unavailable as this was written, but you *can* Add to Cart and check out tomorrow. Thank you for using the links on this page.

View pricing for all PA302 variants.

  NEC PA302W with calibration option (BK-SV) for $1799
NEC PA302W with calibration option (BK-SV) for $1799

While the PA322UHD 32-Inch Professional UltraHD 4K display is an option for some, a 4K display cannot be used at 4K resolution on older Macs: latest iMac, MacBook Pro Retina or 2013 Mac Pro needed to drive it,

  NEC PA302W 2560 X 1600 display
NEC PA302W 2560 X 1600 display

Sony A7R: Raw Files are Cooked (Orange Peek Texture)

Almost exactly a year ago when the Sony A7R arrived, my eyes immediately picked up an image quality issue that I described as an “orange peel texture”. Now a year later, there has been no change in this behavior (raw converters are all updated, and camera firmware is newer too).

The image used for this example looks terrific overall. And with areas of detail the texture merely overlays detail and is hard to spot. Areas of uniform tone are similarly unconcerned. It is for such reasons that most users will like Sony A7R image quality for most images.

But I find that Sony A7R image quality issues pop up in places never seen with Nikon D810/D800E, most recently in the field with an ugly tonal transition in a dusk image. This might be the Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression in part, but I now believe that Sony “cooks” the raw file, meaning there is some aggressive electronic preprocessing going on.

In this example, there are no smooth tonal transitions to be, and the orange peel texture overlays all. At ISO 80 with an ideal (perfect) exposure, I find it very surprising. Moreover, the noise pattern is such that sharpening is strictly circumscribed before ugly effects pop out: the image quality is “brittle”.

Sony A7R Pixel Quality: Orange Peel Noise (Yellow Blue Bike)

I strongly favor a Nikon D810 as a true workhorse over the A7R. With this kind of gritty noise at ISO 80, the shutter vibration, the 11+7 lossy compression, limited lens selection, the Sony platform has a long way to go before it makes me comfortable. Others of course have completely different metrics for weighing the matter (e.g. size/weight, EVF, cost, etc), and that is as it should be.

  Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/5.6
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/5.6

Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar: Aperture Series, Yellow Blue Bike

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

The subject matter might seem mundane, but the results are distinctively not so.

I shot a variety of other comparisons and series today, but my work is halted until I determine what is causing a pronounced focus shift: optical, or is it a lens or camera firmware bug or just plain bug?

These two aperture series at 21mm an 25mm duplicate the problem and another at 35mm (not published) also does. It is a serious behavioral problem, and it has to be tracked down before I can proceed further with the 16-35/f4. Possibly it could involve the Sony A7R firmware version (cameras shipped right now are arriving with version 1.01), so the next step is to move to version 1.10, which is not so straightforward.

Update: I ran a controlled close-distance test at 35mm using the A7R with firmware update to version 1.1. I cannot reproduce the issue in that one test. It’s Gobble Day today, but by tomorrow I hope to have done some more shooting with firmware 1.1 to see if the problem has been cured; my working theory is a camera bug in version 1.01 firmware.

Update 2: well, another series with firmware 1.1 at 24mm shows clear focus shift. To be published after the turkey has been gobbled (I eat late).

Update 3: reproduced at 24mm with firmware 1.1 on a scene mimicking the 25mm scene below. To be published. Clearly there is no firmware fix.

  Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ f/4
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 21mm @ f/4
  Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 25mm @ f/5.6
Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 25mm @ f/5.6

Sony A7 II Available for Pre-Order

Pre-order Sony A7II mirrorless at B&H Photo.

See reviews on Sony mirrorless.

The Sony A7 II has 5-axis sensor image stabilization; see Sony Image Stabilization.

Sony, Fix These Things and Win

See reviews on Sony mirrorless.

See also Sony Image Stabilization.

Sony is unlikely to take this advice, but here goes with the top five* things Sony can do to take its full-frame mirrorless lineup to a much more credible level.

  1. Deliver a 36 - 56 megapixel mirrorless camera with an EFC shutter (zero vibration), so that peak image quality can be reliably achieved. Bonus points for a medium format sensor.
  2. Add a lossless-compressed 15-bit file format. Keep the 11+7 bit format for those who want it, but deliver ultra high image quality for those who want it (and make the electronics ultra clean, so that it really does matter).
  3. Deliver cameras with robust high strength lens mounts, not the toy-grade build of the current lineup that is seeing replacement products! Bonus points for weather sealing.
  4. Deliver 5-axis sensor image stabilization in this high-resolution camera.
  5. Deliver a 4MP EVF, built-in.
  6. Make the camera larger (somewhat): the buttons are too small and fiddly compared to a Nikon D810. A7R with gloves (cold) means taking gloves off. No fun.
  7. Aggressively move the lens lineup forward, perhaps by paying Zeiss to extend the Loxia line quickly and with ultra high performance lens designs (Zeiss Otus grade, but half the price and near-perfect f/2.8 designs).
  8. Bonus points: near-zero blackout time, add 4K video, remove Sony crapware from menus, add a “My Menu”, offer raw-only shooter mode (eliminate all JPEG cruft, have right proper raw histogram).

None of this is particularly difficult, but it would yield tremendous credibility.

* Five or even three improvements are enough, provided that #1 is fixed.

Sony Image Stabilization and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar

Get Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at B&H Photo.

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 arrives any minute now tonight. UPS gives me a frustratingly late delivery schedule as the holidays approach: 6pm to as late as 8pm, which loses me an entire day of usage with new gear, with daylight long gone.

As noted previously, the Sony Alpha A7 II mirrorless camera introduces Olympus E-M1 style 5-axis image stabilization on its full frame sensor, which is a first for a full frame mirrorless camera (and no DSLR has it). And that type of image stabilization is the only image stabilization that works for wild rides (barring speciality gear).

It seems a near certainty that in-body image stabilization will be pushed into the entire A7 lineup (A7s, A7 II has it, A7R or A9 tbd camera). Thus it seems an unwise point in time to buy either the A7s or A7R.

For that matter, a camera lacking sensor image stabilzation (SIS) might come to be seen as rather sucky (assuming SIS has no real downsides and can be disabled as desired). Nikon, Canon are you still asleep? It’s low odds, but there is a chance that Sony might move from building electronic gizmos with cool and very useful features like SIS to well designed cameras for serious photographers, and that would be an existential threat to Nikon and Canon, even if the current compromised designs aren’t already.

Which leads me to a curious disconnect: optical image stabilization (OIS) always involves some compromise in image quality, and an ultra-wide zoom is the least needful of OIS.

So why produce an optically stabilized zoom when the camera will be doing it, and probably doing it better for that matter? It suggests that the Sony camera and lens development teams should put their heads together more often.

Or perhaps it’s more basic: the lens might have been designed well before the full-frame sensor stabilization was in the bag. Either way, it seems a shame that a 16-35mm f/4 couldn’t instead use the IS-group lens elements instead to raise optical quality, instead of devoting them to stabilization (the confusion of which to use with a sensor-stabilized camera is not a plus either).

UPDATE: Sony’s marketing informtion suggests that the 5-axis stabilizatin is in fact NOT implemented in the sensor; that 2 of the axes are in fact only there if the lens is a Sony OSS lens. If true, this would make the claim rather misleading (just spell it out Sony!). Even the native 35/2.8 and 55/1.8 are not OSS lenses, let alone lenses with adapters.

  Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS

LensRentals.com Black Friday Sale

Rent cameras or lenses at LensRentals.com, buy use gear at LensAuthority.com.

  • 25% off any rental placed at Lensrentals.com using the code BLACKFRIDAY
  • Order must be placed between 8:30 AM CT on 11/26/14 and 11:59 PM CT on 12/1/14
  • Eligible for any rental with an arrival date before 4/1/15
  • Limit - 2 rental orders per person
  • Not combinable with any other promotions or coupons
  LensRentals.com Black Friday sale
LensRentals.com Black Friday sale

NEC PA322UHD 32-Inch Professional UltraHD 4K Expected Here Soon

See my review of the 24inch NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD display.

Order NEC PA322UHD with calibration software and calibrator unit
Order NEC PA322UHD WITHOUT software/hardware calibration

XRite i1 Display Pro | SpectraView II software

I expect to see the PA322UHD 32-Inch Professional UltraHD 4K display soon for review, because NEC tells me that the NEC warehouse now has them.

Update: review unit should arrive December 3rd.

I like the bundled calibration option, but I’m told that if one buys the XRite i1 Display Pro separately, it will achieve the same result as the bundled unit. But bought separately, it can work with any display (but buy and use SpectraView II for calibrating NEC displays).

  NEC PA322UHD 32-inch 4K UltraHD Display
NEC PA322UHD 32-inch 4K UltraHD Display
  NEC PA322UHD inputs
NEC PA322UHD inputs

Ray B writes:

I wanted to comment on your blog article, that suggests that for those ordering the NEC PA series monitors, it may be better to order the i1Display Pro, for exactly this reason: that it will be useable on most any monitor (with i1 Profiler or similar software), and still be functional for use with SpectraView.

Cost for ordering this generic colorimeter, plus Spectraview software, is a bit more than ordering the BK-SV option, but at least it will function for most monitors, not just NEC PA series. For anyone who wants to calibrate other non-PA monitors, it ultimately is more cost effective.

DIGLLOYD: NEC tells me that the bundled colorimeter has some tweaks for use during calibration by SpectraView II, but that the final calibrated results should be equivalent when using the generic XRite i1 Display Pro.

Either way, use of the SpectraView II software is essential (calibrating with anything else is almost certainly faux calibration).

Cleaning a Computer Display

Get micro fiber cloth or Zeiss micro fiber cloth at B&H Photo.

Matt S writes

I recently bought the NEC PA272 based on your work and I really love it. Thanks!

How do you clean your monitor? Mine is inexplicably dirty already.

DIGLLOYD: I clean my displays with a micro fiber cloth, or the cloth that Apple ships with laptops. See also The How-To Geek Guide to Cleaning Your LCD Monitor Screen.

I asked NEC about cleaning NEC displays, with this response:

We generally only recommend water and a microfiber cloth (that’s all my service group will approve).

  Don’t Use Atlas PERMA-GUARD to Clean an LED Display NEC PA322UHD 32-inch display
Don’t Use Atlas PERMA-GUARD to Clean an LED Display
NEC PA322UHD 32-inch display

Shootout: Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC vs Nikon 28mm f/4 PC (Church, 11mm Rise)

  Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC on Nikon D810
Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon
28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC

Get Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM Aspheric at B&H Photo.

To my review of the Schneider PC-TS Super Angulon 28/4.5 HM ASPH is added an aperture series comparison versus the Nikon 28mm f/4 PC.

Schneider PC-TS 28mm f/4.5: Church, 11m rise (D810)

This scene turns out to be surprisingly instructive in what is going on with the imaging field of the Schneider (and the Nikon 28/4 PC); it bears directly on important behavior that anyone using the lens ought to note.

  Let there be light Nikon D810 + Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC @ f/11
Let there be light
Nikon D810 + Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC @ f/11

Shift Lens Stitching

Yesterday’s interview with Ming Thein led one reader to inquire about shift lens stitching.

Some years ago I was doing shift-lens stitching, always seeking really good optics (which never happened!), see Equipment for shift lens stitching from 2006. Also, Really Right Stuff sells specialty brackets for multi-row rotational stitching. Related reading:

Funny how this 26 megapixel image from the 12-megapixel Canon 5D seemed high-res at the time. Now we talk about 80 megapixels from 36 instead of 26 from 12.

Click for larger image.

Quarry House, Norway Canon 5D-IR + Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-Micro-Nikkor, stitched image
Quarry House, Norway
Canon 5D-IR + Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-Micro-Nikkor, stitched image
Tioga Lake, 2009-05-30 09:42 Canon 5D-IR + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro, infrared stitched 75MP
Tioga Lake, 2009-05-30 09:42
Canon 5D-IR + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro, infrared stitched 75MP

An Interview with Ming Thein on His High-Definition “Ultraprint”

See also A conversation with Ming Thein on the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810 and More.

Ming Thein of MingThein.com is a professional photographer half way around the world (from me) whose work is first class. Ming and I enjoyed a shoot together in early September 2014 at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.

Ming sent me one of his stunning Ultraprints from that shoot. This Q/A interview is all about his approach to what I’d term “hi-def printing”, which he terms The Ultraprint.

Purisima Creek Redwoods ©2014 Ming Thein
Purisima Creek Redwoods ©2014 Ming Thein

LC: Ming, I received the Ultraprint you sent me, taken during our outing together at the redwoods. Examining it in daylight (my preference) I took in a first impression which for me means an overall gander (visual impact) followed by looking at fine details, color and contrast and so on.

The word “ultra” implies a high level of excellence, so I was intrigued to have that opportunity using an image you shot while not far from me in those redwoods that day so I had some frame of reference (rather than some place I had never been). My first impressions was “dang!" - since I had been there a number of times and the scene you shot really captured the creek and overhanging branches and so on—something I’ve found really hard to do. So as far as I’m concerned it is/was a very successful image consistent with the impressive quality of your other work in other ‘parts. That’s the artistic angle, well done.

Technically, there were several subtle things that emerged as I engaged with the image. I first notice a critical sharpness “beyond my eyes” meaning unless I had visual aid there was no point in saying more about sharpness! But beyond sharpness I noted a natural look to the details, a freedom from any harsh edges, transitions, etc, all of which add to the sharpness in ways that make the result really enjoyable. Paper quality is really excellent, too. In addition, the color rendition I know is very hard to get right in that venue, and it was nailed.

My only “complaint” is that as I age I more and more prefer larger prints because in less bright light my eyes cannot focus as close. So for me, something around 30 X 20 is much more comfortable. But in this case I was outside and the bright light allows me to view at close range.

So let’s talk about what an Ultraprint is, meaning what is the photographic goal, general approach, what discipline and care is required and what you hope to achieve by making what is a very high grade print which might be summarized as “like a contact print of old” - only better!

MT: Thank you. We've tried our best - and continue to do so - to make the Ultraprints the *best* prints we know how, in every way - color accuracy, resolution, continuity of tone - all for one reason: to lead to a sense of immersion and transparency.

Looking through the print and at a scene, instead of looking at a representation of the scene, in other words. I chose that image precisely because you had a frame of reference of the actual scene, so you could assess it on its technical merits and fidelity to the feeling of being there. I'm glad it passed - there was a high bar, as I know Purisima Creek is very familiar to you - and it was my first time there. I admit I was probably not firing on all cylinders either; it'd been a very heavy two weeks leading up to that day.

The initial goal of the Ultraprint was to condense all of the information from these high megapixel cameras into something that you could actually appreciate at a reasonable scale, and at a single glance - much like the real world. (You can see a detailed comparison between a normal print and an Ultraprint here.)

My print buyers didn't have the space to store or hang larger images - nor do I. We don't have quite as much space in Asian homes. However, the goal has subsequently morphed from that into a question of bringing the experience of being there to the viewer in the form of a print.

Resolution is not the objective, though it is an important cornerstone of the Ultraprint: it enables very fine tonal gradations, which is what represents both spatial detail as well as continuity of tone. I could print the same image at a lower resolution - Ultraprints are now 720 PPI - and probably not compromise much on the level of detail *your eyes* can resolve, but it would not have the same perceived continuity of tone.

We have to go beyond what the eyes can resolve in order to do that. 720 PPI is at the threshold for most people with perfect vision, at their nearest focusing distance. At this point, we are actually resolution limited by the *paper*; even with the finest grained matte fiber paper with smooth non-expanding coatings, this is about as good as it gets. Which is really not bad, since we can resolve details about 1/3-1/2 the width of a human hair.

In a digital context, it's much like the difference between a normal screen and one of Apple's 'retina' displays - night and day, though you do get used to it. Except the best Retina displays are at 453ppi, and look positively coarse under high magnification compared to an Ultraprint. Back to your comment about size - the only way to go bigger is to have more pixels. And pixel quality is very important too, for both color accuracy and edge resolution - the 12x16" print you have was made from a D810 stitch of three images, for a total of about 80MP. I am working on a series that goes much larger, and has incredible visual *punch* - but we're talking about stitching 50+ images to make a 24x60".

LC: Might it be fair to call this an attempt at “immersive” photography by make the viewing experience as free from the limits of recording (capture and print both)?

MT: Absolutely. Ultraprinting is a convenient name for an entire idea and workflow: knowing what you can accurately represent in print; then finding appropriate subjects; capturing them with the highest possible image quality and shot discipline, then ensuring that translation to paper is faithful. It necessitates the photographer to sit through endless proofs to tweak color by minute amounts to a (hopefully) accurate memory.

The problem I have is that this never translates online: a web jpeg of the image looks terrible because you've got perhaps 1% of the information, or less. The irony of course is that in trying to free yourself from the limits, you come across some very prosaic ones - like wind ruining your 60-image stitch…or the fact that you can only use the centre 50% area of your lenses because of corner issues.

LC: If I understand correctly, you are adding to the “resolution” (information content) with another kind of “resolution”: tonal transition quality, gradient quality of smooth tones and so on.

MT: Yes. Tonal quality is also very much linked to resolving power of your output medium: if you have a line, and only two pixels, you can represent that edge with no information. But if you have that same edge crossing say 100 pixels, it's easy to resolve roughness (texture) contrast (reflections, perhaps highlights) and (irregularity) spatial information. Imagine this now with color information, too. Information is conveyed by spatial frequency, which is really alternation in tone. Resolving power and tonality are not separable, and I think at the core of what changes the experience from 'looking at a print' to 'looking at the scene'. Reality is not single- or posterized-tone; it's beautifully continuous.

LC: These stitches employ shift lenses I presume so as to avoid parallax issues, since the Purisima Creek Image had severe challenges that rotational stitching would be very difficult to work with (precise rotation about entrance pupil). But with so many images, perhaps not shift lenses?

MT: Your particular image was made with a shift lens. But most of the time, I don't get enough shift range to exceed the 80MP / 12x16" equivalent size; I've got to do a spherical stitch. And the reality is that most shift lenses are not up to scratch optically.

LC: For these reason, the best lenses like Zeiss Otus contribute to some of the ’transparency’ by preserving as much tonal subtlety as possible?

MT: Absolutely. The largest stitches - the Forest series - are made with Otii or the 2/135 APO, which is pretty close. Capturing as much information as possible and as accurately as possible is very important; that's both color information and resolution. Our subconscious is very sensitive to color; it will register something as being 'off' if the balance isn't right. This is especially critical with natural subjects as we have a very strong concept of what color grass or sky should be, for instance.

LC: There you have it over me—I’ve done the color tests and I rank quite high (in a percentile sense, 99.9😜 but as my eyes age they are less good. Back to the artistic side, many coveted prints are technically not so great. But they succeed because of ‘message’. What is your message?

MT: On the artistic side, it's not so much a message (that can be down to an individual project; e.g. 'Verticality' is about the smallness and insignificance of the creator in the world he has created') - as an experience. The prints are about the experience of being there - or as close to it as we can get. And if I can take you to places that aren't so easily accessible, but which perhaps convey a nice sense of calm (forests, for instance) then it becomes a unique little portal of escape you can hang in your home or office. It isn't about an image anymore: it's about using the image to convey a feeling and transport you to another place in an immersive way. In the long run, it probably means I have to go even bigger. Right now we have some computing challenges (and printer buffer challenges) - but I'm working on a stitch at present that would cover a normal ceiling at 240PPI :)

LC: Let me play devil’s advocate: “immersive” to me means something around six feet wide. But I only have wall space for 3 or so such prints! Call it “like life” or “larger than life”, I have trouble getting into prints smaller than about 3 feet wide, regardless of the artist. Which is partly physical (eyes), but otherwise just what I like most. Photographs are successful for many different reasons: historical or famous, subject alone (place, time, celebrity), but some photographs lack such references and thus have to stand on their own, and that mean artistic excellence and ideally, technical excellence. So the “portal” you speak of seems to aim for the latter, it being a bit harder to round up famous people or historical events! So by what metrics of success do you judge your work, given the above (or other)?

MT: I'm going to ask you a question in return before I address your other points: did you get immersed in the Ultraprint I sent?

LC: No, because it is too small, and the place is large and cathedral like. I respond very strongly to large outdoor spaces (see all my mountain shooting). At relatively small sizes (16 inches for that print), the print is excellent, but I cannot “be in the scene” at a small size. This is true in general for me and not a comment on that print. I want to feel like I’m there, and I don’t feel that with smaller prints.

I should explain a bit more— when I’m in one of these “cathedral space” outdoors (redwoods, wide open mountains, etc), I have an almost 3D sense of the place, and it is multi-factorial: sight, sounds, touch and so on that all wire me in. In a way I visualize the place *while there* and when I’m zoned into it I am conscious of the place as a whole. It is very hard to get close to that even in a large superb print. After all, this is a 2D medium. So the best approximation of the feeling of a place needs to get to some wider visual field of view (I am strongly visual dominant), and for that I (*I*) feel the need for large prints.

MT: That is an eyesight challenge; a larger print simply occupies more of your field of view. The same thing happens with a smaller print, except your eyes tend to run out of focus distance first and prints tend to run out of steam at an absolute resolving power level. I'm seriously going to suggest you try it again with reading glasses :)

Remember that the original gestation of the Ultraprint was because large prints are not practical for cost and space reasons. That, and it's also really difficult to pick one image you could live with for a long time to the potential exclusion of others. But it is one of the reasons I'm going larger with the next series of Ultraprints - I hold that level of detail out to much larger sizes; Forest III was the first of these at 40x15", and I plan to go as large as about 40x40". Most of them will be panoramics precisely to give you this sense of exceeding your visual field of view, intended to be viewed from about a foot or foot and a half way. But this of course reduces the potential audience because of size and cost…and makes it very expensive to even proof properly. I'm confident you'll get your immersiveness at this size, but with significant other compromises.

To answer you question about standing alone and judging work - I have to go back to the original objective. Does it feel immersive? Do I feel like I'm there? If not, then it doesn't work. This of course assumes that the scene is one that I want to be present at in the first place - a smelly garbage-filled alleyway in the middle of the night is probably *not* something you want to be immersed in. But realizing the size conundrum, I agree that I need to go bigger. 20x30", at least. This of course limits subjects too since I have to stitch. A life-size wave would be awesome, but impossible because I'd need a single capture array of at least several hundred megapixels.

LC: I’d agree that reading glasses would help just to be able to get closer to a smaller print (field of view). Can also work in very bright light. Well, this would not be an issue at a younger age and I do not say it is how others might react. I certainly was drawn to the clarity and real-ness of the image! I think in a way it is “user interface“: how much viewer effort is needed. Another example: going to a museum, I love the large late 1800’s painting that are huge wall size things. I walk on by the 1-2 foot images because they just seem to require too much effort, useless the museum allows close inspection, which helps a lot (some don’t).

MT: You can get as close as you like to these. Even the large ones. And the large ones are very surreal when examined like that - they work both at conventional viewing distances and with a loupe. I honestly wish I had the museum problem with these, though - then we'd just calculate what the resolving power of the eye is at minimum 'velvet rope' distance, exceed it slightly, and see how big we can go!

LC: Well, the print is terrific. And big is wrong for some small places. Posing a “future” question: what if we had digital wallpaper of print quality? The same quality metrics ought to come to bear and distinguish between the Ultraprint grade and ordinary.

MT: Hah! I'd be the first in line, and I think it probably isn't that far off, actually. I'd also like a 'white' setting so I can use it to construct light for still life work. But it does say to me that since I missed the mark on immersiveness for you (albeit due to ageing eyesight), there's still room for improvement. Next time we meet I'll bring a large Forest. Interestingly, as good as the iMac 5k is, it's still only 218PPI.

LC: But 218ppi at 2 feet is pretty darn hard to see pixels. So to bring it back to the print and setting aside my own eyes - the Ultraprint captures a level of detail that is pretty incredible and influences my perception of it significantly. Also, when I studied it at closer range, yes it was immersive in the sense of bringing a smile to my face in seeing all the details there and to be explored. I confess I am looking forward to the NEC 32” 4K display just because I love such details.

So let me call it “highly engaging”, because I took the word “immersive” more literally. Readers who have not viewed an Ultraprint ought to—and I might be remiss in this regard in being too out of band as per the medium itself. Yet ordinary prints show limits that just are not there in the Ultraprint. Setting aside professional excellence and pride in making the best possible print (kudos), do you think most people appreciate the degree of effort that goes into the prints? Might it not take 5 or 10 or 20 years for the core concept to really break into its own form?

MT: I'm sure we'll get to immersive, even for the long sighted - it's a matter of size. But I wouldn't want to compromise in any way because *I know it can be done* - and anything less would just defeat the point of attempting to push the boundaries of perception in print.

You're probably right: most people have no idea how much work goes into making a finished print - from the 60-image stitches with thousands of manual control points to the dozens of proofs to the modifications to the printer. And because I cannot translate or even begin to convey the physical viewing experience digitally, I am sure it's being dismissed summarily by a lot of people who might otherwise enjoy such a print. It's very difficult to imagine if you've never seen one in person, and physical limitations mean it's obviously not practical to send these things around as samples. Plus the paper surface is of course delicate and doesn't respond well to excessive handling, much like any print.

There are plans for an exhibition in Chicago in October next year at the Rangefinder Gallery, and another one tentatively on the cards for Hong Kong in November; hopefully I can get a few more places interested. Funny thing is most of the skeptics have become very vocal converts after seeing the prints in person. The good news is that as display pixel density increases, I think people are going to find it easier to imagine and visualize what 720PPI looks like.

LC: Corollary: your compositions are always very strong. And that is the first thing that makes the image. Would you print an image not at Ultraprint resolution grade and really worry in any way about it, given the right composition? Photography has plenty of not so sharp images coveted by collectors.

MT: Would I print strong images that don't make Ultraprint grade? Sure - either as smaller Ultraprints, or with very clear caveats that it is not an Ultraprint. Sometimes the idea and the moment outweigh all, and you only get a single capture. Stitching for ultimate resolution is nothing new, of course - so it should be that hard to understand. The difficult part to understand is the consistency of vision/ idea that goes into the workflow to make the most of the medium, and the fact that we can really put down all of that information into a sensible-sized print.

LC: The Ultraprint quality goal intrigues me, because I’ve long felt that if I’m going to make an image, I want to capture it at maximal quality (resolution, color, dynamic range, etc). That dynamic seems at work for you too. But today cameras are “good enough” meaning that the whole Ultraprint goal is not a priority for many shooters. They’re not stitching and they’re shooting, say, 16 megapixels. What say you?

MT: Here's my question: if you have all that resolution, what are you doing with it if not printing? There's actually no way to view even the output in full. This, plus the size and cost limitations of large prints are why we have Ultraprints at all. It felt like something was missing from the prints - at all sizes. I could *see* through them, in a way, and that sort of ruined the experience for me and made me unhappy with the output. Finding a print master who will also support you through this is another challenge entirely, of course.

LC: Who is your printer?

MT: I use Wesley Wong at Giclee Art in Kuala Lumpur - I actually interviewed him here a little while ago. We both decided we could go further with the output - and he is my indispensable partner in the creation of both the Ultraprint process and the prints themselves, and a very close friend.

LC: Any advice for those looking to aim for Ultraprint quality?

MT: As for making Ultraprints - it isn't just about the output hardware or the capture or the number of pixels. You can make a high resolution image of something that is boring, have a lot of poor pixels and then totally mess up the color - or not have enough resolution to satisfy the printer. And none of those will be an Ultraprint. It is important to know what you're trying to achieve with the output so that every creative choice you have - which lens, what color balance, how much contrast etc. - can be made with the end in mind, even if the end goal is as simple as something like 'the feeling of looking up in a forest'. Simple is actually hard…

LC: How can someone buy an Ultraprint?

MT: I offer a selection of prints via my gallery site and the main site, or you can request any of my images from here or the flickr page as an Ultraprint here - note that not all images are Ultraprintable because of technical limitations, and sizes are may be restricted. As for the editions on the gallery and main site, I strictly limit the number I print - simply because I believe in exclusivity, and because I also believe that I'll also make different and better images in future - it's an evolution. Smaller sizes also mean better accessibility price-wise.

LC: You do teaching and workshops, are you offering one that dovetails with the Ultraprint goal?

MT: Back to translation of idea into capture, and capture via workflow into the highest image quality possible with your equipment - and all of the intermediate steps. I generally bring some prints because students are curious to see them; once I show the workflow then they have an understanding of just how much effort goes into creating one of these images. But it all still goes back to the photographer: a poor idea is going to make a mediocre image regardless of the capture and output. So I tend to focus on the conceptual and compositional parts before output.

LC: Thank you Ming, for sharing your insights and clarity of purpose.

MT: Thank you!

   A selection of limited edition Ultraprint images is available from The Gallery; in addition I am planning future large format editions in the Forest series, which will be announced here. The next image will be Forest IV, shown below and available in early January as a 57x22" Ultraprint. Further reading on the Ultraprint can be found here, in the rationale behind the pursuit of clarity.

_8B10776-844 forest iv small
Image ©2014 Ming Thein

Postscript

Years ago I also did some shift-lens stitching, see Equipment for shift lens stitching. Today, Really Right Stuff sells specialty brackets for multi-row rotational stitching.

I have a hunch that the NEC PA322W UHD will get me to the first stage of the “immersive” level, by dint of size and pixel density. Moreover a transmissive medium is highly attractive for its contrast range and gamut (assuming a top notch display). A print being reflective has inherent limitations, barring some nifty new quantum Baryta paper development. It is akin to a very large transparency versus a large print. And I always did like 4 X 5 chromes and/or projected slides.

What I really love about digital display is that the medium itself lets me zoom in—no eye limitations, no resolution top end (source is the only limit)—if I see an area that interests me, I can zoom in. No print can do this. I am looking forward to 8K and 16K displays (108 and 256 megapixels). At that point, I am not sure a print can compete except for what it is: a print. But can a digital display ever compete with the collectible nature of a tangible print? That’s hard in the art world, but perhaps this can happen as some sort of crypto-image future tech where one sells/buys “right to display” digital immersions.

Sony Image Stabilization

Get Sony Alpha A7 II at B&H Photo.

Also, in-depth review of the Sony A7 and A7R.

The Sony Alpha A7 II mirrorless camera introduces 5-axis in-body image stabilization along with an improved grip and strengthened lens mount. It’s not yet available in the USA according to B&H Photo, but ought to be soon.

As far as I know, full-frame sensor 5-axis image stabilization sees its debut in the A7-II.

So one naturally wonders when the A7R-II will arrive and whether it might also include image stabilization, but I for one would settle for an A7R-II which offered an EFC shutter to eliminate the shutter vibration problem. Image stabilization is not a fix for shutter vibration. So (hope beyond) hope: sensor image stabilization along with elimination of shutter vibration would be sweet.

In the Olympus E-M1 / Olympus E-M5 at least, the 5-axis in-body image stabilization is outstanding. It’s the only image stabilization that works for wild rides. So if it works equally well in the Sony A7-II, that rocks.

It’s worth remembering that when shooting handheld, image sharpness is a total sum game: optical performance, aperture, shutter vibration (or not), image stabilization and shutter speed, etc. It’s possible that the A7-II thus might offer a unique capability not possible with any other camera, at least for some time. Now if we could just have Sony execute it all with 14-bit raw instead of 11+7 bit lossy compressed.

Email Notifications for Site Content: Option Also for MacPerformanceGuide

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Now available: updates for MacPerformanceGuide.com and/or WindInMyFace.com. Each site gets its own email, so if all three sites change on any given day, you’d receive three emails, one per site (weekly choice would be one per week).

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Faster Photoshop Scratch for Memory-Limited Macs with Thunderbolt 2

It’s always better to max-out memory if/when performance is suffering from too-little memory in Photoshop.

But all Macs have limits: 16GB for MacBook Pro and MacMini, 32GB for iMac, 64/128GB for 2013 Mac Pro.

Once memory is maxed-out, the Photoshop scratch disk is the next recourse—it should be as fast as possible. For those with Thunderbolt 2 capable Macs, the new OWC Thunderbay Mini with SSDs fits the bill nicely, beating out even the lightning-fast 1TB SSD in the MacBook Pro Retina.

Thunderbay Mini with SSDs as a Photoshop Scratch Disk

  OWC Thunderbay Mini 4-bay enclosure
OWC Thunderbay Mini 4-bay enclosure

Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC: Full Shift with and without Correction for Color Errors

  Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC on Nikon D810
Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon
28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC

Get Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM Aspheric at B&H Photo.

See existing review of Schneider PC-TS 90mm f/4.5 and 50mm f/2.8.

To my review of the Schneider PC-TS Super Angulon 28/4.5 HM ASPH is added an aperture series at full shift which shows the image quality with and without correction for lateral chromatic aberration, and discusses the central and peripheral image quality.

Schneider PC-TS 28mm f/4.5: Drive Train, 12mm Shift (D810)

This subject is particularly good for this purpose with its metal and high contrast edges.

Crops are shown from f/4.5 to f/16 with and without color correction for lateral chromatic aberration, for easy comparison.

  Drive Train, f/13 Nikon D810 + Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC @ f/13
Drive Train, f/13
Nikon D810 + Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC @ f/13

Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC: First Look

  Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC on Nikon D810
Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon
28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC

Get Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM Aspheric at B&H Photo.

See existing review of Schneider PC-TS 90mm f/4.5 and 50mm f/2.8.

I kick off my review of the Schneider PC-TS Super Angulon 28/4.5 HM ASPH with an aperture series at close range which shows general performance. The findings here are consistent with some other shooting, to be shown soon. After some initial mundane subject matter which is nonetheless highly instructive, I’ll move on to buildings and so on.

Schneider PC-TS 28mm f/4.5: Maple Trees at Close Range, 12mm Fall (D810)

This scene is shot at 12mm “fall” (downward shift).

  Maple Trees, f/13 Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC + Nikon D810
Maple Trees, f/13
Schneider PC-TS Super-Angulon 28mm f/4.5 HM ASPHERIC + Nikon D810

 

LG 31MU97 4K Display (4096 X 2160), canceled

See Readers Inquire About LG 31MU97 31-inch 4K Display.

Update: I’ve decided to skip evaluation of this display, because it is not properly supported by Macs and of concerns I’m seeing out there on the web.

I like tried and true and fully supported by a company that knows Macs, so I’m sticking with the NEC PA322UH Perhaps at a later date, when things settle out.

* Mac OS 10.9.3 and later versions are supported
* 4096x2160 resolution will be supported in upcoming Mac OS X release.

  LG 31MU97-B OS X resolutions
LG 31MU97-B OS X resolutions

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