In Motion There is Great Potential
Our trusted photo rental store
OWC Easy SSD Upgrade Guide for MacBook Pro/Air/Retina, iMac, Mac Pro, MacMini, more!

30 day blog index

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Red Aspen at Dusk (M240)

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

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

The Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH is Leica’s latest Summilux. It is a fine lens, and in my view the best Summilux yet.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Red Aspen at Dusk

Includes images up to full resolution from f/1.4 through f/11.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Red Aspen at Dusk
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Four Aspen at Dusk (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

This series evaluates overall bokeh (foreground and background), color correction, sharpness and overall visual impact.

In Guide to Zeiss, this aperture series from f/1.4 to f/11 includes entire frame images at sizes up to 24 megapixels, along with large crops. Shot on the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II using the Novoflex lens adapter.

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Four Aspens, Late Dusk (Sony A7R II)

The Zeiss ZF.2 Milvus 50mm f/1.4 makes a very fine choice on Sony mirrorless for those for whom manual focusing and aperture control are acceptable. For this kind of outdoor shooting, the full manual control over the lens is often a plus.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Four Aspens at Dusk

Reader Comment: Big DSLR Price Cuts, Why?

See also Sony A7R II: Field Usage.

Dan M writes:

So do you think the second price drop for the Nikon D810 means they’re clearing inventory in advance of something to be announced? What, usual pattern is an announcement about 4 months in advance of the earliest arrivals.

Maybe you should see the doctor about some sedatives to have on the shelf should the announcement not include an EVF. There have been a variety of announcements from different companies in the past two years that were news on account of what was not in the new cameras, especially Leica, but I don’t think anything would be more glaring than a D900 with no EVF. The A7RII has to be a wake-up call.

DIGLLOYD: Nikon badly needs a D900 with EVF and 42 or 50 megapixels or so (and 4K video ideally). What is taking so long?

The Nikon D810 is now $500 off. The Nikon D750 is $400 off and there are bundles up to $1100 off. Plus 2% rewards and expedited shipping and extras!

Why the price cuts? The camera market is saturated with users bored out of their minds at five million pounds of DSLR inventory still being shoveled out by the container-shit load*. The only excitement in the market at present is the Sony A7R II—innovation at Canon and Nikon has been dead in its tracks for five years or more. Megapixels and a few more fps do not count folks. Live View was the only significant innovation in years from CaNikon. Well, the wheel was a nice invention too, but time moves on. So that could easily explain the price cuts. I am less hopeful on a D900 for this year at least.

The Nikon D810 is still my venerable workhorse camera, but how would iPhone users feel if 5 years went by and the iPhone 3 were still the current model? The path is trivially easy to closing the gap for CaNikon: add an EVF option, get to 50+ megapixels with high performance CDAF, keep all the good buttons and such. For bonus points, offer a more compact model without an optical viewfinder, which makes 90% of users happier and cuts the cost and size and weight. How much thought is required for that? Not much and it’s not innovation but it would be welcomed.

Funny. Sony could hire me to bitch and moan until they got a design right that would beat the crap out of CaNikon (figuratively speaking). Whatever. That horse can’t even be led to a dry creek.

The (almost) missing part of the equation is lenses, and there I think the only company doing interesting work is Zeiss. And indeed, lenses are the future (and perhaps massively parallel CPUs, in camera, for all sorts of goodies). But lenses rule are still the lovely Real Deal. I love the month of October, such lovely weather**, suitable for many temperaments too.

* Container-ship load. Gosh, I must have hit the wrong key.
** My non-sequiturs are only seemingly so.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Four Aspen, Very Late Dusk

Back from Mountains Trip

I’ve returned from my trip and will be playing catch up for a few days.

Traversing Highway 120 (Tioga Pass Road), the views were stunning, but I had to grab and go to make it home in reasonable time.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Mt Dana with fresh snow down to ~10,300 feet elevation
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon: a Classic Design having Optical Demerits Yields Beauty

I wrote about the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon in response to the email from James K.

And just today I was admonished (very mildly) on stepping back to see the big picture, meaning that technical flaws are present in many lenses and yet the total rendering style can be highly desirable when used well. Of course, I’ve blogged on that subject many a time over years.

The rendering style of the Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon is very 3D in feel, particularly at closer range as here. IMO it’s a classic that ought to be in every serious shooter’s bag, along with the ZF.2 25mm f/2.8 Distagon, which if anything has more flaws, and yet has great rendering appeal. I particularly like the 25mm and 28mm focals. They are close in focal length, yet distinctly different.

Shot wide open at f/2 with the Sony A7R II using the Novoflex lens adapter.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Four Aspen, Late Dusk Afer First Autumn Snow
Must-have expansion: OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Thunderbolt 2, USB 3, Gigabit Ethernet, 4K Support, Firewire 800, Sound Ports

All White Mountain Snowmen I’ve Met Prefer Weather-Resistant Zeiss Milvus

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless and Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

This friendly fellow begged me for a top hat, so I obliged with the weather-resistant Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Planar. He was disappointed that I did not have along the new Zeiss Elephantus 200mm f/1.4, as that would have been a better fit.

But not being too picky, the adornment was accepted with grudging satisfaction, we had a few beers* and all was well until I wanted my Milvus back. I had to bring out a gallon of water and explain that I already had consumed a bit too much fluid and that things might get a little “colorful” and that yellow was the perfect photographic color complement to bluish snow... but in the end we parted on good terms.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
White Mountain Snowmen prefer Zeiss Milvus weather sealing
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
White Mountain Snowmen find the Zeiss Milvus 85/1.4 perfect as a classy top hat

Not recommended in general, the Milvus lens hood can be used to scrape snow if need be. Now if only one side were sharp I could lose some beard.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Zeiss Milvus Handles Snow OK

* I don’t drink beer and I don’t take alchohol on my trips (this note to aid the humor-impaired crowd over at dpreview).

The Perfect Storm, White Mountains, Day 2

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless at B&H Photo.

See yesterday’s post. The weather continues, but not much accumulation at 10,100' elevation. Late dusk last night, I drove to 11,000' elevation and at that altitude there was 3-6 inches of accumulation going to crusty ice, but in low range gearing and with locked differentials it was no problem up or down, even the steep slope approaching Patriarch Grove. Still, the General Grabber AT2 tires while being M+S are definitely not as good as full-on snow tires.

The SteadyShot feature of the Sony A7R II is really handy for shots like this—not absolutely sharp here, but darn close.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Pavement Ends, unpaved White Mountain Road begins
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Road Sign for White Mountain Road Destinations, at Schulman Grove

Very difficult working conditions today. I’m cycling through the ZF.2 lenses on the Sony A7R II: 21mm, 25mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm various, Otus 55 and 85, Milvus, etc. More with some, less with others.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Bristlecone in Icy Fog
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Iced-up Bristlecone in fog
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Sony A7R II: Field Usage

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

To put it simply, if Nikon delivers a D900 with 42 or 50 megapixels or so, and an EVF option, the A7R II will have little appeal to me by comparison (other than using Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia lenses).

I’ll take the Nikon D810 operational behavior and buttons and responsiveness any day over the A7R II. I’ve wasted time constantly with clicks and button presses and trip-me-up lag-time issues in the field—these are simply, ludicrously just wrong and badly designed, unnecessary issues. Especially for a camera that costs a bundle (and more than a Nikon D810!).

Moreover, with cold stiff hands the A7R II sucks (its badly-sized and bacly placed buttons and dials are a bane with stiff fingers and/or gloves). Even the weight of the A7R II is not much of a win when extra batteries are accounted for and/or a lens adapter. So while it is a fine camera, it cannot be called a mature and sensible design by any means.

Joe M writes:

Lloyd, this is to thank you for the frank and accurate assessment of the Sony A7RII on your blog of October 4.

I'm a documentary filmmaker, current A7RII owner and previous Canon and Nikon shooter. My crew also has several D810s and a GH4. We're thinking about getting another A7RII. We also use the Sony 28-135 f/4 cinema lens, which although not optically equal to a Canon/Nikon 70-200, is still a good match for our use.

My experience matches yours exactly. The A7RII has a great sensor and good video features but the clumsy UI and sporadic weird lags are constantly frustrating. The fact you can't put format, Super 35 mode, or exposure bracketing directly on a menu or button is hard to believe. The inability to review a shot while the buffer is draining is yet another frequent irritation.

I tried out the Sony time lapse app -- the intervalometer doesn't work in silent shutter mode! Why!! The A7RII's fully electronic shutter is great for time lapses to avoid wearing out the shutter. Now we get to keep using external intervalometers because their app is stupid.

Our GH4 is an EVF mirrorless camera but its UI has a logical design and it's very reliable. I don't love everything about it but it doesn't have those glaring weird issues like the Sony.

Also like you said it's more than the menu aspect of the UI. It's the myriad of tiny ergonomic touches like button size and spacing, detent strength, texture or guard ridges on the controls, etc. The Sony looks nice gleaming under a spotlight, sitting on a velvet cloth for a product shot. It's not so nice to use in a field environment when you're cold, hot or tired.

We'll keep using the A7RII and may even get another one, but the moment Nikon or Canon has a full frame EVF camera, good-bye Sony (assuming Sony hasn't improved it by then).

Considering all the "big name" reviewers, I don't understand why nobody else is mentioning these items, but I'm glad you are. IMO you are not being overly critical -- you mention the good features as well. But the others largely aren't mentioning these deficiencies and it gives a misleading impression. They are the ones who are off base, not you.

DIGLLOYD: I give Sony a lot of credit for making the A7R II a lot better camera than the A7R. But a rethink is needed for the A9 or whatever it will be called. Sony needs to hire photographers and get it right—that would be unbeatable given the technical prowess of Sony.

Steven K writes:

I just wanted to say I agree with your assessment 100% about the A7R ll I can only hope that Nikon comes out with what you are calling for or maybe Sony will keep the A mount alive with a more standard size body.

A7 series has a place yet do to its minimal size, endless menus, poor battery life it becomes a real nuisance in terms of usability.

The whole A7 series, though revolutionary in many aspects is still not a true photographer’s tool IMHO . A great gadget with impressive specs, but for me in my hands I just don’t get it.

I think probably the real issue is a lot of us older time photographers who grew up with film, multiple formats, etc., then made the transition to digital over the past 10 years in some ways we are really not the target market for these new “gadgets”

DIGLLOYD: today (a day after writing the above) it was freezing cold, dense fog with blowing snow. I love the A7R II EVF (Nikon, please get a clue for a D900!), but I have now grown to dislike the A7R II controls in such conditions, particularly with gloves (it’s either wear gloves with holes worn in the fingers, or temporarily lose use of my hands after 20 minutes or so). An irritation with the A7R II has been building up all week. Love it, hate it.

Battery life has been reasonable for me: 300 shots or so. I constantly turn the camera on/off however. But the on/off switch itself is badly designed, frequently turning on when cramming back into my pack.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Iced-up Bristlecone in fog

The Perfect Storm, White Mountains

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless at B&H Photo.

What could be better than everyone clearing out for the first serious storm of the season, bearing down from the Pacific Northwest? Here at 10,600' elevation in the White Mountains, it is 32°F with rapid accumulation, and it is beautiful to behold. With a fast 4G signal for internet access (personal hot spot feature on iPhone), I can blog away while I monitor the snow depth. I never let a good storm go to waste, but blowing wet snow is too hard to shoot in, and yes, I do use a filter in such weather. When it lets up, it should be spectacular.

Compare this weather to yesterday’s idyllic conditions.

I have 3/4 tank of gas, foul weather gear and boots, several days food, a sleeping bag good down to 5°F or so, a mountain bike (just in case), and M+S tires (not as good as real snow tires, but heck, I need to give them a test). My (acquired used but well maintained) vehicle has 10.75" of clearance under the entire underbody (off road package). Barring deep drifts, I’m not much concerned with traction (3 differentials that can be locked). Besides, I wanted to give the General Grabber AT2 tires a field test. Anyway, even if I got snowed-in for a day or two, it’s just too early in the season to worry about anything less than a monster 20 year storm. To play it safe, 6 inches of accumulation is my “head to lower elevation” metric, due to the risk of much deeper drifts.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
White-Out Snow at 10,600'

A little courage and patience with weather brings the priceless reward of a glorious interlude in nature’s sway. Now I think I’ll have a late lunch, eating some of the extra rainbow trout I cooked last night in my dutch oven.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Hole in the Sky

Trout are good cold too. If properly gutted, they can be cooked with their own roe in place, though the quality of the roe ranged from pretty good to not so good. Curiously, one of them had orange flesh and the others white flesh, even though all were rainbows. Perhaps there was some hybridization with Golden Trout in the gene pool. The one with the orange flesh was best of all, and tasted most like Coho salmon.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Trout Served Cold With Roe

The General Grabber AT2 255/55 R18 M+S Extra Load is a fine offroad tire (noisier on the road than my preferred Pirelli Scorpion A/T, discontinued severa years ago). Even so, in July a sharp rock punched a hole right through the center of the tread block in Silver Canyon and a 2nd tire was damaged, and that was with nice resilient nearly new tires*. 10-ply tires would be better, but 10-ply tires offer terrible ride and handling on roads. This time of year, I carry a spare wheel with another AT2.

The General Grabber AT2 has some siping to the tread (good for snow), and while it is not all that great a snow tire like Michelin Alpin, it does pretty well as a general M+S tire, at least if the temperature is not too far below in freezing. My custom duct-tape repair job can be seen on the lower right plastic fitting below the bumper itself—classy look—that silver duct tape matches the paint nicely. Sometimes them thar' rocks just pop up out of nowhere.

* I got my money’s worth from America’s Tire Company: At $30 per tire for a damage warranty, the $30 per tire I paid delivered two replacement tires (about $200 each). The places I go, the tire warranty is a steal, so I always buy the warranty.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
General Grabber AT2 255/55 R18 M+S Extra Load

Shooting Zeiss ZF.2 Lenses on the Sony A7R II

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless and Zeiss ZF.2 lens at B&H Photo.

I’ve been shooting various Zeiss ZF.2 DSLR lenses on the Sony A7R II, using the Novoflex adapter. While larger lenses (e.g. Otus) work fine too with the ASTAT tripod collar, it’s not nearly so nice handling the 'rig' as with a smaller and lighter lens.

Most of the Zeiss wide angles (f/2 and f/2.8) meet the size metric for reasonable balance and feel. As does the Zeiss ZF.2 50mm Makro-Planar. It is my intention to present various aperture series with several ZF.2 lenses (hence the varying focal lengths seen in some recent images)*.

So I've been shooting the ZF.2 21/2.8, 25/2.8, 28/2, 35/2, 50/2, 50/1.4, Milvus, etc.

The examples below with the Zeiss ZF.2 50mm Makro-Planar show off its pleasing bokeh. Being a symmetric Planar design with spherical elements (no aspherics), it is not as highly corrected as the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar, and this offers quite a different look from the Sonnar. And so it may be preferred by some users (every lens has its own rendering style). But of course there is a lot to be said for native mount and autofocus. Still, if one has DSLR lenses (particularly Nikon F-mount), they are all but universal in usefulness.

* A terribly annoying missing feature in the A7R II is no ability to plug in the focal length and aperture for a non-native lens. For me, this is a big headache, so I have to be careful to folderize and label accordingly, based on that day’s recollection of which lens.

I have to remember which lens (a short video helps me each time I change a lens, I wish the A7R II had an audio clip feature instead). Then when processing, I have to manually set lens info when adapted to Sony, since there is no EXIF info. I use a script to set the info, and sometimes things get mislabeled. These images below are all properly labeled however (50/2 Makro Planar).

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Aspen Trunk and Incipient Color
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Fir Trees
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Aspen in Shaded Canyon

Extreme Backlighting with Sony A7R II

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless at B&H Photo.

The image below is almost black in all non-sky areas, and has received a maximum shadow boost, revealing a violet ghosting flare. I rather like the total effect, as the dark mood invokes a feeling of the ending of the day, and the season.

Of course, many lenses could not do anywhere near so well as here—this is excellence in flare control and maintenance of contrast in a blindingly bright sky/sun.

Flare control is a lens performance issue generally neglected in lab tests (and lab tests suck for really understanding field behavior). I always shoot a variety of flare shots in the field to see how well the lens actually performs, with the sun in various areas in the frame and just out of the frame. Some lenses are utterly destroyed by flare, even ones that are very expensive. Others do great with the sun in the frame, but suffer massive veiling flare with the sun just out of the frame.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Extreme backlighting with maximum shadow boost, revealing faint ghosting flare

Sony A7R II: Dust Reduction Not Effective

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless at B&H Photo.

Dust on the sensor is generally hard to see at f/5.6 or even f/8, because the rays are not yet highly collimited as they are at f/11 and f/16 (sharp shadow vs diffuse shadow). Of course, big chunk dust (a few hundred microns and larger) can be seen even at f/5.6. And often, detail obscure the spot. It is in areas like sky or other smooth uniform areas that dust becomes obvious.

To test for dust spots, take an image of any uniform surface, like the sky, at f/16. Defocus the lens if the subject has any detail.

As shown below, the Sony A7R II has a dust spot in the sky. I invoked the Sony A7R II anti-dust sensor-shake feature about eight times, holding the camera at various angles in hope that the spot would disappear. It vibrated impressively each time, to no avail, the vibration seemingly too low a frequency to work (ultrasonic would be better).

Taking the lens off, I could see a tiny white spot on the sensor (remember to reverse position from the picture, as with a mirror, up/down are flipped). I never like attempting to clean the sensor with wipes and such (particularly in the field!), and have not done so in years, so I tried something very simple: using a clean new microfiber cloth, I lightly dabbed at the spot just once, and off it came. Which shows that it was not stuck-on in the least, and that the anti-dust sensor cleaning of the A7R II is ineffective at commonplace types of dust spots.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Dust Spot at f/11 with Sony A7R II
$180 off 2015 MacBook 1.3GHz / 512GB
(Space Gray). Other 2015 Macbook models discounted $100+.
Most models at least $100 less than Apple price!
Most models with FREE SHIPPING

Steaming Trout in a Dutch Oven over Campfire

Get Zeiss ZF.2 lens and Zeiss ZE lens for Canon EF at B&H Photo. Up to $300 rebates (as of 4 Oct 2015, while supplies last)

After a very long day and 10+ mile hike with 3000' of vertical gain up (and down)—a very long slog—I enjoy the fruits (fauna) of my fishing labor. From a lake apparently hardly ever touched by fishing, where rainbow trout are aggressive feeders. That makes two lakes now (the other with Golden Trout) that are apparently never or hardly ever fished.

While I prefer trout fried with almonds, frying is a tedious job requiring constant attention (and a clean up job of a greasy pan, awkward without water nearby). With a dutch oven (aluminum hard anodized for travel, lower weight) and a wooden Japanese style steamer inside, the job is clean and neat with no grease—just kick back and check for done-ness in about 20 minutes, depending on size of fish (11-14 inches in this case). A sweet potato at the same time is good also.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Steaming Trout in a Dutch Oven over Campfire

A few days prior, this huge (for the elevation) Golden Trout is a feast for the eyes. It has a companion that is even larger—probably a record for the very high elevation. I often fish with a de-barbed hook, which means I don’t land some fish, but it tests my skill (I am generally “deadly” from experience gained as a teenager).

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Golden Trout
(catch and release with debarbed hook)

Trout are good cold too. If properly gutted, they can be cooked with their own roe in place, though the quality of the roe ranged from pretty good to not so good. Curiously, one of the rainbows I caught another day had orange flesh and the others white flesh, even though all were rainbows. Perhaps there was some hybridization with Golden Trout in the gene pool in the past, with the rainbow displacing the Goldent Trout (I speak of trout from different bodies of water). The rainbow trout with the orange flesh was best of all, and tasted most like Coho salmon.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Trout Served Cold With Roe
Our trusted photo rental store

No Word from Leica on the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts

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

See my previous update.

Update 5 Oct: I received a response from Leica. Leica tells me that a firmware update is on track to be released that will address the issue.

In brief—back in early June, Leica contacted me about the issue, and I provided a DNG to Leica, one of many with the spots. I received a brief note from Leica as follows:

We have found the root cause and plan to make a firmware update that avoids this effect.

I don’t own the Leica M Monochrome Typ 246 and as I’ve said, I think that both the Canon 5DS R is a better monochrome camera than the MM246. As well, the Sony A7R II is a better monochrome camera than the MM246.

Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (actual pixels)
Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (200% of actual pixels)
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH in the field

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

See my review of the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH.

I’ve been field shooting the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. It’s an enjoyable lens, and I'd like to trade up from my 28mm f/2 and 28mm f/2.8 M lenses for sale. Then again, Leica has an all-new system coming October 16 or so. Still, it seems unlikely that the M line would end, and it remains a fine system for compact high quality lenses in the field.

An M-shooter ought to be lusting over the Leica 28/1.4—it avoids some of the naughty behavioral issues with the 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH, and when the hood is mounted, actually seems smaller than its 28/2 sibling. I deem it the best Summilux yet, and perhaps the last of the line. It is well suited for pairing with the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon and the 50/2 APO.

The main issue in the field is not the lens, but the toy-grade EVF that Leica continues to foist on its loyal users. It is about time (well over two years) for Leica to reward buyers of its overpriced M system with a much improved EVF (high-res and better image quality), even if the refresh rate has to be only 15 fps or so (slow CPU in the M240 is one issue with high res). Its really quite pathetic compared to the Sony EVF. A luxury brand loses its luster over time by such dreck—when function is grossly inferior even a red dot won’t stop the cognitive dissonance.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Red Aspen at Dusk, White Mountains of California

First Snowstorm of the Season, White Mountains

Now this excites me: 30 mph winds with snow blowing sideways, as the first snowstorm of the season blows in from the west. Minutes after taking this picture, white-out conditions blew in, reducing visibility to about 50 meters, with heavy side-blown large wet flakes. Initially, the snow was melting as it hit the relatively warm ground, but it has now started to accumulate (12:42 PM). I'm hoping for 8 inches or so (no problem to drive through up here), but that is expecting a lot. If 4-5 inches accumulates, that will make for excellent photography opportunities tomorrow.

Update 12:48 PM: the angry cloudburst (of snow) just parted, showing blue sky to the south. The main front seems to be to the north.

See also my notes on shooting Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on the Sony A7R II. I particularly like the f/2.8 and f/2 ZF.2 wides for their compact form factor (no need to use the Novoflex ASTAT tripod collar for weight reasons).

For Eastern Sierra weather, see Dennis Mattinson’s weather blog. The White Mountains are just to the east of the Sierra Nevada, across the valley.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
View from above Patriarch Grove, White Mountains

Warm and dry in my car for now, I’m waiting out the onslaught for the time being. But soon I may suit up with wind pants and waterproof shell and go for a short hike to enjoy the raw weather.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
A few minutes after taking the image further above—white out

Beautiful, but disappointing. I had hoped for some serious snow but the white-out snow gave way 40 minutes later to clear blue sky! Very pretty nonetheless. I've been here in August and seen 4-5 inches accumulate in this area, and even snow down to 8500' in the middle of August.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Storm Clears
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Storm Clears
Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Reader Inquiry: Zeiss Batis Weather Sealing

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

Henning K writes:

If you google weather sealing Olympus Pentax you get to an 2013 article on www.thephoblografer.com stating that weather-sealed lenses by Pentax and Olympus do not need a filter in front to be weather sealed(with illustrations). But most Canons except some super-teles do need a filter like UV for instance.

I read another place that a Zeiss representative said the Batis lenses also need that.
[diglloyd: false]

I generally do not like to put filters in front, Ialways use a lens shade and have never had any problems.

I use my Pentax in all weather without problems, and would love to know if you have any comments or knowledge about this.

DIGLLOYD: I’ve checked with Zeiss. The Zeiss Batis lenses do NOT need a filter for their weather sealing. This is also true for Zeiss Milvus line which has multiple internal seals at several internal areas (and it’s why focusing has more resistance than the Otus line).

In general, I don’t see this as a major issue: any weather that would deliver water or snow onto the front of the lens would surely ruin any pictures made (water spots and similar). And if it’s blowing sand, a filter is mandatory anyway, to avoid damage to lens coatings (if indeed it is wise to integrate sand and grit into the lens and camera by photographing in such conditions).

On filters: I avoid filters. Recently, I determined that a high quality polarizer can add significant veiling flare under conditions I would not expect it (but not all conditions of course). To put a number to it, I have independent confirmation of a 0.7 stop increase in localized flare. As well, flare can veil the entire image. So my advice is in agreement with Henning: use filters only when absolutely necessary.

NuGard KX Case for iPhone 6s, 6s Plus!
Advanced impact protection against drops and impact!

Reader Comment: Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon

Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon (Nikon mount)

James K writes:

I just bought a mint condition Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon on Ebay.

My first test resulted in interesting image. There is a very pronounced 3D like effect that I don’t remember ever seeing before. Am I imagining this?

Curvature of field in abundance. It is an odd lens. Wide angle but with a large close-up focusing range. What images would require this ability?

The lens is not very good at anything over 30 feet.

[a few days later]

I take back the “not much good over 30 feet" comment. I like this 28mm lens.

DIGLLOYD: the Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon is a classic reportage-style lens that at heart is a film-era design, which I deem most appropriate for environmental portraits and similar. See my previous discussion of the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon as well as Outdoor Portraits (Yosemite) and Environmental Portraits.

There is indeed a 3D effect to its rendering which I like very much. I would liken it to some Leica M lenses, which are well-loved for this effect. And yes, field curvature is part of this effect. My main complaint is that I would like to see an improved version which corrects LOCA completely, and SLOCA better.

I would not consider it the best choice for architecture and classic landscape photography, though it can deliver lovely images nonetheless. There are not really any better alternatives—28mm is a poorly served space. In fact, on the D800E, it easily trumps the Leica M Monochrome with Leica’s 28mm. So it has reserves enough to be a winner over much more expensive gear. Still, I prefer using it at close to medium range. Close-up, it is great fun; see Examples — Close-up.

Modern lenses optimized for a flat field such as the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 don’t have that same feel as the Zeiss ZF.2/ZE 28/2 Distagon. If one wants a flat field, it is best to stick with lenses designed for digital (recent designs). But that same higher level of correction will “draw” differently and may not be preferred by all—some users will pine for the classic look. This is why owning several lenses of the same focal length is not duplicative at all (chosen wisely at least).

As for sharpness at distance, choice of focus matters. See Lundy Canyon Beaver Dam for a distance shot (as well as other examples in the review). One can never be sure of a used lens either.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Four Aspen, Late Dusk
Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Three Girls Portrait
ƒ/4 @ 1/60 sec handheld, ISO 100 Nikon D800 + Zeiss ZF.2 28/2 Distagon

Still Shooting in Mountains

Weather has been crummy overall, with cloudy dull conditions and scattered rain (Yosemite). So I’m going to give the White Mountains a try today, and hope for better luck—or a storm.

Fall color: Lundy Canyon (generally excellent for fall color): not good. Many trees have no leaves and/or sparse foliage, some are pleasingly yellow, but many have brown-spotted leaves or just plain brown. Presumably the drought is the cause. Still, the spare foliage that allows some yellow and the tree trunks to be seen is quite attractive.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Dinner of Salvelinus fontinalis (Brook Trout)
Get ZEISS Milvus Lenses
For Canon and Nikon (or Sony mirrorless with adapter)
Expected availability Oct 16

Heading to the Mountains

The first of what I hope to be several fall trips; I love the fall color, then the first snowstorm, then the hard cold of November (assuming the road stays open). Aspen are even more beautiful bare and stark and with ponds and creeks frozen to glass-clear ice.

I’ll be checking my email, and it’s not too late to contact me if you want a late September/early October Photo tour in Yosemite or the White Mountains.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Brilliant Aspen Looking Towards Bishop CA

New Pentax HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8ED SDM WR Lens: Must be Planning for Full Frame Digital

Get Pentax HD Pentax-D FA 24-70mm f/2.8ED SDM WR at B&H Photo.

Interesting that Pentax has released a new full-frame zoom lens. Almost certainly this is in line with the rumors of a 42-megapixel Pentax full frame DSLR or DSLR-like camera due out next April or so (with sensor pixel shift).

Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Reader Question/Question: WOW on Sigma DP Merrill, Processing Sigma DP Merrill Files

See Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill—and—a must read before purchasing any of the Merrills—my in-depth review coverage of the DP Merrills.

The DP1 Merrill, DP2 Merrill, DP3 Merrill are all $200 off (instant rebate). I advise plenty of extra Sigma BP-41 batteries (6-8 batteries).

Roy P writes:

B&H shipped me my DP1 and DP3, with the DP2 scheduled for next Monday. There was just enough charge in one battery to take exactly one test shot with the DP3, before the battery died and I had to put it on the charger. But based on just that one image, holy crap! The sharpness and detail are unbelievable!

The colors were off a bit, especially weak in the SOOC JPEG, but the RAW exported to TIFF looked much better, and after a couple of further tweaks of the TIFF in LightRoom, I got the colors a little more accurate. Not perfect, but close enough.

So it’s a PITA workflow, and there’s some color tweaking needed. But it’s pretty darned amazing! BTW, what is the best workflow? Use the Sigma software to go from their RAW to TIFF, then process the TIFF in either PS or LR or CaptureOne?

Very interesting set of cameras. I need to figure out how best to use these.

DIGLLOYD: Exactly the idea. Few cameras today can deliver the kind of detail the Merrills can. I still much prefer the Merrill line over the Quattros, and all three Merrills can be had at a bargain price, as noted above. I recommend grabbing the entire set, before Sigma abandons the line. It’s not clear there will ever be a sensor of this nature again (the Quattro sensor is sort of a cross between a Bayer sensor an the Merrill sensor, and while it’s OK, it’s just not the same).

I shoot my Merrills very carefully (exposure) at ISO 100 (not a real ISO). This yields the best possible results when shooting raw, but the exposure has to be perfect (do not blow out highlights); see Exposure Bracketing Sequence to gain insight into the behavior. ISO 200 results in more noise than ISO, but has some margin of safety on exposure (which is not needed if exposing properly!).

See Best Quality: ISO 100 or ISO 200? and Noise Behavior Example (High Voltage) and Post Processing, all in my review of the Sigma DP Merrill cameras.

Save About $830 on a 6-Core Mac Pro + Special Additional Discount on Pro Bundle

OWC Larry writes:

We have a handful of brand new, open box units with full 1 Year Apple Warranty -

3.5GHz 6-Core, 16GB/512GB SSD/D300x2 at $3059.00 (vs Apple $3899)

And like before, we have the Pro Config/Enhancement package for 2013 Mac Pro bundle up at a special MPG / diglloyd price PLUS $100 instant savings through 9/30 when purchased with a Mac Pro 2013.

MPG worked with OWC to set up the Pro Config/Enhancement package for 2013 Mac Pro a month or so again—highly recommended for Mac Pro users, particularly for photographers/videographers.

OWC Featured Specials
Used Macs, memory, power, sound, SSDs, Upgrade Kits, more!

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Golden Reflection (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

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

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

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Aperture Series: Golden Reflection (Sony A7R II)

Includes images from f/1.8 to f/13 at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with large crops also.

It’s really wonderful to have such quality in a small and light kit. The design choice of f/1.8 is absolutely fine (I would even have preferred f/2, just to nudge up the quality slightly and nudge down the size). Particularly for this type of shooting, I’ll take f/1.8 any day over the bulk and weight of f/1.4.

I expect the Zeiss Batis lenses to remain in tight supply for a few months, so order them now. The manual focus Zeiss Loxia line are also very enjoyable, and fill in the focal length gaps.

Golden Reflection, Conness Lake

Photo Tour: Fall Color

I have good flexibility from late September through early October for personalized photo tours in the Eastern Sierra Nevada and White Mountains areas.

These are personalized outings intended to cater specifically to participant interests (typically I do 1:1, but sometimes a husband and wife, or two friends, etc). We shoot in peace and quiet, and enjoy the best of the area. See the photo tours page for general info.

I have some special places in mind for fall color.

Contact Lloyd.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Brilliant Aspen Looking Towards Bishop CA

Fall color is all well and good, but there are unique opportunites at every turn.

  Drought-killed Trout, Late September 2014 Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ5.6
Drought-killed Trout

How many thousands of years has this bristlecone staged this same view towards the Sierra Nevada? Possibly “only” a thousand years before Christ, which would mean it died early.

Toggle to compare, click for larger size.

  Ancient Bristlcone Pine View Towards Sierra Nevada, One year of Thousands Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ1.4
Ancient Bristlecone Pine View Towards Sierra Nevada, One year of Thousands
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Reader Question: Nikon or Sony?

Get Nikon D810 DSLR and Sony A7R II Mirrorless B&H Photo. The Nikon D810 has $300 instant savings.

See also deals, discounts and rebates by brand.

See my review of the Nikon D810 and review of the Sony A7R II and so on.

Bobby writes:

I'm a Nikon shooter, but recently had my entire system stolen, including Nikon D800E and seven lenses. Now I have to purchase a whole new system, so I'm debating whether to go Nikon D10 or Sony A7R II.

I'm a retired 70 year old male who likes photography as a hobby, shooting mostly landscapes and botanical with some portrait work.

I loved the Nikon, but don't mind changing platforms if that is the better way to go. I was also thinking the electronic viewfinder on Sony would help my ability to get good focus. Please help me decide which is best way for me to go.

DIGLLOYD: this is a complex question that hinges on many factors. For those investing either system with 3-5 lenses, it can mean costs of at least $7K and as much as $15K, so it may be worthwhile to engage me via consulting to go over all the considerations, rather than making the wrong decision for oneself.

A lot depends on a lot!

There is a way to defer the final choice for those with a thick wallet: get both Nikon D810 and the Sony A7R II, since any Nikon F-mount lens with an aperture ring (e.g., Zeiss) can be used on Sony with a simple mechanical adapter. Then buy lenses on the basis of long term value (Zeiss Otus) or expediency of use (Zeiss Batis or Zeiss Loxia or other). Later, if one finds either camera not as appealing, sell it, considering it as a long-term rental (the D810 is likely to hold more value).

Thank you for buying through B&H Photo with my links: Nikon D810 DSLR and Sony A7R II Mirrorless. B&H is generous with loaner gear so I can cover so much. That deserves your support, and how B&H sees that value is when buying through links on this site or MPG.

Working style is a huge consideration: hiking with a tripod or travel handheld and/or any other number of variants. Anyone who wants smaller and lighter should go with the Sony A7R II with the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses, which cover a good range now, and it will get better, soon. It’s that simple: size/weight/EVF/deadly accurate autofocus (Loxia is MF, but the EVF works great once the Sony A7R II is well programmed).

I have plenty of things I don’t like about the Sony A7R II (including its non-camera feel), but that size/weight/EVF/focus thing is compelling for most shooters more than ever. That said, if one is going to shoot Zeiss Otus or similar large or specialty lenses, I’d say that natively mounting the lenses is preferable in many cases (though not all). And maybe there will be a high-res Nikon D900 with EVF option someday, which would alter the equation strongly towards Nikon for me (for my work at least).

I’ve written at length in many posts here in this blog about many issues to consider, for example Reader Comment: Travel Cameras, Small Kit. As well as my discussion in Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 DSLR System Considerations: Battery Life, Weight, Service and Support.

So many issues to consider: lens selection (range, native vs adapted), size/weight/portability, autofocus accuracy, EVF, battery life, choice of manual vs autofocus lenses, service and support, 4K video, file quality under extreme conditions, and many more. Distill needs down to the 90% case, and decide based on that.

But there is one Beautiful Thing: the combination system consisting of the best of both Nikon and Sony (this applies to serious usage, including landscape and speciality). This can mean lenses *and* camera body. When I leave on my trip to the mountains soon, I will be carrying *both* a Sony A7R II and a Nikon D810. The Sony EVF is a huge plus, but mounting Zeiss Otus with adapters is quite a nuisance, especially when hiking, so I prefer the D810 for that (and is unrivalled dynamic range). On the other hand, Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses are ideal for hiking (though since my goal is lens reviews, my choices are often job-based).

Finally, if the question is choosing an all-new system, I don’t see that Canon brings anything to the table as compelling as Nikon: while I like the 50 megapixels of the Canon 5DS R, the dynamic range of the D810 is unrivalled. Moreover, if I’m going to adapt lenses such as Zeiss Otus, I want lenses I can use on Nikon or Canon or Sony—and that means ZF.2 mount (Nikon F-mount).

James M writes:

Regarding Nikon vs. Sony: For whatever it is worth, I sold my top of the line Nikon equipment (D4, D800e, D810 plus all top of the line Nikkor lenses) and purchased a Sony Alpha 7II plus a Sony Alpha 7RII body and 8 “native” Zeiss and Sony/Zeiss lenses. When I was finished I had cash left over - which I will spend on more Zeiss lenses. That is what I use for landscape and every day photography.

I agree with everything you say, but to me there is something about the color of the Sony/Zeiss images that appeals to me more than Nikon. That remains so whether I use ACR/Photoshop, Capture 1, or DxO OpticsPro 10 for processing. Specifically, I mean that I prefer the color resulting from a Zeiss lens on a Sony Alpha body to a Nikon Lens on a Nikon body.

Sony/Zeiss is not competitive with Nikon/Canon for sports or wildlife photography. I do not do sports photography and for wildlife I use an Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Olympus PRO lenses to save weight and to leave the tripod at home. But that’s another story.

DIGLLOYD: color varies so much even by flipping profiles that this is a tough nut to crack. But the latest Sony sensor is surely the best on the market in technology (file format and raw-file cooking are another matter).

I also prefer the Zeiss rendering and color over Nikon glass, but one can't change two variables and make a fair assessment: Zeiss on Sony and Zeiss on Nikon would be better. But the only valid comparison if one wishes to speak to color in this manner is to shoot the *same lens* on each, e.g. a Zeiss lens on Nikon and the same lens on Sony. I am not prepared to agree that the Sony color is better when this is done. Rather, I think the Nikon color is better, and for those really picky about color, Nikon Capture NX2 is probably the right choice.

Our trusted photo rental store

$300 Instant Savings on Nikon D810 + Reader Comments

Get Nikon D810 DSLR at B&H Photo.

See also review of the Nikon D810.

The Nikon D810 has long been my workhorse camera of choice, with unrivalled dynamic range up there with the best, even medium format*. The bulk of my work over the past two years has been done with it—zero issues, ever. As much as I love the EVF and other features of the Sony A7R II, the Nikon D810 is a solid piece of gear I can always count on. Heading to the mountains soon, I consider the D810 mandatory, even though I will also work with the Sony A7R II (two secret projects in the works!).

$300 off Nikon D810 Camera body with 2% rewards, free expedited shipping and extras!

View all Nikon rebates and deals, sorted by discount.

* Use RawDigger to evaluate dynamic range, do not make erroneous assumptions based on the camera histogram or Lightroom, etc.

Roy P writes:

I guess this signals a D820 or D900 with the new Sony 42MP sensor is around the corner.

DIGLLOYD: I’m doubtful of a D820 soon, but there is some hope and such an upgrade would be long overdue. And would there at least be an EVF option? Then the Sony A7R II would lose much of its appeal for me. My thinking is that it might be more about sales since I suspect that the A7R II juggernaut is having a real impact on higher-end DSLR sales like the Nikon D810—no one writes me about switching back to a DSLR, though many like to have both systems.

James K, a decades-long NYC pro photog, writes:

You are talking like a commercial pro. You always take a Nikon with you because you can count on it—exactly. That is why Nikon is the choice when the chips are down and your ass is on the line.

After my recent lens experiences with Sony I am waiting to see what new cameras Nikon has in the pipe line. You know they will make a big move very soon. You must applaud them for their patience while they consider their next move. Look at what Sony is marketing. They seem to have little respect for customers. Knowingly selling expensive inferior lenses is not something I take lightly.

DIGLLOYD: So far, Sony has not failed me on the camera body, but the lens quality control issues are disturbing (see also 35/1.4 bad samples). I’m sticking with Zeiss Batis, although I do seem to have gotten lucky with the Sony 55/1.8 loaner I have.

When I make a mountain foray of around 800 miles round trip which cannot be reshot (and weather window can close at any time after Oct 15 in the fall!), and dawn to dusk efforts, I cannot take risks on failures of the camera. It’s a major investment of time (very costly as I only have 365 days a year, and significant expense too). Always I carry more than one camera system, and when I have them, I duplicate items like chargers, cards, card readers, power inverter, polarizers, etc. Though I cannot do so for all items for reasons of cost or availability or space: laptop, specific test lenses, some chargers. A failure or malfunction is a huge loss for me, and it is why I was so grumpy about the Leica Q behavior on Mt Dana back in July—it cost me images I can never, ever repeat.

Two Products I Use Every Day

Here are two products I use daily, on special at OWC:

While I use the 20TB capacity Thunderbay 4, not everyone needs that much space and 12TB is a lot for most users. The TB4 can be run as 4 single drives or as a RAID-5 edition. The RAID-5 edition comes with SoftRAID, and can always revert to single drive usage if desired—entirely flexible.

The Tripp Lite 7+1 port USB3 hub I use every single day on my Mac Pro, ditto for the OWC Thunderbay 4 (five of 'em, though not all at once).

Reviews: Expanding USB3 Ports: TRIPP LITE 7+1 USB3 Hub and OWC Thunderbay 4.


Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH: Four More Night-Time Aperture Series

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

These series evaluate overall bokeh (foreground and background), color correction, coma, flare behavior, etc. Night shots are excellent for evaluating lenses.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Tables, Empty Chairs, Balloons

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Confluence of Two Shadows

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Bench at Night

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Inner Quad, From Under the Oaks

Includes images up to full Leica M240 resolution.

Confluence of Two Shadows
Empty Bench at Night
Tables, Empty Chairs, Balloons
Inner Quad, from under the Oakd
Save on on Used Macs at OWC!
Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad, Displays
Certified, and warranted by OWC, free shipping, 14-day money back guarantee

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Green Tree in Construction Floodlight Glare

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

This series shows overall bokeh, color behavior and sharpness, as well as the 3D feel of the 28/1.4 Summilux.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Green Tree in Construction Floodlight Glare (M240)

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/8.

Green Tree in Construction Floodlight Glare

HCam Master TS V2 tilt/shift adapter for Canon 11-24mm f/4L

The rear-end mount is Sony (and must be due to the flange focal distance needed to insert the adapter). Available at hcam.de.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Hartblei lenses are now sold by Stefan Steib of HCam.de; here is the story on HCam.de Hartblei lenses and other products.

Stefan Steib of Hartblei says the following (but also says it is not made by Hartblei, he is just describing it). I have not confirmed the claims on shift capability, quality, etc—informational only.

The HCam Master TS V2 can take about most lenses on the planet to shift and/or at least tilt them. Another version works with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. The Zeiss Otus 85 can shift a full 15mm.The Otus 55 has a pretty small image circle and is less appropriate.

The 11-24mm is actually a milestone I would say. But it is also very expensive. The Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS is kind of a workhorse for people who need to be fast, like realty sellers, hotel photographers, etc.pp. Being able to zoom in that wide range (and of course you can also still use the 16mm as well (with maybe 3mm shift) is speeding things up incredibly.

HCAM Master TS v2 tilt/shift adapter with Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L mounted to Sony mirrorless

As shown above, the quality with such a shift is dubious: I did not find in my review of the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L that it could support a full shift even on the 5D Mark III with more than marginal quality at full shift at f/11 (I have not posted all my results, so I say that based on additional work I’ve done with the lens since my review).

HCAM Master TS v2 tilt/shift adapter for modified Canon 11-24mm f/4L mounted to Sony mirrorless
HCAM Master TS v2 tilt/shift adapter
Rear end of modified Canon 11-24mm f/4L after opening up and covering inside with black
(for use with HCAM Master TS v2 tilt/shift adapter)

Hartblei 40mm, 80mm, 120mm SuperRotators

In King of Bokeh, well-controlled SLOCA? of I discussed the beautiful bokeh of the Hartblei 80mm f/2.8 SuperRotator, which uses Zeiss medium format optics.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Hartblei lenses are now sold by Stefan Steib of HCam.de; here is the story on HCam.de Hartblei lenses and other products.

I inquired with Stefan Steib of Hartblei as to current availability and he responded:

Yes we build the lenses, we have even improved them with a Photospecific Sidefocus to support ultra precise Live View focusing.

Hartblei Lenses with Side Focus (module 8 like Zeiss Compact Primes) and Built in Tripod clamp. The versions without side focus are still available They already have built in Module 8 focusing gears. The Hartblei.de webpages have the details.

Prices in euros with side focusing modules:

 80mm: 3295
120mm: 4595
 40mm: 5395
All 3 Lenses: 11956.50

Without side focusing modules:

 80mm: 2295
120mm: 3595
 40mm: 4895
All 3 Lenses: 9700

We also have launched worlds first 11-24mm TS system - HCam Master TS Version 2. Back and forth in the Facebook timeline there also is a table with possible movements for the modified Canon EF 11-24mm that we make (it is modified at Canon CPS Germany with full Guarantee).

Hartblei 40mm, 80mm, 120mm with side focusing option
Hartblei 80mm f/2.8 SuperRotator with side focus gearing
Hartblei 80mm f/2.8 SuperRotator with side focus gearing
Hartblei 40mm f/4 SuperRotator with side focus gearing
Hartblei 40mm f/4 SuperRotator with side focus gearing
Hartblei 40mm f/4 SuperRotator with side focus gearing
Hartblei 120mm f/4 SuperRotator with optional side focus attachment

Dierk T writes:

Years ago I read about the SuperRotators here at your site and sometimes "considered" to get one. But there are very attractive alternatives now!

If you really want/need tilt, then stop reading and get the good old Nikkor Micro 85mm PC!

The Rhinocam adapters are a lot cheaper and much more flexible. You can use the full shift inside the whole images circle in any direction AND the option, to stitch images without any parallax errors, as it is all from the same images circle. You get images up to 200 MP ore even more. Taking a set of 6 to 9 images (2x3 or 3x3) takes not more than 20 seconds!

I use the Rinocam since it was announced with three Zeiss Hasselbald lenses 40mm, 120mm Makro and 150mm. To my knowledge the 80mm must be a Zeiss Planar and you get it used for about 500€.

And I use it also as a 4x5" back on my Sinar P for extreme tilt shots.
Here is and exercise,the focus is on the book and the apple on top of is out of focus.

[image omitted]

You may find more in my Sinar flickr album. Here are more, even with IR-converted NEX-7.

The new DSLR version of the Rhinocam has a Nikon or Canon DSLR adapter and I use it with a Metabones adapter for the A7R and now the A7RII.

DIGLLOYD: specialty tools should be considered carefully for one’s own usage patterns.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Post Office Boxes

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

This series is a counterpoint to the Church at Night series, which showed a real headache from field curvature. In this series, it is show how careful choice of focus to balance field curvature against the shape of the subject can result in much higher image quality.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Post Office (M240)

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/8.

BTW, what a nuisance with the Leica M240: its EVF crops just slightly and asymmetrically, so a scene like this requires trial and error to center the image properly.

Post Offices Boxes
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Church at Night

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

Night shooting is an excellent way to see revealed the limitations of a lens: flares, halos, color aberrations, field curvature.

This series reveals key performance issues with the Leica 28/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, and should be considered a must-read for any Leica M shooter using this lens.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Church at Night (M240)

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/8.

To give Leica credit, the 28/1.4 is an exceptionally small lens for its focal length and speed. When that design goal is accepted, the price escalates hugely, and even so some optical compromises must be made: in the context of its size, it is an outstanding performance. Yet in the context of absolute performance, I am spoiled now by Zeiss Otus (the 55mm and 85mm released so far).

Church at Night
Save on on Used Macs at OWC!
Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad, Displays
Certified, and warranted by OWC, free shipping, 14-day money back guarantee

King of Bokeh, well-controlled SLOCA?

The Hartblei Super Rotators of 40mm, 80mm, 120mm are found on the Hartblei web site. The Hartblei Facebook page is also there.

More info on the Hartblei SuperRotators and other products.

With all the talk of SLOCA lately here in this blog, which lens avoids most of that and has perhaps the best bokeh out there?

The rare and hard to find Hartblei 80mm f/2.8 based on Zeiss medium format optics and with an all but perfectly circular 12-blade aperture, which even inspected firsthand in the lens itself is hard to tell apart from a circle.

See Hartblei 80/2.8 examples and even on outdoor scenes it draws in a lovely way.

Here are two older images from the Nikon D3x. I should probably reprocess them at higher-res and do some shooting... but my hands are very full right now.

Hartblei 80mm f/2.8 Super Rotator @ f/5.6
Hartblei 80mm f/2.8 Super Rotator @ f/5.6
Hartblei 40mm, 80mm, 120mm Super Rotators (late 2010 models)

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Green Leaves in Creek Bottom

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

This series is at close range—not the near focusing limit but quite close. Sometimes lens performance declines at close range, so this series looks at how the 28/1.4 Summilux performs at a very important distance that might be used for an environmental portrait, or similar.

In my review of the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH:

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Green Leaves in Creek Bottom (M240)

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/8.

Green Leaves in Creek Bottom, Late Dusk

Sony 4K Television: Wow!

See all discounted 4K televisions.

Sony: XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV -- 56% OFF, $1098 was $2498
Sony: X850B 69.5" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 45% OFF, $2998 was $5498
Sony: X900B 78.6" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 44% OFF, $4998 was $8998
Sony: X950B 65" Class 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 31% OFF, $5498 was $7998
Sony: X900B 64.5" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV -- 24% OFF, $3798 was $4998

NOTE: a few days after I posted this, I learned about the new H.265 standard. I don't know if each of these TVs support that standard. HOWEVER, Netflix 4K streaming works fine and this article states that Netflix streams in H.265; therefore the XBR-55X800B must already be supporting H.265. Also, Amazon Prime 4K streaming works as well. Note that for older 4K TVs (2013 models), a separate box (Sony FMP-X5 or other) can do the H.265 conversion.

Testing the Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV

Usage note: many current Macs have HDMI output that can drive a 4K TV. At the least this can be a nice way to run a slide show or similar.

I did not want to spend a lot of money on a 4K TV (and I’m way too busy to watch TV or movies other than rarely, preferably with a good glass of red stuff), but I did want to be able to evaluate 4K video from the Sony A7R II and A7S II on a real television.

So, having a picky eye, I took a chance on the Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV. It’s a 55-inch 4K TV with a list price of $2498. But it is discounted by $1400 to $1098, and with a B&H $50 gift card and free shipping it comes to $1048. I know that there are better and bigger 4K televisions out there, but at higher prices*.

* Of course I’d love to have the Sony X900B 78.6" 4K Ultra HD Smart 3D TV ($4000 off). But it’s a little more expensive! And it won’t fit into my office for watching 4K video from cameras. And even 4K won’t look all that sharp if one sits too close to a 78-inch TV.

Sony XBR-55X800B 55" Class 4K Smart LED TV


I watched 5-10 minutes snippets of Netflix 4K streaming stuff: House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Mind of Chef, various nature shows (these nature shows are not well done IMO, using grossly oversaturated postcard-like color), and a few others.

I also tried some regular HD snippets and the Sony TV scaling is excellent, though HD text looks wavy and not so nice, since it is blown up 2X—but regular video looks great. Narcos was not in 4K, but nonetheless looked great, with the TV doing a great job of upscaling. So fear-not if most material you watch is still in regular HD, such as a BluRay disk or higher quality show in HD. But do note that many broadcast and cable TV and similar channels are heavily compressed and of very poor image quality, showing ugly compression artifacts even with a regular HD TV—all those defects will be more obvious.

The funny thing is that my highly tuned photographic eyes kicked in, noticing every flaw of sharpness and lens bokeh (yes even cine lenses have SLOCA!). And that pulling focus must be quite a challenge on 4K—and sometimes there are errors: 4K shows them while HD (2K) gets away with it.

4K streaming from Netflix is quite good, but it shows quality limits, especially for moving/panning and fine details. Dark interior scenes can show digital noise, and the resolution is overlaid by a graininess (noise). You really do not want to see aging politicians without a heavy layer of makeup. Even with Netflix House of Cards which is streamed at reasonably good quality, tonal transitions can be abrupt—and this makes things like the nose on a face look quite strange at times.

But here’s the bottom line: the 4K experience is awesome, and I don’t think going back could ever be tolerable. It’s just a major step up in quality that is very enjoyable. As for color, I made no effort to tune it, but I was thrilled with the color rendition, blacks and contrast (I know it can be better, but there’s that price thing). Interior scenes with artificial lighting looked as such. Outdoors looked like outdoors. It all looked realistic. The picture was immensely satisfying to watch, and I see absolutely no reason to nitpick anything I saw: it’s way beyond the enjoyment level to see anything in 4K versus 2K “Full HD” (half res).

Our trusted photo rental store

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH: Analysis/Example of SLOCA (Secondary Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration)

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

There has been an unfounded amount of griping (in terms of optical realities) about secondary longitudinal chromatic aberration (SLOCA) with the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon, an about $1280 lens which is highly corrected. A high level of optical correction tends to reveal secondary optical flaws (versus poorly corrected lenses, which mask/dilute them).

And so I delved into the realities of SLOCA with fast lenses; see On Secondary Color: Collective Context-Dropping regarding Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon. There, I discussed how far more expensive lenses can have as much and perhaps more SLOCA.

Now along comes the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, an about $5950 lens. So how does the Leica 28/1.4 Summilux do with SLOCA, at nearly 5X the price and at only 24-megapixels of detail (Leica M240)?

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Secondary Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (M240)

The sample image is shown at full resolution, along with crops for convenience.

If you want perfection, read resumes. But if you want perfection (or nearly so) for color correction in an f/1.4 lens, there is only one answer today: Zeiss Otus.

Sapling Growing In Boulder
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

First Look: Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek at Dusk

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

Just arrived is the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH. General review coverage of the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH has been in place for a while, but the lens took forever to ship.

Well, the 28/1.4 Summilux is here now, and it’s rather nice. Kicking off my review is an aperture series from f/1.4 through f/2.8 (the 60 second exposure time limit of the M240 precluded further apertures). Though only three apertures, the results are highly instructive.

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek, Late Dusk (M240)

Includes images up to full camera resolution at f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8.

Pescadero Creek, Late Dusk

FOR SALE: Leica M Lenses, Canon, Nikon, Hartblei, Rodenstock

All lenses perfect glass (no scratches, dings, etc), most very lightly used, working perfectly, USA market lenses. Some have wear on lens hoods or similar, most pristine, all have perfect glass. In original packaging/box as shipped. Local buyers welcome to inspect firsthand.

Contact me. Buyer pays FedEx insured shipping of choice or picks up locally.

  • Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH $2600
  • Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH $1450
  • Canon 35mm f/1.4L $750
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2L II $1500
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G $1300
  • Nikon 28mm f/4 PC-Nikkor (cherry picked copy) $950
  • Nikon 45mm f/2.8D PC-E Micro Nikkor (original version) $1350
  • Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-Micro Nikkor (original version) $1000
  • Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G ED $625
  • Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC-Nikkor $1100 (absolutely mint)
  • Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED (best tripod foot evern made by Nikon!) $850

  • Rodenstock 135mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S view camera lens $600
  • Rodenstock 180mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S view camera lens $600
  • Schneider 400mm f/5.6 APO-TELE-XENAR view camera lens $1550 PRISTINE
Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

B&H Photo has all the Zeiss Milvus Lenses Available for Pre-Order

B&H Photo has all the Zeiss Milvus lenses available for pre-order for Canon and Nikon.

Zeiss Milvus family as of 2015

An optional hard case will become available later this year.

Zeiss Milvus family as of 2015

An aperture de-click tool is also available. I’ve inquired as to whether it is included or separate, and whether the Loxia declick tool is the same tool as for Milvus.

Declick tool for Zeiss Milvus lenses
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Sony A7R II: Other Areas That Need Attention via Firmware Update

See also Sony Announces an Uncompressed File Format for A7R II and Future Cameras.

Now that Sony is offering a lossless format (albeit uncompressed it seems), here are other areas that need attention.

12-bit land mines

See Sony A7R II RAW (ARW) Files: Format, 12 Bit Degradation:

  • The quality-damaging 12-bit mode when using Bulb Mode must be fixed (14-bit).
  • The quality-damaging 12-bit mode when using long exposure noise reduction must be fixed (14-bit).
  • The quality-damaging 12-bit mode when using continuous shutter must be fixed (14-bit). If that means slowing the frame rate (as an option), so be it.
  • Long exposure noise reduction is a cure worse than the disease. And with a proper exposure at 30 seconds, there is no issue to begin with.
  • Silent shutter mode should not be 12-bit. Maybe this is a technical issue, but it’s a land mine for some shooters.

Other areas

  • A menu preference that uses the regular shutter instead of the EFC shutter if the shutter speed is too high for reliable quality exposure.
  • Sony, please be the first company to offer a Hide all JPEG Cruft and Hide all Video Cruft options. And it should hide the Application menu, which I do not want and never use. Replace it with a My Menu feature. Clutter makes it feel more toy like, not like a real camera, and if nothing else, impedes efficient usage.
  • Add a true raw histogram. Or at least allow the selection of a wide-gamut color space for histogram rendering.
  • The RGB histogram is too small and hides small but critical blow-out areas in its smallness.
  • If JPEG is mandatory (uggh), add a modern 16-bit variant.
  • There is no way to transfer a complete camera setup to another camera. This is a major headache given the kitchen-sink settings menus and button/menu customization. So much of a headache that I ended up with JPEG files instead of RAW for my images one day over in Germany (I had along one new A7R II body, and bugs in the menus wiped out my settings).
  • It should be possible to make a 45/60/120/240/... second exposure by dialing in an explicit time. There is no reason to be limited to 30 seconds and forced to time things manually with Bulb mode. And please, Sony, don’t make us manually close the shutter as the super-dumb Nikon implementation does: enter the desired time, go back to warm car out of freezing temps, count on job done. The Ricoh GR does this right, up to 6 minutes.
  • There should be a true ISO 64 with ultra high quality and dynamic range as with the Nikon D810 (the hardware may not be good enough, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!).
  • There should be an option to disable SteadyShot at some shutter speed cutoff, because it is not foolproof.
  • There should also be a display of the focal length set for SteadyShot (serious image damage if wrong focal is chosen).
  • There should be a best-of-N shot selection mode for low speed handheld shooting, based on image analysis.
  • It should be possible to take N frames and merge them in the camera (in raw), e.g. multiple exposures for overlaying images.
  • Sound-based focus peaking (pitch and volume) while manually focusing (not just visual).

More suggestions (which I agree with) from Ming Thein:

  • Show flashing exposure zebras in full screen image playback
  • Intervalometer
  • Speed up menu operation
  • Direct AF point selection on D pad
  • One press to magnify to preset zoom level. H/M/L is fine. And make it available in all modes, not just MF.

Milton M writes:

This is a goldmine of great suggestions for future enhancements! I think you should re-look at the utility of the application menu, however. Ming Thein can find the intervalometer he wants, there.

I also find the Smart Remote Control app useful. This lets you use your smartphone to control the a7R remotely. The EVF/rear LCD panel display is displayed on your smartphone. This is quite useful in situations where it is impossible or at least not easy to see either the EVF or the rear LCD panel displays. I enjoy using this feature when I use my a7R on my copy stand to copy prints. I also use the Direct Upload app to quickly transfer photos to my smartphone for upload to Facebook.

DIGLLOYD: An intervalometer is a core feature; implemented as an app it just speaks to a failure of conception and design.

I heartily dislike the very idea of downloading “apps” for a camera, unless they offer compelling features clearly outside the core feature set that ought to be in the camera. Basically, the camera ought to be a camera. There is the hassle of having the camera being another software device to update, the crash risks, the security risks and more. These are hardly innocuous threats given the root kit approach Sony uses for firmware updates (and consider the latest iPhone malware apps that got into the Apple Store!). Does anyone realistically expect Sony to do 1/10 as good a job on security as Apple?). A company that requires 'root' just to install a software update? Seriously? The last thing I want is an “app” on my camera.

As for remote control via a phone, certainly such things can be useful in studio scenarios and speciality areas. But for general photography in the field, the last thing I want to do is carry one more gadget and juggle that with the camera. OTOH, if all JPEG support could be an app, I would celebrate, since I would never download that app, and all the JPEG confusion would disappear. And then maybe photography could be more about making images, and less about figuring out that 80% of the menus are crap derived from JPEG-centric thinking.

Our trusted photo rental store

Open Slot in Ming’s Master Class in Chicago

Ming Thein has one open slot for his Oct 2-5 Master Class in Chicago.

My estimation of the value of his class can be stated simply: I meant to attend myself, but various business and other factors have led to the disappointing decision not to attend.

Reader Comment: Weather Sealing on Zeiss Milvus vs Zeiss Otus

James P writes:

Really enjoyed your recent articles on Zeiss, and congrats on getting the early scoop on the Milvus range! It's very reassuring to know Zeiss is moving in a good direction with their lineup, they seem to be a very forward-thinking company.

Regarding the weather sealing on the Milvus range, it seems to me this highlights a the rather glaring omission of similar features on the Otus range. To be honest, this is a big factor that puts me off those lenses, because I would absolutely hate to get significant internal moisture or dust in such an expensive lens that I would want to keep pristine for resale if nothing else.

Now that sealing is becoming standard on the Zeiss DSLR range, it puts the Otus lenses in an odd position where they're currently lacking in this aspect of build quality. Did you hear any word over whether Zeiss are aware of this issue and whether they intend to address it?.

DIGLLOYD: the weather sealing on the Milvus line has some effect: focusing is slightly stiffer than it might be (perhaps due to air between elements; there are multiple seals). Still, I deem the Milvus focusing superior to the existing ZF.2/ZE lineup.

As for Otus, neither Ming Thein nor I have experienced any dust or moisture problems with Otus lenses (he is in a much more moisture prone environment than I am). The Otii have cine-lens bearings for the best focusing feel available. I would be loathe to see that fabulous focusing feel compromised by weather sealing, so I am content. And I think that one could have Zeiss clean the lens if dust were to make ingress.

Accordingly I do not see weather sealing as a “build quality” issue. I see it as a design choice.

Reader Comment: Travel Cameras, Small Kit

Dr. S writes:

Taking a cue from your images at Zeiss at least 1 travel camera was the Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis. Did you take any others? Nice to have a small kit? I know it will be for me.

DIGLLOYD: I took the Sony A7R II with the Zeiss Batis 25/2 and Zeiss Batis 85/1.4. I did not want to haul along (on an airline at least) a Nikon D810 and a Zacuto loupe and Otii. Uggh. Of course, in my SUV in the mountains, those “lugging” factors are less of an issue, at least until I start to fill my pack for the day’s hike, whereupon they put forward their logic in a physical way.

Ming Thein came to the same conclusion*. This then is why Nikon and Canon are in deep doodoo unless they respond soon with a sensible answer to the mirrorless juggernaut.

The “lugging it” reality is one I’ve expounded on at length over the past several years: if the Sony A7R II is a little smaller with its extra batteries, that is a moderate plus. But the Batis lenses are also at least as small and light and outperform CaNikon in autofocus and optical quality.

But most compelling of all: the Sony A7R II autofocus for me has been deadly accurate (excepting specular highlights), whereas the Nikon D810 OVF is useless for accurate manual focusing, and Nikon autofocus has horrendous precision issues with fast primes, always has, and surely always will; it is inherently poor in precision and utilizes a separate optical path to boot (not the sensor itself), a fundamental implementation flaw for high-res digital. And phase-detect AF fails to account for aperture properly as well, that is, it “sees” something like f/5.6, a fatal flaw for lenses with focus shift. Canon has all these same phase-detect AF issues, though IMO it is generally superior to Nikon for fast primes. HIT RATE MATTERS.

And so it is game over for CaNikon for travel and out-and-about shooting without a tripod, at least for most situations (sports and other specialties excepted of course). And that’s ignoring in-body image stabilization (IBIS).

The foregoing should not be confused with field work on a tripod, where the working style is contemplative and not fast-paced. There, the Zeiss Otus and Milvus and other Zeiss primes rock (and yet can be used on Sony as well!). The announcement of a Sony uncompressed format may turn the tide in favor of the Sony A7R II over the Nikon D810 (if that is indeed the core issue with Sony file quality).

* To be clear: Ming and I hit it off on our first meeting. We are different in many ways and yet Ming feels to me like a kindred spirit; we operate on the same wavelengths. We were not idle at Zeiss. Sometimes, a small rock or two starts an avalanche.

Small and light for a price?

As I’ve expressed for myself over the years, Otus-grade (or better) lenses of f/2.8 or even f/3.5 speed that would be much smaller and lighter are highly desirable, but not found on the market. Ponder whether yours truly would travel all the way to Germany and fail to express such sentiments. As well, I am not known for timidity in expressing my views.

And yet there is that price thing. Saying one wants an Otus-grade f/2.8 or f/3.5 lens is hardly the same as saying that one is willing to pay prices a large fraction of Otus prices. Because even a 2-stops-slower lens would require expensive lens elements to deliver Otus+ quality in a compact form factor.

Of course such “slower speed but perfect lens” ideas are necessarily a business decision, especially given the zeitgeist of infatuation with f/1.2 or f/1.4. Video shooters and certain others have legitimate needs for fast lenses, but most of the clamor for fast lenses is ill-conceived because on a digital sensor, f/1.2 can be as slow as T/1.5 anyway: see Loss of Lens Brightness at Fast Apertures on a Digital Sensor. And consider the fact that on a 36/42/50 megapixel digital camera, depth of field at f/1.4 or f/2 is corneal-thin.

As a quick survey (and this should NOT be taken as a hint of anything): would readers out there pay US$4500 for a 28mm f/2.8 or 35mm f/2.8 (or similar) that performs as well and perhaps better than an Otus? Provided that it is substantially smaller than an Otus.

And no, I do NOT mean lenses like Leica M, which are grossly expensive but suffer from all sorts of design compromises like focus shift, field curvature and secondary color and flare problems, not to mention quality control issues. I mean near-perfect lenses devoid of such defects, lenses that set a true reference standard that will not be surpassed.

Peter H writes

You are preaching to the converted here! High quality, relatively small and light f2.8-f3.5 primes. This is what ALL landscape photographers desire...and I suspect there is a few of those around the world! (if Zeiss has any doubts about potential market/ROI).

Yes, I would happily pay 4K for such lenses, as long as they came in Sony mount to avoid any adapter related quality compromises (which would kind-of defeat the purpose of them anyway).

I think Ming summed it up best when he said 4K for a lens is a bargain if you never need to buy another lens in that focal length again. Amen.

DIGLLOYD: no, they should not be in Sony mount for one simple reason: they should be universal lenses usable on Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujfilm, Pentax, for long term universal value. Such lenses would need to include their own high quality adapters. A native E-mount lens would be usable only on Sony (flange focal distance would preclude others) and thus a very poor investment should Sony abandon the camera market, or fall behind in attractiveness. And Sony still has issues of many kinds!

A Nikon F-mount is as close to universal as it gets as it can work on Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, etc. A well designed adapter is not an issue optically (though some adapters out there can cause flare or have poor tolerances). For such stuff, I'd want lenses that would last forever. The Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, even if the electronic chip fails, continue to work just fine with the aperture ring, so this does not preclude an electronic aperture that fails gracefully to mechanical.

Chris L writes:

Lloyd, you nailed it (as usual):

I would be willing to pay 4k+ for such a compact, reasonably light, Otus-quality lens, IF, and only if, it were universally usable.

The qualification means that, if a lens maker would conceive a set of such high-quality lens-heads and dedicated, precise (possibly adjustable!) adapters for the major mounts, I'd be willing to trade most of my gear for that.

Adapter quality is crucial: I'm thinking of *at least* Novoflex standards. For the past 15 months, I've been using all my Zeiss ZF and Voigtländer F-Mount lenses on Sony E and FE bodies via Novoflex adapters (with the all-important ASTAT collar for long or heavy lenses), and I'm not looking back to current Nikon for a second. Not even for mounting the 135mm Apo Sonnar and the Voigtländer 180mm Apo Lanthar, two absolute gems that I found fickly to focus on a DSLR, but a piece of cake on an EVF.

Apart from handling, weight and bulk are essential considerations. I'm a number of years older than you are, and in far poorer shape. I'm no longer able to schlepp a Nikon full-frame plus a full complement of primes, let alone quality zoom behemoths. Nor would I be willing to. And tighter airline on-board luggage restrictions over here in Europe mean that one Sony A7xn plus 2-3 lenses (like the Batis 25mm/85mm combo, + maybe the tiny 1.8/55mm Sonnar) plus, possibly, an A6000 body for backup is all you can take comfortably aboard.

DIGLLOYD: I’d not want anything less than first class adapters and universal applicability (or nearly so), of course.

The size/weight thing seems to be a keen interest of many I’m hearing from.

Zeiss Loxia for Sony

Personal Notes: Jet Lag, Email, Workload, Priorities

First, I’m not sick as one reader inquired.

Rather, jet lag has hit me hard; I went to bed at 10PM last night and woke up at 14:30 (16 1/2 hours later (!), which I think sets a new personal record; I can usually sleep little more than 8 hours, which is always too little, particularly with a heavy training load, e.g. cycling). I still feel all out of kilter from the Germany trip.

And still, I have a daunting workload facing me over the next few weeks, with a few secret projects (!) that will excite many when they emerge. And more than that. It’s not just the making of images either: for every day I shoot, it’s usually 3-4 days of analysis and writing to publish the material. Moreover, when I publish one aperture series, there were usually 3-5 others that I reject—the end product is neither casual nor quick nor in a lab (but it is why I sometimes shoot The Dolls and similar, a simple time-demand reality). I still have good Zeiss Batis material from August that is as yet unpublished.

Nor does reader email abate. I welcome it, but there are always many demands on my time, and it is only one such thing among several* that compete for my time vs publishing what makes me a living (pays my bills and supports my family). So responding to emails is a true cost to me, and what some don’t realize is that subscribing really helps and that while one subscription is much appreciated, it is not adequate to sustain my efforts longer term (the “full” upgrade is available to all subscribers, please consider it). We all have the same 12-14 hours in a workday, and I am not an internet company whose operations scale and with an IPO looming as a grand prize! The foregoing is nothing more than an articulation of reality. I love what I do.

* For example, many hours over the past year spent implementing anti-hacker defenses in my web server, which is hit with thousands of hacker probes each day. Or the world’s best (and automatic) retina image support for the web; I write my own server code for everything.

I’ve had to drop some lower priority projects for now at least. And also forgo a Chicago Master Class with Ming Thein that I’d really have liked to attend: IMO, Ming is exceptionally talented, and his workshop is a real opportunity for anyone who can get to it. But I know the limits of my aging self (26 bid, no ask) and I've had to be realistic about what I can handle—while I work about 80 hours a week (12 X 7 X 365), and I can do double centuries (7 of them this year), airplane travel is always stressful for me and I’ve been cursed with needing something like 9 hours of sleep of day and yet rarely getting more than 8—and sometimes that piles up into a train wreck that shuts me down, as I learned struggling through August** (a miserable month but there is no rest for the weary in my job). And there is some latent oscillating health issue as yet unresolved that nags me. Still, I love what I have, and that’s all I’m getting. :)

** I was not rested prior to the Marin Double Century (disappointing time, finishing 39 out of 300 or so, poor for me), and then I slept badly for 10 days. Unlike all the previous doubles, recovery was slow and it hit me hard with daily fatigue for the entire month. I finally felt back to normal around the 1st of September.

Sony Announces an Uncompressed File Format for A7R II and Future Cameras

See also prior post: Sony Working on Uncompressed File Format? as well as many posts discussing lossless compression.

Kudos to Sony for responding to market sentiments! (press release below). I sent a query to both a Sony PR agent and a high-level Sony technical person, but as yet I have not gotten an answer to whether there is a lossless-compressed option.

UPDATE: six days later, I’ve still gotten no answer from Sony on when such an update will occur, or anything more than radio silence. It seems odd as a member of the press to not even get an “ack”.

Update 2: dpreview indicates that the format is indeed the uncompressed flavor.

I am puzzled why an uncompressed format would be offered versus a lossless-compressed format. The core issue is file QUALITY, not file FORMAT. Lossless-compressed is identical to uncompressed in quality, but saves a lot of space. And it is not a given that an uncompressed format will solve all issues. My prediction is that the Sony uncompressed format will still show issues as compared to the as yet unbeatable Nikon D810 pixel quality at ISO 64. In particular, Sony raw files look “cooked” to me. I do not think that cooked look is just the lossy compression.

An uncompressed Sony A7R II file will be about 42.2 * (14/8) > 74MB per file, assuming the bits are packed. If the 14 bits are stored in two bytes (16 bits) instead of being packed together, then the file size will be at least a whopping 84MB. Versus ~42MB per file with the current lossy-compressed format = double the size.

The language in the Sony press release is unclear: “selectable compressed or uncompressed 14-Bit RAW” — does that mean selectable lossless-compressed? Or the current lossy-compressed? Are we really going to have to deal with the with the (needless) storage demands of ~74MB uncompressed raw files?

File sizes and lossless compressed

Consider the Nikon D810. Its 14-bit lossless-compressed files are usually around 42MB per file, though files with corner-to-corner detail can be substantially larger (or smaller, with lots of blue sky or similar, particularly high key stuff). Uncompressed, its files ought to be 36 * (14/8) = 63MB. Except that Nikon does not pack the bits, so those 14 bits are stored in two bytes (16 bits), wasting 1/8 of the space (2 bits out of 16) for a file size of 72MB + ~3MB of other stuff for a total file size for its 36-megapixel images of 75MB per image.

Nikon lossless-compressed and uncompressed sizes (same image)

In other words, lossless compression saves about 30% to 50% of the storage space on average—more for some images, less for others, depending the amount of detail or random noise in the file (entropy).

See File Size as a Measure of Image Detail for more on just how much space can be saved with lossless compression. Years ago I employed other techniques to reduce image size as well. I have three compression patents in my name on lossless compression (though not ownership rights), and I know a little about these things.

See also Sony A7R II: Other Areas That Need Attention via Firmware Update.

Press release

Sony Announces Addition of Uncompressed 14-Bit RAW Still Image Capture for New α Cameras

Emphasis added in places.

Sony Announces Addition of Uncompressed 14-Bit RAW Still Image Capture for New α Cameras

by Communications 09/15/2015, in Digital Cameras

Son3y Announces Addition of Uncompressed 14-Bit RAW Still Image Capture for New α Cameras

New α7S II to Feature Selectable Compressed and Uncompressed 14 Bit RAW at Launch; Free Firmware Updates Coming for Additional Models Beginning with α7R II

NEW YORK, Sept. 15, 2015 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today announced user selectable Compressed and Uncompressed 14-Bit RAW image capture will be featured in the new α7S II once it arrives in stores this October.

Additionally, they have announced plans to add user-selectable compressed or uncompressed 14-Bit RAW still image capture via firmware update to additional cameras beginning with the recently introduced α7R II full-frame mirrorless model.

“The voice of our α community remains the most important guiding force of our product development plans,” said Neal Manowitz, Deputy Vice President for Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “The addition of Uncompressed 14-Bit RAW processing is a direct result of customer feedback. Widely requested by photo and video enthusiasts, we believe the choice of RAW processing types will further elevate the performance of these extraordinary cameras.”

[DIGLLOYD: uncompressed is/was NOT the request of those who understand the matter, it is lossy vs lossless at issue, e.g., file *quality* not file *format*]

The α7S II and α7R II are compatible with Sony’s growing lineup of α -mount lenses, which now totals 64 different models including 13 native ‘FE’ full frame lenses. In 2016, Sony aims to build the native FE lens lineup to over 20 different models, bringing the overall α -mount assortment to over 70 different lenses.

A variety of exclusive stories and exciting new content shot with the new α7S II and a7R II cameras plus other Sony α products can be found at www.alphauniverse.com, Sony’s new community site built to educate, inspire and showcase all fans and customers of the Sony α brand.


A Visit to Zeiss, and back

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Traveling to and from Germany is/was not a relaxing thing: heading there, I went 31 hours with no sleep, which is pretty rough on me. Arriving in mid-afternoon in Aaelen on Wednesday, Ming and I went non-stop with scintillating conversations at Zeiss till fairly late (dinner was nice too but we “geeked out” there as well!). The next day we did the same, and Friday was more relaxed, but still fruitful.

Before going back, I fell asleep exhausted at about 4PM Friday, sleeping fitfully through the Friday-night rock concert below my hotel room, rose at 2:30 AM unable to sleep, and from then it was 24 hours before I got back to SFO on Saturday. But I did get some sleep on the way back, which helped a lot. Still, I slept 14 hours last night, which I have not done in many years! It felt good to get back on the bike today too.


Ming Thein has a superb writeup on the visit in A visit to Zeiss and thoughts on the Milvus line.

I spent much of my time there with Ming, most of it with the Zeiss team with special access and discussions—very enjoyable and productive. We could not document the lens assembly areas and such, but we were both pleased and excited about what transpired, and our shared line of thinking about product directions was well received.

We both took (only) the Sony A7R II with us. The simple fact of travel reality is that the A7R II and Batis lenses travel nicely. As well, the Sony can take just about any lens using an adapter (I took a Novoflex adapter for Nikon lenses).

The team at Zeiss is impressive in its camaraderie, and the vibe that results is something not so common in many companies. Zeiss has the zeitgeist of a modern collaborative team intent on making terrific products. I felt at ease there, and I wish to thank everyone I met at Zeiss for the generosity of their time, particularly you know who you are.

We got a firsthand look at how MTF testing is done on the Zeiss K8 (the K9 is a dog and only used to test anti-slobber lens coatings), along with insight into a certain brand-new fast prime (not Zeiss) showing an obvious “bad sample” symmetry problem. And then we saw just how good Otus is, including through the difficult blue area of the spectrum as well as through a 360° rotation of the lens (symmetry check)—mighty impressive.

Ming shot the Leica Q for his version of this image; I used the Batis 25mm f/2 on the Sony A7R II. This image is a case where even 42 megapixels generates some moiré. Image has been perspective corrected.

Zeiss main headquarters

Zeiss also makes lenses for chip-making (UV lithography). We were told that the current lenses must be manufactured to tolerances such that if the lens were the size of the country of Germany, it would deviate in its surface by no more than 3mm!

No Sony adapter for this puppy!
Planetariums are a good business apparently


Get the superb Zeiss Batis and Loxia for Sony Mirrorless
Batis 25/2 and 85/1.8 shipping mid-July. Pre-order now!
Reviewed in: Guide to Mirrorless

On Secondary Color: Collective Context-Dropping regarding Zeiss Milvus 50/1.4 Distagon

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

There is a thread of (non) thought running around the web that somehow the color correction of the new Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon is not good enough. The absurdities and gross context-dropping are running amok to the point of hysteria.

This is not to say that the rendering style of less well corrected classic symmetric designs is inferior per se (it may be preferable for some), but every optical design has tradeoffs. And so the discussion must be based on the core nature of the thing being discussed! In this case, the Milvus is a highly corrected lens, not a classic design with its hazy wide-open performance mush. Stepping away from lenses: criticizing a Tesla Model S or Prius because it cannot take me up Silver Canyon would be absurd. So it must be for the design and usage goals of a lens.

What is the issue about SLOCA?

The issue at hand is secondary longitudinal chromatic aberration (SLOCA). SLOCA causes out of focus areas in the background to develop blurs with a magenta core and green exterior (these often overlap to confuse the issue). The better corrected the lens for other aberrations, the more purity the colors will retain, hence SLOCA will look worse in highly corrected lenses, a point generally ignored.

In essence, these blurs are differential defocus by color; if all colors focus (and defocus) identically, then there would just be a true-to-reality blur with no color change, as with the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro as shown in Coastal 60/4: Zero Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration. However, the Coastal 60/4 is an f/4 lens! Even the Otus lenses at f/4 are not as pure in color as the Coastal! Shall we then also say the Otus lineup is problematic in failing to perform well enough?

SLOCA should not be confused with primary longitudinal chromatic aberration (LOCA), which causes violet fringing on high contrast transitions, and also lays a veiling haze over the image, dropping contrast and impairing clarity (and making focusing more difficult).

The Milvus 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 have less LOCA than any other f/1.4 DSLR lens on the market (except Otus), and in my examples with the 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 Milvus, LOCA is simply not seen, even in extremely challenging lighting approaching 10,000°K (very blue) on high contrast white branches.

Example of SLOCA

Shown below is an aperture series from f/1.4 to f/6.3. It is an actual pixels crop from a 36-megapixel Nikon D810 image. The background is very strongly out of focus and the crop is from 36 megapixels, a point which must be remembered for anyone used to a 22 or 24MP camera (Canon or Leica M).

The magenta/green blurs are SLOCA and can be seen to converge with depth of field (stopping down). The amount of SLOCA seen here is comparable to the vast majority of APO lenses on the market. I deem it as least as good as Leica M APO lenses*. Also, less well corrected lenses diminish the appearance of SLOCA by diluting the color via other aberrations, such as spherical aberration and LOCA and more—a point rarely if ever considered in discussions.

Also seen on the leading white branches is the magenta halo indicating out of focus; similar color can be seen with the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar in the house comparison.

The behavior here is undesirable to be sure, but even Zeiss Otus cannot avoid such effects, though the amount is lessened. And if more persuasion is needed, note that the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar takes several apertures to clean up such color blurs in similar circumstances. Is the 135/2 APO also then an inferior lens?

* The term “APO” today in general is a vague marketing term indicating some improved level of color correction. It no longer has any clear technical meaning, having been corrupted in usage to the point of being almost useless. For Zeiss, APO is a far higher grade designation than with any other brand. In general, read “APO” as “we made some effort to improve color correction”.

Actual pixels from Nikon D810

Example of SLOCA: Leica 50/2 APO

Shown below is a crop from the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH, which I deem the best corrected of Leica’s APO M lenses. It is an f/2 lens (a full stop slower than the Milvus 50/1.4), the letters are not much out of focus, and the crop is from a 24MP sensor (not 36MP as above). Be sure to view it at actual pixels, and note the magenta/green color blurs.

Now imagine far greater defocus and at 36 or 42 or 50 megapixels. How much “color bokeh” (SLOCA) will be apparent with the 50/2 APO? Well, a lot. And it is an f/2 lens costing over $8000. Also, the SLOCA at only 18MP with the Leica 75/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH (and with the 90/2 APO) is very strong (and those two have other problematic behaviors also). Those Leica APO lenses are well corrected, and thus their SLOCA remains pure, undiluted by most other aberrations. Shall we also say that the Leica APO lenses are poor performers?

So the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon is on par in SLOCA with the Leica APO lenses (Otus is easily superior), and yet it is a stop faster and costs a fraction of the price. Where is the internet frenzy over the SLOCA trouble with those Leica APO lenses? :)

Click for actual pixels. This crop from the Leica 50/2 APO: Color Bokeh (Secondary Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration, Dolls) series.

Actual pixels from 24-megapixel Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH at f/2
(not much out of focus!)

Context matters

  • No f/1.4 or f/2 lens on the market today is free of SLOCA. Achieving that would likely result in a $10,000 price tag, and perhaps far more, with a great deal of special glass types and fluorite.
  • Every fast DSLR and mirrorless and rangefinder lens on the market (including Zeiss Otus) has secondary color (SLOCA); those magenta/green blurs for out of focus areas.
  • Lenses that are not as well corrected will mask SLOCA via a veiling haze over the image, diluting the color. Highly corrected lenses like the Milvus 50/1.4 Distagon will thus retain greater color purity for everything, including the magenta/green blurs of SLOCA. If one prefers this masking of SLOCA, choose a lower performing lens!
  • A highly-corrected lens brings light rays together in a very tight point spread function. Those same light rays blur-out quickly relative to this tight focus, thus making SLOCA more apparent. A lens with some “slop” makes these rays overlap more (more “jumbled”) thus reducing apparent SLOCA. One need only shoot a lens high in spherical aberration to see how much this jumbled imaging overlays and dilutes everything.
  • Rational analysis shows that the SLOCA of the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon as good or better (and perhaps better) than most (perhaps all) Leica APO lenses, even those that are a slower f/2. And the Milvus 50/1.4 has no focus shift and less field curvature and superior flare control.
  • Actual pixels at 22 or 24 megapixels (Canon or Leica) is a much lower magnification than at 36 or 42 or 50 megapixels (Nikon, Sony, Canon). This ought to be numerically obvious, but it is a core fact which seems to have been forgotten entirely in the discussion.
  • A lens that is f/1.4 should not be compared at f/1.4 to an image produced by an f/2 lens at f/2! Both lenses must be compared at the same aperture.
  • It is more difficult to correct an f/1.4 lens than an f/2 lens in every way, and far more difficult to correct some aberrations.
  • Balanced lens performance always has some limits and tradeoffs. It is not a constructive discussion to put on blinders, dwelling on one aspect of lens performance.
  • You get what you pay for: those wishing for better but still imperfect correction for SLOCA should acquire the Otus lenses and Zeiss 135/2 APO-Sonnar which have no peers.
Huge Selection of Drones

Understanding the new Zeiss Milvus Lineup

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Some points of clarification on the new Zeiss Milvus lineup. I have seen and handled the lineup, which is as follows. There are six lenses to be released soon:

  • 21/2.8 Distagon
  • 35/2 Distagon
  • 50/2 Makro-Planar
  • 50/1.4 Distagon (new high performance optical design)
  • 85/1.4 Planar (new high performance optical design)
  • 100/2 Makro-Planar

I’ll be testing the new Milvus lenses, paying special attention to differences like flare control. Details:

  • The lineup all has consistent design, including ergonomics and weather sealing, with multiple internal seals. Lenses like the 50/2 and 100/2 Makro Planars have new engraved markings on the barrel for reproduction ration and similar—nice touches.
  • The entire lineup has the best build quality on the market today, and except for not having cine len bearings for focusing, and some color differences on the engraved lettering, could easily be mistaken for the Otus look and feel.
  • Focus feel is outstanding, but with a bit more resistance than Otus (due to weather sealing for Milvus).
  • The aperture can be declicked for video work.
  • The Milvus 50/1.4 Distagon and Milvus 85/1.4 Planar are all entirely new optical designs offering very high performance. They are hugely improved optical designs over the classical designs of the ZF.2/ZE 50/1.4 Planar and ZF.2/ZE 85/1.4 Planar. At present, they have no competition from other brands in optical performance. I deem them on par (and better in some ways) than Leica M designs including the 75/2 and 90/2 APO designs. The Milvus 50/1.4 compares favorably to the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux, better in several ways, though not quite as high in contrast wide open.
  • The Milvus 85/1.4 Planar is an entirely spherical design (no aspherics) for exceptional bokeh. And yet is is very high performance. Its field is actually flatter (less field curvature) even than the Otus. Some may prefer it over the Otus for its lower micro contrast for applications like portraiture *and* for its extreme corners which do require some stopping down for sharpness (and so are nicely blurred for the first few stop). Ultimately, the corners are exceptional with some stopping down.
  • The focal lengths 21/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 Makro, 100/2 Makro are the same optical design as their existing ZF.2/ZE predecessors. The 21/2.8 and 50/2 have much improved flare control, the 35/2 coatings are already optimal, and the 100/2 has been slightly improved (1 element).
  • The other existing lenses not mentioned in the current have various dispositions, but Zeiss does not wish to comment upon the release date or continuity or not of the existing optical design at this time.
  • CORRECTION: I had thought that the 25/2.8 Distagon had been discontinued (based on what I though I had been told), but I’ve double-checked: it will remain available in its classic ZF.2 form (no ZE mount as has always been the case), Get one for its unique qualities while they last.
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon ZF.2
Milvus case (optional)
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Complete MTF for Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 and Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 MTF

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

As shown in my aperture series in my reviews, the performance even at f/1.4 far exceeds other lenses on the market (excepting Zeiss Otus) particularly when one considers the overall frame and lack of field curvature. Stopped down, performance is exceptional. Wide open... see the apertures series for both lenses—outstanding.

MTF for Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Planar
MTF for Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Planar
Save on on Used Macs at OWC!
Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro, iPad, Displays
Certified, and warranted by OWC, free shipping, 14-day money back guarantee

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 Anchor a Gorgeous New Lens Line

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

As of September 2015, Zeiss raises its game across the entire ZF.2/ZE lineup by introducing the Milvus line. Adopting the luxuriously sleek build quality and operational feel of the Otus line, the Milvus line delivers a total makeover in physical design, along with optical improvements, including very high performance 50mm and 85mm designs at debut.

I put early production samples of the Milvus 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 through rigorous testing, which for me means outdoor shooting in the mountains, often with challenging lighting (high contrast and/or bluish light).

I’ve not had time to prepare blog coverage as yet, but I do have extensive review coverage of both the new Zeiss Milvus Zeiss and Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Planar in Guide to Zeiss.

I’ve also written an overview article on the new Milvus lineup. It can be found on the new Zeiss web site. [Note: the images in the article have been resampled and resaved and are not at the quality as I had prepared them. See the images below for better quality as well as the full aperture series at sizes up to 24 megapixels in my review coverage.]

Setting aside the insanely great high-end Otus line, the Zeiss Milvus 50/1.4 and Zeiss Milvus 85/1.4 are sure to please the photographer looking for optical excellence. Both lenses should be a revelation to anyone using “standard issue” 50mm designs and at very reasonable pricing for what they deliver (a lot) and what they dispense with (troublesome behaviors). That the build quality exceeds anything else on the market is an added bonus, and speaks to enduring value over time.

Natural Bonsai over Beaver Pond, Late Dusk
Natural Bonsai over Beaver Pond, Late Dusk
Aspen Trunks at Dusk
f2 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 64; 2015-08-14 18:59:53
NIKON D810 + Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon

Natural Bonsai over Beaver Pond, Late Dusk

From SFO to Aalen / Oberkochen

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

I’m over in Oberkochen Germany having an enjoyable time with the Zeiss crew, learning and seeing a lot things (some of which will be reported in due time!). The group there loves what they do, from what I can tell.

Oberkochen is a sort of “company town” near the pleasant and walking-friendly town of Aaelen, a venue I will have little time to explore—another trip perhaps, or maybe some hours prior to hopping the train back to Frankfurt on Saturday.

The main Zeiss still-lens facility is a study in modern interior design and very pleasant inside, but without T* coatings on the window and partition glass, which also have some veiling flare issues, and do not seem to be apochromatic. Tsk task.

It was a 17 hour journey to Aalen from San Francisco (SFO to FRA direct) + train. I ended up having a 31 hour “day” from home to dinner in Aaelen, without getting any sleep (though I did get some rest on the plane and train). But it was so interesting at Zeiss, my inner nerd just fed the energy loop continously.

The high speed train from Frankfurt to Stuttgart is impressive—it does not run particularly fast for the first 1/4 or so of the journey (maybe ~80 mph), but when it picks up speed to ~150 mph it’ too fast to study the landscape without fatiguing quickly. About 90 minutes from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. Then a ~14 minute wait before a hop onto a conventional train in Stuttgart for the leg to Aalen—a much more pedestrian journ of a bit over an hour.

Zeiss Group Headquarters, Oberkochen, Germany
Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

diglloyd Inc. | FTC Disclosure | PRIVACY POLICY | Trademarks | Terms of Use | Copyright © 2008-2015 diglloyd Inc, all rights reserved. | Contact