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30 day blog index

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

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

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

Aperture Series @ 30mm: Mossy Boulders in Pescadero Creek

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

 
Boulders in Pescadero Creek
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Steve K writes:

The Boulders in Pescadero Creek image to me just looks awesome; it has such a smooth tone. I am not sure if its the characteristic of the CCD sensor, Leica lens or both. Yet just comparing this image to others whether taken with the D810 or Sony, this S2 Image to me just melts on my display.

DIGLLOYD: Yes, the CCD sensor in the Leica S has a very nice feel to it, just velvety and luxurious. I had a similar sense of that with the Pentax 645D but the Pentax optics are not in the same league as Leica S lenses (and the price reflects that). I like the look of CCD sensors (though they have some clear limits on ISO and long exposures). It seems that CCD will soon pass away almost entirely, as CMOS takes over.

Full aperture series with up to 24MP images coming soon.

Deals: Canon 60D for $479, 7D for $750, Tamrac bag

for Canon 60D

I find these deals interesting myself, so I’m posting them for readers.

Instant savings of $420 on an $899 list price yields $479 for a Canon 60D.

The above with free expedited shipping too. Canon must really want to move out these models, since the latest model EOS 7D Mark II is $1699.

 

Tamrac Superlights Computer Backpack 17 (Tan and Brown), $70 off $99.95 = $29.95 with free expedited shipping. Heck at this price buy it for your grade-school kids or high-schoolers for a school bag.

Pentax K3 II: Out-Innovating Nikon and Canon

Get Pentax K-3 II at B&H Photo.

Pentax K3 II

Pentax deserves kudos for some very advanced and indeed unique features in a DSLR.

Features that the Pentax K3 II has that Nikon and Canon do not: sensor stabilization, built-in GPS, pixel-shift for higher-resolution images, HDR in raw, and synchronization for star movement. On just the GPS point, the add-on GPS units that Canon and Nikon offer are lame and awkward (they suck in practical terms). Too bad Pentax did not fill out the features with an optional hot-shoe EVF.

When this Pentax tech makes it into a full-frame camera, it becomes far more interesting and will provide a welcome technology alternative to NiCanon. But as per my review of the Pentax K system, I would like to see some very high performance lenses added to the lineup, and that is the real system weakness.

Perhaps more of a puzzler is why Pentax persists with only a DSLR when this kind of tech could make its way into a mirrorless system, even a fully lens mount compatible one.

Highlighting and red text used below to call out key features.

The New PENTAX K-3 II Builds on the Performance
Standard Set by Its Predecessor Further Refining Field Photography

Expanding on the K-3 legacy, the newly released K-3 II adds GPS functionality, improved Shake-Reduction (SR) technology, high speed AF and built-in ASTROTRACER.

Denver, Colorado, April 22, 2015 RICOH IMAGING AMERICAS CORPORATION is proud to introduce the PENTAX K-3 II Digital SLR; refining the ultimate field camera. Developed as the successor to the award winning PENTAX K-3, the new K-3 II shares its predecessor’s magnesium alloy casing, metal chassis, 24.35 effective megapixel resolution, 27-point AF system and approximately 8.3 frames per second shooting while adding an improved 4.5EV stop shake reduction system, new high-speed AF algorithm, GPS, gyro sensor panning detection and automatic horizon correction.

            “The introduction of the PENTAX K-3 II marks our commitment to providing photographers with rugged high quality solutions that exceed our customers’ expectations,” said Jim Malcolm, President of Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation. The “magic’’ we add to our cameras through the motion-controlled Shake Reduction (SR) technology helps our photographers shoot for the stars and capture images in stunning detail; no other manufacturer is offering such a variety of features in a single camera design.”

The K-3 II is the first camera in the PENTAX line to incorporate Pixel Shift Resolution® for capturing still life subjects with ultra-high resolving power. Pixel shift technology uses the camera’s in-body Shake Reduction mechanism to move the image sensor at single pixel increments, capture 4 separate images, which are subsequently combined into a single high definition image.  Benefits include  higher resolving power, reduced false color and improved overall image quality of non-moving subjects.

Building on the PENTAX K-3 camera’s rugged dust proof and weather-resistant construction, the K-3 II features a built-in GPS receiver, GPS log and electronic compass purpose- designed to stand up to demanding location work. The GPS system records shooting location, camera orientation, altitude, and provides a date/time stamp tied specifically to your images; all of which can be transferred to a computer and mapped using services such as Google Earth™.

By combining the power of GPS positioning with in-body shake reduction mechanism, the PENTAX K-3 II cameras exclusive built in ASTROTRACER® features tracks and photographs astronomical bodies such as stars and planets. The system uses GPS and orientation location data together with magnetic and acceleration sensors to calculate the motion needed to synchronize the CMOS sensor with the movement of the stars; making it possible to capture stars as points of light rather than star trails during long exposures.

“The original PENTAX K-3 has been my go to camera since it was first introduced,” said professional photographer Kerrick James.  “Now with the addition of GPS, Pixel Shift Resolution, and 4.5EV stop shake reduction, my field photography is further refined and documented regardless of my remote location.  This ensures my demanding shooting style will always be met and will provide my clients with consistently high quality photography.”

The new PENTAX K-3 II uses the advanced and intuitive user interface common to most PENTAX camera products.  The system is compatible with a host of accessories including a versatile array of flash units, lenses, battery grip and interchangeable focus screens.

Pentax K3 II

Pricing and Availability

The PENTAX K-3 II will be available at retailers nationwide and at www.us.ricoh-imaging.com in May 2015 for a suggested retail price of $1099.95.

Notes

1. High-resolution images. The K-3 II combines an APS-C-size CMOS image sensor free of an anti-aliasing filter with the high-performance PRIME III imaging engine — identical to the one installed in the PENTAX 645Z medium-format digital SLR camera — to optimize the imaging power of approximately 24.35 effective megapixels and deliver sharp, fine-gradation images. It also effectively minimizes annoying noise generated at higher sensitivities, allowing high-grade, high-sensitivity shooting even at the top sensitivity of ISO 51200.

2. New-generation PENTAX-original shake reduction mechanism:
(1) Upgraded in-body SR mechanism to assure the best shake reduction performance in the K series—The K-3 II comes equipped with a PENTAX-developed SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism that can be used with any compatible PENTAX interchangeable lens.* Thanks to its new, high-precision gyro sensor, this mechanism assures more stable, effective camera-shake compensation than ever before, with an extra-wide compensation range of as much as 4.5 shutter steps — the widest of all K-series digital SLR models. Even when taking a panning shot, this efficiently controls the SR unit to always produce the best image possible under the given conditions.

(2) New Pixel Shift Resolution System to deliver image resolutions higher than the image sensor’s capacity. The K-3 II features Pixel Shift Resolution System,** the latest super-resolution technology, which captures four images of the same scene by shifting the image sensor by a single pixel for each image, then synthesizes them into a single composite image. Compared to the conventional Bayer system, in which each pixel has only a single unit of color data, this new system obtains all color data in each pixel. This innovative system delivers super-high-resolution images with far more truthful color reproduction and much finer details, while significantly lowering the level of high-sensitivity noise. Recorded images can also be synthesized, either on a computer using the accompanying utility software, or with the camera’s in-body RAW-data development function.

(3) Innovative AA filter simulator to minimize moiré. By applying microscopic vibrations to the image sensor unit at the sub-pixel level during image exposure, the K-3 II’s AA (anti-aliasing) filter simulator*** provides the same level of moiré reduction as an optical AA filter. Unlike an optical filter, which always creates the identical result, this innovative simulator lets the user not only switch the anti-aliasing filter effect on and off, but also to adjust the level of the effect. This means that the ideal effect can be set for a particular scene or subject.

(4) Supportive shooting functions. The K-3 II’s SR unit has a flexible design that tilts the image sensor unit in all directions. This is one reason why the K-3 II can provide a host of handy shooting functions, including auto level compensation; image-composition fine-adjustment; and ASTROTRACER, which simplifies advanced astronomical photography.

3. High-precision, SAFOX 11 sensor module with 27-point AF system
The K-3 II features the sophisticated SAFOX 11 AF sensor module with an expanded image-field coverage using 27 AF sensors (25 cross-type sensors positioned in the middle). The center sensor and the two sensors just above and below it are designed to detect the light flux of an F2.8 lens, making it easy to obtain pinpoint focus on a subject when using a large-aperture lens. Thanks to the combination of a state-of-the-art AF algorithm and the advanced PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System, this AF system assures much improved AF tracking performance in the AF Continuous mode, while providing an extra-wide measurable luminance range (–3EV to +18EV).

4. High-precision exposure control with PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System
The K-3 II is equipped with the advanced PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System, which is supported by an approximately 86,000-pixel RGB metering sensor. This system is designed to optimize the camera’s overall performance, not only by controlling exposure with great accuracy, but also by utilizing the data obtained by the light-metering sensor to further enhance the accuracy of autofocusing and white-balance adjustment. It has also expanded the measurable luminance level to as low as –3EV. By detecting the type of scene or subject using the RGB metering sensor, the K-3 II selects the exposure settings that are more consistent with the photographer’s creative intentions.

5. High-speed continuous shooting with a top speed of approximately 8.3 images per second. The K-3 II continuously records as many as 23 images in the RAW format, or 60 images in the JPEG format,**** in a single sequence. This has been made possible through the use of several innovative developments, including: a high-speed, highly accurate control mechanism that regulates the shutter, mirror and diaphragm independently; a damper mechanism that effectively minimizes mirror shock; and a high-speed data transmission system incorporated in the PRIME III imaging engine.
**** JPEG recorded pixels: L, JPEG image quality: Best

6. Optical viewfinder with nearly 100-percent field of view. The K-3 II’s glass prism has been treated with a coating that is designed to improve reflectance for a much brighter viewfinder image. With a magnification of approximately 0.95 times, its viewfinder provides a broad, bright image field for easy focusing and framing.

7. Full HD movie recording with an array of creative tools. The K-3 II captures Full HD movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 60i/30p frame rate) in the H.264 recording format. It also comes equipped with a stereo mic terminal for external microphone connection and a headphone terminal. The user can even adjust the audio recording level manually and monitor sound pressure levels during microphone recording. In addition to a host of distinctive.

8. Built-in GPS module
Thanks to its built-in GPS module, the K-3 II provides a variety of advanced GPS functions, including the recording of location, latitude, longitude, altitude and UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) and direction at the time of shooting. The user can easily access images containing GPS data using a computer, to browse them, check on shooting locations and position data on the screen, or save them.  The user can also take advantage of some unique tools, including: GPS log, which keeps track of the photographer’s movement; Electronic Compass, which displays the camera’s direction on the camera’s LCD monitor; and ASTROTRACER, which simplifies the tracing and photographing of celestial bodies by coupling GPS data with the camera’s SR mechanism.

9. Large, easy-to-view 3.2-inch LCD monitor with approximately 103,700 dots
On its back panel, the K-3 II features a 3.2-inch high-resolution LCD monitor with approximately 103,700 dots and a 3:2 aspect ratio. In addition to its wide-view design, this monitor also has a protective tempered-glass front panel for added durability, and a unique air-gapless construction in which the air space between LCD layers is eliminated to effectively reduce the reflection and dispersion of light for improved visibility during outdoor shooting.

10. Compact, solid body with dustproof, weather-resistant construction
The K-3 II’s exterior casing, consisting of top and bottom panels and front and back frames, is made of sturdy yet lightweight magnesium alloy. Thanks to the inclusion of 92 sealing parts in the body, it boasts a dustproof, weather-resistant and cold-resistant construction, assuring solid operation at temperatures as low as –10°C. It also features a dependable, durable shutter unit that withstands 200,000 shutter releases. Despite all these features, the K-3 II has been designed to be compact and maneuverable, assuring remarkable operability and swift response in the field.

11. Other features
・Dual SD card slots for memory card flexibility (compatible with SDXC UHS-1 speed class in SDR104 buss speed mode)
Smartphone-support functions using the optional FLUCARD FOR PENTAX 16GB
・Top-grade DRII (Dust Removal II) mechanism for effective elimination of dust on the image sensor using ultrasonic vibration
HDR (High Dynamic Range) shooting mode with RAW-format data filing
・PENTAX-invented hyper control system for quick, accurate response to the photographer’s creative intentions
・Model dial with a choice of lock mechanism engagement (ON or OFF)
Compensation of various parameters: lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, diffraction, brightness level at image-field edges, and fringe effect (available in RAW-format processing only)
・The latest version of Digital Camera Utility 5 software is included

Lens Shock Testing

 
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In regards to an email comment from a reader on the right side softness with the Sony 35mm f/1.4 Distagon test lens (bad sample) and possible issues from shipping, I asked Zeiss about whether lenses could “go bad” in transit, e.g., while if dropped off the UPS truck.

Obviously, that specific question is not one that Zeiss or any other company can directly address for any particular lens or scenario described in email, but there are protocols for durability.

Protocols for testing shock to a lens

Here, note that the “dedicated box” would also be inside a shipping box, further reducing g-force issues. It seems rather unlikely that a lens could “go bad” by being shipped via UPS or FedEx, especially if no signs whatsoever are seen of any crushing of the box. Hence my feeling that the bad sample I received came that way from the factory.

We run tests of lenses in shipping conditions to check the design of the dedicated box.

The lens should withstand the following “torture” without an issue:

  • Endurance shocks: 10 g / 6 ms ; 1000 shocks per axis and direction ; Standard: ISO 9022 Series -3 -31 -01
  • Bouncing: 1.1 g ; 10 min per side / total of 60 min; Standard: ISO 9022 Series -3 -34 -02
  • Free fall: 1.0 m drop height, 2 times per side; Standard: ISO 9022 Series -3 -33 -06

We do not run tests with Zeiss-branded products which are distributed by SONY, but they certainly apply similar standards.

Of course this can never guarantee to 100% that nothing harmful can happen to the product.

Zeiss Batis Lenses for Sony Fullframe Mirrorless (A7x series)

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

Keeping with the bird species naming (Otus to start), the Batis line now debuts. Personally, I’m eagerly awaiting the Vulture line for Nikon and Canon. :;

I should have the two new Batis lenses in for testing in May, coverage to go into Guide to Mirrorless, since the native platform is Sony mirrorless.

The Batis lenses include the lens hood, lens case, and carry a two-year warranty, which is double the one-year warranty offered by most vendors.

Zeiss already has the Zeiss Loxia line, which is manual focus line targeted after those who want to zone focus, and videographers who want manual focus and iris control. The Batis line targets applications suited for AF, such as wedding, event and general prosumer use.

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

New Full-Frame Autofocus Lenses from ZEISS: ZEISS Batis 2/25 and ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – Designed for Sony A7 camera series

The ZEISS Batis 2/25 and ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 are the first full-frame autofocus lenses for Sony's E-mount cameras to be exclusively developed and distributed by ZEISS. This new family of lenses is particularly suited for the use with Sony's alpha range of mirrorless full-frame system cameras. The two new lenses will be shipping in July 2015.

"The Batis family of lenses is the first time we have launched autofocus lenses for Sony's full-frame E-mount cameras which are ZEISS through and through – in other words exclusively developed and distributed by us," says Dr. Michael Pollmann, Product Manager at ZEISS Camera Lenses. The Sony alpha full-frame E-mount system, which currently consists of the a7 family of cameras, is one of the most innovative camera systems on the market and is becoming an increasingly popular choice for professionals and people considering switching from DSLRs. "The ZEISS Batis lenses are our way of acknowledging this trend and providing creative and ambitious photographers with the expert tools they need," says Pollmann.

Available this summer - The ZEISS Batis 2/25 and 1.8/85 lenses will be available for purchase in April and start shipping in July 2015. The recommended retail prices are $1,299 for the ZEISS Batis 2/25 and $1,199 for the ZEISS Batis 1.8/85.

For more information please visit: www.zeiss.com/photo

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

 
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 for Sony A7 series

Pairing the tested Distagon concept with contemporary functionality, the Batis 25mm f/2 Lens from Zeiss is a wide-angle prime designed specifically for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Four double-sided aspherical elements within a floating elements design help to control aberrations and distortions throughout the focusing range and contribute to even edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination, and a T* anti-reflective coating reduces flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality. Ideal for architecture, landscape, and interior photography, this lens' 82° angle of view pairs with a 7.9" minimum focusing distance for producing creative perspectives and unique close-up imagery. Additionally, for working in inclement conditions, the lens also features a dust- and weather-sealed construction.

  • This versatile wide-angle lens is designed specifically for full-frame E-mount mirrorless digital cameras and can also be used on APS-C-sized E-mount cameras, where it will provide a 37.5mm equivalent focal length.
  • Bright f/2 maximum aperture benefits working in low-light conditions and also offers control over the focus position when using selective focus or shallow depth of field techniques.
  • Distagon optical concept incorporates 10 glass elements within 8 groups and also employs a floating elements design to reduce aberrations throughout the focusing range. Four of the elements feature a double-sided aspherical design, too, for consistent edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination, as well as reduced distortion.
  • Zeiss T* anti-reflective coatings have been applied to each lens surface to help minimize reflections in order to provide greater image clarity, contrast and color fidelity.
  • Integrated OLED display on the top of the lens shows the distance of the focal plane from the camera as well as the depth of field range for quickly recognizing the parameters of focus in use, even when working in low-light conditions.
  • Linear motors benefit the autofocus performance of the lens and provide smooth, fast, and quiet operation. For manual focusing, a rubberized ring offers greater tactile control for precise placement of focus.
  • Dust and weather-sealed construction benefits using the lens in inclement shooting conditions.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8

 
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 for Sony A7 series

Updating a tried-and-true optical design for use with full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, the Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens from Zeiss is a portrait-length, short telephoto lens featuring a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture for greater focus control and enhanced low-light shooting.

The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance.

Pairing the Sonnar concept with a floating elements design, this 85mm f/1.8 is also particularly adept at controlling aberrations throughout the focusing range, while a T* anti-reflective coating minimizes flare and ghosting for ensured color accuracy and heightened contrast. Rounding out the feature-set, this lens incorporates optical image stabilization to minimize the appearance of camera shake when working with slower shutter speeds and a dust- and weather-sealed construction lends itself to shooting in less-than-ideal environments.

  • An ideal portrait-length lens, this short telephoto has been designed specifically for full-frame E-mount mirrorless digital cameras. It can also be used on APS-C-sized E-mount cameras where it will provide a 127.5mm equivalent focal length.
  • Fast f/1.8 maximum aperture benefits working in low-light conditions and also offers extensive control over depth of field for selective focus applications.
  • Sonnar optical concept incorporates 11 glass elements within 8 groups and also employs a floating elements design to reduce aberrations and distortions throughout the focusing range.
  • Zeiss T* anti-reflective coatings have been applied to each lens surface to help minimize reflections in order to provide greater image clarity, contrast, and color fidelity.
  • Integrated OLED display on the top of the lens shows the distance of the focal plane from the camera as well as the depth of field range for quickly recognizing the parameters of focus in use, even when working in low-light conditions.
  • Optical image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting.
  • Linear motors benefit the autofocus performance of the lens and provide smooth, fast, and quiet operation. For manual focusing, a rubberized ring offers greater tactile control for precise placement of focus.
  • Dust and weather-sealed construction benefits using the lens in inclement shooting conditions.

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

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

A local friend loaned me his Leica S system, so I went out and shot some material with the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH (and some with the 180/3.5).

The 30-90mm is a lens I hear about from some Leica S shooters as one that works great as an all-arounder and is good for travel, being about the same size as its fixed focal length siblings. Personally, I’d find a kit consisting of the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH and the 30-90mm all but complete for most practical outdoor shooting purposes.

The S system is way out of my price range, but part of having a broad range of perspective is shooting everything from the Ricoh GR and various mirrorless cameras to the Hy6 Mod 2 and the Leica S, and everything in between.

Focusing the 30-9mm at dusk with its f/3.5 to f/5.6 aperture is no cakewalk (well, all but impossible by eye), but the autofocus seemed to work accurately, judging by a quick look at the files.

The CCD sensor in the Leica S is lovely as one might expect, and results for black and white conversions are first rate too (toggle the image below).

I’ll be posting some material from the 30-90mm in Guide to Leica with the intent of it being a practical reference for what one can expect from the lens, how much stopping down is needed for realistic depth of field, etc. I may post some suggestions on processing the files, sharpening to mitigate diffraction, etc (depending on interest).

 
Boulders in Pescadero Creek
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Steve K writes:

The Boulders in Pescadero Creek image to me just looks awesome; it has such a smooth tone. I am not sure if its the characteristic of the CCD sensor, Leica lens or both. Yet just comparing this image to others whether taken with the D810 or Sony, this S2 Image to me just melts on my display.

DIGLLOYD: Yes, the CCD sensor in the Leica S has a very nice feel to it, just velvety and luxurious. I had a similar sense of that with the Pentax 645D but the Pentax optics are not in the same league as Leica S lenses (and the price reflects that). I like the look of CCD sensors (though they have some clear limits on ISO and long exposures). It seems that CCD will soon pass away almost entirely, as CMOS takes over.

Full aperture series with up to 24MP images coming soon.

Deals: Technics RP-DH1250-S Headphones with iPhone mic

  Mt Conness Glacier Remnants Nikon D810 + AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED @ ƒ/5.6

A few weeks ago I wrote about ordering Sennheiser earbud headphones to address an Ulnar nerve issue that is aggravated by crooking my arm to hold the phone.

Those Sennheiser earbuds are working well and fit comfortably.

But I’m curious whether an alternative over-ear solution might work better, so I just ordered the Technics RP-DH1250-S DJ Headphones, my purchase being incited by the whopping $190 off the $269 price for a sale price of $79.99 with free expedited shipping.

Deals: Lexar 4-pack 1066X Compact Flash, Lenovo Laptop, Datacolor Spyder

$200 off Lenovo Edge 15 Multi-Mode FHD 15.6" 2-in-1 Touchscreen Notebook Computer (refurbished by Lenovo)

4-pack of Lexar 1066X 32GB Compact Flash cards $40 off ($50 each) or 2-pack for ($60 each).

Datacolor Spyder4PRO Display Calibration System$60 off

Nikon 20mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Pine Lake Peak, Last Kiss of Sunlight

Get Nikon 20mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20/1.8G ED

In my review of the Nikon 20/1.8G in DAP, this aperture series complements the others, but is particularly good at showing the field curvature characteristics of the Nikon AF-S 20mm f/1.8G. Understanding this behavior can help greatly in optimizing the focus position for a subject.

Nikon 20/1.8G Aperture Series: Pine Lake Peak, Last Kiss of Sunlight

Includes the ƒ/1.8 - ƒ/16 aperture range in HD and UltraHD sizes in up to 6048 pixels wide (24 megapixels).

At about $797, the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G is perhaps Nikon’s best wide angle at a very reasonable price.

This scene is a testament to the stunning dynamic range of the Nikon D810; major contrast control “yanks” were used here to render the very dark shaded areas to the sunlit peaks. A gradient neutral density filter would have yielded a rather fake looking image seen all too commonly. The D810 all but dispsenses with the need for HDR for any semi reasonable scene.

It’s a solid hike up to this area and hopefully the photo communicates to some degree just how spectacular the area is. With iced-over puddles in the shadows, spawning trout in the shallows of the lake, and about 4 (total) hikers gone by over the afternoon, how can this late autumn experience be bettered? I like this stuff. Starting down starting at dusk (who wants to leave while the sun is up?), my trusty Lupine headlamp lit the way a few thousand vertical feet back down to “home” (sleeping in my SUV).

  Mt Conness Glacier Remnants Nikon D810 + AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED @ ƒ/5.6
Last Kiss of Sunlight on Pine Lake Peak
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Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar Aperture Series “Sunstar Aspen”

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

This scene shows a number of behaviors: bokeh, flare, sunstars, color saturation into a bright light source.

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar: Sunstar Aspen (Sony A7R)

With HD and UltraHD images and large crops from f/2 through f/16.

 
Quaking Aspen and Sunstar
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Deal: Shoulder Bag for $19

A shoulder bag for $18.99 ($36 off) and free shipping is worth a look if this kind of bag suits your working style. Two other variants/models also discounted. Deal good for 24 hours from this post.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Examples at f/1.4 (Pescadero Creek, Sony A7R)

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

In my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA in Guide to Mirrorless are published a number of examples at f/1.4 using the bad sample previously discussed.

The images are shown in part as an aid to understanding the asymmetric blur that can result from a lens that is “off”.

And yet the overall look of the images is still worthwhile in getting a feel for the rendering style, which is very nice, with high contrast overall, similar to its FE 35/2.8 Sonnar and FE 55/1.8 Sonnar siblings.

Examples at f/1.4, Bad Sample Lens (Pescadero Creek, A7R)

Aperture series showing and discussing lens performance with stopping down

Sizes up to 6048 wide are included for examination (24 megapixels). Commentary on each image is made, including evaluation of the correction for chromatic aberrations.

The 35/1.4 Distagon is going back to be exchanged for another sample, along with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon and the Sony 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar for some comparisons.

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UPDATE: I’ve added an aperture series showing and discussing lens performance with stopping down, analyzing how much stopping down is needed ot overcome the right side blur.

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Don’t Confuse Focusing Distance with Reproduction Ratio aka Magnification

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

See my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art in DAP (covered on both Nikon and Canon.

Damian S writes:

Thanks to you I am now on the waiting list for the new Sigma 24mm for Nikon.

I wanted to give you one thought: I was an early adopter of the Nikon 24/1.4 and I've always really liked it. I found it's image quality unique in being able to get a nice narrow DOF because of the fast aperture and the *close focusing distance*.

Looking at the specs of the new Sigma vs. the Nikon 24/1.4G can focus approx 6 inches closer. This *may* be a game changer and may make the Sigma unable to replace my favorite feature of the Nikon - we'll see. I also wonder if your Nikon 24 is exceptional in its bad focus shift: mine seems fine but certainly I haven't tested as you have.

DIGLLOYD: First, focus shift is a property of lens design and while it can vary slightly due to build variances, it does not fundamentally change (again barring some serious quality control problems). However, focus shift can vary quite a lot by focusing distance, particularly at close range, e.g., for a lens poorly corrected for spherical aberration when focused at close range.

The way to test for focus shift at close range is with a ruler as I showed in my comparison; that makes it obvious if present. At distance, it’s harder but a suitable outdoor subject can make it easy. For an example that’s more subtle see in Guide to Leica the Aperture Series: 35/1.4 — Glacial Erratics (M240). See also the case studies of focus shift in MSI.

Focusing distance vs reproduction ratio—Nikon and Canon and other vendors often play focal length shortening tricks at close range in order to maintain a constant aperture. So a 60mm lens might actually have a 45mm focal length at close range, ditto for a 24mm that could be 20mm at close range (this change can be a usability headache if implemented in a macro lens). Thus, close-focusing *distance* is not a useful metric because the focal length might be reduced. And it is misleading (and silly) for a vendor to list this figure without specifying actual focal length and free working distance from the front lens element.

See also Real vs Actual Focal Length — Breathing and Comparison: Actual Focal Length at Close Range.

Rather, one must look at reproduction ratio aka magnification. For example, a reproduction ratio of 1:5 means that 1mm on the sensor captures 5mm of the real-life object.

The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art has a specified reproduction ratio of 1:5.3 while the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G is specified at 0.179X = 1:5.6. Hence assuming accurate specifications, the Sigma delivers an image at greater magnification (which might actually occur at a greater physical distance!). Note that free working distance to front element or lens hood can be critical for lighting in particular.

       
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art and Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Quality Control Issues, Right Side Blur at f/1.4

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

See my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA in Guide to Mirrorless.

When Sony released the FE 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar and 55mm f/1.8 ZA Sonnar for the A7 series, there were various reports of quality control issues, some I read of and some reported to me by readers. Such things are rather common with most brands.

I am disappointed to report that after shooting the new FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon extensively on many different scenes this evening, one consistent issue emerged with the test sample in every scene I shot: at f/1.4, the lens could not make a sharp image on the right 1/3 of the frame, even as the center and left sides delivered the quality that so impressed me with my original portrait shoot. Stopping down, the issue cleans up nicely, but clearly this sample has something amiss. My feeling on this verges on anger, since my images cannot be fixed, and quality control this shitty at this price is an insult to the buying public. The factory could catch problem lenses like this, but it did not. Still, I will be showing several series, because the core lens qualities are visible over most of the frame at f/1.4, and because the issue itself has to be seen to be understood, and because stopped down there is a lot to like.

My advice to anyone remains as usual with any brand: don’t assume the sample is good; examine a variety of scenes for consistent issues, like blur on one side and not the other. See How to Test a Lens in Making Sharp Images. One reason I like the Zeiss ZF.2 / ZE DSLR lenses and particularly the Otus line is that over the years I’ve had hardly any issues—the best quality control of all the brands IMO. A lens design is only as good as it can be built, one reason why computed MTF charts supplied by most vendors are a joke.

Update: I’ve published a series showing how much stopping down is needed to overcome the right-side blur in this bad lens sample as well as a variety of samples. See also Lens Shock Testing.

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Breakthrough Photography X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter

X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter by
Breakthrough Photography

Get Breakthrough Photography X3 filter at B&H Photo (available soon).

Breakthrough Photography introduced a line of high-grade filters in 2015, dubbed the “X3” line. See the in-depth description of the technology used to manufacture these filters.

When contacted by Breakthrough Photography, I elected to try the 10 stop neutral density filter, because other brands have disappointed with severe color and tint shifts: could the X3 deliver what other filters had failed to do?

Review of the Breakthrough Photography X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter

A 10-stop ND filter is very dark. With some stopping down, much longer exposures can be made than would otherwise be possible. Purposes include water blur in sunlight, very bright subjects, or photographing subjects that would otherwise be obscured by transient objects (cars, people, etc). By greatly increasing exposure time, these objects can be made to disappear.

In the field, it can be useful to have carry densities of 3, 6 and 10 stops which covers most shooting situations. Using a step-up ring allows using a larger filter size on lenses with a smaller filter size (so that one does not have to carry sets of ND filters in too many sizes).

Testing the X3 10-stop Neutral Density Filter by Breakthrough Photography

State of the Camera Market

 
Our trusted photo rentals

Received this in email today.

LMAO. It’s spot-on.

Canon should buy Nikon, dump most Nikon lenses, all Canon bodies, then either sell the remaining company to Sony or buy Sony.

Every time I go to sonyalpharumors.com, I see things like Sony dropped the price of every A7x body by $300, and Sony has a new brain implant that that [editor: brain implant needs a firmware update] adjusts the concavity of the sensors in its cameras to match your retina, so the camera can register exactly what you see. And a roadmap to 14 new Zeiss and Sony lenses for the next year.

Every time I go to the Nikonrumors.com site, I see something like Nikon has announced the 3572 entry-level DX DSLR that replaces the 3571, a 673 DSLR that replaces the 672, and a 763 DSLR that replaces the 762, and there are two new DX zoom lenses, a 45-235mm and a 15-735mm, and a 28-400mm FX lens. OK, all f*cked up, but at least, they are making some noise to show they still have a pulse.

Then, every time I go to the leicarumors.com site, I see something like there’s a new Leica store opening in Ho Chi Minh City, 50 of the shittiest images you ever saw selected for the 2015 Oskar Barnack award, and there is a new M-LU body designed by Lulu Lemon that has a transparent outer case, and only a shutter button and nothing else, with a transparent 35mm Summilux mit der floating elementen for only $23,995, and new titanium soft release shutter buttons with an onyx accent (default case), with diamond, ruby, emerald or sapphire as options.

DIGLLOYD: At NAB (with my press badge on, which I felt was fair warning), Canon tried to tell me that the DSLR market was doing great, with a lot of pre-orders for the new 5Ds. My BS meter squacked so loud I almost went deaf (hey, I ask around and know my business). Even what is not said or body language is eminently useful (and in-person or voice communicates a ton more than email). Well, there was a lot of communication in only about 10 minutes, very useful to me.

I asked Canon about an EVF option and got clawed. Miller’s Law repudiated. Later, when I got home, I discussed the matter with my cat, and she gave it 5 purrs.

I wrote about the value proposition with Leica and it’s only gotten worse now; it asymptotically approaches zero.

Chris L writes:

My compliments to your correspondent, it's exactly the creeping impression I get every time I look at those CanoNikoLeiOlympiSonyca-rumors sites.

The other day I was asked to evaluate two reproductions, by two different photographers, of the same archaeological object; one shot taken with a Canon 5D Mark III, the other with a Phase One MF camera. The catch: I was expected, based on my evaluation, to recommend a new Canon 5DS in replacement of the Mk III, to match the pixel count of the Phase One MF.

But the images could have been produced with iPhones for what mattered. All the difference was in the lighting: the one taken with the Canon was utterly flat, whereas the Phase One shot lighting was carefully modelled, almost sculpted in 3D. It was just the photographer, not the camera, or the lens. (And just to be clear, I am in no way camera-agnostic, but here the camera-lens-combo didn't even begin to matter, going against the photographer's grain.)

DIGLLOYD: even iPhone 6 images can look great with the right conditions and within reproduction limits. But of course many other practical and usage factors come to bear. Obviously, NAB and the gear shown there exist for strong reasons, for still and video.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L in stock

See my review of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM.

At about $2999 the Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM is unusually priced. But it is also unusually good in delivering high quality across its focal length range as well as sharpness near and far.

Highly recommended for all Canon shooters needing anything in that range.

Nikon D750

Save $300 or save $900 with lens.

Whirlwind NAB

I’m off to NAB in Las Vegas for a whirlwind tour.

Update: I hadn’t realized the sheer enormity of the show in cavernous halls stuffed with gear including ultra high end gear that probably cannot be seen in any place together except at NAB. This is not a show with iPhone cases and so on! You’ll get a very long hike trying to see it all and a full four days is what I’d recommend to see the show properly.

I had my own agenda at NAB so this is not a report, but here are some impressions.

If for example all you want to do is see a topic of interest, say the latest in lighting technology, or video booms from small to huge, or video storage and processing for satellite dishes and so on, the depth and breadth of the product lines was stunning.

Canon had an enormous booth with video, DSLRs and so on, printers and more, and a 2nd Canon booth I did not have a chance to visit. I liked their metallic whatever ist was paper they were showing, and the floor padding was really nice on the feet. Nikon had a large booth, but it modest in size by comparison with the Canon booth.

Zeiss had a very nice setup with all their lense lines (including cine). Zeiss is not standing still in any area.

Leica had a visually attractive boutique booth perfectly matching the current M gestalt—stylish but lacking substance.

Sigma was not present at all, and I never did see a Sony booth, but the halls are so cavernous that I might have missed it somehow. I did see Fujifilm banners, but did not visit (I flew into Vega, 6 hours, flew home).

Lots of gear for video processing including storage. OWC was showing their Jupiter system with 10 gigabit NAS or SAN up to 512TB and other storage.

BlackMagic Announces Slew of new Video Products

BlackMagic design announced a slew of new and cool video products.

 

B&H Photo has the new BlackMagic video products available for pre-order including the new 4.6K video offerings.

Making Sharp Images: Updated Bokeh Examples

I’ve updated several bokeh pages in Making Sharp Images as well as a flare example.

Shootout on Nikon D810: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Nikon AF-S 24mm f/1.4G ED

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

For anyone looking for a 24mm autofocus lens for Nikon, this is a must-read. In DAP:

Shootout: Sigma 24/1.4 Art vs Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G (Dolls, NikonD810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images up to actual pixels for the DX frame area from f/1.4 through f/13, along with a large crop at those apertures also. Assesses focus shift, color aberrations and overall performance at a reproduction ratio of about 1:11.

       
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art and Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G
Dolls and Rulers
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FOR SALE: Leica, Canon, Nikon Lenses

Selling this gear—not meant as a statement on anything, purely a business decision.

All lenses excellent to perfect glass (no scratches, dings, etc), lightly used, working perfectly, USA market lenses. Some have wear on lens hoods or similar, most pristine. 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.

Nikon

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G

Nikon AF-S 24mm f/1.4G $1325 (sells for $1929 new)

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED $1400 (sells for $1886 new)

Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G $525 (sells for $696 new)

Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G $1250 (sells for $1619 new)

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G $1250 (sells for $1599 new)

Nikon AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8G IF ED $660 (sells for $879 new)

Canon

Canon 50mm f/1.2L $1099 (sells for $1449 new)

Canon 85mm f/1.2L II $1575 (sells for $1999 new)

Canon 135mm f.2L $700 (sells for $999 new)

Leica

Leica 50/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH

28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH $3250 firm (sells for $4045 new).

35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE (2010 version) $3600 (sells for $4900 new).

50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH $8950 firm (sells for $10745 new).

50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH $3050 firm (sells for $3745 new).

Canon Lens Prices Drop from $100 to $800

Canon lens prices drop by $100 on many lenses, but up to $800 on the big boys. B&H includes 2% rewards and expedited free shipping.

A few lenses I like a lot:

 

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic: Works for My Ears

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports
In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White) about $29 with $31 instant savings

I wrote about ordering these for a specific reason: when I talk on the phone it crooks my arm too sharply, and this irritates the Ulnar nerve in the arm near the elbow, which is still recovering from nerve damage from an antibiotic I took last November.

Hardly any earbud style headphones fit my ear canals (Apple-supplied ones do not fit at all).

I had been hoping these would work, and YES, these work well for my ears. And that’s no easy thing; most all earbud style headphones are very uncomfortable for me.

These earbuds fit well and are far more comfortable than the stock Apple offering included with the iPhone.

The sound quality is very good as far as phone usage goes, which I evaluated during a one hour conversation with a client; we could both hear and understand each other quite well.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Assessing Focus Shift and Color Correction (Dolls, Sony A7R)

 
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

This series assesses the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon over the f/1.4 - f/16 aperture range.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Assessing Focus Shift and Color Correction (Dolls A7R)

Shot on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R, presented with HD and UltraHD images, including large images up to 24 megapixels, along with crops.

Dolls Posing Patiently
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: 'Green Ranch Shed' and 'Mining Camp Church'

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 is a high performer well worth looking at for the M shooter.

Compact and very nicely built, I enjoyed using it in the field.

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Mining Camp Church (M240)

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Green Ranch Shed (M240)

These aperture series are presented with up to full-resolution (5976) images in order to show just how strong a performer the lens is (very).

The late-day church scene shows strong contrasts as compared with the bluish dusk light of the Mining Camp Bunkhouse series.

Mining Camp Church
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The Green Ranch Shed series offers a much deeper 3D (near to far) look at sharpness as compared to the Green Barn series.

Green Ranch Shed
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Click to view blog entry for each image below.

 
 
Other series for the Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M: Bokeh for Defocused Point Sources

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Bokeh for Defocused Background Point Sources

Bokeh is also shown for the full aperture series from ƒ/2.4 - f/16 using two aperture series, one strongly defocused and one moderately defocused. See also the Veiling Flare discussion which also can be studied for bokeh behavior.

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M uses an 11-blade aperture. How does it behave across the aperture series?

This study might be interesting in its own right even for readers with no particular interest in the Leica 75/2.4 Summarit-M.

Bokeh at f/4
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June 22nd Photo Tour in Yosemite High Country

See the photo tours page for general info.

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

This tour will cover Yosemite high country and nearby areas, the best and favorite places I’ve found, at a stunningly beautiful time of year. These are personalized tours intended to cater specifically to participant interests (limited to three participants). We shoot in peace and quiet, and enjoy the best of the area. And while I have a specific itinerary in mind, our schedule is flexible, so lucky weather conditions can be utilized as they arise.

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

Contact

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

Contact Lloyd.

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

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Spring Growth, Yosemite
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Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Flooded Tuolumne Meadows
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Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Upper Tenaya Creek
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M: Veiling Flare, and Bokeh

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Veiling Flare + Bokeh, Barn Interior

This series shows a disturbing issue with veiling flare that might warrant a recall of the lens.

The example merely isolates the issue to make it totally obvious; it was previously commented upon and shown in the Mining Camp Bunkhouse and Green Barn series—the issue arises commonly during field use.

Bokeh is also shown for out of focus items from ƒ/2.4, ..., f/8.

Flare for no good reason
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series 'Green Barn'

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 has an “industrial design that offers improved optical performance” over its ƒ/2.5 predecessor, though the details are left unclear and the optical formula is apparently unchanged.

What is left unsaid is that it might be a better lens than its Leica 75mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH sibling.

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Green Barn (M240)

This ƒ 2.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 aperture series is presented with up to full-resolution (5976) images in order to show just how strong a performer the lens is. But it does have one disappointing weakness that was also observed in the Mining Camp Bunkhouse series.

Discussion includes sharpness, flare and distortion.

Green Barn
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Table of f-stops: Full Stops, 1/2 Stops, 1/3 Stops (Depth of Field)

Sometimes I need to refer to these scales for certain reasons. Also, cameras round f-stops and exposure values, and this leads to inconsistent exposure values with some cameras.

For example, when a camera displays ƒ/5.6, is it ƒ/5.6 or ƒ/5.657 (the actual one-stop difference from ƒ/4)? And is ƒ/1.2 actually ƒ/1.19 or ƒ/1.122?

Of course, in the latter case of a bright aperture (ƒ/1.2), the T-stop matters a whole lot more. It’s not much of a difference but video shooters doing precision work presumably care.

One also has to wonder whether 1/13 second is twice 1/25 second: is it really 1/13 second, or actually 2/25 second and displayed as 1/13?

I see minor variations all the time with aperture series when there ought to be none, so I suspect that cameras by and large either are doing it wrong (rounding the actual exposure not just rounding for display), or else have errors for aperture or shutter speed, or both.

ƒ = √(2^AV) where AV is the aperture value.

Note that depth of field for any aperture number is relative to the format size.

f-stop scales whole stops, 1/2 stops, 1/3 stops

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Commentary vs Other 35mm f/1.4 Lenses

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

In Guide to Mirrorless in my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA, I offer a thought-provoking commentary on how the FE 35/1.4 should be thought of in the context of a variety of other 35mm f/1.4 lens designs by Leica, Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, Sigma.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Discussion and Alternatives

This should be well worth your reading if the choice is to be made on a 35mm f/1.4; it incorporates my years of working with all these brands in an easy summary form.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek at 11mm, 13mm, 16mm, 24mm

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM at B&H Photo.

This group of four aperture series spans the zoom range with similar subject matter in order to paint a comprehensive picture of the remarkably consistent imaging quality of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

Aperture Series @ 11mm: Pescadero Creek Downstream (Canon 5DM3)

Aperture Series @ 13mm: Pescadero Creek Upstream (Canon 5DM3)

Aperture Series @ 16mm: Pescadero Creek Downstream (Canon 5DM3)

Aperture Series @ 24mm: Pescadero Creek Pool (Canon 5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images with various sizes including full resolution 5760-pixel wide images. One can thus see performance in its entirety at any of the apertures.

I’m impressed—I deem the Canon 11-24mm f/4L the best wide angle zoom that Canon has yet produced. And I love having that extra 11-16mm zoom range (as compared to the 16-35 or 17-35 lenses). Having the 11-24/4L plus 24-70/2.8L II covers a lot of range.

If I had to hazard a guess, the 11-24mm f/4L was expressly designed to hold up well on the new 50-megapixel Canon 5D S (though virtually all lenses will show some weaknesses at 50 megapixels). At about $2999 it’s hardly inexpensive, but given the unprecedented range and image quality, it’s a winner.

Pescadero Creek, 11mm
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Pescadero Creek, 13mm
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Pescadero Creek, 16mm
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Pescadero Creek, 24mm
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Adobe’s Plans for Photoshop and Lightroom for OS X

Jeff Tranberry of Adobe details the plans for which versions of OS X will be required for the next versions of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom.

In order to leverage the latest operating system features and technologies, the next major release of Photoshop CC will require Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) or above.

The next major release of Lightroom currently plans to support OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) and above.

Roy P writes:

Very nice coverage of this lens, and terrific portraits. You’re lucky to have a cooperative model. I used up all my goodwill on that front with my kids a long time ago!

There are three other E-mount FE lenses that while perhaps not quite in the “lens shall wag the camera” class as the new Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon, are nevertheless, easily in the “mirrorless shall wag the DSLR” category, IMHO. These provide enough catalysts to switch to mirrorless for a lot of photographers, I think.

These are the Zeiss 55/1.8 Sonnar, the Zeiss 16-35 Vario Tessar and the Sony 70-200 f/4 G lens. These easily hold their own against the Nikon equivalents on a D810.

Even the Zeiss 24-70 f/4 is not bad. It’s not a great lens, but a pretty good lens. At f/5.6 on an A7R, I think it holds its own pretty well against the aging Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 at f/5.6 on a D810. And it is so much lighter and easier to handle.

I haven’t tested the Sony 90/2.8 macro, but it’s probably not too shabby vs. the Nikon 100/2.8.

While Nikon’s total universe of lenses is far more extensive, the universe of really standout lenses is much smaller, and I suspect the same is true for Canon. When you filter out the mediocre legacy lenses and start comparing the group of “very good” and better lenses, the Sony E-mount starts looking pretty decent!

The long focal length primes and zooms for pro sports and wildlife photography is the one area where Nikon/Canon still reign supreme. But even that is likely changing...

DIGLLOYD: my comments should not be construed to mean that the other lenses are bad; they are quite good and I’d recommend the ones that Roy mentions (excepting the 70-200, which I have not tested and so no opinion there). Particularly the 55/1.8.

Rather my statement on the Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is just as I wrote: “a lens that is so appealing that the camera body becomes an accessory”. Just because I say I prefer chocolate ice cream does not mean that strawberry and vanilla are no good.

After 8 years working with just about every system and lens and at least 10,000 hours of doing so (the magic “10,000” hour rule—apply it to any area of expertise), I do feel that I have a sense of which lenses make it to another level, the cut above. Examples (not a complete list) include the Zeiss Otus line, the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 APD, the Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, and now, the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

This one the focus is just off a few millimeters, but it’s the total rendering style that is so appealing.

Poise
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5-way Shootout at 24mm: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 24-70/2.8L II, 11-24/4L

Get the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art or Canon 11-24mm at B&H Photo.

Three primes, two zooms, all 24mm. In DAP:

Shootout: Sigma 24/1.4 Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 24-70/2.8L II, 11-12/4L (Pescadero Creek, Canon 5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

This comparison complements the close-range 4-way shootout.

Also, click each lens for its own review.

     
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon 24/1.4L II, Canon 24/2.8 IS, Canon 24-70/2.8L II, Canon 11-24/4L
(not necessarily to scale)
Pescadero Creek Green and Blue
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Canon 24mm f/1.4L II: Field Curvature (Metreon)

 
Canon 24mm f/1.4L II

Get Canon 24mm at B&H Photo.

I went back and redid an older take on the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, in part to confirm my findings in the recent comparisons against the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.

In DAP:

Canon 24mm f/1.4L II: Field curvature and Aberrations (Night-time)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images .

Commentary on the behavior should prove quite useful if you’re shooting this lens, but also of general interest in understanding field curvature behavior—a poster child case. Also, the demonstration of aberrations is revealing.

Metreon area, San Francisco
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: 'Water Wears Its Way' Aperture Series (Nikon D810)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this scene on the 36-megapixel Nikon D810 offers a closer range look to follow up the Glistening Rocks and Running Water series. The rich dark tones are very enjoyable. Discussion is mainly around the contrast and image quality overall, the visual impact.

Water Wears Its Way (Nikon D810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Water Wears Its Way
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Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD: Focusing Problems and Lens Skew

Get Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens or Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G at B&H Photo

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

I spent another several hours reshooting some very nice material with vibration control (VC) disabled. I had some high quality material (or so I thought) to compare with the Nikon 14-24.

But the Tamron has delivered focus problems: even though 10X Live View showed crisp focus, the lens somehow delivered focus badly off even as the Nikon 14-24mm remained spot-on (focus shift aside) doing the same darn thing. Multiple instances of errors, not a one-off issue. It’s as if the Tamron lens glitches somehow, and destroys focus. Immensely frustrating. At this point, I’d advise caution on the Tamron, though that’s a weak point: it could just be a bad sample and it looks to have strong optical potential.

At least three scenes show a severe left/right skew in the plane of focus in the 20mm to 24mm range. Maybe it has a loose lens element or some such thing that accounts for both issues.

And so my review of the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD must be delayed: I’ve requested a replacement sample and that should arrive in mid April (B&H is closed for Passover). No point in testing a bad sample.

As an aside, the Tamron 15-35mm f/2.8 is very much NOT parfocal; the slightest change in zoom throws the focus substantially off.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: 'Glistening Rocks and Running Water' Aperture Series (Nikon D810)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, this scene on the 36-megapixel Nikon D810 offers superb insight into sharpness and contrast, bokeh, correction for aberrations and color aberrations. Large crops with discussion paint a very pretty picture.

Glistening Rocks and Running Water Aperture Series (Nikon D810)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Glistening Rocks, Running Water
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Choosing Image Resolution and Scaling, Series and A/B Comparison for Images at diglloyd.com

The how-to page for controlling image resolution, scaling, compare mode is updated.

This mainly applies to publication pages to subscribers.

HOW TO: diglloyd.com controls for scaling and comparing images

Processing Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II Hi-Res RAW with Adobe Camera Raw

Get Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II mirrorless camera at B&H Photo.

Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II

 

I previously reported on the 64-megapixel hi-res mode of the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II in terms of resolution and noise, following those up with examples.

This instructional piece discusses the process I developed to process the 64MP raw files into finished images.

Processing Steps for Olympus EM5 Mark II 64MP Hi-Res RAW with Adobe Camera Raw

The step-by-step discussion shows a suggested conversion route with downsamping and sharpening to produce high quality finished 38.8 megapixel images all but free of digital artifacts—not bad considering that the EM5 Mark II sensor resolution is a modest 16 megapixels.

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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for NIKON

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

I just received the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art in Nikon F-mount and I will be working with it on the D810 vs various other lenses, including the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G (I don’t expect much of contest there, but that’s the point—prove it out).

I’m rather overloaded (new gear tends to show up in piles, then go dry for a while!). I have some work with the Sigma 24/1.4 on Canon to present, more on the Canon 11-24mm f/4L, and I have to reshoot the Tamron 15-35mm. And there’s still more Leica 75mm f/2.4 and Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II work, but the interest level on those two items might not warrant further effort—unsure.

Basically, I have loads of material and what I prioritize is driven in large part (but not entirely) by subscription metrics—the only viable and rational way it can work for one guy trying to support a family. 7 X 12 or so. Subscribing to the “everything deal” is very helpful.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art optical design

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series 'Mining Supplies Wagon' (M240)

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 offers a high performance design with very pleasing bokeh at a modest price (speaking in relative terms for Leica M). It offers a compelling alternative to the Leica 75mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH.

This scene is at closer range than the Mining Camp Bunkhouse series, evaluating lens performance at a medium distance in terms of sharpness, bokeh and color correction.

In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Mining Supplies Wagon (M240)

Series is ƒ/ 2.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 13, 16, is presented in the usual HD and UltraHD sizes.

Mining Supplies Wagon
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Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series 'Mining Camp Bunkhouse' (M240)

Get Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at B&H Photo

 
Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

The Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M at about $2150 has an “industrial design that offers improved optical performance” over its ƒ/2.5 predecessor, though the details are left unclear and the optical formula is apparently unchanged. One might say that the ƒ/2.4 version is a “tweaked” design.

This scene is at distance, and shows that the 75/2.4 can deliver very high quality results, with a twist. In Guide to Leica:

Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-M Aperture Series: Mining Camp Bunkhouse (M240)

This ƒ 2.4, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 13 aperture series is presented in color and black and white along with large crops.

Discussion includes all aspects of lens performance, including and especially flare control.

Mining Camp Bunkhouse
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Tamrac TEK Rolling Office/Computer Case $200 off

I pick out deals that seem particularly good from time to time; here’s one: Tamrac TEK Rolling Office/Computer normally $249 now $49 ($200 off), 24 hours only with free shipping.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD: Image Stabilization Aperture Series on Tripod, Showing Sharpness Damage

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

In DAP:

Image Stabilization on Tripod Destroys Sharpness (Nikon D810, Dark Rocks)

This ƒ 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 13 aperture series runs from 4 seconds to 81 seconds and shows the damage to image sharpness caused by the image stabilization function (“VC”) of the Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD.

See also the Canon 200mm f/2L IS example. Image stabilization needs special attention for tripod shooters and indeed is not always a win, even handheld.

Dark Tones
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Bruce Z writes:

Being a low light, theatre Photographer by trade, I NEVER use a tripod with the I.S. switched on.

I remember when I first started using I.S. lenses, it took me about 3 performances to figure out that it was impeding image sharpness. The sad thing is, the local Canon rep had NO idea what was going on.

Good information for any of us starting out new with I.S. lenses …

DIGLLOYD: know your gear; never assume.

Beware of Image Stabilization on a Tripod

Get Canon 200mm f/2L IS at B&H Photo

Canon 200mm f/2L IS

In DAP I’ve updated an older article with high-res images and larger crops and a 3-way comparison showing the damaging effects of image stabilization on a tripod.

Image Stabilization (IS) on a Tripod (Canon 200mm f/2L IS)

While this comparison is with the Canon 200mm f/2L IS, the issues exist with every brand I’ve tried, including the new Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 wide angle zoom.

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

Get Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens or Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G at B&H Photo

In DAP:

Tamron 15-30mm vs Nikon 14-24/2.8G (Pescadero Creek, Nikon D810)

Overview of Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

This comparison turns out to be one of the very best yet for showing the awful focus shift in the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G.

It also makes a good demonstration of how image stabilization can damage image sharpness. This comparison won’t answer all the optical questions (some reshooting needed), but I deem it more interesting and thought provoking than most comparisons!

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED
Pescadero Creek
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Canon Drastically Cuts C300 Video Prices

The industry is changing presumably, because a $5000 price drop is aggressive.

EOS C300 bodies and kits at about $5000 off with $500 off Canon CN-E Cine lenses.

Iridient Developer Supports Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II 64MB Raw and Canon 5D S Raw

Developer Brian Griffith’s Iridient Developer might suit some as their main converter program, but at the least it is an excellent tool to use for some file types. It has the best sharpening options out there as well.

Iridient Developer 3.0.1 was released today. New camera support includes:

Canon 5DS (R), Nikon D7200, Samsung NX500, Panasonic DMC-TZ71 and Olympus SH-2. Plus the Olympus OMD E-M5 II high resolution mode now supports full 64 megapixel output and the standard resolution ORI format images generated when shooting in high res RAW+JPG mode are supported now as well.

This update also included a number of improvements and refinements to the new v3 noise reduction methods and a few bug fixes as well. Nearest neighbor interpolation has also been added for a slightly sharper preview display, which some feel provides some emphasis to artifacts that can help with fine tuning sharpening and noise reduction parameters, this preview interpolation is also more to what Adobe uses for their on-screen preview rendering. The previous "higher quality", smoother Lanczos5 based interpolation remains available for preview as well.

The Iridient Developer 3.0.1 release can now be downloaded here:
http://iridientdigital.com/products/iridientdeveloper_download.html

and full release notes are here:
http://iridientdigital.com/products/rawdeveloper_history.html

 

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Shipping, and Its Lens Shade

Get Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo, Lens Shade 1.4/35 ZM 2112-813.

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

  
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon,
optional lens shade 2112-813 (black only)

At least one reader has received his ZM 35/1.4 Distagon from B&H Photo.

I consider the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M the finest lens available for the Leica M240 or other M camera. That is partly a statement on its optical performance (it bests every Leica M f/1.4 lens at f/1.4), but also a total metric including sharpness, bokeh, build quality and operational characteristics such as 1/3 stop aperture clicks of superior haptics to any M lens, a size that is perfect for my hands, excellent focus feel and throw.

The Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon can also be used on Sony mirrorless with adapter, though with some loss of performance due to ray angle caused by the sensor cover glass, as shown in the MTF table for the entire range of apertures ; see MTF on Mirrorless Cameras in Guide to Leica, which compares the MTF on Leica M vs mirrorless at f/1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8.

Lens shade and filters

The lens shade 2112-813 for Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is sold separately (as with all Zeiss ZM lenses, see lens shade for Zeiss ZM).

My recommendation is to get the lens shade if for no other reason than protection; it’s not so much for flare, but for protecting the front element in extended field use (true of most all compact Zeiss ZM and Leica M lenses).

Or at least use a filter, because the front element can be scratched in field use (I’m guilty there, though the fine scratch I made did not affect image quality that I could see). The Zeiss 49mm Carl Zeiss T* UV Filter and Zeiss 49mm Carl Zeiss T* Circular Polarizer Filter are my recommended choices there.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

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

I shot the new Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD tonight against the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. I’ll have some comparisons up this week.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Pescadero Creek
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Deal Zone: Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports
In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White) $19.99 ($40 off).

I ordered these for a particular reason: when I talk on the phone it crooks my arm too sharply, and this irritates the nerve in the arm near the elbow, which is still recovering from an insult from an antibiotic last November.

Hardly any earbud style headphones fit my ear canals (Apple-supplied ones do not fit at all).

So I’m hoping these might work and allow phone calls to be less troublesome for nerves.

UPDATE: YES, these work well for my ears. The earbuds fit well and are far more comfortable than the stock Apple offering included with the iPhone

 

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Buckeye Leaves and Peach Blossoms Aperture Series

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, these two lens rendering aperture series are intended to give additional insight into the bokeh (blur style) of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A.

Aperture Series: Buckeye Leaves (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Aperture Series: Peach Blossoms (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

The Nikon-mount version should be out relatively soon, so it will be interesting to see more from this fine lens on a sensor with better noise, color and resolution.

California Buckeye Leaves
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Peach Blossoms
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Shootout at 24mm: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 11-24/4L

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

This 4-way shootout utilizes a subject that allows a good examination of sharpness and contrast (fine wood detail), field curvature, color correction and distortion.

Three primes, one zoom, all 24mm. In DAP:

Shootout: vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8, 11-12/4L (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

See also review of the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II and review of the Canon 24/2.8 IS and review of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

     
Sigma 24/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon 24/1.4L II, Canon 24/2.8 IS, Canon 11-24/4L
(not necessarily to scale)
Bench
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Emerging Features that Are Essential: Make the Camera Work for YOU

Features I think ought to be standard on all higher-end cameras soon, because they extend aspects of the shooting and quality envelope:

  • Sensor stabilization on all DSLRs, APS-C and full frame.
  • Hi-res multishot mode like the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II.
  • True raw histogram with auto-ETTR metering.
  • Ultra high dynamic range (20 bit) in RAW by multiple electronic exposures (no shutter movement). Similar to hi-res multishot mode idea. Could be combined (both). Gimme one big honkin' raw file that has it all.
  • 4-megapixel EVF (current ones are ~2.3 megapixels).
  • Retina-grade rear LCD at camera rear.
  • 15-bit file format for ultra high quality at low base ISO of 64 or 32 or similar.
  • Image transfer (including raw) to any paired iPhone or iPad or Android.
  • Overlay on EVF showing peak contrast graph for manual focus, with auditory feedback so one can in theory focus with eyes closed: cold, warm, warmer, hot, beep, click!

Michael M writes:

Great list, particularly agree with your Retina-level rear LCD (make it tiltable while we’re at it) and connectivity. In high-volume shooting situations like sports and events, clients are looking for almost real-time transfer/publishing for a variety of purposes including social media, while at the same time appreciating the back-end quality of RAW. We can satisfy both file requirements with RAW + JPG to separate cards but the workflow just sucks from that point on. Photographers caught in that squeeze (like yours truly) can’t realisitically develop their own solution like the 4-cellular-modem backpack that NYT photographers are using.

The Canon 1Dx II whenever it arrives better have built-in wi-fi, but if Canon was truly thinking out-the-box they’d also build in cellular capability so our cameras could transmit when out in the wild. Kludgy $600 wi-fi add-ons won’t cut it. Camera makers should partner with Samsung or Apple to integrate the cellular capability, as they've proven time and time again they just don’t understand the connectivity imperative. Hell, if phones get any thinner, a camera maker could conceivably provide a slot/hardware dock to slot the phone into, and it would handle the image display and connectivity while opening up a limitless ecosystem of apps and software enhancements. KickStarter anyone?

DIGLLOYD: as an analogy morphing to reality, the camera industry is still in the days of flip phones. The iPhone has not yet arrived in the real camera world except for the iPhone itself, which is eating the camera industry from the bottom up, like an ice shelf being undermined by warm water. Yet the players in the camera industry doze on.

Nikon and Canon: Catatonic?

Get Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless Digital camera and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

How to make a small fortune? Start with a large one.

How to lose a dominant camera franchise? Offer nothing truly innovative for 5 years while ignoring the mirrorless trend.

Yes, the Nikon D810 is terrific as a DSLR, the current pinnacle, but it offers little real innovation. It can’t even support a proper EVF and why do I want the optical viewfinder at all most of the time? Many shooting situations are far better served with an EVF.

And 50MP from Canon with apparently the same lame 5 year-old dynamic range would be a total yawner if the Canon 5D Mark III weren’t half that resolution.

The point is, both the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS are incremental advances with minimal non-obvious thinking. Kick the can down the road. Well, it ain’t coming back CaNikon, so sober up and take action.

Why can’t Nikon and Canon just for starters make a mirrorless like the Sony A7 series that takes the current DSLR lenses for 100% compatibility. It would be thicker than an A7 due to backfocal distance, but so what if it takes all the current lenses? Lose the optical viewfinder, add a high grade EVF and 4-inch Retina-grade rear LCD and throw it against the wall. It would probably stick pretty well as a transition product, and more importantly, reset market thinking that CaNikon are paralyzed. Why take a loss doing nothing meaningful when at least a market failure is a lose-and-learn?

Heck, I’d love a D810 sensor in a Sony A7 style mirrorless just to shoot Zeiss ZF.2 lenses; the EVF makes manual focus so much more pleasant than the rear LCD or trying to focus through a crude optical viewfinder that is optimized for AF.

Sony A7R

Roy P writes:

Interesting that your column “Nikon and Canon: Catatonic?” should appear exactly at the same time I have been mulling over this very issue. After having just bought a Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, I returned it because Canon announced its new 100-400mm lens. I was getting ready to buy that and pre-order the new 5DS R, but it kept bothering me that both Nikon and Canon have been stodgy companies that have shown very little innovation over the past 5+ years.

The most visible “innovations” from Canon and Nikon have been sensor resolution. After years of languishing at 12 MP, Nikon finally came out with a 36MP camera in the D800/D800E, but it was a Sony sensor. And now, after languishing for three years, Canon is responding with a 50MP sensor.

Great. Leave aside the resolution for a moment. What are the 2-3 big other innovations from either Nikon or Canon?

I have no idea. I would have to think hard to come up with some answers like “Well, maybe better noise at higher ISO”, or “maybe a little better AF accuracy”, or “a little more resolution in the rear LCD”, or “better live view support”.

On the other hand, I can rattle off a bunch of innovations from Sony, without even thinking – mirrorless cameras, ability to intelligently use manual focus lenses, ability to use as universal bodies for a wide range of lenses of any make (except for the acute ray angle issues with M-mount lenses), super high resolution sensors, electronic view finders, sensor stabilization, focus peaking, zebras, far superior live view that lets me zoom into any corner of the frame down to the pixel level, the best 1920 and now, 4K video capabilities in 35mm cameras designed for still photography, compact designs, swivel LCD back that lets me shoot from waist level / knee level / camera held above my head, dual mode (contrast, phase detection) autofocus, compact designs, light weight, WiFi, NFC, GPS, lower prices, … to list a few, not in any particular order

I was getting ready to buy the new Canon 100-400mm lens, along with a Canon 5DS R body. But I worry that except for the 50MP sensor, there’s nothing new in the camera. Its AF speed is only so-so – it has a burst speed of only up to 5 fps.

It is inexcusable that this latest and greatest $3900 Canon DSLR can offer nothing better than 1080 video. Which means if I were shooting still images of wild life on a safari with a 400mm Canon lens and the Canon 5DS R, but then wanted to also shoot a video clip in 4K or at least, 1920, I would need have brought along an entirely different camera, with a different 400mm lens? How ridiculous is that?

Over the past 4-5 years, I got rid of my Leica M9 and M240, and switched to the Sony NEX initially, and then the A7x. Over that time, I also transitioned all my Nikon F-mount manual focus lenses over to my Sony A7x bodies. I can’t remember the last time I used either of my Zeiss Otus or any of my other Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on a Nikon body.

These days, about the ONLY use I have for my Nikon D810 is when I need fast, accurate autofocus and high frame rate. But Sony is quickly catching up in that, too. The Sony A6000 and A77-II both have very fast AF with subject tracking that are already pretty darned good, and I think it’s only a matter of time (perhaps even this year) that Sony will have FF cameras that can give the Canon 1DX and Nikon 4DS a run for their money in action photography.

I’m saying goodbye to Nikon / Canon, and switching over to Sony entirely. Yes, Nikon / Canon have a few lenses that are really outstanding. But Sony isn’t exactly chopped liver. Sony has a pretty decent portfolio of its own lenses, plus a lot of very nice Zeiss lenses. In addition, I think third parties like Sigma and Tamron are increasingly supporting Sony.

For anyone who plans to build a system, I think Sony provides a fundamentally superior platform and technology roadmap. This is not just a matter of a few products or features at a given point in time – this is something that runs much deeper. As a company, Sony is far more aggressive, innovative, willing to experiment, ready to take a risk, and willing to invest. I can’t imagine Nikon / Canon having had the intestinal fortitude to come out with a camera like the A7. Nikon and Canon are culturally not there. That will be the hardest thing for them to overcome, and I don’t think they will.

By playing its cards right and staying aggressive, Sony could run away with it. I’ve had enough of Nikon / Canon. I’m already waist deep in Sony anyway, and I’m transitioning over to Sony 100% (except for my Leica S).

DIGLLOYD: These are existentially concerning sentiments (and actions) for Canon and Nikon.

And this is from the high end. With the low end (iPhone 6) undermining the ice sheet with warm water from below, the Sony onslaught from the land of the rising sun beats down from above. Paralysis will give way to panic will give way to collapse unless Canon and Nikon show some leadership.

I like the Nikon D810 a lot, and it serves a very fine place. But boy is it fun and easy under many circumstances to shoot an Olympus E-M5 Mark II or a Sony A7 II or Sony RX1R. Nikon and Canon have zero to offer in that category of experience.

Reader Comments: Sony File Format

Get the Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless Digital camera at B&H Photo.

Sony A7R

Dan B writes:

I'm subscribed to and enjoyed your publications for a few years.

My question is: do you have any inkling of the relative effect of Sony's fake 14-bit lossy compressed raw files would have on a probable future 50mp camera? More specifically, would the effect be greater than currently seen with the 24mp and 36mp a7MII and a7r cameras, given the higher pixel density of a 50mp camera?

I had hoped that given the complaints Sony has received about that issue that they would have issued the A7 Mark II with w/o that issue. But no such luck. I would suppose therefore that the rumored forthcoming A7R II camera will have the same issue. Also, I am wondering that, not only will Sony never fix this issue, but with their new 50mp they will compress the files EVEN MORE! After all, their cameras are selling fairly well so their marketing folks may say 'why change'?

While this issue affects perhaps only up to 5 to 10% of my photos (obvious to a picky person like me) it does stick in my craw and makes me think of going back to a D810. I'd prefer not to go back to the D810 because I like autofocus Zeiss lenses (like the FE 55mm 1.8, with more good ones to come, perhaps sometime in the next year) more than what's available for Nikon and I like the somewhat smaller footprint of the mirrorless camera outfits and I LOVE not having to fine-tune the AF for each SLR lens!.

I'm not interested in Otus (expense, huge, and manual focus only), and the only lenses for the D810 that interest me are the new 24mm Sigma, the 35mm Sigma (which I had before), and perhaps the new Nikon 300mm F/4 diffractive optics version. But if Sony is not going to ditch their compromised files I just may do the switch. I'd spend the money for a Pentax 645Z if (a) they had better lenses near the 35mm effective focal length and (b) the camera had EFC, so that's out as well.

It really makes me angry that Sony Imaging has done such as stupid thing as to hobble the image quality of their cameras, at this late stage. Could it be some kind of bizarre non-competition agreement with Nikon and Pentax - you use our chips and we'll cripple our raw files so that we won't gain too much market share.

Well, probably not, but really, if Nikon and Pentax can pump out real 14-bit files with non-lossy compression using Sony chips there doesn't seem a rational reason for Sony's approach. Perhaps it's the buy-every-next-generation-of-our-cameras-to-help-our-bottom-line type of thing and we might provide a real high class raw file one of these years.

DIGLLOYD: Sony could make the whole file format concern go away by offering a 14-bit lossless compressed mode like Nikon has long done. But that begs another question: would it matter? Because from what I see, the Sony raw files are already cooked, with a lot of preprocessing going on—a half baked pizza, so to speak. What I’d really like to see is a high quality uncooked 15-bit raw file format that is lossless-compressed (variable file compression rates would mean varying raw file size, more detail = bigger file).

As for the Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression used by Sony cameras, it is less and less important with more noise. So the higher the per-pixel noise, the less it matters (higher ISO for example). Thus if a 50MP camera has noisier pixels (per pixel), then the lossy format would have less impact, not more. I would expect Sony to offer the same algorithm run on more pixels, so the files would be larger on a 50MP camera by the ratio of 50/36, just as the 36MP A7R files are larger by a 36/24 factor vs the 24MP A7 II format.

I see the Sony file format as one aspect of the Sony mindset; terrific parts, but it’s not a camera; it’s an electronic gadget—this is reflected in various design choices. And therefore I don’t hold out much hope for a change in the file format. But I do hope to be mistaken.

But the more pressing issue by far is eliminating the Sony A7R shutter vibration (“shutter shock”) issue in the Sony A7R, since under some conditions, the vibration cuts 36MP down to 24MP or even 18MP (a tiny 2 micron movement suffices to turn 36MP into 24MP). The shutter vibration ruined a lot of my work, and with telephotos, it’s a multi-pixel bang-bang nightmare. An EFC shutter is mandatory for a high-resolution camera of any brand.

So in my view, if Sony offered a zero-vibration electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter) on a 36/50MP A7R II (as with the Sony A7 II), along with a 14-bit lossless-compressed file format and sensor stabilization, the camera would be compelling. Even if the crapware Play Memories menu remains there like a brain-fart in the menu system.

Finally, I’d like to see the camera made slightly larger because the total size just drives down the size of all the controls, which makes them fiddly, error prone, and hard to work with stiff hands (cold) or gloves and just in general. I vastly prefer Nikon style controls.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Vignetting and Distortion

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

I offer some context and perspective on the distortion and relative illumination (vignetting) characteristics of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Vignetting

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Distortion

 

Relative Illumination (Vignetting) for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Relative Distortion for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Flare Control: Aperture Series 'Extreme Backlighting, Cherry Blossoms'

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

I fought off aggressive mosquitos on a very warm March day to shoot this image. Sort of summer with mosquitos, except that it’s too dry in summer for them to appear.

This scene was shot against the fading dusk sky, and given a massive boost to shadow areas by +100 (maximum) in Adobe Camera Raw in order to open up very dark areas (some contrast added to counteract the inevitable 'flat' look from so doing).

If the lens does not resist flare, attempts to do this would result in poor contrast in these dark areas.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Extreme Backlighting, Cherry Blossoms

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Also of interest is the lens sharpness and contrast given the radical processing, as well as the control of color aberrations. This scene would be serious trouble for many lenses, e.g., massive violet fringing.

Magenta Flower
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Aperture Series 'Magenta Flower' and 'Poppy'

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

This series follows the Bird of Paradise flower shot by adding a “noisy” background to the scene in order to evaluate total bokeh quality across the f/1.4 - ƒ/13 aperture range. In DAP:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Magenta Flower

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Another near range macro series:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: California Poppy

Commentary is on bokeh and color correction. The lens is exceptional. It appears to be the best 24mm f/1.4 lens ever produced for a DSLR.

At about $849, it’s a no-brainer for any Canon or Nikon or Sony A shooter. It’s too bad that it cannot be mounted directly to a Sony A7 series camera, because the size and weight are very acceptable.

Magenta Flower
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California Poppy
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, MTF

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

MTF vs high end

I discuss the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art MTF chart using the Leica 24/1.4 Summilux for comparison.

MTF for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The lens world is advancing, with (from what I see) Sigma and Zeiss leading the charge for ultra high performance.

Canon and Nikon shooters: run, don’t walk and order this lens (about $849 plus 4% rewards at B&H Photo).

 

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art MTF @ f/1.4
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art optical design

Rebates for Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc Expire Soon, Deals at B&H

Most of these offers expire March 28.

Computer stuff and other:

Reviewed: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art just arrived. In the waning daylight I shot a number of things. I immediately noticed the exceptional bokeh, superior color correction and very close focus range. After years of shooting so much gear, I know a winner when I see one.

In DAP is the first look at the new Sigma 24/1.4:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bird of Paradise Flower

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Canon and Nikon shooters: run, don’t walk and order this lens (about $849 plus 4% rewards at B&H Photo). The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Bird of Paradise Bokeh
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode EXAMPLES

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). This delivers higher resolution, but also higher image quality, processed appropriately.

These examples were carefully evaluated and are presented after processing to a 32-megapixel size (twice the native sensor megapixels). The results should be intriguing for any Micro Four Thirds shooter.

Examples with Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode (Historical Items)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops.

Mechanical ingenuity
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A portrait with a view
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard-res, NOISE Compared

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). This delivers higher resolution, but also raises the question of lower noise.

This scene makes a superb example of how hi-res mode can improve the noise behavior, even using an ideal ETTR (expose to the right) exposure (see also the ETTR area in DAP). The standard-res image is compared to the high-res image at standard resolution; the results are remarkable. In Guide to Mirrorless:

Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard Resolution, NOISE (Mining Artifacts)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with many pairs of large crops.

Here’s a small crop comparing the two modes. The article shows several very large crops including blurred and sharp areas, high key and low key areas, as well as the entire frame images.

Noise — Hi-Res vs Standard-Res

Digital cameras have suffered from a lack of imagination in their approach to features for some years now; this example shows how a smart company can add significant value right in the camera simply by asking “what if”—and then acting. Kudos to Olympus for extending the shooting envelope.

What if this technology (which requires sensor stabilization) were put to use in 50 megapixel full-frame cameras? Canon and Nikon seem asleep on the job, but perhaps Sony will up the ante with a 50-megapixel stabilized A9 or whatever.

Mining Artifacts
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