diglloyd

60 day blog index

Opening for June 1/2/3 Photo Tour

Yosemite or White Mountains. Details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIGLLOYD: more coming.

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

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
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In general

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

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

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

Sebastian B writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henning K writes:

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

DIGLLOYD: See above by Sebastian B.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

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

Portraits with Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

Portraits with Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Images presented in various sizes up to 24 megapixels.

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

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

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

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

The Sony A7R meets two new optics tomorrow. :)

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

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defunct Ranch Buildings at Sunset
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Fred S writes:

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

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

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

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

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

This series confirms and complements the Rusty Barn series.

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

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

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

 
Green Lichen on North Side of Barn
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Hiep P writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M APSH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MTF

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

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

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

Specifications

Technical Data for Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
Focal length: 28mm
Aperture scale: f/1.4 - f/16
Number of elements/groups: 10 elements in 7 groups
floating group, one aspherical, 7 with anomalous partial dispersion
Focusing range: 700 cm
Angular field, diagonal / horizontal / vertical 75° / 65° / 46°
Coverage at close range: 526 mm x 789 mm (M8: 395 mm x 592 mm)
Image ratio at close range:            1:21.9
Filter thread: 49mm
Weight, nominal: 440g
Dimensions: length approx. 81 mm, diameter approx 61mm
Includes: TBD
Price: about $5500
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Leica S with the 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH @ 30mm: Aperture Series 'Pescadero Creek, Downstream'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
Corrupted Images from Nikon D810

Salim M writes:

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Corrupted Image preview looks fine in the Finder

Maynard S writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Salim M replies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colin H writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Richard S writes:

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

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

Jef M writes:

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

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

Raul J writes:

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

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

Roy P writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DIGLLOYD: Good perspective!

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

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

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

 

MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From my discussion of the Central Coast Double Century

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

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

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

3DBikeFit.com

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

 
Sony FE 28mm f/2

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

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

In Guide to Mirrorless:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M and Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
Grass and Green Moss
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Max Your Mac Pro at OWC
Review of 2013 Mac Pro

Reader Experience and Concerns: Sony Service and Reliability

Paul I writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salim M writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roderick W writes:

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

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

Ken C writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Cicala of LensRentals.com writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milton M writes:

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

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

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

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

Jorge Torralba writes:

We must be thinking in parallel.

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

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

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

Our trusted photo rental store

$200 off the True 4K LG 31MU97

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The question is answered unequivocally.

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

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

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

 
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact

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

Contact Lloyd.

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

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

FastRawViewer Updated to version 1.1.1

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

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

Alex Tutubalin writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click for larger image.

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

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

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

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

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

Interior of Huge Barn
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

20TB for Photography or Video Storage

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

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

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

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

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Leica M Monochrom at B&H Photo.

I feel spot on my Apple Core Rot position.

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

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

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

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

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikon 300mm f/4E PF ED VR

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

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

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

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

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

Looped Oil Pipes
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Perspective, Telephoto Compression

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

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

Reader Sohail K writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Telephoto compression is a function of camera to subject distance
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Max Your Mac Pro at OWC
Review of 2013 Mac Pro

Site Overhaul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications

Nominal except as noted.

Specifications for Nikon AF-S 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
Focal length: 300mm
Aperture scale: f/4 - f/32
Diaphragm blades: 9, rounded
Number of elements/groups: 16 elements in 10 groups
Focusing range: 4.6' (1.40 m)
Angular field: 8° 10' DX Picture Angle: 5° 20'
Image ratio at close range:            1;4
Filter thread: 77mm
Weight, nominal: 26.63 oz (755 g)
Weight, as weighed, Nikon F: 752g (lens only), 812g with hood, 841g with hood and caps
Dimensions: Approx. 3.50 x 5.81" (89 x 147.5 mm)
List price: about $1997
Includes 77mm Snap-On Lens Cap
LF-4 Rear Lens Cap
HB-73 Bayonet Lens Hood
CL-M3 Lens Case (Black)
Warranty Limited 1-Year Warranty Limited 4-Year USA Extension Warranty
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR
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Tested: Lexar 128GB 1066X Compact Flash Digital Camera Storage Card

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daryl O writes:

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

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

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

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

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Live view

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

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

Leica M Monochrom Typ 246, rear

Feature overview

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

Description

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monochrom

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

24 MP CMOS Sensor and Maestro Processor

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

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

Optical Viewfinder and Rangefinder

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

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

3.0" LCD Monitor and Sapphire Crystal Cover

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

Body Design

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

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

Other Camera Features

  • Designed to accept all M-mount lenses, Leica R-mount lenses are also compatible through the use of an optional R to M adapter.
  • A download version of Adobe Lightroom is made available after purchase, and is ideally suited to processing of the M Monochrom's DNG RAW image files.
  • An electronic level display can be used to ensure consistently level horizons and plumb verticals.
  • After a JPEG is recorded, in-camera toning effects can be applied to imagery to simulate the look of film-based black and white processes.
  • Language support: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Russian, and Korean.
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SHOOTOUT at 15mm: Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD vs Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G (dual focus, Pescadero Creek Downstream)

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

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

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

Presented with large images and crops as usual.

The Gauntlet Eventually Wears Away
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Leica Discounts Gear by 12%

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

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

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

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

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

On Leica gear through May 31

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

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

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

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

 
Leica 90mm f/2.4 Summarit-M

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

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

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

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

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

 
Lexar 128GB 1066X Compact Flash

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

Lexar Professional 1066X Compact Flash 128GB $139.95

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

Other deals:

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

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

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

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

Aperture Series @ 51mm: Pescadero Creek Pool

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
Grass Clumps in Boulder
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Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Now IN STOCK

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

   
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

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

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

Subscribe to Guide to Mirrorless.

MTF

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

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

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

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

Distortion

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

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

Toggle to compare.

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

Vignetting

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

Toggle to compare.

   
Vignetting for Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar
Graphs courtesy of Carl Zeiss
MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

   
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

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

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

Subscribe to Guide to Mirrorless.

MTF

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

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

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

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

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

Distortion

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

Toggle to compare.

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

Vignetting

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

Toggle to compare.

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

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

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

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.

Image below has been considerably improved from the dulling effects of diffraction by using the technique described in Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur. As resolution increases, this technique is critical; Leica S images go visibly less crisp by f/9.5 due to diffraction, and f/11 on the image is greatly affected.

 
Boulders in Pescadero Creek
__METADATA__

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.

Visit Thunderbolt Central

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

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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 Announces 'Batis' line: Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

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 June, 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.
MacPerformanceGuide.com

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.

But reality intervenes; the S system is massively out of my price range. Still, 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).

Image below has been considerably improved from the dulling effects of diffraction by using the technique described in Mitigating Micro Contrast Losses from Diffraction Blur. As resolution increases, this technique is critical; Leica S images go visibly less crisp by f/9.5 due to diffraction, and f/11 on the image is greatly affected.

 
Boulders in Pescadero Creek
__METADATA__

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

Up to 960GB of Storage!
Review of Accelsior

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

Get Nikon 20mm f/1.8G 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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MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

 
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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.

You can’t make this stuff up! (close enough): Two new Leica special edition cameras for Republic of Korea’s 70th independence anniversary

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.

OWC Video Contest

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.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

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).

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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
OWC Video Contest

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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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 aperture scales when preparing material. And sometimes lenses are just off a little bit (or a lot). 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. Further complicating matters, the distribution of light across the frame can change even in the center even at the same exposure value (EV), so all sorts of differences can accrue to some confusion in total. It’s a regular headache when preparing aperture series for presentation.

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.

This table of f-stops / apertures shows half stop aperture series, 1/3 (third) stop aperture series and whole stop aperture series. Aperture / f-stop rounding is common and especially at wider apertures the rounding is less important than the T-stop. Moreoever it cannot be assumed that the lens diaphragm delivers precisely the value one expected: some lens diaphragms are not perfectly symmetrical and there is the precise diameter as well.

f-stop aperture series: whole stops, 1/2 stops, 1/3 stops
MacPerformanceGuide.com

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.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: the First Lens that 'Makes' the Platform

 
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

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

The Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon showed up late in the day. I decided to check it out on the Sony A7R by shooting portraits using natural light.

Well...

A camera system needs at least one outstanding lens that makes owning that system worthwhile. Or rather, a lens that is so appealing that the camera body becomes an accessory.

Until now, that Sony A7 series platform has been a study in “good enough”. That system mediocrity ends now with the Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. The question is whether lens siblings of similar quality will emerge to complete the nucleus of a complete system that demanding photographers hunger for.

Dang, where is that 50 or 80 megapixel Sony A9 with real 14-bit files?

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Portraits

Shot on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R, presented with HD and UltraHD images including the entire frame up to 24 megapixels (!). The lens deserves it.

Perfection
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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.

OWC Video Contest

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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MacPerformanceGuide.com

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.

Our trusted photo rental store

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.

Up to 32TB of Thunderbolt Storage!
Reviews of Thunderbolt Products

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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MacPerformanceGuide.com

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.

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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.

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Review of Accelsior

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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