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Hy6 Mod 2 Medium Format Camera

What can 80 megapixels deliver?

This afternoon, I’m shooting the Hy6 Mod2 with Eric Hiss of Rolleiflex USA. Coverage to go into DAP.

The Hy6 Mod2 comes highly recommended to me from a trusted NYC pro. It can take a wide variety of digital backs as well as film backs (“Hy” = Hybrid).

  Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2 with Rollei AFD Apogon 80mm f/2.8 HFT PQS  
Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2 with Rollei AFD Apogon 80mm f/2.8 HFT PQS
  Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2  
Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2
  Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2 with lenses  
Rolleiflex Hy6 Mod2 with lenses

Phase One CaptureONE Pro to Fully Utilize All GPUs Available

PhaseOne CaptureOne Pro offers “hardware acceleration”, meaning the GPU(s) and already does a standout job on utilizing hardware resources.

But PhaseOne seems to be leading the charge on GPU support

According to Lionel Kuhlmann, R&D Manager at Phase One, a future (2014) version of Capture One will fully utilize all the installed GPUs in the system, whereas version 7.2.1 of Capture One Pro utilizes only 1 GPU.

More...

Camera Profiles: Converting Raw in Adobe Photoshop ACR or Lightroom for Olympus OM-D E-M1

  Results of one Camera Profile choice in Photoshop ACR or Lightroom
Camera Profile choice in Photoshop ACR

See previous coverage with Sony A7R and Fujifilm X.

In Guide to Mirrorless, see Camera profile choices for Olympus EM1.

Two examples are shown, with HD and UltraHD images for each profile variant.

The variances in color saturation and tonal relationships are a handy way to push the image in the preferred direction right off the bat, without tweaking controls.

  Results of one Camera Profile choice in Photoshop ACR or Lightroom
Results of one Camera Profile choice in Photoshop ACR or Lightroom
  Results of one Camera Profile choice in Photoshop ACR or Lightroom
Results of one Camera Profile choice in Photoshop ACR or Lightroom

Reader Comment: Sony RX1R

James H writes:

First off thanks for all your hard work, your site is my gear bible!

You hit the nail on the head with your RX1R review. It is a superb camera that I would put toe to toe with anything on the market(minus fast action scenarios).

My hit rate with the RX1R is better than with any camera I have ever used! The lens on the RX1R has a wonderful rendering style and a certain bite to it that I like more than any other 35mm lens I have ever used. I've done side by side comparison prints between the A7R and RX1R at approx. 24 X 36 inches and I can hardly tell the difference.

DIGLLOYD: the Sony RX1R with EVF and grip was one of the most enjoyable cameras I shot all year and with a very high hit rate. The Zeiss 35mm f/2 Sonnar on the RX1R is optimized for the sensor, and it delivers outstanding results by ƒ/2.8 (and results at ƒ/2 the envy of most all DSLR lenses).

It seems a pity that with is vibration-free leaf shutter the RX1R has not been updated to include the 36MP sensor seen in the Sony A7R. Or better yet, a supersized version with the Sony 50-megapixel 44 X 33mm sensor.

  Sony RX1R with Really Right Stuff grip and optional EVF
Sony RX1R with Really Right Stuff grip and optional EVF

Camera Profiles: Converting Raw in Adobe Photoshop ACR or Lightroom for Fujifilm X or Sony A7R/A7

There can be substantial differences in color and contrast that result from a difference choice of Camera Profile when converting raw files in ACR or Lightroom. It’s a feature that can be really useful in interpreting an image to your liking.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Both with HD and UltraHD images for the various profiles.

A similar discussion in DAP is based on the Fujifilm X-T1 series above.

  Camera Profile choice in Lightroom
Camera Profile choice in Lightroom

Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2: Aperture Series: California Poppies + Picnic Table + Bench/Grasses (Fujifilm X-T1)

Presented in my review of the Fujifilm Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 are two ƒ/1.2 to ƒ/16 aperture series.

The poppy series gives a good sense of the rendering style and bokeh qualities of the lens at close range.

Aperture series: California Poppies at Dusk (X-T1, 56mm f/1.2)

The picnic table series yields an excellent evaluation of sharpness and control of color aberrations.

Aperture series: Picnic Table (X-T1, 56mm f/1.2)

The bench series shows the remarkable uniformity and sharpness:

Aperture series: Teak Bench, Grasses, Cat (X-T1, 56mm f/1.2)

All include HD and UltraHD images as well as large crops across the aperture series.

  California Poppies at Dusk Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 @ ƒ/1.2
California Poppies at Dusk
Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 @ ƒ/1.2
  Picnic Table at Dusk with Frog Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 @ ƒ/2
Picnic Table at Dusk with Frog
Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 @ ƒ/2
  Teak Banch, Grasses, Cat Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 @ ƒ/5.6
Teak Banch, Grasses, Cat
Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 @ ƒ/5.6

Camera Profiles: Converting Raw in Adobe Photoshop ACR or Lightroom

In the DAP Workflow section, I discuss the radical differences in color and contrast that result from a difference choice of Camera Profile when converting raw files in ACR or Lightroom. It’s a feature that can be really useful in interpreting an image to your liking.

This page has been cross-posted into the Fujifilm X section because it applies to Fujifilm X files, in this case the X-T1.

A similar profile comparison is also published for the Sony A7R / A7.

  One possible rendition of color and contrast
One possible rendition of color and contrast

Big Prints: Does 36 Megapixels Help vs 24 with Leica M Glass?

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

The Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH is the finest lens in the entire line of Leica M lenses. At its best, can it deliver a superior large print when used on the Sony A7R versus its native Leica M 240?

The discussion has a distinct Leica M rangefinder lens viewpoint, taking into account performance issues applying to M rangefinder lenses in particular.

High quality image scaling was used to assess actual print quality at 36-inch and 45-inch print sizes, using the Canon PIXMA Pro 100 (sections of course, given the size).

How much does 36 megapixels matter for prints of that size? In Guide to Leica:

Printing Big: M240 vs Sony A7R with Leica 50/2 APO-Summicron (Mosaic)

Includes scaled matched crops from each camera using the Leica 50/2 APO on both under ideal circumstances. This analysis represents the best possible differentation based on the sensor resolution differences.

Image scaling using Photozoom Pro. Includes a general discussion and perspective.

Related

Note that DAP has two comparisons in a similar vein but comparing formats:

Pentax 645D vs Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Leica S vs Nikon D800E

  Leica M240     Sony A7R     
Leica M Typ 240 and Sony A7R

Diglloyd Photo Tours in June, August, September

See the photo tours page.

I run my tours as you (the client) prefer: general photography, sharpness clinic, whatever you want to learn, see or discuss—it’s your time. Opportunistic shooting for weather and conditions as they arise.

Bistlecone Sentinel at Sunset with View of White Mountain Peak (August 2013) Sony RX1R @ ƒ/ 5.6
Ancient Bristlecone Pine, White Mountains
Nikon D800E + Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM 'Art': Soon I Hope, and for Nikon and Canon

Sigma 50/1.4 DG HSM A at B&H for: Nikon F, Canon EF, Sigma SA, Sony A-mount.

See previous notes as well as the initial discussion in review of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM 'Art'.

I’ll be testing the new Sigma 50/1.4 DG HSM A just as soon as it arrives from B&H.

I’ve requested Nikon and Canon mount versions so that I can evaluate it on both the Nikon D800E and the Canon 5D Mark III.

     
     Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH Aperture Series: Bikes at Night (Sony A7R + Sony A7R)

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

The Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH is an outstanding lens, but sensor design has a lot to do with how rangefinder lenses perform on digital, a situation that might improve in the future.

Aperture Series Leica 50/2 APO: Bikes at Night (Sony A7R)

This particular scene caught my attention for its potential to show a number of optical behaviors—and it does so quite well; it is deceptively simple but quite difficult to render well.

This ƒ/2 - ƒ/8 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as large crops across the aperture series.

Student Transport Sony A7R + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
Student Transport
Sony A7R + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

Consistent Focusing Accuracy Requires a High-Resolution EVF: Leica M vs Sony

Actual pixels from Leica M Typ 240 image  
Actual pixels from Leica M Typ 240 image

Shooting the mosaic with its ultra-fine details with (the same lens), I was struck by just how much better the Sony EVF is than the Leica VF-2 on the M240.

The extra resolution of the 36-megapixel Sony A7R means that at 14X there is more to be seen than with the 24-megapixel M240 at 10X.

But it’s about a lot more than sensor resolution: the Leica VF-2 just looks blurry by comparison to the Sony EVF regardless of what it is displaying, and its contrast is inferior. Which means that the ability to discriminate accurate focus is impaired using the Leica VF-2, in all cases.

The Leica VF-2 is 1.4 megapixels; the Sony built-in EVF is a much crisper 2.4-megapixels. With the M240 + VF-2, grout lines between the tiny tiles all but disappear; with the Sony A7R, grout lines pop into focus when the focus is perfect. Still, it’s fair to say that something around 4 megapixels would be even better.

Moreover, my extensive field work with both cameras tells me that the Leica VF-2 resolution can be a source of errors: it often leads to front-focus errors particularly with slower lenses. It just does not have adequate resolution, so one is forced to use focus peaking, which is a poor solution for optimal focus (close but no cigar).

Leica should support a high-res EVF option, even if the CPU in the M240 can only deliver 10 or 15 frames per second refresh rate. The VF-2 offering feels hugely inferior in comparison to current EVF technology, degrading the M experience.

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH   Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH Aperture Series: Mosaic (M240 + Sony A7R)

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

The Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH is the finest lens in the entire line of Leica M lenses. With esentially perfect performance by ƒ/2.8, almost no field curvature and exceptional color correction, it sets the standard for the M lens line.

Thus it seems fitting to test it on the most demanding test subject of all: a planar subject with extraordinary fine detail, a true stress test that reveals the slightest weakness no matter how fine the lens.

A dyadic approach in Guide to Leica:

Aperture Series Leica 50/2 APO: Mosaic (M240)

Aperture Series Leica 50/2 APO: Mosaic (A7R)

This ƒ/2 - ƒ/16 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as large crops across the aperture series.

This particular 50/2 APO is a replacement directly from Leica Germany received late in 2013. It incorporates improvements that adddress (in part) the flare issues that troubled the “rev A” lens.

Mosaic Leica M240 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH
Mosaic
Leica M240 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

Pentax 645D Images Updated to UltraHD, Large Crops

With the Pentax 645z 50-megapixel medium format camera due in June, I wanted to refresh my memory of how the 40-megapixel 645D performs (I distinctly remember the fabulous sensor, but other details about lens performance had become fuzzy 3 years later).

Accordingly, my review of the Pentax 645D has been updated to redo many images in UltraHD size with vastly larger crops. I did this anticipating that the 645z will be at least as demanding as the 645D in terms of lens performance.

See the DAP chronological index for pages that are now updated.

Pentax 645D + Pentax-D FA 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW
Pentax 645D + Pentax 75mm f/2.8

Pentax 645D + Pentax-D FA 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW (in anticipation of the Pentax 645z)

To my review of the Pentax 645D is added an aperture series with the Pentax-D FA 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW, which is the normal lens for the 645D and the coming 645z.

A digital image requires a high quality sensor and a lens that can deliver.

Aperture Series: Pentax-D FA 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW (Mosaic)

Pentax 645D + Pentax-D FA 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW
Pentax 645D + Pentax-D FA 55mm f/2.8 AL[IF] SDM AW

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 to be Introduced in “near future”

I’ve communicated with Zeiss USA, and the following is now official:

We confirm the Otus 1.4/85 lens and our intention to introduce sometime in the near future.

Details about the specifications, pricing or actual sales data are as yet unofficial.

Shown below is the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon, the best lens ever produced for a DSLR, as shown in the in-depth review in Guide to Zeiss. I would expect an Otus 85/1.4 to be of similar construction.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Pentax 645Z: Does Not Have EFC Shutter (Electronic First Curtain)

An electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter) is needed for vibration-free exposures.

According to Pentax, the Pentax 645Z does not have an electronic first curtain shutter. The 645z does have the the same excellent mirror lockup feature as the 645D, and its shutter is generally well-damped (quite possibly no medium format camera has an EFC shutter). But a focal plane shutter is not and cannot be vibration free.

Like all DSLRs lacking an EFC shutter, longer lenses can be an issue: see Blur from the Shutter at 300mm in the review of the Pentax 645D.

Pentax 645z, rear view
Pentax 645z, rear view

Sony A7R: A Practical Effort to Mitigate Shutter Vibration at 90mm

Sony A7R
Sony A7R

Thinking about the Sony A7R shutter vibration, I wondered about whether applying mass to the problem might help mitigate the Sony A7R shutter vibration issue, a supposition that Joseph Holmes evaluated in detail and found to be true. By F=mA it ought to.

But I wanted to know if something simple using the hot shoe might offer benefits. For example, a relatively heavy flash like a Nikon SB800: inserted it into the hot shoe, would it show any benefit?

A simple solution requiring stuff I already have is appealing. With the hot shoe often not needed for flash use, it’s a convenient place to add mass. And while it’s regrettable to have to even consider such awkward solutions, if one has an A7R and anything of mass that can go into the hot shoe, bowing to reality and looking for mitigation is practical. Because my obstacle to using the A7R for lens evaluations is ruling out or at least minimizing blur from the shutter. Mitigating, not eliminating.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony A7R Shutter Vibration at 90mm with Mass Mitigation (Chart)

The findings here are of practical, actionable value to any Sony A7R shooter.

Also analyzed is whether the vibration remains visible when the 36 megapixel image is downsampled to 24 megapixels (with and without extra mass), noting that the resolution difference between 36 and 24 megapixels is 1.22X: √(36/24). Extracting full detail from a 36MP sensor thus requires that absolutely everything be at its best to capture that modest difference.

Get Carl Zeiss Test Chart for Cinematography Lenses.

Carl Zeiss Test Chart for Cinematography Lenses
Carl Zeiss Test Chart for Cinematography Lenses

Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar for Sony NEX, Fujifilm X (and Sony A7 / A7R)

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar is arriving very soon. It will be added alongside my review of the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 Planar and Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 Distagon.

The Touit lineup is available in Fujifilm X or Sony E-mount (NEX or A7/A7R).

I’ll be testing the Touit 50/2.8 on the Sony A7R in crop mode (it’s an APS-C lens), but also exploring if it covers more of the sensor than APS-C at some distances and whether that is actually useful from an image quality point of view.

The MTF page for the Touit 50/2.8 includes and discusses MTF at infinity focus, 1:5, 1:2 and 1:1 reproduction ratios.

Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar
Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar

Future Sensors: Will they be Friendly to Rangefinder Lenses? (Ray Angle)

Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon
Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon

Neither the Sony A7 nor its A7R sibling are particularly friendly to rangefinder lenses; it’s the ray angle at issue and it causes all sorts of image quality losses, from color shifts to sharpness to white balance.

Moreover, DSLRs have too great a backfocal distance to be useable at all with rangefinder lenses, so mirrorless is the only hope for a wide range of some very fine lenses, Leica M Typ 240 aside, with its out of reach price for most photographers.

So where does that leave outstanding Leica M and Zeiss ZM lenses in the changing landscape which is shifting heavily to mirrorless cameras of all stripes?

Suppose the landscape were to change, e.g., what if sensor technology were to evolve such that a 36 or 50 or 60 megapixel mirrorless camera were to appear with a sensor that by design is far more friendly to ray angle, perhaps even made usable for the worst case lens, the Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon with its demanding 44° chief ray angle?

After all, the Leica M9 and Leica M Typ 240 already do have sensors that are relatively friendly to rangefinder lenses. That further improvements might be in the pipeline is well worth pondering for anyone with a stable of Leica M or Zeiss ZM lenses, e.g., some patience might be worthwhile.

Not so friendly ray angle behavior  (Sony A7R)
Not so friendly ray angle behavior
(Sony A7R)

Sony A7R: Is Shutter Vibration an Issue at 50mm?

The 50mm Leica M primes (with lens adapter) are highly appealing for use on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R for multiple reasons: compact size, ergonomics, ultra high performance, that wonderful high-res Sony EVF for focusing precision and best of all, recording that performance to a 36-megapixel sensor is more rewarding than the 24 megapixels of the Leica M Typ 240.

Sony A7R
Sony A7R

Prompted in part by a few recent reader inquiries and my own interest in the foregoing, I set out to answer a straightforward question: I wanted to know whether in the field it would be possible to mount a world-class 50mm lens and obtain peak-quality images with the A7R. Or whether I would need to be concerned with the A7R shutter vibration. And/or whether the limitations would be acceptable to migitate, somehow.

That Sony A7R sensor is a first rate performer, and at 36 megapixels, any Leica M owner should ask the above, because why not get state of the art image quality at 36 megapixels instead of 24, and with far superior focusing capability (EVF)? In other words, could the Sony A7R be considered a superior platform over the Leica M240 on the basis of a better EVF and notably higher resolution (and at 1/3 the price)?

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony A7R Shutter Vibration at 50mm (Chart)

(This is not a lens test, it is a camera test). Included are thoughts on deciding how to approach the A7R, given the results.

Reader Comment: Sony A7s

Winfried H writes:

What could be the reason, that the Sony A7s has “just” 12MP?

Something to do with the 4K and video optimization?

DIGLLOYD: By using a sensor that is just over 4K video resolution (minimal cropping), the image can be read natively off the sensor with no need for resampling, and the sensor can be optimized for video use knowing that no resampling is needed, and quite possibly optimized in other ways also. A higher-res sensor would require more cropping (self defeating) or more complex resampling (more CPU power needed to do that also) and would pose other optimization and operational challenges.

I don’t know what is state of the art now, but one need only look at the mangled Live View (magnified) of the Nikon D800 to see that the every-3rd-line line-skipping approach makes an awful mess of things (resampling was probably too CPU intensive and still would lead to artifacts). While extracting 4K video out of the 24-megapixel Sony A7 or 36-megapixel Sony A7R presumably is technically feasible (somehow), the issue might be as simple as heat/power and resampling speed (CPU speed).

The 12-megapixel state of the art sensor resolution in the A7s dovetails with 4K resolution demands, but it also extends the brightness (darkness) range for video and stills into previously problematic territory. I see it as part of a natural trend to build cameras that fit into certain usage needs better than jack-of-all-trades solutions.

See also Hits and Misses: Ultra Low Light Photography—Sony A7s vs Nikon Df.

Pentax 645Z 51-Megapixel Medium Format DSLR, 13 Pentax Lenses Now Avail in USA

The medium format Pentax 645Z (about $8498) is a successor to the Pentax 645D. That price is a very aggressive one for a medium format camera.

See the review of the Pentax 645D and lenses in DAP.

With a 51-megapixel CMOS sensor supporting Live View, the 645z is by far the most cost effective way to get into medium format.

The Pentax 645z sensor is a 44 X 33mm sensor (4:3) and is thus not the same sensor as would go into a new Leica S with its 3:2 aspect ratio. However, it does appear to be the same sensor as in the new Hasselblad H5D-50c. Which of course does not mean “same”: electronics and sensor make a package that can vary in various ways.

A slew of 645 lenses is listed on the B&H web site, suggesting that Pentax is aggressively committing to the medium format market (lenses were a sore spot with the 645D). That is good news, but it is extremely unlikely that these lenses will approach the quality of Leica S glass (at 1/2 to 1/6 of the price, this is is expected). Still, the pricing on the 645Z camera body is far lower than that of the Leica S, and so if there are two or three good lenses it might fit the bill for many a landscape shooter looking for more than what the 35mm format can deliver.

On the other hand, 51 megapixels is only marginally more than 36, and so a really good lens like the Zeiss Otus on a 36-megapixel DSLR will perform awfully close to 50 megapixels (or better) than a pretty good lens on 50MP. See the Leica S vs Nikon D800 comparison made some time ago.

I have a request in for a loaner camera and the 25mm f/4 and a few other lenses. If I can get them, I’ll be doing a detailed review of the 645z as soon as they arrive (June looks to be the release date). The lenses I have in mind are the high performers (by my guesstimate): 25mm f/4, the 35mm f/3.5, and the 90mm f/2.8.

Pentax 645z, rear view
Pentax 645z, rear view
Pentax 645z, front view
Pentax 645z, front view

Ricoh USA announcement

Pentax is part of Ricoh as of August, 2013.

Two features regrettably absent: no EVF option and no 4K video.

According to Pentax, there is not an electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter) for vibration free exposures, but the 645z has the same mirror lockup feature and mirror damping feature as with the 645D.

An optical viewfinder on such a camera is a plus, but for critical focusing a high-res EVF would have been ideal for critical focus, which one must have to reliably exploit the sensor resolution.

Achieve Photographic Distinction with the Medium-Format PENTAX 645Z

Ricoh Imaging’s new PENTAX 645Z medium-format DSLR features a 51.4 megapixel CMOS sensor, Full HD video and a responsive shooting experience with three frames-per-second

DENVER, CO, April 14, 2014 – It is not often that a camera can be referred to as a game-changer. One that can provide photographers with the tools that not only enrich their craft but are capable of producing images so distinct they are easily set apart from the competition.  Today, Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation is pleased to announce the game-changing PENTAX 645Z medium-format DSLR, thus altering the landscape of professional photography.

Developed on the multi-award-winning legacy of the PENTAX 645D and the historic PENTAX 645 film cameras, the PENTAX 645Z improves upon one of the most lauded cameras in the company’s 95 year history. Featuring an amazing 51.4 megapixels on a high-performance CMOS image sensor, the PENTAX 645Z assures super-high-resolution images with a stunningly realistic sense of depth combined with vivid colors and rich shadow detail. The resulting images feature a uniquely distinct look and an unmistakable brilliance that clearly differentiate professional photographers to their clients. The thoughtful inclusion of a CMOS image sensor enables live view on a tiltable LCD panel while also making the 645Z the first and only camera in the medium-format category to offer video recording capabilities, resulting in footage that captures amazingly lifelike reproductions with tangible depth and incredible dynamic range.

“Our diverse lineup of DSLRs enables us to offer professional tools like the 645Z at a price point within reach of many photographers,” said Jim Malcolm, Executive Vice President, Ricoh Imaging. “Today’s photographers are looking to differentiate their craft and the 645Z offers the perfect option as an exceptional medium-format camera that does not sacrifice in quality or specification, with affordability.”

The new PENTAX 645Z has also received several significant enhancements including an improved and highly responsive shooting experience that can capture an incredible three frames per second—a significant benefit when compared to other medium-format cameras featuring CMOS sensors and an equivalent resolution—with a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second. The 645Z is equipped with an amazing top ISO of 204,800 for images with exceptional quality, even in situations with very low light or pushing for higher shutter speeds in all lighting conditions, providing the photographer with totally new creative options far beyond the scope of existing medium-format photography. Additionally, the 645Z is compatible with the recently introduced FLU Card, providing  remote operation of the 645Z including the ability to release the shutter, view a live-view, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a wireless connection to a smartphone, tablet, computer or any web browser enabled device.

Widening the 645Z’s already diverse applications for shooting is an articulated LCD with a 3.2-inch LCD monitor with approximately 1,037,000 dots, ensuring even the most agile photographer captures waist-level, high and low-angle images with precision and ease. Finally, the PENTAX 645Z features an incredibly sturdy and dependable body with a magnesium alloy frame and  a diecast aluminum chassis, complemented by 76 weather-seals for a cold-resistant, weather-resistant and dustproof shooting experience.

In conjunction with the launch of the PENTAX 645Z, Ricoh Imaging is also excited to announce the availability of 13FA 645 lenses to support an even wider variety of optics providing the perfect system that spans numerous shooting scenarios.

Pentax 645z, oblique rear view
Pentax 645z, oblique rear view

Pricing and Availability
The PENTAX 645Z will be available for purchase in June 2014 for a category-low retail price of $8,499.95 for the body only.

The newly available FA 645 lenses are available now for the following prices:

SMC-FA 645 75MM F2.8 $839.00
SMC-FA 645 45MM F2.8 $1,319.00
SMCP-FA 645 150mm f/2.8(IF) $1,679.00
SMC PENTAX-FA* 645 300MM F4 ED(IF) $4,799.95
SMC-FA 645 400MM F5.6 EDIF $3,479.00
SMC-FA 645 ZOOM 45-85 F4.5 $2,879.00
SMCP-FA 645 120mm f/4 MACRO $1,679.00
SMCP-FA 645 200MM f/4 (IF) $1,319.00
SMCP-FA 645 80-160/4.5 $2,519.00
SMCP-FA 645 33-55 f/4.5 AL $3,239.00
SMCP-FA 645 ZOOM 150-300MM F/5.6 ED $3,239.00
SMCP-FA 645 35mm f/3.5 $1,919.00
SMCP-FA 645 55-110 f/5.6 $2,039.00

Main Features
Super-high-resolution images made possible by approximately 51.4 effective megapixels — The PENTAX 645Z features a high-performance CMOS image sensor, with an imaging area (43.8mm x 32.8mm) approximately 1.7 times larger than that of a 35mm full-size sensor. By combining this sensor with the PRIME III imaging engine — with its advanced image-processing and noise-reduction capabilities and anti-aliasing filter-less design — the 645Z makes full use of the imaging power and approximately 51.4 effective megapixels to deliver super-high resolution and exceptional depth rendition.

Since the 645Z effectively minimizes annoying noise during high-sensitivity shooting, the photographer can comfortably take pictures even at super-high sensitivities up to ISO 204800. This provides the photographer with totally new creative options beyond the scope of existing medium-format photography.

Responsive and high-speed shooting experience accommodates even the demanding professionals — The 645Z continuously records as many as 10 images in the RAW format (or up to 30 images in the JPEG:L・★★★) at a maximum speed of approximately three images per second. It also offers quick-view function, UHS-1 speed class compatibility for high-speed data storage (in the SDR104 bus speed mode; with a compatible SD memory card), and USB3.0-standard data interface for easy transfer of recorded images to a personal computer. Thanks to its high-speed response, rivaling that of 35mm-format SLRs, the 645Z assures active, flawless shooting in a wide range of applications required by professionals.

Articulated, 3.2-inch LCD display with approximately 1,037,000 dots — In addition to its wide-view design, the 645Z’s 3.2-inch high-resolution LCD display with approximately 1,037,000 dots (in the 3:2 aspect ratio) has a tilt mechanism to adjust the monitor angle, making it easier for the photographer to capture low- and high-angle images. Its front panel is made of tempered glass for extra protection. To optimize visibility during outdoor shooting, the LCD display features a unique air-gapless construction that eliminates the air space between the LCD layers to reduce the reflection and dispersion of the light, with an AR (Anti-Reflection) coating to minimize reflections on the screen.

High-precision AF system — The 645Z incorporates a newly designed SAFOX 11 phase-matching AF module with 27 sensor points (including 25 cross-type sensors). It also detects the light flux of an F2.8 lens to optimize focusing accuracy when using a large-aperture lens. Its wide AF working range of –3EV to +18EV (at ISO 100; at 23oC) to assure pinpoint focus with dimly illuminated subjects, which are difficult to focus on accurately with the naked eye. Thanks to the new CMOS image sensor with high-speed data readout, it even provides a live-view function allowing the photographer to make more minute focus adjustments using the contrast-detection AF mode on the live-view screen, or by magnifying the on-screen image. Full HD movie recording at 1920 x 1080 pixels and 60i frame rate

The 645Z captures beautiful Full HD video clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 60i/30P frame rate) in the H.264 recording format. Its large image sensor is effective in recording shallow-depth videos with an effectively blurred background. In addition to the built-in stereo microphone, it also provides a stereo mic terminal for external microphone connection and an audio level control function. It even provides interval video recording of 4K-resolution images (3840 x 2160 pixels; in Motion JPEG or AVI video format) to add a new dimension in creative imaging.

Solid, dependable body — Both the 645Z’s exterior housing and the LCD monitor frame are made of sturdy yet lightweight magnesium alloy, while the chassis is made of diecast aluminum to optimize kinematic accuracy and thermal stability against excessive heat. The LCD panels — one on the camera’s top panel, another on its back — is covered with tempered-glass plates for extra protection against scratches. The 645Z is also designed for a durable and dependable shooting experience even in harsh outdoor conditions. It’s not only weather-resistant and dustproof with 76 seals applied around the body, but it’s also cold-resistant against temperatures as low as –10°C, while its dependable shutter unit has withstood a punishing operation test of more than 100,000 shutter releases.

High-precision exposure control supported by PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System — The 645Z features the innovative PENTAX Real-Time Scene Analysis System, which consists of an RGB light-metering sensor with approximately 86,000 pixels and a fine-tuned algorithm. This system not only assures much-improved exposure-control accuracy, but also utilizes the data obtained by the light-metering sensor to further enhance autofocusing accuracy and white-balance adjustment. By accurately assessing the type of scene or subject using the light-metering sensor, the 645Z not only selects the exposure settings that are more consistent with the photographer’s creative intentions, but it also makes a clearer distinction between the subject and the background to assure more accurate control of a discharge level in flash photography.

Large, bright optical viewfinder — The 645Z features a trapezoid-shaped glass prism, in place of a conventional pentaprism, to assure compact dimensions. Its optical viewfinder provides a field of view of approximately 98% to facilitate image composition, while the time-proven Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen offers a sharp, clear viewfinder image for easier focusing and reduced eye fatigue, even during extended shooting sessions.

Smartphone-support functions*
By installing the optional FLUCARD FOR PENTAX 16GB O-FC1 memory card in the 645Z, the user can release the 645Z’s shutter, check the live-view image, and browse and download the images recorded on the card using a smartphone.

* This software supports smartphones operating on iOS6 or later and Android 4.2 or later.

DR II to eliminate dust from the image sensor — The 645Z comes equipped with the highly effective DR (Dust Removal) II mechanism to eliminate annoying dust spots on recorded images. By shifting the UV/IR-cut filter placed in front of the image sensor at supersonic speed using a piezoelectric element, this mechanism effectively and efficiently shakes dust off the image sensor. The 645Z also provides the Dust Alert system, which helps the user detect any dust particles clinging to the image sensor prior to shooting. Thanks to these user-friendly features, the photographer is assured of beautiful, spotless images, even when the lenses are changed in dust-prone outdoor settings.

Advanced, professional-grade features

  • When the camera is positioned upside down such as in copying work and bird’s-eye-view photography,  the user can select “Auto Image Rotation mode” that allows the automatic rotation of the image 180 degrees on the camera’s LCD monitor or on a computer screen for easier viewing based on the selected position data.
  • The fine square grid on live-view helps you confirm the subject’s position in the image field during live-view shooting. The user can select grid color from black and white.
  • Lock button disables the camera’s control buttons and dial to prevent the accidental shift of settings.

Other features

  • Dual SD card slots for memory card flexibility (compatible with SDXC, SDXC UHS-1 speed class in SDR104 bus speed mode)
  • Flexible white balance control, with a newly added Multi-Pattern Auto mode
  • 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
  • Attachment of copyright credits on recorded images; detection of image tampering using the accompanying software
  • Automatic compensation of lens distortion, lateral chromatic aberration, brightness level at edges, and diffraction
  • Compatibility with Eye-Fi wireless LAN memory cards
  • Compatibility with USB3.0-standard interface accessories, with HDMI (type D) terminal
  • Digital Camera Utility 5 software included, to provide enhanced image-processing performance and speed using its newly designed engine
  • Compatibility with IMAGE Transmitter 2 software, for easy transfer of recorded images to PC (optional; available soon)
Pentax 645z, top view with 55/2.8
Pentax 645z, top view with 55/2.8

Hits and Misses: Ultra Low Light Photography—Sony A7s vs Nikon Df (and of sleeping gorillas)

It might be a “miss” on price, but the new Sony A7s with its 12-megapixel state-of-the-art sensor poses an interesting contrast to the traditional form factor of the other full frame low-res / low light cameras on the market, the Nikon Df (and D4/D4s).

In Thoughts on Nikon Df back in November, I articulated all the things the Nikon Df lacked or did wrong that precluded it from being a convenient contender for all-around carry. Now along comes the Sony A7s and from what I see it hits the nail on the head, and adds 4K video to boot (which appears to be its primary selling point).

In a nutshell, the Sony A7s offers a much more compact form factor, compatibility with a vast array of lenses of many brands including two high-performance native lenses, a high-res EVF, superior rear LCD, ultra high ISO capability, on-sensor contrast-detect focusing (avoids phase-detect AF errors as with Nikon DSLRs), 4K video.

The A7s will have its issues, but will Nikon and (Canon) see what dinosaur cameras they are building any time soon, or just let Sony be the only innovator and walk away with their business over time? The form factor and EVF factors alone can hardly be underestimated.

Readers know I am unhappy with the shutter vibration of the Sony A7R (it’s why I have not bought one; it undermines viability of all lens tests) and a few other issues, but those are current-offering issues. Over time, flaws usually are removed and with Sony’s aggressive move into professional areas (4K video), some good sense is bound to leach across and improve the lineup.

But with Nikon and Canon, nothing happens: the D800/D800E are now 2+ years old with zero updates that could drive new sales (optional EVF support, fix the mangled Live View, current-tech sensor, time exposure modes, higher-res time lapse). Canon’s DSLR offerings are really 5+ years old now (the 5D Mark III hardly counts vs the 5D Mark II, and both are lower resolution than even the Sony A7). This is the way to abandon a market to a vigorous competitor. Meanwhile, Sony innovates with three new mirrorless full-frame cameras spanning the usage scenarios from low light to high res to 4K to better “hit rate”, etc. The Sony offerings are (mostly) not for sports and the support network is essentially non-existent (for pros), but so what—the action is in the prosumer market.

Merits of an Aperture Ring on the Lens

Today’s example with the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS on the Leica M240 and the prior Olympus 50/1.2 example on the Sony A7R speak to a point that matters to me: it’s all about lenses. It is why lenses like the new Sigma 50/1.4 disappoint in one key way: with no aperture ring, there is no way to control the aperture without an electronic adapter, which might not exist and/or the quality and/or reliability of a suitable lens adapter might not be there for any particular camera + lens combination.

The Sigma decision to omit the aperture ring is probably founded on cost savings, how-it-has-always-been-done, and the mount-swap goal. But the Sigma 50/1.4 DG HSM A and Sigma 35/1.4 DG HSM A1 would be *so* much more attractive if they could be swapped between cameras in the field just by carrying a simple mechanical adapter. Whether for stills or video, a lens without an aperture ring is inherently more limiting.

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon with mechanical aperture ring  
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
with mechanical aperture ring

A decades-old Nikkor or Olympus lens with its manual aperture ring can be fit to just about any mirrorless camera system with a simple mechanical adapter. The Nikon F-mount is the closest thing to a universal mount because it is easily adapted to Leica M, Canon EF, Fujifilm X, Sony E-mount, Micro Four Thirds.

Ditto for the wise choice by Zeiss to continue building aperture rings into even the newest designs for Nikon F-mount, like the fabulous Otus line. It makes an investment in any Zeiss ZF.2 lens a long-term value no matter what camera platform is used. And that will be true a decade or two decades from now.

As Richard Schleuning of Zeiss puts it:

Yes, quite true. At NAB, we were swapping lenses and adapters on all different type of cameras, including the Sony A7S and VG900, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema, Panasonic AF-100 etc.

The ability to control aperture without using a 'smart adapter' definitely has its benefits. For filmmakers, the aperture can also be 'de-clicked' to allow for continuous control - which is a popular retrofit from companies like Duclos lenses.

The long focus throw and hard stops of the Otus is also a consideration.

The beauty of the Zeiss approach is that the manual aperture ring is there when it’s needed or wanted on other systems, yet a Nikon DSLR still exercises 1/3 stop control electronically. Sadly, Nikon has chosen to degrade the versatility of its own lenses, even the high-end ones, moving to the “G” style lenses lacking an aperture ring, unwittingly reducing the value proposition; it has certainly given me pause more than once and kept me from buying: why invest in a lens stuck to one system, especially today.

Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS Aperture Series, DeChambeau Sidelit Barn

Added to my review of the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS in DAP an aperture series that shows just how nice some older designs can be with a little stopping down:

Aperture Series: DeChambeau Sidelit Barn (Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS, Leica M Typ 240)

The Nikon 50/1.2 was previously included as a 3rd lens against two Leica M 50mm optics in Guide to Leica.

The point that keeps getting driven home to me is that it’s all about lenses. This old Nikkor with its manual aperture ring is trivially adapted to just about any camera system with a simple mechanical adapter. It was the M240 here, but could have been Fujifilm X or Sony E-mount, or Micro Four Thirds or Canon EF.

DeChambeau Barn Leica M Typ 240 + Novoflex adapter + Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS @ ƒ/2.8  
DeChambeau Barn
Leica M Typ 240 + Novoflex adapter + Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS @ ƒ/2.8

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM 'Art' (for Canon, Nikon, etc)

     
     Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Pre-order the Sigma 50/1.4 DG HSM 'Art' at B&H Photo:

Note that there is no Sony E-mount for A7/A7R/A7s. The lens is heavy enough that stressing the lens mount could be a problem, but also, the optical design is for a DSLR flange focal distance, which means it would not be any shorter on Sony E-mount.

If the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM performs at a level with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM, then it might turn out to be my 50mm autofocus lens of choice, the manual focus Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon being my #1 normal lens.

I’ll be reporting on the Sigma 50/1.4 A of course.

Emerging lab tests on performance versus the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon are all well and good but such tests yield a circumscribed story, so while I expect the Sigma 50/1.4A to eclipse the Canon and Nikon normal lens offerings, performance over a range of focusing distances and shooting conditions is where a real understanding of performance comes.

Still, with Sigma’s aggressive pricing and the autofocus functionality, the lens has undeniably huge appeal—as one reader wrote today:

Right now, I don’t see any reason to save my hard earned money for the Otus.

If one uses video and photography, then the Otus might be a good choice.

For photography, 1/4th the price, autofocus and similar optical performance..
The choice is made.

Count me out on lab-test evaluations of a lens (extremely misleading in some cases), but there is no denying that price and autofocus will be a deciding factor for many.

No aperture ring

I also wish the Sigma lens had an aperture ring for greater versatility, e.g., on mirrorless cameras with any mechanical adapter, Nikon on Canon, etc, because shooting more than one brand camera can be handy. But unlike Nikon or Canon, Sigma offers a mount conversion service should one switch camera body brands (of no use in the field of course).

The Sigma decision to omit the aperture ring is probably founded on cost savings, how-it-has-always-been-done, and the mount-swap goal (same parts). But the Sigma 50/1.4 and 35/1.4 would be *so* much more attractive if they could be swapped between cameras in the field just by carrying a simple mechanical adapter.

     
     Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A optical construction
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A optical construction

MTF

The MTF chart for ƒ/1.4 shows high central contrast which drops off steadily to the edges and corners. At least at the center, it should perform extremely well, but note that 30 lp/mm (green lines) cannot be compared directly to the 40 lp/mm used in Zeiss and Leica MTF charts, nor is the spectral weighting designated. Moreover, Zeiss charts are measured results from real lenses (not computed idealizations).

The drop-off away from center is likely due to increasing aberrations off-center, but it could also be a field curvature effect. Probably some of both.

Sigma supplies only wide-open MTF, so not much more insight can be gained about what happens with stopping down (much better the performance, whether focus shift anf field curvature ramp up, etc). That absence is odd given the recent Sigma commitment to delivering diffraction-incorporating MTF charts, diffraction being a non-issue at ƒ/1.4 and being most relevant when stopped down to ƒ/4 and beyond. Moreover, Sigma has not made clear whether the chart is a measured MTF of a real production lens, or a computed result from the lens design, e.g. real lenses have production variances.

     
     MTF for Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM
MTF for Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM

Features and specifications

Sigma calls out some appealing qualities:

● Astonishing rendering performance — Utilizing know-how and the latest design technology accumulated through the past developments, it corrects the aberration thoroughly and achieves high resolution and astonishing rendering performance even near the edge of the image.

Achieving both high resolution and beautiful bokeh — While pursuing a high level of resolution on the focused point, bokeh in front and behind the point of focus is carefully maintained to have soft rendering. Aberrations including sagittal coma flare and color distortion that affect the image quality are thoroughly corrected. From open aperture, high-definition rendering without blur is achieved. Moreover, by ensuring vignetting at the minimum and preventing color blur around the front and back of the focus point, it also achieves natural bokeh.

Excellent correction of sagittal coma flare — It is ideal for a wide aperture standard lens to have a high rendering performance from open aperture throughout the entire image. For instance, the molded glass aspherical lens elements provide excellent correction to sagittal coma flare. It is perfect for astronomical photography and shooting of illumination because of the reduced blur on the point light sources near the edge of the image. It also creates an attractive bokeh in portraits and indoor shooting.

Correction of axial chromatic aberration — For axial chromatic aberration that is hard to correct even during the image processing, SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements are incorporated, ensuring high image quality throughout the entire focusing range. The lens achieves sharp and high contrast image rendering.

Minimized distortion — It is not possible to compensate for distortion just by changing the aperture values. Thus, the lens development stage was vital in ensuring minimized distortion. The "SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM" has positioned each glass element to optimize the power layout at respective positions, and succeeded in minimizing distortion.

Rich peripheral brightness — It secures very rich brightness in the peripheral areas, which can be a common problem for a lens with a large diameter. By positioning wide elements in the front group, it has improved the efficiency at large apertures. Since it is capable of minimizing vignetting, very clear depiction across the image is ensured.

Designed to minimize flare and ghosting — Flare and ghosting were thoroughly measured and monitored from the lens development stage to establish an optical design which is resistant to strong incidental light such as backlight. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions.

Minimum focusing distance of 40cm — The lens incorporates a floating system that adjusts the distance between lens groups while focusing, thereby reducing the amount of lens movement required. This achieves a minimum focusing distance of 40cm and maximum magnification ratio of 1:5.6. As there is less variation in aberration at different shooting distances, the lens delivers high rendering performance throughout the entire focusing range.

3. Hyper Sonic Motor ensures High AF Speed — The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures a silent, high-speed AF function. Optimizing AF algorithm, smoother AF is achieved. It also enables full-time manual focusing capability which allows sensible focus adjustment by simply rotating the focus ring.

Incorporating Rounded Diaphragm — The 9 blade-rounded diaphragm creates an attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image.

Specifications

Specifications for Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art series
Focal length: 50mm (nominal)
Aperture scale: f/1.4 - f/16, rounded diaphragm blades
Focusing range: 40cm / 15.7in
Angular field: 46.8°
Image ratio at close range:            1:5.6
Number of elements/groups: 13 elements in 8 groups
Filter thread: 77mm
Weight (nominal): 815g /28.7 oz
Dimensions: 85.4mm x 99.9mm / 3.4in. x 3.9in
List price: $TBD

 

Color Shading (Vignetting by Color) on Digital Sensors

Color Shading on a Digital Sensor shows color shading, the reason for which are explained an extensive discussion in Ray Angle and Digital Sensors.

Why Is an ƒ/1.2 Lens so Dark on Digital?

How can an ƒ/1.2 lens be as dark as T/1.5? This is no simple vignetting behavior, but notably more involved, namely the properties of a digital sensor with respect to ray angle.

I’ve added a new page Loss of Lens Brightness at Fast Apertures on a Digital Sensor to Making Sharp Images. The page shows three scenes using two lenses on two different digital cameras.

“Site is Fantastic”

Gerner W writes:

I have chosen to pay for the bundle, and I just did.

Your site is fantastic and should be any photographers gear & technique Bible :-) The unbiased work you do has big value to me.

Thanks again Lloyd.

DIGLLOYD: I love what I do.

Get the bundle or use the cart.

Color Correction (LOCA, Secondary LOCA, LACA)

Perhaps two or three lenses lenses on the market have perfect color correction, at the cost of a quite slow maximum aperture. One fast ƒ/1.4 lens has strictly controlled color aberrations, soon to be joined by a sibling.

For a very well corrected lens, longitudinal chromatic aberration is often the limiting aberration at full aperture (e.g., Zeiss 100/2 Makro-Planar), and even with “APO” lenses (loosey-goosey term) there is often a lingering bit of that (LOCA), and a great deal of secondary longitudinal chromatic aberration (secondary LOCA). By definition (mine), a well-corrected lens has absolutely minimal lateral chromatic aberration and also strictly controls LOCA and SLOCA, e.g. the class-by-itself Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Making Sharp Images is going to see major additions this year, and I’ve started by adding various new material on color aberrations. Material will be steadily added in the coming months in all areas.

Blurs free of color aberrations Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro
Blurs free of color aberrations
Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

Reader Comment: 14.75MP True-Color Sigma DP Merrill vs 36MP Sony A7R

Sigma DP3 Merrill
Sigma DP3 Merrill

With the current Sigma DP Merrills at bargain prices, it’s not a major investment to find out firsthand whether reader Peter L comments match your own sensibilities:

I own both the Sigma DP2 and DP3 Merrill and couldn’t agree more with the tulip print comments- they are fabulous cameras but you need to understand the terrible software (Sigma Unprofessional Pro) to get the best out of them.

With a good technique (ISO 100, good tripod and 2 sec timer F5.6 or F8) I can churn out pin sharp (even at 1 ft away) 36 by 24 prints @ 360 PPI.

Frustrated by Sigma , software and firmware issues and not the least battery problems a couple of weeks ago I purchased a Sony A7r with the CZ 55 and 35 mm lens. I need not have bothered.

Using the best PC raw converter DxO optics 9 I was able to produce some excellent quality prints far better than the normal FF DSLRs.

However and this is a big however, they were not as good as the Merrills at A2 , 36 by 24 and 40 by 28 @ 360 PPI size. Image quality is not just about sharpening ( for the DP Merrills I use none in camera – 1.00 to –1.6 in SPP ie negative sharpening) but tonal balance, colour separation and a certain 3D look which separates these images from other cameras- DP Merrill owners know what I mean. The Merrill resolves fine detail much better if you watch the sharpening.

I showed the 36 by 24 prints of the DP2/DP3 Merrill (JPEGs and RAW) to a number of people and they all preferred the Merrills.

Of course on a computer screen or on Flickr its hard to see but with a big print on the wall in colour or BW they are astounding.

Each time I go out on a shot with these cameras its exciting and I can hardly wait to get back to see the results ( other Merrill owners know what I mean).I suspect that unless the gap between the Merrills and the Sony comes down , the Sony will become a very expensive paperweight.

I have just subscribed to Diglloyd and am looking forward to learning more –it’s a great website.

DIGLOYD: yes. Six feet wide tulip print on my wall, and it’s a better print than anything I ever got from my 4 X 5 Linhof Technikardan view camera.

See Sigma DP Merrill blog coverage including Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill as well as the in-depth review of the Sigma DP Merrill cameras. I very much look forward to seeing what the new Sigma dp2 Quattro can deliver.

But might the assessment be affected at least somewhat by the Sony A7R shutter vibration? The Sigma DP Merrill cameras use a leaf shutter which has no vibration.

8 sec @ ƒ/10, ISO 100, fill-flash at -1.7 stops compensation Sigma DP2 Merrill
8 sec @ ƒ/10, ISO 100, fill-flash at -1.7 stops compensation
Sigma DP2 Merrill

R writes:

I agree with much of your readers assessment of the SD Merrills; to the point I now own one of each, and two DP3's. The macro capability is something I need.

I have not figured out how to take these Sigmas to a workshop (I'll be in the Palouse in June), however. Typically, after the day is done and we share/comment/critique images, a widely accepted RAW converter is needed. I would be embarrassed to make the conversion with SPP in front of a class! No matter how good the result, they would wonder "What is that crap software doing"?

So I'll take the A7R, AND my Merrills. The Sigma images will be for myself. I hope I can keep the Sony A7r shutter from being a factor.

DIGLLOYD: group psychology is one reason I no longer find group workshops useful for personal photographic growth, but I have taken some in the now distant past and they were valuable to me then in some technical ways, though they threw me off track for years by warping my sense of what and how I should shoot. Workshops can have a socialization and cameradie component—very enjoyable going in understand and wanting that—but not my thing.

Steve P writes:

I own a Nikon D800E, a Sony A7r and a DP2 Merrill and each has its strengths and its weaknesses.

Although I was tempted to simplify and sell the Nikon and possibly the Sony, my wife made a very astute point; if you do not need to sell them, keep them for the specific use that you want.

With the D800E and the Zeiss lenses I bought for it, this is my large landscape road warrior, i.e. when I drive to some location and can carry as much gear as I like.

The Sony is the travel system, it all fits quite nicely in a courier bag with pouches and does not scream 'rich tourist'.

The DP2 Merrill is my dedicated Black and White system. The fabulous IQ and its rendering of color tones make for exquisite black and white images.

DIGLLOYD: well stated.

Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2: Oldy but Goody?

Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.2
Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.2

I’ve collected scattered coverage into a formal review of the Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2, and added a modern evaluation on the Sony A7R, using my copy that I had converted to Nikon F-mount some years ago.

Can a 30+ year old lens design deliver high-speed satisfaction on modern digital?

I like manual focus and manual aperture control on both DSLR and mirrorless. Moreover an ƒ/1.2 lens always has a certain appeal, so how does the Zuiko 50/1.2 deliver over its aperture range?

Of particular interest is the bokeh of such designs, and here the Zuiko 50/1.2 is surely a winner even as it impresses with sharpness too (but expectations for contrast at ƒ/1.2 should not be set too high).

In DAP:

review of the Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2

Click each image to see that aperture series.

Both examples include HD and UltraHD images for the aperture series as well as multiple generously-size crops across the range of apertures.

Poppies Sony A7R + Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2
Poppies
Sony A7R + Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2
Teak Bench, Pots, Grasses Sony A7R + Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2
Teak Bench, Pots, Grasses
Sony A7R + Olympus Zuiko Auto-S 50mm f/1.2

Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro Aperture Series (Metal Watering Can, Sony A7R)

Coastal Optics  60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro
Coastal Optics
60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

In my review of the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro in DAP, I show another example of the tour de force color correction of the Coastal 60/4, the gold standard in correcting lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberration.

Metal Watering Can (Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro)

With HD and UltraHD frames along with many crops.

I know the Coastal 60/4 is not a commonly used lens, but as a reference standard for color correction it provides useful insights into what is possible.

With an aperture ring, the Coastal 60/4 can be used on Nikon natively, or on Canon or mirrorless (with adapter).

Metal Watering Can Sony A7R + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro
Metal Watering Can
Sony A7R + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro Aperture Series (Teak Bench, Sony A7R)

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Coastal Optics
60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

In my review of the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro in DAP, I show the tour de force color correction of the Coastal 60/4, the gold standard in correcting lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberration.

Teak Bench, Pots, Grasses (Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro)

With HD and UltraHD frames along with many crops.

I know the Coastal 60/4 is not a commonly used lens, but as a reference standard for color correction it provides useful insights into what is possible.

With an aperture ring, the Coastal 60/4 can be used on Nikon natively, or on Canon or mirrorless (with adapter).

Teak Bench, Pots, Grasses Sony A7R + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro
Teak Bench, Pots, Grasses
Sony A7R + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro Aperture Series (Poppies and Pots, Sony A7R)

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Coastal Optics
60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

In my review of the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro in DAP, I show a detailed apertures series with crops, using the Sony A7R.

Poppies and Pots (Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro)

With an aperture ring, the Coastal 60/4 can be used on Nikon natively, or on Canon or mirrorless (with adapter).

The same scene with HD and Ultra HD images and one central crop is also shown in the Sony A7R review as an evaluation of interactive quality on the Sony sensor (that page is not a lens review so much as a discussion of performance on the Sony sensor).

California Poppies Sony A7R + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro
California Poppies
Sony A7R + Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro

Sony A7s with 4K Video?

The rumor of a new Sony Alpha A7s full frame camera with 4K video tells me that Sony is moving in the right general direction, meaning cameras targeted at specific goal, even if Sony will almost certainly fail to remove enough cruft in the user interface to really succeed in that regard, in operational excellence terms.

The main concern I have for practical usage is the omission of the Olympus-style 5-axis on-sensor stabilization. Without that, the camera is useless to me for the area that interests me most: cycling videos (I don’t want a GoPro for many reasons). “Swimmy” video that makes me want to vomit is of no interest, whether 2K or 4K (think Sony RX100).

The other feature of huge interest to me would be a 4K timelapse feature that doesn’t wear use the shutter (thus wearing it out quickly and causing vibration).

General comments on purpose-specific trends:

  • Cameras increasingly succeed or fail based on design focus. A camera designed to do one thing well has a better chance at being a winner for the intended primary tasks.
  • A 12-megapixel sensor for non-resampled 4K video is good (the video quality from the Nikon D800E and D4 and Canon 5D Mark III is disappointing at best IMO). Though a double-res and downsampled sensor would be better (avoiding aliasing), that is a few years out.
  • The trend to high resolution sensors is Good. The trend to lower resolution sensors is also Good. However, I am dubious that Sony will execute menus and functionality to make it useful (e.g. little or not thought given to potential uses). For example, the simple ability to dial in a 120 second or 280 second exposure, which the Ricoh GR can do directly, but few other cameras can do without a special remote, or even at all.

Sigma DP Merrills at Closeout Prices

See Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill for an overview as well as all the stuff in this blog on Sigma DP Merrill. The in-depth review of the three Sigma DP Merrill cameras is in Guide to Mirrorless.

Highly recommended for anyone looking for stunning sharpness and artifact-free images. But do read my review first to understand some caveats on operational characteristics.

Sigma DP merrill cameras now have $200 instant rebates at B&H Photo, bringing the price down to $699 for DP1M, $699 for DP2M, and $650 for DP3M. I don’t expect to see the new dp2 Quattro until July, or perhaps June at the earliest.

Other items that should be purchased appropriately:

Note that the Ricoh GR battery is 100% compatible with the DP Merrill battery (same).

  Sigma DP1 Merrill   Sigma DP3 Merrill Sigma DP Merrills
Sigma DP Merrills

Fujifilm X Rebates Expire Very soon

Fujifilm lens and camera rebates expire in 3 days.

The three lenses that I recommend are the 14/2.8, the 35/1.4, and the 56/1.2. The 23/1.4 is likely also very good.

Fujifilm X lens   Fujifilm X lens   Fujifilm X lens
Recommended Fujifilm X lenses

Diglloyd Photo Tours in June, August, September

See the photo tours page.

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

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Secondary Color Correction Comparison (Canon 5D Mark III)

Just how good is the color correction of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon? Also the point spread function in the corners in particular—points or “bird’s wings”?.

In Guide to Zeiss (vs 50/2 Makro-Planar, Canon 50/1.2L, Canon 50/1.4):

Secondary Color Aberrations and Point Spread Function vs 50/2 Makro-Planar + Canon 50/1.2L, 50/1.4 (5D Mark III, Barn Interior)

Barn Interior Canon 5D Mark III + Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Barn Interior
Canon 5D Mark III + Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon   Zeiss ZF.2 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar   Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L   Canon EF 50mm f/1.4
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

The Fig Tree Declares that it is Spring

My fig tree declares that not only is it spring, but there will be good eatin' in about 2.5 months. This is my favorite fig tree whose thin-skinned figs cannot make it to a market, but boy are they tasty.

Assuming one avoids the Sony A7R shutter vibration, the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon is almost too sharp on the Sony A7R sensor. The Otus really needs something in the 70 megapixel range because it doesn’t break a sweat at 36 megapixels. But it’s a lot more than sharpness (as my review shows). Every image is stunning on a technical level; but the duds are so intriguing on the technical side that it makes them harder to throw away!

Figs on April 1st Sony A7R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/2.8 (greatly cropped)
Figs on April 1st
Sony A7R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ ƒ/2.8
(greatly cropped)

Secondary Color Correction with Leica 90/2 APO, Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar, ZM 85/2 Sonnar: Barn Interior (Leica M240)

In Guide to Leica:

Secondary Color Correction (“Purple Fringing”)

This ƒ/2 - ƒ/16 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images with an evaluation of the relative performance of these three lenses for secondary color correction, namely the dreaded “purple fringing”:

  • Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron ASPH
  • Zeiss ZM 85mm f/2 Sonnar
  • Zeiss ZM 85mm f/2 Tele-Tessar

Includes a discussion of the reasons for the effects.

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar   Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar   Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
Leica 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH
Zeiss ZM 85/4 Tele-Tessar
Zeiss ZM 85/2 Sonnar
(not to scale)

This backlit scene is a worst-case scenarior for “purple fringing”.

Olympic Bar Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6
Barn Interior

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Now Supports Electronic First Curtain (EFC) Shutter

Now if only Sony will follow suit with an A7R fix. And ditto for the Leica M Typ 240— to design a high-resolution digital camera which guarantees loss of detail under some circumstances is so self-defeating that one wonders how it gets the green light to market.

dpreview.com reports:

Olympus has updated the firmware for its flagship mirrorless camera, the OM-D E-M1, adding a mode that's designed to eliminate image blurring due to 'shutter shock' by using an electronic first curtain at speeds below 1/320sec.

But dpreview also adds that “for example many of Sony's mirrorless cameras use electronic first curtain by default”, blithely omitting the fact that Sony’s flagship A7R has a damaging issue with shutter vibration. But one cannot be much surprised at that.

The Olympus site lists the firmware for the EM1 as “Version 1.05, July 2012”, but the download results in version 1.0.6 of the software updater (v1.0.6 updater produces version 1.3 firmware on the EM1).

I successfully updated my E-M1 without any difficulty, though I think the software-based updater is unnecessarily tedious—it took me 10 minutes to locate the USB cable that would fit, an issue that does not arise with cameras that update off the camera storage card.

Now if I could only find the Anti-Shock menu; having gone through all settings twice now, I just cannot see it. Surely it is there—I know I’ve used it before—but it escapes me. Where is the “My Menu” feature (as with Canon or Nikon), so that I can adapt the menu system for my own usage? The E-M1 menus are the worst of any camera on the market.

Update: after 10 minutes of tedious searching, found it: buried deep in the custom settings (gears menu, subsection E, Anti-Shock = 0 sec). The “0 sec” setting applies an electronic first curtain shutter at 1/320 or lower for the electronic first curtain (why it is limited is not clear). Which isn’t fast enough if shooting a long lens, but it is far better than no such option.

Non-sequitur on grip

Ergonomics distinguish good designs from bad (as do obtuse menu systems).

The E-M1 grip is by far the best grip on the market among smaller cameras (deep enough for hand comfort and even better than my Nikon D800), the Fujifilm X-T1 grip a design disaster that is painful to my hand, the Sony A7/A7R grip is not deep enough but not bad in context of its small size.

Olympus OM-D E-M1, top view
Olympus OM-D E-M1, top view

Carrying Photo Gear and Necessaries in the Field

I’ve updated my Carrying Gear in the field: a Daypack for Cameras/Lenses + Water/Food/Clothes page. In it, I discuss why a regular photo backpack in the field is not very practical for my usage.

My well-used older model of The North Face Recon (by far my most used pack)
My well-used older model of The North Face Recon
(by far my most used pack)

Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH Aperture Series: Poppies and Pots (Sony A7R)

Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH

With an adapter, the Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH makes a compact ergonomically excellent optic for mirrorless cameras like Sony A7R, with a friendly ray angle for very high performance. The Sony A7R and A7 have very few good lens choices, so one is forced to seek out alternatives, particularly in the wide-angle area*.

In Guide to Leica:

Poppies and Pots (Sony A7R + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH, 18mm)

My interest here was in seeing just how good the Tri-Elmar is when pressed into use on a 36 megapixel sensor, its wide angle siblings being troubled by ray angle issues at the periphery in particular

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/16 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

* Specialty lenses stick to their respective guides.

Poppies and Pots Sony A7R + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH
Poppies and Pots
Sony A7R + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH

A Bit of a Scary Experience with the Sony A7R Firmware Update

I was sure that the brand-new A7R I had just taken out of the box was now toast: I had downloaded the firmware update and followed the directions, only to have it fail half-way through with a disconnect error. The camera would not power on; a red light on the back and that’s it. I thought for sure it was toast.

But after four (4) attempts the firmware update finally succeeded, updating to version 1.0.2. It takes quite a long time for it to update and my guess is that there is some loose screw in the Sony updater than allows it to fail (I was careful not to let the system sleep while the update was in progress as instructed).

Sony A7R
Sony A7R

Michael K writes:

Had a similar experience. Used a MacBook air to do the update... failed half way through, little red light on solid, dead to the world.

Getting ready to send it back to Sony but thought I could give it another try after taking the battery out for a little while..... worked all the way through the second time fortunately. Would not have given it a third shot, let alone a fourth....shutter still vibrates...

James K writes:

I had the same experience. I thought I "was toast" too.

DIGLLOYD: it seems that it is a general issue.

I hugely prefer designs where one copies the firmware to a camera card and the camera does the job. The idea of involving a computer is inherently flawed in terms of reliability for a broad range of users, because it adds many more variables: connection port, cable, operating system and OS behavior.

Moreover, a pro-grade camera ought to have two firmware banks (e.g. Nikon pro DSLRs) so that there is something to fall back on.

Dan M writes:

This article you did on the firmware weirdness has a greater value than might be obvious, even after the letters of thanks stream in to you.

A clear article on a problem like this keeps people from rushing down wrong paths for solutions and possibly making irreversible mistakes they wouldn't have made. Nothing spookier than what appears to be a system failure, camera or computer, with the nasty variables lurking out there unidentified, unpinned. My wife's response is to push buttons until the glitch surrenders.

I laugh at it, but we all suffer a bit of that weakness. And one of the most lethal variations of that scenario is when an update or new program will in fact work, but only after several attempts. What if the reader quit trying after the 2nd or 3rd attempt and then did damage to themselves plodding down another path? It's a huge help to read an account of the problem, with at least a patch solution, before you encounter the problem cold turkey.

DIGLLOYD: Captures my intent better than I could have.

Mark Z writes:

Just for the record, I had no trouble at all with the Sony A7R firmware update on my 17” MacBook Pro, OS X Mavericks.

DIGLLOYD: driving down a steep hill today, the brakes on my car did not fail.

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar Aperture Series: Teak Bench (Sony A7R)

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar

The 310 gram metal-build Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar is a petite M-mount lens suitable for the Leica M Typ 240 or other M cameras. First class build quality, a gem.

With an adapter, it also makes a compact ergonomically excellent optic for mirrorless cameras also like Sony A7R), with a friendly ray angle for very high performance. The Sony A7R and A7 have very few good lens choices, so one is forced to seek out alternatives.

This scene was shot on the Leica M Typ 240 about a week ago. Now the ZM 85/4 rangefinder lens is put to the test on the 36-megapixel Sony A7R (using the Novoflex Leica M to Sony E-mount adapter). In Guide to Leica:

Teak Bench (Sony A7R + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar)

My interest here was in seeing just how good the 85/4 is when pressed harder, and perhaps to see whether it might hold up to a future 50+ megapixel sensor. Accordingly, to forestall shutter vibration issues, the scene was shot at dusk with a polarizer in order to drop shutter speeds to suitably slow levels.

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/16 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

Specialty lens reviews always stick to their respective guides.

Teak Bench and Pots Sony A7R + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6
Teak Bench and Pots
Sony A7R + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH: Field of View, Distortion, MTF

Get Leica M lenses at B&H Photo.

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH

In Guide to Leica added to the review of the Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH are several new and/or revised pages:

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH Aperture Series: Big Tan Water Tank (Leica M240)

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH

Get Leica M lenses at B&H Photo.

This aperture series was shot to explore general imaging characteristics.

In Guide to Leica:

Big Tan Water Tank (Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH)

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/13 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

This series is particularly instructive and strongly recommended to all Leica M shooters using or considering the Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH.

Water Tank Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH @ 16mm, f/8
Water Tank
Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH @ 16mm, f/8

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH: Flare Assessment

Get Leica M lenses at B&H Photo.

Flare examples are presented along with a discussion of the types of flare and peformance relative to the 18/3.8 SEM and 21/3.4 SEM.

In Guide to Leica:

Flare Assessment with Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH (M240)

Sunset and Fencing on the Carrizzo Plain Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH @ 16mm, f/11
Sunset and Fencing on the Carrizzo Plain
Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH @ 16mm, f/11

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH Aperture Series: Cattle Chute at Sunset (Leica M240)

Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH

Get Leica M lenses at B&H Photo.

This aperture series was shot to explore general imaging characteristics.

In Guide to Leica:

Cattle Chute at Sunset (Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm ƒ/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH)

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/11 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

Sharpness, field curvature and optimal aperture are explored here at the 16mm settings.

Cattle Chute at Sunset Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH @ 16mm, f/8
Cattle Chute at Sunset
Leica M240 + Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH @ 16mm, f/8

Sony CMOS 44 X 33mm Medium Format Sensor: Coming to a new Sony Camera?

sensor sizes
Sensor sizes

Back in January in Sony CMOS 44 X 33mm Medium Format Sensor: Oh, the Possibilities, I commented on the new Sony 44 X 33mm 50-megapixel sensor. Now, Sony Alpha Rumors suggests that there might actually be a Sony camera in the works to use that sensor.

What a 44 X 33mm sensor might mean?

Some overarching thoughts on Sony’s strategic position

Sony is very strong technically and could come to dominate, but is very weak in other areas like understanding and supporting professional users.

  • Sony is at the vanguard of innovation in mirrorless. A medium format and relatively compact mirrorless camera would be like a steamship at a time of slack sails on a digital sargasso sea. A super premium offering with no competition in either thought or tangible reality makes a ton of sense for a company looking to extend its leadership in the mirrorless arena (heck , Fujifilm is still stuck on APS-C for at least another year or so it looks).
  • Soporific Nikon and Canon designs are 3 to 5 years stale, with those companies asleep at the helm of their respective DSLR Titanics. Shove a little iceberg in their direction.
  • The Sony RX1/RX1R offerings are strangely lacking in an upgrade: where is the 36MP option, bumped up incremental improvements, etc? So it would make sense to bump up those models along with a medium format premium offering later this year, thus offering a highly attractive model line with a clear camera-lust path.
  • It might be that for all of the above, Sony is waiting for a key new part, such as a 4MP EVF, a faster camera CPU, production yields, etc. Frame rates and processing speed and 4K video are all challenges.

A medium format digital mirrorless seems unlikely before late 2014, but that is plenty of time to upstage rivals.

Technical and cost issues

Given Sony’s wide-ranging parts bin and in-house development of sensor and EVF and CPU and so on, a $7000 price tag for a 44 X 33mm sensor mirrorless camera would be an aggressive price point, using the Sony RX1R as a reference. That would be a bargain compared to the cost of the PhaseOne and Hasselblad systems. The EVF would surely be built in, since the camera would have to be relatively large.

Update April 11: I wrote that $7000 figure above a few weeks before the Pentax 645Z pricing showed up, apparently $8500. I still figure that the $7000 price range is about right, though some readers insist on the admirable fantasy of under $3000.

  • Sony expertise and volume might be able to get the sensor cost down to $1500 or so if yields can be high and dead pixels and similar are allowed at a less rigorous level. Presumably the best sensors go to PhaseOne and Hasselblad (higher quality requirements), those that miss the cut go into Sony cameras. Grade B sensors can cut the cost down quite a bit, but a cost below $1000 seems unlikely unless somehow Sony really can manufacture in very large quantities (10,000 or more units). That’s a lot of cameras; it would be interesting to know how many RX1R cameras were sold.
  • A camera price of $5000 is unrealistically low unless Sony decides it is a loss leader for brand image. Even $7500 is aggressive given sensor and lens costs, at least if imaging quality is the goal. The lens could be a major cost, even more than than sensor cost because to cover a 44 X 33mm sensor with high quality means a lens that would have to cost somewhere around $3000. Built-in and with a relatively slow aperture that cost might come down to $1500. Less than that, and one can forget about peak quality.
  • A 44 X 33mm sensor has a 55mm diagonal versus 43.3mm for full-frame. This is substantially larger and makes an ƒ/2 lens unrealistic; it will have to be ƒ/2.8 or even ƒ/3.5 to mitigate cost/quality/size issues. Realistically the lens would have to be about twice the size even being a stop slower, and it will cost at least 2X if not 3X the price to achieve similar quality across the much larger area (keeping focus shift, field curvature and similar issues in check is hard).
  • A focal plane shutter would be a disaster for vibration. Hence a fixed lens solution as in the RX1R with a leaf shutter allows for zero vibration, a lens optimized for the sensor and recessing of the lens into the camera body, which keeps the size reasonable.
  • It is not realistic to have interchangeable lenses (ILC) with high performance at costs most users would find acceptable (think $4K to $6K to do so, per lens). Unless something 'gives': optical quality or lens speed (think ƒ/4). Moreover, these would imply a focal plane shutter unless the lenses were leaf shutters, which would likely add $1000 to the cost of each lens. Hence it is much more realistic to see a fixed-lens solution.
  • PhaseOne and Hasselblad might not be keen on seeing an ILC competing directly. Hence the fixed lens solution is a way to avoid that conflict while simultaneously allowing higher image quality at a lower price in a more compact package.
  • To be taken seriously, this new sensor needs lossless 14-bit files, not lossy 11+7 bit compromised images.

Size compared

The sensor size of 44 X 33mm is 68% larger in area than a full frame sensor. Many pro shooters like that “medium format look” which is often thought of as a focal length issue but derives primarily from lens design (as the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 APO-distagon shows).

To have the total appeal, a full-on Zeiss lens design for a 44 X 33mm sensor made to medium format professional quality standards would be the camera-lust scenario. Such a design would not be inexpensive, but by making a camera a fixed lens mirrorless camera with a lens optimized for the sensor, certain design obstacles drop out of the way.

sensor sizes
Sensor sizes

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar Aperture Series: Picnic Table (Leica M240)

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar

The Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar is about $940.

This aperture series was shot to explore general imaging characteristics.

In Guide to Leica:

Picnic Table (Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar)

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/11 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

Olympic Bar Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6
Olympic Bar
Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar Aperture Series: Olympic Bar (Leica M240)

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar

The Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar is about $940.

This aperture series was shot to explore contrast and flare control as well as bokeh.

To my eye, the quality of the Leica M240 sensor and the Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar are a cut above the Olympus E-M1 and Fujifilm X-T1 on the same scene (and with the same equivalent 85mm field of view). Full frame rocks; Zeiss rocks.

In Guide to Leica:

Olympic Bar (Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar)

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/11 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

Olympic Bar Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/4
Olympic Bar
Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/4

Leica 16/18/21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar M

Leica 16/18/21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar M   
Leica 16/18/21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar M

B&H Photo has the Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH in stock.

On the way courtesy of B&H Photo is the Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 Tri-Elmar-M ASPH.

Also on the way is another Sony A7R loaner (see the A7/A7R DEAL).

I’ll be testing the 16-18-21mm f/2 Tri-Elmar-M on the Leica M Typ 240 and the Sony A7R with coverage going into Guide to Leica to extend the existing review coverage of the 16-18-21mm f/4 TEM.

Areas of interest include performance on the Leica M Typ 240, performance relative to the 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH and 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, and of course 16mm performance.

The A7R is also of interest as to whether the ray angle to the sensor allows the lens quality to come through or whether the sensor cover glass will impede it to an unacceptable degree. I do expect that future sensors will be much more forgiving than the current crop, so all these M lenses (and Zeiss ZM) might well have a very bright future.

Before the arrival of the Leica M Typ 240 with Live View, ultra wide angle lenses were a royal pain to use, and the aptly named Frankenfinder monikor was applied to the Leica Universal Wide Angle Finder.

Leica Universal Wide Angle viewfinder   
Leica Universal Wide Angle viewfinder

Reader Comment: Guide to Leica

Brian N writes:

I have done a brief look at a few articles in Guide to Leica and I am delighted that I decided to subscribe.

Even though I have purchased most Leica M lenses I want over the past year (before my Leica M finally came in January 2014, I discovered that there is extremely valuable information on the lenses to hasten my learning curve in using them

I am an advanced skill photographer and was pessimistic on the value but was impressed at the value your articles will save me on testing and using the lenses and camera. I also just purchased the Sony A7R in December to get my equipment weight from a Sony A900 full frame system down. I love the joy of returning to Leica since my M4-P days and to manual focus.

How I found you was while doing some research on the Leica 100 f/28 Apo-Macro Elmarit R lens to use on my Sony A7R. I have not purchase yet. I was wondering what you think about buying the Leica Apo R extender 2x for it. I like the idea of having a longer working distance of a 200mm f/5.6 lens and this would be a compact option. I would use this on a tripod. I am fanatic on sharpness though but still reasonable on not expecting full 100mm sharpness.

DIGLLOYD: my goal with all my publications is not so much reviewing lenses and cameras (that is certainly a baseline prerequisite) but whenever possible to add how-to and usage tips that accelerate the learning process for obtaining the best results.

Beware of shutter vibration with the Sony A7R, particulary for larger and longer lenses and especially with a lens tripod foot which makes the vibration even worse.

As for a 200/5.6 combo, it will be just as awkward if not more so than the 180/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R, and much harder to focus.

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar and the ZM 85mm f/2 Sonnar

The Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar is a petite M-mount lens suitable for the Leica M Typ 240 or other M cameras. First class build quality, a nice little gem.

With an adapter, the 85/4 Tele-Tessar makes a very compact optic for mirrorless cameras also (e.g. Sony A7/A7R). Its digital-friendly ray angle of 15.5° makes it well suited for mirrorless cameras. See the ray angle discussion in Guide to Leica.

There is also the made-in-Germany high performance Zeiss ZM 85mm f/2 Sonnar, which was discontinued in 2011 and has even higher MTF than the Leica 90/2 APO. Perhaps Zeiss will resurrect it, as both are ideally suited for mirrorless cameras in resolving power and focusing ability.

Zeiss has sent me a ZM 85mm f/2 Sonnar for testing alongside the ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar, so I’ll be comparing the two.

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/2 Sonnar    Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
Zeiss ZM 85mm f/2 Sonnar and Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
(not to scale)

A perfect fit:

We’re not just in Leica land any more Toto   
We’re not just in Leica land any more Toto

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar Aperture Series: Teak Bench (Leica M240)

Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar
Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar

The 310 gram metal and glass Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar is a petite M-mount lens suitable for the Leica M Typ 240 or other M cameras. First class build quality, a nice little gem.

With an adapter, it makes a very compact optic for mirrorless cameras also (e.g. Sony A7/A7R), with a friendly ray angle for likely high performance on mirrorless.

A first evaluation is on the Leica M Typ 240. In Guide to Leica:

Teak Bench (Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar)

This ƒ/4 - ƒ/16 aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops.

See also the same scene on the Sony A7R.

Teak Bench, Cat, Grasses Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6
Teak Bench, Cat, Grasses
Leica M240 + Zeiss ZM 85mm f/4 Tele-Tessar @ ƒ/5.6

Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2: Aperture Series (Olympic Bar, X-T1)

This series explores sharpness and bokeh of the new Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R. Some oddball and unpleasant bokeh effects are shown.

Olympic Bar (Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 on X-T1)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and crops from ƒ/1.2, ƒ/1.4, ... ƒ/11.

Olympic Bar Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R @ ƒ/1.2
Olympic Bar
Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R @ ƒ/1.2

Sony Firmware Update for A7, A7R (ILCE)

Sony A7R with FE 55/1.8 Sonnar
Sony A7R with FE 55/1.8 Sonnar

Sony has released a firmware update for the ILCE series (A7 and A7R).

Sony A7 firmware, Sony A7R firmware.

ILCE-7R Camera Firmware Update

This utility updates the ILCE-7R camera firmware to version 1.02 and provides the following benefits:

Provides support for the SEL70200G lens: Improves auto focus speed and adds the "Focus hold button" function

Reduces start-up time: The start-up time has been reduced in cases when the camera is switched on immediately after being switched off

Improves image quality

Provides support for additional PlayMemories Camera Apps™ and additional features for previously supported apps:
- Supports the "Liveview Grading" and "Smooth Reflection" applications
- Supports the smooth automatic exposure feature in the "Time-lapse" application ver. 2.00 and later

What “improves image quality” means is about as vague as it gets.

See also Update on Sony A7R Shutter Vibration and Photographers Ask Sony to Address the A7R Shutter Vibration Issue. There is no mention of any action to address the Sony A7R shutter vibration issue.

The license agreement is poorly written and seemingly has little relevance to the firmware. Note that by using Sony software, you have to in theory defend Sony in court. That’s rather unusual as far as I can recall. It isn’t a laughing matter; patent trolls have gone after end users of manufactured products in addition to the manufacturer. While presumably consumers have little to fear, this clause seems outrageous to me.

You will defend and hold SONY and Licensor harmless from against all liabilities, demands, damages, costs, expense and losses arising out of the use of the SONY SOFTWARE and/or breach of any of the provisions of this Agreement by you.

Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2: Aperture Series (Pots, X-T1)

This series explores sharpness and bokeh of the new Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R.

Backyard Pots (Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 on X-T1)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and crops from ƒ/1.2, ƒ/1.4, ... ƒ/11.

Backyard pots Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R @ ƒ/1.2
Backyard pots
Fujifilm X-T1 + Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R @ ƒ/1.2

Exciting and Not Exciting Stuff

Exciting

  • The potential for truly great mirrorless cameras (none yet).
  • A Sony RX2R with a 54MP sensor and optimized 21mm and 35mm lens options, possibly with a medium format Sony sensor.
  • 4K video in a mirrorless camera (1080p sucks with all present still cameras).
  • Zeiss Otus lenses on future 50-60MP DSLR with high-res EVF and retina LCD.

Exciting but seriously flawed

Decidedly unexciting

Astigmatism and Lateral Color: Why Performance is Lens + Sensor (aka why do my expensive lenses suck on mirrorless)

Added to Making Sharp Images is a discussion of why even world-class lenses can show poor performance on mirrorless cameras (in particular).

Optical performance on digital can vary considerably depending on sensor design. This piece should be an eye-opener for anyone looking to understand lens behavior on digital.

Astigmatism and Digital Sensors

This double image below is not motion blur. Rather, it is a direct result of the way some lens designs interact with a digital sensor.

diglloyd image
Double image here is NOT caused by motion blur but by the camera

Martin D writes:

Great article!

DIGLLOYD: Many factors in digital. I expect some exciting things in lenses and sensors starting this fall.

Panasonic Nocticron 42.5/1.2: Examples

Published is a page with a variety of examples to explore total imaging performance under some challenging conditions. Many are at ƒ/1.2 and some are stopped down a bit and there are are also two paired aperture examples. Some near, some far, and so on.

Examples, Variety (Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5/1.2 ASPH)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and crops.

Chairs Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH @ ƒ/1.2
Chairs
Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH @ ƒ/1.2

Panasonic Nocticron 42.5/1.2: Flare

Control of veiling flare is critical to believable images in many situations.

Assessement of Veiling Flare (Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5/1.2 ASPH)

Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon for Canon

See the in-depth review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss.

The Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon for Canon arrives soon. I thought it might be of some interest to Canon shooters to see how it compares to the Canon 50/1.2L and 50/1.4 in particular. So that’s on the list of scheduled programming, and probably to be revisited with different subjects over time.

Coverage of the Otus will be in Guide to Zeiss.

B&H has the Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon available for pre-order.

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
(Nikon F-mount version)

Shootout: Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH vs Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 (Olympic Bar, EM1)

This comparison in a demanding backlighting scene evaluations color correction and flare and sharpness between the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH and the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95.

Olympic Bar (Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5/1.2 ASPH vs Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and crops.

Olympic Barbell Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH @ ƒ/2
Olympic Barbell
Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH @ ƒ/2

GEAR SALE: Olympus SHG Zooms, Pentax K3

This site moves through a lot of gear. Most items are tested as loaners, but some gear has to be bought, and that means spinning off gear no longer needed.

Buyer pays 3-day UPS or FedEx shipping and/or supplies own shipping label (no USPS) and/or picks up locally. California buyers responsible for any applicable sales tax. USA only, no overseas shipments.

Contact me (please use an appropriate email subject)

Olympus Super High Grade (SHG) zooms

These are reference-grade lenses for Four Thirds (Micro Four Thirds with Olympus MMF-3 adapter). Terrific choices for video users in particular (ultimate build and image quality, but these are large and heavy lenses best used for video rigs).

The SHG designation is not marketing hype; these are absolutely outstanding lenses that are reference lenses for all other Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses. See reviews in Guide to Mirrorless.

Sale of the three as a set preferred but will consider selling singly also. Also have three unmarked/unopened extended Olympus 4-year extended warranty cards (not registered) for lenses; will include (though unsure of warranty status for 2nd buyer). One Olympus MMF-3 adapter also. LIKE NEW IN BOX.

  • Olympus SHG 7-14mm f/4 Zuiko ED: $1600
  • Olympus SHG 14-35mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $2100
  • Olympus SHG 35-100mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $2200
  • All three take $400 more off and MMF-3 adapter gets included.

Pentax K3 premium silver edition

Very lightly used (under 1000 actuations) Pentax K-3 premium silver edition (details) in box like new as shipped. $925.

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Aperture Series ‘Picnic Table’

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH

This aperture series includes ƒ/1.2, ƒ/1.4, ƒ/1.6, ƒ/2, ..., ƒ/8.

It assesses color correction under bluish dusk lighting, flatness of field (field curvature), which aperture offers optimal sharpness, and includes commentary on autofocus accuracy.

Picnic Table (Olympus EM1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5/1.2 ASPH)

Include HD and UltraHD images and crops.

Picnic Table at Dusk Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH @ ƒ/2
Picnic Table at Dusk
Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH @ ƒ/2

Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 Aperture Series ‘Magenta Flower on Green’

Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95
Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95

Kicking off my review of the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 is an aperture series from ƒ/0.95 through ƒ/11.

The Voigtlander lens is a manual focus lens and offers a different look at ƒ/1.2 and ƒ/1.4 than the Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2.

Magenta Flower on Green (Olympus EM1 + Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95)

Include HD and UltraHD images from ƒ/1.2 through ƒ/16 as well as large crops.

As with the Panasonic 42.5mm series, the full aperture range makes for a sort of animated “movie” the both enjoyable and instructive in seeing how the lens renders effects at each aperture.

Magenta flower on green Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95
Magenta flower on green
Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon goes IN STOCK at B&H Photo

See the in-depth review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss.

The world’s finest lens ever made for a DSLR is now in stock at B&H Photo as this was posted. The ZF.2 Nikon mount.

Get the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon at B&H Photo.

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Recovering a Deleted File from a Camera Card (Olympus E-M1 Fumble Buttons)

Last night I shot this aperture series with the Olympus OM-D E-M1.

Trying to use the EM1 in semi-darkness with the world’s most confounding menu system and tiny badly-placed buttons, I fumbled onto the Delete button, which promptly erased the ƒ/1.2 frame of my aperture series.

I was dumbfounded and very annoyed at the EM1. The series could not be reshot as the light had failed. So I decided to look around for undelete software.

Undeleting an Image from a Digital Camera Card

* Having to see the camera to operate it is a testament to bad design, but that is what the buttons force one to do, as they are so small and so randomly placed. Over time, braille-like skills might develop, but that is beside the point.

Undeleting an Image from a Digital Camera Card with CardRescue
Undeleting an Image from a Digital Camera Card with CardRescue

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH Aperture Series ‘Magenta Flower on Green’

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH

Kicking off my review of the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH is an aperture series from ƒ/1.2 through ƒ/11.

The superlative rendering style of the 42.5mm f/1.2 is evident. If there is a must-have lens for Micro Four Thirds, this is it.

Magenta Flower on Green (Olympus EM1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5/1.2 ASPH)

Include HD and UltraHD images from ƒ/1.2 through ƒ/16 as well as large crops.

Magenta flower on green Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
Magenta flower on green
Olympus OM-D E-M1 + Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH

Shootout: Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH vs Leica 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH

This example extends and confirms the Leadville example.

Death Valley Water Tank, 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH vs 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH

Includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops. The series spans ƒ/2 - ƒ/16 but also includes the half-stops of ƒ/2.4, ƒ/3.4, ƒ/4.8.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH     Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
Water Tank, Death Valley Leica M9 + 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH @ ƒ/5.6
Water Tank, Death Valley
Leica M9 + 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH @ ƒ/5.6

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH and Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 for Micro Four Thirds

B&H Photo has the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH and the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95.

$100 discount if you can say that Panasonic lens name fast, 10 times. OK, kidding.

There is one and only one lens that never fails to reward me on Micro Four Thirds: the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 DG Summilux. It is by far my lens of choice on the Olympus E-M1 (or the E-M5 before that). It has that Leica look, as I think my coverage demonstrates, such as the Lundy Canyon Morning examples. And it nailed focus in virtually every situation with the E-M1.

Now along comes a hefty telephoto sibling, the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH which promises equally gorgeous and perhaps even more appealing image quality. For one thing, the lens diaphragm (just examined in my review sample) is about as circular as I’ve seen in any lens (to the extent of making it difficult to count the 9 rounded aperture blades!), suggesting that lens bokeh might have that extra edge.

As a huge plus, B&H is also loaning me the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 Nokton, which is a stop faster, heavier (metal build) and built like a Zeiss ZF.2 lens. Built-to-last feel, superb (!) aperture and focus rings (manual focus), and while the 10-bladed aperture is not as rounded as the Panasonic 50/1.2, it is perfectly symmetric with stopping down.

I’ll be working with these two lenses over the next few weeks on the Olympus E-M1, results to be posted in Guide to Mirrorless. My hunch is that the manual-focus Voigtlander might be preferred by video shooters (for its manual control), and the Panasonic by others, but that remains to be seen.

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95
Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95

Trade-in an old Junker Camera for $300 at B&H Towards Sony A7/A7R

See in-depth review of Sony A7R / Sony A7.

Sony A7

Trade in your old camera for $300 off the Sony A7 or A7R. No apparent requirement for a functioning camera, just any old one will do, like a point and shoot (find one for $10 at CraigsList.com perhaps).

Even better, that $300 trade-in can be used in conjunction with the $200 instant rebate on a lens purchased with the A7 or A7R (35/2.8 or 55/1.8 excellent choices).

Further sweetening the deal, B&H has 4% rewards and free shipping. That’s another $67 off on the A7, making the net cost on the A7 (by itself) $1698 - $300 - $67 = $1331 for a full frame camera which has no shutter vibration.

Update: the deal is EVEN BETTER. I submitted my Panasonic LX2 for credit and was given a value of $65 (to be confirmed upon inspection). It turns out that one gets the $300 credit towards Sony PLUS the value of the camera as a store credit. So in my case, $365 total value.

Update 2: B&H sends the promo code for $300 off as soon as the UPS package goes into the shipper’s hands; I had mine the very next morning after handing it to UPS the afternoon before. Confirmed by another reader with the same experience.

See Sony A7/A7R links, then follow the rebate form links from there.

That’s effectively a whopping $500 off, not bad for a 3-month old full-frame system. One does wonder what is driving this crazy camera market (or rather, not driving it).

Moreover, the Fujifilm X system at 16 megapixels and APS-C really does not look good in comparison to the 24-megapixel full-frame Sony A7 except in a currently broader lens selection.

One can think of the Sony A7 as a digital back—for example, have some old Nikon F lenses lying around? Get a Novoflex lens adapter and shoot with an EVF and 24 megapixels. Many old F-mount lenses have very interesting rendering styles. None of that precludes using the Sony / Zeiss autofocus lenses of course.

Note that to avoid the Sony A7R shutter vibration issue particularly for telephoto lenses, my recommendation is to go with the Sony A7 for its electronic first curtain shutter (vibration free) if one contemplates shooting telephoto lenses and/or vertical (portrait) orientation.

B&H response to submitting the trade-in form (partial)  Trading in a Panasonic LX2 point and shoot
B&H response to submitting the trade-in form (partial)
Trading in a Panasonic LX2 point and shoot

Qualified cameras

Apparently the bar is not high on which cameras qualify. Here, Roy P finds a nice return on investment (a ~$14 camera turns into $300 credit). Roy writes:

Attached is the camera I just shipped to B&H Photo.

B&H issues a discount code upon receipt of the used camera.

Kokdak FunSaver

Shootout: Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH vs Leica 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH

Leica offers two 28mm lens for M cameras. Which to choose?

This example is quite instructive and should prove highly useful to anyone contemplating a 28mm M lens.

Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH vs Leica 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH, Death Valley Leadville

Includes HD and UltraHD images as well as the usual crops. The series spans ƒ/2 - ƒ/16 but also includes the half-stops of ƒ/2.4, ƒ/3.4, ƒ/4.8.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH     Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
Leadville (Death Valley)  Leica M9 + 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH @ ƒ/2.4
Leadville (Death Valley)
Leica M9 + 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH @ ƒ/2.4

Dan B writes:

Your recent updates/comparisons on the 28mm Leica lenses and 24mm Leica lens are very insightful.

Further to your commentary on the sharpness of the M9 vs the M240, I would be interested to know what you think about the rendering/drawing/colors of the M9 compared to M240 in these circumstances.

Do you find that either the M9 or M240 camera/sensor combination gives a more pleasing image irrespective of the lenses used?

DIGLLOYD: there are some things I miss about the M9 image quality; the M9/M9P CCD sensor has a look to it overall that seems more appealing than the M240 CMOS sensor, better acutance and a different look reminiscent of medium format sensors (the CCD that is). See also the comparisons of the two cameras made last year. In its favor, the M240 behaves better at higher ISO and also with the sun in the frame, and the EVF is a huge plus. There are other considerations too.

Leica 28m f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH: Death Valley Examples

Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH

The Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is the smallest lens in the M lineup. Aside from first-rate imaging quality, it has near zero distortion and thus is ideal for photography where the most natural look possible is desired.

Additional examples now added.

Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH examples, Death Valley

Last rays of Daylight  Leica M9 + 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
Last rays of Daylight
Leica M9 + 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH

Storing Images

Photographers often generate very large data sets. Moreoever, anyone whose livelihood depends on data safety cannot simply hope for the best. And even if it is not one’s livelhood, losing years of work is an awful thing.

Housing Data Safely: Dual OWC Thunderbay 4-Bay Units for Performance, Capacity, Redundancy, Backup

See also Backup.

Leica 28m f/2 Summicron-M ASPH Aperture Series: Sharpness, examples

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH

I’m in the processing of preparing some new content for both the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH and the 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH.

For starters, I’ve greatly improved the mosaic aperture series with the 28/2 with HD and UltraHD images and more and larger crops. That series shows the center and off-center performance really well using the Leica M9.

Part of my interest was in seeing how the M9 now looks to me compared to the M240. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the M240 is not any sharper than the M9 for real images (see also the comparisons made mid-2013).

Just started, more examples are coming to these two new examples pages, with examples chosen in particular to show various lens behaviors: sharpness, bokeh, rendering style:

Leica 28/2 Summicron-M ASPH examples, Death Valley

Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH examples, Death Valley

Southern Death Valley shrub  Leica M9 + 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Southern Death Valley shrub
Leica M9 + 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH

Fujifilm X-T1 and 56mm f/1.2 XF Lens

B&H Photo has the Fujifilm X-T1 and lenses.

The Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 will be the lens I will use for review coverage of the new Fujifilm X-T1. Both should be here in about a week.

Coverage will go into Guide to Mirrorless to extend the existing Fujifilm X review coverage.

  Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2
Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2

2013 Mac Pro: Total System Configuration

Now published is a summary and discussion of the finalized MPG 2013 Mac Pro configuration for a intensive digital photography usage.

2013 Mac Pro rear ports
2013 Mac Pro rear ports

Sony 11+7-bit Delta Compression Posterization Update: RawDigger

Please see the in-depth Feb 12 discussion Sony’s 11+7-bit Delta Compression, Posterization in Some Situations.

Alex Tutubalin of RawDigger has posted an excellent explanation of how the Sony compression scheme works in RawDigger: detecting posterization in SONY cRAW/ARW2 files.

Version 1.0.5 of RawDigger now includes a special display feature for detecting areas of posterization in Sony ARW raw files. The visual indicators shown by RawDigger can raise concern of image quality, but with nearly all images the eye cannot detect a visual issue. (and it is not easy to find examples in regular shooting).

Aside from a few things like star trails, this particular issue doesn’t bother me so much when considered in practical terms, because it is so unlikely to occur in most images (but if you’re shooting the “wrong” thing, then it occurs in all of 'em). Much more bothersome (unacceptable) is the shutter vibration with the A7R.

The rumor mill suggests a possible “image quality improvement” coming in a firmware release: while it seems unlikely (baked in file format), it’s possible that Sony might do something about this, e.g., allow some other file format. Emphasizing my skepticism for such an option, the ideal scenario would be a 14-bit lossless format, like Nikon. Or at least a 12 + 9 bit format.

Star Trails with Sony Alpha A7 showing compression artifacts
Star Trails with Sony Alpha A7 showing compression artifacts

Shootout: Nikon 85/1.4G vs Nikon 85/1.8G (D800E, Lundy Boulder Logjam)

Two fast Nikon lenses compared.

Lundy Boulder Logjam (D800E)

Includes the usual HD and UltraHD images from ƒ/1.4, ƒ/1.8 through ƒ/16, as well as large crops.

Also added is a distortion page:

Distortion corrected and uncorrect with 85/1.4G and 85/1.8G

Lundy Canyon Boulder Logjam Nikon D800E + Nikon 85mm f/1.8G @ ƒ/2
Lundy Canyon Boulder Logjam
Nikon D800E + Nikon 85mm f/1.8G @ ƒ/2

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH Aperture Series: Juniper Tree Sky View At Dusk

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH can deliver a powerful visual impact by judicious use of perspective and aperture (depth of field).

This example discusses the use of an 18mm lens for visual impact with a particularly instructive example.

Juniper Tree Sky View At Dusk (M240, 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH)

Includes the usual HD and UltraHD images from ƒ/3.8 through ƒ/11, as well as large crops.

Aspen Sunstar, Nov 7 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Juniper Tree Sky View At Dusk, Nov 7 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Chicken Vision: an Idea from Nature for a Digital Sensor Design?

Thanks to reader Kirk T for sending this.

New State Of Matter Discovered in Chicken Eyes

When studying the retina of the chicken, researchers found that the five different types of cones are arranged in what is known as “disordered hyperuniformity” and has never before been seen in biology until now.

Gives new meaning to “bird brain”.

Sony A7 / A7R: Light leak

See in-depth review of Sony A7 / A7R.

Sony Alpha Rumors reports on a light leak with the Sony A7 / A7R, allegedly acknowledged by Sony to a customer, though I have yet to see a public acknowledgement.

I tested for a light leak using a 5 minute exposure a few days ago, but with the Sony A7 that I used I could find no evidence of one. Perhaps it varies by camera. But having no native lens to test, this test was done using the Novoflex adapter with ASTAT tripod mount using the Zeiss ZF.2 18mm f/3.5 Distagon. Possibly that would affect a light leak behavior (e.g., torque or tension on the lens mount).

As shown below, this 257 second exposure is pushed 2 stops and on top of that the Shadows/Highlights feature was used to brighten the very dark foreground. There is no evidence of a light leak that I can detect, and if there is/was one on this particular A7, it ought to show up on the very dark edge and corner areas at left/right/bottom.

The multiple image of the moon is presumably the clouds hiding and revealing it.

257-second exposure @ ƒ/11, Sony A7 (Highlights/Shadows used to brighten foreground)
257-second exposure @ ƒ/11, Sony A7
(Highlights/Shadows used to brighten foreground)

Taking stock

All camera systems have growing pains, but some issues fall into the “what were/are they thinking!” area.

So let’s take stock of where the Sony A7 / A7R platform stands in terms of being a professional solution:

  • Shutter vibration issues with the A7R.
  • 11 + 7 bit lossy file recording (in direct conflict with misleading claims of 14-bit recording) making it an issue for certain high dynamic range fine details, like star trails.
  • A disorganized and confusing menu system, one of the worst on the market (see how-to pages for configuration suggestions). Along with no “My Menu” and no ability to remove crapware like Sony Play Memories and similar.
  • As per above, an apparent light leak problem that might require repair for some camera bodies.
  • A total of two (2) prime lenses and one zoom designed for the new system. Many other lenses can be used with adapters, but the native lens line is severely limited to say the least.

The new Sony full-frame mirrorless system is in its infancy and certainly the sensor quality is outstanding in most all respects. So I’m giving Sony some time to produce a “rev B” of the A7R which might change the equation substantially—I am not a buyer at this point, since the shutter vibration invalidates lens testing in general. Fixing the first two items would go a long way to making the A7R a winner. In the meantime, the A7 avoids the shutter vibration issue by dint of its electronic first curtain shutter option.

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH: Aperture Series 'Aspen Sunstar'

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH has a 9-blade lens diaphragm which produces beautiful 18-spoke sunstars.

This series shows the sunstar effects from ƒ/3.8 - ƒ/16:

Aspen Sunstar (M240, 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH)

Also added is a page on sunstars with a few other examples:

Sunstars with the Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Aspen Sunstar, Nov 7 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Aspen Sunstar, Nov 7 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Autofocus Done the Right Way

To see a good example of real thought applied to real photography, see True Focus and Absolute Position Lock (5th page) in the Hasselblad H5D 50C brochure.

It’s an example of what happens when a company thinks about real challenges for real photography—instead of shoveling web features into a camera (e.g. design excrement like Sony Play Memories that cannot be removed from the menu system). A pity that Hasselblad has implemented a modal leveling feature and not one like the Sony camera, which allows viewing the image with a superimposed leveling feature—each company has its own scattershot design quirks.

But on the whole, reading the Hasselblad brochure makes one thing very clear: the camera is designed to solve the issues that photographers need solved. It does not cater to silly trends or throw in yuck that gets in the way; it’s focused on getting a job done reliably. And that’s where Sony (to pick on Sony) is still 100% clueless.

There are many useful, time-saving, error-avoidance and productivity features that a smart company could add to make really great cameras. The Ricoh GR has a few of these. Why is it so hard for camera companies to see this?

Robin D writes:

I must say I am somewhat sceptical about this claim from Hasselblad as it seems like an extreme solution to address being unable to get multi-point autofocus working properly or investing in on-chip focus points. As such I regard it as a technological red herring. As with most MF systems it takes forever to go from shot to shot and with typical MF focal length lenses the DOF is awfully thin. So they have certain issues.

As an ex engineer I appreciate what they have done and why, but it doesn’t really solve the issue: when one locks focus and recomposes the photographer is fighting 2 focus issues (1) the camera movement in several axis and (2) subject movement. While models are, generally, excellent at keeping their movements to a minimum, it is still a fact that they occur, thereby completely devaluing an investment. In short it will work with products but not people.

So, yes it attempts to solve a problem for the photographer but, and pardon my cynicism, it sounds like a bit of marketing FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt)

DIGLLOYD: I’ll point out the following:

  • D800 had AF problems with off-center focus spots and these are never as good as the center one.
  • Focus points often awkward to use or don't cover desired spot (quite restricted area on full frame, better on APS-C or mirrorless).
  • Field curvature and lens performance off-center are often troublesome for AF system (impaired micro contrast), so focusing at center is often more desirable.
  • I’ve had more than my fill of AF-system errors to last me a lifetime. Anything that eliminates a variable is a big plus in my book.
  • Full frame cameras have similar DoF issues at equivalent apertures like ƒ/1.2 and ƒ/2 as medium format at ~ƒ/2 - ƒ/2.8.

One must consider all the issues, and yes a subject can move. There are always variables, but compounded variables makes it harder. I tested the H40D. The technology seems to work. To call it FUD is a repudiation of physics. Whether it matters for one’s work style... well, that’s up to the photographer. And that’s the point of pretty good vs best, for anything. Try shooting an Otus 55/1.4 and see that at ƒ/1.4 there is about a 2mm focus tolerance range for peak performance on a head shot (portrait): high grade lenses show trivial errors, mediocre ones mask the issue.

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH: Aperture Series 'Beaver Pond Meadow'

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH is an ultra-wide angle lens, but even an 18mm has its depth of field limits.

This example shows what is needed to render a sharp image from a few feet away to the far distance.

Beaver Pond Meadow (M240, 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH)

Lundy Beaver Pond Meadow, Nov 6 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Lundy Beaver Pond Meadow, Nov 6 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH: Aperture Series 'DeChambeau Ranch House

Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH is such a consistent and reliable performer, it sets the mind at ease when using it; previsualization of the results is simplified greatly because the lens has no oddball issues to think about.

But no lens is perfect, and this particular series at near-infinity focus should prove to be rewarding reading for any 24/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH user looking to get the best out of the 24/3.8.

But any user of any brand lens should find the behavior here instructive because it applies to many if not most lenses, though particular behavior can vary in degree and direction.

DeChambeau Ranch House
(M240, 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH)

 

De Chambeau Ranch House, Nov 10 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
De Chambeau Ranch House, Nov 10 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH: Aperture Series 'DeChambeau Yellow Wagon'

Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH is such a consistent and reliable performer, it sets the mind at ease when using it; previsualization of the results is easy because the lens is so good with no oddball issues to think about.

DeChambeau Yellow Wagon
(M240, 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH)

At about $2650, it offers a sheer performance to value ratio bettered by no other lens in the line.

This series includes apertures ƒ/6.8 and ƒ/9.5 and ƒ/13 in the ƒ/3.8 to ƒ/16 range, those apertures some interest to practical field shooting, particularly with respect to lens brilliance in the face of diffraction and also edge and corner performance with deep 3D scenes as here.

De Chambeau Ranch Yellow Wagon, Nov 10 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
De Chambeau Ranch Yellow Wagon, Nov 10 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH: Aperture Series 'Glistening Rocks Waterfall'

Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

The Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH might be Leica’s best wide angle lens in its sheer consistency of image quality.

Glistening Rocks Waterfall
(M240, 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH)

The 24/3.8 should probably be in every M-shooter’s bag. And at about $2650, it offers a sheer performance to value ratio bettered by no other lens in the line.

This series includes apertures ƒ/9.5 and ƒ/13 in the ƒ/3.8 to ƒ/16 range, those apertures having relevance to the issue of lens brilliance in the face of diffraction.

Glistening Rocks Waterfall, Nov 16 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
Glistening Rocks Waterfall, Nov 16 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH

Hakan K writes:

Thank you for covering this, it worked out quite timely for me, just yesterday after hearing the Sony rep's comments on my Elmar 24 shots on A7R that they were too contrasty, I thought maybe I can push this to around f/11 for increased DoF, and I have the answer my queries today.

I bought mine with SX21 after reading your comments that Elmar 24 and Summilux 21 would make a good combination. I agree that Elmar 24 is best value for money lens in Leica-M range and it's Diglloyd.com that offers the ultimate value for money for digging out the gems. I intend to use this lens also with 20Mpx A5000 as a compact street camera*.

* I know you prefer the RX1, GR like fixed lens solutions but RX1's distortion is unfortunate for a 35mm.

DIGLLOYD: One wonders what Leica or Zeiss might be able to do if a Sony RX2R body utilized a lens designed for a new 36MP or 50MP sensor at ƒ/2.8 lens speed and with fewer constraints on cost and size.

Sigma DP1 Merrill: Class Leading Sharpness (Green Brick Summit Building)

With the ~20-megapixel Sigma dp2 Quattro availability likely to be early summer, users looking for a large-print-capable compact camera might meanwhile want to consider the ~15-megapixel Sigma DP Merrill lineup, particularly the 28mm and 75mm (equiv) models, the DP1 Merrill and DP3 Merrill. The dp2 Quattro will replace the 45mm DP 2 Merrill, but the other two siblings are coming sometime later.

Real detail free of digital artifacts, especially for natural materials including very fine textures, nuanced crystalline metallic zinc coatings and similar coupled with deep real (actual) depth of field are the hallmarks of the Sigma DP Merrill cameras with their Sigma/Foveon true-color sensors.

A planar subject like this is a demanding task for any lens, but particularly so for a 28mm (equiv) wide angle lens, and here the DP1M performs well above its pay grade. See also the recent reader comments as well as Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill.

Aperture Series: Summit Green-Brick Building (Sigma DP1 Merrill)

Summit Building Sigma DP1 Merrill
Summit Building
Sigma DP1 Merrill

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH: Flare Behavior over Aperture Range

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Tthe Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH offers a brilliant high contrast image, but it is not free of flare.

How does flare behave across the aperture range? This excellent example shows just what to expect when light grazes the front element and results are similar for many of the Leica M wides.

Beaver Pond Flare Series (M240, 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH)

Always shield a lens from non-image-forming light when possible, though there is little room for error with an ultra wide, e.g. a finger into the frame.

Lundy Beaver Pond, Nov 9 2013  Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Lundy Beaver Pond, Nov 9 2013
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Just for Fun: the Photoshop Oil Paint Filter

Always good to play.

If an image is strong to being with, the results are very enjoyable—soothing and not so demanding as the originals—reduced to essentials. And that is a useful feedback loop (reducing to essentials) when making images.

The look reminded me immediately of the Fujifilm sensor artifacts that I do not want in my original image. That should not be misunderstood—I don’t mean the look seen here at an overall level (which is pronounced), but the tendency to stylize natural patterns in an odd way—fractal like—when approaching sensor resolution.

Click for larger.

Backlit Cottonwood at DeChambeau Ranch, Oil Paint Filter Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013
Backlit Cottonwood at DeChambeau Ranch, Oil Paint Filter
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013
Sidelit Barn at DeChambeau Ranch, Oil Paint Filter Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013
Sidelit Barn at DeChambeau Ranch, Oil Paint Filter
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013

Guide to Leica: 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Aperture Series: Sidelit Barn at DeChambeau Ranch

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

Like the Backlit Cottonwood example, this series shows the impressive contrast and rendition of the Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH. But also evident is an interesting flare behavior.

Sidelit Barn at DeChambeau Ranch (M240, 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH)

The crops include apertures ƒ/6.8 and ƒ/9.5 and ƒ/13 in the ƒ/3.8 - ƒ/16 series. A discussion of diffraction and flare effects at those intermediate values is included.

Sidelit Barn at DeChambeau Ranch Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013
Sidelit Barn at DeChambeau Ranch
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013

Guide to Leica: 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Aperture Series: Backlit Cottonwood at DeChambeau Ranch

Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

This series shows the impressive contrast and rendition of the Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH. It is certainly the finest 18mm full-frame lens available as of 2014, and has become a favorite.

Backlit Cottonwood at DeChambeau Ranch (M240, 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH)

The crops include apertures ƒ/9.5 and ƒ/13 in the ƒ/3.8 - ƒ/16 series, and a discussion of diffraction effects at those intermediate values, an important consideration for getting the lens brilliance out of the 18/3.8 SEM.

Backlit Cottonwood at DeChambeau Ranch Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013
Backlit Cottonwood at DeChambeau Ranch
Leica M Typ 240 + 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH, Nov 10 2013

The Faster Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon: Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Confluence (Sony A7)

B&H Photo has all the Zeiss lenses for Canon and Nikon.

  Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon
Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon

See previous commentary on the pleasures of working with Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on mirrorless and other alternative cameras.

The Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon is a stop faster than its ƒ/2.8 sibling. This series evaluates the same scene as the prior one with the 25/2.8.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Pescadero Creek Confluence (Sony A7, Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon)

Includes the usual HD and UltraHD images and generously-sized actual pixels crops.

See also the 21/2.8 Distagon, 18/3.5 Distagon, 15/2.8 Distagon and 28/2 Distagon series.

Also added is a page discussing the salient differences between the 25mm f/2 and 25mm f/2.8 Distagon.

Pescadero Creek Confluence Sony A7 + Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Pescadero Creek Confluence
Sony A7 + Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/4

Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon: Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Confluence (Sony A7)

B&H Photo has all the Zeiss lenses for Canon and Nikon.

  Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon
Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon

See previous commentary on the pleasures of working with Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on mirrorless and other alternative cameras.

The Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon is a a moderate angle lens offering a strong visual impact that also has the nice appeal of being relatively compact.

This series follows the 21/2.8 Distagon, 18/3.5 Distagon, 15/2.8 Distagon and 28/2 Distagon series, see also the 25/2 Distagon.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Pescadero Creek Confluence (Sony A7, Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon)

Includes the usual HD and UltraHD images and generously-sized actual pixels crops.

Pescadero Creek Confluence Sony A7 + Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Pescadero Creek Confluence
Sony A7 + Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/4

Adobe Camera Raw / ACR Silently Corrects Images With No User Control with Some Cameras/Lenses

With some raw files, ACR silently corrects color fringing (lateral chromatic aberration) even when ACR settings are ALL OFF. This happens with some brands and not others, as if there is a flag in the raw file that says “just do it”.

The actual lens performance for color fringing can be seen by comparing output from Iridient Developer with corrections disabled to output from ACR.

A recent example with the Sony FE 24-70mm shows this behavior in a very obvious way, but it is also a problem with the Olympus OM-D E-M1, and many other cameras. Typically, DSLR images from Canon and Nikon are unaffected (I’m unaware of any such behavior with those DSLRs).

I don’t have any contacts on the Lightroom team, and my Photoshop contact has not responded to my inquiry on this matter as yet.

Does the Sony A7R have Circular Ring Artifacts?

See the review of the Sony A7 / A7R.

The Ricoh GR had/has circular ring artifacts if the vignetting correction is not disabled.

But credible, indeed worse instances seem to be popping up with regards to the Sony A7R, namely in even relatively bright lighting.

Dominik W writes:

This is not the first report that I’ve received. I deem it highly credible.

I recently traveled to Antarctica with the Sony A7R and on top of the camera simply dying in what were reasonable working conditions, a lot of my images exhibit a circular purple banding problem to add insult to injury.

Sony should really learn how to listen to the needs of professional photographers and stop crippling an otherwise great sensor + lens combo with compressed raw output and fragile support electronics.

My Pentax 645D has taken abuse in jungles, a typhoon, harsh winters and in hot deserts and has kept on ticking. I have purchased the A7R as a backup for the Pentax assuming it was due to finally fail after all the hard service over the last few years, yet the Sony is the camera that has given up after very little use.

There is simply no excuse to dropping the ball on important details of an otherwise great camera. Shame on Sony.

PS: The image below shows one example of the banding. The top of the unprocessed raw, the bottom is treated to enhance the visibility of the issue. Even with minimal processing, the purple shows up in prints. I can send some raws upon request.

...

I had the vignetting correction off but perhaps it could have turned on at some point. At the moment the camera is dead so I can't check what the setting is. Maybe the raw has that info in the EXIF ? Would be interesting to know if the rings are always in the exact spot or if they shift depending on the colour in the image. I will go through more images and find some that are a vastly different palette, but from what I can skies show this issue more than things such as street scenes.

DIGLLOYD: I’ve examined the raw images in 16-bit ProPhotoRGB, converted in ACR and Iridient Digital and viewed also in RawDigger—the effect is visible in all, suggesting a baked-in problem. The first effect one notices is a magenta cast developing to the edges/corners. Accentuating color saturation in the blue channel makes a series of wide concentric rings clearly visible.

I’m inquiring about details, such as cameras settings and filter. Lens is the FE 35mm f/2.8 shot wide open at 1/3200 sec @ ƒ/2.8, ISO 100. It is an excellent exposure with no loss of highlight or shadow detail, according to RawDigger.

If it’s not vignetting, it could be related to Sony’s 11 + 7 lossy compression scheme. Or maybe even distortion correct, as pixels are stretched. Between such issues and the unacceptable shutter vibration issue, Sony has some homework to do to be taken seriously.

     Sony A7R  
Sony A7R

Ricoh GR Reader Comment: “sharpest images I’ve ever attained”

See the in-depth review of the Ricoh GR including usage and settings tips.

More blog coverage of Ricoh GR using Search: link, just above.

     Ricoh GR  
Ricoh GR

I named the Ricoh GR camera of the year for good reason, a recommendation that I affirm, especially at the bargain price of about $659.

The Ricoh GR is the carry-anywhere camera that brings it all together: usability, image quality, fill flash, pocketability, intelligent menu layout—like no other camera on the market today.

Douglas C writes:

I bought a Ricoh GR, on your recommendation. These are the sharpest images I've ever attained -- and I shot with some of the best Leica and Zeiss glass for years. The lens is unparalleled.

I'm interested that you've remarked in a couple of places that the sensor isn't the best. I also have a D7100, whose sensor you seem to think is as good as it gets in that size, and I'm achieving superior results with the GR.

The D7100 is fabulous, and I'm using some of the sharpest Nikon lenses -- the 50/1.8G, the 85/1.8G -- but nothing is miraculously sharp like every second image that emerges from the GR. It may be that the D7100's 24.1 MP sensor is less forgiving when it comes to comparable optics, and that this is the difference I'm seeing.

Also, I suppose the Ricoh does seem noisier at high ISOs (which is counter intuitive, given the pixel density).

Still, I shoot mostly black and white, and the noise on the Ricoh looks almost precisely like film grain, whereas I have to process Nikon RAW files through Silver Efex to get the same texture.

DIGLLOYD: the Ricoh GR lens I will hold up to the best Leica M 28mm lens in sheer wonderful sharpness, and better bokeh. In fact, its’s generally sharper: very little field curvature, much sharper at ƒ/2.8, more depth of field, and with much closer focus capability too. A lens matched to the sensor is hard to beat, a quality also found in the Sony RX1R and the Sigma DP Merrill cameras.

The Ricoh GR sensor is excellent. While it has some noise, it delivers outstanding night photography images up to five minutes. Its subjective qualities are lovely. The main mistake (easily made) is underexposure. Use RawDigger to check and hone your exposure technique, and check images for underexposure that seem noisy—chances are they are 1-2 stops under exposed: this is a very common issue with auto exposure on all cameras resulting from JPEG-orientation, which is why I shoot manual exposure most of the time.

As for the Nikon D7100, the Nikon lenses mentioned, indeed most of them, are not up to the task. The D7100 sensor is the equivalent in full frame terms (if scaled up in area) to a 56-megapixel sensor. Oversampling is what it’s doing in essence, so downsample properly and then compare finished 16-megapixel images from both; the D7100 should look fantastic.

Ancient Bristlecone carcass and White Mountain Peak, White Mountains Ricoh GR Digital, 300 seconds @ ƒ/5.0, ISO 100 +1.5 push
Ancient Bristlecone carcass and White Mountain Peak, White Mountains
Ricoh GR Digital, 300 seconds @ ƒ/5.0, ISO 100 +1.5 push

Ricoh GR: Circular Ring Artifacts (“Ring Shadow Effect”) Followup

See the in-depth review of the Ricoh GR.
More blog coverage of Ricoh GR using Search: link, just above.

I named the Ricoh GR camera of the year for good reason, a recommendation that I affirm, especially at the bargain price of about $659.

No camera/brand is without some issues. The Ricoh GR is remarkably coherent in its design and performance, but it shipped with the circular ring artifacts issue, apparently caused by vignetting correction, even for raw images, causing irreversible damage to the original raw image. See examples further below.

Context: the frequency of the Ricoh GR circular ring artifacts issue is very low (seen only a few times in thousands of my images), and it pales in comparison to the the far more damaging and commonplace shutter vibration in the Sony A7R.

Continues below.

     Ricoh GR  
Ricoh GR

Ricoh contact and response

I first contacted Ricoh about the circular ring artifacts behavior on 2013-09-06.

On 2013-09-12, I uploaded two DNG files showing the issue to the Ricoh FTP server. An express condition of supplying those files to Ricoh (which I made explicit in bright red type) was that a timely response to my inquiry was expected.

With some persistence and insistence, I have finally received on Feb 20, 2014 a response to my inquiry. That is a ~6 month delay. As both a customer and a member of the press, that kind of delay is unacceptable. Moreover it was/is a violation of my terms in supplying the files to Ricoh.

But the good news is that Ricoh has delivered a firmware update that seemingly addresses the issue (not yet confirmed with field use).

Firmware update

Firmware update 3.00 for the Ricoh GR adds a feature to disable apparently vignetting correction, or at least that’s the way I interpret “Ambient Brightness”. I have applied the update to my Ricoh GR, but I have not retested the camera as yet. And of course it doesn’t fix the circular ring artifacts (“Ring shadow effect”) in images already shot.

The response below suggests that the circular ring artifact issue was/is caused by vignetting correction. I have not confirmed that it works, but it seems likely.

Ricoh has evaluated the images you submitted and this is what they advise.

1) Update the GR firmware to version 3.0 available from.

2) Firmware version 3.0 (along with other enhancements) adds an [Ambient Brightness] to the [Setup] menu.

3) Go to the [Ambient Brightness] setting and select [Original] rather than [Normal] (Default setting) in this menu.

This should reduce the appearance of the "Ring shadow" effect when shooting in DNG RAW and attempting to recover deep shadow detail in difficult lighting situations such as your sample images.

DIGLLOYD: a behavior that irreversibly alters raw image file data is not a “setup” setting; it’s a shooting parameter that belongs in the Shooting menu.

A permanent alteration of raw data is not analogous to the choice of color space or other JPEG settings; those are all post-processing settings for raw images having no effect on the raw file.

Hence the Ambient Brightness setting which does alter raw data belongs under the Shooting menu, not the Setup menu. This is seemingly a conceptual failure at Ricoh to understand the difference between permanent alternation of raw data while shooting, and post-processing parameters later during raw conversion.

Corrections for raw with other brands

Other cameras and brands have lens corrections; the question is whether these apply to raw files, e.g., whether the raw file is permanently and irreversibly altered. The only really correct solutions are to either give the user the choice (I favor this one), or to never alter raw data (fine, but has a few drawbacks in some cases).

  • Sony cameras do not alter raw files, but some raw converters apply corrections during conversion (silently, see also), while others do not. But at least the original files are unaltered.
  • Fujifilm X cameras are the worst case: vignetting and distortion and probably color fringing are always corrected and the user has no choice in the matter.
  • Leica M offers optional lens corrections via coded lenses. The correction is for color shading and vignetting only. Your author has not observed ring artifacts.
  • Canon silently corrects brightness for its EF lenses at wide apertures. This is not vignetting correction but another kind of EV matching algorithm.
  • Nikon does not alter raw files for its DSLRs.
RawDigger channel preview showing the circular ring artifacts with Ricoh GR
RawDigger channel preview showing the circular ring artifacts with Ricoh GR
Circular ring artifacts with Ricoh GR Ricoh GR Digital, 1/30 sec @ ƒ/11, adjusted
Circular ring artifacts with Ricoh GR
Ricoh GR Digital, 1/30 sec @ ƒ/11, adjusted

Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon: Aperture Series: Curving Confluence with Sedges and Boulders (Sony A7)

B&H Photo has all the Zeiss lenses for Canon and Nikon.

  Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon
Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon

See previous commentary on the pleasures of working with Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on mirrorless and other alternative cameras.

The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is an wide angle lens offering a strong visual impact. It is competitive with the best Leica M ultra-wides but has a digital friendly ray angle, so there is no performance loss on mirrorless cameras, or on Leica M 240.

This series is shot from the same vantage point as the 18/3.5 Distagon series and the 15/2.8 Distagon series, thus the three form a useful triad (15/18/21) to compare. See also the 28/2 Distagon series.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Curving Confluence with Sedges and Boulders (Sony A7, Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon)

Includes the usual HD and UltraHD images and generously-sized actual pixels crops.

Curving Confluence with Sedges and Boulders Sony A7 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/2.8
Curving Confluence with Sedges and Boulders
Sony A7 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/2.8

Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Aperture Series: Confluence of Branched Creek with Sedges and Boulders (Sony A7)

B&H Photo has all the Zeiss lenses for Canon and Nikon.

  Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon
Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon

See previous commentary on the pleasures of working with Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on mirrorless and other alternative cameras.

The Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon is an ultra wide angle lens offering a strong visual impact and is competitive with the best Leica M ultra-wides.

Moreover, the 15/2.8 Distagon offers the most digital friendly ray angle of the entire ZF.2 / ZE line, so it’s an ultra wide that sees no performance losses on mirrorless cameras, or on Leica M 240.

This series is shot from the same location as the 18/3.5 Distagon series.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Confluence of Branched Creek with Sedges and Boulders (Sony A7, Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon)

Includes the usual HD and UltraHD images and generously-sized actual pixels crops.

Confluence of Branched Creek with Sedges and Boulders Sony A7 + Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/2.8
Confluence of Branched Creek with Sedges and Boulders
Sony A7 + Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/2.8

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