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Reader Question: Which Camera System?

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

Tor M writes:

Starting with no current lenses - what is the best all purpose camera? Nikon D750? Canon 5D Mark III? Sony A7R II?
I know the question is rather silly; but still...

DIGLLOYD: I don’t see it as silly at all; it’s the same question many photographers are pondering these days, particularly with Sony’s aggressive advances and the incremental same-old CaNikon DSLR offerings.

Still, “best” is highly subjective, relating to personal uses for a camera system.

If I were shooting only personally (not professionally and as a reviewer), Sony full-frame mirrorless would now be my go-to kit for my outdoor activities. The available lenses now are there for most uses and I’m not a sports or action shooter and the EVF is a valuable feature for me. There are plenty of specific usage reasons to choose something else, but few reasons to do so for most users.

Here is the kit I’d go with for my hiking, very compact stuff:

Here is a B&H Sony Mirrorless Wishlist of the items I’d carry.

I’d add the Sony 24-70mm G Master and Sony 70-200mm G Master as all-arounders, though I’d probably not hike with them. The Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master looks excellent, but it’s large and heavy and it remains to be seen if it betters the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Zeiss ZE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Painted Rock (Canon 5DS R)

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

Zeiss ZF.2 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

The Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon doesn’t get a lot of love, but it has a rendering style that is highly appealing; for example see Eastern Sierra Aspen and sagebrush in the Examples, Nikon D3x in Sierra and White Mountains.

In my review of the Zeiss ZF.2/ZE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon I’ve added a new aperture series shot on the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R during my trip in Nov 2015 to Lundy Canyon.

Zeiss ZE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Painted Rock (Canon 5DS R)

Includes image sizes up to 24 megapixels along with large crops, all from f/1.4 through f/13.

 

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Reader Comment: Big and Heavy Sony G Master Lenses

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

Howard C writes:

The new G Master lenses that Sony has announced seem like all good news. Sony is demonstrating a commitment to developing state of the art lenses at premium prices.

Here’s my concern. Sony appears to be segmenting its lens line into two groups of lenses. The G Master lenses will be big, heavy, fast and expensive lenses with the best optical quality. The other lenses will be smaller, lighter, slower and less expensive lenses, with good to very good optical quality but not at the level of the G Master line.

This is very unfortunate for me and many others who bought into the Sony A7R and A7RII cameras based upon the promise of exceptional performance in a compact form factor. We want smaller and lighter lenses that are the state of the art in optical performance and are willing to pay for them. We are also perfectly ok that the tradeoff is that these lenses would be f/2.8 or f/4 lenses.

I actually think that Sony is making a major blunder here in positioning its products. Sony is falling into trap of applying yesterday’s model of DSLR marketing: premium quality lenses at premium prices that have to be big and heavy because they are fast, and they have to be fast because that’s what “Pros” and wannabe “Pros” demand.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

My sense is that there are far more photographers who have bought into the Sony A7 system who can afford and will buy very premium priced lenses if those lenses are smaller and lighter, and they couldn’t care less about an extra f stop.

I believe you share these sentiments, and it would be great if you could send that message to Sony loud and clear.

DIGLLOYD: I agree absolutely. See The Irrational Aim of f/1.4 Lenses. While I appreciate fast apertures for some purposes like wide aperture landscapes, hauling three Zeiss Otus (or Sony G Master) lenses up 3000' in elevation is a real drag. Ditto for hauling around through an airport, walking a city street for hours, etc.

The Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia lenses are a size and weight that just about answer the above requirement (Loxia 21/2.8 is the best existence proof). I’d settle for 25/2.8 and 90/2.8, particularly if the quality were ramped up to Otus levels. However, the Batis line is really good as it stands.

Sony is definitely not thinking outside convention with its lens strategy. On the other hand, Sony is hitting the right checkboxes for head-to-head with CaNikon.

We can hope that Zeiss persists in expanding the Batis and Loxia lines, and that Sony eventually sees the need for f/2.8 super lenses. According to Sony Alpha Rumors, there is a Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 on the way soon. So that would make the Batis 18/2.8, Loxia 21/2.8, Batis 25/2, Loxia 35/2 to cover the wide end in a quite small total size/weight package. Not the semi-Otus performance I’d like but well into excellent territory.

Here is what I’d like to see from Sony. These lenses should exceed the performance of Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia and would be priced significantly higher for that reason:

  • 15mm f/2.8 APO fisheye
  • 18/3.5, 21/3.2, 25/2.8, 28/2.8, 35/2.8 (all APO)
  • 50/2 APO, 90/2.8 APO, 135/3.4 APO, 180/4 APO
Sony FE 70-20mm f/2.8 GM OSS

John N writes:

Howard C, 'gets it'. Sony and Zeiss don't.

Now all we need is a high quality and light 18 to 100 travel zoom for the A7 platform.

What a awesome combo that would be for the serious 'light weight' traveler.
Somehow it just seems to make sense. If you want to tool up with all the other lenses when weight and convenience are not such a major consideration then that is fine. I, however, am quite prepared to sacrifice a bit of quality for a whole lot more convenience.

DIGLLOYD: Zeiss absolutely 'gets it'; the Loxia lenses hit the nail on the head better than anything. And the Batis lenses are very friendly also.

If lower quality is acceptable, then Sony already nails it there too with their existing f/4 zooms. There will not be a high quality and light 18-100; this is not a reasonable expectation. But a 35-70mm f/3.4 should be feasible with advance optical approaches.

Dr. S writes:

Yes Sony is probably making an error with their new lenses but how about this take? These days my "casual" camera bag consists of the Batis 25, Sony 35,1.4, and Sony 55 1.8...... all great lenses and luckily I have a good copy of the 35, 1.4. Granted they have a maximum aperture greater than 2.8 but if you take the weight of the 3 lenses into account it is more than the weight of one 24-70, 2,8 Sony G.

We could get into protracted discussions but if the IQ is of superior quality at all focal lengths in the new Sony 24-70 then one may pause,.take a moment in thought, and decide whether or not to take just one body/one lens so no lens changes are not necessary. Of course I like primes but I tested this hypothesis last weekend and took my Canon 24-70 II/Metabones adapter/A7rii out for a spin and I was very satisfied with the weight and the IQ of the photos was high. I'm just sayin'...

DIGLLOYD: I don’t think Sony is making any errors here other than the error of omission; the new G Master lenses pound the nail squarely for competing with CaNikon offerings. What the G Master lenses do not do is offer the promise of compact high performance on the Sony mirrorless platform.

Richard S writes:

These comments are spot on. Great performance is possible in a light compact package. We just did a 30x45 canvas wrap for a client made from a DSC-RX1 file and it was superb. Better than what I’d expect from a zoom, and resolution wise, almost as good as my Sigma 35mm art lens on a D810. It showed some chromatic aberration in the corners, but it was only evident on black branches on white snow. It is a good example of what is possible with a relatively compact lens. I really want a set of top quality primes that are light and in the f2.8-4 range as they would be what I would carry 90% of the time.

DIGLLOYD: This equation will only improve with time (sensor quality, full color sensors, perhaps curves sensors allowing higher quality lenses, etc). The question is whether interchangeable lens cameras will offer the equivalent (moderate speed compact very high quality lenses).

As I wrote 2.5 years ago in The Future of Image Quality is Fixed-Lens Cameras, moderate speed lenses matched to the sensor have huge potential as yet only modestly exploited by Sigma and by Sony and by Ricoh and Fujifilm and Nikon and Leica. Perhaps one of those companies will be daring enough to deliver a medium format fixed-lens camera.

James P writes:

Everyone thinks bigger is better, but in reality why is it that Leica can manufacture lenses that are so small compared to the same lens in Sony or for any other 35mm system? You could pack three Leica M lenses in the same space that just about any other lens takes up.

DIGLLOYD: the short answer is “hugely expensive and tradeoffs/compromises involved”. And it’s also just not true, as the Loxia line and the Sony 35/2.8 show. In fact, the Sony 35/2.8 is lighter than the Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH. Try on the Loxia 21/2.8 which is faster than the Leica M 21/3.4 and higher performance too.

The longer answer is that there are numerous compromises and tradeoffs. The assumption that M system is superior is generally, as my various comparisons have shown. Are there standouts? Of course—but this is true of Leica, Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, Sigma also.

In short, the Leica M lenses are not a good baseline for what is possible for DSLRs and/or mirrorless. My view is that at present, Sigma may be the only company today that could deliver a cost effective high performance f/2.8 - f/4 line of ultra high performance compact primes. Zeiss of course could work wonders, but the price would be quite high.

Leica v2016 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH Assessment of Focus Shift at MOD

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/2.8 Emarit-M ASPH

See also the evaluation with the Leica v2016 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH. The two studies together also provide additional insight between the lenses, such as performance at f/2.8 between the lenses.

One of the first things I check for with any new lens is focus shift, because it’s so critical a factor. This assessment is at minimum object distance (MOD) with the 2016 version of the Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH:

Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH Focus Shift Evaluation at MOD (Dolls, M240)

This is useful for anyone considering the 2016 Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH or the 2016 Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH.

See also my review of the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and review of the prior Leica 28/2 and review of the prior 28/2.8.

 

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Leica v2016 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPHAssessment of Focus Shift at MOD

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH

Significant focus shift inflicts serious damage to image sharpness where intended/desired and thus makes obtaining optimal results on high-res digital cameras much more challenging.

I’m often asked “which lens is sharper”. This is a complex question that involves many factors, but focus shift is the elephant in the room with some lenses, ignored when talking about sharpness.

Accordingly, one of the first things I check for with any new lens is focus shift, because it’s so critical a factor. This assessment is at minimum object distance (MOD) with the 2016 version of the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH:

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH Focus Shift Evaluation at MOD (Dolls, M240)

This is a MUST READ for anyone considering the 2016 Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH, whether it’s the 2016 version or its predecessor.

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Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Close Range, Dolls (645Z)

  Pentax 645Z   
Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 AL IF

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 35mm f/3.5 at B&H Photo.

In field of view and depth of field terms, the Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] is equivalent to a 27.3mm f/2.8 lens as compared to a full frame DSLR (using the long side of the frame). At about $1599 it offers high performance at relatively modest cost. Highly recommended for Pentax 645Z shooters.

The Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF]offers a close focus capability down to 1:4 which means that for its 43.8mm X 32.8mm sensor it can capture an image field of width 175.2mm.

This scene as captured is ~380mm wide, hence the reproduction ratio is about 1:8.6 at a subject to front lens element distance of ~12 inches, ~14 inches from subject to sensor plane.

Does image quality as seen in the landscape analysis also hold up at close range?

Pentax ID 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Dolls, Close Range

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP along with very large crops, at f/3.5, f/5.6, f/9, f/13, f/16 plus RawDigger exposure info and ACR conversion settings.

  Pentax 645Z  
Dolls
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Sony A6300: Oversampling for 4K Video Quality

Get Sony A6300 at B&H Photo.

I discussed the Sony A6300 a few days ago.

Over the years I have discussed the image quality gains to be had with oversampling, namely higher per pixel quality. For example, a 50-megapixel camera like the Canon 5DS R actually beats the leica M Monochrome when compared at 24 megapixels—an existence proof of the benefits of oversampling.

Now along comes the Sony A6300 and what caught my eye is the fact that there is no cropping of its APS-C sensor when shooting 4K video.

Rather, Sony employs oversampling in the A6300, utilizing the entire 6000 pixel width of the sensor to deliver 3840-pixel 4K UHD video [the 2.4X refers to area, since (6000/3840)^2 = 2.44].

Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the Super35mm recording area and effective 20MP (6000 x 3376) resolution, 2.4x oversampling renders greater detail and full pixel readout is possible, that is void of pixel binning, for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing.

What this means (assuming excellent downsampling code) is very high quality video, with reduced digital artifacts and reduced noise. Possibly there could be moiré issues or similar in some cases, but never in my still photography have I seen this to be a problem, so I expect that the quality will be outrageously good. One limitation: it appears that the oversampling occurs only at 24 fps.

Contrast the $998 Sony A6300 to the approach of the far more expensive Canon 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5 and D500 in their flagship cameras: a heavily cropped sensor area for 4K video. Since the sensors are full frame to begin with, the area used for 4K video will be similar, but it should be interesting to see if the A6300 delivers superior video quality. I expect that it will be superior by dint of reducing digital artifacts by dint of the downsamping from 6000 to 3840 pixels width, a benefit that I show (in essence) in all my reviews in the images derived from full-res.

USB-C Dock for 2015 MacBook

4 USB3 ports, 1 USB-C port, SD card reader, gigabit ethernet, audio ports, HDMK 4K port!

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series @ 28mm: Pescadero Creek Upstream Blue (645Z)

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 at B&H Photo.

The Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR is equivalent to a 23-36mm lens on a full frame DSLR (long frame dimension).

At about $4697 it’s a substantial investment, but it does cover a very useful range. The main thing is that it is huge and heavy, much more so than its 35mm f/3.5 sibling.

This outdoor far-field scene explores the consistency of sharpness across the field and near to far at the 28mm zoom setting. There is a lot to learn from this scene as to the lens behavior.

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Upstream Blue

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP , along with very large crops, at f/4.5, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 plus RawDigger exposure info.

  Pentax 645Z  
Pescadero Creek, Upstream Blue
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Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series @ 45mm: Riparian Forest (645Z)

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 at B&H Photo.

The Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR is equivalent to a 23-36mm lens on a full frame DSLR (long frame dimension).

At about $4697 it’s a substantial investment, but it does cover a very useful range. The main thing is that it is huge and heavy, much more so than its 35mm f/3.5 sibling.

This outdoor far-field scene explores the consistency of sharpness across the field at a uniform distance at the 45mm zoom setting, giving an excellent insight into what apertures are required for peak quality.

Pentax HD DA 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR Aperture Series: Riparian Forest

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP , along with very large crops, at f/4.5, f/5.6, f/9, f/11 plus RawDigger exposure info.

This finely detailed image cries out for viewing on the iMac 5K (or at least a 4K display) so as to render the fine details of twigs and bark and moss in a far more compelling way than a standard display.

  Pentax 645Z  
Riparian Forest along Pescadero Creek
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Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Upstream, Late Blue Dusk (645Z)

  Pentax 645Z   
Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 AL IF

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 35mm f/3.5 at B&H Photo.

I last looked at the Pentax 645Z back in 2014; see my in-depth review of the Pentax 645Z and/or view Pentax 645Z and 645D and Pentax medium format lens coverage.

In field of view and depth of field terms, the Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] is equivalent to a 27.3mm f/2.8 lens as compared to a full frame DSLR (using the long side of the frame).

At about $1599 the Pentax HD 35/3.5 offers high performance at relatively modest cost. Field shooting suggest that it is significantly better corrected than its 55mm f/2.8 sibling (about $925). In particular, field curvature is well controlled, and with only modest peripheral focus shift.

This aperture series with the new Pentax HD 35mm f/3.5 AL IF yields highly useful insights into the performance of this relatively modestly priced wide angle lens for the Pentax 645Z or Pentax 645D. I think it will go a long way to answering questions about its performance capabilities.

Pentax ID 35mm f/3.5 AL IF Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek Upstream, Late Blue Dusk

Includes image sizes up to 25 MP in both color and black and white*, along with very large crops, at f/3.5, f/5, f/6.3, f/9, f/11 plus RawDigger exposure info.

* Black and white conversion settings also shown.

  Pentax 645Z  
Pescadero Creek, Upstream View, Late Dusk
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  Pentax 645Z  
Pescadero Creek, Upstream View, Late Dusk
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iMac 5K for Stunning Black and White Images

B&H has up to $200 of Apple 2015 MacBook and 13" MacBook Pro models.
Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the MPG computer gear wishlist and read the MPG review of the late 2015 iMac 5K.

Last week, I described the thrilling viewing experience of the wide gamut 14.7-megapixel display of the late 2015 iMac 5K.

Last night I happened to be reviewing some of my Leica MM Type 246 black and white images and I was enthralled: I have never seen black and white look that good before. Jaw dropping in detail and contrast—no print can touch that visual impact of a transmissive display. The contrast of the iMac 5K display adds a whole bump up in visual impact over other types of displays.

Some black and white examples:

View the 4320 sizes for nearly a perfect fit on screen, or go all the way to full-res.

Viewing a 4320-pixel image on the iMac 5K display
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Sony Diffraction-Free Computed Fantasy MTF

Get Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM at B&H Photo.

I have little doubt that the new Sony 85/1.4 GM, Sony 24-70/2.8 GM and 70-200/2.8 GM OSS will be excellent, perhaps even outstanding (particularly the 85/1.4). The new lenses might even turn out to be superior to the equivalent Nikon and Canon lenses given the technology involved.

Sony’s press discussion places very strong emphasis on MTF of 50 line pairs per mm (lp/mm) in the new G Master (GM) lenses. So what’s with this 85/1.4 MTF 'picture' on the Sony web site?

  • Sony MTF is at 10 and 30 lp/mm... where is the 50 lp/mm stuff emphasized so strongly in the Sony press conference? What a strange disconnect. MTF at 50 lp/mm (or even 40) is far more demanding.
  • Sony MTF is computed from a design, not measured from a real lens. Real lenses have to be built, and can at best only approach the theoretical computed performance and only if built to perfection. When actual lenses are examined (like the 90/2.8 and 35/1.4), real images may paint a rather different picture.
  • Sony MTF does not take diffraction into account. While this has little bearing on the f/1.4 chart, the f/8 chart is pure fantasy (impossible). It tells us to expect strong performance at f/8, but it does not tell us what a real lens measured will deliver. At f/8, MTF of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (best 35mm lens ever made) even at 40 lp/mm falls short of 80% MTF. So this Sony chart hugely undermines Sony credibility—it’s not real. Furthermore, internal reflections can drop MTF at f/8 significantly in some conditions: let’s see measured results from a *real* lens Sony.

It’s worth pointing out the Zeiss delivers MTF charts that are measured from real lenses on the K8 tester using the appropriate thickness sensor cover glass (while in Oberkochen I was shown how it’s done). But Leica to this day publishes computed MTF that does not even take sensor glass into account, which is why MTF for the new 28mm f/2 (and 28/2.8) does not look better than the prior version—yet the new Leica 28mm lenses are tweaked to perform assuming a digital sensor cover glass. Sigma does well, offering both geometric and diffraction MTF, but Canon and Nikon show fantasy MTF like Sony.

Observe (below) that the claimed MTF for the Sony 85/1.4 GM is on balance claimed to be nearly as good as the MTF of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar.

MTF for Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM
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Sony’s Take on the Camera Market

Get Sony A6300 B&H Photo.

Sony states that its business is up 40% YOY. Sony says it’s about:

To create the whole new imaging experience that has never existed before.

Sony is succeeding, and they’re just warming up from what I can tell.

While I have much to fault Sony for, Sony aggresively improves its products with every iteration (some work is needed on ergonomics for sure). CaNikon should be more worried than ever. Ditto for every other brand because the camera business is about the volume that makes the technological R&D possible. While CaNikon take 3-5 years to deliver relatively minor updates in dinosaur DSLRs, Sony pushes strongly ahead every year with increasingly impressive features—incredibly impressive in context.

Sony says that the A6000 was the #1 selling camera of any kind (above $600, more than any DSLR or mirrorless camera, see video ~6:00).

With the new Sony A6300, Sony says it offers “world’s fastest and most tenacious autofocus system with coverage density that no separate autofocus module can match”. This is not just a warning shot across the bow to CaNikon, it’s a laser-drilled hole just above waterline. The technology pieces could come together within a year to blow CaNikon out of the water even in their prized sports-shooter market. Look at the core specs in focus points, frame rate, continous Live View at 8fps (very low blackout), etc and now imagine a higher-end camera released with a super tele or two, perhaps at 20 fps with near zero blackout and a thousand focus-tracking sensors.

Best 4K video from 20 megapixels (6K signal): “14 stop dynamic range delivers the best 4K video quality from Sony EVER in a consumer camera”. See video ~11:00.

Only a very foolish competitor would look at the Sony A6300 and not see the writing on the wall; it’s a test bed for higher-end products.

 
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Sony A6300, and the Fujifilm X-Pro2

Get Sony A6300 and Fujifilm X-Pro2 B&H Photo.

Sony says that the A6000 was the #1 selling mirrorless camera ever.

And so the about $998 Sony A6300 is a particularly intriguing camera in the context of the $1699 Fujifilm X-Pro2. Same resolution, a lot lower price, and key differentiators. These things and much more are well worth considering before taking the plunge.

Video: The Sony A6300 has advanced 4K video features; the X-Pro2 has no 4K video at all. I’ll put it simply: 4K video from Sony mirrorless is fabulous on my 4K TV, jaw-dropping. I just cannot see buying a mirrorless camera that shoots 1/4 the pixels (1080p) instead of 4K UltraHD. Moroever the Sony A6300 uses 2.4X oversampling (1.56X linearly) for quality gains. If all you want is 1080p, the A6300 does 120 fps; the Fujifilm X-Pro2 only does 60 fps. Game over on the video front. Plus there are the Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras for a growth path.

Lenses: I prefer to invest in lenses with a future: the lenses I want cover full frame (Zeiss Batis, Zeiss Loxia and some Sony lenses) whereas Fujifilm X lenses cover APS-C—no future there. Invest in a good lens once, keep using it for years to come. Fujifilm X lenses are a “start over” system should Fujifilm get around to full frame, and the Fujifilm lens line, while superb, is no longer superior to choices for Sony mirrorless.

Image quality: Fujifilm color is gorgeous. But the fractal-like digital artifacts show up at unwanted times with every Fujifilm body (image specific), since they all share the same solution-in-search-of-a-problem X-Trans sensor. I’ll happily take the Sony sensor any day.

Focus points: more than the X-Pro2 and Sony claims the world’s fastest focus. Sony says “world’s fastest and most tenacious autofocus system with coverage that no separate autofocus module can match”. This is not just a warning shot across the bow to CaNikon, it’s a laser-drilled hole just above waterline: the technology pieces could come together within a year to blow CaNikon out of the water even in their prized sports-shooter market. Wither my 56-megapixel Nikon D900 with an EVF?

Bottom line: the Sony A6300 offers a ton of value for a lot less money than the X-Pro2, and there is a clear path forward with Sony, which is aggressively expanding its product line. The Fujifilm X-Pro2 buyer needs very specific reasons to proceed down that path (“I shoot stills only and I love the controls and shooting experience). [I definitely do not love the shooting experience for my shooting style, but maybe it will be fixed in the X-Pro2].

  • 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-Dot OLED EVF
  • 3.0" 921.6k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor
  • Internal UHD 4K30 & 1080p120 Recording
  • S-Log3 Gamma and Display Assist Function
  • Built-In Wi-Fi with NFC
  • 4D FOCUS with 425 Phase-Detect Points
  • Up to 11 fps Shooting and ISO 51200

Sony A6300 as described by Sony

Key points highlighted.

Fast-focusing and 4K-shooting, the Alpha a6300 from Sony is a versatile APS-C-format mirrorless digital camera designed for multimedia image-makers.

Revolving around a redeveloped 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor, clean image quality is provided with a wide expandable sensitivity range to ISO 51200, along with accelerated readout speeds for internal 4K30 and Full HD 1080p120 video recording with full pixel readout.

Stills shooters also benefit from the apt processing speed, which enables continuous shooting at 11 fps for up to 21 raw frames in a burst, as well as 14-bit raw file output. Complementing both stills and video, the sensor and processor combination also avails 4D FOCUS, which combines a wide-coverage 425-point phase-detection system with a 169-area contrast detection system for quick and precise focusing performance. This focusing system also enables High-density Tracking AF for more efficient and accurate tracking of moving subjects across the image frame. A well-rounded camera for both photographers and videographers, the a6300 is characterized by its speed and further qualified by its refined image and video quality.

Complementing the imaging assets, the a6300 also sports a robust magnesium alloy body that is dust and moisture-resistant to permit working in harsh environments. The compact profile incorporates a high-resolution XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder for bright, clear, eye-level viewing, and this EVF features a 120 fps viewing mode for smooth tracking of fast-moving subjects. A rear 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD monitor is also available and has a tilting design to benefit shooting from high and low working angles. Additionally, for wireless remote control over the camera, or for just sharing imagery online, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC permits linking with a mobile device for intuitive wireless control.

24.2MP Exmor CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Processor

The APS-C-format 24.2MP Exmor CMOS sensor pairs with the BIONZ X image processor to realize smooth, nuanced image quality with minimal noise and high sensitivity from ISO 100-25600, which can further be expanded to ISO 51200 for working in low-light conditions. The sensor features a unique design that utilizes thin copper wiring and enhanced circuit processing to boost light-gathering abilities, reduce noise, and increase readout speeds to benefit video recording. The sensor and processor combination also avails a top continuous shooting rate of 11 fps for up to 21 raw frames in a single burst with AF and AE, 8 fps shooting in live view, and permits 14-bit raw file output for a wider tonal and color scale.

4D FOCUS

Covering nearly the entire sensor area, a powerful 4D FOCUS system incorporates 425 on-chip phase-detection points along with 169 contrast-detection areas for precise focusing in as little as 0.05 seconds. The density of focusing points from this hybrid AF system also enables High-density Tracking AF Technology, which is adept at tracking moving subjects in a variety of lighting conditions. The use of phase-detection points also enables the use of A-mount lenses via the optional LA-EA3 or LA-EA1 lens mount adapters with full AF compatibility.

The apt 4D FOCUS system also lends itself to a variety of focusing functions for refined accuracy, including Lock-on AF, which maintains focus on moving subjects throughout the use of a configurable frame that is set over the desired moving subject, and Expand Flexible Spot, which employs neighboring focus points to retain focus on moving subjects even if the originally selected point loses focus. Additionally, Eye AF can be used to base focus on recognized subjects' eyes for portraits and is available in both AF-S and AF-C modes. Autofocus can also be used in conjunction with the Focus Magnifier function for critical focus when homing in on minute subject details.

In addition to autofocus, the a6300 also features a Peaking MF function to benefit manual focus control by highlighted sharp edges of contrast for a more objective means of acquiring sharp focus.

UHD 4K Video Recording

Internal recording of UHD 4K movies is possible in multiple frame rates up to 30 fps and, based on the Super35mm recording area and effective 20MP (6000 x 3376) resolution, 2.4x oversampling renders greater detail and full pixel readout is possible, that is void of pixel binning, for higher quality imagery with reduced moiré and aliasing. Full HD 1080p recording is also supported in frame rates up to 120 fps, and both resolutions utilize the 100 Mbps XAVC S format contained within an MP4 wrapper with 4:2:0 sampling. The high-speed, 120 fps recording also enables 4x and 5x slow-motion movie recording with the frame rate set to either 30p or 24p. In addition to high-resolution internal recording, uncompressed HDMI output also enables the use of an optional external recorder for clean 4K recording with 4:2:2 sampling.

Custom Color Profiles and S-Log3 Gamma

Support is available for the S-Gamut3.Cine/S-Log-3 and S-Gamut3/S-Log3 profiles that enable up to a 1300% wider dynamic range for smoother tonal and color gradations, along with enhanced sensitivity and clarity in shadows and mid-tones. These profiles also lend themselves to greater compatibility within a professional workflow and are well-paired to the Cineon Log gamma curve for versatile post-production grading and color control. The S-Log3 gamma setting also offers an impressive 14-stop wide dynamic range for greater control over the highlights and shadows, while the S-Gamut3.Cine profile can be used to mimic the qualities of scanned negative film with a wide gamut comparable to the DCI-P3 color space. Additionally, the popular S-Log2 setting is also available.

Zebra and Gamma Display Assist

An enhanced Zebra function is ideally suited to working with S-Log gamma profiles and aids in monitoring exposure values in high-contrast scenes. Video signal level targets can be set from 0 to 109, and specific ranges can be set to make exposure level adjustments easier.

In contrast, a Gamma Display Assist function is also available that displays scenes with natural contrast when recording with S-Log settings. This function converts imagery to the ITU709 profile for easier on-camera monitoring.

Time Code and User Bit Settings

A time code can be used to record hours, minutes, seconds, frames on image data for more precise editing while the User Bit function can record date, time, and scene number to aid in editing together footage from multiple cameras.

Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

  • A robust magnesium alloy body offers a durable profile, and also incorporates dust and moisture seals to protect against harsh environments.
  • The XGA Tru-Finder 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder offers a bright, high-resolution means for eye-level monitoring, and also sports a dedicated 120 fps mode for smoother viewing when tracking moving subjects.
  • A 3.0" 921.6k-dot LCD screen can be tilted 90° upward or 45° downward to suit working from high and low angles. The screen also incorporates White Magic technology with an RGBW pixel structure for increased brightness to support use in daylight conditions.
  • Nine customizable buttons can be set to control more than 64 functions for more intuitive handling.
  • The included NP-FW50 rechargeable lithium-ion is rated for 350 shots per charge when working with the viewfinder, or 400 shots per charge with the LCD screen.
  • In addition to the battery, the a6300 can also be powered via a USB connection to a computer or mobile battery. This connection can also be used to charge the battery.
  • A rigid metal lens mount better supports working with larger, heavier lens designs.
    An ergonomic grip structure is ideal for long shooting sessions and facilitates easy access to the main control buttons and dials.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi enables the a6300 to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera's shutter.
  • PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera's features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

Other Camera Features

  • A Silent Shooting mode makes use of an electronic shutter function for completely silent performance that is ideal for photographing in noise-sensitive areas. When using this mode, up to 3 fps continuous shooting is available with autofocus and auto-exposure.
  • Multi Frame NR records consecutive images at a reduced ISO sensitivity and then composites them into a single image to realize higher effective sensitivity with minimal image noise.
  • Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO) works to improve images featuring backlit subjects or scenes with high contrast where details can be lost in the shadows or highlights. This mode can be controlled automatically or fine-tuned using five settings.
  • Auto HDR automatically records three sequential frames of an image and composites them into a single frame to realize greater shadow and highlight detail with an extended range of mid-tones.
  • An advanced 1200-zone evaluative exposure metering sensor delivers consistent and accurate results using multi-segment, center-weighted, or spot metering modes.
  • When working with ISO Auto settings, you can configure a minimum shutter speed setting to better ensure sharp imagery.
  • Clear Image Zoom can be used to magnify the center of scenes by 2x to effectively extend the reach of any focal length lens. This digital zoom technology uses an intelligent interpolation process to minimize the amount of image degradation in order to produce realistic, high-quality images.
  • Picture Effect: Posterization (Color, B/W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R, G, B, Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.
  • Creative Style: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia; contrast, saturation, and sharpness can be adjusted across +/- 3 steps.
Zeiss Loxia for Sony

Ming’s Queenstown Landscape Workshop

Due to a cancellation Ming Thein has a spot left in his Queenstown Landscape Workshop. Ming is a sharp guy; if you’re looking for something outside the usual photo class box, this opportunity may be for you!

Time for something different. This April, I’m offering more than a workshop: an intensive experience to raise your photography to the next level. The focus will be on landscape, in and around Queenstown, New Zealand. We (I) will be driving a lot, bringing you to locations I discovered on my last trip to both explore and develop your own work. But here’s the kicker: the workshop will limited to just three participants, and is inclusive of 4*+ accommodation and ground transport costs. It’s something I’ve been asked for in the past, but didn’t make much sense unless going to a location where driving/ground transport is necessary and we have much range to cover...

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

Get Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM at B&H Photo.

Is this 24-70mm f/2.8 GM the nail in the coffin for Canon and Nikon in terms of mainstream shooters? CaNikon still offers no meaningful mirrorless anything and the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II being niche cameras, the Sony onslaught continues. The 'game' approaches the 4th quarter.

With the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM and Sony 35mm f/1.4 and Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia and Sony 70-200 f/2.8 GM, the vast majority of shooting scenarios are now covered for wedding and portrait photographers, most landscape shooting, and all other common and mainstream uses.

Still lacking are high quality wide angle lenses (11-18mm range), high grade 50mm and 135mm primes, and super teles. But with a high-grade 24-70/2.8 and a high-grade 85/1.4, the bread is now buttered.

I’ll be testing the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM as soon as B&H receives them. The optical specifications look good, assuming the lens is built with quality control that avoids symmetry issues.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • One XA Element, Two Aspherical Elements
  • One ED Element, One Super ED Element
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Direct Drive SSM Focus System
  • Internal Focus Design
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm

A fast standard zoom favored for its versatility, the Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is a wide-angle to short telephoto lens designed for E-mount mirrorless cameras. Featuring a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, this lens maintains consistent performance throughout the zoom range and benefits working in low-light conditions and with selective focus techniques.

Complementing the apt light-gathering capabilities is an equally impressive optical design, which incorporates three aspherical elements and two extra-low dispersion elements. One of the aspherical elements features an XA (extreme aspherical) designation, ensuring its refined surface precision and notable ability to minimize spherical aberrations throughout the zoom range. Additionally, a Nano AR Coating has been applied to individual elements to significantly minimize lens flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality. Pairing a sophisticated optical design and versatile speed, this standard zoom is well-suited for use in a wide array of environments and lighting conditions.

Beyond the attributes of the lens system itself, this 24-70mm is also characterized by a Direct Drive SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) system that provides fast, quiet AF performance as well as responsive manual focus handling. The lens is also dust- and moisture-sealed, to permit working in inclement weather conditions, and nuanced details, such as a focus hold button and rubberized control dials, further the intuitiveness in handling.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • Covering wide-angle to portrait-length perspectives, this standard 24-70mm zoom is designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras and is also compatible with APS-C models, where it will provide a 36-105mm equivalent focal length range.
  • Constant f/2.8 maximum aperture maintains consistent performance from wide-angle to telephoto focal length positions and also contributes to greater selective focus control.
  • Of the three aspherical elements incorporated in the lens design, one is an XA element with superior surface precision to effectively reduce astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other monochromatic aberrations from imagery.
  • One extra-low dispersion element and one Super ED element are featured in the lens design, too, and help to control chromatic aberrations and reduce color fringing for increased clarity and color fidelity.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • A rounded nine-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing shallow depth of field techniques.
  • A Direct Drive SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • A dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures

Jason W writes:

The 24-70mm GM is great, but it's a drop in the bucket. They could re-brand Canon L glass at this point and sell it 20% off and it wouldn't ameliorate brand trust or lack of a credible service department.

And while Sony dominates sensors, I'm not seeing the dent in Canon or Nikon camera sales, even with their lack of entry into the pro mirrorless segment.

A recent Japanese report showed that Sony, previously #1 in mirrorless, was beaten by Olympus last year. What's going on out there?

DIGLLOYD: the “drop in the bucket” comment is not credible: the lens lineup on Sony now covers 95% of common shooting. As for Sony service and support, that is indeed a very weak area, but Sony does have a Sony Pro Service Program.

As for my own subscription business, interest in Canon and Nikon and Zeiss has dropped off a cliff even as interest in Sony mirrorless has surged. The interest in mirrorless is confined to Sony (Olympus interest is just about zero, Fujifilm slightly better). Of course, my business is at the high-end, but as for Canon and Nikon sales, a large number of APS-C models languished for six months at deep discounts and full-frame models were slow sellers too. The Canon 5DS/5DS R came into stock quickly and stayed there. These realities conflict with the viewpoint expressed above, at least in the USA. Finally, Sony claims a 40% year-over-year increase, which is might impressive when DSLR sales are down.

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Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS

Get Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM at B&H Photo.

With its 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and 85mm f/1.4 GM siblings and other Sony lenses along with Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia, the Sony 70-20mm f/2.8 GM fills out the lens line nicely (and with Sony FE teleconverters too!).

Sony now has a system for 95% of mainstream applications, as well as unassailable 4K video support with three full-frame mirrorless cameras and now the Sony A6300 as well.

How will Canon and Nikon survive this onslaught? Surely not by focusing on niche cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II: where is (at the least) the Nikon D900 and a Canon DSLR with decent dynamic range (even forgetting the gaping mirrorless chasm).

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • One XA Element, Two Aspherical Elements
  • Four ED Elements, Two Super ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating and Fluorine Coating
  • Linear SSM Focus System
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Internal Focus, Focus Range Limiter
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM OSS

A popular telephoto zoom focal length featuring a bright constant maximum aperture, the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS from Sony covers portrait-length to telephoto perspectives and is designed for E-mount mirrorless cameras. Characterized by both its fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and inclusion of OSS (Optical SteadyShot) image stabilization, this lens is ideally-suited for handheld shooting of distant and fast-moving subjects.

Equally refined, the optical design incorporates a trio of aspherical elements, including one XA (extreme aspherical) element, and six extra-low dispersion elements to minimize spherical and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range. A Nano AR Coating has been applied to lens elements to reduce flare and ghosting and the front element also features a fluorine coating to guard against smudges and markings from adhering to the glass surface. Pairing a versatile reach and sophisticated design, this professional-quality telephoto zoom is well-suited for a variety of working conditions.

Benefitting performance is an apt autofocus system comprised of a dual linear motor actuator to drive the rear groups and an SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) system to control the front groups for quick, precise, and quiet AF control. Further complementing handling and focus is a dedicated focus hold button, focus range limiter, and an AF/MF switch, and the included tripod collar has a rotating design for easier switching between horizontal and vertical shooting orientations. Additionally, the lens sports a dust and moisture-resistant design for use in trying environmental conditions.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • A popular telephoto zoom designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, this 70-200mm lens is also compatible with APS-C models where it provides a 105-300mm equivalent focal length range.
  • A constant f/2.8 maximum aperture offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range and also lends greater control over focus position for shallow depth of field techniques.
  • Of the three aspherical elements incorporated in the lens design, one is an XA element with superior surface precision to effectively reduce astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other monochromatic aberrations from imagery.
  • Four extra-low dispersion elements and two Super ED elements are featured in the lens design, too, and help to control chromatic aberrations and reduce color fringing for increased clarity and color fidelity.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • The front lens element features a fluorine coating to protect against smudges and dust from adhering to the glass surface.
  • A rounded 11-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing selective focus techniques.
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper imagery when shooting handheld with slower shutter speeds. This stabilization system can also be combined with select camera's sensor-shift type image stabilization for more effective control of camera blur.
  • An OSS Mode switch lets you choose Mode 1 for general image stabilization that is suited to most types of shooting as well as a Mode 2 setting that is specifically intended to be used with panning movements.
  • A linear SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • A floating elements system benefits image quality when working at the 3.15' minimum focusing distance with 0.25x magnification.
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions.
  • Removable rotating tripod collar permits quick switching from horizontal to vertical shooting orientations.
  • Focus range limiter and focus hold controls offer more intuitive handling and faster performance when photographing moving subjects.
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

Get Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM at B&H Photo.

I’ll be testing the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM as soon as B&H receives them. The optical specifications look promising, assuming the lens is built with quality control that avoids symmetry issues.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4 to f/16
  • One XA Element and Three ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Linear SSM Focus System
  • Internal Focus Design
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Manual Aperture Ring
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm

A prized focal length for portraiture, the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM from Sony is a fast, short-telephoto lens designed for E-mount mirrorless digital cameras. Characterized by its flattering perspective and fast f/1.4 maximum aperture, this lens is adept at isolation focus for shallow depth of field effects, as well as performing in low-light conditions.

The optical design incorporates three extra-low dispersion elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and one XA (extreme aspherical) element, which significantly controls spherical aberrations for a high degree of image sharpness and clarity. Additionally, a Nano AR coating has been applied to limit ghosting and lens flare for increased contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions. Pairing a bright f/1.4 aperture with a short-telephoto focal length, this 85mm lens is ideally suited for portraiture and other situations where focus control is paramount.

Complementing the optical assets, this lens is also notable for its inclusion of an 11-blade circular diaphragm to produce smooth, soft-edged bokeh with selective focus imagery. For controlling focus, a linear SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) is employed that is quick and quiet, and also lends more responsive control for manual focus operation. The lens also sports a dust- and moisture-sealed design to support shooting in inclement conditions and a dedicated focus hold button, AF/MF switch, and manual aperture ring lend further control while shooting.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • A portrait-length prime designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, this 85mm f/1.4 is also compatible with APS-C models where it will provide a 127.5mm equivalent focal length.
  • Fast f/1.4 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions and also offers a wealth of control over focus position when using shallow depth of field techniques.
  • One XA element is incorporated into the optical design, which features superior surface precision for effective control over astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other spherical aberrations.
  • Three extra-low dispersion elements are featured in the lens design and help to reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing for improved clarity and color neutrality.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • Rounded 11-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing selective focus techniques.
  • A linear SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures.
  • Manual aperture ring can be de-clicked for smooth, silent aperture switching to benefit video applications.
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Breakthrough Photography Circular Polarizing Filters (CPOL)

The Breakthrough Photography X4 circular polarizer filters (CPOL) have an exceptionally neutral spectral weighting as can be seen in the three comparisons below (toggle). [The filters were previously designated X3, the X4 moniker does not indicate a change; it’s a trademark headache issue].

In particular, some polarizers transmit more green / yellow / red than blue. The Breakthrough Photography X4 circular polarizer filters maintain a nearly flat spectral transmission profile, meaning they generate a more neutral result that avoids color bias. The important range for visible-light photography is 420nm (violet)* to 650nm (extreme dark red, near infrared).

I’ve just received some CPOL filters for testing, and I’ll put them to use soon in some testing.

See also Breakthrough Photography X3 Neutral Density Filters and Breakthrough Photography Night Sky Filter.

* Most digital sensors utilize a bandpass filter around 420 nm, the 400-420nm range is of little importance with most cameras.

Graphs courtesy of Breakthrough Photography.

Spectral transmission graph for Breakthrough Photography CPOL filter
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Tiny Lenses: Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II

Yesterday I reported on the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P and the Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II, two diminutive lenses. All of these lenses fall far short of my wish for Otus-grade f/2.8 prime lenses, but all of them are very good by f/5.6 (the 90/3.5 is excellent wide open).

The Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II “pancake lens” (about $449 for Nikon or Canon) is the smallest lens available for Nikon cameras today, though it’s solid metal construction means that it weighs in at a surprisingly heavy 200 grams. For those that want to travel light and compact, it is well worth considering as an alternative is the discontinued Nikon 45mm f/2.8P.

The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL II is manual focus but an electronic (“chipped”) lens, so it acts just like any Nikon-made lens, supporting 1/3 stop apertures and auto aperture control. Ditto for the Canon version.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Aperture Series: Mosaic (Nikon D800)

I reprocessed a 2012 evaluation for images up to 24 megapixels from f/2 - f/22, along with large crops.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II
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Breakthrough Photography Light Pollution Filter

The Breakthrough Photography Light Pollution Filter is a spectral-cut filter using special coatings to cut out spectral regions that are typically polluted by light from populated areas during night shots.

I’ve just received an 82mm sample for evaluation which I plan to shoot it in late February / early March in the Death Valley area [I have an opening for one or two people for a photo tour at that time].

The Breakthrough Photography Light Pollution Filter cuts out the orangish haze typical of polluted night skies and was designed in collaboration with a NASA scientist from the International Space Station.

The filter is a bandpass filter that uses coatings, so it shifts color outside the central area when used with wide-angle lenses. At 21mm, the shift is very strong (magenta into the outer zones), so it is best used with longer focal lengths.

Spectral transmission graph for Breakthrough Photography Night Sky Filter

I’m looking forward to seeing if the filter will clean up the background haze in skies like this for astrophotography, though regrettably a 95mm version is not yet available (the Otus 28/1.4 takes 95mm filters). But plenty of lenses take 82mm filters and the Breakthrough Photography step-up rings make 82mm good for 67mm and 77mm filter-size lenses.

NO FILTER USED
__METADATA__
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Tiny Lenses: Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II

The Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO Lanthar is a tiny but high performance lens especially well suited to anyone looking for exceptional quality in a very compact package. It is a manual focus but fully electronic (“chipped”) lens, so it acts just like any Nikon-made lens, supporting 1/3 stop apertures and auto aperture control. It can be found in Nikon or Canon mount.

The Nikon version of the 90/3.5 has an aperture ring, and thus can also be used on Canon EOS with a mechanical lens adapter. Build quality is similar to Zeiss ZF.2 lenses. The relatively slow f/3.5 maximum aperture limits versatility compared to, say, an f/2 lens. But since top image quality begins wide open, this is easily forgiven, and the 90/3.5 can easily fit into a small pocket. It makes an excellent choice for a compact travel kit including a lens like its 40mm f/2 sibling or the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P.

I reprocessed my 2012 test with new and large crops, and images up to 24 megapixels. The lens delivers impressive results.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II Aperture Series: Mosaic (Nikon D800)

The Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II is discontinued but can be found on the used market. CameraQuest.com has some brand-new ones in Canon mount.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II
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Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Get Canon EOS-1D X Mark II at B&H Photo, now available for pre-order. See all related Canon EOS-1D X II gear.

Hot on the heels of the Nikon D5, Canon has announced the EOS-1D X Mark II.

Other than its orientation to high-speed sports shooting, here are a few points, see the full description below.

  • Increased resolution and fine detail, with lens aberration correction and diffraction correction via new in-camera Digital Lens Optimizer technology.
  • Built-in GPS provides geotag information including auto time syncing with Universal Time Code via satellites.
  • View and control high quality stills and videos via the 3.2-inch touch panel LCD with 1.62 million dots. [Nikon D5 has a 3.2" rear LCD with 2359K dot (2.3 megadots), the highest-res rear LCD yet seen in a DSLR, the closest thing to a Retina display yet].
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Bringing the shooting speed and video capabilities required by professional multimedia image-makers, the EOS-1D X Mark II is the flagship model within Canon's DSLR lineup, and is characterized by its robust processing capabilities and ability to enable a high-end multimedia workflow. At the heart of the imaging system is a full-frame 20.2MP CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 6+ image processors, which contribute to fast continuous shooting rates up to 16 fps in live view, 14 fps with full-time AF and AE, and an expanded sensitivity range from ISO 50-409600.

The sensor and processor combination also avails DCI 4K video recording at 60 fps and Full HD 1080p recording at 120 fps, along with the ability to record on-board to a CFast 2.0 memory card or via HDMI to an optional external recorder. Benefitting stills shooting is an apt 61-point High Density Reticular AF II system, which includes 41 cross-type points for a high degree of precision in varying light conditions, and video shooting is enhanced by Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which makes its first appearance in a full-frame sensor for smooth, quick, and controllable AF in live view. With a versatile set of imaging traits, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II takes its place as a high-performance tool for professional photographers and videographers alike.

Complementing the robust set of imaging specs is an equally robust physical design based on a magnesium alloy body construction that is both dust- and weather-sealed for use in harsh environments. Integrated within the body is a large 3.2" 1.62m-dot touchscreen LCD for bright, high-resolution live view monitoring and image review, and a large 0.76x Intelligent Viewfinder II is offered for clear eye-level shooting. For versatility in file handling, both CFast and CompactFlash memory card slots are available, and the 1D X Mark II also supports sharing imagery over Wi-Fi, as well as wireless remote camera control, via the optional WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter. Additionally, a built-in GPS module permits in-camera geotagging of photos and videos, and also allows for auto time syncing with the Universal Time Code for more efficient file sharing and organization.

20.2MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor and Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors

A redeveloped full-frame 20.2MP CMOS sensor pairs with dual DIGIC 6+ image processors to avail notable image quality and accuracy, as well as fast performance throughout the camera system. The sensor itself integrates a gapless structure with micro lenses to provide enhanced low-light performance and reduced noise levels, and when coupled with the processors an expanded sensitivity range of ISO 50-409600 is available.

The sensor and processors also work together to avail quick shooting performance, with continuous rates up to 16 fps when working in live view. When working with the viewfinder, shooting up to 14 fps is possible along with the ability to record up to 170 raw files in a single burst if using a CFast 2.0 memory card. If shooting JPEG files, an unlimited number of frames can be recorded in a burst, even at full-resolution. If working with a CompactFlash card, the buffer is rated at up to 73 raw frames in a burst, or infinite JPEGs.

In addition to the stills attributes afforded by the sensor, it is also used for recording DCI 4K video at up to 60 fps, and it is the first full-frame sensor to incorporate Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for precise, controllable, and fast live view focusing performance.

High Density Reticular AF II and Dual Pixel CMOS AF Systems

Benefitting accurate focusing and fast tracking performance, a 61-point High Density Reticular AF II system is employed, which incorporates 41 cross-type points for increased precision as well as a center point that is sensitive to -3 EV. All 61 phase-detection points support metering at effective apertures of f/8 or larger, which benefits the use of teleconverters and telephoto lenses. Additionally, a separate, dedicated DIGIC 6 processor is used for the AF and metering systems in order to maintain quick performance while recording 4K video or shooting at fast continuous speeds. As a whole, the AF system has gained approximately 8.6% in coverage in the center, and 24% in the periphery, for enhanced subject tracking across the image frame, and an AI Servo AF III+ algorithm is used to intelligently and precisely acquire focus in single-point, Large Zone AF, or any other focusing mode.

When working with live view during stills shooting or video recording, a Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is employed that provides incredibly quick and accurate focusing performance in a similar manner to how a camcorder acquires focus. This system integrates two separate photodiodes within each pixel to provide a broad and dense network of phase-detection gathering elements across a majority of the image sensor to reduce focus hunting for faster, more direct control of focus placement. When working with still imagery, this focusing system works to acquire focus quickly and accurately, making it ideally suited to shooting and tracking moving subjects so that critical focus is attained with each shot. When shooting video, a Movie Servo AF mode offers smooth and natural focusing when changing from different subjects or different distances within the scene, as well as the ability to specify tracking sensitivity, AF speed, and Face Tracking priority. Benefited by the Touch AF system, rack focus is possible simply by touching elements within the scene on the touchscreen in order to change focus in an intuitive manner. Subject tracking in movies is also heightened due to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system's ability to recognize subjects and maintain focus when working within changing or cluttered scenery.

DCI 4K Video Recording

Designed for both professional stills shooting and video recording, the 1D X Mark II supports DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) resolution recording at up to 60 fps at 800 Mbps, along with Full HD 1080p shooting at 120 fps at 360 Mbps for slow motion playback. When recording in-camera, or to an optional external recorder via HDMI for saving uncompressed footage, 4K video has 4:2:2 sampling and 8-bit color depth, while Full HD 1080p footage has 4:2:0 sampling. 4K video is recorded using a central 4096 x 2160 area of the sensor, while Full HD recording makes use of the entire full frame, and a top sensitivity of ISO 12800 is available with 4K or ISO 25600 with Full HD.

Audio can be recorded using the on-board stereo microphone or an optional external mic can also be used via the 3.5mm mic jack. Real time audio monitoring is possible, too, via the 3.5mm headphone jack. The 4K video recording also avails the ability to take 8.8MP still frame grabs during playback and save them as single images.

Body Design

  • A large 3.2" 1.62m-dot Clear View II LCD monitor is available and features an anti-reflective design for bright, vivid image playback and live view shooting, and its touchscreen interface can be used for intuitive touch-to-focus control.
  • Dual CFast and CompactFlash memory card slots allow you to extend your file saving capabilities by permitting overflow recording or in-camera file type separation while shooting. The CFast card slot is compatible with CFast 2.0 memory cards.
  • An Intelligent Viewfinder II uses a pentaprism design and offers a bright means for viewing, along with a 0.76x magnification and 100% frame coverage. When using the viewfinder, AF points are highlighted in red for greater visibility in low-light conditions, and the finder can also be configured to display a range of other shooting aids, such as an electronic level, grid, flicker detection, white balance, metering mode, AF information, and other settings.
  • A robust magnesium alloy body design is both dust- and weather-sealed to permit working in harsh environments.
  • An integrated vertical grip allows for comfortable, intuitive, and efficient handling when working in either vertical or horizontal shooting orientations.
  • The included LP-E19 rechargeable lithium-ion battery is rated to provide up to 1210 shots per charge when shooting with the optical viewfinder. The 1D X Mark II is also compatible with LP-E4N and LP-E4 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, however the top continuous shooting rate will be slightly reduced to 14 fps in live view and 12 fps with AE and AF.
  • A redesigned mirror mechanism helps to minimize mechanical vibrations in order to better ensure sharpness during long exposures or fast continuous shooting bursts.
  • The high-performance shutter utilizes lightweight carbon fiber blades for quick shooting speeds and is tested for up to 400,000 cycles.
  • Extensive connectivity ports allow for the attachment of various accessories, including the optional WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter for remotely controlling the camera from a smartphone or sharing files over Wi-Fi with support for the 5 GHz 802.11ac standard.

EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF

An advanced 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor works in tandem with the EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF system in order to maintain accurate and consistent metering results from subject to subject. High resolution, infrared sensitivity, and a refined detection algorithm all contribute to precise color and shape recognition, using the iSA (Intelligent Scene Analysis) system that quickens both exposure metering and autofocus performance. iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF also uses this exposure and subject recognition technology for improved moving subject tracking.

Other Camera Features

  • A built-in GPS module allows you to geotag imagery in-camera as well as auto time sync with the Universal Time Code via satellites. This module is compatible with American GPS, Russian GLONASS, and Japanese quasi-zenith Michibiki satellites for a wide coverage of support.
  • Digital Lens Optimizer technology compensates for a range of optical defects from various lenses, including chromatic aberration, distortion, peripheral brightness, and diffraction, and the camera can store lens data in order to avoid having to re-register lenses prior to each use.
  • In addition to full-resolution recording, files can also be recorded at reduced resolutions, including M-RAW and S-RAW sizes to save file size and memory card capacity.
  • Picture Style settings: Auto, Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Fine Detail, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, and User Defined 1-3.
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Ibex Sale

Ibex NZM glove

I spend a fair amount of time in the outdoors, and one brand I use a lot (jackets, hoodies, pants, gloves, hats) is Ibex.

Ibex is having their annual 50% off winter sale.

See also:

In use below at 10°F: Ibex hoody, Ibex wool pants, Ibex wool jacket, Ibex gloves, Ibex Aire wool jacket, Western mountaineering down jackets.

Dad and Daughter at Sunset
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Tiny Lenses: Nikon 45mm f/2.8P, Voigtlander 40/2 Ultron, Canon 40/2.8 STM

The manual focus Nikon 45mm f/2.8P is a pancake-style lens based on a Tessar design of 4 elements in 3 groups— extremely simple, yet in truth quite well corrected for such a small number of elements.

With lens hood and lens caps, the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P weighs only 156g, making it perhaps the lightest lens one can find for a Nikon DSLR. It is very compact as well. It thus has appeal for any high-res DSLR shooter looking to travel light, at least if the images to be made are in the f/5.6 - f/11 range.

A recent inquiry about the diminutive Nikon 45mm f/2.8P prompted me to redo the mosaic aperture series with images up to 24 megapixels along with large crops.

Nikon 45mm f/2.8P Aperture Series: Mosaic (Nikon D800)

The Nikon 45mm f/2.8P is discontinued but can be found on the used market.

A good alternative would be the Voigtlander 40mm f/2.8 SL Ultron II Color-Skopar, which remains in production and is about $449. In Canon mount, I’d suggest the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM, a very nice lens, and a steal at about $149.

Nikon 45mm f/2.8P

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Examples: Lundy Canyon, Before the Snow (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

These images shot in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains (Lundy Canyon environs) in early November 2015, just before the rain and snow arrived.

In my review of the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon:

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Examples: Examples: Lundy Canyon, Before the Snow (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels.

 

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Guide to Zeiss, Guide to Leica, DAP (Nikon, Canon, etc), Mirrorless, etc

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Examples: Rain to Snow in Lundy Canyon, early November (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

These images shot in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains (Lundy Canyon environs) in early November 2015. The images are presented as a time-coherent documentary group from early morning to mid-day, showing the inexorable progression from rain to snow on an early winter day in which everyone flees the weather, which I relish, since I then have the place to myself.

All of these images were shot handheld with Sony IBIS enabled. Some were shot at higher ISO values and have some significant noise hence as a collection these images represent the outstanding ability of the Sony A7R II to perform in low lighting conditions with excellent sharpness from a very fine lens.

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

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Examples: Rain to Snow in Lundy Canyon, early November (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels. The fine detail in these images (particularly small branches and streaking rain and snow) cannot be appreciated on a conventional display. An iMac 5K or at least a 4K display or Retina display is strongly recommended for enjoying the subtle detail in these images.

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Revisiting the Pentax 645Z with the Pentax 28-45mm and 35mm f/3.5

Get Pentax 645 and Pentax 35mm f/3.5 and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 at B&H Photo.

I last looked at the Pentax 645Z back in 2014; see my in-depth review of the Pentax 645Z and/or view Pentax 645Z and 645D and Pentax medium format lens coverage.

On the way is the Pentax 645Z with two of the most recent lenses, the Pentax HD PENTAX-D FA645 35mm f/3.5 AL [IF] and the Pentax HD PENTAX-DA645 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR zoom, equivalent in field of view to focal lengths of ~28mm and ~23-36mm.

The Pentax 645Z has a beautiful sensor, perhaps a little better quality than the Nikon D810. I’d love to see its sensor in a Mamiya 7 II style fixed-lens camera: might Pentax or Fujifilm or maybe even Sony deliver such a thing this year?

See also:

  Pentax 645Z    Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645 35mm f/3.5 AL IF and Pentax 28-45mm f/4.5 ED AW SR
  Pentax 645Z  
Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810

See the portrait examples. The Pentax 645Z with the Pentax 90mm f/2.8 is a great combination, the 90/2.8 being a must-have lens for the 645Z.

  Pentax 645Z  
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Examples: Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro on Sony A7R II

Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro Lens

Get Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro at B&H Photo. Available for Sony, Canon, Nikon.

See Reader Question: Lenses for Wide Angle Macro.

The Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro (about $479) is a DSLR design installed in a Sony E-mount mirrorless mount (also available for DSLRs). The lens is completely manual and communicates no EXIF info or aperture to the camera: manual unclicked aperture, manual focus, no EXIF info communicated to camera.

I had some fun shooting close range images with the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro down to about 1:4. The Laowa 15/4 focuses as close as 1:1, but at that range there is only ~5mm of clearance to the front element and the lens shades the subject, so I found 1:4 about the practical limit withou special lighting aids.

Includes images up to 24 megapixels.

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Leica Data Sheet for MTF of 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH Error

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(without screw-on lens hood)

Thanks for reader Steven K for pointing this out.

Leica confirms that the data sheet for the 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH has an error in which the f/2.8 and f/5.6 charts are swapped.

I’ve updated my MTF page for the Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH appropriately.

Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar Examples: Sierra Autumn to Early White Mountains Winter

Get Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M and Canon 5DS R DSLR and Sony A7R II mirrorless B&H Photo.

Zeiss ZF.2 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar T*

Examples shot on the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R, and also the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II via the Novoflex adapter (with ASTAT tripod collar). Performance of the 50/2 Makro-Planar should be identical to the Zeiss Milvus 50/2M, except that the Milvus 50/2M could be slightly better due to improved lens coatings on one element.

Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar Examples: Sierra Autumn to Early White Mountains Winter

Includes images up to 24 megapixels (6048 wide).

UPDATE: crops added.

Images look spectacular on an UltraHD display, and particularly stunning on the 14.2-megapixel retina display of the iMac 5K. The pinpoint sparkles and natural textures are particularly interesting on a 5K display.

Juniper Stump
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White Balance and Tint for Canon 5DS R in Adobe Camera Raw in Overcast Daylight

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M B&H Photo.

I wanted to check on some white balance and tint adjustments for a set of images I am preparing, so I went outdoors and shot the Datacolor SpyderChecker with the Canon 5DS R and the Zeiss 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar in order to establish the proper tint for daylight. The same or very similar results should apply to the other Zeiss DSLR lenses.

In my review of the Canon 5DS R:

White Balance and Tint for Raw Conversion in Adobe Camera Raw, Overcast Cloudy Lighting

Determining appropriate white balance and tint using Datacolor SpyderChecker
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What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?

B&H has up to $200 of Apple 2015 MacBook and 13" MacBook Pro models.

I've been using the late 2015 iMac 5K for about 6 weeks now, as both a compute station (script-driven jobs) but mainly as a viewing station, since my reviews include a variety of images sizes up to 24 megapixel images. I reiterate my enthusiasm for the late 2015 iMac 5K as a powerful workstation.

But the compelling and game changing feature of the iMac 5K is its unrivalled ability to display photos that look like 23.5 X 13.125 'chromes'. Nothing else even come close; no print can deliver the contrast or the perceptual impact: 14.7 megapixels (217 ppi) with per pixel contrast that 'pops' ultra fine details. Transmissive vs boring reflective media, just like a 'chrome' and with amazing contrast and 10-bit color with a wide gamut. Images are stunning on the iMac 5K.

If you enjoy viewing images, then the iMac 5K is your most important photographic accessory. Since there is no point to making images if they are not viewed, why not view them at their best? If all you want to do is buy the iMac 5K as if it were a gorgeous display, B&H has discounted late 2015 iMac 5K models.

I’m looking forward to an iMac 6K and eventually an iMac 8K, though I'd like to see the display go to at least 30" if not 32". And eventually a wall-size 16K OLED style thing, say 8 feet wide or so: digital display is the FUTURE of display photography for prime enjoyment (immersive, lifelike contrast and dynamic range). My main gripe is the screen ratio: 5120 X 2880 is an aspect ratio of 1.77:1 (more like 1.8:1 with the menu bar and window title bar), so its shape doesn’t fit a 3:2 (1.5:1) image all that well. It would sure be nice to have the same aspect ratio as my 2560 X 1600 NEC PA302W (e.g., 5120 X 3200), though I deem that unlikely.

See also:

If the iMac 5K display were offered as a display only, say at $1629, it would be worth it. So why not get one, and with a free iMac computer included? But that computer just happens to trounce the fastest 8-core Mac Pro in many tests (the high-end model at least).

Recommended with iMac 5K: OWC memory upgrades, OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock, TRIPP LITE USB3 hub, OWC Mercury Elite Pro external drives for backup, OWC Thunderbay for storage and/or backup.

James K, a NYC pro photographer, writes:

Images on my late 2015 iMac 5k Late are just fabulous. You don’t want to view prints after seeing illuminated photos on the 5K.

I always loved looking at 8x10 chromes on my light box. Hopefully some of the new OLED panels will be priced within reach in a couple of years. I would love a large, thin , high quality electronic view screen for my images.

The iMac 5K display shows the way forward: I am eagerly anticipating 6K and 8K displays. An 8K display would allow the entire image from a Nikon D810 or Sony A7R II to be displayed at once—every pixel. Which will be an incredible viewing experience.

One has to question the appeal of shooting a camera to fill 1/3 of the screen, which will be the case with an 8K display—future displays will make 16 and even 24-megapixel images look positively tiny. While 24-megapixels is a defensible low-end, APS-C cameras like Fujifilm X already do not fill the iMac 5K display horizontally(4896 X 3264 images vs 5120 X 2880 screen). If I’m going to shoot for viewing enjoyment for what will be available in just a few years, a low-res 16MP sensor doesn’t cut it. And 24 megapixels is the bottom-end.

How I use the iMac 5K

For daily work I use it as a slave workstation with Thunderbolt networking to free up my Mac Pro while it runs 2-10 minute scripted jobs (preparing high-res image size variants for my publications).

The contrast and color of the late 2015 iMac 5K are stunning (hyper realistic), so good that I stick with my advice of using a standard-res NEC PA302W when preparing images for prints since reflective media (print) cannot deliver the same feel as transmissive media. The iMac 5K color gamut is excellent (and 10 bits for the display), but the visual impact goes way beyond gamut.

Viewing a 4320-pixel image on the iMac 5K display
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Leica Updates the 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH and 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH

Get Leica 28mm at B&H Photo.

The revised lenses are mainly about bringing the physical design to current standards so that they are similar to the 28/1.4 Summilux and various other Leica M wides. Both 28mm lenses also incorporate optical tweaks, for claimed higher performance.

Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(without screw-on lens hood)
Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
(without screw-on lens hood)

I discuss the revised Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH and revised Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH in Guide to Leica.

I expect to have both lenses to test sometime in February, on the M240 for sure, and if things go well the Leica SL may be at hand.

The 28mm focal length is a favorite of mine, and the 28/2.8 Elmarit is a diminutive lens, really nice for 'carry'.

It looks like the 28/2 Summicron is the clear winner at f/2.8, and of course it also has an f/2 for blurring the background. So if those are key apertures, the 28/2 looks to be the choice.

Update: is Leica’s data sheet wrong? Perhaps the f/2.8 and f/5.6 graphs are reversed (as of 28 Jan 2016)? NOW CONFIRMED by Leica, the charts as posted by Leica had the f/2.8 and f/5.6 graphs swapped. Presumably Leica will correct the datasheet soon.

Death Valley Bush on Dry Plain
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Play 4K Videos on 4K TV: Load Onto USB3 Drive

OWC Envoy Pro Mini

Get OWC Envoy Pro Mini at MacSales.com.

See also: What to Consider for a 4K TV.

Have a 4K TV and any one of the many cameras now capable of shooting 4K video? Such as recent iPhone models, the Sony A7R II and Sony A7S II, and the Panasonic GH4.

Here’s a great way to enjoy those videos on a 4K TV using a USB thumb drive (or any USB3 drive, but I really like simple form factor + high speed of the OWC Envoy Pro Mini for this purpose).

It turns out that my Sony XBR-65X930C 4K TV has a USB slot which accepts a thumb drive for playing stills or videos. With over 100GB of 4K video (and I’ve hardly started shooting 4K), I wanted a fast USB stick of high capacity. Enter the OWC Envoy Pro Mini 480GB USB2 thumb drive. It took only about six minutes to copy 100GB of videos to the Envoy Pro Mini.

Here’s how to enjoy 4K videos (or still photos) on the Sony 4K TV:

  1. Format the drive as ExFAT using Disk Utility (as shown below).
  2. Copy videos to the drive, optionally organizing into folders.
  3. Insert the drive into the USB port of the TV.

With the Sony X930C, simply inserting the thumb drive pops up the Videos app; otherwise navigate to the Videos app using the menu system of the TV. Select the folder, enjoy the videos! There is also a Photos app for still photos.

The 100M/30P video quality from the Sony mirrorless cameras and the Panasonic GH4 is easily better than most 4K video streaming from Netflix (excepting my own technical errors), and that’s lovely—because I shot it direct to card in ready-to-play “.MOV” format, not S-Log or anything fancy requiring extra work: just press the record button to stop/star.

Moreover, the video from those cameras is entirely free of smearing and other ugly digital artifacts issues often seen with streamed 4K. Only UltraHD BluRay is likely to equal it. The poppies video from the GH4 was stunning; I’ve not seen anything as good on NetFlix—period.

 s
Formatting OWC Envoy Pro Mini thumb drive as ExFAT, videos as organized on the thumb drive

Shown below is the Sony 4K TV video app displaying the videos in a “Lundy2” folder on the OWC Envoy Pro Mini thumb drive.

Sony Videos app showing 4K videos on USB3 thumb drive
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4K TV Modern Art

iLike this a lot more than most modern art that I see. Can I sell it for a million bucks?

It’s the Sony X930C 4K TV, glitching while streaming Netflix.

4K TV Modern Art
Must-have expansion: OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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

2TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD

OWC has a new 2TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD. It offers very high performance for a SATA SSD, and it has 7% over-provisioning for long life.

For photographers using certain MacBook Pro models, this makes a terrific upgrade. Also works internally in the 2009-2012 Mac Pro, PCs, etc. At present, not for use in external enclosures.

2TB OWC Mercury Electra 6G SSD in MacBook Pro

Reviewed: OWC 2TB Mercury Electra Max 6G SSD

OWC 2TB Mercury Electra Max 6G SSD in 13.3" Apple MacBook Pro
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Big Screen for the SuperBowl? And What to Consider for a 4K TV

See all 4K television deals.

See also Play 4K Videos on 4K TV: Load Onto USB3 Drive.

Personally I do not follow hockey, but the SuperBowl is coming, and every fan wants a big-screen TV. When purchasing a TV:

  • Don’t get suckered into “Full HD” which is half the resolution of a 4K Ultra HD TV. The 4K technology upscales Full HD beautifully: for example, The Bourne Identity (1st of series, Matt Damon) is only HD, but looks remarkably strong—looks great on a 4K set. But a Full HD television has no upside for 4K streaming or UltraHD BluRay (emerging this year).
  • Curved screen is a gimmick; stick with conventional flat screen.
  • OLED-based television is the emerging technology for best display quality but OLED-based televisions are still bleeding-edge expensive. At present only LG offers OLED, and I prefer the Sony 4K TVs myself.
  • Large size is not necessarily better: a 65" or 78" 4K TV will show all the flaws in the source material more obviously than a 55" or 45" 4K TV, and a lot of 4K and Full HD source material is technically mediocre (noise, sharpness, compression artifacts). However, screen size relates directly to viewing distance / viewing angle, the next point, so larger is warranted if viewing distance is not malleable.
  • Viewing distance should be measured because viewing angle is critical to the sense of immersion—this is no different from why viewing distance for a print matters. For example, I find a distance of 52" ± 5" to be ideal for a 65" TV for high quality source material. It’s just the right distance for an immersive feel, but any and all weaknesses are visible in the material.
  • Definitely get an extended warranty because it is a problematic to deal with a huge TV if something goes wrong. My own experience with SquareTrade warranty coverage has been positive (with an older Full HD TV).

I was and remain impressed with the Sony XBR-55X800B (now discontinued) and even more impressed with the Sony X930C. And yet the less expensive model is so good that it will surely make almost everyone happy (I was delighted, and I’m very picky). Even a starter Sony 4K TV is a better device than much of the source material out there (probably true of other brands too), akin to a mediocre lens on a high-res sensor. One can nitpick black levels and such, but the bottom line is that good 4K material on a 4K set is a game-changing viewing experience.

Recommendations — I am impressed with the two Sony 4K TVs I’ve tried (and one Full HD), so I’m going to stick to recommending Sony since I have no experience with other brands. These TVs should be at least as good as the XBR-55X800B mentioned above. All are discounted:

See also:

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

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on Sony A7R II Aperture Series: Burghers of Calais

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Like all Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, the Milvus 85mm f/1.4 can be used on Sony mirrorless via a lens adapter. The Milvus 85/1.4 was adapted to the Sony A7R II using the Novoflex adapter with ASTAT tripod collar.

Bokeh of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on the Sony A7R II:

Aperture Series: Burghers of Calais (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.4 through f/5.6 as well as large crops on interesting out-of-focus specular highlight areas.

Burghers of Calais
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Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on Sony A7R II Aperture Series: Tower at Night

ZF.2 Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4

GetZeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Like all Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, the Milvus 85mm f/1.4 can be used on Sony mirrorless via a lens adapter. The Milvus 85/1.4 was adapted to the Sony A7R II using the Novoflex adapter with ASTAT tripod collar.

I explore night-time performance of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 on the Sony A7R II:

Aperture Series: Hoover Tower at Night (Sony A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.4 through f/5.6 as well as large crops showing the very fine definition.

The Zeiss Milvus lineup does double duty on Canon or Nikon DSLRs and Sony mirrorless (with adapter). I particularly like the manual aperture ring on the ZF.2 model (so that no special electronic adapter is needed).

Tower at Night
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Reflecting on the Ricoh GR

Get Ricoh GR and Leica Q at B&H Photo.

Due to some reader inquiries, I happened to go back over some work with the Ricoh GR from 2.5 years ago. What is striking to me here today is just how fantastic the results are from the Ricoh GR, even in comparison to today’s standards.

     
     Ricoh GR  
Ricoh GR

There is something lovely about Ricoh GR sensor, plus its lens is pin-sharp with hardly any aberrations, its 240g fits easily into a pocket, black and white results are superb, and the total operational excellence and feature set remain unequaled by anything even halfway similar*. It’s an incredible camera: people go looking for reasons to buy a Leica Q (and there are some reasons), but bottom line is that 8X the price buys you both less and more**.

Just a sampler:

I have not tested the Ricoh GR II, so it’s an assumption that it maintains all the best behaviors of its Ricoh GR predecessor (specs seem to indicate this is so). There is also a wide angle conversion lens to get to 21mm for either the Ricoh GR or Ricoh GR II. One wonders what Ricoh might achieve by making a full-frame or even medium format equivalent with an EVF.

* Excepting lack of an EVF. Not even an optional EVF is offered on the Ricoh GR II, though it does have HDMI output.

** The Ricoh GR II not only has a leaf shutter supporting full speed flash sync with the built-in flash, it can operate wirelessly with slave flash units. The built-in flash alone is a major advantage over the Leica Q and the Sony RX1R II for many types of shooting, and a huge plus for any kind of portraiture.

ƒ/6.3 @ 4 sec, ISO 100 +1.0 push Ricoh GR
At the beach
Ricoh GR, f/9 @ 1/500 with fill flash at 1-1.7

Sohail K writes:

I’ve just read your entry on the Ricoh GR. I don’t dispute that it has an incredible sensor and superior IQ. In fact, as per your favourable reviews, I bought one when it came out, stuck with it for a year and a half, but ended up selling it. Frustratingly, I was not able to make a single satisfactory image with it largely because of no EVF support.

That said, despite your lukewarm praise of the Q, I did end up buying one. I’m willing to agree that its sensor and IQ are not the best on the market, but in purely operational terms it is the by far the best camera I’ve had with an already (for me) high hit rate. It’s a joy to use, sits perfectly in my hands, is just the right weight and does almost exactly what I want it to, which is mostly travel/street/reportage photography. My only gripe, as you rightly pointed out, is that it doesn’t have an off-centre manual focussing capability. Perhaps this could be fixed in a future firmware release. Will it be? Probably not. :-(

DIGLLOYD: the lack of an EVF is a serious handicap. I hope Ricoh figures that out—even if it were an optional hot-shoe variant. I made many fine images with the Ricoh GR in spite of that limitation, as have many, many readers who bought one and used it. But for some, the lack of an EVF is problematic and indeed it is now more of a problem than ever for me (presbyopia).

As for the Leica Q, it has very high sensor and image quality (though its 10% distortion means that edges can never be truly sharp due to distortion correction). I was unlucky enough to run into a bug on a personally important and unreproducible day. Though I was able to make some fine images in spite of it, it also killed many images. Leica ships all its cameras with bugs, and that particular one cost me. Still, I have no hesitation recommending the Q for most people and maybe that bug is fixed (?). But the Q is a much larger camera than Ricoh GR, does not fit into a pocket, and is hugely expensive by comparison. As for “street shooting”, the Ricoh GR could actually be preferred in some cases, because it calls no attention to itself. And the Q can never provide built-in fill flash and the self timer resets every shot (a serious headache for me)—so personal shooting habits come to bear on which is a better choice, as they ought to. For cycling, the Q is way too large; the Ricoh GR fits into a jersey pocket.

The Q is so expensive that the Ricoh GR can be considered an accessory: sales tax alone here in California on the Q is $393 while the Ricoh GR II is $557. Why do I have a Ricoh GR and not a Leica Q... the cost, or more accurately the value proposition! If money is no object, surely most people would pick the Q (it is a beautiful camera after all), but the Ricoh GR does some things the Q does not and will never do.

See also Will the Leica Q Kill the Leica M?.

As for my hike with the Q—it’s a fair question as I did have the Ricoh GR along as backup—which camera would I prefer? No question—the Leica Q, for its full-frame sensor and EVF. BUT I want that bug fixed which disabled autofocus with the leveling display enabled. And that self-timer reset every shot was actually dangerous on the summit: going back and forth each shot on slippery icy rocks, the risk of injury. That self-timer stupidity Leica probably won’t fix, and I don’t like willfully handicapped cameras for general use: the Q would not make the cut against the Sony A7R II on this type of hike.

Mt Dana Hailstorm with view to Mt Conness in sunlight
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Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 on Sony A7S II Aperture Series: Blue Dusk Settles on Snowy Lundy Canyon

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

Get Sony A7S II and Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

This series taken under extremely blue light, always a challenge for lens and sensor:

Aperture Series: Blue Dusk Settles on Snowy Lundy Canyon (Sony A7S II)

Includes images up to the native resolution of 4240 X 2832 from f/2 through f/9.

Native 12-megapixels resolution of the Sony A7S II happens to almost perfectly fill the iMac 5K screen (5120 X 2880), pointing out the interesting issue of inadequate camera resolution for future 6K and 8K and eventually 16K displays. Perhaps 24 megapixels should be considered a still-image minimum from here on out.

Blue Dusk Settles on Snowy Lundy Canyon
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Reader Question: Lenses for Wide Angle Macro

Get Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro and Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon and Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Luis F writes:

Do you consider that one can do wide angle macro shots with the Leica Q?

Something like the Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/4 Macro?

DIGLLOYD: This Leica Q evaluation at close range is the closest I got to testing out its closeup range, so I don’t have a solid answer on the Q in its closest-range macro setting. Note that at close range the angle of view cannot be assumed from focal length (and the focal length itself can change drastically).

I have not used the Venus Optics 15/4 lens, but it looks like fun. The Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon goes to 1:9, so it doesn’t get nearly as close.

The wide angle lens I’d suggest is the Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon, which goes to 1:2.3, and can be shot on Nikon (natively), or Canon or Sony (with adapter). It has a unique rendering style at close range and an 80° field of view—not nearly as wide as the 110° of a 15mm, but its rendering style is great fun (not highly corrected at all). The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is another excellent choice, going to 1:5. But if the desire is to go all the way to 1:1 and wide angle, then the Venus Optics 15/4 looks like about the only choice in that range.

For fast shooting fun at 28mm (equiv), the Ricoh GR is very enjoyable; see the macro range and close range portraits in my review of the Ricoh GR. Its performance is not terrific at close range, but it’s pocketable and has built-in fill flash with leaf shutter.

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Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2 Examples: White Mountains and Sierra Snow, Late November (Canon 5DS R)

Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2

Get Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2 and Canon 5DS R at B&H Photo.

These examples were taken on my late November field trip to the White Mountains and Eastern Sierra using the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R.

Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2M Examples: White Mountains and Sierra Snow, Late November

Includes images up to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), which is 70% of the linear resolution of the 8688 X 5792 Canon 5DS R originals.

Bristlecone Portrait, Patriarch Grove
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Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M Examples: Closeups after Rain and Frost

Get Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M

The Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M works great as a complement to its Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M sibling.

These examples were taken on a frosty morning as the frost started to melt.

Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M Examples: Closeups after Rain and Frost

Includes images up to 24 megapixels (6048 wide), which is 82% of the linear resolution of the 7360 X 4912 Nikon D810 originals.

Images look spectacular on an UltraHD display, and particularly stunning on the 14.2-megapixel retina display of the iMac 5K. The pinpoint sparkles and natural textures are particularly interesting on a 5K display.

Juniper Stump
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Zeiss Milvus 50/2M and 100/2M Macro Metrics

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

The 50/2M differs from the Milvus 100/2M in free working distance, depth of field and various other metrics.In Guide to Zeiss I’ve added detailed macro lens metrics for the Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M and Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M, including a downloadable PDF.

The 50/2M differs from the Milvus 100/2M in free working distance, depth of field, perspective and various other metrics.

Metrics for Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M and 100mm f/2M

Fujifilm X-Pro2

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Update: see my commentary on the Sony A6300 vs Fujifilm X-Pro2.

See existing reviews of Fujifilm X. Now, Fujifilm has upped the ante with a high-res EVF and 24 megapixels.

When the X-Pro2 arrives, I’ll take a fresh look at what Fujifilm has to offer, using the X-Pro2 along with the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2, Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2, Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 and Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4.

Note that the equivalent focal lengths / apertures on full frame vs APS-C would be 135/2.8, 52/2.8, 35/2, 15-36/5.6, so these are not fast lenses by any stretch—but that’s the trick to make APS-C cameras look smaller and lighter: non-equivalence*. That said, lenses of suitable speed for many purposes is an idea I generally like.

* See Format-Equivalent Depth of Field and F-Stop. While f-stop is always f-stop regardless of format size (sensor or film size), the feel is not the same: one has to use a shorter focal length and one-stop-faster aperture to achieve the same field of view and degree of blur or, alternately, the same focal length and f-stop at a greater distance, which changes the perspective. In practice (lens availability) APS-C lacks the ability to achieve wide aperture blur qualities, since APS-C needs f/1.0 to deliver the same blur characteristics as f/1.4 on full frame. Whether this matters at all is a personal choice.

ZEISS Milvus Lenses IN STOCK
For Canon and Nikon (or Sony mirrorless with adapter)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4A Examples in Mt Conness Watershed

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

Examples from last July.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Examples: Mt Conness Watershed (Canon 5DS R)

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Contemplation

Get Canon 8-15mm f/4L at B&H Photo.

What more can one ask of a day or a trip? The day was fabulous. From last July.

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Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Aperture Series at 500mm: Pomegranate

Get Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR at B&H Photo.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

Sometimes I shoot subject just to field check other results.

In this case, I shot this image to check across-the-frame sharpness, color aberrations, bokeh, etc, but it turns out to show something much more useful and important.

A must read for anyone considering the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR:

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Aperture Series @ 500mm: Pomegranate on Table (Nikon D810)

Images up to 6048 wide, and also large crops.

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Movies: 'Revenant' and 'Star Wars: the Farce Awakens'

I hadn’t been to the theatre (movies) for over two years. So last night I did a double-header movie: Revenant and Star Wars: The Farce Awakens (oops, did I spell that wrong?). I have to wonder if there is any future at all for quality movies from Hollywood. Quality as in story line, character development, believability that comes from small but critical details, the judgment to not overproduce scenes, and so on. To use an analogy: tabloids vs literature. They give awards for this stuff? The pre-show movie previews pretty much nail that coffin shut: shut off your brain at the movie theatre.

For Star Wars: The Farce Awakens, I sat in the vibrating D-Box seats, in part because I wanted to try it, and in part because those seats can be reserved and are in a good location. The seat vibrates in distracting ways, helping to startle at loud noises and such. Or to disrupt the viewing experience at inappropriate times. For most movies, this may be perfect: stimulate the senses even more, since all intellectual functions are presumably disengaged or the viewer would not be there. I turned the vibrating function on and off several times to test my reaction—it’s definitely not something I want in my movie experience. And the seats are not good for slouching.

Revenant

I went to see Revenant* for one reason only: the cinematography. A reader had emailed to tell me that the wide open spaces and use of natural lighting reminded him of my still photography, and indeed that was so.

Its forte is the cinematography and visual grandeur of the scenery, and I can relate to many of the locations. At one point I thought to myself “Lundy Canyon”—and a moment later my daughter voiced aloud that same thought—funny!

Revenant was shot on the Alexa 65 in 6K with Hasselblad prime lenses: huge sensor and long focal lengths for wide angles are not quite view camera feel, but mighty impressive in visual impact (the big screen needs at least 8K IMO). I loved the wide angle views on the large format. Fantastic stuff; it is a tour de force of modern digital cinematography, particularly the dark forest and dusk scenes. Impressive scenes (and there are many) are the “river escape” sequence and the knife/hatchet fight scene late in the movie: a gentle dawn sunlight creeps up the hills as the fight progresses, beautiful and a nice symbolic touch too.

One visual defect marred it for me: the presence of lateral chromatic aberration (red/cyan fringes) was distracting: the moon had an obvious red fringe, edges of shadow and snow had mild red/cyan fringing, and much worse, the white lettering in early scenes had quite strong color fringing. Was this the source material? That would not explain the color fringing on the white lettering, so I’m all but certain that the theatre projector optics were off somehow. I considered complaining, but the thought of the blank stares that would result dispensed with that idea.

Ignore the predictable story line, the paper thin veneer of character development, and the collection of physical absurdities that should be self evident to any outdoorsman or doctor—focus on the visuals, which are spectacular.

Mini review: I can’t recommend the plot or character development or acting or anything else about Revenant, it’s a depressing story that lacks any intellectual or emotional rewards that a great movie offers. Perhaps most damning for a movie about suffering, it falls completely flat in emotional power, stringing together a series of contrived and shopworn cliches that just don’t go anywhere successful. It doesn’t even offer credibility, a huge failure for a film like this. For example the improperly-strung toy-store bows lacking any recurve that unerringly shoot arrows deep into tree trunks or bodies like an 80-pound-pull compound bow. It’s beyond idiotic for a former bowhunter like me. Then there are the single shot rifles, but dual-shot pistols (or was it three shots at times?). The self-fueling fires: apparently our hero and surviving native not only can start fire with flint and steel from damp grass, but they carry gasoline or some accelerant to make small branches of bushes flame in roaring wind for quite some time, an unseen helper always keeping ample wood on the fire which blazes like it was kiln dried and force fed with an oxygen tank, with no smoke. A bearskin from a huge bear that ought to weigh 100 pounds somehow reduced to the size of a jacket: it sprouts a neat poncho-style hole. Hyper-fast infection-free wound healing suitable for a superhero. Hypothermia or even shivering never an issue. A sweat lodge made of flimsy aspen branches and covered with (now grown very large) skins in a 50 mph wind; our hero awakes refreshed and warmed from a few stones after a few dried herbs are sprinkled on his body. Fish badly wanting to be caught with bare hands (I have caught trout with my bare hands and I know just how it’s done). Then there is the starvation diet while burning 8000 calories a day with the body healing up at warp speed: upon arrival at the fort, our shirtless hero is looking nicely filled out to the point of flabbiness, and in eminent health aside from scars.

The juxtaposition of the worst of human nature set amid the best of wild nature is jarring, and presumably intentional—so much so that this film’s metaphysical sense of life bludgeons the viewer: the story is utterly depressing. Just as with still photography, greatness must come from visual power and a keen story, but this story has no balance, no opportunity for the viewer to participate intellectually, no nuances or ambiguities to mull, not even a good twist to the plot. All the required correct viewpoints of white man vs native, man vs man, man vs nature, the futility of existence are duly passed upon, and this transparent and heavy-handed treatment robs Revenant of emotional or intellectual power to move. When the credits rolled, I remembered it not as a compelling and nuanced story, but a series of loosely-related vignettes of predictable violence strung together, albeit with gorgeous photography. Revenant is a tired cliché, and as noted above, does not even offer the satisfaction of believability.

* Present participle in French of revenir ‎(“to return”); even my rusty French skills knew that after many years.

Elaine D writes:

I much prefer the original movie “A Man in The Wilderness” with Richard Harris. I haven’t seen the new movie, but from your review, I kind of figured it would be as you have written it as not being accurate in many ways. You should watch the original movie, which the everyone seems to have detoured around by stating this is from the book, “The Revenant”. It is, but no one has made the connection to the same movie made before it back in the early 70s I believe. I grew up and saw the first movie and it made such an impression on me back then that I keep re-renting it from Netflix to watch it.

Star Wars: the Farce Awakens

I like the core storyline of Star Wars, but I have always been deeply disappointed in how badly its potential has been mangled. Sadly, Star Wars: the Force Awakens puts a huge spike into the coffin for the potential of the series in the sense of being compatible with anything of adult interest. Teenagers will love it, and it will no doubt make a lot of money for the next 18 episodes or so.

Virtually every scene or idea is recycled from past episodes. Refried beans. The galaxy is really small in Episode VII; hop to any planet seemingly in minutes. It feels disjointed; there is no time continuity.

Han Solo and Leia apparently could not get their shit together enough to stay together but their son becomes the Really Bad Guy (Kylo Ren). Plump and matronly Leia bores us to tears (no wonder Han left her), and Han seems wilted at best. At the urging of Leia, Han is naive enough to let his son Kylo Ren skewer him with a light saber. The father/son thing again. How original. But it looks like Leia slept around, because the son bears no resemblance to the father. No wonder they split.

The Death Star in Episode 6 was destroyed, but there is a new peril which is the same type of weapon, only far worse. How many of these things are they gonna make? The resistance needs to hold a bake sale or something, because their uniforms and fighters are the same crappy ones in Episode IV. Can’t they at least steal a few decent ships and fighters after a few decades?

Luke has disappeared for many years, pouting because his prize pupil Kylo Ren becomes a powerful Really Bad Guy prone to temper tantrums and sniveling, and worshiping his father, Darth Vader. So Luke hangs up his jockstrap and retires to a little island to wear a hoody and go fishing for a few decades. Apparently Luke did not bother to train any other Jedi, and Leia didn’t think it worthwhile to bother. Alrighty then.

Enter Rey and Finn. Fortunately, the beautiful new female hero Rey is a quick learner, picking up The Force in a few hours and expert light-saber skills in minutes, maiming Kylo Ren*, presumably so he can fulfil his destiny in a newfangled Darth Vader style pant suit in episodes eight through 23. Finn is maimed by Kylo Ren, but likely to recover. Teenage boys are gonna really dig Rey, and girls too: what’s not to like? And to give the actress credit, no one else is half as interesting or alive in the film. But Finn needs to grow somehow, otherwise he's a dud. In the end, Rey heads over to Luke’s island to see if sushi is better than her powdered fare.

* Plain names just don’t cut it for me for the bad guys. The Darth thing worked.

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More Thoughts on 4K Video + Good 4K is Better than a Movie Theatre

Last fall I wrote about 4K television and streaming in Impressions of 4K Television. See also Sony 4K Television: Wow! and 4K UltraHD Fascinating Visually, Selection Needs to Expand.

I’ve been evaluating 4K video some more, a fascinating study for me that I started last September—akin to how I first started assessing still imagery, but this time with years of experience studying hundreds of lenses and dozens of camera. My 'eye' is now well tuned enough to be a distraction: I can’t watch 4K video or even go to the movies without seeing all the visual flaws. 4K video is fascinating in its own right because unlike all previous formats, it gets close enough to real to be interesting for the visuals alone (and since nearly all Hollywood movies made today are dreck in terms of plot or character development, that’s a key point).

So now I’m studying 4K on the Sony X930C, which has a fabulous picture. While OLED TVs are just starting to appear, the X930C supports the new 4K HDR standard and so when source material starts appearing, it should gain another bump up in visual impact. OLED-based 4K TVs will be even better in picture quality, but the X930C is stunning right now, and way beyond really good.

Both the Sony 4K TVs mercilessly reveal limitations of the source material, and limitations are legion: depth of field, noise and posterization, focus errors, dynamic range, flare. And that’s best case: compression of streamed 4K material can at times deliver ugly tonal transitions, stuff that in a still image I’d eviscerate in a review, such as noses on human faces. There can also be network issues that sporadically reduce streaming 4K quality to sub-HD levels, and the pixellated result is not pleasing. If it doesn’t look good, it may just be the streaming quality, so keep that in mind (hint: unplug the TV and/or internet router if quality problems persist).

Observations:

  • High quality 4K is a whole new experience visually; I can’t go back to standard-res TV. Really good HD material can be quite satisfying on 4K also, and indeed better than mediocre 4K material, particularly movies originally shot on film (e.g., The Bourne Identity). Still, 4K TV cries out for high quality source material, and there isn’t a lot of that yet.
  • 4K is as much about dynamic range and color gamut than resolution. Just as with still image photography! All three have to be there in proper measure: resolution, color gamut, dynamic range. The dynamic range component is now standardized and with support starting to arrive in TVs like the Sony X930C; perhaps confusingly for still photographers it is called HDR.
  • Noise (film or digital) is a limitation with all sorts of 4K material shot in low light (Jessica Jones and Breaking Bad, show high levels of noise and sometimes posterization). Sometimes posterization is seen and sometimes pronounced: there is no magic bullet just because it’s video instead of still. Some recent movies are shot digitally on huge sensors (e.g, Revenant in 65mm anamorphic); I saw no such defects in Revenant, so large sensors apparently help tremendously.
  • The moving frames of video hide serious image quality defects as can be seen by pausing any 4K movie or show and examining any static details.
  • 4K footage that fully utilizes the resolution for more than a small fraction of the show is hard to find; movement, focus, lighting all reduce actual resolution. Ungraded 4K video at 100M/30p right out of the Sony A7R II or Sony A7S II makes a laughingstock of 4K streaming. UltraHD BluRay (due out in March 2016) should help a lot. The iMac 5K with 100M/30P 4K at actual pixels or at 5K looks fantastic, showing that 8K has serious potential for future 8K home TV (pixel density relates to believability of the image). Bandwidth is the main problem.
  • BluRay upscaled to 4K looks acceptable to very good, depending on the content. Blade Runner on BluRay cries out for a 4K remaster, but my guess is that the source material will have a lot of limitations. Plain DVD video is almost cartoonish in its coarse details, but old original Star Trek episodes on DVD work out just fine given the strong story lines; those were never about special effects.
  • Viewing distance matters. Anyone familiar with high-fidelity audio knows that listening position matters a lot. The same is true with video. I experimented with my preferred viewing distance to the 64.5" Sony X930C: 52 inches from the screen ±5 inches). Closer is too wide an angle for viewing comfort, farther feels out of the scene. This is one reason why most movie theatres suck: there are perhaps 6 optimal rows for seating (distance) and only a few seats in the middle (centered).

4K beats the theatre?

Having just seen two movies last night, I would say this: the theatre experience is challenged by the potential of high-grade 4K. The theatre image quality is not necessarily better than a high quality 4K movie on a high quality 4K TV. For starters, the theatre resolution is not commensurate with screen size: if seated too close then the image is less than sharp, and farther away the eye cannot necessarily discern any more than with a 4K TV. And that’s assuming the best seats in a good theatre.

More impressive in favor of the 4K TV experience (with future 8K and/or OLED becoming unbeatable): the reflected light of a projection system cannot compete with the rich blacks of the Sony X930C (or similarly with stills or video, an iMac 5K). Coming OLED screens will only widen that contrast gap: the black level of a movie theatre itself is not at all black (for starters), but reflected vs transmissive is like print versus screen. Get an iMac 5K and see the light. Now there may be specially-endowed theatres in which things are better than my local ones—so I’ll set that possibility aside. But I can get a better experience right at home on 64.5" 4K than at the theatre. What does this bode for theatres? I’d much rather see Revenant and Star Wars on 4K at home, assuming high quality UltraHD BluRay source.

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Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Snow-Covered Bare Aspen (A7R II)

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R

This aperture series at relatively close range complements Pines in Heavy Snowstorm, which was taken at medium-far distance.

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Snow-Covered Bare Aspen (Sony A7R II)

There is no equivalent performer from Canon or Nikon or Sony or Zeiss at ~180mm. The ease of shooting the 180/2.8 APO on the A7R II is unrivalled by any adaptation to a DSLR and the EVF is a huge help. Shooting in heavy snow is so much easier on the A7R II with its EVF—what a terrific 'carry and shoot' combination.

Snow-Covered Bare Aspen
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Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Pines in Heavy Snowstorm (A7R II)

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R

Last fall I shot a lot of material with many different optics, and here is one result.

Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R Aperture Series: Pines in Heavy Snowstorm (Sony A7R II)

The 180mm focal length is badly neglected by Canon, Nikon, Zeiss and Sigma. The Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R can be adapted for Canon, Nikon, Sony, but it is most useful on the Sony A7R II. There is no better solution for the ~180mm range as of early 2016.

Only a lens with outstanding performance characteristics could hope to record this scene in a persuasive way: snow coming down so heavily that it was thick to the eye, with ultra low contrast from both the lighting itself, as well as air thick with snow. A lens with less than outstanding performance will add its own dullness to an already dull scene. That fate is avoided by the Leica 180/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R ASPH.

The Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R and its siblings like the Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R and 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-R ASPH must be obtained on the used market. But ironically they are more useful than they have ever been on the Sony A7R II: no Leica camera body (or Nikon or Canon DSLR) ever made them particularly usable.

Pines in Heavy Snowstorm
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Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Evaluated at 200mm, 340mm, 500mm

Get Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR at B&H Photo.

Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR offers relatively compact form factor for a lot of long lens reach. In this regard it is similar to the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, but with a fixed f/5.6 aperture and a bit more range.

Along with some overall commentary, I’ve evaluated it at 200mm, 340mm and 500mm on the Zeiss Siemens Star Test Chart, which affords repeatable focus accuracy and fine details at the periphery.

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LED Lighting Reviewed: Cineo Matchbox and Dracast LED 500

Get Dracast LED500 and Cineo Matchbox at B&H Photo.

Dracast LED500

See my previous blogs posts on the Cineo Matchbox and the Dracast LED500.

CRI (Color Rendering Index) and TLCI (Television Lighting Consistency Index) are two ratings applied to lighting sources, LED or otherwise. But how does LED lighting compare to real daylight in actual practice? Particularly in terms of the white balance and tint required for a neutral grayscale in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR).

Colorimetry is more complex than a simple color rendering rating because it involves spectral distribution, which can render some colors not quite ideally, due to the spectral distribution. CRI in particular is not good at describing the accuracy of some lighting sources which have a “gappy” spectrum.

Cineo Matchbox

But for this test I was curious what kind of white balance and tint these two lights would produce versus daylight, a neutral grayscale being a core requirement for good color. So I shot them under controlled conditions. Along with some general commentary on each, I show the white balance and tint with each as per what Adobe Camera Raw needs to produce a neutral gray scale at the nominal 5600°K output for each source.

There are very significant differences, which must be understood for good color. In DAP:

Cineo Matchbox and Dracast LED500 vs Daylight

Includes daylight as a reference, the two lights as the sole illuminant, and a mix of each with daylight. I recommend the Datacolor Spyder chart as seen below.

See also Sony A7R II: White Balance and Tint in Adobe Camera Raw and Leica SL: White Balance in Adobe Camera Raw, Gray Overcast Lighting.

Test scene for evaluating LED lighting vs daylight
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Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod

Get Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod at Really Right Stuff.

Just got this little tripod. It’s a beautiful thing and very sturdy. It’s something I hope will be useful for closeups like this pomegrante, although something like the Really Right Stuff ground pods may be better for a little more height.

There are several variants of the Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod; I tried the smallest clamp version with the BC-18 clamp.

Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod
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Leica SL: Focus Point Bug

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

See also How To Get Peak Sharpness With Perfect Focus in Making Sharp Images.

I reported on some focusing and focus shift issues with the Leica SL in previous posts, including two examples, one Leica SL example at 49mm and the other at Leica SL example at 90mm.

Leica contacted me yesterday. Today, after a conversation with Leica (a good back and forth exchange), a bug I reported has been confirmed (affects firmware 1.1 and 1.2). Referring to my doll’s studio setup:

Crosshair on pupil at 1X
At 6X it moves below the eye
  • In non-magnified view, place the AF crosshair dead-center on the eye, then zoom to 6X: the crosshair is now below the eye.
  • Alternately: at 6X place the AF crosshair dead-center on the eye, then zoom out: the crosshair is now above the eye.

I reported this behavior and Leica confirms it as a bug. It should be fixed in a future firmware update, but no date on that yet.

I have confirmed that *if* focusing is done at 6X magnification with the crosshair placed dead-center on the eye, then focus is spot-on. But as shown in the 49mm and 90mm examples, AFc cannot obtain correct focus on the eye at 1X (non zoomed). This I have confirmed repeatedly; no variation, completely consistent. This leads to questions:

  • Is the front-focus error shown in the 49mm and 90mm examples caused by the AF crosshair being shown in the wrong place? That is, could it be that AF is actually focusing on an area below the AF crosshair? That would be a more difficult area to focus on accurately.
  • Alternately, is the area indicated by the crosshair actually much larger, so that the AF system might pick up the wrong area?

I don’t have answers yet to these theories, nor would they explain the focus error I saw in the field. But the findings are a good place to start, and I’ll work with Leica some more on these issues, assuming they can provide me with an SL—my loaner camera was supposed to be on a UPS truck heading back several days ago, and I cannot defer returning it any longer.

The focus error without 6X zooming is a problem which even f/8 doesn’t quite fix. This small resolution chart was placed at the same distance as the doll’s eye:

Actual pixels at f/4: focusing at 1X vs 6X with Leica SL

Nikon D5 and Nikon D500 Announced: 4K Video, Advanced Autofocus

Get Nikon D5 DSLR and Nikon D500 DSLR at B&H Photo, now available for pre-order.

See all newly-announced Nikon products and all products announced at CES.

The Nikon KeyMission 360 Action Camera is a new type of product for Nikon.

CES is just underway, with Nikon unveiling the Nikon D5 and Nikon D500, both capable of 4K video and seemingly neither supporting an EVF (though as yet this is not ruled out, no mention has been made).

Both cameras could be interesting with the Nikon AF-S 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (sports and wildlife and such). Could be good pairing in my mind: a D5 plus a D500 sidekick.

Nikon D5

Nikon D5 brochure.

Full-frame 20.8 megapixel pro DSLR shooting up to 12 fps with AF and up to 14 fps without. ISO 100 to 102,400 with Lo 50 and extended high mode (presumably not a real ISO) up to 3.28 million (!). What remains puzzling to me is the whole idea of continuing to bang a mirror up and down for shooting: why not skip the mirror and keep the blackout to near zero?

Advanced autofocus might be the best in the industry for tracking motion.

The D5 also includes 4K video, a first for Nikon but with a severe cropping factor in 4K mode, it’s not at all interesting compared to Sony 4K video in the A7R II or A7S, since no wide angle shooting is possible.

The 3.2" rear LCD is 2359K dot (2.3 megadots), the highest-res rear LCD yet seen in a DSLR, the closest thing to a Retina display yet.

Nikon controls are excellent, proven by years of experience. If only Sony and Leica would deliver this kind of pro-grade stuff.

Nikon D500

APS-C 20.9 megapixel enthusiast DSLR. Captures 4K video (smart move!), but the price of about $2000 seems oddly high in this market when a 24MP D5500 is going for around $600. Still, wildlife photographers looking for reach will no doubt want the advanced AF performance of the D500 as well as the weather-resistant body and 10 fps shooting. As with the D5, where is the high-res EVF option?

The D500 includes 4K video but also with a severe cropping factor in 4K mode, so it’s not at all interesting compared to Sony 4K video in the A7R II or A7S, since no wide angle shooting is possible.

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Sigma dp Quattro and Sigma DP Merrill Heavily Discounted

The Sigma DP Merrill cameras are not well loved, but worthy of consideration; see Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill. The Sigma dp Quattro cameras are a follow-on product that offer high performance in a compact package also.

Currently, the Sigma dp Quattro cameras are heavily discounted, by $300 (30% off). The Sigma dp2 Merrill is also $300 off.

See my in-depth review of the Sigma dp Merrill and dp Quattro compact cameras: they may be the right choice for some users. I consider the dp Merrill line to be a 'cult' classic camera worth having: very compact and light, outstanding lenses, unique imaging style.

There are two reasons for such deep discounts: new products coming out, or slow sales. I deem the discounts almost certainly the latter: slow sales. If Nikon and Canon cannot sell APS-C for months now even at deep discounts, why should Sigma be any different?

Greg B writes:

I bought a DP2 Merrill shortly after it came out, knowing full well about all its quirks. I've always been amazed at the image quality, particularly now viewed on my new 5K iMac. Just stunning!

DIGLLOYD: the 4800 X 3200 images from the 14-megapixel DP Merrill line fit the 5120 X 2880 iMac 5K display well enough—a stunning view that may knock your socks off. (If only Apple would make a 3:2 aspect ratio display of 5120 X 3400 or so, or better yet, 6000 X 4000—that would be much more friendly to the common 3:2 aspect ratio of most cameras).

As an aside, it turns out that the Lupine transport case from the Lupine Betty lighting system is a handy thing for small camera systems. Zippered and with a carrying handle and small pouch (not shown below), it fits the bill nicely.

Three Sigma DP Merrill cameras in Lupine zippered case
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Jan 21 - Feb 15. Use code LOVE15
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Leica SL Aperture Series @ 58mm: Boulders Amid Rushing Water in Pescadero Creek

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

This aperture series at 58mm is an excellent field confirmation of the autofocus and focus shift study at 49mm.

Aperture Series @ 58mm: Boulders Amid Rushing Water in Pescadero Creek

Includes images from f/3.7 through f/11, with up to full-resolution images (24 megapixels).

OMG.

Boulders Amid Rushing Water in Pescadero Creek
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Leica SL: White Balance and Tint in Adobe Camera Raw

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

This study evaluates white balance and tint using Adobe Camera Raw 9.3.1 (520) in Photoshop CC 2015 (version 20151114 r.301, latest as of 2016-01-03).

The choice of camera profile for raw conversion exerts a pronounced influence on color rendition. Indeed, the choice of white balance and tint can be wildly different with each camera profile.

Accordingly, with any new camera it is a good idea to shoot a color checker target(such as the Datacolor SpyderCHECKR) to determine the appropriate white balance and tint settings for raw conversion in typical lighting conditions: sunny, overcast, tungsten, etc—whatever one commonly uses. Once determined, these settings can then be used as baselines for work in which the white balance and tint may vary according to time of day and other factors.

Leica SL: White Balance in Adobe Camera Raw, Gray Overcast Lighting

Includes the (completely different) settings needed to deliver neutral results with Camera Profile = Adobe Standard vs Camera Profile = Embedded.

Datacolor Spyder
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Leica SL: Evaluation of Focus Shift at 49mm for Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL

Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

The Leica SL has one lens option, the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH. In many ways it is a super premium lens. Well...

I experienced consistent problems in the field with both autofocus and focus shift. Both issues are extremely serious in that they destroy image quality.

The 90mm findings incited me to disbelief, and wanting to disbelieve, I became curious if the issues also persist at 49mm with a $13K camera system. Well, field shots strongly suggested so, accordingly I confirmed:

Leica SL + 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL: Focus Shift and Autofocus Evaluation at 49mm

Includes images from f/3.6 - f/11 including actual pixels. Well, all one can do is laugh. Go get a Nikon D810 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E VR and forget about the SL practical joke. Or a Canon 5DS R and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II.

This study is at a reproduction ratio of 1:21 as determined my measuring the subject.

Dolls and Rulers
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Leica SL: Evaluation of Focus Shift at 90mm for Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL

Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

The Leica SL has one lens option, the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH. In many ways it is a super premium lens. Well...

I experienced consistent problems in the field with both autofocus and focus shift. Both issues are extremely serious in that they destroy image quality.

This studio evaluation confirms my findings. I deem it alone worth the price of Guide to Leica for anyone considering the Leica SL.

Leica SL + 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL: Focus Shift and Autofocus Evaluation at 90mm

Includes images from f/4 - f/8 including actual pixels.

UPDATE: I’ve added a second series from f/2.8 - f/11, this time using manual focus to ensure sharp eyes to start with. Combined with the AF example, the practical value of the operational behavior is even higher.

This is not a one-off issue: Ming Thein found the same problem in his review of the Leica SL.

This study is at a reproduction ratio of 1:16.3 as determined my measuring the subject. It corresponds to a loose head and shoulders portrait, thus it is a critical operating distance. Since the 24-90mm focuses down to 1:3.8, this is a far greater distance than its closest focusing capability.

Dolls and Rulers
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100 Megapixels: Phase One Ships Its XF 100MP Camera System

I don’t tend to get excited about medium format, but this latest model really caught my eye. I read up on it at the Digital Transitions web site (very easy to read presentation, and AFAIK a good vendor to work with).

The PhaseOne XF 100MP excites me, and that’s not been true for a long while with medium format. Bear in mind that a Leica S offers a paltry 36 megapixels. If going to the trouble of lugging around bulky and heavy lenses, I’d much rather shoot 100MP instead of 36. But other attributes like oversampling for image quality, dynamic range, high ISO, long exposures are important also, and here Phase One seems to have nailed it (so it is claimed).

It’s not the resolution by itself that is exciting, it’s that when high dynamic range and 16-bit color and high resolution are all combined that it gets exciting (think Nikon D810 as the best DSLR approximation). Those 100 megapixels are not going to be fully utilized much of the time, but oversampling has great virtue.

  • 11608 x 8708 images in 16-bit color (101.0 megapixels).
  • ISO 50 (base ISO) to 12800
  • 4.6 X 4.6 micron pixels (slightly smaller than Nikon D810, depth of field and diffraction will be the Scylla and Charybdis to contend with, as well as any focus shift and focus accuracy issues).
  • Claimed 15 stops of dynamic range (something I’ve been calling for with DSLRs for a while, but it’s not clear that lenses can actually deliver 15 stops DR).
  • 3.2" touch display (resolution unspecified, apaprently not a Retina display, unfortunately)
  • WiFi built in for connectivity to iPad, iPhone. USB and HDMI outputs also.
  • 1.4 captures per second.
  • Leaf shutter lenses available.
PhaseOne XF100

Some items in particular caught my eye, excerpted here:

  • For quite some time Digital Photography has surpassed analog films in terms of resolution, ISO and Dynamic Range, but often at the sacrifice of one feature for another. Manufactures and engineers continue to strive towards reproducing the textures and tonal feel inherent to analog photography while maintaining all possible benefits of digital photography. At Phase One this pursuit has always been central to what defines ultimate image quality. With the introduction of 16-bit Color Depth, coupled with CMOS ISO flexibility, the XF 100MP delivers a natural texture and tonal feel never before seen in digital camera system.
    [diglloyd: Photoshop is 15-bit due to its special internal numeric format. Phase One is claiming 15-bit DR]
  • The addition of “Electronic First Curtain Shutter” to the XF 100MP Camera System means a further reduction in adverse vibration effects on high-resolution images. The benefit of EFCS is a significant reduction in camera vibration as it allows less mechanical dependency, which greatly improves sharpness when using shutter speeds that demand the steadiest conditions. The EFCS is worry free as it automatically activates when using Vibration Delay or activating Mirror Up.
    [diglloyd: an EFC shutter is CRITICAL to high-res digital].
  • Vibration reduction is certainly important for sharp images, but increases in importance at an exponential rate when resolution increases and pixel size decreases. The XF 100MP Camera System benefits from advanced Vibration Reduction Communication throughout the entire system to ensure that the right tools are used at the right time, ensuring crisp, clean and detail rich images with each capture. The entire XF Camera System is key to ensure the full potential of your 100MP resolution is met.
    [diglloyd: vibration control is critical for shooting situations in which the EFC shutter cannot be employed]
    .
  • With the large, high-resolution touch screen of the XF 100MP Camera System, Live View can be displayed in all its beauty directly on the system. Double-tap on the display to zoom to 100% and adjust focus with immediate visual feedback. With the Phase One XF 100MP Camera System it is easy to achieve perfect focus, even in the most demanding conditions.
    [diglloyd: focus is CRITICAL for 100 megapixels. How well AF works is one thing, but if there is 100% zoom then at least manual focus can guarantee focus manually]
  • Wireless communication is an integrated part of the IQ3 Digital Back range allowing you to connect an iPad or iPhone wirelessly and use Capture Pilot (downloadable in the app store) for Live View, exposure control, shutter release and instantly check focus or compose on a larger screen. The larger display of an iPad can make it easier to view composition and focus. Use it yourself or simply give it to the client when working on set; they can get involved, check and rate images from afar and you can make sure your clients get what they want and keep coming back. GPS information is logged through Capture Pilot when your iPhone or iPad is wirelessly connected to an IQ3 Digital Back and automatically embedded into your IQ RAW files. A great feature for reviewing where images were captured which can be useful for location scouting purposes.
  • Phase One and Sony have been development partners for years, the 50MP sensor being the first milestone of our cooperation, now found in the XF IQ3 50MP. Creating the full frame sibling to the 50MP CMOS system has been a top priority of Phase One for years. Phase One sensor experts have been working hard to optimize the complete use of the 100MP sensor for the worlds most demanding photographers.
    [diglloyd: looks like a SONY sensor; I’ve long wondered what Sony sensor tech could do when optimized].
  • The new XF 100MP System delivers extreme long exposures of up to 60 minutes in full 100MP resolution. The IQ3 100MP is yet again the first of its kind to offer such flexibility in a creative tool. With no compromise in ISO flexibility and exposure limitation, all available on a full frame CMOS sensor.
  • By combining new sensor technology and years of experience in noise suppression through Capture One software, the Phase One XF 100MP ISO range delivers unparalleled creative freedom and performance in all shooting conditions. With a previously unthinkable base ISO of 50, the Phase One XF 100MP delivers the flexibility of longer exposures and unrestricted use of fast lenses, all while providing the cleanest possible results. Expanding on CMOS technology, the XF 100MP can offer higher ISO versatility and, with Capture One software, retain excellent noise suppression and file rendering.
  • Schneider Kreuznach Leaf Shutter lenses are designed together with world-renowned optics manufacturer, Schneider Kreuznach of Germany. Building on decades of experience in high-resolution optics and precision manufacturing, the Leaf Shutter Lenses are some of the sharpest lenses in the world and ready to compliment the new Phase One XF 100MP Camera System.
Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Leica SL Aperture Series @ 24mm: Pescadero Creek, Forest View

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

The Leica SL has one lens option, the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH. The 24mm end is most interesting to me, so I started with that.

This aperture series at 24mm supplements the Pescadero Creek, Upstream View series.

Aperture Series @ 24mm: Pescadero Creek, Forest View

Includes images from f/2.8 through f/11, with up to full-resolution images (24 megapixels).

Pescadero Creek after Heavy Rainfall, Forest View
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Leica SL First Look: Overview plus Aperture Series at 24mm: Pescadero Creek Upstream

Get Leica SL at B&H Photo.

The Leica SL started shipping in November 2015. The SL is Leica’s first foray into a fully modern interchangeable lens mirrorless camera. Related products fall short of the fully modernized digital approach:

  • The Leica M240 is a hybrid rangefinder + optional (and low-res) EVF system in which the rangefinder lenses for the most part are not optimized for digital.
  • The Leica S is a DSLR lacking an EVF option (2015 model does have Live View finally).
  • The Leica Q has a fixed 28mm lens.

The Leica SL is offered at present with only one lens: the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH zoom lens. Delivery of prime lenses seems to be planned for late 2016 or 2017; Leica does not get specific.

At about $7450 for the camera body alone and about $4950 for the 24-90mm lens, the minimum starting price before any accessories is thus $12400, a price which surpasses the used market for a Leica S with lens (last fall, even for a new Leica S with lens).

With the 24-90mm lens and camera weighing in at nearly 5 pounds, and no lens choices at its debut, an S system with 36 megapixels and a much larger sensor may be something to ponder, although the S system lacks an EVF.

  • 24MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • Leica Maestro II Image Processor
  • Internal DCI 4K Video & L-Log Gamma
  • 0.66" 4.4MP 0.8x Electronic Viewfinder
  • 2.95" 1.04M-Dot LED-Backlit Touchscreen
  • Contrast AF System with 49 Fields
  • Up to 11 fps Shooting and ISO 50000
  • Two SD Card Slots; 1.3" Top LCD Screen
  • Weather-Resistant Milled Aluminum Body
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity and GPS

Initial commentary in my review:

Overview of Leica SL

Leica SL: Ergonomics

Lens performance of the 24-90mm

The Leica SL has one lens option, the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH.

This first looks checks out its performance at the 24mm end:

Aperture Series @ 24mm: Pescadero Creek, Upstream View

Includes images from f/2.8 through f/13, with up to full-resolution images (24 megapixels).

Pescadero Creek Upstream, After Heavy Rainfall
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Sony RX1R II Distortion

Distortion is a given with a wide angle lens; it is only a matter of the degree.

To my review of the Sony RX1R II, I’ve added a page showing distortion uncorrected and corrected.

Sony RX1R II: Distortion Uncorrected vs Corrected

Pacific Ocean
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Solstice Begone

Well, my daughters are all out with friends, celebrating responsibly, or so they tell me.

It’s been cold here in California (SF bay area), but cycling is possible every day. Yesterday was a soaker (uggh, wet feet and the road grit), but crisp and clear today. It’s amazing how 42°F feels cold on a bike with wind chill, even when 10°F as seen below doesn't feel all that cold when dressed well.

Thick fog and snow, White Mountains
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Year-End Deals at B&H Photo, Free Overnight Ship

Most items have free next-day shipping through through 13:00 PST Dec 30. Discounts end Jan 2 for most items.

Want a fast laptop at a good price? (at least as fast as what Lloyd uses): the Apple 15.4" MacBook Pro Retina Display (Mid 2014) is $500 off ($1799). It’s not top-of-the-line latest/fastest, but it’s also not $2999.

Want a great 5K display with a free computer built-in? The $1649 late 2015 iMac 5K is $150 off. Or get the top-end awesomely fast late 2015 iMac 5K. Add 32GB or 64GB OWC memory.

ZEISS

Zeiss lens rebates with up to 10% rewards. Recommendations: the 135/2 APO-Sonnar is an Otus-grade lens that is $400 off with 10% rewards = ~$570 off. The 15/2.8 Distagon is $700 with ~10% rewards = ~$920 off. WOW.

Sony

Sony savings on camera and lenses. Call outs:

Canon and Nikon

Deals on Canon and Nikon are said to end on Jan 2.

Some of these deals are pretty crazy. For example, the Nikon deals of 25% off or more.

Canon discounts are even a little crazier:

MacPerformanceGuide.com

iMac 5K (Late 2015): Sheer Viewing Pleasure in the Fastest Mac Available

Get the new iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see the MPG computer gear wishlist.

Lloyd recommends the iMac 5K 4.0 GHz / 8GB / 1TB / M395X model + 64GB OWC memory, a big savings or twice the memory over Apple’s 32GB iMac 5K.

A 5K display is 14.7 megapixels, whereas 4K UltraHD is only 8.2 megapixels. The 27-inch iMac 5K display is also at a much higher density, a plus for viewing pleasure, a minus for seeing slight image faults such as less than perfect sharpness.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned how impressive it is to view images on the late 2015 iMac 5K. My photographic publications include sizes up to 24 megapixels (6048 pixels wide), but the 4320 size fits the iMac 5K display nearly perfectly in a jaw-dropping hyper reality image.

The contrast and color of the late 2015 iMac 5K are stunning (hyper realistic), so good that I stick with my advice of using a standard-res NEC PA302W when preparing images for prints: reflective media cannot deliver the same effect as transmissive. The iMac 5K color gamut is excellent, but the visual impact goes way beyond gamut.

James K, a NYC pro photographer, writes:

Images on my late 2015 iMac 5k Late are just fabulous. You don’t want to view prints after seeing illuminated photos on the 5K.

I always loved looking at 8x10 chromes on my light box. Hopefully some of the new OLED panels will be priced within reach in a couple of years. I would love a large, thin , high quality electronic view screen for my images.

The iMac 5K display shows the way forward: I am eagerly anticipating 6K and 8K displays. An 8K display would allow the entire image from a Nikon D810 or Sony A7R II to be displayed at once—every pixel. Which will be an incredible viewing experience.

One has to question the appeal of shooting a camera to fill 1/3 of the screen, which will be the case with an 8K display—future displays will make 16 and even 24-megapixel images look positively tiny. While 24-megapixels is a defensible low-end, APS-C cameras like Fujifilm X already do not fill the iMac 5K display horizontally(4896 X 3264 images vs 5120 X 2880 screen). If I’m going to shoot for viewing enjoyment for what will be available in just a few years, a low-res 16MP sensor doesn’t cut it. And 24 megapixels is the bottom-end.

Is the iMac 5K a display, or a computer?

The iMac 5K can be thought of in two ways:

As noted in iMac 5K (Late 2015) with 64GB: the Key to Professional Usage, the late 2015 iMac 5K changes the game by accepting up to 64GB memory, which makes it viable for professional photographers, videographers, etc*. But it’s more than just 64GB memory, as discussed here in two articles. One covers the advantages and limitations of the late 2015 iMac 5K vs 2013 Mac Pro, the other discusses how to build a high performance workstation based on the iMac 5K.

How I use the iMac 5K

For my work here at diglloyd.com, the iMac 5K display (5120 X 2880) is a time-saving (and enjoyable) way to proof images for my photographic publications, which are up to 24 megapixels.

I also use it as a slave workstation with Thunderbolt networking to free up my Mac Pro while it runs 2-10 minute jobs.

Viewing a 4320-pixel image on the iMage 5K display
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Deal: Dracast LED500 Pro Bi-Color LED light

See also End of the Year: 3 Days Left for Small Business to Write off that new Computer, Camera, etc.

Just ordered the Dracast LED500 Pro Bi-Color LED light.

I’ve been wanting an LED light for a while, and at 43% / $300 off plus a stand and swivel mount, the price of $395.95 is right. The CRI rating of 95 is my threshold for color rendition, and the bi-color option means it can be mixed with other light.

Color temperature is adjusted on the rear of the panel. from 3200°K to 5600°K. A similar knob controls the dimming level. An optional battery can power the unit.

Dracast LED500 Pro Bi-Color LED light, rear


Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek (Canon 5DS R)

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

All wide angle lenses have some degree of field curvature; it is a matter of how much, and it results from the natural Petzval field curvature aspect of optical design. The only question is how the lens design balances the curvature against other design parameters.

This scene shows the practical implications of field curvature with a common type of landscape composition. For the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, the behavior demonstrated here is critical to getting the best results from the lens. Thus it is as much a tutorial on technique as it is a lens assessment.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Pescadero Creek (5DS R)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, all from f/1.4 through f/13.

As with other recent images, I’m struck by the dramatic difference seen in viewing the images on the late 2015 iMac 5K. The 14.7-megapixel screen delivers an image whose fine detail looks better than and 4 X 5 'chrome' I ever saw: larger, more luminous and absolutely crisp (with good images). Contrast and color saturation are very rich. So much so that my workhorse NEC PA302W looks drab by comparison. Mastering an image for a print may thus make the iMac 5K display not such a good option, but it is sure lovely to look at.

Pescadero Creek after Powerful Rainstorm
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End of the Year: 3 Days Left for Small Business to Write off that new Computer, Camera, etc

THE FOLLOWING IS NOT TAX ADVICE; CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR.

It’s the end of the year, and now is the time for small business owners to consider making needed capital expenditures in order to deduct them this year. This is a big benefit versus depreciating assets over 3 or 5 years.

Note that gear has to be put into service by Dec 31, so there really is only a day or two left to act to receive things in time (if shipped).

From Section 179.org (see additional details there):

2015 Deduction Limit = $500,000 — This deduction is good on new and used equipment, as well as off-the-shelf software. This limit is only good for 2015, and the equipment must be financed/purchased and put into service by the end of the day, 12/31/2015.

Suggestions

Lloyd can help via consulting advice in choosing a computer system and peripherals and/or in selecting a professional photographic system: don’t overspend and get just the right gear for your own actual needs. Hours flexible and responsive here at the end of the year.

Photographers might consider items like the following (most links are to recommended models or relevant review/article, etc where it make sense).

Thank you for using the links here or at MacPerformanceGuide.com when buying.

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Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Frosty Pomegranate

Get Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon at B&H Photo.

Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

The Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon focus to a reproduction ratio of 1:6.25. At such a close distance, nearly all wide angle lenses decline in performance, and most exhibit problematic focus shift and all sorts of veiling aberrations and color correction defects.

This aperture series from f/1.4 through f/13 explores the optical performance for the Otus 28/1.4 at its MOD (minimum object distance).

Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Frosty Pomegranate

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, from f/1.4 through f/13.

It’s great fun to see how the image “develops” across the apertures.

As an aside, I’ve now concluded that the late 2015 iMac 5K represents the best viewing experience of any display ever produced. The 14.7-megapixel screen delivers an image whose fine detail looks better than an 4 X 5 'chrome' I ever saw: larger, more luminous and absolutely crisp (with good images). I look forward to an iMac 6K or iMac 8K.

Please note that when using a HiDPI or Retina display, images should be viewed at the inverse of the scaling ratio or they will look blurred, e.g., 50% if the display is set at the usual 2:1 scaling delivers actual pixels to the full resolution (otherwise, at 100% scaling, you’d be looking at 200%, which looks blurred no matter how sharp the image). This site should set the scaling by default, but there may be circumstances in which the wrong scaling is acquired; use the controls in the “gallery” page to change if necessary.

Frosty Pomegranate
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Lexar 2000X SDXC Now up to 128GB Capacity, Lloyd’s favorite 2000X 64GB SDXC Discounted

Get Lexar 200X at B&H Photo.

My favorite card for the past year or so has been the Lexar 2000X SDXC 64GB. It’s blazingly fast for downloads (and in the camera):

Lexar Professional 2000X 64GB SDXC Camera Storage Card (Tested in 3 Card Readers)

Lexar 2000X 128GB SDXC

Lexar 2000X SDXC 64GB is now $78 ($17 instant savings).

But what also catches my eye is the new Lexar 2000X SDXC 128GB. With uncompressed raw on the Sony A7R II as well as 4K video, 64GB cards have been filling up on my trips at inconvenient times.

I’d much rather have 128GB cards than 64GB cards, but the price per GB is about 1.9X more costly, as is usual for the latest high-capacity cards.

Still, the 128GB cards make a lot of sense for someone who shoots like I do (a week or longer out in the field): I don’t like to have to erase any cards until everything is backed-up back at home, nor do I like having a video clip cut off abruptly because I wasn’t paying attention to capacity utilization. With a higher capacity card, the download speed becomes more important, so the Lexar 2000X SDXC cards are appealing.

Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

UFO* with the Zeiss Milvus 100/2M

Get Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M

The Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M is a pleasure to work with. I didn’t think I would like it any more or less than the 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar, but along with the Milvus 50mm f/2M, I am persuaded on the new ergonomics as a nice move forward, my only reservation being the lack of texture on the focusing ring—but since the ring is generously wide, this is not an issue in practice.

On a camera like the Nikon D5500 (try the cherry red D5500), the Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M is like shooting a 150mm f/2 (75mm f/2 for the Milvus 50/2M). The extra working distance could be useful and it effectively yields more depth of field, albeit with a different perspective. However, the image below was shot on my full-frame workhorse camera, the Nikon D810. With all the enthusiasm about Sony mirrorless, the Nikon D810 is still my “go to” camera with an outstanding lens repertoire.

Note: as this was written, the Nikon D810 is $500 off with 10% rewards, making it effectively $2516, or effectively $2966 with the 24-120mm lens. For a small business, it’s not to late to get one and write it off for the 2015 tax year.

We don’t get much frost at my place but with an arctic front following the pre-Christmas deluge, my backyard frosted-up beautifully last night (last year I can’t recall a single night cold enough to freeze water more than paper thin). But the sun quickly melts all the fine ice crystals, so there is only a short time in which the light pops things and the frost melts.

This scene caught my eye; I really enjoy 'found' subjects, particularly when I have only to step outside. Image quality holds up unusually well at f/16 with the Milvus 100mm f/2M; that is not a given because with many lenses, increasingly collimated rays can tend to interact with the flat sensor and reduce contrast over and above what diffraction is already doing.

*Unidentified Frozen Object
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Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Lundy Reservoir Frozen Over (Nikon D810)

Get Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED at B&H Photo.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED

The Nikon 24mm f/1.8G strikes an amazingly good balance on imaging performance, size and weight, lens speed, fast autofocus. It’s a winner, and for specific reasons I go into in my review of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED.

The previous Mountainside at Dusk series showed exemplary behavior; this series double-checks that behavior.

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Lundy Reservoir Frozen Over (Nikon D810)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, from f/1.8 through f/13.

Lundy Reservoir, Frozen Over
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Last Minute Gifts at B&H Photo

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B&H gift cards are another option (what you do for the gear nut who has everything?!). There are also software download options and video software download options.

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OS X El Capitan (aka El Crapitan) Breaks Lightroom Tethered Shooting for Nikon Cameras?

See also diglloyd MacPerformanceGuide.com and the Apple Core Rot topic page.

Stephen K writes:

Here's another El Crapitan gotcha that I just (unfortunately) ran into...

Tethered shooting into Lightroom with a Nikon camera is BROKEN?!? This is a workflow crippler for me...and I most certainly didn't see it coming. Ugh.

There are many others complaining about the same issue, attributing it to El Crap and not to Lightroom. As I understand it from the threads, Nikon is in the process of updating their SDK to work with El Crap and then Adobe will incorporate the new code is some future update. As I'm not coding-savvy, this is simply my takeaway from the various threads. One thing for sure: many are facing the same issue.

DIGLLOYD: professionals should defer major OS X upgrades at least 3 months, and minor ones at least a month.

The risks in upgrading OS X have become unacceptable due to software testing incompetence, half-assed design practices, arbitrary changes that leave users hung out to dry, and overall juvenile judgment at Apple aka Apple Core Rot, which has infected both OS X and iOS and is metastasizing. Your goose is Cooked if you trust Apple as a professional: it is part of the logical progression from the first warning shot with Apple’s Final Cut fiasco some years back.

That software is now all but expected to break across an OS release is a sea change in the approach to OS upgrades (compatibility is a low priority); it used to be that an OS upgrade was an upgrade, not a sidegrade or downgrade consisting of a new (larger pile of manure) iTunes + superficial visual gimmicks + arbitrary changes for breaking application functionality in whole or in part. You as a professional are dealing here with a company that has complete insouciance for professional needs. The sad state of affairs is that OS X is now my choice only as the least crappy of the options, a very different thought process from the days of Apple excellence.

Upate from Stephen K:

I've discovered a workaround for "broken" Nikon tethered shooting into Lightroom using El Crapitan.

Nikon has very recently updated their Camera Control Pro 2 software to work with El Crapitan (version 2.22.1). The software is $150; however, a fully functional 30-day free trial is available.

I'm using Camera Control Pro 2.22.1 to tether and write to a specific folder (e.g., Watched). I've set Lightroom to Auto Import from that folder. So, while a bit clumsy, it works. I haven't used it long enuf to say whether it's reliable or not--nonetheless, it's a start and shows promise (versus no tethering...UGH???).

Dan M writes from a Windows user perspective:

Along the same lines, I just had to download a third party application to keep Microsoft from continuously running a pop up insisting I upgrade to Windows 10. You could even go to upgrades and delete the damned thing, and Microsoft would automatically put the “upgrade” for the Windows 10 back the next time you booted up. I have a number of offbeat applications that don’t necessarily upgrade every year, or even every other year, and I cannot afford the risk of incompatibility and having an entire research project grind to a halt. But no, some little geekheads at Microsoft have decided that THEY want to have the choice in how I run MY friggin’ computer. They simply do not allow a customer the right to shut off the stupid notice. No option, no box to click, nothing. It’s an insult.

Took me several hours of research to find out how to get the infuriating thing off my screen. There’s a whole trail of complaints all over the internet about the Windows 10 Upgrade notice. A few carefully targeted castrations would solve this.

DIGLLOYD: wonderful state of affairs. Mirrors the times.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

'Discounted', not 'Discontinued' Reflects a New Plausibility

Get Nikon DSLR and Canon DSLR B&H Photo. See all DSLR deals.

At least two readers misread yesterday’s post on discounted Zeiss Otus as “discontinued”. Such are the times that a misread like that is plausible. I have modified the title to forestall further misreads, adding “(Instant Rebates)”.

DSLR demand in the APS-C DSLR area looks moribund: many models languish even at 25-50% off, for months now.

Full frame DSLRs are hanging in there, but demand has slackened substantially. I see it in my own business here based on subscription numbers in each area, the minimal interest in the Canon 5DS/5DS R being a watershed event as compared to the excitement a 50-megapixel camera would have generated even two years ago. Interest in Leica is minimal, as is interest in Micro Four Thirds and APS-C mirrorless even relatively popular cameras such as Fujifilm: Sony full-frame mirrorless is dominating the conversation.

And yet it’s so simple for Canon and Nikon to at least put a decent-size wave into the lake: rekindle some level of DSLR interest by adding a high-res EVF, 4K video and a few other goodies (ideally sensor stabilization plus sensor shift technology as Pentax is planning, and the absence of Sony A7R II sensor-shift technology is odd).

Take the best features of mirrorless while maintaining lens mount compatibility! The size/weight aspect would not match Sony, but the gap would be reduced, the feature set gap would narrow, more powerful processors could be used, usability and battery life would be far superior—in my book a superior solution for many uses and users: size and weight are both a minus and a plus.

I for one would snap up a Nikon D820e with a built-in high res EVF, even if it were optional on the hot shoe, though I’d prefer to see the OVF and its mirror eliminated and a very high-res EVF occupy that space: smaller, lighter, more useable—especially if the CaNikon computing power were put to use for near-zero blackout and instantly responsive operation. It’s commercial suicide for CaNikon to keep shipping years old tech and have any expectation beyond an imploding market share. In Nikon’s case, there isn’t even the excitement of a higher-res sensor for nearly 4 years now (since the D800/D800E). Four years of the status-quo, the D810 being a nice bump up, but offering nothing fundamentally different. Is it any wonder that Sony gets all the attention?

In my view a new camera+lens gestalt has emerged that calls for ultra high performance and relatively slow lenses: see The Irrational Aim of f/1.4 Lenses. I don’t see this as happening any time soon as all the camera companies are under pressure (except perhaps Sony). But it dovetails with the smaller/lighter/faster/more convenient market-driven demand. CaNikon could be on top of that too. Since the Canon 35mm f/1.4L II is the best 35mm lens yet for a DSLR, one wonders what could be done with an f/2.8 design at the same price?

Roy P writes:

It is mind boggling that Nikon and Canon have been deer caught in the mirrorless headlights for the past 4-5 years. As you said, if Nikon put out a mirrorless/EVF in an F mount and a larger form factor like a D810 or even a D4, they would be in the game, and possibly defining a new use case (mirrorless but in a bigger form factor).

Looking at all the info on the Nikon D5 at Nikonrumors.com, I have to ask myself why Nikon is coming out with a 20MP D5 with a rumored 15fps frame rate, with the same old SLR/DSLR architecture. Instead, they could have leveraged the generous body size + big battery to build an F-mount camera with an ultra high res EVF, a 36MP or 42MP stacked CMOS sensor with 20 or 30 fps frame rate, even the stupid high 1000 fps in the Sony RX10-II, but at a higher resolution, etc.

In other words, a Sony A7R-II, but one that is weather sealed, super fast and responsive, operable with gloved hands in any weather, and could be used for pro-grade sports / action / wildlife photography AND landscape, using all the existing Nikon / Zeiss lenses.

I would buy such a D5E or D810E in a heartbeat.

DIGLOYD: there is still a market for the traditional DSLR, particularly for the sports shooter market: high frame rate, very short blackout time. But it’s hard to believe that a mirror box helps that in any way or that conventional AF can hold a lead for long over sensors with embedded AF assist pixels on the sensor itself. Also, I would think that burst 6K capture (akin to video bursts at 30/60/120 fps) would serve the needs of such sport shooters even better.

Leica now has the Leica SL, a beast of a camera with a single lens available (the 24-90 zoom); it feels like a slightly smaller Leica S and irritates me to no end, for the same design failures as in the S. In concept it does precisely what CaNikon need to do, but the Leica SL fails at so many levels (operational design, crude bolt-on-feel grip, one and only one lens, lack of pro features as with CaNikon, low resolution, etc). Still, it speaks volumes that Leica can deliver such a camera while CaNikon sit on their hands.

Eric W writes:

Your post hinted at things like 6K burst, and I've been sending this video around to the sports shooters I run into- it hints at features that I'm sure they would die for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phjxMzS8Ojs

Sure the software interface isn't there yet for fast turnaround work, but the idea of 120fps burst (60 frames before, 60 frames after) and being able to pick the exact frame that works is very exciting.

DIGLLOYD: surely something like this will be the future for sports shooters. Apple’s Live Photo feature on iPhone is already there—not professional grade and with no options, but a cool thing.

Our trusted photo rental store

Cineo Matchbox: Nifty LED Lighting in Compact Package

Get Cineo Matchbox LED at B&H Photo.

I just started using this diminutive LED light (on loan from B&H Photo), which puts out a good amount of highly color accurate lighting using remote phosphor technology. The unit includes 3200K and 5600K inserts which can be swapped in seconds, with 4300K an option (and probably my preferred choice, but the kit did not include it).

Design is outstanding, very solidly made and it dims smoothly from very low to full power. I let it run for hours on full power and it gets moderately warm on the back cooling fins, drawing ~13 watts. So far, I have not evaluated color rendition, but it looks great to the eye.

At about $462 it’s not a casual purchase, but it’s definitely professional grade gear and there are a variety of accessories, including barn doors, softbox, battery support, etc. It weighs 425g (without the power adapter) and is highly portable. Cineo also has some much higher output full-size units (up to 500 watts, which must be incredibly bright!).

For users in need of a versatile, compact light, the Basic Matchbox LED Light Kit from Cineo features Remote Phosphor Technology for changing color temperature by simply swapping out panels for higher output and greater color accuracy. It has high CRI ratings of 98 at 3200K and 94 at 5600K as well as TLCI ratings of 99 at 3200K and 97 at 5600K. Also, output at 3' is rated at 315 lux / 30.5 fc at 3200K and 362 lux / 37.5 fc at 5600K. Additionally, it has a wide beam angle of 160° along with both local and DMX dimming options from 0-100%.

The panel is durable with a weather-resistant construction and the units are made in the USA. The 3.25 x 5.25 x 1.5" panel also emits zero UV light and has a 1/4"-20 thread on the base for mounting in a variety of situations. An AC adapter is included, along with a 6' extension cable and both 3200K and 5600K phosphor panels while optional battery kits can convert it for ultra-portable operation.

Cineo Matchbox LED remote phosphor lighting
Sony A7R II DEAL
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Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Aperture Series @ 70mm: Frosted Hillside (Nikon D810)

Get Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR at B&H Photo.

The long end of most wide and mid-range zooms is often the weakest area, so how does the 24-70 perform at 70mm on this demanding finely-detailed scene at distance? It’s tough lighting, flat lighting, but the scene detail is excellent and flat lighting is a challenge that a lens has to deliver on.

Nikon 24-70/2.8E ED VR Aperture Series @ 70mm: Frosted Hillside

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, from f/2.8 through f/11.

Frosted Hillside
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Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar and 55/1.4 APO-Distagon are Discounted (Instant Rebates)

Get Zeiss Otus at B&H Photo.

I didn’t think the Zeiss Otus lenses would see a discount, but such is the onslaught of Sony mirrorless that times change: interest and demand for DSLRs is greatly reduced.

$4032 Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar ZF.2 Lens for Nikon has $458 instant savings

$3754 Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon ZE Lens for Canon has $236 instant savings

The Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar just about qualifies for Otus status too, and the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar is $300 off for Canon and Nikon, plus 4% rewards.

A new camera+lens gestalt potentiality has emerged that calls for ultra high performance and relatively slow lenses: see The Irrational Aim of f/1.4 Lenses. This won’t happen any time soon. In the meantime a Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS R remains unbeatable with Otus, so long as it suits your application.

Zeiss Otus 85/1.4 APO-Planar and 55/1.4 APO-Distagon
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Sony RX1R II: Is it Worth Upgrading from RX1/RX1R?

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood (56% off today!) to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

In my review of the Sony RX1R II I cover what I see as the salient considerations in upgrading from the Sony RX1/RX1R, and alternatives plus practical considerations. This is not about specifications, but about cameras as tools.

Sony RX1R II: Thoughts vs RX1R: Worth Upgrading?

Sony RX1R II (left), RX1R (right)

M writes:

I have to confess that I renewed my subscription only for the RX1R II articles. I trust you for I think you are not a fanboy, you seem to give the right information to readers who pay for your work. I have a RX1R and wanted to move to the new version, I have to admit that I have no money to buy it, nor do I print, it was just the need to have it.

But where I am, the RX1R II is delayed ! The samples for our shop did not arrive until early December and Sony just said that we should receive them in February ! We asked the reason, but they wouldn’t say anything more ! They do not want to communicate on that matter, and we have customers who already have pre-ordered them!

I read your last thoughts for owners of the RX1R first generation and if the upgrade would be a nice move, and I admit that you saved my life today ;-)

I do not want to buy it anymore. I was annoyed by the lack of sensor stabilisation, and some other problems that you raised in your test, and for 3500€ it’s too much money for a camera which is far from perfection.

I tried the Sony A7RII yesterday along with a Loxia 21mm which comes directly from Zeiss Germany for us to show to our customers, but the files from the Sony do not excite me much either, nor the resolution. I tested recently a Medium Format camera from Phase One and I liked the files. I do not care about speed, fast focus etc… I have the Sigma DP1, Dp22 and DP3 Merrils and they are just fantastic! I do not care about batteries, slow cameras etc… as long as the image quality is there, and the Sigmas deliver !

My wish would be a Nikon D820(?) with the possibility to add an EVF, so I’ll gladly buy the Otus line. The other option would be for me to wait to the next Kina where Fujifilm will unveil a new Medium Format camera with a CMOS sensor of 50MP…

DIGLLOYD: there is a rumor that production is halted on the RX1R II. Sony did not respond to my inquiry on the matter, so I am inclined to assume it is true. It would not be surprising, given troublesome behaviors I found while reviewing it.

Hint to Nikon and Canon: add an EVF. Suggestion to Zeiss: push Nikon and Canon to get an EVF option to make manual focus lenses far more usable. Otherwise, the manual focus lens market will continue its decline because OVF is an unreliable joke for manual focus through the viewfinder.

I’m all for a medium format mirrorless camera—it’s about time. But I am also keen to see a sensor that is not crippled in color rendition by cutting off violet light at 420nm: recently I saw some images from a medium format digital back that were absolutely gorgeous overall, but what really caught my attention were deep violet flowers, which I doubt can be recorded by any DSLR or mirrorless camera. Also, my mountain shots with the Sony RX1R II in very blue light have long struck me as “wrong” somehow, as if clipped in color. It’s been nagging at me for a while; I think it is spectral cutoff. As evidence for this are intense violet flare spots under some conditions, caused by angle of incidence behaviors not accounted for in the lens design. Intense violet seems to be blocked by most sensors, hence forget about being able to photograph certain flowers.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series f/2 - f/11: Wet Rocks, Upstream

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood (56% off today!) to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

This aperture series from f/2 through f/11 studies the Sony RX1R II at moderately close distance from near to far, offering a good look at how depth of field develops, but also studies a curious behavior with stopping down.

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series: Wet Rocks, Upstream

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as very large crops, all from f/2 through f/11.

RX1R II v1.0 firmware. Settings: Shading Comp = Off, Chro Aber Comp = Auto, Distortion Comp = Off, SteadyShot = off, LENR = Off, LPF Effect = Off, Pre-AF = Off, manual focus. 2-second self timer, uncompressed raw format.

Wet Rocks, Upstream
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LensRentals.com has 25% Off Through Jan 4

LensRentals.com has 25% off from December 22 - Jan 4. Use code HOLIDAY25.

LensRentals is a first class outfit. It’s a great way to try out a lens or camera that you’re not sure about.

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Guide to Zeiss, Guide to Leica, DAP (Nikon, Canon, etc), Mirrorless, etc

Compared: Nikon 24mm f/1.8G vs 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR : Snowy White Mountain Road (Nikon D810)

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G and
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Get Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR at B&H Photo.

Prime versus zoom is a question that many outdoor photographers love to ask. My personal preference is for primes (fixed focal length), but there is no denying the appeal and convenience of a 24-70mm zoom, or of vibration reduction for walk-around shooting*.

Beyond size and weight, the question becomes the tradeoffs in optical behavior. It seems fitting to compare these two just-released Nikon lenses at 24mm.

Too often, lens comparisons use methodology that for field use is questionable (e.g., flat test targets): if one looks at just a few areas of the frame, it is all too easy to come to erroneous conclusions on sharpness, and without the insights as to why. It is a reason to use very large crops for context, as is done in this comparison, because in optics, results are the sum of everything and things vary across the frame.

A suitable scene affords detail from very close range to far distance, with high contrast fine details over much of the frame. Since a dominant issue with wide angle lenses is field curvature (whether prime lens or zoom), a scene ought to include near-to-far subject matter to flush out the behavior. This scene is a good choice for that and more.

Nikon 24-70/2.8E ED VR vs 24/1.8G: Snowy White Mountain Road

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as very large crops, from f/2.8 through f/11.

* The 24/1.8G is a joy to carry; the 24-70/2.8E ED VR gives me pause for weight and size and balance.

White Mountain Road after November Snowstorm
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Recommended Computer Upgrades, B&H Free Overnight + Small Business Deduction Note

Small business expense? See End of the Year: Time for Small Business Owners to Consider Getting that new Computer Gear, etc.

...

See my MacPerformanceGuide.com for computer upgrade ideas. Things I like a lot:

...

B&H Photo has free overnight shipping today, for a few more hours.

See the previous deals I picked out, but there are many, many more.

Look for more deals by discount or brand or category, such as Apple deals, Zeiss deals, Sony deals, Nikon deals, Canon deals, Sigma deals. See Deals by brand and/or Deals by category.

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Aperture Series @ 38mm: Bristlecone and Earth Shadow at Dusk (Nikon D810)

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR

Get Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR at B&H Photo.

The new Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR is Nikon’s best bread-and-butter mid-range zoom yet, and seemingly by a good margin, with a design showcasing the best of Nikon optical technology:

  • ASP/ED, AS, ED, and HRI Elements
  • Nano Crystal & Super Integrated Coating
  • Fluorine Coated Front and Rear Elements
  • Silent Wave Motor AF System
  • Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization up to 4 stops
  • Internal Focus, manual focus override
  • Electromagnetic eiaphragm with 9 blades, rounded

This aperture series from f/2.8 through f/8 takes a first look at the Nikon 24-70/2.8E:

Nikon 24-70/2.8E ED VR Aperture Series @38mm: Bristlecone and Earth Shadow at Dusk

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops.

This looks like the zoom to have in your bag, with performance that rivals that of some prime lenses. Canon’s superb 24-70mm f/2.8L IS II looks to have a new rival.

Earth Shadow Rises: Ancient Bristlecone Sentinel Presides over its 4000th or so Season and 1.5 Millionth or so Dusk
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Sony RX1R II: Evaluating Flare

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood (56% off today!) to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

Flare is evaluated from f/2 through f/22 with one series, and two other examples are presented.

Sony RX1R II:Flare Behavior from f/2 - f/22

Flare behavior changes with aperture, so this is a very useful series to examine.

A lens can have weaknesses of various kinds (some of which can be pluses at times), but when flare degrades images in dramatic lighting, there are no options for dealing with it other than not making the shot, or using some other lens or camera. But what if a camera has a fixed lens, the only one? That gives me pause, because I am a particular fan of dramatic lighting.

Green Ghosting Flare, Early Morning
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Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Leaves, Fence and Backlit Tree (5DS R)

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

This mundane scene is deceptively simple, yet amazingly fruitful.

It is hard to find a single scene that shows behavior in areas of sharpness and contrast, field curvature, color aberrations (lateral and longitudinal), vignetting, and flare, the point spread function, etc. And with challenging contrast and backighting too. This scene does it all in one.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Leaves, Fence and Backlit Tree (5DS R)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, all from f/1.4 through f/13.

There is no question that the performance of the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ranks among the very best 20/21mm lenses available. It may well be the finest 20/21mm design out there (as of early 2016), and it is autofocus as a bonus. And it is availble for Canon or Nikon or Sigma. Additional comments that add further perspective are found in the analysis.

The Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is definitely an ultra-wide prime to have in the bag. The price should leave the mouth agape, given the performance.

Leaves after the Windstorm
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Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Distortion examples, Uncorrected and Corrected

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Three examples show the real-world distortion behavior of the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. It is an impressive performance for the Sigma 20/1.4A.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Distortion (5DS R)

These example should be helpful to anyone using the Sigma 20mm f/1.4A for architectural work or similar—anywhere where distortion correction is a concern.

Relative distortion for Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Sony A7R II DEAL
$200 off *or* $399 Metabones/Canon Adapter
with FREE SHIPPING

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series f/2 - f/11: Pescadero Creek Grasses and Polished Rocks, Upstream

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood (56% off today!) to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

This aperture series from f/2 through f/11 studies the Sony RX1R II in detail at medium distance from near to far, offering a good look at lens symmetry, sharpness and depth of field, and overall rendering quality.

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series:Pescadero Creek Grasses and Polished Rocks, Upstream

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as very large crops, all from f/2 through f/11.

RX1R II v1.0 firmware. Settings: Shading Comp = Off, Chro Aber Comp = Auto, Distortion Comp = Off, SteadyShot = off, LENR = Off, LPF Effect = Off, Pre-AF = Off, manual focus. 2-second self timer, uncompressed raw format.

Pescadero Creek Grasses and Polished Rocks
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15% off LensRentals
Jan 21 - Feb 15. Use code LOVE15
ends in 4 days

B&H Deals: Fujifilm, Panasonic, Sony, Apple

Some deals I hand-picked today, with free overnight shipping:

Excellent laptop deal (faster than the late 2013 MBP Retina that I use): $1799 Apple 15.4" MacBook Pro Retina (Mid 2014) 2.5 GHz / 16GB / 512GB $500 off. If you want the very best and are willing to spend another $1100, get the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina 2.8 GHz / 16GB / 1TB).

Look for more deals by discount or brand or category, such as Apple deals, Zeiss deals, Sony deals, Nikon deals, Canon deals, Sigma deals.

Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

4K UltraHD Fascinating Visually, Selection Needs to Expand

Here are some 4K TVS with instant rebates that should be similar to the XBR-55X800B I'm delighted with: I’m really picky and yet the XBR-55X800B is incredible to watch—I know there are better TVs, but the image is so enjoyable... I'm content.

A 4K TV shows weaknesses in source material (even the best material): a 43" or 49" has a higher pixel density and thus smaller can be a crisper viewing experience if watching at close range, one the TV simply has to fit nicely.

$798 Sony XBR-49X830C 49"-Class 4K Smart LED TV
$698 Sony XBR-43X830C 43"-Class 4K Smart LED TV
$1198 Sony XBR-55X850C 55"-Class 4K Smart LED TV
$1998 Sony XBR-65X850C 65"-Class 4K Smart LED TV
ALL 4K TELEVISION DEALS, up to 55% off

See my previous posts Impressions of 4K Television and Sony 4K Television: Wow!.

I watch very little TV, but when I do, I want it in 4K. I just don’t find HD satisfying any more, not on a 4K TV. That’s in good measure because I enjoy the cinematography aspects as much as the content—the focusing, the bokeh, the way the lenses are used. This sucks in plain HD, but in 4K it’s fascinating.

A big surprise to me since I’m no fan of comic book movies: Jessica Jones was really enjoyable to watch for the cinematography in 4K—and it actually turns out to have its interesting points too, capturing the dark and troubled side of human nature in a way quite unlike most of the schlock out there. So I recommend it. Its companion series Daredevil has some interesting filming, but it doesn’t hold together as well as Jessica Jones, with too many forgettable seen-him-whack-people-before episodes.

Also enjoyable for the sheer 4K fascination are Blacklist and Narcos. Master of None is nothing special on any front (filming or otherwise). Breaking Bad and House of Cards are reasonably good, but Breaking Bad shows tremendous levels of noise and sometimes posterization which show the limits of film, but film grain is not generally objectionable. As for the Ridiculous Six, I got half-way through one episode and abandoned it.

The nature shows with their postcard-style hyper-saturated stuff bored me very quickly but maybe there’s something good in there somewhere; spending so much time in the outdoors I find that style of show strangely divorced from reality.

So just in time for the holidays... below is the ENTIRE Netflix 4K streaming library as of Dec 19. I mean ALL of it. Granted, many of these are series, but this listing is 4 or 5 more shows than a week ago, so it’s growing fast in percentage terms. And some of it is claimed 4K, but shows just how bad the original was/is, e.g., Lawrence of Arabia, which looks really bad compared even to mediocre HD.

I’m irked that I can’t get Blade Runner or the original gritty Terminator in 4K.

So that’s Netflix. Amazon has 4K UltraHD also, but much less than Netflix and much of it is quite costly, totaling hundreds of dollars for what is included on Netflix for the low monthly charge. So as of early 2016, Netflix is by far the best option for 4K streaming. Perhaps Amazon Video will improve as 2016 progresses.

ENTIRE Netflix 4K streaming library as of Dec 19, 2015

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Snow-Covered Bristlecone Blue Dusk (Nikon D810)

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED

Get Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED at B&H Photo. At about $746 + 4% rewards, it offers excellent value. In the field, I loved the light weight and compact size: carrying 3 or 4 or five lenses, heavier and bulkier f1.4 lenses add up. An f/1.8 design is an excellent compromise.

This aperture series in my review of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED studies general performance in what I call a portrait.

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Snow-Covered Bristlecone Blue Dusk (Nikon D810)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as crops, from f/1.8 through f/8.

 

 

This scene caught my eye for its perfect balance of illumination at just the right time of dusk. It was about 8°F and tough to operate without getting cold hands quickly, and feet and toes were feeling it too.

Snow-Covered Bristlecone Blue Dusk
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Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Mountainside at Dusk (Nikon D810)

Get Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED at B&H Photo.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED

The Nikon 24mm f/1.8G strikes an amazingly good balance on imaging performance, size and weight, lens speed, fast autofocus. It’s a winner, and for specific reasons I go into in my review of the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G ED.

At about $746 + 4% rewards, it offers excellent value. In the field, I loved the light weight and compact size: carrying 3 or 4 or five lenses, heavier and bulkier f1.4 lenses add up. An f/1.8 design is an excellent compromise.

This aperture series studies sharpness, field curvature, optical symmetry, chromatic correction at far distance—the most challenging kind of target, and this scene is ideal for assessing all those attributes.

Nikon 24mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Mountainside at Dusk (Nikon D810)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as UltraHD crops, all from f/1.8 through f/11, so a thorough look at the lens behavior is great fun on a high-res screen (see Get a Gorgeous 5K Display—with a Free Computer Included!).

Also in my review:

Mountainside at Dusk
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ZEISS Milvus Lenses IN STOCK
For Canon and Nikon (or Sony mirrorless with adapter)

Crazy Good Deal on Canon G16 + Printer/Paper

Separately, B&H Photo is offering free next-day shipping throught Dec 23.

...

B&H Photo has a crazy deal on the Canon G16 plus PIXMA Pro 100 + paper + free shipping that is just $229 after rebates.

Funny thing is, the Canon G16 by itself sells for $349 after instant savings—$112 more.

The printer alone sells for $150 after rebates. Buy the camera, sell the printer and paper? Or vice versa? It’s rather fun. But bottom line is this is a nice little system for someone: this could make a fun kit for yourself or that teenager (if you can get 'em off their iPhone). Heck of a nice stocking stuffer.

The only downside that I see is the $350 mail-in rebate, so you have to pony up $579 upfront. If Canon wants to move this pronto, they should just make that an instant rebate. But I never had any trouble with Canon rebates.

The kit: Canon G16 + PIXMA Pro-100 printer (excellent printer, I have one) + 50 sheets Semi-Gloss photo paper

Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Why I Use Three NEC Displays on Mac Pro

Get NEC wide gamut display at B&H Photo or MacSales.com or Amazon.

B&H Photo currently has the NEC PA302W discounted to $1799 (add to cart to see price).
The PA272W is only $1149 and the EA244UHD is $999. See all wide gamut NEC displays. Deals end Dec 19. The NEC Color Sensor and SpectraView II Software Kit is available separately, so the best deal for the PA series is to buy the BK-SV model, which includes the calibration stuff.

See also My Workhorse Wide Gamut Display: NEC PA302W for why I favor the PA302W.

Three displays can streamline workflow for those like me (Lloyd) that spend most of every day at the computer. And it is one reason to favor a Mac Pro*. Discussion follows the images.

* MPG top pick for Mac Pro is the 6-core with 1TB Flash and D500 GPUs. Get 64GB OWC memory and a Thunderbay 4 and some backup drives, and you’re 'good'.

Pushing the limits of displays on 2013 Mac Pro
PA302W @ 2560 X 1440 (center), PA322UHD @ 1920 X 1080 (3840x2160), EA244UHD @ 1080 X 1920 (2160x3840)

Just getting all the Photoshop palettes off the main screen is a HUGE efficiency boost (a 2nd display is ideal for photographers). Plus I don’t want my color perception degraded by things like the histogram palette.

Photoshop palettes on 2nd display instead of the main display

How I put three NEC displays to use

Get NEC display at B&H Photo or MacSales.com or Amazon. MPG recommend buying one of them as the BK-SV model, which includes calibration software (SpectraView II) and hardware (same unit can be used on all NEC displays). NEC has a proven track record for professional calibration—don’t mess around with claims of calibration. Eizo displays are also a good choice, but are much more expensive.

  • Main display: the NEC PA302W is an ultra-wide gamut display with true display hardware calibration support at a pixel density that is friendly to image evaluation and editing. With a 4K UltraHD display or Retina display, pixel density is too high to evaluate image sharpness, at least for my eyes. So the PA302W is perfect, offering very friendly 2560 X 1600 pixel density.
  • Secondary display use for multiple purposes: the NEC PA322UHD for previewing the web pages I am creating, palettes in Photoshop, Terminal windows, etc.
  • Third display for superb web browser reading: NEC EA244UHD in portrait orientation 2160 X 3840 at 2:1 scaling of 1080 X 1920). Web pages are beautifully rendered due to the high pixel density and there is far less scrolling for longer pages—more to be seen at a glance, including checking my blog and such for layout glitches and similar, rendering in a tall and narrow window.

he PA302W and PA322UHD a plugged in directly to the Mac Pro. But because I did not want to use yet another Thunderbolt port on the Mac Pro, the EA244UHD was daisy-chained off a Thunderbay 4. This has one sporadic issue: coming out of sleep, the EA244UHD sometimes does not receive a signal, and I have to unplug/replug the cable into the Thunderbay, and then it comes back. This is not a display issue as far as I can tell, but a Thunderbolt or Apple wake-up bug. But with that proviso, 3 displays are looking good and really help my productivity since windows can just be there, minimizing application switching and so on.

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series f/2 - f/16: Frosted Pomegranate Closeup

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

This aperture series from f/2 through f/16 studies the Sony RX1R II in detail at its MOD (minimum object distance), with the focus-range ring turned to the 0,2m-0,35m setting.

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series:Frosted Pomegranate Closeup

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as one monster-size actual pixels crop.

RX1R II v1.0 firmware. Settings: Shading Comp = Off, Chro Aber Comp = Auto, Distortion Comp = Off, SteadyShot = off, LENR = Off, LPF Effect = Off, Pre-AF = Off, manual focus. 2-second self timer, uncompressed raw format.

Frosted Pomegranate Closeup
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Off Topic: Keeping the Pounds Off + Fat Loss, Muscle Mass, Bone Density, Training, BMI, DEXA

Training log
Energy = Kilojoules at crankset

I generally ride between 8000 and 12000 miles per year on my bicycle. Even so, I tend to pack on the pounds starting right around the middle of October—seasonal and predictable. This year has not been kind in that regard, even though I’m presently burning about 32,000 kilojoules per week* (7700 kilocalories aka “calories”). I have to work hard at it, darn it. My SRM power meter is accurate and precise to 1%, so those are solid figures.

* 8000 KJ at the crankset as measured by SRM power meter, which accounting for muscle efficiency of ~0.25 as per a highly trained endurance athlete works out to ~32,000 KJ energy requirement, or about 7700 kilocalories (“calories”), which can vary somewhat by intensity, recovery needs, etc.

Much of my focus has been towards “leaning out” for races like the Everest Challenge where one (1) pound of weight can cost up to 6 minutes. But also for any hill climbing including or for double centuries, like Alta Alpina 8-pass. Or grueling mountain bike summitting, because it’s all about power to weight when hill climbing.

So here’ my admittedly geek approach to burning off body fat. Maybe there’s one thing in here that will be of interest to those in the same boat. From my Training and Nutrition sections at my cycling site, WindInMyFace.com:

No matter what, losing body fat is tough. But more and more research suggests that excess body weight/fat can often be blamed at least in part on the gut biome, at least for me (given my intense exercise workload). Also, be exceedingly skeptical of antibiotics as they can be nasty as the FDA is belatedly “discovering” (better late than forever incompetent).

Observe how being in the 0% percentile (!) in 2011 for body fat quickly changes to borderline overweight, just by gaining 9 pounds to 180! Doctors who use BMI as a meaningful metric are incompetent, because the value can be complete garbage for people like me (applying a mass statistical tool of dubious legitimacy to an individual is a fundamental scientific error showing gross ignorance of statistics). When I’m that lean (171 pounds), my bone density and muscle mass are such that with my lungs as full as they will go, I barely float. Exhale, and I plummet to the bottom. That, by the way, is a good test for body mass composition (floating in fresh water) with full lungs and fully exhaled.

DEXA scan for fat, lean muscle, bone density
DEXA = Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry

Mark C writes:

The depressing thing is that you can fuel 40,000 kilojoules of exercise with 1 kilogram of fat.

DIGLLOYD: 40K kilojoules metabolic cost would means ~10,000 KJ at the crank (assuming a highly trained endurance athlete, see efficiency of muscle conversion). Flip side: not starving to death is really wonderful, if you are not overfed like here in the USA.

But the really crummy deal as that as I’ve done more and more long endurance events, my body has gotten considerably more metabolically efficient: fewer calories used for the same power output.

My double centuries average 6000 to 9500 calories burned (example, 8701 KJ at crank = 34800 KJ metabolic = ~8350 calories, see SRM graph). That's my secret weapon to losing fat: ride double centuries. I figure (and actual experience backs it up) that I burn off about 1.5 pounds of fat on a double century. That does not include recovery metabolic costs of course.

About 1/2 of the metabolic cost is aerobic (fat burning) because it is impossible to fuel the body that long with carbs*, or even to assimilate much: the stomach can accept only ~250 calories/hour (less if dehydrated). So in 10 hours I can take in 10 X 200 = 2000 calories of Hammer gel or Hammer Perpetuem or similar. The body burns carbohydrates as well as protein (gluconeogenesis) on long events (10-15% protein). That’s why something like Hammer Perpetuem is advised for long, long rides—it helps keep the body from eating its own muscle tissue.

* For endurance events, carbohydrates and protein are still mostly aerobic, excepting very steep climbing or spurts of power, etc. The issue is that the stomach can take in at most ~250 calories per hour under ideal conditions, so fat has to be the main energy source. Taking myself as an example, for double centuries I expend about 700 calories per hour. For shorter more intense races like the Everest Challenge, it is about 1100 calories per hour on the climbs.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Video: History of Lenses

Thanks to reader John D for passing along this video at Filmmaker IQ.

If you are not already familiar with FILMMAKER IQ. (www.filmmakeriq.com) I recommend their 25 minute tutorial on the history and science of camera lenses. While not encyclopedic it is excellent at linking what I read about modern lenses to their historical antecedents. For a YouTube piece it is uncommonly clear and accessible.

DIGLLOYD: definitely worth a watch. See also The Science of Camera Sensors.

While you're at it, this “honest trailer” Star Wars satire is hilarious—and spot on. But wait—Peter Jackson mangled The Lord of the Rings into a video-game-like steaming pile of dung for teenagers, so I’m giving the Golden Turd to Jackson, not Lucas.

The History and Science of Lenses
Subscribe to DIGLLOYD Photography!
Guide to Zeiss, Guide to Leica, DAP (Nikon, Canon, etc), Mirrorless, etc

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series f/2 - f/22: Pomegranate on Frosted Table

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

This aperture series studies the Sony RX1R II in detail at relatively close range using close focus but a good depth of scene from f/2 through f22. It assesses color correction, as well as peak performance using the fine details (ice crystals) to determine the optimal aperture. Bokeh is laso interesting in this near to far scene.

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series: Pomegranate on Frosted Table

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as many large crops, all from f/2 through f/22.

RX1R II v1.0 firmware. Settings: Shading Comp = Off, Chro Aber Comp = Auto, Distortion Comp = Off, SteadyShot = off, LENR = Off, LPF Effect = Off, Pre-AF = Off, manual focus. 2-second self timer, uncompressed raw format.

Pomegranate on Frosted Table
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400GB SSD for $99: Old Dog Laptop? Puppy It! Or 1.6TB Thunderbolt SSD? Easy as Pie.

Micron P400e 400GB Enterprise-Grade SSD

OWC has the Micro P400e enterprise SSD for just $99. A true bargain.Deal ends Friday at midnight PST.

MPG recently tested the Micron P400e, and it’s not the fastest SSD out there*, but it’s way faster than any hard drive and designed for a very long service life.

Ideas:

* For top performance (and more capacity), get the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G 1TB SSD

Sleek and Fast SSD
240GB / 480GB / 1TB, perfect for travel or silent backup.

Sony RX1R II: Aperture Series from f/2 through f/13 (Frosted Wood Closeup)

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

This aperture series studies the Sony RX1R II in detail at a reproduction ratio of 1:4.7 with the focus ring turned to the 0,2m-0,35m setting.

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series: Frosted Wood Closeup

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as many large crops, all from f/2 through f/13.

RX1R II v1.0 firmware. Settings: Shading Comp = Off, Chro Aber Comp = Auto, Distortion Comp = Off, SteadyShot = off, LENR = Off, LPF Effect = Off, Pre-AF = Off, manual focus. 2-second self timer, uncompressed raw format.

Frosted Wood Closeup
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Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

BBS Lighting Area 48 Remote Phosphor LED Lighting

Get BBS Lighting Area 48 at B&H Photo.

Last year I tested the Westcott Flex LED panel, the 1x1 foot model. I had previously tested the Fotodiox DY-200 High Intensity Fresnel LED, and see also my article on home lighting LED Lighting for Clear, Bright, Energy Efficient Illumination”.

Soon, I’ll be testing the Westcott Flex LED 2x2 lighting as well as the intriguing BBS Lighting Area 48 remote phosphor products. BBS Lighting has a video showing how the Area 48 lie panel works (shadows etc) using a model.

The BBS Lighting Area 48 products are LED-based, but they use a diffuser panel and are claimed to offer a much more uniform lighting. They are not flexible/rollable like the Westcott Flex, but as a huge plus, they can run on battery or AC power, even the more powerful units (equivalent to 1200 watts in tungstent lighting terms).

I'm interested in seeing how LED lighting compares to a natural daylight source in terms of rendering reds, yellows, greens, blues: fruit, fabrics, etc. I’m hoping to throw some whacky colors at it, like my intense red/magenta pomegranates.

Area 48 Attributes

  • Interchangeable optional high CRI phosphor panels, flicker-free, 8/16 bit dimming from 0 - 100%, silent operation (no fan), excellent shadow rendering
  • High light output equivalent to 1,200 W tungsten halogen flood light, special effects strobing mode. LED panel, lamp life 50,000 hours
  • 2,700K, 3,200K, 4,300K, 5,600K, 6,500K chroma blue, chroma green panels
  • CRI = 95, TLCI = an excellent 98 at 5600K
  • Beam Angle 160°, 90° with optional softbox, 40° with optional Snap Grid
  • 150 watt power supply, 122 watts maximum draw (can be limited to lower power for battery use); 100-240 VAC, 50/60 Hz or 12-20 VDC (Battery)
  • Manual or internal DMX512, DMX in/out for daisy-chaining
  • 8/16 bit 0-100%, Locally or remotely with DMX, Up to 4 control channels in 16 bit mode
  • Mount: TVMP connector: 5/8" (16 mm)
  • Operating temperature 0-104°F (0-40°C)
  • Dimensions 14.37 x 10.82 x 4.52" (365 x 275 x 115 mm), 7.94 lb (3.6 kg)
  • - 385 fc/4,147 lux @ 3.0' (1.0 m)
    - 96 fc/1,037 lux @ 6.0' (2.0 m)
    - 36 fc/386 lux @ 10' (3.0 m)
    - 22 fc/240 lux @ 12' (4.0 m)
    - 13 fc/139 lux @ 16' (5.0 m)
    - 9.0 fc/96 lux @ 20' (6.0 m)
  • Optional Accessories: 40 degree Snapgrid, Snapbox with diffuser, Snap Grid XS for 2x2 Soft Box, Canvas carrying cases for 1 or 2 units, Phosphor panel pouch
BBS Lighting Area 48 remote phosphor LED lighting with barn doors option

Eric W writes:

I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the remote phosphor lights.

I prefer the ones from Cineo since I felt they were more robust for long-term use and travelling. They now have a 12v version of their smaller unit.

From my experience using I feel they are one of the most pleasing lights on skin that I have used, from both a color quality and specularity standpoint. Certainly the best LED fixture by far.

The beam angle is essentially 180 degrees from the front of the unit, and the quality is quite soft since the entire surface area of phosphor panel is the light source.

Arri is also now making a line of them, and the manufacturing quality and service they offer is unbeatable, but you pay for it. http://www.arri.com/skypanel/

I am most interested in the C version, which isnt RP. I have loved the variable color concept with their Locaster and L-series Fresnel lights, just wish they had more output.

DIGLLOYD: Can’t test 'em all, and I do like the battery operation option of the BBS Lighting one (maybe the others have that too, I’m not sure).

MacPerformanceGuide.com

OWC Drive Dock Takes 2 Bare Drives (HDD or SSD), Thunderbolt 2 or USB3: General Use, Video-Shoot Backup, etc

Get OWC Drive Dock at MacSales.com for about $245.

OWC Drive Dock

OWC has had various iterations of the NewerTech Voyager drive dock for years (USB2 and Firewire, then USB3). It was a good but not great product, and it only took a single drive.

Now the OWC Drive Dock arrives as a much higher grade offering and it’s both USB3 and Thunderbolt 2, with 2 Thunderbolt ports for daisy chaining Thunderbolt devices, critical for Macs that have only two TB ports. And it has an internal power supply, so no awkward external power brick.

The OWC Drive dock accepts either 3.5" or 2.5" drives—SSD or hard drives in either size. Bare hard drives and fast high-quality bare SSDs are the least expensive way to expand storage, since there is no enclosure (case) or power supply or cabling involved. With the OWC Drive Dock, just insert the bare drive and go.

MPG has been using the OWC Drive Dock for a few weeks now. It’s an excellent solution for anyone needing to work with bare hard drives or SSDs for backup or similar.

OWC Drive Dock: Thunderbolt + USB3 Connectivity Using Dual Hard Drives or SSDs

Use cases:

  • Videographers who need to download and backup shoots in a single portable solution. Insert an SSD and hard drive into the OWD Drive Dock, download the shoot to the computer, and backup to the hard drive (also in the Dock).
  • Bare hard drives and fast high-quality bare SSDs are the least expensive way to expand storage, since there is no enclosure (case) or power supply or cabling involved.
  • With the OWC Drive Dock, just insert the bare SSD or hard drive and go, swapping drives as needed. For example, inserting two bare 6TB HGSG Desktar NAS hard drives into the OWC Drive Dock delivers 12TB of capacity at low cost. Swap more drives as needed.
  • System upgrades such as cloning a boot drive to a new SSD (covered in the review).
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Westcott Flex LED Panels

Get Westcott Flex LED at B&H Photo. The Westcott Flex 1-Light Daylight Kit 5600K is currently $250 off (the 3200K tungsten model is $150 off). See all Westcott Flex with rebates.

Last year I tested the Westcott Flex LED panel, the 1x1 foot model. I had previously tested the Fotodiox DY-200 High Intensity Fresnel LED, and see also my article on home lighting LED Lighting for Clear, Bright, Energy Efficient Illumination”.

Due to a pressing workload I never wrote up my test of the Westcott Flex LED panel, but I was pleased with brightness and color quality. It delivers a very bright light output (dimmable over a wide range) and all models offer a high color accuracy, CRI 95 (CRI 98 with some bicolor models at 3200°K). The mat can bent and shaped as well, and while it cannot be folded, it can be rolled for storage or travel. It is also IP 64 rated for dust and water.

Now Westcott is delivering larger panels, including 1 x 2 feet, 1 X 3 feet, and 2 X 2 feet. There are also smaller panels for highly portable usage, and the 10 X 3" panel can be battery powered.

I liked the 1 X 1 panel enough that I asked B&H to loan me the new 2 X 2 foot panel and kit and I hope to report on it soon. It would be good to have a 2nd panel for cross-fill, but so far Westcott has not cooperated with my request for a review unit. I chose the 2 X 2 panel because that delivers 4X the area, for a more even light on the subject matter.

This is an unusual use, but as I’ve aged I cannot see in dim light nearly as well, and my office lighting has been annoying me for years, particularly when I need to do paperwork or other stuff not involving the computer. I want high quality, color accurate, and BRIGHT light. So I may just get a 1 X 2 panel for illumination when I want it, and since it’s dimmable and generates little heat (being LEDs), it’s very versatile. Perhaps I'll just velcro it to the wall and ceiling—not sure.

CRI = 95, TLCI = an excellent 98 at 5600K

See also BBS Lighting Area 48 Remote Phosphor LED-Based Lighting.

Westcott Flex 1 X 2 feet daylight-balanced LED panel
Westcott Cine Set
Westcott Flex roll

End of the Year: Time for Small Business Owners to Consider Getting that new Computer Gear, etc

THE FOLLOWING IS NOT TAX ADVICE; CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR. See also Section 179.org.

It’s the end of the year, and now is the time for small business owners to consider making needed capital expenditures in order to deduct them this year.

From Section 179.org (see additional details there):

2015 Deduction Limit = $500,000 — This deduction is good on new and used equipment, as well as off-the-shelf software. This limit is only good for 2015, and the equipment must be financed/purchased and put into service by the end of the day, 12/31/2015.

Lloyd can help via consulting advice in choosing a computer system and peripherals and/or in selecting a professional photographic system: don’t overspend and get just the right gear for your own actual needs.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Field Curvature Assessment

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Two carefully chosen examples show the field curvature behavior of the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art on the Canon 5DS R.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Field Curvature Assessment (5DS R)

This example should be very helpful to anyone using the Sigma 20mm f/1.4A because the behavior is consistent, and clearly demonstrated.

Includes images up to 24 megapixels and crops.

Broken-Down Fence
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Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Decomposing Pumpkins (5DS R)

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

This aperture series studies the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at close range, with vignetting of primary interest, but also bokeh.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Decomposing Pumpkins (5DS R)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, from f/1.4 through f/13 along with crops.

 

 

 

 

The deer (oversize ground rats IMO) ruined my pumpkins in 2015, eating chunks out of them (as well as seriously damaging the vines) and consuming the largest pumpkin almost entirely. These pathetic specimens are the best I could do. They were supposed to be giant pumpkins. Oh well.

Decomposing pumpkins

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Grumpy Toad (5DS R)

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

This aperture series studies the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at close range, with the goal of evaluating bokeh, focus shift, and secondary color aberrations:

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Grumpy Toad (5DS R)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as large crops, all from f/1.4 through f/5.6.

'Found' scenes like this are great fun—the leaves were dried up and blown away by the endo of the day.

Grumpy Toad
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Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Late Season Pomegranates (5DS R)

Get Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

As readers may have deduced by my recent coverage of the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon, I like a 20/21mm a LOT, so I’m going gaga over this Sigma 20mm f/1.4—I know good stuff when I see it and I’d say the Leica 21/1.4 Summilux is not nearly so nice (and the Leica is 8X the price).

Put another way—I just love lenses that give me new versatility, gorgeous bokeh, high performance, and the Sigma 20/1.4 DG HSM Art scores on all points.

Don’t wait, get one now—it’s that simple. I’ve been feeling bored to meh with the Sony RX1R II, but I got my 'fix' today with the Sigma 20mm f/1.4. It’s that kind of visceral reaction that’s hard to explain, but never wrong (in my experience).

This aperture series studies the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at very close range:

Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Late Season Pomegranates (5DS R)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as UltraHD crops, all from f/1.4 through f/13, so a thorough look at the lens behavior is great fun on a high-res screen (see Get a Gorgeous 5K Display—with a Free Computer Included!).

For those with a late 2015 iMac 5K, the up to 24-megapixel images are eye-popping. Still, few displays other than the NEC PA302W can handle the intense red-magenta of these pomegranates—I expect that few readers will be able to view the images as they actually are. Because even the AdobeRGB color space flattens the color in an ugly way— I am forced to present the images in the ProPhotoRGB color space. The iMac 5K just (barely) manages it however and it is a viewing pleasure for its 14.2MP display as well.

Also in my review:

Late-season Pomegranates
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Rebates on Macs, Specific Recommendations

Items of particular interest:

An iMac 5K is like getting a gorgeous display with a free computer.

Lots of Apple rebates:

Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Sony RX1R II: Ergonomics and EVF

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

Added to my review of the Sony RX1R II is commentary on operational aspects:

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Jan 21 - Feb 15. Use code LOVE15
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Sony RX1R II: Aperture Series from f/2 through f/8 (Creek Through Boulders, View From Above)

Get Sony RX1R II at B&H Photo. Strongly recommended: optional Sony LHP-1 lens hood to protect the front of the lens (and as a secondary consideration, stray light) as well as at least three Sony NP-BX1 batteries.

This aperture series studies the Sony RX1R II in detail, concentrating on sharpness

Sony RX1R II Aperture Series: Creek Through Boulders, View from Above

Includes images up to 24 megapixels as well as many large crops, all from f/2 through f/8.

I have some reservations about the Sony RX1R II: there is an instability in the RX1R II results which damaged several aperture series, with focus shifting to the bacgkround more and more at each aperture. At first I thought this was optical focus shift. But now it is seems that it is something with the camera—perhaps a mechanical issue, perhaps causes by a extremely stiff aperture ring which might somehow jiggle the focus of the lens? So the 2nd shoot is damaged too, the first one having suffered from autofocus error. I don’t understand the cause as yet, I just know that this camera is causing me a lot of frustration in delivering damaged sharpness.

RX1R II v1.0 firmare. Settings: Shading Comp = Off, Chro Aber Comp = Auto, Distortion Comp = Off, SteadyShot = off, LENR = Off, LPF Effect = Off. 2-second self timer, uncompressed raw format.

Creek Through Boulders, View From Above
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