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To the Mountains

I’m off with Otii 55 and 85 and the new Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, and more.

 

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Aperture Series 'Backlit Redwood Grove'

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

A distance scene with challenging contrast.

Aperture Series: Backlit Redwood Grove (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images and large crops, from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16.

  Backlit Redwood Grove Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Backlit Redwood Grove
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Aperture Series 'Fading Maple Leaves in Backlit Creek'

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

This full aperture series shows the superb contrast and flare control of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, along with bokeh and sunstars and color aberration assessment.

Aperture Series: 'Fading Maple Leaves in Backlit Creek' (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images and large crops, from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16.

  Fading Maple Leaves in Backlit Creek Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/16
Fading Maple Leaves in Backlit Creek
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/16

Heading Out to Mountains, and Eastern Sierra Nevada Weather and Travel Conditions

I’m off to the Sierra today, first with a photo tour client for 5 days, then more of my own shooting and then my ultra-hard 2-day cycling stage race, the Everest Challenge.

Dennis Mattinson’s 395Travel.com offers great information on one of my favorite haunts: the eastern California Sierra Nevada and California White Mountains area. For example, his weather forecast page is encouraging (thunderstorms are terrific):

A change in our pattern to a cooler wetter one well be effected by three storms. First Hurricane Odile is moving north towards Tuscan and Nogales. It will provide enough moisture in the air from humidity to assist with the second storm moving thru the PACNW today. So a chance of mountain showers and thunderstorms thru Friday. Wrap around moisture from the third storm, a smaller low off the CA coast will keep thunderstorms chances going into Sunday for Mono County.

Dennis writes:

I have been working with my friends over at Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District on placing two cameras atop one of the Inyo’s highest peaks.

Views from the Dry Owens Lake (Lone Pine area) all the way to Bishop and beyond! The cams are available from our home page under Owens Valley South / Owens Valley North on the left side menu. The view is awesome anytime.

DIGLLOYD: See the Owens Valley North Cam and Owens Valley South Cam pages and/or the Google map.

Great near the environmental disaster known as Owens Lake e.g., the toxic dust created from Los Angeles diverting the water supply, though recent court-ordered inflows have helped. As per Wikipedia (and my eyes in driving past it en route to Death Valley):

More commonly, periodic winds stir up noxious alkali dust storms that carry away as much as four million tons (3.6 million metric tons) of dust from the lakebed each year, causing respiratory problems in nearby residents.

395Travel.com
395Travel.com: web cam from Owens Valley north
395Travel.com
395Travel.com

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Aperture Series 'Redwoods and Ferns'

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

See also thoughts and discussion in the prior post. This medium distance series shows the remarkably consistent quality of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

Aperture Series: Redwoods and Ferns (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images and large crops, from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/8.

  Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Aperture Series 'Underwater Maple Leaf'

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

See also thoughts and discussion in the prior post. This close-range series shows that very high quality is retained at close range.

Aperture Series: Underwater Maple Leaf (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images in color and black and white, and large crops, all from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16.

  Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Aperture Series 'Big Leaf Maple'

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

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

I’m packing for an extended trip to the mountains today (including a 5 day photo tour), so I’m really under time pressure, but I hope to to publish several series before I leave.

The 35/1.4 Distagon showed up yesterday, and I shot it for the first time yesterday afternoon and evening, with Ming Thein and I meeting and shooting together in person for the first time, over at Purissimma Creek Redwoods State Park.

Aperture Series: Big Leaf Maple (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images in color and black and white, and large crops, all from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16.

I’ll be doing more work with the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon as field shots suggest that it is now the best 35mm lens available for Leica M. And at about $2290 compared to about $5150 for the Leica Summilux, that’s a no-brainer for an M shooter.

I also have on hand the Leica 35/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH, Leica 35/2 Summicron-M ASPH, Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon, Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon and Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 II ASPH. That’s a lot, but it should yield insights into many matters.

  Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M: Best 35mm M Lens Yet?

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

An in-depth technical discussion of the new Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M is now published in Guide to Leica.

Includes MTF charts: full series from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/16 on Leica M as well as ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/8 on Sony A7x cameras, field curvature chart at ƒ/1.4 and ƒ/4, the first five apertures of vignetting, distortion, effective aperture and DoF at the periphery discussion. Technical but highly instructive basis for understanding its performance.

With 1/3 the distortion of the Summilux, superior control over field curvature, more uniform and higher contrast wide open, more uniform sharpness sharpness across the field, absence of lateral color, no focus shift, the technical prowess on paper is confirmed by yesterday’s field shots showing.

The in-the-field performance at ƒ/1.4 is very impressive, which means that the famed Leica 2010 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M not only has competition, but now appears to play second fiddle to the ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

Sample images will go up later today, as many as I can do while packing for my trip on which I’ll be doing much more work with the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

  Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M

The new ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM for professional reportage photography

The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is latest member of the ZM lens family

OBERKOCHEN/Germany, September 16, 2014

The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM continues the success story of the ZEISS ZM lens family and sets a new standard in the market.

First, it is notable for its very high speed. With a maximum aperture of f/1.4, the lens creates a pleasing bokeh, which optically enhances the background as the main composition element, while at the same time directing attention to the main motif in the foreground. The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM, which is optimized for digital sensors, also stands out for its excellent flat image field. Thanks to the Distagon‘s optical design, the lens delivers high resolution across the entire image field.

Very fast and precise – the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is a “storyteller”. The main motif becomes the focus, whether it’s a portrait, a group of people or an everyday scene. Details are recognizable, as well as facial expressions, movements of the body, and surface structures. At the same time, the focal length of 35 millimeters captures the surroundings, placing the object within its natural context. If the photographer wishes to direct the viewer’s attention even more, he or she may compose the picture with the large aperture of f/1.4 with a low depth of field, thereby separating the focused motif from its background.

In poor lighting conditions the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is also a top performer. The large aperture ensures the photographer is independent from the ISO limitations of his camera. The lens also has excellent focusing characteristics when the light is weak.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon schematic
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon schematic

For generations of photographers, individuality, rangefinder camera and a no-compromising optical quality have been an inseparable combination. The focal length of 35 millimeters is, and remains, the ‘basic lens’ that should not be absent on any camera with an M-mount.

In classic rangefinder photography, short focal lengths such as the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM have advantages over longer focal lengths when it comes to focusing, because the picture seen through the optical finder corresponds almost completely to the motif actually shot. The limitation imposed by the viewfinder frame is negligible for the composition of the image. With this angular field, image dimensions still remain natural. The combination of an elegant-reserved rangefinder camera and a 35-mm lens puts the photographer at the center of the action – not too far away and not too close. It is not for nothing that this system has always been the standard tool for discerning reportage photographers.

In addition, as a member of the ZM family of lenses, the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM has all of its assets. Complex measures inside the lens minimize any stray light that might occur. Die T* anti-reflective coating from ZEISS guarantees a very high degree of flare control.

The aperture consists of 10 aperture blades and is therefore almost circular. The iris can be set in steps of 1/3 through the precise and sensitive notch mechanism and with exact photometric increments. The easy-to-grip focus ring with an ergonomic finger rest enables fast, precise focusing. The mechanical quality is outstanding; the focus operation is smooth, with a large rotation angle. And the robust all-metal barrel guarantees a long product life in the rough everyday life of professional photographers.

“For the M system there is today almost no alternative to the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM. It is the best ZM lens that you can get under these conditions,” assures Christophe Casenave, Product Manager with ZEISS Camera Lenses.

The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM will be available worldwide, in silver and black, starting in the fourth quarter of 2014. The expected recommended retail price is €1,679.84 * or US$ 2.290,00* (excl. VAT).

More information can be found at www.zeiss.com/photo

  Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/2.8
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/2.8

Available in black or silver.

  Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M  

Daryl writes:

Was I surprised to see your review today.

I ordered the lens this morning after looking at the MTF curves and your review confirms my initial thoughts about a phenomenal lens.

Another great surprise is you have upped your game again, thank you, and I want to read all the information you have posted on this lens. Are you working with LensRentals.com on the new data?

DIGLLOYD: I had a few days to prepare the material (MTF and other charts are courtesy of Carl Zeiss). My very own copy (silver) showed up less than 24 hours ago, but I got right on it and shot it last night. Examples coming shortly.

Photokina a Yawner, but At Least One More Thing

No end of surprises, a Canon 7D Mark II arrives. The “II” pretty much says it all (I’m sure its a very nice evolution of same-old, not a criticism of that model). Where is the 50 (or at lest 40) megapixel Canon full frame after 5 years of all but frozen full-frame offerings? Maybe it’s still to be announced (which year is open to debate).

If I can wake up at 03:00 AM tomorrow (tonight), I’ll have something of great interest to a certain group of shooters. If not, then maybe 7AM or so. Along with first examples if UPS shows up in about two hours as expected.

Bummer not to have Olympus image stabilized 4K video iteration.

David S writes:

I think that the big hole in the 7D Mk II specs is no 4K video. I think that that’s a much more gaping omission than no increase in pixel count. As you point out, the Mk II is about gradual progress with improved auto-focus for both stills and video – the improvements here seem to be quite significant though. The original 7D lagged the 5D Mk III in AF performance quite noticeably (I know from personal experience with both cameras) but the 7D II should fix that and make it as good as or better than the 5D III in that regard.

fter all, AF is where DSLRs really shine and makes them an optimum choice for sports, wildlife, candid shots or any situation where fast and accurate AF will deliver the best image quality; that’s where mirror-less can’t compete with DSLRs, when fast AF speed is of the essence for optimum image quality. The new Dual-Pixel sensor should also bring a significant improvement to video auto-focus (although auto-focus when shooting video is probably still risky for many situations). The headphone jack and uncompressed HDMI output are also good additions for videographers.

DIGLLOYD: All good points, particularly on 4K video. DSLRs have always produced marginal video of any kind to date IMO, ironically outshone by far by cameras like the Panasonic GH4.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Aperture Series 'DeChambeau Yellow Wagon'

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon.

This ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/16 aperture series in Guide to Zeiss explores the slight telephoto effect and choice of aperture.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Aperture Series 'DeChambeau Yellow Wagon'

  DeChambeau Yellow Wagon Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
DeChambeau Yellow Wagon
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2

Compared: Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 vs Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH (M240, Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Interior)

Voigtlander Ultron 21m f/1.8 lens is about $1149 for Leica M.

In Guide to Leica at the Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8.

Compared: vs Leica 21/3.4 SEM and Voigtlander 21/4 (M240, Wyman Cabin Interior)

Includes HD and UltraHD aperture series and the Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f/4 is included as well.

  Lower Cabin in Wyman Canyon Leica M Typ 240 + Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 @ f/4
Lower Cabin in Wyman Canyon
Leica M Typ 240 + Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 @ f/4

Chris L writes:

As a Voigtländer aficionado, I thought I should know if such a beast
existed in mounts other than Leica M.

Neither BHphoto nor Cosina/Voigt themselves mention it in Canon EF or
Nikon F mounts.

DIGLLOYD: the Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 is an M-mount lens (Leica M rangefinder) with a short backfocus ; it is impossible to use it on a DSLR.

It could be used via an adapter on mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7s/A7/A7R, but ray angle issues would severely degrade its peripheral quality at wider apertures. Stopped down to ƒ/8 - ƒ/11 it might perform well however. See the coverage of various wide angle Leica M lenses on Sony A7/A7R in Guide to Leica.

Server Change: New Image Server

A new high performance image server is in place for this site.

With a suitably fast internet connection, an entire ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/16 aperture series in 4K Ultra HD size can be viewed in about 5 seconds (you’d want a 4K display for the UltraHD size, generally speaking, otherwise the regular 2560 X 1600 size is more appropriate).

Nikon D750: Incremental Move Forward, but Plows no New Ground

Pre-order the Nikon D750 at B&H Photo.

As an incremental and worthwhile advance, the Nikon D750 makes sense: a full-frame sensor with tiltable rear LCD (allows angled shooting more easily), and the now de rigueur wireless support which surely will be embedded in all cameras before long.

The Nikon D750 looks to be a solid offering. In viewing its rear control layout, its seem to match the D810 control layout, which is important for anyone considering a D810 + D750 pairing: the variance between the D600 and D800 drove me crazy when shooting the two together. But I cannot say whether its operational behavior is identical.

Innovation is not to be found, not even following in Sony’s footsteps by offering 4K video and an optional hot-shoe-mount EVF. And surely it is time for Nikon to think about ditching that mirror box in at least one model for a high res EVF model. The D750 is a solid incremental advance and that is not a bad thing, but neither is it exciting.

In terms of value, when I look at any camera over $2000, I look at the total system cost over time. At about $2299, its $1000 less than than the Nikon D810 which seems like a lot more, and it is a lot more—without context. But consider lenses and accessories: what is the total system cost and in that context, does a D750 make sense versus a D810? The D810 seems likely to hold better resale value too. 24 megapixels is enough for most all purposes but if one is shooting high-grade lenses, then it makes more sense to go to 36, because 36 is if nothing else oversampling or higher image quality in total.

Nikon D750 rear controls
Nikon D750 rear controls

September 12, 2014

Tonight, Nikon announced the D750, an exciting addition to its FX-format D-SLR camera lineup. This full frame camera features a powerful combination of pro-caliber photo and video features for both professionals and enthusiasts in a compact and lightweight body. The Nikon D750 features a 24.3-megapixel sensor and is the first FX-Format Nikon D-SLR to feature a tilting Vari-angle LCD display and built-in Wi-Fi capabilities.

Additionally, Nikon has also announced a new compact SB-500 multimedia Speedlight with a built in LED, and the fast AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED lens, the latest addition to Nikon’s expanding line of f/1.8 prime lenses.

Nikon D750
· Powerful photo and video features for both professionals and advanced enthusiasts
· New 24.3-megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor provides rich colors and gradation
o EXPEED 4 Image Processor (similar to D810 and D4S) increases efficiency and performance
· Offers the ability to share images instantly with built-in Wi-Fi
· Nikon’s first FX-format D-SLR with a tilting LCD display (3.2 in. 1,229K dot), helps frame photos and videos from a variety of previously difficult angles
· Pro 51-point AF System great for tracking wildlife or sports
o Group Area AF
o Lock in subjects in as little as -3 EV illumination
· 6.5 frames per second (fps) burst rate at full resolution
· Reaches the same level of advanced video functionality as the Nikon D810
o Full HD 1920x1080 resolution at 60/30/24p
o Power Aperture for smooth transitions and other advanced video features
o Record to dual SD memory card slots or output via HDMI
· Optional MB-D16 battery pack provides extended battery life and vertical grip
· Available in late September for $2,299.95 SRP (body only) and as a kit with the AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4 VR lens in mid-October

SB-500 Speedlight

· Compact yet powerful Speedlight and LED video light
· Covers wide 16mm/24mm (FX/DX) with a 90-degree vertical swivel and 180-degree rotation
o Great for bouncing light of ceilings and soft lighting effects
· Simplified controls and easily integrated into a CLS system
· Powerful (100 lux) LED light for video applications
· Runs on two AA batteries
· Available in late September for $249.95 SRP

AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED
· Ultra-fast wide-angle addition to f/1.8 series of FX-format lenses
· First ultra-wide lens with a f/1.8 aperture, great for architecture, interiors and landscapes
· Capable of quiet and fast AF operation
· Nano Crystal Coat reduces ghost and flare
· Available in late September for $799.95 SRP

Sigma announces dp1 Quattro with 28mm (equiv) Wide Angle Lens

Pre-order the Sigma dp1 Quattro at B&H Photo.

Sigma has announced the dp1 Quattro, the next incarnation of its dp Quattro line, which deliver image detail beyond the apparent pay grade. See the in depth reviwe of the Sigma dp2 Quattro and the Sigma DP Merrill line.

The dp1 Quattro utilizes a newly developed, fixed 19mm F2.8 wide-angle lens, equivalent to a 28mm on a 35mm camera, that is specifically designed and optimized to pair with Sigma’s new Quattro sensor, making it the widest of the dp Quattro trio of cameras.

One FLD glass element paired with two glass mold aspherical lenses minimize aberration. An optimized telecentric design improves image quality throughout the frame to maximize the resolution power of the Foveon senor. The dp2 (30mm) is currently available and the dp3’s pricing and availability has yet to be announced.

In addition to the availability of the dp Quattro camera, Sigma has also announced a new LCD View Finder LVF-01, which is exclusively designed for the Quattro series of cameras. The LVF-01 attaches to the camera’s LCD display to eliminate outside light and features a diopter adjustment range from -2 to +1. Coupled with the camera’s high-performance lens and coating, it magnifies the LCD display 2.5 times, allowing photographers to check the focus more easily with enhanced clarity and visibility. The easy handling of the viewfinder also helps reduce camera shake.

The LCD viewfinder is a smart move, akin to the Zacuto Z-Finder that I use with all my cameras. It will be interesting to see how the optics and mounting of the viewfinder work. It does seem a bit silly not just ot have designed-in a hot shoe mount for an EVF, but it’s very good to see a solution offered.

Sigma DP Quattro sensor design
Sigma dp2 Quattro sensor design
Sigma DP2 Quattro
Sigma dp2 Quattro shown

Sigma Corporation of America Announces Availability of dp1 Quattro Camera, New Quattro Series View Finder

Widest of the high-powered, compact trio on shelves in mid-October, new accessory available in December

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. — September 12, 2014 Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today announced the availability of the Sigma dp1 Quattro camera and a new view finder that will magnify Quattro cameras’ LCD screens. The second compact camera in the dp Quattro series will be available in the United States in mid-October and the accessory will be sold separately beginning in December. The pricing of both products has not yet been announced.
The dp1 Quattro utilizes a newly developed, fixed 19mm F2.8 wide-angle lens, equivalent to a 28mm on a 35mm camera, that is specifically designed and optimized to pair with Sigma’s new Quattro sensor, making it the widest of the dp Quattro trio of cameras. One FLD glass element paired with two glass mold aspherical lenses minimize aberration. An optimized telecentric design improves image quality throughout the frame to maximize the resolution power of the Foveon senor. The dp2 (30mm) is currently available and the dp3’s pricing and availability has yet to be announced.
In addition to the availability of the dp Quattro camera, Sigma has also announced a new LCD View Finder LVF-01, which is exclusively designed for the Quattro series of cameras. The LVF-01 attaches to the camera’s LCD display to eliminate outside light and features a diopter adjustment range from -2 to +1. Coupled with the camera’s high-performance lens and coating, it magnifies the LCD display 2.5 times, allowing photographers to check the focus more easily with enhanced clarity and visibility. The easy handling of the viewfinder also helps reduce camera shake.

As with all the cameras in the Quattro series, the dp1 Quattro boasts a redesigned camera body that enables optimal lens and sensor performance and it contains the newly developed Foveon “Quattro” Direct Image sensor, which is the only of its kind.
The Quattro sensor is a three-layered, panchromatic silicon chip whose green-sensitive middle and red-sensitive bottom layers each have 4.9 MP and record only color/chrominance information. The top blue layer captures chrominance and resolution/luminance information with 19.6 MP, resulting in greater detail capture and resolution capabilities that are higher than the Merrill DP camera line. The Quattro sensor’s architecture also contributes to true color rendition and more detail capture, delivering even more realistic images as well as faster image processing, improving overall user experience.
”We value image quality above all else and the engineering, craftsmanship and functional design of the Quattro cameras produce emotive imagery with the richest tones, gradations and textures,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “Our Sigma users are particularly enamored with the wide, 19mm lens in the dp1, which has been redesigned to maximize the capabilities of the Quattro sensor.”
The dp1 Quattro camera will differ from earlier generations of the DP cameras, as it will feature:

  • Foveon direct image sensor that produces images that are more colorful, rich, deep and faithful than ever before
  • Improved battery life
  • Fixed focal length cameras, providing the most optimized combination for unmatched image quality.
  • The TRUE III Image processor, providing ultrafast processing of an immense volume of image data without any deterioration of the final image
  • Better high ISO performance with one to two stops of improvement
  • Improved 3A performance: Auto Exposure, Auto Focus and Auto White Balance
  • Enhanced Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, FOV Classic Blue, and Monochrome color modes, and new Cinema, Sunset Red, Forest Green, and FOV Classic Yellow color modes

To locate the closest authorized Sigma dealer, visit http://www.sigmaphoto.com/where-to-buy-sigma. For more information about Sigma Corporation of America and the Quattro line of cameras, visit www.sigmaphoto.com.

SanDisk 512GB SDXC Card

Pre-Order the monster SanDisk 512GB SDXC card at B&H Photo.

These things are getting huge! But I suppose that in 10 years they will be 512TB holographic or something.

I like big cards because I can leave all shoots on them as additional backups when in the field (no need to erase). I download each day’s shoot as I go, leaving it on the card as a backup. See a more in-depth discussion in Downloading and Backing Up Images In The Field in the DAP Workflow section.

SanDisk 512GB SDXC card
SanDisk 512GB SDXC card

Richard J writes:

These cards are getting bigger and bigger all the time and as I had a HDD failure this week.

I am starting to wonder If these cards might be an alternative to long term storage solutions, rather then optical or tape back up. If a card was tested and stored correctly what would be the usable and safe longevity of doing storage this way. This card is a bit expensive but 256 GB is not too bad.

DIGLLOYD: the spare blocks (“over provisioning”) of a good 2.5" SSD along with its high level of error correction makes them a better choice than camera cards which have far lower lifetime wear cycles as well. The ultimate is something like the OWC Enterprise SSD, which has 28% over provisioning and a 7 year warranty. That’s total overkill though (designed to be “beat up” continuously)—better to buy the regular versions like the OWC Electra SSD, and buy more of them (for redundancy).

But most people want an external case. My favorite here is the OWC Mercury Envoy Pro EX. Or any of the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini bus powered variants with a 2.5" SSD inside. But the cheapest option (again think redundancy) are 2.5" hard drives in USB bus powered cases. This is all assuming less than huge storage requirements.

This Site is Up, Comcast Users Might have Issues Reaching it (FIXED)

UPDATE: issue resolved as of 09:00 September 11. It was an ISP routing failure (not this site’s server).

This site is inacessible for some Comcast users (including me, I have dual internet connections one of which is Comcast). That explains strangely low traffic today.

It’s now at Comcast Level III support. It appears to be some general routing failure handoff between Comcast and qwest.net, or wider. Nothing I can do except hope that their Level III support team fixes it ASAP. Even Comcast.com seems to be down too through another ISP, thought AT&T internet works to Comcast.com.

The issue is apparently affecting other sites too. For example, I am unable to reach http://blog.macsales.com. That could be a coincidence; I can’t be sure. It appears to be a bi-directional problem, which makes it even more confusing.

The site is up and functional through other service providers such as A&T which I’ve confirmed myself (internet via iPhone cell connection), and also confirmed via one reader.

diglloyd$ traceroute diglloyd.com
traceroute to diglloyd.com (204.11.224.34), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
1 192.168.1.129 (192.168.1.129) <== diglloyd comcast link
2 * * *
3 c-73-170-32-1.hsd1.ca.comcast.net (73.170.32.1)
4 te-0-3-0-8-sur04.santaclara.ca.sfba.comcast.net (68.85.191.17)
5 68.87.194.2 (68.87.194.2)
te-0-5-0-1-sur03.santaclara.ca.sfba.comcast.net (69.139.198.101)
te-1-1-0-10-ar01.oakland.ca.sfba.comcast.net (68.87.226.130)
6 be-90-ar01.sfsutro.ca.sfba.comcast.net (68.85.155.14)
7 68.86.166.141 (68.86.166.141)
8 be-17-pe02.11greatoaks.ca.ibone.comcast.net (68.86.83.46)
9 snj-edge-03.inet.qwest.net (67.133.42.213)
10 svl2-cntr-01.inet.qwest.net (205.171.244.2) <=== black hole
11 * * *
12 * * *
13 * * *
14 * * * diglloyd$ ping 205.171.244.2 <== the black hole above
PING 205.171.244.2 (205.171.244.2): 56 data bytes
64 bytes from 205.171.244.2: icmp_seq=0 ttl=247 time=16.531 ms
64 bytes from 205.171.244.2: icmp_seq=1 ttl=247 time=17.519 ms
64 bytes from 205.171.244.2: icmp_seq=2 ttl=247 time=20.171 ms

Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 on Leica M Typ 240 Aperture Series 'Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Exterior'

Voigtlander Ultron 21m f/1.8 lens is about $1149 for Leica M.

This is the first look in Guide to Leica at the Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8.

Voigtlander 21mm f/1.8 on Leica M Typ 240 Aperture Series 'Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Exterior'

Includes HD and UltraHD aperture series from ƒ/1.8 through ƒ/16 including ƒ/9.5 and ƒ/13 and in both color and black and white, along with large crops including a 4K UltraHD center crop.

  Lower Cabin in Wyman Canyon Leica M Typ 240 + Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 @ f/2
Lower Cabin in Wyman Canyon
Leica M Typ 240 + Voigtlander Ultron 21mm f/1.8 @ f/2

4K Video: What I want to See at Photokina is Functional, not Fancy

The Olympus E-M5 (or Olympus E-M1) are the only cameras I have found suitable/useable for the cycling videos I want to do because of sensor image stabilization for any/all lenses, plus having the right size/mass and lens selection. Specialty helmet mount requirements and still photo and yet-another-piece-of-gear issues make GoPro unattractive to me, though that might differ if it were a regular/routine use.

I’m not looking for specialty products or 3 pound rigs (I have to pedal it all up after all), just a compact system that delivers high quality 4K video. While the Panasonic GH-4 delivers oustanding 4K video and is an acceptable form factor, it has no in-body sensor image stabilization, and hence no stabilization for the 8mm fisheye or 12mm wide angle lenses thatI prefer for this type of use.

My cycling videos show what I have in mind.

  Aug 16, 2012 in White Mountains — “Hail-covered Meadow Crossing” on Moots Mooto X YBB 29er mountain bike, Olympus E-M5
Aug 16, 2012 in White Mountains — “Hail-covered Meadow Crossing”
on Moots Mooto X YBB 29er mountain bike, Olympus E-M5

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Aperture Series 'Trees, Tiles, Tower'

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon.

This at-dusk aperture series in Guide to Zeiss explores the depth of field at substantial distance showing that it’s a lot less than one might think. The full aperture range from ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16 shows the entire story, along with large crops.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Aperture Series 'Trees, Tiles, Tower'

  Trees, Tiles, Tower Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2.8
Trees, Tiles, Tower
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2.8

Using Camera Profiles in Adobe Camera Raw (Nikon D810 examples)

In the DAP Workflow section, I discuss how I go about choosing a camera profile and the various settings to tweak the image to my liking. Shown are all variants of camera profiles for the Nikon D810.

ACR/Lightroom Camera Profile for Raw Conversion (Nikon D810)

  ACR conversion settings
ACR conversion settings

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar: Versatility for any Challenge

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon.

In Guide to Zeiss, here are just a few of the images provided as lens rendering aperture series including HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white renditions, along with large crops and commentary/instruction.

Each series is carefully chosen to complement the others to give a full picture of the lens behavior under a wide variety of lighting and focusing distances. With the entire aperture series, the reader can visualize lens performance in a much deeper way than single images. On a 4K display with the UltraHD images, the viewing experience is stunning.

Click each image to go to its series.

  Pine Creek Thunderstorms Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/1.4
Pine Creek Thunderstorms
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/1.4
  Mining Gears Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2.8
Mining Gears
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2.8
  Tower at Dusk Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
Tower at Dusk
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
  Tree, Tiles, Toower Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/5.6
Tree, Tiles, Toower
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/5.6
  Emergency 911 Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/16
Emergency 911
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/16
  Garden Bench at Night Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
Garden Bench at Night
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
  Green Bokeh Beauty Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
Green Bokeh Beauty
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
  Green Leaf on Black rock Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
Green Leaf on Black rock
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2
  Atlas Permaguard Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/5.6
Atlas Permaguard
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/5.6

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Arrives Soon at B&H

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

I checked with Zeiss USA, and the first shipment is expected very soon, consistent with the B&H Photo “Expected availability: September 16 2014”.

In the field, I make practical use of clothing in the pack and out of it. Here I place the camera and lenses on a piece I can hardly do without when in the mountains, the Ibexwear wool hoody (a hoody offers sun and wind protection to head and neck).

A Zing neoprene pouch is seen at top right; most lenses get stowed in such pouches when in my North Face Recon daypack. But to save spac lenses sometimes are wrapped in other articles of clothing, like a light down jacket or wool cap or similar.

  Zeiss Otii in the field
Zeiss Otii in the field
(another blown-out and smeared iPhone 5s photo)

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Aperture Series 'Wet Aspen Trunk'

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar Aperture Series 'Wet Aspen Trunk'

Similar to the same scene with the Pentax 645Z (in DAP).

  Wet Aspen Trunk Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/11
Wet Aspen Trunk
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/11

Yes, it snows in August

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

Now up in Guide to Zeiss: my in-depth review of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planarwith 29 pages of coverage.

It can snow in August in the mountains in the northern hemisphere. Here, Mt Dana has received a nice fresh blanket of white stuff.

And yes, photographers like diglloyd get lazy, the image is slightly blurred from handholding. But I took two shots, one badly blurred and one much better. And I was feeling sleepy anyway, and just enjoying the audacity of an August snowshower.

  Mt Dana with snow, August 9 2014 Thunderstorm Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2.8
Mt Dana with snow, August 9 2014 Thunderstorm
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/2.8

Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar: Exceptional Optical Efforts

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

Now up in Guide to Zeiss: my in-depth review of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planarwith 29 pages of coverage.

Zeiss spared little effort with the Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar. Six of 11 elements have special glass types (chromatic correction) and one is aspheric, so 7 of 11 elements are “special”. The whole thing is oversize, which generally means that it can be manufactured reliably (an optical design can be superb but too difficult/expensive to manufacture). The results are the most gorgeous images I have seen on any camera.

  Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (schematic)
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (schematic)

Image Circle Size for 55/1.4 APO-Distagon and 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar

A lens projects an image circle, the size of which is its “coverage” or the size format it “covers”. Quality doesn’t necessarily stay high to the edge of the image circle, but as shown with the Touit designs, it can extend well beyond the stated format size (see 12mm coverage and 32mm coverage and 50mm coverage and more 12mm coverage).

It turns out that the Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon and 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar both have quite large image circles.

The extreme corner of a 36 X 24mm frame is 21.3mm; these graphs show vignetting out to the 27.5mm corners of a medium format 44 X 33mm sensor (Pentax 645Z).

  Vignetting for Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon out to 44 X 33mm format size
Vignetting for Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon out to 44 X 33mm format size
  Vignetting for Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar out to 44 X 33mm format size
Vignetting for Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar out to 44 X 33mm format size

Filters for the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

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

The filter size of the new Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar is 86mm, which is oddball enough that I still have not been able to obtain the Heliopan 86mm SH-PMC polarizer I want for it (on order at B&H).

Zeiss will have 86mm UV and polarizer filters for the Otus 85/1.4, which are my preference, but these are not yet available. Otherwise, I greatly prefer Heliopan over B+W polarizers (ring stickiness on B+W, plus numbers on the Heliopan).

Recommended filters for the Otus 85/1.4 APO-Planar are a bit hard to find in stock as yet, but here are some choices:

I like B+W MRC or Heliopan SH-PMC multicoating hard coat.

I generally do *not* use a skylight filter, because I want a completely neutral UV filter without any cutoff of deep blue; ultraviolet is not an issue whatsoever due to severe attenuation by modern lens coatings. And while a skylight filter can be useful in some conditions of bluish atmospheric haze, a polarizer is far more effective for such conditions.

Keep all filter meticulously clean, because even the best ones can degrade image quality.

Uber Lens: Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar offers Unprecedented Performance

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/4
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar

In Guide to Zeiss is my in-depth review of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar, with 29 pages of coverage including many ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/16 aperture series with HD and UltraHD images for visualization (with large crops and most in both color and black and white versions), technical coverage of various sorts, notes and commentary for context.

The 85mm focal length is ostensibly for portraits, and there the Otus 85/1.4 APO-Planar delivers the most transparently beautiful imagery I have ever seen on a DSLR. Well, it does so in every case, not just portraits.

But that sells it short, because the Otus 85/1.4 delivers a transparency that rivals or beats everything I’ve tried and not in any single way—every way. Including medium format Leica S, and the best Pentax medium format lens, the 90/2.8 macro.

The 'transparency' of its imagery comes from strict control of all aberrations along with the best color correction I’ve ever seen in any fast lens, trouncing the color correction of lenses like the Leica 70mm f/2.5 Summarit-S.

Leica M Summilux or APO-Summicron lenses? The Otus delivers far superior color correction with far less field curvature and higher correction for all aberrations and ultra low distortion, and with no focus shift either. It’s not even a contest when one considers the 75mm or 90mm f/2 APO M lenses—they fall well short. The only M lens that can approach it (not match it) is the one-stop-slower 50/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH, a very fine lens indeed. But I’ve never seen the transparency and sheer beauty if the Otus even with Leica’s best M lens. And ƒ/2 is not ƒ/1.4 and flare control is another subject.

The Otus 85mm /1.4 APO-Planar sets a new standard all its own.

  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/4
Portrait with Sunflowers
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/4
  Early Yellow Aspen Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/1.4
Early Yellow Aspen
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/1.4
  Riparian Medley Lit by Canyon Walls in Early Morning Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/1.4
Riparian Medley Lit by Canyon Walls in Early Morning
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar @ ƒ/1.4

In Depth Review of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar (about $4490) for Nikon or Canon. THANK YOU for using this site’s links to pre-order.

Now up in Guide to Zeiss: my in-depth review of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planarwith 29 pages of coverage.

I worked extensively with the 85/1.4 APO-Planar in the field While I did not (yet) do everything I’d like to cover, this review is very thorough.

This site has a worldwide exclusive for several days on reviews of this lens, as per Zeiss.

Except that within one day, some reviewer out there violated their agreement and published prematurely, causing Zeiss to open the floodgates. Oh well. :)

Update: Ming Thein has a good review of the Otus 85/1.4 APO-Planar. Ming and I agree that the Otus 85 sets a new world class standard. See also my conversation with Ming.

  Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar
  Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar
  Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar
MTF at f/1.4 for Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 APO-Planar T* Specifications
Focal length 85mm
Aperture range ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/16
Number of lens elements/groups 11 elements in 9 groups
One aspheric, six of special glass
Focusing range: 0.8 m / 31.50 in - ∞
Rotation angle of focusing (focus throw): 261°
Flange focal distance: ZF.2: 46.50 mm / 1.83 ft
  ZE: 44.00 mm / 1.73 ft
Entrance pupil position ( in front of image plane): 90 mm / 3.54 in
Free working distance at MOD: 0.65 m / 25.59 in - ∞
Angular field (diag./horiz./vert.) 28.24° / 23.71° / 15.97°
Diameter of image field 43.2 mm
Flange focal offset ZF.2: 46,50 mm (1.83′′)
  ZE: 44,00 mm (1.73′′)
Coverage at close range (MOD). 36 X 24mm frame 278.85 x 185.61 mm / 10.97‘ x 7.31 in
Image ratio at close range 1:7.7
Filter thread 86mm
Length with caps: ZF.2: 138 mm / 5.43 in
  ZE: 141 mm / 5.55 in
Length without caps ZF.2: 122 mm (4.80‘‘)
  ZE: 124 mm (4.88‘‘)
Diameter max ZF.2: 101 mm/ 3.98 in
  ZE: 101 mm / 3.98 in
Weight (as weighed): ZF.2: 1244g / 2.74 lb with hood and caps
  ZE: 1315g / 2.90 lb with hood and caps
     Lens hood: 99g
Front lens cap: 23g
Weight (nominal): ZF.2: 1140g
  ZE: 1200g
Mounts ZF.2 (F bayonet)
ZE (EF bayonet)
Price: View street price

'The Racetrack' Playa in Death Valley: the Stones Caught Moving!

Science News reports Death Valley’s sailing stones caught on the move. See the details or watch the video.

See also Exploring Death Valley—Getting There and Exploring.

The Starting Line at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
The Starting Line at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
Long sliding-rock trail at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
Long sliding-rock trail at Racetrack Playa in Death Valley

Update on Sigma Photo Pro and Sigma dp2 Quattro

Back in July, my review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro discussed the disgruntling problems with the Sigma dp2 Quattro and the SPP software. I spent (wasted) enormous amounts of time dealing with the issues.

Luminous Landscape weighs in on the Sigma dp2 Quattro in Sigma DP2 Quattro Review: Not Ready for Prime Time. The review echoes many of the same issues, but in truth there are so many problems with the product (camera + software), that no review can do justice to the extent of it.

Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.6

Sigma Photo Pro version 6.0.6 is out (for Sigma DP Merrill and Sigma dp Quattro cameras). Discussion that follows is of the OS X version, but reports from Windows users indicate that issues are not confined to the Mac.

One of many crash or crash-like bugs  Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.6
The norm (Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.6)

Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.6 is finally usable on my Mac Pro: through version 6.0.5, opening an edit window resulted in a window somewhere offscreen (whether single or dual displays). I did have to trash the SPP preferences to get SPP 6.0.6 to function properly:
rm ~/Library/Preferences/SPhotoPro.xml

But that is only one of a laundry list of bugs and badly implemented algorithms and workflow choices and failure to cache and severe performance problems and so on ad nauseum. Some bugs have been fixed. But I didn’t consider it ready for prime time back in July or now in September.

One of many crash or crash-like bugs  Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.6
One of many crash or crash-like bugs
Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.6

The fact that in 2014 SPP remains a 32-bit app speaks volumes. And that the developers see fit to leave developer hooks in the official binary is unbelievable (see screen shot at right, I reported this months ago also).

This default window fairly represents the inattention to detail in every aspect of the product. A spell check would be useful, e.g., “temperture”, and also menu item titling inconsistency. It’s all part and parcel of sloppy execution, tip of the iceberg.

But here’s the bottom line even if SPP works (until it crashes which it always does): a common task that would take 30 seconds in Photoshop takes 30 minutes in SPP.

The Project—Monday

The Project will be unveiled on Monday at 2PM PST.

Guys (married), flowers and a nice dinner might be in order today, so that discussion of the new and necessary photographic addition can be viewed in properly gruntled context tomorrow.

FOR SALE: Nikon D800E with RRS L-Bracket, Canon Lenses, Olympus SHG, Pentax K3

My work from here on out will use the Nikon D810, so my Nikon D800E is for sale with the original box and accessories along with the Really Right Stuff L-bracket () and DK-17M eyepiece.

This body was my go-to body with as perfect a lens mount alignment as I have yet found, no easy trick necessarily, even with a new camera body. It’s in excellent condition—not mint—but with the rear screen protected with a screen protector and no dings. Very minor here and there things you have to look hard for under good light. Shutter count is modest, perhaps 25K.

Best offer takes it: $2200 SALE PENDING

Can sell with AF-S 24-70 if desired.

Buyer pays 2-day or 3-day UPS or FedEx shipping and/or supplies own shipping label (no USPS) and/or picks up locally. California buyers responsible for any applicable sales tax. USA only, no overseas shipments.

Contact me (please use an appropriate email subject)

Other stuff

Canon lenses

Canon 50mm f/1.2L, perfect glass, hood caps in excellent condition $1050.

Canon 35mm f/1.4L, perfect glass, hood caps in excellent condition $999.

Olympus Super High Grade (SHG) zooms

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

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

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

  • Olympus SHG 7-14mm f/4 Zuiko ED: $1500
  • Olympus SHG 14-35mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $1900
  • Olympus SHG 35-100mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $1950
  • All three take $400 more off and MMF-3 adapter gets included.

Pentax K3 premium silver edition

Very lightly used (under 1000 actuations) Pentax K-3 premium silver edition (details) in box like new as shipped. $800. SALE PENDING

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Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon: Brilliant and Sharp (Aperture Series Pine Creek Buildings Thunderstorms, Nikon D810)

  Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon
Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon
  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This series shot very close in time to the similar series with the 15/2.8 Distagon, so it’s an interesting perspective on the two lenses.

Light was changing by the second; this entire series was shot 4 times (!) to finally manage a complete series with the “spotlight” lighting as I desired, for each aperture. It provides an interesting complement to the 2013 series with its serene autumn weather.

The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon offers high brilliance, superb flare control and terrific sharpness. These are reasons to select it over other ultra wides.

But like all ultrawides that are ƒ/2.8 or faster, a field curvature is present (very mild with the 21/2.8 Distagon). This series shows that behavior and discusses how to work with it for optimal results.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series 21/2.8 Distagon: Pine Creek Stormy Light (Nikon D810)

Also discussed and shown are its superlative point spread function and the behavior with stopping down.

Include HD and Ultra HD images and large crops from ƒ/2.8 through ƒ/16 along with both color and black and white images and how converted.

I’ve learned that a 1-megawatt hydroelectric generator is planned for the existing mine shaft, to upgrade the current ~100 KW plant. The mine shaft offers natural water flow with a “head” of at least 1500 vertical feed, offering tremendous hdyropower potential. It’s a shame to see a tungsten resource abandonded (risk of foreign supply for a critical metal), but what an awesome and perfect use for an old mine!

Toggle the image below to see the black and white rendition.

  Sun Spotlights Pine Creek Tungsten Mine Waterfall Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/5.6
Sun Spotlights Pine Creek Tungsten Mine Waterfall
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/5.6

Zeiss Loxia vs Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 Biogon on Sony A7R

Pre-Order Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H Photo.

  MTF for Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*

See the Zeiss Loxia announcement.

Zeiss has provided some test images shot on the Sony A7R with the new Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon, along with images made with the existing Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 Biogon (M mount).

Has the proven Biogon design of the Loxia 35/2 Biogon been tweaked, and also optimized for mirrorless?

The test images show that the Loxia 35/2 Biogon is a step up from the ZM 35/2 Biogon, long considered a very fine lens, but which was never designed to take sensor cover glass of digital into account, and the ray angle damage to image quality (extreme astigmatism as well as exacerbating color fringing, stopping well down is needed to counteract).

In short, the Zeiss Loxia lenses look to be the right choice for the Sony A7s/A7/A7R shooter looking for classic Zeiss all-metal build quality in a manual focus lens. Ergonomics of manual focusing also look to be much more hand friendly (wide barrel).

Crop is from an image taken at ~ 1:40 reproduction ratio. Both images are in focus.

UPDATE: I’ve examined the images carefully at all apertures. I am not satisfied of a precise focus match between the two, which puts the ZM 35/2 Biogon at a disadvantage. But examining all areas of the images, it’s clear that the ZM lens is suffering at the periphery from ray angle effects. So the crop below is not as bad as it looks for the ZM lens, but it is definitely not performing as well as the Loxia lens. This particular crop is at edge and field curvature means that its focus is not optimal for either lens, even as center is sharp.

Toggle to compare.

 

  MTF for Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*
ƒ2. Actual pixels from Sony A7R. Image courtesy of Carl Zeiss

Zeiss Loxia MTF Discussion

Pre-Order Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H Photo.

  MTF for Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*

See the Zeiss Loxia announcement.

In Guide to Mirrorless, I’ve updated my pre-shooting coverage of the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar: the MTF graphs for both now include three apertures: ƒ/2, ƒ/4, ƒ/5.6, with an updated analysis.

I’ll be testing the Loxia lineup later this fall when press samples become available. Because these are for mirrorless, review coverage will be in Guide to Mirrorless. Zeiss DSLR lenses for Canon and Nikon are covered in Guide to Zeiss, and Zeiss ZM rangefinder lenses are covered in Guide to Leica.

  MTF for Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*
MTF for Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*

B&H Photo Promo Code Deals

See my reviews of NEC displays and review of the 2013 Mac Pro and Guide to Zeiss.

Some interesting promotions at B&H Photo. Some discounts require use of promo code 147513516282279327995. Thanks for any link on this site to buy, or the various gear pages.

View all promotions.

Some items also have rewards and expedited free shipping as well.

diglloyd image   diglloyd image   diglloyd image

And of course:

 

Reader Comment: Mass Coupling for Sharper Images by Using View on Compact Cameras

Dale P writes:

The same idea applies to other small compacts without an EVF, not just the Sigma DP Merrill.

I also was irritated that there was no way to hold the Sigma DP Merrill up to my glasses and compose an image. By chance I happened to see a reference to this device in a blog somewhere. Someone liked using it on a point and shoot with an LCD but no viewfinder.

Basically this device attaches either on the tripod mount or into the flash mount site on the camera. It is a plastic arm and a flip up/down high quality lens then lets you comfortably put your eye right up to the lens and see the whole LCD.
http://www.clearviewer.com/index.html

So…I spent around $50 to check it out.

Surprise! It turns out that by pressing the lens firmly against my glasses, it is as if I am mashing the camera against my forehead. Giving great stabliity compared to holding the camera out away from my face with my two hands.
This is a technique you have referred to before I think.

Your theory works! I got sharp photo’s at 1/25th of a second at F4 whereas without the device my shots were blurry.

Worth considering for someone who wants sharp pictures with the DP Merrills.

I have no connection to the company making the device and just thought this info might help your other subscribers.

DIGLLOYD: I call this “mass coupling”, it’s no theory (it works), and it’s one of the techniques I discuss in the How to Hold a Camera Steady (Mass Coupling) section of Making Sharp Images.

Zeiss Lenses for Canon and Nikon: $50 off, 2% Rewards, Expedited Shipping

B&H Photos has Zeiss DSLR lenses for Canon and Nikon at $50 off, 2% rewards and free expedited shipping (Otus is excluded unfortunately). Thank you for using this site’s links to buy.

A personal favorite for its rendering style: the 25mm f/2.8 Distagon and the 2nd least expensive of the lineup.

  Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon   Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 Distagon Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar
Zeiss ZF.2 lenses

Zeiss Loxia for Mirrorless Full Frame: Initial Analysis

Pre-Order Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H PHoto.

See the Zeiss Loxia announcement.

To Guide to Mirrorless, I’ve added initial analysis and discussion on the MTF, distortion and vignetting behaviors of the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar.

I’ll be testing the Loxia lineup later this fall when press samples become available. Because these are for mirrorless, review coverage will be in Guide to Mirrorless. Zeiss DSLR lenses for Canon and Nikon are covered in Guide to Zeiss, and Zeiss ZM rangefinder lenses are covered in Guide to Leica.

  Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*

Zeiss Loxia: Manual Focus All Metal Build Lenses for Mirrorless Full Frame

  Sony Alpha A7R
Zeiss Loxia mounts on
Sony Alpha A7S / A7 / A7R
(and others)

Pre-Order Zeiss Loxia lenses at B&H PHoto.

The two new Zeiss Loxia lenses incorporate proven Zeiss designs into all-metal manual focusing lens bodies for the full-frame Sony Alpha A7/A7R system.

These are the lenses I would choose as a Sony A7s/A7/A7R shooter for most of my purposes (particularly the A7s, for video focusing). Why? Because I like the solidity and long-lasting build quality along with the precision of manual focus (180° focus throw). A good manual focus feel/throw is a wonderful thing, and the EVF on the Sony bodies makes pinpoint focus easy and fast.

Note that it is possible to choose on the fly a clicked or declicked aperture feature, a first AFAIK (declicked is ideal for video shooters).

Other appealing points include weather sealing and the all-metal barrel, though it’s not clear to me what prevents ingress of water at the front end, since the inner barrel presumably has to move in out with focusing.

ZEISS Loxia lenses are designed for use in normal conditions. The Loxia lenses are not fully protected against splash water, nor are they water-proof. However, the lens mount features dust and weather proofing. Additional protection against extraordinary environmental influences is not provided. They do not feature protection in accordance with the ISO IP standard. These lenses are designed for use at temperatures ranging from -20°C to +55°C.

I’ll be testing the Loxia lineup later this fall when press samples become available. Because these are for mirrorless, review coverage will be in Guide to Mirrorless. Zeiss DSLR lenses for Canon and Nikon are covered in Guide to Zeiss, and Zeiss ZM rangefinder lenses are covered in Guide to Leica.

With both lenses, bear in mind that actual performance on a digital sensor depends not just on the lens by itself, but the lens design as optimized (or not) for the sensor cover glass thickness and ray angle. The sensor cover glass and ray angle issue is why Leica M lenses often fare poorly on Sony mirrorless. And its why performance of the Loxia line has to be evaluated with real images, not via comparison with other MTF charts. Zeiss has surely accounted for these factors so as to ensure that the designs will perform well on Sony mirrorless, by tweaking the optics slightly. That this is so is easily seen in the outstanding results with the 35/2 Biogon on the Sony RX1R, which compares favorably and maybe even outperforms the famed Leica Summilux 35/1.4.

Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon

Both lens designs are classics, and are presumably tweaked to be optimal for ray angle issues and sensor cover glass on the Sony A mirrorless lineup (support for other brands presumably will follow, when other brands like Fujifilm offer a full frame camera).

The 35mm f/2 Biogon originates as rangefinder lens design (Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 Biogon for use on Leica M). This is the superb lens design used in the Sony RX1 / RX1R (lovely performer there), though it could incorporate modifications for A7s/A7/A7R system.

  Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T*

The front element of the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon of a special glass type (presumably to control various color aberrations), but it’s unclear if this differs from the RX1R or ZM designs. My guess is that it is new to the Loxia design versus the ZM lens, at least.

  Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* design
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* design

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar

The 50mm f/2 Planar is another classic Zeiss design, presumably based on the Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2 Planar for Leica M. It is a very strong performer when stopped down slightly, and has gorgeous bokeh from its symmetric design.

  Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*
Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar T*

Marketplace positioning

The main question that arises in my mind is the strategic approach: it’s a courageous move to go manual focus and high quality build in today’s market, and that will attract a certain group of customers on its own.

The marketplace risk as I see it relates to optical performance and pricing relatively close to alternatives. These designs are excellent, but for many users autofocus exerts a strong pull. So some icing on the cake would add appeal: I would like to see something more on the optical front, meaning aggressive efforts towards wide open image quality. Certainly Zeiss Otus quality is out of the question (size/weight/price), but heading strongly in that direction. A higher price point (double) would be needed to meet that goal, but many of the potential customers would find that an appealing tradeoff, and it would establish a clearly separate category. As it stands the Loxia pricing at around $1000 seems to me as a customer to carry the same risks as the Touit line.

Zeiss Loxia Press release

Manual focusing, manual aperture and maximal image quality

With the new Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 lenses, ZEISS combines maximum image quality with classic ease of use for E-mount full-frame cameras.

OBERKOCHEN, September 2, 2014

The ZEISS lenses Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 are the first members of a new family of manual focus lenses for the E-mount full frame. They are optimized for digital sensors and electronic viewfinders and feature a mechanical aperture setting and the mechanical deactivation of the click stop (de-click) for ambitious videography. But these are just a few of the highlights. The lenses will be presented to the public for the first time at ZEISS’s booth at photokina in Cologne from September 16 to 21, 2014.

“Ever since the Sony Alpha 7/7r/7s helped compact system cameras break through to the full frame, there has been a growing desire for a ‘digital manual focus‘ experience that combines the best of both worlds. The Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 are the first members of a new family of manual focus lenses for the E-mount full frame. By entering this field, ZEISS not only wants to meet this desire, but exceed it,” said Christophe Casenave, Product Manager with ZEISS Camera Lenses.

Freedom of composition in photography was the guiding principle in developing the ZEISS Loxia 2/35 and ZEISS Loxia 2/50. An electronic interface transmits lens data (EXIF), but it also recognizes focus movements and, if desired, activates the camera’s magnifier function. This supports the possibilities of modern compact camera systems with an electronic viewfinder. Furthermore, the Loxia lenses allow for precise manual focusing as well as a mechanical setting of the aperture (aperture priority). This traditional way of working expresses one’s personal photo lifestyle, opening up surprising creative possibilities to compose the image that go beyond all automation.  

It is not for nothing that compact camera systems are one of the most interesting developments on the photography market today. Many photographers also appreciate the combination of traditional principles of handling and operation with the most modern technology.

Yet another highlight – the mechanical deactivation of aperture click stops (de-click), thus creating progressive and noiseless aperture settings– makes this new lens family a tool that provides a high degree of creative potential, not only for photographers but also for ambitious videographers. Thanks to their precise manual focusing, the Loxia 2/35 and Loxia 2/50 are also suitable for professional video productions.

The Loxia lens family has been specially optimized for digital sensors. The optical design of the Loxia 2/35 is based on a Biogon and consists of nine lens elements in six groups. With a full-frame focal length of a moderate wide angle, this lens is particularly well suited for nature, landscape and architectural photography. Its creative potential also comes to the fore thanks to its low minimum object distance of 0.3 meters, which allows close-ups with an unusual perspective.

The design of the Loxia 2/50 is based on a Planar and has six lens elements in four groups.  As a ‘classic’ normal lens with a full-frame focal length of 50 millimeters, it offers photographers a field of view that corresponds to natural eyesight. The Loxia 2/50 is ideally suited for a wide range of situations, from travel photography, family photography and photojournalism to portraiture  –  and with a minimum working distance of 0.37 meters it is suitable for close-ups, too. The Loxia 2/50 is an uncomplicated but at the same time high-quality standard lens that photographers can keep on their camera continuously, therefore allowing them to react flexibly to a wide range of everyday situations.

Both Loxia lenses have a high speed of f/2, which expands the creative possibilities even more. Two examples are the effective isolation of motifs with a low depth of field or free-handed photography, even with poor lighting conditions.

The Loxia lens range intentionally eschews autofocus. This makes them compact and ideal for travel and street photography. Photographers who work in these fields often do not like to be recognized right away as professionals. The Loxia lenses offer a high resolution across the entire image field and a harmonious bokeh in the background, especially at the maximal aperture opening of f/2. The Loxia family stands out for its superb mechanical quality. The smooth focus operation with a large focus rotation angle of approximately 180 degrees allows for the finest variations in focusing. The filter diameter is a consistent M52 across the entire lens family. The robust barrel is made completely of metal so that it can withstand the rough everyday situations that professional photographers face and ensuring a long product life. In addition, the lenses have a special weather sealing at the lens mount to prevent spray water from getting between the camera and the lens.

The Loxia 2/50 will be available worldwide starting October 2014 and the Loxia 2/35 from the end of the fourth quarter of 2014. The recommended retail price of the Loxia 2/35 will be EUR 965.55* (US$ 1,299.00)* and that of the Loxia 2/50 will be EUR 713.45* (US$ 949.00)*.

For more information, visit www.zeiss.com/photo.

Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon Aperture Series 'Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Interior' (D800E)

  Nikon D800E
Nikon D800E

The Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon offers an ultra wide angle view with high contrast.

This particular aperture series works well for its slight peripheral forward field curvature, as discussed.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon: 'Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Interior' (D800E)

Includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white as well as large crops from wide open through ƒ/16.

  Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Interior Nikon D810 + Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon @ ƒ/8
Wyman Canyon Lower Cabin Interior
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon @ ƒ/8

Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon on Nikon D810: Aperture Series 'Twisted Aspen'

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

The Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon offers imaging qualities that make it especially suitable for environmental portraiture, reportage, etc. It’s a compact gem of a lens. It offers very high overall contrast and a vignetting suitable for many subjects.

The 28/2 Distagon is particularly suitable for environmental portraiture—a subject in its natural environment.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: Twisted Aspen (D810)

Includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white as well as large crops from wide open through ƒ/16.

  Twisted Aspen Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/16
Twisted Aspen
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/16

Fujifilm X100: Can’t Charge the Battery

Fujifilm X100
Fujifilm X100

I still have the Fujifilm X100 that I bought several years ago. Its good looks don’t go out of style and its images are still excellent (see my 2011 Fujifilm X100 review).

The battery died or so it seemed: it would not charge; the charger light lights up, but after 24 hours, no charging and a battery so dead that licking its contacts (a simple but effective test) hardly provides any electric tingle at all. The camera gets no power whatsoever from the battery.

So I bought a brand-new Fujifilm NP-95 battery back in May, which at first charged up fine. By mid July it too has failed, meaning the same charger problem: the light goes on, but the battery does not charge.

I’ve seen “smart” batteries lose their brains (so to speak), and it could be that alone. The cause being unclear.

So I’m in a quandary: were both batteries bad, is the charger bad, and/or is the camera killing the battery somehow? I hate to go dump more money into a new battery and charger if the camera is damaging the batteries somehow. But it’s a nice camera, and I’d like to see it working again. So I think I’ll just order the $19.95 Watson charger and see if it works.

Perhaps a reader out there has some ideas.

The Fujifilm support page (if you can call it that) consists of some Q&A one can search on—it’s absurd to call this support. I cannot find any place to call or send an email on this question, which is quite frustrating. That ought to be front and center on that page.

Merlin E writes saying Fujifilm tech support is 1-800-800-3854.

Ragna V writes:

I have experienced this twice - first with the charger on my X100, later on with my X100s. Very annoying, especially when I'm travelling. I understand that this is a well known problem with these chargers. My batteries behave ok and work fine in a new charger.

My solution? Never trust a Fuji charger. I bought a Hahnel UniPal Plus charger instead http://www.hahnel.ie/index.cfm?page=universalchargers&pId=133 It will charge almost anything, and is always with me on my travels as a backup. And it even works on a 12 V power supply in your car or boat.

DIGLLOYD: I ordered that inexpensive $19.95 Watson charger. If it works, good enough.

Cliff L writes:

The problem with batteries failing to charge is not unique to Fuji batteries or chargers - I’ve had the same thing happen with a Canon LP-E6 battery too. I’ve often thought one can never have too many spare batteries, but on one occasion I was unable to revive a nearly new battery that hd sat in a drawer for several months. N ow I keep fewer spares and try to rotate all the batteries through the cameras periodically to keep them functioning properly. I wonder why this doesn’t seem to happen to batteries that sit on store shelves for prolonged periods of time?

DIGLLOYD: All LiIon batteries can degrade steadily over time, and high heat can damage them quickly. But I don’t find the comparison appropriate this this case, it was a steadily/regularly used battery. Nor have I had other brand camera batteries fail in this way, and that’s over 10 years or so, starting with the ~1 megapixel Olympus whatever it was.

Adobe Camera Raw: 'CameraStandard' Camera Profile Produces Horrific Tonal Transitions for D810 NEF

diglloyd image
Avoid 'CameraStandard'
  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

There is a serious flaw in the 'Camera Standard' profile for the Nikon D810 when using Adobe Camera Raw (and presumably Adobe Lightroom also).

In DAP:

Adobe Camera Raw: Harsh Tonal Transitions with 'Camera Standard' Profile

Looks like several days of intensive work are now “redo” candidates, or at least I now have to go reassess to see what stuff has to be redone, time I can ill afford.

It had been nagging at me that something seemed wrong with ACR and the Nikon D810, but tonight the problem showed itself clearly with a particular image.

I don’t know if this issue affects other cameras, but it might, so exercise care in your own images. I also don’t know if it is a profile bug (seems most likely), or some flaw in ACR itself.

Reader Roy P emailed some images from Adobe Lightroom 5.6 (a variety of camera profiles), and the problem is prominent posterization in facial skin. Much worse than what I had observed in my landscape images—unusably awful.

Thanks to the reader who wrote me pointing me at the Adobe’s tech note.

John G writes:

Read your blog post this morning re: image quality problems in LR5.6 (and Adobe ACR 8.6) when using Nikon’s profiles found in the Camera Control section. I, too, noticed these problems. When selecting the Camera Standard, Landscape, Vivid, and Monochrome profiles, Image-killing posterization and stark banding is introduced in the some areas of the photograph.

This is especially evident where there are subtle tonal transitions, such as in the cloud-filled skies, etc. I contacted Adobe, and they indicated that they were aware of the problem and would fix it in the next iteration of LR and ACR. In the interim, they are providing beta profiles for the D810 The new beta profiles can be downloaded here: http://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/kb/camera-standard-profile-displays-posterized.html I have used the beta profiles for the past week now, and can report they fix the problems you are seeing, and improve image quality in other ways as well.

Thanks for doing what do. I read your site everyday. As a professional photographer, by necessity, I do huge amounts of research before purchasing any new piece of gear. Your insights and hard work cut down on the amount of research I have to do, and have made my process of selecting new equipment much more efficient. Thanks again.

DIGLLOYD: Well, I’m glad that Adobe has issues a fix, because I’ve liked the tonal curve of CameraStandard for some images much more than AdobeStandard: more appealing contrast (sometimes too strong though) and with less harsh highlight areas.

Where does one go or proactively watch to find out about critical flaws like this? For example, Adobe’e Tranberry is mum on the topic. Blogs.adobe.com is not helpful, and surely such a damaging issue deserves a front and center warning there. Hours of work destroyed (redo) and I am under tight deadline working 14 hours a day so I am very grumpy about this flaw.

From Adobe:

When you apply the camera profiles in Lightroom 5.6 and Camera Raw 8.6 for the Nikon D810 to your image, some of the areas and colors are posterized.

Camera Raw 8.6 and Lightroom 5.6 introduce raw support for the Nikon D810, including Camera Matching color profiles. Unfortunately, four of these profiles for the Nikon D810 can result in banding artifacts. The affected profiles are:

Camera Standard
Camera Vivid
Camera Landscape
Camera Monochrome

We have identified the cause of this issue and have developed a new complete set of Camera Matching color profiles that fixes the banding issues. Furthermore, the new profiles have slightly improved overall color response and smoother gradations. These profiles are included in the next release of Camera Raw and Lightroom.

In the meantime, we have included a release candidate or beta version of these profiles for users to try.

These beta profiles appear in the user interface (Camera Calibration panel, Profile pop-up menu) as:

Camera Flat v2 beta
Camera Landscape v2 beta
Camera Monochrome v2 beta
Camera Neutral v2 beta
Camera Portrait v2 beta
Camera Standard v2 beta
Camera Vivid v2 beta

diglloyd image
High Sierra Plant
Nikon D810

Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Brilliant

  Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon
Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon
  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

The Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon offers high brilliance, luscious color saturation and superb flare control. These are the reasons to select it over all others for this kind of shooting.

In sharpness terms it is a strong as anything, but has its limits and behaviors, and these too are shown and discussed, including here in this aperture series a particularly demonstrative crop showing the point spread function behavior.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: Pine Creek Stormy Light (Nikon D810)

Include HD and Ultra HD images and large crops from ƒ/2.8 through ƒ/16 along with both color and black and white images and how converted.

Toggle the image below to see the black and white rendition.

  Sun Peeks Through Thunderclouds Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon
Sun Peeks Through Thunderclouds
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/11

Andrew P writes:

I just wanted to thank you for your recent coverage of the 15mm Distagon. I have seven very nice lenses that I regularly use now, but I keep on going back to the 15mm for those special qualities it has. For a while I avoided it because I felt I had to be very close to a subject to get anything useful, but then those photos were always very interesting to look at.

I recently shot a basketball championship with it and then used it for a model shoot a couple weeks ago. For both shoots I also used my Otus, a 35 mm Summilux ASPH, the ZA 135mm 1.8 and a Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, but the best shots were all made with either the 15mm or the Otus.

DIGLLOYD: a 15mm is hard to use well, but used well it sings.

Working Hard on a 'Project'

Labor Day weekend here in the USA generally means beach and grilling or some such thing for many. But for me it means labor day—lots of work, especially this year. Not that I mind—I like what I do, especially the particular project I’m on right now.

Oh, I might grill myself a steak or two (extra lean grass fed beef, quite tasty and far less expensive than the buffalo ribeyes I’d go for but for the price). But I’ve sworn off wine of any color as I press hard to lean-out for my late September cycling race. That’s the discipline part, as I do really enjoy red wine, also having made it a necessary game to figure out what’s a good red for not much green. There are some very good reds at low prices out there (and some not very good reds at low prices and high prices).

Anyway, I am hard at work dawn to dusk on a project that will see the light in less than two weeks. Accordingly, I might “submerge” for a few days at a time, popping up for a few new Nikon D810 pieces, but staying intensely focused on the key project.

Nikon D810: Sensor Cover Glass Quality?

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Jorn O writes:

I just received 2 new Nikon D810 cameras( August 25, 2014) and sent them to my local repair technician to evaluate. One of the things I always have him check is the sensor and low pass filter for defects, inclusions, and etc. The 2 new D810 cameras were both supposedly corrected for the long exposure/white spot issue.

However, it appears that the low pass filters (or protective glass) on both cameras have a significant number of dark specks of some kind in the surface coating or embedded in the sensor glass. He observed (30 power microscope) 18 of these specks on one sensor and 24 on the other. The size and quantity of these specks indicates to me a significant quality control problem and I am going to return both cameras. I can’t be sure, but I suspect that Nikon’s solution to this problem was to just map out all of the photosites affected by the specks and consider the problem solved.

I have had similar problems with the D3x and D800E sensors – my records indicate returning and replacing 4 new cameras over a 3 year period due to significant inclusions in the low pass filter glass. I guess Nikon doesn’t think anybody is really looking hard at the sensor systems they are putting out.

It is interesting to note that the first D810 I purchased from B&H in July was also inspected and cleaned by my repair technician, and did not have the problem with the specks on the sensor glass even though the serial number indicates that it is on the recall list that Nikon has.

I also have 5 D800E cameras and they do not exhibit the speck on sensor glass issue. I was going to upgrade 3 of them to D810's, but not sure if I will now. With regards to the D3x sensors and imbedded inclusions - I did not keep them so I do not know if they would have had an impact on image quality. However, when you pay 8000.00 for a camera body I think it is reasonable to expect first class quality in a sensor, especially when your technician tells you he does not see this issue on most other vendors cameras that he works on (Canon, Sony, Pentax,etc).

DIGLLOYD: I can’t say much more than “seems concerning”. But given Nikon’s financial performance (~27% drop in sales YOY), could there be cost-cutting or lowered standards going on that might compromise quality? A hunker-down retrenchment rather than moving ahead with innovations like supporting an EVF option on a DSLR?

Taken together though, inclusions in sensor cover glass and white spots requiring a camera recall out of the gate do not speak well to Nikon’s release of the D810. Coming on top of the D600 dust/oil issue, it might shake one’s confidence, if only a little. The D810 is a flagship camera after all.

Still, I doubt that the white spots service advisory has anything to do with the sensor glass 'specks'; the white spots seem to be a hot pixel type long exposure issue (Nikon has been obtuse on the cause of the issue, or why some but not other cameras are affected). Sensor quality is not a fixed thing; sensors come in grades too (number of defects and similar). What grade sensors are used in the D810 (what yield/quality cutoff?). Are camera bodies now like lenses where one has to worry about “good sample” or “bad sample”?

Tom H writes:

I’ve noticed the same problem with my Canons over the years. You can send your camera in for repair and get a new glass that looks just like the one you had. The last time I sent back a body to Canon for this problem i took a shot of the glass surface using a dissecting microscope and included a print with the body. It didn’t make any difference. The new one had fewer pits.

DIGLLOYD: I’m not sure it matters in any case. More than likely any usage over would accumulate more crud by an order of magnitude, even with sensor cleaning.

Nikon D810: Recommended Picture Control Settings for Magnified Live View Focusing

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

I spent some time with various combinations of Nikon Picture Control settings to arrive at what seemed to be the most helpful and decisive sharpness and contrast for accurate magnified Live View focusing.

These Picture Control files are now available for download in my review of the Nikon D810, with instructions for loading them. They load in addition to any existing choices so there is no downside to trying them to see if they help your own workflow.

Recommended Picture Control Settings for Live View Focusing

Picture Control settings ready to load on camera card
Picture Control settings ready to load on camera card

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Various Varying Examples

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

To my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP are added various aperture series intended to show a variety of subject matter and the camera + Pentax 90mm f/2.8 macro rendering style. I find that such series are an excellent way to get a feel for a camera system and lens.

Series includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops. Click each image for its series.

  Aspen with Black Branches Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/2.8
Aspen with Black Branches
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/2.8
  Green Aspen Leaf on Black rock Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/11
Green Aspen Leaf on Black rock
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/11
  Dual Aspen Trunks Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Pine Creek Buildings
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
  White Daisies Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
White Daisies
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
  Mining Cabin Gearbox Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/22
Mining Cabin Gearbox
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/22
  Death Valley Alluvial Fan near Eureka Dunes Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/4
Death Valley Alluvial Fan near Eureka Dunes
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/4
  Dual Aspen Trunks Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Dual Aspen Trunks
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: 'Atlas Permaguard'

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP is a close range still-life study with soft lighting and very pleasing bokeh:

Aperture Series: Atlas Permaguard (645Z)

This aperture series shows a peripheral forward focus shift that might be useful to understand for critical work. Includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

  Artifacts of early Miners Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Artifacts of early Miners
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Wet Aspen Trunk

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP:

Aperture Series: Wet Aspen Trunk (645Z)

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images and commentary on placement of focus and depth of field.

  Wet Aspen Trunk Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Wet Aspen Trunk
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP:

Aperture Series: Pine Creek Thunderstorms (645Z)

A discussion of the field curvature is included and should be read by any Pentax 90/2.8 user as essential working knowledge.

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/16 along with extensive crops and commentary. The crops are also in UltraHD, as I deemed the larger size useful for context.

  Pine Creek Thunderstorms Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Pine Creek Thunderstorms
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

How to Find Coverage of Lenses, Cameras, Technique, etc

It requires some curation effort (and can miss some things, always consider site search), but the new menu system at top of site pages affords convenient topical access to content throughout the site, whether in the blog, in a diglloyd publication or in the free articles area.

Give it a try, and feedback is welcome.

See also MacPerformanceGuide.com and WindInMyFace.com.

diglloyd image

Zeiss 55/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage (Nikon D810)

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/11 along with extensive crops and commentary.

The light was changing by the second, and the interplay is beautiful to behold. This frame caught the foreground in sun; others have it shadowed.

In Guide To Zeiss:

Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage (Nikon D810)

A similar scene is coming from the Pentax 645Z; the D810 and Otus compare very favorably as it turns out.

Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon


Stephen M writes:

Your B&W conversion of Pine Creek Thunderstorms D810 with 55mm Zeiss Otus is really excellent. Great work! Composition and image processing is excellent! That deserves to be printed at 40 x 60! The image quality is amazing, especially at f/1.4! Wow! No other lens can do that! I purchased an 55mm Otus awhile back and I love that lens!

Many thanks again for your wonderful work with all the reviews and comments on a wide range of cameras and lenses. I always enjoy reading, and learning from your work and reports. Keep up the good work.

DIGLLOYD: I’m sure the images can be presented even better, but this would take some time and effort to do right.

Samuel L writes:

Hope you're doing well and that the earthquake wasn't so bad.

I just wanted to echo the comment of Stephen M. on your blog: the B&W version of ‎your Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage photo with the Nikon D810 and the Zeiss Otus looks fantastic. Wow!

The Wet Aspen Trunk with the Pentax looks great too.

DIGLLOYD: I never even noticed the 6.0 Napa earthquake (I’m 60-80 miles south of there). At any rate, I store my bargain wine the expensive way: in a styrofoam cooler in my garage, must in case of an earthquake.

Both the D810 + Otus and Pentax 645Z + 90/2.8 macro are terrific systems and highly recommended. The choice depends on one’s particulars.

Hardware Failure (fixed): Please advise if any image issues

A hardware device at diglloyd.com failed yesterday, and was replaced around 13:00 PST.

New hardware means potential issues (behavioral), so please advise if there are any unusual and repeatable problems in viewing images, such as images that are missing and show only a thin black line, or similar. Sporadic issues happen and are not of concern (e.g. a web server restart can kill image loading for 5-10 seconds).

The hardware change should affect images only, not html pages.

Sony RX100 Mark III: Better than a DSLR When Gone Fishin'

Trout dinner for two nights from Ellery Lake.

Salmo trutta (brown trout) and Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow). I prefer Salvelinus fontinalis from high mountain streams, but that’s a chore up where I go (very, very hard to catch, and I’m unusually good at it).

Stockers mostly (not my usual fare but I wanted dinner). The large brown and rainbow had an extra year of 'wild' on them and both fought with more vigor and tasted better.

The Sony RX100 Mark III works nicely as for image quality, but like the original is far from its rated megapixels (lens limitations). Very pretty images in most cases though. But Sony made it a little too big and chunky and heavy. I’m sticking with my original Sony RX100: smaller, lighter and still takes great shots.

RX 100 III EVF: I was not clear in my initial comments on the EVF so here is a correction: I had two loaner Sony RX100 Mark III cameras. The first one I had no difficulty adjusting the EVF at all (instantly worked), but I returned it in late July. The 2nd one which I took with me in early August had a “sticky” EVF. With that 2nd one, I could not adjust the EVF to work for my eye. I should have made this clear initially in my comments; the EVF option is a great tool to have available.

Trout Dinner Sony RX100 Mark III
Trout Dinner
Sony RX100 Mark III

As for that “medium format look”, Zeiss Otus has it, wide open at ƒ/1.4.

See also The Medium Format 'Look' in Guide to Zeiss.

Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon on Nikon D810 (Lundy Canyon Creekside Yellow Flowers)

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

The Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon offers imaging qualities that make it especially suitable for environmental portraiture, reportage, etc. It’s a compact gem of a lens. It offers very high overall contrast and a vignetting that I like a lot.

I wondered how it would fare on the new Nikon D810, in fact I made a point of shooting a number of the Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on my recent trip (on the D810), to see how they would are.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: Creekside Yellow Flowers and Dark Rocks, Lundy Creek (D810)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops from wide open through ƒ/16. Two variants (in brightness) of ƒ/2 are shown, as this is an important aperture to understand relative to ƒ/2.8.

  Yellow flower, Lundy Creek Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/2
Yellow flower, Lundy Creek
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/2

Nikon D810: Single-Pass Faux HDR in Adobe Camera Raw

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

It’s fascinating just how good the Nikon D810 is for scenes that would require the hassle of HDR bracketing and post processing (Canon users fall about 2 stops short of the D810 and with a ton more noise in shadows). The Nikon D810 at ISO 64 has a rewarding dynamic range for field shooting.

Faux HDR: Converting High Dynamic Range Images with Adobe Camera Raw

Includes RawDigger histogram, the D810 rear LCD histograms, the ACR conversion settings, the as-shot and as-converted images, and explanation of what was done.

This particular image was the brightest one of a bracketed series: I was sure it was blown out, since the histogram said so. But it is not so, as shown/explained.

This piece is useful for any model camera, so it is under the DAP Workflow area. See also Extracting Shadow Detail with Shadows/Highlights and Curves.

Toggle to compare the as-shot image to the one given a massive adjustment.

  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Nikon D810 vs Pentax 645Z: Visual Impact Out in the Field with a Real Image (Comparison)

I’m working on an interesting comparison between the Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon and the Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 macro on this scene, a challenge in extreme dynamic range (major contrast control used here).

Now published:

Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO vs Pentax 645Z (Pine Creek Sunflowers)

Includes RawDigger histogram and info for both images as well as Adobe Camera Raw Conversion settings for both.

Both are impressive cameras and this comparison cannot be “scientific” due to different aspect ratios and mismatched focal lengths and varying light (second by second), but I deem it interesting and instructive to see how both cameras fare out in the real world in many aspects: depth of field, color and contrast, noise, etc: in short just how does the image feel from both? Because in the end, an image is a sum total visual impact having little to do with measurements or a rating scale. I shot other comparisons also, but this one seems like a good place to start.

  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 Macro
Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 Macro

Nikon D810: Highlight-Weighed Metering Compatibility Issues, Especially with Zeiss ZF.2 Lenses

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Side-note context: the Nikon D810 also has autofocus compatibility issues with Sigma autofocus lenses, reportedly the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A and in my personal experience, the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 macro. It’s unclear why an incremental camera update (over the D800/D800E) should have such issues.

While 90% of the time I shoot on full manual, the new Nikon D810 Highlight-weighted metering option sounded promising for fast-changing lighting situations. But this new metering option is not straightforward for anyone using a mix of lenses.

The Nikon D810 downgrades to Center-weighted metering with certain lenses when Highlight-weighted metering is used, even CPU lenses, such as Zeiss ZF.2. Even if the lens supports Matrix metering.

The metering downgrade behavior seems an ill-considered choice on Nikon’s part: Center-weighted hardly ever gives me the right exposure for my shooting. At the least a custom camera setting ought to allow the preferred fallback option: I want the camera to fall back to Matrix metering if Highlight-weighted cannot be used. The last thing I want is for my Zeiss ZF.2 lenses to meter with Center-weighted metering if I happen to have the camera set to Highlight-weighted.

Planning to explore the new metering option, I had shot a variety of comparisons using Matrix metering vs Highlight-weighted metering using Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, which have a CPU chip. These A/B shots now turn out to be useless for that purpose.

Highlight-weighted metering compatibility matrix

It is unclear why the Nikon 45/2.8P and Voigtlander 40/2 Ultra should support Highlight-weighted metering, but Zeiss ZF.2 lenses do not (all have a CPU chip). It could be a licensing issue; an inquiry to Zeiss is open at this time.

It is also unclear why in the age of digital, metering can’t be done properly the right way, at least in Live View, where the camera is fully informed of exactly what is striking the sensor—innovative design lags available capabilities.

Lens type Supports Highlight-weighted metering?
Nikon AF-S YES
Nikon 45/2.8P (older Nikon chipped lens) YES
Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 YES
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A YES
Zeiss ZF.2 lenses (all) NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Nikon AI-S NO, reverts to Center-weighted
Unchipped lens NO, reverts to Center-weighted

A compatible lens supports Matrix or Highlight-weighted metering:

  Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center   Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center
Nikon 45mm f/2.8P: Matrix and Highlight-weighted metering both work on Nikon D810

A chipped (CPU) lens might not support Highlight-weighted metering even if it supports Matrix metering. All Zeiss ZF.2 and Zeiss Otus lenses revert to Center-weighted when Highlight-weighted is chosen.

  Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center   Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center
Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Highlight-weighted metering unsupported on Nikon D810

The user manual

Page 114 of the Nikon D810 user manual is confusing in its vagueness, at least to me. All Zeiss ZF.2 lenses have a CPU chip that supports matrix metering. The description does not seem to cover the ZF.2 lenses (CPU-chipped manual focus lenses, just like the Voigtlander 40/2 Ultra noted above).

Highlight-weighted: Camera assigns greatest weight to highlights. Use to reduce loss of detail in highlights, for example when photographing spotlit performers on a stage.

...
Center-weighted metering will be used if highlight-weighted metering is selected with non-CPU lenses or if matrix metering is selected with non-CPU lenses for which lens data have not been supplied.

Note that center-weighted metering may also be used if highlight-weighted metering is selected with certain CPU lenses (AI-P NIKKOR lenses and AF lenses that are not of type G, E, or D).

 

Going Over Material, Updates Soon

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

I finished my catch-up work today (always a chore after being gone ~11 days), and now I’m going through my trip material with a lot of stuff to come soon on the Nikon D810 and Pentax 645Z.

Nikon Capture NX-D: DOA

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

I did a previous piece on Nikon Capture NX-D versus ACR. But today, to verify some shooting settings, I wanted to open some D810 NEF files in NX-D. For whatever reason, every NEF file is refused by NX-D now (and on both my desktop and laptop, this is not machine specific). There are no updates and the current version of NX-D is installed. OS X 10.9.4.

  Nikon Capture NX-D: every Nikon D810 file fails
Nikon Capture NX-D: no Nikon D810 file can be opened

Are the Capture NX-D and Sigma Photo Pro software development teams secretly trading notes on worst practices? Given the existentially threatening 26% drop in Nikon revenues, one wonders if the issues are company-wide at every level and type of function. It’s a scary thought. Readers know that I appreciate the Nikon D810 image quality (a new high bar in the industry). But how such basic software flaws can go undetected for weeks is a stunning indictment of quality control practices. And then there is the white spot recall at the outset. Taken as a whole, the picture looks indicative of Something Generally Amiss in Nikon land.

It’s bizarre that NX-D cannot open NEF files, since that is its raison d^etre. I used “Open With” and chose Capture NX-D (this is a workaround and should never be necessary): from the start, Nikon Capture NX-D would not associate NEF files with itself (the system does not recognize that NX-D is for opening NEF files, the file type association is not there). Nikon adds the NX-D icon to the OS X Dock, but one cannot drag a NEF file tot he icon. This is such a basic operation that it’s inconceivable that the program was even tested even once for core operations.

Update: see workaround that I had forgotten, below as per Peter K.

  Nikon Capture NX-D: does not associate with NEF files!
Nikon Capture NX-D: does not associate with NEF files!

Pieter K writes:

I just discovered NXD works…. but only if you use the file browser of NXD… Find the folder in the filebrowser of NXD, select the miniature … open that. it works

But go to the file in the Finder - you cannot open it… this software is not well made.

It works but very sloooow. I do not lijke the interface and I miss something like shadow highlight. The details in ACR are better - colors are different too but ACR gives far too much moiré.

DIGLLOYD: confirmed, the file browser within NX-D works on NEF files. NX-D does have Shadow/Highlight style features also.

Uinstall/reinstall did not fix the problems discussed above. The app is unsigned also.

  Nikon Capture NX-D: application is not signed
Nikon Capture NX-D: application is not signed

The user might want to uninstall the Nikon Message Center crapware: it is installed as an entirely unnecessary background process; updates can be checked for when desired, no need to run this thing all the time—the cleaner the system, the fewer the issues (general principle). Go to Preferences => Users and Groups, then Login Items to delete it from the list, this keeps it from auto launching when logging in.

  Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center
Nikon Capture NX-D: disable auto-launch of Nikon Message Center

Nikon D810 Service Advisory for White Spots During Long Exposures, and 1.2X Crop

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

After the Nikon D600 dust/oil fiasco, this is another black eye for Nikon. But this time the recall/fix is immediate, and that is a far smarter move than the defensive and prolonged pushback with the D600 oil/dust issue.

Nikon has issued a service advisory for the D810:

We have received a few reports from some users of the Nikon D810 digital SLR camera indicating that noise (bright spots) are sometimes noticeable in long exposures, and in some images captured at an Image area setting of 1.2× (30×20).

After looking into the matter, we have determined that some noise (bright spots) may on occasion be noticeable when shooting long exposures, and in images captured at an Image area setting of 1.2× (30×20).

Nikon service centers will service these cameras that have already been purchased as needed free of charge to the customer. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused.

Identifying affected products

To check whether or not your camera is one of those affected by this issue, please click the Affected Product Serial Numbers link below and enter your D810’s serial number as instructed. Your camera’s serial number will be checked against those of affected products. If your camera is one of those affected, you will be forwarded to additional instructions. If your camera is not one of those affected, you may continue using your camera without concern for this issue.

DIGLLOYD: In my testing of the D810 I observed no white spots, so I thought that the camera I am using is fine. But I have always used long exposure noise reduction with the D810 (and all cameras I test). LENR differs in nature from regular noise reduction; LENR is a dark-frame subtraction. Nikon does not speak to LENR or not.

The loaner camera from B&H that I have been using is included in the recall (I entered its serial number). Now I have to decide wether to buy/repair or just get a replacement. I just hope that my trip photos are unaffected. But it’s an issue: I cannot let go the D810 at this critical time for some unspecified turnaround period. And while UPS ground shipping to and from the Los Angeles service center is fast for me, for a working professional that is more remote it is offensively slow (no option offered).

It’s also troublesome that one has to log in to check the serial number: how to know if a camera at a store has the issue or not? The Nikon site is also a shambles; it continually gives me “unspecified error” when I try to access my account settings to correct my email address as well as other errors in various places. I had to reconfigure my mail server to use an old email just to get the *#*$#*$* password reset email required by Nikon due to “system changes”.

Miguel B writes that “Apparently the cameras known not to have the issue, or recalibrated (whatever the solution may be) have a black dot inside the tripod screw.”.

Update: I called Nikon and was told that turnaround time is 7-10 days and that the fix is a firmware update. I was promised a Level III tech support return call (I have various questions about the circumstances under which the issue occurs), but this did not happen.

  Nikon D810 recall for white spot issues
Nikon D810 recall for white spot issues

Understanding the Pentax 645Z Histogram (useful for any brand camera)

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

This is a shot discipline and technical execution article that should be assimilated by anyone shooting raw on any brand camera.

This discussion of post-shot and Play histograms on the Pentax 645Z also incorporates the RawDigger histogram and a discussion of color space and gamut and recommended practices for raw shooters.

Interpreting the 645Z Histogram

While this is a Pentax 645Z image, the discussion is useful for any digital camera. And while it is not a field image (landscape or similar), the genesis for this page was observing histogram variances during field shooting; this histogram variance is discussed and shown for this image, but occurs with all images.

The image shown below is perfectly exposed yet the histogram suggests that the red channel is slightly blown; in fact the green channel is most at risk by about half a stop. The discussion explains the reasons and the fundamental algorithmic flaws in virtually all camera implementations of the histogram (for the raw shooter).

  Rain-streaked Aspen Trunk Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/8
Pentax 645Z histogram

Lawrence B writes:

Thank you for your extremely useful article ‘Interpreting the 645Z Histogram’. I believe this is the first time I have ever seen in print reference to this most disturbing discrepancy between the ‘before and after’ histograms as displayed on most digital cameras.

Though I do not own the Pentax 645Z (I use a Nikon D800E), the differences observed have been most confusing, and though one can always check later (via RawDigger) histograms based on the RAW data, this helps one little when out ‘in the field’.

Unfortunately, you didn’t offer an explanation as to why the post-shot histogram differs from the one shown during live view (the ‘play’ version). Both are regrettably based on the camera’s JPEG settings. Shouldn’t their ‘inaccuracy’ compared to the RAW data based histogram be identical? Why is the live view histogram somewhat less inaccurate than the post-shot histogram?

I don’t understand why the industry has been so reluctant in offering a histogram based on RAW data. Photographers have been requesting such an option for as long as I’ve been shooting digital (probably longer). In any case, I am most appreciative that you tackled this disturbing phenomenon of the differing histograms. The tips you offered are indubitably the best one can do under the given circumstances. Many thanks!

DIGLLOYD: Yes, other cameras exhibit similar behavior.

As with science, an observation must come first, but an observation does not produce an explanation. Saying “I don’t know” is often the reality. It’s on my “why” to-do list.

The 645Z was configured to shoot DNG only (not DNG + JPEG), so it cannot be the result of the embedded (within the DNG) JPEG versus a full size companion JPEG.

That leaves a camera processing algorithm, and only Pentax can say for certainty, but a reader out there might have a credible explanation. My speculation is that the Play variant is based on the JPEG embedded in the DNG (since it is clearly in the color space with which the camera is configured, AdobeRGB), and that the quickie post-shot variant is based somehow on the image processing pipeline as it “flows through” and/or on every other sensor line, or some other efficiency optimization.

See also true raw histogram.

Back from Trip

Back home, unpacking, downloading, etc.

  Shooting the Pentax 645Z near the Pine Creek Tungsten Mine iPhone
Shooting the Pentax 645Z near the Pine Creek Tungsten Mine
iPhone

Wrapping up Field Shooting

Up in the mountains field shooting.

Just about done and heading home tomorrow. Long days were productive, now it’s computer time with all the material I’ve shot.

Field Shooting the Pentax 645Z

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

Up in the mountains field shooting, writeups follow when I’m back in a week or so.

I’ve been shooting the Pentax 645Z alongside the Nikon D810 in many situations and I’m gaining a solid perspective of the two cameras. Nikon D810 with Zeiss Otus or Pentax 645Z with the excellent 90/2.8? Lots of factors to consider.

  Rain-streaked Aspen Trunk Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/8
Rain-streaked Aspen Trunk
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/8

Bobby N

Beautiful image. My D800E with Zeiss glass just can't evoke texture like that. Darn.

DIGLLOYD: The 90mm f/2.8 on the 645Z is equivalent to a ~72mm lens on a DSLR. So right off that bat the perspective and blur qualities differ by distance/perspective. Second, depth of field is a challenge on the 645Z and the image requires more stopping down (to ƒ/11 or ƒ/16) to make the trunk fully sharp everywhere (e.g., bottom area), and this then diminishes the gorgeous blur differentiation between foreground and background. I shot the entire series from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/11 and will be showing it all—very interesting stuff IMO.

The 50/2 Makro-Planar is an outstanding lens with some edge and corner rearward field curvature, but only the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon outperforms it in micro contrast, and that difference is very small once stopped down to ƒ/4. So to say the 50/2 cannot produce an image like this is not a premise I am prepared to just agree with offhand, particularly on the Nikon D810. Yes, the 645Z and 90/2.8 are “special”—absolutely and in my view the Pentax 90/2.8 is the lens to have for the 645Z. But one has to A/B shoot to really get a sense of things, and not just one scene.

Next, the appropriate comparison for a $4500 medium format lens is to the Zeiss Otus line (about $3990), so naturally I shot this scene with Otus also.

The question/premise above is of keen interest to me and others, so in my recent field work I’ve made a point of many A/B scenes between the Nikon D810 + Otus and the Pentax 645Z and 90/2.8. These will take time to assess and publish, but by mid September I expect to have have published a goodly number of compelling scenes to investigate this question.

Reader Question: Image Brightness at Full Aperture vs Stopped Down

Up in the mountains field shooting, writeups follow when I’m back in a week or so.

Sunil A writes:

I am a diglloyd subscriber, I immensely appreciate and admire your work. I am not a pro, but I am photography enthusiast and like the technical aspect of DSLRs, I find your blog and DAP very educational.

Since you have been using D810 for couple weeks (I am a regular blog reader), I thought to inquire about an issue I see. I have D810, Nikon 70-200mm VRII, Sigma 35mm 1.4 A and Nikon 85mm 1.8g. I was testing D810 with 70-200mm, I consistently find images darker shot at maximum aperture. In Aperture priority mode, going from F 2.8 to F 4, the shutter speed is doubled but the images are brighter. Compared to F4, F2.8 image RGB is more towards left.

Maximum aperture on a lens may not be real maximum (T Stop). So is the camera looking at marketed aperture vs T stop. And later at F4.. is the T stop and F stop same.

So do you always do exposure compensation to get the same exposure between apertures. I find your images to be exposed the same across apertures.

I found the same issue on Sigma 35mm 1.4 as well, although not to the same degree as Nikon 70-200mm. I appreciate your advice, as I am not sure if it is just my camera. I also posted a thread with images on dpreview as well.

DIGLLOYD: First, I’m assuming that “shutter speed is doubled at ƒ/4” means twice as long, so that the exposure value (EV) is equivalent, e.g., ƒ/2.8 @ 1/500 vs 1/250 @ ƒ/4.

At full aperture, several effects are at play. I regularly compensate for this by giving 1/3 stop to 1/2 stop or so more exposure at full aperture for some lenses (particularly wide angles), though I usually reverse that boost when doing a series. I do so to give better exposure to the peripheral areas. The amount needed ranges from almost no compensation to nearly 2/3 of a stop with certain wide angle designs. How much depends on the lens design and the particular sensor. Across an aperture series, it is common to see fluctuations of 1/10 or 1/20 stop from other factors (e.g. diaphragm and shutter speed accuracy); I normally correct this kind of normal variation for presentation.

Why darker?

Vignetting (field illumination) is a multi-factorial behavior; primary losses quickly improve even one stop down. But this does not account for center brightness. See also Ray Angle, Vignetting, Color Shading on a Digital Sensor.

Sometimes there is plain old “cheating”; a nominal f/2.8 might really be f/2.9 or f/3 but vendors prefer to state a nominal value. Sometimes this derives from rounding the focal length figure, e.g., 50mm might be 48mm or 52mm, or 200mm might be 180mm (!). Up to 10% is considered “acceptable” (by whom?). But it might also be rounding off the true diameter of the lens diaphragm. Since f-stop = focal / entrance pupil diameter (a ratio), judicious rounding can go a long way when it sounds better for sales. Basically, conventional numbers sound better; no vendor wants to advertise an ƒ/2.9 lens.

Then there is transmission (T-stop) which can reduce whatever brightness is actually there (see What are F-stop and T-stop? in Making Sharp Images). T-stop is typically only 1/10 stop less than f-stop Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, but few other vendors say.

Then there is the loss due to digital sensor technology and peripheral ray angle, which can be up to half a stop for some f/1.2 lens designs and remains very significant at ƒ/1.4.

Many vendors silently adjust for their own brand lenses and/or chipped lenses from others. For example, Canon silently gains-up the f/1.2 lenses to compensate! This can be seen by inserting paper between the lens contacts and camera body; the camera not recognizing the lens won’t make the silent boost (compare with/without). Many point and shoots and other cameras (e.g., Fujifilm X) just build in correction for their own lenses (and also vignetting correction on top of that), whereas in reality the true brightness might be significantly less than advertised. Hence it's rather silly to see “lens tests” for vignetting with some cameras where the vignetting has been taken out by the camera already. Such tests are system evaluations, not optical.

Nikon D810: HDR in One Exposure?

Up in the mountains field shooting, writeups follow when I’m back in a week or so.

It’s fascinating just how good the Nikon D810 is for scenes that would require the hassle of HDR bracketing and post processing (Canon users fall about 2 stops short of the D810 and with a ton more noise in shadows). The Nikon D810 at ISO 64 has a stunning dynamic range.

I plan on showing how to make full use of the D810, starting with exposure: Nikon has designed the D810 histogram very badly, so as to fool you every time into wasting 1 to 1.5 stops of headroom even as the camera shows “blown out”). And how to make this sort of adjustment in Adobe Camera Raw (same approach in Lightroom).

This particular image was the brightest one of a bracketed series: I was sure it was blown out, since the histogram said so. But it is not so! There is even more than 1/3 stop of additional headroom remaining, according to RawDigger. No highlights are lost and no shadows are pinned, as the raw data shows. Yet the shadows in the brightened “faux HDR” image control noise very well—impressive considering the almost pure black in the darkest areas.

Toggle to compare the as-shot image to the one given a massive adjustment.

Note: prepared after a long long day hiking in my car approaching 10pm; hard to evaluate best contrast, brightness, etc, so this is a quickie that no doubt can be improved upon further.

  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Nikon D810 Dynamic Range: Best Ever in Any Camera?

Up in the mountains field shooting, writeups follow when I’m back in a week or so.

Scenes like this make me wish for a true 16 bits of dynamic range: precision exposure is mandatory to capture the full range of detail from the dark shadows to the bright clouds (which the D810 did well). Another 1.5 stops would allow for a little less concern in making the exposure exactly right (also, note that auto exposure is almost always a disaster on scenes like this, careful study of a test exposure’s histogram is how I “nail” the exposure on a scene like this).

Update: the problem is really poor camera histograms, not dynamic range; checking the NEF with RawDigger, it turns out that another 1/2 stop of headroom remained unused! See comments on the sunflower image on camera histograms.

This image as shown had a big shadow boost, which is what dynamic range is all about; the ability to retain highlights while also preserving shadow detail that can be brightened considerably with minimal noise: the D810 does that superbly well at ISO 64 as here, in this image with extreme contrast. ISO 64 on the D810 is the best image I have ever seen on a DSLR (the Pentax 645Z seems to be as good and even a bit better as its large pixels would imply).

Daily thunderstorms are the most unusual I’ve experienced, with the lighting varying from bright sunlight to dull overcast to flipping between in matters of seconds. Fantastic, if a bit frustrating and impossible to compare lenses.

  Sun Peeks Through Thunderclouds Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon
Sun Peeks Through Thunderclouds
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon

The image below took a massive +100 Shadows and -100 Highlights in ACR conversion; amazingly the D810 captured the entire contrast range even into those too-bright-too-look-at clouds right down into the darkest under-plant shadows. Checking the NEF file with RawDigger, there is/was an entire full stop of headroom still available.

I was cautious on exposure, but it is difficult to be sure: like all DSLRs, the Nikon histogram implementation bakes in a moderate-gamut colorspace (AdobeRGB), an inertial design stupidity borne of dogmatic “everyone shoots JPEG” thinking which continues to this day. Those bright yellow sunflowers go out of gamut a full 1 to 1.5 stops early, thus the camera indicates “highlights blown” when there is ample room left to expose. There is no way to be sure. Bracketing is one solution, but I was shooting an aperture series and did not want to double-up or triple-up on every aperture.

Both images (above and below) adjusted on laptop screen in the field; color balance and contrast not my usual and might be off slightly.

  Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Sun Over Pine Creek Illuminates Field of Sunflowers
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Nikon D810 Highlight Priority Metering, Pentax 645Z notes, Leica T

Up in the mountains field shooting, writeups follow when I’m back in a week or so.

I’ve now studied the new “highlight priority” metering in the Nikon D810 and I have plenty to say (and show about it).

In a nutshell, Nikon D810 highlight priority metering works great sometimes and works worse at other times (as in a bug). And sometimes absolutely awful as in blowing out the image. Not ready for prime time, and most definitely not a replacement for expert manual exposure, and maybe too unreliable to rely on in any case.

Other brief notes:

  • In the space of 20 minutes, I found 20 issues with the Leica T, ranging from bugs requiring power-cycling to severe usability problems to “who could have thought that up as making sense?”. A few nice things too, but with grating behavioral flaws that undermine it. I felt my frustration level steadily building as I used it. With a few (obvious) changes, it could work a lot better. It’s baffling how this software gets out the door.
  • The Pentax 645Z offers awesome dynamic range in the field. It does have some minor time-wasting behaviors for field use that could be eliminated with a firmware update, but these are relatively minor in the scheme of things, the image quality is outstanding.
  • The Nikon D810 Live View (with Zacuto) is unequivocally the best experience I’ve ever had in a camera, and I definitely prefer it over the EVF on the Sony A7R. Not just a practical time saver but a hit rate improvement for focus, snapping in and out obviously. Awesome. I investigated Picture Profiles in some detail, and will be posting the one I prefer for Live View use.

Field Work, At Last, Up in the Mountains.

Minimal smoke, but daily localized thunderstorms. Yesterday the rain just pounded down, and delivered snow at 13,000' on up on Mt Dana.

This blog will be relatively quiet while I’m away shooting.

  Clearing Rainstorm at Mono Lake Nikon D810 + Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar
Clearing Rainstorm at Mono Lake
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar

Is the D810 Sharper than the D800E?

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Zeiss Otus

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Previously I presented ISO 3200 along with some evidence of the D810 being a bit sharper than the D800E (in a depth of sharpness sense).

This ISO 100 + ISO 64 comparison examines the subject again, but without the noise of ISO 3200. It also shows ISO 64 vs ISO 100 on the D810.

D810 vs D800E: ISO 100/64 Sharpness (Decorated Bike)

Now, time to pack for my trip.

  ISO 64 Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon
ISO 64
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon

Robert N writes:

Thanks for taking the trouble to do the base ISO comparison: as I said, this is the real acid test for me in terms of upgrade and is the kind of detailed comparison which makes subscribing so worthwhile.

While the two cameras are not that far apart in terms of sharpness, the 810 has markedly superior blacks and an overall sensation (to my eyes) of less 'interference' in the image. The 800E image by comparison, has a very slight sense of looking through an opaque membrane. A subtle difference...but probably significant in the context of some scenes.

DIGLLOYD: the D810 is subtly better in several ways. Together with its operational improvements, it is a winner and the best DSLR on the market (easily), albeit one that falls short in several obvious ways that could have been made better (so it seems to me) .

I’m looking forward to seeing what it delivers in the field and just how well it can do with an Otus versus the Pentax 645Z.

Field Work, At Last

The smoke situation delayed my field work, but I’m heading out tomorrow. I’ll be shooting the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810 and something else I’m really looking forward to. I also want to shoot some new material with Zeiss lenses on the D810.

The smoke will still be trouble, but the El Portal fire which was contaminating the entire Sierra and White Mountains range is now 100% contained. Other small fires contribute to the smoke, but it will be what it is, and perhaps lighting and sunsets will offer something interesting.

The way these things work is a lightning storm comes in and sets off half a dozen blazes. I’ve seen this in the Sierra Nevada from afar in the White Mountains—thunderclouds followed by glowing orange spots at night are rather obvious. Though the cause of the El Portal fire was stated as “unknown” as I wrote this.

Low T on Leica T

I must be Low T. My month is packed and for more reazons that I can say, but call it a very uncolorful reazon [sic]. So I just don’t have time for dilettante toys. So here’s my review of the Leica T, everything a serious photographer needs to know.

I can’t stand the T. Intensely frustrating grip with badly-placed twiddly toy controls and tiny type on a touch screen I can’t see because my finger is on the spot containing the 5-point text I’m supposed to read (try reading “JPG + DNG” if you’re anywhere close to presbyopia).

The T is far larger than I expected, a brick-solid 710 grams with 23mm lens and EVF, and rubber strap that precludes any other strap or my favorite wrist strap. Form before function design that looks beautiful and has nothing in the right place. Oh and the bottom is uncomfortably sharp-edged, go figure—but could be useful for lopping off an ear on a red-dot thief, given decent force and a glancing blow.

It’s 3X the weight of the 240g Ricoh GR, which has a razor sharp lens and is far more functionally designed, better featured, and fits easily into a pocket, which the T won’t do unless you’re a fan of baggy cargo pants (sorry supermodels, even a small purse won’t hack it). But the Leica T is ideal for a champagne and caviar reception (but I have no way to field test this idea).

Maybe in a fit of insanity I’ll do something with it, but right out of the box I find it intensely irritating, including how the heck do I keep from changing the ISO by accident with that twiddle button I keep hitting while trying to change aperture. Or even how to reassemble the fall-apart box it comes in.

Translation of the above: egonomics are a critical part of any camera. It has to start there, and this T is absolutely unlike an M and makes very different demands on the user, which is how it feels to me. As for image quality, I have little doubt that the lens quality is very fine, that being necessary but not sufficient.

  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Leica T (rear)

Sigma dp2 Quattro vs Sigma DP2 Merrill (Fruit Platter)

This scene offers further insight into the continuity gap between the Sigma DP Merrill line and the dp Quattro line, using Sigma Photo Pro 6.0.5.

In my review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro:

dp2 Quattro vs DP2 Merrill (Fruit Platter)

Preparing this “simple” comparison was intensely frustrating and time consuming in trying to obtain proper color rendition (in spite of the neutral WhiBal card), for reasons I discuss.

Sigma DP Merrill cameras are a discounted bargain right now. This is my recommendation at this time for a Sigma compact (not the Quattro).

Fruit Platter
Fruit Platter

Nikon D810 vs D800E at ISO 3200, and is the D810 Sharper than the D800E? White Balance Diff?

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

The idea of comparing the D810 to the D800E at ISO 3200 did not exert much appeal to me, but part of exploring a new camera and particularly dynamic range, is seeing what it can do at high ISO.

This study took three days, meaning that the results were interesting enough that I wanted to confirm and confirm the first attempt. So I actually shot the test three times on three consecutive days to rule out anything erroneous (and I confirmed some things at ISO 100 as well). There was no disputing the consistent behavior.

By the time I was done with my analysis, I found that this is surely the most interesting test of the D810 yet: color balance, sharpness, noise all are of interest.

D810 vs D800E: ISO 3200 Noise + White Balance + Sharpness (Decorated Bike)

  ISO 3200 Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon
ISO 3200
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon

Jan S writes:

Just to let you know that I thought your comparison between the 800E and the 810 is excellent, worth my recent renewal all by itself.

That doesn't mean you should slack off right now - keep it coming, please. I'm definitely going to hang in there until I see your review of the other two Otus lenses currently still in the birth canal -- and, just maybe, another look at a working model of the Nikon 300mm f2.8 (come on, B&H, do send him another one) . . .

Alfred S writes:

Have yet to thank you for all the great things you do, THANK YOU! This article is so profound, instructing me not to just think about white balance and noise academically, but what it is that white balance and noise actually/physically do, your "toggle comparisons" are the best education one can ever hope to get.

DIGLLOYD: the apertures series and toggles are very instructive and I try to include them in all my work. There are mouse-over aperture series and all of those can be used as toggles also with the A/B mode. But sometimes a simple A/B of one vs the other is best, as in this particular effort.

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Nikon D810 Coming Soon

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo

The Really Right Stuff L bracket for the D800E fits the D810 body plenty well to use, but there is a difference from the D800E that makes the fit less than perfect (side ports in particular).

RRS lists a Nikon D810 L bracket with a different part code of BD810-L. I contacted Really Right Stuff regarding an L-bracket for the Nikon D810 and received this reply:

We just got the D810 body a few days ago, but it is our most urgent project.

Yes, there will be a different plate for the D810. We are working on a design that will hopefully work for both camera bodies, but until we get the prototype, I can't make any promises that it will.

The BD800 L plate will work in a pinch, but gaining access to the port doors will require you to slide the plate away from the body. The bottom of the plate seems to fit well.

...

The differences between the L-plates for the D800 and D810 all involve the port clearance on the left side of the camera body. We had to shift the dovetails forward slightly and then shift the left side outboard about .165” to provide more access to the port doors with the L-plate mounted tight against the body. The result is similar to the L-plate we make for the Canon 5d Mark III.

A D800 L-plate will mate fine with a D810, albeit with a bit more restricted access to the ports, so if you are in dire need of a plate for the D810, you can simply use the D800 L-plate as a stop gap until we get the the final plates finished.

All my cameras use Really Right Stuff L brackets or plates, and also lens foot plates—consistent reliable quality.

Dan M writes:

Yeah, the old RRS and the Kirk L brackets for the D800 cameras don't really fit the 810 at all. You have to stress the USB 3 rubber door to get it open far enough and the HDMI door won't open at all as it is blocked along its bottom edge the entire length of the door. You have to move the bracket out a quarter inch on the Kirk bracket to get these doors to work. Kirk says they aren't doing one special for the 810. Which means don't get Kirk. The camera body is different. Simple.

Really Right Stuff B5D3-LA L-plate mounted on Canon 5D Mark III
Really Right Stuff BD800-L L-plate mounted on Nikon D800

Fault Tolerant Storage for Photographers or Videographers

SoftRAID 5
SoftRAID 5 volume icon for RAID 1+0

SoftRAID 5 is now final.

RAID-5 (striping with one drive fault tolerance) and RAID 1+0 (striped pair of mirrors) are the new standout features in SoftRAID 5. I am impressed—

SoftRAID 5 delivers RAID-5 and RAID 1+0 performance in software that beats many hardware RAIDs and with far greater versatility across devices.

See SoftRAID 5 Goes Final: High Performance RAID 5, RAID 1+0, RAID-0, RAID-1 over at my MacPerformanceGuide.com.

Nikon D810 Rear LCD with Zacuto Loupe vs Sony-style EVF

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Zacuto Z-Finder

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Miguel B writes:

How does the Nikon D810 + Zacuto Z-Finder compare to the best EVFs you've used in terms of image quality and usability.

This is more like a Live View question, but usability when your eye is in the loupe can highlight issues like needing to see or find buttons without looking.

DIGLLOYD: Readers know I like an EVF, and I sure wish one were an option on the Nikon D810; it solves focusing issues with manual focus lenses (and autofocus, done right!), it eliminates glare, it eliminates mirror slap (mirror already up), some optional EVFs can flip up for shooting at low or high angles, etc.

These are big advantages and when an EVF is offered together with an optical viewfinder, that’s sweet (the Leica M40 does this, but the Leica EVF is marginally better than toy grade, and no match for the Sony A7 series EVFs).

Eyeglass wearers might find an EVF problematic, but a loupe on a rear LCD much more usable. I’ve heard various comments in this regard (I wear contact lenses and skirt the issue).

The D810 rear LCD is excellent, but more or less useless for composing/shooting without a quality loupe like the Zacuto Z-Finder (at least for me, due to glare and presbyopia, both).

I think I actually prefer the D810 rear LCD with the Zacuto Z-Finder over the Sony A7/A7R/A7s EVF in quality and ease on the eye terms, but the Z-Finder is really only useful on a tripod for me (I simply hold it against the rear LCD, no mounting hardware due to conflict with the L bracket). While it is possible to strap a Z-Finder to the rear LCD in various ways, this has never been viable for me, and it’s awkward at best. Good for a dedicated video rig but that’s a pile o' stuff anyway.

The big strength of the EVF is being built-in with little or no extra bulk, and no extra dangling thing around my neck (the loupe). But the D810 rear LCD seems to deliver better contrast and an image easier on my eyes (with the Zacuto Z-Finder).

At about $375, the Z-Finder is not cheap, but the optics are superb and it is absolutely essential to my work, simply the #1 accessory I use (if I drove 200 miles and forgot it, I’d have to turn around and go get it—no kidding). The Z-Finder comes with a base plate, which is entirely useless for me as it cannot be mounted together with the Really Right Stuff L-bracket I use, but it might be useful for handheld shooting for some shooters.

See also:

Michael E writes:

I use the D810 with an early Z-Finder, strapped on with their elastic bands
and balls. I strap it right over my L-Bracket and find it easier that way
that trying to hold it there. I need to be able to focus and hold diffusers
at the same time, so straps work best for me.

Believe it or not I have yet to look through the OVF, even once, and I shoot
everyday.. I use it in the field also, but forget the OVF because my work is all close-up.

DIGLLOYD: works well in a studio; I found it unworkable for field use where I also want to be able to use the OVF. But for some work styles, it might work well and/or be preferable to the OVF.

External Power with Solar Charger for Sigma DP Merrill

Get Sigma DP Merrill camera at B&H Photo.

The DP Merill cameras are discounted to $699 each. A classic offering supreme sharpness, now on sale and presumably soon to be discontinued. Highly recommended for the right user looking to make wall size prints from a tiny camera (BUT presumes full reading and knowledge of my review).

Eric M writes

With his solution for backpacking with a Sigma DP Merrill where recharging is needed:

The external battery setup I mentioned is:

http://www.suntactics.com/product/scharger-12-emergency-kit/
http://www.sigmaphoto.com/product/ac-adapter-sac-5-for-the-dp-merrill-bodies
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007BPQJSY/ref=pe_385040_30332200_TE_item

Just hang the external batteries in a bag from the tripod. The cables are plenty long enough.

The most annoying part is how the SAC-5 works. It's not a simple weather-sealed DC port in the side, but a dummy battery, with a cable that interferes with any tripod plate worth having. Either one leaves the battery door open while shooting on the tripod, or files a big gash into the plate to let the adapter slide in and out. One stupid approach that messes up everything downstream.

DIGLLOYD: I’m clear on the solar charger bit, but not why external batteries, since I can carry 7 or 8 of them easily in a pocket (very small batteries)., Maybe a solar to AC to Sigma charger back to DC to the battery problem? Eric responds:

Partly because of ease and partly because of price. Ease because the Sigma/Ricoh battery polarity is opposite of what every USB charger but one uses. That charger (the Pixo C-USB) is a bit fiddly and not weather sealed at all, and so is vulnerable to all sorts of trail accidents. Price because for $300 I can get six 1250mAh BP-41s and two Pixo charger adapters (one day's shooting), or six 15600mAh rechargeables and the SAC-5 adapter for (twelve days' shooting). If every day is sunny, the internal battery option is actually nice. But the external battery is a much cheaper insurance policy for 2-3 day stretches of gloomy weather.

BTW, one nice thing about Leica is that they ship chargers with AC bypass, so a car outlet can direct charge the battery; no DC/AC/DC power waste. Most vendors are clueless on this car travel aspect and ship chargers that take only AC power.

Shown below with the Really Right Stuff grip and L bracket.

  Sigma DP1 Merrill with Really Right Stuff grip and L bracket
Sigma DP1 Merrill with Really Right Stuff grip and L bracket

ISO 3200 on Nikon D810

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A, Nikon AF-S 50mm

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

I was shooting the Nikon D800E against the Nikon D810 this evening, to try and see if ISO 3200 was any different in performance between the two, ISO 3200 being an inflection point for quality beyond which it is dubious to go with either camera.

I noted several things between the two:

  • The first frustrating nuisance is that L brackets do not mount exactly the same way, so one can’t just swap cameras and get the same framing, at least not with the two cameras and brackets I have on hand. I like to lock down the tripod head when comparing, but this difference makes that troublesome to do (cannot). The D800E L-bracket fits the D810 body plenty well to use, but there is a difference from the D800E that makes the fit less than perfect (side ports in particular) RRS lists a Nikon D810 L bracket with a different part code of BD810-L.
  • The histograms for the same exposure on the two cameras were quite different for the same exposure, yet the RawDigger histograms shows only a small difference. Odd. I’ll have to double check settings. Or maybe the sensor response is just different somehow or maybe it’s that shooting RAW-JPEG delivers a different histogram from embedded vs full size JPEG—not yet sure.
  • Dynamic range is severely impaired at ISO 3200, perhaps by as much as three stops. True for both cameras.
  • The D810 is vastly easier to focus. I focused on the “Keep this and you’ll never go broke” penny inside aluminum-framed coin near center (I’m keeping it). It was a blurry mess devoid of details with the D800E, very difficult to perceive critical focus without a lot of back and forth to verify, but with the D810 everything just pops right in with high confidence. This operational advantage by itself makes the D810 worth every penny to me (consider comparing the D810 to D800E for sharpness and just what a major impediment focus matching is; I’ve dealt with this for two years and I’m fed up). See Nikon D810: Live View Quality vs Nikon D800E/D800.

I liked this side lighting (and it’s certainly good for certain other projects), and I’m going to have to reshoot under constant and more mellow light in order to lay down an identical exposure for both. The trusty Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon will be put to the task (BTW, Zeiss “APO” really means a standard way above anyone else, even Leica. I look forward to more such designations).

Update: reshot, results coming soon.

Click for larger image.

  ISO 3200 Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon
ISO 3200
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon

Dan M writes:

Yeah, the old RRS and the Kirk L brackets for the d800 cameras don't really fit the 810 at all. You have to stress the USB 3 rubber door to get it open far enough and the HDMI door won't open at all as it is blocked along its bottom edge the entire length of the door. You have to move the bracket out a quarter inch on the Kirk bracket to get these doors to work. Kirk says they aren't doing one special for the 810. Which means don't get Kirk. The camera body is different. Simple.

Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux ASPH: Focus Shift Study

Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Leica
DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH

Get Panasonic lenses for Micro Four Thirds at B&H Photo.

In Guide to Mirrorless I assess focus shift with the Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux.

Focus shift is detail is found in Making Sharp Images.

Focus shift is a destroyer of image sharpness in the sense that it dulls the micro contrast where the photographer intends it to “land”; the zone of peak sharpness is shifted in its entirety, generally to the distance.

  Dolls Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH @ ƒ/4
Dolls
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH @ ƒ/4

John V writes:

Reading Making Sharp Images is certainly proving valuable for this lens.

I am also seeing substantial focus shift, perhaps ~9mm at f4 in close range. Ridiculous. I also tested at long range, 15m or so, and there is more than enough shift to trash the sharpness. Using this lens anywhere but wide open requires keeping a finger permanently on the DOF preview button. Yikes.

A shame too, since it feels great in the hand, it's a fun focal length, and the color looks punchy. I really wanted to like this lens. But it's getting returned, and your similar results makes me confident mine isn't just a bad sample.

I'm also seeing forward field curvature, for what that's worth.

DIGLLOYD: my review of the Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 is in Guide to Mirrorless, Making Sharp Images is an ideal complemeent to it.

Live View of the Olympus E-M1 could in theory offer a consolation by allowing manual focus while stopped down (by pressing the DoF button), but the 14.4X magnification is so smeared that it is an exercise in frustration and eye strain. Plus the depth of field grows quickly with stopping down; it’s just very, very difficult to deal with.

Leica T System on the way

I’m unsure if there is Low T here among subscribers, but I’ve delayed my field work (trip to the mountains) because the Leica T system is on the way, expected August 5th. I wanted to cover it along with the Nikon D810 and Pentax 645Z.

Regrettably, the Leica M-adapter T is backordered and so I won’t be able to shoot Leica M lenses on it during this trip unless an adapter shows up in the next day or two.

Update: see my terse review of the Leica T.

Also, I’ve pondered this crossover camera placement within the Guides. Being a full-fledged interchangeable Leica lens system and also supporting M lenses, review coverage will go into Guide To Leica along with Leica M and Leica S.

  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Leica T (rear)
  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Leica T (rear)

 

FOR SALE: eSATA Gear

See my for-sale post over at MPG.

What’s the Best Lens for Micro Four Thirds?

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

Get Panasonic lenses for Micro Four Thirds at B&H Photo.

In my view, the best lens available today for the Micro Four Thirds format is the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH; see my review of the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH in Guide to Mirrorless.

The 42.5/1.2 is now being offered with a $100 instant savings through August 2nd.

Also on my “must have” list for M4/3 are the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux.

The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux shares the brilliance and sharpness characteristics—with a twist.

John L writes:

My 4-year-old yanked the cord between camera and computer when I was upgrading firmware to ver 1.1 for my Lumix/Leica Nocticron 42.5. I have an Olympus Pen E-P5 and used Olympus' Digital Camera Updater for the process. It gave me a due warning not to touch the camera (red stop signs at the rear screen) and this was all it took to trigger my daughters curiosity.

Now the lens is a paperweight. It produces no image and isn't even 'seen' by the camera. I have also tried it on a Lumix GM1 to no avail. I also tried to upgrade via the Lumix camera (download to formatted memory card), but the Lumix simply states that "lens was not attached properly".

The lens was sent to Panasonic for repair on May 31st and after 2 months it still hasn't been returned. Allegedly this is due to problems with Polish customs authorities (Panasonic has its European service department in Poland), but I have seen no documentation. I think this should serve as a warning to people considering buying these fully electronic lenses. Mishaps do actually happen, and in this case it has rendered my USD 2000 lens useless. Also, I'm really frustrated over Panasonic dragging it's feet.

DIGLLOYD: Years from now, Zeiss Zeiss ZF.2 lenses will still function fine. Proof of this is in using a ZF.2 with purely mechanical adapter on Canon, or a failed CPU chip on Nikon—the lens can still be used. As for service, we have it relatively good here in the USA.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A vs Nikon 50/1.4G and 50/1.8G (Nikon D810)

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A, Nikon AF-S 50mm

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This 3-way comparison on the Nikon D810 pits the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A against Nikon’s two 50mm autofocus lenses, the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G and the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G.

The scene and focus and so on were carefully arranged so as to show off the behaviors.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A on Nikon D810 vs Nikon 50/1.4G and 50/1.8G (Decorated Fat Bike)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and seven large crops, all across the ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/16 aperture range.

  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8

Nikon D810: Things Yet to be Covered

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Several readers have asked about particular areas still to be covered with the Nikon D810. Some of these I have deferred because they involve the D800E, and I want Adobe Camera Raw to be final before engaging in the laborious task of publishing, only to find that ACR final is different from ACR beta (unlikely but possible).

Here are some areas I have planned:

  • Hot pixel evaluation. Credible evidence has emerged that the D810 might suffer unduly from hot (stuck-on bright) pixels. My D800E had some; I had Nikon map them out (all cameras have them and all can map them out).
  • High ISO behavior vs Nikon D800E. The Nikon D810 might be optimized for low ISO and be a little less good at high ISO (e.g., ISO 3200 and 6400). TBD. Again, ACR is an issue here.
  • Sharpness: is the D810 any sharper than the D800E? This is a tricky one requiring exacting and repetitive cross checking. Not looking forward to this for that reason.
  • Shutter shake: is the D810 shutter better damped than the D800E? (for those conditions when the electronic first curtain option of the D810 is not viable).
  • General field shooting and behavior.
  • Dynamic range under extreme field conditions.
  • Night shots.
  • Discussion of the D810 settings and menu options.
  • ... and whatever else is observed in the field.

Purchased the NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD Display

Get NEC EA244UHD at B&H Photo.

The NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD display became indispensible for my work, so I bought one because it solves certain needs I have for my work.

I use it daily attached to my MacBook Pro Retina for the following:

  • As a preview workstation for all site content, particularly UltraHD images.
  • High resolution (double resolution) screen shots.
  • Its sheer beauty—a 24-inch 3840 X 2160 display has such high pixel density that no pixels can be seen; it’s like a huge 'chrome'. Eye-popping 8 megapixel images aside, text is unbelievably smooth and beautiful too.

See my in-depth review of the NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD Display including how I calibrated it and the wide color gamut.

NEC has larger models coming late this year or early 2015 (not sure which), but the EA244UHD is available now at a reasonable price. This is a good way to enjoy 4K quality and for me it actually solves a need too.

At present, only two Mac models support 4K displays: the 2013 Mac Pro and the late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina 'Crystal Well'.

NEC EA244UHD UltraHD 4K display
NEC EA244UHD UltraHD 4K display

Nikon D810 In Stock at B&H

Nikon D810 is in stock at B&H Photo as this was written. I’m told it’s a small batch, so grab one quick if you’re after one.

YAYF: Yet Another Yosemite Fire

Get Pentax 645 and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

I had planned to do some field shooting with the Nikon D810 and Pentax 645Z in Yosemite National Park starting late this week, and some trout-eating too, but it surely will have to be the White Mountains and more easterly areas instead (smoke from Yosemite usually does not migrate to the White Mountains, though it does get into Owens Valley—see Dennis Mattinson’s 395 Travel website).

  Smoke over Half Dome in Yosemit, 2014-07-28 at 07:53 AM
Smoke over Half Dome in Yosemite, 2014-07-28 at 07:53 AM

Pentax 645Z vs Nikon D810: Overarching Thoughts on Two Fine Cameras

Get Pentax 645 and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z, I share my overall thoughts on the Pentax 645Z versus the Nikon D810.

  Pentax 645Z   Nikon D810
Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810

The Future of Peak Image Quality Means Fixed-Lens Cameras

I wrote this piece 1 year and one week ago. Here it is again, not quite verbatim but close, since not much has changed..

...

Shown below are five fixed-lens cameras (click on each for more info or review link).

Four of these cameras use an APS-C sensor, and the Sony RX1 is full-frame (130% larger in area). All of them are fixed lens cameras, and all restrain lens speed to keep size and weight down, but are versatile enough for shooting at dusk (with the possible exception of the Leica X Vario).

Discussion continues below.

Get compact cameras at B&H Photo.

Ricoh GR   Sigma DP1 Merrill   Sigma DP1 Merrill   Nikon Coolpix A Nikon Coolpix A
Ricoh GR and Sigma DP1 Merrill and
Leica X Vario and Nikon Coolpix A
Sony RX1

Why a fixed lens?

From my work with these cameras, I can say that all of them set high standards in imaging sharpness that is remarkable (but Leica X Vario I have not tested).

A fixed lens allows:

  • A more compact, more lightweight design.
  • A lens totally optimized for for the sensor*; the rear of the lens can be 1mm from the sensor if need be**; no constraints on internal space or lens shape or diameter. Field use proves this out.
  • No dust intrusion from changing lenses.
  • Less expensive to manufacture and simpler to design (no lens mount to design, no planning for some future higher resolution sensor or different sensor type, etc).
  • Lower market risk; no commitment to a lens line or lens mount, great way to float a trial balloon (seems to be Sony’s approach with the RX1).
  • Very high quality in small size; people want this. Lugging around a DSLR is not something most people want to do or ought to do; DSLRs are bad solutions for most people.

* Based on what I see, no interchangeable lens camera yet offers the high performance one sees in the best fixed-lens cameras. Probably because of design compromises. The only exception being the huge and heavy Olympus SHG lenses.

** Interchangeable lenses in theory could also project all the way into the body cavity, but this would mean a rather awkward rear end “plug” and lens cap and probable risk of damage to lens or camera internals. No vendor designs lenses this way, at least not yet.

Extra lenses, or fixed lens

A fixed lens restricts choices, and that is a good thing: it focuses the creative aspect by simplifying to the essentials. One learns perspective and composition much better with a fixed lens: a zoom makes most people get lazy: standard there and zoom; this is typically a failure. Not saying it cannot work, but I am saying it is likely more a hindrance to good photography than a help (counterpoint: certain tasks make a zoom lens mandatory).

Carrying extra lenses can be more awkward than carrying two small cameras. And two focal lengths cover the majority of shooting situations. More is less in my experience; 3+ lenses becomes a burden and generates creative confusion too much of the time.

I hope to see the fixed-lens trend continue. In particular, I would like to see other focal lengths with the Ricoh GR, perhaps 19mm and 40mm (equiv). Sigma has done this already with the DP Merrill line with 28mm, 45mm, 75mm (equiv) choices. I’d also like to see a 24mm version of the Sony RX1", because 35mm is too narrow a field of view for many of my uses.

Micro Four Thirds

Ironically, the format most suited to the fixed-lens approach (due to the modestly sized sensor)—Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) format—has dropped the ball: the potential exists for fixed-lens M4/3 cameras with perfect image quality at ƒ/2. Will it even survive as a viable format in any mainstream way? I have serious doubts, but the right cameras would allay that concern. Instead, hardly anything interesting happens while APS-C aggressively gets more interesting and raises quality to high levels.

Instead, we get M4/3 lenses that are good but hardly exciting and lag what cameras like the Ricoh GR can deliver—all with a far smaller sensor which itself compromises peak quality. Without compelling fixed-lens offerings (small, lighter, perfect lens performance at ƒ/2, ideally ƒ/1.4), the format loses considerable appeal. The M4/3 format might well wither without this breadth, because the fixed-lens APS-C cameras like the Ricoh GR are compelling in size, weight and image quality. And the build costs do not vary much between formats.

Leica X Vario

Sigma DP1 Merrill
Leica X Vario

What Leica has done with the X Vario is pursue high-grade image quality in a zoom. But to accomplish that quality, the lens speed has been severely compromised, and the camera remains far too large for pocketability.

I would rather see a Bi-Elmarit design with 24mm and 35mm settings (Elmarit = ƒ/2.8); this ought to be achievable in a similar size. The slow speed means that the best light of the day (dusk) is unshootable with the Vario X handheld at ISO 200. And there is greatly reduced opportunity for subject isolation (small aperture), hence creative uses are restricted.

But the real issue is that the X-Vario is essentially a DSLR in awkwardness: cannot be pocketed, on the heavy side and Leica’s idea of usability and features pales compared to a Ricoh GR. And then there is the price: $2850 and that’s before the $500 low-res optional Leica VF-2 EVF.

DSLR

Which brings us to DSLRs: lens design is compromied by a mirror box. Sony is making strides in this area, but no vendor has comitted to a full-frame design with a new wide diameter lens flange along with lenses that seat deep into the body cavity. Hence most lens designs remains compromised for that mirror box offset, making them lower performance, larger and heavier, at least for wide angle designs.

In 2014 this began to change with mirrroless lenses for the full-frame Sony A7/A7R/A7s trio, and more designs can be expected. But as of summer 2014, Nikon and Canon are still in the same rut as ever.

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Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH: $900 Price Rise

Get Leica M at B&H Photo.

Roy P writes:

Wow, the Leica 50mm APO is now $8,250, almost a grand higher...

Thanks for your timely reminder, I ordered one for $7,350 (through your
site
, of course). Still on back order, but my price is locked in!

Geeze. How do you make $7,350 look cheap? Raise prices to $8,250.

DIGLLOYD: My Guide to Leica has an in-depth review of the 50/2 APO, including the severe flare issues with the original production lenses, now resolved with the latest model.

As with my original copy, my replacement copy is *also* skewed left/right (focus is closer on the right side quite significantly). For this pricing I expect perfection not flaws. But my experience with Leica M is that quality control is not at all good (at least half of brand-new lenses have had an issue).

The Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon is no less good a lens (better IMO), twice the speed, and half the price with tighter quality control, albeit 4X the size and 3.5X the weight.

Victor B writes:

You are so spot on to be more than annoyed with outlandishly expensive lenses showing skewing - even slight - at those price points. I've toyed with purchasing the 50mm f2.0 Apo-Summicron but no more. You have convinced me that even at that price Leica can't control their QC.

I've just sent my second Schneider Digitar lens back to Germany for repair/replacement (60mm f5.6 Apo Digitar - currently $5700.00). It had severe skewing with the right side crisp and the left side mush. The only bright point regarding this is that Schneider is very conscientious regarding these types of repairs/replacements.

As I've written previously my Otus went back to Zeiss and is currently being replaced with a new copy. This is really expensive stuff that shouldn't be subject to these issues. A real shame as it requires all sorts of extra testing/returning/replacing that is time consuming and tries my patients. Keep up the good rant!!

DIGLLOYD: no brand is perfect, but I go by long experience in what I’m saying, not just one-offs.

A conversation with Ming Thein on the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810 and More

Get Pentax 645 and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Easier to read with black on white, use the Color Scheme control above.

A chat today with Ming Thein of MingThein.com, a professional photographer half way around the world (from me) whose work is excellent and writng is equally solid. He has his own shooting needs, and his The Nikon D810 review: a worthy D800E upgrade? is worth a read.

This chat is a little rough, but it was unscripted and unedited and with chat there is some overlap (out of order) as one person types/responds to a prior.

Perhaps we’ll do more if readers find it enjoyable (update: yes, very positive feedback).

Transcript

diglloyd: My first thought on the 645Z is lenses.

Ming Thein: Same - or rather the lack of?

diglloyd: or rather lens selection. The lack of more than a few (if that) really good lenses. the 90/2.8 macro is really good, but are there others of that grade?

Ming Thein: The SDMs are the best of the bunch - yes, the 90 is outstanding, the 55 is not bad - much better stopped down, and the 25 gets there by f8.

diglloyd: On the 25...

Ming Thein: I would say it probably matches the Zeiss 2.8/21 by f8. But sample variation is a disaster.

diglloyd: My test showed that it cannot match the Zeiss 21/2.8 at any aperture. But I had one sample and you had four? Seems like probability for a mediocre $5K lens is way, way too high. Compared to Zeiss Otus which holds very tight tolerances in manufacturing.

Ming Thein: And that's the troubling thing. The first sample would not focus to infinity and was clearly astigmatic. The second one was astigmatic. The third was not bad. The final one is pretty good.

diglloyd: I’d expect fairly strong astigmatism in it as a wide in any case.

Ming Thein: At least, the one I purchased matches my 2.8/21. I think we have to remember it's a 19mm-e on 44x33 but covering full 645 though. And that's pretty darn wide, even though it doesn't seem to render as such.

diglloyd: But the thing is, where is the 15/2.8 and 25/2 or 25/2.8 equivalent... no T/S, etc. That’s the rub.

Ming Thein: Or leaf shutter lenses.

diglloyd: True enough though the 645Z it’s 21mm equiv exactly across the long side.

Ming Thein: But in all fairness, Hassy and P1 don't have these either. Hassy has the 1.5x HTS, Phase has one Schneider 120 macro TS, and that's about it. My bad, was thinking diagonal.

diglloyd: Heck I’d like to see leaf shutters on a DSLR.

Ming Thein: You can have it. It's called Leica S.

diglloyd: IMO the very best glass is Leica S.

Ming Thein: And then you can also be broke. Well...I think the Otus gives it a run for its money. At least it will when the lineup is complete - and at f1.4 instead of 2.5, and half the price (or less).

diglloyd: The lenses would be OK (buy used), but the S body is an OMG and way beyond me.

Ming Thein: And that really demonstrates relative value, doesn't it? The 645Z is what, one third the price of an S?

diglloyd: Yes, the Otus is faster by more than a stop even in format equivalent terms. Otus is no less good than S lenses that I can see. Frustrating. Yes, GREAT sensor, and Ricoh has those controls (mostly) nailed. Thoughtful design.

Ming Thein: Personally, it seems MF in general is not really there, for any system.

diglloyd: I’d agree. I’d like to see Leica offer S glass for a variety of MF bodies. backfocal distance a problem with current designs though (precludes adapter at least). But that 645Z sensor is a nice piece of work. But results are sensor/electronics + lenses (plus of course the wetware behind the camera).

Ming Thein: I've tried Hassy V film and digital, Hassy H, Leica S, and now P645. Each has some pretty significant drawbacks - V tops out at 1/500s, has no wides and has to deal with a body designed for square and digital backs that are rectangular. Hassy H feels terrible ergonomically and just operates very clunkily. Leica S is eye wateringly expensive, the sensor lets the whole thing down compared to the competition, and the S2 I used had some serious FW bugs - it wouldn't write anything to card subsequently if you changed ISO whilst it was saving. P645 lacks lenses and leaf shutters, but has the best sensor and ergonomics of the lot. Phase One...well, nobody from them ever replied any of my emails, so I wouldn't know. I'd say customer service is a bit of a disaster in Asia...

diglloyd: Seems like Zeiss is the perfect fit for MF like Pentax 645Z: Otus grade for MF. Tiny market though and is it needed? Who *needs* the 645Z.

Ming Thein: Honestly? Very few people could even really maximize the potential.

diglloyd: Agreed on those systems. BUT... Leica S could conceivably go to 50 or even 80 MP and that would start to look more compelling.

Ming Thein: I personally think the 645Z should really be shot like a DSLR, not a MF camera for best results: because it'll give you MF results where you couldn't even come close before. And THAT is interesting, in my book - both pictorially and technically.

diglloyd: Agreed. 645Z feels like a big Nikon to me.

Ming Thein: There's no 80MP 33x44 sensor - yet. And the 50MP sensor would make it equal to the H5D-50C, IQ250, 645Z etc. - but probably at the same price as the P1 or more. Actually...I prefer the 645Z. Nikon still haven't mastered the art of mirror lockup.

diglloyd: There will be... and S glass should hold up.

Ming Thein: Self timer = auto mirror up. What's so difficult about that?

diglloyd: Ricoh did execute really well. It’s so *obvious* so why do so many vendors do it wrong.

Ming Thein: At 80MP on that sensor size, we're talking ~45-50MP on FX - that's diffraction limited by f5.6-8. I don't know how useful that's going to be practically, to be honest.

diglloyd: But Ricoh screwed up like everyone else on one point: why is there a 30 sec limit on exposure time without jumping through hoops when the sensor can do an hour with aplomb.

Ming Thein: Many things are obvious, but laziness, inertia, and design by consortium seem to be the main causes. Ricoh and the GR are a good example of doing it right - there's really *nothing* to fault about that UI. Put the camera in B or T

diglloyd: I see 80MP in that size as debayering cleanup in large part.

Ming Thein: One press to open, one press to close. But yes, timed multi-minute options would be nice. One stop increments at that point would be fine, too.

diglloyd: B doesn’t cut it: who presses the button? I’m in the cold at 30°F the wind is blowing and I’m gonna **#$848#$ stand around to press a button?

Ming Thein: I suppose there's that wireless card + app. I see that as being useful for landscape work. You DID walk out in the cold 30F wind in the first place... I have a Norwegian student who says there's no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing.

diglloyd: Yeah you can always carry extra crap along... that’s what I’m forced to do with the Nikon.. carry an MC-36 whose battery is always low.! Give that Norwegian student 30 more years and a pot gut and we’ll see.

Ming Thein: Speaking of batteries, I'm finding my Nikons seems to be self-discharging of late - all of them. New batteries especially. I wonder what's up with that - down 10% or more after letting them sit for a week. He's 60.

diglloyd: Point is, so EASY to just allow user to select 60 or 90 or whatever: Ricoh GR goes to 5 minutes piece of cake built in.

Ming Thein: And with an ND filter, but that's another thing altogether.

diglloyd: all right, give him 30 more years! :;

Ming Thein: He'll be dead (probably) Speaking of ND filters, the 25mm is a bit of a disaster: ultra thin drop in NDs are required in an odd size - good luck finding them. I haven't been able to.

diglloyd: The lens is supplied with one, isn’t it?

Ming Thein: CPOL.

diglloyd: Well, then you have a 1.5 stop ND that cuts glare huh.

Ming Thein: But sometimes you want a bit of reflection.

diglloyd: Odd that no screw on front. Zeiss can do a 15/2.8 with screw-in front, so it’s a design thing that need not have been done that way. Absolute... “dead” things creepy if too much POL.

Ming Thein: I admit I'm mostly just being difficult because I've never used an ND much before on wides, but I could see experiments I'd like to try - especially with 1h exposures.

diglloyd: Did this piece and many others... definitely do not want too much polarizer off. diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140120_1-polarizer-choices.html

Ming Thein: Agreed.

diglloyd: Haven’t tried but does the 645Z have a (non) ISO 50?

Ming Thein: No, 100 is the lowest. Let me double check.

diglloyd: I do like ISO 64 on the D810. Very impressive quality. ISO 31 (non ISO) is soft though, not appealing.

Ming Thein: Yes. 100 is the lowest. Is 64 better than 100 on the D800E?

diglloyd: I keep wondering if Nikon went to a mirrorless design accepting current F lenses and made a 36 X 32 sensor... many lenses would work quite well I bet. Otus 55/1.4 would.

Ming Thein: Trouble is, other than for long exposure work or video or extremely fast lenses and tropical noon, I can't imagine wanting less shutter speed - especially given more shutter speed = less shake...

diglloyd: YES, 64 is definitely better. Not that 100 is bad, but the first inklings of noise show up at 100.

Ming Thein: Are we talking the D810 or the D800E here?

diglloyd: ISO study of D810: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140720_2318-NikonD810-noiseISO-fruit.html

Ming Thein: 30x30 square!

diglloyd: Along with chroma noise reduction: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140723_0900-NikonD810-noiseISOChroma-fruit.html Yes, that too. Or maybe 32 X 32 to push it. D810

Ming Thein: Would you say it's a noticeable step up over the D800E? As in: given what you're likely going to lose selling a D800E, and have to pay to upgrade...

diglloyd: Well, D810 high ISO superb too up to 3200 or so, and one must keep in mind reproduction size which relates to number of pixels. Yes, D810 step up... both operationally already saving me time and image quality a notch higher too. Hard to quantify though.

Ming Thein: If you keep doing this I'm going to send you a bill later.

diglloyd: I’m gonna sell my D800E and buy the D810.

Ming Thein: The thought of doing the mirror realignment dance doesn't excite me though.

diglloyd: Tear the mirror out and use LV only with that EVF non option?

Ming Thein: I've spent so long making manual focus usable on my D800E pair that I am really loathe to sell and do it again.

diglloyd: It’s time to lose the mirror as one option.

Ming Thein: I'd go for that. But I don't know if Nikon has the balls, frankly.

diglloyd: Don’t sell it then. D800E remains a strong camera. My needs involve precision so I have to have the best Live View and no vibration electronic shutter and so on. Not the same as street. Nikon is female. The quiet shutter is a big plus on the D810.

Ming Thein: Well, most of what I shoot commercially is stopped down on a tripod with controlled lights. The street-urban type work is mainly for teaching and personal entertainment.

diglloyd: then you want a D810 for its operational behavior in LV.

Ming Thein: Mirror/ shutter vibration was and is a big deal on the D800E. Does the D810's mirror buy you any extra handholdability?

diglloyd: Massively better Live View on D810: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140719_2030-NikonD810-LiveView.html

Ming Thein: I must be the only person who's never had an issue with the D800E's LV. I honestly view the mirror as a much bigger impediment to IQ

diglloyd: Well, see my actual photos of both. D800E = hideous mangled blurred view. D810 = clear.

Ming Thein: That's significantly better.

diglloyd: Mirror handheld shooting? Cause on a tripod not involved with MLU.

Ming Thein: It's a wonder I could make sharp photos at all with LV!

diglloyd: Have a drink or two first for tharp pictures.

Ming Thein: No, the mirror mechanism - Nikon claimed less vibration, which should theoretically improve handholdability. Tripod is academic.

diglloyd: Have not evaluated that... but the D810 seems nicely quiet.

Ming Thein: I'm finding 1/125s is the borderline for consistently sharp hand-holding with the Otus, but my hands aren't that steady.

diglloyd: Maybe that quietness is the mirror damping you refer to.

Ming Thein: Yes and no. Cameras like the F6 have a loud mirror but surprisingly good damping.

diglloyd: I can shoot down to 1/15 and with 3 or 4 frames get one tack sharp. I call it mass coupling: http://diglloyd.com/index-msi.html#LiveView

Ming Thein: Others have a loud mirror and poor damping (Sony A850, for instance) 1/15 is on a tripod or handheld + LV?

diglloyd: Agreed... but one expects some correlation with similar era design.

Ming Thein: I think if one used an LCD magnifier + LV you could probably get much lower than with the finder.

diglloyd: handheld: couple the camera to the slow-moving body.

Ming Thein: Actually, I think the correlation is all cost related... The F6 was/ is expensive. And has no digital bit, either. So all that cost has to go somewhere...and I doubt it's margin, given the lowish volume.

diglloyd: possibly, but it’s all about eliminating high frequency vibes... and mass coupling (holding technique) can do that. It can’t damp the mirror I suppose. Some canon bodies better that way I think. Makes sense. Mass market era even at $3K.

Ming Thein: Talking about high frequency - to me, that remains a problem with mirrorless: all of them still have this shutter shock problem.

diglloyd: and half of cost is electronics so physical stuff gets shorted.

Ming Thein: Precisely. EFC solves it to some extent, but introduces other compromises like rolling shutter artefacts or no drive modes.

diglloyd: Sony A7 in EFC mode has no shutter shock. Nor Sigma Merrills, etc. leaf shutters (all). But you know that.

Ming Thein: Sigmas use a leaf shutter. The A7 would still have rolling shutter issues, no?

diglloyd: Yeah but Sony A7 does not and can be shot all the time in EFC mode. Rolling shutter issues for still frames? That’s a real concern?

Ming Thein: At high shutter speeds/ fast moving objects, yes

diglloyd: Sure... one can pop out to regular mode I suppose. But dusk in an alley....

Ming Thein: I can think of several situations in which I'd have had very strange results from a sequential readout shutter Also true Question is why didn't they put that EFC mode into the A7R, which needs it more...

diglloyd: Better to have option than not and hard vibrations (Sony A7R). CPU speed? or sensor limitation?

Ming Thein: The A7R has other issues, like data compression. And again lack of lenses.

diglloyd: Leica M has same problem as A7R, only somewhat less severe. Ruined all my long tele shots in the field. But that might change soon. 😊

Ming Thein: I wouldn't use an M for tele work. The EVF is silly, the RF useless above about 75mm, and that leaves you on a tripod. It seems that body hardware is progressing much faster than lens choices though. Lots of new systems, only M4/3 and Fuji seem to have fleshed everything out so far.

diglloyd: EVF is immensely useful to me on M (focus accuracy).

Ming Thein: True - but why bother with an RF at all then? You might as well use a D610 and live view. Or an A7/7R.

diglloyd: Back to D810: I see it as a workhorse. It’s not great by any means (so many “could have done this right”), but it is a true workhorse. Because red dot stickers are cheap.

Ming Thein: Isn't that pretty much true of most pro Nikons? I seem to always come back to one for serious work

diglloyd: M lenses are kinda nice at times.

Ming Thein: Because all of the system bits are there, and they get the job done. But I find them very difficult cameras to love

diglloyd: Kudos to Nikon for making something solid.

Ming Thein: It's only the Zeisses that give them some magic

diglloyd: Nikon makes too many easy things too hard. like it has always been. But need not be.

Ming Thein: Out of curiosity, is there any Nikon glass you like at all?

diglloyd: That’s a good point: today’s lab test for lenses are just a spreading malaise. Nikon glass... yes...

Ming Thein: A lot of photographers have forgotten how to use their eyeballs and brains.

diglloyd: Points to the 14-24 for an incredible zoom for when you need it (focus shift sucks at close range though).

Ming Thein: I actually don

diglloyd: eyeballs applied to web page charts. :;

Ming Thein: don't like the corners on that thing. And yes, I've used three of them, too.

diglloyd: Corners are good on 14-24. It has differential focus shift. http://diglloyd.com/index-msi.html#CaseStudiesFocusShift

Ming Thein: And some field curvature and CA too

diglloyd: Took me 2 years to figure out the friggin’ 14-24 behavior. See my differential focus shift case studies. It will clear up a lot. But... not that much I care to shoot on Nikon: not much magic.

Ming Thein: I find it easier and cheaper to mount my 21...

diglloyd: (Nikon lenses). Some very good, none great.

Ming Thein: I'm inclined to agree. I tested a 200/2 VRII recently - one was going second hand at my usual dealer - and was a little disappointed, especially compared to the 2/135 APO.

diglloyd: Well, the 14-24 has very low distortion in the 21-24mm range. Zeiss 21/2.8 I prefer also, but has wave distortion... all depends on subject I guess.

Ming Thein: That's what ACR profiles are for.

diglloyd: 200/2 is way overrated on sharpness. Good in central 1/2, then doggin’ it and f/5.6 - f/8 required. ACR can help but that micro contrast gets whacked by correcting. And that’s part of the Zeiss magic. Well, D810 sensor I’m not so sure is ideal yet.

Ming Thein: Oh? Personally, what I'm increasingly finding is that I'm matching one or two lenses to a body/ system and working that way - it seems necessary to get the best across the board. There's no longer a one-size-fits-all system as the pixel counts keep climbing.

diglloyd: Sensor cover glass non optimal.

Ming Thein: Interesting. What's the giveaway? Flare?

diglloyd: That works. I had to have my D800E bodies gone over special 2 years ago to get the sensor/mount aligned.

Ming Thein: And that's one of the reasons I'm loathe to get an 810 - QC seems so bad these days that I really don't want to go through that again. But maybe that's a working pro's standpoint: it works, it's reliable, clients are happy - why spend more to change?

diglloyd: Not flare... just less than peak sharpness that ought to be there. Otus is designed to all but eliminate it, but many lenses seem less good than I’d expected (e.g. older Nikkors). B&H Photo: 30 day returns. 😊; http://diglloyd.com/gear-nikon.html But easier here in USA.

Ming Thein: Older Nikkors just don't seem that good to me in general. Even my 58/1.2 NOCT really needs f2-2.8, and even then, it isn't even close to the Otus. It is smaller and cheaper though, I guess.

diglloyd: Yeah that’s part of it—just not that great. But I think some of the Zeiss wides are impaired slightly. NOCT need f/5.6! Had a cherry picked one... order of magnitude under Otus. But ‘style’ lens of course.

Ming Thein: I wonder if this pairing thing is just something we're going to have to get used to. GR for wide, D800E + Otus for the midrange or P645Z and 55/2.8, then back to Nikon again for anything over the 90

diglloyd: MF suffers badly in that regard.

Ming Thein: I bought it as an investment to go with my F2 Titan.

diglloyd: Keep it. I wish I had mine. Sharpness is not everything.

Ming Thein: That's the plan. I shoot that combination for fun and to decompress.

diglloyd: The Nikon 28/1.4 is not all that great either, but I loved the way it draws. Sold that too. Darn.

Ming Thein: And to remind me what a real camera should feel like. I actually came across a couple of those recently - I really don't like it, surprisingly. I prefer the 2/28 Distagon or the GR's rendition. The GR's lens-sensor combo is something very special too, I think.

diglloyd: Pentax 645Z is a “real” camera. My arm got tired shooting these portraits in 20 minutes http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140708_1542-Pentax645z-examples-portraits.html

Ming Thein: None of the Leica 28 options I've used can touch it (but not tried the new 28/1.4 ASPH, I should ask Sean Reid about it). I started doing weights. It helps.

diglloyd: Agreed, Zeiss 28/2 I prefer to. Different.

Ming Thein: Technically terrible though - field curvature and all - but the rendering is glorious.

diglloyd: Ricoh GR lens is really good but I bet it’s all hardware corrected... and so what, it’s a killer combo. Fixed lens cameras the answer to your “matching” thing. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130718_4-future-is-fixed.html

Ming Thein: I agree - too bad there aren't many options other than the Sigmas, which have terrible workflow.

diglloyd: Yeah, Zeiss 28/2 is classic design, but gorgeous for close/mid range environmental and such.

Ming Thein: For the quantity of throughput I have...workflow trumps that last 5% in IQ. I actually have concerns that a future Otus wide may be too clinical.

diglloyd: That DP2 Quattro... disappointed. Smearing. Ends the Merrill line. Maybe it’s software though (faint hope).

Ming Thein: I was told from an inside source that new SW and DPP are coming in the next week that should fix it.

diglloyd: I have not been successful in processing even one image on my Mac Pro with SPP 6. Every edit window pops up off screen.

Ming Thein: Played with one last couple of days - my printmaster here works with Sigma for various things - I was surprised by how slow it was and how noisy it was, too. Not much improvement over the Merrills that I can see, other than blue color accuracy.

diglloyd: I have some nice martian rocks for you.

Ming Thein: Now I've lost you.

diglloyd: SPP 6 leaves developer hooks in... sleep system... hang with password dialog to debug... shoddy work. Last comment on skepticism of “all will be fixed”. Two years of sending bug reports leaves me very cynical here.

Ming Thein: Is it just me, or do you feel like the first round of consumers are increasingly becoming beta testers these days?

diglloyd: increasingly?

Ming Thein: Yes. D800/D4 left AF issues, E-P5/M1 shutter shock, Leica M240 QC - lugs falling off (!) etc

diglloyd: Product = hardware + software. Vendors don’t get that. I meant that “increasingly” happened a few years ago. Absolutely! Except perhaps Nikon and maybe Canon.

Ming Thein: It just never seemed to be that way in the past. I didn't feel like the whole workflow was 'fragile' and things were broken/ needed fixing. My D200s just worked. My D2x just worked.

diglloyd: Well, I separate some things from manufacturing “surprises”.

Ming Thein: I didn't have to take the damn camera apart just to make it focus properly. I was surprised that my 645Z's mirror was aligned AND needed almost no AF fine tune.

diglloyd: Agreed. But I think we’re talking manufacturing tolerances on very high res here. Tolerances not upgraded to match resolution Nikon AF simply incapable of precision, period.

Ming Thein: I also don't hear as many issues with consumer grade cameras, though whether that's because of tighter automated machining tolerances or the users being less discriminating, I have no idea. Maybe it's worth buying a D3300 or something to find out.

diglloyd: Good results with 645Z focus, when it can actually focus and not hunt.

Ming Thein: That's also a possibility.

diglloyd: Could be lens designs made for higher tolerances for variation and not so good to begin with (in part).

Ming Thein: it also definitely seems like resolution has outstripped the ability of most tolerances to match it. I'm thinking of bodies, not just lenses

diglloyd: Yes. To see that, shoot Otus 55/1.4 on a D7100 or similar, focus with LV. Even that is not easy. Agreed: AF, planarity of sensor/mount (including many lens mount/unmount cycles, etc).

Ming Thein: Speaking of Otus and QC - I'm very, very impressed with how consistent they are. Leica are a bit of a disaster in that regard - as bad as Pentax. I've had 6 copies of the 50 Summilux ASPH, and only two were decent. Coatings separated off my 21/1.4 and 50/0.95. I gave up after that.

diglloyd: Leica M constant battle 3/4 lenses “off”. Ridiculous. Had to wait 2 months for my 18/3.8 SEM, still has same color fringing on left side only.

Ming Thein: I've had the chance to test three Otus 55s - they're identical in every way, as far as I can tell. Sounds like that's not just me, then.

diglloyd: Don’t get me started on 50/2 APO. My replacement is also skewed left/right (on another brand new body).

Ming Thein: I'm actually starting to think handmade is NOT a good thing. There's no way hand tolerances can consistently match or better a machine. Flare flare flare!

diglloyd: I’d agree. Zeiss Otus quality control very, very high. Probably best in industry. Regular Zeiss very good, but some variation. Still, much better than CaNikon.

Ming Thein: I cannot justify paying the $16,000+ (at least here) that an M240 and 50/2 APO would cost. Not when I could get an Otus AND a 645Z for the same money.

diglloyd: Not just flare: left/right skew too. Both copies, original and “hand picked” replacement. Go figure. Don’t forget the special edition version you really really want.

Ming Thein: I didn't see skew in my sample, but the flare was definitely there. The RF alignment...was a disaster. I was taking my camera apart in the middle of a market in Yangon. The red one?

diglloyd: I would like to see that new 28/1.4 though.

Ming Thein: Agreed - but only because I'm a sucker for 28mm. To be honest, my GR gives me better results than any Leica 28-e combo did.

diglloyd: Both 50/2 APOs have focus skewed forward on right. On two bodies for the first, one (brand-new replacement body for the 2nd).

Ming Thein: Leica must love you.

diglloyd: Any 28/1.4, I don’t care about the special edition.

Ming Thein: I can wait for the Otus version.

diglloyd: That’s why Leica always tell me “sure we can loan you X... in 9 months”. (for review).

Ming Thein: Hah! Nikon here do not loan me anything - which is why I've got so many questions on the D810. Apparently I do not merit loaners.

diglloyd: Otus will kick it’s ass anyway. Leica M designs have rampant field curvature for the f/1.4 designs. eg f/8 for the 35/1.4 Summilux at distance and be there. Nor me. No one wants to talk to honest reviewers. Zeiss IMO has the highest integrity in this regard. I have huge respect for them.

Ming Thein: I think part of that is deliberate - the field curvature - because otherwise you can't edge focus accurately with the RF; you've got to center focus and recompose.

diglloyd: what’s a rangefinder? :; (I use the crappy toy-grade EVF on the M240)

Ming Thein: Well, they're just shooting themselves in the foot long term: if everything is awesome, then credibility becomes an issue The Olympus one...

diglloyd: 50/2 APO is the right approach. They need to apply that idea across the line. But then I will have to abandon Leica (cost).

Ming Thein: I already have for cost and reliability. $8000 or whatever they're asking now for a 50/2 is madness. To bring things somewhat full circle again...what's your verdict on the 645Z and D810? Buy, or not buy? Upgrade, or not? Then the bigger, more interesting question is: does anybody really need either?

diglloyd: I am not buying the 645Z but I want to be very clear why...

Ming Thein: Personally, I'd give the 645Z a recommended rating with the qualification that the 'good' lenses need to work for you The sensor is utterly epic though

diglloyd: First, the cost. And for me, there is no ROI on buying one. Second the lens line. Third the D810 serves my particular needs for my site; the 645Z serves no purpose (I run though gear constantly, it would sit there with no purpose). Absolutely I rate the 645Z high. I’d *love* to have one with the 90/2.8 and a good 21/2.8 and something dunno in between.

Ming Thein: Diminishing returns

diglloyd: 90/2.8 alone would be OK. But spend $14K.... ?

Ming Thein: I admit the 'want' factor trumped most other considerations for me; I sold my CFV-39 to pay for it, and have an upcoming project that could use the resolution. But still...it's a tough justification.

diglloyd: Other problem: where would I shoot it? It fills my entire daypack, it’s a beast. Just no fun at all in the mountains. the Live View on the 645Z is a huge plus for any precision work, I would think that would dovetail with some stuff you do.

Ming Thein: Ironically I find it very difficult to justify the D810, even though the D800Es have been my workhorses. Mainly because the ergonomic changes are enough to annoy me (I use that metering switch a lot); I'd have to buy two, spend days sorting out mirrors and focusing screens, and on top of that...well, the D800E still does the job just fine.

diglloyd: No EVF on the 645Z is a problem too... presbyopia increasing nuisance so rear LCD requires loupe, etc. I agree with you, but my needs are quite different...

Ming Thein: Hah. I plan to shoot the 645Z handheld for corporate/ industrial documentary mainly. The D800Es are what I use for precision because of the macros and TS lenses. How is the D810 better with no EVF either? :P

diglloyd: D810 already reducing my error rate (Live View quality, faster turnaround on LV shots, no risk of vibration with the EFC shutter). It is not, but it is smaller and with far superior lens selection in quality and size. 😊 http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140626_2006-NikonD810-thoughts.html

Ming Thein: I think it's actually a very interesting sign that the market is moving this way: both of us would probably be served just fine by either if we had no choice; and the image quality is still miles beyond anything from several years ago. But there's so much choice it makes me wonder how camera makers are going to survive...

diglloyd: It’s about ergonomics, controls, operation, hit rate. In this regard, the Sony RX1R really nailed it for me.

Ming Thein: Didn't at all for me.

diglloyd: (with a Really Right Stuff grip)

Ming Thein: Actually, my highest hit rate cameras are...an Arca Swiss 4x5 and sheet film, and the GR.

diglloyd: In the field error rate for ad-hoc extremely (very very high hit rate). Gotta have the EVF and grip on the RX1R. Then it’s almost error free for me for ad-hoc shooting fun.

Ming Thein: The D800 is abysmal mainly because of shake and focusing. I'd rather have the GR. But I've never been a 35mm person. I'd probably be all over it if it was a 28, though

diglloyd: I’d like Ricoh to make a full-frame GR with 28mm f/2.8.

Ming Thein: Oh yes.

diglloyd: Me too. RX1R should have been 3 focals.

Ming Thein: With the D800E/810's sensor. Like the Sigmas? That approach actually makes a lot of sense. And the FL choices were sensible.

diglloyd: Well, matched lens to 56MP sensor and built in EVF, leaf shutter, built-in flash.

Ming Thein: Too many pixels.

diglloyd: Yes, like the Sigma Merrills. 56MP as 36 output or so will eliminate Bayer issues. Pixels aren’t just about detail.

Ming Thein: Or even half, down to 28MP. Yes, I know. Tonal information, DR and noise, too.

diglloyd: Yes. Any size you want: full, 3/4, 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4.

Ming Thein: Processing speed issues...

diglloyd: That’s the rub. 11+7 bit IMO no match for D810 14-bit

Ming Thein: I'd actually like to see a 100MP sensor with 4:1 binning - RGB and ND for extended dynamic range.

diglloyd: Not really. D810 files just fine for me. 645Z too. http://macperformanceguide.com/index_topics.html#MacPro2013

Ming Thein: On a full 6x6 chip for Hassy V, while we're at it.

diglloyd: Should be 36 X 2 X 2 (Sony RX100 density) http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130307_3-oversampling-RX100.html

Ming Thein: Try that with the 645Z. It makes my D4 look rubbish at 51,200. In fact, I honestly cannot think of a good reason why I still own the D4 at all. Other than because I like the ergonomics.

diglloyd: Or the Sigma DP Merrills. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130221_2-stitching-the-SigmaDP2Merrill.html D4 has a velvety look to its images. Very nice. But I don’t want a measly 16MP.

Ming Thein: The D4 has surprisingly high acuity given it still has an AA filter. 16MP was more than enough 5 years ago...our output forms haven't really changed, for the most part. Most people are still using them for social media or small prints.

diglloyd: seems to matter less on lower res cameras.

Ming Thein: I'm probably the only one resolution limited at 10x15" print area with the 645Z.

diglloyd: I personally enjoying seeing things I could not see while there. It’s just plain rewarding and fun.

Ming Thein: Not everybody is like us In fact, most aren't. Or we'd have that EVF 33x44 mirrorless camera with Otus AF lenses...

diglloyd: six feet wide with sigma as your printer knows works well I think. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130802_3-SigmaDPMerill-printing-really-big-is-awesome.html could be Otus quality a lot smaller as a mirrorless

Ming Thein: True. Curved sensor too perhaps We can dream...

diglloyd: 44 X 33 ml would be hot. Wonder why Pentax does not do it (Ricoh GR MF!) Would be hot, hot, hot seller. Sony is the only vendor likely to do I think.

Ming Thein: Hmm...probably cost? At $5-7000 for a body, hmm. That said, I'd buy one. Good thing photographers are provided with two kidneys and other subdividable, transplantable organs.

diglloyd: which would be a bargain at $7K given what it is (lens + camera) compared to a 645Z

Ming Thein: True. Not a system though. And I was speculating at 7k - it may well be more like 10.

diglloyd: Two focals: 21mm and 28mm.

Ming Thein: I'd rather 28 and 40 or 55

diglloyd: Anyway, D810 great camera, 645Z terrific too, but so huge that it’s not for many: 645Z will just be left behind too often for me. What I’m hearing from readers is that D810 upgrade is worth it to them. It is for me, but maybe not for everyone—all depends on what and how you shoot.

Ming Thein: Looks like I'm going to somehow have to get my hands on one. I really enjoy the 645Z though. And the IQ is another notch up.

diglloyd: Me too. But I call it a “car or house camera”!

Ming Thein: But I agree: size and lenses mean more often than not I just bring one. You don't have 200% import tax on your cars, that's why.

diglloyd: BUT if all I were doing was landscapes or such stuff, and no other systems, I might go with one. That is not my situation. I buy my cars used too.

Ming Thein: Even if used. New has huge tax...used prices are commensurate. A two year old Honda Civic goes for about $30-35k here.

diglloyd: Couple of 645Z things bug me: the modal image review constant waste of time for me. A few others. 645Z has also failed to record images several times. Seems to happen after card format. wow! (car)

Ming Thein: I think there are options as to what you can access in image review - pretty much everything except browse others. No write issues here. Cameras by comparison are tax free...

diglloyd: no options without 3/4 chimping operations to get there and then back to histogram.

Ming Thein: Win some, lose some.

diglloyd: D810 cycles between 1/2/3/4/5 screens, your choice. 645Z cannot.

Ming Thein: I honestly think it's the way you have your playback options set. I can have my basic info + flashing highlights + single button zoom just fine It remembers my last playback info state on review

diglloyd: Fixable in firmware. But K3 has same headache. Big time waster for my shooting. Any flavor you want as long as its vanilla. Problem is cannot get to alternate info without menus presses. Then repeat that to go back to histogram. Too hard to describe here. Does not do it.

Ming Thein: You might be asking it to do something more complicated. Vanilla is fine for me.

diglloyd: I want to be able to cycle between RGB histogram, uncluttered view, basic info, flashing highlights. AFAIK cannot be done.

Ming Thein: Not easily, no. You can have one of those but not all easily.

diglloyd: Nikon D810 does it. And not complicated.

Ming Thein: So does every other Nikon since the D2H

diglloyd: Yes.

Ming Thein: Playback is the one thing they got right. A lot ...fail. Canon especially.

diglloyd: Not a show stopper. Just an annoyance. Every camera has its share.

Ming Thein: Well, if they didn't, we would stop buying and they'd all go out of business. In any case...it's been great chatting with you, but I'm going to have to call a halt because have to head out to meet a client shortly.

diglloyd: Worth noting: 645Z can Live View most anywhere in frame. That is not a given these days (center only on Leica M, fixed modal on Sigma, etc).

Ming Thein: The Nikons do anywhere also

diglloyd: Fun time! Bye Ming! And Canons and many others. But not Leica M. 😟 See ya. 😊

Ming Thein: It's handmade. Perfection. Just like the RF ;) Until next time! Thanks for the great chat.

diglloyd: Thank you too. 😊 Bye

Pentax 645Z: Underexposing and Pushing by Up To Six Stops

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  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

This extensive real-world evaluation of noise includes:

  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB.
  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • Four large actual pixels crops ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.

In my review of the Pentax 645:

Pentax 645Z Pushing Up to ~6 stops (Fruit Arrangement)

Intermediate exposure values for pushes of 1/3/4/5/6 stops are shown along with two large crops that include RGB, gray gamma 2.2, red/green/blue color channels.

  Pentax 645Z at normal exposure vs 5 stops underexposed
Pentax 645Z at normal exposure vs 5 stops underexposed

Pentax 645Z: ISO and Noise from 100 to 204800

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  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

This extensive real-world evaluation of noise includes:

  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB.
  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • Four large actual pixels crops ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.

In my review of the Pentax 645:

Pentax 645Z ISO 100 to 204800 (Fruit Arrangement, Natural Light)

  Nikon D810 at ISO 800
Pentax 645Z at ISO 800

Nikon D810: Chroma Noise Reduction Study from ISO 1600 to 12800

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  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Thanks to reader Sebastian B for suggesting this topic.

This study of chroma (color) noise is instructive and of excellent practical use for anyone shooting at high ISO (any camera).

In my review of the Nikon D810:

Chroma Noise Reduction ISO 3200 to 12800 (Otus Fruit)

Included are large RGB crops along with the red/green/blue color channels, gray gamma 2.2 as well as further revealing analysis of what chroma noise reduction does, using the L/a/b channels of Lab color mode.

The Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) setting used is also shown.

  Chroma noise reduction at ISO 12800, Nikon D810
Chroma noise reduction at ISO 12800, Nikon D810

Dr. S writes:

Your study/article of chroma noise reduction in the D810 is superb and so darn helpful. In the past I have dealt mostly with luminance reduction to remove noise but your images tell a different story, one that will change the way I process nearly all files.... and, BTW, your sharpening levels are higher than I would use....but not any more. My ways will change!

For those who would comment and be proud to proclaim they wouldn't pay for info on a blog..I say.......%^&%^! This one article is worth 2 years of admission!... but don't let my comment go to your head -:)

DIGLLOYD: I learned from it myself. Thanks are due to reader Sebastian B for suggesting this topic. And I will let it go to my head this way: to keep seeking out useful things to write about for my readers. :)

What Does Nikon Picture Control Do?

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In my review of the Nikon D810 I discuss the Nikon D810 Picture Control feature and what it affects (and does not affect). Is the new Flat profile useful?

Judging by reader email, Picture Control is an utter failure in terms of user understanding of its very important effects and non-effects. Yet understanding its effects is critical, even for raw shooters, but perhaps not for the reasons one might assume.

Nikon D810 Picture Profiles: What is Affected, JPEG Examples

Shown with HD and Ultra HD images and and histograms.

  Nikon Picture Control = Flat
Nikon Picture Control = Flat

Reader Comments: Lenses for Sports Photography

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Reader Andrew P writes:

It just occurred to me that you don't use examples pertinent to sports photography that much (or at all) in your blog. I like to shoot close-range sports when I get the chance but don't know of any sites that provide the kind of image quality reviews you give, but with sports photography concerns considered as a built-in part of any testing.

For instance, this weekend I did my first-ever paid shoot (hooray) of an international basketball competition in Amsterdam. I bought the Zeiss ZA 135mm 1.8 to complement my Nikkor 85mm 1.4G for the shoot, and took the Otus along for a couple of portraits of players if the opportunity presented itself. As it turned out, I shot most of the 2 day event with the Otus, barely used the 85, holstered the 135mm after a couple of hours, and then on the second day brought a 35mm Summilux and a 15mm Distagon to do about half the work on that day.

The reason this is meaningful to me is that I wound up using MF lenses for almost all of the best shots. The reason is that the AF lenses were a pain in the neck to use. The 85mm 1.4G, though perfectly fine when zipping to focus on a person standing still for a portrait, focusing on moving basketball players was just about impossible. The ZA 135mm was better at focusing quickly than the 85mm, but it was harder to deal with because of its length. When players zipped in and around each other, the lens kept losing focus and then wouldn't take a picture. On the other hand, the Otus, Summilux, and 15mm Distagan (ZF) always fired when I wanted them to and were more often in focus than the AF lenses.

When I read about sports photography on the Internet, I see a lot of people recommending high speed large aperture AF lenses like the 85mm and 135mm that I actually used as being very good for sports. The other two I see mentioned a lot are the Nikkor 200mm f2 and 300mm f2.8. Am I missing something about AF sports photography? Or are these lenses as bad at focusing as they seemed? If this is what AF is like, I'd just as soon stick with MF. Could it be because the sport I was shooting (basketball) allowed me to be very close to the action (literally on the foul lines)? It would be interesting to see a review of MF and AF lenses that compared their near focusing capabilities against moving subjects.

DIGLLOYD: Evaluating a lens for sports photography is radically different than anything else: it’s about handling and autofocus and anti-shake support (or not) and one couldn’t say a lot about optical performance under such conditions. Or the skill of the evaluator.

Even the sports-fame Nikon D3s and D4 failed miserably for me on runners coming at the camera when I last shot cross country; they could not track focus head-on. But at the right distance and angle, autofocus rocks.

At close range I completely agree on the manual focus thing: pre-focus with anticipation is the game; try photographing a rower on an erg at close range! Manual focus is the only way to go, autofocus is completely useless under those conditons, and I would agree with the basketball situation. OTOH, out on a body of water at a regatta, autofocus with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is my approach of choice.

Autofocus introduces a whole set of new problems at closer range for me, so I agree on the manual focus lens thing. But I think that it comes down to style and technique and distance and so on—no fixed answer.

Quick Look: Adobe Camera Raw vs Nikon Capture NX-D

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I took a quick look at Nikon Capture NX-D in my review of the Nikon D810.

The image below was shot with Nikon D810 and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A. It was processed with Adobe Camera Raw and Nikon Capture NX-D (both).

Processing NEF: a Quick Look at Adobe Camera Raw vs Nikon NX-D

Shown with HD and Ultra HD images and large crops, the settings for each program, commentary included.

  Nikon Capture NX-D NEF/raw file conversion for D810
Nikon Capture NX-D NEF/raw file conversion for D810

Reader Comments: D810 Review, Lenses, etc

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  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Reader Bjørn J writes:

Thank you for your ongoing review of the D810.

The stunning documentation of the exposure latitude, and the much improved LiveView, convinced me to place a D810 on order today.

I trust your reviews because of your extremely thorough real-world approach to practical use of camera equipment. Your example photos are worth far more than any lab-testing.

DIGLLOYD: Though I can’t think of everything, my core operating premise is “what would I want to know about this gear for my own work in all sorts of conditions before I plunk down my money”.

Reader Herb S writes:

I am happy to have renewed my subscriptions. The quality of your reviews has always been to a high standard and it is still improving regarding your effectiveness to show us all the relevant issues with the gear involved.

Might I suggest a good compact standard lens for the D810? It is the Voigtlander 40 mm SL-II. Of course it is not a Zeiss Otus. But good and compact it is.
Now we have to know how effective the D810 ground glass is for manual focus lenses not of the Otus calibre.

DIGLLOYD: [If I can’t do it a little better each year, I’d get bored.] Like the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P, the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL II is a diminutive option for a “light carry”. It is a good optic but like all other small lenses has various compromises to be that small. See the review coverage of the Voigtlander lenses in DAP.

Peter W writes:

I've never been more gobsmacked in my life as by your 5.5 stop push from nothing - nothing! - to a totally acceptable image. Absolutely incredible!

D810 ETTR and pulling up the shadows offers tremendous appeal and usefulness.

It's incomprehensible why Canon continues to bring out inferior sensors (noisy, banded blacks) when the Nikon benchmark is in plain sight.

I would be very interested in your comparison of the Sony A7/s/r sensors with their D810 counterparts.

DIGLLOYD: Canon has insisted on building their own sensors, and this has hurt them so far. But maybe Canon has something really great coming at Photokina. As for pattern and streaking noise in particular, this is a Canon thing for sure: Nikon D800E vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III as well as the Canon 5D Mark III noise pages and Canon EOS 1D Mark IV noise pages in DAP.

As for Sony, I’m done with the Sony A7R, having borrowed one 4 times now (I won’t waste my money on a $2000 camera which can’t make a sharp image at some shutter speeds and will rapidly decline in value—it has ruined far too much work from its shutter vibration, making it a frustrating PITA in spite of its helpful EVF. Moreover, the Sony 11+7 bit compression just doesn’t cut it and the too-thick sensor cover glass just kills it for Leica M wide angle short of at ƒ/8 or even ƒ/11 (and it affects even 50mm). The Nikon D810 is a solid and robust workhorse with good controls that takes a wide range of lenses with no adapters—and no goofy tripod mount workaround needed for heavy lenses and it won’t be worth 1/2 or 1/3 of what I paid for it in 6 months.

John W writes:

Hello, again. I've now had my D810 for 48 hours, and I don't have anything to report that is inconsistent with or materially adds to what you have published so far, so I'll keep this short. But, I did want to say three things at this point:

1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your ongoing, detailed D810 analysis and review. In addition to providing reassurance that my early purchase of the camera was not a mistake, it has also already given me several tips and ideas that will help improve my own photography. And, I know that there is much more to come. Great stuff.

2. Different things are important to different people. For me, the quieter shutter and improved LCD and Live View alone are definitely enough to justify the upgrade costs. I do a lot of work inside cathedrals and churches. In those environments, the shutter noise of the D800 was frequently an issue and sometimes inhibited me from taking a shot at all. So, the quieter D810 shutter is much more than a minor improvement for me.

3. I replicated your 5.5 stop push test and got essentially the same results you did. Wow!

DIGLLOYD: my main issue with the D810: it’s very good but falls short of greatness due to some really dumb mistakes in various places (nothing fundamental, but like having a good dinner with bad wine and no dessert).

John H writes:

Just sending a thanks about your detailed and continuing coverage of the 645Z- being a 645D owner with a number of compatible lenses (67, 645, and other brands with adapters) I greatly appreciate the information and critical testing you’ve been doing- it’s part of what makes your subscriptions so valuable compared with the limited depth of conventional photography sites.

While upgrading to the 645z soon is likely a given, your reviews and comments will go a long way towards boosting me up the learning curve of getting the most out of this new model, and help me make constructive decisions about what additional lenses to consider (such as the 90mm macro) to expand the shooting and usability envelope.

DIGLLOYD: more coming, though I might have to ask B&H Photo for an extension of the loaner camera time.

Sebastian B writes:

First, many thanks for your fine work on the 645Z, Sigma Quattro, and D810 (and countless others as well). Your reviews are so concise that I have virtually stopped reading anything else.

I observed with the D810 and also the 645Z and A7s noise series that you seem to leave chroma noise (at least partially) uncorrected. I don’t object to this per se, but it’s not very helpful for me from a practical point of view since chroma noise with modern sensors is corrected so easily. For example, when playing with a 645Z RAW ISO series provided by Ming Thein, I discovered that, in Lightroom, a color noise setting of just 8 (out of 100) sufficed to eliminate the chroma noise component at all ISOs (up to 204.800), without any detrimental effect on acuity — which is the same thing I see with my Pentax K-5 and just about any recent camera I have had a chance to test. (Actually, Lightroom is even shipped with a default of 25, so that is what many users are using anyway.)

I assume the correction is just as trivial to accomplish in ACR, so I was wondering if you might consider adding a “chroma corrected” series to the respective pages (or future pages, for that matter). I feel this would be of considerable practical value for many readers.

As an aside, are you planning to review the Sony FE 70-200/4?

DIGLLOYD: Chroma noise reduction added for the Nikon D810.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4: I am not planning to review at this time. Given the shutter vibration of the Sony A7R, it is a nightmare job to test, where any results are suspect, especially with the lens mounted in seesaw fashion on the tripod. I will wait until Sony delivers a 36MP camera (or higher) free of the work-destroying vibration. That said, the Sony A7R and A7s have vibration free options (electronic first curtain) and the lens is better suited to those cameras.

Nikon Capture NX-D: “D” for Dimwits?

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

I took a quick look at Nikon Capture NX-D. After noting the failure to code-sign it for OS X, the non-integration into the App Store, the lovely file name I could not find later (“S-NXD___-010000MF-ALLIN-ALL___.dmg”), the installer errors (in the install log), the installation of crapware without notice or choice (Nikon background notification yuck), spelling errors, grammatical errors, modal operation, non-standard command key shortcuts, the failure to associate NX-D with NEF files—I’m persuaded that this warmed over turd emits more or less the same aroma as its its predecessors. And that Nikon and Sigma must have some secretly guarded source of software engineers simply unavailable to companies like Apple. Still, it’s a big step up from Sigma Photo Pro 6, which won’t work at all on my Mac Pro.

As for what NX-D excretes (please forgive the expression), I didn’t get beyond the hassles and I’m not sure I want to try. Maybe tomorrow or next week.

Reader Question: Smaller, Lighter “slow” Aperture Lenses for Nikon D810?

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Reader Cecelia C writes:

I love the good news about the D810. If you don't care about 1.4 apertures, but you do care about across-the-field sharpness and micro-contrast what lenses would you recommend?

I am hoping for some smaller and lighter options. I was thinking of the f1.8G Nikon lenses...but even 2.8 lenses would be ok with me, especially after seeing your comments on the higher ISO performance.

DIGLLOYD: Major camera vendors have not been keen on bringing relatively slow designs to market (except for crummy plastic zooms). Canon is an exception, making a stab at it with the 24/2.8 IS and 28/2.8 IS but failing to realize the blunder of not making them really good in an apparent attempt to keep the price down. Averaging out low price and very high quality to average price and average quality is not a winning idea.

Even Zeiss has not seen fit to bring out ultra high quality f/2.8 lenses (I would like to see “near perfect” 24/4, 28/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/2.8 and 90/2.8 designs). The Otus line rocks, but oh the size and cost for those two stops.

Prime lenses (fixed focal lengths) at ƒ/2.8 are just not “sexy” and the video crowd wants T/1.5 or at least T/2.1. Besides, entire web discussion forum would crash overloaded with irate fanboys complaining about a $1500 f/2.8 lens, even it it were near perfect wide open, or so the camera companies seem to think (I think there is a good untapped market there).

For want small and light (and cheap), the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is a good choice. For manual focus, the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar or the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 or the smallest and really diminutive choice: the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P.

Which led me to a thought and experiment: just how well does a simple and classic 4-element Tessar design perform on the Nikon D810?

Aperture Series: Nikon 45mm f/2.8P on the Nikon D810

  Nikon D810 + Nikon 45mm f/2.8P
Nikon D810 + Nikon 45mm f/2.8P

Nikon D810: How Much Underexposure Can It Take?

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This evaluation of sensor quality speaks to the versatility and value of a camera/sensor that can accept gross underexposure and still produce a good image, and/or the ability to give a severe boost to dark areas while retaining color quality and detail.

These real world attributes will appeal to anyone who has worked under difficult field conditions such as high dynamic range scenes.

Canon had better have something really good to announce at Photokina, because while the D800E already embarrassed the 5D Mark III, the D810 wins my praise as best ever.

In my review of the Nikon D810:

Pushing Nikon D810 at ISO 64 up to 5.5 Stops

Several intermediate exposure values and pushes are included.

Shot with the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

  Nikon D810 range of exposures
Nikon D810 range of exposures

Peter W writes:

I've never been more gobsmacked in my life as by your 5.5 stop push from nothing - nothing! - to a totally acceptable image. Absolutely incredible!

D810 ETTR and pulling up the shadows offers tremendous appeal and usefulness.

It's incomprehensible why Canon continues to bring out inferior sensors (noisy, banded blacks) when the Nikon benchmark is in plain sight.

I would be very interested in your comparison of the Sony A7/s/r sensors with their D810 counterparts.

DIGLLOYD: Canon has insisted on building their own sensors, and this has hurt them so far. But maybe Canon has something really great coming at Photokina. As for pattern and streaking noise in particular, this is a Canon thing for sure: Nikon D800E vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III as well as the Canon 5D Mark III noise pages and Canon EOS 1D Mark IV noise pages in DAP.

As for Sony, I’d done with the Sony A7R, having borrowed one 4 times now (I won’t waste my money on a $2000 camera which can’t make a sharp image at some shutter speeds and will rapidly decline in value—it has ruined far too much work from its shutter vibration, making it a frustrating PITA in spite of its helpful EVF. Moreover, the Sony 11+7 bit compression just doesn’t cut it and the too-thick sensor cover glass just kill it for Leica M lenses. The Nikon D810 is a solid and robust workhorse with good controls that takes a wide range of lenses with no adapters—and no goofy tripod mount workaround needed for heavy lenses and it won’t be worth 1/2 or 1/3 of what I paid for it in 6 months.

Gene F writes:

Canon has way too many professional users not to catch up quickly to Nikon. Their operating system and design ethic and really everything but the sensor are better too, imo, which is why pros love them. But maybe I'm just comfortable with them; they seem to me more well-conceived and navigable.

Leica, on the other hand, might be quitting photography in favor of jewelry-making.

DIGLLOYD: Well, they’ve had 2+ years to catch up. And I bet Canon will, and maybe as soon as early 2015 (following an announcement at Photokina). And maybe not. I also like a number of things about Canon DSLRs and I think the autofocus is superior with fast lenses.

Nikon D810: Adobe Camera Raw Support

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo. If you’re not quite up for the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A for Nikon is fantastic.

See also recommended SDXC and Compact Flash cards for Nikon D810.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Michael E writes:

How are your reading the .NEFs? Lightroom does not recognize them.

DIGLLOYD: most all of my examples show the ACR version and conversion settings on the review page. Download Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 8.6 RC for CC & CC 2014.

ACR 8.6 RC features

Improve performance when batch processing images (via the Save button in Camera Raw) and when converting images to DNG (via DNG Converter). This performance improvement is only available on 64-bit systems.

New Camera Support

  • Nikon D810
  • Panasonic LUMIX AG-GH4
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000
  • Added Camera Matching color profiles for the following camera models:
  • Sony DSC-RX100 III
  • Sony A7S (ILCE-7S)
  • Sony Alpha SLT-A77 II (ILCA-77M2)

New Lens Profile Support

GEAR SALE: Canon 50/1.2L, Canon 35/1.4L, Pentax K3, Olympus SHG Zooms,

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

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

Contact me (please use an appropriate email subject)

Canon lenses

Canon 50mm f/1.2L, perfect glass, hood caps in excellent condition $1150.

Canon 35mm f/1.4L, perfect glass, hood caps in excellent condition $1050.

Pentax K3 premium silver edition

Very lightly used (under 1000 actuations) Pentax K-3 premium silver edition (details) in box like new as shipped. $800.

Olympus Super High Grade (SHG) zooms

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

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

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

  • Olympus SHG 7-14mm f/4 Zuiko ED: $1400
  • Olympus SHG 14-35mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $1900
  • Olympus SHG 35-100mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $2000
  • All three take $400 more off and MMF-3 adapter gets included.

Pentax 645Z: Various Notes

Perfect for the Pentax 645Z.

  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

In my review of the Pentax 645Z:

In general, the Pentax designers did an outstanding job; your author picked up the camera and was using it within 5 minutes without even cracking the manual. Things like mirror lockup are better done than any other camera, period. But to see the CARD NOT FORMATTED bug still present a year after I first saw it with the Pentax K3 is disappointing; it’s a general bug afflicting both.

Memory Cards: Big discounts on high capacity SDXC and Compact Flash

Perfect for the Nikon D810.

  Recommended Storage cards
Recommended Storage cards

Memory cards have deep discounts right now.

Memory cards I prefer to use myself.

The one card that has performed flawlessly for me since day one is the Toshiba Exceria Pro 64GB. It is the only card I have used that has never had a glitch. I also use SanDisk and Lexar, but the Toshiba has never disappointed me unlike those two brands.

I like the 64GB (or larger) sized because out in the field it means I can generally leave files on the card as backups even after downloading*.

 

* Unless it’s Pentax which has a nasty “card is not formatted bug” even on the 645Z (the K3 first made this stupid bug plain)—if anything disturbs the format, such as merely renaming a folder, you’re hosed and have to reformat or hike back to the car for another card.

Nikon D810: Study of Image Quality from ISO 31/64/100, ..., 12800

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This extensive real-world evaluation of noise includes:

  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB.
  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • Three large actual pixels crops ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • ACR processing settings and histogram for the image as conveted to ProPhotoRGB.

Shot with the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

In my review of the Nikon D810:

Nikon D810 ISO 31/64/100 to 12800 (Fruit Medley)

The appearance of noise depends on the character along with its magnitude, and especially the degree of enlargement. For that reason, a downsampled evaluation to match Sony A7s actual pixels is also provided, from ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.

  Nikon D810 at ISO 800
Nikon D810 at ISO 800

Ashish V writes:

Just wanted to say that the colour reproduction in this image looks just stunning!
My guess is that it's better than 800e.

Did you need to do much work on this image to get the colours so good?

DIGLLOYD: That’s the beauty of it: total “work” was to shoot one frame with a WhiBal card (a separate frame). Using that frame, click to neutral in ACR, then use that setting for the others in the series. Piece of cake, scarcely any work at all. I like the WhiBal White Balance G7 Pocket Kit because it is inexpensive, durable and compact.

Nikon D810 Image Quality

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Image quality of the Nikon D810 is sensational. My D800E workhorse now has a worthy replacement in the D810, and the operational improvements are already proving their worth to me.

As for the Sony A7R, its clunky shutter generating loads of shutter vibration has been a constant work destroyer that undermines its raison d^etre, a “stop ship” that wasn’t.

The Nikon D810 avoids all that with its electronic first curtain shutter option (Canon has had EFC for years). What a relief! With Zeiss lenses, particularly the APO-Distagon and the APO-Sonnar and the coming Otus 85/1.4, the system picture makes a ton of sense—much smaller rig than a Pentax 645Z along with far superior lens selection (to both Pentax and Sony). And no “you’re fired blurry pictures you idiot” Sony thing. The D810 is what I call a realistic workhorse platform. Classic Nikon sensibility.

Low ISO and stuff

To my eye the D810 images are free of the odd look that I noticed immediately with the A7R. Full 14-bit lossless compressed at ISO 64 looks to be my new game. The Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression never made sense to me as having any worth in a $2K plus camera (well, $1K or so now, no even medium term resale value in those small Sony bodies).

I’ll be showing low ISO quality at 31/64/100/200/400 soon.

Pentax 645z: Long Exposures

Get Pentax 645z and Pentax 645 lens at B&H Photo.

  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

I wanted to evaluate the Pentax 645Z image quality with long exposures for two reasons. First, medium format has often suffered with long exposures (most though not all cameras), and second, the 645Z establishes a reference for the Nikon D810.

I evaluate a 32 minute exposure with +0.4 stop push in my review of the Pentax 645Z:

645Z Long Exposures

Includes HD and UltraHD images in RGB and with the red/green/blue and gray gamma 2.2 channels and two large crops with same.

This test scene won’t last long as I have dibs on those blueberries.

  Dynamic range assessment, Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8, 32 minute exposure

Nikon D810: Live View Quality vs Nikon D800E/D800

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

I photographed the Nikon D810 and Nikon D800E rear LCDs on the same test target to evaluate Live View quality

Wow. In my review of the Nikon D810:

Nikon D810 vs D800E Live View quality

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