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60 day blog index

Gear for the Mountains

Over the past five years or so, some gear has proven its worth—the stuff I use every time, the stuff that just works great, stuff that lasts a long, long time and I would simply never go without, not even in summer (it can snow in summer!).

Here’s a quick summary.

  • Five Ten Men's Guide Tennie Leather Approach Shoe — the Stealth C4 rubber sticks to rocks like glue and does well even on wet slippery rocks. The lace design allows “shaping” the tightness from the forefoot on up (very tight for class 4 and harder climbing, a bit looser for normal wear). MUST HAVE SHOE. Not so good for sharp pointy rocks and not waterproof—get a boot with a tough and less flexible sole for that kind of thing.
  • Western Mountaineering Flash XR down jacket
  • North Face Recon daypack — this is how I carry all my gear in the field: camera and lenses (in pouches), food, water, clothing. A steal at about $90. Current models also can fit a 15" laptop into a padded interior slot.
  • North Face Recon (older model)
  • Lupine Piko headlamp. I don’t leave for any hike that might approach dusk without this headlamp.
  • Lupine Piko headlamp
  • For moderate temps, an Ibexwear hoody (preferably with front pocket; models vary each year too). This is what I wear from spring to fall in the mountains. The hood protects head and sides of face and neck from sun;x the front zip pocket (models that have it) is great for stowing a smaller lens, lens cap, etc.
  • Your author in the field—IbexWear Hoody (model unknown) with Ibexwear cap
    at Dana Glacier, Ansel Adams Wilderness
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  • Western Mountaineering Sequoia GWS Sleeping Bag — the amazing thing about this bag is that it is good even into relatively warm temps, because its ultra high quality down “tents”. Or in really cold conditions (shoes freeze to floor mats inside the car), zip it up and stay warm.

    This Western Mountaineering Sequoia GWS is one of the best investments I’ve ever made in camping comfort.
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Sony A7R II: the EVF (and why Canon and Nikon suck and are clueless about what is useful)

Get Sony A7R II mirrorless at B&H Photo.

See also Old Geezers Need an EVF: the Rear LCD and Presbyopia are a Bad Combination For Aging Eyes as well as Nikon D810 Rear LCD with Zacuto Loupe vs Sony-style EVF.

The optical viewfinder of a DSLR (OVF) has its uses for some types of shooting, but it is abysmal for manual focus with today’s focus screens and so its main purpose is for sports shooting and similar. In this regard, the DSLR still reigns supreme for some specialty areas (frame rate, black-out time, etc all matter too). But perhaps within a year or two, that too will no longer hold.

This post is not about Sony per se; it’s about making cameras less of a pain in the ass to use in practical terms, e.g., the value of EVF.

One thing that has really hit home is just how nice it is to have an EVF for composing and focusing: perfect composition, perfect focus, minimal glare, no holding the camera at arm’s length or with a bulky protuberance on the rear ass of the camera. That point was driven home when I did night shooting—OMG what a practical thing, simple as it is. Yes, I know that an optical viewfinder (OVF) is better in some cases, meaning about 1% of the time for me.

“Yes kids, when I was a young fart, cameras actually had optifocusfuck viewfinders that no one could focus so you shot ten frames to be sure one of them was not f***d”. Although you could shoot a wide range of shitty autofocus lenses to avoid the issue”.

OK, I could use (as I have for years) the Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS R with Zacuto EVF, but you know what? Carrying an extra thing around my neck sucks and one day the camera + loupe auto-tangle-twist feature will strangle me. It’s getting old. I’ve probably logged 500 miles of hiking that way in the past five years, up steep shit and such. I’m sick of that stuff that comes out the rear end of a bull. When are Canon and Nikon going to get a procreation clue that an EVF is useful? That it is ESSENTIAL. Make that hot shoe* take an optional 2.4 or 4 megapixel EVF, please. Or, like, actually innovate for the first time in 10 years or so? Or put another 14 megapixels into the DSLR coffin a la Canon 5DS R. Or, at least do it right and take the lumbering WTF dinosaur show to 100 megapixels or so.

As for medium format, it should ship withith a self-flagellation kit (leather to be sure)—the previously mythical Leica S Typ 007** is the same POS design with the same POS buttons and probably has the same POS focus and same POS camera lockups. No EVF there folks, and still 36MP***, for only $17K or so**** (down from $25K already!). So cool, you can take POS photos in Ho Chi Min City and blog about it.

* AKA 'SUT' (Stupud [sic] Useless Thing) on top of the camera that I never use.

** License to kill -- one’s neck and back, and the joy and pleasure of photography?

*** The whopping 36-megapixel Leica S Typ 007 is an impressive megapixel uggrade from the 36MP offered four years ago. Gordon Moore would be proud.

**** The good news is that for $17K, you do get one (1) battery and a battery charger bonus to go with the camera. And a nice box, which can help fill that empty space in the attic.

Christian B writes:

Your two most recent posts have fundamentally changed the way I will now think about the move to mirrorless.

Up to now, I had concluded that I wouldn’t be migrating to mirrorless because of the commitment (investment) that I’ve already made in Nikon compatible lenses (Zeiss plus Nikkor). However, the ability to use a lens adapter that will work for both types of lenses plus the benefits of EVF for manual focussing changes the tradeoffs big time.

Next year sometime after the successor to the D810 is introduced, I’ll decide whether to invest in a Sony or the new Nikon certain in the knowledge that my lenses will work with either system.

DIGLLOYD: see Reader Question: Sony A7R II with Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar and Sony A7R II: Night Shooting (Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro) in particular; both used the Novoflex adapter.

I hear sentiments along these lines a lot these days—ominous for CaNikon. BUT the beauty of it is that one can carry both a Nikon D810 and a Sony A7R II and use the same lenses. For a landscape shooter, this gets very interesting, because each camera can do things the other cannot: the D810 dynamic range is unbeatable, and the Sony is smaller and lighter and more easily handled in difficult terrain (EVF + image stabilization if no tripod).

Still, if (BIG 'if') Sony can get to the dynamic range and velvety smooth low noise of the Nikon D810 at ISO 64, then I would see little reason to use the D810 at all for the vast majority of my shooting. And once that happens, there is a cutoff point of “screw it, I’ll just settle on one approach and deal with a few shortcomings”. Such is the risk for CaNikon.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Which Zeiss Lens Doesn’t Get Much Love?

Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon (Nikon mount)

Get $200 off + 4% reward on the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon for Nikon or Canon (also works on Sony mirrorless with adapter).

Zeiss has something like fifteen lenses in the ZF.2/ZE lineup for DSLRS (including the Otus lensees). One lens just does not get much love is the 28mm f/2 Distagon.

Lab tests (ugghhh) won’t shine with the 28/2 Distagon, but Zeiss does not game the system as some vendors seem to do (for lab test distances). Rather the 28/2 Distagon is a classic 'artsy' lens that gets darn sharp with some stopping down.

Out in the real world, if you’re tired of the same-old CaNikon blah, try the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon for Nikon or Canon. It’s also a solid lens that will last practically forever. And with the ZF.2 version you can shoot it on Nikon or Canon or Leica M or mirrorless (with adapter). How’s that for versatility? Oh, and Leica’s best M efforts do not perform better (28/1.4 not yet tested as this was written, Leica is having severe issues producing them apparently).

On Sony mirrorless with adapter, I’ll take the Zeiss ZF.2/ZE rendering style over the Sony 28mm f/2 any day. The 28/2 has personality, it has field curvature it has some foibles and for the right expectations, you’ll love it—it does not disappoint in visual impact (ditto for its 25/2.8 sibling, perhaps even more so, particularly at close range).

More depth of field would have been better here (try getting three people to line up their eyes in a geometric plane!).

ƒ/4 @ 1/60 sec handheld, ISO 100
Nikon D800 + Zeiss ZF.2 28/2 Distagon

28mm is a wonderful focal length.

Nikon D3x + ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon @ f/4, 30 seconds, ISO 100 +3 stop push + Levels

Sony A7R II: Night Shooting (Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro)

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

Get the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO MACRO from Jenoptik (please mention diglloyd.com).

I wanted to assess night-time performance of the Sony A7R II, my concern being issues with image quality in the 4-30 second range.

I also wanted perfect neutrality for out of focus areas, so I elected to use the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO MACRO, because the Coastal 60/4 is the best corrected lens for color that exists (that one can buy), consisting mostly off fluorite elements. Leica APO lenses do not even remotely approach its level of color correction, and even Zeiss Otus takes 2nd place to the Coastal (in color correction).

As it turns out, the image quality is stunning*. And the focusing experience on the Sony A7R II is second to none. It has been such a pain in the ass on Nikon and Canon that it had been a long time since I shot it, but the A7R II is so much more enjoyable and fast to use it that it it’s going back into the “always take it” bag. Moreover it is relatively small and light, albeit f/4. My main gripe is limited focus throw.

These images are cross-posted in two of my publications, because the coverage is both lens and camera review (a rare exception to the rule). So choose the appropriate link if subscribed to DAP or Mirrorless only.

Added to my review of the Sony A7R II in Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony A7R II examples: Night Shots, Artificial Lighting with Coastal 60/4 UV-VIS-IR APO macro

Added to my review of the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO macro* in DAP:

Coastal 60/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro Night Shots, Artificial Lighting with (Sony A7R II)

The upshot of all of it is that (a) the Coastal 60/4 is simply amazing on the Sony A7R II, and (b) I found zero image quality issues with the Sony A7R II and came away very impressed.

* WARNING: do not view these images and then whine that I made you empty your bank account! This article is best left unread for those desiring something truly special, but being in a less than special financial situation.

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Dr S writes:

BTW your images with the Coastal Optics 60mm are stunning......but it should be with a price tag of $5K+!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DIGLLOYD: well, it costs $5750. But what do you expect for a lens that is mostly fluorite and produced in low volumes, mainly for museum work (spectral bands), forensics, scientific and similar uses. It is corrected for consistent focus (no change with wavelength) from 310 nm - 1100 nm (that’s nasty deep UV all the way well into the IR band—amazing range). The human eye sees from about 390 nm to 650nm and very weakly out to 850nm.

I’d sure like a 28mm version. :)

Huge Selection of Drones

Reader Question: Sony A7R II with Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar

Zeiss ZF.2 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar
(best 135mm available, by far)

See my review of the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar in Guide to Zeiss.

Peter G writes:

I'd love to see your thoughts on the Zeiss 135mm APO lens (and possibly other ZE/ZF.2 lenses) on the A7rII platform.

I am very close to purchasing the 135mm APO for my A7rII and would love to hear your input. Would you recommend the ZE or ZF.2 for use on an E-Mount camera?

DIGLLOYD: the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar should perform brilliantly—no reason it would not. The main concern is the weight; it’s a heavy lens and when extended by a lens adapter off the mount, that is quite a torque on the mount. So support that weight at all times by supporting the lens when handholding, and by using the Novoflex with ASTAT adapter when on a tripod (Metabones has an adapter too, but it cannot rotate vertical/portrait, or so I am told). Do not let that lens mount carry the torque on its own.

You'll have to manually open/close the aperture to focus and shoot, so this is not a fast operating lens for portraits and such. But I see that as a plus given the brain dead behavior of the A7R II when magnified: the Sony A7 series have no way to change exposure when in magnified view; the dials that ought to control shutter and aperture instead scroll the magnified image*. The Setting Effect = On/Off is useless because the camera stops down the lens if it’s bright, regardless of that setting, so it is flaky/unreliable. But with a manual aperture ring, all that disappears as a headache. Well, not the shutter speed, but it’s half a fix. So I would strongly recommend the ZF.2 version, which can be shot on Nikon (natively) or Canon (with adapter), and other platforms.

Get the Zeiss ZF.2 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar for $300 off and 4% reward at B&H Photo (effective price = $1749 = a raging bargain). Ditto for Zeiss ZE 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar for Canon (but no aperture ring on the ZE version).

Note: Zeiss lenses have attractive rebates at present.

* One of numerous reasons I have said that the Sony does not understand photography and that the design feels like a gadget, not a camera.

BUY Novoflex Adapter for Nikon Lens to Sony NEX Camera
BUY Novoflex ASTAT-NEX Tripod Collar for Sony NEX Lens Adapters

Dierk T writes:

If you don't have Nikon DSLR (I sold my D3 2 years ago) the better choice is the ZE version. I ordered the Otus 85mm and the Zeiss Macro-Planar 2/100 in ZE mount and use it on a Metabones adapter.

You have full control of the aperture and shooting portraits is great with open aperture as it has been with DSLR before.

Using a high speed lens with manual aperture for studio portraits with f/8 for example is just useless with a manual aperture!

DIGLLOYD: it is not this simple.

First, “don’t have” can change over time.

Second, the Nikon F-mount is by far the most versatile mount: F-mount lenses (Zeiss ZF.2) can be used on Canon, Leica M, all mirrorless variants, various specialty gear, etc. Without an aperture ring, a Canon-mount lens is restricted to only those systems which have electronic adapters, and some of those suck. So the choices are more narrow (and generally more expensive).

The issue for my use with manual focus is that the A7R II (and its siblings) stop down the lens when the light gets bright, even with Setting Effect = OFF (see also my recommended settings for the A7R II and recommended customization for the Sony A7R II). I have tested and confirmed this problematic behavior using native lenses which I wished to focus manually at full aperture—not possible in bright light due to this stop-down behavior.

The Metabones adapter does not have a vertical (portrait) option for tripod use.

It is not possible (and never will be) to use the ZE version on Nikon (or any other DSLR) because of its flange distance (2mm longer than Nikon). So if one ever shoots or might shoot Nikon, those ZE and EF lenses are useless. But the Nikon version can be used on Canon and any mirrorless and Leica M and so on, as noted above, and with relatively inexpensive mechanical adapters. And I *prefer* manual aperture control (as might video shooters) for many purposes.

But to Dierk T’s valid albeit restricted use case: *if* you are shooting handheld and *if* the light is moderate and *if* tripod use is not the goal (portrait orientation) and *if* you have no intention of ever shooting Nikon, then the ZE version with Metabones adapter is indeed a fine choice.

Finally, there is no technical reason that a Nikon adapter could not work electronically like the ZE version: the Zeiss ZF.2 lenses use an electronic aperture control after all (I never use the aperture ring on my Nikon DSLR). So I maintain that the ZF.2 version is the best long term investment, particularly if/when the adapter allows it to act with electronic aperture controlled by the camera (maybe this already exists).

ƒ/2.8 @ 1/40 sec handheld, ISO 800
Nikon D800E + Zeiss 135/2 APO-Sonnar
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Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro Aperture Series (Sony A7R II)

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

Get the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO MACRO from Jenoptik (please mention diglloyd.com).

I’ve added to my review of the Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO macro* in DAP using the Sony A7R II as a convenient platform** (the study could be done as well on Canon 5DS R or Nikon D810 and I may still take it up on the Canon 5DS R).

The Coastal 60/4 is the best corrected lens for color out there, consisting mostly off fluorite elements. Leica APO lenses do not even remotely approach its level of correction.

Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR APO Macro aperture series: Shimano Drive Train (Sony A7R II)

This is a technical study to assess lens performance, namely sharpness and color correction. But I found something very interesting with f/16.

* As per longstanding policy to keep publications cohesive, lens tests regardless of camera body used always go into their native-platform guides, e.g. Nikon DSLR lenses go into DAP. See Which Content is in WHICH PUBLICATION?.

** Dang I love that 12.5X EVF.... when are NiCanon going to get a clue that an optical viewfinder sucks for many purposes and users.

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Must-have expansion: OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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

Studying Old Lenses on the Sony A7R II: Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar and Voigtlander 180mm f/4 APO-Lanthar

I’ve added to my review of Voigtlander DSLR lenses* by studying two of the best on the Sony A7R II (as a convenient platform**, since could be done as well on Canon 5DS R). I’m pondering whether to expand that study to the Canon 5DS R (that depends on interest as these are specialty lenses).

The Voigtlander 180mm f/4 APO-Lanthar is one of the best corrected APO lenses around—not even Leica APO lenses approach its level of correction. The Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar also has a high level of color correction. So I thought it would be interesting to study these two and then a few other lenses.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar aperture series: Shimano Drive Train (Sony A7R II)

Voigtlander 180mm f/4 APO-Lanthar aperture series: Shimano Drive Train (Sony A7R II)

These are technical studies to assess lens performance, namely sharpness and color correction.

* As per longstanding policy to keep publications cohesive, lens tests regardless of camera body used always go into their native-platform guides, e.g. Nikon DSLR lenses go into DAP. See Which Content is in WHICH PUBLICATION?.

** Dang I love that 12.5X EVF.... when are NiCanon going to get a clue?

__METADATA__

20% off at LensRentals.com

LensRentals.com has 20% off on rentals of lenses, cameras, etc through labor day.

LensRentals is a terrific outfit renting just about any lens or camera (still or video).

Not sure if you want to buy a lens or camera? Rent it first!

Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

DEAL: 2013 Mac Pro + SPECIAL BUNDLE DISCOUNT (“sweet spot” for photography )

OWC has some new or nearly new (some sealed box) 2013 Mac Pro deals, 6 core. Savings are $400 to $580, depending on the model.

The 6-core is the “sweet spot” model for photographers that I’ve been recommending since the 2013 model debuted. See review of the 2013 Mac Pro.

+ Special additional discount for MPG readers

MPG has arranged a special reader discount of an additional $100 off over and above the other discounts when purchased this set of peripherals (every Mac Pro user looking for a robust system should have this setup):

If you need a 1TB or 2TB SSD, then also get the OWC Aura SSD for Mac Pro upgrade also.

To take advantage of the total package: (1) add the Mac Pro of choice to your shopping carty, then (2) add the above memory / Thunderbay / Dock bundle to your cart. The cart should look something like this:

Display: my workhorse display is the NEC PA302W wide gamut calibrated display.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sunset: Blue, Gold, Green

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

Sometimes it is those few minutes that count.

It’s tough to capture a scene like this—stop down more and shutter speeds drop, and then the movement blurs the water. Aperture f/4 worked out OK.

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Announced: Canon 35mm f/1.4L II

Get Canon 35mm f/1.4L II USM at B&H Photo.

The Canon 35mm f/1.4L was a good design, but showed serious limits on modern digital. Along comes the new “II” design with some intriguing new optical prowess.

At about $1799, the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM looks to take care to offer improved image quality, particularly color correction:

The EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM from Canon is an L-series prime wide-angle lens featuring Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics and a maximum aperture of f/1.4, making it ideal for shooting in low-light situations and for controlling depth of field.

Two aspherical elements and one Ultra Low Dispersion (UD) element combine with the BR element to control chromatic aberrations and color fringing for increased clarity and sharpness.

A Subwavelength Coating has also been applied to reduce ghosting and lens flare for greater color accuracy and contrast.

The Ultrasonic autofocus motor (USM) provides fast and near-silent AF operation. Full time manual focus override enables precise manual focus even when in AF mode.

  • Prime wide-angle lens is designed for full-frame Canon EOS DSLRs, and can also be used with APS-C-sized sensors where it will provide a 56mm equivalent focal length.
  • The Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics element refracts shorter wavelengths of the visible spectrum (blue light) in order to significantly reduce chromaticaberrations and color fringing.
  • A pair of aspherical elements and one UD element also help to control aberrations and distortions for sharper, clearer image quality.
  • Subwavelength Coating minimizes surface reflections, ghosting, and flare for increased contrast and color fidelity.
  • The Ultrasonic Motor offers fast and quiet autofocus performance and also permits full-time manual focus control by simply rotating the focusing ring.
  • A minimum focus distance of 11" with a 0.21x maximum magnification benefits working with close-up subjects.
  • Fluorine coatings on the front and rear surfaces help reduce fingerprints and smudging.
    Featuring the L-series designation, this lens is also dust and moisture-resistant for use in trying conditions.
  • A nine-blade aperture provides smooth and pleasing out-of-focus areas in selective focus images.
  • 14 elements in 11 groups
  • Minimum Focus Distance 11.02" (28 cm) at 0.21X = 1:4.7
  • Ultrasonic Autofocus Motor
  • Weather-Sealed Design
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm
  • 72mm filter size
  • Approx Weight 1.67 lb (760 g)

Blue spectrum optics

I’m baffled by “organic” optical materials. The term does not apply to glass, so maybe it really means organic—some new compound.

The violet/blue spectrum is verys hard to control (hence longitudinal chromatic aberration typical present as a violet/purple halo), so this is an interesting development.

MELVILLE, N.Y, August 27, 2015 – Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today announced that its parent company, Canon Inc., has developed Blue Spectrum Refractive (BR), a new optical element for use in camera lenses that corrects chromatic aberrations at an extremely high level to achieve superb imaging performance.

The new Canon-developed BR optical element offers characteristics that significantly refract blue light, which lies within the short-wavelength range, to achieve impressive levels of chromatic aberration correction for outstanding imaging performance. The BR optical element, positioned between two glass lens elements to create a BR lens, will make its debut in the new EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM wide-angle fixed-focal-length lens, which is scheduled to go on sale in October 2015.

Natural light, or white light, comprises a spectrum of wavelengths, or colors, each of which realizes a unique refractive index when passing through a lens. As all colors do not converge on the same point, this disparity causes chromatic aberrations, or color fringing, to occur in an image.

Canon develops optical elements by reviewing organic optical materials, beginning with the design of molecular structures, with the aim of achieving optimal chromatic aberration correction that suppresses color fringing. With the successful development of the BR optical element, which offers unique light-dispersion characteristics that significantly refract blue light—a wavelength that, until now, had proven particularly difficult to converge to a specific focal point—Canon is able to develop lenses that result in outstanding imaging performance by correcting chromatic aberrations at an exceptionally high level.

Press release

CANON U.S.A. INTRODUCES NEW CANON EF 35MM F/1.4L II USM LENS

New L-Series Lens is First to Feature Canon’s Proprietary Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics –
 That Achieves a Higher Level of Chromatic Aberration Correction For Superb Image Quality

 
MELVILLE, N.Y., August 27, 2015 – Canon U.S.A., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today introduced the new EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens for EOS system cameras – a wide-angle fixed-focal-length Canon EF lens that is the world’s first* to utilize the Company’s newly-developed and exclusive Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics (BR Optics). This new optical technology utilizes organic material newly developed by Canon to achieve a higher level of chromatic aberration correction than other existing technologies resulting in outstanding high-quality imaging performance.

“As the world leader in production of interchangeable lenses, having produced over 110 million EF lenses since 1987, it is with great excitement that we now introduce a revolutionary new technology to add to Canon’s unequaled optical heritage when it comes to chromatic aberration correction,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO of Canon U.S.A., Inc. “We continually strive to achieve the ideal lens performance, which has driven the development of Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics, found in the new EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens. This technology is yet another ‘first’ in optical design introduced by Canon to enhance the performance of our lenses for our customers.” 

Canon’s proprietary Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics (BR Optics) incorporate a new organic optical material with unique anomalous dispersion characteristics for use in camera lenses. The molecular design of BR Optics refracts blue light (short wavelength spectrum) to a greater degree than other existing optical technologies including UD glass, Super UD glass and Fluorite, to control color fringing as effectively as possible. When placed between convex and concave lens elements made from conventional optical glass materials, BR Optics help to produce sharp images with outstanding contrast and color fidelity by thoroughly reducing axial chromatic aberration.

In addition to BR Optics, the new lens incorporates two aspherical elements and one UD glass element in a 14 element, 11 group optical formula. The EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens also features Canon’s proprietary Sub-Wavelength Structure Coating (SWC), applied to the rear surface of the first and second aspheric lens elements to help combat flare and ghosting caused by light rays entering the lens at a large angle of incidence. The lens also offers best in class minimum focusing distance at 0.28m (approximately 11 inches) resulting in an increased maximum magnification of 0.21x - ideal for capturing close-up subjects. Autofocusing is swift and virtually silent due to a rear-focus optical system and Canon’s original Ring USM focusing motor. Full-time mechanical manual focusing is also available even when the lens is set to AF mode.  

The Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens features improved durability over its predecessor. As with all
L-series lenses, this new lens is highly resistant to dust and water ─ making it ideal for outdoor photography, even in harsh conditions. The high-grade design of the lens provides users with a substantial and luxurious feel, as well as optimal operability.  In addition, a fluorine coating on the front and rear lens surfaces helps to repel liquids and dust particles, and makes the lens easier to clean.

Pricing and Availability
The new Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens is compatible with 72mm filters and will be supplied with Lens Hood EW-77B and Lens Pouch LP1219. It is scheduled to be available in October 2015, for an estimated retail price of $1,799.00. For more information including specifications and an MTF chart, please visit http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/professional/products/lenses/ef_lens_lineup/lens_wide_pro.

About Canon U.S.A., Inc.    
Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer, business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions to the United States and to Latin America and the Caribbean (excluding Mexico) markets. With approximately $31 billion in global revenue, its parent company, Canon Inc. (NYSE:CAJ), ranks third overall in U.S. patents granted in 2014† and is one of Fortune Magazine's World's Most Admired Companies in 2015. Canon U.S.A. is committed to the highest level of customer satisfaction and loyalty, providing 100 percent U.S.-based consumer service and support for all of the products it distributes. Canon U.S.A. is dedicated to its Kyosei philosophy of social and environmental responsibility. In 2014, the Canon Americas Headquarters secured LEED® Gold certification, a recognition for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of high-performance green buildings. To keep apprised of the latest news from Canon U.S.A., sign up for the Company's RSS news feed by visiting www.usa.canon.com/rss and follow us on Twitter @CanonUSA. For media inquiries, please contact pr@cusa.canon.com.              
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Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Canon EOS M3: Coming to USA

The EOS M3 was previously available in Europe and Asia. Now it’s headed for the USA.

The EOS-M I tried back in July 2013 felt unbalanced and uncomfortable in my hands. I can’t say if the same holds true for this new model, but having to mount an EVF in the hot shoe has some pluses, but mainly makes it bulkier.

The EVF-DC1 Electronic Viewfinder works on the EOS M3, so there is an EVF option.

Not using an EVF is a guarantee for increased blur caused by holding the camera at arm’s length. And for me, I cannot see the rear LCD in dim light (unable to focus closely enough). So the camera is really about $920 with EVF in practical terms—still very reasonable but I’m thinking more along the lines of the Sony RX100 Mark IV with built-in EVF and flash, which I consider ideal for portraits in the like in less than optimal lighting (fill flash). And how would one use an EVF and a flash without making things even more complicated (if it is even possible). System cameras are nice, but so it all-in-one convenience.

What I hope is that this continuing effort at mirrorless by Canon (albeit APS-C and way behind the 'curve') sets the stage for a full frame solution, preferably one that takes EF lenses to start, then another that takes a new lens line. But with an EVF, built-in.

No 4K video, no in-body image stabilization, APS-C sensor—well the price is very reasonable, but how does it handle in the hands? TBD.

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 6 Image Processor
  • 3.0" 1,040k-Dot Touchscreen Tilting LCD
  • Full HD 1080p Video at 24/25/30 fps
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • Hybrid CMOS AF System with 49 AF Points
  • ISO 100-12800, Expandable to 25600
  • Hot Shoe and Built-In Flash
  • 3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
  • Full Manual Control

Links:

CANON U.S.A. WELCOMES THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE EOS FAMILY – THE EOS M3 DIGITAL camera

The Power and Versatility of an EOS Camera in a New Light

Melville, NY, August 27, 2015 - Canon U.S.A. Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today announced the EOS M3, a compact and stylish interchangeable lens digital camera created for enthusiast photographers who demand premium performance. Fusing Canon’s outstanding image quality and DSLR-levels of control in a small and lightweight camera body, the EOS M3 camera offers the ability to capture important moments in outstanding detail.   

At the heart of the EOS M3 camera is Canon’s latest and most advanced digital imaging technologies, including the company’s high-resolution 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor and its most advanced image processor, DIGIC 6, delivering premium quality stills and Full HD videos. Combined with super-fast AF performance, thanks to a new 49-point Hybrid CMOS AF III Autofocus System, this digital camera gives photographers the freedom to capture the beauty of movement.

Advanced photographers will find everything they need at their fingertips, with intuitive DSLR-like dials and control, as well as access to the entire lineup of more than 80 Canon EF, EF-S and EF-M interchangeable lenses*, all shrunk down into a compact, mirrorless body to take with them wherever they go. Advanced EOS camera technologies built into the EOS M3 camera include:

  • 24.2 Megapixel APS-C Canon CMOS Sensor, with a sensitivity range from ISO 100 to 12,800 (expandable to 25,600 in H mode) paired with Canon’s proprietary DIGIC 6 Image Processor to capture high-resolution photos and Full HD videos with brilliant color and stunning detail.
  • 49-Point Hybrid CMOS AF III Autofocus System for fast and accurate autofocusing of stills and videos, up to 6.1x faster than the original EOS M.
  • Front and Rear control dials for full manual operation and customizable functions as well as improved ease of use.
  • Intuitive Touch Screen 3.0-inch tilt-type (180 degrees up/45 degrees down) ClearView II LCD screen (approximately 1,040,000 dots), perfect for quick focusing and shooting, easy menu navigation, and simple viewing of images and videos.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi®** and NFC*** for streamlined photo sharing and wireless remote control.

“Canon U.S.A. is bringing to market a new member of the EOS family - the EOS M3 - to help satisfy the market’s demand for high-quality compact cameras with large image sensors and interchangeable lenses,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “It is the ideal camera for advanced amateurs and enthusiasts looking for a compact interchangeable lens camera option with genuine EOS camera system support, performance and compatibility, as well as professional photographers looking for a full-featured compact secondary camera.”

Photographers familiar with other Canon EOS cameras will note the EOS M3’s interface is similar to Canon’s current EOS DSLR cameras, making operation easier for existing users. The LCD panel’s tilting capability makes it easy to shoot from various angles while the capacitive touch screen allows intuitive image capture and playback with easy-to-understand information and real-time controls.

The EOS M3 camera offers photographers the flexibility to unleash their creativity through its compatibility with Canon EF-M lenses as well as a wide variety of Canon EF and EF-S lenses when used with the optional Mount Adapter EF-EOS M. Other compatible Canon accessories include EX-series Speedlite flash units, Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT, and Electronic Viewfinder EVF-DC1. Users will also have the ability to remotely capture and share images with Canon’s Camera Connect smartphone application**, using the EOS M3’s integrated Wi-Fi® and NFC connectivity.

Pricing and Availability
Canon’s EOS M3 Digital Camera is scheduled to be available in early October 2015 for an estimated retail price of $679.99.  An EOS M3 EF-M 18-55mm IS STM lens kit will be available in the customer’s choice of black or white for an estimated retail price of $799.99.  Additionally, a two lens kit featuring the EOS M3 digital camera with the EF-M 18-55mm IS STM lens and the EF-M 55-200mm IS STM lens will be available for an estimated retail price of $1,049.00.

The following Canon lenses will also be available in early October:

  • EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 IS STM wide-angle zoom lens for an estimated retail price of $399.99
  • EF-M 22mm f/2 STM compact prime lens in silver for an estimated retail price of $249.99
  • EF-M 55-200mm f/4.5-6.3 IS STM telephoto zoom lens for an estimated retail price of $349.99

For more information and the full list of product specifications, visit: http://www.usa.canon.com/eosm3   

Zeiss Loxia for Sony

Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Inside the Green Barn

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line which as this was written is 22% off on Sigma DP Merrill.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro and review of the Sigma dp0 Quattro.

The Sigma dp3 Quattro is the longest focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 50mm f/2.8 lens is equivalent to a 75mm f/4 on a full frame camera.

This scene evalutes bokeh, color across apertures, color aberrations and sharpness.

Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Inside the Green Barn

Entire-frame images at sizes up to full resolution from f/2.8 - f/8. Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

See also the Green Barn series.

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Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Green Barn

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line which as this was written is 22% off on Sigma DP Merrill.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro and review of the Sigma dp0 Quattro.

The Sigma dp3 Quattro is the longest focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 50mm f/2.8 lens is equivalent to a 75mm f/4 on a full frame camera.

This demanding target offers very fine details along with a flat (planar) target. It is useful for showing any/every weakness of the lens.

Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Green Barn

This is mainly an assessment of lens sharpness across the aperture range, but also discusses distortion and vignetting.

Entire-frame images at sizes up to full resolution from f/2.8 - f/8. Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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Sony A7R II: RawDigger Special Display Modes Show How the File is Encoded

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

I’ve previously written about the Sony ARW raw format, which uses 11+7 bit lossy compression (data is thrown away). This format works very well on 'average' images, but issues show up when the algorithmic premises are violated. Night shots or anything with very high edge contrast are problematic, and the gapping with low values can create posterization.

I want a raw file format from Sony a la Nikon: no data thrown away: a lossless-compressed format. The fine sensor in the Sony A7R II deserves no less.

The images below from RawDigger (more on that below) show the way the raw file is sampled and encoded by the Sony 11+7 bit raw format. It is visually suggestive of issues that might occur in special situations.

Toggle to see the variants.

RawDigger display of Sony 11+7 bit ARW raw file lossy compression sampling

RawDigger preferences

RawDigger is a powerful tool for raw file analysis. It contains special settings to show the base + delta encoding of the Sony 11+7 bit raw file, providing (at the least) a suggestive hint of what might befall image quality when less than ideal exposures or gamuts are encountered.

RawDigger special display mode preferences for Sony ARW raw files
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Dual Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Backlit Bristlecones + Bristlecone Log

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

The Sigma dp0 Quattro extends the focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 14mm f/4 lens is equivalent to a 21mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera.

These two demanding scenes are perfect ETTR exposures that max-out the dynamic range of the Sigma dp0 Quattro.

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Backlit Bristlecones

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Bristlecone Log, Frontlit

Sharpness is assesed in shadow areas in particular. Discussion of depth of field and appropriate aperture are included, along with a discussion of diffraction-mitigating sharpening.

Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings, RawDigger histogram, and Photoshop adjustments following conversion to 16-bit TIF. Includes color and black and white for both images. Entire-frame images at sizes up to full resolution from f/4 - 7.1 - 9.

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FOR SALE: Leica M Lenses, Canon gear

All lenses excellent to perfect glass (no scratches, dings, etc), lightly used, working perfectly, USA market lenses. Some have wear on lens hoods or similar, most pristine, all have perfect glass. In original packaging/box as shipped. Local buyers welcome to inspect firsthand.

Contact me. Buyer pays FedEx insured shipping of choice or picks up locally.

  • Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH $2700
  • Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH (black) $6900 SALE PENDING
  • Canon 35mm f/1.4L $700
  • Canon 50mm f/1.2L $910
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2L II $ 1500
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G $1300`
  • Nikon 28mm f/4 PC-Nikkor (cherry picked copy) $950
  • Nikon 45mm f/2.8D PC-E Micro Nikkor (original version) $1450
  • Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-Micro Nikkor (original version) $1100
  • Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-Micro Nikkor (original version) $1100
  • Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G ED $650
  • Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC-Nikkor $1100 (mint)
  • Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED (best tripod foot evern made by Nikon!) $850
  • Hartblei (Nikon F mount) 80mm f/2.8 Super Rotater (Zeiss medium format optics) $2500

  • Rodenstock 135mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S view camera lens $600
  • Rodenstock 180mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S view camera lens $600
  • Schneider 400mm f/5.6 APO-TELE-XENAR view camera lens $900
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DEAL: MacBook Pro

This is essentially a newer version of the model I have used for 20 months as a workhorse in the field (2013 MacBook Pro Retina). I still use it daily as a 2nd machine for some grunt work.

Very approachable price for a solid machine:

Apple 15.4" MacBook Pro Retina (Mid 2014) 2.5 GHz / 16GB / 512GB for ONLY $1749

There is also the 2.8 GHz / 16GB / 1TB model at $600 off.

Or you can go whole hog with the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina 2.8 GHz / 16GB / 1TB model, but the gains are mixed, as shown in my review of the 2015 MacBook Pro Retina.

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Sunset Over Mt Conness Eastern Drainage

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

The Sigma dp0 Quattro extends the focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 14mm f/4 lens is equivalent to a 21mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera.

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras, this demanding landscape scene maxes-out the dynamic range of the Sigma dp0 Quattro. It required some special handling to extract a good image.

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Sunset Over Mt Conness Eastern Drainage

Includes entire frame images of various sizes up to full resolution at f/4 - f/9. Shadow detail is of particular interest and discussion here.

Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings, RawDigger histogram, and Photoshop adjustments following conversion to 16-bit TIF.

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Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Sunlit Glacial Erratic

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

The Sigma dp0 Quattro extends the focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 14mm f/4 lens is equivalent to a 21mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera.

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Sunlit Glacial Erratic

Includes entire frame images of various sizes up to full resolution at f/4 through f/10 to assess the affects of diffraction and depth of field. Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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Service Matters: Leica Q, and a Sony Note

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

I’ve previously posted various reader comments on Sony service and support because in my view service and support comprise a good chunk of the product.

Here is one experience from a reader with Leica service. I’ll say up front that my experience with Leica service has been generally excellent, albeit painfully slow at times (up to 2 months). And not always fixing the issue (case in point my 50/2 APO).

John M writes:

I will make a special effort in what follows to present only facts and not my interpretation.

My Leica Q has experienced several freeze episodes where the screen would turn white with a colored noise, as in the attached snapshot. The camera also has the loose LCD screen defect that many people have reported.

On the Facebook "Leica Q User Group" there were reports of the loose LCD screen being repaired quickly under warranty. My contact at Leica USA wrote to me the following:

I have consulted the technician that would repair your camera and he states that he can have the camera serviced for you in the time that you have requested.

I handed the camera to the dealer on August 10th. The expected return time to the dealership was August 31 or before. I had attempted to purchase another Q to use in the interim but Roxana was unable to offer me this option due to lack of stock.'

August 25th I receive the following paperwork from the dealer:

TECHNICAL INQUIRY: LCD IS LOOSE & CLICKS WHEN PRESSED UPON; SCREEN GOES WHITE WITH COLORED NOISE INTERMITTENTLY; THERE IS SOME TYPE OF RESIDUE ON THE CAMERA & IN THE LENS HOOD

SIGNS OF IMPROPER HANDLING
FORWARDING TO GERMANY FOR REPAIR
PENDING ESTIMATE

I called my contact at Leica to ask about this. She stated that the technician will not return until the 27th and she could not explain the issues with residue or improper handling until speaking with him.

I called Dan Tamarkin, my dealer, who stated that it seemed as if something may have been spilled on the camera. I know that this is not the case, although there was an accumulation within the lens hood from normal walk-around use (in those scenarios I use a protective filter). Perhaps a dab of some kind of sticky sauce such as ketchup was on the hood from a close encounter with a child... I seem to have some memory of such an incident. Dan thought that information might end up being pertinent.

Dan also mentioned residue on the body. This was from tape that I had temporarily applied to the body. Dan was concerned that if I wanted the camera back without repairs being completed then we should let Leica know right away so that it would not be sent to Germany. I informed Dan that Leica had already told me (via phone) that "it probably won't go out until next week anyway." This is in the context of a customer who is so desperate for timely service that he is willing to buy a second camera.

Also on August 25th (i.e. a few minutes ago) I told Leica to ship the camera back to Dan, hopefully overnight, so that I can pick up my camera from Tamarkin and continue to use it. The elapsed week and a half is already enough opportunity cost for me, considering that no other Qs are available.

I will be left with a camera that has the same issues, a week and a half of lost time, and a new database record with Leica that my manufacturing issues may not be covered under warranty due to "improper handling."

I should add that my experience is more notable when compared with Sony:

1- I ruined the LCD of an RX1r and told Sony so, humbly asking for a repair estimate... they fixed it for free in less than two weeks
2- I bought a "US version" A7s that ended up being a grey-market import... called Sony and they said they would honor the warranty anyway

DIGLLOYD: it’s disturbing to see the user implicated in “mishandling” without the matter being more rigorously investigated (and discussed). Water damage is one thing (not the case here but speaking generally), but are we supposed to keep our cameras rigorously clean on the outside also?

As a side note, I almost never shoot with only one camera. At the least I have my primary camera and a second one, typically of another brand. For example, in my Mt Dana ascent, I carried both the Leica Q and the Ricoh GR. The Leica Q AF cross-coupling bug threw me for a loop. Though I was able to use manual focus, it impaired my usage of the camera and I was very glad to have the Ricoh GR along. Were I traveling to a special destination (Antarctica, Africa, Icelend, etc) there is no way that I would rely on just one camera body—too much invested in the trip itself to not have a backup. But as John M points out, availability was the issue, not cost.

Image presented dark, as this was how the eye perceived it.

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Sigma dp0 Quattro Color Rendition in Daylight

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

Color rendition can be tricky with Sigma sensors. In this series, the Sigma dp0 Quattro color rendition in mid-day sunlight is examined.

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro: Color Rendition in Daylight (Glacier Path)

Includes a tint-variation series to show the color balance characteristics. This article may be useful as a starting point for further evaluation by Sigma dp Quattro shooters.

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Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Rushing Creek at Dusk

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

The Sigma dp0 Quattro extends the focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 14mm f/4 lens is equivalent to a 21mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera.

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Rushing Creek at Dusk

Includes entire frame images of various sizes up to full resolution at f/4 through f/10 to assess the affects of diffraction and depth of field. Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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My favorite card: Lexar 2000X 64GB

Lexar Professional 64GB 2000X SDXC
with supplied card reader

B&H Photo has the Lexar 64GB SDXC card with card reader now for only $84.99. This rockin' fast card is now my favorite and the card in that card reader hits about 300MB/sec! Great for big downloads at the end of a long day and far faster than using a built-in SD slot on a MacBook Pro.

In the past I trended to using CompactFlash, but that standard has lagged in both speed and capacity. See also:

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

Lexar Professional 1000X 256GB SDXC Camera Storage Card

Lexar Professional 1066X 128GB Compact Flash Camera Storage Card

Even though it’s not the fastest card, I also like the Lexar 1000X 256GB SDXC for a simple reason: I can make a backup of all critical data and stick it into my wallet and not even notice it being there. Very cool. Get a 2-pack of Lexar 1000X 256GB cards for $275 (as this was written).

I hugely prefer high-capacity cards (64GB or larger) because in the field there is no need to erase them, thus they are an additional backup over and above downloading the day’s shoot (and backing that up too). Aside from cost, I’d be buying 128GB or larger cards for that reason, but for now 64GB serves me amply for most of my trips (not filling up).

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Lower Conness Lake, Late Day

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

The Sigma dp0 Quattro extends the focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 14mm f/4 lens is equivalent to a 21mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera.

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Creek Enters Lake

Includes entire frame images of various sizes up to full resolution at f 4, 5.6, 7.1, 8, 9, 10 to assess the affects of diffraction and depth of field.

Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Lower Conness Lake, Late Day

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo. I am a fan of the Sigma DP Merrill line. As this was written, get 22% off on the Sigma DP Merrill line.

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

The Sigma dp0 Quattro extends the focal length range of the Sigma dp Quattro line. Its 14mm f/4 lens is equivalent to a 21mm f/5.6 on a full frame camera.

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Lower Conness Lake, Late Day

Includes entire frame images of various sizes up to full resolution from f/4 through f/9 (equivalent to f/5.6 - f/13 on a full frame camera).

Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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Two Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Aperture Series: Yellow Flowers + Tiny Leaf on Wet Rocks (Sony A7R II)

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Get Sony A7R II and Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS:

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Aperture Series: Yellow Flowers

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Aperture Series: Tiny Leaf on Wet Rocks

Includes images from f/2.8 to f/11 or f/16 at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with large crops over the series also.

This is a fine performance with very nice results from the A7R II. The EFC shutter was esential to avoid vibration; the A7R would have been a disaster.

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DSLR and Mirrorless and Lenses: It’s a Buyer’s Market for a Pile of Products

Canon and Nikon and Pentax and Sony (Alpha) seem to be having trouble selling off their stocks of DSLRs, particularly APS-C models. Some models are up to 46% off and some have other goodies included.

DSLR deals

But it’s not just DSLRs. Fujifilm and Olympus have a lot of stock that is deeply discounted. My bet is that Sony is mopping up the competition with the A7 series. See also mirrorless camera discounts.

Lots of filter deals too, particularly on oddball sizes.

Oh, and the Leica 12% discount program that was May that was August is now extended until October.

Which Mac? Memory and Storage? Backup Questions?
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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Yellow Flowers by Waterfall (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

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

See also the same scene with the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon.

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

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Yellow Flowers by Waterfall

Includes images from f/1.8 to f/13 at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with many large crops also from f/1.8 - f/13.

As one might expect from the measured MTF chart, the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar shows world-class contrast matching the very best Leica M lens (whose MTF is not measured but computed).

In the field, I found that the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar made an outstanding combination. But I would like to see a 40mm f/2 added to that mix (the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon is manual focus).

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Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon Aperture Series: Yellow Flowers by Waterfall (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

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

See also the same scene with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar.

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

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Aperture Series: Creek Overview (Sony A7R) (Sony A7R II)

Includes images from f/2 to f/16 at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with many large crops also from f/2 - f/16.

Yes, you do want this lens for your Sony A7R II.

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Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon OSS ZA Aperture Series: Triangle-Shaped erratic on Dana Lake Moraine (Sony A7R II)

Get Sony A7R II and Sony 16-35mm FE B&H Photo.

This close range scene looks at bokeh, color aberrations and sharpness.

In my review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon OSS ZA:

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon OSS ZA Aperture Series: Triangle-Shaped erratic on Dana Lake Moraine (Sony A7R II)

Includes images from f/1.4 to f/11 at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with large crops from f/1.4 - f/11 also.

Triangle-Shaped erratic on Dana Lake Moraine
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Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar Aperture Series: Dana Lake, Wide View (Sony A7R II)

Get Sony A7R II and Sony 16-35mm FE B&H Photo.

This near-to-far scene was chosen to assess performance at 16mm with the Sony 16-35mm f/4 on the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II for specific reasons:

  • Very near (right under the camera) to infinity focus.
  • Fine detail at distance at left and right sides and in all foreground and far distance areas.
  • Lighting of good directionality for excellent contrast.

In my review of the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar:

Aperture Series @ 16mm: Dana Lake, Wide View (Sony A7R II)

Includes images from f/4 to f/11 at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with large crops from f/4 - f/11 also. The behavioral results should be quite useful to any landscape shooter.

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Sony In-Body-Image-Stabilization (IBIS) aka SteadyShot: Is There a Downside?

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

I have this nagging feeling, based on field images, that IBIS (SteadyShot) might damage image sharpness, particular when the user is a bit wobbly in odd vectors (me, standing on a 30° slope with the wind blowing). I say this based on a few hundred images I took handheld (see Dana Glacier hike) which for some images have these weird blur characteristics that I am simply baffled by and unable to explain. And these blurs are not typical motion blur; they are varying asymmetric blurs and even look like rotational blur at times. Sometimes not there, sometimes subtle, but my eye has been trained by a few hundred K digital images over years. So I pay attention to pattern recognition by my noggin.

Then too is this idea: with IBIS = off, what guarantees plane parallelism of the sensor? Of course there has to be a lockdown mechanism, but just how accurate and precise is it? The “5 axis” IBIS feature moves the sensor freely, so how exactly is the sensor locked down to plane parallelism to within a micron or so? Perhaps it has more variance might be hoped? I ask this question in part because of the Sony 35mm f/1.4 Distagon skew.

Another question: if a lens is adapted (via lens adapter) to the A7R II (“dumb” adapter), what are the behavioral differences with that non-native lens versus a native (non-OSS) lens with IBIS, and a native lens with IBIS disabled?

I don’t have the answers for these questions, at least not yet. I’m hoping that Sony can fill me in what the behaviors ought to be.

The SteadyShot feature is described by Sony as follows:

The new flagship a7R II model is equipped with an innovative 5-axis image stabilization system that has been fine-tuned to support its high-resolution shooting capacity.

Similar to the system launched on the acclaimed a7 II model, this advanced form of image stabilization corrects camera shake along five axes during shooting, including angular shake (pitch and yaw) that tends to occur with a telephoto lens, shift shake (X and Y axes) which becomes noticeable as magnification increases, and rotational shake (roll) that often affects video recording. This camera shake compensation system is equivalent to shooting at a shutter speed approximately 4.5 steps faster.

Additionally, the 5-axis stabilization works cooperatively with Sony alpha lenses with optical SteadyShot™ (OSS) to provide maximum stabilization and clarity, while also performing admirably via a compatible mount adapter with Sony alpha A-mount lenses without on-board stabilization. Effects of the stabilization can be previewed via live-view on the LCD or OLED viewfinder of the camera.

Thorsten K writes:

You worry about sensor to mount parallelism with IBIS off.

No idea here, but a follow up question: I guess with IBIS being ON, the sensor would not be parallel by design, then? Since IBIS may tilt the sensor to counter-act the user moving the camera? Then for landscapes, IQ would be degraded by design when using IBIS (focal plane would be unpredictable). Or am I missing something?

DIGLLOYD: see notes from Matt G below, which are correct: the sensor is always plane-parallel to the lens flange. However, pitch and yaw are compensated for by moving the sensor in a way that is supposed to optimize the image, and this approximation can cause errors in some areas of the image while improving others. This I take as explaining the confusing sharpness results with the 25mm f/2 Distagon in the Dana Glacier examples. It also explains why my Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon tripod-based shots with IBIS off look terrific—no funny business going on with the sensor planarity since no sensor movement.

As per my contact at Sony:

Moving the imager to create pitch/yaw compensation would take the sensor out of perpendicular alignment with the lens. Pitch and Yaw compensation are approximated by X/Y translation – I believe the same as other 5-axis sensor shift systems.

The only system of which I’m aware that can apply mechanical pitch and yaw compensation are those in which the lens and sensor move together as a locked system – Sony uses this in Balanced Optical Steadyshot, included in some fixed-lens camcorders.

Matt G writes:

You ask what guarantees plane parallelism of the sensor with IBIS off. The answer is that it is guaranteed mechanically - the sensor only ever moves in one plane, regardless of the motion being compensated for. This is a source of much confusion since camera marketing materials often suggest the opposite (the Olympus 5-axis system is exactly the same as the Sony one in this regard, despite Olympus publishing diagrams that appear to show the sensor tilting!)

The facts are that tilting the sensor would not successfully compensate for pitch or yaw, and would only serve to throw large parts of the image out of focus. You would have to tilt the lens and sensor together for this to work, but this would require lenses capable of tilting, and huge motors to make it work!

Mathematically speaking, pitch and yaw movements give rise to a projective transformation of the image (the sort of transform you get in Photoshop when using the "free transform" tool and moving the corners of the image). This transformation can be approximated by translation (moving the image up/down left/right), but the approximation is only valid for one location on the image plane, and the error increases with distance from this point.

You can demonstrate the problem easily using a tilt-shift lens. Set the camera up on a tripod with the lens unshifted, lining the centre focus point up with a strong image detail. Take a photo. Pan the camera on the tripod slightly, inducing a yaw movement. Next shift the lens so that the same image detail is again exactly under the central focus point. Take another photo. When you switch between the images the centre will look roughly the same, but the corners will appear to change shape.

This effect is what is causing the asymmetric blurs you are experiencing.

The problem is not with the Sony implementation, IBIS is not a substitute for preventing camera motion in the first place, and I would not use it for landscapes or still life images where the corners of the image will be in focus.

DIGLLOYD: well, I guess I don’t understand what “5 axis” means then. I can understand translation (left/right, up/down) and rotation, but that’s 2 directions plus angular for a total of three. But if pitch and yaw are compensated for by those movements by moving the sensor to some “intersection point”, then it seems that the cure is worse than the disease and I’d like a setting to disable pitch and yaw correction. I’d rather have traditional motion blur than some unpredictable asymmetric weirdness.

Matt G follows on to the above:

In response to your updated blog post, disabling pitch/yaw correction would be fairly pointless. Around 90% of camera shake (depending on focal length) is due to pitch and yaw. You might as well disable the entire system (which is something I would recommend).

Camera translation (up/down, left/right movement) has very little impact on the image (in general). If you put a telephoto lens on a tripod look at a distant subject and then drop the centre column by 1cm, the image in the viewfinder will hardly change at all. Pan the camera slightly and there will be a huge shift in the image. Translation only has a noticeable effect at high magnifications.

The second point in favour of pitch and yaw correction is that the longer the focal length, the closer the real projective transformation gets to a affine transformation that is readily approximated by translating and rotating the image. A simple way to visualise this is to again mount a telephoto lens and pan the camera left and right and the image seems to simply shift left and right. Now mount an ultrawide lens and do the same, the corners appear to stretch and warp in a complex way.

This is true of both optical and sensor-shift stabilisation systems, and explains why image stablilisation first appeared in telephoto lenses and is rare in wides.

IBIS ought to work fine with no artifacts for normal to long lenses (for small movements, otherwise you run out of sensor travel and image circle). But for something like the 25mm Batis I would only use it for shallow DOF shots where the corners are out of focus.

DIGLLOYD: I’m going to disable IBIS for wides in unstable situations or a lot of near/far detail, but use it for f/2 and f/2.8 for dusk shooting or similar. My tests show that at 1/20 sec, IBIS helps. I am dubious about 1/60 on up, where I think I can do better without it.

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Sony A7R II: Evaluating SteadyShot (IBIS) Handheld at 1/20 Second at 25mm

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See also Sony A7R II: Assessing IBIS at 280mm: Is Handheld Shooting at 42 Megapixels at 1/125 Second Viable?.

A major selling point for some uses is In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) aka Sony SteadyShot, because image stabilization is brought to every lens mounted on the camera. CaNikon cannot do such a wondrous thing.

I wished to know for my handheld shooting what my odds are with IBIS. And so I evaluated Sony Steady Shot (In Body Image Stabilization aka IBIS) at 1/20 sec handheld using the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon.

IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) Handheld at 25mm

I used my best technique as described in How to Hold a Camera Steady (Mass Coupling). Tested in 4 variations all handheld, 10 shots each (40 shots total, all shown):

  • IBIS enabled, single shot exposure.
  • IBIS disabled, single shot exposure.
  • IBIS enabled, 2 second self timer.
  • IBIS disabled, 2 second self timer.

The points of interest are:

  • Is 1/20 second realistic for a 25mm lens?
  • How much does IBIS help, and is it consistent?
  • Does IBIS function with the 2-second self timer?
  • Does use of the 2-second self timer help in obtaining sharp shots? (by avoiding the disturbance of pressing the shutter release).
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OWC has the the OWC Thunderbay 4 with free spare 4TB HDD in tray on special this weekend for $1149 (about $350 off).

It’s the RAID-5 edition with an extra (cold spare) drive. That’s five 4TB hard drives total. Use the cold spare as a backup in the meantime—no need to let it sit in drawer (hint: buy a 2nd empty Thunderbay).

RAID-5 is fault-tolerant meaning it can survive the failure of one of the drives: swap it for the spare and keep working.

You can run the unit as a single 12TB RAID-5 volume, or (my preferred approach) partition it into three separate 4TB RAID-5 volumes. Or not use RAID at all, and use the drives as single non-RAID drives.

See the MPG review of the OWC Thunderbay 4. I have FIVE of these units—favorite storage device ever.

UPDATE: OWC also has the 5.0TB Toshiba drives with 3 year warranty for $163.99. Perfect for the Thunderbay, and OWC’s 90-day DOA replacement guarantee* beats anyone out there that I know of.

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Sony A7R II: Conclusions

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While it is not the end of my review coverage, I’ve added a conclusions page to my in-depth review of the Sony A7R II as I now consider it a settled matter as to its total merits. I will say simply that its merits far outweigh its faults for most shooters.

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Sony A7R II: Focus Accuracy Better than Any DSLR I’ve Ever Used

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See my in-depth review of the Sony A7R II.

Something strange happened on my recent trip: I did not see any mis-focused images from the Sony A7R II. I mean, none.

Try doing that with a Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS R with an autofocus lens—I have and never come close, as past autofocus assessments show. And it’s hopeless to focus a lens manually using the optical viewfinder in a DSLR—the focusing screen is designed for autofocus and can’t show more than about f/2.8 - f/4 equivalent—massive slop—and it is a different optical path almost never the same distance as the sensor (inherent error even with perfect eyes). So one has to resort to magnified Live View using a loupe—clumsy at best compared to an EVF, though it’s perfectly reasonable on a tripod. The omission of an EVF option with the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R is so at odds with usage realities that it begs credulity.

Some advances really matter: those that eliminate or greatly mitigate longstanding technical challenges that reduce the hit rate.

Add the electronic first curtain shutter for zero vibration: focus nailed every time, plus no mirror slap, all handheld. And image stabilization to boot no matter which lens is used (and just about any full-frame lens of any brand can be used, with adapter).

The DSLR is looking like not just a dinosaur, but a lame dinosaur, given these advances. How long will CaNikon watch Sony advance without responding? The optical viewfinder is great for some things, but I say get rid of it—it is a huge liability for most things. Mirrorless is now the leading technology on the market, solving real issues for real photography.

The Sony A7R II makes outstanding images with low noise and excellent dynamic range at 42 megapixels that are always in focus. Notwithstanding some file quality limitations and disappointing 12-bit behavior in certain situations, nothing else can touch this track record of ultra-high hit rate. And it does so in a relatively compact form factor: when I shot the Dana Glacier examples, it was the ideal camera; I could not take a tripod climbing class 4 and class 5.0A, so the Nikon D810 was really a non-starter there (at least without more planning and difficulty). And so I would say this: I think it is a mistake to 'diss' the Sony A7R for its faults, which most of the time either have a workaround (very careful exposure) and/or are unusual or rare. Trade that off against focus errors of all kinds, size and weight, etc. It’s a fair trade. When and if Sony can fix the few image quality issues, and perhaps add a bit more dynamic range with a Nikon D810 style ISO 64, it’s going to be very hard to argue in favor of any DSLR for 99% of shooters, including my workhorse Nikon D810.

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Sony A7R II: Examples with Zeiss Batis: Dana Lake, Dana Glacier Climb

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These images are a hiking documentary series of the upper Dana Glacier Canyon and Dana Glacier, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness abutting Yosemite National Park. It is a strenuous hike to get to the glacier over multiple extended boulder fields involving class 4 climbing and a brief section of class 5.0a and an 'interesting' down-climb of the latter.

Thus the A7R II and two Zeiss Batis lenses were employed in an ideal real-world scenario that dovetails with the strongest core features of the A7R II: relatively small and lightweight lenses, full frame sensor, image stabilization, the convenience of an EVF. Shot without a tripod, as climbing in such conditions is a risk with a tripod.

Includes ACR conversion settings analysis for each image, notes on the scenery, and images up to 24 megapixels, some with crops.

These examples offer a wide range of images and conversion options showing the excellent image quality of the Sony A7R II under most circumstances, and are an excellent juxtaposition against difficult scenes that are not the rule.

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Joe R writes:

Stunningly beautiful images! Period. Full Stop.

I especially liked the inclusion of BWs having spent many nights in the darkroom with my Pentax 6.x7 Tri-X Professional negatives working on the Zone System.

DIGLLOYD: I was so excited to get up there—physically strenuous but what a raw wild place. I hope it comes through in the images. My only regret is not spending time till dusk there, because it is a long descent with big boulder fields and such. Sometime I’ll camp there and enjoy sunrise and sunset, perhaps in late October.

As for B&W, I’m decent at conversions, but the bottom line is that a high-res RGB image blows away any monochrome technology, because it allows mapping colors to grayscale relationships in an infinite number of ways—post shot. It is why I no longer have any desire for a monochrome camera (unless it were, say, 70 megapixels on up with an ISO 64 setting and 14+ bit dynamic range).

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Sony A7R II: Where is Pixel Shift?

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Pixel shift is a technology available on the Olympus E-M5 Mark II and on the Pentax K3-II as of today. It moves the sensor in single pixel increments in multiple directions, building up a composite image (in raw format or JPEG). The multiple samples (exposures) increase total exposure time, but reduce noise.

Pixel shift avoids / mitigates the RGGB Bayer matrix limitations, thus providing true color at each pixel and lower noise, and with enough shifts, increased spatial resolution as well. It requires a non-moving subject and camera and can produce ugly artifacts if those conditions are not met.

Though pixel shift is not a panacea and is tripod-only (at present at least), it is an awesome feature that is oddly lacking in the Sony A7R II, which has its IBIS feature (In Body Image Stabilization).

Conspicuously missing from the Sony A7R II feature set is Olympus-style pixel shift, which in my testing can deliver roughly a 32-megapixel image from a 16-megapixel sensor. On the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II sensor, a similar technology could in theory deliver ~80 megapixels (or 42 without Bayer artifacts), although a lens of Zeiss Otus grade will be mandatory.

It’s a pity that Sony is not offering pixel shift. Perhaps it will appear in a firmware update, but that seems dubious, since it is a terrific feature to brag about at a product release (and would be a first for a full frame camera). It might also be a problem to implement with the current Sony 11+7 bit raw file format; it demands a true 14-bit format, if only not to waste the huge bump up in noise reduction in dark tones.

If Sony does not implement pixel shift, then the most likely candidate is the coming Pentax full-frame camera, which utilizes the Sony 42-megapixel sensor (pixel shift already exists in the Pentax K3-II). And then one wonders about Nikon, which at the least ought to offer a Nikon D820 with the new 42MP Sony sensor, though we can hope for more.

Sony A7R II, Sony Lenses: Reader Comments

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Comments on recent coverage of my expanding review of the Sony A7R II and related lenses.

Michael writes:

Thank you for being the only one out there for calling it like you see it with the Sony A7RII and the Sony lenses. I am kind of amazed that so many people are not really criticizing this camera for it’s faults and are only lavishing praise upon it. I am sure it is fun to shoot with but there are some very serious issues that you have pointed out.

As a Nikon shooter for many years and a full time pro I have been on the fence about the new Sony offerings and have tested several of the A series cameras. As a sports photographer, I have yet to see one of the A7 series work for my needs, but reading about the decentering issues with Sony lenses you and others have reported on as well as the hampered raw file issues has really curbed a lot of my enthusiasm for these cameras - at least in terms of work.

I want to love them as they have cutting edge features but for my work I need a camera to be reliable all the time every time. Thanks again.

DIGLLOYD: the Sony A7R II body itself has been 100% reliable in operational terms, which is more than I can say for Leica M or Leica S. So some credit is due there.

The only valid metric I can see for lens quality is a sampling on the open market of a statistically valid number of lenses. This I cannot afford in time or money. So I report on what I find, as I figure my odds are the same as those of any other buyer.

There is always some quality variance and I make no claim to the quality statistics. I can only report what I find with what I receive, taking care to rule out the camera body as well as may be. And so far, the 35/1.4 and 90/2.8 have not delivered for me (two samples each). I do have a good 55/1.8 however, as proven on the very demanding mosaic target. I should also note that I do not know if Sony SteadyShot (IBIS) could cause problems on the A7R II: what guarantees plane-parallelism to the sensor, when IBIS is on or off? Could IBIS itself be an issue? I don’t know.

Now in general—

My full camera reviews take time, and I report what I find as I go along. My goal is a balanced view with all the good and bad by the time I finish it. I am disappointed but realistic about the way readers flog one negative or blog post as a single issue that decides all—as if that’s all I had to say about it. Much of what I write is twisted and distorted with dropped context and/or false assumptions (especially by non subscribers who haven’t even read my work). Well, that’s life. Even when I provide balance against a negative, this is misinterpreted. I’m going to keep reporting the way I do—agnostic on brand, merciless to flaws, praising the best, lamenting the mediocre, objective as I can be. Which is to say I am perceived as a hater or fanboy of product X (both wrong), depending on which one is owned by the fan. And to say that I have hit the mark squarely.

Look, here’s how it goes:

Chocolate ice cream is tasty” = “diglloyd hates vanilla and strawberry or chocolate with almonds”.

I have an unbeatable ally: objective reality. A million people claiming the world is flat does not make it so (witness the Sony A7R shutter vibration fiasco). When I make a mistake or an error, I handle that the only way possible: I fix it because there is no other option, not in my world. I can only do my best, which is a much as anyone can do. High States.

I own nearly all these systems and the only thing I wish to see is continual improvement in all of them. That cannot happen by glossing over weak points.

P.S. the above will no doubt be misinterpreted as to motive!

P.P.S: I like the Sony A7R II a lot for its best features, I wish Nikon would make a D820 with the A7R II sensor and EVF, and I wish Ricoh would make a full-frame 42MP Ricoh GR follow-on. And so on.

Sony A7R II: General Commentary

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This is a general commentary speaking to the body of my expanding review of the Sony A7R II. But the comments here reference in particular Sony A7R II: Posterization with a Near Optimal Exposure in Daylight (Portrait at Dana Lake).

The A7 system has some very fine attributes (sure is nice to carry and I love having an EVF and IBIS). Operational controls and haptics need improvement (I've commented upon the issues in my review), but those things might not concern many users.

When light or color or dynamic range is unusual, the file quality can become an issue, and this shrinks the operational envelope. The blue lake is not some test scene; it is a real scene of rare and special beauty (I’ve never seen its equal in Yosemite). Experiencing that incredible range of blue (continuously variable too!) in person is stunning. And so I wish to record the special things I see without worrying that the camera will fail to record it properly. So I am adamant that the 11+7 bit file format needs a Nikon-grade 14-bit sibling and that the RGB histogram needs work.

Were I to reshoot, I’d bracket and I would not polarize, but in this case I had wanted sheen off the face, which is why I polarized it. I knew the blue was intense and had I stopped to consider, I’d have known that this could be problematic for the red channel. But I was focused on a series of pictures (many more besides that one).

But here’s one rub: the Sony A7R II offers a coarse histogram unsuitable for discerning issues in small areas of the frame, and it offers no RGB histogram just for the zoomed-in area, so even after taking the shot it’s not possible to be certain of the exposure for critical areas, like the face or water. This is a flaw as one can see just by using a Nikon D810 which does it right. I have also observed misleading errors in the Sony RGB histogram when comparing to the actual raw data in RawDigger. Such things are a handicap for field use, but Sony could fix it. The only quick and practical solution at present is bracketing such scenes, which is not all that viable for facial expressions. Oh, and continuous shooting drops to 12-bit mode so how does one bracket quickly, except frame by frame? (though maybe bracketing is not continuous mode and so is not affected, not sure). The A7R II has various file quality land mines of this sort, which in my view undermines its merit as a professional tool. And yet is is very, very capable in ways that make it a better tool under some circumstances.

Sony could issue a firmware update for a lossless-compressed 14-bit file format as well as fixing some problematic behaviors, like dropping to 12-bit mode with Bulb mode, and long exposure noise reduction mode making things worse in some cases. And Sony could improve the RGB histogram behavior and quality. But the issues may run deeper, e.g., excessive processing of the raw data aka “cooking”. And the electronics might not be capable of quality sufficient for a true 14-bit format. Still, a high-grade file format would be a good start that would make the Sony system more credible as a professional tool (albeit of no interest to many casual or routine shooters, many of whom are probably viewing the blue lake on a display capable of little more than sRGB, if that and/or (hopeless) iOS which doesn’t even support color profiles).

As I've written before, Sony cameras feel like camera imitations, not the real thing (the Leica Q feels like the real thing, as does the Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS R). The Sony camera gestalt seemed to be deeply cultural and it may take a long time, if ever, to overcome some design patterns*. Which gives NiCanon some breathing room, in theory. But Sony has made some serious progress with the A7R II vs the A7R, and I applaud those advances—keep ’em coming. In particular, the Sony A7R shutter vibration that did not exist (my findings were repudiated by Sony) is now fixed in the A7R II (how does one fix a non-problem?)—to my lasting relief I can shoot without having a great deal of work ruined, as was the case with the A7R.

I like the A7R II and I will be buying one. Now I just wish for Sony to improve it via firmware updates. If Sony wants to listen, they can ask me for my wish list*, and that goes for any vendor out there. But no vendor ever asks. Maybe Sony can be the first? My goal for all brands is to see the offerings improved, which is why I spell out everything I find, as I have for years.

* At least eliminate the Applications menu which just annoys by occupying space.

John W writes:

These points may serve as evidence that this next wish isn’t possible in the A7R II:
'Sony could issue a firmware update for a lossless-compressed 14-bit file format'

It’s starting to smell like Sony is/was compensating for bandwidth deficiencies in the A7R II’s implementation. Having done signal-processing type firmware work myself, tricks like dropping to 12-bit mode and the lossy RAW format, all sound like “cutting corners by putting in a bunch more work” that resource constrained firmware systems sometimes have to do.

Certainly the 11+7 bit format is a legacy inheritance now, which might excuse its continued presence if you squint just right. But dropping to 12-bit mode is a curious limitation, which I doubt is capricious.

DIGLLOYD: Agreed. The drop to 12-bit mode could indicate a quality issue within the sensor/electronics pipeline. Sony claims 14-bit files and 14-bit pipeline, which offers hope. But the lossy format can hide some issues. However, 14-bit lossless-compressed file format might also provide a useful noise dithering in dark tones.

In general, the next quality front is surely dynamic range. A camera that delivers a robust 15 bit dynamic range would be highly desirable (though few if any lenses can deliver that). And technology for bit counters on a pixel could make arbitrary dynamic range is possible (4 bit or 8 bit or whatever bits for overflow on each pixel).

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Sony A7R II: Examples with Zeiss Batis: Dana Lake, Dana Glacier Climb

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

These images are a hiking documentary series of the upper Dana Glacier Canyon and Dana Glacier, in the Ansel Adams Wilderness abutting Yosemite National Park. It is a strenuous hike to get to the glacier over multiple extended boulder fields involving class 4 climbing and a brief section of class 5.0a and an 'interesting' down-climb of the latter.

Thus the A7R II and two Zeiss Batis lenses were employed in an ideal real-world scenario that dovetails with the strongest core features of the A7R II: relatively small and lightweight lenses, full frame sensor, image stabilization, the convenience of an EVF. Shot without a tripod, as climbing in such conditions is a risk with a tripod.

Includes ACR conversion settings analysis for each image, notes on the scenery, and images up to 24 megapixels, some with crops also.

These examples give a good sense of the behavior of the Sony A7R II under most circumstances, and are an excellent set against extreme cases that are not the rule.

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Sony A7R II: Posterization with a Near Optimal Exposure in Daylight (Portrait at Dana Lake)

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In my review of the Sony A7R II I show an image that leaves me flabbergasted.

Sony A7R II: Posterization in Broad Daylight (Portrait at Dana Lake)

Includes RawDigger analysis, image up to 24 megapixels and crops.

I was stunned to see this image (not in a good way). All my assumptions have been that at ISO 100 using a near optimal exposure, image degradation should not be an issue. Uh oh. Judge for yourself (and not using the small size image here).

Update: I’ve added another RawDigger screen shot showing that this does not seem to be some kind of 12-bit mode bug due to LENR (image taken at 1/400 sec). A link to complete EXIF info also added.

Update 2: I’ve added another RawDigger histogram for a large section of the lake, showing that there are only about 43 unique values in a very large section of the lake (only about 33 since 10 or so are hardly there, and no values in the green and blue channels). With that few distinct values, there can be no even smooth transitions in dark areas. I discuss several ways in which this issue could be avoided. One can fairly say that this is an extreme case, and indeed that intense blue seems unreal, even in person. Thus I do not consider this image indicative of a general issue with the Sony A7R II, rather it just shows that the shooting envelope is restricted in some special cases like this. And that is the point: surprises like this can trap even experienced shooters. Sony advertises a 14-bit format, but in my book the 11+7 bit lossy-compressed format does not qualify as real 14 bit like does the Nikon offering.

Update 3: the behavior is confirmed by Alex Tutubalin of RawDigger. I’ve verified also using Iridient Developer. Reader Tim A confirms with CaptureOne Pro. So Adobe Camera Raw is not at issue.

See also Sony A7R II: Assessing Dynamic Range on a Scene that Exceeds the Camera’s Ability, which shows low-level posterization in the shadows.

It’s important to maintain context: this is one example of an image quality issue. This very same hike I made many images whose quality is outstanding. That is what most shooters will find most of the time— engaging and highly satisfactory imagery. It is my intent to present a series of excellent images from this very same hike, as I always seek to show the full range of performance, from the disappointing to the excellent.

Image presented in the AdobeRGB color space. Using the ultra wide gamut NEC PA302W (still my display of choice), a comparison was made between the ProPhotoRGB 16-bit image and the AdobeRGB JPG. The two could not be visually distinguished.

To view properly, a high quality wide gamut display is needed and a web browser that supports color spaces is mandatory (most do, but not Apple iOS). Users with restricted gamut displays (laptops, any Apple-brand display, most displays in general) will NOT see this image properly, and it will clip the dark blues even more.

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Reader comments

I think these comments (unsolicited as always) are best read this way: there is huge enthusiasm for an ideal compact full frame mirrorless camera. When a new model falls short in a a key area (even if a highly demanding scenario), intense disappointment follows. These emails were not counterbalanced by an opposing sentiment, even over a week’s time and that is even more interesting to me than what is expressed here. And be it noted that I like the A7R II and while I find quality issue disappointing, the A7R II is highly capable.

There is clearly anger and offense taken by some people out there at these comments. Why? I know the comments are incendiary, but on what basis? Shall such sentiments be stifled because it might offend sensibilities? Shall discussion be reduced to the pathetic and deplorable state of today’s so-called higher education by 'trigger warnings' or simply having no discussion? Not here. Readers out there who take offense should check their premises and consider the basis for their reactions, turning inward, not outward. See also my general comments.

David C writes:

Boy is *that* ever ugly. hell, even the little image on the blog page is hideous…

DIGLLOYD: unfortunately, I agree. The RawDigger info shows that the exposure is excellent and there is no gamut issue (processed into 16-bit ProPhotoRGB and viewed on a wide gamut display, but well within AdobeRGB color space as a gamut check proves).

James K writes:

This is the kind of stuff that happens when a company rushes cameras and lenses to market without proper professional R&D.

The R&D boys at Nikon must have this stuff posted on a wall as jokes. Imagine a National Geographic guy shooting in a remote area and coming back with junk like the lake shot. Big bucks down the drain along with the guys reputation.

The last time I saw dark areas look like the lake was when I shot some stuff with an early Mamiya 645 Digital Back. I believe heat was the cause. Got a new back from Mamiya and the problem was solved.

DIGLLOYD: why can’t Sony just do it right? Something like Nikon 14-bit quality. As for “heat”, the camera was used about 45 minutes prior for a shot every 30 seconds or so, then it has 45 minutes of near idle. No video, no unusual usage, no time sitting in the sun, 65°F or so.

Gerner C writes:

Holy cow .. I am awed and shocked about your findings about the A7R II. Thanks God I managed to cancel my orders for a hole new system costing a pile of money.

I have downloaded many OOC RAW files which people have posted around the world wide web, and trust me your example is not even the worst.

I feel we are seeing the beginning of an abyss fall of respect for the marketing driven play toy company Sony. They innovate a lot for the better, but doesn't offer the users any chance to take advantage of it really. Even worse it is looking for the *** bloggers that hurrahs and welcome this 8th wonder in the world.

Thanks for exposing the pros and cons of this camera..

DIGLLOYD: such sentiments ought to be of concern to Sony, that is if Sony wishes to take on the challenge of being a pro-grade tool.

Other notes

Readers should not confuse my views with commentary I post, any more than a news outlet should be conflated with the letters to the editor it receives. That should be implicit, but regrettably I have to state it. The Sony A7R II has some limits; we can hope for better down the line.

I like the A7R II a lot in various ways, but what I want to see is Nikon D810 quality in the compact form factor Sony A7R II. There is no technical reason Sony can’t do it right, but it looks like we’re in for a long wait from a company that simply does not offer the highest quality format that is possible, one that pros expect.

See my my comments.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Sony A7R II: Raw Format and 12-Bit Modes

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Sony A7R II I discuss the Sony file format and when the camera drops its quality to 12 bits:

Sony A7R II RAW (ARW) Files: Format, 12 Bit Degradation

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Another Bad Sample with Skew / Asymmetry (A7R II)

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

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Back in April of this year I showed “bad sample” examples with Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA, on the Sony A7R.

Now along comes another brand-new sample of the Sony FE 35/1.4 and this one behaves exactly the same way, this time tested on the Sony A7R II.

Examples: Bad Sample Lens #2, Skew/Asymmetry (A7R II)

The images are shown in part as an aid to understanding the asymmetric blur that can result from a lens that is “off”—a “bad sample”. Except that it seems that many samples have this skew/asymmetry issue, judging by reader feedback.

Six examples are shown, with sizes up to 6048 wide included for examination (24 megapixels).

See also: Left/Right Zone of Focus Skew: Not Always the Lens, the Sensor and Lens Mount Might not be Plane-Parallel.

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Note: at least one nitwit in an online forum has looked at the greatly reduced size here, not read the article , and dismissed it as an issue. Rationalizations can do wonders for false cognitive committments.

James K writes:

Your results are the same as mine. I think that the auto focus mechanism has something to do with the asymmetry. I sometimes get a shot with the right side upper corner sharp at 1.4. I had one test shot with the upper left and the lower right side in focus and sharp- a diagonal zone of sharpness. The lenses are sub par and should not be on the market with a Zeiss badge. Zeiss needs to step up here and make something happen.

I would really like to find a symmetric copy of this lens.

Your photo with the seated hiker shows the problem very clearly.

DIGLLOYD: With skew, a change in focus can make the skew look really bad. If the focus "balances" the skew, it may not look so bad. It depends on distance and focus... do a focus bracketing and the skew can look awful, or mild. In this case, the lens is sharp at right ,but not where it ought to be.

I don't think that AF has anything to do with it, as can be seen by focusing manually. Try a test: focus manually for 3 frames at 12.5X: at left, at center, at right. A lens with skew will show interesting results!

Yes, I too would like a top notch specimen. It is a very nice design, weak at f/1.4 at distance in particular, but with lovely rendering and very sharp stopped down (setting aside skew).

Ram E writes:

As a subscriber of Mirrorless, I do enjoy the articles and test results and benefit from your research work.

The articles about skewness of either lenses or camera drew my attention and after the receipt of a A7R II, I started testing for skewness with what I thought was my best lens, the FE 55mm F/1.8.

Tripod mount, steady shot off, ISO 100, selftimer, manual focus series and AFs series F/1.8 through F/9.

- Several brick walls were shot with adjusted level and measured perpendicular placement.
- Outdoor field shots of steady objects in the same focal plane, on tripod.

It was a disillusion when I observed the results from shots F/1.8 through F/9. All shots were blurred on the left side from top to bottom regardless of camera distance to the wall, varying from 3 to 7 meters or field shots over 20 meters.

As I had never much used this lens before I assumed it to be of close to stellar performance since it has the Zeiss name on it and had bought it new a few months ago. My premature conclusion was to blame the camera and I exchanged it for a second brand new Sony A7RII.

To my astonishment the results were similar. To be certain I got hold on a third A7RII for testing with exactly the same outcome.

Yesterday I sent the lens to the authorized Sony service center in the Netherlands, which happens to be the same center which handles all Canon CPS products as well, so I know it will be in professional hands.

Beside your findings with a 35mm lens, there seems to be at least one FE 55mm F/1.8 with skew behavior.

DIGLLOYD: The 55/1.8 has been prone to issues also, but I have lucked out and gotten a good one. But I’ve also received reports of skew with the 55/1.8. Most lenses (including non-Otus Zeiss) are not perfect—I’m not suggesting they are and mild asymmetries are to be expected over the focusing or zoom range—but when a subject at uniform distance cannot show similar sharpness left and right, that is a real problem for many shooting situations: buildings, groups of people, etc. Stopping well down can mask the issue, but when f/5.6 or f/8 is required to mask the skew, it gets ridiculous.

James H writes:

Unfortunately your findings with the Skewed FE lenses matches my past experience with the Sony/Zeiss lenses. I went through three different Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8's before I found one that wasn't as bad as the rest. All showed weakness on the left side of the frame. The current one I have cannot ever get it as sharp as the right side at far distance. The 16-35 fe I have is more consistent across the frame compared to the 35 f2.8.

I'm holding off on buying the 35mm 1.4 for these very issues you are reporting. I'm really upset about this as 35mm is my favorite focal length. Hopefully you'll show better results with the Batis lenses and I hope Zeiss will offer a 35mm Batis.

This is all very frustrating because in my opinion Sony is so close to really nailing it! We may have to wait for the next generation.

Charging iPhone, iPad, Some Cameras, any USB-Chargeable Device: Lupine USB One

As an avid cyclist and hiker, I have a variety of Lupine bike lights and headlamps. These are high-grade units, the sort of thing that one uses for the Iditarod or caving and so on—top flight. For example, the Lupine Betty R II is brighter than most care headlights, and can be programmed to many light levels and so on. As a photographer, night shooting is another use.

Lupine now adds value to the proposition with the release of the Lupine USB One, which allows any of the wide range of Lupine batteries to be used to charge USB devices. It’s a diminutive adapter that attaches to any Lupine battery. Plug a USB cable into it and charge.

Note that the Sony A7R II and other Sony cameras can be charged with the USB One, as can any camera that offers a USB charging feature.

Why invest in a plain charger battery when you can have the world’s best quality bike light or headlamp, and use its battery to do double-duty?

In the USA, GretnaBikes.com is the source for Lupine USB One and Lupine batteries and Lupine bike lights and headlamps.

Using the Lupine USB One with Lupine SmartCore battery to charge an iPhone
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Sony A7R II: Long Exposure Examples at ISO 100, Including Raw Conversion and RawDigger Exposure Info

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

This test assesses noise performance at ISO 100 with three examples at 30 seconds and one example at 15 seconds.

Sony A7R II Examples: Detailed Look at Long Exposures (Hoover Wilderness)

These examples are a good complement to the substantial underexposure in the Long Exposure Noise Reduction on/off at ISO 100 example, together providing a more complete picture of the noise performance out in the field for real-world images, where exposure is sometimes near-optimal and sometimes just reasonably good.

Analysis includes RawDigger histograms and ACR conversion settings for each. Includes mages at sizes up to 24 megapixels, with several large crops for each.

My aging eyes could not see color in this sky and only general countours in the foreground, but the A7R II pulled out a nice image. This image utilizes the entire dynamic range of the A7R II.

Almost night over Greenstone Lake
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Sony A7R II: Long Exposure Noise Reduction on/off at ISO 100 @ 30 sec + Chroma Noise Reduction (Egg-Shaped Boulder)

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

This test assesses the impact of long exposure noise reduction (“LENR”) using a greatly underexposed 30 second exposure at ISO 100.

Sony A7R II: Long Exposure Noise Reduction On/Off at ISO 100, with Push, Chroma Noise Reduction (Egg-Shaped Boulder)

This analysis includes RawDigger histograms with long exposure noise reduction on/off, entire frame at sizes up to 24 megapixels, and three large crops. All with LENR on/off and with chroma noise reduction (4 combinations).

In my experience with every other camera, LENR has always been a clear plus. The results with the Sony A7R II muddy the waters on the LENR setting and cast fresh doubt on the judgment at Sony in foisting the the Sony 11+7 bit* lossy compression scheme on users of a $3200 camera.

Sony A7R II: Assessing long exposure noise reduction with underexposure at 30 secons
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Sony A7R II: Usage Notes from Field Use

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

I’ve updated my review of the Sony A7R II with a discussion of the usage notes that caught my attention on my recent 4-day trip to the Yosemite area.

Sony A7R II Field Usage Notes

I’ve put down everything I noticed, though I may remember a few more points, and will add them when I do.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony A7R II: Battery Life in the Field

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

I’ve updated my review of the Sony A7R II with a discussion of the battery life that I observed in the field on my recent trip.

Sony A7R II Tips for Longer Battery Life + Field Experience

I am encouraged that battery life with the Sony A7R II is reasonably good, at least with careful power management, as discussed.

Smoke Plume over Mt Gibbs (Walker Fire)

By chance, my daughter and I summitted* Mammoth Peak** with an excellent but smoke free view of what had been only a few hundred acre blaze at 7:30 AM near Lee Vining, CA (happened to be down there and see the relatively small smoke plume).

By mid-afternoon, the smoke plume from the Walker Fire became very impressive, as can be seen. The white cumulus cloud over the plume is presumably caused by precipitation of water vapor onto small but cooled smoke particles.

Mt Dana is seen at left to give a sense of the awesome scale of the smoke plume, which we saw develop over some hours as we summitted and then descended. We watched helicopters and planes and a fat-bellied water tanker head to the fire and back multiple times. Apparently most of the fire fighting gear is still battling the blaze near Clear Lake. The cause is under investigation, but given the absence of any lightning, my guess is that a hunter started the fire (bow season started on Aug 14).

* The hard way. I had not pre-researched the route, and we took a longer and more difficult route from Hwy 120 from the northwest, rathger than the usual route from the Mono Pass trailhead. the summit area has very large slabby and jumbled granite blocks, preceded by loose granitic soil, at least from the “hard way”.

** Mammoth Peak is the most prominent summit seen across Tioga Lake and often has beautiful sunset lighting. It also makes a nice image from Hwy 120 within the park. See also Koip Peak and Kuna Peak.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
Smoke plume from the Walker Fire over Mt Gibbs, Mt Dana at left, from Mammoth Peak summit
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It was an awesome sight. Earlier it had an eerie mushroom-like shape reminiscent of a nuke.

The summit of Mt Dana stayed clear (remained visible). Climbers to that summit must have had a heck of a view.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
Smoke plume from the Walker Fire over Mt Gibbs, Mt Dana at left, from Mammoth Peak summit
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Our campsite in Junction Campground very near far left and bottom had us guessing as to whether we would have to head home early, and even whether our gear might be stranded. Fortunately we were able to return to our campsite, though Hwy 120 east to Lee Vining was closed soon thereafter to traffic at the east Yosemite entrance station (we were discouraged from exiting, but they let us out about 16:30 to our relief). We watched heavy equipment on flatbeds roll by and more the next morning. As of 17:15 on 16 Aug 2015:

One camp host had a real shock, saying “everything I have is down there”. No word on whether it survived, and my empathy goes out to him.

As it turned out the westerly wind kept the smoke at bay from the Ellery Lake / Tioga Lake area even until morning, when we left, and the fire appeared extinguished (no more plume visible, just an ugly haze, though apparently the fire still burns).

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
Hiker on slope of Mammoth Peak views smoke plume from the Walker Fire over Mt Gibbs
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My daughter took this image. I like it because the contrail makes it look as if an incoming missile exploded, generating a huge plume of smoke. There is an ominous feeling to it, as if one is in danger of being over-run by the cloud, or that a shock wave is coming, a feeling complemented by the natural forest foreground.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
Huge smoke plume with cumulus cloud above, Walker Fire
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Conditions

Smoke in the Tenaya Lake area the morning of 16 August was unpleasant, though this smoke appears to be from another smaller fire within the park.

Hwy 120 is affected from the Walker Fire.

Expect delays on, or closure of, Highway 120 east of Tioga Pass due to a fire
Highway 120 east of Tioga Pass is closed due to a fire, however limited convoys are available as fire activity allows. Yosemite National Park, including the Tioga Road inside the park, is open. All other park entrances are open.

SR 120 [IN THE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA AREA & SIERRA NEVADA]
IS CLOSED FROM 12 MI WEST OF THE JCT OF US 395 AT EAST YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK BOUNDARY TO 1 MI WEST OF THE JCT OF US 395 / TIOGA PASS (TUOLUMNE, MONO CO) - DUE TO A WILDFIRE - MOTORISTS ARE ADVISED TO
USE AN ALTERNATE ROUTE

Unrelated note on plague at Yosemite:

Campers with pets are taking a chance with plague. Lots of people had dogs in our campground. Bad idea.

Tuolumne Meadows Campground closed from noon on August 17 to noon on August 21
As an extremely precautionary public health measure, flea treatment will be applied to rodent burrows in Tuolumne Meadows Campground because several dead animals were tested and found to be carrying plague. More »

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Sony A7R II: Time for Field Shooting

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

Now that I’ve nailed down many of the operating and imaging characteristics in my review of of the Sony A7R II, it’s time to get out and do some field shooting, so things will go a bit quiet here for 4-5 days.

I’ve received a replacement sample of the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS, which I need to test this afternoon to rule out a right-side blur problem as seen with the first sample.

Update: being very rushed I could only spot check the Sony 90/2.8 and the Sony/Zeiss 35/1.4. The 90/2.8 does not look encouraging. The 35/1.4 is skewed forward on the right, just like the mid-Spring sample I shot on the Sony A7R. The same issue is reported by other readers, see the notes by James K at the end of the 90/2.8 bad sample post. I”m going to be cautious and do most of my shooting with the Zeiss Batis lenses, which served me admirably back in June.

I also have the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar, which are about as good as it gets on Sony mirrorless, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they deliver on 42 megapixels and with no concerns about shutter vibration on the A7R II (using the EFC shutter). And I have the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon and the Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 OSS Vario-Tessar for additional perspective.

Too much yet just right—nice to be able to shoot a variety if not to carry it all at once. And with certain other interesting items, my days will be long.

  Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2   Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar
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Sony has a Pro Service Program

See the Sony service horror stories.

Some good news (for a small segment of Sony owners) is that Sony has a Pro service program. The bad news is that very few Sony owners qualify:

Applicant must be a full-time, self-employed individual, or an employee of a professional imaging business, who plays a direct role in the creation of moving or still images for third parties on a professional basis.

Applicant must own no less than two (2) Sony Alpha Full Frame Interchangeable Lens Cameras and three (3) Sony Zeiss and/or G series lenses. Applicant must provide verification of the above requirements, including web page URL and/or description of professional work. Upon application approval, an email invitation will be sent to join the Program.

It’s good that this program exists, but there is a chasm between this program and the Sony service horror stories meted out to most Sony owners. I don’t qualify on the gear basis myself, and I’m not in the mood to spend another $8K or so on a 2nd body and three Sony lenses in order to do so.

I tried submitting the form at Sony (unqualified as I am, to see their response), but their Submit button does not work, so it’s a mystery how to apply. Maybe it does not work with Apple Safari.

UPDATE: shortly after writing this I was contacted by Sony:

... I came across your blog and want to reach out to you and introduce myself and want to resolve any issue you might have with joining the pro support program. Attached is the application, please fill it out, save it and send it to me via this email address. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Also, I was going thru your thread on Sony reliability and service. May I request your assistance and would like to reach out to the following individual and get more info so I can assist them as well....

DIGLLOYD: well, this is heartening, and credit given where due—nice. I am always willing to aid any company that does the right thing, and this is encouraging. As always, I report the good and the bad regardless and never will that change.

I have responded in two ways, first by thanking the representative and sending the Pro Support form in, and second by offering to forward the email of any of the readers quoted in the thread on Sony reliability and service (with their permission, I always ask first for such things).

Mark H writes:

I have read complaints about Sony service and feel compelled to put in my two cents worth.

First, I am not doubting anyone who has complained.

However, I have been a member of Sony Pro Service since it’s beginning. I have been a news photographer for nearly 40 years.

I have three bodies (A7II, A7r and A7s).

I have used their service twice. Most recently, I got my A7s body back from Precision Camera repair today.

This past Wednesday night I noticed that there was an auto cleaning problem. It was after hours for Precision. I sent an email detailing the problem and didn’t expect to hear from them until the next day.

Instead, I heard back in less than an hour and received a mailing label to send the body to them via Fedex next day delivery.

On Thursday, I packed the body and sent it to Precision via Fedex.

Today, I got the body back from Precision via Fedex.

Not only had they replaced the board, main control and the cpu iC, they had cleaned it inside and out, and recalibrated and aligned the autofocus. My cost, nothing. It was still under warranty.

I pay $100 a year for the pro service. You get three free cleanings, discounts on out of warranty repair and loaners if they can’t turn it around in three working days.

The quickness was just the same when I sent my A7r back for repair much earlier this year. From my point of view, this is a no-brainer for those who quailfy.

I have never used Canon’s repair service except when the event is big enough that both Nikon and Canon have repair onsite. But I have years of experience with Nikon - I manage equipment for an entire staff of photojournalists.

At its best, the quality of repair is no better than Precision. At its worst, well…

But I have never seen the quickness of repair that I get from Sony. With Nikon, waiting for return has been at least two weeks and in some rare cases, months.

I’ll stick with the Sony service any day.

DIGLLOYD: sounds terrific. But how many ordinary users are allowed to join Sony Pro Service? None, going by the terms (working full time photographer).

Sony A7R II: Assessing Long Exposure Noise Reduction at ISO ~50/100/200

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

This test assesses the impact of long exposure noise reduction (“LENR”) for exposures at 8/15/30 seconds at ISO 200/100/50 respectively (equivalent exposure values at different ISOs).

Sony A7R II: Long Exposure Noise Reduction On/Off at ISO 50/100/200 (Garage)

This analysis includes RawDigger histograms with long exposure noise reduction on/off at ISO 50/100/200 as well as large crops which demonstrate the noise levels and whether the use of LENR affects high frequency spatial detail.

Sony A7R II: Assessing long exposure noise reduction and high frequency detail at ISO 50/100/200

Reader Inquiry: Sony A7R II vs Sony A7s High ISO Noise

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

John M writes regarding the A7R II vs the A7S:

I'm really not seeing a large difference at 50k or even 100k... is it that pronounced for stills? I'm trying to figure out whether I want to keep my A7s. I don't shoot video at all. IBIS is not a factor since I would use these settings for moving subjects indoors (more subject motion than camera shake... high shutter speeds).

Do you have any direct comparison between the two cameras at 50k+ ? With the 42mp scaled down to match the 12mp of course, if that helps it compete.

Is it safe to assume that a scaled down a7r-ii image will have fewer moiré issues in a high ISO setting? Or is that the least of my concerns at high ISO?

I suppose there is also the economic issue... dumping the a7s while it still has value, i.e. before the a7s-ii comes out (if there is one)...

DIGLLOYD: In the past I've showed that it is the sensor area that dominates the quality, not the pixel count. In other words, two full frame sensors of the same technical generation will deliver reasonably similar results for high-ISO noise at the same megapixels. See How to Downsample and Sharpen an Image.

However, the sensor with lower megapixels tends to do significantly better at color rendition as the ISO gets very high. That said, the A7R II sensor is Sony’s latest and best—perhaps better technology than the A7S sensor.

A higher resolution camera (for the same sensor size) always has an advantage with moiré, but Noise destroys fine details, so at high ISO moiré becomes a moot point. Whether a camera has an anti-aliasing filter is a major factor for moiré of course (the A7R II lacks an AA filter, the A7S has one, or it would have awful moiré issues).

Regarding the A7S, I do not intend to test it.

See also:

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 DSLR System Considerations: Battery Life, Weight, Service and Support

Get Sony A7R II and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

The mirrorless camera market has displaced the DSLR from many of its strongholds. Various attributes account for this: weight and size of camera and lenses, EVF display, new features, etc.

But product is far more than specifications and a few lenses, and the serious shooter or the pro that must rely on a product to get the job done may have more considerations than are obvious at first glance.

Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 DSLR System Considerations: Battery Life, Weight, Service and Support

This is a general discussion along with some reality checks on what a system might actually weigh. Particularly for the traveling photographer (especially internationally), such various considerations may be quite important that won’t matter much to the casual shooter. This piece is intended to provoke thought, not to argue for one or the other.

For example, if you need 6-8 batteries, then at least two if not 3 or 4 chargers would be wise, unless one plans to wake up every few hours overnight to swap batteries.

Nikon D810 weight vs Sony A7R II weight, assuming reasonable battery power
(A7R II logo on front does not include “II”, this is the way the A7R II is made)
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Sony A7R II: White Balance and Tint in Adobe Camera Raw

Get Sony A7R II and Datacolor SpyderChecker at B&H Photo.

Ahhh, this is the way I like it: instead of the gear showing up hours before I leave for field shooting, I instead have a week or so to put stuff through its paces, so I don’t ruin a lot of work with a bad lens sample and so that I can understand various operational and raw conversion areas.

One such area is pretty simple: what is the best white balance (color temperature and tint) to use for the camera in sunlight and other conditions? At least for sunlight, here is the answer using Adobe Camera Raw:

Sony A7R II: Raw Conversion: White Balance, Tint, Sharpening (ACR in Photoshop CC)

This may save Sony A7R II shooters a little time; I explain the care I took in assessing the proper white balance. It establishes a good baseline to refer to for any kind of outdoor lighting. When in the mountains (soon), I’ll probably shoot some mountain sunlight and mountain shade to cross check.

Note that every brand and model of camera varies in its response, sometimes substantially (especially with magenta/green Tint) and that the lens and/or a filter and/or polarizer can also change the color temperature or tint. Finally, ACR has a nasty crossover problem in that changing either tint or color temperature affects the other. I explain how I nail down the proper color temp and tint.

The Datacolor SpyderChecker target was angled to avoid reflections and placed well away from foliage in an open area (greenery can often throw green into the lighting and it can be tricky getting good “clean” sunlight in some areas). The SypderChecker is a nice target because it folds up into its own clamshell—not great for carrying around on a day hike in a pack, but plenty portable and light for anything else.

The target was photographed in the center at relatively small size in the frame to avoid any off-center color tint. Four lenses were shot to confirm similar color rendition (Sony FE 55/1.8, Sony FE 35/1.4, Sony FE 16-35, Sony FE 90/2.8). There was a very close level of agreement, within 1 point Lab.

13:28 PM, clear blue sky, latitude near San Francisco, mid-August. Shot using Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar at f/8.

Assessing white balance and tint using Datacolor SpyderChecker
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony 90mm f/2.8: Bad Sample (NOW WITH EXAMPLES)

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Get Sony A7R II and Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro at B&H Photo.

When I tested the Sony 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, I found it to be skewed on the right side, blurry and weak there. Since then, I’ve had a number of reports of the same issue, which I deem credible, including one user who tested several samples. One has to be very careful with such things (not leaping to conclusions), since the mount flange-to-sensor parallelism could be off as another possibility (especially with high resolution digital cameras, be very, very careful to avoid placing undue stress on any lens mount, e.g. excess weight or any torque, or shocks).

Along comes the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. It’s clear that the optical design is strong, but a lens has to be built to tight tolerances to perform (this is part of what makes Zeiss Otus so strong—stringent quality control). Last night I shot it on the A7R II, and every image at f/2.8 showed a blurred/weak right side. So I went and shot it again this morning on an outdoor scene (mosaic) along with the Sony 55/1.8. The 55/1.8 is sharp and symmetric wide open at f/1.8; the entire right side of the Sony 90/2.8 is blurred/smeared at f/2.8, just as with last night’s images. And the scene (very large mosaic) does not admit to photographer alignment errors. The loss of sharpness is what I call “at least an f/8” error, meaning that even f/8 cannot quite hide the loss of sharpness. But it’s more than sharpness; the effect is of smearing and with a reluctance to sharpen up with stopping down.

Three examples at close, medium and far distance are shown here, as I think this sort of thing is worth seeing documented, helpful to anyone wondering about what such issues might look like:

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS: Examples: Bad Lens Sample (A7R II)

I’m having B&H send me a replacement 90/2.8, so I can have it in time for some field shooting in a few days. I am very glad that I checked out the lens beforehand! Which is my advice to anyone buying any lens. See How to Test A Lens in Making Sharp Images.

How can a lens be bad if it is tested properly before shipment?

Note that the Sony 90/2.8 is NOT a Sony/Zeiss collaboration. So no testing requirements would hold as per this recent post by Zeiss: Sony and ZEISS: What photographers should know about the partnership, which states:

ZEISS lenses are developed exclusively by ZEISS. ZEISS also determines the features of the lenses, such as their focal length and internal construction, in line with the company’s product strategy. Sony/ZEISS lenses are jointly developed by ZEISS and Sony. ZEISS supports Sony throughout the optical design and development process and then tests and approves the prototypes. Finally, ZEISS determines the test specifications for serial production.

Sony/ZEISS lenses are manufactured by Sony in factories across Asia. In these factories Sony uses lens testing equipment that has been developed and manufactured by ZEISS. An example is the MTF-tester K8, a versatile and compact instrument used to measure the modulation transfer function of photographic lenses, or similar systems, at an infinite object distance.

In all its brand partnerships, ZEISS sets the technical and quality standards to which partners, such as Sony, must adhere. ZEISS regularly audits the production process of Sony/ZEISS lenses in Sony’s factories. ZEISS experts examine the production processes, management systems and measuring installations. ZEISS certifies the suppliers and provides all the equipment that is needed to ensure product quality, including the equipment of third-party suppliers.

What are Sony’s standards? The Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar showed beautifully excellent sharpness when I shot it on the mosaic a few minutes after the Sony 90/2.8. It would be subject to the above standards, being a collaboration with Zeiss.

Nick C writes:

I saw this post on the bad sample of the 90mm lens. I am absolutely appalled by Sony’s quality control; at best the inconsistency, at worst the lack thereof, as I’ve come to experience the following, all within the last week:

1. Sony FE-PZ 28-135mm lens; an alleged “pro” level cine lens, exhibiting a skew on the left side; there’s nothing sharp in the leftmost 20% of the photos, regardless of the aperture (I haven’t bothered testing darker than f/8)

2. Sony’s FE 24-70mm, exhibiting front focus from 50mm onwards; manual focus is fine.

3. Not Sony, but worth mentioning, a brand new Zeiss 135mm ZF.2 via a Novoflex adapter (which is previously known to me as having perfectly parallel flanges as tested with a different Zeiss 135mm on an A7R) - tilted focal plane running left rear to front forward. At least things are in focus at some place across the frame.

All these were observed while mounted on a sturdy RRS tripod and ball head; IBIS was disabled.

I am just getting fed up with half-baked goods being dumped on us at ever-rising prices with a race to the bottom as far as quality control is concerned. Where does this stop? At Otus level?

DIGLLOYD: I’m surprised to hear a report on the Zeiss 135/2 APO. But in this case, the use of an adapter is not a fair test; put it onto a Nikon D810. [Nick reports that the adapter worked fine on a previous sample]. One issue with all lenses is that focusing can change things. In the case of the 135/2 APO, the long focusing throw cannot always maintain perfect symmetry throughout the range—a manual focusing helicoid is after all mechanical (and so is AF), and it’s very hard to maintain micron-accuracy while moving stuff around. But this sort of skew I have found with the much more expensive Leica 50/2 APO (two samples!) and is hard to avoid. One has to get lucky. [Nick reports that his previous sample was symmetric at the same distance]. Skew of this sort should be distinguished from poor optical assembly (decentering and such); the two behaviors are very different. With skew, the focal plane is not exactly parallel but quality remains (where focused). With decentering and similar, lens performance itself is compromised, regardless of accurate focus.

But the real issue is that Sony has crap for service. Caveat emptor—if something goes wrong, good luck. I have deep reservations about purchasing Sony products (including the A7R II), but I feel forced into it as a cost of doing business.

James K (former NYC pro) writes:

Nikon reliability is king. You do a shoot that is high profile and you immediately think Nikon-no BS in that camp. That’s why it takes so long for them to bring professional products to market. Testing, testing, testing……

Sony is not a professional product line.

DIGLLOYD: Agreed. Sony makes gadgets that work like cameras, with no service or support worth crap. He continues:

I see you are testing the Sony 35mm 1.4 again. I just tested a new lens and found the same problem on the right side of the image. My original serial number is 46200*** and the new one is 46204***. Same poor quality on the right side.

I have been retesting my lenses for the A7RII. I have come to the conclusion that Sony quality control is in the dumper.

Otus 55mm first, then the Sony glass. Otus to establish that the camera body was functioning properly and then Sony optics- 35mm 2.8 FE, 35mm 1.4 FE and 55mm 1.8 FE.

Not one of the Sony optics is symmetrical. One is out on the right (35mm 1.4 FE) and the other two on the left. Varying degrees of mush.

Zeiss is most certainly not properly monitoring the Sony production line. The only reason I own Sony glass is because it was the only auto focus glass available for the E mount.
I am waiting for an Otus 35mm.

DIGLLOYD: Mirrors what I’ve heard from readers. Troubling of course. The good news is that the Zeiss Batis line covers 25mm and 85mm with more to come. The brand-new Sony 35/1.4 Distagon I received on 11-Aug-2015 shows asymmetry just like the copy I tested in mid-spring; it is skewed forward on the right side.

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The Obligatory Cat Picture (A7R II)

Get Sony A7R II and Sony FE 90mm at B&H Photo.

A cat picture is de rigeur for reviewers and especially fanboys (I don’t qualify on the latter as my Sony posts make rather clear).

This is a serious image—well worth looking at to see how the Sony 90mm f/2.8 performs on the Sony A7R II. Includes comments on a bad sample problem, though this image succeeds in spite of it.

The Obligatory Cat Picture (A7R II)

Includes color and grayscale versions as well as a very large crop in color and grayscale.

Check out the grayscale version at 6048 pixels wide (24.3 megapixels). I reiterate my view that both the Sony A7R II and the Canon 5DS R are superior black and white cameras to the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: vastly superior tonal mapping to grayscale (from color), many more pixels that are every bit as good or better when downsampled to 24MP, and the Sony A7R II at ISO 25600 looks better than the Leica MM246 at ISO 25600.

It was so funny—this “beta” cat was being stalked by the black alpha, acting like a lion on the Serengeti stalking the the striped beta tabby as if she were a gazelle, but with a twitchy bitchy tail motion. They both knew the game and the striped tabby got out of the way. I almost had the shot of the encounter, but shutter speeds were too low to act fast enough (was on a tripod).

Hunted
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Sony A7R II: Assessing Dynamic Range on a Scene that Exceeds the Camera’s Ability

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Out in the field in the real world, image quality attributes such as dynamic range and shadow noise can outweigh other considerations like resolution. Dynamic range in this context means avoiding blown highlights and yet offering the ability to raise very dark areas to lighter values without undue noise.

A camera that offers both high resolution and wide dynamic range is a huge winner for the shooting envelope. In this regard, the Nikon D810 has reigned supreme with its fabulous 36MP sensor, and highlights that just don’t want to blow out (if reasonable care is taken and often if no care is taken!). The Canon 5DS raised the bar on resolution to 50MP, but falls well short on dynamic range; its noise level makes it difficult to lighten shadows and still apply desired sharpening.

The Sony A7R II splits the megapixel gap, offering 42 megapixels, right in the middle between the 36MP Nikon D810 and the 50MP Canon 5DS R. So if it offers most of the dynamic range of the Nikon D810 and something as good or better than the Canon 5DS R, that makes it a contender.

Sony A7R II: Dynamic Range Assessment at ISO 50 (Garage)

This thorough analysis includes entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels and two large crops showing RGB, grayscale and the separate red and green and blue color channels.

Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) adjustments are also shown. The adjustments shown are precisely the kind of adjustments your author uses frequently for difficult dynamic range images. Thus these settings are eminently practical for evaluating image quality from the camera.

Adjusted image
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Sony A7R II with Leica M Lenses

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

The basic problem with image quality with rangefinder lenses on all Sony mirrorless cameras is the use of relatively thick sensor cover glass. Rays from the lens must pass through this glass, and in so doing a severe astigmatism is created (very strong smearing) along with chromatic aberrations, caused by a displacement in focus of the sagittal and tangential rays. There can be other issues, including various flares.

The internet is abuzz with claims from those who think that the laws of optics have been repealed for the Sony A7R II, just because it has a new sensor.

These claims seem to be based on seeing less color shading, but this has always varied by sensor (magenta with some Sony sensors, green with others). Better neutrality is good, but it’s silly to think this means a whole lot. Sony cannot change the thickness of the sensor cover glass without altering the optical path, and this would degrade image quality with lenses designed for it (and in ways that test benches won’t necessarily show, such as color aberrations, bokeh and flares). So the A7R II has the same sensor cover glass thickness as all its siblings. Hence its imaging performance with steep ray angle lenses (e.g., Leica M, Zeiss ZM, etc) is not going to change vs previous Sony mirrorless models.

Well, I always believe in checking even if it is logically impossible, so I did, using the Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH. The sharpness losses outside a small central area are severe, just as expected, very badly blurred/smeared over most of the frame.

In about two weeks, I should have a KolariVision-modified Sony A7R II which I will pit against my unmodified A7R II. That will show the massive quality loss that occurs in the unmodified camera.

Example

It’s amazing to me that anyone can look at results like this and claim that Leica M lenses work great on any Sony body (unmodified). Even the 50/2 APO needs f/5.6 to overcome the losses from the sensor cover glass! See the links below—yes you can get decent (but not optimal) results by stopping down to f/11 with Leica wide angles. And you can get vastly superior results wide open with native lenses costing far less.

Image below is at 50% of actual pixels, so it is even worse than it looks. It is IN FOCUS and at peak performance! Severe astigmatism as well as lateral chromatic aberration are caused by wave-plate displacement of sagittal and tangential rays. The new Sony A7R II sensor is hugely better for color shading, but no sensor can undo the damage done by the sensor cover glass. View a larger-width crop.

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M lenses evaluated

The prior Leica M lens evaluations with the Kolarivision-modified Sony A7R can be found in Guide to Leica, comparing a modified to unmodified Sony A7R:

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Sony A7R II: Assessing IBIS at 280mm: Is Handheld Shooting at 42 Megapixels at 1/125 Second Viable?

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

The Sony A7R II offers IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization): the sensor moves to compensate for vibration and camera movement.

Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R

IBIS is a compelling feature, one of those features that may justify purchasing the camera and switching brands: it adds image stabilization to any lens, native or adapted.

IBIS allows shooting lenses that would simply not be viable to shoot handheld, and it blows away what Nikon and Canon have to offer (no sensor stabilization, so no Nikkor or Zeiss ZF or specialty lens can be stabilized).

For years, I had such a high failure rate trying to use the Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R and Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R on either Nikon or Canon that these were left in a drawer gathering dust: impossible to focus accurately with the optical viewfinder and handheld was not an option.

But with the EVF on the Sony A7R II, not only can these teles be easily focused, but outstanding results can be obtained handheld. This is serious value from the IBIS technology and two compelling reasons that some shooters are best off abandoning the DSLR.

Five frames are shown with a very large crop, all taken at 1/125 second using IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) on the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II.

Sony A7R II: IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) Handheld at 280mm

It is essential to set the focal length for SteadyShot. See note on the above page.

An actual pixels view can be somewhat misleading: with a 42-megapixel sensor, the pixels are notably smaller than at 24-megapixel sensor. One must ask about sharpness relative to print size which is equivalent to asking what 43MP looks like downsampled to 24MP (in terms of fairly comparing the two sensor resolutions). Accordingly, the images are also shown at a 24-megapixel resolution (downsampled).

Handheld at 1/125 second (uneven lighting is just that)
NOT ACTUAL PIXELS

 

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Sony A7R II: Key Settings and Suggested Programming for Buttons and Menus

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It was a tedious job, but I’ve captured all the settings and customization features I am using, explaining also why they are chosen.

The Sony A7R II is highly customizable, and it takes some investment of time to figure out the best choices.

The good news is that once programmed, the camera is much faster to operate for one’s own shooting habits. For me, it is of particular importance because I switch between camera brands a lot, so I program the camera with bit of redundancy for my most frequently used settings (after a few weeks it’s easy to get confused as to what is where in the kitchen-sink mess that is the Sony menu system).

Unfortunately, Sony does not see fit to allow saving a file on the camera card that captures all the settings, so there is no way to provide my settings to my readers other than listing them out.

Really Right Stuff L-bracket for Sony A7 II and Sony A7R II

Sony A7R II with Really Right Stuff L-Bracket Ba72-L Set

Get Sony A7 II and Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

I’ve received the Really Right Stuff L-bracket for the Sony A7 II. It fits the A7R II perfectly.

BUT there will be a new custom plate for the A7R II specifically, the BA7R2 base plate and the BA7R2-LS L-Plate.

RRS tells me that an L-bracket coming for the Sony A7R II which will include a stabilizing screw for the “L” part against the strap lug (I’ve seen a prototype picture) for a rigid support; it’s a nice touch that I look forward to. ALSO, the RRS custom plate for the A7R II will have a full width base plate over the bottom of the camera.

I’ll be going with the A7R II plate when it arrives; I like the strap lug idea and I like the full base plate.

Side note: if the lens is heavy, the camera ought not to be used to support the lens anyway (use a tripod foot or other support to mount the rig in the head).

Sony A7R II: Assessing Shutter Vibration with the Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFC Shutter) at 280mm

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

What EFC means is that because Live View already has the shutter open, the picture starts recording with zero vibration, then the shutter closes to finish the exposure: no “first curtain” of the shutter.

The predecessor of the A7R II (the A7R) ruined a huge amount of my work. Thus the addition of the EFC shutter option in the Sony A7R II is for me at least, the #1 feature to be gained. See Sony A7R Shutter Vibration / Shutter Shock.

So naturally it was a high priority to verify that the EFC shutter actually performs with no vibration as one would expect. I used the Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R as the acid test; it was hopeless on the A7R.

Sony A7R II: Electronic First Curtain Shutter Vibration Assessment

A series of exposures are presented showing the results from 1/200 to 1/40 second (the “danger zone” with the A7R). Also shown are what can happen in outdoor shooting (wind and refraction by air).

The lack of shutter vibration possible with an EFC shutter means that any ultra high performance but physicall awkward or large lens like Zeiss Otus or even long teles like the Leica 280mm f/4 APO-Telyt-R can be shot with superb results and no fear of damage to sharpness by shutter vibration.

 

Sigma DP Merrills are $200 off

See Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill as well as my extensive review of the Sigma DP Merrill cameras.

$200 off each of the Sigma DP Merrill cameras as well as many discounts on Sigma lenses.

Reader Experience and Concerns: Sony Service and Reliability

I’ve added a note from Greg M to the Reader Experience and Concerns: Sony Service and Reliability page (scroll to end of post).

Well worth pondering for those looking to invest about $3200 in a Sony A7R II camera body.

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Sony A7R II: Raw Files Are Still 'Cooked'

Yesterday in my review coverage of the Sony A7R II I referred to the orange peel noise with Sony files, which is still there in the A7R II. It is visible in all the smooth (well, ought to be smooth!) tonal transitions in the 90/2.8 aperture series at ISO 100.

Glenn K, a geophysicist, writes:

The "orange-peel" artifacts around transitions look very similar to ones created around abrupt transitions by the discrete cosine transforms used in JPEG compression... perhaps Sony is using similar compression methods in their "raw" files.

Although probably not an issue for reasonable sized prints, it will play havoc with sharpening algorithms in post as well as upsampling algorithms.

DIGLLOYD: I would say not the “raw files” but rather the “raw data before encoding into the file format”. Indeed it wreaks havoc with sharpening. While I can double or quadruple sharpening on a Nikon D810 file with minimal ill effects, doing so on a Sony A7R or A7R II files looks godawful.

I have to be very careful with sharpening Sony A7R II files, just as I had to with Sony A7R and A7 II and A7 files. The raw files are pre-cooked. Very disappointing to see this practice continue with the A7R II, which has superb sensor quality.

Examples from the A7R (I see no difference in behavior with the A7R II):

The bad news is that I don’t think the effect is related to the Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression scheme. I could be wrong, but I think that Sony is applying excessive image processing to the raw data even before it is encoded into the 11+7 bit format. So even if Sony were to offer a lossless-compressed format, the cooking might still be there.

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Part of the reason I wrote my new B&H Deals Page was to find deals for myself—the page makes it incredibly easy to see what’s selling at a discount, by brand or catagory (and sorted by discount too!).

For example, there is an wide array of printers and printer paper at deep discounts.

Also: scanners, a huge variety of lighting products, lenses for DSLR, lenses for mirrorless, and lens filters. And many more categories.

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Sony A7R II: In-Depth ISO series in Color and Grayscale, with RGB images, R/G/B and Grayscale Channels

Get Sony A7R II and Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS B&H Photo.

This elaborate ISO series from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 shows the performance of the Sony A7R II in both color and grayscale. A large crop shows the color and grayscale and individual R/G/B color channels from the ProPhotoRGB color space. Perfect ETTR exposure for this comparison; field work will establish practical limits in less optimal lighting or with less optimal exposure.

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS ISO Series from ISO 50 to ISO 102400 (Sony A7R II)

Presented with entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels from ISO 50 to 102400, along with large crops showing color and grayscale and individual R/G/B color channels from the ProPhotoRGB color space.

Wow. Clearly the sensor in the A7R II is state of the art. Too bad that evidence of raw-file “pre cooking” can still be seen in tonal transitions, but every camera has its flaws. Still, why doesn’t Sony offer a 14-bity lossless-compressed format? Insanity.

Check out the quality of the grayscale image at ISO 25600 at the 25.8 megapixel size (6048). The image is not only slightly higher resolution, it is free of the pattern noise seen with the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246. In other words, the Sony A7R II outperforms the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 at ISO 25600. At less than half the price and a far more versatile black and white workflow (converting color images to grayscale).

One wonders what Nikon or Pentax might do with it with a true 14-bit file that is not partly cooked as with Sony, and with the best possible electronics. Canon... why the heck is Canon still making their own inferior sensors?

Dolls
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Sony A7R II: First Look with the Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Get Sony A7R II and Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS B&H Photo.

I hadn’t yet seen or reviewed the new Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS, so I took my first gander at both the 90/2.8 and the Sony A7R II by shooting an aperture series of The Dolls.

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Aperture Series: Dolls (Sony A7R II)

Presented with entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels along with large crops from f/2.8 through f/11.

The A7R II shows excellent sharpness and color, but it has genetically inherited some undesirable traits from the A7R, including the orange peel noise texture, which in my view is due to “cooked” raw files.

Dolls
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Sony A7R II: 5X Live View Magnification in EVF is Fugly, with Pixellation, Jagged Edges, and Obvious Subsampling degradation

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The Sony A7R II ships with Display Quality = Normal by default. Setting the A7R II to Display Quality = High seems advisable, but this does not improve the 5X magnification for manual focus.

For manual focus, the A7R II offers 1X, 5X and 12.5X magnification.

The 5X setting is fugly, whether Display Quality is set to Standard or High; both show jagged and smeared pixels just as were seen with the mangled Live View of the Nikon D800/D800E; there is clearly some subsampling going on that is not done well. The poor quality can be seen on any subject, but it is particularly noticeable on straight lines, such as a sloping roof, the tube of a bicycle, a board,the branches of a tree, grass, etc. Sony and Nikon aren’t stupid, so this must have a real engineering basis. But one wonders why the high-quality of the 12.5X vierw cannot be shown at 6.25X, which is a nice 2:1 reduction.

While 5X magnification is viable for quick focus, it’s just no good for critical focus, so zoom in to 12.5X and the quality improves dramatically. Your author went back and forth numerous times on the Standard or High settings; there can be no doubt that 5X is just screwed.

Those readers claiming that Display Quality=High looks good at 5X either (a) have some other camera than the A7R II or (b) some magic A7R II firmware, or, quite seriously—need their eyes examined! I mean that well—just a purely factual matter—if this 5X crap-display cannot be seen, then see an ophthalmologist or optometrist ASAP. It is just as bad as the mangled Live View on the D800/D800E (at 5X with the EVF). Nikon cured that with the D810.

On the rear LCD, the same jaggies can be seen using a good loupe, but the image looks reasonable, perhaps because the resolution of the rear LCD is much lower than the EVF. But the rear LCD so far does not look anywhere near as bad as the Nikon D800/D800E. Moreover the D800E issue was at 10X or so, and the Sony A7R II looks excellent at 12.5X on the rear LCD, vastly better than the D800/D800E.

The good news is that 12.5X is excellent.

UPDATE: Some users state that a difference is seen with different settings and/or that 5X quality is fine (but as this was written none described in their email what settings they are using, not even raw or JPEG!). So the above should be read understanding that there seem to be factors at play that make the perceived (and perhaps actual) quality vary widely. This coudl explain why some users assert that 5X is just fine. My own eyes have seen results that are badly mangled to perfectly acceptable (poison and water don’t make a beverage fit to drink; I need reliable consistent operation all the time for what I do). The perceived quality varies by subject matter, and brightness and (perhaps) aperture and lens performance and sharpening settings and so on. It’s a complex nut to crack.

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Sony A7R II: Field Charging the In-Camera Battery

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

In the field, it is possible to charge the battery in the Sony A7R II (and other Sony cameras) using the supplied USB cable. Many battery packs on the market could be carried and plugged in while in the field for extra power.

Some of these charging options may be non-obvious but better choices than generic ones because they dovetail with other outdoor uses.

For example, your author is an avid cyclist and likes to hike (sometimes at night) and favors the best-of-breed bike lights and headlamps by Lupine: Lupine offers the diminutive USB One which lets any Lupine battery charge a USB device (even a totally depleted iPad, which is relatively high current). [See your author’s reviews of Lupine lights].

I used Lupine USB One to charge an iPad, an iPhone and the Sony A7R II battery. Works great, and is highly efficient, no AC-DC-AC conversion needed. With Lupine batteries from small to medium to large up to 20 amp-hours (140 watt hours), a lot of “juice” can be carried for outdoor uses (consider backpacking over multiple days, for example). And the batteries can be used for a headlamp or bike light too!

Sony A7R II Arrives, Review Started

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

I’ve received the Sony A7R II. My initial impressions are very favorable in terms of the physical aspects, the button and controls, etc—a big step forward from the Sony A7R. I’ll be detailing the specifics in my review of the Sony A7R II shortly.

For those with Really Right Stuff L brackets: the bracket for the Sony A7R is incompatible. The A7 II bracket may be compatible; I expect the A7 II bracket tomorrow, to try on the A7R II. Reader Brian V states that his A7 II bracket fits perfectly on the A7R II.

Update: the Really Right Stuff L-bracket for the Sony A7 II fits the A7R II perfectly. RRS does have a bracket coming for the A7R II which will include a stabilizing screw for the L part against the strap lug (I’ve seen a prototype picture); it’s a nice touch that I look forward to, but the A7 II bracket works slick as-is.

My review of the Sony A7R II will include a refresh of many lens assessments (Zeiss Loxia, Zeiss Batis, Sony 35/1.4, Sony 90mm f/2.8). I will likely also test various DSLR lenses, but as per longstanding policy, reviews of lenses always go into their native guide (e.g., Guide to Zeiss for Zeiss ZF.2 / ZE lenses).

Background info

Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH Aperture Series: Lower Conness Lake

Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH

Get Leica S and Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

This close-medium-far-distance aperture series explores sharpness across the field from f/3.5 through f/13 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH:

Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH Aperture Series: Hoover Wilderness Drainage (S006)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/3.5 - ƒ/13.

This is a truly outstanding performance probably unequalled by any lens for the 35mm format. To see it on medium format 45 X 30mm sensor is very impressive. The particularly high cost of the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH is neatly explained by this example. But cost should not be confused with value—this is as good as it gets for a lens this wide (19mm equiv in the 35mm format) and thus the 24/3.5 SEM is surely a must-have lens for the S shooter.

Hoover Wilderness Drainage, last sun of the day
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Leica 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-S ASPH Aperture Series: Last Warm Glow on Creek

Leica 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-S ASPH

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This medium-distance aperture series explores sharpness across the field from f/2.5 through f/13 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-S ASPH:

Leica 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-S ASPH Aperture Series: Last Warm Glow on Creek (S006)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/2.5 - ƒ/8.

Last Warm Glow on Creek
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Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH Aperture Series: Striped Glacial Erratic

Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH

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This near-distance aperture series explores sharpness across the field from f/2.8 through f/8 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH:

Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH Aperture Series: Striped Glacial Erratic (S006)

The scenes assesses close-range performance across the field, including field curvature. Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/2.8 - ƒ/8.

Iliked the Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH a lot and found it very appealing in the field. Highly recommended for Leica S shooters.

Striped Glacial Erratic
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Reader Comment: Ricoh GR

Get Ricoh GR at B&H Photo.

Gary K writes:

I want to thank you for bringing the fabulous Ricoh GR to my attention! Your recommendations as the perfect camera for 80% of shots resonated with me as I compose using a 28mm view around 80% of my shots. Replacing a 5D with Zeiss ZF 28mm with the GR, there is no comparison in image quality!

I shoot trains in motion at night w/off camera flash units controlled by Pocket Wizards. The GR with its "leaf" shutter can sync with the PW's up to 1/1250 sec. opposed to the 5D equipped with focal plane shutter and it's 1/250 sync speed.

After shooting w/Canon SLR's and DSLR's from the FTb years onward, the genius design of the Ricoh GR represents the greatest dollar value I have experienced. By far. Reading your blog was the only reason I became aware of this great bargain of a camera. Thank You!

We can hope and pray Ricoh chooses to develop the GR design further, perhaps into the full frame world?

DIGLLOYD: I named the Ricoh GR my Camera of the Year exactly two years ago. I still think it is by far the best designed compact camera on the market, and with features found on no other camera in its class. The latest version (I have not tried it) adds WiFi but does not fix the one gaping flaw: the lack of an EVF or any EVF option. What a pity.

The razor sharp lens along with in-lens shutter and built-in flash make it a far superior camera to even the Leica Q when it comes to making portraits in many situations: that touch of fill flash makes all the difference (unless you want to carry an awkward hot-shot flash around all the time).

As for full frame, if Ricoh preserved the functionality and delivered an EVF and a lens of similar quality to the existing model, that would rock.

See my in-depth review of the Ricoh GR in Guide to Mirrorless.

     Ricoh GR
Ricoh GR
Ricoh GR
At the Beach


Philippe A writes:

Fully agree with Gary K and Doug. I would add: what a clever and efficient user interface.
I would also purchase a full frame equivalent immediately!

DIGLLOYD: yup.

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Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH Aperture Series: Lower Conness Lake

Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH

Get Leica S and Leicas 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

This far-distance aperture series explores sharpness across the field from f/3.5 through f/10 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH:

Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH Series: Lower Conness Lake (S006)

Also:

MTF for Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH

Distortion for Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH

Vignetting for Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/3.5 - ƒ/10.

Lower Conness Lake
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Ashish V writes:

Just wanted to say that I really like the way you process your images. Love the sharpening in this image as the detail looks really sharp but natural. Colours also look natural to me. Great work!

DIGLLOYD: I try to use a consistent approach across all cameras; what I do now took some time to develop but by long practice the results I present offer the best results for the widest variety of cameras.

Olympus M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Aperture Series @14mm: Dana Lake, Water View + Sensor Shift Artifacting

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

Get Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO at B&H Photo.

See also summary overview of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO.

This f/2 - f/4 - f/5 aperture series takes another look at the 7mm zoom setting of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO.

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Aperture Series @ 14mm: Dana Lake, Water View (EM5 II, HiRes Mode)

Sensor shift (shifting the sensor 8 times or so, then combining into one image) is a promising new technology that increases resolution and greatly decreases noise but the digital artifacts generated by the use of hi-res sensor shift mode can be a problem in field use any time there is subject movement, even with high shutter speeds. I saw numerous issues in the field using sensor shift mode. Particularly on windy days, it can be problematic, whether it is grass or leaves or water.

Hi-Res Sensor Shift Artifacting (Dana Lake, Water View)

Shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II utilizing high-res sensor shift mode, specifically the about $1199 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition Titanium.

Swimming, anyone? Bring a wetsuit for the frigid water.

Dana Lake, Dana Glacier, Mt Dana
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Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon and 50mm f/2 Planar for Sony Mirrorless now in stock

Get Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis B&H Photo.

See my extensive review of the Zeiss Loxia lenses in Guide to Mirrorless.

After a long drought, both the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon for Sony E Mount and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar are now in stock as this was written.

The Loxia line are very compact manual focus lenses with declickable aperture and excellent focus feel. They are an ideal choice for many kinds of stills-photography work but their video-friendly features offers a double-duty value.

I’ll be retesting the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses on the Sony A7R II later this month.

     
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon and Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar
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Sony A7R II Ships Today

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

B&H is shipping out its first batch of Sony A7R II cameras today.

I should have it for review tomorrow, Aug 6.

Olympus M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Aperture Series @14mm: Still Pool of Water Amid Grasses

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

Get Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO at B&H Photo.

As compared to a 35mm DSLR, the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO is equivalent to a 14-28mm lens in its field of view and f/5.6 in terms of its depth of field.

See also summary overview of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO.

The 14mm zoom setting is the long end of the range and adds useful context to the performance of the 7mm series and 10mm series.

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Aperture Series @ 14mm: Still Pool of Water Amid Grasses (EM5 II, HiRes Mode)

Presented from f/2.8 through f/5.6 with sizes up to 24.8 megapixels.

Shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II utilizing high-res sensor shift mode, specifically the about $1199 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition Titanium.

Frog heaven.

Still Pool of Water Amid Grasses
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Canon 5DS R Protects Itself In Extreme Heat by Disabling Live View

Some photographic purposes encounter extreme heat or cold.

David S writes:

My 5Ds R had a partial thermal cut-out yesterday. I was at Valley of Fire state park in Southern Nevada. The thermometer was reading 107 deg. F. It was a clear sunny day. The camera was mounted on a tripod and all of my shooting was being done in live view mode with a cable release.

After about 40 minutes to an hour of shooting, a flashing red icon appeared on the rear screen. I was not sure what it was, and I was so engrossed in shooting an experimental focus stack that I mostly ignored it since everything else was working normally. About 5 or 10 minutes after that, the camera stopped live view and displayed a message on the rear screen to let me know that live view was being disabled due to the camera’s internal temperature being too high (presumably, this would also have applied to video shooting).

It would let me continue to shoot normally (without live view), if I wanted to do that. Since the camera was mounted on a tripod, I was somewhat unaware of how hot it had become. When I touched it, it was indeed very hot, almost too hot to touch. The black body had been absorbing a lot of the desert sun’s heat. I had no way of accurately measuring the temperature of the camera body but I would estimate that it was somewhere around 170 to 180 deg. F, maybe more.

I packed up, went back to the car for a drink of cold water and a quick blast from the AC. I then drove on a few hundred yards to the next point of interest and the 5Ds R was ready for live view again.

From that point onwards, I shaded the camera from direct sunlight with my hat and when carrying the camera around, it wore my hat instead of me. I was able to continue shooting in live view uninterrupted for the rest of the day.

Lesson learned: bring a spare hat for the camera (light in color) when shooting for long periods on hot sunny days. I liked how the camera’s software would still allow me to shoot, just not in live view. Lesser designs may have just shut everything down altogether or even worse just let the camera continue to operate to the point of damage being caused from excessive thermal expansion of the components.

DIGLLOYD: Graceful degradation under adverse conditions is one sign of a well designed product. It might also be a critical feature for some photographers.

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Readers Write on the Sony A7R II: is there a quality issue with the EVF?

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

See previous notes on the Sony A7R II.

See the update: 5X magnification is fugly.

Update, reader Howard C writes:

On the “poor” quality of the EVF in manual focus, I wonder if the poster had changed the “Display Quality” setting set to “High.” The default is “Standard.” Go to Menu/“Suitcase” Settings/Tab 2.

DIGLLOYD: This does not fix the issue on the A7R II.

Andrew N writes:

I have had a Sony A7R II for a few days and in nearly all aspects the camera is superb.

The one flaw, and one you may wish to cover in depth in your review, is that the EVF for manual focus is vastly inferior to the original A7R. I use the two Loxia lenses and the magnified focus function is poor. The image seems degraded (almost like bad jpeg blocking) and makes focusing on foliage really difficult. The ’12.5’ setting is better but the first ‘5’ setting near useless. Whether this is down to Sony downsampling the feed to the EVF is something you may wish to explore. Turning IBIS off does not seem to make a difference. A friend of mine (another landscape photographer) noticed the same thing straight away.

My thoughts, and my friends after we discussed it, wonder whether Sony have compressed the feed to the EF (and monitor) to cope with IBIS. Turning IBIS off however doesn’t improve things. I found I could focus at the highest magnification setting but am frustrated that it has to be a two stage operation to get to the ’12.5’ setting. I have asked Sony if there is any way to set the camera to jump to the higher setting as the ‘5’ one is useless. Really surprised no there user/reviewer has picked up on this issue yet.

I have contacted Sony customer support and wait to see if they come back with any potential solutions in a firmware update or as I fear it is ‘baked’ into the camera.

DIGLLOYD: Yikes! This is very bad news. I should be able to confirm within two days.

Phil L writes:

If the new Sony A7RII has the same sort of manual lens magnified live view focus problem that plagued the Nikon D800, it is a major set back for the use of manual lenses on the new Sony.. The D800 Live view was terrible and was solved only when the D810 was released with a greatly improved Live View Design. In contrast to the D800, the D700 had had excellent Live View.

DIGLLOYD: Yup.

Alfred C writes:

Poor quality comfirmed, unfortunately.

Re: Focus Magnification:

Dear Sony, why on ear the do you punish users so much so frequently?
Alternatively—

Dear Sony, how can you be so dumb and have file compression and Focus compression?

Or

Dear Sony, is 42 so much bigger than 36 that you feel you need a new approach to viewfinders?

...And so on

DIGLLOYD: yup.

Mikko I writes:

Thank you once more for your efforts and excellent writings! Always a pleasure to read your real world observations on photography equipment.

Personally I am quite eager to read about the new Sony A7R II. Currently I have a D800E and a Ricoh GXR and I would not mind having only one body and a single line and smaller set of lenses for all occasions. I love the rangefinder-type lenses but the Ricoh is currently the best I can justify myself. Thank you for saving my money with your Guide to Leica. :)

The biggest concern for me with the A7R II is what you have already expressed on other Sony cameras: the crippled raw file format. This is, after all, a 3500+ Euro camera after various accessories. Please let us know if there any ways to influence Sony to fix the raw file.

While I have no doubt you will cover the A7R II in satisfactory manner, just in case you are listening to suggestions, here are some topics I would like to read about:
- Use of lenses with adapters, F- and M-mount especially.
- A 25mm lens comparison (Batis vs ZM vs ZF would be perfect for me :)
- An 85mm lens comparison
- An overall discussion on lens choices for Sony cameras.

DIGLLOYD: As per Andrew N, maybe the biggest concern for some shooters is manual focus.

The “I would not mind” comment hammers a big nail dead center: NiCanon are catatonic and barring some extreme effort (haha) they have lost the game. The DSLR market will continue, of course, but at this point Sony has compelling momentum and volume and technology (including the best sensors in house!) so that if Sony aggressively addresses the remaining needs of the DSLR market, it’s game, set, match and tournament. Having fixed many flaws in the A7R II vs the A7R, it’s a shame to hear they might have crippled a key function (manual focus) but the only thing that matters over the next 1-2 years is the game plan for eliminating any and all remaining dissatisfiers for 90% of the market.

Leica M—It is unlikely meaning all but impossible to see Leica M lenses improve on Sony mirrorless, since they all share the same sensor cover glass thickness, and that is what causes the severe astigmatism and color fringing when used with rangefinder lenses having even a moderate ray angle (even 50mm is degraded). See this and more:

Zeiss ZF lenses are telecentric by design to clear the DSLR mirror box, and as already shown in Guide to Zeiss, they work great on Sony. They should work equally well on the Sony A7R II, albeit showing their limits a bit more at 42MP vs 36MP.

My review of Zeiss Batis covers the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar in depth. These are my recommendations for the A7R II in those focal lengths and I will be working with them on the A7R II (as well as the Sony 35/1.4 and 90/2.8).

Deals Page Now Up

It took some server-side coding, but I have a nifty deals page up and running. The deals page is as current as the feed it scarfs (read every half hour).

Lacking user-interface polish perhaps, but it is space-efficient and free of distracting gunk, and thus an effective tool that makes it easy to pick out deals by percent discount, brand, or category. Use the filtering provided and/or use the Find command in the web browser to search.

diglloyd: Deals at B&H Photo

Give it a try, bookmark it in your web browser, and thank you for buying using the links from that page or any B&H link on this site, so I get credit over at B&H Photo.

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Olympus M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Aperture Series @10mm: Vernal Creek in Dana Meadow

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

Get Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO at B&H Photo.

As compared to a 35mm DSLR, the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO is equivalent to a 14-28mm lens in its field of view and f/5.6 in terms of its depth of field.

See also summary overview of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO and the Dana Lake, Dana Glacier, Dana Peak 7mm series.

Aperture Series @ 10mm: Vernal Creek in Dana Meadow (EM5 II, HiRes Mode)

These pages should be mandatory reading for anyone considering this lens.

Shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II utilizing high-res sensor shift mode, specifically the about $1199 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition Titanium.

 

Such vernal streams abound in Yosemite through July or so but usually dry up by August.

Vernal Creek in Dana Meadow
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Olympus M.ZUIKO 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Aperture Series @7mm: Dana Lake, Dana Glacier and Peak

Get Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO at B&H Photo.

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO

Along with my summary overview of the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, I also publish a first look at the performance of this new lens at 7mm:

Aperture Series @ 7mm: Upper Dana Lake, Dana Glacier, Dana Peak (EM5 II, HiRes Mode)

Both pages should be mandatory reading for anyone considering this lens.

Shot with the Olympus E-M5 Mark II utilizing high-res sensor shift mode, specifically the about $1199 Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Limited Edition Titanium.

As compared to a 35mm DSLR, the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO is equivalent to a 14-28mm lens in its field of view and f/5.6 in terms of its depth of field.

Hiking down this talus slope to lake edge was a case of picking and choosing the right footing while carrying an 8-pound tripod and a heavy pack. It took some patience!

Upper Dana Lake, Dana Glacier, Dana Peak
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Sony A7R II: Coming Soon

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo (about $3198).

I expect to have the Sony A7R II in hand on August 6th if all goes well.

Details and thoughts:

What I’d like to see is a 45mm X 30mm sensor in an similar form factor (commensurate with sensor size), the 2015 equivalent of the Mamiya 7 II. Perhaps Pentax will make a super-sized Ricoh GR?

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Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH Aperture Series: Dana Glacier, Moraine, Lake

Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH

Get Leica S and Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

This far-distance aperture series explores sharpness across the field from f/2.8 through f/8 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH:

Leica 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-S ASPH Aperture Series: Dana Glacier, Moraine, Lake (S006)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/2.8 - ƒ/8.

Dana Glacier, Moraine, Lake
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Ashish V writes:

Just wanted to say that I really like the way you process your images. Love the sharpening in this image as the detail looks really sharp but natural. Colours also look natural to me. Great work!

DIGLLOYD: I try to use a consistent approach across all cameras; what I do now took some time to develop but by long practice the results I present offer the best results for the widest variety of cameras.

Get the superb Zeiss Batis and Loxia for Sony Mirrorless
Batis 25/2 and 85/1.8 shipping mid-July. Pre-order now!
Reviewed in: Guide to Mirrorless

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH Aperture Series: Dead Tree Against Granite

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH

Get Leica S and Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

This aperture series explores sharpnes from f/2 through f/6.8 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH:

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH Aperture Series: Dead Tree Against Granite (S006)

The 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH has some optical limitations that this series shows.

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/2 - ƒ/8

Dead Tree Against Granite
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Frogs Croak, then Frogs to Be

Get Leica S and Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

In late June this particular large pond was deafening with croaking frogs.

A month later, the next generation abounds. These tadpoles are about two inches long, but there are other frog varieties at high altitude that are the size of pinky-finger thumbnail.

High altitude tadpoles in vernal pond
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Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH Aperture Series: Aspen Amid Pines

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH

Get Leica S and Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

This aperture series explores sharpness, bokeh and control of color aberrations from f/2 through f/8 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH:

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH Aperture Series: Aspen Amid Pines (S006)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/2 - ƒ/8

Quaking Aspen Among Pines
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Leica S Typ 006: Field Notes

Get Leica S and Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

Field notes for the Leica S Typ 006, based on four days of intensive shooting.

Leica S Typ 006 Usage and Field Notes

Upper Dana lake in late afternoon. Terminal moraine visible below the Dana ice field / glacier at upper left. The main Dana Lakes are formed by terminal moraines left long ago. In the late 1800's, the Yosemite area had glaciers of more substantial size, like the Lyell Glacier).

Upper Dana Lake
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Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH: MTF Analysis

Get Leica S and Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

I discuss the MTF for the Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at both infinity and close-range focusing distances. The Forest Trees at Dusk aperture series serves as a field check versus the MTF.

MTF Analysis for Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH

MTF for Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH Aperture Series: Forest Trees at Dusk

Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH

Get Leica S and Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH at B&H Photo.

This aperture series explores the performance at distance from f/2 through f/10 on the Leica S Typ 006 using the Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH:

Aperture Series: Forest Trees at Dusk (S006)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images to to 24 megapixels (6048 wide) and large crops, all from ƒ/2 - ƒ/10.

Forest Trees at Dusk
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Leica Screen Protectors

Leica now offers screen protectors for the M, Q and T series:

Leica Camera proudly introduces Display Protection Foil Sets for the Leica M and the Leica T. The display protection foil set for the Leica Q was announced previously. Each set comes with two protection foils, an optical cleaning cloth and a screen cleaning pad. As the name suggests, these display protection foils offer protection from scratches and dirt that may damage the rear screen. In bright light, the display foil makes it easier to see the contrast and details in images by reducing glare.

KEY BENEFITS & FEATURES
-Provides effective protection against scratches and dirt
-Reduces glare significantly
-Set consists of two protection foils, an optical cleaning cloth and a screen cleaning pad
-Made in Germany

Sometimes press releases can be difficult to understand. So.. translation, courtesy of a reader:

We were too cheap to put gorilla glass, common on every $300 Xiaomi and Huawei smartphone, on our cameras we sell for thousands of dollars.

Further, we were too cheap to include a couple of form-fitting plastic foils for our cameras, so we could sell them as add ons.

These foils will let you see our cheap LCD backs better in bright light by reducing glare, because we were too cheap to put in an ambient light sensor in our cameras that automatically adjusted the LCD brightness and contrast.

DIGLLOYD: and/or to build in an EVF on T and M cameras.

Get the superb Zeiss Batis and Loxia for Sony Mirrorless
Batis 25/2 and 85/1.8 shipping mid-July. Pre-order now!
Reviewed in: Guide to Mirrorless

See in the Dark: ISO 4,000,000 with the Canon ME20F-SH

With a full-frame 2.2 megapixel sensor sporting 16 micron pixels and taking Canon EF lenses, it is a very specialized tool. While spooks and sensitive sites will surely love this new camera, capturing images and video in nearly complete darkness is now feasible. The sensor used in the ME20F-SH was announced back in 2013.

The camera requires external recording and is a small box not suitable for general field use. Might the sensor find its way into the ideal format: a mirrorless camera or DSLR? Perhaps not, but that would surely extend the digital shooting envelope in an intriguing way.

CANON’S FIRST ULTRA-HIGH-SENSITIVITY MULTI-PURPOSE CAMERA FEATURES ISO EQUIVALENT OF OVER 4,000,000

MELVILLE N.Y., July 30, 2015 — Canon U.S.A. Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, today has introduced the Company’s first multi-purpose camera, the new ME20F-SH, which delivers exceptionally high sensitivity to capture Full HD video with a minimum subject illumination of less than 0.0005 lux1 (at maximum 75 dB gain setting, equivalent to an ISO sensitivity of over 4,000,000).

Nighttime surveillance and security, cinematic production, reality television, and nature/wildlife documentaries are just some of the ME20F-SH’s many possible usage applications. With the ability to capture color video in extreme low-light conditions and its simplistic and versatile design, the ME-20F-SH Multi-purpose Camera can be easily incorporated into existing infrastructures and systems to provide high-quality video capture even where subjects might not be seen with the naked eye.

Canon’s new multi-purpose camera employs an enhanced version of the 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor for Full HD video use that was originally developed by the Company in 20132. Its compact, modular body design allows easy custom configurations for diverse usage scenarios. While capturing video in extreme low-light conditions often requires the use of infrared illumination (a technique that only yields video in black and white), the ME20F-SH camera achieves impressive high-sensitivity performance enabling the capture of color Full HD video with reduced noise in low-light conditions without the need for infrared illumination.

Ultra-High-Sensitivity CMOS Sensor Enables Color Video Capture in Extreme Low-Light Conditions

The ME20F-SH camera’s CMOS sensor has pixels measuring 19 μm square3, which is more than 5.5 times the surface area of the pixels on the CMOS sensor featured in select top-of-the-line interchangeable lens cameras4. Furthermore, the sensor’s pixels and readout circuitry make use of Canon proprietary technologies to achieve both reduced noise and exceptionally high sensitivity on subjects with a minimum illumination of less than 0.0005 lux.

This multi-purpose camera allows users to discern subjects under even some of the dimmest lighting conditions, such as environments lit by artificial illumination or under a moonless night sky. Furthermore, similar to Canon’s Cinema EOS System of professional digital cinematography cameras, the ME20F-SH camera includes Canon Log and Wide DR, which make possible a wide dynamic range, delivering high-image-quality video results across a range of illumination environments, from low to brightly lit conditions.

Canon’s Diverse Interchangeable EF Lens Lineup Enables Wide Range of Imaging Possibilities

The new ME20F-SH employs the same EF mount (Cinema Lock type) as Canon’s SLR cameras and Cinema EOS System-series of professional digital cameras, allowing users to make use of the Company’s extensive lineup of interchangeable EF lenses5. By letting users select the ideal lens based on their shooting or application requirements, taking into consideration such factors as angle of view and level of brightness, this multi-purpose camera facilitates a wide spectrum of imaging possibilities.

Supports various standard video-recording interfaces

Employing output-only 3G/HD-SDI and HDMI terminals, Canon’s ME20F-SH camera enables users working on location to output video via a single cable to a variety of peripheral equipment, including external recorders and monitors. Equipped with a φ2.5mm stereo mini-jack and a round 8-pin jack for RS-422, the multipurpose camera is capable of connecting with Canon’s RC-V100 Remote Controller (released in June 2014; sold separately) 6.

By allowing users to operate the camera or change settings from a remote location, the camera facilitates video capture from inaccessible locations as well as fixed-point surveillance. Furthermore, a φ3.5mm stereo mini-jack allows the camera to connect with an external microphone, enabling users working on location to output audio and video signals to connected peripheral equipment.

The Canon ME20F-SH is expected to be available in December 2015 at a suggested retail price of $30,000.

1 Compliant with the specification method for CCTV devices (TTR-4602B) issued by the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association (JEITA). Theoretical value based on the following shooting conditions: color, no light accumulation, f/1.2, 30P, 50 IRE
2 For more information, please refer to the press release announced on March 4, 2013, available on the Canon Global website: http://www.canon.com/news/2013/mar04e.html
3 1 μm (micrometer) equals one millionth of a meter
4 19 μm pixel pitch (361 μm2 surface area) compared to 4.88 μm (23.81 μm2) of Nikon D810, 8.4 μm (70.56 μm2) of Sony Alpha ILCE-A7S, and 6.94 μm (48.16 μm2) of Canon EOS-1D X
5 Details regarding supported EF-series interchangeable lenses are scheduled to be made available in mid-December 2015
6 The RC-V100 requires a firmware update when using the round 8-pin jack for RS-422. Details regarding the firmware are scheduled to be made available in mid-December 2015

Specifications for Canon ME20F-SH
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Medium Format for $3999: Pentax 645D

Get Pentax 645D at B&H Photo.

See my review of the CCD-sensor Pentax 645D and my review of its CMOS-sensor successor, the Pentax 645Z. The lens assessments apply to either or both.

There is something special with the image quality of a medium format CCD sensor. For an excellent sensor at a low price of $3999, the 645D may be your camera. No Live View with CCD of course.

Pumpkin
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Leica S Typ 006: Autofocus Errors

Get Leica S at B&H Photo.

I had a horrific time with the autofocus on the Leica S Typ 006, surely the worst performance I have ever experienced with any camera, with a very high error rate often with huge errors. And not just with one camera body or lens, my photo tour client had a brand-new S006 and four brand-new lenses.

Readers of this blog with an S system should read the extensive discussion and see the examples before emailing with “my system works great” comments.

Results are documented at 24mm, 35mm, 45mm and 100mm:

Leica S Typ 006: Error-Prone Autofocus Damages Sharpness

I was forced to implement a tedious protocol in the field so as to not have my work destroyed by the S006 autofocus system, whose errors would be laughable if not so infuriatingly destructive to image sharpness. The lenses themselves are excellent, and by dint of careful checks, I was able to make the image series I needed, but at the cost of tedious checks for each series, a huge burden that greatly impaired what I could do. I grew sick of the system, but as I had only 4 days to work with, I gritted my teeth and soldiered on. But any desire for an S system is extirpated. Many series were ruined from the first day (particularly the 100mm and 45mm) and part of the second day , before I had noticed the focus error. Verifying focus is hard to do in the field: the miserable low resolution rear LCD also presents a low quality JPEG when zoomed in, for a sh*tty visual experience. If a system cannot focus properly and one cannot easily verify focus after the shot, what good is the system?

My client’s brand-new system failed in another way: if the camera slept or was powered off, the 24mm f/3.5 SEM would go missing; autofocus would not function at all and the lens aperture would not be recognized. And the camera would hang trying to update the lens firmware. Brand new stuff, very expensive. I expect better from a $40K system, or even a $2K system. The Sony A7R II with its state of the art sensor looks better every day.

The metering on the Leica S Typ 006 is garbage under field conditions. I was constantly forced to use exposure compensation or manual exposure. My client’s camera was observed to produce a 4-5 stop error in some circumstances and I observed gross errors in the ~3 stop range.

The CCD sensor on the S006 is superb.

Lugging an S system up here was a powerful argument for a smaller and lighter system.

Upper Dana Lake
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Hiking down the tricky talus slope got me to this area, seen just right of center near bottom.

Upper Dana Lake
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There is restricted little depth of field even at f/13. The glacial moraines disappear the creek in places, with a slightly eerie feel of an underground river when scrambling up a boulder field.

Disappearing Creek
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Leica S Typ 006: Coverage Soon with 24mm, 35mm, 45mm, 100mm Lenses

Get Leica S at B&H Photo.

See my pre-trip notes. I’m back from a 4-day trip to the Sierra with a photo tour client, who was also shooting a Leica S system.

On a side note, yesterday I saw the largest trout I’ve ever seen at high altitude, by a factor of 3X or so. A true lunker for a glacial lake at 11,500'.

Huge Selection of Drones

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set)

Get Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set).

Whenever I get a new camera, I turn immediately to Really Right Stuff for a grip or L-bracket or camera plate—top quality work made to fit exactly. These brackets are essential for my work.

So a big hooray that the new L-bracket is out for the Canon 5DS / 5DS R. Hopefully it will arrive via UPS today before I have to depart on my trip (the bracket for the Canon 5D Mark III is what I’ve been using, but it doesn’t fit quite right being slightly off square and with a bit of extra pressure on a small portion of the camera body).

The “L” part is not required and just the base plate portion can be used if desired.

Long a source of minor flex with all L brackets, the new bracket for the 5DS / 5DS R sports a special strap boss anchor (chrome finish part at top of L as show below). This optional (can be removed) part firmly and rigidly anchors the top of the L to the strap boss on the camera body—very sturdy. Nice work, RRS!

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set)

There are two positions (bolt holes) that are available. As shown below the alternate bolt hole is used to provide a substantial gap between the L portion and the camera body.

I mount the bracket flush to the left side, using the strap boss anchor as discussed above.

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set)

David S writes:

Got mine. It is very well engineered and made. It fits the camera perfectly, right down to the camera strap boss anchor on the L-bracket aligning perfectly with the camera – no fiddling or jiggling required to get it into the camera strap hole.

Access to the camera ports on the side is easy with the side bracket fitted and there is ample room in the design for the Canon cable release to be connected. Being able to store the tool in the base plate is a very good idea.

The downside to the L-bracket is the weight. It feels like it adds considerably to the weight of the camera, especially with the side bracket fitted. I may end up removing the side bracket from mine in order to keep the weight down.

DIGLLOYD: weight is always undesirable, but it does protect the camera on bottom and side and one can always remove it for handheld shooting (the allen wrench stows right in the bracket itself). Perhaps some future 3D-printed bracket can hollow-out things that cannot be hollowed out now.

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Sony A7R II: Poor Battery Life? And Can it Charge via USB?

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

Sony A7R II with 35/1.4 lens

The 42-megapixel Sony A7R II ships with two batteries and an AC charger. Yay!

Sony Alpha a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
2 x NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery (1020mAh)
• AC-UUD11 AC Battery Charging Adaptor
• BC-VW1 AC Charger for W Series Battery
• Shoulder Strap
• ALC-B1EM Body Cap for NEX Cameras
• Multi Interface Shoe Cap
• Eyepiece Cup
• Micro-USB Cable
• Limited 1-Year Warranty

But what a minute, why does it ship with two batteries? Perhaps the battery life is very poor, just like with the Sigma dp Quattro series; bowing to reality Sigma includes two batteries, which I applaud.

What I do not recall is whether the battery can be charged in the camera via a USB cable as with the Sony RX100. If so, then the relatively compact 60 watt-hour BatteryBox could be tossed into a daypack for field outings (day or days long) to recharge batteries on the fly. Since the BatteryBox is 60 watt-hours and the Sony battery is only about 7 watt-hours, it would provide about 8 battery recharges for Sony batteries, assuming high efficiency.

Tero N writes:

All A7-series cameras even prior to A7R II can be charged on the go from Micro-USB power pack, but camera needs to be turned off.

A7R II is actually improved in this context; it can run purely from external USB power if there is a non-empty battery inside. A nice addition, I'm gonna velcro a 12000 mAh battery pack to my tripod extra juice for long-exposure stuff. You can find details in the manual that is available for example below.

DIGLLOYD: excellent. With an AC charger (what I really use) plus a USB option (plugs right into the Wagan Tech power inverter or the BatteryBox, charging options are good. The Battery Box can be used in the field and the USB option in the car, freeing up an AC outlet on the inverter.

Eric W writes:

There are also a number of dummy battery cables available for the a7 series. They are usually terminated in the anton-bauer d-tap plug. I use the DionicHC batteries with my a7s and they can run it for 6-8 hours of recording.

I had suggested to someone on a forum that needed to run the camera in extreme cold, to use this cable, paired with an extension cable run up the sleeve to a battery kept in an inside vest or pocket near body heat. The anton bauer batteries are quite large, another option I like is from SWIT:

http://www.swit.cc/productshow.aspx?id=209

It is an 86wh battery with a 14.4v output and a 5v USB output. This would be easier to fit in a pocket or inside a jacket than the larger AB batteries.

DIGLLOYD: nice option.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Will the Leica Q Kill the Leica M?

Get Leica Q and Leica M at B&H Photo.

That is, if the Sony A7R II has not already killed it.

Shooting the Leica Q is a vastly more enjoyable experience than shooting the Leica M: hugely superior and built-in EVF along with autofocus. I enjoyed the Leica Q in spite of some really nagging operational issues (that could be fixed by Leica in a firmware update if the will is there).

The Q sensor appears to be superior in dynamic range and color rendition to the M240 sensor, and the optical performance compromises of the Q are not likely to be of concern to many shooters (not that M lenses are free of problematic compromises, particular the faster designs, ike wide-open aberrations and field curvature). But for those looking for pin-sharp results to the edges, do look elsewhere than the Q or M; a Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis comes to mind, or perhaps a future Sony RX2R with a 43MP sensor.

The Q is notably smaller, lighter and cheaper than the Leica M240 (about half the price or even less when the M240 + 28mm f/2 Summicron are the pairing). The image quality of the Q has an extraordinary visual impact and in this regard most users will find its images stunning. I want one, but the price is so high and I have so much gear, and I have to look at thing in ROI terms.

What if the Q were available in 4 or 5 focal lengths? What exactly would be the point of the aging M platform? That is, what would be the point to the vast majority of buyers, many of whom are dilettantes and collectors and have little interest or ability to grok the nerd appeal of the M.

So will the Leica Q kill the M platform? Yes if Leica makes other Q models with additional focal lengths and also fails to take the M platform forward.

The M platform clings to multiple handicaps:

Leica M240 with 50/1.4 Summilux
  • It is simply not usable by some users (eyesight).
  • The camera still crashes sometimes, requiring power off to recover, and losing the image.
  • The optional M240 EVF is a toy-grade low-res optional wart atop the camera. Awkward.
  • The M240 rangefinder is an anachronism used by some shooters, but entirely unusable by others (eyesight, framing, etc), and subject to mechanical tolerance errors along with grossly inaccurate frame lines and it is impossible to make a level image with wide angles using the rangefinder or absurdly expensive optical hot-shoe viewfinders.
  • The M240 is larger, heavier and much more expensive. With only a few lenses, it quickly becomes a $20K to $30K system.
  • The Leica Q sensor has superior dynamic range and color over the M sensor, with none of the color shading problems of the M wides.
  • My field experience shows vastly more accurate metering with the the Q. I have to shoot on manual all the time with the M; with the Q I just shoot on aperture priority with minor exp comp adjustments.
  • Leica M lenses simply are not as good as they could be versus a fresh approach to mirrorless. They are chock full of stale film-era compromises that need not be there with fresh designs for mirrorless. I would hold up the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon as a vastly superior lens as compared with Leica’s best (at 1/6 to 1/3 the cost!). Leica could do even better at double or triple the price the Batis.

So where should the M body go?

  • Introduce a smaller and lighter EVF-only ME (“M EVF”), with no rangefinder. This brings the cost down, usability up, size and weight way down.
  • Maintain compatibility with M lenses, but offer all new MA (“M autofocus”) lenses with autofocus and leaf shutters that rock with a built-in flash utilizing the wasted space currently occupied by the rangefinder. These lenses can be new designs optimized for mirrorless and be made larger so as not to require such esoteric optical designs (no more concern in blocking the rangefinder).
  • Raise the resolution and dynamic range of the sensor: 36 megapixels minimum, 14+ bits dynamic range. As they say in Russia, tough shitsky if those vaunted M lenses show their limits even more than they do now at 24 megapixels.

This should all have been done a year ago.

Hail peppers climbers descending Mt Dana, delivering auditory and tactile and olfactory delights while the eyes feast on the sunlit Mt Conness and Saddlebag Lake area.

Mt Dana Hailstorm with view to Mt Conness in sunlight
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Dan M writes:

OK, so you’ve shown us this again. [Mt Dana hailstorm] And now I look at it with a bit more care to the nuance and detail [and enlarged] and realize just how few camera/lens combos could deliver this image.

You don’t notice the quality right up front because of the extreme circumstance of the shot. But there is depth, excellent detail and proper color everywhere in a situation where most gear would produce a sack of mush.

DIGLLOYD: yes, the lens on the Q has its quality limits at the periphery, but as I've said in my review of the Leica Q, what I term the “visual impact” is superb. This comes from high contrast for coarse and fine structures (high MTF) and strict control of aberrations. The only negative is the loss of peripheral sharpness from the severe distortion, which must stretch pixels to make the image, starting with an effective captured area of only about 22 megapixels.

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Leica S Typ 006: Shooting it Next Trip with 24mm, 35mm, 45mm, 100mm Lenses

Leica S2 (old model)

Get Leica S at B&H Photo.

Shooting the Leica S system to review it has been an issue, mainly because of cost.

But a friend has generously loaned me his Leica S Typ 006 and the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH and the Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH (the same friend who loaned me gear for my review of the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH).

Also, B&H is loaning me the 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-S ASPH and the 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH. So I’ll have the 24mm, 35mm, 45mm and 100mm Leica S lenses to shoot (equivalent to 19mm, 28mm, 36mm, 80mm in 35mm full frame field of view terms). I would have liked to also have the 30mm, but if interest is proven (new subscriptions), then I will invest additional effort in the 30mm, 70mm, and 120mm focal lengths.

Personally I find this an interesting project for context and relevance of medium format, particularly in light of the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R with Zeiss Otus, as well as the Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis. But this is a business, and my bills don’t pay themselves! I have to respond to customer demand as the primary driver of my schedule, and the Leica S market is very small. So this effort and the response to the coverage are a trial balloon, possibly a waste of 4 days in revenue terms and my time, but at the least I’ll gain a solid perspective on the S system and its lenses, and a wide-ranging perspective always feeds back into all my work. And I have just enough time to do it before the Sony A7R II work onslaught arrives (there are many more customers for the A7R II than Leica S).

I’ll be shooting the S system in the Yosemite area for four days. My goal is to gather enough material to provide a detailed look at each of those lenses on the Leica S Typ 006 (which is equivalent in imaging to the Leica S-E).

The 'glass' matters but so does the sensor, and the Leica S CCD sensor is gorgeous. So even though the Leica S system is stuck (permanently it seems) at 36 megapixels, it is the total combination of resolution and pixel quality that together make the visual impact.

Pescadero Creek
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Examples: Mt Conness Watershed (Canon 5DS R)

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM and Canon 5DS R at B&H Photo.

Extending my review of both the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM and the Canon 5DS R are these additional pages:

Examples: Mt Conness Watershed (5DS R)

Examples: Beautiful Boulder at Four Focal Lengths (5DS R)

Color Fringing, Uncorrected and Corrected, Optical Misalignment? (5DS R)

Conclusions on 11-24mm f/4L

Presented with HD and UltraHD images up to 24 megapixels. most images with crops and some with both color and black and white versions, since the Canon 5DS R makes an excellent monochrome camera.

These examples are an excellent way to understand the real-world performance of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L as well as the Canon 5DS R.

At about $2999, the Canon 11-24mm f/4L is hardly inexpensive, but given the unprecedented range and image quality, it’s a winner.

Contemplation
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Beautiful Boulder, Clearing Storm
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Zeiss Batis Lenses Have Shipped (a few days ago)

Get Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

According to Zeiss USA, “First dealer deliveries were made last week, on time”.

As I predicted, the initial shipment was absorbed by pre-orders, and and so the Batii are still on pre-order status at B&H—first shipment all spoken for. I expect the Zeiss Batis lenses to be in high demand and relatively hard to get for some time (like Zeiss Loxia).

With the new Sony A7R II (expected around Aug 6), it is my intention to test mainly with the Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia lenses (if I can get them), because they offer outstanding performance that will show the sensor off nicely. See my existing review of Zeiss Batis and review of Zeiss Loxia.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Photoshop CC 2014 Now Gets the CC 2015 Bugs

I recently reported that a slew of new bugs had appeared in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.

Now with the very recent update to CC 2014, Adobe has added at least some of those bugs into CC 2014.

Beware: the bugs involve the GPU, a notoriously unstable area. CC 2014 and CC 2015 have been crashing on me at 5X the rate of the previous versions. Adobe has been replacing proven non-GPU code with GPU code, and apparently replacing optimized non-GPU code with turtle-slow code. So you now get an unstable application, or turtle slow operation if the GPU is disabled (I have disabled the GPU for years due to instability).

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bristlecone on Bare Hill, Checking for Lens Symmetry (Canon 5DS R)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

The lighting was harsh, and I have many more attractive scenes, but the subject matter here is perfect for seeing just how demanding a 50 megapixel sensor can be.

But mainly the subject was chosen to assess performance both in terms of how much stopping down is required for good quality, how much depth of field it delivers (real depth of field), and whether the lens shows symmetry of sharpness across the frame.

In DAP:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bristlecone on Bare Hill, Checking for Lens Symmetry (Canon 5DS R)

Just how good the Zeiss Otus line is and how the Sigma Art lenses are not in the same league is plain to my eyes. Shooting a DSLR? Otus or bust. Sort of a good, better, best thing (Nikon/Canon, Sigma Art, Otus).

The track of a motorcyle mars a very sensitive environment at about 11,500' elevation. Such thoughtless damage keeps increasing in this pristine area, which now has Wilderness designation.

Lonely Bristlecone at about 11,500' elevation
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Power On the Road: Power Inverter for Everything, MagSafe Charging for Apple Laptops

Back in June: OK, So Up in the Mountains in a Canyon, Whadya do for Power for a Laptop?

Here’s a followup on several products I’ve tried.

Pawtec Macbook High-Speed Car Charger

Pawtec car charger for Magsafe

The idea is that direct DC to DC current should be more efficient than a power inverter that converts DC to AC, that is, a 12V DC power inverter to AC to Apple power brick. Maybe.

I was initially thrilled with the Pawtek adapter, as it powered my late 2013 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina with no fuss keeping it nicely at 100% charge.

Pawtec Macbook High-Speed Car Charger - Compatible MagSafe 2 for Apple Macbook / Air / Retina Mid-2012 - Present

But when the battery charge was about 75% and I then plugged the laptop into the Pawtec, the Pawtec adapter started making high pitched screeching noises, and the adapter plug became too hot to touch. Things that get too hot to touch worry me. I unplugged it and let it cool. Perhaps it’s normal or perhaps it’s risky—I don’t know but I’d say that the Pawtec is good for steady usage but caution is advised for charging a depleted battery. The MBP Retina power brick is a 90W unit, so maybe that’s too much for the Pawtec.

Battery box

So far this BatteryBox unit has worked great. The BatteryBox unit is 60Wh; a MacBook Pro Retina has a ~100 Wh internal battery, so 60 Wh is in theory about a 60% gain in battery time.

Tests at home under maximum load (all CPUs busy via MemoryTester) with the BatteryBox connected kept the MBP at 100% charge for about 35 minutes. Since normal usage uses far less power, I’d estimate that the BatteryBox will yield a runtime extension commensurate with its watt hours in relation to the built-in battery (3 hours is about all I get out of the MBP using Photoshop and such, so maybe I'd get 5 hours, total). Further field testing will prove this out. Its a nicely made unit and I’ve suggested to the manufacturer to offer a double or triple size battery. But of course it’s possible to carry more than one battery.

The BatteryBox also charges a USB device via its USB port, but a pending firmware update is needed for full compatibility (some of my devices would charge, some would not).

One limitation is that the BatteryBox takes USB charging via an AC wall-wart, so back to the same old power inverter for recharging (no direct DC charging).

BatteryBox with MagSafe compatible connector

Wagan Tech 200W pure sine-wave power inverter

This is now my meat and potatoes power source for when I’m traveling in my vehicle in the mountains; it charges up everything.

I replaced an older and cheaper square wave inverter with a Wagan EL2600 Elite Pro 200W Pure Sine Inverter. The older unit did not seem efficient; it became relatively hot and ran its fan a lot. It cost a lot less, and I guess you get what you pay for.

Wagan EL2600 Elite Pro 200W Pure Sine Inverter

But the Wagan EL2600 Elite Pro 200W Pure Sine Inverter runs much cooler and with less fan noise and no fuss. Its pure sine wave AC output is more efficient for devices and hence the cooler operation (lower power draw on the unit itself, which is claimed to itself be 90% efficient).

I charged 3 camera batteries at once as well as the iPhone via USB, and it powers the MacBook Pro with no fuss at all. 200W is plenty for all that stuff, even simultaneously.

The Wagan EL2601 Elite 400W and 1000W Pro Pure Sine Inverter alternatives may be of use to some, but 200W will already blow a vehicle fuse in many vehicles (12V X 16.7 amps ~= 200W, my vehicle is fused at 20 amps but some are fused at 15 amps). The 400W or 1000W units can deliver a lot more power, but only if connected directly to a suitable battery directly with the alligator clamps (not the cigarette lighter socket).

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Leica S at Deep Discounts

Step up to medium format at a deeply discounted price? Were I shooting medium format, it is the S system that I would choose, for the lens quality is unmatched by any other medium format system. The Leica S sensor is gorgeous, and I happen to like the 70mm f/2.5 lens quite a lot, though my #1 lens pick (for my own reasons) would be the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH.

I’ve learned that B&H Photo can price match some deals. Call B&H Photo at (800) 947-6628 for a price match. Most important, I trust B&H to honor their prices. Please let me know of success (or not) in getting a price match.

Leica Store San Francisco has a $9199 price for the Leica S-E + 70mm lens. That’s a screaming deal for an S-system. B&H tells me they can price match the $9199 price. B&H will NOT price match on products that are not in stock.

Update 21 July: prices went back up radically. The deal was there for a few days.

Other price examples

Price links below are at Leica Store Miami. Please note that I am NOT recommending Leica Store Miami, as I have never done business with them*.

Leica S-E (Typ 006) (1 year warranty)
Leica S-E (Typ 006) / 70mm Lens Set
Leica S (Typ 006) (includes Leica Protection Plan Body, 3 years is my understanding)

* It looks to me like Leica Store Miami is breaking its MAP agreement.

'Found' Cases for Gear

Get Sigma DP Merrill and Olympus OM-D at B&H Photo.

I use Lupine lights for my cycling and headband and similar needs (highly recommended).

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

Three Sigma DP Merrill cameras in Lupine zippered case
Olumpus E-M1 and lenses in Lupine zippered case

 

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Leica Q: Really not a 24MP Camera and not a 28mm Lens (in effect)

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

In Guide to Leica, I’ve extended my analysis of the extreme optical distortion of the Leica Q, and the corresponding distortion correction required to correct it.

  • The Leica Q is a 22.4 megapixel camera (approx) in terms of recorded usable pixels.
  • The degradation of peripheral sharpness by distortion correction piles on further losses: I deem the Leica Q a ~20 megapixel camera in terms of peak available sharpness (better if one does not care about the periphery).*
  • The equivalent horizontal field of view is 29.7mm, assuming the 28mm f/1.7 is a 28.0mm lens. Which it might not be; it might be a 27mm or similar (or might not be). An infinity focus scene has to be shot to determine its relative field of view compared to say, a Leica 28/2 Summicron.

Leica Q: Extreme Distortion Degrades Periphery, Reduces True Resolution, Decreases Field of View

As a counterpoint that speaks to the wonderful visual impact and dynamic range:

Examples: Climbing Mt Dana

I like the Leica Q very much as per the above examples. With a few firmware fixes for really thoughtless design decisions, I’d love to have one were the price more palatable (no ROI for me for starters and I use tons of gear constantly, can’t just buy stuff to have on hand).

I also discuss Leica Q Recording Format (DNG and JPEG).

What I regret seeing in the Q (as much as I like its imagery overall) are the self-timer behavior and timing limits, the AF cross coupling bug (presumably to be fixed), the lack of a grip, huge files (no lossless compression), a useless video button (non programmable) and certain other limitations and restrictions that have no rational justification (all fixable in firmware if Leica had the will to do so). All these things come to bear in using the Q at various times and only one’s own use can weigh the balance as relevant or not. For an oddball but real-world example, risk of injury traversing icy rocks back and forth because the damn self timer resets every shot (and takes only 1 shot). Or the much more mundane usage of shooting on a tripod with more than one shot.

* One might argue that the idea of realizable megapixel detail applies to lens performance in general, but I deem that a non-issue with the Zeiss Batis lenses to be used on the 42MP Sony A7R II. Or at least that is my expectation, and 42MP is going to record a ton more detail in any case, with less aliasing as well.

Massive optical disortion with Leica Q, uncorrected
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Left/Right Zone of Focus Skew: Not Always the Lens, the Sensor and Lens Mount Might not be Plane-Parallel

Get Canon 5DS R at B&H Photo.

See Case Study: Severe Lens Skew (D800E, Samyang 14mm f/2.8) for an example of clear-cut lens skew on a known-good camera body.

Symmetry issues are an issue at all price levels; see Asymmetry with Leica 180mm f/3.5 APO-Elmar-S.

See Updates at bottom: I shot a lot of material on my recent trip using the Canon 5DS R with the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

The Canon 11-24mm f/4L (about $2999) is a must-have lens for the Canon shooter. It’s so much fun in the field! The 11-14mm range is a wonderfully useful extension versus the more limited range of the 14-24mm Nikkor. The 11-24mm shows its limits on the 5DS R, but short of Zeiss Otus, virtually all lenses show obvious limits, and even the Otii can be nitpicked more easily.

The Sigma DG HSM Art lenses are absolutely not in the same league as Zeiss Otus. Camera skew or not, they need a lot of stopping down at 50MP to get to quality that the Otii deliver wide open. Still, they are much better than the Nikon or Canon equivalents and are a superb value.

About 10 days ago, I sent in my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II to be adjusted because I was seeing a skew in focus: left side focused to the distance, right side to the foreground (this was from back in mid June). Canon returned the lens as “performing to specifications”.

The “performing to specifications” response caused a sinking feeling in my gut, so I just finished examining many images from the lenses mentioned above, all shot on the same Canon 5DS R on my recent trip.

All of the lenses are consistent: while not always obvious, any shot at distance shows a clear bias of focus to the distance on the left side, and focus to the foreground on the right side. In other words, I either have four bad lenses, or a misaligned camera body. That is to say that the lens mount is not plane parallel to the sensor.

That said, the Canon 11-24mm f/4L is much more subtle; wide open the periphery is not fully sharp, and there is significant depth of field at f/4 so it’s harder to see without the right scene. In most cases one can be forgiven for thinking there is no issue and with near/far scenes shot at any kind of angle and with closer focus (not infinity), most of my work looks perfectly fine, so I have a sense of relief there. Examining the f/1.4 Sigma lenses, the issue is more prominent (much wider apertures). And lens design can influence performance too (amount of telecentricity). Finally, closer focus reduces the issue; it is the highly sensitive infinity focus that is “touchy”. A suitable grassy or rock slope with distant focus is where the issue rears its head most obviously (50 feet out and farther for focus).

Given the evidence (consistency among four lenses), I think it’s fair to say that error is in the camera body. Which aside from damaging a great deal of field work, puts me in a bind as within 12 hours I have to head to an cycling event in the Sierra, and I was planning on shooting the 5DS R before and after. Now my shooting plans are in chaos, so I may just shoot Nikon and Otus and a few other things while I await a replacement 5DS R. I do have the new Sigma dp0 Quattro coming, though the thought of using Sigma Photo Pro to process more than a few images makes my stomach churn.

I intend to document the sensor/mount skew by example, as I think this is something everyone should be aware of when buying ultra high resolution digital cameras. Perfect symmetry is hard to come by, but at 22-24 MP, a slight skew was harder to detect. At 50 megapixels, the tolerances are now problematic and anything and everythings shows up, and a slight error in lens added to an error in the camera can add up and combine badly. But in this case it appears to be just the camera at fault.

Update

I shot the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in my backyard on a house and deck scene at about 80 feet distanct. I cannot detect any skew with the Otus 55/1.4, even wide open.

Then I shot the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II on the same scene as the Otus 55/1.4, at 24mm and 28mm. It looks just like the bad results prior to Canon service: the left side shows reasonably good definition and the right side shows a strongly blurred area that hardly improves from f/2.8 to f/5.6. Camera or lens? It sure looks like the lens to me, and yet Canon service stated it is “performing to expectations”. And then those Sigma Art lenses aren’t symmetric either.

Next I tested the Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon. I could not detect any lens skew. With these mixed results, I am forced to say I don’t really know for sure what is wrong. It could be a combination of factors. The right way to do this is to have at least two identical camera bodies and lenses and hold one variable constant. But dual 5DS R bodies are hard to come by.

Finally I tested the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. It shows a very mild right-side focus bias to the foreground, as seen in the field at greater distance (closer range may be harder to see and lens focusing can change things). It’s not a big skew just as I found in the field, but it is visible.

This is a hard one: I’ve dealt with skew issues for years, seeing it fairly often with various gear (see Sony 35/1.4 and Tamron 15-35 most recently), but this one has me tearing my hair out. Maybe it’s just bad odds on the lenses PLUS minor tolerance differences that happen to affect the 24-70, 24/1.4 and 50/1.4 lenses. Except for the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (“peforming to specifications”), I would characterize the skew as mild. Moreoever it’s hard to detect at closer range (examining other field images). It appears to me that focus distance is involved, infinity focus being the most demanding and least forgiving of even the slightest issue, but also the lens design (perhaps the degree of telecentricity).

I once tested four Zeiss 21/2.8 Distagons on a Nikon DSLR; each was different but in the end the camera body proved to be the culprit (Nikon found it off slightly and it was perfect when it came back as many subsequent shoots proved out). Those 21/2.8 Distagons were sent back to Zeiss and were all MTF tested at the factory after my shoot, and only one was out of tolerance and not by much. A small error in the camera alignment can combine with a small error in the lens to make things additively worse or slightly better. Moreover things can change with focusing distance as elements change position and orientation internally.

Update 2

Up in the Sierra Nevada today Jun 17, I shot the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon on the side of an old building. No skew.

The Otii are held to very tight tolerances, best in the industry IMO. I’m wondering if the camera is fine or just a tiny bit off and what I’m seeing is tolerances (“performing to specifications”) on multiple lenses: maybe “in spec” has not changed much since the days of 12-24 megapixel cameras, yet we are now at 50MP. It might even be the case that the manufacturing process for many lenses cannot be reliably implemented to the tolerances needed for 50MP.

Update 3

Further examination of images from various lenses leads me to conclude that the camera is not likely to be at fault. I’d love to have a 2nd camera body, but the 5DS R remains in short supply. But in a week or so I’ll send it to Canon, and Canon has the sophisticated gear to test sensor/flange parallelism.

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Leica Q: Climbing Mt Dana from Sun to Hail to Rain to Sun Again

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

I had frustrations with the autofocus being disabled with the leveling view and thus the variety and hit rate of my images was reduced, but nothing beats assessing the end results with real-world shooting on a mission for which the Leica Q was designed: a highly portable full-frame camera with excellent dynamic range and superb color rendition suitable for any kind of documentary photography, as well as rapidly changing lighting. The superb metering (aperture priority) and high-grade EVF and fast response time are strong qualities that I enjoyed.

This series of images documents a climb up Mt Dana in Yosemite National Park on a truly exceptional July day that went from sun to dark clouds to hail to rain and fog and back to sun. An incredible treat!

Leica Q Examples: Climbing Mt Dana

I climbed the peak with my daughter (her first real climb), and many of the images include her. The experience reminded me that including a human being in a landscape photo often makes a more interesting image, lending scale and perspective. This I already knew of course, but over the years I had semi-forgotten it—I almost always hike alone in wild places, getting the job done when it needs to be done.

Self-timer and autofocus behaviors aside, the Leica Q succeeds at what I perceive to be its core mission of offering high quality imagery in a very compact package, the main weak point being sharpness at the periphery due to the extreme optical distortion that requires correction, which degrades the fine details. But it is the overall visual impact that makes the end result so attractive. Now if only Leica would improve the experience by fixing a few annoying behaviors that frustrate ease of use—get the camera out of the way, don’t make it a roadblock.

I would like a Leica Q, but they aren’t exactly giving them away. My curiosity is piqued for the Sony A7R II. I know the A7R II will have its own annoying issues, and how that balances out against the Q remains to be seen. But of course the A7R II has interchangeable lenses including the superlative Zeiss Batis line.

View towards Mono Lake from north ridge of Mt Dana
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Hail peppers climbers descending Mt Dana, delivering auditory and tactile and olfactory delights while the eyes feast on the sunlit Mt Conness and Saddlebag Lake area.

Mt Dana Hailstorm with view to Mt Conness in sunlight
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UPDATE: Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts CONFIRMED by Leica, to be fixed with firmware update

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

I reported Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts about 6 weeks ago. Leica contacted me about the issue, and I provided a DNG to Leica, one of many with the spots. Today I received a brief note from Leica as follows:

We have found the root cause and plan to make a firmware update that avoids this effect.

It seems that all images I shot with the flaw are permanently damaged with these dots. Meanwhile, everyone with a Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 presumably will be recording images with spots. But whether the flaw exists in every MM246—this I do not know and Leica has not so indicated. Every vendor can deliver a camera with flaws, and I am pleased that Leica will be fixing the issue—that’s the key thing—a fix. But it is immaterial to me as I do not own or plan to purchase the Leica M Monochrom 246 (cannot be justified on an ROI basis).

How is it that I detected the black spot issue with my very first evaluation shoot and no one else noticed it? While I have an odd “Bermuda Triangle” effect on camera and computer gear, the fact that no one noticed the issue prior to shipping the MM246 raises some questions about quality control and testing. Leica has never asked me to test their cameras and that’s just fine, but my suggestion to Leica is to develop relationships with testers competent to evaluate image quality before releasing a camera or lens. I was also the first to blow the whistle on the severe flare issues with the 50mm f/2 APO (my findings were rejected by at least one expert unable to use his own eyes, but later that year Leica stopped production to fix “4 minor issues” with the design, and it is much improved now as the issues were far from minor). Leica never acknowledged my reporting on that issue, so I am glad that Leica took the initiative in contacting me about this black spots issue.

Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (actual pixels)
Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (200% of actual pixels)
Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Leica Q: Autofocus Fails Permanently (well, actually a weird cross-coupling of AF to info display)

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

Update 14 July: upon returning home, I discovered that AF is working, but with a confusing twist that precluded me from using autofocus while out in the field. Details further below.

Today I climbed Mt Dana with my daughter. It was an important day to me, this being our first summit climb together, ever. I took the Leica Q for its relatively compact size and light weight.

But the Leica Q (with about 40 frames on it from new) failed. Its AF system went AWOL and power cycling the camera and pulling the battery numerous times did nothing to restore AF functionality. I was left with a brand-new $4250 camera that could not autofocus.

While readers know that I often use manual focus, this is not so easy with dark sunglasses and varying light conditions and a moving subject (and balancing on rocks). So the Q failed miserably to deliver what I needed this day.

Fortunately, knowing that every Leica camera has failed me more than once (S and M and now Q), I was not a complete idiot. I took along the superlative and far, far less expensive Ricoh GR, which performed admirably and with a built-in flash for flash fill to boot. I still shot the Q with manual focus for some things, but it lost me some shots due to the delay and subject movement.

I did use the Q for the summit shot on a mini tripod, pre-focusing manually. The Q endeared itself by forcing me to re-enable the self-timer for every shot, shuttling back and forth over slippery icy rocks. The lack of insight into real photography at Leica is appalling: this situation is hardly uncommon (group shots on a tripod or similar). The other annoying behavior is getting 4 or 5 frames instead of 1 frame by going from S to C when turning the camera on (in the real world, I'm hiking, have gloves on, etc). And its propensity to drain 1/4 of its battery overnight. Look, if you’re a street shooter walking out of your hotel or whatever and then back to a dinner and coffee, maybe the Q works for you. Out on the trail, this stuff gets frustrating, fast.

UPDATE 14 July

Back home, I could not get the camera to autofocus with any conventional setting (spot focus, face detect, etc). But then I noticed that touch focus works. And then that the rear button performs AF. But not the shutter release.

Finally I realized that toggling through the info settings (center button on 4 way dial) has 2 of 3 display modes that disable autofocus with the shutter release. One of those modes has the horz/vert level display. Since I shoot almost exclusivley with the screen with the leveling function enabled, and this is one of the three AF-disabled views, the camera would never autofocus! I never considered the idea that the info display on the rear LCD would also mysteriously coupled in a way that enables or disables autofocus.

Apparently this is as-designed and can be classified as RTFM (which I did, but somehow if this is described, I missed it). There is a setting Zoom/Lock-Button which I had set to AFL. But it is not AF-lock, it is AF disableforever, even after camera power offs or the battery removed (unlike the self timer which unsets itself at every shot!). Adding to the confusion, this center button toggles the rear LCD 3 ways, while simultaneously locking or unlocking the chosen function. This coupling of display info to a locking function is a bizarre design choice that baffles me. What does locking focus or exposure have to do with toggling the rear display info?

The solution seems to be to set Zoom/Lock-Button = Digital Zoom, which seems to have no ill effects and to allow AF with the leveling functionl. This makes no sense at all to me, but it works.

UPDATE 15 July

Leica contacted me to say this:

The info setting button on the backside of the camera should not deactivate the AF in any setting. It is just a switch between video rec info, still info and clear display.

As the behavior of your camera sounds strange we would suggest to return to camera to the Leica service for deeper evaluation.

DIGLLOYD: the behavior is consistent: when Zoom/Lock-Button = AFL, pressing the button inside the 4-way controller* toggles the info screens and disables AF in the two non-video modes. When Zoom/Lock-Button = AEL /AFL is used, the AF system operates as expected via the shutter release.

* The Set button labeled #31 in schematic in the manual, the 4-way controller being the Direction Pad.

Zeiss Loxia for Sony

Reader Inquiry: Sigma DG HSM Art Lenses on Canon 5DS R

Get Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Sigma DG 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

David M writes:

Any plans of testing the Sigma Art series lenses namely, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm f1.4 DG HSM Art on the Canon 5DS R?

I have purchased these three (price driven,unfortunately) based on your positive field testing with them. Am wondering how they will stand up to a sensor in the 40-50 mpixel in anticipation of Nikons next high res. DSLR.

Thank you for your detailed "in field,real world" testing and recommendations. Its the only site worth taking notice of. Appreciate your hard work.

DIGLLOYD: I just literally put the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art in my photo backpack for departure tomorrow for several days of field work in Yosemite. With rain in the Sierra, most forest fires are almost dead out, so the air and conditions should be ideal, unlike my late June trip, where I was smoked home.

I am a big fan of the outstanding value offered by the Sigma Art line, including the superb lens case shipped with the Sigma Art lenses, which makes a laughingstock of the cheapo Canon and Nikon soft pouches. Superb because the Sigma case protect the lenses and pack well. I like them enough that I really wish Zeiss would do something similar as I always need to jam a bunch of stuff into my North Face Recon daypack and that means some kind of protective case (jostling issues and similar). So the Zeiss lenses go into neoprene style pouches, a bit more compact and a bit tight with some. I end up preferring the Sigma cases. Nor does Sigma skimp on lens hoods—included with all the Art lenses.

I am also revisiting the Canon 8-15mm f/4L and the Canon 11-24mm f/4L zooms. These lenses are excellent but I want to see their limits on the Canon 5DS R. The 24-70mm f/2.8L II is very good too but my sample is decentered and is at Canon for adjustment.

I’ll take the Leica Q along as a hiking camera (and the much more useful Ricoh GR with its built-in flash for happy snaps), to see if I can un-bore myself with it while climbing some peaks. I wanted a corner to corner whacko-sharp lens, but the 28/1.7 Summilux on it lens is a disappointment, not to mention closer in speed to a Summicron than a Summilux, cheating on the Summilux moniker in both speed and performance.

Reader Experience and Concerns: Sony Service and Reliability

Get Sony Alpha A7R II and Sony FE lens B&H Photo.

Another horror story about Sony’s idea of customer service. See the May blog post with other Sony horror stories.

K S writes:

I’m writing to you about a current experience with Sony and Precision Camera. I contacted the former due to failed parts on my camera. Unlike other users who’ve had to pay out of pockets, my protection plan was a wise decision (I never really cared to test how these camera and lens manufacturers define as ‘weather sealing’). After having sent in my body (Sony A99) on the 17th of June to PC, I had to pull teeth to get answers from people. Documents I sent and authorizations for repair were ignored/went unheeded for up to 3 days. I expected to have it completed by the 4th of July weekend, but the lady on the phone suggested I borrow someone’s camera after leaving me a voice mail saying it’ll probably be done by the 4th of July.

What’s worse is that I had a customer service rep hang up on me today after telling me that they had to have Sony manufacture spare parts for them and ship them from overseas to complete my repair (I think that any competent manufacturer keeps parts around for repairs when their cameras are still serviceable). Her estimated date of arrival for the parts is July 24th before the repair process starts. Total time from receiving equipment to starting repairs? Upwards of 30 days. Repairs are another 5-10 business days and there’s no overnight or two-day shipping.

I’m not someone who makes a full time living off my camera body so I’m not a top tier customer, but contracting repairs out to a group (who I think) look worse than amateurs makes no sense. Innovate on the products, but keep the support pipelines fed and active. I think Sony might not be able to keep up its momentum if it ignores the support infrastructure. The latest update after a 20 minute call with Sony support about half an hour ago is that they’ll escalate the issue and have customer relations reach out to me in 24-48 hours.

As much as I love your coverage of, and dislike hearing the precise and accurate criticism of Sony, for the A7 line and beyond, I think Sony is setting itself up for failure. Innovation paired with adequate support might be their only way out and I hope you continue your honest coverage to bring some perspective into how Sony is neglecting to do what it should to keep itself relevant and active. Take care.

DIGLLOYD: What a noxious approach by Sony. Every customer deserves good service, but ultimately every customer can vote with the wallet: support those companies that deliver a product, not just a gadget in a box.

This sort of stuff makes me unhappy about supporting Sony (buying Sony products), a point I made back in December in On Sony; nothing has changed. But while I don’t really want to buy any Sony products given Sony’s behavior (including a very unpleasant experience back when I was reporting on Sony A7R shutter vibration), I am going to buy the Sony A7R II because it is very popular and covering such things is my business. And, as long the camera works properly, it looks to be a fine camera (albeit with the various flaws I’ve pointed out more than a few times). But I dread having to get it serviced.

Recently, I sent a Canon lens in for adjustment. I got prompt and courteous professional treatment, and while my unusual position in the industry may have made it go faster, I’ve generally heard very positive things from pros about Canon’s professional services group (CPS) —Canon “gets” it.

Alex R writes:

These kinds of issues with Sony service aren’t unique to the US either. Up until early this year I worked for and managed a camera store in New Zealand. A large part of my job was dealing with, chasing up and unfortunately often fighting with repair agents to get customer cameras repaired promptly and properly.

We sold a lot of Sony hardware and therefore had quite a number of repairs (not saying Sony cameras fail more than Canon/Nikon, simply digital cameras in general have a reasonably high rate of issues) and parts supply to a third party repair agent (who also ran their own camera store to boot—conflict of interest perhaps?) who would often have to wait weeks/months for parts to come from overseas. Any number of times cameras would come back DOA from repair or with some other issues.

Having said that, Fujifilm stuff was far worse, after dealing with their product I now to take their “handmade in Japan” to mean avoid at all cost, though their superzoom compacts were often even worse. Any number of their cameras came with problems out of the box, ranging from DOA to crooked LCD panels to one particular customer who in the space of a fortnight went through an XE-2, then I think 2 X-T1s before actually getting one that didn’t have substantial amounts of debris of some description under the UV/IR filter on the sensor. Personally, I had an X10 compact have its lens replaced 2 or 3 times before they could fit one that wasn’t dodgy.

Canon’s service centre was far from excellent but at least generally competent and with clear procedure, log repairs online, select your automatic proceed cost threshold, explain to customers clearly the process and the decline fees etc. and generally parts availability is not an issue. Plus at least Canon offers CPS which seems well worth it if you have a stack of gear and you use it frequently. Hell, even if nothing goes wrong you get more than your money’s worth in sensor/camera cleans.

Before brands like Sony and Fuji think they can seriously court the pro market they really need better standards of service globally. I know they make a huge deal about making “pro grade” gear to appeal to wealthy amateurs and weekend warriors but the vast majority of pros I know keep shooting Canon (mostly) and Nikon because they’re the only brands making real pro gear with some attempt at pro support.

Still, looking forward to your A7R II report, might just pick one up if it’s any good once Sony’s butchered the price/resale value with a million cash back and instant rebate offers…

DIGLLOYD: Yikes.

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Photoshop CC 2015 Rife With Bugs

I regret upgrading to Photoshit CC 2015. It has several bugs damaging to my workflow.

1) Moving a selection does not work. Or rather, it works with a 5-10 second delay, but it mangles the selection and the delay means no feedback and thus it’s impossible to use.

2) Grab handles from the crop tool are the grab handles from hell: they won’t go away even after a tool change, hitting the escape key, etc. Moreover, at times, a screen shot will capture the (invisible) stuff behind the Photoshop window!

3) Scaling to Fit to Window to results in a blurry rendition (this also is in CC 2014).

4) Various unstable behaviors (crashes).

5) Bizarre and unpredictable slowdowns.

I have the dual D700 GPUs in my 2013 Mac Pro with 8-core 3.3 GHz CPU and 64GB memory and 1TB SSSD. It doesn’t get any faster.

These are GPU-related bugs. Turn off the GPU to fix. I’ve long advised disabling GPU support because of bugs, but Adobe has been removing the optimized non-GPU code, so many functions are now turtle slow with the GPU off. We’re screwed: the old fast code is gone, the new code is buggy GPU-based code. Some of this may be Apple’s fault (buggy drivers that were problematic from the start), and some may be Adobe bugs. I don’t know. But the end result is the same: a disaster for work.

I’m going to have to reinstall Photoshop CC 2014.

Get a Brand New Leica S-E (Typ 006) + 70mm Lens for $11435

A little birdie tells me that if you call B&H Photo at (800) 947-6628 you just might be able to get the Leica S-E (Typ 006) / 70mm Lens Set for $11435 as a price match. Try it out. :) Let me know how you fare.

Or you can get it at Leica Store Miami as it’s listed in the online store.

But don’t be surprised if this deal is pulled, so act quickly if you want one.

The Leica S sensor is gorgeous, and I happen to like the 70mm f/2.5 lens quite a lot.

Leica S Typ 006 Medium format DSLR + 70mm for $11435
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Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series at 50 Megapixels: Moots at Barcroft (Canon 5DS R)

Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
(Nikon mount)

Get Zeiss Otus at B&H Photo.

This series complements the Summit Building on White Mountain Peak, North View series, which shows superlative performance at distance.

In my review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss I show that the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon shrugs off 50 megapixels and has some room for the future at close distance also.

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Moots at Barcroft (Canon 5DS R)

Example images are all up to 24 megapixels in size (with intermediate sizes also) and the usual large crops are included. From f/1.4 through f/9.

Includes both color and black and white images from f/1.4 - f/9. Who needs an overpriced Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 with this kind of superb performance along with the post-shot choice of tonal relationships. Wow.

Photographic Transportation Out There
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Reader Question: Diffraction

Henry D writes:

Is it true that diffraction problems are primarily due to the sensor and not the lens?

DIGLLOYD: not true—just the physics of light. Diffraction for any given lens and aperture is an invariant. The sensor or the film see whatever light falls upon it.

But it is true that a sensor with more megapixels will show the effects of diffraction more readily on a per-pixel basis—it is recording more detail after all. But in no way does this mean that the 50MP camera is less good than a 22MP camera. The 50MP camera records more detail to even f/16, avoids staircasing and aliasing better, etc.The 50MP camera at the same aperture records the same image projected by the same lens. It is an issue of per-pixel acuity that diffraction degrades. But f/8 at 50MP is *lot* more sharpness than f/8 at 22MP.

For a full frame 50MP camera, diffraction is detectable at f/5.6, but a non issue. At f/8 it starts to dull the image somewhat, and quite a lot of dulling at f/11. (JPEG shooters may disagree since most in-camera JPEGs are already marginalized for fine detail).

But more than fine detail is lost from diffraction; overall image contrast (brilliance) is dulled considerably; see the full apertures series for the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar; observe that contrast at all size image structures is hugely degraded at f/16 (lower at f/16 than f/1.8).

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

Here’s an actual series with on a low-res camera: imagine what happens going to 50 megapixels from 18 megapixels! At some point, stopping down is a net loss (depth of field vs diffraction) and the game is over.

AB comparison image
Actual pixels @ f/45 = mush
(Coastal Optics 60mm f/4 UV-VIS-IR- APO Macro, Canon 1Ds Mark II)

With a 22MP camera, diffraction is only beginning to be visible at f/8 (speaking in terms of contrast for very fine details for both on a per-pixel basis). But in reality if one takes that 50MP image and downsamples it to 22MP, there is no difference whatsoever in diffraction effects. The issue is that users of a 50MP camera are (unrealistically) hoping to get 2.3X as many pixels of the same sharpness per pixel. This cannot happen, at least not with the lens stopped down past 5.6 or so (on a 50MP full-frame sensor). And the lens must perform at a very high level in the first place, e.g., Zeiss Otus or Zeiss Batis.

Another issue that tends to confuse is the relationship between depth of field and aperture and focal length for different format sizes, and how those relate to the physical size of the photosite (pixel) on the sensor. See Format-Equivalent Depth of Field and F-Stop in Making Sharp Images.

Representation of an Airy Disc vs the photostie size on a sensor
(diffraction is much more complex than this illustration)

The core issue is the size of the blur circle (Airy Disc) vs the size of the photosite. That blur circle enlarges with stopping down. At some aperture, the blur circle grows larger than the the photosites on the sensor, and so the sensor then resolves more than the lens delivers (because the light is spread out by diffraction at that aperture).

For example, on both the 36MP Nikon D810 and 50MP Canon 5DS R, f/16 is heavily degraded, with destruction of the finest details. f/22 is awful**. Acceptable images can be made at f/16 on those cameras*, but there is a loss of fine details no matter how much sharpening is applied.

As shown at right, if the lens is stopped down too far, at some point the Airy Disc begins to exceed the size of the photosite. It is no longer possible to capture fine details in terms of the resolving power of the sensor. At ultra-degraded f/22, the 50MP Canon 5DS R will minimally more detail than the 22MP Canon 5D Mark III. But this has always been the case, even with film.

* Diffraction is complex (a series of waveforms), but a useful simple model is a blur circle size which grows with stopping down.

** Which makes me laugh at those captions in photo magazines with images that would have been optimal in all ways at f/5.6, but are instead turned to mush at f/22 and then published at a tiny size. f/22 is a great way to make a mediocre print even at a modest size.

See the following in Making Sharp Images:

 

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Get a Brand New Leica S (Typ 006) Medium Format DSLR Camera for $8995

I published various luscious Leica S images a few months ago with my review of the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH. The sensor is fantastic and the glass is the best there is in medium format, with a couple of readers expressing interesting in getting an 'S'. Moreover used Leica S lenses can be found at very good prices.

I’d like one myself, but I cannot justify the investment—it has to have positive ROI.

B&H Photo has the Leica S (Typ 006) effectively about $8995 (see the trade-in note; I take “any camera” at face value, e.g. any point and shoot, or perhaps the old Kodak 35mm film + integrated camera with prepaid development for like $7 or $8).

Update: B&H says this $5000 off for any camera offer was a mistake.

BUT: Leica S-E (Typ 006) + 70mm Lens Set for $11435.

...

Leica S (Typ 006) Medium Format DSLR Camera (Body Only)

Save $5,000 with trade-in (SOME KIND OF MISTAKE)

Trade in any camera towards the purchase of a new Leica S Body and receive a $5,000 instant credit. Call us at (800) 947-6628 to take advantage of this offer.

Leica S Typ 006 Medium format DSLR for $8995

Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM Aperture Series: Green Machine, Oblique View (5DS R)

Get Canon 5DS R and Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM at B&H Photo. The Canon ES-52 lens hood is optional and I’ve used the 40/2.8 without it, but worthwhile as a bumper at least.

Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM

The 40mm f/2.8 STM is a lens I rather like; it makes an excellent body cap, weighing only 125 grams, and is corrected optically in a pleasing way. At about $149 with instant rebate it’s a go-anywhere lens that fits into just about anything. Might as well use it over a body cap, and it’s a very nice lens to shoot and carry. Just get one—you won’t regret having it handy.

This series is enjoyable to view, showing vignetting and bokeh characteristics as well as sharpness and the peripheral focus shift to be aware of. The 40/2.8 STM has a nice feel to it.

Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM Aperture Series: Green Machine, Oblique View (5DS R)

This aperture series from f/2.8 - f/16 includes many large crops as well as entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels.

Green Machine
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Sony A7R II: Is it the Death Knell for Leica M?

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Mirrorless is sucking the oxygen of the room for the dinosaur DSLR, but for now I see Sony mirrorless as more of an existential threat to the Leica M system. (Actually, the DSLR CaNikon mount has a bright future, if only there were not a complete lack of imagination over in the land of the rising sun. Moribund, hide-bound thinking at CaNikon).

The pace of Leica innovation is very slow and making me very grumpy and costing me money too: Leica adds no value to the M over time, still has only a low-res toy grade EVF on the M240, no meaningful firmware updates (a few fixes for initial design errors and that’s it), a lens line often poorly suited for a digital sensor, manual focus only, camera lockups even in mid 2015 (MM246 and M240), sensor resolution stuck at 24M, service that is months long for some lenses.

Heck, 80% of the potential customer base that can afford an M (older and wealthy) probably can’t focus an M accurately to save their life—it’s an eyesight thing. I use the EVF at maximum magnification, but the low-res crappy EVF for the M240 makes this a chore. That’s why the new Leica Q is important to Leica, and it’s critical that the EVF and AF tech in it make it into a massively revamped dump-the-anachronism-rangefinder M line, yesterday.

Leica is actively devaluing my M investment not just with its failure to innovate, but along with a longstanding Leica M rebate of 12% along with huge oversupply. Leica M lenses have lost considerable value as has the Leica M240. I used to get 90% or so of the new price for M lenses, now they're hard to sell. When one buys a luxury product, the expectation is that it will retain much of its value. Leica is actively undermining that proposition, violating the longstanding expectations and in effect taking money out of my pocket with its discount policies. It eviscerates one saving grace of choosing M over another system.

Famed Leica M lens performance is inferior to Zeiss Otus, and I’d rate the Zeiss Batis as superior to the equivalent Leica M lenses in most all respects, and with autofocus too. And now with the Sony A7R II, one gets a delicious 42 megapixels of detail on the latest and best sensor on the market, vs an aging 24MP sensor for M. Game over? But wait, there’s more.

Sony A7R II with 35/1.4 Distagon

Sony mirrorless is now the weight leader for full frame

Sony is so aggressive it’s impressive. While I get grumpy over some crappy aspects of Sony physical and software design (and I’m baffled why such crap goes into an otherwise fine product), I have tremendous respect for Sony’s competitive chops vs the zero innovation at CaNikon and Leica (Pentax is doing some innovative stuff in the DSLR realm, but no full frame camera as yet).

The longstanding 'killer' advantage of the M system for light weight vs a DSLR remains, but consider just how low in weight the Sony A7R II system is (a little more bulkd but)

A7R II: 625g with battery and memory card vs 720g for M240 + EVF, before adding a grip
Zeiss Batis 25/2:   335g
Zeiss Loxia 35/2:   340g
Sony 35/2.8:        132g
Zeiss Loxia 50/2:   320g
Sony 55/1.8:        281 g
Zeiss Batis 85/1.8: 475g

Sony camera bodies have been sucky and still are in multiple ways: cheap feeling, poor ergonomics, crapware in the menus, rapid depreciation*, and so on. But the A7R II usability is vastly superior to the Leica M for many purposes: autofocus, high-res EVF, much higher megapixels, 4K video, programmable buttons to suit one’s shooting needs, etc*.

* Leica’s stubborn insistence on no customization is outrageous. As a case in point, only a single setting out of the entire Set button group is useful to me, and the video button is a useless wart with no useful purpose to me. This fundamental arrogance pisses me off to no end when using the camera, having wasted my time for years now (20,000 chimping clicks by now to get to menu items?). Sony has multiple programmable buttons and a much more quickly accessible set of customizable menus, so I can set the camera up to my liking.

Dan writes

Thank you for posting this. I really hope it gets through to the powers that be at Leica. It mirrors my thoughts entirely.

For me though, perhaps it's too late because I am for the first time seriously considering dumping all my Leica M gear.

I, too, am very frustrated with this company that has sucked up a lot of my money with the hope of them delivering a consistently solid performance upgrade with time. One that is, at least, in keeping with the much cheaper opposition.

The M9 was brilliant, the M240 was a side step, who knows when the next will come and I don't expect it to be much better.

I really need 50MP and I have no use or interest in a 24MP camera any more. Unfortunately I don't think it is likely to change for at least another five years. It seems this love affair for me is ending.

DIGLLOYD: Dangerous sentiments for the future of Leica. My advice to Leica is to abandon all the goofy collector kits (living off past glory IMO), dump the S line, and move all resources into a bad-ass new M-compatible platform while also extending the Q lineup.

Roy P writes

At this point, the game is already over. It is way too late for Leica to come out with the bad ass new M-compatible mirrorless digital platform. That window was open in 2010 or 2011. Instead of the greedy M9-P, the utterly idiotic T system (yet another mount and a system of lenses?!), the rather pointless M9 Mono, etc., they should have come out with a digital M, and started transitioning out of the RF.

But they squandered the opportunity, and I think it’s now too late. Leica has no choice but to stay within the Rangefinder well, and hope the frogs that live in that well will continue to stay in the well, and continue to be wealthy, status-conscious, and clueless. Venturing out into the general mirrorless market would get Leica slaughtered by Sony, Ricoh, Fuji, Olympus, etc.

The Q actually does make sense for Leica. As a “reportage” camera, a euphemism for point and click, IMHO, it is at least consistent with the Leica M DNA. They should take up your advice and do more variations of the Q.

I also agree they should dump all the idiot collector kits, although that might buy them some brand equity in the Oil countries and with the neuvo riche. But I’d like to see them develop the S system into a more usable and serious medium format camera, with a 60-80MP CMOS sensor and better firmware.

DIGLLOYD: Agreed on the T system, and too many products too ordinary with extraordinary prices. But the game is not over if Leica gets ther sh*t together and innovates. Leica will do just fine selling $5K or $7K autofocus super high performance lenses, which can be designed not for the archaic rangefinder system but for super performance on mirrorless. I have nothing against the S system (I love the lenses nothing can touch them in the MF realm), but the body needs work and a big price drop. As for the Q, the compromised lens with massive distortion relying on software correction really makes it a 20MP camera at best which is mediocre at best in the the corners and at the edges. I find it unacceptable in a camera that expensive. But Leica should add a 21mm and 50mm model to round out the line because at its core, the Q is a very nice little shooter in spite of the compromises.

Knut writes:

What about Pentax/Ricoh:

- They fork out a digital medium format (considered amazing compared to it's pricy‎ competition)
- They will add full frame very soon
- 4k time lapse is a standard in all their lines‎ (from APSC, full frame to medium format)
- IBIS availlable in their APSC (Pentax first!) and
- and full-frame line (in contrast to Canikon)
- In camera GPS astrotracer for long exposures of celestrial bodies (unavailable in any other mount)
- water resistant body and lenses since ages
- low battery consumption (especially helpful outdoors)
- all lines safe to use at minus10 degrees C‎elsius
- ‎Pixel shift in their APSC and coming full-frame line
- much more extensive line of lenses available than Sony (many new, but especially a slew of very good used ones. [some need hunting])
- Ricoh GR best value for money APSC ‎compact
- most flexible in camera‎ jpg engine
- one of the most flexible in camera white balances
(I HATE post processing ‎on a computer at home. A huge waste of time)
- one of the fastest frame rates in their respective category (8- 9 fps APSC, 3fps medium format)
- flexible moire filter through variable sensor shake
- 3mm shift with all their lenses through sensor shift (not extensive, but quite appreciable‎ when needed. I often have it on when photographing in the mountains or in town)
- very reasonable ergonomics
- above average build quality

DIGLLOYD: Yes, among all the other manufacturers besides Sony, Pentax is the only other innovated. That said, much of the above is not innovation; I take it as a given/requirement ( ergonomics, build quality, etc).

Medium format is hugely expensive, bulky and heavy, and in a realm of its own. Does the Pentax 645Z innovate ? Not much. It’s just another medium format camera, albeit a very well done one. Does it have pixel shift or IBIS or the other real innovationes noted above? No.

I’ve praised the Ricoh GR extensively. Love it. But it is APS-C with a fixed lens.

The Pentax full frame camera to my knowledge lacks a formal spec list and feature set from Pentax. When and if it appears, I expect it will carry at least the features of the K3-II, some of which are terrific and some of which drove me bananas in the field. Pixel shift on full frame should rock, but zero of my Zeiss lenses will work on it, and the Pentax FF lens line is very sparse, having no truly high performance lenses designed for digital, though possibly I am mistaken and there are one or two—doesn’t matter really, point is made. The Pentax medium format lenses have a few good ones (very few), but these are heavy and awkward.

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Sony A7R II: Where is Pixel Shift?

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Though pixel shift is not a panacea (and it can fail badly in the field for subjects with movement) and is tripod-only (at present at least), it is an awesome feature that is oddly lacking in the A7R II.

Conspicuously missing from the Sony A7R II feature set is Olympus-style pixel shift, which in my testing can deliver roughly a 32-megapixel image from a 16-megapixel sensor. On the 42-megapixel Sony A7R II sensor, a similar technology would deliver ~63 megapixels, or maybe more like ~80 megapixels using a Zeiss Otus.

It’s a pity that Sony is not offering pixel shift, since it has Olympus-style sensor stabilization. Perhaps it will appear in a firmware update, but that seems dubious, since it is a terrific feature to brag about at a product release (and would be a first for a full frame camera).

If Sony does not implement pixel shift, then the most likely candidate is the coming Pentax full-frame camera, which utilizes the Sony 42-megapixel sensor (pixel shift already exists in the Pentax K3-II). And then one wonders about Nikon, which at the least ought to offer a Nikon D820 with the new 42MP Sony sensor, though we can hope for more.

Canon 5DS R: Corrections for Color Fringing More Important than at Lower Resolution

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At 50 megapixels, the Canon 5DS R reveals optical imperfections that the 22-megapixel Canon 5D Mark III tends to minimize, the 5DS R having 1.5X greater resolving power over the 5DM3.

Even lenses with well-controlled color fringing (lateral chromatic aberration) may now need correction with the 1.5X greater resolution of the 5DS R vs the Canon 5D Mark III. Presented in my review of the Canon 5DS R:

Correcting Lateral Chromatic Aberration and Distortion (24-70mm f/2.8L II @ 24mm, Barcroft Army Boxes)

Includes the uncorrected image along with the image corrected for LACA and LACA + distortion correction. As well as crops.

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Sony A7R II with Otus and other Lenses

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For Sony shooters looking to shoot Zeiss Otus on the Sony A7R II with its vibration-free EFC shutter (vs the harsh shutter vibration of the Sony A7R) I recommend the Novoflex lens adapter with the Novoflex ASTAT tripod collar. If buying Otus, the Nikon-mount Zeiss Otus is preferred for its manual aperture ring (no electronics needed in the adapter).

Novoflex Adapter for Nikon Lens to Sony NEX Camera
Novoflex ASTAT-NEX Tripod Collar for Sony NEX Lens Adapters

Readers report that the v2 Metabones adapter has a much superior tripod foot, though it might have a conflict with a grip and it cannot rotate like the ASTAT (the Novoflex one is removable, but not particularly solid and so a vibration-free EFC shutter is important).

Metabones Nikon F Mount Lens to Sony NEX Camera Lens Mount Adapter II

Practical issues of lens adapters can intrude. Consider the three items below: the Sony A7R, the Novoflex Adapter for Nikon Lens to Sony, and the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

While the pictures above are not exactly scale, they are close enough to make the point: a one kilogram lens attached to a lens adapter adding 29mm of extension from the lens mount places a large torque on the mount. The Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar and 35mm f/1.4 Distagon are also large and heavy. Ditto for the Leica R telephotos at 100mm on up. This is bad news for any lens mount unless that weight is supported by the hand at all times—warped lens mount. Even 5 or 10 microns out of kilter means asymmetric blur, not to mention possible static sag even if the lens mount were of superman genre.

Hence the need for a tripod collar (which is not and cannot be particularly solid on such adapters), hence the need for a vibration free shutter. The Sony A7R II delivers that vibration-free EFC shutter at last. It is why I never bothered to test Otus on the Sony A7R; its shutter was so bad that it would not be a lens test at all without using very fast or slow shutter speeds—what would be the point of a combo that can never work optimally under most shooting conditions?

More below.

Sony A7R   Novoflex Nikon to Sony NEX lens adapter   Novoflex Nikon to Sony NEX lens adapter   Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Consider this “lever arm” (physics) and what it would do to a lens mount, temporarily or permanently (without using the tripod collar)

DSLR much less an issue, but still requires care

A DSLR mounts the lens directly, but with a lens adapter for Sony, the mount has to support the same weight 29mm further from the lens mount (31mm for Canon lenses). The lever arm torque with this arrangement is immediately of concern (sag), but there is a chance that the lens mount might ultimately be bent (warped). I can’t speak to whether actual damage will happen*, but it’s a lot to ask of a lens mount, and I don’t want built-in tilt when I shoot (lens sag).

This issue is already there with large lenses mounted directly to a DSLR; for example, even on a DSLR, I would never willingly tripod-mount my camera with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached (but an f/4 is generally fine, being much lighter). Leica acknowledges the torque issue for the M240 lens mount by detailing in the user manual the specific weights that are tolerable using the Leica R-adapter M: over those weights the camera + lens ought to be mounted using the tripod collar. And the Leica lens adapter is easily the most robust and best-built adapter I have ever seen.

* I once damaged the lens mount on my Nikon DSLR and it cost $550 to replace the mount. The damage (warping) is/was invisible to the eye, but caused asymmetric blur in every image I made.

Mitigation via tripod collar on lens adapter

The Novoflex ASTAT-NEX Tripod Collar can be used to which the Novoflex Adapter for Nikon Lens attaches. The collar attaches to the lens adapter, and that is what is tripod-mounted. This eliminates the stress on the lens mount by asking the adapter to support the camera on one side and the lens on the other; the lens mount no longer directly support the weight of the lens. This see-saw support is far from ideal from a stability standpoint with obvious stability issues, just as with Canon and Nikon super teles—same flawed mechanical design (vs fully supporting end to end the whole rig).

UPDATE: Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts

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I reported Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts one month ago. Leica contacted me about the issue, and I provided a DNG to Leica.

Today I received a brief note saying that the issue is reproducible on their end and that the behavior is being researched.

Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (actual pixels)
Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (200% of actual pixels)

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series at 50 Megapixels: Summit Building on White Mountain Peak, North View (Canon 5DS R)

Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon
(Nikon mount)

Get Zeiss Otus at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in Guide to Zeiss I show that the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon shrugs off 50 megapixels and has some room for the future.

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Summit Building on White Mountain Peak, North View (Canon 5DS R)

Example images are all up to 24 megapixels in size (with intermediate sizes also).

Snow lice can be seen to be crawling on the snow and building. Watch ’em move across the f/1.4 to f/11 aperture range! The crops include 1/3 stop increments starting at f/5.6 for a detailed look at effects with stopping down.

If you’re going to shoot 50 megapixels (or 36 or 43), shoot Zeiss Otus. Hardly anything else comes close and nothing is better. Well, some aspects are better than riding a mountain bike to 14,252' elevation with a tripod and Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Otus.

For Sony shooters looking to shoot Zeiss Otus on the Sony A7R II with its vibration-free EFC shutter, I recommend the Novoflex lens adapter with the Novoflex ASTAT tripod collar. If buying Otus, the Nikon-mount Zeiss Otus is preferred for its manual aperture ring (no electronics needed in the adapter).

Summit Building on White Mountain Peak, North View
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Zeiss Batis Lenses to Ship “Mid July”

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I inquired about the Zeiss Batis lenses with Zeiss USA:

The Batis lenses will begin shipping in the USA in mid-July. An exact date is not scheduled and depends on when stock is received from the factory.

The Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar are must-haves for the serious Sony shooter. I intend to buy my own set along with the new Sony A7R II.

 
Zeiss Batis lenses
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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Examples: Mary Lake + Mt Conness Area

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In my review of Zeiss Batis in Guide to Mirrorless I show additional examples with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.4 Sonnar

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Examples: Mary Lake, Mt Conness, Sierra (Sony A7R)

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Example images are all up to 24 megapixels in size (with intermediate sizes also).

The Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon and 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar are must-haves for the serious Sony shooter. I intend to buy my own set along with the new Sony A7R II.

The Zeiss Batis lenses are due to ship within a few weeks. My advice is to pre-order Zeiss Batis ASAP as they will likely suffer from the same Unobtanium issue as the Zeiss Loxia line (supply constraints, Zeiss can’t build ’em fast enough).

The Zeiss Batii together with the Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon make a darn nice trio that covers about 80% of what one might need: 25/35/85 is an excellent range. Fill in with the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar or the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar.

Speculating (and no inside knowledge here), I am hoping to see an ultra wide in the 18mm or 21mm range before too long. I’d also really like to see an 11mm f/4 prime and a 16mm fisheye, but these are not hot sellers in general, so my hopes are not high there.

Mule’s Ears, first flower
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Canon 5DS / 5DS R: sRAW vs Full-Res RAW Downsampled.

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See also Canon 5DS R: mRAW is at Variance with Full-Resolution RAW in Several Ways.

Presented in my review of the Canon 5DS R, I show that sRAW is not at all like mRAW in per-pixel acuity:

Canon 5DS R: RAW vs sRAW

The analysis includes the full-res raw image downsampled to match sRAW resolution.

Also added is a discussion of RAW, mRAW and sRAW file sizes:

RAW vs mRAW and sRAW: Camera Cropping and Downsampling and File Size

The user of the smaller formats for saving space is a marginal idea.

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Batis 25/2 and 85/1.8 shipping mid-July. Pre-order now!
Reviewed in: Guide to Mirrorless

Canon 5DS / 5DS R: mRAW is at Variance with Full-Resolution RAW in Several Ways

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Presented in my review of the Canon 5DS R, I show that mRAW is more complex than simply a crop and a downsampling of full-resolution raw.

Canon 5DS R: RAW vs mRAW

The analysis includes the full-res image downsampled to match mRAW resolution, and compares it to the mRAW in two ways as well as three large 3-way crops (RAW, mRAW, mRAW with extra sharpening).

There are other differences that one should be aware of. At this time, my recommendation is to avoid mRAW entirely. sRAW looks more promising but off to the fireworks.

How mRAW is done by the Canon 5DS / 5DS R

To make an mRAW or sRAW image, in essence the Canon 5DS / 5DS R crops the 8688 X 5792 image size to 8640 X 5760, which is exactly 4/3X the dimensions of mRAW and 2X the dimensions of sRAW. The scaling from full resolution is thus 3/4 and 1/2 to get to the two smaller raw sizes (after the minor crop), and thus the mRAW and sRAW formats are slightly cropped from full frame.

 RAW: 8688 X 5792 ==> 8640 X 5760
MRAW: 6480 X 4320
sRAW: 4320 X 2880

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Leica Q: 14-bit files

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In Guide to Leica, quite a lot of review coverage of the Leica Q is now published, a must-read for anyone considering the Leica Q.

Dynamic range looks promising—the Q looks to have an improved version of the Leica M Typ 240 sensor. Could an improved M240 with more features be on the way or some other interchangeable-lens M with built-in EVF and a new autofocus lens line? I would not rule it out, though Leica is slow to move on the M platform.

See graph from RawDigger below (highly recommended tool for any photographer for ETTR evaluation and more)—with a black level of 512 and values out to nearly 16K, the full bit range is utilized. How much usable dynamic range is there is not given by bits of course, but this is no 12 bit file.

The Leica Q files are uncompressed at 43.1 megabytes each, so these are 14-bit files (14 bits / 8 bits * 24 megapixels = ~42 megabytes + a bit of other stuff). Regrettably Leica offers no lossless compressed format in the Q (as is done on the M), which would on average cut the file size down to 25MB or so with absolutely no change to the data (lossless).

Leica Q ISO Series: ISO 100 - ISO 50000 (Dolls)

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In Guide to Leica, quite a lot of review coverage of the Leica Q is now published, a must-read for anyone considering the Leica Q.

This addition shows the noise behavior from ISO 100 to ISO 50000 in both color and black and white up to the full resolution of the camera (includes a crop for convenience also).

Leica Q: ISO Series from ISO 100 to ISO 50000 (Dolls)

These results establish baseline expectations for what the Leica Q can do under the best possible ETTR exposure.

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Leica Q: Initial Review Coverage

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In Guide to Leica, quite a lot of review coverage of the Leica Q is now up, a must-read for anyone considering the Leica Q.

Review of Leica Q

Initial assessment reveals a Leica Q 28mm f/1.7 lens with massive optical distortion that results in compromised sharpness in substantial areas of the frame.

Also shown is a Leica Q f/1.7 - f/16 aperture series (Dolls).

Along with general comments and notes on usability and focusing issues and Perspective and Applicability of the Leica Q and more.

Massive optical disortion with Leica Q, uncorrected
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Canon 5DS R: ISO Series in Color and Black&White from ISO 50 to ISO 12,800

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Presented in my review of the Canon 5DS R, I show the entire ISO 50 to ISO 12800 series in both color and monochrome.

The exposure was a perfect ETTR exposure, so much so that small areas are starting to blow out in the green channel. The red and blue channels are also very well exposed. No better exposure is/was possible hence this is the most favorable case in terms of minimizing noise; the full dynamic range of the sensor has been utilized.

This series is thus a definitive real world study of the kind of best results one can expect under conditions where there is a wide dynamic range and areas of colors that are more of a challenge (e.g., reddish and yellowish tones) and exposure is absolutely optimal.

Canon 5DS R: ISO Series from 50 to 12,800 in Color and Black and White (Cabin Interior)

Includes entire-frame images up to 24 megapixels (equivalent resolution to a Leica M Monochrom Typ 246) as well as four large crops, again across the ISO range and in color and black and white.

The results are compelling.

Cabin Interior
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Leica Q Initial Comments

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The Leica Q arrived today; its battery is charging.

I have not shot it, but just to show that there are wide range of viewpoints on what constitutes usability, I’ll cite issues I noted within the first five minutes (literally!) that are usage hassles for me (and maybe not for others).

Cameras get personal: style of shooting, the when and where and other particulars. A camera can be a workhorse (Nikon D810), or much more limited. When one has a strictly defined shooting envelope and usage pattern and type of venue, a camera with strict limits may not only be fine, but preferred.

Anyway, the “first five minutes” issues I noted:

  • Update: [I wrote: No way to cap the lens with the shade attached (nothing supplied). This is a constant hassle for me: stowing/unstowing while hiking, around neck/shoulder on a bike (dirt/dust in both cases). So I screwed on a Zeiss 49mm UV filter and mounted the hood and things will stay that way most of the time.] As 5 readers pointed out to me, I’m mistaken about the lens cap; the lens cash pushes on over the lens hood. The manual (page 149) makes no mention of this capability. With the Q I have on loan, the fit is so tight that I did not want to force it, particularly because it is threaded and I had thought these threads would damage the hood if I pushed hard. They do not; the fit stops short of the lens threads. It’s rather ingenious and I like it now that I know how it works.
  • Not chargeable with a car charger (12V); the Leica M240 supplies a 12V adapter for highly efficient DC charging; the Q omits this item and the charger has no DC-in plug—bummer. Inefficient DC-AC-DC charging only for the Q. Even USB charging is more efficient, since it’s DC-DC but the Q does not support that either (battery can only be charged out of the camera in the charger).
  • User manual: “Battery can only be charged from 10°C to 30°C otherwise the charger does not turn on". Well at 10°C / 50° F I may be riding my bike with only a long-sleeve jersey at that temperature—it’s not very cold at all. So when it’s near freezing or below freezing in the mountains, how exactly do I get the battery charged without idling the engine to keep the vehicle warm with the windows closed? When I want to crawl into the sleeping bag in my car, and sleep with the windows cracked at 40°F and maybe colder (I like it cold and do this a lot). So the thing won’t charge? I guess that means wrapping something around the charger (after warming it) and hoping that the charging process keeps it above 50°F. Probably will be fine then, and Ming Thein (see his Ming’s review of the Q) reports that his charger worked at 45°C. So it seems his charger is broken. :;
  • The supplied leather strap is too long for my torso, with no “give” and impossible to adjust length. None of my wide variety of straps can fit through the tiny lug holes. I often like to carry a camera while riding a mountain bike (strap over neck and under arm), if too long the camera won’t stay in position out of the way, and can bang on things by swinging around, or just be a nuisance in not staying put (think pedaling). Even for hiking, it’s just too long; the camera is less stable (swings more and can bang into rocks). This is not elegance; it’s bad design.
  • No built-in flash. This immediately makes it hugely inferior to the wonderful Ricoh GR for doing things like backlit portraits. Carry a bulky hot-shoe flash around that is awkward and unbalanced when mounted? No thanks. Did that with too many cameras—I’m 'done' with that kind of nonsense.
  • No grip. While there is a recessed area at the rear for the thumb, no grip = sucks rocks.

You see, all these things have some practical and/or personal aspect. So I’m going to have to think about as many shooting styles as I can (my own and others), and just present them. Because for some people they may be real considerations and “don’t care” items for others.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Panasonic DMC-DM1P: a Camera that is a Phone, now in stock

Get Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1P 16GB Camera and Smartphone (Unlocked) at B&H Photo.

The Panasonic DMC-DM1P camera-phone (vs a phone-camera as is the iPhone) is now in stock. See Apple iPhone is a Phone with Camera, Panasonic DMC-DM1P is a Camera with Phone. Note that it is an UNLOCKED phone that has a reasonably large sensor and 4K video and a retina display

  • GSM / 4G LTE Capable
  • North American Variant
  • 1" 20.1 MP High Sensitivity MOS Sensor
  • Wide 28mm f/2.8 Leica DC Elmarit Lens

I’m pleased to see crossover concepts take their stab at it, but I’d like to see it taken further: get that retina display onto the back of a Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS R (built in). Then at least the big form factor gets a lot more visually appealing in one way.

Given that many of the add-ons for iPhone such as the Olympus Air at around $600, the price of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1P 16GB is in line with what such things can be expected to cost; the real cost of an iPhone 6 Plus is around $900 (without carrier subsidies). Still, it seems a tough row to hoe against the iPhone.

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