diglloyd
SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina

60 day blog index

Leica Releases new Firmware for M240 and Monochrom, includes “black dots” fix

Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts with
Leica M Typ 246 image (actual pixels)

Of particular note is the fix for the Leica M Monochrom black spots issue which I reported back in July of 2015. It must have been a difficult fix, since it took 10 months, with irreparable damage to images in the interim. See my examples in my review of the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246.

Maybe the camera freeze bug is what caused the lockup issues I have had (and still have) with the M240? They were not generally “fast sequences”, but there is some hope that the fix may be real for my usage.

Firmware 2.0.3.0 for Leica M/M-P (Typ 240)
Firmware 1.0.0.6 for Leica M (Typ 262)
Firmware 1.0.1.0 for Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)

Go to Leica Download page.

Performance Improvements:

  • Implemented optimizations that prevent the camera controls from becoming unresponsive after a series of continuous burst photos fills the buffer.
  • The selected user profile will be displayed even when exposure compensation has been adjusted. Exposure compensation is no longer saved to the user profile.
  • Memory cards with a capacity up to 512 GB are supported
  • The default file format settings upon camera reset have been changed from JPG to DNG+JPG
  • The time-out period for the last GPS Position, when no GPS signal is received, has been extended to 2.5 hours (GPS is not available with M (Typ 262))
  • It is now possible to display DNG files from the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) in all zoom steps, also with the M/M-P (Typ 240 and 262)
  • When using SD-cards that are too slow for movie recording, a message appears in the viewfinder display Leica Camera AG / Page 1 of 3 Bug Fixes:
  • Bugs, that led to a camera freeze when shooting fast sequences, have been fixed
  • The accuracy of the internal clock has been improved
  • When using „AUTO ISO in M mode“ the used exposure metering mode is now being displayed in play mode
  • Files larger than 2GB can now be transferred from the camera to the PC via USB
  • The display of the histogram has been optimized for high ISO values
  • The display of flash exposure compensation values has been improved in the menu
  • A misleading message (“check battery age”) has been removed
  • In case of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246): A bug that led to black pixels in fine pattern has been fixed
  • Further system optimizations have been implemented
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Off Topic: High Sierra Fishing + Recommended Spinning Reel and Rod

 
Shimano Stella STLC2000SFI Spinning Reel

Many years ago as a teenager (too many!), I used to fish every day I could. Fishing evolved out of my life over time, but the circle turns and I now find it very enjoyable again, particularly the exploration of remote areas and with my cameras—a good combination. I am most definitely not a boat or lake or chair+ice chest fisherman: if it’s easy to hike to, I’m not usually interested. And I am most interested in fishing anything that no one else fishes. The spirit of exploration intrigues me; the well-trodden path offers little appeal.

See also: Steaming Trout in a Dutch Oven over Campfire and Back Home, the Snow Show Was Fun + Lloyd’s Dutch Oven Trout Recipe

I most enjoy wily high sierra trout—Brook Trout mainly, but also Golden Trout, and sometimes Rainbow Trout (Brown Trout are generally not stocked in the Sierra). I do not fly fish because it is impossible in many of the small streams with brush and such nearby. And I do like a good trout dinner—I have yet to observe any fly fisherperson land a fish in the waters that I fish.

I buy few things, but just as with lenses, I prefer to buy quality for a lifetime of use, such as the Benchmade Osborne knife seen below (if you’re into high-end check out Benchmade Gold series). Ditto for spinning reel and rod. So here are my recommendations:

The knife is 7.75 inches, which gives an idea of the fish sizes. The two larger ones are exceptionally large for the extreme elevation at which they were caught, the largest fish I’ve caught in 30 years at similar elevations.

 
Golden Trout Dinner
__METADATA__

2016 Photo Tours in Yosemite High Country and/or White Mountains

This year I’m planning a number of outings to the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite high country and White Mountains and I like to offer what I call photo tours at those times that coincided with my outings (since it’s a 600-1000 mile round trip for me).

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

Tentative dates for 2016; often I have some wiggle room on start/end dates. Typical engagements are 2 to 4 days.

  • The June 1-4 and June 6-8 range.
  • June 20-30 range
  • Mid to late July (exact dates flexible, TBD)
  • Mid August (exact dates flexible, TBD)
  • Late September/early October.
  • Custom time by arrangement.

Contact

Cost is $850 per day. You are responsible for your lodging, transportation, food. I can advise on those things as well as clothing, gear, fitness, etc. Days are typically pre-dawn to post-dusk, but it’s all up to you.

Contact Lloyd.

  Photographing the Photographer Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Photographing the Photographer
__METADATA__
Spring Growth, Yosemite
__METADATA__
  Earth Shadow Rises as Black Horse Grazes  Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Earth Shadow Rises as Black Horse Grazes
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Upper Tenaya Creek
__METADATA__
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Light Searches for the Forest Floor + Water Surges Through Boulders + Rush to the Ocean

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

The performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM is at its best at the 24mm end, without a doubt.

I liked this scene, and it also has the bonus of showing off how the Sony 24-70/2.8 GM handles a strongly backlight portion of the frame—those branches against a bright cloudy sky.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Light Searches for the Forest Floor

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

This image looks stunning at large size filling the screen on a late 2015 iMac 5K. Wow! Seriously, if you don’t have the late 2015 iMac 5K (see my review), if nothing else think of it as a 5K display with a computer built in. It’s just an amazing viewing platform for images—like a large 'chrome'. See my top-end iMac 5K recommendation and my computer gear wishlist.

Light Searches for the Forest Floor
__METADATA__

Also, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Water Surges Through Boulders.

Water Surges Through Boulders
__METADATA__

Also, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Rush to the Ocean.

Rush to the Ocean
__METADATA__

Poking the Hornet’s Nest... Sony vs Fujifilm: Which is the Better Deal?

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist and Fujifilm X wishlist at B&H Photo.

See my in-depth review of the Fujifilm X Pro-2 and lenses as well as my in-depth coverage of Sony mirrorless. Having shot the X-Pro2 system extensively in the field (as well as its predecessors), I offer my perspective on relative value here below.

Seems like a no brainer.

With Sony, for $260 LESS (includes the B&H 4% reward), you get a full frame sensor with in-body-image stabilization, Eye AF, a grip that’s solid and not a toy, many more programmable buttons for working efficiency, and the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lens lines in addition to all Sony lenses AND these lenses will cover future full-frame Sony cameras, which are almost certain to yank forward the high end this year. And there are two other Sony full-frame bodies to choose from that make sense for outstanding video (A7S II), or for higher resolution (A7R II). And most likely something even more impressive coming this year.

Sony A7R II: full frame, image stabilization, excellent grip, Zeiss Loxia and Batis lens lines and Sony too!

With Fujifilm, you pay $260 more for a toy grip, a much smaller APS-C sensor, no full-frame Zeiss lenses (the Touit line is moribund), no in-body image stabilization, and inferior depth of field control (all but one lens has DoF equivalent of f/2 at best, even the 56/1.2 APD is only equivalent to f/1.8 in full frame DoF terms). AND you have to REPLACE ALL YOUR LENSES* if/when Fujifilm goes to full frame.

* Should still be usable, but won’t cover full-frame and/or may be of marginal quality outside the APS-C crop area. Point is, new lenses will be mandatory for proper support on a Fujifilm full-frame camera.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: APS-C, NO image stabilization, toy grip, NO Zeiss Loxia and Batis lenses, MORE expensive!

A camera is not specs of course, so choose your passion and what feels good to you.

But the foregoing (particularly full frame and IBIS and full frame lenses) are irrefutable values that there is no getting around. As for myself, I greatly prefer the Sony controls and buttons over Fujifilm: setup and programmed to my working methods (far more flexibility there), in the field I can work faster and more efficiently. And with Sony, I do not have to deal with special raw converters to avoid ugly fractal-like artifacts. Wasting my time on post-processing raw-conversion hassles is an unacceptable burden.

My guess is that a Sony A7 III is coming soon, probably with 4K video and some other improvements (and maybe will bump up in megapixels to slot in against a future 70-80 megapixel sibling?). Sony has a clear path forward with no lens problems; Fujifilm makes you start over with lenses.

Ari D writes:

These are reasons why I like FujiFilm's APS-C cameras as an option in my kit. That said, I also do full frame and larger in my kit.

...

Optical viewfinder in the X-Pro2.
   - Being able to see outside of the frame as your subject moves into position is a bonus. So much so that I miss it when using other mirrorless and DSLR systems.
  - The total lack of EVF/LCD blackout is a huge bonus with the X-Pro2's optical viewfinder. And the OVF doesn't seem to affect subject tracking or basic AF-C when in use either. This is huge for me.
  - Minimizing EVF/LCD refresh lag is critical when working with moving subjects in low light. And I'm not just talking about low theater light with fast-moving dancers, but anything with humans moving in less than direct/diffused sunlight. The OVF has no refresh lag at all obviously, and this is a big bonus.

When I rented the A7SII and A7RII I found them hideous to use for rehearsals. The EVF and LCD lag were intolerable, as was the embarrassingly terrible battery life, and total camera lock up when files were writing. Same with the X-T1 in terms of refresh lag. Unusable for this type of fast work, still.

Mirrorless in general is still nowhere near ready for action photography in any indoor environment in my opinion. I'm still using heavy, bulky, durable DSLRs with great button placement and ergonomics (mirrorless has some way to go here) for anything with movement in low light. I'm still seeing DSLR AF performance blow away any mirrorless camera I have owned or rented in even moderately low light. This includes sports, dance, events and news work. I don't anticipate this will change for another couple of years and I've stopped seriously evaluating mirrorless systems as DSLR replacement, but now evaluate only as supplement, and for this FujiFilm fits my needs.

DIGLLOYD: Well put and completely fair on principle—my comments are of course about general usage—tools for any particular job may be more or less well suited. Every camera system has some pluses and minuses.

The above comments are a good example of how particular features and behaviors for specific purposes can be key. Still, I’ve not had any camera lockups as referred to with the A7R II, battery life has been just fine, so that’s a puzzler for me. I’ve also had sports shooters (volleyball, basketball) write and praise the A7R II as yielding a higher hit rate than the former DSLR. Since I don’t do these types of shooting, I would advise as Ari does: rent first, and find out for your own purposes. Moreover the A7S II if video were the purpose would far outperform Fujifilm in the above scenarios—so it all depends on the particulars.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 28mm: Sidelit Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Near the short end of the zoom range at 28mm, this scene explores field curvature in particular, wide open performance at f/2.8, and helps to verify the Rushing Water Loop @ 30mm example.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @28mm: Sidelit Redwoods

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

Sidelit Redwoods
__METADATA__

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 30mm: Rushing Water Loop

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Near the short end of the zoom range at 30mm, this scene looks for sharpness across the frame and near to far, and finds some interesting behaviors.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @30mm: Rushing Water Loop

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Pescadero Creek High Water, Rushing Water Loop
__METADATA__
NEW! Apple iPad Pro
Available for pre-order.
FREE EXPEDITED SHIPPING

LensRentals: $25 off any order of $150 or more

LensRentals.com has $25 off any order of $150 or more through April 30.

Use code TAX25.

LensRentals (highly recommended) rents lenses and cameras and more. It’s an excellent way to try out gear before buying it.

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

Why 28 Megapixel / 8K Images?

In my reviews, I’ve started posting images at sizes up to 28 megapixels (for 3:2 aspect ratio images). That is, the new largest size for viewing is now 6480 x 4320.

4K = 3840 X 2160
5K = 5120 X 2880 (iMac 5K)
8K = 7680 X 4320

I’ve chosen 28 megapixels because at 6480 x 4320, the 3:2 aspect ratio image will fill the screen vertically with its 4320 pixels (actually overflow slightly due to the menu bar and such).

So when an iMac 8K appears, images will look just as stunning as on today’s iMac 5K, but there will be a size to fit the screen (2.25X as many pixels as to fit the screen on the iMac 5K).

See What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?. The future for jaw-dropping viewing pleasure is NOT (and will never be) prints with their dull dynamic range and marginal color gamut; it is 8K television and 8K computer displays. And perhaps 16K a decade from now.

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 49mm: Pescadero Creek High Water, Downstream

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Near the middle of the zoom range at 49mm, these scene incorporates a good near/far challenge: will the lens be able to deliver deep depth of field and sharpness across the frame with some stopping down?

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @49mm: Pescadero Creek High Water, Downstream

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

The flow here is substantial though well below peak flow. The rocks at very bottom are scoured durking heavy rainstorms. I keep looking for steelhead here, but I’ve never seen any.

Pescadero Creek High Water, Downstream
__METADATA__
Our trusted photo rental store

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 70mm: Side Stream Across The Creek

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

The long end of a 24-70mm zoom is often weaker, so how does the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM fare, given the strong results seen at 24mm? Taken at a distance of ~15 meters, this creekside view offers a look at sharpness and bokeh in a relatively narrow zone, and across the frame.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @70mm: Side Stream Across The Creek

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Side Stream Across the Creek
__METADATA__

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 70mm: Two Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @70mm: Two Redwoods

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13.

Another very fine image from the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in terms of bokeh and overall rendering, but the 70mm end looks to be less strong than the 24mm end.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Two Redwoods
__METADATA__

 

Must-have expansion: OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 43mm: Rising Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I’m methodically working through the focal range in order to demonstrate the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in real-world shooting, using a variety of aperture series across the focal length range. The 24mm focal was most amenable to the subject matter at Purissima Creek, but this 43mm series worked out reasonably well also.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @43mm: Rising Redwoods

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

Another very fine image from the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. Its 43mm setting looks good here, with a few operational caveats to be aware of.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Rising Redwoods
__METADATA__

 

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Purissima Creekbed

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed landscape scene includes a moderate near/far composition that requires some depth of field to render fully sharply. A wide contrast range demands the full dynamic range of the camera to record.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @24mm: Purissima Creekbed

Includes images up to 28 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

Another very fine image from the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM. Its 24mm setting offers outstanding performance.

These and the other series are just gorgeous on the late 2015 iMac 5K; see What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

 

Purissima Creekbed
__METADATA__

 

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

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Mossy Maples, Stately Redwoods

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed landscape scene at far distance yields another look at peak imaging performance for a real-world landscape scene that includes a strong contrast range.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @24mm: Mossy Maples, Stately Redwoods

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with large crops.

The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM appears to be a particularly able performer at its 24mm setting. Every series I shot looks strong, so I’ll be presenting a few more to drive the point home. I have my doubts about intermediate zoom settings, but I have not yet finished my assessment—examples coming.

 

Mossy Maples, Stately Redwoods
__METADATA__

 

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Redwoods Reaching for the Sun

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed landscape scene at far distance yields a good look at peak imaging performance for a real-world landscape scene that includes a strong contrast range.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @24mm: Redwoods Reaching for the Sun

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/13 along with many large crops.

The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM appears to be a particularly able performer at its 24mm setting. I have my doubts about intermediate zoom settings, but I have not yet finished my assessment—examples coming.

 

Redwood Reaching for the Sun
__METADATA__

 

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Distortion Examples, Uncorrected vs Corrected

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

I take a look at distortion with the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM showing uncorrected versus corrected performance across the zoom range:

Each series includes large images that can be toggled for comparison along with commentary on the relative success of the distortion correction.

 

 

Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options!

Jury Duty

I had to get up unusually early for jury duty, a bit of a cruel twist when the alarm goes off and proper sleep is a challenge I regularly face these days. But I roused.

Arriving at 8:30 AM at the county courthouse, we enjoyed about an hour of education on how important all of us are to the process. Which is true as a point of fact of course. And the jury herdsman did a very fine job, so I cannot fault him in the least.

I wonder how many of those people, like myself, are self-employed and thus lose a day’s work (and more if selected)? A forced donation to the State which corporate employees do not suffer, since nearly all large companies pay employees for jury duty. And some people really have it tough with additional daily obligations (like a nursing baby)—but they too have to show up and wait like everyone else. Well, it could be far worse: being on call for a week for federal court an hour’s drive away in Oakland. I just wish I weren’t called every 18 months—one has to wonder just how random the process really is with the millions of people in San Mateo County—what are the odds? The jury pool is selected primarily from DMV records, but also voter registration records and possibly other sources (see California legal code 197).

Around 11:30, we were told to have a long lunch and come back at 13:30, but not to leave since parking could become an issue with another group arriving. So I had a lovely two hours in the parking lot which had no usable cell service. Returning at 13:30, another group was now with us, 200 or so prospective jurors sat until 15:30.

The presiding judge appeared to thank us around 15:30, and even to hand out our 1-year exemption forms. I appreciated the presiding judge taking his time to do this; it showed respect for the jurors and their time, and that’s about all the judge can offer, the system being what it is. It’s good PR.

The presiding judge told us something remarkable: there were 100 potential jury cases that morning, but of the 100, 98 (!) decided to not go to a jury trial and the remaining two were vacillating. But we were off the hook since those cases would have to wait until tomorrow. Apparently, letting defendants know that 200 jurors are down in the basement ready for voir dire* has a certain influence on the decision to plead or go to trial.

* Voir dire : From old French, the legal phrase means "to speak the truth" or "to see them say." Voir dire is the preliminary examination of a prospective juror by a judge or lawyer in the case to decide whether that person can serve on the jury.

It would be very interesting to actually sit on a jury, but so far I have never made it to the voir dire stage. Being selected would be tougher still, since the California juror pledge 232(b)** would require me to check my own moral compass at the door, that is, among other things, I view jury nullification as a fundamentally important check on the legislature and judiciary. Since the California Supreme Court recently rejected jury nullification, no judge would want such a nettlesome person as me on the jury. Which makes this message from the Chief Justice of California rather rich:

Trial by jury is one of the fundamental ideals of American democracy; serving as jurors reminds us that these ideals exist only as long as individual citizens are willing to uphold them.

“Uphold” what? It is an interesting choice of words when jury nullification is deemed grounds for dismissing a juror. Exercising independent judgment as to the validity of the law itself is a prerequisite to any concept of justice, unless one views the State as infallible. But of course the courts do not concern themselves overly much with justice, but rather, The Law. If I am asked to render a judgment that may incarcerate a person, I cannot suspend my moral compass just because it makes the judiciary or legal scholars squirm.

Apropos a day after I wrote the above: at least one US Supreme Court justice understands prosecutorial abuse, as per the quote in the 28 April 2016 Wall Street Journal:

“We’re worried…because, like any other organization, the prosecutors, too, can be overly zealous,” Justice Stephen Breyer said at an oral argument in the case. He and other justices said they feared the government’s legal theory potentially could make a congressman a criminal if he accepted lunch from a constituent and then sent a letter on his behalf.

It’s too bad the supreme court hasn’t figured this idea out before; what about police or prosecutors faking or losing or suppressing evidence, biased judges, racism, etc? And yet the idea of jury nullification is for repudiated in this country as criticized as “dangerous”, as if police killings and judicial and prosecutorial misconduct does not exist—far more insidious and dangerous than a juror of principle. Checks and balances are very appropriate, and to have 10 guilty people go free so that one innocent person may walk remains a valid operating principle.

I also object to the threatening tone of the voire dire pledge of California legal code 232(a), which demands that all questions be answered “accurately and truthfully”. It’s not truthfulness that concerns me. Rather, given rampant prosecutorial abuses and the grotesque politicization of the judiciary (up to the Supremes), the idea of agreeing to this pledge given the threat of criminal prosecution ought to chill anyone’s blood, particularly anyone contemplating being a nail to stand up and be hammered down (jury nullification). According to that pledge, one is a criminal simply by refusing to answer a question or by virtue of prosecutorial assertion/opinion no matter how absurd as to whether the answer is accurate or truthful. I pride myself on honesty, but I am not stupid enough to put my head into a noose. The threat of fines and imprisonment were already upon me simply to appear for jury duty: a summons for jury duty need only be mailed via first class mail; the threats of fines and imprisonment do not require proof that the mail was received (see 208, 209, etc). In other words, the US Post Office stands between you and prosecution (what if you are on an overseas trip and don't pick up your mail for months—y0u finally arrive home with a warrant out for your arrest).

** California legal code: emphasis added:

232. (a) Prior to the examination of prospective trial jurors in
the panel assigned for voir dire, the following perjury acknowledgement and agreement shall be obtained from the panel, which shall be acknowledged by the prospective jurors with the statement "I do":
    "Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will accurately and truthfully answer, under penalty of perjury, all questions propounded to you concerning your qualifications and competency to serve as a trial juror in the matter pending before this court; and that failure to do so may subject you to criminal prosecution."
(b) As soon as the selection of the trial jury is completed, the following acknowledgment and agreement shall be obtained from the trial jurors, which shall be acknowledged by the statement "I do":
    "Do you and each of you understand and agree that you will well and truly try the cause now pending before this court, and a true verdict render according only to the evidence presented to you and to the instructions of the court."

Sony A7R II + Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Aperture Series: Running Creek

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM, this aperture series takes a critical look at the performance of the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Aperture Series: Running Creek

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

__METADATA__

Bruce Z writes:

Hey Lloyd, all this VERY insightful info on the Sony cameras, these incredible lenses and the downsampling of large megapixel, full frame image sensor files, makes it clear to me as to, “which direction I should go for the purchase my next camera system,” a dilemma that has been plagued with poor ergonomics and lack of specific lenses, for my needs …

My issue for dumping my Canon 5D MKIII and it’s attending lenses was always the need for the Mirrorless cameras supporting a 24-70 F2.8 and a 70-200 F2.8. I have read a lot of less than favoured comments regarding these two lenses because of size issues, but as a LOW light theatre Photographer (Live performance … where 6400, and up to 12,800 ISO is the norm …) I need a FAST auto-focus, 2.8 zoom lens.

Now, these two lenses open up the possibility of me actually switching to mirrorless Sonys in order to shoot my Clients work. Oddly enough, the one other non-starter for me was the ridiculous ergonomic issues of function controls. I need to be able to adjust shutter speed, and ISO, in total darkness, by “feel” as in, I know I am rotating the correct wheel, or dial, on the fly. It has to be intuitive, direct, and INSTANTANEOUS! … and I have to be able to see the resulting settings in the viewfinder, as I am doing so. Sony is getting better at this, but it’s incredibly frustrating to see these, otherwise amazing cameras, with such amateur design flaws built into them … clearly Engineers, and not Photographers were considered in building the control functions.

So now, what really makes the Sony mirrorless A7 line so enticing are these new,’fixed" focal length “perfection” lenses that you have been writing about. They would give me the added bonus of having to invest in just one camera body series in order to maintain my personal shooting preferences, such as I use my Leica for, as well as my Professional shooting needs, e.g. live theatre and event work.

As always, your work in evaluating these varies pieces of equipment, cut straight through the clutter and chatter of what may, or may not be insightful, and helpful details, for making a purchase decision … I believe I am on my last Canon system …

DIGLLOYD: I think Bruce is referring in part to Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon: Imperturbable Brilliance, 3D Feel, a Lens Justifying the Camera but also to the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and 85mm 1/4.GM, which are both at the same level (and better in some ways) than Nikon and Canon offerings.

In terms of Sony ergonomics, much improvement is possible: the buttons are too small and awkwardly-placed and the 4-way controller is like a toy in size and feel. BUT if programmed properly using all the buttons, it is possible to configure the Sony A7R II and siblings for very fast and efficient operation. And the grip is superb—far superior to Fujifilm X-Pro2 with its pathetic nub which is no grip at all. And to be fair to Sony—the Nikon and Canon designs have some serious drawbacks: in the dark the buttons all feel the same; there surely can be a much better way to make some buttons bigger and more obvious—braille-like if you will.

Sony A7R II + Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Autofocus at Moderate Outdoor Distance

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

Shooting lens alignment targets is one thing, but what about real-world outdoor shooting at greater distance? Extensive real-world AF experience with the Sony A7R II has long impressed me as being far superior to DLSR autofocus, the concerns about failure to focus at full aperture notwithstanding.

These tests show that the Sony A7R II + Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM blows away the pathetic performance of the Nikon D5 + AF-S 85mm f/1.4G (shot minutes apart on the identical subjects). Realizing of course that the A7R II sensor has 1.4X the linear resolution, and thus that demands for precision and accuracy are far more stringent than with the 20MP Nikon D5. And that the D5 is Nikon’s flagship!

Sony A7R II + 85/1.4 GM Focus Accuracy at f/1.4 (Outdoors)

The antenna shot is shown with 11 frames at f/1.4 and f/4, and the chimney shot similarly, though at f/1.4 only. A reference frame from manual focus is included in each series.

DSLR autofocus technology has had its day and may (for the moment) still be advantageous for certain types of sports shooting, but it is ripe for retirement, if only CaNikon ever figure out that computers and focus are a perfect marriage.

In practice DSLR autofocus is so problematic with f/1.4 lenses in particular that I never could rely upon it for any of my shooting (see for example all the autofocus problems in my review of the Nikon D800E).

It is only a matter of time before mirrorless focus technology blasts away DSLR autofocus technology entirely—so striking are the advantages —and the A7R II doesn’t even have the benefit of sensors with special embedded autofocus pixels. It is only a matter of time until the right camera body comes along. The question is merely whether Sony will do it first, or whether CaNikon will see the light in time.

How hard can it be to focus on a target like this? Very hard for a Nikon D5 apparently. But a piece of cake for Sony A7R II.

Crop
__METADATA__
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Nikon D5 + AF-S 85/1.4G Autofocus at Moderate Outdoor Distance

Get Nikon D5 at B&H Photo.

When working with a DSLR, the one thing I MUST have is the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3.0x, $125 OFF through 21 April. See Reader Comment: Zacuto Loupe: “amazed by the result” and my review of the Zacuto Z-Finder.

Shooting lens alignment targets can lead to a false sense of assurance—what about real-world outdoor shooting at greater distance?

I wondered how the Nikon D5 + Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G might fare at moderate distance, which in all my past experience with Nikon DSLRs and f/1.4 lenses has proven to be problematic.

Nikon D5 + 85mm f/1.4G Autofocus Accuracy, Outdoor Targets

As it turns out, I need not make any adjustments to my theories about DSLR autofocus. Includes two examples as shown below with a reference frame plus 10 frames for each.

Disturbing: how does AF Fine Tune help if in one case the results are frontfocused and in another case at about the same distance, the results are backfocused? Yikes.

See the Sony A7R II + Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM version of this test.

Crop
__METADATA__
Crop
__METADATA__

Rumors of High Megapixels True or Not, Oversampling for Image Quality Makes Sense: 109 Megapixel Tulips via Sony RX100

Get Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 at B&H Photo.

Written over three years ago, I rerun this blog entry nearly verbatim because it is more relevant than ever. It remains particularly relevant to full-frame cameras, since M4/3 and APS-C have already hit the wall (or nearly so), as I discussed yesterday.

A 70 or 80 or 150 megapixel full frame sensor makes sense, a lot of sense notwithstanding myopic “megapixels don’t matter” thinking. High pixel counts make sense for a M4/3 or APS-C sensor too; indeed, it already exists already as pixel shift mode in the Olympus E-M5 II. But the limits with smaller sensors are much more immediate than with full frame, and ultimately light gathering is about sensor area. Combining true-color shift modes with high pixel density has even more potential for extending the dynamic range and lowering the noise floor even at very high pixel densities.

  
Sony RX100 compact (20 megapixels)

Capturing an image at a much higher resolution than needed for the end result is of great value in obtaining a result free of digital artifacts and with higher per-pixel quality.

This oversampling is true for images just as much as it’s true for audio.

I’ve discussed the oversampling concept before, because the future involves DSLRs in the 100+ megapixel range. Not for the sake of resolution alone, but for image quality.

DSLRs ought to come on the market relatively soon whose image quality will be spectacular even without downsampling to lower resolution.

But the oversampling will make possible images in the 70 megapixel range (from ~140 megapixel sensors) that will rival any medium format camera available today. Pick any numbers you like, the idea remains the same.

Sensor existence proof — Sony RX100

  

Even native pixels without downsampling should be excellent, the Sony RX100 being an existence proof (its main failing being a weak lens).

The Sony RX100 is a 20-megapixel camera whose sensor if scaled to full-frame DSLR at the same pixel density would be 148 megapixels. Yet its per-pixel image quality is first-rate.

Still, let’s make a point of complaining that the RX100 sensor quality is not good enough, and assume we would downsample those 148 megapixels in half (70.7% linearly) to reach 72 megapixels— would it look pretty awesome? Indeed it does.

The stitched image below is close to our theoretical size— 109 megapixels. Even on a per-pixel basis (before any downsampling), its quality is excellent, with proper ETTR exposure only making it better.

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100

The crop below is actual pixels from the 109 megapixel image above, showing that if we had a DSLR with simply the same per-pixel quality, it could be stunning. However, diffraction will become an issue as early as f/3.5 or so, and depth of field will be a serious challenge.

  
Actual pixels from 109 megapixel stitched image above

The image doesn’t need downsampling to fix any quality issue (it’s already excellent). But this might not always be the case (noise, poor exposure situations, etc).

Shown below is an actual pixels crop from the 54-megapixel downsampled image (downsampled from the 109-megapixel image).

  
Actual pixels from 54 megapixel reduction of 109 megapixel image
Our trusted photo rental store

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Purissima Creek

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo and see my Sony mirrorless wish list.

Examples from a local preserve in my review of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon:

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Purissima Creek (A7R II)

Includes images up to 24 megapixels. The color, contrast and detail of these images are jaw-dropping on a late 2015 iMac 5K.

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

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon: Imperturbable Brilliance, 3D Feel, a Lens Justifying the Camera

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo and see my Sony mirrorless wish list.

Yesterday I was out shooting the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM along with the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8. Viewing the images back on the computer as largish thumbnails, I was struck by how I could pick out at a glance the Batis 18/2.8 images as compared to the Sony 24-70/2.8 GM: the Batis delivers images with a 3D feel to them. Later, the Sony 24-70 images looked better than I had first though, the 24mm end in particular. Still, something about the Batis 18/2.8 seems unusually perky/

It is high overall contrast and brilliance (micro contrast) along with tightly controlled aberrations that makes an image feel alive or “3D”, the same reason Leica M lenses are widely respected. The Batis 18/2.8 has little to criticize in these regards. Still, I will get around to nit picking it soon.

Continues below.

The glow of cloudy sun through riparian green foliage changed second-by-second yesterday, with each image dappled differently; I prefer this f/6.3 result to the f/9 and f/13 images by sheer moment-to-moment lighting luck. Note that even an 18mm lens at f/6.3 has depth of field limitations!

Purissima Creek
__METADATA__

I reiterate my view that the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 has no ~18mm peers; it is the best 18mm available today (Leica’s 18/3.8 Super-Elmar-M offers competition, but that is for Leica M and it shows weaknesses even on 24MP). Last September in Oberkochen I was asked which lens I would most like to see, and I had answered “an ultra high performance 18mm”. It is of course absurd to think that my answer made a new lens appear in 6 months (the development cycle is years)—but readers can understand how thrilled I am to see the Batis 18/2.8. For places like this an 18mm is highly desirable. Now I of course want an 11-16mm f/4 zoom to complement it.

The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is one of those lenses that justify the camera, which at present means the Sony A7R II or Sony A7 II. And so I reiterate my view that Sony is the only financially sensible path forward for investing in a mirrorless camera system for use several years out, because a 24MP APS-C sensor and APS-C lenses (Fujifilm X) are a dead end (ditto for M4/3). Even when Fujifilm delivers a full-frame camera in a year or two, all the current lenses will have to be replaced to use the full frame sensor area—and thus used Fujifilm X lens prices will plummet from heavy selling as users trade up. With lenses like the Batis 18/2.8 and the likely appearance of 70+ megapixel Sony sensors perhaps as soon as this year (see oversampling for pixel skeptics), investing in APS-C makes sense only for specific shooting purposes, not as a general proposition for even two years out. Full-frame sensors are only going to get cheaper and better, and camera body size already trends too small. Note well that Fujifilm does not enjoy any new Zeiss lenses since the Touit line.

None of the foregoing diminishes the excellent qualities of existing systems like the Olympus OM-D system or the Fujifilm X system, but in terms of the investment in a range of lenses, settling on a camera system with a dead-end sensor size should give pause. See my Sony mirrorless wish list and Fujifilm X wish list to drive that point home: the investment in lenses is not small (I consider 3-4 lenses a core system, 5-8 lenses really needed to coverage everything). Cameras are accessories; the lens line should be something that carries forward and does not need to be replaced (supplemented perhaps), which for me rules out smaller formats.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM: Ergonomics

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

See my review of the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM.

To my hands and my way of working, Sony’s 85mm f/1.4 GM has the best ergonomics on the market today for an autofocus 85mm lens.

This idea crept up on me stealthily, but once I thought about it directly, I felt it was worth explaining here.

First, I prefer the heft and feel and fit and finish of the Sony 85/1.4 GM to any of the Nikon or Canon 85mm offerings. It reminds me of Sigma DG HSM Art lenses (which I also like), only the Sony does it even better functionally. The Sony 85/1.4 GM just fits perfectly in my hands and makes an outstanding companion to the A7R II when shooting.

Autofocus

As noted in Autofocus Configuration for Sony A7R II and Siblings: Buttons and Eye AF, the focus button on the lens (that large round button between the AF/MF switch and the “G” logo) offers an excellent ergonomic option for iniating autofocus.

This button falls exactly in the right place for my thumb to press it while holding the lens—perfect! It makes for an outstanding way to initiate autofocus independent of the shutter release button. That is, I prefer to decouple focus from the shutter for most of my work. But that’s awkward with most cameras; the button on the Sony 85/1.4 GM removes the awkwardness.

The button can be programmed for the choice of conventional focus or Eye AF. This is fantastic: program the lens button to use Eye AF and the rear AF-On button for conventional focus. You just can’t do this with any other brand AFAIK—how many brands besides Sony even have Eye AF, let alone a means to use it at need? Note that Eye EF is eye focus, not face focus—I want the iris of the eye in focus.

The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM also has this focus button and thus it offers a leg up for wedding photographers and similar (that ability to choose focusing method). Small details like these deliver real value for particular shooting situations, particularly Eye AF, which in my ad-hoc testing works better than I could manage with conventional focus.

Rubberized lens hood

This is the best lens circular lens hood on the market: sturdy and solid-feeling and with a flexible rubber bumper about 10mm deep; this bumper flexes and bends with any impacts—superb. I’ve not a fan of metal hoods because they not only chill my fingers, but they transmit shock to the lens. The Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM does not have this rubberized hood, presumably because it is a scalloped design.

Aperture ring

While I frequently use the dials on the camera to control aperture and shutter speed, I like the ergonomics of the aperture ring in some shooting situations. The ring on the 85/1.4 GM is excellent and clicked in 1/3 stops as well—outstanding.

I really wish Zeiss would see the light and add a similar aperture ring on the Zeiss Batis series, skipping the OLED display gimmickry (I never use that info, and if I did, I wouldn’t want to take the camera away from my eye to see it!).

FastRawViewer and RawDigger Discount

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

I use RawDigger frequently for assessing image exposure as well as raw file quality. Highly recommended as a must-have tool for anyone looking for master of digital imaging when shooting raw. See how I use RawDigger and RawDigger for Raw Data Analysis.

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

Alex Tutubalin writes:

FastRawViewer and RawDigger are on sale: 25% off and more savings on FRV+RD bundle till May 20, 2016

Also, we've just released FastRawViewer 1.3 update (this is free update for registered users):

Major changes:
- Grid mode for faster visual navigation
- Multiple files operations (copy/move/reject, assign rating/label, pass to external program, rotate)
- Generic undo for file operations, not only for reject.
- Customizable screen sharpening for better sharpness evaluation
- new Highlight Inspection mode
- New contrast editing, compatible with Adobe Lr/ACR
- And lot of minor changes (literally: printed changes list is 9 pages long)

DIGLLOYD: Alex is extremely responsive on fixing/improving things I have requested. Support this excellent software.

OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
4 bays, 4 drives: 4TB to 32TB
Configure single drives or as RAID-5, RAID-0, RAID-10!
20TB model as RAID-5 = 15TB usable capacity.

Nikon D5 Autofocus on Lens Align Target at f/1.4 and f/4

Get Nikon D5 at B&H Photo.

When working with a DSLR, the one thing I MUST have is the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3.0x, $125 OFF through 21 April. See Reader Comment: Zacuto Loupe: “amazed by the result” and my review of the Zacuto Z-Finder.

Surely a mirrorless camera outperforms a DSLR for consistent autofocus? Hmm...

After the disappointing focus results with the Sony A7R II + 85mm f/1.4 GM, I wondered how the Nikon D5 + Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G might fare.

Nikon D5 + 85/1.4G Autofocus Accuracy, Lens Align Target

Includes results at both f/1.4 and f/4.

A Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is badly needed given the modest optical performance of the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G at f/1.4, but that is not the issue in question here.

The real issue is precision (tightly clustered consistency) since with AF Fine Focus Adjust, a highly precise performance, even if off slightly, can be adjusted so that the results are highly accurate in a tight grouping (minimal shot-to-shot variance, precise). Put another way, a tight cluster (precision) not in the bullseye (inaccurate) can be remain a tight cluster and be recentered to hit the bullseye (precision + accuracy).

Target for this test was the Michael Tapes Lens Align target.

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

B&H Photo NAB Specials End 21 April

Worth a look as these B&H NAB specials end tomorrow.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Optical Distortion: Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 and Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 for Sony Mirrorless

Get Zeiss Batis and Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 Aspherical III at B&H Photo.

The one (and really only) weakness of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon is optical distortion, not to be confused with perspective, which is a function of physical laws (camera to subject distance, inverse square law).

See my in-depth review of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon including the discussion and examples of optical distortion and my comments on the use of software correction in the datasheet.

For architecture or groups of people or horizons, etc, distortion is a serious concern.

Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 Aspherical III

Rich G writes:

As always your website proves indispensable as I ponder a question about ultra wide angle lenses for my Sony A7R II.

I am an architectural photographer whose lens arsenal includes the Zeiss Batis 25mm. I am delighted with its performance.

That said, I need an ultra wide angle lens and your initial review of the new Zeiss Batis 18mm gives me pause. The issue is optical distortion. You note in your initial assessment that the 3.2% optical distortion level will likely be an issue for architectural photographers. Indeed!

I’m also considering the new Voigtlander 15mm E Mount lens. I have no doubt that the Zeiss lens is superior in the abstract. But its distortion level is troubling.

My question: do you know anything yet about the distortion figure for the Voigtlander 15mm (E mount)? For my principal need, I would trade superior build for less lens correction.

DIGLLOYD: I don’t know—yet. The Voigtlander 15/4.5 for Sony is on the way for testing.

As a tweaked-for-mirrorless rangefinder design, I don’t expect it to perform nearly as well overall, but as an f/4.5 lens, it’s quite possible that optical distortion has been kept very low, similar to the Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon.

Pentax 15-30mm f/2.8 IN STOCK!
The new superwide zoom for Pentax full frame DSLRs.
ends in 23 hours

Sony A7R II + Sony G Master Lenses: Major Focusing Bug?

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Update: see outdoor shooting results.

In my recent coverage of focusing, I commented on how the Sony A7R II with firmware 3.1 never opens the lens diaphragm to focus, which is a major operational flaw; it’s just not at all likely to center the zone of focus on the target consistently or reliably when stopped down past a certain point*.

*This is easily checked even without taking a picture: set the lens to f/8 or so, verify that the camera does not open the diaphragm when focusing, focus. Switch to manual focus, then open the lens to f/1.4, zoom to 12.5X, observe the blur. The amount may vary from a just a little blur to strong blur and may also depend on subject matter or lighting, but the point is the peak focus does not hit the target and the zone of sharp focus (depth of field) will be displaced from where it was intended, and may even damage sharpness where intended.

Several readers emailed to say that the A7R II did in fact open the aperture when focusing. But they tested with lenses like the Sony 55 1/8, Sony 35/1.4 and Zeiss Batis. As it turns out, they were right; we are all correct, as I investigated and determined the following:

  • With both the Sony GM lenses (85/1.4 GM and 24-70/2.8 GM), Sony A7R II does NOT open the lens diaphragm to focus, at least not under reasonably bright to somewhat dim conditions (checked over 3 different days). Setting Effect = On or Off has no effect on the behavior.
  • With Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, the Sony A7R II opens up the lens diaphragm to focus, every time and regardless of shooting aperture. It’s too quick to see if it opens fully, but it definitely goes to at least f/2 or brighter.

In other words, focusing appears to be a BUG with the Sony A7R II and Sony GM lenses. Even if one rejects that idea and insists this “working as designed”, it is a fatal flaw in accuracy—nothing alters the problematic focusing errors.

Presumably it happens with the other Sony mirrorless full-frame cameras, but I cannot confirm as I don’t have any other camera bodies.

This is not a big deal when shooting at f/4 or so, right? Unfortunately, no dice:

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM: Focus Accuracy at f/1.4 and f/4 (Lens Align Target)

Other recent autofocus coverage:

Target for this test was the Michael Tapes Lens Align target.

Out of focus at f/4
__METADATA__
Our trusted photo rental store

Today Only, SanDisk Deals, Steadicam

View all B&H Photo NAB Specials. NOTE: some specials valid only with code BHNAB16.

These deals end today at 21:00 PST:

Note that the Lexar 512GB card is a bit less at $225, but it writes at 45MB/sec, just a bit more than half the speed of the SanDisk 512GB card.

Other items

The one item that I highly recommend for anyone using a DSLR is the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3.0x $125 OFF; it is indispensible for my work, see Reader Comment: Zacuto Loupe: “amazed by the result”.

My laptop of choice would be the Apple MacBook Pro Retina 2.8 GHz / 16GB / 1TB / M380X at $210 off.

The NEC PA272W-BK 27" wide gamut display is discounted to $879 (does not include the calibration kit). See also my comments on my workhorse display, the NEC PA302W which is currently $1899.99 with the color calibration kit.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon Optical Design

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. Direct link to Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8.

See my in-depth review of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 construction

Zeiss went to substantial effort with the Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon:

The super wide-angle camera lens has 11 lens elements in ten groups and draws on the ZEISS Distagon optical design.

Four of the lens elements are aspheric on both sides and seven are made from special types of glass.

The Floating Elements design permits constantly high image performance in the focal plane – from the minimum object distance to infinity.

The use of four double-sided aspherics is highly unusual, and 7 of the 11 are made from glass of a special type. Can you spot the lens element that is not special in some way? There are none. This sophisticated design is a trend that I applaud.

The MTF charts tell a strong story, but field shooting shows an 18mm performer that has no peer including shots at MOD (minimum object distance). With dust and moisture resistance plus autofocus, the Sony mirrorless shooter looking for an extreme wide angle need look no further. At about $1499, The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon offers serious value for the performance: consider that the Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH is about $2860 and while a very satisfying performer, it shows its limits on only a 24MP megapixel sensor in the outer zones.

Now I just want to see a Canon-style Zeiss Loxia or Batis 11-16mm f/4 zoom.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Sony A7R II: Configuring Autofocus + Eye AF

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

I recently reported on autofocus accuracy with the Sony A7R II and the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM, using conventional spot-focus AF-S, which is normally the way I shoot just about everything when not using manual focus.

I also tested with the Eye AF feature and found similar results (not published as they were similar).

However, yesterday and today my ad-hoc testing with the Eye AF feature shows that it has serious potential for improving results any time the subject or photographer is moving, even a little.

The Eye AF feature is well hidden by the Sony menu system and it apparently cannot be coupled to the shutter release (at least I have not found any way to do so)—it requires a separate button to invoke. Nor does it work with the Sony wireless remote control, a pity, since it would be a great way to do selfies. What a great way to render a good feature less useful! It’s almost as if Sony doesn’t want the feature to be used.

I’ve revamped my Sony A7R II setup pages as follows, this first page details recommended autofocus configuration, including how to configure to use Eye AF as well as the button the GM lenses:

James K (NYC pro photographer) writes:

I just completed a series of head and shoulder portraits on our roof patio. Shade, f/2 1/2000 ISO 160.

I used the GM Focus Hold button with Eye Focus. I nailed eye focus on every photo (14). This function is fabulous. I could never have achieved this any other way. I am absolutely delighted with the lens.

The button makes the system really sing. Handling and feeling are great. Highest portrait hit rate ever.

DIGLLOYD: DSLR autofocus is dead.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

B&H Photo NAB Specials

View all B&H Photo NAB Specials. NOTE: some specials valid only with code BHNAB16.

Items that caught my eye:

OWC Weekender specials ending Monday:

See all OWC Weekender specials.

OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
4 bays, 4 drives: 4TB to 32TB
Configure single drives or as RAID-5, RAID-0, RAID-10!
20TB model as RAID-5 = 15TB usable capacity.

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Focus Accuracy on Sony A7R II with Firmware 3.1

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

A few days ago, I showed focus error with the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM on the Sony A7R II. That was with firmware 3.0, with version 3.1 recommended with the 85/1.4 GM.

But it seems the firmware version has nothing to do with problematic performance.

Using the Sony A7R II with the very latest firmware (version 3.1), I put focusing to the test under controlled conditions in which every effort was made to help the camera succeed.

Focus Accuracy at f/1.4 and f/4, Controlled Conditions (Dolls)

Shot at two different distances and at both f/1.4 and f/4 to confirm the findings.

I prefer my images as sharp as the lens can deliver, which is why I do all my evaluation work with manual focus whenever feasible, which is almost always.

So we can forgive some error at f/1.4 (but on mirrorless?!), but what about f/4 too?

Comparing autofocus and manual focus

 

Lloyd’s Sony Mirrorlesss Wishlist
Lloyd’s hand-picked items for Sony.

Using 8TB Hard Drives in Older Mac Pro

Some users, particularly video users are still using the classic 2009/2010 Mac Pro tower.

Over at MacPerformanceGuide.com, I have added discussion and test results for the HGST Ultrastar He8 in the internal drive bay of the 2009 Mac Pro.

With 8TB drives, 48TB is possible internally in the 2009/2010 Mac Pro, or 32TB using only the four standard bays.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Understanding Behavior, Particularly Focus Shift

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

Get Sony G Master Lens and Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

I now understand my perplexity and frustration in not being able to match the two Sony 85/1.4 GM to the Batis 85mm f/1.8.

It turns out that the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM has a pronounced focus shift in outer zones.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Aperture Series: Dolls

Images up to 24 megapixels with large crops, all from f/1.4 - f/8.

I shot the scene about ten times to get an optimal result for the Sony 85/1.4 GM. Tedious to be sure, but I now understand exactly what the Sony 85/1.4 GM is doing, and I show/explain it.

This may be an important read for anyone using this lens and wanting to get the best out of it.

Includes a 2nd series at MOD (minimum object distance), which I shot to confirm the findings.

__METADATA__

Close Range Perspectives with Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. Direct link to Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8.

One of the fun things a close-focusing 18mm lens makes possible is steep perspectives focused at very close range, same idea I put to use with the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 in the pine cone image.

In the Zeiss Batis section of Guide to Mirrorless:

Examples: Close Range Flowers

Here, the ant sees the flower as a giant object, and we hardly see the ant.

__METADATA__
OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
4 bays, 4 drives: 4TB to 32TB
Configure single drives or as RAID-5, RAID-0, RAID-10!
20TB model as RAID-5 = 15TB usable capacity.

Shootout at Close Range: Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar (Dolls, Sony A7R II) UPDATED

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Get Sony G Master Lens and Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo.

I plan a distance comparison, but I was curious: how would the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM compare to the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar at a shooting distance roughly equivalent to a tight head and shoulders portrait, a distance thus highly relevant to real-world usage—for portraiture.

Close-range performance is one area where many lens designs are compromised, particularly in f/1.4 designs. So how does it fare against the 2/3-stop slower Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar?

Shootout: Shootout vs Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 (Dolls, A7R II)

With images up to 24 megapixels and large crops, from f/1.4, f/1.8/1.7, f/2, ..., f/8.

Includes comments on field of view, field curvature, vignetting, aberrations, sharpness, contrast.

Update: I went back and reshot several times. There is a confounding factor at work that I discuss that makes me conclude that such a close range comparison cannot be matched properly (across the frame) due to the perpsective difference caused by a different entrance pupil position for the two lenses. Based on 12.5X Live View, I have concluded that this perspective difference makes it impossible to match the lenses at close range in a way that allows the best peformance for each to shine. I will be showing the Sony separately and at its best shortly.

UPDATE 2: now I understand my perplexity in not being able to match the two lenses: the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM has a pronounced focus shift in outer zones. I have no posted a full aperture series with detailed examples from f/1.4 - f/8. Important read for anyone using this lens and wanting to get the best out of it.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Aperture Series: Dolls (includes a 2nd series at MOD).

__METADATA__
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

REVIEWED: Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM at 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 70mm

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

This finely detailed scene at far focus distance is an exceptionally demanding subject that makes mincemeat of most lenses, mercilessly revealing every weakness, lack of symmetry, etc.

These four aperture series cover four focal lengths. yielding a detailed look at the performance of the Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in terms of sharpness, field curvature, symmetry, and distortion:

Each series includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/11 along with many large crops.

The results define the performance of the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM and should be very useful in seeing real-world performance for anyone considering this zoom lens.

__METADATA__

 

OWC Weekender Deals

See all OWC Weekender deals.

Things that catch my eye:

The OWC Aura upgrade can be installed in the MacBook Pro Retina and MacBook Air, for a 480GB or 1TB SSD.

Separately, B&H Photo has MacBook Airs all marked down, some down by $150 after a previous $100 markdow (up to $250 off). Note that the OWC Aura upgrade can be installed in the Air, so any of these models can go to 480GB or 1TB SSD.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon: MTF Can Be Better than the MTF Charts Show

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. Direct link to Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

Zeiss MTF is measured with a real lens on the K8 MTF tester using appropriate thickness sensor cover glass for the target camera platform using white light. Thus: real lens with white light with diffraction accounted for and the actual camera platform. The only other vendor which (maybe) does this (and only for one aperture) is Sigma.

Because of the K8 measurements with a real lens (but no camera), the Zeiss MTF charts cannot account for software correction of chromatic aberration.

See my in-depth discussion of the MTF charts for the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon., but here is one point of discussion regarding astigmatism.

Astigmatism

As per Zeiss, the astigmatism in the MTF graphs is largely related to lateral chromatic aberration. Not all of it, but a good portion of it. This is a common behavior for ultra wides, including Leica M and other brands.

Correction for chromatic aberration via in-camera JPEG or during raw conversion means that the MTF will be better than shown, namely, reduced astigmatism.

Since Adobe Camera Raw forces-on chromatic aberration correction regardless of camera settings, there will be near zero chromatic aberration and performance will be closer to the sagittal (solid) lines in the graph.

MTF for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon
Our trusted photo rental store

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon: Data Sheet Confusing Because Distortion Graph is Software-Corrected (only)

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. Direct link to Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

In the Zeiss Batis section of Guide to Mirrorless, see my discussion of distortion for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8, along with real-world examples in my Review of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon.

The Zeiss data sheet for the Batis 18mm f/2.8 on the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 web page shows the software-corrected distortion graph, a practice I heartily dislike in a data sheet. An easily-missed note below that graph reads 'camera correction on' . [the note ought to be part of the graph itself, and in red or such]. One reader has already informed me of my “error” in showing the graph below (supplied by Zeiss of course).

Sony mirrorless cameras apply distortion correction to JPEG only (and only if enabled), so unless distortion correction is performed during RAW conversion, the results are as shown below in the Uncorrected graph. Since no ACR lens profiles yet exist for the Batis 18/2.8, all my review coverage of the Batis 18/2.8 is without distortion correction—exactly what the lens actually images.

Distortion correction has implications for sharpness and micro contrast, and thus a true optical distortion chart is an essential part of the data sheet. My graphs below are supplied by Zeiss. Toggle to compare optical distortion to software-corrected distortion. Distortion is one competing optical design tradeoff among many, and apparently for the Batis 18/2.8, it is/was a tradeoff necessary to build the highest-performing 18mm lens yet available.

Distortion for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Tower at Night

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

This night scene evaluates “penetrating power”, or the ability to pull out detail in dark areas at dusk or night.

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Tower at Night

With images up to 24 megapixels and large crops, all from f/1.4 to f/8.

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

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Backlit Palms at Dusk

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

This strongly backlit scene evaluates the ability of the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM to deliver high contrast in difficult conditions thus making it possible to extract a wide dynamic range from a scene.

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Backlit Palms at Dusk

With images up to 24 megapixels from f/1.4 to f/8.

Viewing this series on a late 2015 iMac 5K with its superb dynamic range shows just how good the contrast of the images is.

__METADATA__
Performance Package for Mac Pro or iMac 5K
For iMac 5K or For 2013 Mac Pro
Recommended by diglloyd as ideal for photographers and videographers

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Yellow Bike at Night

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

I wanted a night scene with a variety of shapes and color; this yellow bike seemed to almost glow in the dark. The juxtaposition of sharpness and bokeh is very appealing.

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Yellow Bike at Night

With images up to 24 megapixels and large crops, from f/1.4 to f/8. Two variations are shown from f/1.4 - f/9, one at medium range and one at close range.

Is the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM the new king of bokeh at 85mm?

 

__METADATA__
__METADATA__
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

REVIEWED in Depth: the NEW Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

Get Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo. Direct link to Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8.

Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

Zeiss announces the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon today.

I had only one week to work with a review sample, but I already have extensive coverage which I think makes a strong case that the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon is the finest 18mm lens ever to be produced for full frame cameras.

In the Zeiss Batis section of Guide to Mirrorless:

Review of Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

If you like ultra-wide and you’re shooting on Sony, this lens is a must. Supply may be constrained initially, so pre-order the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon today.

MTF

See my in-depth discussion of the MTF charts.

MTF for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

Distortion

Note: the Zeiss data sheet for the Batis 18mm f/2.8 on the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 web page shows the software-corrected distortion graph. An easily-missed footnote that reads 'camera correction “on”'; it is not called out in any way—easily missed. It ought to be part of the graph itself, in red or some such.

Sony mirrorless cameras apply distortion correction to JPEG only, so unless distortion correction is performed during RAW conversion, the results are as shown below in the Uncorrected graph. Distortion correction has implications for sharpness and micro contrast and thus true optical distortion without correction is an essential part of the data sheet.

See my discussion of distortion for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8, with examples.

Distortion for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon

Vignetting

See my discussion of vignetting for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8, with examples.

Vignetting for Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon
Zeiss Batis: 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar, 18mm f/2.8 Distagon, 25mm f/2 Distagon
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Mosaic

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

This is one of the finest performances I have ever observed in an f/1.4 lens on this target. In the Sony section of Guide to Mirrorless:

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Church Mosaic

If you’re considering the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM, you’ll want to see the results.

With images up to 24 megapixels and many large crops, all from f/1.4 to f/11. View the 6048 size (24 megapixels) at f/1.4 on a late 2015 iMac 5K for a thrill.

The finely detailed test scene at far focus distance is an exceptionally demanding subject that makes mincemeat of most lenses, mercilessly revealing every weakness, lack of symmetry, etc. Most lenses require f/5.6 or f/8 to sharpen the whole mosaic, or at least f/4.

But the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM delivers a jaw-dropping performance, one matched by only a handful of lenses over years of shooting this target. It’s not so much peak performance as the incredibly consistent performance.

Note that autofocus should be checked as to whether it actually achieves optimal focus, based on my shooting today.

__METADATA__

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Focus Accuracy

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

It is always unwise to put new gear into production use without verifying its reliability. That is particularly true for fast lenses with autofocus.

UPDATE: it seems that Sony A7R II firmware 3.0 is not advised, and version 3.1 should be used. Why doesn’t Sony put a bright red note in the box? (There is a “for optimal use keep firmware updated” innocuous sheet with the other useless printed stuff). Maybe it will fix things, maybe not. I’ll update and see.

UPDATE 2: does not look like a firmware issue at all.

Right away with the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM, I noticed a disturbing tendency for Sony A7R II autofocus to be off enough to seriously degrade results at f/1.4, enough to call it a “2 stop error” in some cases, meaning at least f/2.8 would be needed to obtain the quality that ought to have been captured wide open at f/1.4. Or put another way, an error that turns a 42 megapixel camera into a ~12 megapixel camera. Or something akin to that.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM: Focus Accuracy at f/1.4

Includes an example with two large crops showing manual vs autofocus quality.

I am *so* glad I noticed this right away. I will have to do all my evaluation using manual focus, or at least confirm all AF results with full magnification Live View before exposing.

A local friend reports similar issues.

Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series: Backlit Mountain Bike

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

Just arrived late in the day, I shot the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM in the waning light.

The goal here was to assess contrast control under strong backlighting, bokeh and control of color aberrations, and overall sharpness and visual impact.

Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @52mm: Strongly Backlit MTB

Includes images up to 24 megapixels from f/2.8 through f/9.

The results are unusually interesting; the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM seems to offer a blend of imaging characteristics that “draw” quite differently from what I am used to seeing with Nikon and Canon designs.

Bokeh fans take note.

__METADATA__

 

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Tumbleweeds Come on Strong

Get Fujifilm X at B&H Photo.

I don’t know if these tumbleweeds are S. ryanii or not, but in previous years I don’t recall seeing them. Now they are all over Carrizo Plain National Monument as shown below, but also (see fenceline) they can be found stacked along anything that stops them, such as fencelines. They also make the bottoms of ravines all but impossible for hiking. They block roads fully in some places with jumbles 50 feet wide and 6 feet deep. See New species of tumbleweed is just as bad as its parents.

__METADATA__

High-ISO Shootout: Nikon D5 vs Nikon D810, ISO 1600 to ISO 51200

Get Nikon D5 DSLR and Nikon D810 DSLR and Zeiss Milvus B&H Photo.

A salient question when considering a specialty camera like the 20.6-megapixel Nikon D5 is how much better its high-ISO performance is versus a camera optimized for high resolution at lower ISO values such as the Nikon D810.

Is the Nikon D5 actually better at high ISO than the D810, and if so, how is it better and at which ISO values?

The 36-megapixel Nikon D810 debuted in early summer 2014, about two years prior to the April 2016 debut of the Nikon D5. We therefore might expect that nearly two more years of advancement in sensor technology along with a 20.6-megapixel resolution would provide a clear win for the Nikon D5 at high ISO values.

For the same enlargement factor, is high ISO performance better? It is an error to compare noise behavior on a per-pixel basis. What matters is the noise and color rendition and black rendition at any given reproduction size, such as a print of any given size. Accordingly, this evaluation compares the D5 and the D810 cameras using the same lens and same exposure at the same image size.

Nikon D5 vs Nikon D810, ISO 1600 to 51200 (Dolls)

Includes image sizes up to 5974 pixels wide (about 24 megapixels).

There are other considerations too: the higher resolution of the Nikon D810 is a form of oversampling, which has its own benefits, as the comparison shows. Image quality is a sum total, not a any one factor.

Shot with the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4.

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

Nikon D5: File Size as a Metric for ISO Quality

Get Nikon D5 at B&H Photo.

When shooting in lossless-compressed raw (NEF), the file size is a directly-correlated metric of image detail, which includes noise (randomness). That is, information theory of entropy says that more randomness (more noise and/or more detail) is less compressible.

Thus, when taking dark frames, compressed file size is a direct metric for the ISO range at which noise increases to more problematic levels. One needs no fancy analysis: just look at file sizes for an accurate study of the ISO values which are likely to be troublesome relative to lower ISO values. This of course does not address pattern noise or other problematic behaviors, just noise overall.

Nikon D5: File Size as a Metric for ISO Quality

This study is an interesting confirmation of the conclusions in the Nikon D5 ISO series, based on NEF file size alone!

Dark frames shot at 1/8000 @ f/16 with the rear viewfinder blocked, lens cap on and camera covered—no light whatsoever. All frames shot in lossless-compressed 14-bit NEF.

Our trusted photo rental store

A Few Deals and Recommendations

On the computer front, the late 2015 iMac 5K remains a blazingly fast computer with a display being an unrivalled image presentation device without peer for color imagery and for black and white imagery. See iMac 5K: Building a High-Performance Configuration.

As always, the diglloyd B&H Deals page lets you find deals by brand and by category and filter by percent discount. For example:

Sony memory cards from 32GB to 256GB are on sale through tomorrow. As low as $88 for 256GB SDXC, or $34 for 128GB, or $14.29 for 64GB. Also, SanDisk 128GB and 256GB cards are discounted.

Up to 19% off Zeiss DSLR lenses. The 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar remains a favorite, really being Otus grade and is $400 off. The 28mm f/2 offers a classic cinematic look, and the 15mm f/2.8 Distagon is hard to beat, and a whopping $600 off.

Image below shot with Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar.

Yellow Aspen at Meadow’s Edge, Blue Dawn
__METADATA__
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Close-Range Aperture Series: Dolls (Nikon D5)

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

I realized I had not published a close-range rendering scene with the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4. Normally I prefer to shoot aperture series at high resolution (Nikon D810), but the D5 is in hand, and close range depth of field is razor thin, so I elected to shoot this series with Nikon D5.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Zeiss Milvus 85/1.4 Aperture Series: Dolls (Nikon D5)

Includes image sizes up to full resolution.

This working distance corresponds to a tight head and shoulder portrait.

__METADATA__

Nikon D5 ISO Series from 50 to 102400: Color vs Black and White

Get Nikon D5 and Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

At very high ISO values, noise tends to intrude. Moreover the conditions under which such high ISO values are required often involve very difficult lighting. Hence, a black and white rendition can be relevant and useful, practically speaking, at least for eliminating unpleasant color casts.

In this example the lighting is excellent, so color casts are not the issue, but the black and the renderings at each ISO value give an idea of the subjective noise quality.

Nikon D5: ISO Series from ISO 50 to 102400, Color vs Black and White (Dolls)

Includes image sizes up to full resolution.

Shot with the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4.

__METADATA__
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Nikon D5 ISO Series from 50 to 102400 with/without Chroma Noise Reduction

Get Nikon D5 and Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

This series was carefully exposed at all ISO values with perfect ETTR exposure for all ISO values allowing only a few pixels to blow at the bright end as shown in the included RawDigger histogram. In real world shooting exposure might be less optimal. Still, much of the image is of quarter and half tone luminance (somewhat dark to quite dark) and thus a challenge for the camera.

Nikon D5: ISO Series from ISO 50 to 102400 (Dolls)

Includes image sizes up to full resolution.

The chroma noise reduction imges are included for direct comparison from ISO 3200 to ISO 102400.

Shot with the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4.

__METADATA__

Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Scratchy/Noisy Focus with Internal Wear

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

The Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 and Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 should be in my hands next week April 14th. I’ll be testing the G Master lenses on the Sony A7R II in Guide to Mirrorless.

First users of the new Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 report a scratch/noisy focus problem.

Update: LensRentals.com has an excellent teardown. The marks appear to be lubricant, nothing more:

About half of these lenses have some visible lubricant on the inner focusing barrel that looks like scratches but isn’t. It is not scratches. Yes, I know the focusing sounds like scratches. Yes, I know the lubricant looks like scratches. And yes, I am certain that some person somewhere is going to have a lens with real scratches on the inner focusing barrel. Because given enough lenses, there will be one with anything.

DIGLLOYD: what happens in a hot car at 120°F in the summertime and what about flare from light-colored streaks on an area that ought to be black?

James K, a NYC pro photographer that I trust, reports:

My copy of the lens has what might be a deal killer for a lot of video users. The focusing noise is quite loud. The scraping sound it makes is quite distracting. This defect has been mentioned as a drawback by some first responders. It is also a little slow in focus acquisition.
Some say the noise disappears after around 500 actuations.

Put the lens on the camera. Turn the camera on. Set manual focus to infinity. Set the aperture to f/1.4. Shine a small flashlight into the lens and look for scratches on the rear bottom of the housing.

The scratches on my copy are substantial. The residue is now on the inside of my new $1800 lens. Definitely unacceptable. I have another 85mm Sony FE on the way so I will be able to compare the two lenses. Sloppy quality control. A real shame because the optical qualities of the lens are impressive.

This situation is absolutely the pits. Any nontechnically qualified person could determine that a problem existed. Just put the lens on a camera and focus. Who is running quality control?

[a day later]

The second copy of the 85mm FE 1.4 is less noisy especially in manual focus. Livable. Less visible scratching inside the lens on second optic. I like the handling and the feel of the lens, especially the aperture ring.

DIGLLOYD: Wow.

Quality control is a huge issue with digital. While Sony is definitely not unique in having quality control challenges (see my Leica M experiences), one has to wonder at the debut of a flagship lens like the 85/1.4 GM.

See also Sony quality control and Sony bad sample.

Michael K writes:

Just an FYI, my copy of the lens precisely, exactly mirrors the comment of James K. quoted in your blog. Noise is annoying but not that important. Internal scratches on the barrel are definitely not acceptable. Will be returning mine to B&H.

DIGLLOYD:

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sony G Master Lenses on the Way for Review

Get Sony G Master Lens at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM
Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

The Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 and Sony G Master 24-70mm f/2.8 should be in my hands next week.

I’ll be testing the G Master lenses on the Sony A7R II in Guide to Mirrorless.

This is Sony’s first stab at “bread and butter” lenses for pros and others. All previous lenses were really not in that category. Accordingly, these are big and heavy lenses just like DSLR lenses because high performance at fast speed demands it (barring hugely expensive designs as with Leica).

See previous discussions:

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Night Shooting: Long Exposure and High ISO Performance

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

I take a look at night shooting at all ISOs with various examples from the X-Pro2, including an ISO 800/1600/3200/6400/12800 series. Overall image quality including the quality of the noise pattern under real world conditions is the single most important factor to the viability of high ISO and long exposures (lab tests are rarely relevant for high ISO, IMO), so I discuss and show that explicitly in the examples.

Several of the examples are with/without chroma noise reduction. Also included are a couple of aggressive push processing and shadow boost examples.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Night Shooting, Long Exposure, Night High-ISO Examples

Images shown at sizes up to full 24MP resolution. RawDigger histogram info shown for several examples as well, since it relates directly to exposure.

Water Tanks, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

4K TV Quality Hits New High: 'House of Cards'

See other 4K TV posts.

Last fall I wrote Impressions of 4K TV and then later after viewing more material, More Thoughts on 4K Video + Good 4K is Better than a Movie Theatre. My main dissatisfier was/is the generally low quality of 4K footage, some inferior to 1080p HD.

But now, Netflix takes 4K quality to a new level, in this year’s episodes of House of Cards. It’s the best 4K footage I’ve yet seen, and some scenes are stunning in the use of shallow depth of field with tack-sharp faces (the strongly backlit capitol scene with the speaker and Remy in dark clothing, sorry I forget which episode). It reminds me in some cases of the best Zeiss Otus rendition; the optics are superb and with a strongly dimensional character. As far as I can tell, it was shot with Zeiss Master Primes, a speculation confirmed by a reader in the know.

So I recommend seeing the latest episodes of House of Cards to see where 4K is going. There are still some compression artifacts to nitpick, but Netflix is delivering truly outstanding 4K that is a cut above all the other material I’ve seen before.

Deals Updated Daily at B&H Photo

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Severe Image Quality Bug: Grid Artifacts Occur with 3 Different Lenses

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

Two days ago, I reported on the severe damage to image quality seen with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 under certain high contrast lighting situations—a grid superimposed over a large area of the image.

It was plausible that the issue was some curious interaction specific to the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2. But I have now reproduced the same issue with the XF 23mm f/1.4 and the XF 35mm f/2, adding examples with those lenses:

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Image Quality: Grid Artifacts

Images shown at sizes up to full 24MP resolution.

At least one reader made an invalid assumption: I reiterate that this issue occurs with in-camera JPEG from raw/RAF, not just raw files converted in ACR. So the problem is baked into the RAF file, and is thus irrevocable damage to the image.

I do not have any other Fujifilm X body to check whether the issue is unique to the X-Pro2, but my suspicion is that it occurs with other X camera bodies.

Will this issue be fixable with a firmware update? I deem it unlikely, because the behavior appears to be a lens-sensor reflection problem. I hope that I am mistaken.

Actual pixels, from in-camera JPEG
__METADATA__

Upgrading the Internal SSD in a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro Retina

Two recent articles of mine that may be of interest to those who travel with a laptop for photography or similar purposes over at MacPerformanceGuide.com:

Upgrading SSD Boot Drive: USABLE Capacity Increase Is Even Better Than It Seems

REVIEWED: OWC Aura 960GB SSD Upgrade for MacBook Air, MacBook Pro Retina

Until now, there was no way to upgrade the SSD in a late 2013 MacBook Air or MacBook Pro Retina, but the OWC Aura is now a solution for Apple laptops from older models all the way through current ones.

Currently I have an Apple 512GB (499GB) SSD in my 2013 Macbook Pro Retina. I am loathe to spend $3K for an equivalent new laptop, desiring to put that off as long as possible (I want Thunderbolt 3 and a wide gamut display, preferably OLED).

As the 2013 MBPR is perfectly fine for my travel needs in performance terms, I’m mulling over a 1TB (960GB) internal SSD upgrade, which would give me 3.2X more usable space on my photo shoots, as per my discussion. As well, the original SSD can be installed in the optional pocket-size OWC Envoy Pro case, so it does not go to waste.

OWC Aura SSD for MacBook Air or MacBook Pro Retina
OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
4 bays, 4 drives: 4TB to 32TB
Configure single drives or as RAID-5, RAID-0, RAID-10!
20TB model as RAID-5 = 15TB usable capacity.

Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Aperture Series (X-Pro2)

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

Continuing to flesh out lens performance on the Fujifilm X-Pro2, I present two more aperture series with the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 because a variety of material helps give a really good sense of both camera and lens performance.

Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Aperture Series: Ranch Outhouse amid Leafing-Out Walnut Trees

Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Aperture Series: Green Barn with Metal Siding, Sidelit at Sunset

Images at sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res) along with two large crops, from f/1.4 through f/5.6 or f/8.

Ranch Outhouse, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__
Ranch Barn, Sunset
__METADATA__
Our trusted photo rental store

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Powerhouse

Get Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 at B&H Photo.

Several Panasonic M4/3 lenses have 4% rewards and instant savings up to $200.

Olympus M4/3 lenses have 5% rewards and savings up to $100 (compatible with Panasonic).

It’s interesting to see a slew of terrific features move pushed down to the sub-$800 price range (including lens). While the APS-C Sony A6300 omits image stabilization (presumably a price tradeoff vs a full frame sensor), Panasonic goes with an even smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor—the DMC-GX85 goes all-in with a load of goodies, including 4K, a high-res EVF and OLED rear LCD and some impressive shooting modes. If only it also had the pixel shift mode of the Olympus E-M5 Mark II.

  • 16MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds Sensor
  • 2.76m-Dot 0.7x Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.0" 1.04m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD (OLED)
  • UHD 4K Video Recording at 30/24 fps
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Built-in flash.
  • ISO 25600 and 10 fps Shooting with AF-S
  • DFD AF System, 4K Photo Modes, including 8MP stills at a 30 fps rate
  • 5-Axis Image Stabilization, Dual I.S.
  • Includes Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens
  • Electronic first curtain shutter to 1/16000 second
  • Available in black or silver finish top plate.

Panasonic M4/3 cameras can use various excellent Panasonic and Olympus M4/3 lenses, including the excellent Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 (I recommend both of these highly). Also, the outstanding Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro (though I am unsure of OIS works with the Panasonic body).

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds digital camera

An all-around Micro Four Thirds camera designed for photographers and videographers, the Lumix DMC-GX85 from Panasonic features a compact build and intuitive layout, along with a feature-set to suit a multimedia lifestyle.

Utilizing a 16MP Live MOS sensor, which lacks an optical low-pass filter for increased sharpness, the GX85 is capable of shooting continuously at up to 10 fps with single-shot autofocus, or 6 fps with continuous autofocus, as well as up to 40 fps when using an electronic shutter function.

UHD 4K video recording is also supported in 30 and 24 fps frame rates, as well as Full HD 1080p, and the 4K recording abilities also permit shooting 8MP stills at a 30 fps rate. A sensitivity range up to ISO 25600 permits working in difficult and low-light settings while 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization also helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Spanning a broad range of features for both still and moving images, the GX85 is a versatile mirrorless camera further characterized by its sleek form factor and connected functionality.

Complementing the imaging attributes, the camera also incorporates both a 2.76m-dot electronic viewfinder as well as a 3.0" 1.04m-dot touchscreen LCD, which has a tilting design to better enable working from high and low angles. Built-in Wi-Fi is also integrated into the design, which facilitates wireless image transferring and remote camera control from linked smartphones or tablets.

Included with the camera body is the versatile Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. lens, which provides a 24-64mm equivalent focal length range. The lens is characterized by its sleek profile that pairs well with the camera body, and its optical design incorporates three aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion element to control a variety of aberrations and distortions. Additionally, a stepping AF motor is employed to provide quick, quiet, and accurate focusing performance to suit both stills and video recording applications.

16MP Live MOS Sensor — Using a 16MP Live MOS sensor, the GX85 is capable of capturing clear, high-resolution stills as well as UHD 4K video. The sensor's design omits an optical low-pass filter in order to achieve a high degree of sharpness and resolution, and its design also affords a sensitivity range from ISO 200-25600 to suit working in a variety of lighting conditions. Additionally, fast shooting performance is also afforded, with the ability to shoot at up to 40 fps with an electronic shutter function, 30 fps at 8MP using the 4K Photo Modes, 10 fps with AF-S and an electronic shutter, or 8 fps using a mechanical shutter with AF-S.

UHD 4K Video Recording — In addition to the versatile still shooting modes, the G7 also supports recording UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) video with either 30p or 24p frames rates at 100 Mbps in the MP4 format. Full HD 1080p/60 is also supported, in both MP4 and AVCHD formats, as well as HD and SD resolutions. A built-in stereo microphone can be used during recordings, and features an integrated wind-cut filter for cleaner audio quality when shooting outdoors.

4K Photo Modes — Utilizing the 4K video recording capabilities, a trio of still shooting modes are available for recording continuous 8MP stills at a 30 fps shooting rate:

• 4K Burst: Just as with video recording, this mode will allow you to continuously record 8MP images at 30 fps for up to 29 min. 59 sec., making it ideal for instances where you need a fast frame rate in order to capture the best moment.
• 4K Pre-Burst: This mode is ideal for times when you're unsure of the critical moment to press the shutter button and will record 8MP images at 30 fps one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order to give you 60 frames to choose from.
• 4K Burst (S/S): This mode most closely follows the 4K video recording process, and allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 8MP frame.

Dual Image Stabilization

Helping to achieve the utmost sharpness when photographing handheld, Dual I.S. combines the GX85's 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization technology with lens-based image stabilization to compensate for a broader range of movement types to render sharper, clearer imagery. Dual I.S. requires the use of compatible Lumix lenses featuring O.I.S.

Depth-From-Defocus AF Technology

For accelerated autofocus performance, DFD (Depth-From-Defocus) technology is employed to quickly calculate the distance to subjects and adjust the focusing position in order to suit working with continuous shooting rates up to 6 fps with continuous AF. This contrast-detection type focus method benefits both still and video recording modes, as well as subject tracking applications where subject color, size, and motion vectors are used to intelligently lock-onto the moving subjects and ensure precise focus. Additionally, supporting working in low-light conditions, a Starlight AF feature enables accurate AF performance down to -4 EV.

Benefitting manual focus operation, focus peaking is available that highlights bright edges of contrast with a colored outline for quickly recognizing your focus point, as well as Touch MF Assist for touch-to-focus operation.

Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

An integrated 2.76m-dot electronic viewfinder offers a bright, clear eye-level means for composing images, and features a 0.7x effective magnification.

A larger means for image composition and playback, the 3.0" 1.04m-dot rear OLED monitor has a tilting design to support viewing from a variety of angles. It is also a touchscreen, which permits intuitive menu navigation and settings control.
Nine programmable function buttons can be used to control a wide variety of settings and tools.

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity allows for wireless image sharing and remote camera control from linked smartphones and tablets.

Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. Lens — A versatile standard zoom, the Lumix G Vario 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6 ASPH. is a 24-64mm equivalent wide-to-short tele featuring a sleek design to pair well with the compact camera body. Three aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion element are incorporated within the lens design to reduce both spherical and chromatic aberrations in order to increase image clarity and sharpness. Complementing the optical design is an internal focusing system and stepping motor that pairs with the camera's contrast-detection AF for quick, accurate focusing performance.

Other Camera Features

A mechanical focal plane shutter enables a fast maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 sec., as well as a top flash sync speed of 1/160 sec. An electronic shutter function also avails a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec. to better enable working in bright conditions and with wider aperture settings.

Photo Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, L. Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, and Custom. Creative Control modes: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color, and Sunshine.

Our trusted photo rental store

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Aperture Series with XF 23mm f/1.4, XF 35mm f/2, XF 90mm f/2

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

I present three more aperture series on the Fujifilm X-Pro2:

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Sidelit Big Metal Barn

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 Aperture Series: Sidelit Big Metal Barn

Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 Aperture Series: Ranch Bunkhouse at Sunset

Images at sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res) along with two large crops, from f/1.4 through f/5.6 or f/8.

Huge Metal Barn, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__
Bunkhouse, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__
Huge Metal Barn, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Severe Image Quality Bug: Grid Artifacts

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

The oddball Fujifilm X-Trans sensor has undesirable behaviors, such as extremely unattractive fractal-like artifacts.

However, there is a less common but far worse issue with the Fujifilm X-Pro2, an issue unlike any I have ever seen with Nikon or Canon or Sony sensors, albeit a rare one in my field shooting: the X-Pro2 can generate images with extensive grid artifacts over large areas of the frame, causing severe damage to image quality.

The issue occurs with in-camera JPEGs from raw or when processing raw RAF files in ACR as shown in this example with both in-camera JPEG and from raw conversions in ACR. Images shown at up to full 24MP resolution.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Image Quality: Grid Artifacts

Includes RawDigger analysis.

See April 6 update.

Actual pixels, from in-camera JPEG
__METADATA__

Willem K writes:

I am almost 90% sure that the above problem is a reflection from the sensor surface due to a large light-source inside or just outside the field of view ( not too different from the Sigma DP1 )

It might require a very specific set of circumstances and might be partly lens dependent ( rear element shape and distance might have an influence )

I do not believe a firmware update can solve a problem which I think is hardware related. On the other hand the the problem seems to be very rare and might have no real practical implications for the day to day use of the camera.

DIGLLOYD: this makes a lot of sense (so far) in theory but I have reproduced it with both the XF 23mm f/1.4 and XF 35m f/2, suggesting a general problem (three different lenses show a problem).

Sigma sensors have some flare issues also, as referenced above.

Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Mining Cabin Interior

Get Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 and Nikon D810 DSLR B&H Photo.

This interior scene has a good measure of near-far subject matter typical of an interior layout.

The question is, how suitable is the Otus 28/1.4 APO-Distagon for shooting interiors where there may be benefits to singling out some aspect of the interior, or stopping down for detail?

Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Mining Cabin Interior

Includes images up to 24 megapixels along with large crops from f/1.4 - f/13.

Mining Cabin Interior
__METADATA__
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Pre-Dawn to Dawn in 20 Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley

Get Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 and Nikon D810 DSLR B&H Photo.

The Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 delivers images no other 28mm lens can.

Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Pre-Dawn to Dawn in 20 Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley

Includes images up to 24 megapixels along with the ACR conversion settings used.

My wish: a Zeiss Otus 28mm f/2.8 SuperAPO-Distagon at 1/2 the size and weight.

Colorful Eroded hills, Pre-Dawn, 20 Mule Team Canyon
__METADATA__
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Capturing Context and Subtleties Together

Get Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 and Nikon D810 DSLR B&H Photo.

(Early March) A group of photographers woke me up around 5:00 AM with headlights and dust clouds from vehicles, and at first I was grumpy about it (it had been a long night). But my eyes grudgingly accepted my contact lenses, so I grabbed my gear, and hiked up a bit in the opposite direction.

So often, landscape and location shots leave the viewer uninformed with little context or sense of place: there isn’t much to go on as to what goes on 'there'. The transgression is compounded by using a recognizable or iconic location, which is “cheating” in a sense—relying on the viewer’s a priori knowledge, rather than communicating maximally. More than one image makes it easier, but convention is a serious challenge, and it’s a trap for the photographer. I am frequently guilty of this myself, and so are first class publications like National Geographic, which necessarily omit a lot; I often find myself frustrated with the photo and apersonal coverage and it’s why I take some of the images I do, which would never make a cover shot. Specific close-range details of a place interest me more than most overall views, whereas iconic views are relatively boring, no matter how gorgeous the lighting.

I have a lot of images of Death Valley, but this one below turns out to be one of my favorites, for reasons that derive from the above with specifics following below. It was and is a good lesson to incorporate; I grudgingly made the shot, at first not wanting the cars or people, then realizing that both were a key part of the image and that the sum total was an unusual opportunity.

Comments below on why I think this image is highly successful.

Photographers at Dawn, 20 Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley
__METADATA__

The core reason I like this shot is that it pulls together just about everything about Death Valley in one neat shot. There is a lot here that may not be obvious at first, yet many visits inform me as to relevance:

  • The “backstage” parked cars neatly tucked into a 'corner' that will be omitted in every image made by their owners and yet are ever-present anywhere near a popular location.
  • The sense of scale provided by the cars, and, particularly the people.
  • Motion blur of the photographers on the hillside, emphasizing the dim light of pre-dawn.
  • The distant headlights of an early morning traveler heading south from Stovepipe Wells.
  • The carsonite roadside markers that will be omitted from the photographs made by this group, yet are ever-present in the park. Who shows carsonites in a photograph? I like that they are there in this image.
  • The sinuous road, which can be seen at near, mid and far distances down 20MTC.
  • The footworn paths up the near and far hills impacted by human footprints in many places, both obviously and subtly (more visible at full size). Juxtaposed with the fractal-like rock and mud detail everywhere, repeating and turning on itself. Short term and long term impacts.
  • Juxtaposition: the aging blue van echoing the bluish dawn lighting with its flaking paint echoing erosion, its occupant being a relatively hard-core outdoorsy overnight camping visitor, along with the shiny and clean modern vehicles that will soon return to the hotel/motel, scampering out for this early morning image before everyone returns for breakfast indoors. Intimate and casual visitors, a park invariant.
  • The multiple-country origin of the vehicles, as with many visitors, especially Europeans.
  • Dawn in 20 Mule Team Canyon and with a view towards Zabriskie Point makes it even more appropriate: these are two very popular locations to visit and dawn is the time—a photograph of the photographic 'draw' these places exert on visitors.

By enumerating the above points, I clarified to myself my own experiences there, realizing how much is really captured in the image that reflects repeated experience—the hardest thing to photograph by being too familiar with it. I presume that no one but me would choose this image for hanging on the wall as a large print, and yet it is far more interesting to me than an image without these elements, particularly the human ones.

Did I realize all this prior to making the shot? Only in a vague intuitive way, but it’s why I made it. It turned out to be the best of that morning (debatable perhaps) and serves as a good reminder to stray out of my pre-conceived notions of what to photograph at dawn.

This and other images made a short time later.

Colorful Eroded hills, Pre-Dawn, 20 Mule Team Canyon
__METADATA__

REVIEWED: Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS: Examples and More (Carrizo Plain, X-Pro2)

Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

The Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS is a fun lens to shoot in the field. After the XF 35mm f/2, it was my favorite on my recent trip to the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

I particularly like the 10-12mm range for the steep perspective; it reminds me of using the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G, or the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

But how does the XF 10-24mm perform across the zoom range on the 24-megapixel Fujifilm X-Pro2? I gave it a good look in a variety of ways, seeking to understand its behavior in a practical way for field use.

Images at sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res). Some of the images used are shown below.

The aperture series all show the conversion settings used (including B&W), and that in itself may be quite useful to Fujifilm X shooters. Adobe Camera Raw was used, with two stage sharpening, with diffraction mitigating sharpening for smaller apertures. Fujifilm X-Pro2 raw RAF files remain a challenge (and in truth, a hassle as compared to most cameras), but I think I have it reasonably nailed down for most outdoor type shots now.

Water Tank at Dusk, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__

The mimicry of ACROS film is good enough as a starting point, but the custom Photoshop Black & White layer conversion used here is far superior to the ACROS version because tonal relationships could be modified for the desired effect in sky and grass, a huge advantage over a fixed tonal mapping. The aperture series for this image shows all the conversion settings used.

Defunct Ranch Building, Big Sky
__METADATA__
Yellow Loner
__METADATA__
Green Barn
__METADATA__
Debris on Table
__METADATA__
Debris on Table
__METADATA__
High Performance 480GB Thumb Drive only $265
USB3 high performance rugged thumb drive.

X-Pro2 + Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Green Barn in RAW and JPEG

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 and Fujifilm XF lens at B&H Photo.

Note: the XF 56mm f/1.2 APD has gorgeous rendering and it is $400 off thru Apr 2. Or, see all Fujifilm X lenses with rebates.

This series shows a straight-on view of a highly detailed planar (flat) surface, which is a difficult challenge for a lens (field curvature, symmetry, etc).

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Aperture Series: Green Barn (RAW and JPEG)

Since RAW vs JPEG is a key question for the photographer looking to optimize workflow, the entire f/1.4 - f/11 series is shown in both RAW/RAF (Adobe Camera Raw processing) and JPEG (X-Pro2 in-camera processing).

Images at sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res) along with two large crops, all from f/1.4 through f/11.

The results are... enlightening, just as in Fujifilm X-Pro2: RAW vs JPEG SHOOTOUT (Green Barn) with the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2.

Green Barn, Carrizo Plain
(Adobe Camera Raw from Fujifilm RAF)
__METADATA__
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Fujifilm X-Pro2 + XF 35mm f/2 Aperture Series: Ranch Barn, Sunlit

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 and Fujifilm XF lens B&H Photo.

Note: the XF 56mm f/1.2 APD has gorgeous rendering and it is $400 off thru Apr 2. Or, see all Fujifilm X lenses with rebates.

The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR is a recently-released lens. I liked it a lot in the field, and I’d highly recommend it for being so compact and travel/carry friendly. Available in black or silver, the about $399 price is easier on the wallet compared to its about $499 (after rebate) 35/1.4 sibling, but the decision may come down to just how compact the lens is—I just found myself liking that out in the field. Still, the extra stop of f/1.4 is a plus, so it’s a tough call.

A 24-megapixel APS-C sensor is extremely demanding of lens performance, being equivalent to a 56-megapixel sensor in full frame terms (pixel density).

Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 Aperture Series: Ranch Barn (X-Pro2)

Images at sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res) along one large crop, all from f/1.4 through f/9.

This series shows just how much stopping down is necessary for peak sharpness.

See also the similar scene with the XF 23mm f/1.4.

Ranch Barn, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

X-Pro2 + Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Ranch Barn, Oblique View

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 and Fujifilm XF lens B&H Photo.

Note: the XF 56mm f/1.2 APD has gorgeous rendering and it is $400 off thru Apr 2. Or, see all Fujifilm X lenses with rebates.

A 24-megapixel APS-C sensor is extremely demanding of lens performance, being equivalent to a 56-megapixel sensor in full frame terms (pixel density).

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 Aperture Series: Ranch Barn, Oblique View (X-Pro2)

Images at sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res) along one large crop, all from f/1.4 through f/9.

This series shows just how much stopping down is necessary for peak sharpness.

See also the similar scene with the XF 35mm f/2.

Ranch Barn, Carrizo Plain
__METADATA__

Off Topic: My Favorite Binoculars

Fujinon 7 X 50 FMTF-SX Polaris binoculars

When I reviewed a wide array of binoculars a few years ago, I learned a lot about just how imporant some things are, like the far superior depth of field of porro prisms (minimizes fiddling with focus) and all important eye relief for avoiding viewing fatigue.

My all-time favorite binocular and the hands-down winner even among models costing 4X is much are the Fujinon 7 X 50 FMTF-SX Polaris binoculars.

At around $700, you won’t find anything out there halfway as nice to look through. The eye relief alone should be a revelation. Currently, the purchase includes Smith Optics Aegis Arc Compact Protective Eyewear.

The downside? Those wonderful porro prims make for a bulky and heavy binocular.

Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-56 G OSS

Get Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-56 G OSS and Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-56 G OSS

I see the Sony G Master lens lineup as lenses targeted at the bread-and-butter pro and semi-pro market (weddings, portraiture, etc)—big and heavy and expensive however.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 and the Sony FE 70-300mm fill holes in the lineup that appeal for compactness and portability.

The about $1198 Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-56 G OSS covers a key telephoto range at relatively low size and weight. On an APS-C sensor like the Sony A6300, its field of view is equivalent to a 105-450mm, neatly addressing the headache of getting into the super-telephoto range while traveling. While not a small lens, its 850g weight is very reasonable for the range it delivers to a full frame sensor.

With a very modern design and a price more than double the price of the Nikon AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED , it seems we should expect quite a strong performer. The optical formula of the Sony FE 70-300mm looks to be much more aggressive, including four aspherical elements, whereas the Nikon 70-300mm has none.

Crucially, the Sony FE 70-300mm includes optical image stabilization which in combination with IBIS (in body image stabilization) should offer outstanding shake reduction on the full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras. Since the A6300 lacks IBIS, the OSS feature in the lens is critical, but one might expect less stabilization rigor, and the smaller pixels of the A6300 are even more demanding of keeping movement down.

Spanning a useful range of telephoto focal lengths, the FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS from Sony is a versatile zoom lens designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. Complementing the reach, this lens' optical design incorporates four aspherical elements and two extra-low dispersion glass elements to control spherical and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range for increased clarity, sharpness, and color accuracy. A Nano AR coating has also been applied to individual lens elements to minimize lens flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions. Well-suited to a variety of telephoto needs, this zoom lens balances both a versatile focal length range along with a sophisticated optical design for maintained image quality.

Working in concert with the optical assets, this lens also incorporates an Optical SteadyShot image stabilization mechanism that minimizes the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Also benefitting sharpness is a linear actuator autofocus system, which offers smooth, quiet focusing performance to support both stills and movie recording applications. An internal focusing mechanism is also employed, which limits the overall length of the lens when focusing and both a focus range limiter and focus hold button facilitate more intuitive handling. Additionally, the lens is designed to be dust- and moisture resistant for use in trying conditions.

  • Telephoto zoom 70-300mm lens is designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however, it can also be used with APS-C models where it provides a 105-450mm equivalent focal length range.
  • Four aspherical elements pair with two extra-low dispersion elements to minimize both spherical and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range for sharper, clearer imagery.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and more accurate color rendering.
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper imagery when shooting handheld with slower shutter speeds.
  • A linear actuator offers fast, precise, smooth, and silent autofocus performance that is ideal for video applications as well as stills shooting.
  • An internal focusing design helps to quicken focusing speeds as well as maintain the overall length of the lens when focusing for more intuitive handling.
  • A dedicated AF/MF switch lets you quickly switch between auto and manual focusing methods.
  • Focus range limiter lets you constrain the usable focusing range to either 9.8' to infinity or the full range of 3' to infinity.
  • Focus hold button can be used to stop the autofocus system when more control over focusing on a particular subject is desired.
  • Rounded nine-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality.
  • Dust- and moisture-resistant construction benefits working in harsh environments.
Specifications for Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS
Focal length: 70-300mm
Aperture range: f/4.5 - 5.6 to f/22 - 29
Focusing range: 2.95 ft / 90 cm
internal focusing
Angle of view: 84° - 8° 10'
Number of elements/groups: 16 elements in 13 groups
4 aspherical elements pair + 2 extra-low dispersion elements
Nano AR Coating
Diaphragm: 9 blades, rounded
Magnfication: 0.31X = 1:3.2
Filter thread: 72mm
Weight, nominal: 1.88 lb / 854 g
Dimensions: Approx. 3.31 x 5.65 in / 84 x 143.5 mm
Street price: about $1198
Supplied with: ALC-F72S 72mm Front Lens Cap
R1EM Rear Lens Cap for E-Mount Lenses (Dark Gray)
Lens Hood Case
Limited 1-Year Warranty

 

Our trusted photo rental store

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

Get Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-56 G OSS and Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo.

I see the Sony G Master lens lineup as lenses targeted at the bread-and-butter pro and semi-pro market (weddings, portraiture, etc). But the new Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 fills in a hole for compact and relatively inexpensive normal lens.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

With an aspherical element, the Sony FE 50/1.8 suggests the promise of performance similar to and possibly than its DSLR equivalents. But the Sony FE being a new optical design specifically for mirrorless, it may have been possible to improve upon DSLR designs slightly.

But while the MTF for the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 looks reasonably good at f/1.8, is is not nearly at the same level or consistency across the frame as the MTF for the Sony G Master 50mm f/1.4 at f/1.4. So you do get what you pay for (price and the 'cost' of carrying a heavy lens).

Still, I’m a fan of a 50mm f/1.8: relatively inexpensive, relatively high performance in a very compact package. It’s a a good complement to a mid-range zoom. The use of the aspherical element to control spherical aberration is a plus: it suggests little or no focus shift, which is a headache with some 50mm designs.

Well worth noting is that on an APS-C crop sensor camera like the Sony A6300, the 50mm f/1.8 makes an excellent and very compact smedium telephoto (equivalent to a 75mm in field of view).

A simple, bright, and lightweight normal prime, the FE 50mm f/1.8 from Sony is a versatile normal-length prime lens designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. Its sleek design makes it well-suited for everyday shooting, while the fast f/1.8 maximum aperture benefits working in low-light conditions as well as offers increased control over depth of field for selective focus imagery.

The optical design incorporates one aspherical element to control spherical aberrations, an employs a double-gauss configuration in order to realize sharper, clearer image quality throughout the aperture range with reduced field curvature. A DC actuator is also employed to provide quick and precise autofocus performance that is also quiet to suit video recording applications. Additionally, a rounded seven-blade diaphragm is featured to render out-of-focus highlights with a smooth, circular appearance. Characterized by its straight-forward design, this go-to lens balances both ease of handling along with enhanced image quality.

  • Normal-length 50mm prime lens is designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however, can also be used with APS-C models where it will provide a 75mm equivalent focal length.
  • Fast f/1.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions and also avails greater control over focus placement for working with shallow depth of field techniques.
  • One aspherical element minimizes spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness.
  • Double-gauss optical configuration helps to reduce field curvature and distortions for more consistent image quality from edge-to-edge.
  • DC actuator offers quick, quiet, and accurate autofocus performance to suit both stills and video applications.
  • Metal bayonet offers increased durability and a solid feel when mounting the lens.
    Rounded seven-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality.
Specifications for Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
Focal length: 50mm
Aperture range: f/1.8 - f/22
Focusing range: 1.48 ft / 45 cm
Angle of view: 47°
Number of elements/groups: 6 elements in 5 groups
Diaphragm: 7 blades
Magnfication: 0.15X = 1:6.7
Filter thread: 49mm
Weight, nominal: 6.56 oz / 186 g
Dimensions: Approx. 2.70 x 2.34 in / 68.6 x 59.5 mm
Street price: about $248
Supplied with: ALC-F49S 49mm Front Lens Cap
R1EM Rear Lens Cap for E-Mount Lenses (Dark Gray)
Lens Hood
Limited 1-Year Warranty

 

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

OWC April 'Garage Sale'

The OWC April garage sale is now up. Limited special quantities at low, low prices.

Photographers always need storage, both HDD and SSD examples:

Tetrachromat Vision (4-Base Color in Humans)

Apparently in women only, 4-Base Color in Humans and still needs research to understand and confirm the claims. JOV claims:

Some 12% of women are carriers of the mild, X-linked forms of color vision deficiencies called “anomalous trichromacy.” Owing to random X chromosome inactivation, their retinae must contain four classes of cone rather than the normal three; and it has previously been speculated that these female carriers might be tetrachromatic, capable of discriminating spectral stimuli that are indistinguishable to the normal trichromat.

Performance Package for Mac Pro or iMac 5K
For iMac 5K or For 2013 Mac Pro
Recommended by diglloyd as ideal for photographers and videographers

Westcott IceLight 2 Handheld LED Wand

Get Westcott Flex at B&H Photo.

Previously I tested the Cineo Matchbox and the Dracast LED500 and the Westcott Flex Daylight LED Mat Cine Set 2x2.

The about $499 Westcott IceLight 2 is a handheld (or tripod socket mountable) LED wand with very high color accuracy:

  • 50% Brighter than Original Ice Light
  • CRI: 96
  • 72.6° Beam Spread, Weighs 1.25 lb
  • Digital Display 10-Step Dimming
  • Wireless Bluetooth Technology
  • Removable 60 Minute Lithium-ion Battery
  • Built-in Diffuser, Gel Clips
  • Optional Barndoors
  • 100-240 VAC Charger
  • 50,000 Hour LEDs

I evaluate the color and tint of the Westcott IceLight 2:

Westcott IceLight 2 Handheld LED Wand

Westcott IceLight 2
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Raw Conversion: X-Pro2 vs SilkyPix vs Adobe Camera Raw vs Iridient Developer

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Updated: added Iridient Developer (conveted Fujifilm compressed RAF to DNG to enable).

Well, after hours of work with ACR, I came to a conclusion I did not expect, and I think I now understand why Fujifilm shooters just go with JPEG (though my recommendation remains RAW, or RAW+JPEG, if only to use the X-Pro2 camera body as a processing engine—and why can’t I just hook it up and use it that way form the computer BTW?).

Fujifilm shooters will definitely want to read this piece.

Raw Conversion: XPro2 vs SilkyPix vs Adobe Camera Raw vs Iridient Developer (Oil Pump)

Images shown in sizes up to 24 megapixels (full-res) along with three large crops, with all three raw conversions.

 

Oil Pump, McKittrick Oil Field near Taft, CA
(RAW FILE CONVERTER EX 2.0 powered by SILKYPIX)
__METADATA__

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Usability of In-Camera RAW-to-JPEG Feature

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

I comment on the tedious and error prone design of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in-camera RAW-to-JPEG design.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Usability: In-Camera RAW to JPEG Conversion

Considerable value could accrue if Fujifilm would do a few simple things with this feature.

And, thinking more broadly in terms of real value (and fun!), there ought to also be an “All” option for some settings where the camera would generate all the variants (e.g., all three values of Grain Effect). This would be hugely useful: choose “All” for a few settings and the N x M x P variations would be plopped down on the storage card for quick and easy perusal, making it easy to pick a favorite variation. For example, I could choose All for Grain Effect and All for Film Simulation (perhaps color only) and get 3 X 6 = 18 variations saved out. Why not? It’s just storage space and I could then peruse and zero in on the most pleasing combination. After all if the camera has a raw-conversion engine, why does it have only a 1st gear?

I have no contacts at Fujifilm, but maybe someone knows who to pass it onto; I’d be happy to talk to anyone at Fujifilm who could make something happen to improve it.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 in-camera RAW-to-JPEG conversion menu
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Why Are Images Tinted Green?

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

In field usage, I noticed a tendency for images to have a green tint on the LCD of the X-Pro2. Given the riskiness of assuming correct color on the rear LCD, I wondered only in passing at first. But as it turns out, the X-Pro2 consistently delivers images with a green tint. Mild though it is, it will generate a nagging unpleasant feel to the color quality.

My field images shown in previous blog entries were processed from raw and are generally free of this green tint because I had made a prior determination of necessary white balance and tint in sunlight.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Color Balance: Why are X-Pro2 Images Tinted Green?

Image variants shown were generated by the X-Pro2. A 4-way comparison with and without correction lays bare the Green tint behavior, and the discussion shows what to do about it and how to assess for it. The findings with the DataColor SpyderCHECKR taken hundreds of miles away and under different conditions concur with this analysis.

Samples on 4 cloud areas
measure a green tint (a-value)

Worth noting is that prior to my zeroing in on this issue with hard evidence, I had already seen one case in which a very large magenta boost was necessary (in the Green Barn example). I remarked upon it on that page, calling it “strangely green”, which makes sense now, if the camera is green-biased to begin with.

JPEG shooters in particular are advised to take a look and assess their camera for similar behavior since JPEG bakes-in white balance and tint.

Oil Pump, McKittrick Oil Field near Taft, CA
(GREEN TINT CORRECTED-OUT)
__METADATA__

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Studying 'Grain Effect' in Black and White Conversions

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Grain Effect
(RAW to JPEG conversion)

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 offers a Grain Effect setting with its in-camera RAW-to-JPEG feature. This is most applicable to monochrome conversions, but can be used with color.

The rendering of the Grain Effect setting is studied in black and white, along with some Photoshop ACR conversions for comparison using the ACR Grain setting.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Monochrome 'Grain Effect' vs Photoshop Grain

All three levels of in-camera Grain Effect are shown {Off, Weak, Strong} along with three ACR grain renditions (and no grain) for comparison. All at up to full 24MP resolution including unaltered camera originals at 24MP.

Kudos has to go to Fujifilm for a very fine performance.

Oil Pump, McKittrick Oil Field near Taft, CA
__METADATA__

Jason W writes:

I agree the in-camera grain of the X-Pro2 in the example does look excellent. Do you believe this is a rare instance where the X-trans pixel layout is superior to Bayer matrix?

Also, I'd like to see a color example.

DIGLLOYD: My guess is that this is the excellence of the in-camera demosaicing which avoids the artifacting issues with raw converters (I do NOT like the X-Trans sensor as it does not play well with ACR), plus the excellence of Fuji image processing in general.

Dr. S writes:

Really like the B and W w/grain. Reminds me of my childhood not too far from Signal Hill in Southern CA and all the oil pumps.

Since most of the photography in the 1950's by my dad and the little I could do in my single digit age was monochrome, these kinds of "treatments" are nostalgic. Even though the Fuji gets beaten in the resolution department by many other cams I cannot get away from the exceptional quality of photos you have presented. The colors in your "color" images seem real and, if there is such a term in photography, effortless with good tonality. Your mugshot shows a very good skin color on my monitor. I have never seen you in person but I imagine it is pretty close to what you see in the mirror.

What you have presented is a compelling argument for the Fuji "X" shooter to make an upgrade or, at the least, look forward for the X-T1 replacement.

Thanks for taking the time to evaluate it.

DIGLLOYD: Yes, the skin tones seem quite good, assuming the green tint issue is corrected out. And yes, I do think the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a worthwhile upgrade over prior models.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Fujifilm X-Pro2: ACROS Film Simulations vs Photoshop Black and White Options

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm “film simulations” in
Camera Calibration of Adobe Camera Raw

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 introduces four new film simulations: ACROS, ACROS+Ye, ACROS+R, ACROS+G. There is a strong appeal to classic black and white imagery for certain images, and Fujifilm deserves kudos for extending this feature.

Fujifilm previously offered four monochrome modes, but the new ACROS modes are additions, for a total of eight black and white film simulations. In-camera, apparently only the Fujifilm X-Pro2 has a sufficiently powerful CPU to offer the ACROS modes (in real time at least).

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 shooter looking for the in-camera convenience of black and white imagery is strongly advised to shoot RAW, then use that raw file with the in-camera RAW-to-JPEG feature for obtaining any of the 8 monochrome film simulations; by shooting raw, each simulation can be tried on the same original raw image. One of those is likely to be more pleasing than the others.

Though we can safely assume that the wizards at Fujifilm have done a very fine job in implementing ACROS film simulation, this is not the same as saying it is superior to alternative black and white conversions, particularly when it comes to specific images which can benefit from optimized tonal mapping from the recorded image color and luminance content.

Accordingly, exploring both the ACROS renderings and Photoshop alternatives provides valuable perspective which any fan of black and white imagery (for any camera) should fine useful:

Fujifilm X-Pro2: XPro2 ACROS Film Simulations vs Photoshop Black and White Options

Analysis shows the four ACROS film simulations and eight black and white variants using Photoshop Black and White filter layer at image sizes up to full 24MP resolution. These images pop beautifully on an iMac 5K.

Toggle to compare.

Old Cattle Gate, Carrizo Plain Ranch
__METADATA__

Fujifilm X-Pro2: How Do In-Camera JPEG Film Simulations Compare to RAW-Derived Results in Adobe Camera Raw?

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm “film simulations” in
Camera Calibration of Adobe Camera Raw

One appeal of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 is its selection of what Fujifilm terms “film simulations”. These include six color film simulations and eight black and white film simulations as follows:

  • Color: Provia, Velvia, Astia, Classic Chrome, Pro Neg Hi, Pro Neg Std
  • Black & white: ACROS, ACROS+Ye, ACROS+R, ACROS+G,
    Monochrome, Monochrome+Ye, Monochrome+R, Monochrome+G

The key question is: does converting a Fujifilm raw file in ACR delivers the same look and feel as an in-camera JPEG using the same film simulation? In Adobe Camera Raw, film simulations are found in the Camera Calibration area as shown.

My motivation here was to establish equivalency (or non-equivalency) before proceeding with further image processing of Fujifilm X-Pro2 files.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Adobe Camera Raw vs XPro2 JPEG: 7 Color and 5 Monochrome Camera Profiles Compared (Ranch Gate at Sunset)

Analysis shows six color film simulations and eight black and white film simulations all at image sizes up to full 24MP resolution.

Old Cattle Gate, Carrizo Plain Ranch
__METADATA__

John M writes:

This is absolutely fascinating, Lloyd. I wish I could fly you over here to see what happens on my setup. There is a small but distinct difference between on camera and ACR converted images. But I don’t have an X-Pro 2. I have a X-T1 and a X-100T. So I wonder if it is something that has changed with the new generation of sensor or JPEG engine or whether there is some obscure LR setting that I have wrong.

DIGLLOYD: I can only show my own meticulously prepared results from the XPro2—the camera I have and the workflow I do. All settings must match up of course. Easy to make an error there. Remember too that the choice of things like sharpening level can alter perception, and sharpening cannot be matched in ACR to what the camera does.

Fujifilm’s best and fastest processor is in the X-Pro2. It is quite possible that older models have less good processing due to limited CPU speed and/or certain other processing algorithm choices. Even JPEG compression could be a factor, since better JPEG results require more CPU power, so it is possible that the XPro-2 JPEGs are improved.

But the likely main source of a discrepancy is color gamut; in-camera JPEGs offer only sRGB or AdobeRGB color spaces. When color is out of gamut, the camera has to map those unreproducible colors (somehow) to other colors. At the least, when comparing in-camera JPEGs to raw-derived JPEGS, those JPEGs must be in AdobeRGB color space (not sRGB, since sRGB destroys saturated reds and greens and blues). For my comparison, I converted in ACR to 16-bit ProPhotoRGB, then promptly converted to AdobeRGB (since all the camera can do is AdobeRGB).

Since out-of-gamut colors can be mapped by algorithms that differ by camera model and firmware version, the results could vary by camera—gamut mapping has a variety of approaches; it is not one fixed thing (see all the options in Photoshop for example). In particular, a recent interview with Fujifilm over at imaging-resource.com discloses that Fujifilm has improved the gamut mapping. Which is great but a band-aid: why not offer a superior gamut in the first place (like the DCI P3 gamut), so that color does not have to be mangled? Computers like the late 2015 iMac 5K have a gamut well beyond AdobeRGB in the reds.

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

LITEPANELS Croma On-Camera LED Light DEAL at 71% / $415 OFF Off

At 71% / $415 OFF with free expedited shipping, I bought the LITEPANELS Croma On-Camera LED Light to try out; it can go anywhere, not just on the camera and it may be handy. Deal ends Mar 27, 11:59PM EST.

  • For Cams / DSLRs / Stands / Handheld Use
  • Flicker-Free Shadowless Soft Light
  • Dial-Adjustable Color Temperatures
  • Smooth 0-100% Dimmer Dial
  • Low-Consumption and 50,000 Hour LED Life
  • Cool to the Touch Operation
  • Soft-Touch Rubber Coating
  • Ergonomic and Intuitive Controls
  • Operates by AA Batteries or AC Power

My expectations are not high; I’m just hoping for something reasonable good.

See also LED lighting articles.

LITEPANELS Croma On-Camera LED Light
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: How Good is White Balance?

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

White balance is critical to getting good color.

Fujifilm has a reputation for excellent color. So how well does the Fujifim X-Pro2 do with auto white balance or known color temperature or sunlight white balance (WB “Fine”) as compared to a raw conversion done spot-on?

The motivation for this evaluation was noticing that at times with field shooting the white balance looked odd (using auto white balance).

Fujifilm X-Pro2: White Balance Assessment in Sunlight

Analysis shows five variants, four in-camera JPEG variants and one raw/ACR reference. Particularly if you’re shooting JPEG, the findings here can help improve your results.

Target is the Datacolor Spyder (the Datacolor SpyderCHECKR Color Calibration Tool for Digital Cameras). It comes in a convenient and travel-ready clamshell design making it easy to stuff in a pack or box without damaging the color patches.

DataColor SpyderCHECKER
__METADATA__

Fujifilm X-Pro2: RAW vs JPEG SHOOTOUT (Portrait Among the Flowers)

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Following the Green Barn RAW vs JPEG shootout, I wanted to confirm the findings with another entirely different subject, this time with fabric and human features.

JPEG vs RAW SHOOTOUT: Portrait Among The Flowers

The full-resolution in-camera JPEG is included and compared against the raw-derived image, as well as two large crops. Commentary covers the overall look and feel, a note on camera color rendition, sharpness of course, plus one interesting finding on downsampling.

This image uses the PROVIA/Standard film simulation (camera profile).

Self Portrait, Carrizo Plain National Monument
__METADATA__
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Fujifilm X-Pro2: RAW vs JPEG SHOOTOUT (Green Barn)

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

The findings here should be of keen interest to any Fujifilm X shooter. This meticulous look at in-camera JPEG quality versus using ACR raw conversion looks at overall look and feel as well as sharpness. It’s really a must-read for the Fujifilm X shooter.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 offers in-camera raw conversion in which any raw file can be converted to a JPEG using any combination of settings such as white balance, sharpening, film simulation and so on. This offers a limitless variety of JPEGs derived from one raw file; the raw file remains intact for any number of conversions, saved just as if another picture had been taken. But are the in-camera JPEGs good?

JPEG vs RAW SHOOTOUT: Fine Wood Detail in Green Barn

Two raw-conversion variants are shown as well as three in-camera JPEGs at 3 different sharpening levels. Imagers up to full-resolution (24 megapixels) are provided as well as large crops of these variants. The green barn offers outstanding fine detail for assessing performance.

Green Barn
__METADATA__
Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options!

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Firmware Update Fixes Settings-Reset Glitch

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

The settings-reset glitch which bit me is stated to now be fixed in the Fujifilm 1.01 firmware update for the X-Pro2.

The characterization of the issues as “rare” has been true for me—the glitch only happened that one first time on the first day of use, and did not happen again over a week of shooting.

Detail of the update

The firmware update Ver. 1.01 from Ver.1.00 incorporates the following issues:

1. The Phenomenon is fixed that in rare cases, established customized menu settings are reset to factory default setting when the camera is turned off.

2. Improvement of image quality when shooting in the long exposure mode.

The firmware update went smoothly [how to do it]. One thing I appreciate is that the firmware update can be done in camera (as with Nikon and Canon DSLRs), and that it does not reset the camera to factory default settings (as does Olympus does).

See also the Fujifilm lens and camera firmware update page.

Carrizo Plain Moonshine

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

What color is the sky at night when the moon is full?

Same color as in sunlight: blue. Because the moon is just sunshine reflecting from its surface. Hence the sky is the same color, albeit much less bright than when illuminated by the sun directly (daytime).

This shot taken at 00:56 last night with a full moon. It was bright enough to walk easily, and even bright enough to drive, once my eyes had adjusted, and I suspect that youthful eyes would see it as much brighter.

The steady 20 mph wind at ~48°F had me dressed in layers including my Western Mountaineering Flash XR down jacket. Even so, after 3 hours or so of shooting at night, it took me a good hour to regain full body temperature; I didn’t bring my wool pants and had only blue jeans, which are a lousy choice for cold.

Amazing: the Fujifilm X-Pro2 in AF-S mode can autofocus on a single star! No other camera I’ve used at night can do that. Also, its night-time Live View is second to none in rendering a pleasing and highly usable image. By comparison the Nikon D810 under these conditions the same night delivers a barely discernible noisy mess (nearly impossible to compose the image!), even at f/1.4.

Now when are any of these camera vendors going to figure out that limiting exposure time to 30 seconds is a darned nuisance.

These storage bins are off Panorama Rd.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Moonshine on Old Farming Storage
__METADATA__

With the Nikon D810 and Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon:

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Moonset at Dawn
__METADATA__

 

Our trusted photo rental store

Carrizo Plain Flower Status, 23 March 2016

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

This is my final report on the flowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument; I left the morning of 23 March.

On 23 March the skies were clear, with little prospect of rain. Flowers on less well watered slopes were visibly stressed. Without more rain, the bloom seems likely to become more and more stressed, except perhaps on higher slopes or localized areas that were wetter to begin with. There can be very localized rain: on 23 March at 6 AM I awoke to isolated spatters which became a good solid pounding rain for a few minutes. I raced to get out of a side canyon, fearing the bentonite clay roads, but by 6:20 or so it was all over, so I stayed and had a wonderful day.

This report is organized by location and is intended mainly for my loyal subscribers, without whom I could not spend time preparing such things—thank you.

If planning a visit, READ THIS:

  • Main road (Soda Lake Rd) is fine for all vehicles (except wet). Other roads can be done (Panorama Rd, San Diego Creek Rd
  • SUV with 4WD strongly recommended in order to explore side canyons that hold delights that 99% of visitors won’t see. Sedan-style vehicles can enjoy a few of these roads, but at some risk, particularly front-wheel drive vehicles that tend to dig themselves into loose soil. Have a full tank of gas and pay attention: there are a maze of wonderful roads, but so many that a few mistakes can burn a lot of fuel. Some steep side roads reach 20° or so incline which which most SUVs with 4WD won’t even handle: know your vehicle.
  • These roads NOT recommended for anything but SUVs: Hurricane / Crocker Springs Rd, Simmler Soda Lake Road, most side roads, Elkhorn Rd (some parts are fine but see road damage notes). If you take a sedan on side roads, take extra food and water and something warm, just in case your car becomes the motel.
  • Beware rain: many roads become slick as oil when the bentonite clay gets wet. Not even the best 4WD vehicle can do anything but slide right off the road in such conditions.
  • Road names are confusing. For example, Soda Lake Road is the main road that runs north/south (roughly), but it also runs east/west just south of Soda Lake, and there is also Simmler Soda Lake Rd which runs eastward to Elkhorn grade.
  • Beware road damage on Elkhorn Rd for a few miles approaching Hurricane Rd: 2-4 foot dropoffs right outside the tire tracks (storm damage). You will not be going *anywhere* for a day or two if you get distracted at the wrong moment. Elkhorn Grade Rd also has road damage coming from Maricopa, but mainly 3-8 inch ruts. Still these could damage or strand a sedan if not paying attention; put those tires in exactly the right place and do not let your attention stray.

About the descriptions

Note that I never supply GPS coordinates as this in my view is antithetical to the spirit of exploration and self-motivated delight of discovery. Not to mention trampling and damage to highly sensitive areas. Actually, I rarely even record GPS as I don’t need it and don’t want it. In this case, there are no secret areas; these are all well-known locations.

Hillside flowers, south end of park

Take the “Road Closed” road just a mile or two after entry from the south (SUV only). The road is not actually closed to get to the flower areas and may not be closed at all. Explore a side road or two for blooms, all within a mile or so. The blooms vary from yellow to blue to orange.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, selfie
__METADATA__

Looking north from southern end of park.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, looking north
__METADATA__

Growth is advanced given the relatively early time of the season, but there flowers will mature quickly so by the looks of it the rainfall was enough for a good but not spectacular bloom, as compared to 2007 when I was there in a superbloom (year uncertain).

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, closeup
__METADATA__

At a distance, I took this orange flower for a California Poppy, but it is not and yet it grows close to poppies, but seeming to need a bit more dampness in the soil.

Carrizo Plain National Monument orange flower
__METADATA__

Main road, 3-5 miles from entry

Entering from the south, drive down Soda Lake Rd. There are some nice blooms here and there. If you have an SUV, explore side roads and you may find fields like this one, though actually it is just over a rise (not readily visible) and the field just prior near the road is trampled by tourists; this one was pristine. GET OUT AND HIKE!

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers: Lupine in Low Lying Meadow
__METADATA__

Central/south side roads

Get up into the hills (SUV only). This is off Quail Springs Rd. Sinuous roads branch off in many directions and dusk is a beautiful time (I sleep in my SUV and thus have no schedule to get back to a motel).

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow Flowers at Dusk Along Road
__METADATA__

Hurricane Rd, just east of summit

SUV suggested, sedan possible with care: take Hurricane Rd to the summit, proceed east. This is the very best hillside show anywhere in the park (I scoped things out from a variety of summits).

Approaching summit, looking west at the ascent of Hurricane Pass Rd:

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Hurricane Rd ascent, Looking West
__METADATA__
Carrizo Plain National Monument: Hillsides Blanketed in Yellow
__METADATA__

South / East

Below, displays near Simmler Soda Lake Rd, very close to the junction with Elkhorn Grade Rd (from Maricopa). Traffic is very light here as generally only SUVs arrive. Passenger cars possible with car (a guess), but take extra water and food and some camping gear in case a night under the stars is in the cards.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow and Violet Flowers along Soda Lake Rd
__METADATA__
Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow Flower against Violet Backdrop
__METADATA__

North near Soda Lake

This area is popular with tourists as it is not far from SR58 in the north, and for that reason I’d stay away. These pictures taken in the morning as I was leaving. But it is easily and quickly accessible and so may be the ticket for some wishing for a quick look.

This shot looking south towards South Soda Lake (my name). While Soda Lake proper has no water, South Soda Lake has some and it may be worth a hike to get closer and explore, since 99% of tourists venture at most 100 meters from their vehicles—so you can have the place to yourself. Get there at 6AM.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow Flowers at South Soda Lake
__METADATA__

Parsimonious rains were not enough to produce visible water in Soda Lake this year, but given last year’s moonscape, I’ll take it.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Soda Lake Looking Northwest
__METADATA__

Maybe hiking in Soda Lake is not a great idea.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Soda Lake Looking Northwest
__METADATA__

North of Carrizo Plain

There are quite lovely flower displays in the area north of Carrizo Plain, but this is all private property and fenced, so it’s of little photographic use. Along SR58 there are beautiful oaks just leafing out along the creek, and some flower displays too—good for roadside shooting. SR58 to the east may also hold good stuff, but I did not traverse that route this year.

Just north of Carrizo Plain itself are many solar farms (250-MW Solar Ranch, 550-MW Topaz Solar Farm), huge in breadth and depth—approaching a gigawatt in total. Apparently, Topaz Solar Farm is the world’s largest solar farm as of 2015 at least. Rooftop (home solar) never made sense to me given the economies of scale of large solar farms which should be obvious here (rooftop would make sense in national security terms if/when when the grid goes down it were actually useful, but it stands or falls with the grid as implemented). Still rooftop solar is at least more localized than these huge farms, which require transmission grids which the Bad Guys could sever.

Aside: artifacts from the Fujifilm X-Pro2 are hideous on the solar panels, but that’s another story. They are not visible in reduced size.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Soda Lake Looking Northwest
__METADATA__

 

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Back from Carrizo Plain

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens and Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

Be sure to see the flower status updates.

I have a committment tomorrow, but I intend to start on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 stuff that I shot on Friday. I also shot some Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8 images—the Loxia 21/2.8 is a gem (manual focus and aperture are a big plus in the field for me, at least much of the time). At about $1499 it’s priced well above your ordinary lens, which is appropriate.

Below... the wind would not let up last night. By sheer luck of timing, my first shot (below) was just about sharp. The light was fading rapidly... another 25 tries or so and finally at ISO 25600 and 1/6 second @ f/2.8, I was able to make one more reasonably sharp image, but with much more noise than the one shown. These flowers flutter in the slightest breeze. I had wanted to make a variety of shots using this loner yellow standout against the violet carpet behind and around it (an eye-popping contrast), but the wind had other ideas. But I’m quite pleased with the image as it delivers what I envisioned. I could not get any closer; this is as close as the Loxia 21/2.8 focuses.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow Flower against Violet Backdrop
__METADATA__

Carrizo Plain Flower Status + Yellow and Blue Along Soda Lake Road

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm XF lens B&H Photo.

Be sure to see the flower status updates.

I’m at the Carrizo Plain National Monument, gonna stay one more day to try and located a huge blue bloom I saw from ahigh (found it: along Soda Lake Rd approaching Elkhord south). If not, this one below is very pretty and I'll go spend some time there at dusk/dawn.

I’m really liking the Fujifilm camera profiles—best in the business*—and my intent is to show some other examples (including some with a focus on B&W) once I return. See the first effort I made on that in Comparing 7 Color and 5 Monochrome ACR Camera Profiles. I also find it intriguing to verify whether the results from RAW indeed match the results from in-camera JPEG. One experiment with the ACROS-G profile showed identical results, except that the version from raw had more fine detail.

Fujifilm lenses are excellent: I’m shooting the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2, Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2, Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 and (my all around favorite for “most fun”) the Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4.

For example, compare Velvia/Vivid to Provia/Standard below (toggle).

* There are also various Sony camera profiles, but I find that the color is not as well done as with the Fujifilm profiles. With regards to "better color", this is not what I’m saying per se; I’m just saying that the canned profiles produce good color with one easy choice. This is not the same as “better color” from a camera.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Lupine in Low Lying Meadow
__METADATA__

Along Hurricane/Crocker Springs Rd, a dirt road that goes up over the hills. This is the best hillside display that I observed anywhere. Pity to not also have oranges and blues, but each species has its preferences.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Hillsides Blanketed in Yellow
__METADATA__

This display is the best to see as of today (March 22). I shot this as I arrived, ascending Elkhorn Rd from Maricopa (ruts not suitable for passenger cars, use SUV) then turning onto Soda Lake Road; this vista unveils itself shortly thereafter. Since a passenger car could well get stuck in soft sand, there is about 1% as much traffic here as on the main thoroughfare.

As the sun descends, I’d light to shoot it again, but without the SUV presence. The cloud shadows add drama with moment-to-moment variation, a different shot even seconds later, but later they disappeared and left only clear blue sky. This stitched image using Astia/Soft; Velvia/Vivid is just too strong an effect.

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow and Violet Flowers along Soda Lake Rd
__METADATA__

Carrizo Plain Flower Status

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Information below is partial, see the full update as of 23 March.

I’m at the Carrizo Plain National Monument shooting for a day or two after riding the Solvang Spring Double Century yesterday.

Here at mid-day (I had to sleep till 10:20 AM to recover from that 200 mile ride and 150 mile drive), the lighting is unappealing, but later today things should become attractive. It’s a big place, and if you go, a 4WD vehicle is very worthwhile, as the area is crisscrossed with dirt roads. If it rains however, beware the slick-as-oil bentonite clay roads (when wet). Also, in a few places, non-4WD drives could easily bury wheels into softer sand.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is a fun shooting camera, but it’s focus-reset bug behavior drives me crazy, incurring errors repeatedly (I often want to shoot/play/check exposure or composition). I’m adapting to it by avoiding Play, but it’s a serious impediment to my usual style of shooting to not be able to view an image after shooting it.

Update: I took the rest of the day to explore: dirt roads are the best bet into side areas to the east as is the south end of the monument (Hwy 166 end). Central and norther areas have very few flowers and nothing spectacular. However, from a high lookout point, I did observe a very large blue and very large yellow bloom in the next valley, which (not sure) I think is in the Elkhorn Plain area.

Update 2: middle area is largely bereft of flowers along Soda Springs Rd. The key thing is to head off on the side roads at the south end (enter from Hwy 166). BUT see the wonderful violet flowers at sunset further below.

Update 3: Soda Lake Rd into the long valley (head towards the SE Elkhorn Rd) has a huge display of blue lupine and yellow something. Note that Elkhorn Rd from that area on down to Maricopa is very high risk to passenger cars due to deep ruts.

Update 4: north end near visitor center to Soda Lake has some very nice displays, including two shades of yellow and some lupine (limited) along Soda Lake. Drive the dirt road that angles along the lake (not the paved main road) to see the best displays.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, looking north
__METADATA__

Flowers are a mix of species. Here at elevation 2800 feet, there are purple and yellows and oranges. I’ll head down the valley shortly, and see what it has to offer. Growth is advanced given the relatively early time of the season, but there flowers will mature quickly so by the looks of it the rainfall was enough for a good but not spectacular bloom, as compared to 2007 when I was there in a superbloom (year uncertain).

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, closeup
__METADATA__

From the south side, the hills to the east provide the best flower opportunities (Elkhorn Plain yet to be explored and has a very large bloom). I used a polarizer for this shot. Now I remember why I developed the habit of not using one: things go dull when specular highlights are removed.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers, selfie
__METADATA__

At a distance, I took this orange flower for a California Poppy, but it is not and yet it grows close to poppies, but seeming to need a bit more dampness in the soil.

Carrizo Plain National Monument orange flower
__METADATA__

There are some fields of blue flowers (Lupine I think); these tend to favor meadow areas in which extra water accumulates. I came upon this meadow just at dusk.

Carrizo Plain National Monument flowers: Lupine in Low Lying Meadow
__METADATA__

Hotel Yellow Flower Road for the night (I sleep in my SUV which is zero impact, unlike a tent which can crush a lot of flowers).

Carrizo Plain National Monument: Yellow Flowers at Dusk Along Road
__METADATA__
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: How Much to Sharpen in Adobe Camera Raw?

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

This should be a useful study for any Fujifilm X-Pro2 shooter converting raw images in ACR (Photoshop or Lightroom).

In my review of the Fujifilm X-Pro2:

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Range of Sharpening with a Variety of Subject Matter

Includes a variety of large crops (different images) at eight different sharpening settings.

There seems to be a “goldilocks” amount of sharpening for X-Pro2 files when using ACR raw conversion. The various subjects provide a useful reference in understanding how much sharpening is appropriate.

__METADATA__
Our trusted photo rental store

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Fractal-Like “Wormy” Artifacts (Clay Pot)

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm camera bodies preceding the X-Pro2 have all had what I term fractal-like artifacts which crop up regularly, particularly with natural textures. See the various examples including with different raw converters in the review of the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and review of the Fujifilm X-E1 (“Fractal-like Artifact...”).

I “knew” in a logical sense that the 24MP sensor of the Fujifilm X-Pro2 held no real hope for eliminating the fractal artifacts, since all its X-Trans sensor predecessors share the same technology, albeit at 16MP. Yet assumptions no matter how logically derived must be validated by proofs.

This page shows the behavior at various sharpening settings so that a reader can come to a personal opinion as to whether the Fujifilm X fractal-like digital artifacts are attractive, inconsequential, ugly or unacceptable—or any combination thereof.

In my review of the Fujifilm X-Pro2:

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Fractal-like Artifacts: Clay Pot

This is a serious study of imaging quality that ought to be useful to any Fujifilm X shooter. It includes the full-res image and two large crops at eight different sharpening settings, along with an extended discussion.

The reduced size image here does not show the issue, since downsampling cleans up all sorts of digital artifacts.

__METADATA__
USB-C Dock for 2015 MacBook

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

Westcott Flex Daylight 2 x 2 ft LED Light Panel

Get Westcott Flex at B&H Photo.

Westcott Flex Daylight LED Mat Cine Set 2 x 2

Previously I tested the Cineo Matchbox and the Dracast LED500.

The Westcott Flex panels embed a a grid of LEDs into a flexible backing that can be shaped (though not bent sharply) and/or mounted on a stand and/or used with a diffuser.

I tested the Westcott Flex Daylight LED Mat Cine Set (2 x 2') for overall operation as well as white balance and tint:

Westcott Flex Daylight LED Mat Cine Set 2x2

WOW, this 2 X 2 foot panel throws a huge amount of light; it draws 200 watts and that kind of power into a highly efficient LED panel lights up a big room. A dual LED panel kit would be ideal for lighting up the room with outstandingly even lighting (the panel is dimmable from 5% to 100%).

Unfortunately the review unit arrived defective and while most of the panel lit up as expected, a rectangular section had some kind of short circuit, and would not light up (pressing on the problem area of the grid would tweak some LEDs to work or not work, so some kind of bad wiring in there). Still, this did not affect color rendition in any way that I could see; it just reduced the brightness slightly.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Comparing 12 Camera Profiles in Adobe Camera Raw (for Photoshop or Lightroom)

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Datacolor Spyder at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Fujifilm X-Pro2, I show seven color profile variations and five monochrome variations from among the fifteen camera profiles for Fujifilm X that are available by default in ACR (Photoshop or lightroom).

Discussions of color rendition often carry strong feelings avowing a like or dislike for the color rendition that a camera offers, or perhaps an expression of dislike for “Adobe color”. But as this page shows, there is a huge variance in the look of an image simply by choosing a different color profile.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Comparing 7 Color and 5 Monochrome ACR Camera Profiles

This page should be instructive for anyone convertiung Fujifilm X raw files in Photoshop or Lightroom. How to choose the camera profile as well as the twelve variations can be A/B compared—quite instructive and useful I think.

__METADATA__
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Adobe Camera Raw Settings for Raw Conversion

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Datacolor Spyder at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Fujifilm X-Pro2, I show the settings for a neutral grayscale in mid-day sunlight. This is one of those things I like to do upfront, because some cameras require settings one might not expect.

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Adobe Camera Raw Settings (Sunlight)

Target is the Datacolor Spyder (the Datacolor SpyderCHECKR Color Calibration Tool for Digital Cameras). It comes in a convenient and travel-ready clamshell design making it easy to stuff in a pack or box without damaging the color patches.

DataColor SpyderCHECKR color calibration tool

Fujifilm X-Pro2: Raw File Format, Uncompresssed and Lossless-Compressed

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Fujifilm X-Pro2, I discuss the raw file format and the uncompressed and lossless-compressed options, along with image examples of what to expect.

Fujifilm XPro2 Raw File Format, Uncompressed and Compressed

Fujifilm engineers have done their homework on lossless-compressed format exceedingly well, demonstrating that Sony’s space-gobbling uncompressed raw format is a needless waste of storage space. Kudos to Fujifilm engineers on doing it right.

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

Fujifilm X-Pro2 Arrives, Promptly Glitches

Get Fujifilm X-Pro2 at B&H Photo.

See also my commentary on the Sony A6300 vs Fujifilm X-Pro2.

The Fujifilm X-Pro2 is here along with a bunch of Fujinon lenses.

Physical impressions: the X-Pro2 body is larger then the Sony A7R II—no big deal. But while the X-Pro2 body is larger, the grip is much smaller and far less comfortable than the Sony grip, the X-Pro2 having a very shallow front grip (a nub at best), and a rear nub that forces my hand to remain tightly compressed to to grasp it. It’s not a camera I enjoy holding. Smaller hands may be happier.

The EVF is very nice.

Spontaneous camera reset

Update 25 March: Fujifilm has issued a firmware update stated to fix this problem.

So I took about 20 minutes to go through every last menu item, programmed all the buttons and functions to my liking, added items to My Menu, etc. I took a few frames in lossless-compressed raw and I generally liked the image quality I saw (in Photoshop).

Next I went outside and shot 3 more raw frames. Attempting to take a 4th frame, the camera glitched spontaneously: it wiped out every change I had made, wiped out My Menu in its entirety, deprogrammed all buttons, changed from raw to JPEG, reset file naming prefixes, etc. Everything back to factory defaults, aside from date and time. To my knowledge, I hadn’t done anything except try to take one more picture. I’m baffled how a camera can wipe itself this way just by trying to take a picture. I tried to figure out if there was something I could have done to cause it (what a 'killer' feature!).

Ouch.

Maybe some reader out there knows of a “known bug” that causes this, or some obtuse thing I might have somehow done to provoke this. Or maybe, as with all new cameras, there are firmware bugs and this is one of them.

Update: FujiRumors has some notes on this. Similar to one comment there, I add that this is NOT a battery problem: I had a nearly full charge and was actively shooting. The camera just spontaneously crashed and reset itself. Obviously this spontaneous-reset behavior is a major disaster for anyone using the camera for any serious work, since it requires a good amount of time and effort to restore and reprogram the camera—sunset vanished, the bride now down the aisle, the moment lost. Whatever. This kind of thing is an unmitigated disaster, and it’s a wonder how such things can get out into the wild without being caught in testing. But Fujifilm has a proven track record of aggressively improving firmware so perhaps it will get fixed quickly. And where is a feature to save all settings to the storage card, a feature well worth praise, as done by Nikon.

Nicotera P writes:

The same happened to me within the first 24h using a fully charged battery. However, since I left the camera overnight with a fully charged battery inside, the resetting has no longer occurred. I have changed batteries several times and let the camera without a battery for minutes and the settings are retained. It may be a problem with the internal battery that is not sufficiently charged when shipping from the factory. I wonder whether this may be fixed by firmware changes. A similar issue has occurred with a brand new Leica Q and, in this case, I had to send the camera back to Wetzlar.

DIGLLOYD: a few other readers wrote to note the same issue. I redid the settings and shot last night with no issues.

One thing I suspect that attracts many Fujifilm X users is the superb lens quality. Fujiifilm pays particular attention to bokeh with lenses like the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD but even seemingly mundane lenses like the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR offer gorgeous blur quality.

__METADATA__
Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Increasing Internal SSD Capacity for Travel Photography / Video with Apple Laptops

Upgrade to 480GB or 1TB SSD

When I travel, I still uses a late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina for photography when traveling: downloading images and videos, preparing blog entries, etc.

But I use it mainly to download images and back them up to external drives, safe in the knowledge that I have everything in one place, and backed up too.

The issue is that the MacBook Pro Retina has a 500GB internal SSD (500GB usable despite Apple 512GB claim) and that combined with OS X and certain necessary files, 280GB of the capacity is always in use and cannot be reduced, leaving only about 220GB available for storage.

That 220GB remaining capacity has become a headache with higher resolution cameras and big raw files. While an external drive can be used for overflow, it’s much nicer to download everything to the internal SSD, and to backup it all to matching external(s)—a tidy solution with everything accessible at once.

Until now, there was no SSD upgrade path. Now there is: OWC Introduces 480GB and 1TB SSD Upgrades for 2013 and Later MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina.

The question boils down to figures: spend $3578 (with tax and AppleCare) to get a new laptop with a 1TB SSD, or spend about about $600 to upgrade to a 1TB internal SSD. That’s a $3000 difference and the current laptop otherwise serves my needs just fine.

Olympus 300mm f/4 IS Pro Aperture Series: Flash-Flood-Shredded Brush on Marble Canyon Wall, Death Valley

Get Olympus Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO at B&H Photo. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Olympus Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 ED
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO

This aperture series is at a distance of ~12.5 meters. It shows the fairly modest differences between f/4, f/5.6, f/8 which are nonetheless significant and useful.

Olympus Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro Examples: Flash-Flood-Shredded Brush on Marble Canyon Wall, Death Valley

Images up to the full 16MP 4608 X 3456 resolution at apertures f/4, f/5.6, f/8.

Death Valley: Flash-Flood-Shredded Brush on Marble Canyon Wall
__METADATA__

Reviewed: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO

Get Olympus Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO at B&H Photo. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This may be the very best lens available for Micro Four Thirds.

What a useful lens. I greatly enjoyed using it, which is definitely not something I can say about the equivalent 600mm lenses on Nikon or Canon.

Olympus Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 ED
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Olympus 300mm f/4 IS Pro: Examples in Death Valley’s Cottonwood Canyon

Get Olympus Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO at B&H Photo. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This may be the very best lens available for Micro Four Thirds.

Olympus Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 ED
Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO

These examples shot on a tripod (relatively dim light) in Cottonwood Canyon in Death Valley National Park. Because of wind, some shots were at risk of motion blur in foliage and similar. As well, depth of field is strictly limited.

Olympus Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS Pro Examples: Flowers and More in Cottonwood Canyon, Death Valley

Images sizes up to the full 16MP 4608 X 3456 resolution.

The 4.1° angle of view of the Olympus 300/4 makes photographing otherwise inaccessible subjects at seemingly close range. In particular, plants growing on inaccessible steep canyon walls can be pulled in for close-up shots.

Similarly, the extremely shallow depth of field of the Olympus 300/4 makes culling a subject from the background very enjoyable.

Death Valley: Flower Show, Cottonwood Canyon
__METADATA__
Death Valley: Barrel Cactus high on cliff, Cottonwood Canyon
__METADATA__
MacPerformanceGuide.com

3 iMac Deals + High-Performance iMac for Photo/Video Use

Get iMac 5K at B&H Photo and see also MPG’s computer gear wishlist.
Save money on memory options for all models of iMac.

Authorized Apple dealer B&H Photo has three deals on the Apple iMac:

As a photo or video workstation

See also What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest? and iMac 5K for Stunning Black and White Images.

For photographers and videographers looking for high performance and superior screen color gamut, the late 2015 iMac 5K offers a wide color gamut and ultra high performance SSD. That is, this late 2015 iMac 5K model in particular, upgraded to 32GB or 64GB memory.

See iMac 5K: Bridges the Gap to the Mac Pro and iMac 5K: Building a High-Performance Configuration in the MPG review of the late 2015 iMac 5K.

Note: working with 4K video on a 5K display is nice: even full 4K (4096 wide) fits entirely with room to spare on the display.

Save money on 32GB or 64GB OWC memory for late 2015 iMac 5K (~$400 savings vs Apple!).

See also diglloyd MPG Recommended iMac Config/Enhancement packages for Late 2015 iMac 5K.

MPG top pick late 2015 iMac 5K for high performance

Back from Trip

I’m back from my trip, which was a mishmash of photography and some cycling (two double centuries).

I got down to Joshua Tree National Park, but with ferocious winds and dust devils followed by a rain squall Friday night, an all-day Saturday ride, and the drive home Sunday, it remains on my “to do” list as far as photography. I’m not a fan of JTNP; there is nowhere to legally stay overnight if the campgrounds fill up (as they were)—not even the dirt roads way off the beaten path—prohibited even to sleep in one’s car (as I my wont). In Death Valley, there are all sorts of very nice and photogenic places to camp overnight (or sleep in my SUV).

Yellow Flowers in the Blue Light of Canyon Shade At Dawn
__METADATA__
OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
4 bays, 4 drives: 4TB to 32TB
Configure single drives or as RAID-5, RAID-0, RAID-10!
20TB model as RAID-5 = 15TB usable capacity.

B&H Photo WPPI Show Specials

A slew of specials at B&H for the WPPI show.

B&H Photo WPPI SHow Specials

Field Testing the Olympus 300mm f/4

Get Olympus 300mm f/4 at B&H Photo.

I’ve been enjoying the Olympus 300mm f/4 on the Olympus E-M1. It is a very fine lens and I’ll be reviewing it in Guide to Mirrorless.

The 300mm Micro Four Thirds focal length is equivalent to 600mm in a full frame field of view, so it has a lot of reach in a relatively small and very manageable package. Using it has left me no doubt that this would be the 600mm (equiv) lens of choice were I to shoot at that range—anything in full frame is just so huge and such a hassle.

This cactus was perched 60 feet up a steep canyon cliff. The 300/4 is great fun to pick out small areas of interest. I really enjoy using it that way.

Death Valley: Cactus high on cliff, Cottonwood Canyon
__METADATA__

Bokeh of the Olympus 300/4 is smooth and creamy with exceptional color correction—truly outstanding.

Death Valley: Delicate Yellow Flowers, Cottonwood Canyon
__METADATA__

Up late from the night before, this group arrived in a blaze of headlights and cloud of dust in Twenty Mule Team Canyon, rousing me. So I rose at 5:15 AM and did some shooting.

Death Valley: Photographers lined up in 20 Mule Team Canyon
__METADATA__

Death Valley Flower Status

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo and see my in-depth review of the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8.

I spent a day and a half in my favorite Death Valley canyon, Cottonwood Canyon. I like the canyons in Death Valley because I can shoot much longer over the course of the day (shaded areas, fill light from opposite canyon wall) and because the elevation is a bit higher.

While there are not the vast fields of yellow ('superbloom') as seen south of Badwater, there are a wider variety of flowers, some quite inconspicuous and easily missed (invisible from a car), and to my eye, elegantly beautiful. Even the dwarfed California Poppies are unusual. This species below grows high on cliff walls in Cottonwood Canyon and is only about 3 inches (8cm) across—easy to miss. Many other species can be found by looking for dwarfed plants—what might otherwise be trodden underfoot.

Death Valley Monkey Flower (Mimulus rupicola), High on Cliff Wall, Cottonwood Canyon
__METADATA__

Flowers in Cottonwood Canyon are relatively sparse but this mounding flower show is nearly eight feet across!

Death Valley Mounding Yellow Flowers, Cottonwood Canyon
__METADATA__

I exited Cottonwood Canyon at mid-day. Heading south from Stovepipe Wells, the yellow flowers between Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek tend to grow more sparsely, but the flowers as seen below are a strong showing for this area at elevation 60 feet below sea level. Late-day sun strafing the ground makes a dramatic difference of course, not like this flat mid-day stuff.

Death Valley Yellow Flowers, View towards Badwater
__METADATA__

This is the view heading towards Furnace Creek / Badwater at mid-day and what things look like much of the day; sunrise and sunset are much more interesting. The largest fields of flowers lie some miles to the south at far right. Heading that way now...

Death Valley Highway, View towards Badwater
__METADATA__

South of Badwater, the flowers are well past their prime, visibly wilted and forming seed heads. I estimate that this years’s bloom is about 1/2 as dense as the spectacular show I experienced back in mid-February of 2007 or so (exact year does not come to mind). That year, Badwater had a lot of water, the river was flooded 20 miles to the south and the flowers were a thick dense carpet. This so-called 'superbloom' year looks like a shadow of that year with Badwater mostly a salt-pan.

Death Valley: Yellow Flowers Become seed heads
__METADATA__

While most flowers are now wilting, the ones along the road are particularly large and still in great condition, presumably due to runoff giving the soil near the road some extra moisture.

Death Valley: Roadside Flower Show
__METADATA__

Dan M writes:

Look just to the right of your watermark. You weren’t the first vertebrate there that day. Beautiful track of some lizard with shorter toes (for the species of that area) and a tail with no bulk. That rules out the big chunky stuff like Chuckwallas and the plump tailed Desert Banded Gecko and the extended rear toes and thinner. longer foot pad of the Collared Lizard. I don’t think the Collared Lizard occurs at the elevation of your image, anyway. Without a total frame of reference as to the size of the feet, I can just guess that it was a Long-nosed Leopard Lizard, Gambelia wislizenii.

My guess is based on that one perfect footprint about half way from your watermark to the first yellow flower at the lower edge and center of the frame. It’s above the tail track. By placement and angle to the tail track, it’s his back left foot. He’s going from frame left to frame right and his tail has made that big sweeping S curve. He has some pad on the ground from the foot and doesn’t appear to have the very long toes of some of the other area species there. All these bits of evidence narrow the possibilities. Even that sweeping pattern of movement rules out stuff like geckos, which just don’t walk that way. Their walk is kind of a delicate lumbering along, side to side. Could be the Great Basin Whiptail, Aspidoscelis tigris tigris, but that has a bit more tail bulk down to the ground when moving, and some really skinny, long back toes. The Long-nosed Leopard Lizard walks more off the ground, has the narrow tail, the same shaped pads to the rear feet as in your photo, no super long toes, the right walk. That’s my guess.

That Loxia 21 really is a nice lens. Great detail.

The Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 Distagon is a gem of a lens. At about $1499 it gives some pause on price, but I consider it a must-have lens for Sony mirrorless. It’s has become one of my favorite lenses ever: small and light, razor sharp, excellent flare control, richly saturated color.

Below, a healthy roadside specimen benefitting from more water than its less fortunate brethren in the distance.

Death Valley : Gangly Yellow Flowers
__METADATA__

I was enjoying the last light of the day when one more car of tourists pulled up to ask directions, promptly burrowing their front wheels (front wheel drive) of the car into the soft shoulder sand. I spent the next hour helping them get unstuck: no tow hook on their rental econobox, front wheels sunk into sand. They were visiting from China, and fortunately the teenager spoke English. Jacking one wheel and digging and to get rocks in place underneath eventually got the car back onto the pavement. My good deed for the day, but it's late and I’m tired now as I write this.

Death Valley : Gangly Yellow Flowers
__METADATA__

Why so many cars driving towards Shoshone only to find the southern Death Valley Jubilee Pass Road closed (major washout from last falls’s storm). I advised no fewer than six carloads of confused tourists of the road closure. Another dozen or so figured it out on their own. I felt like I should be getting part-time pay for the constant stream of hapless tourists who would have to drive the 40 miles or so back to Furnace Creek. The Park Service failed to post road closure signs (none that I observed and clearly no one else did either).

People in one car even said they stopped at the visitor center to inquire about road conditions and were not advised of the closure. Nor was there any ranger patrol to check on hapless sand-bound tourists. That road has been out for months, but gosh its probably too much work to have a proper sign installed just after the turnoff onto Badwater road, one of those big orange ones. Good enuf for government work. Shameful (and potentially dangerous) incompetence given the remoteness, surely the handiwork of the superintendent, the same one responsible for killing the 20+ year tradition of the Death Valley Double Century.

Death Valley : Jubilee Pass Rd to Shoshone is Closed
__METADATA__

Update: the very next day the park service seems to have figured out that dozens of people were ending up at a dead-end road closure. The sign is really confusing and rotates with other messages, so I expect drivers intent on getting to Las Vegas to keep driving down to the road closure.

Death Valley : Prk Service installs confusing sign regarding closure Jubilee Pass Rd to Shoshone
__METADATA__

 

Our trusted photo rental store

On the Road, Death Valley Tomorrow

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo and see my in-depth review of the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8.

Things are quiet here as I’m on the road, heading down to Death Valley tomorrow.

I don’t know what kind of plant this is, but its growth pattern is quite interesting. It grows in Death Valley and surrounding areas in arid locations at moderate altitude (about 5000' here).

The Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8 is a real gem of a lens (about $1499). The Loxia 21/2.8 has become my favorite lens on the Sony A7R II for the outdoors, where manual focus is quick and hyper accurate at 12.5X. Its diminutive size and low weight make carrying the camera a pleasant experience compared to a much bulkier and heavier Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21/2.8.

Finely detailed desert plant
__METADATA__

The Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod makes ultra-l0w shooting perspectives much faster and easier than trying to splay the legs of a regular tripod.

Pine cone on Forest Floor
__METADATA__
Winter’s Snow-Flattened Aspen Leaves
__METADATA__

Astrophotography with Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

There are a number of tricky things to astrophotography:

  • Exposure too long (> 8 seconds with a 28mm lens) and the stars look blurred from their own movement.
  • Raising ISO to cut exposure time can add too much noise.
  • Background light pollution drops the contrast of the sky, making it difficult to expose much longer than 10 minutes (even in the mountains as here). Those shots ones sees from New Zealand just do not exist in my neck of the woods.
  • Weird camera problems with long exposure noise reduction (a few shots have the stars wiped out in corner with the Nikon D810).

The Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon is about as good as it gets for astrophotography in terms of lens speed and control of aberrations.

Pine Creek Canyon, looking west
__METADATA__
Which Mac? Storage, Backup, RAID? Color Management?
✓ diglloyd consulting starts you out on solid footing.

Photography / Videography: Enhancing your iMac 5K (or Mac Pro)

The late 2015 iMac 5K is a worthy contender for many photographers and videographers*; see the MPG review of the late 2015 iMac 5K, particularly iMac 5K: Bridges the Gap to the Mac Pro and iMac 5K: Building a High-Performance Configuration.

The late iMac 5K is a delight to the eyes: iMac 5K for Stunning Black and White Images and What’s the Best Way to Enjoy Images at their Finest?.

Price has dropped a bit the diglloyd MPG recommended enhancement packages for the late 2015 iMac 5K. The bundles save you some money and deliver the stuff you need for a robust workstation. See also diglloyd MPG recommended enhancement packages for the 2013 Mac Pro.

  • Memory— 64GB for set and forget
  • Thunderbay 4—high performance, high capacity, fault tolerance
  • Thunderbolt 2 Dock—12 Ports with 1 cable
  • Thunderbolt Cable—1 meter blue

Many if not most users will do fine with the 16TB Thunderbay variant, but a good bump up for speed and capacity for photographers and videographers is to go to 24TB instead of 16TB storage.

Early this year Lloyd switched to 8TB drives in multiple Thunderbay units, which corresponds to the 32TB Thunderbay variant but for most users this is more storage capacity than necessary—the 6TB option is a terrific choice all around.

BTW, 8TB drives are down to $487.

* Late 2015 iMac 5K only, earlier models had problematic limitations such as color gamut and 32GB memory limit.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Sigma SD Quattro Mirrorless Cameras

See my Sigma sd Quattro mirrorless at B&H Photo.

The new APS-C Sigma sd Quattro and APS-H Sigma sd Quattro H are mirrorless cameras with EVF that uses the Sigma SA DSLR lens mount, thus bringing instant compatibility with dozens of Sigma DSLR lenses, including the outstanding Sigma DG HSM Art line.

Sigma sd Quattro H

Crop factor: APC-C = 1.5X , APS-H = 1.3X (vs full frame)

The approach not only brings an entire Sigma DSLR lens line to a mirrorless platform, a built-in EVF changes the game for viewing, on-sensor focus changes the game for focus, etc. It will be interesting to see how the new sd Quattro line actually performs as compared to a DSLR. Image quality should be very high, with apparently an improved sensor.

Availability is some time off: apparently midsummer for the sd Quattro, and late in the year for the sd Quattro H.

Kudos to Sigma for making the smart move I’ve been saying Canon and Nikon should do: make a mirrorless camera that accepts natively accepts existing (Sigma) DSLR lenses. Such a design eschews a new backfocal distance and lens standard, and instead incorporates a lens mount that matches the mirror box flange focal distance of a DSLR. This idea has long been a no-brainer for bringing mirrorless to DSLR lenses for some years now, but Nikon and Canon still have not done so. At least Sigma has done so.

Below, the protruding lens mount is visible; this extension provides the necessary backfocal distance to allow a DSLR lens to focus.

Sigma sd Quattro H with lens

The fly in the ointment is that Sigma is not offering the Sigma sd Quattro cameras with a Nikon or Canon mount. So if you have Sigma DG HSM Art lenses for Nikon or Canon, they can be converted to SA mount (by Sigma, for a charge), but that means they cannot be shared between the CaNikon DSLR and the sd Quattro (since SA mount won’t work with Canon or Nikon).

The sd Quattro H is most interesting (see specifications), generating 25.5 megapixel raw images (6192 X 4128) from its 1.3X crop APS-H sensor. Its sibling generates 19.6 megapixel images (5424 X 3616). Sigma is claiming “equivalent” megapixels double that figure, which is not a claim I’ll agree with, but I will agree to a 50% factor. And of course there are many image quality considerations which are all TBD with the newer generation sensor.

Sigma sd Quattro H

Ungainly at best, why not go with a full-height grip that extends to camera bottom so as to allow a larger battery?

Sigma sd Quattro H

Mark M writes:

I would have designed this camera with an E-mount or similar, and made an adapter for Sigma lenses like Sigma is doing for the e-mount bodies.

I would purchase the H version if done like this. As it stands I won't. Too much invested in many lenses in many different mounts (thanks to Sony e-mount).

DIGLLOYD: What’s interesting in these sentiments is that others probably have them too, and they speak to the broad appeal of the Sony E-mount.

Still, it seems like like a dubious strategy for playing in the mirrorless market: build an inferior solution for Sigma’s own extensive lens line (adapter required), and then compete with a powerful and aggressive player offering its own native mount solution. And license patents to do so.

If this were the strategy, then it would make sense to embrace it fully: some kind of base mount (perhaps E-mount ideally), with adapters for Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma. On the other hand, this solution for Sigma SA lenses does not in any way preclude other camera models with other mounts. In my view, these new sd Quattro cameras should be available in Nikon and Canon and Sigma mounts—maybe even Sony E-mount—no adapter needed. I’m not a fan of adapters even though I have used them a lot.

Murray O writes:

I have been reading that the Foveon sensor in the SD-1 interacted poorly with OEM lenses from Canon & Nikon and possibly that’s why Nikon/Canon mount versions aren’t meaningful?

DIGLLOYD: all DSLR lenses are relatively friendly to digital sensors. There can be some performance losses if the sensor cover glass thickness varies significantly, but Sigma Art lenses apply across all these brands and are computed similarly to Nikon and Canon DSLR lenses in terms of sensor cover glass.

Ruediger B writes:

I dont think, this camera is a good idea.

The great flange distance is a limiting factor for the construction of outstanding lenses especially in the wide-angle area. Looking at cameras with non changeable optics like Sony rx 1 or Leica Q or sigma quattro or special the old Sony r1 you find lenses reaching at last 3 mm in front of the sensor glass. That gives the freedom, constructing the best and also smallest possible lenses. Why not transfer this in an construction with changeable lenses. An Body with exorbitant wide bayonet, optics with leaf-shutter, reaching most possible back to the sensor with rear lenses, covering the hole sensor in diameter.

I am dreaming of an Sony R 1 with changeable lenses: Optimal lens performance, no shutter problems, silent, better flash integration, compact size. Is that only a dream?

DIGLLOYD: Flange distance does not preclude excellent optics: Leica S and Zeiss Otus and many others prove otherwise. Moreover a short flange distance actually makes it harder to do very wide angle lenses, because of ray angle to the sensor. While a short flange distance and no mirror box have advantages for size and weight, note well that Sony G Master lenses are neither small nor light; they are not much different from their DSLR counterparts.

As for ‘Sony R 1 with changeable lenses’, I deem that in existence already: the Sony A7R II with many fine lenses already (Zeiss Batis, Zeiss Loxia, various Sony). While it lacks a leaf shutter and lenses that recess into the camera body, it has no shutter problems used in EFC mode. An integrated flash would work with smaller lenses but not larger ones, etc. Little of this is precluded in a Sony “A9”; it could have a built-in flash (or two) and support leaf shutter lenses, etc.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

CONFIRMED: Pentax K1 DOES NOT have an Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFC Shutter)

See my Pentax K1 wish list at B&H Photo.

Pentax K1 behavior should be IDENTICAL to the K3 II, so for more details, see the discussion of the Pentax K3 II behavior with/without Live View.

Pentax USA via Pentax Japan confirms that there is no EFC shutter option in the Pentax K3 II or Pentax K1.

However, there is one exception: SuperResolution pixel shift mode uses EFC shutter. SuperResolution pixel shift mode is the ONLY exposure situation in which EFC shutter is used: Live View does not, self timer does not, etc.

So for example if a 300mm is on the camera and Live View is in use—no EFC option and the risk of blur from the shutter exists, not to mention the disconcerting bang-bang behavior described in the next paragraph.

There remain disconcerting behavioral quirks in Live View mode even for pixel shift and even when already in LiveView, such as banging the mirror down/up, opening the shutter, then doing the self timer. Or the ill-considered ability to use pixel shift mode without the self timer (resulting in guaranteed checkerboarding problems). Or banging the mirror down/up just to see info when in Live View mode. Or disabling the self timer every power on/off (this at least can be defeated). Or refusing to operate if the card doesn’t have an image folder (“Card not formatted”). Or mysteriously failing to record half a dozen images (no warning of any error, seen on 645Z and K3 II so surely a firmware bug). These issues are not there on Canon or Nikon. It makes the whole Pentax experience feel unstable, if nothing else.

As much as I admire the Ricoh-Pentax design thinking in terms of innovative features, when critical features like an EFC shutter are omitted, it makes it a lot harder to take the camera seriously. Regrettably, these design issues may relegate the K1 to a specialty niche tool, that is, a superb studio camera for still-life photography. Even then the lens selection is problematic: in spite of all the Pentax lenses out there, many are mediocre and there is no Zeiss DSLR lens support.

Pentax K1 rear layout
OWC ThunderBay 4: 20TB RAID-5 for about $1279!
4 bays, 4 drives: 4TB to 32TB
Configure single drives or as RAID-5, RAID-0, RAID-10!
20TB model as RAID-5 = 15TB usable capacity.

Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod: Get Down Low, Supports Heavy Load

Get down really low and close with the Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod.

The Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod can support a substantial load as shown here with the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon mounted on the Nikon D810, which together weigh about 2.5 kilograms.

The TFA-01 Pocket Pod is very sturdy, and a beautiful thing too. There are also Really Right Stuff ground pods may be better for a little more height and/or for long lenses. But the pocket pod gets very low and very close.

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

Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod
Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod

Joe J writes:

Great tools these ground hugging pods.

The big drawback is using them with a camera that DOES NOT have a tilting LCD. Hope to see Nikon/Canon add this feature to future models.

DIGLLOYD: Sony mirrorless comes to mind, in spite of my D810 + Zeiss example.

Our trusted photo rental store

diglloyd Inc. | FTC Disclosure | PRIVACY POLICY | Trademarks | Terms of Use | Copyright © 2008-2016 diglloyd Inc, all rights reserved. | Contact