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New Lenses for Sony Mirrorless

Sony announced several new lenses. Click links to pre-order at B&H:

It is my intent to prioritize review coverage on the 35/1.4 and the 28/2. The 90/2.8 most likely also, and (groan) the 24-240, since an all-arounder can be handy.

The Sony Zeiss FE 35/1.4 Distagon is a premium lens as can be seen by build and pricing. But how much larger it is compared to the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M (and 80% heavier too)! Presumably autofocus is involved in size/weight, but maybe more than that, such as dealing with friendly ray angle to the sensor. Still, it has a lovely looking 1/3 stop aperture ring and one has to wonder how it might compare to the ZF.2 version for Nikon/Canon.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA Distagon T*

The Sony FE 28mm f/2 looks to be a more pedestrian design which fills a gap in the lineup with two wide angle converter add-on options. Probably it relies on some camera corrections for distortion and vignetting for best results, likes its 35mm f/2.8 sibling.

Sony FE 28mm f/2

This is a smart move that suddenly gives Sony a 16mm f/3.5 fisheye and 21mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle prime based on the 28mm f/2.

Apparently designed as a set, it’s possible that the results could be very good. Or fair to middling. We shall see.

It seems odd not to see all three bundled as a set since the goal here seems to be to keep the cost down.

Personally, I’d have preferred optimized fisheye and 21mm designs with f/4 apertures if need be—very high quality and very compact. Attaching adapters means more fumbling with more caps, or at least it always feels that way to me. And then there is the filter hassle if a filter is mounted on the lens, and two more surfaces for dust.

Sony FE 28mm f/2 with optional 21mm converter
Sony FE 28mm f/2 with optional 16mm fisheye converter

Personally I find little use for do-it-all lenses (master of no 'trade'), but they do have their uses and this is a very aggressive cover-it-all range. Certainly on a Sony A7 II with in-body image stabilization (see A7 II review) the 240mm end becomes quite useful.

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 wide range zoom

The 90mm focal length is a good choice; it offers useful working distance at a classical portrait length (85mm / 90mm).

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Gear In Review

I’m heading out in a day or so towards Lone Pine and Death Valley, this time with an eclectic mix of gear:

  • Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. Even though the Canon 5D Mark III is only 23 megapixels, that’s enough to characterize it as a breakthrough, or not.
  • Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 and Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD. I want to evaluate just how the apodization of the APD variant performs. My intent it to publish a variety of aperture series with both lenses.
  • Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-S. This is the revised and just out 75mm “budget” lens from Leica for Leica M. Budget meaning about $2150 ha ha. Does anyone care about this lens? Not sure how much effort it is worth. The silver version is quite handsome and comes with two different lens hoods (small and large).
  • Olympus OMD E-M5 II digital camera, the new model with the claimed 40 megapixel resolution derived by shifting its 16MP sensor and combining 8 shifted images for true color. (I’m grumpy that my E-M1 apparently is not going to be upgradeable to support this feature). Megapixels are just numbers; I concern myself with reality, meaning actual detail, not how many dots are produced. Of course, if such a feature works well, I wish to see it appear in a 50MP Sony A9 or similar. Well, back in 2013 I suggested this should be possible with the Pentax K5 IIS (or K3), but AFAIK it has not happened.
  • Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 ASPH DG Summilux for Olympus or Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses. I have liked all the other DG Summilux lenses so this one might appeal also (I hope). But my original work with it showed a horrific focus shift at close range; this go-round I’ll shoot it at distance and see how well it performs.

In addition, I am taking my three Sigma DP Merill cameras along with a Really Right Stuff pano bracket, with the intent of doing a few ultra-high resolution stitched images. I have a few suitable subjects in mind. I love the way the Sigmas record texture and grit and the real feel, real deal of natural subjects.

It’s not too late to schedule a photo tour with me sometime in the March 8-12 range.

WPPI B&H Specials

All B&H WPPI Specials.

Zeiss lenses $100 instant rebate plus reward (this might be a first!)

NEC wide gamut displays have aggressive rebates. (see reviews, and I recommend purchasing the BK-SV models with color calibration software/hardware).

The Westcott Flex 1-Light Daylight Kit is very nice (I just tested the tungsten balanced version).

Some items might require special promo code 194517328387242075145.

Dale S writes:

Thanks for your item about the Zeiss lens sale at B&H! I ordered a 21mm f/2.8 from them Sunday evening and then saw your item Monday morning. I contacted customer service and they agreed to a $100 credit on my order. I probably wouldn’t have known to ask but for your news.

DIGLLOYD: consider joining the email list for daily or weekly notifications.

Arrived: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Zoom

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)
Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L and Canon 5DS at B&H Photo.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM

The Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM has arrived. It is quite an impressive lens in size and weight and build quality—heavier than even the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G by about 200 grams.

Review coverage will go into DAP on the ~22MP Canon 5D Mark III. Later in the year when the EOS 5DS R arrives, I will likely take up the lens again, since 50 megapixels is much more demanding.

Canon seems to emphasize low distortion and excellent flare control, which is right and proper for a zoom lens in this range—too many ultra wides have horrific distortion.

In DAP, I’ve posted an overview page as well as a discussion of the Canon MTF chart.

Introduction to Canon 11-24mm f/4L

MTF for Canon 11-24mm f/4L

With a lens like this, field shots are everything. I’ll be shooting it very soon in the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley area.

 

Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses

Lenses are nice, but cheese is tasty. Rather less frequently than I’d like, I splurge on a tasty cheese, like Red Hawk or Devil’s Gulch. Fortunately, my local stores carry these, but they can be ordered direct.

My three favorite cheeses from CGC are in Cowgirl Creamery Deluxe Collection.

Cowgirl Creamery 'Red Hawk' cheese

The Camera for Cycling

Get Ricoh GR or Sony DSC-RX100 digital camera at B&H Photo
Also: Ricoh GH-3 Hood & Adapter for Ricoh GR Digital Camera

My cycling season is in full swing. My first double century is planned for March 7, though I am troubled by hints of a cold, so I am forcing myself to sleep amply (my daughter has been sick for 10 days, arggggg kids bring home the school germs).

So which camera to take for a cyclist? Specifically, which camera of high image quality whose ingress and egress from a cycling jersey pocket is low risk (not snagging or tight), and it must have a built-in flash (to combat harsh lighting), and a decent grip and wrist strap.

The lens must offer a wide angle (equiv) of 28mm, because nothing else will do for selfies while riding and/or of the angle needed for certain road shots. Sensor quality must be high, because dawn and dusk are dim and yet have the best light.

There are few good choices as per the above.

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100   
Sony RX100 (20 megapixels, sort of)

The Ricoh GR (240 grams) has a good built-in grip, leaf shutter flash sync to any speed, and its 28mm (equiv) lens is so razor sharp I’d place it against any Leica M lens for sharpness, not to mention autofocus and close focus and as I said early on, camera of the year in intelligent design. It still reigns supreme in the compact camera category. Dang I wish it also had sensor stabilization, why does Ricoh sit on its hands there.

The Sony RX100 is also a fine choice (250 - 290g, depending on which generation). But it must have the Richard Franiec grip added because it’s holding ergonomics suck without it. It’s lens is not nearly so sharp as the Ricoh GR across the field, but its Zeiss-designed lens offers very pleasing imagery distinctly superior to most all other compacts (but not necessarily better than the Ricoh GR).

Fujifilm models are either too low in resolution (X10) and/or too heavy and bulky (we’re talking about a cycling jersey pocket here!). The Canon Powershot lineup is compromised in several ways for my specific purposes but might serve for some. Even the Sigma DP1 Merrill can just (barely) fit*, and I have used it while cycling, but the DP Merrills are agonizingly slow for multiple quick shots while cycling. Besides, It’s no fun processing 100 or even 50 DP Merrill images in Sigma Photo Pro.

Decision: I’ll take both the Ricoh GR and Sony RX100 v1 with me when I head to my double century. The Ricoh GR is a bit larger so if jersey pocket space is just too tight, I might have to go with the RX100 instead (cold weather if it happens demands more clothing and that needs stow space). Either camera will suffice, but holding the GR is easier and the lens is sharper (a lot more detail in its 16MP vs the 20MP of the RX100). So it’s down to little details to make the decision.

Cyclists who carry stuff in bags on the bike have more choices. I’m not that kind of cyclist; I’m hard core so it has to be as described, within tight constraints.

* The new Sigma dp Quattro is jolting step backwards to a Frankenstein form factor and is completely impossible as a pocketable camera, in practical “carry” terms.

The Ricoh GR is a real deal right now. At $573 effective (4% rewards), free shipping and 32GB card and optical viewfinder (sometimes useful), it’s a go-anywhere camera capable of very high quality results. To keep the camera compact, I generally shoot it as-is, but the Ricoh GH-3 Hood & Adapter for Ricoh GR Digital Camera is a worthwhile addition.

Ricoh GR: 16 razor-sharp megapixels, 28mm (equiv), built-in flash

Price of the Canon 5D Mark III Finally Drops to Where it Ought to Have Been At First Release

In light of the Nikon D800/Nikon D800E, the Canon 5D Mark III never had a reason to carry its premium (more expensive than the D800). So now at EOL (end of life) it finally is priced more realistically, which means it is still priced about $500 too high. When it debuted three years ago, it was a modest refresh of its predecessor. So it’s really 5-6 year old technology.

Gimme a DSLR with a 4 megapixel hot-shoe EVF and a rear retina LCD (like iPhone).

Both cameras are reviewed in DAP.

See the camera and lens bundle savings and lens and speedlite savings. But my prediction is that the 5D Mark III will drop to about $2000K by May or so, where it would then represent solid value relative to the new Canon 5DS R. Canon might even keep it in the lineup, since it would fit well at about $2K against the about $3899 Canon 5DS DSLR. Still, that’s a big gap and Canon might keep it in the lineup at the regular price of $2499, matching the current discount.

Canon drops prices on its DSLRs

Oversampling for Image Quality: 109 Megapixel Sony RX100 tulips

There is considerable confusion and consternation out there about 50 megapixel sensors out there (“ridiculous”, “pointless”, “unnecessary”, etc). But this is flat-out untrue. Because with similar sensor technology, more megapixels are always superior.

What follows is a updated version of my March 7 2013 blog discussion of this topic.

Oversampling for Image Quality (109 Megapixel Sony RX100 tulips)

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100   
Sony RX100 (20 megapixels)

Capturing an image at a much higher resolution than needed for the end result is of great value in obtaining a clean and noise free result.

Oversampling benefits for image quality hold true as much for images as for high-fidelity audio. And perhaps more so.

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.

To speak to current 50-megapixel camera developments: 25 megapixel images of superb quality should result from a 50-megapixel sensor. Those who protest that 50 megapixel is unnecessary aren’t seeing the whole image quality picture. Of course, I will *prove* this just as soon as I can get my hands on a Canon 5DS R.

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, albeit a lovely rendering style).

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 being cranky and saying that the RX100 sensor quality is not good enough (untrue). The stitched image below is close to our theoretical size— 109 megapixels (stitching simulates a larger sensor size with similar megapixels and with the photosite size that a full sensor would have). Even on a per-pixel basis (before any downsampling), its quality is excellent.

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100   
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 the same per-pixel quality, it could be stunning, and in a single shot. This is not to say there is 109 megapixels of detail; it’s just that there is a lot of detail, and that oversampling minimizes various unpleasant artifacts.

Click for actual pixels.

Actual pixels from 109 megapixel stitched image above   
Actual pixels from 109 megapixel stitched image

The image doesn’t need downsampling to fix any quality issue (it’s already excellent). So make a print and be done with it. But this might not always be the case (noise, poor exposure situations, jagged edges, etc). Downsampling can reduce all these artifacts and in some cases, nearly eliminate them. Referring back to the 50 megapixels Canon 5DS, shooting at 50MP for 25MP output (e.g., what a client might need), will surely deliver higher quality.

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

Click for actual pixels.

Actual pixels from 54 megapixel reduction of 109 megapixel image   
Actual pixels from 54 megapixel reduction of 109 megapixel image

Bottom line: megapixels correlate with image detail, but the main thing is that with some subjects, more megapixels increase total image quality by reducing the artifacts of digital capture (especially with Bayern matrix sensors). The “shoot at 50MP”, “deliver to client at 25MP” is one way to think about it.

David S writes:

I fully agree that 50 megapix sensors will indeed be beneficial to many photographers.

Three other applications for 50 megapix, all related to cropping, come to mind:

1) Action Photography - For example, bird photographers typically prefer APS-C sized sensors because of the crop factor and the greater density of pixels per area of the frame. However, trying to find a bird in flight in an APS-C viewfinder when using a 400 to 600mm lens is quite difficult. Therefore, having the wider field of view offered by a full-frame camera is beneficial over APS-C for this and other action photography applications since the wider field of view allows the action to be more easily found. When a 50 megapix full-frame image is then cropped to APS-C size to better fill the final picture with the action, a resolution of approx. 20 megapix (similar to Canon 7D II) can still be retained;

2) When aspect ratios other than 4:3 are desired (eg 1:1, 16:9, 1:3 etc.) the final picture will retain more pixels than is currently possible;

3) When a long enough lens is not available for the desired composition, cropping will be a more viable option with a 50 megapix sensor (the lens needs to be up to the task of course). So 50 megapix sensors will indeed bring benefits to many photographers.

DIGLLOYD: Indeed, I have used some such benefits with the Nikon D800E/D810 when shooting things like crew (rowing) with a 70-200, which sometimes is just not long enough.

Sharper Images by Technique and Shot Discipline

Even at 24 megapixels, let alone 36 megapixels, peak sharpness is not just optical: high resolution digital demands consistent shot discipline.

Soon enough there will be a 50-megapixel Canon DSLR, with Nikon and Sony to follow presumably. While it’s not realistic to think that actual recorded detail will increase as much as the numbers imply (36 vs 24 is already modest), it is nonetheless realistic that under ideal conditions there will be more detail—with excellent technique.

Two areas in particular in Making Sharp Images address these topics:

How To Get Peak Sharpness With Perfect Focus

How To Banish Blur Whether Handheld or Tripod

There are many other factors, but specific optical behaviors like focus shift must also be understood in detail for any particular lens used: Focus Shift (Case Studies).

Sigma Photo Pro 6.2.1

Continuing its tradition of being the world’s slowest raw converter, Sigma Photo Pro 6.2.1. is out with some bug fixes, and still sporting its vintage 32 bit design*. And after the initial ~90 second hang while chewing up most of a CPU core, SPP does finally appear, ready to satisfy anyone lusting for self-flagellation.

* As far as can be told, Sigma is aiming for some kind of world obstinancy record to be the very last software application to convert to 64 bits. Any day now Apple could rip out 32-bit support, which might leave SPP users just a mite frustrated.

~1 minute hang on startup with fastest Mac available

SIGMA Photo Pro 6.2.1 for Macintosh

The most interesting point is the first one. When the 21mm (equiv) Sigma dp0 Quattro arrives for testing (ETA entirely unknown), I’ll be taking a fresh look at how well it does.

  • It has improved resolution by reconsidering developing process of the RAW data (X3F files) of the SIGMA dp Quattro series.
  • It has added the function to set image aspect ratio 7:6 in the RAW data (X3F files) of the SIGMA dp Quattro series.
  • It has corrected the phenomenon that some color appears in peripheral part of the images when developing the RAW data (X3F files) of image size MED taken with SIGMA Merrill series.
  • It is now compatible with Gatekeeper in Mac OS X10.9.5 and 10.10.
  • It has improved the phenomenon that the RAW data (X3F files) taken by bulb shooting with SD9, SD10 and SD14 is not displayed in the review window.
  • It has corrected the phenomenon that images saved in 8bit TIFF are not displayed properly in some viewers available from other companies.

David G writes:

The challenges of Sigma software: when switching from 5.5.4 to 6.2.0 I discovered the thumbnail size had been substantially reduced and the images themselves were much softer. Hence in 6.2 I had to open every image to see and evaluate. Immediately I went back to 5.5.4.

What a great camera and what challenging and frustrating software--- (as you have repeatedly pointed out!).

DIGLLOYD: in August 2009 I lamented the poor software quality. Thus, we're coming up on five years of inaction by Sigma to design and optimize its software to a modern standard. To this day, a 12 core machine runs little faster than a single CPU core (even as the cores are seemingly utilized; it's very badly done in busy wait contention loops).

Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction (Leica M240, but applies to any/all)

Cameras lacking anti-aliasing filters tend to suffer from color aliasing and moiré. Usually this is not an issue, but it can all but ruin some images. But there is a workaround that is easy and practical for many purposes, with a “balancing point” of best results (sharpness and contrast versus mitigating aliasing).

In Making Sharp Images:

Diffraction vs Color Aliasing (Leica M240)

This example confirms and expands upon the principles discussed in Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction (Leica S2).

Canon shooters contemplating the 50-megapixel 5DS or 5DS R might find the discussion particularly interesting on the value of 50 megapixels vs 23/24 (Canon 5D Mark III).

   
Actual pixels from Leica M240
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Death Valley Photo Tour, Early March, or Carrizo Plain in late March

Contact me immediately if you’re interested in a personalized photo tour in Death Valley in early March. Combination cycling tour also an option if you are a road or mountain cyclist. As a personalized tour, we can do whatever you like, though of course I have some favorite locations in mind; I know both the time of year and the places to go.

Dates: March 5/6 or March 8/9/10/11 range.

I expect to have the new Canon 11-24m f/4L with me on this trip, which might be of interest to Canon shooters.

ALSO: Carrizo Plain National Monument just before or after March 22nd.

Hardcore option: FAT (snow bike) photo expedition to Patriarch Grove in White Mountains.

For you northeastern folks enjoying real winter: Death Valley in early March is exceedingly pleasant, dry and with temperatures reaching about 80°F during the day, and 50°F at night (at lower elevations).

See Death Valley Snapshot, Exploring Death Valley, Death Valley Double Century.

Eureka Dunes    
Survivor
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Eureka Dunes    
Eureka Dunes
(about 700 feet high, highest in USA)

Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction

Cameras lacking anti-aliasing filters tend to suffer from color aliasing and moiré. Usually this is not an issue, but it can all but ruin some images. But there is a workaround that is easy and practical for many purposes, with a “balancing point” of best results (sharpness and contrast versus mitigating aliasing).

In Making Sharp Images:

Effects of Diffraction Blur on Color Aliasing (with Leica S2)

The example presented is with the Leica S2, but it applies to any camera with any size sensor. The discussion includes a full size image as well as three large apertures series from f/2.8 - f/11 that illustrate the effects.

The Nikon D810 and D800E have no anti-aliasing filter; the new Canon 5DS has such a filter, but the 5DS R does not. Similar considerations apply to other models and brands.

   
Actual pixels from Leica S2

It’s 2015: Where Does Leica M Stand?

It’s now 2015. Nearly two years ago in May 2013 the Leica M Typ 240 appeared, a 24MP CMOS-based camera body that delivered minimal resolution gains over the 18MP CCD-based Leica M9 (as per my tests).

But it enabled Live View, and that at least for me was a huge plus, because sharpness starts first and foremost with accurate focus (I never use the rangefinder, which demands perfect adjustment for every lens used, and I’d like to see it eliminated).

So here we stand in 2015 with 24 megapixels and along with an optional (!) low-res EVF with lousy contrast that can zoom and thus allow focus only at frame center. Hello? It would be funny if it were not pathetic and an ongoing slap in the face every time the M240 is used. One need only pick up a Sony A7 series camera, or Olympus E-M1 to see just how poor the Leica EVF is.

Meanwhile, 50 megapixel cameras have started to appear (Canon 5DS / 5DSR), with Nikon and Sony surely not far behind (Canon 50MP is vaporware until June or later). Well, 50 is more than twice 24.

So we are left with a situation where it’s fair to ask (with flagging enthusiasm for M):

  • Where is the (at least) 36 megapixel Leica M?
  • Why does the M240 still sport a low-res obsolete EVF? I want steady progress from Leica, sincere efforts to improve the usability and functionality, not 5th place science-fair efforts for my money.
  • If Leica M lenses are so great, what are they doing on a camera with half the megapixels that Canon will have soon? Maybe they aren’t so great...
  • If Leica M lenses are so great, why do I feel without reservation that the new Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is better than any Leica-produced M lens, at far lower cost.

And (groan), will it cost me another $8K for the privilege of a new red-dot body when Leica gets around to offering one?

It’s a darn shame to see Leica stagnate and fail to deliver improved value over time. But even more frustrating is this: the M platform still offers one of the most attractively compact systems on the market for full frame. A 50MP M body would be 'killer'. And that’s my real beef here: is Leica M a dead-end? Or is there hope?

  Photographing the Photographer Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Photographing the Photographer
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

Roy writes:

Where does the Leica M stand? On thin ice, I think. Re. “I never use the rangefinder, which demands perfect adjustment for every lens used, and I’d like to see it eliminated”, IMHO, the RF today is about as useful as a slide rule would be in a world of programmable digital calculators with 64-bit floating point precision. After the calculator came out, the slide rule crowd stubbornly continued for another 10+ years before becoming gradually fading away.

I gave up on the RF in April, 2011, when I said goodbye to my M9 and switched to a Sony NEX-5. It took three more years to get to the full-frame A7/A7R, and while they were not and are still not perfect digital backs for the Leica M lenses, it’s getting closer.

The Sony E-mount FF cameras offer many advantages over a Leica M 240, such as superior EVF, competent live view, focus peaking, greater resolution, video, the ability to easily work with a wide range of third party lenses, etc. But there is one other advantage that is really big, I think: the ability to chop the minimum focusing distance from an absurd ~1m down to about 0.5m with close focusing helicoid adapters. Several companies make these now, including some real cheap ones (not recommended). I like the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focusing Adapter (pictured below). I think Metabones also makes one now.

DIGLLOYD: Roy also owns Leica S. And it’s true that a M-like body with a high res EVF would allow new lens designs with close focus and higher performance. Odd that no effort towards that goal has been made by Leica (Leica T is APS-C).

A writes:

Lloyd, I have no clue what you are on about. You can order the M Safari! And the M something Lenny Kravitz! What more would you want?!?!

And hey, since there are zero pre orders for the new S with its whopping 37MP, you may get one first, ummm between May and November sometimes, at a newly discounted price of only ~$ 27,000.

No news through the bush drums (the 28/1.4 is superb, but I paid a fortune for it as I had to buy the 100 year edition case … where is the normal version??? ), i am not hopeful overall.

Only using one MP body and the M60 (yes, good fun, disregarding the price). Selling a few lenses, too. WATE and >=35 are good to great on Sony. Rest is going, replaced by Zeiss for Sony.

Honestly, if I could i would sell Leica stock short now. With hindsight, the accelerated opening of the posh boutiques should have me you that it was going downhill.

DIGLLOYD: from a longtime Leica M and S fan. As far as can be told, the new Leica 28mm f/1.4 M does not exist except in special edition.

Jorge Torralba writes:

Leica. What happened? (Nov 22, 2014)

John P

Not everyone agrees with the priorities.

I agree that Leica needs to update its M series camera and accessories: it would be preferable to have more versatile live view and viewfinder.

I don’t think that a 36MP or 50MP sensor is the right next step, however A you make clear, to make the best of even a 24MP camera, you need impeccable technique, ideally with tripod ,etc. If I was engaged in that style of shooting, I would take a D810 and be done with it. Since I use my Leica when travelling light or I don’t want to take a tripod, or want to shoot fast lenses wide open and retain quality, I take the Leica. Those Leica lenses are high quality, but just as importantly, they are small. The Zeiss is a great lens, but it is bigger than the Leica, especially with the non-reversible lens hood that adds 10% to the cost of the lens and has to be hunted for separately, as it’s not supplied with it.

[Incidentally, while I admire the performance of the Otus lenses, they’re not well thought out: manual lenses that are that large seem designed for the studio, since they really do need to be used with a tripod to achieve their full potential, but who needs f1.4 in a studio?]

What I really would value from the next M is better high ISO performance and better dynamic range from the sensor, not more megapixels.

We’ll see how things are shaping up when they release their b&w camera update within the next month. Perhaps it will have a better sensor in an M240 body; perhaps it will push the envelope unexpectedly. I don’t plan to buy one either way, but it should give us some indication of direction of travel.

Also, I would not say that Leica is stagnating. They are a small company offering cameras for every segment from compacts to medium format. The other manufacturers seem to be targeting a smaller range.

DIGLLOYD: Actually, 50 megapixels would help tremendously in dealing with hideous aliasing artifacts via oversampling, even if the resolution gains were modest (which will be the case, and yet there will be be gains under many circumstances; the above is way too pessimistic).

As much as I’ve written on oversampling and its benefits, as soon as megapixels is mentioned, the blinders go on and “image detail” is all that’s heard. It’s just not the right way think about megapixels.; it’s about the synergy of somewhat more detail and significantly higher image quality (few artifacts of several kinds). The best scenario would be something around 144 megapixels with highly optimized hardware downsampling. But high density sensor technology has quality limits as yet.

Regarding “stagnating”—just because there are various point and shoots and the world’s worst-designed usability in a digital camera (the Leica T*) does mean there are any advances in the full frame area, or EVF fixes, or modern lenses designed specifically for full frame digital and for closer focus. Hardly anything has really changed since the introduction of the M9 in late 2009; the M240 added no real resolution gains, and its EVF/Live View remains crippled and laughable compared to even 2-3 year old DSLRs. So yes, Leica is stagnating, and for those having invested in the digital M platform, the value proposition looks increasingly like a rip-off. I did not buy an M240 as a collector’s piece; I expected aggressive forward progress on the functionality. Basic things like arbitrary menus (no “my menu”), center focus only, low-res EVF—all of these could be addressed. But Leica does not do so. Look at vendors like Fujifilm and Olympus, which deliver significant new value after the sale. THAT is a real committtment to the customer, no some damned leather-padded box.

*The Leica T gets my vote for the most frustrating digital camera ever designed. I found it absolutely frustrating as anything but a point and shoot. And for about $700 a nice butt-ugly Sigma DP Merrill delivers far superior texture and detail.

Death Valley Photo Tour, Early March, or Carrizo Plain in late March

Contact me immediately if you’re interested in a personalized photo tour in Death Valley in early March. Combination cycling tour also an option if you are a road or mountain cyclist. As a personalized tour, we can do whatever you like, though of course I have some favorite locations in mind. Dates slightly flexible around (but not including) March 6/7.

Hardcore option: FAT (snow bike) photo expedition to Patriarch Grove in White Mountains.

ALSO: Carrizo Plain National Monument just before or after March 22nd.

For you northeastern folks enjoying real winter: Death Valley in early March is very pleasant, with temperatures reaching about 80°F during the day, and 50°F at night (at lower elevations).

See Death Valley Snapshots and Exploring Death Valley and Death Valley Double Century.

Eureka Dunes    
Padre Crowley Point looking towards Death Valley
Eureka Dunes    
Death Valley, Eureka Dunes
At the Death Valley RaceTrack Playa    
At the Death Valley RaceTrack Playa

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon, 35/2 Biogon, 35/2.8 C-Biogon, Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH, Leica 35/1.4 Summilux, Leica 35/2 Summicron

Order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M at B&H Photo. See also gear pages for other Leica M cameras / lenses.

With focus at far distance (infinity), this 3rd 6-way lens comparison complements the prior 6-way Wyman Cabin comparison and close-range Aspen Trunk comparison.

Together, these three comparisons are surely themselves alone worth the price of Guide to Leica alone for anyone researching a 35mm lens for Leica M.

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Pine Creek Morning (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images ƒ/1.2 - ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16 along with large crops.

Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon   Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon   Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon  
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH   Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH,    Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(not to scale)
  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Pine Creek Morning, Frosted Peaks
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Reviewed: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM, Wildlife at the Beach

  Nikon D810
Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM

Get Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM at B&H Photo.

I put the new Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM to the test on a beautiful windless 70° winter day at the beach yesterday.

Included are extreme backlighting shots, a closeup and general variety, focusing on the mid to long end of the zoom range using image stabilization handheld.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II (Overview)

Examples Handheld, Beach Wildlife (Canon 5D Mark III)

Includes HD and UltraHD images in as well as large crops.

I discuss the ergonomics and “fun factor” and usability aspects also. I am impressed with the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. It is a huge bump up in multiple ways over its predecessor (which I never liked).

At about $2199, the new 100-400 is a lens every Canon shooter looking for range should be taking a hard look at (review includes discussion of that also). And it might well displace the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II for some shooters.

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Opportunists and Waves
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Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon on Nikon D810: Aperture Series 'White Mountains Landscape'

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

A suitable distant landscape can be very instructive as to the general performance behavior of a lens when the subject is carefully arranged to show near to far and across the frame sharpness.

Here, the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon is put to it on a scene that is an unforgiving test of any lens. In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: 'White Mountains Landscape' (D810)

This scene has fine details that really require more megapixels than the Nikon D810 offers. That’s because the majority of interesting subject detail in the scene is only a few pixels in size: small rocks, sagebrush texture, tree branches, etc.

A thought immediately came to my mind in light of recent developments: a 50-megapixel sensor might possibly be just enough extra to add that extra persuasiveness to the details, while also reducing various artifacts on the finest of edges. It also brings to mind an early lesson years ago with the Nikon D1: pine needles quickly become green mush instead of pine needles if the resolution is inadequate. Ditto for many natural subjects. There is of course always a magnification that falls just a little short of what the subject might demand, and of course there are many subjects for which only the broadest strokes are important. But not this one.

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

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White Mountains Tree Line
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Apple Aperture: Taking It No Further (EOL)

As noted back in June, 2014, Apple is ending its Aperture software (EOL = end of life, which means SOL for those who invested in an Aperture workflow).

I’ve been advising my consulting clients for years to avoid Aperture. Not on the feature set; that was always a better/worse thing depending on one’s own workflow needs, but on the attitude towards professional needs.

The problem with EOLing professional software is that some users have invested years of learning and workflow techniques. When a vendor abandons the software, that investment is doomed.

While Aperture will soon be unavailable for sale, it’s not clear how long it will continue to function as new and increasingly buggy OS X software releases are delivered. But it’s a safe bet to say Aperture fixes will be a non-priority, so if your workflow relies on Aperture, it’s a good idea to start transitioning away from it now, possibly locking down a machine for existing work (no updates to anything, a “toaster”)—just as one might do with any dedicated printing setup or similar “must work this way a long time” setup.

Apple Aperture messaging juxtaposition
“When Photos for OS X is available this spring,
Aperture will no longer be available for purchase from the Mac App Store.”

150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Hyper ZoomSigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Hyper Zoom

PRE ORDER Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM at B&H Photo.

Sigma states that its new 150-600mm zoom will be available in Canon and Nikon mounts in March for about $1069.

Anywhere 200mm on up is a tricky business shooting handheld, but for the traveler or specialty situation where all-in-one is needed, this 150-600mm solves a challenge (who wants to lug around a 400/4 and 600/4?). Optical image stabilization is critical, but keep that shutter speed high on the long end.

The Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens comes to mind (about $2199). I like the idea of 150-600mm more than 100-400mm, but a lot depends on handling and performance and I’m not sure how realistic it is to think of shooting in the 400-600mm range without great care being taken, tripod or handheld. It’s not easy.

Now how about a DSLRs that has an EFC shutter with an optional EVF usable in all shooting modes so that the vibration doesn’t screw the pooch? See the Sony A7 II examples with the Leica 180/2.8 APO.

As for the tripod collar, light and strong are not the qualities by themselves that matter. All super teles today come with a tripod foot good for groans and cursing at best (terrible oscillation and vibration issues in the lens itself—just mount the lens, put camera into 10X Live View and do little more than breathe on the rig). The only lens I’ve seen that does it right is my old Nikon 50-300mm f/4.5 ED, which has a wide and chunky collar wrapped around the lens barrel with no gap, just a big hunk of solid stuff, and with a proper balance point near the middle. As good as it gets. Sadly, no one builds super teles in this way any more (why not?). The approach to the tripod food is just engineering garbage (all brands) as far as vibration goes. And why isn’t there a compatible dovetail for Really Right Stuff style clamps built in already?

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Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Hyper Zoom

Sigma Corporation Announces Pricing and Availability of 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens

Hyper-telephoto zoom from the Global Vision Contemporary line offers enhanced functionality for better portability and usability

YOKOHAMA, Japan — February 11, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, has announced pricing and availability of its 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens. The lens will become available in Canon and Nikon mounts in March for the street price of $1089.

The 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens is the first hyper-telephoto zoom lens from the Global Vision Contemporary line, and features a light-weight and compact construction for higher usability. In order to allow for mobile, handheld shooting in the field, it has a new and improved Optical Stabilizer, and features a new water and oil-repellent coating on the front and rear lenses. Its dimensions will be 4.1 inches by 10.2 inches and will feature 20 elements in 14 groups – including one FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements – with a minimum aperture of F22 and minimum focusing distance of 110.2 inches. Its maximum magnification ratio is 1:5.

“This hyper-telephoto zoom lens offers photographers superior image quality and high performance that is both customizable and portable for use in various photography situations,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America.

The 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens will feature:

  • An updated Optical Stabilizer (OS) with an accelerometer for improved vertical and horizontal panning, essential for bird, wildlife and motor sports photography
  • Enhanced functionality for better portability and usability
  • Dust and splash proof mount
  • Excellent optical glass elements to minimize chromatic aberration and achieve best-in-class image quality
  • Two new switches added for ease-of-use, including a new zoom lock switch capable of locking at any focal distance and a Manual Override (MO) switch for improved control of focusing performance
  • An enhanced auto focus (AF) algorithm and Hyper Sonic Motor ensure quiet and fast AF
  • MO included to make two full-time modes switchable
  • A detachable tripod socket made of magnesium which is light and strong so the lens can be carried by itself

The lens will be available in Sigma, Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts. It is also compatible with Sigma’s lineup of Global Vision teleconverters as well as the company’s USB dock which allows for advanced customization of AF speed, OS viewing modes, focus limiter and firmware updates.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens: Pricing and Availability

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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A

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

Also recommended: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Sigma has announced aggressive pricing on the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: $849 for Nikon, Canon, etc. Assuming performance in the same league as its 35mm and 50mm siblings, (both of which outperform their Canon and Nikon competitors) this represents tremendous value.

A 'steal' in other words, and quite possibly the king of the hill at that speed and focal length.

B&H Photo has the 24/1.4 available for pre-order. The Canon version is due out March 20, the Nikon version a month later on April 20.

Not Sure Which? (Canon or Nikon) Three Years and the Choice Still Looks Clear Enough

Get Nikon D810 or Canon 5DS at B&H Photo.

Back in March 2012, the choice looks little different than today, 'today' meaning June 2015 when the Canon 5DS / 5DS R is supposed to ship (probably meaning darn hard to get until July or August).

Since a 50-megapixel 5DS/R won’t ship for ~3 months, it does not exist in market terms. On that basis, it’s laughable to see it proclaimed as the new champ. Nikon is surely not idle, nor Sony. Let’s see what they come up with.

The Nikon D800/D800E was excellent two years ago (still is), but the Nikon D810 now 'rocks' as the king of the hill, being superbly balanced in its resolution, dynamic range, Live View, EFC shutter, and overall superb file quality.

Those who went with Nikon when the D800 debuted will have enjoyed the dynamic range and the megapixels more than three years—more since it will be at least June before Canon ships its new 50MP 5DS/R models with the same dynamic range as the existing 5D Mark III, and as yet unclear noise properties. The dynamic range does make me scratch my head in bewilderment a bit; it’s not competitive. I love being able to shoot the D810 in just about any lighting, confident that it can handle the range. Often it has a stop or two to spare, to my ETTR consternation (poor histogram computation relative to raw data on sensor).

I expect Nikon and Sony to offer ~50MP cameras this year, and I expect a superior sensor to the Canon offering, my thinking being that Sony sensors are the best available today. It just doesn’t compute that a 50MP evolution from the current 36MP sensor will regress in capabilities. So even if a Sony 50MP sensor improves in no way but resolution, it would be the clear-cut winner.

So the equation three years later here in mid 2015 looks scarcely different than 2012.

Still, the Canon lens line is very appealing for some types of work (tilt/shift* and also the new 11-24mm zoom and certain long telephotos). For specialty work, the camera should be thought of an accessory (barring real specialty stuff like medium format and view camera movements and special sensors, etc).

* AKA tilt/shit when shooting on a steep slope and the tilt involves the tripod a tad too much for gravity to bear. Which do shit in the woods.

Sigma Announces dp0 Quattro with 21mm (equiv) Field of View

Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo.
Pricing and availability TBD for the Sigma dp0 Quattro

Sigma now adds a 4th wide angle model to the Sigma dp Quattro lineup (dp1/dp2/dp3 Quattro have lenses equivalent to 28mm, 45mm, 75mm). This is an aggressive strategy that I applaud; if only Sony had taken that approach with the Sony RX1R and Ricoh with the Ricoh GR.

It’s interesting that Sigma went with f/4 as the maximum aperture, which is quite “slow” (on APS-C, f/4 is equivalent to f/5.6 in full-frame depth of field). The lens itself is relatively large; as an f/4 design for an APS-C sensor, it suggests that the optical performance is highly optimized. Giving up a stop (f/4 instead of f/2.8) may well be the “payment” for ultra high performance.

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Sigma dp0 Quattro
14mm f/4 lens equivalent to 21mm f/5.6 in full-frame terms

Sigma Corporation of America Announces Fourth Camera in dp Quattro Series at CP+ Imaging Show

New compact dp0 Quattro offers wide angle view with 14mm F4 fixed lens

YOKOHAMA, Japan — February 10, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today announced the new Sigma dp0 Quattro, the fourth compact camera in the series that was announced last year. The news comes at the start of the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2015, which begins on Feb. 12 in Yokohama, Japan.

The dp0 Quattro incorporates a fixed, high performance 14mm F4 lens, which is equivalent to a 21mm lens on a 35mm DSLR and is optimized to maximize the performance of the series’ Foveon “Quattro” Direct Image sensor. The Quattro line is great for photographers seeking a unique product, and the 14mm F4 lens is meant to take full advantage of the Foveon sensor.

“The Quattro series is such an unique line of cameras and we couldn’t be more thrilled to add the dp0 Quattro camera to the line-up,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “It’s this wide angle lens combined with the high resolution sensor, that makes this perfect for architectural and landscape photographers, and something the dp fans can be excited for.”

In order to achieve the highest optical performance, the dp0 lens features four “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass elements, which have performance equal to fluorite, two Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements, and two aspheric lenses, including a wide double-sided aspheric lens. This reduces chromatic aberration and distortion, which are characteristics typically present in super wide angle photography. The camera offers sharp rendering performance from the maximum aperture, and the superior telecentric optical design improves image quality throughout the frame and maximizes the sensor’s ability by passing on information about subjects to the sensor. In addition, the wide angle of view of 91 degrees and depth of field are ideal for architectural structures, interior photography and landscapes. With this powerful lens and sensor, numerous glass elements to reduce distortion, and a 91 degree angle of view, this lens is ideal for landscape and architecture photography.

As with all the cameras in the Quattro series, the dp0 Quattro features the distinctive styling of the line. The Quattro sensor is the equivalent of a 39 MP conventional Bayer sensor in resolution testing. The next generation sensor builds on the distinctive properties of the X3 technology, which uniquely records red, green and blue wavelengths at each pixel location within three layers.

The Quattro sensor is a three-layered, panchromatic silicon chip whose green-sensitive middle and red-sensitive bottom layers each have 4.9 MP and record only color/chrominance information. The top blue layer captures chrominance and resolution/luminance information with 19.6 MP, resulting in greater detail capture and resolution capabilities that are higher than the Merrill DP camera line. The Quattro sensor’s architecture also contributes to true color rendition, more detail capture, and faster image processing, all of which delivers even more realistic images.

With four cameras now in the line-up, photographers can select the most suitable camera based on their photographic needs with the Sigma dp0 Quattro 14mm F4 lens, Sigma dp1 Quattro 19mm 2.8 lens, Sigma dp2 Quattro 30mm 2.8 lens, Sigma dp3 Quattro 50mm F2.8 lens and Sigma dp3 Quattro with dedicated conversion 1.2x lens 90mm.

The dp0 Quattro camera will also feature:

  • Optional dedicated Optical Viewfinder VF-51 that offers accurate framing and makes composition easier as it is unaffected by external light conditions
  • The TRUE III Image processor, providing ultrafast processing of an immense volume of image data without any deterioration of the final image
  • Better high ISO performance with one to two stops of improvement
  • Improved 3A performance: Auto Color Mode, Auto Focus and Auto White Balance

Sigma Announces 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A Lens for DSLRs, Joining its Superb 35mm and 50mm Siblings

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

Also recommended: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

The Sigma 'A' lenses are superb performers. A requirement for autofocus will make them the best choice on the market today (Zeiss Otus are manual focus), but besting the Nikon and Canon offerings handily. See existing review of Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM A and review of Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A. Both highly recommended.

The new 24m f/1.4 DG HSM seems likely to continue the trend of impressively high quality at an impresively low price (relatively speaking)—huge value. Given the focal length progression so far, might an 85mm focal length be announced late this year?

What I’m hoping to see in the 24/1.4A would be very low field curvature (a severe issue with the Canon 24/1.4L II), very low distortion (severe distortion with most 24-70 zooms makes them unusable at 24mm without correction), combined with high performance across the field by f/2 or so. And color correction superior to the chromatically challenged Nikon AF-S 24/1.4G.

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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A

Sigma Corporation of America Introduces New 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens at CP+ Imaging Show

Latest Global Vision Art lens offers highest-quality optical performance in its class

YOKOHAMA, Japan — February 10, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider of some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today announced the new Sigma 24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens, the ninth Global Vision lens to join the company’s iconic Art line-up. The announcement comes at the start of the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2015, which begins on Feb. 12 in Yokohama, Japan.

The much anticipated 24mm F1.4 Art wide angle lens is designed for full-frame DSLRs, and when used on digital cameras with an APS-C size image sensor, it effectively becomes a 38mm.

The lens is ideal for capturing a variety of photography subjects, including cityscapes, mountain ranges, astrophotography and weddings and is great for videography work as well.The 24mm also excels at indoor photography in low illumination thanks to the combination of exceptional focal plane sharpness, and gorgeous bokeh rendered by nine rounded aperture blades.

The lens achieves a maximum magnification of 1:5.3 with a minimum focusing distance of 9.8 inches. The 24mm incorporates both "F" Low Dispersion (FLD) glass and Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass in a design of 15 elements in 11 groups to minimize chromatic aberration of magnification especially in the edge of the image field. Moreover, the optimized power layout includes aspherical elements that are positioned in the rear of the lens for improved wide open performance. This helps to ensure minimal distortion through the correction of axial chromatic aberration and sagittal coma flare. The new lens element design also delivers excellent peripheral brightness.

“The Sigma Art lenses are recognized by photographers for world-class performance, and the new 24mm F1.4 DG HSM will be a significant contribution to our selection of fast aperture prime lenses which is quickly becoming a strong force in the industry” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “Sigma is redefining the expectations of fast-aperture full-frame prime lens performance, especially wide-open, and the results the 24mm F1.4 will deliver will be up to the exacting standards set by the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM and 50mm F1.4 DG HSM .”

Other updates to this lens include a new full-time manual focusing mechanism that switches to manual focusing, simply by rotating the focus ring, even when AF is being used, first introduced on the 50mm Art. This allows the photographer to make focus adjustments quickly and easily. As with all new lenses under the Global Vision categories, every 24mm will be tested using Sigma’s own MTF measuring system, “A1,” in the company’s factory in Japan.

Other lenses in the Art line include 35mm F1.4 DG HSM, 30mm F1.4 DC HSM, 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM, 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, 50mm F1.4 DG HSM, 19mm F2.8 DN, 30mm F2.8 DN and 60mm F2.8 DN.

The 24mm F1.4 is compatible with Sigma’s USB dock, allowing photographers to update the lens’ firmware and change focus parameters as well as manual focus over-ride using Sigma's Optimization Pro software. It is also compatible with Sigma’s Mount Conversion Service. The lens will be available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts, at a price of about $849 (late March for Canon, late April for Nikon).

Nikon D810a ('a' for Astrophotography)

Get Nikon D810a at B&H Photo.

Nikon D810a

The Nikon D810 is the best workhorse DSLR on the market; the my in-depth review of the Nikon D810.

Nikon will soon offer for sale a modified version of the D810 suitable for astrophotography:

  • Modified DSLR designed exclusively for astrophotography
  • Ideal for capturing red hues of diffused Nebulae and other cosmic gases
  • Enhanced long exposure settings
  • Virtual exposure preview, electronic front curtain shutter to reduce vibrations
  • Powerful D810 features (36.3 MP full-frame sensor, EXPEED 4)
  • Not designed for everyday photography
  • Available in late May; Price TBD

I like this trend: variants of camers as specialty tools. It adds value to the system.

STELLAR RESOLUTION: THE NIKON D810A CAPTURES THE COSMOS IN EPIC DETAIL

The D810A Provides New Features Specifically for Astrophotography

MELVILLE, NY (February 9, 2015 at 11:01 P.M. EST) - Today, Nikon Inc. announced the new D810A, a DSLR optimized for astrophotography and other scientific applications. By modifying the infrared cut filter for the hydrogen alpha wavelength, Nikon has created a camera that gives photographers the ability to capture the diffuse nebulae in the night sky and to create colorful, breathtaking celestial images. The D810A shares its architecture with the powerful and professional high-resolution Nikon D810 DSLR and includes other new features designed uniquely to help capture the cosmos, letting users achieve sharp and vibrant images of the universe.

“The Nikon D810A is engineered exclusively to meet the unique demands of professional and hobbyist astrophotographers,” said Masahiro Horie, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “The camera’s distinctive feature set and powerful imaging capabilities make it an appealing option for those who are ready to discover the fantastic cosmic features that are hidden among the stars.”

I AM Star Struck: DSLR Optimized for Astrophotography

The Nikon D810A provides hobbyists as well as professional stargazers with a powerful combination of impressive resolution and features specifically created for astrophotography and scientific applications. The infrared (IR) cut filter has been optimized to allow transmission of the hydrogen alpha spectral line, resulting in four times greater sensitivity of the 656nm wavelength. The resulting images capture the brilliant red hues of diffuse nebulae and constellations in striking detail and fidelity. While not recommended for general photography, the D810A is an excellent option for photographing the universe with either NIKKOR lenses or third-party adaptors for telescopes.

In addition to the optimized IR cut filter, the D810A adds other features that are useful for astrophotography applications. A new Long Exposure Manual Mode is implemented, giving users the ability to set shutter speeds from 4, 5, 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 or 900 seconds (15 minutes), as well as Bulb and Time settings. Building upon the D810’s excellent low-light capabilities, the ISO range has been optimized from 200 to 12,800 (Hi-2 51,200), for maximum sensitivity with the optimal signal to noise ratio.

The D810A also adds a new Virtual Exposure Preview Mode, which displays an estimated preview image and is available when shooting at shutter speeds longer than 30 seconds when in Live View. The brightened preview image represents a 30 second exposure, simplifying focusing and composition.

The Best of Both Worlds

The Nikon D810A is based off of the Nikon D810 architecture and retains all of the features that make it a powerful tool for creating images. Users will be able to produce photos of the heavens in super high resolution thanks to the 36.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. The image sensor works in tandem with Nikon’s exclusive EXPEED 4 Image processing engine to deliver images with low noise and a dynamic range that is nothing short of stellar.

The D810A also features an Electronic Front Curtain Shutter Mode, letting the electronic front curtain act as a shutter when in live view or first composing through the optical viewfinder in mirror-up mode. This feature minimizes vibrations to attain maximum sharpness when shooting subjects at very slow shutter speeds. The camera also features a durable magnesium alloy body that is sealed against dirt and moisture, giving users peace of mind when getting away from the city lights means a trek off of the beaten path.

The Nikon D810A is compatible with a wide range of high quality NIKKOR lenses and accessories, including wireless infrared remotes, cable releases and the new WR-1 wireless remote system. Additionally, Nikon’s Capture NX-D software is available as a free download, and it will feature a new option for Astro Noise Reduction for use with D810A image files.

The Nikon D810A will be available in late May 2015 and pricing will be announced at a later date.

Reader Comment: Ricoh GR

Get Ricoh GR digital camera at B&H Photo (about $679).

If there were one compact camera I would take on trip as the only and only one option allowed for space reasons, the Ricoh GR would be it. I named the Ricoh GR camera of the year back in August 2013, and I still think it offers the best total combination of quality and features on the market today. See the in-depth review of the Ricoh GR, or search this site for Ricoh GR coverage.

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Ricoh GR

Jon L writes:

If I may bore you with one more shot: This was 10 minutes later, sun behind my back. Composition not that good, just messing around. I was focusing on the cobweb, but what really struck me later was the detail of the fungus on the tree branch. (At 1:1 on the screen, the detail is impressive). In the full size files (7.2 MB JPG, the individual water droplets on the web are resolved.)

I am simply amazed at how easy the Ricoh is to use (focus) and still get images like that. Note also the numbers on the shots: these were among the first 30 pictures I took with the Ricoh! I bought the Ricoh based on your reviews. I can't tell you how much fun I have had with it.

Thanks again for all of your reviews as well as the instructional (for me) materials in DAP, MSI and Guide to Mirrorless. I can't tell you how much I have learned.

DIGLLOYD: Other than a few more pixels, Leica M at 24MP has nothing on the Ricoh GR in my view.

Sony A7 II as an Accessory: Can it Turn a Classic 180mm f/2.8 Into a Keeper?

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Leica 180f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R

Following the short focal length examples with the Sony A7 II, a challenge came to mind: the Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R had been a nettlesome failure in field usage on DSLRs for years (on both Canon and Nikon). If not for missed focus (optical viewfinders with manual focus are a cruel joke at 180mm), then shutter issues and/or mirror slap. Very high failure rates.

Might not the Sony A7R II with its Live View EVF (for focusing) along with image stabilization and zero-vibration exposure be just the ticket for turning a venerable 180mm design into an eminently usable medium telephoto?

Moreover, for a fraction of the price of the Leica M240 with its toy-grade EVF, might not the Sony A7 II be a real solution to the challenge of shooting at 180mm manually?

Sony A7 II @ 180mm: Focusing and Field Shooting (Leica 180/2.8 APO)

Commentary is on both results and shooting experience.

I considered shorter focal lengths for the “challenge” (85mm, 135mm), but for me 180mm is the cutoff for success rate with manual focus—very hard to reliably focus and expose at 180mm on up. And the shutter vibration of the Leica M240 makes 100mm on up problematic for use with R lenses and the Leica R-Adapter-M (very unstable rig).

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Sculler
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Nikon 20mm f/1.8G ED Aperture Series: Dusk Glow On Bristlecone Graveyard

Get Nikon 20mm f/1.8 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20/1.8G ED

In my review of the Nikon 20/1.8G in DAP.

Nikon 20/1.8G Aperture Series: Dusk Glow On Bristlecone Graveyard (D810)

Includes the ƒ/1.8 - ƒ/16 aperture range in HD and UltraHD sizes, as well as large crops across that full range.

The 20/1.8G is a fine lens and I now comfortable recommending it as the best wide angle Nikon offers. At about $797, it’s a steal for what it delivers.

  Glacial Erratic to High Peak  Nikon D810 + AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED @ ƒ/9
Dusk Glow On Bristlecone Graveyard
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Canon’s EOS 5DS / EOS 5DS R: Dynamic Range Confirmed Same as 5D Mark III, Also Noise and ISO

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)
Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L at B&H Photo.

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Canon EOS 5DS R

The three most serious limitations of the current Canon 5D Mark III are:

  • Noise (including pattern noise) even at ISO 100.
  • Dynamic range two stops or so short of the Nikon D810. For a lot of conditions in the field, this is a real headache. And relates directly to exposure latitude, and thus noise (e.g., reducing exposure to retain highlights).
  • Resolution.

The new Canon EOS 5DS / 5DSR address resolution, but Canon confirms that the dynamic range is no different from the Canon 5D Mark III.

Noise: since all past full-frame Canon DSLRs (including the EOS 1D X) also exhibit pattern noise (documented in my reviews), the ISO 100 noise question is also open. However, Canon does state that noise is improved, so on the whole (more pixels, “improved” noise), the total picture should be better on the noise front.

In terms of luminance and chroma noise, the only appropriate metric is per pixel noise. Because a 50 megapixel camera has to be enlarged a lot less (for the same size print or image). Testing will have to demonstrate whether per pixel noise is improved when the 5DS / 5DS R images are downsampled to match the resolution of the 5D Mark III. See Comparing Noise Between Cameras.

Peter M writes:

For those mixing flash with daylight it's imperative to bring the ISO down to a minimum of 25

I just about get away with using the current D810, which has two thirds of a stop advantage over this camera. With regard to working in the studio, studio strobe is not always that efficient on low pin pricks of light, and a low ISO would also be an advantage here too.

DIGLLOYD: the 36-megapixel Nikon D810 has a stunning dynamic range with a true base ISO of 64. It is odd that Canon’s new 5DS does not have an available base ISO of 50, commensurate with its smaller photosite size and likely need for higher signal/noise ratio to minimize noise.

Canon’s EOS 5DS R: no Optical Low Pass Filter / Anti-Aliasing Filter

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Canon EOS 5DS R

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)
Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L at B&H Photo.

Kirk T writes:

The language they use in describing the “R” version is strange, with respect to the low pass filter -

"Maximizing the potential of the new 50.6 megapixel sensor – for the first time in an EOS camera the low-pass filter effect in the EOS 5DS R model is cancelled. The cancellation of the low-pass filter helps deliver sharp images, squeezing the most out of every pixel.”

It is difficult to tell from this language if the low pass filter is removed or if there are software algorithms that are performing deconvolution (or similar) in-camera to “remove the effect” of the low pass filter that remains in place.

Really weird description and, of course, all of the web blurbs that have come out today all quote the same strange phasing.

DIGLLOYD: lenses are designed for a certain thickness sensor cover glass. I interpret this to mean that (like Nikon), Canon is maintaining the sensor cover glass thickness in a manner similar to that taken by Nikon D800E; a wave plate and an “undo” wave plate.

Canon’s Chuck Westfall provided this visual explanation below.

Canon 5DS / 5DS R optical low pass filter design

Canon’s EOS 5DS/R: Has Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFC Shutter) for ZERO Vibration Exposures

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Canon EOS 5DS R

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)
Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L at B&H Photo.

Canon’s Chuck Westfall responds to my inquiry about the “silent shutter” or “mode 2” electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter).

Yes. All 3 new cameras have electronic first curtain in Live View when set to either Silent Mode 1 or 2.

DIGLLOYD: excellent news. An EFC shutter is critical for fine detail. As a really ugly case (proven and documented in my review), Sony’s A7R is troubled by shutter vibration.

The Nikon D810 also has an EFC shutter mode. Even with very well-damped DSLR mirrors and mirror lockup mode (MLU), a vibration free mode can be critical for things like super teles and macro work, or simply unstable ground (even on a tripod).

Outdoor Clothing I recommend (and Ibex 50%-off Sale)

I particularly like the Ibex Outdoor Clothing “hoody” wool tops. Ibex is having a 50% off winter sale (limited sizes and colors and they sell out quickly).

Reviews of Ibex gear I use.

See also Staying Warm While Photographing.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Zoom

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)
Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L and Canon 5DS at B&H Photo.

High review priority for DAP. What a pity that the 11-24/4L arrives in late February, but that the EOS 5DS R arrives months later. It will have to be a review and follow-on review.

Canon seems to emphasize low distortion and excellent flare control, which is right and proper for a zoom lens in this range—too many ultra wides have horrific distortion.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM

CANON U.S.A. ANNOUNCES NEW EF 11-24mm f/4L USM ULTRA WIDE-ANGLE ZOOM LENS

New Optical Array Delivers Images with Tremendous Depth and Linear Perspective

MELVILLE, N.Y., February 5, 2015 – Canon U.S.A., a leader in digital imaging solutions, is proud to introduce the superb new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens designed to deliver high quality, minimally distorted images throughout the entire zoom range.

Featuring the widest angle of view (126º05’ diagonal) ever achieved for a rectilinear full-frame Digital SLR lens*, and a minimum focusing distance of 11 inches (at 24mm), this new lens is ideal for professionals who want the ultimate in creative image expression with sharp, crisp detail whether shooting entire buildings from a close position, entire stadium shots from a high-vantage point, large group photos at a scenic wedding or even astrophotography. Cinematographers will be equally as impressed with the lens’ ability to retain straight lines.

Fully compatible with all EOS cameras, but particularly effective with full-frame cameras such as the new Canon EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R Digital SLR cameras also announced today, this new L-series lens features newly developed optics comprised of 16 elements in 11 groups with a three group zoom system and rear focus.

The new optical design utilizes four aspherical lens elements to help minimize distortion from the center of the image to the periphery, across the entire zoom range. This new optical array provides straight lines with minimal curve throughout the zoom range, ideal for architectural, event, and forensic photography. The lens also features one Super UD element and one UD lens element to help significantly reduce chromatic aberration and deliver sharp images with high resolution. Canon’s advanced lens coating technologies are also liberally employed to help minimize ghosting and flare, while simultaneously enhancing accurate color balance and maximum light transmission efficiency.

“Canon is very proud of its optical heritage. The creation of this new lens continues our tradition of providing photographers with unique image-making solutions that are not only thoughtfully designed but precisely engineered and manufactured,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO of Canon U.S.A., Inc. “The new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens features newly developed optics and an unprecedented combination of Canon optical technologies. We are very eager to see the beautiful images that photographers will create using this new lens with Canon EOS DSLR and Cinema EOS cameras.”

The new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens’ impressive 11mm starting focal length and 9-blade circular aperture help deliver beautiful, high-quality, detailed images. The new lens accurately reproduces straight lines in the subject with minimal distortion, ideal for architectural and landscape photographers looking to create images with tremendous depth and strong perspective.

Wide-angle lenses are especially prone to flare and ghosting. To help reduce these effects, the new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens features Canon’s proprietary Sub-Wavelength Structure Coating (SWC) and Air Sphere Coating (ASC). SWC is applied to the rear surface of the first and second aspheric lens elements, while ASC is used on the front of the fourth element. The SWC coatings are particularly effective for combatting flare and ghosting caused by light rays entering the lens at a large angle of incidence, while the ASC coating helps mitigate the same problems for light rays entering the center of the lens.  The new lens also employs Canon’s Super Spectra Coating (SSC) to enhance light transmission while at the same time optimizing color reproduction accuracy.

The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens features a meticulously designed inner focusing system and zoom ring, as well as a built-in petal type lens hood with light-shielding grooves. Along with a high-speed CPU and optimized AF algorithms, this lens enables fast and accurate autofocusing, while its full-time manual focus feature allows manual focus adjustment even in AF mode. As with all L-series lenses, this durable new lens is highly resistant to dust and water -- ideal for outdoor photography even when conditions are harsh. In addition, a fluorine coating on the front and rear surfaces of the lens helps reduce smears and fingerprints and makes the lens easier to clean.

Pricing and Availability
The Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM ultra wide-angle zoom lens joins the robust line up of Canon f/4L USM zoom lenses including 16-35mm, 17-40mm, 24-70mm, 24-105mm, 70-200mm, and 200-400mm + 1.4X Extender models. It is scheduled to be available in late February 2015 for an estimated retail price of $2,999.00. For more information please visit: http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/professional/products/lenses/ef_lens_lineup/lens_uw_pro

Canon’s 50 Megapixel Leap: EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R

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Canon EOS 5DS R

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)

Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L at B&H Photo.

See What does 50 Megapixels mean vs 36 Megapixels? and Oversampling: More Pixels Always Better, at Least at Lower ISOs.

I intend to review the 5DS R in depth, but there is also an even bigger area of instruction as to getting the most out of its 50 megapixels, meaning usage and how to and lens selection—much more than just a “review”, though such coverage will take time and need to use a variety of lenses and shooting situations.

Highlighted below are what I perceive as significant new value propositions in the 5DS / 5DS R. Given the high resolution and my experience with the Nikon D800E and D810, most photographers should opt for the “R” version, which lacks an anti-aliasing filter (optical low pass filter)—for the best micro sharpness.

The theme that I see here with the 5DS is a careful considered (and conservative) approach to making a workhorse tool even better for practical shooting. A strong evolution in practical details that make shooting more reliable, while delivering at ultra high resolution. In the field, I see this as the mark of a real camera, and so in that regard I applaud the approach.

Disappointments

The world’s best lens ever developed for the 35mm format (as of early 2015) is the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4. Guide to Zeiss will certainly explore what that puppy can do on 50 megapixels, and hopefully by then we’ll see a Nikon ~50 megapixel DSLR as well.

CANON U.S.A. INTRODUCES THE WORLD’S HIGHEST RESOLUTION*
FULL-FRAME DSLR CAMERAS: EOS 5DS AND EOS 5DS R  

Featuring Canon’s Newly Designed 50.6 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor and Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, New DSLRs Deliver Ultra-high Resolution Images and Enhanced Features

MELVILLE, N.Y., February 5, 2015 – Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, is proud to introduce the Canon EOS 5DSi and Canon EOS 5DS Ri Digital SLR cameras featuring the world’s highest resolution* among 35mm format DSLRs. Providing photographers with uncompromising image quality, these new EOS models incorporate a newly designed Canon 50.6 megapixel full-frame CMOS image sensor and Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors for superb image quality and processing speed.

Perfect for commercial, studio, portrait, landscape and architectural photography, or anyone looking for an affordable alternative to medium format, the ultra-high resolution of these new models allow for large-format printing and extensive cropping capability while maintaining fantastic image quality.

Maximizing the potential of the new 50.6 megapixel sensor – for the first time in an EOS camera the low-pass filter effect in the EOS 5DS R model is cancelled. The cancellation of the low-pass filter helps deliver sharp images, squeezing the most out of every pixel. Both models provide attractive options for medium format shooters especially when coupled with a wide array of over 70 creative Canon EF lenses to choose from.

[DIGLLOYD: and some terrific bargains that are much better than EF, like the Sigma Art series lenses, and some not so cheap but world class Zeiss Otus line.

“Canon is always looking to deliver the absolute best in image quality and push our technology to the limits. These cameras deliver on that pledge, providing photographers with two new incredible tools that will enable them to make the most out of every shoot,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “As photography becomes more specialized and more images are captured than ever before, the burden is on the photography equipment to keep up with the demands of today’s artistic talents. These new camera models will provide many photographers with new options to deliver their vision to clients, fans, and the world.”

Built to Maximize Sharpness
In addition to the 50.6 megapixel full-frame image sensor and Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors, both cameras include a 61-Point High Density Reticular AF array including up to 41 cross-type AF points and EOS iTR AF for high precision autofocus. They also include the EOS Scene Detection system featuring a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR 252-zone metering sensor that provides enhanced precision and performance.

[DIGLLOYD: to be evaluated, but ultra high precision is absolutely mandatory for a 50MP camera]

In support of such a high-resolution imaging sensor, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras were designed to minimize camera shake and significantly improve stability via a reinforced chassis, baseplate and tripod lug to improve rigidity. Canon also re-designed the mirror vibration control system to help reduce mirror bounce and camera shake. To help maximize stability and minimize vibrations, Canon added a new Arbitrary Release Time Lag Setting in Mirror Lock mode in both models. In addition to the standard setting (press the shutter button once to lock the mirror, then again to release the shutter), the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras offer new setting intervals of 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, one and two seconds, releasing the shutter after the selected preset delay, allowing potential camera vibration to dissipate before shutter release.  

[DIGLLOYD: but does it have the “Mode II” zero vibration shutter option?]

A new Picture Style called “Fine Detail” has been added to enhance the sharpness of JPEGs and EOS Movies with three new settings: Strength, Fineness and Threshold. With such abundant resolution on each sensor, both models also provide two cropped shooting modes, while still delivering high-resolution images 30.5 megapixels for the 1.3x mode and 19.6 megapixels for the 1.6x mode. The available crop options are visible as a mask or an outline in the viewfinder; so shooters can know exactly where to frame their subject.

Capturing the Action
Like the EOS 7D Mark II, the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras feature an advanced AE system that can detect and compensate for flickering light sources such as sodium vapor lamps that are often used in gymnasiums and natatoriums. When enabled, this anti-flicker system automatically adjusts shutter release timing to help reduce disparities in exposure and color especially during continuous shooting. And new Auto White Balance settings include Ambience Priority and White Priority (for use when shooting under tungsten lighting).

Photographers and cinematographers will appreciate improved custom controls including a built-in intervalometer and bulb timer to enable the capture of time-lapse images and long-exposure images. These features are ideal for recording fireworks, star trails, sunrises and more.

Both models feature Intelligent Viewfinder II providing approximately 100 percent field of view, while adding the ability to display cropped shooting frames and superimpose a customizable selection of camera settings and data such as dual-mode electronic level display and grid, as well as exposure, white balance, metering, drive, image quality and AF modes. A new Customizable Quick Control Screen, another first for EOS cameras, allows photographers to quickly change frequently used camera settings and functions.

The EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras continue the EOS Movie tradition with the ability to shoot in 1080p Full HD up to 30p or 720p HD video up to 60p. A creative Time Lapse Movie function, a first for EOS cameras, takes a continuous series of still photographs and automatically combines them in camera into a Full HD movie file. Interval adjustments can be set from one second to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. The number of shots possible range from 2 to 3,600 with a maximum of two minutes and 30 seconds of playback time. In addition, high-speed continuous shooting up to five-frames-per-second (fps) at full 50 megapixel resolution allows users to capture fast action.

The EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R cameras feature dual card slots for CF and SD memory cards, including Ultra High Speed (UHS-1) SD cards. Built to last, the cameras also feature a shutter durability rating up to 150,000 cycles, the same as the EOS 5D Mark III.

Availability
The EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R Digital SLR cameras are scheduled to be available through authorized Canon dealers in June 2015 for estimated retail prices of $3,699.00 and $3,899.00 for the body only, respectively. 

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Canon EOS 5DS R

Oversampling: More Pixels Always Better, at Least at Lower ISOs

The rumor mill grist is saying that we will see a 50-megapixel Canon DSLR announced sometime soon, with Nikon and Sony slated for same.

See What does 50 Megapixels mean vs 36 Megapixels?

It is fallacious to assume that the only value of more megapixels is more resolution (and it often might not be more, since the demands at every level of the combined photographic system have to be optimal).

Which brings us to oversampling: the higher the sampling frequency, the more accurate the recording. It’s akin to sampling audio at too low a frequency, as audiophiles know (8-bit sampling anyone?!)

About oversampling.

I’ve written exensively on oversampling in the past, and I firmly believe that 50 megapixels is a worthwhile advance (72 or 144 would be even better). All things being otherwise equal, a 50MP sensor is going to produce significantly better images than a 36MP sensor for the same print size, or if downsampled from 50 to 36. All sorts of factors come into play however, so the devil is in the hardware and software implementation details, but if recent advances offer any guidance, 50 will be looking very fine indeed.

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar Aperture Series: White Glacial Erratic

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

The Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar is a lovely lens capable of superb results. But like nearly all 50mm lenses, it has some limitations. Understanding its behavior and thus the optimal aperture for shooting a distant landscape scene like this is useful knowledge to “carry around” in one’s head with any lens.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Aperture Series: White Glacial Erratic (Sony A7R)

Images presented in both color and black and white across the entire aperture series in HD and UltraHD along with large crops (as usual).

  Sagging Barn Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH @ f/2
White Glacial Erratic
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Reader Comment: Reviews

Dennis writes:

Your reviews are something special. Leica/Zeiss without peer. Much appreciated.

DIGLLOYD: I have learned much over 8+ years and each year I try to notch up the ease of use and total perspective to bear on everything I do. Whenever I can, I try to go well beyond a review, and get into all the real issues surrounding the use of lenses and cameras and making images.

I like what I do, and what I most appreciate is readers who can support my efforts in this age of “internet is free”—namely the “everything subscription”.

Competing with “the internet is free” demands a lot of work, attention to detail, integrity, and deep perspective across brands, not to mention capital investments, many of which have nothing to do with the camera gear itself (companies do not give me free gear; I buy key items that I consider essential in order to provide perspective over time).

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar Aperture Series: Westering Sun Strafes Glaciated Highlands

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

The Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar is a lovely lens capable of superb results. But like nearly all 50mm lenses, it has some limitations. Understanding its behavior and thus the optimal aperture for shooting a distant landscape scene like this is useful knowledge to “carry around” in one’s head with any lens.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Aperture Series: Westering Sun Strafes Glaciated Highlands (Sony A7R)

  Sagging Barn Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH @ f/2
Westering Sun Strafes Glaciated Highlands
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Rumor Mill: Canon to have 50 Megapixel 5Ds

See What does 50 Megapixels mean vs 36 Megapixels?

The rumor mill is saying that we will see a 50-megapixel Canon DSLR announced sometime soon. Can Nikon and Sony be far behind? I expect the announcements within a few weeks. Let’s hope there are suitable supporting technologies involved (e.g. ultra precise focusing help, EVF options, etc).

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar Aperture Series: Lee Vining Creek Morning Backlighting

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

The Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar is a lovely lens capable of superb results with excellent bokeh. This example happens to include a superb demonstration of the magenta/green color blurs of secondary longitudinal chromatic aberration.

In Guide to Mirrorless:

Aperture Series: Lee Vining Creek Morning Backlighting (Sony A7R)

  Sagging Barn Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH @ f/2
Bleached Bristlecone Logs at Blue Dusk
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960GB SanDisk M500 SSD for $325

SanDisk had a bad quarter, and OWC scored a deal on SanDisk 960GB SSDs.

While I prefer the OWC Envoy Pro EX for travel and OWC Electra 6G 960GB, it’s darn hard to approach this SanDisk blowout price:

$325 for 960GB Crucial / Micron M500 2.5-inch SATA 6Gb/s 7mm SSD

You could, for example, put four of them into the OWC Thunderbay 4 Mini. Or install in the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Mini.

More 960GB SSD options.

Put Light Where it Looks Good

I do very little studio shooting, having a very small house and no studio. But sometimes I make the space (hey that’s not easy with 3 kids), and when I do, I almost always use a reflector with natural light, to mellow and/or direct the light into the subject. See for example, Impact Five-in-One Collapsible Reflector Kit.

For $39.95 today only, you can get a 5 X 7 foot black/white collapsible reflector at B&H. Reflectors come in a all sizes, from about a foot in diameter (useful in the field including with a flashlight at night) to huge). Backgrounds are also useful.

These images used a reflector for subtle fill light.

Nikon D800E + Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar @ ƒ/2
Tulips
Nikon D800E + Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar @ ƒ/2
Nikon D800E + Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar @ ƒ/2
2012 Moots Vamoots RSL Titanium road racing bike, custom Di2 cable routing Ritchey seat post Selle Italia saddle Ritchey WCS 260 stem Shimano DuraAce Di2 SRM 7950 power meter crankset Chris King headset Lightweight Obermayer wheelset

Sony Kolarivision A7R.MOD: Performance with Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

See the prior posts: Sony A7R: Sensor Glass Thickness, Ray Angle and Image Degradation: Kolarivision Modification and also Modified Sony A7R Sensor Glass: Impact on Rangefinder Lens Performance.

Sony A7R

Leica 21/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH

This wraps up all six lenses I tested on the KolariVision modified A7R (as per above). It seems highly likely that these six lenses properly represent the entire range of behavior from 18mm to 50mm.

See also Modifying the Sony A7R for Superior Rangefinder Lens Performance in Guide To Mirrorless.

In Guide to Leica:

Sensor Cover Glass: 21/3.4 SEM on Stock vs Modified Sony A7R (Mosaic)

Includes HD images up to 4320 pixels across the f/3.8 - f/11 aperture range as well as HD crops from both the the stock A7R and Kolarivision A7R.MOD can be easily compared. With commentary.

See similar in-depth analysis in Guide to Leica for:

What does 50 Megapixels mean vs 36 Megapixels?

See also Sony, Fix These Things and Win and On Sony.

See also Oversampling: More Pixels Always Better, at Least at Lower ISOs.

The rumor mill is grinding along with the rumor of a ~50 megapixel Sony “A9” (realname tbd) and ~53 megapixel Canon DSLR. I’d bet that neither company will invent a better camera name, this challenge being beyond their grasp.

50 megapixels vs 36 is 1.18X the linear resolution. In other words, you can make a 42-inch wide print instead of 36-inch wide, all other things being equal, which they most definitely will not be. That’s your best case, barring some other kind of improvement.

Note that the difference between 24 and 36 megapixels is 1.22X, and that difference is noticeable but modest, and only when conditions are perfect (perfect focus, optimal aperture, no shutter vibration, minimal field curvature). And depth of field in terms of exploiting the extra resolution is not only further reduced, but micro contrast and resolution are degraded by diffraction sooner (contrast vs resolution lp/mm). Moreover, noise might be worse (or at least no better), and Sony’s already heavily processed files just cannot stand up to real world demands for post processing in all too many scenarios.

So as per Sony, Fix These Things and Win, a 50 megapixel anything needs:

  • Superior dynamic range (15 bits please), and a lossless file format with ultra high pixel quality(offer the 11+7 bit format for the masses who should be shooting iPhone anyway).
  • It’s a camera Sony, not a damned game player or gizmo. Get rid of the crapware and randomly excreted menu choices, put in proper buttons and controls, and raise Sony camera credibility above mediocre. Parts is parts. Not.
  • A zero-vibration exposure mode, e.g., no damaging Sony A7R style shutter vibration.
  • A hyper accurate focusing system. Which means forgetting about the Canon and Nikon systems; it has to be on-sensor with special detectors.
  • Sensor image stabilization ever more important as a practical matter.
  • Lenses of Zeiss Otus grade if one wants to do more than pontificate about resolution gains across the frame: no focus shift, minimal field curvature, strict control of aberrations, etc. Can you say “another 14 megapixels of the same mush?” (the case for many lenses).
  • Existing issues with ray angle will be even worse on a higher res body (in per pixel terms), so don’t get excited about Leica M lenses on a 50MP Sony.
  • Design and manufacturing tolerances have to be higher! Good luck with that. And I wish all these vendors would spare us the fantasy MTF graphs, and publish measured results from real physical lenses (like Zeiss does).

Still, oversampling has merit, and technology can fix some things and steadily improve, so 2015 could be exciting. We shall see. Now the question is whether Leica will ever update the aging M240 with its yawner of a 24MP sensor (but which makes exeptionally lovely images with the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon). But Leica lens price escalation now puts many of them strictly out of reach and into the camera-as-jewelry realm.

Rest of January: “Everything Deal” for 0.75 Bitcoin, or Upgrade to Everything for 0.6 Bitcoin

The “everything deal” (US$249.99) for 0.75 Bitcoin.

Use coinbase.com/diglloyd.

Please send a follow-up email to indicate what was purchased.

Already a subscriber to anything? Same deal for 0.6 Bitcoin, plus all existing time on prior subscriptions will be added on, and expiration dates synced for all.

The easiest way to get Bitcoin and handle it security is to create an account at Coinbase.com. (I also very strongly suggest using two-factor authentication via Authy, which runs on your iPhone or similar). Like Paypal and banks, you have to be verified, etc. See also Bitcoin price and volume graphs.

Sony Kolarivision A7R.MOD: Performance with Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH

See the prior posts: Sony A7R: Sensor Glass Thickness, Ray Angle and Image Degradation: Kolarivision Modification and also Modified Sony A7R Sensor Glass: Impact on Rangefinder Lens Performance.

The Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is a dimunitive jewel with very low distortion. But even on Sony NEX (APS-C sensor), it had its issues. But on the Kolarivision A7R.MOD it offers a nice boost in quality over an unmodified Sony A7R.

In Guide to Leica:

Sensor Cover Glass: Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH on Stock vs Modified Sony A7R (Mosaic)

Includes HD images up to 4320 pixels across the f/2 - f/11 aperture range as well as HD crops from both the the stock A7R and Kolarivision A7R.MOD can be easily compared. With commentary.

See similar analysis for:

Feb 2015 National Geographic Magazine: “Healing Our Soldiers” — Powerful Tragic Images

The Feb 2015 National Geographic article “Healing Our Soldiers” is a powerful article. In particular, the photograph of Army Maj Jeff Hall with his family held me riveted. It is a simple image, but incredibly personal and deeply moving, heartbreaking in its emotional intensity. Being taken on home ground, it eloquently captures the personal tragedies of war, which injure far beyond the soldier. I salute the courage of that entire family in allowing the photograph to be taken and published. And I feel grateful to live in peace protected by such heroes.

CamsFormer Next Gen DSLR Tether,High Speed Trigger

What the big companies cannot or will not take on, creative folks out there are inventing all kinds of stuff. Here’s a multi-purpose camera trigger kickstarter project that can triggered by just about anything: light, sound, movement, temperature, wind or flatulence (OK, I made that last one up, but should be possible). Much more at this URL:

CamsFormer Next Gen DSLR Tether,High Speed Trigger

CamsFormer Next Gen DSLR Tether,High Speed Trigger

CamsFormer – Next Generation TimeLapse, DSLR remote, High Speed Trigger, /w Pan/Tilt/Zoom

PEMBROKE PINES, Florida-January 7, 2015-CamsFormer has launched on KickStarter, CamsFormer is the next generation in DSLR camera accessory that combines timelapse, bulb ramping, remote camera control, remote live view, high speed triggering, sensors, and pan/tilt/zoom all in one wireless device controlled from your smart phone, tablet, or computer.

CamsFormer transforms cameras into lean mean photography machines. CamsFormer is the worlds first device to combine so many features into a single compact device.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/969220052/camsformer-high-speed-triggeringwireless-camera-co

CamsFormer is currently trending on KickStarter, over 700% funded with a ship date of June 2015

CamsFormer plugs into the USB port and cable release port of your camera, and can independently connect to and trigger two other cameras and two other flashes.

CamsFormer shows a real-time live view of your cameras view finder remotely from the app on your smart device. It can wirelessly change a wide range of camera settings including ISO, White Balance, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and even adjust the camera focus remotely from the app.

While shooting, pictures taken by the camera are wirelessly uploaded saved and viewed on the app, this includes both JPG and RAW images. It has a picture buffer that allows you to shoot rapidly while pictures are queued up and uploaded in the background. CamsFormer has an infinity camera memory mode that allows you to take pictures forever without running out of camera memory.

CamsFormers built in timelapse function allows you to change camera settings during the timelapse, for example you can change the exposure after each shot to adjust for lighting conditions, bulb ramping, or even change the ISO, white balance or other settings after each shot to adjust for different conditions or for added creativity.

CamsFormer has built-in 3-axis motion control that lets you wirelessly control camera pan/tilt/zoom from the app, or use it during a timelapse or video recording. DIY to use it to control motorized sliders, or dollies, to allow sliding, panning, and tilting all at the same time.

CamsFormer has built in 4 high speed triggering channels that can independently trigger two cameras and two flashes using built in sensors for light, lightning, laser, sound, and motion. The high speed trigger uses the sensors to detect external events, which are then used to trigger your camera within microseconds, much faster than your human reflexes, helping you take more creative pictures, or to help automate or control your camera picture taking or video recording.

For example the motion sensor can be used as a wildlife camera trigger trap. It can sit and wait for hours, automatically triggering your camera to take a picture or start a video recording when it detects motion in the area, from possibly a bird, or an animal, helping you get great shots of that elusive species of tiger nobody has seen in 10 years for example.

The sound sensor can be used to trigger your camera when it detects a sound. For example it can wait for the sound of firecracker, fireworks, or any other event that generates a sound, then triggers your camera within microseconds to take pictures of events the instant it happens, like taking picture of a lightning bolt using the light sensor, or water droplets.

CamsFormer even has its own scripting programming language developed especially for photography. The scripting language lets photographers control the camera, triggering, sensors, and pan/tilt/zoom anyway they want, easily adding new features themselves that they need, simply by writing a simple script. For example a simple script can be written that takes a picture, then changes the ISO and white balance, take another picture, change the shutter speed, take another picture, pan the camera, then start a video recording for 30 seconds, then take another 5 pictures, etc. The script can read any of the sensors, and set up custom triggering scenario. Scripting allows the photographer to automate their picture taking by giving CamsFormer a set of steps they want it to do automatically. This is the only product that has this capability on the market today.

CamsFormer can be used by both professional and armature photographers, for different types of photography, such as high speed photography, sports, action, aerial, pole, architectural, real estate, commercial, landscape, studio, wild life, astronomy, stop motion, portraits, macro, HDR, even DIY for experimental photography

The CamsFormer project on kickstarter is seeking backers to help fund its production. Its campaign will end in only a couple of weeks as of this writing.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/969220052/camsformer-high-speed-triggeringwireless-camera-co

eMail: info@comp-hx.com Twitter: @CamsFormer

Lexar 2000X SDXC Card

The Lexar 2000X SDXC rocks for card download. Testing shows speeds up to 300 MB/sec using the supplied USB3 card reader (also a still very good but “slow” ~150 MB/sec in regular USB3 card reader). [when copying to fast internal SSD, the card read speed is too fast for any hard drive to keep up with].

The most reliable and fastest CompactFlash card I’ve used is the Toshiba Exceria Pro—not one glitch ever.

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

The graph below from DiskTester data used the supplied USB3 reader with the Lexar 2000X 64GB SDXC card. It shows that the card is capable of sustaining very high write speeds, and even higher read speeds (a very fast hard drive might do 220 MB/sec).

Performance of Lexar 64GB 2000X SDXC Digital Camera Storage Card using supplied card reader

Sony Kolarivision A7R.MOD: Performance with Zeiss ZM 21mm f/4.5 C-Biogon (a worst case)

See the prior posts: Sony A7R: Sensor Glass Thickness, Ray Angle and Image Degradation: Kolarivision Modification and also Modified Sony A7R Sensor Glass: Impact on Rangefinder Lens Performance.

The Zeiss ZM 21/4.5 C-Biogon is a worst-case lens for digital sensors: its 44.4° chief ray angle is the least friendly to a digital sensor of all the Zeiss ZM lenses; even on the Leica M bodies its color shading is problematic.

In Guide to Leica:

Sensor Cover Glass: Zeiss ZM 21/4.5 C-Biogon on Stock vs Modified Sony A7R (Mosaic)

Includes HD images up to 4320 pixels across the f/2 - f/11 aperture range as well as HD crops from both the the stock A7R and Kolarivision A7R.MOD can be easily compared. With commentary.

See similar analysis for:

Sony Kolarivision A7R.MOD: Performance with Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH

See the prior posts: Sony A7R: Sensor Glass Thickness, Ray Angle and Image Degradation: Kolarivision Modification and also Modified Sony A7R Sensor Glass: Impact on Rangefinder Lens Performance.

This 2-way comparison demolishes the idea that a 50mm rangefinder lens is free from the damaging effects of ray angle, a fact sshown 9 months ago in the 50/2 APO mosaic aperture series. But the A7R.MOD versus stock A7R can leave no doubt.

In Guide to Leica:

Sensor Cover Glass: 50/2 APO-Summicron-M on Stock vs Modified Sony A7R (Mosaic)

Includes HD images up to 4320 pixels across the f/2 - f/11 aperture range as well as HD crops from both the the stock A7R and Kolarivision A7R.MOD can be easily compared. With commentary.

See similar analysis for:

Modified Sony A7R Sensor Glass: Impact on Rangefinder Lens Performance

See the prior post: Sony A7R: Sensor Glass Thickness, Ray Angle and Image Degradation: Kolarivision Modification.

Today I shot the modified Sony A7R (“SonyA7R.mod”) against a stock Sony A7R, using six rangefinder lenses (these links are general info on these lenses, shooting results pending):

Every one of these lenses is affected by ray angle (including the 50/2 APO). The effects include substantial loss of resolution in outer zones (mostly due to severe astigmatism caused by the sensor cover glass), but also strong magenta color shading (vignetting by color).

In each case, the A7R.mod improved matters substantially. That’s the good news. The less good news is that color shading remains more or less the same.

NOTE: as per the “which guide” policy for the past 2-3 years, lens coverage goes into the native guide, regardless of the shooting platform. These are all rangefinder lenses for the Leica M platform and (US$20K of lenses at that), thus performance analysis goes into Guide to Leica. The Leica M context also offers commentary in context of the available reference material on each lens when shot on the native camera (Leica M), something lost when split across guides and one of the several compelling reasons for “lenses in their respective native guides”.

Sony A7R: Sensor Glass Thickness, Ray Angle and Image Degradation: Kolarivision Modification

Just arrived from Kolarivision is a Sony A7R in which the sensor cover glass has been replaced with significantly less thick glass. See A Thinner Sensor Stack at LensRentals.com for some background info.

I’ll be shooting this modified camera this weekend, with a report to follow.

The thick sensor cover glass has meant that rangefinder lenses (Leica M, Zeiss ZM, Voigtlander) have had severely degraded performance outside (roughly) the central 1/2 of the frame, due to ray angle, as reported on for years, and documented extensively on this site.

General issues from sensor glass

From Astigmatism and Digital Sensors in Making Sharp Images. Here, “glass plate” means the sensor cover glass.

  • The main impact of an added glass plate to more oblique rays is the introduction of severe astigmatism in the imaging field. The tangential image surface is shifted forward while the sagittal is minimally affected.
  • Astigmatism means a highly non-symmetric point image, not just being softer but killing the similarity between object and image structures. Often the blur resembles the effects of motion blur which can produce “cross-eyed” or double-image bokeh (very unappealing to the eye, downright ugly).
  • On axis the added plate changes the correction towards ‘spherically overcorrected’ when the lens speed is fast, which produces less pleasing background bokeh.
  • In general the sensor cover glass plate shifts the position of the image by about a third of the plate thickness – and that is the point where the dispersion of the plate itself comes into the game, since in the imaging field with oblique rays a longitudinal shift is always connected to a lateral shift. This effect modifies the lateral chromatic correction of the lens.

See also

Terrific Deal: HOYA 82mm HMC Polarizer

Yes, I prefer (and own) a Zeiss 82mm circular polarizer.

By it’s hard to beat $59.95 for a Hoya 82mm Circular Polarizer Super-HMC Thin Filter plus free shipping (deal ends midnight on Jan 14). So I bought one as a spare (I break 1 or 2 polarizers per year, dropping them on rocks and such).

With a 77mm - 82mm filter ring (and others), and 82mm polarizer can do double or triple duty on many wide angle lenses. The Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II and 24-70mm f/2.8L II zooms uses 82mm as does the Zeiss 21/2.8 Distagon.

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH Aperture Series: Bleached Bristlecone Logs at Blue Dusk

In Guide to Leica:

Aperture Series 50/2 APO: Bleached Bristlecone Logs at Blue Dusk(M240)

This series shows the 50/2 APO under very difficult high mountain twilight lighting (very blue), on subject matter chosen to reveal any color correction weakness.

  Sagging Barn Leica M Typ 240 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH @ f/2
Bleached Bristlecone Logs at Blue Dusk
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Reader Questions: Fujifilm X system, Sony A7x Discounting and 4K Video, Arca Swiss Cube Geared Head

See gear page for mirrorless for Fujifilm X, Sony A7 series.

B&H: Two readers wrote asking about material I had covered. Please join the site updates mailing list (daily or weekly) if not following the blog regularly.

  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Fujifilm X-T1

Elaine D writes:

I know you didn’t like the vibration on the A7 series cameras or the smearing blurry files on the Fuji X-E1, but I wondered if you have tried the Fuji X-T1 or the Sony A7II?

Supposedly the shutter vibration is fixed in that camera, and the X-T1 is raved on by a zillion people. Have you tried either and what was you view? I didn’t see it in the Mirrorless section so am assuming you didn’t review them?

DIGLLOYD: there never was any vibration issue with the Sony A7, A7 II or A7s; these all have an electronic 1st curtain shutter (EFC shutter). The A7R shutter vibration ruined a lot of my work over the past year, and its issues are thoroughly proven in my work, and mitigation options are also discussed (weight or pressure on top of hot shoe, e.g. a large flash or similar). In the field, I have used downward pressure on the hot shoe to mitigate. The vibration peaks at 1/125 second BTW.

I covered the Fujifilm X-T1 with the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 some time ago (lovely lens). The about $999 Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 is the best lens Fujifilm makes, I give it my top rating. It would be the first lens I would be for a Fujifilm X system, and might justify the system all by itself.

The Fujifilm X images (all cameras) are lovely overall (see Fujifilm X review coverage), but 16 megapixels is entirely uninteresting for my work, even if one ignores that fact that real pixel level detail is not there due to the oddball sensor design. The sensor design delivers fractal like emphasis on contours, which our human visual system responds nicely to, but it cannot be confused for natural or actual detail in real subjects, and is heavily artifacted on some subjects (some raw converters attempt to minimize this, but it does not go away, and ACR is a de facto necessity for many).

The X-T1 sensor does not change these behaviors. A excellent camera body design and wide ranging lens line is presumably why users like Fujifilm, but an under-resolving sensor with artifacting issues is of no particular interest to me; building up such a system with a few lenses approaches Nikon D810 territory, and I can’t see the point there unless it is single-issue driven (e.g. modest weight/size savings). Moreover, investing in an APS-C lens lens is unattractive for even the medium term.

  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Sony trade-in and rebate program

Roy P writes

All Sony E-mount FF cameras are now being discounted, except the new A7-II. Usually, you see this kind of thinly veiled discounting just before new models come out.

Not surprising that the original A7 and the A7R are being discounted, but I was surprised to see the A7S is included in this as well. This has been out only about 6 months.

I need some 4K video solution, and I’m thinking of the A7S + the Shogun recorder – that looks like the best bet (full-size sensor + uses a lot of the lenses I already have).

This discounting is good and bad – this means I can trade in my old NEX-5 body for $375. But OTOH, there’s likely to be a new A7S model coming out. So I’m trying to decide if I should buy the A7S now or wait for its successor.

Even if there’s a refresh to the A7S, it will probably not include direct 4K recording – Sony already said the A7S body is too small to accommodate that, which is why an external recorder is needed.

So the most significant new feature in an A7S-ii is likely to be IBIS. But if I’m shooting video for anything longer than a few seconds, I’d use either a tripod or at least, set the camera down somewhere. So I don’t see IBIS adding a lot for videography.

So that makes me think I might as well go for the current A7S now. Any thoughts?

DIGLLOYD: I would not buy an A7 series now without the built-in sensor stabilization. See my testing of the Sony A7 II in which my focus was on the image stabilization feature. It ought to be considered mandatory on all cameras by the end of this year. It will be interesting to see how Nikon and Canon respond. IMO sensor stabilization is far superior to optical stabilization; for one thing the lens design need not be compromised, and for another, any and all lenses are stabilized. But I doubt that A7R shutter vibration would be helped by the technology, so a future A9 or whatever it will be might well require a vibration free shutter.

  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Arca Swiss Cube C1 geared head
(with Really Right Stuff clamp)

Caso F writes:

After reading your advice on the Cube and having experimented difficulties to perfectly frame architectural subjects with a RRS ball head, I have decided to buy the Cube. Now I have two questions:

1) Do you advice me to buy a RRS 33 or 24L to mount it ? I generally shot long exposures with mirrorless cameras (A7, NEX-6) and lenses up to 100mm

2) From a few posts on your blog I have figured out that you made fall the Cube at least twice … did it slip from the tripod? do you advice to use Loctite or the Cube fits well without Loctite on RRS tripods? I’d prefer not to use Loctite in order to choose every time the head to mount but I wouldn’t risk to crash both head and attached camera…

DIGLLOYD: The Really Right Stuff TVC 24L is ample for the Sony A7, and I like the height, which is eminently useful in the field, and also can help with architecture for a better perspective.

Damage to the Arca Swiss Cube tripod head: tripod gets knocked over, hammers the head; the gearing takes the hit, notching the gears (repairable). Do not use Loctite on the head.

Email Notifications for Site Content: Option Also for MacPerformanceGuide

An email notification service is in place for subscribers. It is opt-in, meaning that unless you ask to be put onto the list, you will not get email notifications of site updates. Daily or weekly updates. Details...

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon, 35/2 Biogon, 35/2.8 C-Biogon, Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2, Leica 35/1.4 Summilux, Leica 35/2 Summicron

Order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M at B&H Photo. See also gear pages for other Leica M cameras / lenses.

This massive 6-way comparison includes extensive commentary on the practical merits of these six lenses using a subject that is revealing of key lens behaviors. It is also particularly useful for evaluating bokeh.

Taken at close range, this series is an ideal complement to the prior 6-way Wyman Cabin comparison. Together, these two comparisons are surely themselves alone worth the price of Guide to Leica alone for anyone researching a 35mm lens for Leica M.

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Aspen Trunk (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images ƒ/1.2 - ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/13 - ƒ/16 along with large crops.

Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon   Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon   Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon  
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH   Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH,    Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(not to scale)
  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Aspen Trunk
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FOR SALE: Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH

My Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH (black) is for sale, the 2010 FLE (latest/current design).

Lightly used and in excellent working order with perfect glass. USA lens (not gray market).

$3900 in Leica leather case in original box (currently sells for $5250 new or $4900 new with the $250 instant rebate at B&H).

Contact me. Buyer pays FedEx insured shipping of choice.

HOORAY! Nikon First to (finally) offer a True RAW Histogram!

Order: Nikon D810 DSLR.

Update Feb 5, 2015: maybe this is all a fake rumor?

Assuming it does what it sounds like, my wish for a true raw histogram has been granted, and on the best DSLR ever made no less.

For photographers using Nikon RAW (NEF) mode, the most exciting new feature is Nikon’s new RAW Histogram. This feature displays impressive full-screen histograms for all 3 color channels (red, green and blue) simultaneously, based on data directly from the image sensor.

The new feature allows advanced photographers to fine-tune perfect exposure for each shot. RAW Histogram is available for all cameras in the “I AM Advancing” program.

Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar Aperture Series “Bristlecone, Earth Shadow Rises”

Order: Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar. Loxia lenses shipping soon here in USA.
The Loxia are very well built lenses with excellent feel and real manual focusing. Highly recommended.

A full f/2 through f/13 aperture series on a deep 3D subject:

Bristlecone, Earth Shadow Rises (Sony A7R)

With HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

  Exfoliating Granite and High Cloud Sun Drama Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Bristlecone, Earth Shadow Rises
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Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon: f/2 vs f/13 in “Approaching Storm Over Lake”

Order: Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon. Loxia lenses shipping soon here in USA.
The Loxia are very well built lenses with excellent feel and real manual focusing. Highly recommended.

Examples with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon on the Sony A7R:

Approaching Storm Over Lake, Hoover Wilderness (Sony A7R)

With HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

  Exfoliating Granite and High Cloud Sun Drama Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Approaching Storm Over Lake, Hoover Wilderness
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Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon on Sony A7R: Sierra Nevada and White Mountains Examples

Order: Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon . Loxia lenses shipping soon here in USA.
The Loxia are very well built lenses with excellent feel and real manual focusing. Highly recommended.

Examples with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon on the Sony A7R:

Examples: Eastern Sierra Nevada, White Mountains (Sony A7R)

With HD and UltraHD images and many large crops.

UPDATE: added another image in black and white and color versions (“Last light on Cathedral Peak”), a very nice demonstration of just how good the Loxia 35/2 Biogon can be for landscape shooting.

  Exfoliating Granite and High Cloud Sun Drama Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Pine on Lee Vining Creek, Morning
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Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Lens Rendering Aperture Series: Rocky Hillside

Order: Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black or silver)

The ZM 35/1.4 Distagon is due very soon here in the USA, so order one now if you’re hoping to get one anytime soon: this is the best ZM lens ever produced. I’m ordering on with the gorgeous silver finish.

This series is plain in subject matter, but it has several instructive goals:

  • Showing how the 35/1.4 Distagon images across the field.
  • Showing how much stopping down is needed for a scene like this to render sharply from foreground to background.
  • Showing EV-matched relative illumination across the aperture range, including the sky as is typical for outdoor use.

The subject chosen is ideal in the way it slants through the zone of focus, and offering a near and a far zone along with very fine detail throughout.

Aperture Series: Rocky Hillside (M240)

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

  Exfoliating Granite and High Cloud Sun Drama Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/1.4
Rocky Hillside
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/2

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