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60 day blog index

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD

Get Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens at B&H Photo

I shot the new Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD tonight against the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. I’ll have some comparisons up this week.

Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD
Pescadero Creek
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Deal Zone: Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports
In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White)

Sennheiser OCX 685i Adidas Sports In-Ear Headphones with Inline Remote/Mic (White) $19.99 ($40 off).

I ordered these for a particular reason: when I talk on the phone it crooks my arm too sharply, and this irritates the nerve in the arm near the elbow, which is still recovering from an insult from an antibiotic last November.

Hardly any earbud style headphones fit my ear canals (Apple-supplied ones do not fit at all).

So I’m hoping these might work and allow phone calls to be less troublesome for nerves.

 

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Buckeye Leaves and Peach Blossoms Aperture Series

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

In my review of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, these two lens rendering aperture series are intended to give additional insight into the bokeh (blur style) of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM A.

Aperture Series: Buckeye Leaves (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Aperture Series: Peach Blossoms (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

The Nikon-mount version should be out relatively soon, so it will be interesting to see more from this fine lens on a sensor with better noise, color and resolution.

California Buckeye Leaves
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Peach Blossoms
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Shootout: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8 IS, 11-24/4L

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

This 4-way shootout utilizes a subject that allows a good examination of sharpness and contrast (fine wood detail), field curvature, color correction and distortion.

Three primes, one zoom, all 24mm. In DAP:

Shootout: vs Canon 24/1.4L II, 24/2.8, 11-12/4L (Canon 5DM Mark II)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

See also review of the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II and review of the Canon 24/2.8 IS and review of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

     
Sigma 35/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon 24/1.4L II, Canon 24/2.8 IS, Canon 11-24/4L
(not necessarily to scale)
Bench
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Emerging Features that Are Essential: Make the Camera Work for YOU

Features I think ought to be standard on all higher-end cameras soon, because they extend aspects of the shooting and quality envelope:

  • Sensor stabilization on all DSLRs, APS-C and full frame.
  • Hi-res multishot mode like the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II.
  • True raw histogram with auto-ETTR metering.
  • Ultra high dynamic range (20 bit) in RAW by multiple electronic exposures (no shutter movement). Similar to hi-res multishot mode idea. Could be combined (both). Gimme one big honkin' raw file that has it all.
  • 4-megapixel EVF (current ones are ~2.3 megapixels).
  • Retina-grade rear LCD at camera rear.
  • 15-bit file format for ultra high quality at low base ISO of 64 or 32 or similar.
  • Image transfer (including raw) to any paired iPhone or iPad or Android.
  • Overlay on EVF showing peak contrast graph for manual focus, with auditory feedback so one can in theory focus with eyes closed: cold, warm, warmer, hot, beep, click!

Michael M writes:

Great list, particularly agree with your Retina-level rear LCD (make it tiltable while we’re at it) and connectivity. In high-volume shooting situations like sports and events, clients are looking for almost real-time transfer/publishing for a variety of purposes including social media, while at the same time appreciating the back-end quality of RAW. We can satisfy both file requirements with RAW + JPG to separate cards but the workflow just sucks from that point on. Photographers caught in that squeeze (like yours truly) can’t realisitically develop their own solution like the 4-cellular-modem backpack that NYT photographers are using.

The Canon 1Dx II whenever it arrives better have built-in wi-fi, but if Canon was truly thinking out-the-box they’d also build in cellular capability so our cameras could transmit when out in the wild. Kludgy $600 wi-fi add-ons won’t cut it. Camera makers should partner with Samsung or Apple to integrate the cellular capability, as they've proven time and time again they just don’t understand the connectivity imperative. Hell, if phones get any thinner, a camera maker could conceivably provide a slot/hardware dock to slot the phone into, and it would handle the image display and connectivity while opening up a limitless ecosystem of apps and software enhancements. KickStarter anyone?

DIGLLOYD: as an analogy morphing to reality, the camera industry is still in the days of flip phones. The iPhone has not yet arrived in the real camera world except for the iPhone itself, which is eating the camera industry from the bottom up, like an ice shelf being undermined by warm water. Yet the players in the camera industry doze on.

Nikon and Canon: Catatonic?

Get Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless Digital camera and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

How to make a small fortune? Start with a large one.

How to lose a dominant camera franchise? Offer nothing truly innovative for 5 years while ignoring the mirrorless trend.

Yes, the Nikon D810 is terrific as a DSLR, the current pinnacle, but it offers little real innovation. It can’t even support a proper EVF and why do I want the optical viewfinder at all most of the time? Many shooting situations are far better served with an EVF.

And 50MP from Canon with apparently the same lame 5 year-old dynamic range would be a total yawner if the Canon 5D Mark III weren’t half that resolution.

The point is, both the Nikon D810 and Canon 5DS are incremental advances with minimal non-obvious thinking. Kick the can down the road. Well, it ain’t coming back CaNikon, so sober up and take action.

Why can’t Nikon and Canon just for starters make a mirrorless like the Sony A7 series that takes the current DSLR lenses for 100% compatibility. It would be thicker than an A7 due to backfocal distance, but so what if it takes all the current lenses? Lose the optical viewfinder, add a high grade EVF and 4-inch Retina-grade rear LCD and throw it against the wall. It would probably stick pretty well as a transition product, and more importantly, reset market thinking that CaNikon are paralyzed. Why take a loss doing nothing meaningful when at least a market failure is a lose-and-learn?

Heck, I’d love a D810 sensor in a Sony A7 style mirrorless just to shoot Zeiss ZF.2 lenses; the EVF makes manual focus so much more pleasant than the rear LCD or trying to focus through a crude optical viewfinder that is optimized for AF.

Sony A7R

Roy P writes:

Interesting that your column “Nikon and Canon: Catatonic?” should appear exactly at the same time I have been mulling over this very issue. After having just bought a Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, I returned it because Canon announced its new 100-400mm lens. I was getting ready to buy that and pre-order the new 5DS R, but it kept bothering me that both Nikon and Canon have been stodgy companies that have shown very little innovation over the past 5+ years.

The most visible “innovations” from Canon and Nikon have been sensor resolution. After years of languishing at 12 MP, Nikon finally came out with a 36MP camera in the D800/D800E, but it was a Sony sensor. And now, after languishing for three years, Canon is responding with a 50MP sensor.

Great. Leave aside the resolution for a moment. What are the 2-3 big other innovations from either Nikon or Canon?

I have no idea. I would have to think hard to come up with some answers like “Well, maybe better noise at higher ISO”, or “maybe a little better AF accuracy”, or “a little more resolution in the rear LCD”, or “better live view support”.

On the other hand, I can rattle off a bunch of innovations from Sony, without even thinking – mirrorless cameras, ability to intelligently use manual focus lenses, ability to use as universal bodies for a wide range of lenses of any make (except for the acute ray angle issues with M-mount lenses), super high resolution sensors, electronic view finders, sensor stabilization, focus peaking, zebras, far superior live view that lets me zoom into any corner of the frame down to the pixel level, the best 1920 and now, 4K video capabilities in 35mm cameras designed for still photography, compact designs, swivel LCD back that lets me shoot from waist level / knee level / camera held above my head, dual mode (contrast, phase detection) autofocus, compact designs, light weight, WiFi, NFC, GPS, lower prices, … to list a few, not in any particular order

I was getting ready to buy the new Canon 100-400mm lens, along with a Canon 5DS R body. But I worry that except for the 50MP sensor, there’s nothing new in the camera. Its AF speed is only so-so – it has a burst speed of only up to 5 fps.

It is inexcusable that this latest and greatest $3900 Canon DSLR can offer nothing better than 1080 video. Which means if I were shooting still images of wild life on a safari with a 400mm Canon lens and the Canon 5DS R, but then wanted to also shoot a video clip in 4K or at least, 1920, I would need have brought along an entirely different camera, with a different 400mm lens? How ridiculous is that?

Over the past 4-5 years, I got rid of my Leica M9 and M240, and switched to the Sony NEX initially, and then the A7x. Over that time, I also transitioned all my Nikon F-mount manual focus lenses over to my Sony A7x bodies. I can’t remember the last time I used either of my Zeiss Otus or any of my other Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on a Nikon body.

These days, about the ONLY use I have for my Nikon D810 is when I need fast, accurate autofocus and high frame rate. But Sony is quickly catching up in that, too. The Sony A6000 and A77-II both have very fast AF with subject tracking that are already pretty darned good, and I think it’s only a matter of time (perhaps even this year) that Sony will have FF cameras that can give the Canon 1DX and Nikon 4DS a run for their money in action photography.

I’m saying goodbye to Nikon / Canon, and switching over to Sony entirely. Yes, Nikon / Canon have a few lenses that are really outstanding. But Sony isn’t exactly chopped liver. Sony has a pretty decent portfolio of its own lenses, plus a lot of very nice Zeiss lenses. In addition, I think third parties like Sigma and Tamron are increasingly supporting Sony.

For anyone who plans to build a system, I think Sony provides a fundamentally superior platform and technology roadmap. This is not just a matter of a few products or features at a given point in time – this is something that runs much deeper. As a company, Sony is far more aggressive, innovative, willing to experiment, ready to take a risk, and willing to invest. I can’t imagine Nikon / Canon having had the intestinal fortitude to come out with a camera like the A7. Nikon and Canon are culturally not there. That will be the hardest thing for them to overcome, and I don’t think they will.

By playing its cards right and staying aggressive, Sony could run away with it. I’ve had enough of Nikon / Canon. I’m already waist deep in Sony anyway, and I’m transitioning over to Sony 100% (except for my Leica S).

DIGLLOYD: These are existentially concerning sentiments (and actions) for Canon and Nikon.

And this is from the high end. With the low end (iPhone 6) undermining the ice sheet with warm water from below, the Sony onslaught from the land of the rising sun beats down from above. Paralysis will give way to panic will give way to collapse unless Canon and Nikon show some leadership.

I like the Nikon D810 a lot, and it serves a very fine place. But boy is it fun and easy under many circumstances to shoot an Olympus E-M5 Mark II or a Sony A7 II or Sony RX1R. Nikon and Canon have zero to offer in that category of experience.

Reader Comments: Sony File Format

Get the Sony Alpha A7 mirrorless Digital camera at B&H Photo.

Sony A7R

Dan B writes:

I'm subscribed to and enjoyed your publications for a few years.

My question is: do you have any inkling of the relative effect of Sony's fake 14-bit lossy compressed raw files would have on a probable future 50mp camera? More specifically, would the effect be greater than currently seen with the 24mp and 36mp a7MII and a7r cameras, given the higher pixel density of a 50mp camera?

I had hoped that given the complaints Sony has received about that issue that they would have issued the A7 Mark II with w/o that issue. But no such luck. I would suppose therefore that the rumored forthcoming A7R II camera will have the same issue. Also, I am wondering that, not only will Sony never fix this issue, but with their new 50mp they will compress the files EVEN MORE! After all, their cameras are selling fairly well so their marketing folks may say 'why change'?

While this issue affects perhaps only up to 5 to 10% of my photos (obvious to a picky person like me) it does stick in my craw and makes me think of going back to a D810. I'd prefer not to go back to the D810 because I like autofocus Zeiss lenses (like the FE 55mm 1.8, with more good ones to come, perhaps sometime in the next year) more than what's available for Nikon and I like the somewhat smaller footprint of the mirrorless camera outfits and I LOVE not having to fine-tune the AF for each SLR lens!.

I'm not interested in Otus (expense, huge, and manual focus only), and the only lenses for the D810 that interest me are the new 24mm Sigma, the 35mm Sigma (which I had before), and perhaps the new Nikon 300mm F/4 diffractive optics version. But if Sony is not going to ditch their compromised files I just may do the switch. I'd spend the money for a Pentax 645Z if (a) they had better lenses near the 35mm effective focal length and (b) the camera had EFC, so that's out as well.

It really makes me angry that Sony Imaging has done such as stupid thing as to hobble the image quality of their cameras, at this late stage. Could it be some kind of bizarre non-competition agreement with Nikon and Pentax - you use our chips and we'll cripple our raw files so that we won't gain too much market share.

Well, probably not, but really, if Nikon and Pentax can pump out real 14-bit files with non-lossy compression using Sony chips there doesn't seem a rational reason for Sony's approach. Perhaps it's the buy-every-next-generation-of-our-cameras-to-help-our-bottom-line type of thing and we might provide a real high class raw file one of these years.

DIGLLOYD: Sony could make the whole file format concern go away by offering a 14-bit lossless compressed mode like Nikon has long done. But that begs another question: would it matter? Because from what I see, the Sony raw files are already cooked, with a lot of preprocessing going on—a half baked pizza, so to speak. What I’d really like to see is a high quality uncooked 15-bit raw file format that is lossless-compressed (variable file compression rates would mean varying raw file size, more detail = bigger file).

As for the Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression used by Sony cameras, it is less and less important with more noise. So the higher the per-pixel noise, the less it matters (higher ISO for example). Thus if a 50MP camera has noisier pixels (per pixel), then the lossy format would have less impact, not more. I would expect Sony to offer the same algorithm run on more pixels, so the files would be larger on a 50MP camera by the ratio of 50/36, just as the 36MP A7R files are larger by a 36/24 factor vs the 24MP A7 II format.

I see the Sony file format as one aspect of the Sony mindset; terrific parts, but it’s not a camera; it’s an electronic gadget—this is reflected in various design choices. And therefore I don’t hold out much hope for a change in the file format. But I do hope to be mistaken.

But the more pressing issue by far is eliminating the Sony A7R shutter vibration (“shutter shock”) issue in the Sony A7R, since under some conditions, the vibration cuts 36MP down to 24MP or even 18MP (a tiny 2 micron movement suffices to turn 36MP into 24MP). The shutter vibration ruined a lot of my work, and with telephotos, it’s a multi-pixel bang-bang nightmare. An EFC shutter is mandatory for a high-resolution camera of any brand.

So in my view, if Sony offered a zero-vibration electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter) on a 36/50MP A7R II (as with the Sony A7 II), along with a 14-bit lossless-compressed file format and sensor stabilization, the camera would be compelling. Even if the crapware Play Memories menu remains there like a brain-fart in the menu system.

Finally, I’d like to see the camera made slightly larger because the total size just drives down the size of all the controls, which makes them fiddly, error prone, and hard to work with stiff hands (cold) or gloves and just in general. I vastly prefer Nikon style controls.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Vignetting and Distortion

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

I offer some context and perspective on the distortion and relative illumination (vignetting) characteristics of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Vignetting

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Distortion

 

Relative Illumination (Vignetting) for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Relative Distortion for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Flare Control: Aperture Series 'Extreme Backlighting, Cherry Blossoms'

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

I fought off aggressive mosquitos on a very warm March day to shoot this image. Sort of summer with mosquitos, except that it’s too dry in summer for them to appear.

This scene was shot against the fading dusk sky, and given a massive boost to shadow areas by +100 (maximum) in Adobe Camera Raw in order to open up very dark areas (some contrast added to counteract the inevitable 'flat' look from so doing).

If the lens does not resist flare, attempts to do this would result in poor contrast in these dark areas.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Extreme Backlighting, Cherry Blossoms

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Also of interest is the lens sharpness and contrast given the radical processing, as well as the control of color aberrations. This scene would be serious trouble for many lenses, e.g., massive violet fringing.

Magenta Flower
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Aperture Series 'Magenta Flower' and 'Poppy'

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

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

This series follows the Bird of Paradise flower shot by adding a “noisy” background to the scene in order to evaluate total bokeh quality across the f/1.4 - ƒ/13 aperture range. In DAP:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Magenta Flower

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Another near range macro series:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: California Poppy

Commentary is on bokeh and color correction. The lens is exceptional. It appears to be the best 24mm f/1.4 lens ever produced for a DSLR.

At about $849, it’s a no-brainer for any Canon or Nikon or Sony A shooter. It’s too bad that it cannot be mounted directly to a Sony A7 series camera, because the size and weight are very acceptable.

Magenta Flower
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California Poppy
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Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, MTF

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

MTF vs high end

I discuss the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art MTF chart using the Leica 24/1.4 Summilux for comparison.

MTF for Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The lens world is advancing, with (from what I see) Sigma and Zeiss leading the charge for ultra high performance.

Canon and Nikon shooters: run, don’t walk and order this lens (about $849 plus 4% rewards at B&H Photo).

 

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art MTF @ f/1.4
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art optical design

Reviewed: Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art just arrived. In the waning daylight I shot a number of things. I immediately noticed the exceptional bokeh, superior color correction and very close focus range. After years of shooting so much gear, I know a winner when I see one.

In DAP is the first look at the new Sigma 24/1.4:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bird of Paradise Flower

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops from ƒ/1.4 - ƒ/13.

Canon and Nikon shooters: run, don’t walk and order this lens (about $849 plus 4% rewards at B&H Photo). The 24mmm f/1.4 DG HSM Art follows the superb 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, both reviewed in DAP.

Bird of Paradise Bokeh
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode EXAMPLES

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). This delivers higher resolution, but also higher image quality, processed appropriately.

These examples were carefully evaluated and are presented after processing to a 32-megapixel size (twice the native sensor megapixels). The results should be intriguing for any Micro Four Thirds shooter.

Examples with Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode (Historical Items)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with large crops.

Mechanical ingenuity
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A portrait with a view
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard-res, NOISE Compared

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). This delivers higher resolution, but also raises the question of lower noise.

This scene makes a superb example of how hi-res mode can improve the noise behavior, even using an ideal ETTR (expose to the right) exposure (see also the ETTR area in DAP). The standard-res image is compared to the high-res image at standard resolution; the results are remarkable. In Guide to Mirrorless:

Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard Resolution, NOISE (Mining Artifacts)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with many pairs of large crops.

Here’s a small crop comparing the two modes. The article shows several very large crops including blurred and sharp areas, high key and low key areas, as well as the entire frame images.

Noise — Hi-Res vs Standard-Res

Digital cameras have suffered from a lack of imagination in their approach to features for some years now; this example shows how a smart company can add significant value right in the camera simply by asking “what if”—and then acting. Kudos to Olympus for extending the shooting envelope.

What if this technology (which requires sensor stabilization) were put to use in 50 megapixel full-frame cameras? Canon and Nikon seem asleep on the job, but perhaps Sony will up the ante with a 50-megapixel stabilized A9 or whatever.

Mining Artifacts
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Reader Comment: Olympus E-M5 Mark II High-Res Mode

UPDATE: see the noise comparison of hi-res vs standard-res on the E-M5 Mark II.

Gary L writes:

Thank you for the great article on the EM5 Mark II's sensor shift technology. I agree, this technology is very exciting.

It seems, not only does one get a higher resolution image, but also less noise and more accurate colors. I was wondering if one of the benefits of the hi-res image might also be a higher dynamic range. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

DIGLLOYD: dynamic range and noise are interrelated in that a higher noise level raises the black level off of black. Since dynamic range is the range of dark to bright, higher noise reduces dynamic range.

To quantify noise, a doubling of exposure time cuts the main type of noise by √2. With the multiple exposure hi-res mode of the EM5 Mark II, there are eight (perhaps nine) exposures made that are interwoven in hardware by the camera in a complex way. It seems likely that the actual usable dynamic range would be higher as a result by reducing (averaging out) errors from noise. However, the file format is 12 bits and that places a hard upper limit on the DR to 12 bits. Still, if the usable dynamic range increases from 10.5 or 11 bits (due to noise) to 12 bits, that would be a significant gain. The effect is probably minimal at base ISO, but might accrue at higher ISOs. But the hi-res mode requires a tripod, and up to 8 seconds exposures are possible, so the use of higher ISO would be unusual in hi-res mode.

I have not set out to prove or disprove whether the actual usable dynamic range is improved, and I don’t have a clear read on it in a technical way. However, I would say this: the huge 9216 X 6912 images 64MP / 105MB raw files themselves are all those samples containing differing data values that are merged. Downsampling that file size 2X linearly (to native resolution) improves per-pixel quality, which includes averaging out per-pixel noise. So in this sense there is lower noise, at the least. Downsampling to ~40 megapixels has similar noise reducing benefits while retaining the increased detail.

Compared: Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD vs Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 (Mannequin and Glass Bottles)

This environmental portrait style image compares the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD with the non-APD Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R on the Fujifilm X-T1. In Guide to Mirrorless:

56/1.2 APD vs 56/1.2: Mannequin and Glass Bottles

To assess the effects over aperture, the series ƒ 1.2, 1.4, 2, ..., 8 is presented with both lenses for comparison for both the entire frame images and crops. Thus one can see the progression and compare both optics at any aperture. The differences are multiple and which lens is better is shown here to fall under the “it depends” category.

Includes HD and UltraHD entire frame images, as well as five large actual pixels crops to show all the various lens performance and bokeh behaviors.

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Compared: Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD vs Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2

More is coming, but I kick off my analysis of the Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD with a comparison to the non-APD Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 R on the Fujifilm X-T1 using a strongly blurred background as shown (several variants of this type of scene were shot, each showing the same results/conclusions).

In Guide to Mirrorless:

56/1.2 APD vs 56/1.2: Defocused Bokeh

To assess the effects over aperture, the series ƒ 1.2, 1.4, 2, ..., 11 is presented with both lenses for comparison for both the entire frame images and crops. Thus one can see the progression and compare both optics at any aperture.

Includes HD and UltraHD entire frame images, as well as three large actual pixels crops to show all the various bokeh effects.

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Adobe Camera Raw Now Shows that a Built-in Lens Profile is Applied

It’s been a long time coming, but the recent update to Adobe Camera Raw 8.8.0 (397) in Photoshop now shows explicitly that a lens profile is being applied.

As shown at bottom right, a small note with the (i) notes that a built-in lens profile has been applied. Clicking this note pops up an info window with details.

This new behavior is welcome, because it makes clear what is happening; ACR has long had the behavior of some cameras having such lens profiles and some not, but never indicating which.

The dubious aspect is the fact that there is no choice to enable or disable this behavior; if the vendor supplies a lens profile, then it will be applied. Thus there is no way to see the actual lens performance.

While removal of chromatic aberration might arguably be good most or nearly all of the time, vignetting is a creative tool that I value with some lenses for its ability to focus the viewer’s attention.

Vignetting contributes significantly to the feel of an image when shot wide open; see for example 50/0.95 Noctilux Rendering Style or 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Rendering Style.

Ideally, ACR would turn this info note into checkboxes to apply or not apply each lens correction.

 

DEAL: Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478D Light Meter and X-Rite ColorChecker Passport with Sekonic Gray Balance Card

Through late today only, B&H Photo has the Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478D Light Meter and X-Rite ColorChecker Passport with Sekonic Gray Balance Card for just $319.

I’m a big fan of ETTR and histograms, particularly in the field, but a light meter and color and gray cards have their uses in certain situations.

Hi-Res Sensor Shift: Can 16 megapixels become 40 megapixels?

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

Whether or not you have or plan to have an Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II with its hi-res sensor shift mode, my latest EM5 Mark II hi-res mode evaluation should be intensely interesting for the promise it holds out for ultra-high resolution images from any brand that might implement sensor shift technology. Barring something horrible: some sort of patent standoff that keeps other players out, and thus deprives us of this tech.

BTW, I don’t much like the form factor of the E-M5 Mark II: the grip is just lousy for my relatively large hands; I much prefer the grip of the E-M1. An E-M1 Mark II would solve that.

Sensor shift already has existed for some years now in very high quality and at very high cost: medium format Hasselblad digital backs, intended for studio work).

But it is Olympus that deserves kudos for delivering a version of the technology at a lowball $1099 price point. The Olympus results do not deliver the quality of the Hasselblad system by any means. But the writing is on the wall—more and better implementations are sure to come. And it is far easier technologically than to linearly double or quadruple sensor resolution.

And so I now consider two technologies must-have features that ought to find their way into all cameras: (1) sensor image stabilization along with (2) ultra high-res sensor shift technology. Consider the following if implemented only as far as Olympus does it:

  • 24MP full-frame sensor could generate 96MP raw files delivering something approaching 60 megapixels of detail under ideal conditions.
  • 36MP full-frame sensor could generate 144MP raw files delivering something approaching 90 megapixels of detail under ideal conditions.
  • 50MP full-frame sensor could generate 200MP raw files delivering something approaching 125 megapixels of detail under ideal conditions.

The above is only true for tripod based shooting with no camera or subject movement; it is not a general solution. However, with smart enough hardware, even handheld operation could be possible with powerful image processing hardware (semi-randomized shifts by some camera movement handheld, combined for one better image, this is actually already implemented in specialized software programs, but I for one want the camera to deliver to me one raw file).

With appropriate design, the camera itself could be smarter than what Olympus delivers, e.g., delivering smaller raw files large enough to include the extra detail, but not wastefully large files containing much less detail than the numbers would imply. By using the camera itself to process appropriately. Better to get 95% of the gains with 50% of the file bloat in my view.

Since the Sony A7 II already has image stabilization and a Sony A7R II ought to have the same stabilization, the possibility of a firmware update for the A7 II which supports sensor shift technology is intriguing. Actually, it’s startling that Sony has not already done so, but perhaps there is a hardware limitation or some other reason. Also, any A7R II would have to move to an EFC shutter and eliminate the the sharpness-destroying shutter vibration.

Oversampling

The sensor-shift approach used by Olympus is a type of oversampling, an idea that I have long advocated for higher image quality.

Oversampling using a double-resolution sensor would be much better than shifting the sensor, but this happens slowly over time. However, an ideal existence proof for the validity of oversampling will soon present itself: comparing the 50-megapixel Canon 5Ds R against the current 23-megapixel 5D Mark III in June or July 2015, depending on when Canon delivers.

Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Just How Good is the Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode?

Get the Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II digital camera at B&H Photo.

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (64MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). There is definitely not 64MP of real detail in the files, but there ismuch more detail than its 4608 X 3456 resolution mode. As well as other benefits.

I shot a variety of images to explore the EM5 Mark II hi-res mode, but this example turned out to be outstanding for seeing the differences, at least under ideal conditions and with excellent shot discipline. In Guide to Mirrorless:

Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II Hi-Res Sensor Shift Mode vs Standard Resolution (Mining Museum)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images, along with many pairs of large crops.

The sensor-shift approach used by Olympus is a type of oversampling, an idea that I have long advocated for higher image quality. Oversampling using a double-resolution sensor would be much better than shifting the sensor, but Olympus deserves kudos for delivering a remarkable feature in a $1099 camera.

Of course, one ponders what Sony (or Nikon or Canon) could do with sensor shift, since the equivalent would be to deliver 144 megapixel images from a 36MP sensor, or 200 megapixels from a 50MP sensor. Or 96 megapixels on the 24MP Sony A7 II, which has an image-stabilized sensor already.

Mining Museum
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Boulders Near Mt Williamson (5DM3)

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

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

In DAP, this aperture series explores of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L on a classic landscape scene.

Aperture Series: Boulders Near Mt Williamson (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white, as well as the usual large crops from f/4 through f/16.

Analysis includes sharpness and peripheral focus shift, and some discussion of what one might expect on a 50 megapixel sensor.

Boulders Near Mt. Williamson
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Ghosting Flare Series at 24mm

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

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

This 4-photo series shows the behavior of the 11-24mm f/4L at its 24mm zoom setting with respect to flare—even when the sun is well out of the frame.

Flare: Angle to Sun vs Bulbous Front Element (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

View near Mt. Williamson
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Examples at Manzanar

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

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

This photo essay at Manzanar explore performance of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L, particularly at the wide end.

Examples: Manzanar (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

Includes both color and black and white renditions, which I felt was appropriate for the subject matter, but also gives an excellent idea of just how good the 11-24mm f/4L can be for documentary photography in B&W.

Pleasure Park, 1943
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Carrizo Plain Flower Status

I stopped for half a day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, and was surprised to see much more greenery than last year’s desert-like conditions. Fields of purple and yellow flowers are evident, with even some smaller patches of poppies. This week through next week will be the peak.

It won’t be like the phenomenal 2005 bumper crop of flowers, but it’s decent. Still, the plants are clearly suffering, already showing signs of drought and heat stress (starting to droop), not at all the rich verdant tapestry I enjoyed in 2005.

Some pleasing images could be made by waiting for better light in late day, but this one I made as I had to leave, in mid afternoon.

Flowering plants in Carrizo Plain National Monument, March 15 2015
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Aperture Series: Defunct Mining Hotel Bar (5DM3)

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

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

In DAP, this aperture series explores the performance of what might be the new ultra wide angle zoom champion.

Aperture Series: Defunct Mining Hotel Bar (5DM3)

Presented with HD and UltraHD images and large crops from f/4 through f/16. Analysis includes sharpness, field curvature, focus shift, and some discussion of what one might expect on a 50 megapixel sensor.

Toil, then gamble and drink it away.
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Manzanar (WW II Relocation Camp for Japanese Americans)

Two well-known photographers documented Manzanar: Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange

It’s always a risk to bring up a subject like this, with some readers inferring far too much from my remarks, and judging without understanding my meaning. But I don’t like to shy away from reality.

I finally stopped to see Manzanar (near Lone Pine, CA), where up to 11,000 Japanese* were relocated during wartime. Conditions there were physically harsh, but not inhumane** from what I saw and read, including gardens and other aspects making it more tolerable than a plain prison, which is what it was of course— a prison for those having comitted no crimes.

My reaction to Manazanar has always been one of disgust that this country violated its core principles, but that started with slavery and we are hardly free of the same failings today. But the greatness of a country is in doing what is right without too long a delay, and in owning up to what was wrong. Little solace for those on the short end.

It’s easy to judge history safe and sound here in the USA today, but those who lived through it for good or ill have perspectives that may be hard to grasp (so many aspects: real wartime fears, racism, political goals, propoganda, deprivations, loss of sons and families, the list goes on). A country at war is at best a morass of conflicting values and actions. So I restrain my possibly naive judgment of Manzanar vs the founding principles of this country in the context of war, where destruction of the entire Pacific Fleet was a distinct possibility. BTW, the gun emplacements on the headlands near San Francisco can still be visited; they seem rather curious and almost quaint, but there they are. Can anyone of my generation really understand the wartime context properly?

* If I have my facts right: 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry, about 2/3 of which were United States citizens. Citizens or not, these people were forcibly relocated during wartime, entirely disrupting their former lives. Of course, the hypocricy of Japenese American soldiers fighting for the USA while their fellows were relocated is hard to reconcile with the camps.

** Being forcibly uprooted and treated like a criminal was surely hard to bear, let alone the physical conditions. It’s a sad chapter. All war is terrible, with many losers.

Shot with the Canon 11-24mm f/4L (about $2999 at B&H Photo).

Where would anyone escape to, when facial features alone would betray?
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No original cabins remain; this reconstruction is made of better materials than the original “green lumber”version
Numerous other cabins stretched away into the distance in several directions (see small marker posts where they once stood)
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Inside a reconstructed cabin, made of much more tight-fitting wood than the 'green' lumber used for the originals,
which shrank and gapped as it seasoned
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View of the Sierra Nevada from a reconstructed Manzanar communal house (zero privacy)
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Japanese pond and garden area, once fed by a small reservoir not far away, in turn fed by a mountain stream
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Back From Trip (and Carrizo Plain)

I’m back from my trip.

I stopped for half a day at Carrizo Plain National Monument, and was surprised to see much more greenery than last year’s desert-like conditions. Fields of purple and yellow flowers are evident, with even some smaller patches of poppies. I expect that this week through next week will be the peak. It won’t be like the phenomenal 2005 bumper crop of flowers, but it’s decent. Still, the plants are clearly suffering, already showing signs of drought and heat stress, not the rich verdant tapestry I enjoyed in 2005.

Panoramic Megapixels (stitching): Olympus EM5 Mark II, Lone Pine and Mt Whitney

Shown, below, 432 megapixels sitches once cropped after assembly. The per-pixel detail falls a little short of the numbers, but it's very good. The idea I wanted to explore was whether the E-M5 Mark II, in additional to delivering image files of size far outstripping its nominal resolution—could those be used for even more stitched resolution to extend the envelop even further. After all, a 3 frame stitch can generally double the megapixels, which would yield 80 megapixels.

The obvious question is whether a future 50 megapixel “Sony A9” free of shutter vibration and sporting an E-M5 Mark II-style hi-res mode courtesy of the Sony A7 Mark II image stabilization could thus produce ~125 megapixel images (and having larger photosites, perhaps with higher quality too). It does beg the question of how such advances would compare to 50 megapixel conventional Canon 5DS and future Nikon DSLRs would fare and whether they would have continued relevance for landscape style shooting. At the least, the oversampling sensor shift approach of the E-M5 Mark II has potential for minimizing digitial artifacts, and perhaps noise as well.

In spite of blocking the camera/tripod with my car, it seems that that hi-res mode of the E-M5 Mark II is not compatible with even a slight breath of wind (I expected this, pausing for the best lull, but half-pixel shifts of ~2 microns require absolute stillness). Still, the results are quite good, certainly if downsampled to 216 megapixels.

The main problem with such panoramas is the extreme aspect ratio; with more patience and better light, I’d have liked to shoot a dual-row panorama to include the foreground, and thus cutting the aspect ratio in half.

When I return from my trip, I’ll redo it from raw and see just how good it can be made (this version from the 40MP JPEGs produced by the EM5M2 hi-res mode).

Lone Pine and Mt Whitney, Eastern Sierra Nevada
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Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 APD (Bokeh)

I’ve shot some aperture series comparisons between the Fujfilm 56mm f/1.2 and the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 APD, to evaluate the bokeh differences between the two across the aperture range. To be presented when I return from my trip in Guide to Mirrorless.

The APD (“apodized”) version has a special gradated internal filter which smooths out transitions, with the effect most distinct at the widest (brightest) apertures.

Miner’s Beacon
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The Fujifilm X-T1 drove me crazy with the same idiotic behavior that I experienced almost three (3!) years ago with the Fujifilm X-Pro1. First, playing an image resets lens focus (as do certain other things). Thus if you want to check exposure by playing the image, focus is whacked, and you must refocus, thus destroying the comparative value of prior frames that are supposed to be matched in focus. Try repeating that over and over when trying to match lenses for comparison. I wasted a lot of time reshooting and reshooting due to the work-destroying focus-reset behavior in particular; it kept kicking me in the shins. This isn’t academic for my needs either; there are plenty of shooting situations in which prefocus is useful or even mandatory.

Then there is the camera resetting the self timer to off every time the camera is powered on/off. Having only one battery on hand, I was compelled to do so often.

These two behaviors (and a few others) are so aggravating for my working needs that I would not even consider the Fujifilm platform until these things are fixed. Cameras are a lot more than specs—and these simple things make the Fujifilm platform an abject failure for my needs. Finally, the X-T1 EVF felt herky-jerky and washed out compared to the Olympus E-M5 Mark II EVF. I’d far rather shoot the Olympus platform.

Panoramic Megapixels (stitching)

I had some difficulty determining the entrance pupil of the Sigma DP2 Merrill due to its awful low-res rear LCD; close but not perfect, and that’s a parallax headache at close range [doing it precisely requires iterative tests to verify the best possible position down to 0.5mm or better).

Fortunately, Photoshop did a fine job of merging the frames into this 56 megapixel stitched image, created from six vertical images. It could print very large, even the JPEG-derived version used here (I’d use the raw images normally, but in the car with a laptop...).

More difficult is anticipating the ending composition that results after merging the images made with rotational stitching; the image feels unbalanced. I also had very little working room, so it wasn’t possible to frame much differently that done here.

Stitching 3 frames made with a shift lens is much more straightforward, but to this day there is no shift lens on the market that delivers more than “good enough but uninspired” performance. Moreover, a shift lens generally yields a 2X gain in pixels with much reduced quality at the periphery, but this 6-frame composite is about 3.5X more pixels than a single frame. Had I the working room, I could have moved back and shot with the DP3 Merrill as a dual-row, yielding ~110 megapixels or so (Really Right Stuff sells a special stitching setup for such things, which I used here; it allows using any camera angle while rotating on-level).

Mining Gear
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Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II: Sensor Shift Mode (updated)

The E-M5 Mark II sets a new standard as the digital camera having the most complex and obtuse menu system available, beating out its E-M5 and E-M1 predecesors. OMG

The Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II produces 9216 X 6912 images (63MP) from 105MB raw files when shot in its sensor shift mode (those dimensions are 2X linear multiples of its 4608 X 3456 native resolution). Or rather, that size when converted using the Olympus plugin for Photoshop. The EM5 Mark II also produces 40 megapixel JPEG images simultaneously (SLF + Raw). Iridient Developer shows a raw file size of 7296 X 5472 (39.9 megapixels, same as the JPEGs).

It’s not possible for me to evaluate critical sharpness on a MacBook Pro Retina with any reliability (the pixels are too densely packed, so fully sharp and not quite sharp are difficult to distinguish), but the raw files appear to contain less actual image detail than the size would suggest. The 40MP JPEGs look relatively good too.

There is certainly “more there” than the native 16MP resolution, but perhaps not in a compelling micro contrast way. My analysis of the realistic gains in detail will have to wait until I’m home and back using my regular NEC PA302W display, to which my eyes are attuned. Moreover, diffraction quickly begins to kill off theoretical resolution gains, with f/8 beginning to look soft (Olympus also does not recommend going past f/8, almost certainly for this reason). Optimal aperture is probably f/4, taking diffraction and depth of field and lens performance all into consideration.

Of course, there can be benefits to oversampling, even if the final output size is no larger in pixels, so resolution should not be taken as the only idea to consider.

Update: Philip Service has an interesting technical analysis (numerical analysis) that correlates strongly with my field analysis: Limits of Resolution. 5. Sensor Shift.

Dusk Glow on Wagon
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4K Displays: 32-inch NEC PA322UHD and 31-inch LG 31MU97 and two 24-inch

Just a quick reminder that my reviews of the NEC PA 344UHD and LG 31MU97-B and Dell UP2414Q and NEC UA244UHD are all up in the free articles sections.

I’ve been using the two NEC displays for months now, and I used the LG 31MU97 for a about a month. My final comments will go up after I return from my trip.

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. 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. The 25mm f/1.4 Summilux is terrific, and the 42.5mm Nocticron is the best MFT lens out there in my view.

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.

  diglloyd img
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.

  diglloyd img
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?

diglloyd image
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

diglloyd image
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. 

diglloyd image
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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