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

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

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

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

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

Go to Leica Download page.

Performance Improvements:

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

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

 
Shimano Stella STLC2000SFI Spinning Reel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact

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

Contact Lloyd.

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

Light Searches for the Forest Floor
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Also, Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 24mm: Water Surges Through Boulders.

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

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

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

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

Seems like a no brainer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ari D writes:

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

Sidelit Redwoods
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ZEISSBatis 18mm f/2.8 Lens Pre-Order
Best 18mm ever produced.
Reviewed in: Guide to Mirrorless

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

Pescadero Creek High Water, Rushing Water Loop
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LensRentals: $25 off any order of $150 or more

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

Use code TAX25.

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

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

Why 28 Megapixel / 8K Images?

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

Rising Redwoods
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Our trusted photo rental store

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

 

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

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

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

 

Redwood Reaching for the Sun
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OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM

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

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

 

 

Jury Duty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

** California legal code: emphasis added:

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

Zeiss Loxia for Sony

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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Bruce Z writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Nikon D5 at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  
Sony RX100 compact (20 megapixels)

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

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

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

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

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

Sensor existence proof — Sony RX100

  

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

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

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

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

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100

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

  
Actual pixels from 109 megapixel stitched image above

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

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

  
Actual pixels from 54 megapixel reduction of 109 megapixel image
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Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 Distagon Examples: Purissima Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continues below.

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

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

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

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

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Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM: Ergonomics

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

Autofocus

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

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

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

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

Rubberized lens hood

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

Aperture ring

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

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

Zeiss Loxia for Sony

FastRawViewer and RawDigger Discount

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

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

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

Alex Tutubalin writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Get Nikon D5 at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich G writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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