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Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

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

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

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

Special additional discount for MPG readers

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

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

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

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sunset: Blue, Gold, Green

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

Sometimes it is those few minutes that count.

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

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Announced: Canon 35mm f/1.4L II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue spectrum optics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canon EOS M3: Coming to USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Inside the Green Barn

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

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

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

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

Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Inside the Green Barn

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

See also the Green Barn series.

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Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Green Barn

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

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

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

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

Sigma dp3 Quattro Aperture Series: Green Barn

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

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

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

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

Toggle to see the variants.

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

RawDigger preferences

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

RawDigger special display mode preferences for Sony ARW raw files
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Dual Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Backlit Bristlecones + Bristlecone Log

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

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

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Backlit Bristlecones

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Bristlecone Log, Frontlit

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

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

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FOR SALE: Leica M Lenses, Canon gear

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

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

  • Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH $2700
  • Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH (black) $6900
  • Canon 35mm f/1.4L $750
  • Canon 50mm f/1.2L $910
  • Canon 85mm f/1.2L II $ 1600
  • Canon 135mm f/2L $650
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.4G $1300
  • Nikon 85mm f/2.8D PC-Micro Nikkor (original version) $1200
  • Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8G ED $650
  • Nikon AF 135mm f/2D DC-Nikkor $1100 (mint)

DEAL: MacBook Pro

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

Very approachable price for a solid machine:

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

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

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

Our trusted photo rental store

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

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

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

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

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

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

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Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Sunlit Glacial Erratic

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Sunlit Glacial Erratic

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

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Must-have expansion: OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock

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

Service Matters: Leica Q, and a Sony Note

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

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

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

John M writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SIGNS OF IMPROPER HANDLING
FORWARDING TO GERMANY FOR REPAIR
PENDING ESTIMATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigma dp0 Quattro Color Rendition in Daylight

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

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

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

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Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Rushing Creek at Dusk

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Rushing Creek at Dusk

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

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My favorite card: Lexar 2000X 64GB

Lexar Professional 64GB 2000X SDXC
with supplied card reader

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

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

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

Lexar Professional 1000X 256GB SDXC Camera Storage Card

Lexar Professional 1066X 128GB Compact Flash Camera Storage Card

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

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

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

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

Sigma dp0 Quattro Aperture Series: Creek Enters Lake

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

Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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

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

See also the review of the Sigma dp2 Quattro.

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

In my review of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro cameras:

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

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

Also shown are the Sigma Photo Pro processing settings.

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

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSLR deals

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

Lots of filter deals too, particularly on oddball sizes.

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

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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar Aperture Series: Yellow Flowers by Waterfall (Sony A7R II)

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The SteadyShot feature is described by Sony as follows:

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

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

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

Thorsten K writes:

You worry about sensor to mount parallelism with IBIS off.

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

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

As per my contact at Sony:

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

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

Matt G writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt G follows on to the above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization) Handheld at 25mm

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

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

The points of interest are:

  • Is 1/20 second realistic for a 25mm lens?
  • How much does IBIS help, and is it consistent?
  • Does IBIS function with the 2-second self timer?
  • Does use of the 2-second self timer help in obtaining sharp shots? (by avoiding the disturbance of pressing the shutter release).
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Deal on Big Storage for Photographers: OWC Thunderbay 4 RAID-5 Edition with Extra 4TB Drive

OWC has the the OWC Thunderbay 4 with free spare 4TB HDD in tray on special this weekend for $1149 (about $350 off).

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

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

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

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

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

* If a new drive fails within 90 days OWC will replace it with a new one.

OWC Thunderbay 4 — 4-drive RAID-5 Solution
ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Sony A7R II: Conclusions

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe R writes:

Stunningly beautiful images! Period. Full Stop.

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

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

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

Sony A7R II: Where is Pixel Shift?

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sony A7R II, Sony Lenses: Reader Comments

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

Michael writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now in general—

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

Look, here’s how it goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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Sony A7R II: General Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John W writes:

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

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

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

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

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

MacPerformanceGuide.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

__METADATA__

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

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__METADATA__

Reader comments

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

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

David C writes:

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

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

James K writes:

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

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

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

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

Gerner C writes:

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes

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

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

See my my comments.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Sony A7R II: Raw Format and 12-Bit Modes

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

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

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

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

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

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

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

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

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

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

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

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

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

__METADATA__

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

James K writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ram E writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James H writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using the Lupine USB One with Lupine SmartCore battery to charge an iPhone
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