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Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set)

Get Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set).

Whenever I get a new camera, I turn immediately to Really Right Stuff for a grip or L-bracket or camera plate—top quality work made to fit exactly. These brackets are essential for my work.

So a big hooray that the new L-bracket is out for the Canon 5DS / 5DS R. Hopefully it will arrive via UPS today before I have to depart on my trip (the bracket for the Canon 5D Mark III is what I’ve been using, but it doesn’t fit quite right being slightly off square and with a bit of extra pressure on a small portion of the camera body).

The “L” part is not required and just the base plate portion can be used if desired.

Long a source of minor flex with all L brackets, the new bracket for the 5DS / 5DS R sports a special strap boss anchor (chrome finish part at top of L as show below). This optional (can be removed) part firmly and rigidly anchors the top of the L to the strap boss on the camera body—very sturdy. Nice work, RRS!

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set)

There are two positions (bolt holes) that are available. As shown below the alternate bolt hole is used to provide a substantial gap between the L portion and the camera body.

I mount the bracket flush to the left side, using the strap boss anchor as discussed above.

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Canon 5DS / Canon 5DS R (B5DS-L Set)
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Sony A7R II: Poor Battery Life? And Can it Charge via USB?

Get Sony A7R II at B&H Photo.

Sony A7R II with 35/1.4 lens

The 42-megapixel Sony A7R II ships with two batteries and an AC charger. Yay!

Sony Alpha a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera (Body Only)
2 x NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion Rechargeable Battery (1020mAh)
• AC-UUD11 AC Battery Charging Adaptor
• BC-VW1 AC Charger for W Series Battery
• Shoulder Strap
• ALC-B1EM Body Cap for NEX Cameras
• Multi Interface Shoe Cap
• Eyepiece Cup
• Micro-USB Cable
• Limited 1-Year Warranty

But what a minute, why does it ship with two batteries? Perhaps the battery life is very poor, just like with the Sigma dp Quattro series; bowing to reality Sigma includes two batteries, which I applaud.

What I do not recall is whether the battery can be charged in the camera via a USB cable as with the Sony RX100. If so, then the relatively compact 60 watt-hour BatteryBox could be tossed into a daypack for field outings (day or days long) to recharge batteries on the fly. Since the BatteryBox is 60 watt-hours and the Sony battery is only about 7 watt-hours, it would provide about 8 battery recharges for Sony batteries, assuming high efficiency.

Tero N writes:

All A7-series cameras even prior to A7R II can be charged on the go from Micro-USB power pack, but camera needs to be turned off.

A7R II is actually improved in this context; it can run purely from external USB power if there is a non-empty battery inside. A nice addition, I'm gonna velcro a 12000 mAh battery pack to my tripod extra juice for long-exposure stuff. You can find details in the manual that is available for example below.

DIGLLOYD: excellent. With an AC charger (what I really use) plus a USB option (plugs right into the Wagan Tech power inverter or the BatteryBox, charging options are good. The Battery Box can be used in the field and the USB option in the car, freeing up an AC outlet on the inverter.

Eric W writes:

There are also a number of dummy battery cables available for the a7 series. They are usually terminated in the anton-bauer d-tap plug. I use the DionicHC batteries with my a7s and they can run it for 6-8 hours of recording.

I had suggested to someone on a forum that needed to run the camera in extreme cold, to use this cable, paired with an extension cable run up the sleeve to a battery kept in an inside vest or pocket near body heat. The anton bauer batteries are quite large, another option I like is from SWIT:

http://www.swit.cc/productshow.aspx?id=209

It is an 86wh battery with a 14.4v output and a 5v USB output. This would be easier to fit in a pocket or inside a jacket than the larger AB batteries.

DIGLLOYD: nice option.

Will the Leica Q Kill the Leica M?

Get Leica Q and Leica M at B&H Photo.

Leica Q

That is, if the Sony A7R II has not already killed it.

Shooting the Leica Q is a vastly more enjoyable experience than shooting the Leica M: hugely superior and built-in EVF along with autofocus. I enjoyed the Leica Q in spite of some really nagging operational issues (that could be fixed by Leica in a firmware update if the will is there).

The Q sensor appears to be superior in dynamic range and color rendition to the M240 sensor, and the optical performance compromises of the Q are not likely to be of concern to many shooters (not that M lenses are free of problematic compromises, particular the faster designs, ike wide-open aberrations and field curvature). But for those looking for pin-sharp results to the edges, do look elsewhere than the Q or M; a Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis comes to mind, or perhaps a future Sony RX2R with a 43MP sensor.

The Q is notably smaller, lighter and cheaper than the Leica M240 (about half the price or even less when the M240 + 28mm f/2 Summicron are the pairing). The image quality of the Q has an extraordinary visual impact and in this regard most users will find its images stunning. I want one, but the price is so high and I have so much gear, and I have to look at thing in ROI terms.

What if the Q were available in 4 or 5 focal lengths? What exactly would be the point of the aging M platform? That is, what would be the point to the vast majority of buyers, many of whom are dilettantes and collectors and have little interest or ability to grok the nerd appeal of the M.

So will the Leica Q kill the M platform? Yes if Leica makes other Q models with additional focal lengths and also fails to take the M platform forward.

The M platform clings to multiple handicaps:

Leica M240 with 50/1.4 Summilux
  • It is simply not usable by some users (eyesight).
  • The camera still crashes sometimes, requiring power off to recover, and losing the image.
  • The optional M240 EVF is a toy-grade low-res optional wart atop the camera. Awkward.
  • The M240 rangefinder is an anachronism used by some shooters, but entirely unusable by others (eyesight, framing, etc), and subject to mechanical tolerance errors along with grossly inaccurate frame lines and it is impossible to make a level image with wide angles using the rangefinder or absurdly expensive optical hot-shoe viewfinders.
  • The M240 is larger, heavier and much more expensive. With only a few lenses, it quickly becomes a $20K to $30K system.
  • The Leica Q sensor has superior dynamic range and color over the M sensor, with none of the color shading problems of the M wides.
  • My field experience shows vastly more accurate metering with the the Q. I have to shoot on manual all the time with the M; with the Q I just shoot on aperture priority with minor exp comp adjustments.
  • Leica M lenses simply are not as good as they could be versus a fresh approach to mirrorless. They are chock full of stale film-era compromises that need not be there with fresh designs for mirrorless. I would hold up the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon as a vastly superior lens as compared with Leica’s best (at 1/6 to 1/3 the cost!). Leica could do even better at double or triple the price the Batis.

So where should the M body go?

  • Introduce a smaller and lighter EVF-only ME (“M EVF”), with no rangefinder. This brings the cost down, usability up, size and weight way down.
  • Maintain compatibility with M lenses, but offer all new MA (“M autofocus”) lenses with autofocus and leaf shutters that rock with a built-in flash utilizing the wasted space currently occupied by the rangefinder. These lenses can be new designs optimized for mirrorless and be made larger so as not to require such esoteric optical designs (no more concern in blocking the rangefinder).
  • Raise the resolution and dynamic range of the sensor: 36 megapixels minimum, 14+ bits dynamic range. As they say in Russia, tough shitsky if those vaunted M lenses show their limits even more than they do now at 24 megapixels.

This should all have been done a year ago.

Hail peppers climbers descending Mt Dana, delivering auditory and tactile and olfactory delights while the eyes feast on the sunlit Mt Conness and Saddlebag Lake area.

Mt Dana Hailstorm with view to Mt Conness in sunlight
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Dan M writes:

OK, so you’ve shown us this again. [Mt Dana hailstorm] And now I look at it with a bit more care to the nuance and detail [and enlarged] and realize just how few camera/lens combos could deliver this image.

You don’t notice the quality right up front because of the extreme circumstance of the shot. But there is depth, excellent detail and proper color everywhere in a situation where most gear would produce a sack of mush.

DIGLLOYD: yes, the lens on the Q has its quality limits at the periphery, but as I've said in my review of the Leica Q, what I term the “visual impact” is superb. This comes from high contrast for coarse and fine structures (high MTF) and strict control of aberrations. The only negative is the loss of peripheral sharpness from the severe distortion, which must stretch pixels to make the image, starting with an effective captured area of only about 22 megapixels.

Envoy Pro mini - In Motion There Exists Great Potential

Leica S Typ 006: Shooting it Next Trip with 24mm, 35mm, 45mm, 100mm Lenses

Leica S2 (old model)

Get Leica S at B&H Photo.

Shooting the Leica S system to review it has been an issue, mainly because of cost.

But a friend has generously loaned me his Leica S Typ 006 and the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH and the Leica 100mm f/2 Summicron-S ASPH (the same friend who loaned me gear for my review of the Leica 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6 Vario-Elmar-S ASPH).

Also, B&H is loaning me the 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-S ASPH and the 45mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH. So I’ll have the 24mm, 35mm, 45mm and 100mm Leica S lenses to shoot (equivalent to 19mm, 28mm, 36mm, 80mm in 35mm full frame field of view terms). I would have liked to also have the 30mm, but if interest is proven (new subscriptions), then I will invest additional effort in the 30mm, 70mm, and 120mm focal lengths.

Personally I find this an interesting project for context and relevance of medium format, particularly in light of the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R with Zeiss Otus, as well as the Sony A7R II with Zeiss Batis. But this is a business, and my bills don’t pay themselves! I have to respond to customer demand as the primary driver of my schedule, and the Leica S market is very small. So this effort and the response to the coverage are a trial balloon, possibly a waste of 4 days in revenue terms and my time, but at the least I’ll gain a solid perspective on the S system and its lenses, and a wide-ranging perspective always feeds back into all my work. And I have just enough time to do it before the Sony A7R II work onslaught arrives (there are many more customers for the A7R II than Leica S).

I’ll be shooting the S system in the Yosemite area for four days. My goal is to gather enough material to provide a detailed look at each of those lenses on the Leica S Typ 006 (which is equivalent in imaging to the Leica S-E).

The 'glass' matters but so does the sensor, and the Leica S CCD sensor is gorgeous. So even though the Leica S system is stuck (permanently it seems) at 36 megapixels, it is the total combination of resolution and pixel quality that together make the visual impact.

Pescadero Creek
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Canon 11-24mm f/4L Examples: Mt Conness Watershed (Canon 5DS R)

Canon 11-24mm f/4L

Get the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM and Canon 5DS R at B&H Photo.

Extending my review of both the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM and the Canon 5DS R are these additional pages:

Examples: Mt Conness Watershed (5DS R)

Examples: Beautiful Boulder at Four Focal Lengths (5DS R)

Color Fringing, Uncorrected and Corrected, Optical Misalignment? (5DS R)

Conclusions on 11-24mm f/4L

Presented with HD and UltraHD images up to 24 megapixels. most images with crops and some with both color and black and white versions, since the Canon 5DS R makes an excellent monochrome camera.

These examples are an excellent way to understand the real-world performance of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L as well as the Canon 5DS R.

At about $2999, the Canon 11-24mm f/4L is hardly inexpensive, but given the unprecedented range and image quality, it’s a winner.

Contemplation
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Beautiful Boulder, Clearing Storm
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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. 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 M

I’m looking to pick up an S system. Something has to go. These prices firm.

  • Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH $2700
  • Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH (black) $6900
  • Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH (black) $2600
  • Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH $6200 (price reflects little desire to really sell it!)

Canon

  • Canon 5D Mark III $1650 in original box, etc with Really Right Stuff L bracket. Excellent condition, low shutter actuations, original box charger, etc.
  • Canon 35mm f/1.4L $750
  • Canon 50mm f/1.2L $910
  • Canon 135mm f/2L $650
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Zeiss Batis Lenses Have Shipped (a few days ago)

Get Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo.

According to Zeiss USA, “First dealer deliveries were made last week, on time”.

As I predicted, the initial shipment was absorbed by pre-orders, and and so the Batii are still on pre-order status at B&H—first shipment all spoken for. I expect the Zeiss Batis lenses to be in high demand and relatively hard to get for some time (like Zeiss Loxia).

With the new Sony A7R II (expected around Aug 6), it is my intention to test mainly with the Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia lenses (if I can get them), because they offer outstanding performance that will show the sensor off nicely. See my existing review of Zeiss Batis and review of Zeiss Loxia.

Photoshop CC 2014 Now Gets the CC 2015 Bugs

I recently reported that a slew of new bugs had appeared in Adobe Photoshop CC 2015.

Now with the very recent update to CC 2014, Adobe has added at least some of those bugs into CC 2014.

Beware: the bugs involve the GPU, a notoriously unstable area. CC 2014 and CC 2015 have been crashing on me at 5X the rate of the previous versions. Adobe has been replacing proven non-GPU code with GPU code, and apparently replacing optimized non-GPU code with turtle-slow code. So you now get an unstable application, or turtle slow operation if the GPU is disabled (I have disabled the GPU for years due to instability).

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bristlecone on Bare Hill, Checking for Lens Symmetry (Canon 5DS R)

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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

The lighting was harsh, and I have many more attractive scenes, but the subject matter here is perfect for seeing just how demanding a 50 megapixel sensor can be.

But mainly the subject was chosen to assess performance both in terms of how much stopping down is required for good quality, how much depth of field it delivers (real depth of field), and whether the lens shows symmetry of sharpness across the frame.

In DAP:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Bristlecone on Bare Hill, Checking for Lens Symmetry (Canon 5DS R)

Just how good the Zeiss Otus line is and how the Sigma Art lenses are not in the same league is plain to my eyes. Shooting a DSLR? Otus or bust. Sort of a good, better, best thing (Nikon/Canon, Sigma Art, Otus).

The track of a motorcyle mars a very sensitive environment at about 11,500' elevation. Such thoughtless damage keeps increasing in this pristine area, which now has Wilderness designation.

Lonely Bristlecone at about 11,500' elevation
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Power On the Road: Power Inverter for Everything, MagSafe Charging for Apple Laptops

Back in June: OK, So Up in the Mountains in a Canyon, Whadya do for Power for a Laptop?

Here’s a followup on several products I’ve tried.

Pawtec Macbook High-Speed Car Charger

Pawtec car charger for Magsafe

The idea is that direct DC to DC current should be more efficient than a power inverter that converts DC to AC, that is, a 12V DC power inverter to AC to Apple power brick. Maybe.

I was initially thrilled with the Pawtek adapter, as it powered my late 2013 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina with no fuss keeping it nicely at 100% charge.

Pawtec Macbook High-Speed Car Charger - Compatible MagSafe 2 for Apple Macbook / Air / Retina Mid-2012 - Present

But when the battery charge was about 75% and I then plugged the laptop into the Pawtec, the Pawtec adapter started making high pitched screeching noises, and the adapter plug became too hot to touch. Things that get too hot to touch worry me. I unplugged it and let it cool. Perhaps it’s normal or perhaps it’s risky—I don’t know but I’d say that the Pawtec is good for steady usage but caution is advised for charging a depleted battery. The MBP Retina power brick is a 90W unit, so maybe that’s too much for the Pawtec.

Battery box

So far this BatteryBox unit has worked great. The BatteryBox unit is 60Wh; a MacBook Pro Retina has a ~100 Wh internal battery, so 60 Wh is in theory about a 60% gain in battery time.

Tests at home under maximum load (all CPUs busy via MemoryTester) with the BatteryBox connected kept the MBP at 100% charge for about 35 minutes. Since normal usage uses far less power, I’d estimate that the BatteryBox will yield a runtime extension commensurate with its watt hours in relation to the built-in battery (3 hours is about all I get out of the MBP using Photoshop and such, so maybe I'd get 5 hours, total). Further field testing will prove this out. Its a nicely made unit and I’ve suggested to the manufacturer to offer a double or triple size battery. But of course it’s possible to carry more than one battery.

The BatteryBox also charges a USB device via its USB port, but a pending firmware update is needed for full compatibility (some of my devices would charge, some would not).

One limitation is that the BatteryBox takes USB charging via an AC wall-wart, so back to the same old power inverter for recharging (no direct DC charging).

BatteryBox with MagSafe compatible connector

Wagan Tech 200W pure sine-wave power inverter

This is now my meat and potatoes power source for when I’m traveling in my vehicle in the mountains; it charges up everything.

I replaced an older and cheaper square wave inverter with a Wagan EL2600 Elite Pro 200W Pure Sine Inverter. The older unit did not seem efficient; it became relatively hot and ran its fan a lot. It cost a lot less, and I guess you get what you pay for.

Wagan EL2600 Elite Pro 200W Pure Sine Inverter

But the Wagan EL2600 Elite Pro 200W Pure Sine Inverter runs much cooler and with less fan noise and no fuss. Its pure sine wave AC output is more efficient for devices and hence the cooler operation (lower power draw on the unit itself, which is claimed to itself be 90% efficient).

I charged 3 camera batteries at once as well as the iPhone via USB, and it powers the MacBook Pro with no fuss at all. 200W is plenty for all that stuff, even simultaneously.

The Wagan EL2601 Elite 400W and 1000W Pro Pure Sine Inverter alternatives may be of use to some, but 200W will already blow a vehicle fuse in many vehicles (12V X 16.7 amps ~= 200W, my vehicle is fused at 20 amps but some are fused at 15 amps). The 400W or 1000W units can deliver a lot more power, but only if connected directly to a suitable battery directly with the alligator clamps (not the cigarette lighter socket).

Canon 5DS / 5DS R

Leica S at Deep Discounts

Step up to medium format at a deeply discounted price? Were I shooting medium format, it is the S system that I would choose, for the lens quality is unmatched by any other medium format system. The Leica S sensor is gorgeous, and I happen to like the 70mm f/2.5 lens quite a lot, though my #1 lens pick (for my own reasons) would be the Leica 24mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-S ASPH.

I’ve learned that B&H Photo can price match some deals. Call B&H Photo at (800) 947-6628 for a price match. Most important, I trust B&H to honor their prices. Please let me know of success (or not) in getting a price match.

Leica Store San Francisco has a $9199 price for the Leica S-E + 70mm lens. That’s a screaming deal for an S-system. B&H tells me they can price match the $9199 price. B&H will NOT price match on products that are not in stock.

Update 21 July: prices went back up radically. The deal was there for a few days.

Other price examples

Price links below are at Leica Store Miami. Please note that I am NOT recommending Leica Store Miami, as I have never done business with them*.

Leica S-E (Typ 006) (1 year warranty)
Leica S-E (Typ 006) / 70mm Lens Set
Leica S (Typ 006) (includes Leica Protection Plan Body, 3 years is my understanding)

* It looks to me like Leica Store Miami is breaking its MAP agreement.

'Found' Cases for Gear

Get Sigma DP Merrill and Olympus OM-D at B&H Photo.

I use Lupine lights for my cycling and headband and similar needs (highly recommended).

It turns out that the Lupine transport case from the Lupine Betty lighting system is a handy thing for small camera systems. Zippered and with a carrying handle and small pouch (not shown below), it fits the bill nicely.

Three Sigma DP Merrill cameras in Lupine zippered case
Olumpus E-M1 and lenses in Lupine zippered case

 

Leica Q: Really not a 24MP Camera and not a 28mm Lens (in effect)

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

Leica Q

In Guide to Leica, I’ve extended my analysis of the extreme optical distortion of the Leica Q, and the corresponding distortion correction required to correct it.

  • The Leica Q is a 22.4 megapixel camera (approx) in terms of recorded usable pixels.
  • The degradation of peripheral sharpness by distortion correction piles on further losses: I deem the Leica Q a ~20 megapixel camera in terms of peak available sharpness (better if one does not care about the periphery).*
  • The equivalent horizontal field of view is 29.7mm, assuming the 28mm f/1.7 is a 28.0mm lens. Which it might not be; it might be a 27mm or similar (or might not be). An infinity focus scene has to be shot to determine its relative field of view compared to say, a Leica 28/2 Summicron.

Leica Q: Extreme Distortion Degrades Periphery, Reduces True Resolution, Decreases Field of View

As a counterpoint that speaks to the wonderful visual impact and dynamic range:

Examples: Climbing Mt Dana

I like the Leica Q very much as per the above examples. With a few firmware fixes for really thoughtless design decisions, I’d love to have one were the price more palatable (no ROI for me for starters and I use tons of gear constantly, can’t just buy stuff to have on hand).

I also discuss Leica Q Recording Format (DNG and JPEG).

What I regret seeing in the Q (as much as I like its imagery overall) are the self-timer behavior and timing limits, the AF cross coupling bug (presumably to be fixed), the lack of a grip, huge files (no lossless compression), a useless video button (non programmable) and certain other limitations and restrictions that have no rational justification (all fixable in firmware if Leica had the will to do so). All these things come to bear in using the Q at various times and only one’s own use can weigh the balance as relevant or not. For an oddball but real-world example, risk of injury traversing icy rocks back and forth because the damn self timer resets every shot (and takes only 1 shot). Or the much more mundane usage of shooting on a tripod with more than one shot.

* One might argue that the idea of realizable megapixel detail applies to lens performance in general, but I deem that a non-issue with the Zeiss Batis lenses to be used on the 42MP Sony A7R II. Or at least that is my expectation, and 42MP is going to record a ton more detail in any case, with less aliasing as well.

Massive optical disortion with Leica Q, uncorrected
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Left/Right Zone of Focus Skew: Not Always the Lens, the Sensor and Lens Mount Might not be Plane-Parallel

Get Canon 5DS R at B&H Photo.

Canon 5DS R

See Case Study: Severe Lens Skew (D800E, Samyang 14mm f/2.8) for an example of clear-cut lens skew on a known-good camera body.

Symmetry issues are an issue at all price levels; see Asymmetry with Leica 180mm f/3.5 APO-Elmar-S.

See Updates at bottom: I shot a lot of material on my recent trip using the Canon 5DS R with the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

The Canon 11-24mm f/4L (about $2999) is a must-have lens for the Canon shooter. It’s so much fun in the field! The 11-14mm range is a wonderfully useful extension versus the more limited range of the 14-24mm Nikkor. The 11-24mm shows its limits on the 5DS R, but short of Zeiss Otus, virtually all lenses show obvious limits, and even the Otii can be nitpicked more easily.

The Sigma DG HSM Art lenses are absolutely not in the same league as Zeiss Otus. Camera skew or not, they need a lot of stopping down at 50MP to get to quality that the Otii deliver wide open. Still, they are much better than the Nikon or Canon equivalents and are a superb value.

About 10 days ago, I sent in my Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II to be adjusted because I was seeing a skew in focus: left side focused to the distance, right side to the foreground (this was from back in mid June). Canon returned the lens as “performing to specifications”.

The “performing to specifications” response caused a sinking feeling in my gut, so I just finished examining many images from the lenses mentioned above, all shot on the same Canon 5DS R on my recent trip.

All of the lenses are consistent: while not always obvious, any shot at distance shows a clear bias of focus to the distance on the left side, and focus to the foreground on the right side. In other words, I either have four bad lenses, or a misaligned camera body. That is to say that the lens mount is not plane parallel to the sensor.

That said, the Canon 11-24mm f/4L is much more subtle; wide open the periphery is not fully sharp, and there is significant depth of field at f/4 so it’s harder to see without the right scene. In most cases one can be forgiven for thinking there is no issue and with near/far scenes shot at any kind of angle and with closer focus (not infinity), most of my work looks perfectly fine, so I have a sense of relief there. Examining the f/1.4 Sigma lenses, the issue is more prominent (much wider apertures). And lens design can influence performance too (amount of telecentricity). Finally, closer focus reduces the issue; it is the highly sensitive infinity focus that is “touchy”. A suitable grassy or rock slope with distant focus is where the issue rears its head most obviously (50 feet out and farther for focus).

Given the evidence (consistency among four lenses), I think it’s fair to say that error is in the camera body. Which aside from damaging a great deal of field work, puts me in a bind as within 12 hours I have to head to an cycling event in the Sierra, and I was planning on shooting the 5DS R before and after. Now my shooting plans are in chaos, so I may just shoot Nikon and Otus and a few other things while I await a replacement 5DS R. I do have the new Sigma dp0 Quattro coming, though the thought of using Sigma Photo Pro to process more than a few images makes my stomach churn.

I intend to document the sensor/mount skew by example, as I think this is something everyone should be aware of when buying ultra high resolution digital cameras. Perfect symmetry is hard to come by, but at 22-24 MP, a slight skew was harder to detect. At 50 megapixels, the tolerances are now problematic and anything and everythings shows up, and a slight error in lens added to an error in the camera can add up and combine badly. But in this case it appears to be just the camera at fault.

Update

I shot the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon in my backyard on a house and deck scene at about 80 feet distanct. I cannot detect any skew with the Otus 55/1.4, even wide open.

Then I shot the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II on the same scene as the Otus 55/1.4, at 24mm and 28mm. It looks just like the bad results prior to Canon service: the left side shows reasonably good definition and the right side shows a strongly blurred area that hardly improves from f/2.8 to f/5.6. Camera or lens? It sure looks like the lens to me, and yet Canon service stated it is “performing to expectations”. And then those Sigma Art lenses aren’t symmetric either.

Next I tested the Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon. I could not detect any lens skew. With these mixed results, I am forced to say I don’t really know for sure what is wrong. It could be a combination of factors. The right way to do this is to have at least two identical camera bodies and lenses and hold one variable constant. But dual 5DS R bodies are hard to come by.

Finally I tested the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. It shows a very mild right-side focus bias to the foreground, as seen in the field at greater distance (closer range may be harder to see and lens focusing can change things). It’s not a big skew just as I found in the field, but it is visible.

This is a hard one: I’ve dealt with skew issues for years, seeing it fairly often with various gear (see Sony 35/1.4 and Tamron 15-35 most recently), but this one has me tearing my hair out. Maybe it’s just bad odds on the lenses PLUS minor tolerance differences that happen to affect the 24-70, 24/1.4 and 50/1.4 lenses. Except for the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (“peforming to specifications”), I would characterize the skew as mild. Moreoever it’s hard to detect at closer range (examining other field images). It appears to me that focus distance is involved, infinity focus being the most demanding and least forgiving of even the slightest issue, but also the lens design (perhaps the degree of telecentricity).

I once tested four Zeiss 21/2.8 Distagons on a Nikon DSLR; each was different but in the end the camera body proved to be the culprit (Nikon found it off slightly and it was perfect when it came back as many subsequent shoots proved out). Those 21/2.8 Distagons were sent back to Zeiss and were all MTF tested at the factory after my shoot, and only one was out of tolerance and not by much. A small error in the camera alignment can combine with a small error in the lens to make things additively worse or slightly better. Moreover things can change with focusing distance as elements change position and orientation internally.

Update 2

Up in the Sierra Nevada today Jun 17, I shot the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 APO-Distagon on the side of an old building. No skew.

The Otii are held to very tight tolerances, best in the industry IMO. I’m wondering if the camera is fine or just a tiny bit off and what I’m seeing is tolerances (“performing to specifications”) on multiple lenses: maybe “in spec” has not changed much since the days of 12-24 megapixel cameras, yet we are now at 50MP. It might even be the case that the manufacturing process for many lenses cannot be reliably implemented to the tolerances needed for 50MP.

Update 3

Further examination of images from various lenses leads me to conclude that the camera is not likely to be at fault. I’d love to have a 2nd camera body, but the 5DS R remains in short supply. But in a week or so I’ll send it to Canon, and Canon has the sophisticated gear to test sensor/flange parallelism.

B&H for Everything Nikon
diglloyd Nikon reviews in DAP

Leica Q: Climbing Mt Dana from Sun to Hail to Rain to Sun Again

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

Leica Q

I had frustrations with the autofocus being disabled with the leveling view and thus the variety and hit rate of my images was reduced, but nothing beats assessing the end results with real-world shooting on a mission for which the Leica Q was designed: a highly portable full-frame camera with excellent dynamic range and superb color rendition suitable for any kind of documentary photography, as well as rapidly changing lighting. The superb metering (aperture priority) and high-grade EVF and fast response time are strong qualities that I enjoyed.

This series of images documents a climb up Mt Dana in Yosemite National Park on a truly exceptional July day that went from sun to dark clouds to hail to rain and fog and back to sun. An incredible treat!

Leica Q Examples: Climbing Mt Dana

I climbed the peak with my daughter (her first real climb), and many of the images include her. The experience reminded me that including a human being in a landscape photo often makes a more interesting image, lending scale and perspective. This I already knew of course, but over the years I had semi-forgotten it—I almost always hike alone in wild places, getting the job done when it needs to be done.

Self-timer and autofocus behaviors aside, the Leica Q succeeds at what I perceive to be its core mission of offering high quality imagery in a very compact package, the main weak point being sharpness at the periphery due to the extreme optical distortion that requires correction, which degrades the fine details. But it is the overall visual impact that makes the end result so attractive. Now if only Leica would improve the experience by fixing a few annoying behaviors that frustrate ease of use—get the camera out of the way, don’t make it a roadblock.

I would like a Leica Q, but they aren’t exactly giving them away. My curiosity is piqued for the Sony A7R II. I know the A7R II will have its own annoying issues, and how that balances out against the Q remains to be seen. But of course the A7R II has interchangeable lenses including the superlative Zeiss Batis line.

View towards Mono Lake from north ridge of Mt Dana
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Hail peppers climbers descending Mt Dana, delivering auditory and tactile and olfactory delights while the eyes feast on the sunlit Mt Conness and Saddlebag Lake area.

Mt Dana Hailstorm with view to Mt Conness in sunlight
__METADATA__

UPDATE: Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts CONFIRMED by Leica, to be fixed with firmware update

Get Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 at B&H Photo.

I reported Leica M Monochrom Typ 246: “Black Dot in White Spot” Artifacts about 6 weeks ago. Leica contacted me about the issue, and I provided a DNG to Leica, one of many with the spots. Today I received a brief note from Leica as follows:

We have found the root cause and plan to make a firmware update that avoids this effect.

It seems that all images I shot with the flaw are permanently damaged with these dots. Meanwhile, everyone with a Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 presumably will be recording images with spots. But whether the flaw exists in every MM246—this I do not know and Leica has not so indicated. Every vendor can deliver a camera with flaws, and I am pleased that Leica will be fixing the issue—that’s the key thing—a fix. But it is immaterial to me as I do not own or plan to purchase the Leica M Monochrom 246 (cannot be justified on an ROI basis).

How is it that I detected the black spot issue with my very first evaluation shoot and no one else noticed it? While I have an odd “Bermuda Triangle” effect on camera and computer gear, the fact that no one noticed the issue prior to shipping the MM246 raises some questions about quality control and testing. Leica has never asked me to test their cameras and that’s just fine, but my suggestion to Leica is to develop relationships with testers competent to evaluate image quality before releasing a camera or lens. I was also the first to blow the whistle on the severe flare issues with the 50mm f/2 APO (my findings were rejected by at least one expert unable to use his own eyes, but later that year Leica stopped production to fix “4 minor issues” with the design, and it is much improved now as the issues were far from minor). Leica never acknowledged my reporting on that issue, so I am glad that Leica took the initiative in contacting me about this black spots issue.

Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (actual pixels)
Black-dot-in-white-spot artifacts in Leica M Typ 246 image (200% of actual pixels)
Aura SSD for 2013 Mac Pro

Leica Q: Autofocus Fails Permanently (well, actually a weird cross-coupling of AF to info display)

Get Leica Q at B&H Photo.

Leica Q

Update 14 July: upon returning home, I discovered that AF is working, but with a confusing twist that precluded me from using autofocus while out in the field. Details further below.

Today I climbed Mt Dana with my daughter. It was an important day to me, this being our first summit climb together, ever. I took the Leica Q for its relatively compact size and light weight.

But the Leica Q (with about 40 frames on it from new) failed. Its AF system went AWOL and power cycling the camera and pulling the battery numerous times did nothing to restore AF functionality. I was left with a brand-new $4250 camera that could not autofocus.

While readers know that I often use manual focus, this is not so easy with dark sunglasses and varying light conditions and a moving subject (and balancing on rocks). So the Q failed miserably to deliver what I needed this day.

Fortunately, knowing that every Leica camera has failed me more than once (S and M and now Q), I was not a complete idiot. I took along the superlative and far, far less expensive Ricoh GR, which performed admirably and with a built-in flash for flash fill to boot. I still shot the Q with manual focus for some things, but it lost me some shots due to the delay and subject movement.

I did use the Q for the summit shot on a mini tripod, pre-focusing manually. The Q endeared itself by forcing me to re-enable the self-timer for every shot, shuttling back and forth over slippery icy rocks. The lack of insight into real photography at Leica is appalling: this situation is hardly uncommon (group shots on a tripod or similar). The other annoying behavior is getting 4 or 5 frames instead of 1 frame by going from S to C when turning the camera on (in the real world, I'm hiking, have gloves on, etc). And its propensity to drain 1/4 of its battery overnight. Look, if you’re a street shooter walking out of your hotel or whatever and then back to a dinner and coffee, maybe the Q works for you. Out on the trail, this stuff gets frustrating, fast.

UPDATE 14 July

Back home, I could not get the camera to autofocus with any conventional setting (spot focus, face detect, etc). But then I noticed that touch focus works. And then that the rear button performs AF. But not the shutter release.

Finally I realized that toggling through the info settings (center button on 4 way dial) has 2 of 3 display modes that disable autofocus with the shutter release. One of those modes has the horz/vert level display. Since I shoot almost exclusivley with the screen with the leveling function enabled, and this is one of the three AF-disabled views, the camera would never autofocus! I never considered the idea that the info display on the rear LCD would also mysteriously coupled in a way that enables or disables autofocus.

Apparently this is as-designed and can be classified as RTFM (which I did, but somehow if this is described, I missed it). There is a setting Zoom/Lock-Button which I had set to AFL. But it is not AF-lock, it is AF disableforever, even after camera power offs or the battery removed (unlike the self timer which unsets itself at every shot!). Adding to the confusion, this center button toggles the rear LCD 3 ways, while simultaneously locking or unlocking the chosen function. This coupling of display info to a locking function is a bizarre design choice that baffles me. What does locking focus or exposure have to do with toggling the rear display info?

The solution seems to be to set Zoom/Lock-Button = Digital Zoom, which seems to have no ill effects and to allow AF with the leveling functionl. This makes no sense at all to me, but it works.

UPDATE 15 July

Leica contacted me to say this:

The info setting button on the backside of the camera should not deactivate the AF in any setting. It is just a switch between video rec info, still info and clear display.

As the behavior of your camera sounds strange we would suggest to return to camera to the Leica service for deeper evaluation.

DIGLLOYD: the behavior is consistent: when Zoom/Lock-Button = AFL, pressing the button inside the 4-way controller* toggles the info screens and disables AF in the two non-video modes. When Zoom/Lock-Button = AEL /AFL is used, the AF system operates as expected via the shutter release.

* The Set button labeled #31 in schematic in the manual, the 4-way controller being the Direction Pad.

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