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Leica T System on the way

I’m unsure if there is Low T here among subscribers, but I’ve delayed my field work (trip to the mountains) because the Leica T system is on the way, expected August 5th. I wanted to cover it along with the Nikon D810 and Pentax 645Z.

Regrettably, the Leica M-adapter T is backordered and so I won’t be able to shoot Leica M lenses on it during this trip unless an adapter shows up in the next day or two.

Also, I’ve pondered this crossover camera placement within the Guides. Being a full-fledged interchangeable Leica lens system and also supporting M lenses, review coverage will go into Guide To Leica along with Leica M and Leica S.

  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Leica T (rear)
  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Leica T (rear)

 

FOR SALE: eSATA Gear

See my for-sale post over at MPG.

What’s the Best Lens for Micro Four Thirds?

Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH
Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH

Get Panasonic lenses for Micro Four Thirds at B&H Photo.

In my view, the best lens available today for the Micro Four Thirds format is the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH; see my review of the Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH in Guide to Mirrorless.

The 42.5/1.2 is now being offered with a $100 instant savings through August 2nd.

Also on my “must have” list for M4/3 are the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 Summilux and Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A vs Nikon 50/1.4G and 50/1.8G (Nikon D810)

Get at B&H Photo: Nikon D810, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A, Nikon AF-S 50mm

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This 3-way comparison on the Nikon D810 pits the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A against Nikon’s two 50mm autofocus lenses, the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G and the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G.

The scene and focus and so on were carefully arranged so as to show off the behaviors.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A on Nikon D810 vs Nikon 50/1.4G and 50/1.8G (Decorated Fat Bike)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and seven large crops, all across the ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/16 aperture range.

  Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8
Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A @ ƒ/2.8

Nikon D810: Things Yet to be Covered

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Several readers have asked about particular areas still to be covered with the Nikon D810. Some of these I have deferred because they involve the D800E, and I want Adobe Camera Raw to be final before engaging in the laborious task of publishing, only to find that ACR final is different from ACR beta (unlikely but possible).

Here are some areas I have planned:

  • Hot pixel evaluation. Credible evidence has emerged that the D810 might suffer unduly from hot (stuck-on bright) pixels. My D800E had some; I had Nikon map them out (all cameras have them and all can map them out).
  • High ISO behavior vs Nikon D800E. The Nikon D810 might be optimized for low ISO and be a little less good at high ISO (e.g., ISO 3200 and 6400). TBD. Again, ACR is an issue here.
  • Sharpness: is the D810 any sharper than the D800E? This is a tricky one requiring exacting and repetitive cross checking. Not looking forward to this for that reason.
  • Shutter shake: is the D810 shutter better damped than the D800E? (for those conditions when the electronic first curtain option of the D810 is not viable).
  • General field shooting and behavior.
  • Dynamic range under extreme field conditions.
  • Night shots.
  • Discussion of the D810 settings and menu options.
  • ... and whatever else is observed in the field.

Purchased the NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD Display

Get NEC EA244UHD at B&H Photo.

The NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD display became indispensible for my work, so I bought one because it solves certain needs I have for my work.

I use it daily attached to my MacBook Pro Retina for the following:

  • As a preview workstation for all site content, particularly UltraHD images.
  • High resolution (double resolution) screen shots.
  • Its sheer beauty—a 24-inch 3840 X 2160 display has such high pixel density that no pixels can be seen; it’s like a huge 'chrome'. Eye-popping 8 megapixel images aside, text is unbelievably smooth and beautiful too.

See my in-depth review of the NEC EA244UHD 4K UltraHD Display including how I calibrated it and the wide color gamut.

NEC has larger models coming late this year or early 2015 (not sure which), but the EA244UHD is available now at a reasonable price. This is a good way to enjoy 4K quality and for me it actually solves a need too.

At present, only two Mac models support 4K displays: the 2013 Mac Pro and the late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina 'Crystal Well'.

NEC EA244UHD UltraHD 4K display
NEC EA244UHD UltraHD 4K display

Nikon D810 In Stock at B&H

Nikon D810 is in stock at B&H Photo as this was written. I’m told it’s a small batch, so grab one quick if you’re after one.

YAYF: Yet Another Yosemite Fire

Get Pentax 645 and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

I had planned to do some field shooting with the Nikon D810 and Pentax 645Z in Yosemite National Park starting late this week, and some trout-eating too, but it surely will have to be the White Mountains and more easterly areas instead (smoke from Yosemite usually does not migrate to the White Mountains, though it does get into Owens Valley—see Dennis Mattinson’s 395 Travel website).

  Smoke over Half Dome in Yosemit, 2014-07-28 at 07:53 AM
Smoke over Half Dome in Yosemite, 2014-07-28 at 07:53 AM

Pentax 645Z vs Nikon D810: Overarching Thoughts on Two Fine Cameras

Get Pentax 645 and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z, I share my overall thoughts on the Pentax 645Z versus the Nikon D810.

  Pentax 645Z   Nikon D810
Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810

The Future of Peak Image Quality Means Fixed-Lens Cameras

I wrote this piece 1 year and one week ago. Here it is again, not quite verbatim but close, since not much has changed..

...

Shown below are five fixed-lens cameras (click on each for more info or review link).

Four of these cameras use an APS-C sensor, and the Sony RX1 is full-frame (130% larger in area). All of them are fixed lens cameras, and all restrain lens speed to keep size and weight down, but are versatile enough for shooting at dusk (with the possible exception of the Leica X Vario).

Discussion continues below.

Get compact cameras at B&H Photo.

Ricoh GR   Sigma DP1 Merrill   Sigma DP1 Merrill   Nikon Coolpix A Nikon Coolpix A
Ricoh GR and Sigma DP1 Merrill and
Leica X Vario and Nikon Coolpix A
Sony RX1

Why a fixed lens?

From my work with these cameras, I can say that all of them set high standards in imaging sharpness that is remarkable (but Leica X Vario I have not tested).

A fixed lens allows:

  • A more compact, more lightweight design.
  • A lens totally optimized for for the sensor*; the rear of the lens can be 1mm from the sensor if need be**; no constraints on internal space or lens shape or diameter. Field use proves this out.
  • No dust intrusion from changing lenses.
  • Less expensive to manufacture and simpler to design (no lens mount to design, no planning for some future higher resolution sensor or different sensor type, etc).
  • Lower market risk; no commitment to a lens line or lens mount, great way to float a trial balloon (seems to be Sony’s approach with the RX1).
  • Very high quality in small size; people want this. Lugging around a DSLR is not something most people want to do or ought to do; DSLRs are bad solutions for most people.

* Based on what I see, no interchangeable lens camera yet offers the high performance one sees in the best fixed-lens cameras. Probably because of design compromises. The only exception being the huge and heavy Olympus SHG lenses.

** Interchangeable lenses in theory could also project all the way into the body cavity, but this would mean a rather awkward rear end “plug” and lens cap and probable risk of damage to lens or camera internals. No vendor designs lenses this way, at least not yet.

Extra lenses, or fixed lens

A fixed lens restricts choices, and that is a good thing: it focuses the creative aspect by simplifying to the essentials. One learns perspective and composition much better with a fixed lens: a zoom makes most people get lazy: standard there and zoom; this is typically a failure. Not saying it cannot work, but I am saying it is likely more a hindrance to good photography than a help (counterpoint: certain tasks make a zoom lens mandatory).

Carrying extra lenses can be more awkward than carrying two small cameras. And two focal lengths cover the majority of shooting situations. More is less in my experience; 3+ lenses becomes a burden and generates creative confusion too much of the time.

I hope to see the fixed-lens trend continue. In particular, I would like to see other focal lengths with the Ricoh GR, perhaps 19mm and 40mm (equiv). Sigma has done this already with the DP Merrill line with 28mm, 45mm, 75mm (equiv) choices. I’d also like to see a 24mm version of the Sony RX1", because 35mm is too narrow a field of view for many of my uses.

Micro Four Thirds

Ironically, the format most suited to the fixed-lens approach (due to the modestly sized sensor)—Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) format—has dropped the ball: the potential exists for fixed-lens M4/3 cameras with perfect image quality at ƒ/2. Will it even survive as a viable format in any mainstream way? I have serious doubts, but the right cameras would allay that concern. Instead, hardly anything interesting happens while APS-C aggressively gets more interesting and raises quality to high levels.

Instead, we get M4/3 lenses that are good but hardly exciting and lag what cameras like the Ricoh GR can deliver—all with a far smaller sensor which itself compromises peak quality. Without compelling fixed-lens offerings (small, lighter, perfect lens performance at ƒ/2, ideally ƒ/1.4), the format loses considerable appeal. The M4/3 format might well wither without this breadth, because the fixed-lens APS-C cameras like the Ricoh GR are compelling in size, weight and image quality. And the build costs do not vary much between formats.

Leica X Vario

Sigma DP1 Merrill
Leica X Vario

What Leica has done with the X Vario is pursue high-grade image quality in a zoom. But to accomplish that quality, the lens speed has been severely compromised, and the camera remains far too large for pocketability.

I would rather see a Bi-Elmarit design with 24mm and 35mm settings (Elmarit = ƒ/2.8); this ought to be achievable in a similar size. The slow speed means that the best light of the day (dusk) is unshootable with the Vario X handheld at ISO 200. And there is greatly reduced opportunity for subject isolation (small aperture), hence creative uses are restricted.

But the real issue is that the X-Vario is essentially a DSLR in awkwardness: cannot be pocketed, on the heavy side and Leica’s idea of usability and features pales compared to a Ricoh GR. And then there is the price: $2850 and that’s before the $500 low-res optional Leica VF-2 EVF.

DSLR

Which brings us to DSLRs: lens design is compromied by a mirror box. Sony is making strides in this area, but no vendor has comitted to a full-frame design with a new wide diameter lens flange along with lenses that seat deep into the body cavity. Hence most lens designs remains compromised for that mirror box offset, making them lower performance, larger and heavier, at least for wide angle designs.

In 2014 this began to change with mirrroless lenses for the full-frame Sony A7/A7R/A7s trio, and more designs can be expected. But as of summer 2014, Nikon and Canon are still in the same rut as ever.

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Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH: $900 Price Rise

Get Leica M at B&H Photo.

Roy P writes:

Wow, the Leica 50mm APO is now $8,250, almost a grand higher...

Thanks for your timely reminder, I ordered one for $7,350 (through your
site
, of course). Still on back order, but my price is locked in!

Geeze. How do you make $7,350 look cheap? Raise prices to $8,250.

DIGLLOYD: My Guide to Leica has an in-depth review of the 50/2 APO, including the severe flare issues with the original production lenses, now resolved with the latest model.

As with my original copy, my replacement copy is *also* skewed left/right (focus is closer on the right side quite significantly). For this pricing I expect perfection not flaws. But my experience with Leica M is that quality control is not at all good (at least half of brand-new lenses have had an issue).

The Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon is no less good a lens (better IMO), twice the speed, and half the price with tighter quality control, albeit 4X the size and 3.5X the weight.

Victor B writes:

You are so spot on to be more than annoyed with outlandishly expensive lenses showing skewing - even slight - at those price points. I've toyed with purchasing the 50mm f2.0 Apo-Summicron but no more. You have convinced me that even at that price Leica can't control their QC.

I've just sent my second Schneider Digitar lens back to Germany for repair/replacement (60mm f5.6 Apo Digitar - currently $5700.00). It had severe skewing with the right side crisp and the left side mush. The only bright point regarding this is that Schneider is very conscientious regarding these types of repairs/replacements.

As I've written previously my Otus went back to Zeiss and is currently being replaced with a new copy. This is really expensive stuff that shouldn't be subject to these issues. A real shame as it requires all sorts of extra testing/returning/replacing that is time consuming and tries my patients. Keep up the good rant!!

DIGLLOYD: no brand is perfect, but I go by long experience in what I’m saying, not just one-offs.

A conversation with Ming Thein on the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810 and More

Get Pentax 645 and Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

Easier to read with black on white, use the Color Scheme control above.

A chat today with Ming Thein of MingThein.com, a professional photographer half way around the world (from me) whose work is excellent and writng is equally solid. He has his own shooting needs, and his The Nikon D810 review: a worthy D800E upgrade? is worth a read.

This chat is a little rough, but it was unscripted and unedited and with chat there is some overlap (out of order) as one person types/responds to a prior.

Perhaps we’ll do more if readers find it enjoyable (update: yes, very positive feedback).

Transcript

diglloyd: My first thought on the 645Z is lenses.

Ming Thein: Same - or rather the lack of?

diglloyd: or rather lens selection. The lack of more than a few (if that) really good lenses. the 90/2.8 macro is really good, but are there others of that grade?

Ming Thein: The SDMs are the best of the bunch - yes, the 90 is outstanding, the 55 is not bad - much better stopped down, and the 25 gets there by f8.

diglloyd: On the 25...

Ming Thein: I would say it probably matches the Zeiss 2.8/21 by f8. But sample variation is a disaster.

diglloyd: My test showed that it cannot match the Zeiss 21/2.8 at any aperture. But I had one sample and you had four? Seems like probability for a mediocre $5K lens is way, way too high. Compared to Zeiss Otus which holds very tight tolerances in manufacturing.

Ming Thein: And that's the troubling thing. The first sample would not focus to infinity and was clearly astigmatic. The second one was astigmatic. The third was not bad. The final one is pretty good.

diglloyd: I’d expect fairly strong astigmatism in it as a wide in any case.

Ming Thein: At least, the one I purchased matches my 2.8/21. I think we have to remember it's a 19mm-e on 44x33 but covering full 645 though. And that's pretty darn wide, even though it doesn't seem to render as such.

diglloyd: But the thing is, where is the 15/2.8 and 25/2 or 25/2.8 equivalent... no T/S, etc. That’s the rub.

Ming Thein: Or leaf shutter lenses.

diglloyd: True enough though the 645Z it’s 21mm equiv exactly across the long side.

Ming Thein: But in all fairness, Hassy and P1 don't have these either. Hassy has the 1.5x HTS, Phase has one Schneider 120 macro TS, and that's about it. My bad, was thinking diagonal.

diglloyd: Heck I’d like to see leaf shutters on a DSLR.

Ming Thein: You can have it. It's called Leica S.

diglloyd: IMO the very best glass is Leica S.

Ming Thein: And then you can also be broke. Well...I think the Otus gives it a run for its money. At least it will when the lineup is complete - and at f1.4 instead of 2.5, and half the price (or less).

diglloyd: The lenses would be OK (buy used), but the S body is an OMG and way beyond me.

Ming Thein: And that really demonstrates relative value, doesn't it? The 645Z is what, one third the price of an S?

diglloyd: Yes, the Otus is faster by more than a stop even in format equivalent terms. Otus is no less good than S lenses that I can see. Frustrating. Yes, GREAT sensor, and Ricoh has those controls (mostly) nailed. Thoughtful design.

Ming Thein: Personally, it seems MF in general is not really there, for any system.

diglloyd: I’d agree. I’d like to see Leica offer S glass for a variety of MF bodies. backfocal distance a problem with current designs though (precludes adapter at least). But that 645Z sensor is a nice piece of work. But results are sensor/electronics + lenses (plus of course the wetware behind the camera).

Ming Thein: I've tried Hassy V film and digital, Hassy H, Leica S, and now P645. Each has some pretty significant drawbacks - V tops out at 1/500s, has no wides and has to deal with a body designed for square and digital backs that are rectangular. Hassy H feels terrible ergonomically and just operates very clunkily. Leica S is eye wateringly expensive, the sensor lets the whole thing down compared to the competition, and the S2 I used had some serious FW bugs - it wouldn't write anything to card subsequently if you changed ISO whilst it was saving. P645 lacks lenses and leaf shutters, but has the best sensor and ergonomics of the lot. Phase One...well, nobody from them ever replied any of my emails, so I wouldn't know. I'd say customer service is a bit of a disaster in Asia...

diglloyd: Seems like Zeiss is the perfect fit for MF like Pentax 645Z: Otus grade for MF. Tiny market though and is it needed? Who *needs* the 645Z.

Ming Thein: Honestly? Very few people could even really maximize the potential.

diglloyd: Agreed on those systems. BUT... Leica S could conceivably go to 50 or even 80 MP and that would start to look more compelling.

Ming Thein: I personally think the 645Z should really be shot like a DSLR, not a MF camera for best results: because it'll give you MF results where you couldn't even come close before. And THAT is interesting, in my book - both pictorially and technically.

diglloyd: Agreed. 645Z feels like a big Nikon to me.

Ming Thein: There's no 80MP 33x44 sensor - yet. And the 50MP sensor would make it equal to the H5D-50C, IQ250, 645Z etc. - but probably at the same price as the P1 or more. Actually...I prefer the 645Z. Nikon still haven't mastered the art of mirror lockup.

diglloyd: There will be... and S glass should hold up.

Ming Thein: Self timer = auto mirror up. What's so difficult about that?

diglloyd: Ricoh did execute really well. It’s so *obvious* so why do so many vendors do it wrong.

Ming Thein: At 80MP on that sensor size, we're talking ~45-50MP on FX - that's diffraction limited by f5.6-8. I don't know how useful that's going to be practically, to be honest.

diglloyd: But Ricoh screwed up like everyone else on one point: why is there a 30 sec limit on exposure time without jumping through hoops when the sensor can do an hour with aplomb.

Ming Thein: Many things are obvious, but laziness, inertia, and design by consortium seem to be the main causes. Ricoh and the GR are a good example of doing it right - there's really *nothing* to fault about that UI. Put the camera in B or T

diglloyd: I see 80MP in that size as debayering cleanup in large part.

Ming Thein: One press to open, one press to close. But yes, timed multi-minute options would be nice. One stop increments at that point would be fine, too.

diglloyd: B doesn’t cut it: who presses the button? I’m in the cold at 30°F the wind is blowing and I’m gonna **#$848#$ stand around to press a button?

Ming Thein: I suppose there's that wireless card + app. I see that as being useful for landscape work. You DID walk out in the cold 30F wind in the first place... I have a Norwegian student who says there's no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing.

diglloyd: Yeah you can always carry extra crap along... that’s what I’m forced to do with the Nikon.. carry an MC-36 whose battery is always low.! Give that Norwegian student 30 more years and a pot gut and we’ll see.

Ming Thein: Speaking of batteries, I'm finding my Nikons seems to be self-discharging of late - all of them. New batteries especially. I wonder what's up with that - down 10% or more after letting them sit for a week. He's 60.

diglloyd: Point is, so EASY to just allow user to select 60 or 90 or whatever: Ricoh GR goes to 5 minutes piece of cake built in.

Ming Thein: And with an ND filter, but that's another thing altogether.

diglloyd: all right, give him 30 more years! :;

Ming Thein: He'll be dead (probably) Speaking of ND filters, the 25mm is a bit of a disaster: ultra thin drop in NDs are required in an odd size - good luck finding them. I haven't been able to.

diglloyd: The lens is supplied with one, isn’t it?

Ming Thein: CPOL.

diglloyd: Well, then you have a 1.5 stop ND that cuts glare huh.

Ming Thein: But sometimes you want a bit of reflection.

diglloyd: Odd that no screw on front. Zeiss can do a 15/2.8 with screw-in front, so it’s a design thing that need not have been done that way. Absolute... “dead” things creepy if too much POL.

Ming Thein: I admit I'm mostly just being difficult because I've never used an ND much before on wides, but I could see experiments I'd like to try - especially with 1h exposures.

diglloyd: Did this piece and many others... definitely do not want too much polarizer off. diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140120_1-polarizer-choices.html

Ming Thein: Agreed.

diglloyd: Haven’t tried but does the 645Z have a (non) ISO 50?

Ming Thein: No, 100 is the lowest. Let me double check.

diglloyd: I do like ISO 64 on the D810. Very impressive quality. ISO 31 (non ISO) is soft though, not appealing.

Ming Thein: Yes. 100 is the lowest. Is 64 better than 100 on the D800E?

diglloyd: I keep wondering if Nikon went to a mirrorless design accepting current F lenses and made a 36 X 32 sensor... many lenses would work quite well I bet. Otus 55/1.4 would.

Ming Thein: Trouble is, other than for long exposure work or video or extremely fast lenses and tropical noon, I can't imagine wanting less shutter speed - especially given more shutter speed = less shake...

diglloyd: YES, 64 is definitely better. Not that 100 is bad, but the first inklings of noise show up at 100.

Ming Thein: Are we talking the D810 or the D800E here?

diglloyd: ISO study of D810: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140720_2318-NikonD810-noiseISO-fruit.html

Ming Thein: 30x30 square!

diglloyd: Along with chroma noise reduction: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140723_0900-NikonD810-noiseISOChroma-fruit.html Yes, that too. Or maybe 32 X 32 to push it. D810

Ming Thein: Would you say it's a noticeable step up over the D800E? As in: given what you're likely going to lose selling a D800E, and have to pay to upgrade...

diglloyd: Well, D810 high ISO superb too up to 3200 or so, and one must keep in mind reproduction size which relates to number of pixels. Yes, D810 step up... both operationally already saving me time and image quality a notch higher too. Hard to quantify though.

Ming Thein: If you keep doing this I'm going to send you a bill later.

diglloyd: I’m gonna sell my D800E and buy the D810.

Ming Thein: The thought of doing the mirror realignment dance doesn't excite me though.

diglloyd: Tear the mirror out and use LV only with that EVF non option?

Ming Thein: I've spent so long making manual focus usable on my D800E pair that I am really loathe to sell and do it again.

diglloyd: It’s time to lose the mirror as one option.

Ming Thein: I'd go for that. But I don't know if Nikon has the balls, frankly.

diglloyd: Don’t sell it then. D800E remains a strong camera. My needs involve precision so I have to have the best Live View and no vibration electronic shutter and so on. Not the same as street. Nikon is female. The quiet shutter is a big plus on the D810.

Ming Thein: Well, most of what I shoot commercially is stopped down on a tripod with controlled lights. The street-urban type work is mainly for teaching and personal entertainment.

diglloyd: then you want a D810 for its operational behavior in LV.

Ming Thein: Mirror/ shutter vibration was and is a big deal on the D800E. Does the D810's mirror buy you any extra handholdability?

diglloyd: Massively better Live View on D810: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140719_2030-NikonD810-LiveView.html

Ming Thein: I must be the only person who's never had an issue with the D800E's LV. I honestly view the mirror as a much bigger impediment to IQ

diglloyd: Well, see my actual photos of both. D800E = hideous mangled blurred view. D810 = clear.

Ming Thein: That's significantly better.

diglloyd: Mirror handheld shooting? Cause on a tripod not involved with MLU.

Ming Thein: It's a wonder I could make sharp photos at all with LV!

diglloyd: Have a drink or two first for tharp pictures.

Ming Thein: No, the mirror mechanism - Nikon claimed less vibration, which should theoretically improve handholdability. Tripod is academic.

diglloyd: Have not evaluated that... but the D810 seems nicely quiet.

Ming Thein: I'm finding 1/125s is the borderline for consistently sharp hand-holding with the Otus, but my hands aren't that steady.

diglloyd: Maybe that quietness is the mirror damping you refer to.

Ming Thein: Yes and no. Cameras like the F6 have a loud mirror but surprisingly good damping.

diglloyd: I can shoot down to 1/15 and with 3 or 4 frames get one tack sharp. I call it mass coupling: http://diglloyd.com/index-msi.html#LiveView

Ming Thein: Others have a loud mirror and poor damping (Sony A850, for instance) 1/15 is on a tripod or handheld + LV?

diglloyd: Agreed... but one expects some correlation with similar era design.

Ming Thein: I think if one used an LCD magnifier + LV you could probably get much lower than with the finder.

diglloyd: handheld: couple the camera to the slow-moving body.

Ming Thein: Actually, I think the correlation is all cost related... The F6 was/ is expensive. And has no digital bit, either. So all that cost has to go somewhere...and I doubt it's margin, given the lowish volume.

diglloyd: possibly, but it’s all about eliminating high frequency vibes... and mass coupling (holding technique) can do that. It can’t damp the mirror I suppose. Some canon bodies better that way I think. Makes sense. Mass market era even at $3K.

Ming Thein: Talking about high frequency - to me, that remains a problem with mirrorless: all of them still have this shutter shock problem.

diglloyd: and half of cost is electronics so physical stuff gets shorted.

Ming Thein: Precisely. EFC solves it to some extent, but introduces other compromises like rolling shutter artefacts or no drive modes.

diglloyd: Sony A7 in EFC mode has no shutter shock. Nor Sigma Merrills, etc. leaf shutters (all). But you know that.

Ming Thein: Sigmas use a leaf shutter. The A7 would still have rolling shutter issues, no?

diglloyd: Yeah but Sony A7 does not and can be shot all the time in EFC mode. Rolling shutter issues for still frames? That’s a real concern?

Ming Thein: At high shutter speeds/ fast moving objects, yes

diglloyd: Sure... one can pop out to regular mode I suppose. But dusk in an alley....

Ming Thein: I can think of several situations in which I'd have had very strange results from a sequential readout shutter Also true Question is why didn't they put that EFC mode into the A7R, which needs it more...

diglloyd: Better to have option than not and hard vibrations (Sony A7R). CPU speed? or sensor limitation?

Ming Thein: The A7R has other issues, like data compression. And again lack of lenses.

diglloyd: Leica M has same problem as A7R, only somewhat less severe. Ruined all my long tele shots in the field. But that might change soon. 😊

Ming Thein: I wouldn't use an M for tele work. The EVF is silly, the RF useless above about 75mm, and that leaves you on a tripod. It seems that body hardware is progressing much faster than lens choices though. Lots of new systems, only M4/3 and Fuji seem to have fleshed everything out so far.

diglloyd: EVF is immensely useful to me on M (focus accuracy).

Ming Thein: True - but why bother with an RF at all then? You might as well use a D610 and live view. Or an A7/7R.

diglloyd: Back to D810: I see it as a workhorse. It’s not great by any means (so many “could have done this right”), but it is a true workhorse. Because red dot stickers are cheap.

Ming Thein: Isn't that pretty much true of most pro Nikons? I seem to always come back to one for serious work

diglloyd: M lenses are kinda nice at times.

Ming Thein: Because all of the system bits are there, and they get the job done. But I find them very difficult cameras to love

diglloyd: Kudos to Nikon for making something solid.

Ming Thein: It's only the Zeisses that give them some magic

diglloyd: Nikon makes too many easy things too hard. like it has always been. But need not be.

Ming Thein: Out of curiosity, is there any Nikon glass you like at all?

diglloyd: That’s a good point: today’s lab test for lenses are just a spreading malaise. Nikon glass... yes...

Ming Thein: A lot of photographers have forgotten how to use their eyeballs and brains.

diglloyd: Points to the 14-24 for an incredible zoom for when you need it (focus shift sucks at close range though).

Ming Thein: I actually don

diglloyd: eyeballs applied to web page charts. :;

Ming Thein: don't like the corners on that thing. And yes, I've used three of them, too.

diglloyd: Corners are good on 14-24. It has differential focus shift. http://diglloyd.com/index-msi.html#CaseStudiesFocusShift

Ming Thein: And some field curvature and CA too

diglloyd: Took me 2 years to figure out the friggin’ 14-24 behavior. See my differential focus shift case studies. It will clear up a lot. But... not that much I care to shoot on Nikon: not much magic.

Ming Thein: I find it easier and cheaper to mount my 21...

diglloyd: (Nikon lenses). Some very good, none great.

Ming Thein: I'm inclined to agree. I tested a 200/2 VRII recently - one was going second hand at my usual dealer - and was a little disappointed, especially compared to the 2/135 APO.

diglloyd: Well, the 14-24 has very low distortion in the 21-24mm range. Zeiss 21/2.8 I prefer also, but has wave distortion... all depends on subject I guess.

Ming Thein: That's what ACR profiles are for.

diglloyd: 200/2 is way overrated on sharpness. Good in central 1/2, then doggin’ it and f/5.6 - f/8 required. ACR can help but that micro contrast gets whacked by correcting. And that’s part of the Zeiss magic. Well, D810 sensor I’m not so sure is ideal yet.

Ming Thein: Oh? Personally, what I'm increasingly finding is that I'm matching one or two lenses to a body/ system and working that way - it seems necessary to get the best across the board. There's no longer a one-size-fits-all system as the pixel counts keep climbing.

diglloyd: Sensor cover glass non optimal.

Ming Thein: Interesting. What's the giveaway? Flare?

diglloyd: That works. I had to have my D800E bodies gone over special 2 years ago to get the sensor/mount aligned.

Ming Thein: And that's one of the reasons I'm loathe to get an 810 - QC seems so bad these days that I really don't want to go through that again. But maybe that's a working pro's standpoint: it works, it's reliable, clients are happy - why spend more to change?

diglloyd: Not flare... just less than peak sharpness that ought to be there. Otus is designed to all but eliminate it, but many lenses seem less good than I’d expected (e.g. older Nikkors). B&H Photo: 30 day returns. 😊; http://diglloyd.com/gear-nikon.html But easier here in USA.

Ming Thein: Older Nikkors just don't seem that good to me in general. Even my 58/1.2 NOCT really needs f2-2.8, and even then, it isn't even close to the Otus. It is smaller and cheaper though, I guess.

diglloyd: Yeah that’s part of it—just not that great. But I think some of the Zeiss wides are impaired slightly. NOCT need f/5.6! Had a cherry picked one... order of magnitude under Otus. But ‘style’ lens of course.

Ming Thein: I wonder if this pairing thing is just something we're going to have to get used to. GR for wide, D800E + Otus for the midrange or P645Z and 55/2.8, then back to Nikon again for anything over the 90

diglloyd: MF suffers badly in that regard.

Ming Thein: I bought it as an investment to go with my F2 Titan.

diglloyd: Keep it. I wish I had mine. Sharpness is not everything.

Ming Thein: That's the plan. I shoot that combination for fun and to decompress.

diglloyd: The Nikon 28/1.4 is not all that great either, but I loved the way it draws. Sold that too. Darn.

Ming Thein: And to remind me what a real camera should feel like. I actually came across a couple of those recently - I really don't like it, surprisingly. I prefer the 2/28 Distagon or the GR's rendition. The GR's lens-sensor combo is something very special too, I think.

diglloyd: Pentax 645Z is a “real” camera. My arm got tired shooting these portraits in 20 minutes http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140708_1542-Pentax645z-examples-portraits.html

Ming Thein: None of the Leica 28 options I've used can touch it (but not tried the new 28/1.4 ASPH, I should ask Sean Reid about it). I started doing weights. It helps.

diglloyd: Agreed, Zeiss 28/2 I prefer to. Different.

Ming Thein: Technically terrible though - field curvature and all - but the rendering is glorious.

diglloyd: Ricoh GR lens is really good but I bet it’s all hardware corrected... and so what, it’s a killer combo. Fixed lens cameras the answer to your “matching” thing. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130718_4-future-is-fixed.html

Ming Thein: I agree - too bad there aren't many options other than the Sigmas, which have terrible workflow.

diglloyd: Yeah, Zeiss 28/2 is classic design, but gorgeous for close/mid range environmental and such.

Ming Thein: For the quantity of throughput I have...workflow trumps that last 5% in IQ. I actually have concerns that a future Otus wide may be too clinical.

diglloyd: That DP2 Quattro... disappointed. Smearing. Ends the Merrill line. Maybe it’s software though (faint hope).

Ming Thein: I was told from an inside source that new SW and DPP are coming in the next week that should fix it.

diglloyd: I have not been successful in processing even one image on my Mac Pro with SPP 6. Every edit window pops up off screen.

Ming Thein: Played with one last couple of days - my printmaster here works with Sigma for various things - I was surprised by how slow it was and how noisy it was, too. Not much improvement over the Merrills that I can see, other than blue color accuracy.

diglloyd: I have some nice martian rocks for you.

Ming Thein: Now I've lost you.

diglloyd: SPP 6 leaves developer hooks in... sleep system... hang with password dialog to debug... shoddy work. Last comment on skepticism of “all will be fixed”. Two years of sending bug reports leaves me very cynical here.

Ming Thein: Is it just me, or do you feel like the first round of consumers are increasingly becoming beta testers these days?

diglloyd: increasingly?

Ming Thein: Yes. D800/D4 left AF issues, E-P5/M1 shutter shock, Leica M240 QC - lugs falling off (!) etc

diglloyd: Product = hardware + software. Vendors don’t get that. I meant that “increasingly” happened a few years ago. Absolutely! Except perhaps Nikon and maybe Canon.

Ming Thein: It just never seemed to be that way in the past. I didn't feel like the whole workflow was 'fragile' and things were broken/ needed fixing. My D200s just worked. My D2x just worked.

diglloyd: Well, I separate some things from manufacturing “surprises”.

Ming Thein: I didn't have to take the damn camera apart just to make it focus properly. I was surprised that my 645Z's mirror was aligned AND needed almost no AF fine tune.

diglloyd: Agreed. But I think we’re talking manufacturing tolerances on very high res here. Tolerances not upgraded to match resolution Nikon AF simply incapable of precision, period.

Ming Thein: I also don't hear as many issues with consumer grade cameras, though whether that's because of tighter automated machining tolerances or the users being less discriminating, I have no idea. Maybe it's worth buying a D3300 or something to find out.

diglloyd: Good results with 645Z focus, when it can actually focus and not hunt.

Ming Thein: That's also a possibility.

diglloyd: Could be lens designs made for higher tolerances for variation and not so good to begin with (in part).

Ming Thein: it also definitely seems like resolution has outstripped the ability of most tolerances to match it. I'm thinking of bodies, not just lenses

diglloyd: Yes. To see that, shoot Otus 55/1.4 on a D7100 or similar, focus with LV. Even that is not easy. Agreed: AF, planarity of sensor/mount (including many lens mount/unmount cycles, etc).

Ming Thein: Speaking of Otus and QC - I'm very, very impressed with how consistent they are. Leica are a bit of a disaster in that regard - as bad as Pentax. I've had 6 copies of the 50 Summilux ASPH, and only two were decent. Coatings separated off my 21/1.4 and 50/0.95. I gave up after that.

diglloyd: Leica M constant battle 3/4 lenses “off”. Ridiculous. Had to wait 2 months for my 18/3.8 SEM, still has same color fringing on left side only.

Ming Thein: I've had the chance to test three Otus 55s - they're identical in every way, as far as I can tell. Sounds like that's not just me, then.

diglloyd: Don’t get me started on 50/2 APO. My replacement is also skewed left/right (on another brand new body).

Ming Thein: I'm actually starting to think handmade is NOT a good thing. There's no way hand tolerances can consistently match or better a machine. Flare flare flare!

diglloyd: I’d agree. Zeiss Otus quality control very, very high. Probably best in industry. Regular Zeiss very good, but some variation. Still, much better than CaNikon.

Ming Thein: I cannot justify paying the $16,000+ (at least here) that an M240 and 50/2 APO would cost. Not when I could get an Otus AND a 645Z for the same money.

diglloyd: Not just flare: left/right skew too. Both copies, original and “hand picked” replacement. Go figure. Don’t forget the special edition version you really really want.

Ming Thein: I didn't see skew in my sample, but the flare was definitely there. The RF alignment...was a disaster. I was taking my camera apart in the middle of a market in Yangon. The red one?

diglloyd: I would like to see that new 28/1.4 though.

Ming Thein: Agreed - but only because I'm a sucker for 28mm. To be honest, my GR gives me better results than any Leica 28-e combo did.

diglloyd: Both 50/2 APOs have focus skewed forward on right. On two bodies for the first, one (brand-new replacement body for the 2nd).

Ming Thein: Leica must love you.

diglloyd: Any 28/1.4, I don’t care about the special edition.

Ming Thein: I can wait for the Otus version.

diglloyd: That’s why Leica always tell me “sure we can loan you X... in 9 months”. (for review).

Ming Thein: Hah! Nikon here do not loan me anything - which is why I've got so many questions on the D810. Apparently I do not merit loaners.

diglloyd: Otus will kick it’s ass anyway. Leica M designs have rampant field curvature for the f/1.4 designs. eg f/8 for the 35/1.4 Summilux at distance and be there. Nor me. No one wants to talk to honest reviewers. Zeiss IMO has the highest integrity in this regard. I have huge respect for them.

Ming Thein: I think part of that is deliberate - the field curvature - because otherwise you can't edge focus accurately with the RF; you've got to center focus and recompose.

diglloyd: what’s a rangefinder? :; (I use the crappy toy-grade EVF on the M240)

Ming Thein: Well, they're just shooting themselves in the foot long term: if everything is awesome, then credibility becomes an issue The Olympus one...

diglloyd: 50/2 APO is the right approach. They need to apply that idea across the line. But then I will have to abandon Leica (cost).

Ming Thein: I already have for cost and reliability. $8000 or whatever they're asking now for a 50/2 is madness. To bring things somewhat full circle again...what's your verdict on the 645Z and D810? Buy, or not buy? Upgrade, or not? Then the bigger, more interesting question is: does anybody really need either?

diglloyd: I am not buying the 645Z but I want to be very clear why...

Ming Thein: Personally, I'd give the 645Z a recommended rating with the qualification that the 'good' lenses need to work for you The sensor is utterly epic though

diglloyd: First, the cost. And for me, there is no ROI on buying one. Second the lens line. Third the D810 serves my particular needs for my site; the 645Z serves no purpose (I run though gear constantly, it would sit there with no purpose). Absolutely I rate the 645Z high. I’d *love* to have one with the 90/2.8 and a good 21/2.8 and something dunno in between.

Ming Thein: Diminishing returns

diglloyd: 90/2.8 alone would be OK. But spend $14K.... ?

Ming Thein: I admit the 'want' factor trumped most other considerations for me; I sold my CFV-39 to pay for it, and have an upcoming project that could use the resolution. But still...it's a tough justification.

diglloyd: Other problem: where would I shoot it? It fills my entire daypack, it’s a beast. Just no fun at all in the mountains. the Live View on the 645Z is a huge plus for any precision work, I would think that would dovetail with some stuff you do.

Ming Thein: Ironically I find it very difficult to justify the D810, even though the D800Es have been my workhorses. Mainly because the ergonomic changes are enough to annoy me (I use that metering switch a lot); I'd have to buy two, spend days sorting out mirrors and focusing screens, and on top of that...well, the D800E still does the job just fine.

diglloyd: No EVF on the 645Z is a problem too... presbyopia increasing nuisance so rear LCD requires loupe, etc. I agree with you, but my needs are quite different...

Ming Thein: Hah. I plan to shoot the 645Z handheld for corporate/ industrial documentary mainly. The D800Es are what I use for precision because of the macros and TS lenses. How is the D810 better with no EVF either? :P

diglloyd: D810 already reducing my error rate (Live View quality, faster turnaround on LV shots, no risk of vibration with the EFC shutter). It is not, but it is smaller and with far superior lens selection in quality and size. 😊 http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140626_2006-NikonD810-thoughts.html

Ming Thein: I think it's actually a very interesting sign that the market is moving this way: both of us would probably be served just fine by either if we had no choice; and the image quality is still miles beyond anything from several years ago. But there's so much choice it makes me wonder how camera makers are going to survive...

diglloyd: It’s about ergonomics, controls, operation, hit rate. In this regard, the Sony RX1R really nailed it for me.

Ming Thein: Didn't at all for me.

diglloyd: (with a Really Right Stuff grip)

Ming Thein: Actually, my highest hit rate cameras are...an Arca Swiss 4x5 and sheet film, and the GR.

diglloyd: In the field error rate for ad-hoc extremely (very very high hit rate). Gotta have the EVF and grip on the RX1R. Then it’s almost error free for me for ad-hoc shooting fun.

Ming Thein: The D800 is abysmal mainly because of shake and focusing. I'd rather have the GR. But I've never been a 35mm person. I'd probably be all over it if it was a 28, though

diglloyd: I’d like Ricoh to make a full-frame GR with 28mm f/2.8.

Ming Thein: Oh yes.

diglloyd: Me too. RX1R should have been 3 focals.

Ming Thein: With the D800E/810's sensor. Like the Sigmas? That approach actually makes a lot of sense. And the FL choices were sensible.

diglloyd: Well, matched lens to 56MP sensor and built in EVF, leaf shutter, built-in flash.

Ming Thein: Too many pixels.

diglloyd: Yes, like the Sigma Merrills. 56MP as 36 output or so will eliminate Bayer issues. Pixels aren’t just about detail.

Ming Thein: Or even half, down to 28MP. Yes, I know. Tonal information, DR and noise, too.

diglloyd: Yes. Any size you want: full, 3/4, 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4.

Ming Thein: Processing speed issues...

diglloyd: That’s the rub. 11+7 bit IMO no match for D810 14-bit

Ming Thein: I'd actually like to see a 100MP sensor with 4:1 binning - RGB and ND for extended dynamic range.

diglloyd: Not really. D810 files just fine for me. 645Z too. http://macperformanceguide.com/index_topics.html#MacPro2013

Ming Thein: On a full 6x6 chip for Hassy V, while we're at it.

diglloyd: Should be 36 X 2 X 2 (Sony RX100 density) http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130307_3-oversampling-RX100.html

Ming Thein: Try that with the 645Z. It makes my D4 look rubbish at 51,200. In fact, I honestly cannot think of a good reason why I still own the D4 at all. Other than because I like the ergonomics.

diglloyd: Or the Sigma DP Merrills. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130221_2-stitching-the-SigmaDP2Merrill.html D4 has a velvety look to its images. Very nice. But I don’t want a measly 16MP.

Ming Thein: The D4 has surprisingly high acuity given it still has an AA filter. 16MP was more than enough 5 years ago...our output forms haven't really changed, for the most part. Most people are still using them for social media or small prints.

diglloyd: seems to matter less on lower res cameras.

Ming Thein: I'm probably the only one resolution limited at 10x15" print area with the 645Z.

diglloyd: I personally enjoying seeing things I could not see while there. It’s just plain rewarding and fun.

Ming Thein: Not everybody is like us In fact, most aren't. Or we'd have that EVF 33x44 mirrorless camera with Otus AF lenses...

diglloyd: six feet wide with sigma as your printer knows works well I think. http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130802_3-SigmaDPMerill-printing-really-big-is-awesome.html could be Otus quality a lot smaller as a mirrorless

Ming Thein: True. Curved sensor too perhaps We can dream...

diglloyd: 44 X 33 ml would be hot. Wonder why Pentax does not do it (Ricoh GR MF!) Would be hot, hot, hot seller. Sony is the only vendor likely to do I think.

Ming Thein: Hmm...probably cost? At $5-7000 for a body, hmm. That said, I'd buy one. Good thing photographers are provided with two kidneys and other subdividable, transplantable organs.

diglloyd: which would be a bargain at $7K given what it is (lens + camera) compared to a 645Z

Ming Thein: True. Not a system though. And I was speculating at 7k - it may well be more like 10.

diglloyd: Two focals: 21mm and 28mm.

Ming Thein: I'd rather 28 and 40 or 55

diglloyd: Anyway, D810 great camera, 645Z terrific too, but so huge that it’s not for many: 645Z will just be left behind too often for me. What I’m hearing from readers is that D810 upgrade is worth it to them. It is for me, but maybe not for everyone—all depends on what and how you shoot.

Ming Thein: Looks like I'm going to somehow have to get my hands on one. I really enjoy the 645Z though. And the IQ is another notch up.

diglloyd: Me too. But I call it a “car or house camera”!

Ming Thein: But I agree: size and lenses mean more often than not I just bring one. You don't have 200% import tax on your cars, that's why.

diglloyd: BUT if all I were doing was landscapes or such stuff, and no other systems, I might go with one. That is not my situation. I buy my cars used too.

Ming Thein: Even if used. New has huge tax...used prices are commensurate. A two year old Honda Civic goes for about $30-35k here.

diglloyd: Couple of 645Z things bug me: the modal image review constant waste of time for me. A few others. 645Z has also failed to record images several times. Seems to happen after card format. wow! (car)

Ming Thein: I think there are options as to what you can access in image review - pretty much everything except browse others. No write issues here. Cameras by comparison are tax free...

diglloyd: no options without 3/4 chimping operations to get there and then back to histogram.

Ming Thein: Win some, lose some.

diglloyd: D810 cycles between 1/2/3/4/5 screens, your choice. 645Z cannot.

Ming Thein: I honestly think it's the way you have your playback options set. I can have my basic info + flashing highlights + single button zoom just fine It remembers my last playback info state on review

diglloyd: Fixable in firmware. But K3 has same headache. Big time waster for my shooting. Any flavor you want as long as its vanilla. Problem is cannot get to alternate info without menus presses. Then repeat that to go back to histogram. Too hard to describe here. Does not do it.

Ming Thein: You might be asking it to do something more complicated. Vanilla is fine for me.

diglloyd: I want to be able to cycle between RGB histogram, uncluttered view, basic info, flashing highlights. AFAIK cannot be done.

Ming Thein: Not easily, no. You can have one of those but not all easily.

diglloyd: Nikon D810 does it. And not complicated.

Ming Thein: So does every other Nikon since the D2H

diglloyd: Yes.

Ming Thein: Playback is the one thing they got right. A lot ...fail. Canon especially.

diglloyd: Not a show stopper. Just an annoyance. Every camera has its share.

Ming Thein: Well, if they didn't, we would stop buying and they'd all go out of business. In any case...it's been great chatting with you, but I'm going to have to call a halt because have to head out to meet a client shortly.

diglloyd: Worth noting: 645Z can Live View most anywhere in frame. That is not a given these days (center only on Leica M, fixed modal on Sigma, etc).

Ming Thein: The Nikons do anywhere also

diglloyd: Fun time! Bye Ming! And Canons and many others. But not Leica M. 😟 See ya. 😊

Ming Thein: It's handmade. Perfection. Just like the RF ;) Until next time! Thanks for the great chat.

diglloyd: Thank you too. 😊 Bye

Pentax 645Z: Underexposing and Pushing by Up To Six Stops

Get Pentax 645 at B&H Photo.

  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

This extensive real-world evaluation of noise includes:

  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB.
  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • Four large actual pixels crops ISO 100 to ISO 204800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.

In my review of the Pentax 645:

Pentax 645Z Pushing Up to ~6 stops (Fruit Arrangement)

Intermediate exposure values for pushes of 1/3/4/5/6 stops are shown along with two large crops that include RGB, gray gamma 2.2, red/green/blue color channels.

  Pentax 645Z at normal exposure vs 5 stops underexposed
Pentax 645Z at normal exposure vs 5 stops underexposed

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