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Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux ASPH: Focus Shift Study

Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH
Panasonic Leica
DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH

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

In Guide to Mirrorless I assess focus shift with the Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux.

Focus shift is detail is found in Making Sharp Images.

Focus shift is a destroyer of image sharpness in the sense that it dulls the micro contrast where the photographer intends it to “land”; the zone of peak sharpness is shifted in its entirety, generally to the distance.

  Dolls Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH @ ƒ/4
Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH @ ƒ/4

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)



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.

The Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux shares the brilliance and sharpness characteristics—with a twist.

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.


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
, 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.

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