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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 2X 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.

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.


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

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  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

Pentax 645Z: ISO and Noise from 100 to 204800

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  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 ISO 100 to 204800 (Fruit Arrangement, Natural Light)

  Nikon D810 at ISO 800
Pentax 645Z at ISO 800

Nikon D810: Chroma Noise Reduction Study from ISO 1600 to 12800

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  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Thanks to reader Sebastian B for suggesting this topic.

This study of chroma (color) noise is instructive and of excellent practical use for anyone shooting at high ISO (any camera).

In my review of the Nikon D810:

Chroma Noise Reduction ISO 3200 to 12800 (Otus Fruit)

Included are large RGB crops along with the red/green/blue color channels, gray gamma 2.2 as well as further revealing analysis of what chroma noise reduction does, using the L/a/b channels of Lab color mode.

The Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) setting used is also shown.

  Chroma noise reduction at ISO 12800, Nikon D810
Chroma noise reduction at ISO 12800, Nikon D810

Dr. S writes:

Your study/article of chroma noise reduction in the D810 is superb and so darn helpful. In the past I have dealt mostly with luminance reduction to remove noise but your images tell a different story, one that will change the way I process nearly all files.... and, BTW, your sharpening levels are higher than I would use....but not any more. My ways will change!

For those who would comment and be proud to proclaim they wouldn't pay for info on a blog..I say.......%^&%^! This one article is worth 2 years of admission!... but don't let my comment go to your head -:)

DIGLLOYD: I learned from it myself. Thanks are due to reader Sebastian B for suggesting this topic. And I will let it go to my head this way: to keep seeking out useful things to write about for my readers. :)

What Does Nikon Picture Control Do?

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In my review of the Nikon D810 I discuss the Nikon D810 Picture Control feature and what it affects (and does not affect). Is the new Flat profile useful?

Judging by reader email, Picture Control is an utter failure in terms of user understanding of its very important effects and non-effects. Yet understanding its effects is critical, even for raw shooters, but perhaps not for the reasons one might assume.

Nikon D810 Picture Profiles: What is Affected, JPEG Examples

Shown with HD and Ultra HD images and and histograms.

  Nikon Picture Control = Flat
Nikon Picture Control = Flat

Reader Comments: Lenses for Sports Photography

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Reader Andrew P writes:

It just occurred to me that you don't use examples pertinent to sports photography that much (or at all) in your blog. I like to shoot close-range sports when I get the chance but don't know of any sites that provide the kind of image quality reviews you give, but with sports photography concerns considered as a built-in part of any testing.

For instance, this weekend I did my first-ever paid shoot (hooray) of an international basketball competition in Amsterdam. I bought the Zeiss ZA 135mm 1.8 to complement my Nikkor 85mm 1.4G for the shoot, and took the Otus along for a couple of portraits of players if the opportunity presented itself. As it turned out, I shot most of the 2 day event with the Otus, barely used the 85, holstered the 135mm after a couple of hours, and then on the second day brought a 35mm Summilux and a 15mm Distagon to do about half the work on that day.

The reason this is meaningful to me is that I wound up using MF lenses for almost all of the best shots. The reason is that the AF lenses were a pain in the neck to use. The 85mm 1.4G, though perfectly fine when zipping to focus on a person standing still for a portrait, focusing on moving basketball players was just about impossible. The ZA 135mm was better at focusing quickly than the 85mm, but it was harder to deal with because of its length. When players zipped in and around each other, the lens kept losing focus and then wouldn't take a picture. On the other hand, the Otus, Summilux, and 15mm Distagan (ZF) always fired when I wanted them to and were more often in focus than the AF lenses.

When I read about sports photography on the Internet, I see a lot of people recommending high speed large aperture AF lenses like the 85mm and 135mm that I actually used as being very good for sports. The other two I see mentioned a lot are the Nikkor 200mm f2 and 300mm f2.8. Am I missing something about AF sports photography? Or are these lenses as bad at focusing as they seemed? If this is what AF is like, I'd just as soon stick with MF. Could it be because the sport I was shooting (basketball) allowed me to be very close to the action (literally on the foul lines)? It would be interesting to see a review of MF and AF lenses that compared their near focusing capabilities against moving subjects.

DIGLLOYD: Evaluating a lens for sports photography is radically different than anything else: it’s about handling and autofocus and anti-shake support (or not) and one couldn’t say a lot about optical performance under such conditions. Or the skill of the evaluator.

Even the sports-fame Nikon D3s and D4 failed miserably for me on runners coming at the camera when I last shot cross country; they could not track focus head-on. But at the right distance and angle, autofocus rocks.

At close range I completely agree on the manual focus thing: pre-focus with anticipation is the game; try photographing a rower on an erg at close range! Manual focus is the only way to go, autofocus is completely useless under those conditons, and I would agree with the basketball situation. OTOH, out on a body of water at a regatta, autofocus with a Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is my approach of choice.

Autofocus introduces a whole set of new problems at closer range for me, so I agree on the manual focus lens thing. But I think that it comes down to style and technique and distance and so on—no fixed answer.

Quick Look: Adobe Camera Raw vs Nikon Capture NX-D

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I took a quick look at Nikon Capture NX-D in my review of the Nikon D810.

The image below was shot with Nikon D810 and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A. It was processed with Adobe Camera Raw and Nikon Capture NX-D (both).

Processing NEF: a Quick Look at Adobe Camera Raw vs Nikon NX-D

Shown with HD and Ultra HD images and large crops, the settings for each program, commentary included.

  Nikon D810 + Nikon 45mm f/2.8P
Nikon D810 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A

Reader Comments: D810 Review, Lenses, etc

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Reader Bjørn J writes:

Thank you for your ongoing review of the D810.

The stunning documentation of the exposure latitude, and the much improved LiveView, convinced me to place a D810 on order today.

I trust your reviews because of your extremely thorough real-world approach to practical use of camera equipment. Your example photos are worth far more than any lab-testing.

DIGLLOYD: Though I can’t think of everything, my core operating premise is “what would I want to know about this gear for my own work in all sorts of conditions before I plunk down my money”.

Reader Herb S writes:

I am happy to have renewed my subscriptions. The quality of your reviews has always been to a high standard and it is still improving regarding your effectiveness to show us all the relevant issues with the gear involved.

Might I suggest a good compact standard lens for the D810? It is the Voigtlander 40 mm SL-II. Of course it is not a Zeiss Otus. But good and compact it is.
Now we have to know how effective the D810 ground glass is for manual focus lenses not of the Otus calibre.

DIGLLOYD: [If I can’t do it a little better each year, I’d get bored.] Like the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P, the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL II is a diminutive option for a “light carry”. It is a good optic but like all other small lenses has various compromises to be that small. See the review coverage of the Voigtlander lenses in DAP.

Peter W writes:

I've never been more gobsmacked in my life as by your 5.5 stop push from nothing - nothing! - to a totally acceptable image. Absolutely incredible!

D810 ETTR and pulling up the shadows offers tremendous appeal and usefulness.

It's incomprehensible why Canon continues to bring out inferior sensors (noisy, banded blacks) when the Nikon benchmark is in plain sight.

I would be very interested in your comparison of the Sony A7/s/r sensors with their D810 counterparts.

DIGLLOYD: Canon has insisted on building their own sensors, and this has hurt them so far. But maybe Canon has something really great coming at Photokina. As for pattern and streaking noise in particular, this is a Canon thing for sure: Nikon D800E vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III as well as the Canon 5D Mark III noise pages and Canon EOS 1D Mark IV noise pages in DAP.

As for Sony, I’m done with the Sony A7R, having borrowed one 4 times now (I won’t waste my money on a $2000 camera which can’t make a sharp image at some shutter speeds and will rapidly decline in value—it has ruined far too much work from its shutter vibration, making it a frustrating PITA in spite of its helpful EVF. Moreover, the Sony 11+7 bit compression just doesn’t cut it and the too-thick sensor cover glass just kills it for Leica M wide angle short of at ƒ/8 or even ƒ/11 (and it affects even 50mm). The Nikon D810 is a solid and robust workhorse with good controls that takes a wide range of lenses with no adapters—and no goofy tripod mount workaround needed for heavy lenses and it won’t be worth 1/2 or 1/3 of what I paid for it in 6 months.

John W writes:

Hello, again. I've now had my D810 for 48 hours, and I don't have anything to report that is inconsistent with or materially adds to what you have published so far, so I'll keep this short. But, I did want to say three things at this point:

1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your ongoing, detailed D810 analysis and review. In addition to providing reassurance that my early purchase of the camera was not a mistake, it has also already given me several tips and ideas that will help improve my own photography. And, I know that there is much more to come. Great stuff.

2. Different things are important to different people. For me, the quieter shutter and improved LCD and Live View alone are definitely enough to justify the upgrade costs. I do a lot of work inside cathedrals and churches. In those environments, the shutter noise of the D800 was frequently an issue and sometimes inhibited me from taking a shot at all. So, the quieter D810 shutter is much more than a minor improvement for me.

3. I replicated your 5.5 stop push test and got essentially the same results you did. Wow!

DIGLLOYD: my main issue with the D810: it’s very good but falls short of greatness due to some really dumb mistakes in various places (nothing fundamental, but like having a good dinner with bad wine and no dessert).

John H writes:

Just sending a thanks about your detailed and continuing coverage of the 645Z- being a 645D owner with a number of compatible lenses (67, 645, and other brands with adapters) I greatly appreciate the information and critical testing you’ve been doing- it’s part of what makes your subscriptions so valuable compared with the limited depth of conventional photography sites.

While upgrading to the 645z soon is likely a given, your reviews and comments will go a long way towards boosting me up the learning curve of getting the most out of this new model, and help me make constructive decisions about what additional lenses to consider (such as the 90mm macro) to expand the shooting and usability envelope.

DIGLLOYD: more coming, though I might have to ask B&H Photo for an extension of the loaner camera time.

Sebastian B writes:

First, many thanks for your fine work on the 645Z, Sigma Quattro, and D810 (and countless others as well). Your reviews are so concise that I have virtually stopped reading anything else.

I observed with the D810 and also the 645Z and A7s noise series that you seem to leave chroma noise (at least partially) uncorrected. I don’t object to this per se, but it’s not very helpful for me from a practical point of view since chroma noise with modern sensors is corrected so easily. For example, when playing with a 645Z RAW ISO series provided by Ming Thein, I discovered that, in Lightroom, a color noise setting of just 8 (out of 100) sufficed to eliminate the chroma noise component at all ISOs (up to 204.800), without any detrimental effect on acuity — which is the same thing I see with my Pentax K-5 and just about any recent camera I have had a chance to test. (Actually, Lightroom is even shipped with a default of 25, so that is what many users are using anyway.)

I assume the correction is just as trivial to accomplish in ACR, so I was wondering if you might consider adding a “chroma corrected” series to the respective pages (or future pages, for that matter). I feel this would be of considerable practical value for many readers.

As an aside, are you planning to review the Sony FE 70-200/4?

DIGLLOYD: Chroma noise reduction added for the Nikon D810.

Sony FE 70-200mm f/4: I am not planning to review at this time. Given the shutter vibration of the Sony A7R, it is a nightmare job to test, where any results are suspect, especially with the lens mounted in seesaw fashion on the tripod. I will wait until Sony delivers a 36MP camera (or higher) free of the work-destroying vibration. That said, the Sony A7R and A7s have vibration free options (electronic first curtain) and the lens is better suited to those cameras.

Nikon Capture NX-D: “D” for Dimwits?

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

I took a quick look at Nikon Capture NX-D. After noting the failure to code-sign it for OS X, the non-integration into the App Store, the lovely file name I could not find later (“S-NXD___-010000MF-ALLIN-ALL___.dmg”), the installer errors (in the install log), the installation of crapware without notice or choice (Nikon background notification yuck), spelling errors, grammatical errors, modal operation, non-standard command key shortcuts, the failure to associate NX-D with NEF files—I’m persuaded that this warmed over turd emits more or less the same aroma as its its predecessors. And that Nikon and Sigma must have some secretly guarded source of software engineers simply unavailable to companies like Apple. Still, it’s a big step up from Sigma Photo Pro 6, which won’t work at all on my Mac Pro.

As for what NX-D excretes (please forgive the expression), I didn’t get beyond the hassles and I’m not sure I want to try. Maybe tomorrow or next week.

Reader Question: Smaller, Lighter “slow” Aperture Lenses for Nikon D810?

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  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Reader Cecelia C writes:

I love the good news about the D810. If you don't care about 1.4 apertures, but you do care about across-the-field sharpness and micro-contrast what lenses would you recommend?

I am hoping for some smaller and lighter options. I was thinking of the f1.8G Nikon lenses...but even 2.8 lenses would be ok with me, especially after seeing your comments on the higher ISO performance.

DIGLLOYD: Major camera vendors have not been keen on bringing relatively slow designs to market (except for crummy plastic zooms). Canon is an exception, making a stab at it with the 24/2.8 IS and 28/2.8 IS but failing to realize the blunder of not making them really good in an apparent attempt to keep the price down. Averaging out low price and very high quality to average price and average quality is not a winning idea.

Even Zeiss has not seen fit to bring out ultra high quality f/2.8 lenses (I would like to see “near perfect” 24/4, 28/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/2.8 and 90/2.8 designs). The Otus line rocks, but oh the size and cost for those two stops.

Prime lenses (fixed focal lengths) at ƒ/2.8 are just not “sexy” and the video crowd wants T/1.5 or at least T/2.1. Besides, entire web discussion forum would crash overloaded with irate fanboys complaining about a $1500 f/2.8 lens, even it it were near perfect wide open, or so the camera companies seem to think (I think there is a good untapped market there).

For want small and light (and cheap), the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is a good choice. For manual focus, the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar or the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 or the smallest and really diminutive choice: the Nikon 45mm f/2.8P.

Which led me to a thought and experiment: just how well does a simple and classic 4-element Tessar design perform on the Nikon D810?

Aperture Series: Nikon 45mm f/2.8P on the Nikon D810

  Nikon D810 + Nikon 45mm f/2.8P
Nikon D810 + Nikon 45mm f/2.8P

Nikon D810: How Much Underexposure Can It Take?

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  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This evaluation of sensor quality speaks to the versatility and value of a camera/sensor that can accept gross underexposure and still produce a good image, and/or the ability to give a severe boost to dark areas while retaining color quality and detail.

These real world attributes will appeal to anyone who has worked under difficult field conditions such as high dynamic range scenes.

Canon had better have something really good to announce at Photokina, because while the D800E already embarrassed the 5D Mark III, the D810 wins my praise as best ever.

In my review of the Nikon D810:

Pushing Nikon D810 at ISO 64 up to 5.5 Stops

Several intermediate exposure values and pushes are included.

Shot with the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

  Nikon D810 range of exposures
Nikon D810 range of exposures

Peter W writes:

I've never been more gobsmacked in my life as by your 5.5 stop push from nothing - nothing! - to a totally acceptable image. Absolutely incredible!

D810 ETTR and pulling up the shadows offers tremendous appeal and usefulness.

It's incomprehensible why Canon continues to bring out inferior sensors (noisy, banded blacks) when the Nikon benchmark is in plain sight.

I would be very interested in your comparison of the Sony A7/s/r sensors with their D810 counterparts.

DIGLLOYD: Canon has insisted on building their own sensors, and this has hurt them so far. But maybe Canon has something really great coming at Photokina. As for pattern and streaking noise in particular, this is a Canon thing for sure: Nikon D800E vs Canon EOS 5D Mark III as well as the Canon 5D Mark III noise pages and Canon EOS 1D Mark IV noise pages in DAP.

As for Sony, I’d done with the Sony A7R, having borrowed one 4 times now (I won’t waste my money on a $2000 camera which can’t make a sharp image at some shutter speeds and will rapidly decline in value—it has ruined far too much work from its shutter vibration, making it a frustrating PITA in spite of its helpful EVF. Moreover, the Sony 11+7 bit compression just doesn’t cut it and the too-thick sensor cover glass just kill it for Leica M lenses. The Nikon D810 is a solid and robust workhorse with good controls that takes a wide range of lenses with no adapters—and no goofy tripod mount workaround needed for heavy lenses and it won’t be worth 1/2 or 1/3 of what I paid for it in 6 months.

Gene F writes:

Canon has way too many professional users not to catch up quickly to Nikon. Their operating system and design ethic and really everything but the sensor are better too, imo, which is why pros love them. But maybe I'm just comfortable with them; they seem to me more well-conceived and navigable.

Leica, on the other hand, might be quitting photography in favor of jewelry-making.

DIGLLOYD: Well, they’ve had 2+ years to catch up. And I bet Canon will, and maybe as soon as early 2015 (following an announcement at Photokina). And maybe not. I also like a number of things about Canon DSLRs and I think the autofocus is superior with fast lenses.

Nikon D810: Adobe Camera Raw Support

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo. If you’re not quite up for the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM A for Nikon is fantastic.

See also recommended SDXC and Compact Flash cards for Nikon D810.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Michael E writes:

How are your reading the .NEFs? Lightroom does not recognize them.

DIGLLOYD: most all of my examples show the ACR version and conversion settings on the review page. Download Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 8.6 RC for CC & CC 2014.

ACR 8.6 RC features

Improve performance when batch processing images (via the Save button in Camera Raw) and when converting images to DNG (via DNG Converter). This performance improvement is only available on 64-bit systems.

New Camera Support

  • Nikon D810
  • Panasonic LUMIX AG-GH4
  • Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000
  • Added Camera Matching color profiles for the following camera models:
  • Sony DSC-RX100 III
  • Sony A7S (ILCE-7S)
  • Sony Alpha SLT-A77 II (ILCA-77M2)

New Lens Profile Support

GEAR SALE: Canon 50/1.2L, Canon 35/1.4L, Pentax K3, Olympus SHG Zooms,

This site moves through a lot of gear. Most items are tested as loaners, but some gear has to be bought, and that means spinning off gear no longer needed.

Buyer pays 3-day UPS or FedEx shipping and/or supplies own shipping label (no USPS) and/or picks up locally. California buyers responsible for any applicable sales tax. USA only, no overseas shipments.

Contact me (please use an appropriate email subject)

Canon lenses

Canon 50mm f/1.2L, perfect glass, hood caps in excellent condition $1150.

Canon 35mm f/1.4L, perfect glass, hood caps in excellent condition $1050.

Pentax K3 premium silver edition

Very lightly used (under 1000 actuations) Pentax K-3 premium silver edition (details) in box like new as shipped. $800.

Olympus Super High Grade (SHG) zooms

These are reference-grade lenses for Four Thirds (Micro Four Thirds with Olympus MMF-3 adapter). Terrific choices for video users in particular (ultimate build and image quality, but these are large and heavy lenses best used for video rigs).

The SHG designation is not marketing hype; these are absolutely outstanding lenses that are reference lenses for all other Four Thirds and Micro Four Thirds lenses. See reviews in Guide to Mirrorless.

Sale of the three as a set preferred but will consider selling singly also. Also have three unmarked/unopened extended Olympus 4-year extended warranty cards (not registered) for lenses; will include (though unsure of warranty status for 2nd buyer). One Olympus MMF-3 adapter also. LIKE NEW IN BOX.

  • Olympus SHG 7-14mm f/4 Zuiko ED: $1400
  • Olympus SHG 14-35mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $1900
  • Olympus SHG 35-100mm f/2 Zuiko ED: $2000
  • All three take $400 more off and MMF-3 adapter gets included.

Pentax 645Z: Various Notes

Perfect for the Pentax 645Z.

  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

In my review of the Pentax 645Z:

In general, the Pentax designers did an outstanding job; your author picked up the camera and was using it within 5 minutes without even cracking the manual. Things like mirror lockup are better done than any other camera, period. But to see the CARD NOT FORMATTED bug still present a year after I first saw it with the Pentax K3 is disappointing; it’s a general bug afflicting both.

Memory Cards: Big discounts on high capacity SDXC and Compact Flash

Perfect for the Nikon D810.

  Recommended Storage cards
Recommended Storage cards

Memory cards have deep discounts right now.

Memory cards I prefer to use myself.

The one card that has performed flawlessly for me since day one is the Toshiba Exceria Pro 64GB. It is the only card I have used that has never had a glitch. I also use SanDisk and Lexar, but the Toshiba has never disappointed me unlike those two brands.

I like the 64GB (or larger) sized because out in the field it means I can generally leave files on the card as backups even after downloading*.


* Unless it’s Pentax which has a nasty “card is not formatted bug” even on the 645Z (the K3 first made this stupid bug plain)—if anything disturbs the format, such as merely renaming a folder, you’re hosed and have to reformat or hike back to the car for another card.

Nikon D810: Study of Image Quality from ISO 31/64/100, ..., 12800

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This extensive real-world evaluation of noise includes:

  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB.
  • HD and UltraHD entire-frame images ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • Three large actual pixels crops ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.
  • ACR processing settings and histogram for the image as conveted to ProPhotoRGB.

Shot with the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

In my review of the Nikon D810:

Nikon D810 ISO 31/64/100 to 12800 (Fruit Medley)

The appearance of noise depends on the character along with its magnitude, and especially the degree of enlargement. For that reason, a downsampled evaluation to match Sony A7s actual pixels is also provided, from ISO 31/64/100 to ISO 12800 in RGB, gray gamma 2.2, and red/green/blue color channels.

  Nikon D810 at ISO 800
Nikon D810 at ISO 800

Ashish V writes:

Just wanted to say that the colour reproduction in this image looks just stunning!
My guess is that it's better than 800e.

Did you need to do much work on this image to get the colours so good?

DIGLLOYD: That’s the beauty of it: total “work” was to shoot one frame with a WhiBal card (a separate frame). Using that frame, click to neutral in ACR, then use that setting for the others in the series. Piece of cake, scarcely any work at all. I like the WhiBal White Balance G7 Pocket Kit because it is inexpensive, durable and compact.

Nikon D810 Image Quality

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Image quality of the Nikon D810 is sensational. My D800E workhorse now has a worthy replacement in the D810, and the operational improvements are already proving their worth to me.

As for the Sony A7R, its clunky shutter generating loads of shutter vibration has been a constant work destroyer that undermines its raison d^etre, a “stop ship” that wasn’t.

The Nikon D810 avoids all that with its electronic first curtain shutter option (Canon has had EFC for years). What a relief! With Zeiss lenses, particularly the APO-Distagon and the APO-Sonnar and the coming Otus 85/1.4, the system picture makes a ton of sense—much smaller rig than a Pentax 645Z along with far superior lens selection (to both Pentax and Sony). And no “you’re fired blurry pictures you idiot” Sony thing. The D810 is what I call a realistic workhorse platform. Classic Nikon sensibility.

Low ISO and stuff

To my eye the D810 images are free of the odd look that I noticed immediately with the A7R. Full 14-bit lossless compressed at ISO 64 looks to be my new game. The Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression never made sense to me as having any worth in a $2K plus camera (well, $1K or so now, no even medium term resale value in those small Sony bodies).

I’ll be showing low ISO quality at 31/64/100/200/400 soon.

Pentax 645z: Long Exposures

Get Pentax 645z and Pentax 645 lens at B&H Photo.

  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

I wanted to evaluate the Pentax 645Z image quality with long exposures for two reasons. First, medium format has often suffered with long exposures (most though not all cameras), and second, the 645Z establishes a reference for the Nikon D810.

I evaluate a 32 minute exposure with +0.4 stop push in my review of the Pentax 645Z:

645Z Long Exposures

Includes HD and UltraHD images in RGB and with the red/green/blue and gray gamma 2.2 channels and two large crops with same.

This test scene won’t last long as I have dibs on those blueberries.

  Dynamic range assessment, Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8, 32 minute exposure

Nikon D810: Live View Quality vs Nikon D800E/D800

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

I photographed the Nikon D810 and Nikon D800E rear LCDs on the same test target to evaluate Live View quality

Wow. In my review of the Nikon D810:

Nikon D810 vs D800E Live View quality

Nikon D810: Real-World Dynamic Range

Get Nikon D810 at B&H Photo.

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Real-world dynamic range is a major plus when the camera has it.

As a mid-2014 full-frame DSLR sporting the latest Sony sensor, the Nikon D810 brings high expectations for dynamic range, particularly at its new true ISO 64 value (previous minimum was ISO 100, the “Lo” settings not being true ISO).

Kicking off my review of the Nikon D810:

Nikon D810 Real-World Dynamic Range

Includes HD and UltraHD images in RGB and also R/G/B/Gray color channels in same, plus large crops. All toggle between as-shot. Processing settings and histograms and RawDigger info also shown.

  Dynamic range assessment, Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8
Dynamic range assessment, Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8

Pentax 645z: Real-World Dynamic Range

Get Pentax 645z and Pentax 645 lens at B&H Photo.

  Pentax 645Z
Pentax 645Z

Real-world dynamic range is a major plus when the camera has it. As a medium format camera, the 645Z brings very high expectations for dynamic range.

Who needs HDR with a sensor like this?

In my review of the Pentax 645Z:

645Z Real-World Dynamic Range aka Faux HDR

Includes HD and UltraHD images, and large crops that toggle between as-shot and adjusted as well as the processing settings and histograms for each.

  Dynamic range assessment, Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8
Dynamic range assessment, Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8

Nikon D810, Sigma 50/1.4, Pentax 645Z, Sigma dp2 Quattro

Get the Nikon D810 at B&H Photo. Also, LensRentals.com rents the Nikon D810.

The Nikon D810 is here.

To answer a few reader inquiries:

  • I will be covering the salient differences with the Nikon D810 vs D800E: operational aspects, image quality, etc.
  • I do intend more Pentax 645Z coverage, but I’ve deferred that for the arrival of the Nikon D810 (for comparisons), and I want to now make field shots in the mountains.
  • I intend to cover the Sigma 50/1.4 DG HSM A Nikon-mount version. I’ve had it for about ten days now, but I deferred coverage until the D810 arrives.
  • I intend more work with the Sigma dp2 Quattro, but it’s time for field shots now, just as with the Pentax 645Z.

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