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New Lenses for Sony Mirrorless

Sony announced several new lenses. Click links to pre-order at B&H:

It is my intent to prioritize review coverage on the 35/1.4 and the 28/2. The 90/2.8 most likely also, and (groan) the 24-240, since an all-arounder can be handy.

The Sony Zeiss FE 35/1.4 Distagon is a premium lens as can be seen by build and pricing. But how much larger it is compared to the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M (and 80% heavier too)! Presumably autofocus is involved in size/weight, but maybe more than that, such as dealing with friendly ray angle to the sensor. Still, it has a lovely looking 1/3 stop aperture ring and one has to wonder how it might compare to the ZF.2 version for Nikon/Canon.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA Distagon T*

The Sony FE 28mm f/2 looks to be a more pedestrian design which fills a gap in the lineup with two wide angle converter add-on options. Probably it relies on some camera corrections for distortion and vignetting for best results, likes its 35mm f/2.8 sibling.

Sony FE 28mm f/2

This is a smart move that suddenly gives Sony a 16mm f/3.5 fisheye and 21mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle prime based on the 28mm f/2.

Apparently designed as a set, it’s possible that the results could be very good. Or fair to middling. We shall see.

It seems odd not to see all three bundled as a set since the goal here seems to be to keep the cost down.

Personally, I’d have preferred optimized fisheye and 21mm designs with f/4 apertures if need be—very high quality and very compact. Attaching adapters means more fumbling with more caps, or at least it always feels that way to me. And then there is the filter hassle if a filter is mounted on the lens, and two more surfaces for dust.

Sony FE 28mm f/2 with optional 21mm converter
Sony FE 28mm f/2 with optional 16mm fisheye converter

Personally I find little use for do-it-all lenses (master of no 'trade'), but they do have their uses and this is a very aggressive cover-it-all range. Certainly on a Sony A7 II with in-body image stabilization (see A7 II review) the 240mm end becomes quite useful.

Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 wide range zoom

The 90mm focal length is a good choice; it offers useful working distance at a classical portrait length (85mm / 90mm).

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens

Gear In Review

I’m heading out in a day or so towards Lone Pine and Death Valley, this time with an eclectic mix of gear:

  • Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. Even though the Canon 5D Mark III is only 23 megapixels, that’s enough to characterize it as a breakthrough, or not.
  • Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 and Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 APD. I want to evaluate just how the apodization of the APD variant performs. My intent it to publish a variety of aperture series with both lenses.
  • Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit-S. This is the revised and just out 75mm “budget” lens from Leica for Leica M. Budget meaning about $2150 ha ha. Does anyone care about this lens? Not sure how much effort it is worth. The silver version is quite handsome and comes with two different lens hoods (small and large).
  • Olympus OMD E-M5 II digital camera, the new model with the claimed 40 megapixel resolution derived by shifting its 16MP sensor and combining 8 shifted images for true color. (I’m grumpy that my E-M1 apparently is not going to be upgradeable to support this feature). Megapixels are just numbers; I concern myself with reality, meaning actual detail, not how many dots are produced. Of course, if such a feature works well, I wish to see it appear in a 50MP Sony A9 or similar. Well, back in 2013 I suggested this should be possible with the Pentax K5 IIS (or K3), but AFAIK it has not happened.
  • Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 ASPH DG Summilux for Olympus or Panasonic Micro Four Thirds lenses. My original work with it showed a horrific focus shift at close range; this go-round I’ll shoot it at distance and see how well it performs. The 25mm f/1.4 Summilux is terrific, and the 42.5mm Nocticron is the best MFT lens out there in my view.

In addition, I am taking my three Sigma DP Merill cameras along with a Really Right Stuff pano bracket, with the intent of doing a few ultra-high resolution stitched images. I have a few suitable subjects in mind. I love the way the Sigmas record texture and grit and the real feel, real deal of natural subjects.

It’s not too late to schedule a photo tour with me sometime in the March 8-12 range.

WPPI B&H Specials

All B&H WPPI Specials.

Zeiss lenses $100 instant rebate plus reward (this might be a first!)

NEC wide gamut displays have aggressive rebates. (see reviews, and I recommend purchasing the BK-SV models with color calibration software/hardware).

The Westcott Flex 1-Light Daylight Kit is very nice (I just tested the tungsten balanced version).

Some items might require special promo code 194517328387242075145.

Dale S writes:

Thanks for your item about the Zeiss lens sale at B&H! I ordered a 21mm f/2.8 from them Sunday evening and then saw your item Monday morning. I contacted customer service and they agreed to a $100 credit on my order. I probably wouldn’t have known to ask but for your news.

DIGLLOYD: consider joining the email list for daily or weekly notifications.

Arrived: Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Zoom

Get Canon 5DS at B&H Photo (looks like June 2015 for both models)
Get Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L and Canon 5DS at B&H Photo.

Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM

The Canon 11-24mm f/4L USM has arrived. It is quite an impressive lens in size and weight and build quality—heavier than even the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G by about 200 grams.

Review coverage will go into DAP on the ~22MP Canon 5D Mark III. Later in the year when the EOS 5DS R arrives, I will likely take up the lens again, since 50 megapixels is much more demanding.

Canon seems to emphasize low distortion and excellent flare control, which is right and proper for a zoom lens in this range—too many ultra wides have horrific distortion.

In DAP, I’ve posted an overview page as well as a discussion of the Canon MTF chart.

Introduction to Canon 11-24mm f/4L

MTF for Canon 11-24mm f/4L

With a lens like this, field shots are everything. I’ll be shooting it very soon in the Eastern Sierra and Death Valley area.


Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses

Lenses are nice, but cheese is tasty. Rather less frequently than I’d like, I splurge on a tasty cheese, like Red Hawk or Devil’s Gulch. Fortunately, my local stores carry these, but they can be ordered direct.

My three favorite cheeses from CGC are in Cowgirl Creamery Deluxe Collection.

Cowgirl Creamery 'Red Hawk' cheese

The Camera for Cycling

Get Ricoh GR or Sony DSC-RX100 digital camera at B&H Photo
Also: Ricoh GH-3 Hood & Adapter for Ricoh GR Digital Camera

My cycling season is in full swing. My first double century is planned for March 7, though I am troubled by hints of a cold, so I am forcing myself to sleep amply (my daughter has been sick for 10 days, arggggg kids bring home the school germs).

So which camera to take for a cyclist? Specifically, which camera of high image quality whose ingress and egress from a cycling jersey pocket is low risk (not snagging or tight), and it must have a built-in flash (to combat harsh lighting), and a decent grip and wrist strap.

The lens must offer a wide angle (equiv) of 28mm, because nothing else will do for selfies while riding and/or of the angle needed for certain road shots. Sensor quality must be high, because dawn and dusk are dim and yet have the best light.

There are few good choices as per the above.

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100   
Sony RX100 (20 megapixels, sort of)

The Ricoh GR (240 grams) has a good built-in grip, leaf shutter flash sync to any speed, and its 28mm (equiv) lens is so razor sharp I’d place it against any Leica M lens for sharpness, not to mention autofocus and close focus and as I said early on, camera of the year in intelligent design. It still reigns supreme in the compact camera category. Dang I wish it also had sensor stabilization, why does Ricoh sit on its hands there.

The Sony RX100 is also a fine choice (250 - 290g, depending on which generation). But it must have the Richard Franiec grip added because it’s holding ergonomics suck without it. It’s lens is not nearly so sharp as the Ricoh GR across the field, but its Zeiss-designed lens offers very pleasing imagery distinctly superior to most all other compacts (but not necessarily better than the Ricoh GR).

Fujifilm models are either too low in resolution (X10) and/or too heavy and bulky (we’re talking about a cycling jersey pocket here!). The Canon Powershot lineup is compromised in several ways for my specific purposes but might serve for some. Even the Sigma DP1 Merrill can just (barely) fit*, and I have used it while cycling, but the DP Merrills are agonizingly slow for multiple quick shots while cycling. Besides, It’s no fun processing 100 or even 50 DP Merrill images in Sigma Photo Pro.

Decision: I’ll take both the Ricoh GR and Sony RX100 v1 with me when I head to my double century. The Ricoh GR is a bit larger so if jersey pocket space is just too tight, I might have to go with the RX100 instead (cold weather if it happens demands more clothing and that needs stow space). Either camera will suffice, but holding the GR is easier and the lens is sharper (a lot more detail in its 16MP vs the 20MP of the RX100). So it’s down to little details to make the decision.

Cyclists who carry stuff in bags on the bike have more choices. I’m not that kind of cyclist; I’m hard core so it has to be as described, within tight constraints.

* The new Sigma dp Quattro is jolting step backwards to a Frankenstein form factor and is completely impossible as a pocketable camera, in practical “carry” terms.

The Ricoh GR is a real deal right now. At $573 effective (4% rewards), free shipping and 32GB card and optical viewfinder (sometimes useful), it’s a go-anywhere camera capable of very high quality results. To keep the camera compact, I generally shoot it as-is, but the Ricoh GH-3 Hood & Adapter for Ricoh GR Digital Camera is a worthwhile addition.

Ricoh GR: 16 razor-sharp megapixels, 28mm (equiv), built-in flash

Price of the Canon 5D Mark III Finally Drops to Where it Ought to Have Been At First Release

In light of the Nikon D800/Nikon D800E, the Canon 5D Mark III never had a reason to carry its premium (more expensive than the D800). So now at EOL (end of life) it finally is priced more realistically, which means it is still priced about $500 too high. When it debuted three years ago, it was a modest refresh of its predecessor. So it’s really 5-6 year old technology.

Gimme a DSLR with a 4 megapixel hot-shoe EVF and a rear retina LCD (like iPhone).

Both cameras are reviewed in DAP.

See the camera and lens bundle savings and lens and speedlite savings. But my prediction is that the 5D Mark III will drop to about $2000K by May or so, where it would then represent solid value relative to the new Canon 5DS R. Canon might even keep it in the lineup, since it would fit well at about $2K against the about $3899 Canon 5DS DSLR. Still, that’s a big gap and Canon might keep it in the lineup at the regular price of $2499, matching the current discount.

Canon drops prices on its DSLRs

Oversampling for Image Quality: 109 Megapixel Sony RX100 tulips

There is considerable confusion and consternation out there about 50 megapixel sensors out there (“ridiculous”, “pointless”, “unnecessary”, etc). But this is flat-out untrue. Because with similar sensor technology, more megapixels are always superior.

What follows is a updated version of my March 7 2013 blog discussion of this topic.

Oversampling for Image Quality (109 Megapixel Sony RX100 tulips)

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100   
Sony RX100 (20 megapixels)

Capturing an image at a much higher resolution than needed for the end result is of great value in obtaining a clean and noise free result.

Oversampling benefits for image quality hold true as much for images as for high-fidelity audio. And perhaps more so.

But the oversampling will make possible images in the 70 megapixel range (from ~140 megapixel sensors) that will rival any medium format camera available today. Pick any numbers you like, the idea remains the same.

To speak to current 50-megapixel camera developments: 25 megapixel images of superb quality should result from a 50-megapixel sensor. Those who protest that 50 megapixel is unnecessary aren’t seeing the whole image quality picture. Of course, I will *prove* this just as soon as I can get my hands on a Canon 5DS R.

Sensor existence proof — Sony RX100

Even native pixels without downsampling should be excellent, the Sony RX100 being an existence proof (its main failing being a weak lens, albeit a lovely rendering style).

The Sony RX100 is a 20-megapixel camera whose sensor if scaled to full-frame DSLR at the same pixel density would be 148 megapixels. Yet its per-pixel image quality is first-rate.

Still, let’s make a point of being cranky and saying that the RX100 sensor quality is not good enough (untrue). The stitched image below is close to our theoretical size— 109 megapixels (stitching simulates a larger sensor size with similar megapixels and with the photosite size that a full sensor would have). Even on a per-pixel basis (before any downsampling), its quality is excellent.

Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100   
Stitched image of 109 megapixels from Sony RX100

The crop below is actual pixels from the 109 megapixel image above, showing that if we had a DSLR with the same per-pixel quality, it could be stunning, and in a single shot. This is not to say there is 109 megapixels of detail; it’s just that there is a lot of detail, and that oversampling minimizes various unpleasant artifacts.

Click for actual pixels.

Actual pixels from 109 megapixel stitched image above   
Actual pixels from 109 megapixel stitched image

The image doesn’t need downsampling to fix any quality issue (it’s already excellent). So make a print and be done with it. But this might not always be the case (noise, poor exposure situations, jagged edges, etc). Downsampling can reduce all these artifacts and in some cases, nearly eliminate them. Referring back to the 50 megapixels Canon 5DS, shooting at 50MP for 25MP output (e.g., what a client might need), will surely deliver higher quality.

Shown below is an actual pixels crop from the 54-megapixel image downsampled from the 109-megapixel image.

Click for actual pixels.

Actual pixels from 54 megapixel reduction of 109 megapixel image   
Actual pixels from 54 megapixel reduction of 109 megapixel image

Bottom line: megapixels correlate with image detail, but the main thing is that with some subjects, more megapixels increase total image quality by reducing the artifacts of digital capture (especially with Bayern matrix sensors). The “shoot at 50MP”, “deliver to client at 25MP” is one way to think about it.

David S writes:

I fully agree that 50 megapix sensors will indeed be beneficial to many photographers.

Three other applications for 50 megapix, all related to cropping, come to mind:

1) Action Photography - For example, bird photographers typically prefer APS-C sized sensors because of the crop factor and the greater density of pixels per area of the frame. However, trying to find a bird in flight in an APS-C viewfinder when using a 400 to 600mm lens is quite difficult. Therefore, having the wider field of view offered by a full-frame camera is beneficial over APS-C for this and other action photography applications since the wider field of view allows the action to be more easily found. When a 50 megapix full-frame image is then cropped to APS-C size to better fill the final picture with the action, a resolution of approx. 20 megapix (similar to Canon 7D II) can still be retained;

2) When aspect ratios other than 4:3 are desired (eg 1:1, 16:9, 1:3 etc.) the final picture will retain more pixels than is currently possible;

3) When a long enough lens is not available for the desired composition, cropping will be a more viable option with a 50 megapix sensor (the lens needs to be up to the task of course). So 50 megapix sensors will indeed bring benefits to many photographers.

DIGLLOYD: Indeed, I have used some such benefits with the Nikon D800E/D810 when shooting things like crew (rowing) with a 70-200, which sometimes is just not long enough.

Sharper Images by Technique and Shot Discipline

Even at 24 megapixels, let alone 36 megapixels, peak sharpness is not just optical: high resolution digital demands consistent shot discipline.

Soon enough there will be a 50-megapixel Canon DSLR, with Nikon and Sony to follow presumably. While it’s not realistic to think that actual recorded detail will increase as much as the numbers imply (36 vs 24 is already modest), it is nonetheless realistic that under ideal conditions there will be more detail—with excellent technique.

Two areas in particular in Making Sharp Images address these topics:

How To Get Peak Sharpness With Perfect Focus

How To Banish Blur Whether Handheld or Tripod

There are many other factors, but specific optical behaviors like focus shift must also be understood in detail for any particular lens used: Focus Shift (Case Studies).

Sigma Photo Pro 6.2.1

Continuing its tradition of being the world’s slowest raw converter, Sigma Photo Pro 6.2.1. is out with some bug fixes, and still sporting its vintage 32 bit design*. And after the initial ~90 second hang while chewing up most of a CPU core, SPP does finally appear, ready to satisfy anyone lusting for self-flagellation.

* As far as can be told, Sigma is aiming for some kind of world obstinancy record to be the very last software application to convert to 64 bits. Any day now Apple could rip out 32-bit support, which might leave SPP users just a mite frustrated.

~1 minute hang on startup with fastest Mac available

SIGMA Photo Pro 6.2.1 for Macintosh

The most interesting point is the first one. When the 21mm (equiv) Sigma dp0 Quattro arrives for testing (ETA entirely unknown), I’ll be taking a fresh look at how well it does.

  • It has improved resolution by reconsidering developing process of the RAW data (X3F files) of the SIGMA dp Quattro series.
  • It has added the function to set image aspect ratio 7:6 in the RAW data (X3F files) of the SIGMA dp Quattro series.
  • It has corrected the phenomenon that some color appears in peripheral part of the images when developing the RAW data (X3F files) of image size MED taken with SIGMA Merrill series.
  • It is now compatible with Gatekeeper in Mac OS X10.9.5 and 10.10.
  • It has improved the phenomenon that the RAW data (X3F files) taken by bulb shooting with SD9, SD10 and SD14 is not displayed in the review window.
  • It has corrected the phenomenon that images saved in 8bit TIFF are not displayed properly in some viewers available from other companies.

David G writes:

The challenges of Sigma software: when switching from 5.5.4 to 6.2.0 I discovered the thumbnail size had been substantially reduced and the images themselves were much softer. Hence in 6.2 I had to open every image to see and evaluate. Immediately I went back to 5.5.4.

What a great camera and what challenging and frustrating software--- (as you have repeatedly pointed out!).

DIGLLOYD: in August 2009 I lamented the poor software quality. Thus, we're coming up on five years of inaction by Sigma to design and optimize its software to a modern standard. To this day, a 12 core machine runs little faster than a single CPU core (even as the cores are seemingly utilized; it's very badly done in busy wait contention loops).

Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction (Leica M240, but applies to any/all)

Cameras lacking anti-aliasing filters tend to suffer from color aliasing and moiré. Usually this is not an issue, but it can all but ruin some images. But there is a workaround that is easy and practical for many purposes, with a “balancing point” of best results (sharpness and contrast versus mitigating aliasing).

In Making Sharp Images:

Diffraction vs Color Aliasing (Leica M240)

This example confirms and expands upon the principles discussed in Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction (Leica S2).

Canon shooters contemplating the 50-megapixel 5DS or 5DS R might find the discussion particularly interesting on the value of 50 megapixels vs 23/24 (Canon 5D Mark III).

Actual pixels from Leica M240

Death Valley Photo Tour, Early March, or Carrizo Plain in late March

Contact me immediately if you’re interested in a personalized photo tour in Death Valley in early March. Combination cycling tour also an option if you are a road or mountain cyclist. As a personalized tour, we can do whatever you like, though of course I have some favorite locations in mind; I know both the time of year and the places to go.

Dates: March 5/6 or March 8/9/10/11 range.

I expect to have the new Canon 11-24m f/4L with me on this trip, which might be of interest to Canon shooters.

ALSO: Carrizo Plain National Monument just before or after March 22nd.

Hardcore option: FAT (snow bike) photo expedition to Patriarch Grove in White Mountains.

For you northeastern folks enjoying real winter: Death Valley in early March is exceedingly pleasant, dry and with temperatures reaching about 80°F during the day, and 50°F at night (at lower elevations).

See Death Valley Snapshot, Exploring Death Valley, Death Valley Double Century.

Eureka Dunes    
Eureka Dunes    
Eureka Dunes
(about 700 feet high, highest in USA)

Mitigating Color Aliasing via Diffraction

Cameras lacking anti-aliasing filters tend to suffer from color aliasing and moiré. Usually this is not an issue, but it can all but ruin some images. But there is a workaround that is easy and practical for many purposes, with a “balancing point” of best results (sharpness and contrast versus mitigating aliasing).

In Making Sharp Images:

Effects of Diffraction Blur on Color Aliasing (with Leica S2)

The example presented is with the Leica S2, but it applies to any camera with any size sensor. The discussion includes a full size image as well as three large apertures series from f/2.8 - f/11 that illustrate the effects.

The Nikon D810 and D800E have no anti-aliasing filter; the new Canon 5DS has such a filter, but the 5DS R does not. Similar considerations apply to other models and brands.

Actual pixels from Leica S2

It’s 2015: Where Does Leica M Stand?

It’s now 2015. Nearly two years ago in May 2013 the Leica M Typ 240 appeared, a 24MP CMOS-based camera body that delivered minimal resolution gains over the 18MP CCD-based Leica M9 (as per my tests).

But it enabled Live View, and that at least for me was a huge plus, because sharpness starts first and foremost with accurate focus (I never use the rangefinder, which demands perfect adjustment for every lens used, and I’d like to see it eliminated).

So here we stand in 2015 with 24 megapixels and along with an optional (!) low-res EVF with lousy contrast that can zoom and thus allow focus only at frame center. Hello? It would be funny if it were not pathetic and an ongoing slap in the face every time the M240 is used. One need only pick up a Sony A7 series camera, or Olympus E-M1 to see just how poor the Leica EVF is.

Meanwhile, 50 megapixel cameras have started to appear (Canon 5DS / 5DSR), with Nikon and Sony surely not far behind (Canon 50MP is vaporware until June or later). Well, 50 is more than twice 24.

So we are left with a situation where it’s fair to ask (with flagging enthusiasm for M):

  • Where is the (at least) 36 megapixel Leica M?
  • Why does the M240 still sport a low-res obsolete EVF? I want steady progress from Leica, sincere efforts to improve the usability and functionality, not 5th place science-fair efforts for my money.
  • If Leica M lenses are so great, what are they doing on a camera with half the megapixels that Canon will have soon? Maybe they aren’t so great...
  • If Leica M lenses are so great, why do I feel without reservation that the new Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is better than any Leica-produced M lens, at far lower cost.

And (groan), will it cost me another $8K for the privilege of a new red-dot body when Leica gets around to offering one?

It’s a darn shame to see Leica stagnate and fail to deliver improved value over time. But even more frustrating is this: the M platform still offers one of the most attractively compact systems on the market for full frame. A 50MP M body would be 'killer'. And that’s my real beef here: is Leica M a dead-end? Or is there hope?

  Photographing the Photographer Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Photographing the Photographer
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4

Roy writes:

Where does the Leica M stand? On thin ice, I think. Re. “I never use the rangefinder, which demands perfect adjustment for every lens used, and I’d like to see it eliminated”, IMHO, the RF today is about as useful as a slide rule would be in a world of programmable digital calculators with 64-bit floating point precision. After the calculator came out, the slide rule crowd stubbornly continued for another 10+ years before becoming gradually fading away.

I gave up on the RF in April, 2011, when I said goodbye to my M9 and switched to a Sony NEX-5. It took three more years to get to the full-frame A7/A7R, and while they were not and are still not perfect digital backs for the Leica M lenses, it’s getting closer.

The Sony E-mount FF cameras offer many advantages over a Leica M 240, such as superior EVF, competent live view, focus peaking, greater resolution, video, the ability to easily work with a wide range of third party lenses, etc. But there is one other advantage that is really big, I think: the ability to chop the minimum focusing distance from an absurd ~1m down to about 0.5m with close focusing helicoid adapters. Several companies make these now, including some real cheap ones (not recommended). I like the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focusing Adapter (pictured below). I think Metabones also makes one now.

DIGLLOYD: Roy also owns Leica S. And it’s true that a M-like body with a high res EVF would allow new lens designs with close focus and higher performance. Odd that no effort towards that goal has been made by Leica (Leica T is APS-C).

A writes:

Lloyd, I have no clue what you are on about. You can order the M Safari! And the M something Lenny Kravitz! What more would you want?!?!

And hey, since there are zero pre orders for the new S with its whopping 37MP, you may get one first, ummm between May and November sometimes, at a newly discounted price of only ~$ 27,000.

No news through the bush drums (the 28/1.4 is superb, but I paid a fortune for it as I had to buy the 100 year edition case … where is the normal version??? ), i am not hopeful overall.

Only using one MP body and the M60 (yes, good fun, disregarding the price). Selling a few lenses, too. WATE and >=35 are good to great on Sony. Rest is going, replaced by Zeiss for Sony.

Honestly, if I could i would sell Leica stock short now. With hindsight, the accelerated opening of the posh boutiques should have me you that it was going downhill.

DIGLLOYD: from a longtime Leica M and S fan. As far as can be told, the new Leica 28mm f/1.4 M does not exist except in special edition.

Jorge Torralba writes:

Leica. What happened? (Nov 22, 2014)

John P

Not everyone agrees with the priorities.

I agree that Leica needs to update its M series camera and accessories: it would be preferable to have more versatile live view and viewfinder.

I don’t think that a 36MP or 50MP sensor is the right next step, however A you make clear, to make the best of even a 24MP camera, you need impeccable technique, ideally with tripod ,etc. If I was engaged in that style of shooting, I would take a D810 and be done with it. Since I use my Leica when travelling light or I don’t want to take a tripod, or want to shoot fast lenses wide open and retain quality, I take the Leica. Those Leica lenses are high quality, but just as importantly, they are small. The Zeiss is a great lens, but it is bigger than the Leica, especially with the non-reversible lens hood that adds 10% to the cost of the lens and has to be hunted for separately, as it’s not supplied with it.

[Incidentally, while I admire the performance of the Otus lenses, they’re not well thought out: manual lenses that are that large seem designed for the studio, since they really do need to be used with a tripod to achieve their full potential, but who needs f1.4 in a studio?]

What I really would value from the next M is better high ISO performance and better dynamic range from the sensor, not more megapixels.

We’ll see how things are shaping up when they release their b&w camera update within the next month. Perhaps it will have a better sensor in an M240 body; perhaps it will push the envelope unexpectedly. I don’t plan to buy one either way, but it should give us some indication of direction of travel.

Also, I would not say that Leica is stagnating. They are a small company offering cameras for every segment from compacts to medium format. The other manufacturers seem to be targeting a smaller range.

DIGLLOYD: Actually, 50 megapixels would help tremendously in dealing with hideous aliasing artifacts via oversampling, even if the resolution gains were modest (which will be the case, and yet there will be be gains under many circumstances; the above is way too pessimistic).

As much as I’ve written on oversampling and its benefits, as soon as megapixels is mentioned, the blinders go on and “image detail” is all that’s heard. It’s just not the right way think about megapixels.; it’s about the synergy of somewhat more detail and significantly higher image quality (few artifacts of several kinds). The best scenario would be something around 144 megapixels with highly optimized hardware downsampling. But high density sensor technology has quality limits as yet.

Regarding “stagnating”—just because there are various point and shoots and the world’s worst-designed usability in a digital camera (the Leica T*) does mean there are any advances in the full frame area, or EVF fixes, or modern lenses designed specifically for full frame digital and for closer focus. Hardly anything has really changed since the introduction of the M9 in late 2009; the M240 added no real resolution gains, and its EVF/Live View remains crippled and laughable compared to even 2-3 year old DSLRs. So yes, Leica is stagnating, and for those having invested in the digital M platform, the value proposition looks increasingly like a rip-off. I did not buy an M240 as a collector’s piece; I expected aggressive forward progress on the functionality. Basic things like arbitrary menus (no “my menu”), center focus only, low-res EVF—all of these could be addressed. But Leica does not do so. Look at vendors like Fujifilm and Olympus, which deliver significant new value after the sale. THAT is a real committtment to the customer, no some damned leather-padded box.

*The Leica T gets my vote for the most frustrating digital camera ever designed. I found it absolutely frustrating as anything but a point and shoot. And for about $700 a nice butt-ugly Sigma DP Merrill delivers far superior texture and detail.

Death Valley Photo Tour, Early March, or Carrizo Plain in late March

Contact me immediately if you’re interested in a personalized photo tour in Death Valley in early March. Combination cycling tour also an option if you are a road or mountain cyclist. As a personalized tour, we can do whatever you like, though of course I have some favorite locations in mind. Dates slightly flexible around (but not including) March 6/7.

Hardcore option: FAT (snow bike) photo expedition to Patriarch Grove in White Mountains.

ALSO: Carrizo Plain National Monument just before or after March 22nd.

For you northeastern folks enjoying real winter: Death Valley in early March is very pleasant, with temperatures reaching about 80°F during the day, and 50°F at night (at lower elevations).

See Death Valley Snapshots and Exploring Death Valley and Death Valley Double Century.

Eureka Dunes    
Padre Crowley Point looking towards Death Valley
Eureka Dunes    
Death Valley, Eureka Dunes
At the Death Valley RaceTrack Playa    
At the Death Valley RaceTrack Playa

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon, 35/2 Biogon, 35/2.8 C-Biogon, Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH, Leica 35/1.4 Summilux, Leica 35/2 Summicron

Order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M at B&H Photo. See also gear pages for other Leica M cameras / lenses.

With focus at far distance (infinity), this 3rd 6-way lens comparison complements the prior 6-way Wyman Cabin comparison and close-range Aspen Trunk comparison.

Together, these three comparisons are surely themselves alone worth the price of Guide to Leica alone for anyone researching a 35mm lens for Leica M.

6-way Shootout at 35mm: Pine Creek Morning (M240)

With HD and UltraHD images ƒ/1.2 - ƒ/1.4 through ƒ/16 along with large crops.

Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon   Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon   Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon  
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH   Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon,    Zeiss ZM 35/2.8 C-Biogon
Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH,    Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH and 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
(not to scale)
  Wyman Canyon Cabin Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ ƒ/4
Pine Creek Morning, Frosted Peaks

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