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Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon: Brilliant

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810
  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

The Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon offers high brilliance, luscious color saturation and superb flare control. These are the reasons to select it over all others for this kind of shooting.

In sharpness terms it is a strong as anything, but has its limits and behaviors, and these too are shown and discussed, including here in this aperture series a particularly demonstrative crop showing the point spread function behavior.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: Pine Creek Stormy Light (Nikon D810)

Include HD and Ultra HD images and large crops from ƒ/2.8 through ƒ/16 along with both color and black and white images and how converted.

Toggle the image below to see the black and white rendition.

  Sun Peeks Through Thunderclouds Nikon D810 + Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon
Sun Peeks Through Thunderclouds
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon @ ƒ/11

Andrew P writes:

I just wanted to thank you for your recent coverage of the 15mm Distagon. I have seven very nice lenses that I regularly use now, but I keep on going back to the 15mm for those special qualities it has. For a while I avoided it because I felt I had to be very close to a subject to get anything useful, but then those photos were always very interesting to look at.

I recently shot a basketball championship with it and then used it for a model shoot a couple weeks ago. For both shoots I also used my Otus, a 35 mm Summilux ASPH, the ZA 135mm 1.8 and a Nikkor 85mm 1.4G, but the best shots were all made with either the 15mm or the Otus.

DIGLLOYD: a 15mm is hard to use well, but used well it sings.

Working Hard on a 'Project'

Labor Day weekend here in the USA generally means beach and grilling or some such thing for many. But for me it means labor day—lots of work, especially this year. Not that I mind—I like what I do, especially the particular project I’m on right now.

Oh, I might grill myself a steak or two (extra lean grass fed beef, quite tasty and far less expensive than the buffalo ribeyes I’d go for but for the price). But I’ve sworn off wine of any color as I press hard to lean-out for my late September cycling race. That’s the discipline part, as I do really enjoy red wine, also having made it a necessary game to figure out what’s a good red for not much green. There are some very good reds at low prices out there (and some not very good reds at low prices and high prices).

Anyway, I am hard at work dawn to dusk on a project that will see the light in less than two weeks. Accordingly, I might “submerge” for a few days at a time, popping up for a few new Nikon D810 pieces, but staying intensely focused on the key project.

Nikon D810: Sensor Cover Glass Quality?

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

Jorn O writes:

I just received 2 new Nikon D810 cameras( August 25, 2014) and sent them to my local repair technician to evaluate. One of the things I always have him check is the sensor and low pass filter for defects, inclusions, and etc. The 2 new D810 cameras were both supposedly corrected for the long exposure/white spot issue.

However, it appears that the low pass filters (or protective glass) on both cameras have a significant number of dark specks of some kind in the surface coating or embedded in the sensor glass. He observed (30 power microscope) 18 of these specks on one sensor and 24 on the other. The size and quantity of these specks indicates to me a significant quality control problem and I am going to return both cameras. I can’t be sure, but I suspect that Nikon’s solution to this problem was to just map out all of the photosites affected by the specks and consider the problem solved.

I have had similar problems with the D3x and D800E sensors – my records indicate returning and replacing 4 new cameras over a 3 year period due to significant inclusions in the low pass filter glass. I guess Nikon doesn’t think anybody is really looking hard at the sensor systems they are putting out.

It is interesting to note that the first D810 I purchased from B&H in July was also inspected and cleaned by my repair technician, and did not have the problem with the specks on the sensor glass even though the serial number indicates that it is on the recall list that Nikon has.

I also have 5 D800E cameras and they do not exhibit the speck on sensor glass issue. I was going to upgrade 3 of them to D810's, but not sure if I will now. With regards to the D3x sensors and imbedded inclusions - I did not keep them so I do not know if they would have had an impact on image quality. However, when you pay 8000.00 for a camera body I think it is reasonable to expect first class quality in a sensor, especially when your technician tells you he does not see this issue on most other vendors cameras that he works on (Canon, Sony, Pentax,etc).

DIGLLOYD: I can’t say much more than “seems concerning”. But given Nikon’s financial performance (~27% drop in sales YOY), could there be cost-cutting or lowered standards going on that might compromise quality? A hunker-down retrenchment rather than moving ahead with innovations like supporting an EVF option on a DSLR?

Taken together though, inclusions in sensor cover glass and white spots requiring a camera recall out of the gate do not speak well to Nikon’s release of the D810. Coming on top of the D600 dust/oil issue, it might shake one’s confidence, if only a little. The D810 is a flagship camera after all.

Still, I doubt that the white spots service advisory has anything to do with the sensor glass 'specks'; the white spots seem to be a hot pixel type long exposure issue (Nikon has been obtuse on the cause of the issue, or why some but not other cameras are affected). Sensor quality is not a fixed thing; sensors come in grades too (number of defects and similar). What grade sensors are used in the D810 (what yield/quality cutoff?). Are camera bodies now like lenses where one has to worry about “good sample” or “bad sample”?

Tom H writes:

I’ve noticed the same problem with my Canons over the years. You can send your camera in for repair and get a new glass that looks just like the one you had. The last time I sent back a body to Canon for this problem i took a shot of the glass surface using a dissecting microscope and included a print with the body. It didn’t make any difference. The new one had fewer pits.

DIGLLOYD: I’m not sure it matters in any case. More than likely any usage over would accumulate more crud by an order of magnitude, even with sensor cleaning.

Nikon D810: Recommended Picture Control Settings for Magnified Live View Focusing

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

I spent some time with various combinations of Nikon Picture Control settings to arrive at what seemed to be the most helpful and decisive sharpness and contrast for accurate magnified Live View focusing.

These Picture Control files are now available for download in my review of the Nikon D810, with instructions for loading them. They load in addition to any existing choices so there is no downside to trying them to see if they help your own workflow.

Recommended Picture Control Settings for Live View Focusing

Picture Control settings ready to load on camera card
Picture Control settings ready to load on camera card

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Various Varying Examples

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

To my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP are added various aperture series intended to show a variety of subject matter and the camera + Pentax 90mm f/2.8 macro rendering style. I find that such series are an excellent way to get a feel for a camera system and lens.

Series includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops. Click each image for its series.

  Aspen with Black Branches Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/2.8
Aspen with Black Branches
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/2.8
  Green Aspen Leaf on Black rock Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/11
Green Aspen Leaf on Black rock
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/11
  Dual Aspen Trunks Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Pine Creek Buildings
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
  White Daisies Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
White Daisies
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
  Mining Cabin Gearbox Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/22
Mining Cabin Gearbox
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/22
  Death Valley Alluvial Fan near Eureka Dunes Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/4
Death Valley Alluvial Fan near Eureka Dunes
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/4
  Dual Aspen Trunks Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Dual Aspen Trunks
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: 'Atlas Permaguard'

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP is a close range still-life study with soft lighting and very pleasing bokeh:

Aperture Series: Atlas Permaguard (645Z)

This aperture series shows a peripheral forward focus shift that might be useful to understand for critical work. Includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops.

  Artifacts of early Miners Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Artifacts of early Miners
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Wet Aspen Trunk

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP:

Aperture Series: Wet Aspen Trunk (645Z)

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images and commentary on placement of focus and depth of field.

  Wet Aspen Trunk Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Wet Aspen Trunk
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

Pentax 645Z+ 90/2.8 Aperture Series: Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage

Get Pentax 645Z at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax 645Z in DAP:

Aperture Series: Pine Creek Thunderstorms (645Z)

A discussion of the field curvature is included and should be read by any Pentax 90/2.8 user as essential working knowledge.

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/16 along with extensive crops and commentary. The crops are also in UltraHD, as I deemed the larger size useful for context.

  Pine Creek Thunderstorms Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6
Pine Creek Thunderstorms
Pentax 645Z + 90mm f/2.8 @ ƒ/5.6

How to Find Coverage of Lenses, Cameras, Technique, etc

It requires some curation effort (and can miss some things, always consider site search), but the new menu system at top of site pages affords convenient topical access to content throughout the site, whether in the blog, in a diglloyd publication or in the free articles area.

Give it a try, and feedback is welcome.

See also MacPerformanceGuide.com and WindInMyFace.com.

diglloyd image

Zeiss 55/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage (Nikon D810)

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

This aperture series includes HD and UltraHD images in both color and black and white from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/11 along with extensive crops and commentary.

The light was changing by the second, and the interplay is beautiful to behold. This frame caught the foreground in sun; others have it shadowed.

In Guide To Zeiss:

Thunderstorms over Pine Creek Drainage (Nikon D810)

A similar scene is coming from the Pentax 645Z; the D810 and Otus compare very favorably as it turns out.

Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon


Stephen M writes:

Your B&W conversion of Pine Creek Thunderstorms D810 with 55mm Zeiss Otus is really excellent. Great work! Composition and image processing is excellent! That deserves to be printed at 40 x 60! The image quality is amazing, especially at f/1.4! Wow! No other lens can do that! I purchased an 55mm Otus awhile back and I love that lens!

Many thanks again for your wonderful work with all the reviews and comments on a wide range of cameras and lenses. I always enjoy reading, and learning from your work and reports. Keep up the good work.

DIGLLOYD: I’m sure the images can be presented even better, but this would take some time and effort to do right.

Samuel L writes:

Hope you're doing well and that the earthquake wasn't so bad.

I just wanted to echo the comment of Stephen M. on your blog: the B&W version of ‎your Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage photo with the Nikon D810 and the Zeiss Otus looks fantastic. Wow!

The Wet Aspen Trunk with the Pentax looks great too.

DIGLLOYD: I never even noticed the 6.0 Napa earthquake (I’m 60-80 miles south of there). At any rate, I store my bargain wine the expensive way: in a styrofoam cooler in my garage, must in case of an earthquake.

Both the D810 + Otus and Pentax 645Z + 90/2.8 macro are terrific systems and highly recommended. The choice depends on one’s particulars.

Hardware Failure (fixed): Please advise if any image issues

A hardware device at diglloyd.com failed yesterday, and was replaced around 13:00 PST.

New hardware means potential issues (behavioral), so please advise if there are any unusual and repeatable problems in viewing images, such as images that are missing and show only a thin black line, or similar. Sporadic issues happen and are not of concern (e.g. a web server restart can kill image loading for 5-10 seconds).

The hardware change should affect images only, not html pages.

Sony RX100 Mark III: Better than a DSLR When Gone Fishin'

Trout dinner for two nights from Ellery Lake.

Salmo trutta (brown trout) and Oncorhynchus mykiss (Rainbow). I prefer Salvelinus fontinalis from high mountain streams, but that’s a chore up where I go (very, very hard to catch, and I’m unusually good at it).

Stockers mostly (not my usual fare but I wanted dinner). The large brown and rainbow had an extra year of 'wild' on them and both fought with more vigor and tasted better.

The Sony RX100 Mark III works nicely as for image quality, but like the original is far from its rated megapixels (lens limitations). Very pretty images in most cases though. But Sony made it a little too big and chunky and heavy. I’m sticking with my original Sony RX100: smaller, lighter and still takes great shots.

RX 100 III EVF: I was not clear in my initial comments on the EVF so here is a correction: I had two loaner Sony RX100 Mark III cameras. The first one I had no difficulty adjusting the EVF at all (instantly worked), but I returned it in late July. The 2nd one which I took with me in early August had a “sticky” EVF. With that 2nd one, I could not adjust the EVF to work for my eye. I should have made this clear initially in my comments; the EVF option is a great tool to have available.

Trout Dinner Sony RX100 Mark III
Trout Dinner
Sony RX100 Mark III

As for that “medium format look”, Zeiss Otus has it, wide open at ƒ/1.4.

See also The Medium Format 'Look' in Guide to Zeiss.

Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage  Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon
Thunderstorm over Pine Creek Drainage
Nikon D810 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon on Nikon D810 (Lundy Canyon Creekside Yellow Flowers)

  Nikon D810
Nikon D810

The Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon offers imaging qualities that make it especially suitable for environmental portraiture, reportage, etc. It’s a compact gem of a lens. It offers very high overall contrast and a vignetting that I like a lot.

I wondered how it would fare on the new Nikon D810, in fact I made a point of shooting a number of the Zeiss ZF.2 lenses on my recent trip (on the D810), to see how they would are.

In Guide to Zeiss:

Aperture Series: Creekside Yellow Flowers and Dark Rocks, Lundy Creek (D810)

Includes HD and UltraHD images and large crops from wide open through ƒ/16. Two variants (in brightness) of ƒ/2 are shown, as this is an important aperture to understand relative to ƒ/2.8.

  Yellow flower, Lundy Creek Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/2
Yellow flower, Lundy Creek
Nikon D810 + Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon @ ƒ/2

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