Dr. S writes:
Just getting my feet wet with the cam and ready to try this feature out.
From what I have seen the video demos available about the auto stacking function produces jpeg files. Can the cam produce RAW files first so they can be processed to taste BEFORE being taken into PS? I would think, yes but..... Also what do you think is the optimum number of images that should be taken for landscape
I know one needs to manually focus to the closest point and the camera appears to just autofocus to infinity. Obviously for macro work that does not have to be the case. Also the faster the aperture the more images need to be taken in the stack. Initially I will use PS and then, based upon the initial testing, determine if your recommended program Zerene will need to be employed.
Part of the reason for this question is landscapes many times contain high contrast areas that need adjusting and I want to be the one doing it. But maybe I'm being picky. Lastly, AF lenses are a must at my advancing age so the Nikon feature, as apparently implemented, is beneficial for me.
DIGLLOYD: I shoot it in RAW with the focus stepping feature. I never use JPEG. It seems crazy to expend all the effort on stacking (post processing) and to start with inferior images where white balance and exposure and so on cannot be adjusted well—that’s nuts.
See my focus stacking section in Making Sharp Images as well as pages with focus stacking interest. For the D850 settings and such, see Nikon D850 'Focus Shift shooting' feature for Easy Focus Stacking.
Photoshop stacking sucks. Forget about it. Use Zerene Stacker or Helicon Focus.
As for the settings: yes focus on the closest point, and the camera does the rest; set it to take enough images to get to infinity, otherwise it can keep right on going and take 4 or 5 frame so more *past* infinity. The hang of it comes pretty quickly with experience. For example, an 18mm lens with a scene focused 1/2 meter out usually can be done in 3 frames at f/11. But when going to 105mm, you'd need 30 and maybe 50 frames at that distance (from 1/2 meter to infinity). The camera figures it out, which is a beautiful thing.
The optimum number of images depends heavily on the near-to-far range, the focal length, the aperture. Figure on f/8 or f/11 or a lot of headaches (e.g. movement that needs to be retouched if there is any wind, thus making every frame different in movable areas).
Professional photographer Taki T writes:
I've been a pro photographer using Nikon for 20 years and the last few years I've been seriously contemplating switching to Sony. The main reason being Nikon's highly annoying backfocus issues.
I shoot quite a lot of large aperture people photos (among a lot of other subjects) and that Sony eye focus and contrast detect autofocus has really piqued my interest! Sony just became available in my country last month and I was about to take the plunge until I read some of your recent blogs... Suggestions/advice?
I also shoot a lot of macro and was getting the impression that I would get a noticeable improvement in IQ by switching to Sony mirrorless (better sensor and lenses)?
DIGLLOYD: horses for courses: the Sony A7R III and Nikon D850 have each their own strengths and weaknesses. There are no other 35mm cameras for general use that I would consider at this time. Get and use both IMO, but with the best glass and the glass suited properly for the task.
I think Nikon D850 image quality is superior to Sony A7R III, but in particular for multi-second exposures. That is debatable, but I stand firm on Nikon files being more malleable and less 'brittle' to work with. But both cameras produce very high quality images if handled ideally. My main gripe with Sony is its unflattering noise pattern when processed by Adobe Camera Raw.
As for backfocus with Nikon DSLRs, I have documented many problems over the years. It is a continuing problem; see Experience Report: Adjusting Autofocus Accuracy with the Nikon 105/1.4E. There is no way around the issue with DSLR AF; it’s unavoidable due to the the nature of the technology.
The Nikon D850 “focus shift” (focus stepping) feature is unique among DSLRs, and exceptionally useful if one shoots AF lenses and does focus stacking. And I hugely prefer the D850 for landscape shooting because of ergonomics and buttons, particularly with gloves on hands.
Macro: Sony has no macro lens with a focusing helicoid. For “real” macro that is troublesome; autofocus and macro work are not copacetic; see for example the various macro shots I made with the Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M. The Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar and its Milvus 135mm f/2 successor go to 1:4 and are superb.
Eye AF and portraits with Sony
The Sony A7R II and Sony A7R III Eye AF feature is unbeatable. If you like the available glass such as the 100mm f/2.8 STM and the 85mm f/1.4 GM, nothing can hold a candle to the Sony Eye AF feature for ultra-high hit rate on sharp eyes for portraits.
Even inexpensive lenses like the Sony 55mm f/1.8 can produce fabulous results.
f1.8 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 400; 2014-12-25 16:14:18[low-res image for bot]
Sony A7 II + Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA
Below, this series of shots with the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM utilized Eye AF. Never before have I had such a high hit rate shooting portraits; with something like 98% in-focus on the iris of the eye at wide apertures:
Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Examples: Natural Light Outdoor Portraits
f1.4 @ 1/320 sec, ISO 100; 2016-04-29 18:16:29[low-res image for bot]
Sony A7R II + Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
Reader Roy P owns an extensive Leica S system, and knows in detail how things have gone with it (badly).
I find his perspective always worth a chuckle and with insight based on experience with Leica that dovetails with much of my thinking on Leica.
The delusion at Leica continues at full throttle, as they keep piling up the chips on the SL and rolling the dice, believing the SL will be a very successful pro system.
I wonder how many people will shell out $4,750 and $5,150 for these 75mm and 90mm f/2 lenses, when you could get a Sony 85mm FE f/1.8 for $600, which works with face recognition and Eye AF, and delivers 42MP at 10 fps on an A7R III that costs just about 50% of the 24MP Leica SL.
And if the AF mechanism in the SL lenses is based on the AF design in the Leica S lenses, these SL lenses should be coming unglued in 3-4 years.
DIGLLOYD: Roy speaks from sad experience with his SL system and “unglued” is to be taken literally, along with extreme waits for service and repeat service visits.
Is Leica a Credible Player?
I know that many people love their Leica gear including the SL, and I still like the M240 (and M10), but I want to see the M series move forward in a dramatic way. The SL is a huge expensive brick entirely unlike the M system, and its technology is far behind what is happening with Sony and Nikon, both of which are delivering outstanding cameras (well, Sony is less camera like by far than I’d like but it has some huge plusses nonetheless).
Leica 75mm f/2 and 90mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Lenses for Leica SL
We’ve all been vaccinated, but even so, my whole family got some kind of virus that causes small airway impairment for all. Having had low-level asthma for years, I’ve treated it little over the years, but several days I had to triple the recommended dose just to keep it at bay. I’m now on day 3 of 4 of prednisone (a steroid to reduce inflammation/fluid), and that’s helping but it’s still reactive, particularly in the evening.
My point being that we were all vaccinated and a simple "cold" got down deep into the lungs with all of us. But what if you got that and this year’s flu together?
My wife took my daughter to urgent care for an unrelated issue, and it is *nasty* in there—people in bad shape coughing and just looking awful. It’s a good place to pick up a nasty bug—stay away unless something really urgent, at least here in the Bay Area.
Flu is killing the young and the old in California, but in nearby Santa Clara County, of the five dead, none were vaccinated—a preventable tragedy. The vaccine might not always work, but it gives the immune system a head start, thus making it critical for the young and old and otherwise at risk.
Public health officials continued to press the public to get flu shots, saying it wasn’t too late, and that the vaccine offered perfect protection against three of the four strains. Health officials said one strain, Influenza A H3N2, is why flu season seems more severe this year.
Get yourself and everyone vaccinated immediately to have some chance of resistance. And get good sleep for several nights, because vaccine efficacy (in general) is said to be diminished by poor sleep. The immune system takes two weeks or so to respond, so do not delay. Places like CVS Pharmacy and Safeway supermarkets offer the flu vaccine cheaply and on a walk-in basis, so you have zero excuse for not acting.
The H3N2 flu virus is known as the hospitalizer. Here’s why.
Flu-related deaths continue to climb in California. Here’s the latest toll
Vicious influenza strain sweeps Bay Area, deaths up in state
California’s deadly flu season could be worst in a decade
The way it's spreading, an unlikely but possible mutation cannot be ruled out, and what’s scary is a cross-species flu running wild. If that seems melodramatic, see the morbidly fascinating article on 1918 flu in How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America. One mutation the wrong direction, and all heck could break loose.
A state epidemiologist told reporters that this could be the worst influenza season since 2009, when the H1N1 or Swine flu pandemic killed 12,469 people nationwide.
Influenza A H3N2 is what’s known as “a non-human influenza virus that normally circulates in pigs,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, H3N2 was detected, and it turned out to be a whopper, because it contained genes from avian, swine and human virus, as well as the 2009 H1N1 gene, according to the CDC.
Infected pigs can spread it to humans in the same way humans get it from each other: coughs and sneezes and infected droplets that are inhaled. In general, influenza viruses are always mutating, but the H3N2 virus is especially cunning, some scientists say. It’s not an alien shape shifter, but some scientists say it mutates so quickly so that vaccine makers can’t quite catch up to it.
While H3N2 can cause more severe illness among those age 65 and older and people with underlying medical conditions, it poses a threat to children, according to the CDC, because children born after 2001 have little to no immunity against it.
The first death is troubling and extremely scary if indeed a flu-caused death, but maybe it was botched surgery leading to sepsis. Still, the fact that doctors are “baffled” by the death is disturbing:
San Jose mom is among 42 California flu deaths
The tragedy of her rapid physical deterioration has left them devastated, said her brother Anthony Oxley.
And it stunned physicians at Good Samaritan Hospital who worked desperately to save her life, he said. “They brought in specialists — they were baffled,’’ said the commercial contractor, who lives in Gilroy and had rushed to the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit early Thursday morning to be with his sister.
“The doctor was saying that he had never seen anything like this, and it was not supposed to happen,’’ Oxley recalled. The results of an autopsy are expected to be released this weekend, he said. His sister had gone into septic shock before she died, possibly linked to a broken hand she had suffered in a recent car accident.
David C writes:
I am not a doctor or other health professional, however I read a lot.
Flu viruses are frightening for two main reasons: they are single strand RNA viruses, meaning no proofreading during replication (none of that double strand machinery we are accustomed to when thinking about DNA copying) which leads to a high rate of mutation (copy errors); and their RNA is in multiple sections (I’ve read “boxcars” as the analogy), which can lead, if more than one strain of virus is present in the same cell, to reassortment, meaning exchange of boxcars between strains. mutations can be thought of as drift whereas reassortment should be thought of as a leap.
The two means of producing new strains of virus are the reasons it is difficult for vaccine development to keep up. the way I read it mutations are not necessarily so bad because the current vaccine may still affect a mutated version, but reassortment produces something entirely new that an old vaccine will not stop. of course sufficient mutation does produce something new, same problem.
You mentioned concurrent pneumonia; from what I’ve read pneumonia was probably responsible for most deaths in the 1918 flu epidemic that killed 50-100 million people worldwide. pneumonia can be caused by viral or bacterial infections and typically is something that hits you when you are down, as you are when you have the flu. in the 1918 edition I’ve read it was a bacterial pneumonia, which we might be able to treat (given sufficient quantities of a suitable antibiotic), but it could just as well be a viral pneumonia or some other nasty virus that we can’t. pneumonia alone (all types) steadily kills an estimated 4 million per year worldwide, a lot, but as far as I’ve read there are no epidemics of it, it is just a steady killer of the young, the old and the otherwise infirm.
One more advantage to the flu bug, you can be infectious for a day or so before showing any symptoms which reduces the effectiveness of the “if you have a cough don’t come to school” strategy.
Flu is one of the things that keeps health professionals awake at night: a leading candidate for “the next big one”. it routinely kills (estimated) 250-500 thousand yearly worldwide as it is, and evolution tries out new versions every year…
DIGLLOYD: there is work going on with a novel approach for a universal flu vaccine. I hope that it will be invented and work and influenza can go the way of smallpox. But with Crisper and modern tech, all that nasty stuff can be made from scratch or taken from a deceased body so there is no assurance of elimination. Still, it would be a major leap forward.
To say pneumonia was responsible for 1918 flu deaths drops too much context: if the lungs are infected by a virus and weakened, all sorts of bugs can move in and set up shop and the lungs can fill with fluid and pus and so on. Thus the root cause was the flu, even if an opportunistic bug dealt the killing blow. Also, pneumonia is a general term referring to a whole host of infections in the lungs—bacterial, viral and both together. At the least, get a pneumococcal vaccine, which prevents certain types of pneumonia.
The major risk this flu season is the trans-species flu going around aka the H3N2 flu. A virus that flexible is a very serious risk and a mutation in just one person (or pig) could kill tens of millions of people. The 1918 flu killed in as little as 2 days and if such a virus emerges again, there will 1000 times more ill people than hospital beds, if the staff themselves are even functional.
Just some advice based on personal experience: pneumonia can just feel like lethargy, with blood O2 levels dropping, no fever or chills, etc—in short, if you get that kind (which I’ve had), you might not get medical care so you wait a day or two, and then it’s an all-out effort in the ICU a few days later. A simple XRAY can generally spot the fist-sized ball of pus I had in my left lung, still scarred which I know because that’s where it hurts if I get a viral infection. But I’ve been very infrequently ill for years now with excellent dental health—signs of a strong immune system. Still, my lungs are the weakest point of defense and I’m vulnerable because of it.
Bob P writes:
I used to get several colds during the winter and usually a bout of the flu, even after getting a flu shot. But I started a new regimen in 2000 and have not had a single cold for flu since—without any flu shots.
I buy a gross of disposable face masks, the simple flat kind you see hospital workers wearing. I wear one of these everytime I go to the post office, grocery store, coffee shop, etc. When I get home, I always wash my hands. I started doing this when I realized that many people shop, eat and drink sick and have no problem coughing in front of others. Many shop clerks cough into their hand, and then pass you the receipt or drink with the same hand. The face mask I wear during flu season from October to April. A side benefit is it keeps the nose warm in winter.
Every once in a while I can feel that I am coming down with something, despite my precautions. In these cases, I take 50,000 units of vitamin D3, which is a natural anti-viral. It has no side effects. I usually take it in the evening with with some fat or oil (it is oil soluble) and wake up in the morning feeling completely well.
I see that many people in the Orient wear these face masks. I hope that it will catch on here so we can reduce the loss of time, the discomfort of a cold, and fatalities from the flu.
DIGLLOYD: good advice. I rarely take ill, so long a period passes between that I hardly remember... but with travel and short sleep and hard training, I pick up a cold once a year or so.
I also take Vitamin D high does at such times, such as Vitamin D3 5000 IU. Gargling with salt water as salty and as hot as you can make it seems to forestall a sore throat turning worse.
Don’t forget that paper money, in addition to being based on nothing (fiat currency), can carry all manner of nasty bugs.
Face masks seem like a good idea, and certainly are anywhere somone is sneezing into the air. But I’m not clear how such a mask can stop micron-size viruses floating around. I wore a face mask for dust last spring in a double century and that made all the difference. But dust is very large in terms of particle size.