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Apple 2018 Mac mini Reviewed

Many tests are now published on the 2018 Mac mini with more coming.

2018 Mac mini review and coverage

The 2018 Mac mini beats out my workhorse 2017 iMac 5K on most all tests, and some by a substantial margin—it bodes well for a 2019 iMac 5K; I want a built-in 5K display. Otherwise, the 2018 Mac mini looks like a much stronger machine than any other Mac to date.

diglloydMedium Photoshop benchmark for 2018 Mac mini vs 2017 iMac 5K
Great Deals on Apple
Which Camera System 📷 is Best?
Which Lenses to Choose?🌈

Avoid costly mistakes and get the ideal system for your needs: diglloyd photographic consulting.

Reasons To Like my Workhorse NEC PA302W Wide Gamut Professional Display + Now ON SALE for just $1599

See my color management wishlist and get NEC PA302W at B&H Photo. Unless you already have the NEC calibrator and software, be sure to get the NEC PA302W BK-SV.

The NEC PA302W is my workhorse display on which I do all my photography work. It is a 30-inch 2560 X 1600 wide-gamut display with true hardware calibration (not faux calibration). The PA302W calibrates to within 1 delta-A accuracy (that’s for nerds, it means “amazingly accurate and your eyes are probably not that good”).

Regrettably the deal ended the very day I posted this (did not realize at the time) with the price going back up from $1649 to $2249—items shown below are live prices and update daily, consider also bookmarking my displays wishlist which is updated by live feed daily.

NOTE: regular price is $2249 in spite of what it might say below. So it is a $650 discount.

Recommended Wide Gamut Pro Displays

There is a lot to like about the NEC PA302W, which is why I consider it the finest display available today for evaluating and processing images (though the iMac 5K is my preferred display for viewing images). That is why I call it my workhorse display. The NEC PA302W is the display I will be installing in my mobile photography adventure van.

  • Screen resolution of 2560 X 1600 in a 30" form factor, for eye-friendly pixel density that allows me to quickly evaluate image sharpness. As well as the 1600-high thing: *way* better than 1440 (including the “looks like” 2560 X 1440 of the iMac 5K).
  • Color gamut that extends *way* beyond the AdobeRGB color space, important for making decisions on saturation and color subtlety, plus today’s printers are also beyond AdobeRGB gamut.
  • Neutral backlighting— the GB-R backlighting delivers a neutral gray—not the magenta-tinted “gray” W-LED displays that most calibration devices see as neutral, but is in fact tinted magenta to the human eye, or at least my eyes, which are unusually good for color discrimination.
  • Low glare—unlike the iMac 5K, the NEC PA302W has surface coating that works well in all sorts of lighting conditions, and does not display the walls behind my back.
  • 4-year warranty. Compare that to the abbreviated 1 year warranty Apple provides.

Below, the PA302W with SpectraView II calibration kit is at the lowest price of the year, just $1649. THe PA272W is also excellent, but I prefer 2560 X 1600 over 2560 X 1440 for more working area. Click through for full discounts on some of the displays.

Below, check out that color gamut! The inside triangle is AdobeRGB, which falls far short of what the NEC PA302W offers. I use the 16-bit ProPhotoRGB color space for most of my work, outputting to AdobeRGB JPEG files unless the image is out of gamut in AdobeRGB.

When NEC claims that the PA302W covers 99.3% of AdobeRGB, it means that 0.7% of the color space cannot be displayed, but it says nothing about how much *more* there is. The PA302W as I calibrate it covers ~120% of AdobeRGB, but nearly all of that increase is in the blue-magenta-red axis.

Color gamut of NEC PA302W wide gamut display, full range calibration
Color gamut of NEC PA302W wide gamut display, full range calibration
NEC PA302W 30-inch wide-gamut display showing a bristlecone pine I shot one day
B&H Deal ZoneDeals by Brand/Category/Savings
Deals expire in 11 hours unless noted. Certain deals may last longer.
$599 SAVE $200 = 25.0% Canon 17-40mm f/4 EF L USM in Lenses: DSLR
$519 SAVE $130 = 20.0% Canon 70-200mm f/4 EF L USM in Lenses: DSLR
$449 SAVE $100 = 18.0% DJI Goggles Racing Edition in Video: Drones
$299 SAVE $50 = 14.0% $149 FREE ITEMS DJI Spark Quadcopter (Sunrise Yellow) in Video: Drones
$50 SAVE $100 = 66.0% Lowepro DroneGuard CS 400 in Video: Drones
$2497 SAVE $300 = 10.0% $29 FREE ITEMS Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S NIKKOR E FL ED VR in Lenses: DSLR
$1099 SAVE $100 = 8.0% Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art in Lenses: DSLR
$898 SAVE $500 = 35.0% Sony a7 II Mirrorless in Cameras: Mirrorless
$898 SAVE $506 = 36.0% $19 FREE ITEMS Sony a7 II Mirrorless with Accessory Kit in Cameras: Mirrorless

Save Big On Apple Through Dec 22

See also my Mac wishlist as well as recommend storage solutions and external SSDs and more.

Check out all the big discounts on Apple products including the very latest stuff.

Examples of some of the excellent discounts:

Callouts

 

Our trusted photo rental store

Is Sony Image Quality Good Enough?

Get Zeiss ZM at B&H Photo and see my Nikon mirrorless wishlist and my Leica M mirrorless wishlist.

For what?

Recently a consulting client asked me whether I thought that Sony image quality was good or good enough. Yes.

It’s way more than good enough. The issues these days are (a) lenses, (b) ergonomics and haptics, (c) suitability for the types of photography.

The image below is of my daughter. I’m trying to set that aside and ask myself: could I have made a better image with another camera—and the answer comes back “no, not in any important way”.

That’s why although I greatly prefer the Nikon Z7 camera body, the Nikon lens line is currently a non-starter, at least without adapting lenses via a lens adapter. That’s doable but far from ideal (size, weight, awkward). Canon got Canon mirrorless right at the outset, with at least one fabulous lens (and perhaps the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L is equally impressive). Nikon is tactically and strategically brain dead in at least two ways: (a) three dud consumer-grade lenses at the outset, and (b) failure to partner with Sigma and Zeiss immediately. No one wants to wait three years for a full lens line.

View this image at full size on an Apple iMac 5K. It has a strong visual impact IMO. Zeiss optics on Sony are terrific. If only I had Eye AF at the time—the iris of the eye is off a little here, by 2mm or so.

L Chambers
f1.4 @ 1/160 sec, ISO 200; 2015-04-07 18:47:58
Sony A7R + Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

[low-res image for bot]

Jason W writes:

I find it interesting that you answered this question with an image from the Sony A7R, the only Sony camera I'd flat-out say has image quality that isn't acceptable due to the shuttershock issue.

DIGLLOYD: shutter shock is unacceptable with the Sony A7R which to me means the A7R is dumpster material, but in this case not an issue (1/160 is fine at 35mm, at least handheld). I was referring to color, dynamic range and noise, sharpness (without shutter shock issues). Using a 2015 image was in part a way to reinforce the idea of the maturity of camera systems. But also it’s like pulling teeth to get my daughters to pose any more!

Beware Lens Adapters Getting Stuck

Get Zeiss ZM at B&H Photo and see my Nikon mirrorless wishlist and my Leica M mirrorless wishlist.

I just spent 10 minutes trying to get a KIPON Leica-M-NikonZ lens adapter off my Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. The last time something like this happened, I had to saw-off the adapter, but that one (Nikon F to Canon EF) was only 2mm thick. The KIPON adapter is far beefier and destructive removal would be hazardous to the lens. I am loathe to use it for that reason.

Ultimately I got the KIPON lens adapter detached, but I am very unhappy about the experience: the adapter cost me $80 or so, but the KIPON lens adapter is now worthless as I cannot assume that the adapter can be used without getting stuck onto the lens. Throw in temperature variations, and it's a hopeless situation. Moreover, its tight fit has already degraded the fine brass ring on the ZM 35/1.4, which can be seen as brass residue on the adapter. And the lens release button clearly has a shitty cheap tiny spring in it—maybe that was/is the issue.

I also ordered a GABALE LeicaM-NikonZ lens adapter, and it mounts/unmounts without issue, so far. Still makes me nervous as hell as I don’t feel like “losing” a mult-thousand dollar lens to a crappy lens adapter.

I might defer my testing until I can get the Novoflex LeicaM-NikonZ lens adapter (still not listed at B&H Photo for some reason). Novoflex lens adapters are not cheap but have always worked without trouble for me.

While I saw an announcement for the Novoflex lens adapter for Leica M/Zeiss ZM to Nikon Z, Novoflex USA is still not showing it on their web site either in product listing or in “News”, nor is novoflex.de. So maybe it is delayed.

Novoflex NIKZ/LEM
Leica M / Zeiss ZM to Nikon Z lens adapter

Update: talk about hiding your light under a bushel: Novoflex does a darn good job of hiding the adapter from news and product listings, but the Novoflex NIKZ/LEM is there to be found via product search:

Novoflex NIKZ/LEM

Expected to be available from November 2018 on!

Adapter Leica M-lenses to Nikon Z-Mount -Precision made lens adapter

- exact compensation of the flange focal length difference of the two mounts
- connected lenses can be manually focused up to infinity
- no information transmission between the lens and the camera
- Exposure metering in aperture priority mode or manually.

NOTE: Due to the construction of the Leica M bayonet, uncorrectable imaging errors may appear during longer exposure times. This is not a reason for complaint.

Terrence M writes:

This is a good article on lens adapters: https://phillipreeve.net/blog/adapters-manual-lenses-sony-a7-series-guide/

DIGLLOYD: see also my various articles on lens adapters including All about lens adapters for Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc (witten around 2010).

Roy P writes:

I only had a quick glance of your article, so I don’t know if you already covered this. Metabones is especially notorious for this (Canon, Leica R and Nikon lenses to Sony E mount). What happens is, when you turn the adapter to remove it from the body, the darned thing turns just a tad past where it is supposed to stop, so some part of the mounting threads now end up blocking the removal of the adapter. The solution is, after you turn the adapter “normally”, until it stops turning, turn it back in the other direction by a millimeter or so, and that should get you to the perfect alignment that shoddy manufacturing missed.

The other problem which is hidden, is a poorly designed mount can scrape against the mount on the body of the camera to provide a snug fit. That is not good. The other extreme is a loose fit that is loose enough that the lens can rattle when mounted. That’s not good, but at least, not destructive.

That’s why it’s worth spending the big bucks on a Novoflex, which is machined with the same quality as a Cambo or RRS, and works flawlessly. Voigtlander is also very good, if they make one for the camera / lens combo you’re looking for. After that, it’s a nosedive in quality.

DIGLLOYD: Novoflex is what I wanted in the first place, but it was and is not yet available in the states as far as I can find—B&H Photo does not list the Leica M to Nikon Z lens adapter—I’ve inquired.

Skip K writes:

I had a tough time with the Kipon Nikon F tilt shift to Sony E adapter, but on the lens side (may be too tight a fit). The Chinese will run their machines until something breaks. They can always screw up German engineering. I use Hawks Factory Leica/Sony E adapter with helicoid and Zeiss 35/1.4 ZM. Works like a charm.

DIGLLOYD: I’m not a big fan of Chinese-sourced gear—the Chinese have stolen trillions in US I.P. and continue to do so.

Nikon Z7 and Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Here — Looks Promising

Get Zeiss ZM at B&H Photo and see my Nikon mirrorless wishlist and my Leica M mirrorless wishlist.

It turns out that the 1.1mm figure from KolariVision for the sensor cover glass does not include the expoxied-on glass portion of the sensor. So the real figure is ~2.3mm total glass thickness, not 1.1mm (Nikon D850 is about ~2.5mm). Still 2.3mm is notably more thin than the 3+ mm for Sony mirrorless. In other words, performance of lenses designed for Leica M *will* be degraded on the Nikon Z7 but notably less than on Sony. But how much will depend greatly on each lens and its particular optical design—no generalizations work.

Studying fine text that approaches sensor resolution in Live View at the edge of the frame at f/1.4 on the 45-megapixel Nikon Z7, performance look promising—seemingly better than many ordinary f/1.4 lenses on their native platforms. The edge of the frame is where the depradations of ray angle are of greatest concern and yet I am not seeing any obvious astigmatism or blurriness or smearing at f/1.4, which means that the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 is at the least a very good performer on the Nikon Z7 at f/1.4. Sub-optimal surely, but clearly highly useable wide open.

See MTF on Mirrorless Cameras for an MTF series from f/1.4 through f/16 as measured by Zeiss for its effects on lens performance.

By comparison, I am seein pronounced (beyond unacceptable) quality losses with the Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH which had even worse issues on the Sony A7R back when I tested it in 2014. The good news is that the hideous magenta cast seen on the A7R does not exist on the Nikon Z7. Still, the sharpness loss is so severe that I deem the Leica 24/3.8 non-viable at any aperture.

The haptics of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon have always been superb, but on the Z7 it’s a pairing unrivalled by any other camera/lens I can think of: haptics of the lens and its size/weight/balance on the Nikon Z7. At least for my largish hands. The EVF of the Z7 is incredible, making the Leica M240 look like the museum piece it is (24 megapixels with a crude low-res EVF that can only zoom in the center—it’s day is over).

My full report on Leica M lenses and Zeiss ZM lenses means lens reviews, which go into their native publication (diglloyd Leica) as has been the well-reasoned and rational organizational system for years. However, I intend to cover the general topic of M/ZM lenses on mirrorless with examples in diglloyd Mirrorless, at least for the Nikon Z7.

Zeiss ZM 35m f/1.4 — My #1 Pick for Leica M

...

I wrote to my contact at Zeiss with this question:

As I understand it, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon was designed for 0.8mm sensor cover glass.

If the Nikon Z7 has 1.1mm cover glass, then it seems likely that the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 might perform reasonably well even wide open, and very well by, say, f/2.8?

The best lens for Leica M?
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, in black or silver finish

The response was in the affirmative: “Everything correct, fully agree”.

All about the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

For the first time, I can look forward to using my Leica M lenses and Zeiss ZM lenses on a much stronger and more usable camera.

There will surely be some minor impairment for the first aperture or two, but 2.3mm-thick sensor cover glass is a a lot less damaging to image quality than 3+mm-thick sensor cover glass as with Sony.

This looks to make the Nikon Z7 the pre-eminent high-resolution mirrorless platform for anyone looking to adapt lenses: Nikon F-mount with the superb Nikon FTZ lens adapter, Leica M and Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with an M-to-F-mount adapter (one already exists) and just about everything else.

The Nikon Z7 has the best resolution, best EVF, best ergonomics/haptics, all without the performance-killing thick sensor cover glass of Sony mirrorless. Its compact size and superb feature set and image quality along with compact Leica M and Zeiss ZM lenses holds huge appeal—though I don’t think some Leica M lenses will be good enough for a 45MP sensor.

I’ll be investigating the performance of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon and various Leica M lenses on the Nikon Z7 as soon as I can obtain a high quality lens adapter.

Coverage of Zeiss ZM and Leica M lenses or any lens always g into the native guide for the lens that is covered, e.g.,diglloyd Leica. Subscribers to the FULL ACCESS deal of course have full access to that and everything else.

See also:

Mt Conness Sub-Peak
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Aspen Scrub
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
Green Aspen Trunks, Late September
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Earth Shadow Rises as Black Horse Grazes
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Glowing Yellow Aspen
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Dusk Settles on Glaciated Landscape
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Green Moss in Trickle Stream
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Glacial Erratic in Stream Bed
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Lundy Creek in Late September
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Reader Comment: Mirrorless System Choice

See my Sony mirrorless and Nikon mirrorless and Canon mirrorless wishlists.

Daniel R writes:

Thanks to all the information from your tests and evaluations, my biggest system change is now a fact. Switching from DSLR to mirrorless.

There is no camera system that is perfect for everyone, it all comes down to the kind of work you do and the conditions you work in and other personal preferences. I know that your reviews here at Diglloyd are more centered around landscape photography. Knowing that, I still get a lot out of your reviews. You have challenges that I do not have, like carrying around equipment for days in the bush. Making bulk and weight an issue. Not so much for me, I mostly have to transport me gears from my car to the location, mostly short distance and I use Think Tank rolling bags. And my camera equipment are just a small piece of my arsenal, with ProPhoto flashes, lightstands and light shapers being the bulky stuff. For the record I work as a professional photographer, mainly portraits for papers, magazines and corporate assignments. I also do some interior and architecture photography.

I was at first considering the Fujifilm GFX system. I really wanted that medium format look and quality, but because of lack in precision in AF and focus shift issue, it was not the right camera system for me, despite the amazing sensor quality.

The reason for me to change from the Canon 5Dmk4 was to get an even higher AF accuracy when shooting portraits. I have over time calibrated the autofocus on all my lenses and also learned what aperture to avoid due to focus shift. My AF hit rate is quite good and use tripod as much as possible. For my type of photography, perfect focus on the iris of the eye is crucial. Anyway, I wanted an even higher in focus hit rate and was also tiered of moving AF-points and/or focus and recomposing before taking the picture. I missed so many shoots trying to find spot on focus. So I began looking in to others systems like Sony and the (at the time) yet to come mirrorless from Nikon and Canon.

When Nikon and Canon finally released their mirrorless I waited out your tests and then made my decision to go with Sony mirrorless with the now 1 year old Sony 7R III. There are many factors that play in but some more crucial than others. For me, the major decisive factor is perfect sharpness on iris in portraits, even with large apertures. Nothing beats Sony’s Eye AF today for that task. Another crucial factor was obviously the lens range and Sony also had a clear advantage, especially for me as a lover of the Sigma DG HSM Art lens range that now comes with native Sony mount. I do not like lens adapters and I’m no big fan of zoom lenses. Just give me a state of the art prime lens that delivers and I’m satisfied. Bulk and weight are not a problem for my style of work because I do not have to hike around.

So right now the Sony A7R III is on its way with a total of 8 Sigma DG HMS Art prime lenses all the way from 14mm to 135mm. It will be a heavy camera bag, but for the way I work, it's no problem as I do not have to move so long distances with my equipment. What I'm most skeptical of is the ergonomics and I'm afraid the camera will feel small compared to my Canon 5D Mark IV with battery pack. That is why I equip my Sony with a battery pack and an Really Right Stuff L-plate for that combo.

Without a subscription to your tests, I would had probably have bought, for me, the wrong camera system. Making Sharp Images I would say is the best of your work and and eye opener for me. My clients today often comments on the exceptional sharpnes and micro contrast in my work. Your articles are a big reason to that, giving me all the tools to achieve that.

BTW, if somebody had told me 5 years ago that in a few years I would have a camera from Sony and only Sigma lenses I would have laugh!

DIGLLOYD: in addition to my publications and reviews like Making Sharp Images (an essential eye-opening primer that every photographer can benefit from), I offer one-on-one consulting when choosing a camera system

Zeiss Photo Contest

Jorge Torrabla writes:

This years's Zeiss Images contest is taking a detour over on LeicaImages.com. If you're up to it, please inform your readers for a chance to win a Zeiss lens. Details are here https://www.leicaimages.com/topic/100016

DIGLLOYD: contest runs through the end of December.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, in black or silver finish

Reader Question: Photo Blogging Web Service?

Adam S writes:

I'm looking for a photo-blogging host, and I can't find anything decent. I'm wondering if you can recommend something, or maybe appeal to your high-quality readership for suggestions.

I'm on SmugMug: https://www.adamshackleford.com/ It's cheap, fast, reliable, and great for displaying galleries, but useless as a blog platform. I've also tried WordPress and Ghost: *

WordPress is usable as a blogging platform, but weak as a photo platform. Once you get the performance issue solved (Amazon Lightsail and WP Engine get the job done), you're left with half-hearted image support. Yes, I waded through ~100 photo blogging themes for WordPress. I coughed up for the best theme out there (TwoFold), and it really doesn't cut the mustard. * Ghost is simply not ready for prime time

I want to write an article about a series of related pics I took. I want to display those pics using every pixel available on the target device. Mobile support is nice-to-have, but I don't really care how my stuff looks on a postage stamp:
* Good blog support.
* Click on an image in a blog post, and an image *gallery* appears.
* That gallery supports full-screen images. It optimizes the mapping from the (high-res) source image to the full-screen resolution of the target platform.

That's all. It's not out there. I've tried Wix, Format, Squarespace, Zenfolio, Pixpa, 500px, Flickr, and 10 or 15 others I can't remember. None of them is good at displaying high-quality images. Image quality is literally a second- or third-tier concern for those platforms--optimized for the cellphone crowd.

DIGLLOYD: I don’t know—reader comments welcome and I will post suggestions.

I write all my backend server code and have solved all of these issues in a pioneering way in terms of Retina image display and multiple sizes and to this day see no other website in the world half as sophisticated. But, that’s not very helpful to those looking, I suppose unless I create and license a genera purposed server product to do so.

Eric writes:

Photodeck.com has excellent features for photographers and has a blog service as well, and is very snappy with display of large files.

Howard B writes:

The person asking about a photo centric blogging platform might look at the 2 Adobe services that come free with the $9.99 per month Photographic plan. Just saw Julieanne Kost demonstrate them and they are definitely work exploring:

Adobe Spark https://spark.adobe.com
This seems to be a photo centric blogging site…..

Adobe Portfolio https://portfolio.adobe.com
Totally photo centered with less text.

What I got from Julieanne’s presentation, is your images must start in Lightroom. You then sync the ones you want to use and they are available on these two sites. They come with lots of prebuilt designs, and can be customized fairly easily. I’m going to try them out.

I’ve successfully sync’d Lightroom collections to LR Mobile on my iPhone. I've been successful starting with LR mobile app and shooting raw (DNG) files that are processed in the app, or in my LR Classic app. All the processing syncs very quickly and the images are available on both my desktop and my phone and iPad. They are also available at lightroom.adobe.com

Hasselblad HC 120mm f/4 II Examples: Cottonwood Basin, White Mountains

Get Hasselblad medium format at B&H Photo.

These examples shot in the Cottonood Basin of the White Mountains with the Hasselblad H6D-100C. It was a grueling exercise to get there and return, but the Moots MootoX YBB 29er made it work down and back up the nearly-destroyed road that I had driven only a few years earlier (torrential rainstorm created 4-foot-deep cuts) .s

These examples explore pushing the limits of dynamic range.

Hasselblad HC 120mm f/4 II Examples: Cottonwood Basin, White Mountains

Includes images up to full camera resolution. Many of the images are focus stacked for incredible detail at 100 megapixels.

Old Fireplace Stove in Old Ranching Cabin, Cottonwood Basin, White Mountains
f11 @ 10.0 sec, ISO 64; 2018-11-26 14:29:57
[location “Cottonwood Basin, old ranching cabin”, altitude 9200 ft / 2804 m, 32°F / 0°C, LACA corrected, focus stack 4 frames, diffraction mitigating sharpening]
Hasselblad H6D-100C + Hasselblad HC 50mm f/3.5 II @ 33mm equiv (50mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Really Right Stuff Now Shipping L-Plate for Nikon Z7 + Which Generic Plates are Best

See my Really Right Stuff wishlist.

From Really Right Stuff:

The first Nikon Z7 plates are starting to go out this week.

As for generic plates, the BP-CS has the flange to prevent rotation. The BPNS has the cork gasket. Either would work in a pinch for a generic base plate.

Also, some generic plates work well on the Nikon FTZ lens adapter.

Another Storm, a Cold One

Winter is in full swing in the Eastern Sierra—dang! Below, today’s cold storm dumped a few more inches at about 24°F—nice and fluffy—as far different from “Sierra cement” as it gets. It’s entertaining plowing up an 8° grade at 30 mph creating a vehicle snowstorm behind. The wind was enough to half fill in the tracks within an hour—snow this dry blows around and fills in everything.

How do you re-freeze 1-gallon water bottles in the cooler while traveling? Stick 'em outside at 19°F (at 9PM!) and let them freeze solid, then put back into cooler in the morning.

My Sprinter with the BF Goodrich ALL-TERRAIN T/A KO2 LT265/70R17 has no problem cruising through 5 to 8 inches of snow like this; if it were a foot deep I do not think it would pose an issue (ground clearance is ample and far more than most every SUV). The tires grab really well on fresh snow in 4WD with no slippage even on steep upgrades. On ice they are good as tires go, but not as good as a full-on snow tire with special cold-weather tire compounds and extensive siping.

I mostly hunkered down today, not deeming it prudent to head further north over the passes with chains required, not in the dense storm with high winds. Better to wait it out—shown below the storm is clearing. It sure is nice to have a warm apartment on wheels after shooting outside like this. My main challenge is keeping the 10 kW battery system charged when I don’t drive much (as it turns out, idling a Sprinter is the kiss of death for the turbo and engine, largely due to the awful Mobil 1 0W 40 oil with a terrible NOACK rating which I will no longer be using—more on that in my Sprinter pages soon).

I shot the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon today... anyone who thinks the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW is in the same league is quite mistaken, particularly in terms of color correction and field curvature. However the Pentax 50/1.4 is really good for a standard 50mm.

f11 @ 1/1600 sec, ISO 64; 2018-12-01 14:54:13
[location “Lundy Canyon camp”, altitude 7000 ft / 2134 m, 26°F / -3°C, USM{8,50,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

This poor skunk seemed confused, hardly able to plow through the snow. It ultimately made a circle and said the hell with it, heading back under cover into the sagebrush. Regrettably I did not have my snow boots on, or I would have approached much closer.

Skunk in Snow
f1.4 @ 1/8000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-12-01 11:17:12
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

[low-res image for bot]
f11 @ 1/160 sec, ISO 100; 2018-12-01 15:36:00
[location “Lundy Canyon Road”, altitude 7300 ft / 2225 m, 24°F / -4°C]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: Sprinter Van in Clearing Snowstorm, White Mountain Road (Nikon D850)

Outstanding brilliance and contrast are the hallmark of the Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8.

This series looks at overall contrast and micro contrast and detail in an extreme dynamic range scene. This scene, shows why discriminating photographers working in demanding outdoor lighting choose the Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8. It also looks into depth of field gains with stopping down.

Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: Sprinter Van in Clearing Snowstorm, White Mountain Road

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

f2.8 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 64; 2018-11-29 12:06:10
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 28°F / -2°C, LACA corrected]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 2.8/15 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Reader Comment: White Balance

Rory H writes:

I sometimes find your images to be on the cold side with a blue tint, but due to your expertise and meticulous procedures I’ve assumed the white balance is as precise as you can achieve.

In the images of your van in the snow on the road you have posted two images from the D850 – the first one has a distinct blue tint while the second one, which includes you in the frame, appears to me to be closer to reality.

Am I missing something? Could you include a short blurb in your blog on achieving precision white balance?

DIGLLOYD: I’ve been meaning to add a section on white balance, which is a lot more complicated than it might seem and not solvable by just a gray card or similar, not in outdoor complex lighting or extremely blue conditions.

My white balance choices are usually intentional and not the result of an error. That whites/neutrals should always be neutral is a false premise—who wants to neutralize the warm glow of light at sunset or dusk? Sometimes, but usually not. Even with photographic film “correct” color balance achieved by filtration could look wrong/odd.

When I am in doubt, I check the Lab values of neutrals and near-neutrals to see just how blue/yellow or magenta/green an area is (after 3 X 10-pixel Gaussian Blur). But I temper that with my perceptual reaction.

The first van-only image appealed to me in leaving it bluish because it was very cold and I wanted to evoke that feeling, but it in retrospect it is too blue—but I was in a hurry to complete that post. The 2nd van-and-me image I neutralized because of skin tones (me). Both were choices made intentionally. However, working on an iMac 5K for that post (very contrasty and saturated image display), I cannot judge color as well as on my NEC PA302W (it’s a bit of a hassle to set up and tear down the full dual display system in my van).

There are a number of factors to consider when going for neutrality:

  • Perceptual impact: neutral or slightly warm snow often can make the image look too warm (in both meanings of the word). I find that a slight bluish tint is more accurate to perception and feel. However, in full sun this not necessarily so so long as the snow has no yellow tint at all (perfect neutral is OK).
  • In shade or at dusk neutralizing the blue looks totally wrong, and can never be done accurately as there are weird crossovers in tint and color—including with high-end cameras like the H6D-100C. So it is better to leave the image somewhat blue.

I could carry a gray card or SpyderCHECKR card, but I’ve found that when color temp goes over about 7000°K neutralizing according to the card almost never looks right. And the color of the card itself is highly variable depending on its orientation to lighting sources. Bottom line: “correct” ≠ pleasing ≠ perceptual and very blue cannot in my experience (with any camera) be corrected without color crossovers.

That said, compare the 4 image variants below. Having now taken the time to asses them, I’d favor the image processed at 5800°K; while the 6000°K image is more neutral overall, it goes a bit too warm for my taste in the central areas. The 5800°K variant is also subtly less magenta (+6M instead of +8M). The magenta/green tint often shifts 10 points from 5000°K to 8000°K (including high-end cameras like the Hasselblad H6D-100C), so this is a subtlety that starts to matter.

Note that the snow right under the van is neutral and that the image goes more and more blue away from that area. Some of that is the lens itself, but I also caught the light/shadow mix such that other areas are actually more blue. It is not possible to neutralize the color across the frame by any simple means, but check out the black and white variant—compare it to the 6000°K image and see the neutral/blue gradient across the snow.

Below, this image was intentionally left bluish—perhaps too much. The next image was neutralized.

f2.8 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 64; 2018-11-29 12:06:10
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 28°F / -2°C, LACA corrected]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 2.8/15 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]

Below, this image at 5500°K—note the greater neutrality stopped down to f/11, and with sunlight hiting most of the snow across the frame. Going to 5800°K would look too warm for the subject matter.

f11 @ 1/200 sec, ISO 64; 2018-11-29 12:02:59
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 28°F / -2°C, "tires and 4WD worked great", diffraction mitigating sharpening]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 2.8/15 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]

 

Cold But Beautiful

I’m worn out at this point, with plenty of images from the Hasselblad H6D-100C and Pentax K-1 Mark II to work with, but not much energy left to process and publish, so I’ll be heading home in a few days.

Aperture f/11 with the Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8—superlative. But see the next image at f/2.8, equally impressive for its briliance.

f11 @ 1/200 sec, ISO 64; 2018-11-29 12:02:59
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 28°F / -2°C, "tires and 4WD worked great", diffraction mitigating sharpening]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 2.8/15 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]

This next image shot wide open at f/2.8 shows why discerning landscape photographers choose the Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8 Distagon (note well that the Zeiss ZF.2 and ZE versions are currently $1350 off). I shot some material with the Milvus 15/2.8 on this snowy day, and it is a superlative performer in this kind of light. [It gets annoying having to shoot with a lesser system, the Pentax K-1 II, relpixel shift being a non-starter in this shooting environment].

f2.8 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 64; 2018-11-29 12:06:10
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 2.8/15 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]

iPhone panoramas are very fast and handy, but the pixel quality is garbage—Ihave to cut the pixels in half for decent quality. Here I got lucky in that the iPhone blew-out only part of the sky and the tires, being nearly black, don’t show just how bad the pixel quality is (my figuring is 4:1, e.g., a 12MP image is a solid 3MP).

f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 40; 2018-11-29 17:08:46
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 9102 ft / 2774 m, 28°F / -2°C, "K02 tires..."]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

[low-res image for bot]

My Sprinter has performed like a champ, and being now well-insulated, 14°F at night is not a problem. The BF Goodrich ALL-TERRAIN T/A KO2 LT265/70R17 tires worked great on grades up to 18 percent (the paved section of White Mountain Road gets quite steep) in 5 inches of fresh snow in spite of being about 1/2 worn. Going down when the melt had frozen to ice was also no problem.

f10 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 14:53:15
[location “Grandview Campground”, altitude 8530 ft / 2600 m, 30°F / -1°C, diffraction mitigating sharpening, "4WD working great with K02 tires", LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Our trusted photo rental store

Reader Question: Sony A7R III Lens Kit

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

Andrew F writes:

The equipment I was thinking of buying is:
- Sony A7R III
- Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8
- Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4
- Sony 55 mm f/1.8
- Sony FE 100 mm f/2.8 STF (for its unbelievable bokeh)

Do you have any quick thoughts on my choice of equipment? I'm an amateur enthusiast, and I like taking pictures of landscapes and historic buildings/towns. I'm planning to upgrade from a micro four thirds camera with a zoom lens.

Could you describe the amount of sharpening that you have given to the sample photos taken with these particular lenses.

DIGLLOYD: sharpening is shown for every aperture series of all brands—click “View ACR Settings” in such series. Sharpening depends partly on aperture; more is needed for f/9 onwards from diffraction. See also post processing and Making Sharp Images.

As to gear—my first advice is to sit on the fence a few months to see what evolves from Sony—the Sony A7R III is now a year old, so it’s due. Also, with the holidays coming there may be good discounts even better than Black Friday last week.

I offer one-on-one consulting for camera system selection, well advised for anyone putting together a system approaching $8K as above—it’s easy to spend in ways that won’t work it—I probe for details that might direct things better.

Given the stated goals, the lens choices are good but for these points:

Image Quality Shootout: Pentax K-1 Mark II with Pixel Shift vs Nikon D850: Yellow Tractor

See my Pentax wishlist.

This page looks at resolving power and overall visual impact and pixel quality of the Pentax K-1 Mark II with and without pixel shift, versus the Nikon D850.

Images are shown at native sizes for both cameras, as well as at enlargements of 72 and 311 megapixels, along with crops shown from the 311MP size. Why show an enlargement of 311 megapixels? Because its width of 21600 pixels corresponds to 300 dpi with a 6-foot-wide print (1.83 meters wide). And because crops from that resolution are easy to view and see differences.

Pentax K-1 Mark II Shootout vs Nikon D850: Yellow Tractor

Includes images at up to native resolution as well as 72 and 311 megapixel upsampled images (with and without pixel shift), as well as crops from the upsampled images.

There is good news for both Nikon D850 (and Nikon Z7) owners here and equally good new for Pentax K-1 Mark II owners. What a pity that Nikon does not extend the quality envelope with pixel shift on the Nikon Z7.

f11 @ 0.6 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-28 16:16:52
[location “Laws Railroad Museum”, altitude 4100 ft / 1250 m, LACA corrected, diffraction mitigating sharpening]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

[low-res image for bot]

 

How Good is the Resolving Power of the Pentax K-1 Mark II versus a 100-Megapixel Medium Format Camera

See my Pentax wishlist.

I’ve begun shooting the Pentax K-1 II along with the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW. I am way behind on processing and presenting my findings, but it is coming (ditto for more Hasselblad H6D-100C material).

The Pentax K-1 Mark II offers an improved pixel shift mode (really fast capture), which under the right conditions (no movement) delivers absolutely stunning images. Four exposures in a pixel shift image means 4X the light gathered, for ultra low noise and effectively a true color sensor. Color alisasing and moiré are banished, noise is cut in half and color accuracy rises. It all adds up to in image quality which cannot be stated simply as megapixels.

I rate the megapixels equivalent from the 36-megapixel sensor in the Pentax K-1 Mark II in pixel shift mode at an absolute minimum of 45 megapixels, and as high as 72 megapixels when the total image quality sum is considered. That is, it does not out-resolve the 45-megapixel Nikon D850, but it looks to the eye as if it does due to superior acutance. So the best term is perhaps “Bayer matrix megapixels equivalent” which takes into account resolution, dynamic range and noise, textural and fine detail accuracy, etc. It is the same principle of Sigma DP Merrill cameras, which can outprint many a Bayer matrix camera of far higher resolution.

Judge for yourself—the first example on this page includes the image upscaled to 11600 pixels wide (89 megapixels), the same width of the 100 megapixels Hasselblad H6D-100C.

Pentax K-1 Mark II Examples: Resolving Power with Pixel Shift

I would love to see Nikon implement this high-grade pixel shift on the Nikon Z7—dang.

Rusted Old Car
f11 @ 4.0 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-27 16:52:03
[location “Laws Railroad Museum”, altitude 4100 ft / 1250 m, 45°F / 7°C, LACA corrected, diffraction mitigating sharpening]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

[low-res image for bot]

 

Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Nikon Z7 Should Be a Solid Leica M and Zeiss ZM Lens Platform Without Modification

Get Zeiss ZM at B&H Photo and see my Nikon mirrorless wishlist and my Leica M mirrorless wishlist.

Update 2018-11-03: turns out that the 1.1mm figure from KolariVision for the sensor cover glass does not include the expoxied-on glass portion of the sensor. So the real figure is ~2.3mm total glass thickness, not 1.1mm (Nikon D850 is about ~2.5mm). Still 2.3mm is notably more thin than the 3+ mm for Sony mirrorless. I’ll have to see what actual testing shows.

...

I wrote to my contact at Zeiss with this question:

As I understand it, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon was designed for 0.8mm sensor cover glass.

If the Nikon Z7 has 1.1mm cover glass, then it seems likely that the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 might perform reasonably well even wide open, and very well by, say, f/2.8?

The best lens for Leica M?
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, in black or silver finish

The response was in the affirmative: “Everything correct, fully agree”.

All about the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

For the first time, I can look forward to using my Leica M lenses and Zeiss ZM lenses on a much stronger and more usable camera.

There will surely be some minor impairment for the first aperture or two, but 1.1mm-thick sensor cover glass is a a lot less damaging to image quality than 2.5mm-thick sensor cover glass.

This looks to make the Nikon Z7 the pre-eminent high-resolution mirrorless platform for anyone looking to adapt lenses: Nikon F-mount with the superb Nikon FTZ lens adapter, Leica M and Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with an M-to-F-mount adapter (one already exists) and just about everything else.

The Nikon Z7 has the best resolution, best EVF, best ergonomics/haptics, all without the performance-killing thick sensor cover glass of Sony mirrorless. Its compact size and superb feature set and image quality along with compact Leica M and Zeiss ZM lenses holds huge appeal—though I don’t think some Leica M lenses will be good enough for a 45MP sensor.

I’ll be investigating the performance of the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon and various Leica M lenses on the Nikon Z7 as soon as I can obtain a high quality lens adapter.

Coverage of Zeiss ZM and Leica M lenses or any lens always g into the native guide for the lens that is covered, e.g.,diglloyd Leica. Subscribers to the FULL ACCESS deal of course have full access to that and everything else.

See also:

Mt Conness Sub-Peak
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Aspen Scrub
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
Green Aspen Trunks, Late September
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Earth Shadow Rises as Black Horse Grazes
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Glowing Yellow Aspen
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Dusk Settles on Glaciated Landscape
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Green Moss in Trickle Stream
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Glacial Erratic in Stream Bed
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Lundy Creek in Late September
Leica M Typ 240 + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/1.4
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance
World of Sigma and especially Sigma ART Lenses
View Sigma Deals Right Now

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