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Fujifilm GFX 50 Megapixel Medium Format Announced, Available for Pre-Order

See my Fujifilm GFX wish list (might not be showing until a few hours after announce)

See Hasselblad X1D coverage and Fujifilm GFX coverage.

It’s the most aggressive price yet for a medium format camera.

Consider the aggressive value proposition of the Fujifilm GFX, not just on the medium format market but also on the high-end 35mm full frame market!

To wit, Leica just today announced the M10 rangefinder with a 24MP full-frame sensor (much smaller sensor, less than half the megapixels), a rear LCD with 0.920 Mdots (vs 2.36 Mdots), the Leica low-res EVF is not included, and the Leica M10 body costs $200 more. The cameras are of course very different in all ways, but the bottom line is that the Leica is low-res all around—sensor, EVF, rear LCD.

The Fujifilm GFX uses the latest display technology, the Hasseblad X1D uses 2-year-old display technology. More on that below. So even if the X1D is more sleek and has a little better image quality, the high-res displays as key differentiators that relate both to practical usage and shooting and viewing pleasure.

  • 51.4MP 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS Sensor
  • 2x SD card slot
  • Removable 3.69m-Dot OLED EVF [high res EVF, among the best, INCLUDED with the camera body]
  • 3.2" 2.36m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD [high-res rear LCD ~Retina grade, superior to most cameras on the market (Nikon D5, D500 have also), the new Leica M10 has only a low-res 1.0 megapixels]
  • The 1.28-inch monochrome LCD monitor at camera top can be viewed in all conditions (including bright sunlight) and displays information including shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation and exposure mode. Customize up to 8 items to be displayed on the monitor, backlight for viewing in low light conditions.
  • 117-Point Contrast-Detection AF System
  • Shutter speeds 1 to 1/4000, time, bulb
  • ISO 100-12800, extended output to ISO 102400
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps [why bother if no 4K?]
  • Multi Aspect Ratio Shooting
  • Film Simulation Modes
  • Weather-Sealed Magnesium Alloy Body

High-res display wonder

For the Fujifilm GFX, I’m impressed that not just one but THREE high-res displays are included: the high-res OLED EVF, and the Retina-grade rear LCD plus an ultra-high-res monochrome display at camera top. I can’t think of any DSLR or mirrorless camera on the market today that offers such a high-res rear LCD, which should be gorgeous. The GFX rear LCD has about twice the dots of most DSLRs. The EVF resolution suggests superb quality and the top panel (programmable) is extremely useful (I use it all the time on my Nikon or Canon).

A high-res EVF is a very high priority for me (the primary and often *only* means of seeing the image I am going to make, hence a critical feature). The monochrome display is a huge plus in difficult lighting and/or if shooting from above the camera (remember the tiltable LCD!), vs having to view the rear LCD.

Setting aside the practical and useful shooting aspects of high-res displays (easier for critical focus for starters), the sheer pleasure of a high-res display that is wondrous fair to behold is worth a lot of enjoyment, the iPhone 7 Plus screen being that existence proof—imagine if it were half the resolution (1/4 the pixels)—the experience would hardly be the same. I always did like a 4X5 ground glass and the resulting 'chromes'. Enjoyment of images even while shooting them is a key satisfier for me.

The Fujifilm GFX has a 3.69 Mdot OLED EVF. The Hasselblad X1D has a 2.36 Mdot XGA Electronic Viewfinder—much lower resolution and not OLED either (OLED is better). The viewing experience is likely to feel like “good enough” vs “WOW”. Once you experience hi-res (Leica SL, Panasonic GH5), there is no going back. The crummy 3.0" 0.920 Mdot rear LCD on the X1D will look toy grade compared to the 3.2" 2.36 MDot rear LCD on the GFX.


Three of the six lenses will be available initially, the others to come later. To tilt the included EVF, the tilt adapter is required. Actual ship dates are unclear, but the word seems to be late February 2017. Lens prices are very modest for medium format, so I hope that does not mean compromised optical quality. However, the relatively slow lens speed may counterbalance that concern (easier to design at reasonable cost). "WR" means weather-resistant.

Great strategy of offering two lens adapters also.


Fujifilm apparently went to some trouble to do the shutter right. I don’t yet understand all these options or how to use them, but it looks to cover all the bases.

Fujifilm GFX shutter modes


Multiply by 0.82 for equivalent horizontal focal length / field of view as compared to a 36x24mm sensor: 19mm, 26-52mm, 37mm, 52mm, 90mm, 98mm.

Fujifilm Fujinon lenses for Fujifilm GFX

Selected highlights

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S features a 43.8 x 32.9mm CMOS medium format sensor: a product of Fujifilm's rich history, cutting-edge digital technology and extensive knowledge of medium format film cameras. Boasting an effective resolution of 51.4 million pixels and paired with high-performance GF lenses, the sensor delivers superior tones and sharpness that will impress professional photographers shooting in the world of commercial, fashion or landscapes.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S uses piezoelectric elements to provide ultrasonic sensor cleaning. You can specify when to perform sensor cleaning: immediately, when the camera is turned on, or when the camera is turned off.

Both the shape of the light-gathering micro-lenses and the processing from the photodiodes have been optimized to achieve a high level of sharpness and broad dynamic range. The lowest native ISO sensitivity of 100 and the 14-stop dynamic range, achieved with 14-bit RAW data, delivers high definition images in a variety of conditions with notably rich skin tones and intricate foliage detail.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S sports the X-Processor Pro image processing engine, capable of drawing the very best out of the 51.4 megapixel sensor. Its advanced processing accelerates and optimizes the camera's performance in a variety of areas including stunning color reproduction with Fujifilm's unique Film Simulation modes, in-camera RAW conversion to the 8-bit TIFF format, accurate contrast AF, quick startup time, and minimal shutter release time lag and shooting intervals between frames.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S is supplied with a detachable 3.69M-dot EVF with 100% coverage and a viewfinder magnification of 0.85x. It uses five dedicated lens elements to achieve 100% coverage and offers a diopter adjustment range of -4m-1 to+2m-1. Attach the optional EVF Tilting Adapter EVF-TL1 between the camera body and the EVF to enable vertical tilt (0°-90° / 5 steps) and horizontal rotation (±45°). This allows you to shoot from waist level or aids shooting in portrait orientation. For more accurate focusing, push or rotate the Rear Command Dial to enlarge Live View images between 1x and 16.7x

Large Rear Touchscreen LCD Tilts in Three Directions — The rear 2.36M-dot LCD monitor measures 3.2 inches and offers 100% coverage. The smart touchscreen panel enables intuitive operation and tilts in three directions (90° up, 45° down and 60° to the right) for easy framing and shooting from high or low angles.

The 1.28-inch monochrome LCD monitor can be viewed in all conditions (including bright sunlight) and displays information including shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure compensation and exposure mode. You can customize up to eight items to be displayed on the monitor; it also has a backlight for viewing in low light conditions.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S features 10 customizable Fn buttons. Different options can also be asigned to Short Cut Q (Quick) menu items. Frequently used settings can be registered in My Menu while Custom Registration allows you to save and rename Film Simulation and image quality settings.

This electronic level uses a 3D system and is highly effective for architecture or landscape photography, when the accuracy of horizontal and vertical lines is crucial.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S can display four types of histograms: RGB and brightness, each with or without highlight warnings. [DIGLOYD: disappointing, on true raw histogram].

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S uses the G Mount, which has a mount diameter of 65mm, flange back distance of 26.7mm and minimum back focus distance of 16.7mm. It uses as many as 12 electronic contact points for sending and receiving data, plus it supports the use of a wide variety of lenses and accessories. The short back focus distance, made possible because of the Fujifilm mirrorless system's structure, affords greater freedom in lens design to contribute to the development of fast, compact and high-performance GF lenses while preventing vignetting to deliver edge-to-edge sharpness.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S saves pictures in a variety of formats and quality, including two sizes and three compression levels of JPEGs, as well as compressed/uncompressed RAW. Even when you are shooting only in RAW, the camera records 12-megapixel thumbnails at the same time. Its in-camera RAW conversion function also enables RAW files processing with the ability to save them as 8-bit TIFFs.

The standard ISO sensitivity range is ISO100-12800, with extended sensitivities of ISO50, ISO25600, ISO51200 and ISO102400 also available. RAW format is supported at all these ISO settings. The AUTO function allows you to set the standard ISO, low shutter speed limit and upper ISO limit, and configure AUTO 1 - 3 settings according to shooting conditions.

The body is made from robust magnesium alloy, which feels both solid and durable in the hand. The body is weather-sealed in 58 points to achieve a high level of resistance to dust and moisture.The GFX 50S is compact and lightweight despite the large size of its sensor, plus its dust and weather-resistant body means it's equally effective in the studio or out in the field. Both slots support high-speed UHS-II cards.

The newly-developed focal-plane shutter is the world's first specifically designed for medium format mirrorless cameras. It is a low-noise mechanical shutter that withstands 150,000 actuations**, offers shutter speeds up to 1/4000 sec and has an electronic first curtain. Choose from three shutter types, including an electronic shutter.

The vertical battery grip VG-GFX1 provides a solid grip while also maintaining the camera's optical axis during vertical shooting. The grip features a Shutter Release Button, Command Dial, Focus Lever and six Fn buttons, mirroring the layout of the camera body. It holds an extra battery to enable shooting for extended periods of time and can be used to charge the battery. Using the AC adapter supplied (AC-15V), you can fully charge a battery in approx. two hours.

Focus Point Coverage

9x13 (117 Points) / 17x25 (425 Points) Single Focus Points and Six Sizes of Focus Area — TTL Contrast AF is available in Single Point, Zone and Wide/Tracking modes. In the Single Point mode, the camera offers 9x13 (117 points) or 17x25 (425 points) and six different Focus Area sizes. Select the minimum size for pinpoint focusing. The camera automatically detects and focuses on a face or eyes. Priority can be given to either the right or left eye.

The combination of settings on the Shutter Speed Dial, ISO Dial and Aperture Ring allow you to switch between four different exposure modes: Aperture Priority AE (A), Shutter Speed Priority AE (S), Program AE (P) and Manual. As dials are used for main exposure settings, you can adjust settings even when the camera is turned off. The Command Position (C/T) also enables Command Dial operations. [DIGLLOYD Hooray! No moron modes].

In continuous shooting mode, the FUJIFILM GFX 50S can shoot at up to 3.0 fps until the memory card fills up in JPEG, up to 8 frames in RAW, and up to 13 frames in compressed RAW.

Sample unique shooting styles including fixed-point photography, time lapse and self-timer images with controls over shooting interval, total number of frames and shutter delay. You can set an interval between 1 sec - 24 hours for shooting 1 - infinity frames.

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S allows you to take two frames and combine them for a creative effect. The first shot is displayed on the LCD monitor, so you can easily compose and shoot the second frame.

The Self Timer function can be set at 2 sec or 10 sec. It is particularly useful for situations when you want to minimize camera shake, such as long exposures. [DIGLLOYD: brain dead like most vendors: just let me dial in what I want]

Record your voice for up to 30 seconds to make notes about the images you are shooting. This makes it easy to keep track of shooting data in situations where writing notes is impractical.

Our trusted photo rental store

NEC Extends Warranty to Five Years for Purchases Thru March 31

NEC extends Warranty on PA-series Displays to 5 years

See my Mac wish list.

My workhorse display is the NEC PA302W.

Through March 31, NEC is extending the warranty to a total of five years.

See my reviews of computer displays:

When Apple offers a pathetic 1 year warranty on their premium-priced Macs, a five year warranty speaks volumes about the company’s confidence in its offerings.

Mac Pro or iMac or MacBook Pro?
Storage, Backup, RAID?
Buy now or wait?

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Leica M10: Inertial Design

See my Leica M wishlist.

After 3+ years waiting for my Leica M240 to gain meaningful firmware improvements (that is, besides fixes for bugs and original kindergarten design mistakes) and most importantly an improved EVF, my patience with Leica is now reaching the breaking point.

We are now rewarded with an about $6600 design rehash that offers no leap forward anywhere, even if it does add some niceties.

  • Same resolution sensor 24MP. Does it have improved noise behavior? Based on the Leica SL sensor issues, I deem it potentially a downgrade over the M240 sensor (for noise). It’s not even clear that the sensor is optimized for rangefinder lenses properly (micro lenses), as with the M9 and M240, though one sure hopes so.
  • No built-in EVF and no EVF included (huh?). It’s not even clear that a higher-res EVF is possible; it looks like the same toy grade and grossly overpriced Leica Visoflex EVF2.
  • Dedicated ISO dial (I hardly ever change ISO, so this is a nuisance at best).
  • Rangefinder to bulk-out what could have been a smaller and cheaper EVF-only camera.
  • Slimmer camera body with water sealing (huh? the lenses are not weather sealed).
  • Mediocre-resolution rear LCD far below what many recent cameras have.
  • Built-in WiFi, the antithesis of “embracing filmic heritage”.
  • Fewer buttons for more operating hassles. But hey look larger, which might help.
  • A My Menu feature, which I should have had 3 years ago on the M240 and still don’t.
  • No mention of EFC shutter (does it or not?).
  • No raw-only mode that eliminates JPEG cruft and clutter.
  • Incompatible battery vs M240.
  • No camel-scrotum leather option.

All this 2013 technology for only about $6600, when a Hasselblad X1D medium format camera will cost modestly more (and maybe less once standard lenses are figured in) with far higher image quality. Try the $14K IQ test on this page.

Still, it’s possibly tht I might prefer the M10 to the M240 (size and weight and maybe the buttons really do work better), but I don’t know yet. It’s not an upgrade over the M240, and at about $6600, I’d much rather have a Hasselblad X1D or Fujifilm GFX for a little more money. Or less, since the Leica M lenses run $4K to $7K for the ones I like. OTOH, the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon is the best M lens of all, so I suppose we can call an M10 + 35/1.4 a $9000 camera I suppose.

Where is the 36MP sensor with 4MP EVF and without the anachronistic rangefinder, for a smaller/lighter/cheaper camera. Ditto for the 2MP rear LCD (it's 1MP).

Leica M10

Embracing their filmic heritage without losing sight of contemporary needs, the Leica M10 blends a pared-down physical design with enhanced imaging capabilities to produce an elegant and intuitive tool for still photography.

Utilizing a redeveloped 24MP full-frame CMOS sensor and Maestro II image processor, the M10 yields high-resolution imagery with an extended dynamic range, high sensitivity to ISO 50000, and a continuous shooting rate of 5 fps.

Separating itself from previous digital M rangefinders, the M10 features a slim body profile reminiscent of M film cameras, and the optical viewfinder's magnification has been increased to 0.73x for greater composition and focusing accuracy. The body design also incorporates a dedicated ISO dial for quick adjustment, even when the camera is turned off, and the rear 3.0" 1.04m-dot LCD features a Gorilla Glass cover to guard against scratching and light impacts. Also contributing to durability, the top and bottom plates are constructed from brass and the chassis is built from magnesium alloy to realize a robust physical construction for long-lasting use. Additionally, unique among M cameras, the M10 also sports an integrated Wi-Fi module for wireless sharing and remote camera control from a linked mobile device.

Leica M10

Refocusing their attention on the basics, the M10 pares down its feature-set to reveal a more simplified and direct method for working. Taking cues from Leica's film camera legacy, the M10 has the slimmest body of any digital M camera, and also distinguishes itself with a physical ISO dial, higher magnification optical viewfinder than previous digital Ms, and the omission of video recording in order to focus purely on still photography.

24MP CMOS Sensor and Maestro II Processor

A redeveloped full-frame 24MP CMOS sensor pairs with the Maestro II image processor to deliver a wide dynamic range with notable color rendering, as well as enhanced sensitivity from ISO 100-50000 to suit working in a variety of lighting conditions. The image processor also incorporates a 2GB buffer to afford fast continuous shooting at 5 fps for up to 40 consecutive frames in a burst.

Optical Viewfinder and Rangefinder

The optical viewfinder is a large, bright-line 0.73x-magnification rangefinder with automatic parallax compensation and bright-line frame lines, which are set to match the image sensor size at a focusing distance of 6.6'. On the front of the camera, a viewfinder frame selector can also be used to manually change the apparent image field to help visualize the scene with varying focal lengths; options are available in 35mm/135mm, 28mm/90mm, and 50mm/75mm focal length pairs.

The rangefinder mechanism displays split or superimposed bright field images within the center of the viewfinder to benefit accurate manual focusing control. The effective rangefinder metering basis is 50.6mm (mechanical metering basis 69.31 mm x viewfinder magnification of 0.73x).

Body Design and Built-In Wi-Fi

  • Slim body profile is reminiscent of Leica's film cameras for easier handling and manipulation.
  • Integrated ISO dial is featured on the top plate to permit simple and direct adjustment of sensitivity values, even when the camera is turned off.
  • The rear of the camera features just three buttons—live view, playback, and menu—for more simplified and intuitive navigation of the camera's control-set.
  • A programmable Favorites menu can be used, which allows you to define your most oft-used settings and select them for easy, one-touch access.
  • 3.0" 1.04m-dot LCD monitor provides a high-resolution means for image playback as well as live view shooting.
  • Rear LCD monitor has a Corning Gorilla Glass cover to protect it against scratching and impacts.
  • Top and bottom plates are machined from solid blocks of brass and the chassis is built from magnesium alloy for a truly durable, hard-wearing physical construction.
  • Rubber seals are used to prevent the entrance of light rain and dust to enable working in inclement conditions.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi permits sharing imagery directly to a linked smartphone and also enables remote control over the M10 to adjust select shooting parameters or to release the shutter via the Leica M app.

Other Camera Features

  • When working in live view, focus peaking is available to highlight edges of contrast for easier, more precise manual focus adjustment.
  • Designed to accept all M-mount lenses, Leica R-mount lenses are also compatible through the use of an optional R to M adapter.
  • Compatible with the optional Visoflex accessory electronic viewfinder for manually focusing adapted lenses.
  • Images can be recorded in either the DNG or JPEG file format.
  • A top hot shoe permits working with an external flash and the top sync speed is 1/180 sec.

David S writes:

I am a very loyal blog reader and though parts of me would have loved the sony 42 MP sensor on the A7R II, I cannot help but thing Leica is trying to remember their roots as a street camera.

If that is the case for someone like me it is a much improved camera, better viewfinder better high iso, slimmer body and wife were all top of my lists for what I wanted donor a new model.

Leica was never a landscape guys camera. It is a street camera and the improved buffer and faster shooter times are also much desired.

I can make a great 22 by 33 or so from the files of a M240 and from what I read this is improved from the SL and made from a different maker. We will see but please understand this was never a Landscape camera as a film camera and where the S should have 50mp or so this camera does not need it.

One other thing that Leica should be doing is having a high mega pixel camera as well not just a faster camera. I picked up a used Sony A7 II to compliment the A7R II for times I needed two bodies and the extra speed in bursts is so welcome for my concert work and all around journalism so what a visible guy like you should be calling on is a three body system the M 10 the black and white camera and the high megapixel camera.

Have a great day and I used my M for street shooting a stubborn old Leica shooter. But I will tell you becuase of the wieght and ergonomics I never was tempted to get a second M and I had two M9s.

DIGLLOYD: fair points, not lost on me before I wrote my post, or now. Leica has just dropped the ball for a huge potential fan base (like me)—the “street shooter” mentality prevails. Deliver to that mission, but don’t think in terms of one and only one mission.

But the simple fact is that Leica has left me hung out to dry with my M240, as discussed. If Leica wants to go back to its roots, I applaud the M10. But with $30K of M gear sitting in a drawer, they should have made that clear when they started on the digital path: my investment is a dead end. The M240 was never a street shooter’s camera, so take the damn thing forward.

And I’m not going to bit on the megapixels bait: see Heresy: Canon 5DS R as a Black and White Camera Better Than Leica M Monochrom Type 246? for starters.

I always liked my M240 for landscape , and I wanted 50 or at least 36 megapixels in that form factor. As it stands, Leica had dead-ended me.

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Eagles, 2004

Some opportunities are truly once in a lifetime; this show is now gone forever with the death of Jean Keene.

I went and reprocessed all the original images, and added many more.

Coal Face, an aggressive young Bald eagle, Homer Alaska
Coal Face, an aggressive young Bald eagle, Homer Alaska
Eagles, Homer Alaska
Eagles, Homer Alaska
Eagles, Homer Alaska
Eagle, Homer Alaska
Eagle Convention, Homer Alaska
Eagle Convention, Homer Alaska

Bill Atkinson’s “Photo Card” for iPhone/iPad: Tangible Internet-Age Postcards

Bill Atkinson is Mr. Hypercard, of Apple fame. He is a color expert and brilliant photographer. Today I had the pleasure of his company on several topics, including his latest creation.

Bill showed me his latest creation, the iPhone/iPad app “Photo Card”, available on the Apple Store. Other platforms are coming, e.g., Android, and I am trying to persuade him to do a web interface for computer users like me.

It started simply enough—Bill showed me one of his postcards—printed and sent through the mail. The card is very durable and aside from holding it to see sheen to reveal the printed-on postal service processing stuff (or a UV light), it looks like it was just custom made and was never posted.

It’s the kind of thing you could not do half as well at home: I was astounded at the quality of the laminated card with excellent color. They’re way more good enough to frame—and no backing/support is needed in a frame so you can see front and back of the card.

More info

CNET: Apple legend Bill Atkinson's new mission: Save the postcard

Twit.TV part 1 and Twit.tv Part 2 and Twit.TV Part 3

How it works

First, you need to create an account and buy credits.

You choose your own image, your own stamp, and you can even add a QR reader for a voice recording. Very slick, very well thought out. For example, just entering the zip code alone looks up the city and state, saving time on addressing.

A preview after editing is shown below. The fish picture (mine) will be the front of the postcard. The stamp is a real postage stamp made with my own image, the bike is a graphic just for fun, the smaller fish picture is yet another picture of mine, and the yellow/blue thing will contain a QR code with a recorded voice message up to a minute long.

Two things from my POV: (1) the images have to be on the phone to be used by the app, which for me means copying and syncing to the phone first—a hassle. This is of course NOT an issue for shots made with the iPhone and already on the phone. (2) I would like to make cards on my Mac in an app or web browser because it is far more efficient for me to work on a computer, where all my photos and contacts are stored.

Bill Atkinson’s iPhone app 'Photo Card', preview of final card

Below, a not yet finished card.

Bill Atkinson’s iPhone app 'Photo Card', editing view

Performance Package for Mac Pro or iMac 5K
For iMac 5K or For 2013 Mac Pro
Recommended by diglloyd as ideal for photographers and videographers

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Medium Format Hasselblad X1D and Fujifilm GFX vs Leica S & M and Leica SL

See my Hasselblad X1D-50C wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list.

Somehow, those two letters in the title ring true with the brand.

The 24-megapixel Leica SL will surely feel pressure from a medium format system costing almost exactly the same (about $13K with lens). The competition in its price range now has a 66% larger sensor, 2X the pixels, superior image quality and dynamic range, and a superior lens lineup*. The Leica SL would have to sell for half of what it does to make any sense at all.

* The way I count, two shipping primes and one more coming (Hasselblad) is better than zero shipping primes. We should hear on Jan 19 about 5 lenses for the Fujifilm GFX. Even if Fujifilm delays until June, there isn’t even a debate here.

Speaking of size and weight: the Leica SL weighs 847g with battery, but the Hasselblad X1D weighs only 725g with battery! A sensor 66% larger and the X1D weighs 14% less.

Thought problem: you have roughly $14K to spend. Take your pick:

The SL image quality is not likely to even be in the same league as the Hasselblad X1D or Fujifilm GFX. And then there is delivery: Leica SL lens promises are farts in the wind as far as delivery goes (the 50/1.4 has yet to ship as I write this). Leica has gone astray, neglected and ignored its core customer base (M shooters), and simply fails to deliver on every front. My M240 has been forgotten (nothing useful in firmware except a few fixes that should never have shipped the screwed up way to start with). No new high-res body. Toy-grade EVF. Etcetera.

It’s game over for Leica as far as I can see, except as a purveyor of gilded toys (so to speak). But see my comments at the end for possible salvation.

Roy P writes:

[See Roy P’s comments on the Leica S system in this post, he has owned a large S system].

It looks like Hasselblad has a lot of internal turmoil, and it may be a long time before the X1D really comes together as a solid, reliable system.

I also heard that the Leica S is a basket case. The S line has not done well for Leica (OMG, really??!), and Leica has now tossed it in the lap of Sinar, and told them to use the guts of the S to make a digital back out of it. I have now heard this from three different, independent sources.

The previous R&D resources related to the S line has been put on the SL, which is having moderate success. Although not flying off the shelves, it’s showing a pulse. So officially, the S system is not dead, but for all practical purposes, it is. The support for the S system was already bad, and now, it is practically non-existent. Leica is an incredibly sloppy company. European customers must be a lot more forgiving or fatalistic than we are in the U.S. I think they are resigned to whatever crap happens to them – maybe a psyche developed by centuries of wars and displacements, and socialistic governments that foster and conditions people to be less demanding.

I was just amazed to see the difference in the settlement that Volkswagen was dished out in Europe vs. in the US, for the emissions fraud scandal. In Europe, the settlement amounted to a plastic tube, some software update and instructions. In the U.S., VW paid $20,000 to each customer. This article in the NYT is really hilarious and worth a quick scan.

My sense is, Leica (and likely, Hasselblad) are old school artisans given to excellence in hand-crafted mechanical things. They are culturally the same as Swiss watch makers, with the only difference being the end product. They had a nice trade, but the tidal wave of electronics and software blew them away and derailed their applecart. The same way digital watches dealt a body blow to the Swiss and other mechanical watchmakers who once ruled the earth. But at least, the high-end mechanical watchmakers were able to move further upstream and continue to exist today as boutique but solid businesses. The mass-market mechanical watchmakers are mostly gone.

The problem for Leica and Hasselblad is, they don’t have an equivalent all-mechanical universe to exist in, since film has died. They have to deal with electronics and software for almost everything, and they just can’t culturally make that transition any more than Patek Philippe, Audemars, Blancpain, Jaeger, Rolex, etc. can compete head on with Apple Watch.

That’s why every time Leica tries to put itself into a higher orbit, it fizzles out, and keeps dropping back to the M, and that’s also why even with the M, progress is painfully slow. We measure the progress of the M system in digital terms, but the oxen at Leica with the mechanical DNA in them can’t handle the digital yolk we keep placing on their necks!

Leica would be better off sticking to its knitting – the M system, and doing everything to make it the best it could be – and there are a lot of things they could do to make the M system more useful and pleasurable to use for people who appreciate M mount lenses.

DIGLLOYD: it’s insane not to see a mirrorless Leica S. The Leica SL should have been the Leica S system in mirrorless form.

There is possible salvation: Leica has only to make an M360 with a 36-megapixel sensor and 4MP EVF that takes M lenses and laugh all the way to the bank with suckers like me buying one. Leave the rangefinder OUT, make it smaller and add sensor stabilization and pixel shift for a home run. That of course is just for giggles.

Instead Leica delivers a a brick called the SL with ergonomics that frustrate me, and that leaves M users like me hung out to dry. It’s a kick in the groin in at least two ways: (a) no decent EVF or sensor resolution and (b) devaluation of my M-lens investment by apparent abandonment of any meaningful move forward on the M line. It is shows awesomely bad judgment to throw away goodwill for the most liked product line in the company history for all-new electronic stabs in the dark, infuriating the traditional M fan base. That this is so is self evident by the severe drop in Leica M lens prices (I can’t even sell mine at 30% off).

Thom Hogan writes:

One of the things I learned in my long career of managing companies is that they can fail for all kinds of reasons, including failing because they were successful.

What most people don't understand is capitalization. Hasselblad's problems are exactly centered on that. They're capitalized for a certain assumed product volume. The demand for the new medium format camera was way beyond what they could have produced. This created a classic tech problem: from where does the money come from to buy parts for all those orders, to establish a bigger and more efficient plant, and to get the increased number of products to the customer?

The lawyer is correct: the (current/former) owner of Hasselblad didn't want to pony up that cash. So that left few ways of raising it quickly enough to actually deliver a product. Had Hasselblad not found a willing partner, ironically the success of the X1D might have doomed the company to Chapter 7. Not Chapter 11, but full dismantle.

Personally, I take the DJI investment as a good sign. They have the cash, they have the experience in managing rapid, unexpected demand ramps, and if they've taken a controlling share as Kevin reports, that means the blood-sucking leeches that had control of Hasselblad no longer can make blood sucking decisions. DJI is a good choice for Hasselblad to team with: no overlap in products, but experience and money that can be exploited.

None of this happens fast, though. You can't plan for making 1000 units over a couple of years then find out that the initial demand on day 1 is higher than that and deliver instantly. I know of no one that can do that. So, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they deliver in the next couple of months and the units perform as expected, I have no real issues with what happened. Indeed, I'd bet this saves Hasselblad. Of course, if they can't take the DJI money/experience and make good with it, then Hasselblad will go the way of the dinosaur. Thus, I'm not in a tizzy over this. We'll know the answer soon enough.

DIGLLOYD: makes sense. At any rate, my original comments on desirability hold: the X1D looks to be more appealing than any Nikon or Canon or Sony DSLR at many levels, due to very high (expected) dynamic range, 50 megapiexels and total image quality in a reasonably compact body.

ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Hasselblad X1D-50C: Communication and Delivery Concerns

See my Hasselblad X1D-50C wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list.

I’ve been getting some minor pushback from readers about my recent Hasselblad X1D posts, in ways that I feel require some discussion.

First I am very excited to see medium format mirrorless emerge as a category with two players so far (Hasselblad and Fujifilm). I absolutely want Hasselblad to succeed because it is in my interest (very much so, I want to review it ASAP!) and the interest of all photographers: it is critical to have at least two and preferably three players in the medium format mirrorless space. I hope Sony joins in.

This new medium format category puts pressure on SonCaNikon to up their game. It also leaves $8K Leica cameras looking terribly lame and a very poor value.

Hasselblad appears to be in turmoil. Doing some dubious things that at the least require skepticism. And I consider some things much more concerning.

The X1D looks like a very fine camera and system, but unless your money is burning a hole in your pocket, it seems wise to see what pans out in the next few months. I personally would not be an X1D buyer at the present, given what has and is transpiring. That is not a statement that I would not buy an X1D, only that a little wait-and-see is a smart move.


A company is not acquired unless there is a darn good reason, and the only reason I can think of here is financial difficulty. Therefore an acquisition or major investment could be a Very Good Thing, the alternative being quite unpleasant for any Hassy owner.

Kevin Raber of LuminousLandscape.com is a well informed individual. He claims in Hasselblad Acquired By DJI that Hasselblad has been acquired. If true, this could be a very good thing as it means fresh funds to deliver on promises. But what I find bizarre (and intolerable from a buyer’s perspective) is the lack of official confirmation or denial—very strange. Raber:

Hasselblad still needed to stay afloat. The investors wanted their money and they were not willing to contribute any more to this cause. What now?

Simple, the minority shareholder becomes the majority shareholder. DJI now owns the majority share of Hasselblad. You heard me right. This information has come from numerous, reliable sources. Hasselblad, the iconic Swedish camera company, is now owned by the Chinese drone maker DJI. Sooner or later, this will all become public. Maybe now that I am spilling the beans, it will be sooner rather than later. It seems that everyone inside Hasselblad knows about this, as well as some distributors and resellers. You can’t keep something this big a secret for very long, eventually, it is going to get out.

Howard C writes:

I am a lawyer (as well as a photographer). I primarily represent what are called private equity firms that are essentially in the business of buying companies, holding them for 3-5 years during which time they work to improve their businesses and increase their earnings, and then, ideally, selling them at a profit. The current owner of HB is a private equity firm that acquired HB in 2011. They have owned it for almost 6 years. They want out at the best price they can get.

About six months ago, HB announced a totally ground breaking product, the X1D, the first mirrorless medium format camera. Within a matter of days, HB was flooded with orders…way beyond their estimates. According to HB, the number of preorders within the first 10 days exceeded the estimates of the orders for the entire first year.

Sounds wonderful, right? Well actually, HB was simply not structured to meet that level of demand for a camera. They also lacked the internal capital to finance the purchase of components and the expansion of the production capability. So, where would the money come from? The current owner had no interest in doubling down and putting up the money. They are at the end of the investment cycle. They may also not have more capital to draw on from their investors.

Fortunately, the minority shareholder of HB is a VERY successful high tech company in China by the name of DJI, the wunderkind of the drone industry. It has deep pockets and a totally different set of economic objectives from a private equity firm such as the current/prior owner of HB. The net result is that we have a company that needs capital to execute its business plan, an existing majority owner that wants out, and a minority owner that sees synergistic business opportunities in a takeover of HB and providing a major commitment of capital to HB. A win win win.

The bottom line for a takeover of HB by DJI is that HB is far better positioned to successfully execute its business plan today than it was in the past. This is excellent news. I have minimal concerns about buying into the X1D system, if I otherwise conclude that it meets my photographic needs.

DIGLLOYD: legal reasons are indeed a lawyer’s purview. I write as a photographer, and what matters to me and what I think matters to other photographers. I think it matters. But I completely agree that a major investment and/or buyout may be a terrific plus for Hasselblad customers.

It is totally inappropriate to fault HB for not responding to the rumors about the takeover of HB by DJI at this point. There are a number of legal reasons why the agreement has likely not been finalized and the parties cannot comment on it. The price may not be finalized, there may be governmental clearances required, etc. I am sure that once it is finalized and the parties are free to discuss the change of control, we will hear lots about it from the principals.

DIGLLOYD: legal reasons are a lawyer’s purview, but I write as a photographer, and what matters to me and what I think matters to other photographers, and so whatever the real or rationalized reasons are (we don’t actually know)—they raise FUD for potential buyers—so I think it matters.

Execution and delivery

Reader Howard C sent me this interview from Photokina link. Remember that Photokina is in September, so “next month” means October. Some quotes from Hasselblad:

[Sept 23] Demo units have now started shipping to stores in key countries – US, UK, Germany, Japan, China and others – both to our subsidiaries and some photo independent stores. We’re shipping a few units out every day. End users who pre-ordered at launch should get their camera next month, with 1000’s of people waiting to receive their camera.

So users who ordered cameras received them in October? To my knowledge, exactly zero (0) X1D cameras have been delivered through B&H Photo or any other USA dealer to date—and this is January 2017. This shipping schedule claim is disturbing in light of these facts. To my knowledge, zero cameras were shipped via retail outlets until December and none in the USA to my knowledge. It is all quite fishy, given the statement above. Some users in Europe have apparently received cameras, but it doesn’t change anything that Hasselblad has thrown a few cameras over the wall to keep some credibility. Rather it raises my concern. Let me see a post by Hasselblad ambassador Ming Thein stating that he has received a production camera.

Another quote:

With the 30mm, we now have 3 lenses, which is not much for a system. The three lenses are the same focal lengths as for the XPan camera.

Next year, if all goes well, there will be 5 more lenses added throughout the year. We are very serious about this system. The 5 lenses are already in development. Our lens partner is Nitto, and they are very busy with Hasselblad lenses. We agree the focal length and aperture in discussion with Nitto, working very tightly together. They are a very traditional Japanese company who are very friendly.

We cannot disclose what the 5 lenses are yet, but they complement the existing ones. We don’t normally have a public lens roadmap, as future products might not be realized, and a roadmap might put buyers off our current products.

Translation: “we have announced five lenses, but they might never ship, their delivery status being so tenuous that we are not willing to commit. Seriously.”. Well, I’m not a fan of evasive PR puff interviews. I smell fish, and not fresh trout.

Howard C writes:

All the X1D system has in common with the GFX is that they are both mirrorless systems using the same Sony cropped medium format sensor.

However, the execution is totally different. The Fuji system looks and feels sort of like a Chrysler minivan, and the X1D like a Porsche 911. The Fuji will be more versatile in some ways. An articulating LCD, a removable viewfinder that can be articulated, lots of physical dials and buttons.

The X1D is the most elegantly designed camera that I have ever handled. Everyone who has handled one has been blown away by the fit and finish, the form factor, and the elegant simplicity of the interface. I am absolutely sure that both systems will be capable of high end image quality. HB has lots of experience with the Sony 50MP sensor. There is no reason to believe that the IQ will not be equal to the H6D50. It therefore comes down to the lenses and the physical differences in the cameras. There are tradeoffs, and different people will have different priorities.

DIGLLOYD: not having handled an X1D personally, I cannot yet comment. I will say that the paucity of buttons has always proven to be a hassle, and that a rear LCD with touchscreen is a non-starter for me—presbyopia at dusk, dirty or sunscreen-coated fingers, etc. One man’s elegance is another’s frustration, and last year I had to rent a Chrysler minivan, and its build quality was sh*t but dang did it do the job nicely for what I needed it for—well, my Cayenne was broken and I agree it is far nicer, so interesting out of the blue analogy.

It will be interesting to see what both cameras actually feel like. And ultimately if there are certain problems that interfere with making images under some conditions, that can be paramount. It will be fun to see them both.

Brian K writes:

Interesting read on the differences between the Hassy and Fuji mirrorless cameras. I can’t help think of what I was told by a service technician working on my then problematic Imacon scanner, “it was built for dentists”. It seems that there are cameras or equipment built for possibly heavy use or even rough use, and gear designed for hobbyists with the financial means to buy very elegant but possibly less practical gear.

When I was an advertising photographer, when it came to 35mm, there was pretty much just two choices. Nikon or Canon. Both cameras had vast supporting systems, and one could easily find accessories or repairs in many locations world wide. Leica for all it’s quality just wasn’t practical as an SLR for a working pro. (Obviously for rangefinder users it’s a different story as Leica is unique there) It was a boutique camera not a tool.

As a professional I would not even remotely consider the new Hassy unless they had a firm announcement and firm delivery dates on a complete series of lenses. Just 3 lenses can be very limiting to a professional and this system is not a cheap investment. I don’t see many pros adopting it, maybe if it survives for 5 more years and the range of lenses is increased enormously, but I think it’s just another boutique camera that will only find a home with hobbyists which the means to afford it. Sad though, if Hasselblad had the financial resources to really put behind this camera it could be successful.

Fuji on the other hand can build an elaborate system. As demonstrated by the Fuji GX680III system (50mm, 65mm, 80mm, 100mm, 125mm 135mm, 150mm, 180mm, 210mm, 250mm, 300mm, 500mm, lenses and a zoom AND a soft focus lens) Now that’s a system! And if Fuji is viewing this as their pro MF digital camera system why would they not continue with their past philosophy?

I think we’re seeing the end days of Hasselblad.

DIGLLOYD: I completely agree on the “firm” comment, and yet if the investment/buyout is true, then it is likely the salvation of Hasselblad and promises to meet those requirements, given a little time.

Hasselblad X1D-50C vs Fujifilm GFX Lens Lineup (UPDATED 13 Jan)

See my Hasselblad X1D-50C wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list.

See Hasselblad X1D coverage and Fujifilm GFX coverage and in particular, yesterday’s Hasselblad X1D-50C or Fujifilm GFX?.

On lenses, I would first note that both Hasselblad and Fujifilm have an established history of designing lenses that required software correction for distortion and/or color errors (Fujifilm all but hides this fact entirely with the Fujifilm X series). As I write this I have no idea if this will hold for medium format mirrorless lenses, but I hope not, because distortion correction wrecks micro contrast by stretching pixels—degrading one key advantage of a medium format sensor.

See also:

Hasselblad X1D lens lineup

Multiply by 0.82 for equivalent horizontal focal length / field of view as compared to a 36x24mm sensor: 30mm ~ 25mm, 45mm ~ 37mm, 90mm ~ 74mm.

I expect the Hasselblad X1D lenses to be superb, based on images I’ve seen. I am less happy about the absence of an aperture ring.

  • The 30mm f/3.5 is 1/3 stop faster than the Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4 zoom.
  • The 45mm f/3.2 is 1/3 of a stop slower than the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8.
  • The 90mm f/3.5 is a whopping 1 2/3 stops (almost 2 stops!) slower than the Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2. Heck, the Fujifilm 120/4 macro is only 1/3 stop slower than the Hassy 90/3.5.
  • According to Hasselblad, “Existing H System users also have the flexibility to use their existing lenses with the X1D by the way of an optional adapter.”.

The lens speed leaves much to be desired on the long end (90mm): a medium format system ought to have one fast lens.

With no ultra wide angle offering (yet), it loses some appeal for me (landscape). But presumably there will be something wider than 30mm ~ 25mm coming.

Three lenses is a good start. A reader tells me that Hasselblad plans "5 additional lenses" for 2017. It would be helpful if Hasselblad listed planned lenses on the Hasselblad X1D web page; as I wrote this no mention is made of any additional lenses (see the Lenses tab on this page which shows 3 lenses). Even though it seems likely to be true, pros investing in a system need solid info, and actually delivery. Given Hasselblad’s 4-month slippage with the X1D, credibility on delivery has already disappeared from my POV.

Hasselblad XC lenses: 45mm f/3.5, 30mm f/3.5, 90mm f/3.2

Fujifilm GFX lens lineup

Get Fujifilm GF lenses at B&H Photo.

This is a very impressive lens line rollout. It remains to be seen just how good these lenses are optically, but they are all new designs, so I am hoping for very high image quality.

Unlike Hasselblad, not only is there an ultra wide angle (19mm equivalent), but also a wide to normal zoom lens (26-52mm), and a 110mm f/2—very fast for medium format.

This lens line is far more compelling that what Hasselblad is showing. And to my eye, the fit and finish is far more attractive, and with an aperture ring. It looks first class, so I hope it is.

Multiply by 0.82 for equivalent horizontal focal length / field of view as compared to a 36x24mm sensor: 19mm, 26-52mm, 37mm, 52mm, 90mm, 98mm.

Fujifilm Fujinon lenses for Fujifilm GFX

Hasselblad X1D-50C or Fujifilm GFX?

Hasselblad X1D-50C

See my Hasselblad X1D-50C wish list and Fujifilm GFX wish list.

See Hasselblad X1D coverage and Fujifilm GFX coverage.

The Hasselblad X1D has apparently started to ship in some countries, but I have no independent confirmation of my own. I expect to receive an X1D for review as soon as it hits the USA at B&H Photo. This new category of medium format mirrorless is a very high priority for my testing, and I hope that Sony joins the fray.

My review of medium format mirrorless cameras going forward will be in a new medium format section by subscription, not part of any other publication, but included in the everything deal. This is the only viable way I can report in-depth on these cameras, the capital cost being too high otherwise.

My advice is simple: if you’re investing in a system that will cost $12000 to $14000 for a 2-lens kit, it makes no sense to rush out and buy either until the facts are in—unless you have money to burn.

I expect both cameras to be excellent in regards to image quality, but that is only one of several considerations: image quality, size/weight/ergonomics, lens lineup and timeline, versatility, support and service short and long term, track record.

Accordingly, I raise these points as highly salient to intended usage, some more and some less , but which is which depends on what the shooter is after:

  • The X1D has leaf shutter lenses, so no focal plane shutter. This has the advantage of high flash sync speeds and essentially zero vibration, but it precludes adapting things like the Cambo Mini View Camera or adapting Zeiss Otus. Still, those using strobes in the studio may find the leaf shutter support irresistible.
  • The X1D looks to be relatively svelte and sleek compared to the Fujifilm GFX. Without handling the camera, I can}t say wether its relative lack of buttons is going to make the cut for me and/or whether its touchscreen will be a problem (I’ve never found a touchscreen that does better than cause problems for me—part of that is presbyopia making a touchscreen useless anyway). The GFX is larger, but that could be a plus or a minus, depending.
  • Be cautious on autofocus. Do not assume that AF is accurate, and that this may be most critical feature of all: verify, do not assume. Given Fujifilm’s track record in mirrorless for years now, the GFX is not likely to have issues, but even that should not be assumed. Hasselblad...?
  • As pointed out in Roy P’s reader comment that follows, warranty, construction quality, and reliability are all factors which may be primary for some shooters.
  • The 4-month delay in delivering the Hasselblad X1D raises a big red flag for me: poor planning and execution does not go away just because an initial rev ships. The causes are unclear, but I suspect bugs had to be fixed, at the least. I would not be a buyer of the X1D until more is known. The Fujifilm GFX is in the pipeline, and given the years of experience with Fujifilm with mirrorless digital, I expect Fujifilm to deliver on time with relatively bug-free firmware.
  • Fujifilm apparently had Sony build a custom sensor, while Hasselblad apparently did not. This raises the issue of image quality (noise, color depth and accuracy, high ISO, long exposures, etc), even if the sensors are both manufactured by Sony. That said, I expect both cameras to offer extremely high image quality. [By “sensor” I mean what comes out the pipe from sensor and electronics; the two are a system and cannot be decoupled.]
  • Fujifilm has laid out an aggressive lens map that includes 5 primes and a zoom. That is evidence of a major commitment. Hasselblad leaves me wondering. See also the Fujifilm GF lens lineup at B&H.
  • The Fujifilm GFX does not have leaf shutter lenses, so no high-speed sync. However, its focal plane shutter means that any lens that can be adapted can be shot on the Fujifilm GFX (like a Zeiss Otus). This is a huge potential advantage for all sorts of medium format lenses, high performance lenses like Zeiss Otus. But of importance only if one wants to adapt. I’m assuming that the GFX supports an EFC shutter, if not then I’m worried that shutter vibration could be an issue.
  • Fujifilm has a deep R&D budget, proven commitment to regular firmware upgrades, outstanding color management (one reason Fujifilm X users love their cameras), and in general has a large presence in the mirrorless world. Hasselblad is a small company that apparently has sought external financing with DJI, possibly even acquired. The X1D could turn out to be the superior camera, but until this financing plays out, the smart move is to give it some time, which allows seeing how the Fujifilm GFX performs.

Quite an impressive lens line at the outset for Fujifilm. See Fujifilm GF lenses at B&H Photo.

Multiply by 0.82 for equivalent horizontal focal length / field of view as compared to a 36x24mm sensor: 19mm, 26-52mm, 37mm, 52mm, 90mm, 98mm.

Fujifilm Fujinon lenses for Fujifilm GFX
Fujifilm GFX and EVF

Roy P writes:

To that list, I would add warranty, construction quality, and reliability, all of which suck with the Leica S, which is not even a true MF.

Leica’s warranty is a ludicrous 1 year on the S cameras which cost as much as $16,900, and S lenses that cost as much as $11,000.

DIGLLOYD: Roy had 9 Leica S lenses (now 6), nearly all of which have needed service, which means months of downtime (I’m aware of the entire in-depth horror story). Through other channels, my information is that the internals of Leica S lenses are at best described as consumer grade. Thus I concur completely on the “warranty, construction quality, and reliability” concern as something worth critical consideration before investing in any medium format system.

USB-C Dock for MacBook

4 USB3 ports, 1 USB-C port, SD card reader, gigabit ethernet, audio ports, HDMK 4K port!

Fujifilm GFX: Might a Zeiss Otus Image Circle Fill Most of the Sensor?

Get Hasselblad X1D-50C at B&H Photo.

See Fujifilm GFX coverage.

Assuming a suitable adapter shows up for the Fujifilm GFX, I’m wondering whether the Zeiss Otus lenses might in fact afford an image circle that maintains strong performance to cover most of the larger sensor.

I don’t expect that f/1.4 or f/2 will deliver the requisite image circle with quality, but below shows what might reasonably be expected, say, at f/2.8.

I have some inquiries in as to whether these assumptions might pan out.

There is a claim out there that the Otus 85 image circle covers (with dark corners) the 53 x 44mm 100MP sensor in the PhaseOne 100MP back (34.4mm diagonal from center of frame). That is possible, but is is nearly the size of the image circle in most tilt-shift lenses for 35mm format. The diagonal (from center) of a 36 X 24mm sensor is 23.6mm, so 34mm is a hugely oversized image circle. I have personally found that the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 has only about 4mm of range left/right, so that makes the claim even harder to believe. Still, it could be true. Image circle size can vary substantially from infinity to close range, depending on optical design.

Finally, outside the proscribed format size, there can be major inflections to field curvature; see for example my full-frame evaluations of the Zeiss Touit lenses, which are designed for APS-C. There could also be incipient focus shift outside the designed-for frame area. So coverage or not, a lot depends on actual behavior.

Fujifilm GFX and Hasselblad X1D sensor size with estimated Zeiss Otus image circle


ThunderBay 4 - The Speed To Create. The Capacity To Dream.

Saturated Soil + Heaviest Rain Yet = Lots of Mudslides and Downed Trees

With the six inches or so of rain in my neighborhood over the past few days, the ground is now super saturated. Many trees have come down, with the sound of chainsaws every morning, mud is all over the roads, etc. I did not make any images today since the rain was like a curtain later in the day, and the creeks are roaring.

It rained only moderately today (a mere inch or two), but in the evening the wind started roaring and it is really dumping now, with water pooling in my backyard significantly deeper. I talked to a friend in the lower Eastern Sierra near Convict Lake, and they got 3 feet of snow in just the past few days, with no snow for several prior years. This latest front might practically bury the first floor of houses if this heavy dump makes it over there.

Update: 21:45: it was inevitable—now on UPS battery power.. Power came back on around midnight or later... got up to turn everything off. I was lucky to be in a “500-4999 affected” outage (orange dot), which gets high priority.

San Francisco Bay Area Power Outages from storm, 2017-0110 22:22

Wind and trees

It’s the wind that’s bothering me: my neighbor has a massive eucalyptus tree that just about overhangs my roof, which makes for a serious hazard—branches weighing a hundred pounds have almost made it to my roof in prior years, now the tree is far larger—and a potential oily torch in the summer. Inconsiderate neighbors are part of life I suppose, and since my requests to trim back the tree have been utterly rejected, my only option may be to send a nice unfriendly letter from an attorney. I’m just hoping my house remains intact through this storm (update: it did).

One reader wondered why I do not cut back the branches:

In SoCal we just cut back any tree/shrub that is hanging into our property lines, especially if we think it will pose a hazard. Don't think you can do that with the Eucalyptus unless some of its limbs are hanging onto your property.

You seem like a headstrong individual. Take a chainsaw or have someone cut it down. I have never hesitated to cut anything that came onto both my properties. If they have a problem then they can #$@%#$%!!!!

The limbs are about 50 feet over my property. Right over the property line, the limbs are up to 2 feet in diameter, narrowing down from there. As a resut of trimming back about 8 years ago, “water sprouts” now grow off the trunk and these large limbs are now several hundred pound missiles waiting to peel off in a high wind (water sprouts never have any solid attachment).

I’m actually quite careful when it comes to staying alive, and pruning such a giant would be insane except by a professional rigged with rope for safety and/or crane. This picture from a slightly larger tree in 1992 might explain: It’s a several thousand dollar job for a professional just to prune such a tree, what with needing to be 70 feet up or so. Taking down two such giants cost $6000 24 years ago. It would cost about $15000 today.

BTW, Photographic Film Really Was Not Much of a Performer.

Huge Eucalyptus, Circa 1992

Really Right Stuff Leveling Base TA-3 for TVC 3-Series Tripods + Reader Comments

Really Right Stuff: TA-3 leveling base on TVC-34L tripod
Arca Swiss Cube geared head with RRS B2-Pro2 clamp

See my Really Right Stuff wish list and other articles on Really Right Stuff.

Out in the field, I rely on the dual-axis Arca Swiss Cube geared tripod head to level the camera and to achieve the desired angle of tilt. But often the angular range of 28° is insufficient and while the head can be unhinged for 62° more (90° total), this is less stable, and an operational hassle. And in sub-freezing cold the gearing mechanism can become hard to operate, requiring much more force.

I never really considered a leveling base because I thought the geared head was sufficient—as it is—but it is relatively slow for large adjustments. As a further argument against a leveling base, it adds significant weight, so for extended hikes I’d still prefer the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L without a leveling base, to keep the weight down.


Enter the Really Right Stuff TA-3 leveling base for the Really Right Stuff TVC 3-series tripods (the TVC-34L is my favorite of the series operationally, the TVC-24L I prefer for longer hikes).

An allen wrench gets the TA-3 installed in a few minutes.

I am now 'sold' on having a leveling base for two key reasons:

  • A leveling base saves me time: gearing on the 'Cube' is relatively slow, particularly if the angle is more than a little. The leveling base gets me 15° very quickly in any direction without needing any rotation of the 'Cube' to correspond with the gearing. I can then fine-tune the leveling and angle of tilt with the Cube’s gearing.
  • The RRS TA-3 leveling base adds 15° in any direction, which can be a big help when working at steep angles or slopes, where the inclination of the Arca Swiss Cube head is insufficient. So instead of 28° with the gearing alone, I get 28° + 15° = 43° — quite a lot more range.

The above points don’t matter if working on flat ground, but I’m almost always working on uneven and sometimes extremely steep ground, where leveling is a constant requirement.

Really Right Stuff also offers the TA-2 leveling base for 2-series tripods. It’s a tighter fit, and thus may be a bit less operationally convenient, but my logic was this: a leveling base on the already beefier TVC-34L, and keep the TVC-24L light for long hikes.

By the way, the B2-Pro-II screw knob clamp is one awesome clamp. I finally upgraded to the new beauty, with its laser engraved markings—the old one operated flawlessly after 10 years of encounters with rocks, but I wanted those laser engraved marks.

Really Right Stuff TA-3-LBGP
Low-Profile Locking Knob, Series 3 & 4 leveling bases
Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Pocket Pod

Jason W writes:

One of the limitations with the TA-3 and similar leveling bases is that the original handle limits your minimum tripod height, making it in impossible to achieve true ground level shots.

However, while I haven't tested myself, RRS has the TA-3-LGBP low profile knob that seems to mitigate this issue.

DIGLLOYD: I’ll see if I can obtain one to try.

If I were shooting that low, I’d be using the Really Right Stuff TFA-01 ULTRA Pocket pod. —much faster and easier; a full size tripod often cannot fit in many spaces (rocks and such) at such a low position anyway.

Roy P writes:

You really need the RRS leveling base for a gimbal head. Otherwise, if you’re on uneven ground, there’s no good way to level your camera and lens, and the longer the focal length, the bigger this problem.

The leveling base adds more movement to the ARCA cube, and this is very handy for quickly making coarse adjustments, and then using the knobs on the cube for more precise adjustments. As you pointed out, it also extends the range of movement for the cube.

But unless you really need a geared head like the ARCA cube for very precise adjustments, a regular ball head is much easier to use, and far less expensive too, and you don’t need the leveling base with it at all. The RRS BH-55 can pretty much do it all – I love this ball head.

I also have an ARCA cube, which I use mostly for product or macro photos.

DIGLLOYD: good point on the gimbal head. See Reader Comments: Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Ultra, Gimbal Head.

As for a ballhead, yes the BH-55 is excellent: I own 4 or 5 Really Right Stuff ballheads including the BH-55 as well as the Burzynksi (superb but only 45° tilt). All are superbly built and excellent for what they are best at: making rapid, if not very precise compositions. I use them only under conditions where the Cube is too large. It is error prone with a ballhead to make very small compositional or angle adjustments without altering the other axis (tilt or framing); one cannot operate in just one axis for starters. Next, add gloves and cold hands and steep slopes where I can’t even stand in a good position to manipulate the head. Next, add a heavy camera and ballhead flop becomes an issue regardless of tension. Since I make such adjustments constantly, choosing my compositions precisely, any ballhead is a frustrating thing to work with, particularly so on uneven ground where I can’t have ideal grip on it. Next, try tightening the head (or loosening) without having any change happen to the positioning. And it is always faster to get to perfect leveling with the Cube than with any ballhead with a small geared adjustment. I will never go back to ballhead; experience proves it out for my work.

On the other hand, a ballhead is terrific for quick setup and fast shooting. But that’s just not the way I work most of the time.

John D writes:

What’s up with RRS? Every tripod they make is listed on the website as out of stock.
I have three tripods and a couple of dozen machined bits and pieces ($$$) and I have sometimes seen a few items out of stock but never anything like this. A stock situation like this is usually really good news or really bad news. I trust it’s the former.

Really Right Stuff replies:

Our current “out of stock” situation on many tripods is due to 2 fantastic months in a row (Nov and Dec) that far exceeded any of our projections. Actually, we had so many tripod sales in November that our inventory was decimated (despite planning ahead and stocking up) leaving us with very little to work with in December.

Another problem is it takes more time than we’d like to get all the materials in to make new tripods and each one is hand assembled. In the last few days we are almost doubling our amazing assembly team to help keep up with demand, but it will still be a while before we are caught up. Orders placed now will hopefully ship within 3 weeks to a month from the date of the order and we hope to be fully caught up by the end of February.

DIGLLOYD: nice to see a USA business doing so well.

Barton T writes:

I know you love the cube but have you looked at (or tried) the newer D4? Then there is the just released P0 hybrid, a P0 with a ± 10° geared platform on top: I’m not sure how much weight it can take?

The ballhead has full movement so the idea is composition/rough levelling is achieved on the ballhead and then the geared platform on top makes the fine adjustment (not totally dissimilar to having the levelling head and then Cube on top) so I’m not sure if it’s useless. I thought it looked quite interesting but I’ve never used the P0 so I don’t know if it would have enough grunt. I had the RRS BH-55 and loved it but found for my (architecture/interior) work it was to inaccurate and slow compared to a geared head and had a very slight bit of movement after setting the camera position, locking down and then releasing the camera — and there was no way to readjust to the desired position after the fact. When I say movement it was just a very slight sag with the weight of the camera after locking down. I loved the size, weight and speed of using a ballhead system otherwise.

I use a Manfrotto 405 geared head at present but it is cheap and has numerous issues (it does fortunately hold position solidly except with a Sinar P/F where it is a bit bendy) so have been searching for a suitable replacement. I’ve tried Cube and it is awesome but way too slow.

D4 looks like a nice middle ground. I figured you would have tried one since it has a speed/weight advantage over the Cube.

DIGLLOYD: The Arca Swiss D4 looks promising in several ways, but I’d have to get a solid clamp onto it (compatibility at the least, forgetting inferior ergonomics), and that can’t happen easily with a loaner. I don’t even know if the clamp is easily replaced. I like what I have and like most people, my budget is tight so I’m standing pat for now. It’s 1.5 lbs vs 2 pounds for my 'Cube', which is worth something.

Note: the Really Right Stuff clamp is offered in 1/4" or Metric 6 screw. My original-version takes the Really Right Stuff B2-Pro-II Screw Knob Clamp with M6 Screw. AFAIK, the newer ones do also.

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FOR SALE: Lloyd’s Apple Laptops, NEC Display

Cleaning house—recently bought a new 15" MacBook Pro.

Contact Lloyd

  • Mid 2012 MacBook Pro 13" 2.9 GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB / 480GB OWC Mercury Extreme Pro SSD / Intel HD Graphics 4000 512MB with charger $825. OWC sells a similar model used for $1200.
    Speedy little laptop fast enough to run all my web sites (it was a spare).
  • NEC EA244UHD 4K display $650 (sells new for $1049). See my review.
    A very nice 4K display (see my review), but I’m just not using it any more because of iMac 5K. Never saw many hours of operation, so backlight should have long life. Would make a terrific primary display for space constrained environments and/or an excellent 2nd display.
  • Late 2013 MacBook Pro Retina 15" 2.6 Ghz, 16GB / 512GB / NVidia GeForce GT 750M 2GB (top of the line except 512GB SSD) with charger in Apple box $1200 / BO. Original owner, was covered by AppleCare — no issues. Has a minor dent and scratches on case, keys worn.
    This model can be upgraded to 1TB SSD. SOLD
    This was my workhorse laptop for the past 3 years and it just keeps going strong. Local buyers welcome to inspect firsthand. Still a strong performer even beating the 2016 model on some Photoshop tests.
  • 2011 MacBook Pro 13" 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5, 4GB / 200GB enterprise-grade SSD with charger $350. SOLD
    No speed demon, but a solid computer for the kids.
USB-C Dock for MacBook

4 USB3 ports, 1 USB-C port, SD card reader, gigabit ethernet, audio ports, HDMK 4K port!

FOR SALE: Lloyd’s Own Lenses (Zeiss, Leica, Voigtlander, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Rodenstock, Schneider)

I’d rather just keep a growing collection, but that’s just not feasible, for both space and financial reasons—I constantly have to be working with the newest lenses for my publications. There is no ROI (return on investment) for lenses that I rarely or ever need for my publications. Plus the ongoing insurance costs are negative ROI, plus I have to buy certain new gear each year. It’s time to clean house on some very good lenses.

  • All lenses here are “good samples” as far as my testing has determined; I never keep bad samples.
  • Nearly all are with original box and packaging (all that stuff up in the attic, I never throw away boxes).
  • My reputation is more important to me than any sale. I would never knowingly sell any gear with an issue. It’s that simple—just not worth it. Local buyers welcome to inspect firsthand.
  • All my glass tends to be pristine. If I see any kind of optical marring, I will note it prior to final sale.
  • Please note that new lenses have dust inside! Used lenses always have some dust, even after a week or two of use. NONE of my gear has ever gone to Burning Man or anything 1/10 that extreme.
  • Overseas is just too much of a hassle, but if payment is made I can hold a lens until buyer visits my area.

LNIB = Like New in Box

I reserve the right to correct any typos, including pricing errors. Payment as agreed upon. You pay FedEx 3 day shipping and are responsible for any California sales tax, if applicable.

Nikon mount

All Nikon lenses are original USA models—no gray market.

Zeiss sales are because I have the Milvus replacements for the lenses I’m selling. These are all excellent samples, some particularly so.

  • Voigtlander Color-Skopar 28mm f2.8 SL II with lens hood LNIB $550.
  • Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL II with lens hood LNIB $340.
  • Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II for Nikon with lens hoods LNIB $650. I think this is the “II” version but I have to double check. I think I also have the close-up lens. SALE PENDING
  • Voigtlander 180mm f/4 APO-Lanthar SL for Nikon with lens hood LNIB $1500. rare lens. I have some review coverage on this page and also here. See also Ming Thein’s review. SOLD
  • Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G LNIB $450
  • Nikon 45mm f/2.8 ED PC-E Micro Nikkor $1325. Shows some wear, but perfect glass and mechanical.
  • Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G $250
  • Nikon AF-S 85m f/1.4G $1050
  • Nikon AF-S 85m f/1.8G $325 LNIB SOLD
  • Nikon AF-S 105mm f2.8 ED VR macro $600
  • Nikon AF 105mm f/2D DC-Nikkor $925 LNIB
  • Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II $1425
  • Zeiss ZF.2 18mm f/3.5 Distagon $875
  • Zeiss ZF.2 21mm f/2.8 Distagon $1150
  • Zeiss ZF.2 35mm f/2 Distagon $900
  • Zeiss ZF.2 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar $875
  • Zeiss ZF.2 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar $1475 (particularly outstanding copy with superb symmetry at distance)

Canon mount

All Canon lenses are original USA models—no gray market.

  • Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye $525
  • Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM $400 LNIB
  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II $1375 excellent (lens hood has scratches, but lens is very lightly used).
  • Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 $240 SOLD
  • Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L $590
  • Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon: $1225 LNIB
  • Zeiss ZE 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar: $975 LNIB
  • Zeiss ZE 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar: $1375 LNIB


  • Olympus E-M1 + Olympus 45mm f/1.8 w/ lens hood + Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 ASPH + Panasonic DMC-GF3 $1050.
  • Olympus SHG lenses (set of three): 7-14mm f/2, 14-35mm f/2, 35-100mm f/2 with two MMF-3 lens adapters for Micro Four Thirds: $4200 Great choice for videographers. These are the most highly corrected lenses that Olympus makes.


All Leica lenses are original USA models—no gray market.

  • Leica 28mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH (prior version but 6-bit coded) $2900. My testing showed no meaningful difference vs the 2016 version.
  • Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH (6-bit coded) $1750.
  • Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH black $6800. I was told by Leica that this was a hand-picked best of batch sample (chosen for me as replacement from original problem run of the 50/2 APO).

Rodenstock and Schneider view camera lenses

All on Linhof Technikardan lens boards, copal shutters.

  • Rodenstock 135mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S Copal shutter + Linhof Technikardan lens board $MAKE_OFFE PRISTINE
  • Rodenstock 180mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S Copal shutter + Linhof Technikardan lens board $MAKE_OFFE PRISTINE SOLD
  • Schneider 400mm f/5.6 APO-TELE-XENAR Copal shutter+ Linhof Technikardan lens board $MAKE_OFFER PRISTINE
  • Fujifilm Fujinon A 240mm f/9

2.5K or 4K or 5K Display for Image Editing and Viewing?

See my Mac wish list.

In yesterday’s Too-High Pixel Density on 5K and 8K Displays Impedes Image Assessment essay, I discussed the challenges of evaluating and editing images on a display with extreme pixel density. Today, I want to up-level that discussion and summarize what I see as the pros and cons of a 4K or 5K or 8K display versus a 2K or 2.5K display.

Definitions: industry-standard rounding of horizontal resolution means that only 2.5K (2.5 * 1024) and 5K (5 * 1024) are honest:

  2K = 1920 @ 2.1 MP
2.5K = 2560 @ 3.7 to 4.1 MP
  4K = 3840 or 4096 wide @ 8.3 to 9.4 MP
  5K = 5120 wide @ 14.7 MP
  8K = 7680 wide @ 33.2 MP
 15K = 15360 (will this be called 16K?) @ 133 MP
MP = megapixels

Here are the displays I recommend for various reasons:

LG 5K display for 2016 MacBook pro
  • My workhorse display, the 2.5K 30" NEC PA302W. True internal calibration and tracking, true neutral grayscale rendition (no magenta tint as with many LED displays), outstanding color gamut, 2560 X 1600 resolution for superior vertical working space. Similar, but smaller the PA242W and PA272W.
  • The 32" NEC PA322UHD 4K display. True internal calibration and tracking, wide color gamut, 3840 X 2160 resolution for superior vertical working space, moderate pixel density due to the 32" form factor.
  • The viewing enjoyment champion: the late 2015 Apple iMac 5K. The best way to view images, bar none (possibly the LG 5K is as good, or the Dell 8K).
  • For 2016 MacBook Pro users: the LG 5K. Considerations are the same as for the iMac 5K.
  • If and when it proves out on the 2016 MacBook Pro (only, at this time), the Dell UltraSharp 32 Ultra HD 8K.
  • Eizo is excellent, but very expensive (2.5K, 4K).
  • I do not recommend TV-size displays for general work due to a basic ergonomic problem: anything past about 34 inches becomes an uncomfortable head-swivel to see the display properly. Plus the greater viewing distance required simply recreates the pixel density issue anew. Plus the pixel density becomes too coarse and most TVs do a poor job as a computer display.

Pluses and minuses of 4K / 5K / 8K:

If you’re buying a display for viewing pleasure, go straight to 5K (or 8K)—a no brainer.

  • High megapixels for outstanding realistic looking images; very high viewing pleasure. 8.3 megapixels on 4K, 14.2 megapixels on 5K, 33.2 megapixels on 8K. Like looking at a 'chrome' (4K is just a bit weak here, 5K is much better).
  • Particularly on the the iMac 5K and LG 5K: outstanding image contrast that delivers rich black blacks, and white whites.
  • Extreme pixel density makes image evaluation much more challenging. A 4K display in 32" size is acceptable, but represents an inflection point on pixel density.
  • Absent or unproven color calibration with many solutions (Apple, Dell, LG all fall short). Solutions like Eizo 4K are an exception.
  • Aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is unfriendly to 3:2 or 4:3 images.
  • For 4K video, a 4K display is all but mandatory. 5K is even better in some ways, since it allows room for tools/palettes.
  • Just a heck of a lot nicer to look at for everything.

Pluses and minuses of 2.5K

Pixel density on a 32" 4K display may be acceptable, but pixel density issues come to bear with 4K at 27" or 24".

Professionals who evaluate images or edit fine details or who require superb color gamut and color tracking over time should consider the points above and below carefully; these are “bread and butter” considerations that may outweigh the beauty considerations of 4K. The right answer for any particular workflow might not be apparent until after buying, but thinking it over in advance increases the odds of making the right choice.

  • Proven color calibration (NEC, Eizo) with wide to exceptional gamut.
  • Low pixel density allows much more eye-friendly image evaluation and detail work.
  • Generally a better choice for print matching (glossy ultra high contrast displays like the iMac 5K do not translate quite the same).
  • NEC PA302W in particular: the 2560 X 1600 resolution (aspect ratio 1.6:1) is a better fit for 3:2 or 4:3 images.
  • Absent or unproven color calibration with many solutions (Apple, Dell, LG all fall short).
  • Aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is unfriendly to 3:2 or 4:3 images.

At present, I run the NEC PA302W (101 dpi) as my primary display with the 4K NEC PA322UHD (140 dpi) as a secondary display. I would prefer a secondary display that is 5K or 8K, but this is not viable on the Mac Pro (I’m not going to lose two ports to dual cables to a 5K display)—I’ll have to wait for some future Mac. At this point, I’m hoping to see a new Mac Pro that supports 8K, at which point I will decide if the benefits of 8K outweigh the evaluation and editing hassles. An iMac 8K would win me over, since I could run the PA302W as a 2nd display.

A compromise that I would find ideal would be a 5K display in a 34" form factor (172 dpi), thus large enough to have a pixel density that is high but (maybe) still viable for image evaluation.. But that does not exist and my existing machines would require dual Thunderbolt cables for Multi Stream Transport to make that work—unacceptable and flaky as tested.

I suspect that I ultimately will end up with an 8K display—large I hope—and I will just hve to deal with the pixel density issue by zooming in and/or cropping for evaluation.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Heavy Rain Continues: Examples with the Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 on Olympus E-M1 II

I take a practical handheld look at the Panasonic Leica 12mm f/1.4 on the Olympus E-M1 Mark II on a rainy walk.

Panasonic 12mm f/1.4 Examples: Around the Neighborhood

Images shown at up to full resolution 5184 X 3888 = 20.1 megapixels. Viewing on an iMac 5K recommended as this allows nearly all pixels to be seen (horizontally).

I know this cannot compete with real floods, buy hey—my backyard got 4 inches or rain last night and it’s still coming down. I’ve seen it come down much harder and over a foot of rain in a week before, so it’s not an extreme storm by any means, at least not in the SF bay area.

Canon Best of Breed Lenses
$2799 SAVE $200 = 6.0% Canon 11-24mm f/4 EF L USM in Lenses: DSLR
$1699 SAVE $100 = 5.0% Canon 35mm f/1.4 EF L II USM in Lenses: DSLR

Reader Comment: More Binocular Thoughts (continued) from Roy P

See my binocular wish list.

See also Nikon’s New Flagship Binocular and other binocular reviews and discussion.

Roy P wrote with an extensive discussion of his thoughts on the 25 or so binoculars he tried back in December. He now has some follow-on thoughts:

I’ve got to add the Zeiss 8x42 Victory SF binoculars right up there with the Swarovsky 8.5x42 EL42. Depending on the use case, you could make either of these the #1 and the other the #2, but they are more like a #1a and #1b.

Deal on Zeiss 8x42 Victory SF Binocular

The Zeiss is slightly bigger in size, but slightly lighter, so it has a lower density. It handles very well – the specs says the weight is distributed more towards the oculars, so the binocular tends to lean towards the user instead of away from the user, and that indeed seems to be the case – it just feels a little more secure in the hands.

It has the same kind of very good focus from around 250’ to 1000+ feet, so you can look at anything in this range without having to focus, very much like a porro prism.

The big difference is, the Zeiss has a whopping 446’ field of view at 1000 yards, and that is over 10% more than the EL42. And not only that, there is no fall off in the sharpness or curvature I can see towards the edges – it looks pretty darned flat. Very impressive, I think.

Brightness, contrast, clarity, and CA control all look identical between the Zeiss and the Swarovski, as well as the Leica Noctivid.

The 8.5x magnification in the Swarovski EL42 vs. 8.0x in the Zeiss makes things look marginally bigger, which perceptually feels even larger because of the smaller FoV. But once you realize you’re seeing a 10%+ larger area, the magnification in the Zeiss doesn’t look too mingy.

The eye relief in the Zeiss is 18mm, which is 2mm less than the Swarovski, so for some people who wear eyeglasses, that could be borderline.

The Zeiss also has a much shorter focus throw to go from near to infinity. The Swarovski takes almost an entire extra turn of the focusing ring. So the Zeiss allows a much quicker navigation up and down the Z axis, but the Swarovski allows greater control over the focusing within a zone of focus. Depending on the use case, some people will prefer one over the other. In my case, if this were a manual focusing lens, I would definitely prefer the Swarovski, since I’m not likely to be rapidly bouncing up and down a scene. But for a binocular, since I don’t have any one specific use case, I think I personally prefer the faster navigation the Zeiss offers.

Now, here’s the piece de resistance: the $1150-off sale is still on, so the price is still “only” $1700.

I had no use case to justify buying this binocular at $2850, nor the Swarovski EL 42 for $2550, or the Leica Noctivid for $2600, even with the 10% off deal I had. But for $1700, I am thinking hard about use cases for the Zeiss! I already have it from B&H, now it’s a matter of deciding to keep it or return it. I’ve already all the other full-size binoculars I had been evaluating.

BTW, there is one other Zeiss 8x42 Victory SF listed on the B&H site for $2850, not discounted, that seems identical to the above binocular, with the ONLY difference I can see being a T* in the title. I don’t know if this is a newer model (it has zero reviews) with improved coatings that reduce any residual longitudinal CA (there is no lateral CA I can detect). I definitely don’t have a use case for it – I think I can live without whatever further improvements this model might have!

John D writes:

FWIW, the Zeiss dealer in Mendocino "Out of this World" told me that the fine focus adjustment on the new series of Victory bins is easier to use than in the version that's currently on sale.

After they pointed this out I did notice how the focus on mine is very touchy compared to my friends Swarovski's. However I'm not sending them back.

Darin B Writes:

The first version of the Victory SF binos came out in 2014 (gray color, the ones on sale now). There was a problem with the focus mechanism plus people complained about not enough click-stops on the eyepieces. So Zeiss redesigned the focus mechanism a bit, changed the eyepieces, and switched the armor color to black. Birders are very picky people.

Same binoculars, really.

DIGLLOYD: small things might or might not matter to some.

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Fabulous Synergy: Olympus E-M1 Mark II + Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron, Examples from the Las Vegas Strip

See my micro four thirds wish list.

These examples were shot while walking the Las Vegas 'strip' in early January on a nice cool day with variable cloud cover for excellent lighting most of the time.

I really enjoyed shooting the Olympus E-M1 II with the Panasonic 42.5/1.2; the combination is just awesome for walk-around handheld shooting—I give the combo my highest recommendation. See my M4/3 wish list.

Examples chosen to show off sharpness, color rendition, flare control, and Olympus E-M1 Mark II image stabilization.

Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron Examples: Las Vegas Strip (E-M1 II)

Images are shown at up to full resolution 5184 X 3888 = 20.1 megapixels. Viewing on an iMac 5K is just stunning and just about perfect since the width almost fits in its entirety (5120 display resolution, across).

The Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 is a gem that the M4/3 shooter should consider a must-have. At about $1397 (time of writing) it is expensive for an M4/3 lens but worth it—it looks to be the best lens available for Micro Four Thirds.

There is also something very special going on with the about $1999 Olympus E-M1 Mark II: although “only” 20 megapixels, the total detail ranks right up there or exceeds anything I’ve seen from far more expensive cameras with more megapixels (think Leica M or Leica SL). The FAR higher hit rate and total sharpness are unapologetically superior to most of what I’ve ever gotten out of Leica. Small sensor camera with a superb lens punches way beyond its alleged class. Kudos to Olympus.


James M writes:

I have been stunned by the sharpness I am getting from the Oly EM1-II. Thanks for explaining the math behind it.

DIGLLOYD: indeed, the E-M1 offers sharpness that surely validates the Micro Four Thirds format. It is just brilliant with the Panasonic 42.5/1.2 Nocticron.

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Reader Question: Sensor Pixel Density, Oversampling

See my Sony wish list and Sigma mirrorless wishlist and tripods and mounting wishlist.

David K writes:

I have a question that has been bothering me for some time about the physical size of the individual pixels per sense-size in cameras—

Is there an optimum density MP size, in relation to the sensor size?
(12 or 50 MP for FF? 40 or 100MP for MF?)
(Considering the present day Bayer matrix type sensor.)

For example, one factor could be the decrease in sharpness because of increase motion sensitivity from having smaller and smaller sized individual pixels on highly dense MP sensors.
^ I don't know if this is a true statement. (It's why I'm asking this question.)

(Leaving aside the 'blow-up' printing factor and it's need more MP the larger the print.)

Carried to the absurd, will we all have to carry 'granite-tripods' in order to get a sharp photo (because the pixels are too small and densely packed!). Obviously everything is relative, especially in this question but please enlighten us from your practical hiking photo experience.

Bayer matrix pixel arrangement

DIGLLOYD: in general, 36/42/50 megapixels is optimal on full frame as of today. But only because of the current approach and current technical limitations—more on that below under the Oversampling discussion.

See how the 50MP Canon 5Ds R can beat the 24MP Leica M Monochrom. Accordingly, I claim that any 36/42/50-megapixel camera when downsampled to 24 megapixels can trounce any 24MP camera on a per-pixel basis, the only exception being extremely high ISO.

Any kind of movement during exposure causes blur. Let’s just use specific numbers to make that clear: assume ~5 micron pixels as in the Nikon D810. Then assume camera movement of 2.5 microns (tiny!)—that’s a large amount of blur equivalent to half a pixel. But if the pixels are 2.5 microns, then that 2.5 micron movement is an entire pixel, so yes indeed smaller pixels do matter in terms of the care needed to forestall camera movement. Camera phones are particularly at risk, but image stabilization compensates enough to make shooting feasible on all cameras that offer it.

The Sony A7R had that much and more blur from shutter vibration, causing a severe loss of image quality at certain shutter speeds and/or with longer lenses (since the lens moves too, not just the sensor).

No, we don’t need “granite tripods” and the proof of that is any Sony RX100 model or Micro Four Thirds camera of 16 or 20 megapixels—very high pixel densities and these cameras can make sharp pictures. But they do have an electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter), which means no shutter vibration, as well as image stabilization. On a tripod with an EFC shutter, there is zero camera-generated vibration (at least until and unless the curtain closes), so the main risk is vibration from wind, a passing train or truck, footsteps on a wooden floor, etc—all such things can cause micro vibrations that can affect sharpness.

BUT all that said, remember that for any given camera, if the sensor could be swapped out, the same projected image would be seen by the sensor; it’s just a matter of sampling frequency (equating to megapixels for any given sensor size).

On the flip side, larger and heavier cameras generally reduce high frequency movement, a fact easily seen with binoculars if nothing else. Handholding technique with mass-coupling is critical to sharp images at lower shutter speeds regardless of camera, which is one reason camera phones suck (arm’s length shooting, lots of movement).


Oversampling means capturing an image at a much higher resolution than needed for the end result. Oversampling offers terrific promise in obtaining a result free of digital artifacts and with higher per-pixel quality.

One of many proofs of this that I have shown is how the 50MP Canon 5Ds R can beat the 24MP Leica M Monochrom. Accordingly, I maintain that extremely high quality 72-megapixel images would come from a 144-megapixel DSLR.

Thus, more resolution is not really the goal; higher per-pixel image quality has become more important in my view. The main limit on image quality today stems from limitations of the Bayer matrix demosaicing process: color and spatial moiré, jagged staircase edges, spurious resolution and false color, and a general inability to resolve color and textural detail anything close to what sensor resolution would suggest.

The Sigma sd and dp cameras offer self-evident proof of just how much quality is lost when using a Bayer matrix sensor (that is, by NOT using a Bayer sensor). If Bayer is to be used, oversampling is a mitigating solution. For example, a sensor of 144-megapixel outputting 72 or 36 megapixel raw images. Higher resolution (oversampling) used not for more resolution, but for much higher per-pixel quality.

The Nyquist-Shannon theorem says that the sample rate must be double the desired resolution. That is, if we want detail at 200 lines per millimeter, sampling must be done at 400 lines per millimeter (200 lp/mm). This is the idea behind oversampling. Add on the fact that a Bayer matrix camera samples red and blue in only 1/4 of the pixels and green in 1/2 of the pixels, and a lot more than 2X sampling is needed for accurate image capture with color images. The Pentax K1 solves the color sampling problem neatly with its Super HiRes pixel shift mode, but the Nyquist-Shannon theorem still applies to spatial resolution.

Oversampling is not a panacea: as pixels grow smaller, the balance of resolution, color discrimination, dynamic range and noise all change, with those latter items degrading as the pixels grow smaller. Sensor tech keeps improving however. Moreover, special pixel shift modes offer major gains in quality that ought to make even 72 megapixel images of extremely high quality without using oversampling (Pentax K1, Olympus pixel shift, as per above). Consider that with pixel shift technology, a 144MP sensor could approach the quality of a 36 MP sensor on a per-pixel basis (4X the pixels, but 4X the exposure). Maybe not right now, but within a few years. While pixel shift requires a still subject, there are many good use cases for it.

Accordingly my quick answer on the “how many megapixels” question is that the Sony RX100 V pixel quality is very high at ISO 100 and the pixel density of its sensor would work out to 144 megapixels on a full frame sensor. Thus the Sony RX100 V is proof that a 144-megapixel full-frame DSLR is a very reasonable answer, and 200 megapixels is not unrealistic. The problem: Sony has never offered a 35mm full-frame sensor with more than 42 megapixels. There are manufacturing challenges in scaling up a sensor, and clearly that goal will be elusive for a while.

Too-High Pixel Density on 5K and 8K Displays Impedes Image Assessment

See my Mac wish list.

See also Which Display for Image Editing and Viewing?.

In my my mention of the LG 5K display, I wrote that “the pixel density is way too high for that type of detail work”, which generated at least two reader emails, below.

LG 5K display for 2016 MacBook pro

But first, the flip side: being able to see 14.2 megapixels (5K) or 33.2 megapixels (8K) is a huge boon in image assessment—overall assessment. But high pixel density is not good for assessing fine detail, and that’s a problem for anyone shooting a burst of frames (focus may be subtly better on one frame of several), comparing lens performance, determining whether an f/9 or f/11 shot is better (competing interests of DoF vs diffraction dulling), assessing how much to sharpen, etc.


What I did not make clear in that statement is the conditions under which it is true, and it could be false for someone 25 or 30 or 35 years old with perfect 20/20 vision. I have no way of knowing that directly. By “true” I mean that by direct experience, I know what works and what does not work for me, that is, what leads to errors in evaluation and what does not.

I’m not young any more—my sixth decade, which means that presbyopia has become an annoying issue (one reason that lack of an EVF option is going to drive me away from DSLRs entirely within a few years).

My eyes need +10 diopters correction, so eyeglasses are marginal solution (introducing chromatic errors of their own and other issues). I wear contact lenses and when my eyes are not tired or irritated correction is excellent at 20/20, with a slight astigmatism, which is why I focus cameras left-eye only. I also have limitations on close-focus range with contact lenses. So I CANNOT peer a little closer at a computer display.

My sense is that many of my readers are not spring chickens either, and may have similar or worse vision limitations. That said, I am not claiming “proof” of anything here as a general principle, only that Retina displays of 220 dpi or more make it extremely difficult for me to evaluate images for critical sharpness.

The bottom line here is “try it yourself”. I think most users are fooling themselves about image sharpness if all they do is view at 100% pixels on an iMac 5K (or LG 5K or Retina display). Those “sharp” images often are not quite sharp.

Stefan D writes:

"Pixel density way too high" for assessing sharpness? Could you please elaborate on this in your article a little bit more. I would think more density = easier to assess sharpness. Thank You!

DIGLLOYD: an iMac 5K (or LG 5K) has pixel density of about 220 dpi = ~4.3 line pairs/mm. Without peering closely at the display, the pixels disappear. If the eye cannot resolve these pixels, how can one be sure of sharpness differences? Many an image that is not quite sharp still looks great at 220 dpi, and yet the same image at 101 DPI on my NEC PA302W is obviously less than fully sharp. I’ve seen that over and over, so I’m on my guard if an image looks sharp on my MacBook Pro Retina and I cannot tell f/2 from f/5.6 without going to 200%.

Consider a 6 X 4" print from a slightly blurred image that looks really sharp at that size (because it is 300 or even 600 dpi), but when printed at 13 X 19" it is obviously less than fully sharp.

How can I tell if my image is fully sharp, or sharper than another similar frame?

At pixel densities over 200 dpi, it becomes difficult to reliably distinguish critically sharp from almost sharp.

Digital displays were nominally 72 DPI (dots per inch) to start with, more or less. As larger screens emerged, the dpi rose to as high as 110 DPI or so. With the advent of Retina and HiDPI display, DPI becomes very high.

It is far easier to assess image sharpness at 101 dpi than at 220 dpi (320 dpi makes it impossible). Zooming to 200% is a possibility, but problematic for reasons discussed further below. Note that I am not talking about thin clean lines from vector graphics, but complex image details.

My closest comfortable focusing distance under relatively dim indoor lighting is 18 inches. That means I should be able to resolve at best about 3.5 lp/mm (a rough estimate based on Norman Koren’s analysis), assuming my eyes are working perfectly (often not the case!). So right off the bat, most human eyes cannot resolve the 4.3 lp/mm of the iMac 5K display without peering closely, say 12" away—which is absurdly close for a 27" display (not really usable) and a serious ergonomic problem to boot. And of course there are all sorts of human perceptual issues involved that make it much more complex than that, and I’m not evaluating black and white line pairs here, but real images with complex detail and color.

For my work, I have to evaluate sharpness correctly all the time for my readers, so a Retina or HiDPI display is problematic. It is one of several reasons that I evaluate images on the NEC PA302W (2560 X 1600, 30" display = 101 dpi), and while I am reluctant to do lens assessments while in the field with my MacBook Pro Retina. It’s hard enough to compare/shoot lenses fairly while also having pixel density hide subtle differences.

There are other reasons too: when doing fine detail work, assessing the amount of sharpening to apply, etc, the high pixel density makes it difficult to assess any nuances. This forces working at 200%, where each image pixel is now a 2 X 2 block of screen pixels, and this raises yet more issues, more on that below.

Ed A writes:

I was interested to read your review of the LG 5k monitor and the hint about the upcoming 8k from Dell.
I've been using HiDPI displays for several years now, starting with the old IBM T221 and now with Dell 5k screens.

But I was surprised that you said the higher resolution display was not recommended for evaluating image sharpness.
Why not? Surely if you need to view individual pixels you can just view the image at 200% magnification and effectively have about 100 chunky pixels to the inch. Or even 400% magnification, where each pixel on the image becomes a block of sixteen on screen. Then you can check the raw image sharpness without having to squint.

However, I can guess one possible reason. Often when viewing an image at 200% magnification it is scaled up with some kind of 'smart' resizing which, rather than simply mapping one pixel to a block of four, applies some kind of blurring. When looking at a whole photograph this does give a more pleasing result than pixel-doubling. But it is infuriating for pixel-level work like you mentioned. A similar defect applies to monitors themselves: typically a 4k monitor run at plain old HD resolution won't just display blocks of four, but will blur the image too. Great for video games, not so great for still images and text.

Back in simpler times, image viewing software would just scale up naively to a block of pixels, and monitors would too (the T221 does it right). It is frustrating that things have gotten worse, at least for some software.

Does your favourite viewer or application for pixel-level work allow you to zoom in to 2x, 3x, or 4x scaling and cleanly distinguish the individual pixels? If not, then really the fault is with the software rather than the HiDPI monitor. On the other hand, if the software can do it right, surely a 27 inch 5k display is very nearly as good as your preferred 32 inch PA302W?

DIGLLOYD: it was no review, just a mention from the show.

I use Adobe Photoshop CC 2017. Using 200% is problematic for my purposes and 300% or 400% serves no useful purpose at any DPI, particularly given the false detail present from Bayer matrix demosaicing. Even 200% is problematic that way.

Hugely enlarging an image is looking at twigs on trees, not the forest. I am not a “pixel peeper”, and I consider it a pejorative. So the last thing I want to do is use 200%. For a good example of the wanton foolishness of MTF charts or other pixel peeper favorites vs real world behavior, see Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art: Two Aspen.

  • Perception matters, acutance in particular. A blurry image at 200% loses acutance, and acutance is a key feature of the very best lenses. So 200% actually makes it worse for comparing to another lens, or another frame, by degrading both and thus reducing the apparent differences.
  • Sharpness is not about some pinpoint spot; I need to see sufficient context for proper evaluation. It is a mistake in methodology to zero in on a small area for checking sharpness. Zooming to 200% shows an area 1/4 as large as at 100%, reducing the context greatly while showing a blown-up version lacking the original acutance.
  • At 200%, one image pixel becomes a 2X2 block of screen pixels. Acutance is lost; the image looks soft and blurry. It is visually annoying and frustrating to work that way (and time wasting to zoom in/out constantly). I do this in the field when I must, but it is tedious. Scaling always has do something: harsh edges with no smoothing, or some kind of smoothing. The best solution if one is going to scale is to resample and sharpen with algorithms that one has determined to work well for assessing sharpness differences—but there is no option to force the GPU to do that. So... maybe a solution is possible that has fewer negatives.
  • GPUs often scale pixels in undesirable ways that do not preserve acutance and/or smooth things, etc. See Photoshop and GPU: Blurry Image Scaling Damages Image Assessment Workflow, which shows that simply changing a setting can affect image display dramatically, but the behavior can change as the image size changes! This might not be a problem for 200%, but it shows that scaling problems do exist.
  • “cleanly distinguish the individual pixels” is a mistaken idea. Any interpolation will introduce its own problems, which is seen directly by using various resampling algorithms, all producing different results. Once the original image is resampled (200% or whatever), it not the original any more.

Similar issues apply for workflow, such as how much to sharpen. This generally sorts itself out; a skilled operator can make tweaks to an established scaling and sharpening regimen known to be ideal for a particular printer, image size, etc. But in general, a too-fine pixel density hides errors, such as excessive sharpening.

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