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Nikon D850: Is Lack of Availability Due to Limited Sensor Supply? Whose Sensor?

See my Nikon wish list.

The about $3300 Nikon D850 remains “New Item - Released In Limited Qty” more than a month after release and still “Preorder”. That has not happened for many years in the DSLR market that I can recall.

The planned production of the best-ever-made DSLR surely cannot have been underestimated this badly by Nikon given so much sales history, although it is a possibility.

Since Nikon has never shown us severe supply constraints like this before and is surely capable of building more than enough camera bodies quickly, my theory is that sensor supply is the gating factor, due to limited production capacity and/or too-low yields.

Which brings me to another point: I don’t think this is a Sony sensor in the D850. It behaves much less well in some night-shot circumstances versus the Nikon D810 (though it can also be excellent). Its color is superb, the best yet for a DSLR or mirrorless, or so my eyes say and I agree that it has traits more akin to the Leica M10 sensor than the Sony A7R II sensor. But of course Nikon has had years to tune color behavior, so it is hard to be certain.

Furthermore, Sony is sticking with its existing 42-megapixel sensor in the Sony A7R III. Nor would it make production sense to make a 45 alongside a 42 megapixel sensor.

John G’s comment led me to this post above:

I’ve been attempting to research the origins of Nikon’s D850 sensor.

It never made sense to me that Sony made the sensor as Nikon has made the strategic (and smart) to eliminate their dependance on the Sony for sensors.

Also, the D850 sensor is 45.7MP compared to the the latest Sony a7R III, which is, of course, 42.4MP. It makes no sense that they would make a special sensor with higher resolution for Nikon than is featured in their own current flagship.

Most recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that Sony is almost certainly not the source, but instead Nikon is working closely with TowerJazz. Many have suggested that only sensors use BSI, but in fact TowerJazz has also been working on BSI for several years and have already produced them. It would make sense to debut it in the D850, since Nikon’s track record with building support hardware/software/sensor interfaces is excellent.

BTW, TowerJazz is also working with Leica, and by all reports is the maker of the (excellent) M10 sensor, as well as the Q and the SL.

DIGLLOYD: it adds up and seems quite credible to me.

Reader Comments: Lenticular Clouds Shot with Nikon D850, Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

White Lenticular Clouds Rising over
Saddlebag Lake East Mountains
(larger color version further below)

Get Zeiss Milvus for Nikon or Canon and Nikon D850 at B&H Photo.

James A writes:

Great photo of the lenticular clouds over Saddlebag Lake.

I thought that the “lenticular” subject matter was very apropos.

DIGLLOYD: the Nikon D850 performed like a champ; this is/was a very high contrast scene that used the entire dynamic range of the sensor and is a perfect ETTR exposure. To preserve detail in the clouds meant a very dark foreground, pushed up in brightness during raw conversion.

The Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 used for this shot is superb (see First Look at the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4), just about Otus grade by f/2.8. It 'sings' on the D850 as do the Milvus 18/2.8 and Milvus 25/1.4, which three together have now become my go-to landscape set (Otus 55 or another lens sometimes). Never have I had a trio of wides even approaching this quality. They go into the pack by habit now, barring other priorities.

I had at most minutes to make the shot, and indeed the 3rd shot for the stack did not have the right shape and definition of the first shot for the rising clouds and even the 2nd was not quite as good.

3-frame focus stack exposures for 'White Lenticular Clouds Rising over Saddlebag Lake East Mountains'
Times off by one hour and should be 13:01; D850 not adjusted for daylight savings time.

More commentary follows.

Image can be viewed in color and black and white at up to 8K 45 megapixels on the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 Examples: Eastern Sierra, Late Season. Toggle for black and white version.

White Lenticular Clouds Rising over Saddlebag Lake East Mountains
f9 @ 1/40 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 14:01:39 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

Dr. S writes:

Beautiful image of the lenticular clouds over Saddlebag. I've never seen such clarity and accuracy than what you've posted.

Once the D850 is looked at and repaired it is a winner.

DIGLLOYD: as for the Nikon D850, excepting the flange focal distance issue, I consider it the best DSLR ever made (Canon is now a full pay grade lower and looking positively aged), and the D850 color rendition to my eyes is the best of any camera on the market, excluding medium format.

The Fujifilm GFX still gets the nod for total image quality or so I estimate at this point (TBD fairly soon), but the latest Zeiss Milvus wide angle lenses are really Otus-grade lenses in most respects and thus offer huge appeal, having far superior build quality and often with two stops more lens speed. IMO these are the two best camera systems on the market today (excluding klunky hyper expensive medium format rigs), offering huge value for what they deliver. I vastly prefer shooting the D850 in the field over the Sony A7R II, and the A7R III is not likely to change that. Particularly in cold weather where gloves are needed the Sony cameras are a disaster, and even the D850 screwed up one thing, a too-small 4-way controller. Carry weight is another matter. Sony pixel shift would have been largely useless for weeks this fall given wind, but it does have potential, which might force me into carrying both at times (with Zeiss Loxia).

The “clarity and accuracy” comes from the jaw-dropping power of focus stacking, which when properly executed (shooting and the stacking which follows), is the only way to achieve this kind of clarity. I eagerly await the emergence of 8K displays so that I can see 33 megapixels at once, even if that does not allow the full 45 megapixel D850 image to be viewed in its entirety. But an iMac 5K is stunning already.

I deem focus stacking a mandatory skill for any photographer. A “‘getting started” article on focus stacking will appear on lenspire.Zeiss.com soon. Those looking to greatly accelerate the learning process might consider one of my one-on-one photo tours.

This is one of those images where seconds counted. I shot the distance image within 30 seconds (using a tripod, composing, then focusing manually in magnified Live View). I needed the tripod so I could focus stack for a razor-sharp foreground and middle-ground, and indeed it is razor sharp to 45 megapixels. Using f/11 could not have achieved the same visual impact; focus stacking of this kind is “hyper real” at 45 megapixels since the eye cannot take in the detail in this kind of scene whereas a taken image allows time to explore.

There are many details included; I try hard to do this in my landscape images so that they contain far more subtlety than a viewer might realize, but someone who knows the area and its variability might appreciate. In this sense, I will state that I prefer many of my images to “better” showy images that grab the eye but contain little subtlety (for example, Apple’s chose beautiful macOS High Sierra image).

It captures by intention far more than it might appear at a glance: overall landscape of course, transition zones of flora, the damage caused to the trees by the harsh winter of 2016/2017, the lucky almost snow-free playground conditions in mid-November, the type of clouds themselves (rare these past years in my visits), the mixed geological character with gneiss glacial erratics among metamorphic bedrock etched by glacial activity, just enough sense of place (Saddlebag Lake) to make it more meaningful over time, the dappled lighting so typical of the High Sierra when clouds form, including the implicit movement of light across the hills, the lingering snow in shaded areas from a snowstorm that shows a subsequent unseasonal warmth, but also the typical hard freezes at night creating the solid-ice pools. However, I was disappointed not to have a pika perch on the foreground or background gneiss boulder, or some bighorn sheep on the far ridge!

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Home, Catching Up

I’m home playing catchup after being gone 3 weeks: bills, family, accounting yuck-work, dismal health care decisions for 2018., and so on. Being in the mountains for 3 weeks was great, but coming home is like a hangover in terms of the crap-work of life to deal with upon return. But I’ll take the trade.

Update 17 November: I received an offer from Nikon to send in the D850 I have for inspection by technicians for the flange focal offset problem. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it won’t get looked at until about Nov 27. I will be sending it in.

This entire area below is probably now covered under two feet of snow due to a good healthy first cold storm in the Sierra Nevada. It was just awesome to see it all frozen up before that storm came, the day after I left.

White Lenticular Clouds Rising over Saddlebag Lake East Mountains
f9 @ 1/40 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 14:01:39 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

Time to Head for Home

Update: getting up too early and when it’s dark to finish the drive home came with a loss: I now have only a left-foot boot, the right-foot boot presumably now buried under a foot of snow near the top of Monitor Pass. My guess is that it fell out the van sliding door when I opened it once before leaving in the morning. Oh well, at least I got a good year’s use out of them and the lugs at bottom were half-way worn down and so were biting less deep. I bought two spare pairs at half price a bit back of the Five Ten Camp Four Mid GTX.

...

I shot more and made better images than I think I’ve made in years this October/November in the Eastern Sierra and White Mountains. I caught more and larger trout than ever before. I thoroughly enjoyed the isolation and beauty of the place. It was a lot of work, a good combination.

The comfort of my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van allowed me to publish almost everything on this site in the past 5 weeks right in the van, with a full computer setup powered by a 5 kilowatt lithium iron phosphate battery.

I am pleased with the images I made. Perhaps because of extended visiting time and because the areas I frequent remained accessible and mostly snow-free unusually late, I just had more chances, but I think I was more 'in the zone' than has been typical.

The Nikon D850 was my focus at first*, but my attention turned to focus stacking because I now see focus stacking as an essential technical for landscape photographers, particularly now with the D850 Focus shift shooting feature. Hurrah for Nikon on that point at least. I wonder if Nikon has a patent precluding other companies from doing it, though there are 3rd party phone-based apps (a bit clunky) which can also do it.

Tonight, most of the passes are closed due to an anticipated storm a day off. Looking up at 11 PM at Monitor Pass at ~8600' (a side pass, not crossing pass), the sky remains starry clear and I could have been across the Sierra 4 hours ago. Instead, I’ve been forced north to get home, for an extra 2-3 hour drive back. The wonderful public servants (very funny terminology) in charge don’t consider the cost or inconvenience to travelers and are perfectly comfortable to lie and dissimulate on the truth, in my personal observations over many years.

* I must buy a D850 as it is a mainstay must-have camera, but at this point I expect no answer from Nikon about a very serious operational concern of flange focal distance error. I am unsure of keep/buy the loaner I have, or send it back and wait. One user tells me he sees no issues, others say they see the same flange focal distance issue including a certain optical company.

Images below from Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 Examples: Eastern Sierra, Late Season.

White Clouds Over Saddlebag Lake Ridge
f9 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 17:27:52 [focus stack 2 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]
White Clouds Over Saddlebag Lake Ridge
f9 @ 1/40 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 14:01:39 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]
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Reader Confusion: Battery Temperature Specifications vs Nikon D850 Operating Temperature

Get Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

Several readers have written confused about the D850 operating range, confusing battery ratings with camera temperature operating range.

I can state (from direct use), that the D810 operates right down to 0°F using the EN-EL15 battery and that the D850 with its EN-EL15a battery operates down to at least as cold as 24°F—for extended periods e.g., star shots for 20 minutes or so. It is not to be taken seriously that the 'a' version behaves differently in any significant way.

When battery specs are quoted, they bear little relation to real world shooting. About the only important thing to know is to not charge lithium batteries that are below freezing. Some types will be destroyed if charged when sub-freezing (and some have circuitry or chargers to prevent that from happening by refusing charging current, another reason not to use off-brand chargers).

Discharging most types of lithium batteries down to 0°F is just fine , albeit with reduced voltage and usage time.

Ditto for my 5 kilowatt Lithionics battery in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van, in which I now have experience down to 18°F outside, 23°F inside and internal battery temps to 34°F. Flawless operation.

Specifications for Nikon EN-EL15a Rechargeabl Li-ion Battery state 32°F - 104°F operating range

Above and below, Nikon has done a slipshod confusing job that has tripped up several readers already. It should have been presented/written as follows in order to avoid confusing the long dash with a negative sign:

0°C to 40°C (32°F to 104°F)

The quality of nearly all user manuals for cameras and electronics devices gets an 'F' (failing grade), and not just for sloppy work like here with Nikon—see Why do User Manuals for High-End Cameras Tell Nothing Useful?.

Specifications for Nikon D850 operating temperature range

I checked the Nikon D800 manual and it quotes the same operating range as the battery. In fact, *all* quoted operating environment / operating temperature specifications for the Nikon D850 match those of the battery. Or Canon DSLR: the Canon 5Ds user manual states an identical operating range.

Clearly the specifications are in error versus the real world (“cover our butts”) because a great deal of my usage of the D850 for several weeks now was well below the minimum operating temperature. It is my assumption that all these specifications relate back to the battery specifications, which as noted are simply not accurate in the real world and relate to ideal operating performance. I shoot in sub-freezing temps and have for many years with many cameras of many brands, and so have many other Nikon users.

If it were actually true that the D850 did not operate sub-freezing, I would say it is the biggest piece of crap yet sold in the camera market, and that would be overly kind. But it is not true, since that’s what I’ve been doing for weeks (shooting sub-freezing).

BTW, no Nikon should operate anywhere in the northeast USA, southeast asia, Florida, Death Valley, Australia, etc for many months of the year because those places all have humidity well above 85% for many months of the year. And temperature extremes too. I hope the picture is getting clear here.

Leica makes some interesting statements about the Leica M10 battery:

The battery must have a temperature of 10°-30°C /50°-86°F to be charged (otherwise the charger will not turn on, or will turn off again).

Pentax does a better job in the 645Z user manual, stating: “The temperature range for camera use is -10°C to 40°C (14°F to 104°F).”

The Significance of Automated Focus Stepping for Focus Stacking (Nikon D850)

Get Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

See my focus stacking how-to (to be expanding soon) in Making Sharp Images and focus stacking related pages.

Focus stacking is the only answer to the future of increasing megapixels, including today’s 36/42/45/etc megapixels. That is, if one’s aim is any application in which more than fraction of the sensor resolution is desirable.

If focus stacking is not in your photographic toolkit as a landscape photographer or similar application requiring deep depth of field, competence in the field requires learning it, yesterday. That is, if resolution and detail count for something.

Overall, focus shift is more applicable and useful than pixel shift (for landscape and similar). Just as a hammer is better than a screwdriver, or vice versa, depending. See also Sony Alpha A7R III: Pixel Shift Facts. Pixel shift is a different animal that is excellent in its own right, not to be underestimated as to its immense value in some shooting situations, but pixel shift is of much more limited application until and unless major advances in automated image processing smarts emerge. Still, we can even today contemplate focus stacking using pixel-shifted images in some situations.

Pixel-count and quality aside, I reiterate and emphasize that the Nikon D850 Focus shift shooting feature is the most significant feature in a decade aside from Live View, at least for a landscape photographer or for anyone needing more depth of field than stopping down can deliver, and with far higher quality by avoiding diffraction. That’s because its focus stepping automation makes images like the one below possible in a tiny fraction of the time it would take me focusing manually (and probably with errors). Such images can often often impossible as a practical matter, due to failing light conditions that make focusing increasingly error prone or non-viable, due to failing light, which not only impedes focusing but renders the stack of images difficult to use (light changes of color, angle, etc).

The bummer: focus stepping automation requires autofocus lenses. I can count the acceptable performing wide angles for Nikon (or Canon) on one hand. Well, two hands if one accepts the major PITA of strong field curvature and the headaches it causes when retouching.

Lenses: I greatly prefer what I am getting from the Zeiss Milvus 18/2.8 (very high grade), Milvus 25/1.4 (Otus grade) and Milvus 35/1.4 (Otus grade stopped down a bit). Stacking with manual focus wides is not too bad, but at 50mm and beyond it gets very tedious and error prone. The (autofocus) Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art is their best-designed wide angle and excellent.

Just a few of the pages specifically including focus stacked images (there are more):

Below, this image cannot be done with an 85mm (or 50mm or 35mm or tilt shift lens or macro lens) without focus stacking—not a fraction of the detail at any aperture. Image stacked with Zerene Stacker available at Zerene Systems.

Tiny Creekbed, Flowing but Icing-Up
f8 @ 1.3 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-13 17:49:52 [focus stack 13 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]
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Deep Stacking with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Using Nikon D850 'Focus shift shooting'

Get Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

See my focus stacking how-to (to be expanding soon) in Making Sharp Images and focus stacking related pages.

...

I’ve been pushing the limits of focus stacking in various vectoral ways, wondering just how far I could push it, this time in yet another way, just having done so at f/1.8: what about deep near-to-far stacking with an 85mm for landscape photography, with a strong wind no less?

The full 45-megapixel 8K version of the image below can be viewed in this series of examples:

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Examples: Eastern Sierra

Images up to full 45-megapixel resolution and in both color and black and white.

Below, this cannot be done with an 85mm (or 50mm or 35mm) without focus stacking—not a fraction of the detail at any aperture. Image stacked with Zerene Stacker available at Zerene Systems.

Tiny Creekbed, Flowing but Icing-Up
f9 @ 1/15 sec, ISO 100; 2017-11-13 17:23:56 [focus stack 15 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]
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iPhone Panos Suck; iPhone Panos Rock: Panoramic Images of Saddlebag Lake / Hoover Wilderness Area

Some iPhone panoramas from the Saddlebag lake and Hoover Wilderness / Hall Natural Study Area east of Yosemite National Park. Where visitors can still enjoy the outdoors without the heavy hand of the NPS.

iPhone panoramas rock when they are with the 1X camera and with good light—so easy to make—awesome.

They suck in dim light or dusk and/or with the crap-quality2X camera. Facial recognition? Apple, please fix the crappy 2X camera instead please, ADD understood but I want a better camera.

Saddlebag Lake, North End as Seen From Trail Approaching Hoover Wilderness
f1.8 @ 1/3200 sec, ISO 20; 2017-11-09 11:26:49 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Saddlebag Lake trail towards Hoover Wilderness
f1.8 @ 1/1800 sec, ISO 20; 2017-11-09 11:25:30 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
High Hidden Lake, Ready for Ice Skating
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 32; 2017-11-09 15:22:21 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Conness Lake #2, Frozen Over
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 25; 2017-11-09 16:15:36 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Conness Lakes Basin Overview, Ready for a Romp
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 32; 2017-11-09 15:39:00 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Conness Lakes Basin Overview, Closer View
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 32; 2017-11-09 15:39:32 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Last Orange Clouds at Sunset, North Area of Hoover Wilderness
f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 40; 2017-11-10 16:43:55 [panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]
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Nikon D850: Flange Focal Distance Problem Means that my Zeiss Milvus 18/2.8 reaches End of Its Focusing Range at around 28°F and is Hosed when it goes colder.

See my Nikon wish list.

Update 17 November 2017: I received an offer from Nikon to send in the D850 I have for inspection by technicians for the flange focal offset problem. Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, it won’t get looked at until about Nov 27. I will be sending it in.

...

See Nikon D850: the 2nd Sample is Off Also, both Skewed and Bad Flange Focal Distance.

I have been waiting nearly a MONTH for some kind of response from Nikon. Pick up the phone and call me, Nikon Japan. Your PR agency has my phone number. Make the call. There is care and consideration in timely manner, and then there is flagrant disrespect and stonewalling.

I will note that one user reports no flange focal distance error with two D850 camera bodies. OTOH, he has not been shooting with camera and lenses cooled to the ambient temperatures of 25°F to 35°F I have been shooting in (thermal mass takes time to react).

Nikon, this is a fundamental failing that shows your company to be in the little leagues. My irritation has now entered the contempt phase. I have been WAY too patient. Get your pitiful act together.

I have several theories:

  1. Poor quality control. Nikon, just give me an answer as to wether my camera can be fixed and turned around in a week or less. It won’t solve the sloppy build quality problem, but it will solve my particular D850 issue. I now face the prospect of replacing the (excepting this issue) the best DSLR ever built and waiting for this fiasco to hash itself out.
  2. Nikon Japan considers saving face more important than honest and integrity. If true, and I hope not, this is pathetic.
  3. The change is deliberate and designed to generate FUD (fear uncertainty doubt) about 3rd party lenses, namely Zeiss. This is not idle speculation, but I cannot go into details here. But the terms “restraint of trade” come to mind, which as I understand it can carry very stiff penalties.
  4. Organizational incompetence at multiple levels—communication, protocol, technical to marketing to customer loops, etc.
  5. The reason for no response is because the real explanation is on the money as to one of the above ugly scenarios.

NIKON, PROVE ME WRONG WITH A GOOD TECHNICAL EXPLANATION.

Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 on Nikon D850 at about 28°F—no more focusing range left. If it gets colder, GAME OVER for infinity focus
f1.8 @ 1/170 sec, ISO 20; 2017-11-09 15:20:06
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Stacking at f/1.8?!

Get Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art at B&H Photo.

I’ve been pushing the limits of focus stacking in various vectoral ways, wondering just how far I could push it., this time in another way: what about stacking at full aperture? I don’t expect peak quality, but with the Nikon D850 Focus shift shooting features, I wondered how it might work out.

The full 45-megapixel 8K version can be viewed in:

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Examples: Eastern Sierra

Prepare to be impressed what f/1.8 can do in 45 megapixels!

Old Stump View To Mt Conness at Sunset
f1.8 @ 1/4 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-08 17:58:07 [focus stack 6 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]
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Depth of Field Akin to f/128: an Incredible Near-Far Focus Stack with the Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

Get Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 at B&H Photo.

I’ve been pushing the limits of focus stacking, wondering just how far I could push it.

With 30 mph 28°F bursty winds (twisting even the foreground branch and waving the trees madly about), this 9-frame focus stack took a bit of work, but I’d guesstimate it has the depth of field of f/128 or so—without any of the diffraction problems, which would turn the entire thing into mush. The whole idea of focus stacking is to keep the circle of confusion at or near the pixel size.

I think it is astounding in the detail and depth of field. The camera is about 10 inches off the ground and the nearest detail is about 10 inches away, yet sharpness extends all the way to the peak. See the full 45-megapixel 8K version in both color and black and white in my review of the Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8. It has some defects, some of which could be improved with more effort, and some of which cannot be fixed (wind shifting things around). But I wonder if most viewers will notice, even in the 8K version. Best viewed on the iMac 5K or better.

Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 Examples: Eastern Sierra, Late Season

The Milvus 18/2.8 has little breathing (change in magnification with focusing), which greatly aids focus stacking by minimizing the stretching required to merge the frames.

Bring warm multi-layered clothing for such outings; see Gear for the Mountains. See also Ad-Hoc Insulating the Sprinter Photography Adventure Van at 17°F + Western Mountaineering Down Cypress GWS Sleeping Bag.

I have many more very nice images, but I am behind on publishing, because it is very special to have iced-over conditions almost free of snow up here at nearly 11,000' elevation.

Harsh Life for Pines Below Glacial Moraine
f11 @ 1/25 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-12 17:05:07 [focus stack 9 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

[low-res image for bot]
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Reader Question: Best Mac if Buying Now

See my Mac wish list.

Del B writes:

Time to buy a new iMac, and plan on doing so through your link around black Friday. Will go with your publisher preference. Will the new Mac com with the not ready for prime time filing system.

Somewhere I read that the new file structure will initially be focused on the iMac Pro. Do you know? Part of me wants to wait for the new design rumored for '18 but I really need to buy something very shortly

DIGLLOYD: My top deals pages are updated daily and always a good place to bootmark and scan each day. There are many such pages sorted by category.

The fastest Mac today for most users (and indeed one I’d consider switching to) is model which is currently $200 off, the $2899 Apple 27" iMac with Retina 5K Display (Mid 2017) model #APIMTRMNED43. Of course, add 64GB OWC memory, and you’ll probably want big fast external storage too.

As for value, the iMac Pro is a massive losing proposition for most users, unless money is meaningless to you. The iMac Pro could actually be *slower* for many things than the 2017 iMac 5K.

File system is code and I can see no reasonable argument that Mac Pro SSD would perform better than the 2017 iMac Pro SSD—unless it is due to the fact that Apple put a *slower* SSD into the 2017 iMac 5K than the 2015 iMac 5K (for transfers up to 1MB or so). Presumably the iMac Pro will rectify that, but who knows.

See all iMac articles.

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Late Season Shooting in the Eastern Sierra

Get Zeiss Milvus and Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art B&H Photo.

The first few storms have largely melted off, leaving slip-free walking in most areas (but beware of coats of ice where water percolates).

If you are 'into' cold stark beauty, I think this is the most beautiful that I have seen the Eastern Sierra all year, perhaps in several years. Get yer ass up there now if you aren’t a fair weather photographer only.

Contact me ASAP for a late season photo tour. I can tailor a day or two to your comfort level. Want to learn focus stacking? Now’s your chance inside my warm van.

Bring warm multi-layered clothing; see Gear for the Mountains. You do NOT have to stay at 10,000' as I do; you can go down to the Lee Vining area for 30°F warmer conditions.

See also Ad-Hoc Insulating the Sprinter Photography Adventure Van at 17°F + Western Mountaineering Down Cypress GWS Sleeping Bag.

Images up to full camera resolution are included on their respective review pages.

I have numerous very impressive stacking examples from a variety of lenses, but I am behind on publishing now, because this weather is so very special this late in the year.

Toggle for black and white versions.

See the full 45-megapixel 8K version by logging in.

Icy Pond with View to High Peaks, Sunset
f9 @ 1/100 sec, ISO 64; 2017-11-10 16:36:10 [focus stack 5 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

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See the full 45-megapixel 8K version by logging in.

Glacier-scraped granit, icy pond, high peaks
f8 @ 1/640 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 15:58:08 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]

See the full 45-megapixel 8K version by logging in.

Grayish Dead Pine to View of Mt Conness Sub Peak
f9 @ 1/50 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-10 13:51:04 [focus stack 6 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

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Del B writes:

This one blew me away. I've been following closely the possibilities of this particular combination of lens and camera with focus stacking. I am now a complete believer. Thanks for this, worth the price of admission-and then some.

DIGLLOYD: I hope Del is not referring to my mfailing to suck in my gut, below! Late season this year has meant almost no cycling, and a lot of driving and hiking.

I plan on updating and adding to my focus stacking section of Making Sharp Images soon.

Seriously, the full 45-megapixel versions of the Zeiss images above can be viewed by logging in, into Zeiss DSLR Lenses.

Lloyd on trail around Saddlebag Lake on way to Conness Wilderness / Hall Natural Study Area
f11 @ 1/200 sec, ISO 100; 2017-11-12 12:30:37
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

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Which is Better, Food or Water? (or wine) — Sony Alpha A7R III Pixel Shift vs Nikon D850 'Focus shift shooting'

See my Sony wish list and get Sony A7R III at B&H Photo.

45-megapixel Nikon D850

See my growing review of the Nikon D850 in Advanced DSLR as well as Sony Alpha A7R III: Pixel Shift Facts.

Some readers have asked: “Which is better, pixel shift or focus stacking”?

Which is better, food or water? I’ll start with some vivid analogies:

  • You’re severely dehydrated in the middle of the desert. You couldn’t care less about food, which could not be digested anyway, due to dehydration. F*** food, if water is not found, heatstroke and then death are ahead. Drinking your own urine isn’t effective, as already determined by unpleasant experimentation. Not that there is any left to imbibe.
  • You’re in the arctic with ample fuel for melting snow for water. You’re out of food. You don’t give a shit about water—you’re so hungry your ribs are showing and having trouble staying warm with all clothing on—another week and you’re polar bear fare, if not sooner from weakness. Unless you have a nice heavy caliber firearm that you can hold steady in half-alive condition and not just piss off the bear—gotta be a head or heart or lung shot for such beasts.
  • You are somewhere far away from McDonald’s or any source of water, dehydrated and hungry to the point of starvation. You stumble upon a hut conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, stocked with fuel, food and water. You’re now like a pig in shit, after kindling a fire and drinking and then eating (and then barfing from doinfg it too fast).

Pixel shift and focus shift are like that, sort of:

  • Some applications benefit hugely from pixel shift by effectively increasing resolution, depth of field being a secondary or non-consideration. Studio work for example. But many situations are troublesome from the hideously ugly to the unobvious but throw-away category. Since movement including lighting, anything but glass-still water, etc—all screw the pooch with pixel shift.
  • MANY applications benefit from focus stacking (macro shooting, near-far landscape, etc). This can generally be used reliably, even if some touch-up is needed. Using pixel shift with focus stacking is also possible if an M x N problem multiplier is to your liking: one bad pixel shift shot (movement or lighting changes), and the whole stacking sequence has problems. Or you can retouch in a blurry one.
  • Some applications can benefit from both (studio work comes to mind). Windless days with constant lighting, no moving water or waves or clouds or grass or leaves or chipmunks or sparkles or a myriad of things that change in the outdoors.

Maybe that answers reader questions about “which is better”.

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Why I Like High Capacity Camera Cards

See my Nikon wish list.

I like being able to shoot for a 2 week trip and not have to erase the card, and 256GB will let me do that for still photos. See my Workflow area on how to organize work in the field.

High capacity camera cards mean no need to erase the card during a trip

I had purchased a Lexar 128GB XQD card for the Nikon D850 about two weeks ago. It will become my backup card because I just bought the about $350 Sony 256BB XQD card (price went up $50 since I bought mine and the cheapskates do not include a USB XQD card reader).

The Lexar card came with an XQD card reader which I assume and hope will work fine with the Sony card. It’s lame to sell a $350 card without a card reader Sony—this ought to be rectified.

Sony 256GB XQD card

Things Coming Soon

See my Nikon wish list.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8

The new Fujifilm GF lens for the Fujifilm GFX is a nice focal length, about equivalent to a 35mm lens in 35mm format. It’s interesting that it is discounted along with the other lenses, even before being released (expected Nov 17 at B&H).

Sony A7R III

I’ll be focusing on its pixel shift feature. B&H states expected availability of Nov 30.

Which Camera System / Lenses Should Are Best?
✓ Get the ideal system for your needs: diglloyd photographic consulting.

Nikon D850: Validating 'Focus shift shooting' in the Field: Does it really work well?

See my Nikon wish list.

45-megapixel Nikon D850

Wanted to verify that the Nikon Focus shift shooting feature would produce optimal focus positions for autofocus lenses; some skepticism remains that the gradation is fine enough. So I put two autofocus lenses to the test: the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art, and the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 macro.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Examples: Eastern Sierra

Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G Macro: Focus Stacking

The Nikon D850 Focus shift shooting feature did a very fine job with the Sigma 14/1.8. The 60/2.8—not bad but not exciting either; see my comments.

If these and other recent focus stacking images don’t persuade you that landscape photography requires it as a skill, then I’m from another planet, or you need to see an ophthalmologist.

See Nikon D850: 'Focus shift shooting' Feature Most Important Feature since Live View.

Orange Bedrock, view to Mt Dana
f9 @ 0.5 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-08 17:52:11 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

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Grayish dead tree view to Mt Conness
f2.5 @ 1/10 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-08 17:21:17 [focus stack 15 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]
f9 @ 0.8 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-08 17:32:05 [focus stack 3 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]
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Reader Comment: Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 vs Nikon AF-S 24mm f/1.4 (manual focus vs autofocus)

Get Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 at B&H Photo.

See my review of the Nikon AF-S 24mm f/1.4G ED in diglloyd Advanced DSLR and my review of the Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 in Zeiss DSLR Lenses.

David T writes:

Hard lens to consider without AF! When I had Nikon I enjoyed the 24mm f/1.4 for street, some portraits and the occasional landscape. I wish Zeiss would get into the AF game.

I just don’t see the use case unless you are shooting from a tripod or using it for video.

I can’t imagine they sell many of these a year.

DIGLLOYD: Zeiss is a niche player, so of course they don’t sell many lenses compared to Nikon.

Usage statement about sums it up: “street and portraits”. The right tool for the job. Of course, the classic masters never had autofocus. Moreover Sony Eye AF is amazing, and blows away what any DSLR can do as for hit rate on the iris of the eye (95% or better), so the wrong tool for the job comes to mind also: DSLR autofocus is that wrong tool.

IMO, the Nikon 24/1.4 is an aging design that is long overdue for an update. I cannot get excited about its “good enough” performance, and I would prefer the Nikon 24mm f/1.8G. See my Nikon wishlist.

For landscape where autofocus is needed for focus stacking (a huge plus), I’d rather shoot the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art. Autofocus is hugely helpful for focus stacking for landscape, or any other kind of focus stacking.

There are effective ways to shoot manual focus lenses using Live View and a loupe; see my discussion and videos in part one and part two of my Zeiss Lenspire articles:

Below, the focus stepping support of the Nikon D850 would have been very nice to have. The mediocre performance of the Nikon 24/1.4 might have made me skip the shot versus the Otus 28/1.4, which maintains exceptional performance from MOD to infinity. Full-res version in Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 Examples: Focus Stacking.

White Rocks to Distant Sprinter
f9 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-07 16:26:12 [focus stack 5 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 ZF.2

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Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Some New Focus Stacking images (Nikon D850)

Get Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 at B&H Photo.

The Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon makes an outstanding lens for focus stacking.

The highly corrected design of the Otus 28/1.4 along with a low level of breathing (change of magnification when focusing at different distances) all making stacking unusually easy

Zeiss 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: Focus Stacking Examples

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

White Rocks to Distant Sprinter
f9 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-07 16:26:12 [focus stack 5 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 ZF.2

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Orange Lichen on Blue-Green Boulder
f11 @ 0.5 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-07 17:34:20 [focus stack 9 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]
Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van, dusk
f9 @ 2.5 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-07 18:05:52 [focus stack 2 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 ZF.2

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Temperatures heading out for a late day photo shoot were already around 35°F, dropping instantly by 5°F as the sun dips below the nearby mountaintops and the wind picks up. Multiple layers might not be stylish, but they sure help. Fingers are the worst issue for me (fingertips), making fingerless gloves pretty much useless—I just get cold fingertips that quickly become painful.

Lloyd at Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van, before heading out on hike
f9 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 64; 2017-11-07 16:08:33
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 1.4/28 ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]
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Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 Aperture Series + Focus Stack: Healthy Bristlecone Bark (Nikon D850)

Get Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 at B&H Photo.

The series from f/1.4 through f/13 shows a scene from right under the tripod to the far distance, a scene impossible to render with full sharpness, even at f/13. Accordingly a 5-frame focus stack at f/11 using Zerene Stacker is shown for comparison with f/9 and f/13.

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 Aperture Series + Focus Stack: Healthy BristleconeBark

Includes images from f/1.4 through f/13 and a 5-frame focus stack at f/11, all at up to full camera resolution.

Healthy Bristlecone Bark
f1.4 @ 1/640 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-06 17:00:28
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

Toggle for black and white rendition.

Healthy Bristlecone Bark
f11 @ 1/25 sec, ISO 64; 2017-11-06 17:04:53 [focus stack 5 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4: Optical Construction and Siemens Star MTF Analysis

Get Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 at B&H Photo.

Added to my review of the Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 is a Siemens Star MTF analysis at both f/1.4 and f/4.

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4: Siemens Star MTF Analysis @ 30 lp/mm

This is a very good sample, and yet notice that symmetry at f/1.4 has deviation (top right corner). Many if not most lenses are far more variable.

Siemens Star MTF analysis of Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

The optical construction is elaborate; see my thoughts on the main page in my Milvus 25/1.4 review as to how it compares to the Otus 28/1.4 APO-Distagon.

At about $2399, I’ll just say this here: the Milvus 25/1.4 is a must-have lens.

Optical Construction of Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

Reader Comment: Adorama vs B&H Photo In-Store Experience

B&H Photo is surely under pressure from Amazon and the like, but in my view is best in the business for selection, pricing, committment to mission and knowledge.

A decade ago on this site and at MPG, I made the choice to work only with the best vendors in their respective industries. That is why this site works exclusively with B&H for photography products and exclusively with OWC / MacSales.com for Mac computing products here and at MPG.

Martin D writes:

Went to Adorama yesterday for help with a copy stand. I got bounced around and nobody could help me. They don’t know their own stock. Seems they are selling consumer electronics and scuba gear these days. Their rental outfit may still be fine, but Adorama itself is clearly no longer a camera store.

Went to B&H today and had a very good service experience. I was bounced to the right person the first time, and he took care of everything. B&H still seems to be a camera store, although a lot has changed. I didn’t have time to wander all over the store, but I’ll try to do so some time soon.

DIGLLOYD: the internet age pressures every vendor.

Helen O, Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador writes:

I was concerned to read this comment on your blog and would welcome an opportunity to reach out to the customer to correct his misconception. Adorama's sister company, https://www.leisurepro.com/ has been selling scuba gear for over 15 years, growing out of our underwater camera business. If Martin D only saw consumer electronics and scuba gear, then I can only think he was in the wrong part of the store!

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=32993007&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pichttp://twitter.com/HelenOster

DIGLLOYD: message forwarded to Martin D, it's now his option to discuss or not.

Don H writes:

I just saw your entry about B&H’s commitment to the camera market (2017-11-07), and offer one other reason to purchase from them. We set up an extensive security camera network on our property, and rolled our own solution for cameras, gate intercom, and Mac-based video recorder. Research and shopping for security cameras is a nightmare for newcomers (for many reasons I won’t get into here), but one aspect that is almost unavoidable is that most cameras now come from China, and as such might be manufactured for the China/Asia market instead of the US or elsewhere, with configuration and maintenance ramifications as a result.

Some unscrupulous vendors purchase discounted security cameras in China and then reconfigure them with an English interface to be sold in the US before repackaging. That in itself isn’t terrible (usually it’s just an up-front configuration setting), but in the process they might change the administrator’s password, IP address, or other setting that then makes further administration of the camera problematic. Worse, however, is that sometimes the China-market cameras cannot receive US-targeted firmware updates, or the admin password becomes unrecoverable if the camera is reset to factory settings

It’s bad enough that the instruction ‘pamphlets’ (with tiny print, thin paper, and ambiguous Chinese-to-English translations) are of little help when troubleshooting these things, but then the support web sites are likewise confusing or simply wrong about essential information. So add on top of that some hardware that was never intended for the US getting manhandled and resold through discount vendors and you’ll have a brick on your hands by the end of the day. Good luck with their returns department!

As far as I can tell, B&H does not repackage non-US cameras and resell them. I haven’t seen it explicitly addressed on their site, but it’s the sort of thing an honest vendor wouldn’t even think to have to explain, until other vendors make this practice a problem for everyone. Also, they stand by their returns, so even if one receives an unworkable camera they have some recourse.

It would be great if this wasn’t even a problem, but now that complex electronics are globally-sold products the buyer needs to beware more than ever. Having reputable vendors around takes some of the risk out of expensive and time-consuming purchases.

DIGLLOYD: price only correlates with value. Deal with reputable vendors, always.

World of Sigma and especially Sigma ART Lenses

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4: a Few More Eastern Sierra Examples Added

Get Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 at B&H Photo.

I’ve added a few more examples for the Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4:

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 Examples: Focus Stacking in Yosemite High Country and Environs

This page presents most examples in both color and black and white, up to full Nikon D850 resolution.

Images like Bristlecone Burl below have an incredible amount of detail. Probably unlike what 99% of photographers have ever seen. Gotta see it on an iMac 5K—amazing.

Bristlecone Burl
f11 @ 1/125 sec, ISO 100; 2017-11-06 15:53:37 [focus stack 7 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]
Bristlecone Burl
f11 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 64; 2017-11-06 16:41:58 [focus stack 8 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

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Below, single frame (not stacked)—that Milvus 25/1.4 is an incredible lens. I like it better than the Otus 28/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Rock Creek Area: Grassy Meandering Stream, Last Sunlight On High Peak
f11 @ 0.5 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-03 17:54:47
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

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Below, 20-frame stack, and a real PITA to retouch. This is massively more depth of field than a single frame at f/11 could deliver.

Dead Pine Tree at Chickenfoot Lake
f9 @ 1/8 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-03 17:15:22 [focus stack 20 frames]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2 Aperture Series: Rock Creek White Stripes + White Peaks (Nikon D850)

Get Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2 at B&H Photo.

This apertures series runs from f/2 through f/22. It shows the outstanding resolving power and flat field of the Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M, along with just how devastating diffraction is to image quality at f/16 and f/22, particularly on the 45-megapixel Nikon D850.

Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2 Aperture Series: Rock Creek White Stripes + White Peaks

Includes apertures from f/2 through f/22 at up to full camera resolution.

See also File Size as an Accurate Proxy for Image Detail for this series.

Rock Creek Area: White Stripes and White Peaks
f6.3 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 31; 2017-11-03 12:29:34
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2

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File Size as an Accurate Proxy for Image Detail

Get Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2 at B&H Photo.

Compressed file sizes are an accurate proxy for total image detail, because more detail means less compressibility, and less detail means the image is more easily compressed.

Detail is the sum of many factors, but the key ones are depth of field, micro contrast, losses in sharpness and micro contrast from diffraction, sharpening level, and noise from the sensor/camera. See also:

Below, using file sizes from this aperture series, it is clear that f/6.3 is the best aperture for the scene, with f/4 and f/9 close runners-up. Apertures f/16 and f/22 are disasters, far inferior even to f/2.

These differences would be greater if there were more landscape and less blue sky, since blue sky contains little detail. Smaller apertures down to f/13 would fare better if there were a lot of out of focus detail to start.

Compressed file sizes are an accurate proxy for total image detail

Focus stacking vs single frame detail

Focus stacking provides a huge increase in detail. Using file size asa proxy for total image detail, we can see that versus the most optimal f/11 frame, the focus stacked image delivers a 67% greater amount of image detail.

Focus stacking delivers far more detail than a single optimal f/11 frame

Going to f/2.5, the detail more than doubles. And that is versus the f/2.5 frame that is placed so as to sharpen the majority of the image. Obviously an image shot entirely at infinity focus on an infinity scene will have little to gain; conversely an image with a tiny in-focus area could have gains of 10X.

Focus stacking delivers far more detail than a single optimal f/2.5 frame
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LensRentals.com (highly recommended): 7 Days FREE

LensRentals.com makes renting reliable and fast. This is an outfit you can count on.

Not sure if a new camera or lens is right? Renting it first might the smart move.

Right now, LensRentals.com has a free week with rentals.

Use code: FREEWEEK

LensRentals.com: Rent for a week, get another week free

 

It’s Television Discount season!

Buying tips/pages:

Thanksgiving, Christimas, Hanukkah, football season, etc—what’s not to like about the a great new TV? Those OLED models are amazing—I saw them at CES last January.

Television Deals at B&H Photo

 

SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
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