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Thoughts on Choosing Between the Apple 2019 Mac Pro vs 2019 MacBook Pro 16-Inch and Expected 2020 iMac Pro

Save a lot of money and feel great with the best choice for your work: consult with Lloyd on computer choice. If you’re a pro, my fee is trivial compare to the value of making all the right choices for your business. I can also design a robust backup system for you and/or fault tolerant setup so you never go down from storage failure.

Many photographers doing stuff like me are going to be best off with the 2019 Mac Pro, due out in less than a month from now. But most do not travel like I do so that’s an easy decision.

I do not plan on getting the 2019 Mac Pro, because it is a poor choice for travel in my Sprinter van (power hungry, requires separate display, bulk), and because I do a lot on the road where the iMac 5K is the ideal form factor, built-in screen, fast setup and teardown. That, and the Mac Pro is insanely expensive—will be well over $10K for the 192GB / 4TB / fast GPU config I’d want—without a display.

While it might seem appropriate, I also do not plan on getting the Apple 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch for travel, because the ergonomics are awful when used by itself (hunching over the built-in keyboard and screen). The screen is too small for my work and my eyes too (presbyopia), so it would demand an external display, and that’s more setup/teardown hassle.

So for myself, the only form factor that is viable for home and on the road in my van is the iMac 5K form factor (I have not mentioned all the reasons, here, but they are many).

Probably I will migrate to a future iMac Pro model, hopefully a 6K model, because it pulls together all the features discussed below. Advice: I would advise against the iMac Pro at this juncture unless at a solid discount; it is a two-year-old design priced at very high premium. There is surely a revised model with the newer CPUs coming soon.

Note: add 128GB OWC memory to the iMac 5K.

CLICK TO VIEW: 2019 Recommendations For Pro Photography users

CPU cores

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"

The 2019 MacBook Pro and the 2019 iMac 5K have all the performance most photographers need. It is enough for me too, even though I’d like faster this and that now and again.

That said, the one thing I’d really like is a 16 core CPU (12 cores would suffice, 24/28 would be fantastic), and only the 2019 Mac Pro or iMac Pro can deliver that. Indeed, with 16 CPU cores, the Mac Pro would run rings around the fastest GPU on any other Mac when doing image scaling or focus stacking. It is almost always the smart move to choose more CPU cores over some fancy add-on GPU because CPU cores get used a lot more by imaging software these days.

CPUs with 12 or more cores are insanely expensive. Most of us will have to be content with 8 or 10 CPU cores. But that equation might change in 2020 and beyond so that 16-core CPUs become more affordable.

Memory

128GB Memory in my 2019 iMac 5K is Still Not Enough

The key for me is 128GB memory, which is another reason why the 2019 iMac 5K is my choice—that extra memory has really helped with stitching in particular, saving me gobs of time in some cases. But for most users, 64GB is ample, so the 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch should be considered for those who want a single machine for both home and travel.

GPU

The GPU is increasingly used by imaging software, and it is a big help for things like image upscaling with Gigapixel AI, Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details, though most other Photoshop and Lightroom features hardly use the GPU. Video users are a special case, and the GPU (and/or more than one) is much more important.

The 2019 iMac 5K and 2019 MacBook Pro both have solid GPU options that are plenty fast for the vast majority of photographers.

Beware of external GPU (eGPU) which DO NOT WORK with some Macs. They are much hyped, but they are NOT a solution for many computing problems as they just do not get used, video again being an exception.

Connectivity

Understanding Thunderbolt 3 bandwidth
About that Dual 6K Display Support on the Apple 2019 MacBook Pro 16"

The 2019 Mac Pro rocks for Thunderbolt 3 busses and ports (with options).

The 2019 MacBook Pro rocks in having dual Thunderbolt 3 busses with four ports. Ditto for the 2018 Mac mini, but its GPU is so slow that it is a very poor choice overall.

The single Thunderbolt 3 bus of the 2019 iMac 5K (two ports) is a half-assed design Apple should be ashamed of, but for most users it is of zero consequence.

Preferences Menu Missing in Photoshop CC 2019 and 2020 on all 3 of my Macs

Adobe made a bunch of changes in the preferences area in the latest Photoshop CC 2020 and 2019 updates. Someone apparently forgot to actually include the Preferences menu as part of the reorganization.

So either I’ve gone blind, or the Preferences menu is missing in Photoshop CC 2019 and 2020 on all 3 of my Macs, making it impossible to change preferences!

Photoshop => Preferences

It’s also gone from the configuration inside the Menus... menu, so it cannot be shown or invoked by command key shortcut.

Am I missing something? (double entendre)

Ooops!

Boy do I feel silly! Thanks to Robert C for straightening me out. Has it always been there? Some of the online help instructs users to use Edit => Preferences, but that is for Window, so somehow I missed that. See the menu bar shot at right. I guess I am just frazzled and fried trying to catch up*.

But why are most preferences under Edit menu (Keyboard Shortcuts, Menus, Toolbar, Color Settings) and some under Photoshop menu?

* My difficulty might be related to ongoing post-concussion noise sensitivity, which stresses and fatigues me; I am having hard time at home what with airplanes and construction noise—cannot tune things out after the concussion—it was blissfully tranquil on my trip in the mountains. I cannot use noise-cancellation while waiting interminably for FedEx to show up for a crucial delivery. And instead of producing stuff, I’ve been playing catchup on paperwork, doctors, vehicle maintainance and unphucking my phone and computer issues too. It’s all put me on overload with too much going on. It was a nice trip, but the “cost” is a week of constant hassles. And I still have 11 months of accounting to do.

Photoshop CC 2019 Edit Menu with Preferences missing

 

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FOR SALE: Lloyd’s Sony A7R III with Really Right Stuff L-Bracket

I have moved to the Sony A7R IV, so I am selling my Sony A7R III.

  • Checked out by Sony in September and found to be in-spec.
  • Perfect operational order, has NEVER had an issue.
  • You pay FedEx shipping of choice.
  • Includes Really Right Stuff L-Bracket.
  • In Sony box as originally sold, with charger, battery, etc.

$2100 or best offer. Contact Lloyd.

As I am raising money for new lenses, I would be happy to sell it (at additional cost) with the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 and/or the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 and/or the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 (I just don’t use these, favoring the manual focus Loxia lineup).

Reader Comments/Questions on the Apple 2019 MacBook Pro

See 2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display: the Single Computer Solution At Last and 2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display.

THANK YOU for buying through my B&H links.

CLICK TO VIEW: 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch Recommendations with 64GB, top CPU, GPU

J Lipkin writes:

I had exactly the same thought you did with the MBP 16” as a replacement for my aging 2013 Mac Pro. It’s fast, has nearly enough memory (to be honest my 2017 MBP with 16 G RAM is pretty fast) and kills two birds with one stone.

BUT I worry about fan noise. My MBP’s fans go on if I have too many Safari tabs open, let alone anything more processor intensive. And I hate fan noise so much I moved all my hard drives into the other room. I’d rather suffer the performance hit from a 25’ fiber optical cable than be distracted by them. So, will wait and see how the reviews go for the 16”, and will decide then

Also, it’s a slightly smaller screen than I’m used to for a secondary display - I have two 24” screens now, one an Eizo calibrated montor for color critical work, and another for palettes, etc. Like you, I doubt that the MBP could drive two displays and have enough bandwidth for storage. But who knows, maybe I could get used to it Thanks for the in-depth website, it’s always interesting to read your take on things

DIGLOYD: the 2017 MacBook Pro is a solid machine for what it is, but 16GB and 4 cores falls far short of the 2019 iMac 5K capabilities and I would not consider that model MBP a viable replacement.

If fan noise is coming on prematurely, open up the MBP and blow off all dust. Even a light layer of dust insulates the internal components. This applies to laptops and desktop computers.

The 2019 MacBook Pro apparently uses DisplayPort 1.3 or 1.4, or it could not otherwise support a 6K display.

Dual 4K displays is not a concern for bandwidth when each is on its own Thunderbolt 3 bus. See:

• About that Dual 6K Display Support on the Apple 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch
• Understanding Thunderbolt 3 Bandwidth

Dave S writes:

Seems by your recommendations that you think the 2.4Ghz 8 CPU core is a better choice than the 2.6GHz 6 core… it used to be that clock speed was a primary in Photoshop ?

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"

Am I going to take a hit from my 2018 2.9 Intel Core i9? Is Turbo Boost really equivalent to actual clock speed? (I’m primarily a Photoshop user, but occasionally it’s 3D rendering in Photoshop CC, which can take 3-4 days) 2 other things I didn’t see you address that would be good the hear….

I’m assuming these will be stuck in macOS Catalina, which has the drawbacks and costs you have outlined… That’s significant, and you might want to address it (link it) when discussing these new offerings.

You mention that this is truly a desktop equivalent and you can dump the 2 computer solution. To that, I’ll say that I have done that over the last year with my 2018 2.9 core i9… and that there is also a serious liability in that if your laptop is lost, damaged or stolen on the road, it’s a catastrophe. It means you need to be very diligent about backups prior to leaving the home/office/studio, and have a solution that allows you to buy a new computer and have it up and running (cloned) ASAP…

DIGLLOYD: if there are only one or two CPU threads for some Photoshop (or other app) in use, then clock speed rules. Note that 2.3 vs 2.4 GHz is hardly noticeable, ditto for 4.8 vs 5.0 Ghz. But it is not nothing.

Thing is, clock speed with Turbo Boost speed for the 8-core 2.4 GHz CPU is 5.0 GHz, vs 4.8 GHz for the 2.3 GHz 8-core CPU and only 4.5GHz for the 6-core. So with one or two cores in use, the “slower” 2.4 GHz CPU wins by about 9% (5.0 vs 4.5 GHz for the 6 core).

In cases where six or more cores are used (much more common now), 8 cores trounces 6 cores. Numerically, 6 X 2.6GHz vs 8 X 2.4GHz is 15.6 GHz vs 19.2 GHz, but thermal throttling can reduce both of those figures to lower levels.

Key point: the 16" 2019 MacBook Pro has a far superior thermal management system to the 15" model, which should allow it to run faster for longer without throttling even with an identical CPU.

In practice, more cores tends to perform more smoothly in my experience, such as when running background tasks (eg backup) that chew up a core or two. Better, smoother work environment.

Furthermore, the 6 core part has only 12MB cache, vs 16MB for the 8 core. So in all cases, there is more cache serving the same number of CPU cores, or there are more cores in use (for the 8 core chip). Pretty much always a win for the 8 core part.

As for Catalina, most users are going there so it’s not worth discussing much... it’s a problem for me but not for most people.

Theft and backup

Theft/backup is a very real concern, so have the laptop insured for sure and be disciplined about backups—this is why I so strongly recommend the Samsung T5—fits in a pocket Note that with the Apple T2 chip and a decent password, your data is gibberish to the thief—you’ve lost the laptop but not your privacy or security.

NEVER store backups of the laptop with the laptop!!! (same idea for desktops, excepting always-attached backups and appropriate off-site alternates) Store backups separately and carry a backup on your person when traveling, which is exactly why the Samsung T5 is so awesome—it will fit even in a very small woman’s purse, the smallest pocket, etc. I had a current backup of my entire 2019 iMac 5K with me every day in the mountains, just in case the iMac were stolen.

The Reality of Zoom Lens Performance — Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art

In The Reality of Zoom Lens Performance, I discussed reasonable expectations for zoom lenses.

Having just purchased the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art, I thought a brief discussion was in order on what I found.

I compared the two samples of the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art at 24mm, as that is the weak end of the design.

  • The first sample (the one I shot on my trip) is weak on the left side, and skews its sharpness rearward on the right side.
  • The new sample skews its focus strongly forward on the right side and rearward on the left side—the reverse of the first sample.
Sigma 124-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art

Averaging it all out, I’d say they are comparable, but quite different in their skewed planes of focus. Thus the need to thoroughly understand a specific sample of a specific lens model when aiming for optimal results.

It is why, for example, I always focused the first sample on my trip towards the top right of the frame (when focusing at distance)—this was the optimal way to do it for that sample, but the top left would be optimal for the 2nd sample.

The whole situation is ridiculous, and it’s not just Sigma. NONE of this should be taken to mean that I think Sony zooms are better, indeed I think Sony lenses are at least as prone to such issues. It is also an argument for primes, except that high performance prime lens designs suffer similar issues. Still, Zeiss Loxia lenses have been very consistent for me in terms of symmetry (my Loxia 21/2.8, 25/2.4, 35/2, 50/2, 85/2.4 all have excellent symmetry) and I rate them highly for that reason.

I don’t expect a sample to have perfect symmetry, but this symmetry variation of the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art is so strong that a comparison is absurd, that is, in the sense of determining which lens is sharper. Even just getting AF to agree on the same focus at center proved troublesome.

For my meticulous work, I am not content with lenses that are clearly weak on one side or the other: asymmetry creates all kinds of execution headaches, and complicates focus stacking even at f/8 (creates confusion when retouching because of where sharpness lands).

All that said, I made many fine images with the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art, and at f/8 it has little if any competition, excepting the Zeiss Loxia 24mm f/2.4. So I still recommend it/both.

I’ve decided to send this new sample back. Maybe in 6 months Sigma will get its act together and I will re-buy. When I do buy again (I plan to), I will probably have to try 3 or 4 samples to find one I am satisfied with.

Or maybe Sigma can read this and send me a sample to prove to me they can actually build a real lens that performs to claims. Until then, I consider all Sigma claims of performance and MTF testing to be marketing bullshit.

128GB Memory in iMac 5K $679

128GB in 2019 iMac 5K is what Lloyd uses!
Up to 64GB for 2015/2017 iMac 5K

TWICE the memory for $320 *less* than Apple charges for 64GB!!!

64GB for Mac mini only $335

Deals on Apple MacBook Pro

See also Reader Comments on 2019 MacBook Pro.

See recent posts on the Apple 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch model:

2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display: the Single Computer Solution At Last

More about 2019 Apple MacBook Pro...

Some great deals are out there now, and not everyone needs or wants the 16-inch model.

The 2018 MacBook Pro 2.9 Ghz6-core / 32GB / 2TB is a great deal and a very fine machine.

Below, recommendations for professional use when a single computer is desired for home and travel:

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"
Protect Your Phone
NuGard KX Case for iPhones and iPads.
Outstanding protection against drops and impact!
Plus, excellent grip for wet hands, cycling, etc.

Great Deal on 2TB Samsung T5 SSD, a Terrific SSD for Backups and Travel

Some readers might recall that I really like some of the high performance OWC SSDs, like the OWC Envoy Pro EX 2TB USB-C SSD and the OWC Envoy Pro EX 2TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD and the awesome OWC Thunderblade (my favorite SSD ever, daily stalwart)—see items further below.

But for pure compactness, light weight and convenience, travel or on the desktop, I own three 2TB Samsung T5 SSDs, and I have just ordered a 4th. I use them all for fast silent backups. A must-have for any laptop owner. It’s a fantastic way to offload any internal SSD that is getting too full (e.g., put an entire iTunes library on one).

See MacPerformanceGuide.com review of the Samsung T5.

One big appeal of the Samsung T5 for me is that I can backup my entire 2019 iMac 5K 2TB internal SSD, stuff the T5 into a pocket in my daypack, and know that I have every least bit of my shooting on any trip. You can do the same, whether it is a daypack or a jeans pocket or jacket pocket—a must have for any traveler. But it’s also terrific for desktop use.

As shown as right, the T5 is tiny and at 51 grams, super light weight also.

Samsung T5, color coded with Gaffer’s Tape

Right now, the Samsung T5 is only $248 (it had been selling at $300 or $320 for some time now). I advise picking up two or three for your own backup uses for key/core data backup.

The Samsung T5 comes with two cables, one for USB-A and one for USB-C (compatible with Thunderbolt 3 ports). So it plugs into any computer.

The OWC 8TB Thunderbolt 3 SSD is a mainstay for me—no more 'spinner' noise for my daily work, and its speed maxes-out the Thunderbolt 3 bus.

Troy H writes:

Samsung T5, color coded with Gaffer’s Tape

My only weird issue with the 2tb model is they only come in black. I like two colors so I know black is always the A drive and red is the B drive for redundancy.

Yes I can put tape on them but then they get sticky crap all over them.

DIGLLOYD: there are real problems, and ones easily dealt with. My 3rd T5 uses yellow tape. Use Gaffer’s tape—little or no residue.

Roy P writes:

Hi Lloyd, I was going to tell you about the price drop on the Samsung 2TB drive, but I just saw that you already covered it. I bought two of these at $500 a pop a couple of years ago. This has been adequate for my travel backup needs,

... but I just bought four more. I have two LaCie 10TB RAID drives as my primary archives, but if my house is burglarized and these drives are physically stolen, I’d be SOL. These four small Samsung drives will let me archive 8TB of my most critical data and save them in a remote location away from my house (e.g., in a bank safe deposit box). That is a lot of peace of mind and great convenience for under $1K! I put some blue masking tape on them and simply number them with a Sharpie, so I can identify them!

DIGLLOYD: yup, very small, very light, very convenienet at at about $250, great value.


Best Deals, Updated Weekly

2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display: the Single Computer Solution At Last

See also Reader Comments on 2019 MacBook Pro.

I discussed the 2019 Apple MacBook Pro a few days ago in 2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display.

The more I study the 2019 Apple MacBook Pro, the more I think that it is a great choice for many if not most of us who need both a desktop computer and a travel computer in a single computer—skip the expensive and confusing double-computer thing, with its attendant doubled upgrade and maintenance and file-synchronization hassles.

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"

In other words, the addition of an external keyboard and mouse and display for desktop use to the 2019 MacBook Pro gives you a desktop machine (you can even close the lid and just use the external keyboard and display, pretending it really is a desktop computer).

Is it for me? No, because of the setup hassle in my Mercedes Sprinter van — I just use the 2019 iMac 5K for both home and travel. But that’s me; few people have a travel van with a 10 kW battery system to make that work.

The 2019 MacBook Pro 16" model offers the same CPU choices as its 15" sibling, but has up to 64GB memory and a marginally faster GPU option as well as (to my eyes) the best screen I have ever seen in a laptop, really gorgeous. The 64GB memory alone makes it strongly preferred over the 15" model, which maxes out at 32GB.

I look at computers as a 3 year investment. In that regard and if one is willing to lug a 16" MBP around as a travel computer, below are the configurations I recommend for the photographer or videographer standardizing on the one-computer-does-it-all option.

Given the 3+ year assumed working life as the sole computer, the smart move is to consider only models with the top GPU and CPU and 64GB memory.

Thus the only decision factor is the size of the flash drive (SSD), which wisdom suggests should be 4TB or 8TB, with 2TB likely to become a headache during that lifespan, particularly since 4TB vs 2TB is a $600 difference for speed faster than any add-on SSD can deliver.

PLEASE buy using these links if you can; B&H does track sales I send to them. Also, get the B&H Payboo card, which pays sales tax for you—for me that would be a $548 savings here in California on the top-end model.

Stuff you’ll want with it

Here’s the stuff I highly recommend for the 2019 MacBook Pro, much of it for desktop use (some are either/or recommendations).


2019 iMac 5K or iMac Pro?

Consult with Lloyd today!

Backup, RAID, optimizing performance, workflow.

Videos Just for Fun: Places I Shoot

Just for fun, some places I like and regularly shoot at.

Various times of year, mostly in the Eastern Sierra. I shoot some of these every trip, but I’m not sure how interesting they are to others.

Feedback welcome on this and other videos.

Shot in 4K, YouTube mangles the video quality, but given the focus problems with the iPhone 7... whatever. With all the hoopla about AI, can’t Apple get an iPhone to focus intelligently? I also don’t know why the videos are dumbed-down to blurry 1080p quality.

Wow, YouTube wiped out all my subscribers accumulated for years. And I don’t qualify for monetization.

Conness Lake #3, Mt Conness drainage, Twenty Lakes Basin, Hall Natural Study Area

Hike up past Greenstone Lake up past the waterfall to the Conness Lakes area.

Mt Dana Glacier commentary

A LOT more mass here than a few years ago in the drought.

Half iced-over Dana Lake #3 at 10900 feet on a warm day, Nov 9, 2019

Commentary on lake on a warm November day.

Short mountain bike ride along east shore of Saddlebag Lake in August 2019.

Beautiful clear day above the lake on the east side.

Greenstone Lake, very Late Dusk late in the year

A short look of what it’s like at late dusk at Greenstone Lake, Mt Conness drainage, Eastern Sierra, late in the year as winter approches, though with unseasonally warm temperatures.

Riding dirt roads in Carrizo Plain National Monument, spring flowers

Riding Elkhorn road with spring flowers, commentary on cycling tires and overall riding.


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Abandoned the Arca Swiss Cube, Switched to Acratech Pano Head

I spent about $1600 on the Arca Swiss Cube about 12 years ago. It has given me years of service, but after three replacement/repairs of the gears at $400+ each time, a 4th time at $400+ is getting ridiculous. As a head designed for studio use, it is not at home in the outdoors. Plus, in sub-freezing temps, the gears get so stiff I can hardly operate it. Enough is enough—a damage-prone design means it has been a $2800 experience and I am not going to make it a $3200 experience.

Accordingly, I have now switched to the Acratech Panoramic Head (AKA “Long Lens Head”), a feat of outstanding engineering (and a jaw-dropping value at about $417). It is is now my "go to" tripod head, along with its optional and very lightweight leveling base (10° of leveling, the video incorrectly states 15°).

Don’t let the “panoramic” part fool you—it is an outstanding general-purpose head, and is very lightweight. Acratech also has several other heads which are all outstanding in design, and exceptionally light and compact compared to most ballheads.

I use the leveling base that has a 60mm top, but there is a larger leveling base with 74mm top for larger heads, should you be using something other than the Acratech heads.

The two videos below discussthe Acratech Panoramic Head and why I like it. The head shown is an 8-year-old model; I now have the updated one with engraved markings. Lovin' it.

In 7 weeks of use, the Acratech Panoramic Head performed flawlessly. I don’t see how its design could be easily damaged (unlike the Cube), and it works just as well at 25°F as at 90°F.

Feedback welcome on this and other videos.

Shot in 4K, YouTube mangles the video quality, but given the focus problems with the iPhone 7... whatever. With all the hoopla about AI, can’t Apple get an iPhone to focus intelligently?

Wow, YouTube wiped out all my subscribers accumulated for years. And I don’t qualify for monetization. Google sucks.

This video below I shot a few weeks prior. It covers most of the same stuff, but might have a few other details., such as rotating the clamp 90°. Also, the latest clamp has laser-engraved millimeter markings on the clamp.

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Hazard of the Job: High Altitude, Extreme Low Humidity + Cold

Static electricity is really bad at high altitude with extremely low humidity—I killed one of my Cineo Matchbox lights on my last trip in spite of grounding wires dangling/protruding from it.

And from what I can tell, it causes sensor dust to be a serious problem.

Ultra low humidity is also a low-grade job hazard: bleeding from lips and nose. When humidity is below 10% and it’s sub-freezing and it’s thin air at high elevation, even a well-adapted physiology (takes a few weeks) doesn’t keep lips from bleeding. Sometimes I wake up and taste blood (at my age, I mouth-breath at night unwittingly, which dries out lips badly). My nose (external) bled for an hour one day from a ruptured micro artery. But luckily I get nose bleeds (internal) infrequently.

I’m wearing two down jackets here, including the trusty world’s-best Western Mountaineering Flash XR down jacket, cycling tights and wool pants over them, a wool hat under a wool hoody with a cap too, and a cycling jersey under the hoody and down. This is about right to keep me warm at 11.5K feet when photographing in November when it is seasonally warmer than usual!

f1.8 @ 1/120 sec, ISO 20; 2019-11-09 14:51:23
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)
ENV: Dana Glacier moraine, altitude 11338 ft / 3456 m, 28°F / -2°C

[low-res image for bot]
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Capturing Parallax-Free Panoramas using the Really Right Stuff PG-02

This overview video discusses how to shoot parallax-free panoramas and multi-row stitched images using the Really Right Stuff PG-02 pano rig.

Get the Really Right Stuff PG-02 at B&H Photo or at ReallyRightStuff.com.
Get the Really Right Stuff PG-01 at B&H Photo or at ReallyRightStuff.com.

The Really Right Stuff PG-02 pano rig on the Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod with leveling base is my preferred rig for panoramas and stitched images, but that’s way too heavy for many of my hikes. Look at the far smaller Really Right Stuff PG-01 if shooting a smaller camera, like Sony mirrorless.

See also Gigapixel Stitched Images and Panoramas with the Really Right Stuff PG-02 on the Really Right Stuff TFC-24L Tripod.

I have a few suggestions for Really Right Stuff: first, put the PG-02 on a weight diet and see if the rotation can be made to click so that I can hear click-click-click for each degree or rotation. Second, the PG-01 leveling mechanism is rather stiff and fiddly—maybe it can be improved (and maybe not, given its lovely compactness). Third, seems like there is a lot of room in size/weight between the PG-01 and PG-02—an intermediate choice at about 2 pounds possibly?

Feedback welcome on this and other videos.

Shot in 4K, YouTube mangles the video quality, but given the focus problems with the iPhone 7... whatever. With all the hoopla about AI, can’t Apple get an iPhone to focus intelligently?

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Some Great B&H Photo Deals

The holiday deals season is upon us.

Some of these deals are one day only.

For Sony users OK with manual focus, the two Voigtlander lenses are modestly discounted, but what fabulous lenses they are.

The Nikon D850 may be the last, best DSLR for most shooters. I wonder how long it will remain on the market, and I wonder (and feel annoyed) that Nikon has not delivered a D850 variant with an EVF and no optical viewfinder. It would still make a lot of sense for a lot of users.

The Apple 2017 iMac 5K at $600 off is a beautiful 5K display that comes with a free built-in computer.

View more holiday deals at B&H Photo...


Get up to 16x more storage and 2x the speeds of the original drive

The Reality of Zoom Lens Performance

For those buying the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art as I did, but speaking to all zooms of all brands.

It is highly unlikely to find a zoom that is good at all zoom settings and focus distances. Not impossible, but I’d bet at most 1 in 20 samples could be called “near perfect”, meaning performing to optical design claims. That is, fantasy MTF versus the reality of actual as-built physical lenses.

Optical symmetry and full performance over 2/3 of the zoom range is about as good as you’re going to get in a zoom lens.

That’s not to say that one end (or the middle) will be bad (though some zooms are awful in places), just that most zooms are weaker performers somewhere even if a perfect sample and that very very few samples will perform to spec across the zoom range and across the focus distance range too. It is a combinatorial performance mess in reality.

For example, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art that I tested on my recent trip (2nd sample, first one was notably worse) is world class at 14mm, very strong through 18mm, then declines and with less good symmetry at 24mm. Still, at 24mm at f/8 I am quite happy with it, though I still must use focus stacking to get full sharpness left/right (at or near the 24mm setting).

The Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 sample I have is more symmetric and overall better at f/2.8 and f/4. But around f/5.6 the zoom and prime converge, and at f/8 deliver similar results, though the Loxia wins on things like distortion.


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How Does Sigma Do It at Such Low Prices? The NEW Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art $1099 Claims Class-Leading Performance

If the new Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art performs like the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art then it’s game over for the zooms in that range–top performance at incredibly low prices (relatively speaking).

But a lot remains to be seen with the 24-70mm including sample variation issues, which have plagued my recent experience with Sigma lenses.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art

What the hell... a best-in-class 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom for just $1099?! If true, I will have to find a good sample.

Sigma seems to have found a way to utilize relatively expensive special glass types extensively (8 elements in total with special glass, plus 3 aspheric lenses). I have confidence that this will be a very high performance design, but the question is, can Sigma build the lens with quality control such that performance is not degraded, as I found with both the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art and the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art.

Sigma Announces Ship Date and Pricing for 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art

Available in Sony E and L-Mount for $1,099 USD, the second Sigma Art zoom lens for full-frame mirrorless camera systems will ship in early December 2019

Ronkonkoma, NY - November 15, 2019 - Sigma Corporation of America, a leading camera, photography lens, cine lens, flash and accessories manufacturer, today announced that its all new 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art, designed from the ground up for mirrorless cameras, will begin shipping in early December 2019 for $1,099 USD.

Following the launch of the critically acclaimed Sigma 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art, the all new 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art emerges as an excellent mid-range zoom companion lens to its predecessor.

Sigma 24-70/2.8 for Sony Mirrorless, L-Mount

Key Features and Benefits of the 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art

The second newly-designed Art zoom lens from Sigma is a large-aperture standard zoom for full-frame mirrorless camera systems and will be available in Sony E-mount and L-mount. A completely new design for superior performance with mirrorless camera systems, the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art has several new features:

Best-in-class optical performance. An 11-blade rounded diaphragm, six sheets of “F” low dispersion (FLD) glass and two sheets of special low dispersion (SLD) glass are employed to take advantage of the new optical formula developed specifically for mirrorless camera systems. Three aspheric lenses prevent aberrations such as axial chromatic aberration or sagittal coma aberrations resulting in uniformity and superior optical performance from the center to the periphery throughout the zoom range. In addition to Super Multi-Layer Coating, Sigma’s proprietary Nano Porous Coating is employed to achieve high-contrast and clear image quality. This lens is designed to be less affected by strong incident light such as flare.

Ensuring compatibility with the latest full-frame mirrorless camera bodies. The Sigma 24–70mm F2.8 DG DN ensures compatibility with various types of the latest full-frame mirrorless camera bodies for Sony E-mount and L-mount, (including the new Sigma fp camera), capable of exerting the best performance under any photographic circumstances.

Flexibility for various uses and photographic environments. Featuring a dust and splash-proof body and zoom lock mechanism for preventing the lens barrel from extending unexpectedly, the 24-70mm F2.8 meets a wide range of needs for a variety of photographic environments. The maximum magnifications are 1:2.9 at the wide-angle end and 1:4.5 at the telephoto end, which provides a wider range of expression for close-up photography. The minimum focusing distance is 18 cm at the wide-angle end.

Additional features:

  • Zoom lock switch
  • Lens hood with a lock
  • Mount with dust- and splash-proof structure
  • Compatible with the Lens Aberration Correction
  • Available Mount conversion service
  • Designed to minimize flare and ghosting
  • Evaluation with Sigma’s own MTF measuring system: A1
  • 11-blade rounded diaphragm High-precision, rugged brass bayonet mount.
  • “Made in Japan” craftsmanship.
  • Programmable AFL button on the lens barrel

The Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art will begin shipping in early December 2019 and will be available in L-mount and Sony E-mount through authorized US dealers for $1,099 USD

More details are available at: https://www.sigmaphoto.com/24-70mm-f2-8-dg-dn-a.


Lloyd Buys the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art ($200 off promo code) and the Voigtlander FE 65mm f/2 Macro APO-Lanthar Aspherical

Along comes the new Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art and if it’s as good as the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art it’s going to change the game for high-quality shooting. Not that zooms do it all—distortion remains a concern, particularly at 35mm.

...

Clearly the Sigma FE 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art is the best zoom lens in its range ever produced, beating out every prime lens I tested it against except the Zeiss Loxia 24mm f/2.4. The only zoom that comes close is the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L, but it’s a DSLR lens.

Sigma 124-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art

I shot both on my 7-week trip recently, the Sigma 14-24mm most of all. Thing is, the sample I used was weakest at the 24mm end, and it still delivers the goods beautifully by f/8. OTOH, the Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 is a compact gem... though I found myself using 14mm a lot, so a 25mm prime leaves a lot to be desired in coverage terms.

At 14mm... OMG the Sigma 14-24 is good. More coverage coming in my review.

I am sure that there is a better sample of the Sigma 14-24mm that could be found (also sure there are worse ones, since the first sample I had was clearly less good). Sigma quality control is all over the place.

It is incredibly useful and convenient to use a 14mm to 24mm zoom in canyons and such. And with Sony sensor dust which takes the prize for “worst ever” for any digital camera I have ever used with its faux sensor cleaning (absolutely worthless), it's a post-processing spotting nightmare to change lenses too often—and that’s in air that is far cleaner than most places!

Rare for Lloyd to buy lenses these days, but..

Update: symmetry issues, see my report on the Sigma 14-24/2.8 that I bought/returned.

The Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art is so good that I’ve ordered one—the first zoom ever which can substitute for prime lenses for Lloyd, one of the world’s pickiest photographers.

I also bought the incredible Voigtlander 65mm f/2 APO-Macro-Lanthar, which for the sample I have I rate as standing head and shoulders above all but a very few other lenses for Sony mirrorless, for its sharpness, field flatness and corner-to-corner sharpness. It’s a screaming deal at $950.

Be sure to sign up for the B&H Payboo card so that B&H pays the sales tax, which is a steep 9.25% where I live.

Note: with all high performing lenses, it is critical to get a good sample. Sigma sample variation is troubling, Voigtlander is very good, Zeiss Loxia is best of all. But none should be assumed. Test and verify.

ZOOM REALITY (all brands): it is highly unlikely to get a zoom that is good at all zoom settings and focus distances Good symmetry at two of three focals is about as good as you’re going to get. For example, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art that I teste is world class at 14mm, very strong through 18mm, then declines and with less good symmetry at 24mm, though at 24mm at f/8 I am quite happy with it... though I still do have to focus stack to get full sharpness left/right (near 24mm). The Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 is more symmetric and overall better at f/2.8 and f/4 and then at f/5.6 the zoom and prime are similar with f/8 delivering similar results.


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2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display

The 2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display looks like a full fledged desktop computer, the top-end model being more computer than even most photographers need!

Meaning that even photographers doing focus stacking and image upscaling should find it a satisfying primary computer that also travels.

The key limitation is memory (64GB max), which I have found to be an issue for my work, so I consider 128GB in my 2019 iMac 5K mandatory for my full range of work—but my work stretches the boundaries far beyond what most photographers take on.

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"

I’ll be putting the top-end 2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16" through its paces when B&H can ship me a loaner, specifically the 2.4 GHz Intel Core i9 8-Core/ 64GB / 8TB SSD /AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU 8GB.

With dual Thunderbolt 3 busses and 4 ports, the 2019 Apple MacBook Pro beats out my 2019 iMac 5K for external expansion (Apple, WTF?) The 2019 iMac 5K has a single Thunderbolt 3 bus with a miserly two ports, a severe headache when things like a secondary display are needed. In this sense, and 128GB memory and smaller screen aside, the 2019 MacBook Pro 16" model is a better choice as an all-arounder for many photographers. Assuming an external display is hooked up for everyday usage on the desktop.

It will be particularly interesting to see how the 2019 Apple MacBook Pro stacks up against my 2019 iMac 5K, especially under a sustained demands, such as with CPU or GPU scaling using Gigapixel AI, focus stacking using Zerene Stacker, etc.

Which model to buy

  • The CPU choice is of little importance (2.3 GHz 8-core vs 2.4 GHz 8-core), but if you are spending $4K or more for a laptop, it seems silly to miss out.
  • The GPU is increasingly used by photography programs (Photoshop, Lightroom, CaptureOne Pro, etc), so the 8GB GPU option is the smart move.
  • Do not skimp on memory—32GB absolute minimum and it’s foolish to not just go with 64GB if this is a primary machine, what with memory cheaper than it has ever been.
  • Do not consider less than 2TB SSD! The 4TB option is really a bargain at about $600 more than 2TB with speeds in excess of 3 GB/sec. You can’t touch that with even the fastest Thunderbolt 3 SSD—and it’s built-in for tremendous convenience.

Properly configured, the 2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display should have a usable and rewarding lifespan of 3+ years for the vast majority of photographers.

Below are the models I recommend for photographers who want to make the 16"2019 MacBook Pro their primary computing platform (attach a keyboard, mouse, display when not traveling). Please buy using these links if at all possible.

$100 off base models

Few people need that high end model, and right now B&H Photo has $100 off two of the base models of the 2019 MacBook Pro 16-inch in silver or gray:



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Nasty Surprise with Apple Software Update: NEC PA302W will no longer Work (UPDATE: how to fix it)

Back at home from a 7-week photo trip.

UPDATE: I had another OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock on hand, which I swapped out—operation restored. The Mini DisplayPort maybe got fried by the PG&E outage? Or maybe it’s just bad physically, as it seems loose and sloppy. At any rate, swapping the dock fixed the problem.

Update 2: it seems that the Dock which drives the display has one bad Thunderbolt 3 port. Or my LaCie Bolt is toast. It’s all very confusing.

UPDATE 3 — SOLUTION: a suggestion OWC: remove power from all devices (unplug), wait a bit and reboot. I’ll be damned—this cured the dead Thunderbolt 3 port and the display works too! Having to unplug stuff from the wall to make it function is just insanely bad, but I don’t know who/what is at fault except that macOS updates seem to have been making all this worse and worse, so Apple is the whipping boy at present.

.... original post below...

On my trip, I inadvertantly installed the latest Apple security update for macOS Mojave (I have not “upgraded” to macOS Catalina, and I don’t plan to for some time, as it will hit me with at least $500 in upgrade costs for various software.

What I did NOT expect is that the latest Apple macOS Mojave update would destroy connectivity to my NEC PA302W, my workhorse display.

I just cannot get the PA302W to work; the PA302W just says "no signal". This after years of bulletproof operation.

The cabling has not changed, it just sat there while I was away: a DisplayPort cable connects the NEC PA302W to the Mini DisplayPort port on the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock. This stuff just sat there for 7 weeks, untouched. It no longer works. The only meaningful change was the Apple software update.

Perhaps it is some problem caused by the Apple update that makes the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock fail to drive the display now? Or something more basic. But with only two Thunderbolt 3 ports on my 2019 iMac 5K, I have no other options.

This is the worst Apple problem ever. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I cannot get the PA302W to function.

NEC PA302W 30-inch wide-gamut display

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Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details Continues to Frustrate: Stripes Over Entire Image

Woe to the photographer who uses Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details to process raw files into DNG and then discards the originals—permanent baked-in stripes with no going back.

I’ve been a fan of Enhance Details, but I have now largely abandoned it, because while it improves sharpness and reduces moiré and color aliasing, the side effect of stripes covering the entire image is a cure far worse than the disease.

At this point, I get the feeling that Adobe is not taking the issue seriously: I’ve provided multiple examples and I know the developer has those examples. Yet I’ve heard not a peep as to whether there is any hope of a fix, or (perhaps) whether Enhance Details is inherently flawed at least with raw files from some (most) cameras.

Enhance Details is even worse with frame averaging because the more noise is reduced, the more visible the striped line overlay becomes (as random noise is removed, latent patterns become plain to see).

Below, the striped lines do NOT appear without Enhance Details. The lines are more or less visible depending on the subject matter detail and brightness but cover the image in its entirety

Here, the image was shot in landscape orientation, and the stripes are primarily vertical. As I understand it, this seems to rule some kind of sensor inter-row differential issue, since the rows of the sensor are horizontal. However, the overall pattern is more of a grid than just unidirectional, so that leads me to believe it is iterative image processing that is introducing the pattern.

More about Enhance Details...

enlarged crop with/without using Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details

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Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art Examples: Eastern Sierra, Yosemite and Twenty Lakes Basin

Various examples from the Eastern Sierra:

Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art Examples: Eastern Sierra, Yosemite and Twenty Lakes Basin

This is about all I saw of clouds in the past 10 days except for hazy yuck yesterday... and they rapidly dissipated even as I made the images, having been extensive enough at dawn to concern me for snow—no worry as it turns out.

Saddlebag Lake, Early Morning Clouds
f5.6 @ 1/250 sec electronic shutter panorama 5 frames, ISO 100; 2019-11-06 07:58:07
Sony A7R IV + Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art + polarizer Breakthrough Photography X4
ENV: Saddlebag Lake, altitude 10100 ft / 3078 m, 29°F / -1°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected, pull 0.66 stops, +100 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +45 Whites
cylindrical projection

[low-res image for bot]
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Fujifilm Medium Format Rebates on Lenses and Cameras are Back

Why ever pay full price when Fujifilm keeps making these rebates available every few months?

See also Fujifilm X rebates.

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Weather in Eastern Sierra is Exceptional, Idyllic

Update: there is probably a 3-4 day window for seeing things before a storm happens. I’m remaining up here for 3 or 4 more days and shooting in unprecedented November comfort, then I’ll return home with loads of good material. I have one day available for a photo tour ($800 for one day, dawn to dusk with me one-on-one).

...

Cold nights, but barely—perhaps 28°F, with days warming at 10000' elevation as high as 60°F in sunny locations (but much colder in shade). It’s so warm that ice formed 10 days ago has largely melted in sun-exposed areas.

In other words: conditions are idyllic and awesome and... almost no one is there—maybe 3 people including me all day in this area. All those people on the meteoric airplane have no idea how crappy civilization is by comparison.

Check weather reports, but if these conditions hold, this is one of the warmest and most beautiful Novembers I have ever seen in 30 years in the Yosemite area. Get up there if you can, ASAP! There are very few outdoor experiences that can match these conditions. But check weather predictions first, just in case a storm moves in, which will close off this high country until next spring. Temperatures could easily drop 40°F, as they did in late September.

Ice formed overnight on the lake has been largely melting by mid-afternoon. Ice skaters should hold off a week or two for a cold snap, though there is thicker and almost skateable ice at higher elevations in shaded areas.

The full 60MP version of this image can be viewed in Examples: Twenty Lakes Basin.

Greenstone Lake shoreline with view to Mt Conness
f7.1 @ 1/125 sec electronic shutter focus stack 3 frames, ISO 100; 2019-11-05 10:18:14
Sony A7R IV + Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G @ 12mm
ENV: Greenstone Lake, altitude 10250 ft / 3124 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, pull 0.3 stops, +79 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +40 Whites, +20 Contrast

[low-res image for bot]
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Voigtlander 65mm f/2 APO Macro-Lanthar Aperture Series: 'View to Mt Conness from Tuolumne Meadows Area, Early Night' — also evaluates long exposure noise on Sony A7R IV

This series at f/2, f/2.8, f/4.5, f/6.3 evaluates the Voigtlander 65mm f/2 Macro APO-Lanthar on an finely detailed at very far distance.

It is in also an evaluation of the long exposure performance of the Sony A7R IV with long exposure noise reduction enabled (30, 93, 211, 611 seconds).

Voigtlander 65mm f/2 APO Macro-Lanthar Aperture Series: View to Mt Conness from Tuolumne Meadows Area, Early Night (Sony A7R IV)

Includes images up to full camera resolution plus a 100-megapixel upscaled image at f/4.5 using Gigapixel AI.

CLICK TO VIEW: Outstanding Three-Lens Kit for Sony A7R IV

The large meadow is near Tuolumne Meadows, downstream. Mt Conness radiates in the lingering twilight due to its elevation.

View to Mt Conness past granite dome, late dusk
f4.5 @ 211.0 sec electronic first curtain shutter LENR enabled, ISO 100; 2019-11-02 18:44:12
Sony A7R IV + Voigtlander FE Macro APO-Lanthar 65mm f/2 Aspherical + polarizer Zeiss
ENV: granite dome near Tuolumne Meadows, altitude 9070 ft / 2765 m, 40°F / 4°C
RAW: vignetting corrected, push 0.33 stops, +100 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +50 Whites, Color Luminance {Blues -20, Oranges -30}, USM {8,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]

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