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Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar vs Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM

Subscribe to diglloyd Mirrorless.

re: World’s Best 35mm Lens? Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar for Sony Mirrorless and Leica M Coming in April

Really cool to see two new top-flight 35mm focal length prime lenses showing up for Sony mirrorless. Maybe the world’s best 35mm lens vs Sony’s f/1.4 offering should make for a really interesting comparison.

Accordingly, I am deferring review of the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM until the Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar becomes available in April. The choice of manual focus or autofocus will surely decide the matter for some (in favor of AF), but size/weight and performance for others.

For landscape and those who wish to travel compactly/lightly, the Voigtlander offering is unbeatable at 352 grams vs 524 grams for the Sony, and much more compact dimensions.

The Sigma FE 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is superb, but it is huge and heavy (1090 grams). Still, I should probably try to get all three together because the Sigma 35/1.2 was really impressive when I reviewed it.

My expectation of a “good sample” is highest for the Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lantharbecause of excellent quality control at Cosina Voigtlander, and the simplest lens design of the three. It can be tough getting a top-performing sample of exotic lens designs of f/1.4 and f/1.2 speed—the Sigma 35/1.2 had some sample variation issues.

It also makes me wonder: for those who need a compact/lightweight top performer for some uses (the Voigtlander), but also want a fast high performer autofocus lens, maybe the Voigtlander and Sigma could turn out to be fine choices as a combo? Also, for some uses, the best overall illumination at f/1.4 or f/2 might be a serious factor for consideration, like astrophotography, or 'street' shooting.

Finally, characteristics like distortion and field of view might be considerations (the Sigma 35/1.2 has substantial barrel distortion). I’d expect the Voigtlander to have the least distortion (TBD), and it does have the widest field of view. When used, distortion correction has a real impact on actual micro contrast, so a low-distortion lens like the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 is a big plus.

Please use these links to buy, thank you. See also Voigtlander for Sony.

Top-class 35mm lenses for Sony mirrorless
  Voigtlander FE50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Sigma FE 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art
Aperture range: f/2 - f/16
1/3 stop clicks or stepless aperture
f/1.4 - 16 f/1.2 - f/16
Iris blades: 12 blades
circular aperture through f/16
11, rounded 11 blades, rounded
Focusing range: 13.8 in = 35 cm - INF 9.8 in = 25 cm - INF 11.81 in / 30 cm - INF
Reproduction ratio: 1:6.46 0.26X = 1:3.84 0.19X = 1:5.26
Angle of view: 62.2° 63° 63.4°
Number of elements/groups: 11 elements in 9 groups
5 special dispersion glass
2 double-sided aspherical
14 elements in 10 groups 17 elements in 12 groups
Filter thread: 49mm 67mm 82mm
Weight (nominal): 352g 524g 38.45 oz = 1090g
Dimensions: 62.6 x 67.3 mm 76 X 96 mm 3.46 x 5.36 in = 87.8 x 136.2 mm
Includes: Front and Rear Lens Caps
Lens Hood
Limited 1-Year Warranty
ALC-F67S 67mm Front Lens Cap
ALC-R1EM Rear Lens Cap
ALC-SH164 Lens Hood
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Sigma LCF-82 III 82mm Lens Cap
Sigma Rear Cap LCR II
Limited 1-Year Warranty + Limited 3-Year U.S.A. Warranty Extension

Image below from Patriarch Grove from Above At Dusk, View Southwest.

 

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Reader Comment: “had I read your article before, I surely could have spared money and disappointment before buying”

re: Fujifilm medium format

Subscribe to diglloyd Medium Format.

Alberto D writes:

Dear Mr. Chambers,

I’m reading your site with great interest and your articles are more than helpful—thumbs up for your great work.

I have recently  switched from Canon EOS 5Ds R to the Fujifilm GFX-50S system. I’m happy but I wasn’t aware of the weakness of the Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8 lens and bought it. I have the Fujifilm GF 23mm f/4 and the Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2, which are good—maybe I was lucky no focus issues at the moment.

I have kept three Leica R lenses that I’ve used with Canon. The Leica 280/2.8 APO-Telyt-R with the 50 GFX-50R was terrible but It has a lens separation problem discovered by a Technician—very disappointing considering the original cost of the lens.

The 100/2,8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R is ok but not so good as I expected, and the 50 Summicron shows vignetting from 5,6.

Having read your articles before I surely could have spared money and disappoint...

Many thanks have a nice day— Alberto D

DIGLLOYD: the Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8 is a very good lens (I’d have no objection to having a good sample), but it does have some mild field curvature and focus shift issues—perfectly reasonable in context, but I prefer the flatter field and freedom from focus shift of the Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5. Plus the 50/3.5 is a much better pairing with the Fujifilm GF 80mm f/1.7. Because anything but negligible focus shift or field curvature a Big Deal on a 100-megapixel sensor with 3.76 micron pixels—a big PITA. Even the 50/3.5 has a little field curvature towards the corners.

Adapting 35mm-format lenses

I do not recommend any 35mm-format lenses on the Fujifilm medium format system. Yes, a rare few do reasonably well stopped down to f/8 or f/11 (ugh), but most are a waste of time—inadequate coverage and/or massive field curvature outside the 35mm frame and so on. As well as awkwared to use.

Introduction to Adapting Lenses to Fujifilm GFX: Overview and Experience with Zeiss DSLR Lenses

Evaluating 9 Top-End 35mm DSLR Lenses on the Fujifilm GFX

Adapting Lenses to the Fujifilm GFX

Even a good sample of the Leica 280mm f/ 4 APO-Telyt-R cannot take a sharp image if there is shutter vibration—for example on Leica M240 it as a disaster at any speed under 1/500. Be sure to use the electronic shutter.

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Fujifilm GFX100S: Lenses On Sale

re: Fujifilm GFX100S

Two of the zooms and also the Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 are on sale at $500 off.

The Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 is a top performer, albeit with a bit of focus shift, but outstanding results can be had from it.

The two zooms are very good, but as with all zooms on all platforms, they are generally not quite as strong as the prime lenses. Personally, I’d prefer the 45-100mm over the 32-64mm.

Important to my B&H loaner support — buy your Fujifilm GFX100 and Sony A1 and lenses via links on this site.

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Using a Black and White Filter Layer in Photoshop for Monochrome Conversion

re: Reader Comment: Black and White Photography “samples you have are some of the best I have seen”

Added to my Monochrome workflow pages:

Color to Monochrome: Black and White Layer

Color to Monochrome: Black and White Filter Layer vs Black & White Mixer

Image below is a vintage image—not related to these new pages.


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“Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”, by Charles Mackay

Worth a read in these interesting times.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay @AMAZON

You don’t have to read it cover-to-cover, it’s possible to pick and choose one story at a time.

Some Processing Technique and Examples now in Monochrome Section of Making Sharp Images

re: Reader Comment: Black and White Photography “samples you have are some of the best I have seen”

I’ve made a first pass at various pages in the Monochrome section of Making Sharp Images.

The pages with “TBD” in front of the titles in the table of contents are to be done.


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Reader Comment: “painful to watch the slow death of Pentax”

re: Reader Comment: Black and White Photography “samples you have are some of the best I have seen”

Roy P writes:

Didn’t realize Pentax was still making its 645 cameras – I thought this line had ended with the Pentax 645D.

Well, it looks like somebody there woke up and read a newspaper ad for the Fujifilm GFX100S. The camera design shows how dated it is.  Painful to watch the slow death.

Interestingly, here are the sensor comps:
Fujifilm GFX-50S: 8256 x 6192
Pentax 645Z: 8256 x 6192
Hasselblad X1D II 50C: 8272 x 6200

So the Pentax 645z has the same sensor as in the Fujifilm GFX50S. Not sure what sensor the Hasselblad X1D II uses.

DIGLLOYD: I don’t think the sensors are the same in the Pentax 645Z as in the Fujifilm GFX-50S. I might be wrong, but the GFX50S has problematic color moiré and color aliasing issues (perhaps due to its micro lenses) and I don’t recall seeing that on the 645Z or the Hasselblad X1D II 50C. Plus the 645Z is a camera from 2014—a design that is 7 years old and 3 years older than the Fujifilm GFX-50S.

The Pentax 645Z offers superb image quality (see below), and without PDAF pixels. It would make make a superb monochrome camera if it can be converted, presumably even better than the Nikon D850 monochrome, but with (mostly) inferior lenses to Zeiss Milvus and Zeiss Otus. Maybe if the cost were half of what it is?

And it looks like Pentax (B&H Photo page) the pricing figures have been transposed for discount versus the price given current market conditions — seems like the discount of $2700 and price of $5000 should be swapped. And the Fujifilm GFX-50R was as low as $3500 for some months last year.

Image from Aperture Series: Green Aspen Leaf on Black Rock (Pentax 645Z). Toggle to compare B&W to color.

 

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Making Sharp Images: Proposed Monochrome Imagery Section

re: Reader Comment: Black and White Photography “samples you have are some of the best I have seen”

There has been quite a lot of reader interest in my recent monochrome work.

Including how to create monochrome images, best camera, post-processing, etc.

I’ve stubbed-out a proposed table of contents as shown below—no content here yet, but I think this will cover most of what people are asking for. The content will be in Making Sharp Images (update: I might take this new content and diglloyd Infrared into a new black and white section) and of course FULL subscribers have access to that, and it is available separately too.

Subscribers should login and make use of the reduced-price FULL subscription (I can rebalance the subscription terms for that plus anything currently subscribed to).

Rather than aiming to publish this section at all once in its polished form, I am thinking to hit first on the most approachable aspects and get those up in reasonable shape, then methodically fill out things, then polish it all along with any additions and organizational changes.

Feedback welcome.

William M writes:

Really looking forward to the monochrome work as you have time to publish it.  

I am a longtime fan of monochrome, so much so that I converted my D850 to monochrome when I got a Z7.  What an amazing piece of equipment the D850 monochrome is when combined with the Zeiss Otus 50mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

Monochrome can produce a beauty unapproachable by color with the appropriate setting and subject.

Time for some renewed discussion of the Zone system in a digital monochrome world along with an appreciation of tonality.  I still instinctively head to Zone VI to achieve ideal exposure.

Not since color photography overwhelmed Pan X, Plus X and Tri X with the advent of Kodachrome in the 40s and subsequent C22, C41 and E6 emulsions have we had adequate discussion of monochrome technique and technology.

Happy that you are considering addressing this long neglected area of photography and art.

DIGLLOYD: glad to hear it. I will be methodically ticking off all the of pages above, intermingling with my regular content. I have a sort of self-imposed deadline to get most of it done prior to my reviews of the Sony A1 and Fujifilm GFX100S.

Yes, the Nikon D850 monochrome along with Zeiss Milvus and Zeiss Otus lenses is truly outstanding, free of digital artifacts and with incredible resolving power.

Christian T writes:

Very good to see you have raised the bar again increasing your coverage of topics of real interest to your subscribers! Add me to those that love black and white photography and very keen to see that section coming online in stages as proposed.

I also have one further question not directly related, but may be of interest also to others nonetheless. Have you looked at Affinity Photo (or their whole suite)  as an alternative to Adobe (and Quark)? I have used their software during the last 2 years, but mostly Publisher and Designer, with a ittle dabbling in Photo. With Affinity Photo’s latest updates, I wonder if it is worthwhile for you to evaluate this option as an alternative to ACR with Photoshop (or any other options in use out there)? Considering the currently very low cost of Affinity software, it may be a worthwhile to evaluate it alongside your trusted regular production setup?

Thanks again for the most unbiased evaluations! That really makes you stand out from everyone else and provides real value to me, an enthusiast rather than commercial pro.

DIGLLOYD: cost of software is immaterial compared to the investment of time and effort, the ecosystem, years of learning needing to be re-learned (for a new software), the risk of it going away in a few years. Sort of like worrying about the cost of a filter for a high-end camera system with multiple lenses. So I don’t intend to look at Affinity Pro; it won’t monetize for me and it becomes a pure cost with no upside—negative ROI. I have a big development-time and workflow investment in scripts I’ve for Photoshop, and learning new software is very time consuming. There are also lots of good alternatives out there, like CaptureOne Pro. I don’t consider $120/year to use Photoshop a meaningful consideration in the context of all the work I do. Nor do I think it is wise to exit the dominant ecosystem or to advise anyone to do so.

Eeraj Q writes:

Saw the proposed outline and associated reader comments. Looking forward to learn as you add content. I thought I was the only one, but based on the comments it is clear that your stellar monochrome samples have sparked a renewed interest in this topic for a lot of your subscribers. Well done!

Also appreciate your candor re. monetization and why you cover (or don't cover) certain topics / gear. Makes sense to me.

Would love to see/read more of your adventures in your Sprinter van. Obviously, after you wrap up the more pressing stuff. The previous series with practical notes was very interesting.

DIGLLOYD: noted, thx.

Ashiss V writes:

Like your proposed sections. Would be great to have a section on printing B&W including info on your fav papers and printers.

Personally, the ones of most interest immediately would be colour to monochrome, monochrome post processing and examples of your great work. The other sections are also of interest but personal preference would be to start with the above mentioned sections so can start to apply your techniques immediately.

Will be subscribing to that section for sure. Really looking forward to this….have been wanting this for some time now!

DIGLLOYD: yes, I plan on examples and how-to to start, so that the area is of immediate practical use.

World’s Best 35mm Lens? Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar for Sony Mirrorless and Leica M Coming in April

Voigtlander does a spectacularly crude job of marketing its lenses, all while hiding its light under a bushel basket—you have to work at it to glean information about their new lenses. I guess I’m glad they pay engineers instead of marketing bozos writing hyperbolic product descriptions, like the Nikon Nikkor Z twaddle. The information here is what I’ve gathered from a Google translate of the Japanese web page for the Voigtlander 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar.

Last year, we saw that the Voigtlander FE 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar is one of the finest 50mm lenses ever produced, and that should hold for its Leica M variant too.

The 35/2 APO looks like the best 35mm lens ever on any 35mm-format platform.... I might have to try 2 or 3 samples to get a really good one because together with the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM and the Voigtlander FE 35/2 APO and Voigtlander FE 50/2 APO (and Voigtlander FE 65/2 APO), there never before has been so compact and so outrageously good 'kit' from 12mm to 65mm. This is the golden age of photography.

Voigtlander 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar for Sony mirrorless and Leica M

Now Voigtlander has announced the Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar, whose MTF should rank it among the very best 35m lenses ever produced. And not by a small margin.

There is also an M-mount version, but whether the lens can be tweaked to achieve the same performance on the thinner sensor cover glass of the Leica M cameras remains to be seen—probably given Voigtlander’s statement that off-center color is suppressed; this means an optical design with a ray angle friendly to the sensor. And Voigtlander probably designed in advance for things to work out well on Sony or Leica M.

I expect the 35/2 APO-Lanthar to substantially outperform the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at f/2 and f/2.8, and deliver greater real-world sharpness on distant landscapes even from f/4 through f/8 due to the nil field curvature of the 35/2 APO-Lanthar.

See also Voigtlander for Sony wishlist and Sigma for Sony wishlist.

Scheduled to be available in April 2021, the 35/2 APO-Lanthar should be at the top of any Sony or Leica M shooter’s list (so long as manual focus is OK). I’ll of course be reviewing it on the Sony A7R IV (and Sony A1 most likely too).

Features taken from translated version of Japanese web page for the Voigtlander 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar.

See also Reasons behind the choices that Cosina makes.

  • Highest lens performance in Voigtlander history. [diglloyd: MTF as shown below shows no meaningful difference vs the 50/2 APO-Lanthar, which makes the 35/2 impressive in a sort of unprecedented way]
  • Apochromatic design leading to elimination of longitudinal chromatic aberration and the ultimate in resolution and contrast.
  • Generous image circle for the 35mm format with high resolution maintained to the corners of the 35mm sensor.
  • Off-center color casts suppressed [diglloyd: sounds like a design of a friendly ray angle for digital sensors for both Sony and Leica]
  • Tight control over out of focus rendition, outstanding point spread function.
  • 11 elements in 9 groups, 5 special dispersion and 2 double-sided aspherical.
  • Engraved and hand-painted markings.
  • 12-blade diaphragm for superb bokeh for near-perfect circular out-of-focus rendering from wide open at f/2 through f/16.
  • Manual focus.
  • Stepped and stepless (click-free) aperture control mechanism.
  • Close focus distance of 0.5m.
  • Equipped with Sony E-mount electronic contacts, it supports correct EXIF info as 5-axis camera shake correction. Also possible to trigger magnified Live View by operating the focus ring.

MTF

The MTF chart shows f/4 hardly improves upon f/2, with f/2 already better than most lenses can do at any aperture. The field is flat (no meaningful field curvature) and there looks to be no focus shift either.

In absolute terms it is spectacularly good. In relative terms, it makes lenses like the Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH look 3rd-rate. At about 1/5 the price.

There is no meaningful difference in MTF between the Voigtlander 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar and the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar—an incredible accomplishment, as an understatement. Sample variation will outweigh what trivial differences there are—I had two samples for my spring 2020 testing, and one was slightly superior to the other. Even with the meticulous attention to detail at Cosina Voigtlander, there is still variance, but I deem it much less than most brands.

David A writes:

Not wanting to make excuses for Leica, but I sense that they have had physical size goals/limits for some M lenses (to unblock viewfinders, or for other reasons). These size limits have harmed optical performance in a classic tradeoff.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen you mention size constraints as part of the Leica design gestalt, but I believe it’s at play from time to time. Peter Karbe would know!

DIGLLOYD: agreed, I presume that Leica has self-imposed size constraints. And I agree that it is likely to harm performance. But maybe performance is also harmed by a design philosophy that field curvature is a feature or at least acceptable—I see it as a bug and an error in design judgment, because it ruins most of the lens line for optimal performance for landscape shooting. With so many Leica M lenses, you’re forced to the use of f/8 when f/4 or at least f/5.6 should get the job done already. This asinine requirement comes directly from the design judgment of letting field curvature run wild. It is no small matter on a 40MP or 60MP sensor, as diffraction dulling comes on strong at f/8. A prime lens of f/2 or faster speed that cannot reach edge-to-edge sharpness by f/5.6 cannot be considered a top-grade lens IMO—and very few Leica M lenses can do so.

Fast and cost effective way to backup!

Voigtlander M 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar Now Available for Leica M Mount

re:Voigtlander FE 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar

The about $999 Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar is now available at B&H Photo. The about $109 Voigtlander LH-13 Lens Hood is not included with the M-mount so be sure to order that too.

Voigtlander has done a beautiful job on the Leica M version of the 50/2 APO-Lanthar, with a chromed ring and large knurled focusing ring and a front-end aperture ring with a 12-blade diaphragm. This is much better in haptics/ergonomics than the Leica 50/2 APO, which has a narrow short-throw focusing ring and with a sloppy-feeling aperture ring. IMO, nothing by Leica is as well done as the Voigtlander 50/2 APO-Lanthar in either optical performance or ergonomics/haptics*.

Scaling to 240 Megapixels with Gigapixel AI: Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar image “Alabama Hills Plain View to Mt Whitney Range”

If it performs as well on Leica M as on Sony mirrorless (optical design might suffer due to differing sensor glass thickness), then it will the the sharpest, best corrected 50mm lens ever available for Leica M. I expect it to easily outperform the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M at 1/8 the price and with much better haptics/ergonomics.

* Based on my experience with the FE mount version of the Voigtlander 50/2 APO-Lanthar. The about $5100 Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH (Black Chrome Edition) might the exception for lenses by Leica with more usable ergonomics. But that’s fiscal insanity when for $2000 less you can have both the CV 50/2 APO-Lanthar and the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4.

Please use these links to buy, thank you.

Stepan K writes:

I got my copy of the Voigtlander M 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar for M-mount yesterday. I don't have anything useful to compare it to on me, just the original Leica Summicron 50 f/2 (modern non-apo), but thought you might be interested.

First impressions: The build quality is top notch. Much better than my Voigtlander 180/4 and 35/1.7. Focusing ring very smooth, aperture ring clicks a bit like Leica 90/2 AA - loud satisfying clicks. Both rings have a bit more resistance than modern Leica lenses - will be great for precise focusing, not so much for fast street shooting. The design is very close to the Leica 50 Apo black chrome, except maybe the finish's a bit more glossy and the lettering is different.

Size&weight: Doesn't block the viewfinder too much, I forget that it's there. The weight distribution on M10 is a bit more into the lens due to the barrel being quite long: you can just barely make the body stand on the bottom plate, but I swear if I blow on it, it tips over. I bet Leica 50 Apo is lighter and shorter and doesn't do this, but I'm nitpicking. I can still fit the lens with caps in the front jeans pocket.

mage quality: Unsurprisingly, it blows the 50 cron pre-apo out of the water. Contrast is insane, resolution is very high (single-pixel hair resolves easily on the 24mpx sensor). I don't know what you need to value to buy the Leica 'Cron when this is available for half as much.

It does vignette a fair bit more, but that's correctable these days. I shot a silver car in full sun and the LoCA is there but you have to look for it, kind of like the Voigtländer 50 APO E-mount samples I've seen. Bokeh looks like the Gaussian blur - completely neutral. Colors are superb, no visible color cast. Overall, I think I'm only keeping my 'cron 50 to write a detailed comparison with pictures for my blog; I can probably sell it for ~ the 1099 EUR that I paid for the Voigt. What an awesome lens.

DIGLLOYD: to get the best out of the CV 50/2 APO-Lanthar, avoid the optical rangefinder like the plague, and use magnified Live View through the EVF. A tiny focus change takes you away from peak performance, as with all ultra high performance lenses.

Fujifilm GFX100 Aperture Series: Mining Buildings in Monochrome (GFX100)

re: Fujifilm GFX100S or Sony A1 or Sony A7R IV for Landscape, Studio, etc?
re: Just How Good is the Fujifilm GFX100S for Monochrome vs the Leica M10 Monochrom and/or Nikon D850 Monochrome?
re: Fujifilm GFX100S, Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5

This aperture series from f/3.5 to f/11 was shot in the mountains near Death Valley. It has dual goals: (1) to show the performance of the Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5 R LM WR from f/3.5 to f/11, and (2) show what one can expect with monochrome conversions of color images on this kind of subject matter.

Fujifilm GFX100 Aperture Series: Mining Buildings in Monochrome

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/3.5 to f/11.

CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm GFX100 and Top Lenses


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SHOOTOUT: Voigtlander FE 110mm f/2.5 vs Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM: View over Saddlebag Lake to Southern Spur of Mt Conness (Sony A7R IV)

I have so much material that I never even 'mine'—for various reasons (schedule, health, new releases) sometimes I have a barrel full of useful stuff I never even get to.

I realized that my review of the Voigtlander FE 110mm f/2.5 Macro-APO-Lanthar was lacking, so I’m posting this comparison after also reviewing a variety of other aperture series.

...

This shootout from f/2.8 through f/8 evaluates the Voigtlander 110mm f/2.5 Macro APO-Lanthar against the Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM.

Is either of these lenses a contender for landscape shooting? I advise as to what you should go with. Hint: neither of these lenses.

SHOOTOUT: Voigtlander FE 110mm f/2.5 vs Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM: View over Saddlebag Lake to Southern Spur of Mt Conness

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 to f/8, plus crops.

Ahhh... beautiful 2019 skies, and no COVID hassles.

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Reader Comment: Black and White Photography “samples you have are some of the best I have seen” + How to Process

re: Leica M10 Monochrom Examples: Eureka Dunes on the Winter Solstice
re: Just How Good is the Fujifilm GFX100S for Monochrome vs the Leica M10 Monochrom and/or Nikon D850 Monochrome?
re: Just How Good is the Sony A7R IV for Monochrome vs the Leica M10 Monochrom and/or Nikon D850 Monochrome?
re: Nikon D850 Monochrome and Leica M10 Monochrom
re: Death Valley: Eureka Dunes in Infrared
re: monochrome and infrared

Graham R writes:

Whatever your complaints about the Leica M10-M and lenses, the landscapes you have recently posted are amongst the finest I have ever seen, anywhere. 

I'm mostly referring to your photos of the sand dunes - Black Pumice on Sand, Dunes Ridgeline, Upper Ridgeline, View to Dunes Spur from Upper Ridgeline, View up Dunes from SE Spur 1 and 2, and a real masterpiece, Solo Hiker near summit of Eureka Dunes - just magnificent. 

DIGLOYD: my "complaints" speak to the desire of any artist to see the very best results, since the conception and the work are the same whether the camera/lens does a great job or a poor one. I have no brand-axe to grind, shooting 'em all.

I actually rarely get opportunities to work on art — I do what I can while doing gear evaluation, but it’s a totally different focus (different mind-set, schedule, etc). Maybe if I could monetize limited editions of large prints somehow. I am inclined to offer large prints in editions no larger than 10, perhaps 5, even exclusives for the right buyer.

Ashish V writes:

Just like to add to other comments by saying that it would be great if you could do a detailed section on your B&W processing techniques as your images are stunning. I really struggle to get the B&W tones right so would definitely subscribe as soon you have it ready.

And...

Eeraj Q writes:

Greatly enjoying your pictorials and commentary on B&W photography.

I mentioned this earlier in another mail: the samples you have are some of the best I have seen. Esp. the ones from Leica M10M are far more compelling compared what I see presented on other sites and forums.

One request: a tutorial on how you process these for maximum impact and the use of assorted filters.

- Color cameras with B&W conversions of color images. In particular, how to "control" the tones - varying shades of gray / deep blacks / whites.  “View Over Alabama Hills to Wind Driven Snow on Whitney Range” taken with the Sony A7RIV is a great example.

- I often see filters (red/orange/etc) being mentioned  - what is the purpose?

- How to get B&W results that are as compelling as the ones from Eureka Dunes that taken with the M10M. Is this possible with color camera pictures converted to B&W? This was the series that was an eye opener for me.

- Or, it is better to get something Sony A7R IV converted to monochrome? Can't imagine getting a Leica M10M myself. [diglloyd: see links at top of post]

- Thoughts on landscape subjects and light conditions that lend well to B&W.

DIGLLOYD: see the links at the top of this post as well as pages with monochrome images on them.

I address the filtration question in several places already. In my monochrome reviews, I also discuss filtration here and there, as well as conversion approaches.

Leica M10 Monochrom: Filter Comparison (Sulfur Mine, Death Valley)
Filters for Black and White
Focus Shift with Color Filters on Leica M Monochrom
Creating a Color Image from Monochrome Using Filters
Filters

Tutorials for monochrome conversion have been on my to-do list for a long time,so maybe I should get that done. Being non-specific to camera/brand, I would put them into Making Sharp Images, which is the place for workflow topics.

I always show ACR conversion settings for raw-file conversion in my aperture series, and I often show black-and-white filter layers for monochrome conversions, so that provides a basic starting point for seeing how I process. But it’s not a step-by-step and does not explain why I chose what I did.

For converting color images to monochrome, there are at least three distinct conversion approaches and various associated techniques for fine-tuning. I discuss some of these approaches in Grayscale Conversion Techniques in diglloyd Infrared.

Monochrome sensor cameras

There are monochrome sensor cameras which require a combination of filter selection* and raw conversion. The ability to achieve desired tonal separation is largely (and crudely) governed by filter selection when the image is shot. For example, if a red filter is not used on a blue sky, it’s going to be tough to darken the sky or achieve separation from clouds without some and maybe a lot of effort. However, assuming a quality image file, monochrome images can generally take a severe beating in 'post'.

Color sensor cameras

Color images can be converted to B&W and this is overall is always the better approach for expressive monochrome images because it affords tremendous control over tonal separation and contrast that is simply impossible with a monochrome sensor. The downside of a color camera for monochrome is more and chunkier noise and less-fine detail due to the demosaicing process needed by the color filter array of the sensor. But if starting with a substantially higher resolution camera (e.g Fujifilm GFX100), then 100MP color trounces 40MP monochrome almost every time.

For converting color images to monochrome, there are at least three distinct conversion approaches, at least one not so obvious. That’s why a true-color image from a pixel shift camera or a multi-shot high-res mode camera has much greater expressive potential than a monochrome sensor.

CLICK TO VIEW: Leica Monochrom offerings and suggested lenses

Below, this image is awful in color (atmospheric haze in particular), but the dynamics of it were stunning to the eye, with the violent winds whipping snow off the peaks of the Mt Whitney range. Appropriate B&W conversion make for a striking image. Some localized work would benefit it further.

CLICK TO VIEW: Top-Flight lenses for Sony Mirrorless

CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm GFX100 and Top Lenses

CLICK TO VIEW: Olympus E-M1 Mark II and fantastic lenses for it


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Inexpensive Camera for Wildlife: Olympus E-M1 Mark II + Reader Comments

At just $899 ($800 off) back in December, I couldn’t pass on the Olympus E-M1 Mark II.

Oldie but a goodie—I always enjoyed the quick-shooting easy of the E-M1 II, but I never bought one until about a month ago. It make a terrific camera for wildlife shooting handheld (eg Bighorn Sheep Rams).

Below, I used the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 ED with Eye AF. I’d love to own the Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power OIS for more reach into my backyard, but it’s darned expensive.

At ISO 1000 or 2000 (!) you might think that quality would suffer on a Micro Four Thirds camera. And it does, a little... there is a fine grained low-level noise which is even lower if sharpening is reduced a little. And some chroma noise. But overall I’m quite impressed with what a 4-year-old camera design can do, and it’s a lot easier to shoot at dusk at f/4 than f/8 (on full frame) for the depth of field seen here.

You can of course buy a full-frame camera like the Sony A7 II (24 megapixels, it was $898 for a while), but you then are into much larger and heavier lenses. I already had some lenses, and I wanted to use my Panasonic 8mm f/3.5 fisheye again, so that made my decision easier. And you’re just not going to beat the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 ED for compactness and reach.

Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power OIS is missing below, for unknown 'feed' reasons.

Like other brands, the Olympus E-M1 Mark II seems incapable of really focusing on the iris of the eye, which is really frustrating because Tigger won’t stay still for more than half a second.On the plus side, ISO 2000 has a little noise, but still looks way better than iPhone DNG files (garbage-grade in light like this).

Below, the Olympus Zuiko SHG 35-100mm f/2 ED works great on the E-M1 Mark II.

Reader Comments

My purchase of the Olympus E-M1 Mark II was predicated on having multiple lenses already, but spending $3K on a 200/2.8 or 300/4 gives me pause—highly unlikely.

However, I own the Olympus Zuiko SHG 7-14mm f/4 ED, Olympus Zuiko SHG 14-35mm f/2 ED, Olympus Zuiko SHG 35-100mm f/2 ED, all three of which are among the finest zoom lenses ever produced. They are Four Thirds and require a lens adapter for Micro Four Thirds, but they work pretty well even for AF on the E-M1 Mark II. The Olympus Zuiko SHG 90-250mm f/2.8 ED would have been nice to have but I never bought it. All are now out of production but can be found used.

Jay S writes:

Maybe I'm misreading between the lines as you seem to be moving away from Nikon, and I know their DX Z lineup is 'sparse', but I would think the Z50 kit at $1200 USD w/ the 50-250mm might make a mighty nice wildlife enthusiast starter kit. Still... those Olympus Tigger shots look *GREAT*! Thanks for your awesome coverage!

DIGLLOYD: I am not moving away from Nikon, Nikon is moving away from me by not aggressively updating its camera and lens line, by falling behind Sony and Fujifilm—multi-year wait for a Nikon Z7 II which does zero for me as a landscape photographer vs a Nikon Z7—no pixel shift, not multi-shot high-res mode, no frame averaging... no thanks—if Nikon can’t at least get the software angle nailed down in some superior way, I’m not going to take on a laggard platform.

As for APS-C, a Nikon Z50 could be a fine choice, but I’d rather buy a full-frame camera and just crop to APS-C as needed (and APS-C lenses can still be used in crop mode). And I’m skeptical that the Nikon NIKKOR Z DX 50-250mm f/4-6.3 delivers the quality I’d want (field curvature being a big concern), and it’s awfully slow. Still, I have to acknowledge that combo as a contender and it should be capable of first rate images... but how the fit and balance is in the hand, dunno. Then again, that Olympus 75/1.8 is razor sharp. very compact and with a flat field, and I value that a lot. The Micro Four Thirds lenses are super expensive (for the best ones) and the choice has to be thought through very carefully versus intended usage before building out a system.

James M, a wildlife photographer since 1949, writes:

The main reason for a wildlife photographer to use the Olympus E-M1 Mark II is the Oly 300mm f/4 S PRO lens. Combining the lens stabilization with the internal stabilization in the body, you can get the equivalent of 600mm f/4 handheld—sharp as a tack. You can respond instantly to a wildlife opportunity while your companions are still setting up their tripods.

I have used the 300mm f/4 for several years and it has never let me down. The upcoming Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 IS lens may be an additional reason, but I have yet to see a critical review. For less than 300mm there are many good lens options. I often use the Panasonic Lumix 42.5mm f1.2 ASPH.

DIGLLOYD: I agree that the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 IS PRO is a fantastic lens, and I also agree on the handheld/tripod thing too. My guess is that the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO is superb, but I have not tested it. With its built-in 1.25X teleconverter delivering 188-500mm zoom range (or 375-1000mm equivalent), it sounds like an ideal solution for wildlife—except that at 4 pounds / 1875g it is getting into uncomfortably large/heavy range for handheld shooting. But if you need that range—wow!

The Panasonic Leica DG Elmarit 200mm f/2.8 Power OIS is razor sharp with a flat-field wide open and it’s very comfortable for continual handheld shooting, whereas the Olympus 300mm f/4 passes the “easy and enjoyable” threshold for me—it’s not bad, but it doesn’t feel as fun as the 200/2.8. And I’d prefer the 200/2.8 over the Olympus 300/4 just because it is a better all-arounder vs the 300mm. Of course, it all depends on what you’re shooting. I’d want the both 200mm and 300mm and I’d want a body on each of them.

Below, a 300mm would have gotten me closer, but would have been too close for some of the other shots. That argues for the 150-400mm zoom.

Andrew W writes:

Saw your post about the E-M1 MkII- I owned one of those a few years ago, and was thoroughly delighted by the build quality and ergonomics. It just felt so good in hand, and I loved the little 1/2 button mapping switch. I agree that it's a great camera, and I still have a soft spot for the MFT format, even though they've been stuck on that same 20MP sensor for years.

I know your whole workflow is build around Adobe Camera Raw, but you might consider playing around with the new DxO PhotoLab for use with the Olympus, just because their noise reduction technology is soooo good.

My favorite MFT lens? Either the Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 (beautiful rendering and awesome build quality) or the Laowa 17mm f/1.8 (incredibly cheap, small, and light... and the image quality is excellent too).

DIGLLOYD: build quality and haptics are great, but the Klingon-designed menu system is the world’s worst until you deprogram and reprogram the buttons and custom menu options.

I would make exceptions for workflow for one-off situation, but not for general workflow, and I rarely use noise reduction for presenting camera/lens evaluations, so that’s not an incentive.

The Voigtlander 42.5mm f/0.95 is a a nice lens for sure, but my favorite is the razor sharp (wide open) Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH but I think for this focal length, autofocus is really important for portraits, etc. I haven’t tried the Laowa 17mm f/1.8.

John M writes:

Thanks for your post on the Olympus EM1 Mark II and various lenses. I bought one of these last fall and have been very pleased with the IBIS and image quality. I have been using the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens which seems exceptional, have you any thoughts on it?

I also own the 75mm you discuss, I haven't used it much recently but it looks like it's well worth another try. I find the Olympus build quality to be excellent (better than Nikon) and the camera a pleasure to use once the irritating menus are dealt with.

Regarding the Nikon Z50, I find its small size to my liking and it works well with the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S PF VR lens although I think the Olympus stabilization is noticeably better than Nikon VR (maybe that's just me).

DIGLLOYD: I have not tested the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8, but it is probably quite good. Yes, I think the Olympus image stabilization is really top notch, likely better than Nikon’s, but I’m not certain.

Jim Z writes:

I, too, have found the e-m1 ii impressive for so many applications.  I mostly use it for “run & gun” with the Oly 12-100.  I’ve successfully captured scenes at 3 to 5 seconds, hand held with that combination.

I, too, purchased a 75mm 1.8 (pristine - used, from Japan) and have found that to be a fun lens.   The PL 100-400 is serviceable for wildlife, as well.

I like my Sony A7R IV , but one cannot toss it around as quickly when on the go. It is a great street camera, with a 1.4/24 or similar lens. The E-M II’s composite and focus stacking modes are useful as well (60mm macro is a nice lens along with the 1.8/8mm fisheye). So many tools.

DIGLLOYD: fun-shooting camera.


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Sony A7R IV: Where is the Firmware Update to Upgrade Us to Lossless-Compressed RAW Files?

re: Sony A1
re: data compression
re: Sony Announces an Uncompressed File Format for A7R II and Future Cameras

Lossless-compressed raw is bit-for-bit identical in data (once uncompressed) to uncompressed raw. Uncompressed raw is the stupidest most useless format around, as all it does is waste storage space and waste time writing to card, backing up, etc. And Sony’s “Compressed” raw format has image quality problems under conditions of extreme contrast.

Fujifilm gets lossless-compressed raw right, as does just about every other camera vendor.

I have hundreds of gigabytes of uncompressed Sony raw files sucking up 2X the space they need. Sure would be nice to have a tool to redo uncompressed Sony ARW raw files so as to cut the size in half (on average)

Will anything but the Sony A1 offer lossless-compressed raw file format?

Sony has promised that the Sony A1 will incorporate a lossless-compressed raw file format, something I’ve been waiting on for years with the Sony A7R/II/III/IV.

In addition to compressed and uncompressed RAW, the Alpha 1 includes efficient lossless compression with no quality degradation, Lossless Compressed RAW.

The Sony A1 is not out yet, but the Sony A7R IV sits here waiting for a firmware update to give it the lossless-compressed raw file capability.

Will Sony be delivering firmware for the Sony A7R IV to give it lossless-compressed raw file format support?

Important to my B&H loaner support — buy cameras/lenses/gear via links on this site.

CLICK TO VIEW: Top-Flight lenses for Sony Mirrorless


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Fujifilm GFX100S Pixel Shift Mode: How Good is it, and is it Viable for Non-Studio Photography?

re: Fujifilm GFX100S or Sony A1 or Sony A7R IV for Landscape, Studio, etc?
re: Canon EOS R Mirrorless System Now Has a Robust Lens Line

I have not tested the Fujifilm GFX100 pixel shift mode because it was released in a firmware update in late 2020, long after I had finished my April/May coverage. But I will be taking a good look at it when the Fujifilm GFX100S arrives in March.

Variants of multi-shot

I distinguish pixel shift as done by Sony and Pentax and Olympus from multi-shot high-res mode as done in the Panasonic S1R by how much smarts are involved. That is, how much computational photography is done, vs “dumb” averaging.

Pixel shift (as I deem it) is a “dumb” implementation, meaning it seeks to generate true-color pixels by shifting the sensor so as to obtain a full RGB value at each pixel, e.g. the 4-shot pixel shift mode in the Sony A7R IV and Pentax K3 which yields G+G+R+B values at each photosite. It then just records those shifted frames.

A variant is 16-shot pixel shift, which adds sensor shift of fractional pixels in addition to whole pixels. The Sony A7R IV 16-shot pixel shift is an example of this, but I have found it to be less sharp than the 4-shot mode—of no value for sharpness and with the penalty of generating massive captures that discourage its use as well as being useless for field work (16 shots takes far too long).

Multi-shot high-res mode as implemented in the Panasonic S1R is another beast. It builds on full-pixel and fractional-pixel pixel shift (8 frames total) followed by ~17 seconds of intensive image processing (probably by a dedicated ASIC). It is smart enough to make it feasible to photograph moving water successfully as well as to ignore some types of movement, as I show in my review. It records a single raw file 4X larger which is the result of this sophisticated processing. IMO, the Panasonic approach obliterates all others in its utility because it can be used for outdoor photography and its file size is perfectly fine for what it delivers.

Fujifilm GFX100/GFX100S pixel shift the “dumb” kind?

Along comes Fujifilm with its 16-shot pixel shift for the GFX100 and GFX100S. Kudos to Fujifilm for making the effort and doing it in a firmware update. I give Fujifilm high marks for continual firmware improvements both on the GFX and X product line*.

Fujifilm GFX100S/100 pixel shift appears to be the “dumb” form of pixel shift, meaning massive files intolerant of subject movement and/or lighting changes that must be processed later in the computer too using specialized software from Fujifilm which then apparently requires Capture One Pro for the DNG (will Adobe Camera Raw work?).

While this may all be just fine for a studio photographer doing archival work or other documentary stuff, it sounds like it is not only a hassle, but useless for outdoors.

Maybe a reader can speak to the foregoing on 16-shot Fujifilm pixel shift? I’ll be looking at it when I get my hands on the GFX100S, and if I’m wrong about its uselessness for the outdoors, I’ll be pleased.

Alfred C writes:

Love the camera and had it since the first day it was introduced (all my Hasselblad H lenses work well on it which is a plus). However, the multi shot for anything moving the slightest is utterly, totally, completely useless. As bad as my old Hasselblad 200Ms or 400MS if not worse. That means even if highlights / reflections change during the shooting intervall, you will see artifacts. Leica SL2 much better (“only” 190 MP though). Others I have not bothered to use. Cheers from the Swiss Mountains.

Sounds like what I presumed... bummer. Why isn’t a faster and more compact 4-shot mode offered? It might be occassionally usable in the field as with Sony’s 4-shot pixel shift.

Peter F writes:

I tried the GFX100 Pixel Shift when first released. It falls into what you describe as the dumb form of Pixel Shift. Any item that moves in the scene will be blurred in the final result. I did find that stationary objects had a little more detail and resolution. Colors areas had more color. My feeling is this may be of value for certain specialized uses such as art reproduction. However, for most uses the gain is too small to be worth the extra effort to shoot 16 exposures, ensuring no movement of or near the camera setup. Then the effort in post. The 16 files must be combined in computer by Fuji’s combiner app. The resulting DNG file can be read by Adobe Camera Raw in LightRoom or Photoshop.

Blur would be OK, but usually what I've seen is a sort of out-of-register effect which looks nasty.

Nov 25 2020... Fujifilm is pleased to announce Firmware Version 3.00 for the FUJIFILM GFX100 digital camera (GFX100), which adds the Pixel Shift, Multi-Shot function to the GFX System’s flagship mirrorless camera. The firmware update allows photographers to create images with 400MP of resolution. Also available today, is the new software application, FUJIFILM Pixel Shift Combiner (Pixel Shift Combiner), which will allow the 16 RAW images created by the new Pixel Shift, Multi-Shot function to be combined into a single, 400MP image. It also facilitates tethered capture capability when used with the Pixel Shift, Multi-Shot function...

●    Using state-of-the-art technology to create an image: Utilizing the GFX100’s 102MP large-format sensor, high-precision, in-body image stabilization mechanism (IBIS) and its powerful X Processor 4 image processor, the Pixel Shift, Multi-Shot function slightly moves the image sensor by 0.5 pixels to incrementally record high-resolution RGB pixel information over the course of creating 16 RAW images. Those images can then be imported into Pixel Shift Combiner, to create a single 400MP image, and outputted as a DNG RAW file for further processing in Capture One*2 or any other compatible photo editing software. 

●    Preserving detail, one pixel at a time: The Pixel Shift, Multi-Shot function reproduces fine detail and color accuracy by shifting the image sensor so that each pixel records image data in red, green and blue. This allows for unparalleled color reproduction, with next to no false colors occurring, even in the finest of details. This benefit makes it the perfect choice for digital archiving and preserving works of art, cultural assets, and any other applications that require immense color fidelity and the reproduction of fine details.

●    A simple workflow for tethered or untethered applications: In addition to combining and outputting DNG RAW files from images created through the Pixel Shift, Multi-Shot function, Pixel Shift Combiner also provides photographers with tethered capture functionality to allow for seamless transition from making images to combining, and, subsequently editing, them in Capture One*2 or any other compatible photo editing software.  

“For those working in the archival or cultural preservation fields, these new functions are especially valuable to photographers documenting historical artifacts or large works of art, because they can be preserved digitally at 400MP, with color reproduction that only Fujifilm can provide,” said Ha....

* Sony does a mediocre job of firmware updates. We still don’t have lossless-compressed raw files on the Sony A7R IV and it’s unclear if we ever will, even if the Sony A1 will. And we still don’t have focus stacking support.

Important to my B&H loaner support — buy your cameras/lenses/gear via links on this site.

CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm GFX100 and Top Lenses


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FOR SALE: Leica M Gear, Canon EF 200/2.8L IS, View Camera Gear, Zeiss Batis/Loxia

Most items with original box, lenses with lens caps, etc, except as noted. Clear and clean glass, known-good lens samples owned by Lloyd.

Local sale (San Francisco Bay Area) preferred so buyer can inspect lens, but can ship FedEx insured. Contact Lloyd.

Zeiss Batis and Zeiss Loxia

Leica M

View camera gear

All items with original box, lenses with lens caps, etc. Clear and clean glass, known-good lens samples owned by Lloyd

  • Rodenstock 135mm f/5.6 APO-Sironar-S Copal shutter + Linhof Technikardan lens board $1250 PRISTINE
  • Schneider 400mm f/5.6 APO-TELE-XENAR Copal shutter+ Linhof Technikardan lens board $1750 PRISTINE
  • Schneider 150mm f/4 Tele-Xenar medium format lens (Pentacon)
  • Carl Zeiss Jena 180mm f/2.8 MC Sonnar medium format lens (Pentacon?)

Canon

$950 Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro Photo Lens

Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L USM — see this page.

 


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