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Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Tenaya Canyon Pool

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

Sigma has adapted its outstanding Sigma DG HSM Art lens line to Sony mirrorless by extending the rear of the lens barrel. Since it was designed for a DSLR, the optical design is ray angle friendly for digital sensors.

This scene is an excellent illustration of how a less than optimal choice of focus along with some field curvature can conspire to hamper the depth of field zone versus the subject matter.

Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Tenaya Canyon Pool

Images at sizes up to full camera resolution.

Tenaya Canyon Pool
f9 @ 1/50 sec, ISO 100; 2018-09-08 17:09:40
[location Tenaya Canyon, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected, diffraction mitigating sharpening]
Sony A7R III + 14mm F1.8 DG HSM Art 018

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Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Aperture Series: Small Pine in Dana Meadow

Get Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM at B&H Photo, and see my Sony wish list.

This comparison evaluates sharpness across the field, secondary color, and bokeh using a subject with uniformity across the field and a substantial near-to-far depth.

What caught my eye here was the simplicity of the scene and how it captures a common sight in this area quite elegantly: an old and struggling small pine tree trying to make it. But also it’s an excellent setup for judging optical prowess: sharpness, secondary color, potential focus shift.

Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM Aperture Series: Small Pine in Dana Meadow

Includes images from f/1.4 through f/11 up to full camera resolution.

Small Pine in Dana Meadow
f2.8 @ 0.3 sec, ISO 100; 2018-09-10 19:21:18
[location Dana Meadow, altitude 9930 ft / 3027 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected]
Sony A7R III + Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

[low-res image for bot]
MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sigma FE 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Ducks in Dana Meadow Pond at Dusk

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

Sigma has adapted its outstanding Sigma DG HSM Art lens line to Sony mirrorless by extending the rear of the lens barrel. Since it was designed for a DSLR, the optical design is ray angle friendly for digital sensors.

This distance scene evaluates the Sigma FE 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art for across-the-frame sharpness, penetrating power in flat light and shadows, and secondary color.

Sigma FE 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Ducks in Dana Meadow Pond at Dusk

Images at sizes up to full camera resolution.

Ducks in Dana Meadow Pond at Dusk
f5.6 @ 0.3 sec, ISO 100; 2018-09-10 19:14:24
Sony A7R III + 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art 018

[low-res image for bot]

Compared: Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM vs Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4: Portraits at Tenaya Pool

Get Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM and Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4 at B&H Photo, and see my Sony wish list.

This comparison pits the autofocus Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM against the Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4 Sonnar. Rather than compare the autofocus Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar to the Sony, I opted for the Loxia, because in my experience it outperforms the Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 at wider apertures.

Discussion included bokeh/blur and general rendering, as well as the practical demands of this kind of shooting and how the results matter, regardless of cause.

Compared: Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM vs Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4: Portraits at Tenaya Pool

Includes images from wide open through f/5.6 for both lenses.

f2.8 @ 1/100 sec, ISO 50; 2018-09-08 16:54:20
Sony A7R III + Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

[low-res image for bot]
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Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Water-Polished Granite

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

Sigma has adapted its outstanding Sigma DG HSM Art lens line to Sony mirrorless by extending the rear of the lens barrel. Since it was designed for a DSLR, the optical design is ray angle friendly for digital sensors.

This 3D scene tests how well the Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art delivers at close-range; many lenses decline in performance at close range.

Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Water-Polished Granite

Images at sizes up to full camera resolution.

Water-Polished Granite
f6.3 @ 0.5 sec, ISO 50; 2018-09-08 17:16:52
[location Tenaya Canyon, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected]
Sony A7R III + 14mm F1.8 DG HSM Art 018

[low-res image for bot]
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Back from Eastern Sierra

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

I am back from a 7-day trip to the Eastern Sierra and White Mountains. My daughter was along and as a result I shot some images with portraits as well as my usual fare. I am pleased to know that although she is 33 years younger, I can still out-hike her, so I’m not quite a geezer just yet.

I shot a lot of material, a good deal of which I’ll be publishing: Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis, Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM, Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art.

I concluded two things while shooting my Sony A7R III on this trip: (1) manual focus lenses suck when grab shots or people images are wanted, particularly when the photographer or subject is moving, and (2) large and heavy lenses totally suck for this kind of hiking compared to Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses. The last day at Rock Creek over Morgan Pass to the Morgan Lakes, I lightened my load by about 12 pounds (tripod and lenses), and my lower back thanked me by not bothering me at all, whereas it had nagged me all the prior days—too heavy a load in a pack without good support for the back.

While iPhone image quality ranges from total crap (the 2X camera is frequently garbage) to quite good (panoramas), there is just no beating the iPhone for grab shots with one outstretched hand while walking (or while the other person is), and iPhone panoramas are (usually) of high quality and minimal effort. Still, iPhone still images are sadly lacking in many ways—heavily compressed with mangled detail in so many cases, including the shot below.

We had glorious weather for the first half of the day: cool temperatures for the time of year, with puffy white cumulus clouds racing across the sky, urged along by a brisk cold front.

The aspen are already starting to turn at the the 10,000 foot elevation level—fall color looks like it will be earlier this year. There was an early frost near Tioga Pass just a few days ago, with frost remaining in shaded areas even at 9 AM, so some colder days have already started, though most nights it did not freeze, even sleeping up at 11,600' elevation.

Crossing over Morgan Pass towards Morgan Lakes
f1.8 @ 1/19000 sec handheld, ISO 25; 2018-09-15 09:57:10
[location Morgan Pass, altitude 11110 ft / 3386 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

[low-res image for bot]

Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Hiker at Upper Conness Lake

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

Sigma has adapted its outstanding Sigma DG HSM Art lens line to Sony mirrorless by extending the rear of the lens barrel. Since it was designed for a DSLR, the optical design is ray angle friendly for digital sensors.

This near-to-far scene is an informative demonstration of field curvature and depth of field with the Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art. It should be helpful for photographers looking to capture maximum sharpness, that is, by understanding focus placement and taking into account field curvature.

Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Hiker at Upper Conness Lake

Images at sizes up to full camera resolution.

f4.5 @ 1/400 sec, ISO 50; 2018-09-11 12:55:25
[location Upper Conness Lake, altitude 10700 ft / 3261 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected]
Sony A7R III + 14mm F1.8 DG HSM Art 018

[low-res image for bot]

Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Ancient Downed Pine Tree, Dana Meadow

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

Sigma has adapted its outstanding Sigma DG HSM Art lens line to Sony mirrorless by extending the rear of the lens barrel. Since it was designed for a DSLR, the optical design is ray angle friendly for digital sensors.

This medium range highly detailed scene puts the Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art (for Sony mirrorless) to the test in blue mountain shade, thus testing both its secondary color correction as well as its resolving power in unfavorable spectral balance (blue light). Field curvature and vignetting and real depth of field behavior are also evaluated.

Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series: Ancient Downed Pine Tree, Dana Meadow

Images at sizes up to full camera resolution.

f6.3 @ 1/10 sec, ISO 100; 2018-09-10 18:36:03
[location Dana Meadow, altitude 9980 ft / 3042 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected, "focus part way into branches"]
Sony A7R III + 14mm F1.8 DG HSM Art 018

[low-res image for bot]
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Sigma DG HSM Art Lenses for Sony Mirrorless: Ergonomic and Other Concerns

Get Sigma DG HSM Art lenses at B&H Photo as well as Sony A7R III and see my Sony wish list.

See also: Implications of Flange Focal Distance for Adapting Sony Mirrorless Lenses for the Canon Mirrorless RF-Mount and Nikon Mirrorless Z-Mount.

While the Sigma DG HSM Art lenses are outstanding, they are already large and heavy on a DSLR. On Sony mirrorless, they are even more awkward, because the rear lens barrel must be extended by 28.5mm to compensate for the DLSR mirror box gap.

    Sony E: 18mm
   Nikon F: 46.5mm
= 28.5mm extension required

This 28.5mm extension creates a torque arm(basic lever principle) that in my view raises the risk of damaging the lens mount sooner or later when used as I’d like to use a lens—hiking and such. Recent mountain hiking with several Sigma DG HSM Art lenses for Sony does not allay my fears; I constantly hold the lens to support it.

But even without this concern, the extension creates an unbalanced awkward feel. Functional yes, elegant no.

Below, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for Sony E-mount can be seen with its 28.5mm extension versus the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for Nikon/Canon. This creates an increased lever arm torque which could damage the lens mount from impact, how much is unclear. It also has the effect of pushing nearly all of the weight of the lens well away from tyhe camera body, making for an unbalanced feel to camera plus lens.

Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for Sony E-mount
Sigma FE 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for Nikon F-mount

Gary J writes:

Read your article with interest. Surprisingly little discussion of above problem elsewhere.

Bought Sigma 105 Art lens for Canon mount. Only camera that felt balanced with the 105 Art lens was the Canon 1DX2. However, had no OS or IS. Had problems handholding combo steady enough.

Just got the Sigma 105 Art lens for Sony E mount. Had the very problem you described. extension must result in additional torque and possible damage to A9. Supporting combo by holding lens. IBIS is helping greatly for better shots.

DIGLLOYD: I haven’t proven that it is a problem, but I can say this: as far as I’m concerned, it’s not viable to keep these lenses mounted on the A7R III while hiking as I do, at least not without carefully supporting the lens, which gets old.

While I did a lot of field shooting with the Sigma FE 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art, I was constantly supporting the lens as I hiked. That’s unacceptable for general use, and sometimes I need my hands, which means I then have to stop and stow it. That much mass and length is also unwieldy and I am certain that I would bang the lens into something before long. While the optical quality is outstanding, I just cannot see dealing with ergonomic factors. While Zeiss Otus lenses are large and heavy, they at least are matched to a larger camera body, and the weight is not pushed away from the camera so much.

The Sigma FE 135m f/1.4 DG HSM Art is even heavier, and even on a tripod it feels strained—I would never mount the camera to the tripod while sporting a 70-200/2.8 zoom, and the Sigma 135/1.4 feels like the same issue.

Soaring Eagle Cloud

Get Zeiss Loxia at B&H Photo and see my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

Rare for me at least—I see this type of lenticular cloud about once for every 30 days I’ve been in the Sierra. This particular cloud changed by the second into fascinating shapes, then disappeared.

I’m off shooting in Yosemite and the White Mountains.

The Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4 Sonnar is ideal for this type of shot: superb contrast control and sharpness.

Soaring Eagle
f8 @ 1/5000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-09-12 08:46:01
Sony A7R III + Zeiss Loxia 85mm f/2.4 Sonnar

[low-res image for bot]

Brian P writes:

That is such a cool shot.

DIGLLOYD: I was thrilled to see this shape, which lasted perhaps 10 seconds; the cloud was writhing.

Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options.
Lloyd recommends 64GB for iMac or Mac Pro for photography/videography.

My Work Machine Still the 2017 iMac 5K

See my Macs wish list.

And it’s right here on my desk in my van at 11,600' as I write this on it.

I’ve been using the Apple 2017 iMac 5K since last fall and it has worked really well for me, my only wish being that I run out of CPU cores often enough that 6 or 8 would serve me better. Besides that, fantastic.

My recommendation is the 2017 iMac 5K 8GB / 2TB with 32GB or 64GB of OWC memory (the 2TB is important to me, 1TB is too small for my particular needs). A good alternative for those for which 32GB is sufficient (most users) is the 32GB /1TB model, now $200 off.

Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Compared: Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 to Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2: View from Dana Lakes to Mt Conness

Get Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis at B&H Photo and see my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

This two-way comparison pits the manual focus Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 against the autofocus Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. The two lenses have quite different behavior and one is certainly my favorite for landscape and anything static.

Evaluated here are sharpness across the field (particularly at f/2.8 through f/5.6), field curvature, and (oddly enough!) field of view.

Compared: Zeiss Loxia 25/2.4 vs Zeiss Batis 25/2: View from Dana Lakes to Mt Conness

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

View from Dana Lakes to Mt Conness
f8 @ 1/80 sec, ISO 100; 2018-09-09 13:19:53
[location Dana Lakes, altitude 11100 ft / 3383 m, lateral chromatic aberration corrected, "crystal-clear day", polarizer=Zeiss]
Sony A7R III + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

[low-res image for bot]
  
Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 and Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 IS vs Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S: What Does the MTF Chart Tell Us?

See my Nikon Z wish list and Canon EOS R wishlist.
PLEASE use my links to pre-order Canon EOS R stuff—bookmark this page. Pre-ordering starts on September 12.

Assuming both MTF charts were comparably computed (neither is measured AFAIK), it’s looks to me that at 24mm, the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4S will deliver significantly higher image quality past the 10mm-from-center offset (about the central half of the frame). Beyond that central 1/2 of the frame, the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS drops off steadily and with notably greater astigmatism. Moreover what is most important for immediate visual impact is high contrast at 10 lp/mm, and there the Nikon starts and remains higher as good as the very best wide angle available today at the same f/4 aperture.

The main thing is this: the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L drops off sharply in performance from just before frame edge (around 17mm offset) into the corners. Thus it would not be my first choice for a landscape lens. Still, it might improve quite a bit by f/8 and thus is going to make a lot of Canon shooters very happy—smaller and lighter and mor or less the same performance as the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II. The Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L offers considerably better performance at nearly triple the price.

Conclusion (24mm): a mid-range zoom might or might not be a justification for choosing a new mirrorless system, but if it is to be the lens shot most of time near the wide end, then on an optical basis Nikon easily looks to be the winner.

It’s hard to compare the Canon RF 24-105mm f/4 IS to the Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S at the telephoto end because of the differing zoom range—not MTF chart for 70mm on the Canon lens. My bet would be that the Nikon offering outperforms the Canon offering in the 24-70mm range.

Which is “better”?

“Better” is a value judgment. While the Nikon looks better optically, the Canon RF 24-70/L offers the additional 70-105mm range. Since the Nikon Z7 offers in-body image stabilization, I call it a draw on that feature, though possibly the Canon lens stabilization is better, particularly at the wide end).

Canon-supplied computed MTF for Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS at 10, 30 lp/mm
Nikon-supplied computed MTF for Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S
  
Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S and Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Expectations for Performance of the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L: Canon’s “Halo Lens” in a Golden Age of Optics

See my Nikon Z wish list and Canon EOS R wishlist.
PLEASE use my links to pre-order—bookmark this page. Pre-ordering starts on September 12.

I’ll be reviewing the about $2299 Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L in detail, hopefully in October, as the system ships.

Never before has there been so much promise for superb optical designs. Both Nikon and Canon are pulling out all the stops to deliver a number of ultra high performance lenses made possible by the design flexibility of their respective mirrorless lens mounts.

Canon and Nikon know well that Sony is the company to beat, Sony having gobbled up market share far and wide from many segments of the photographic community. What to do in such a competitive situation? Build cameras that are better ergonomically and build truly outstanding lenses. That latter point is the only way out IMO—camera bodies come and go, but the very best lenses can be a compelling reason to switch, and a longer term investment.

Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L

Just as the Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct S is fittingly the halo lens* for Nikon, Canon has chosen a clever “bread and butter lens” approach by serving up an ultra high performance f/2 zoom lens in the critical 28 to 70mm range. It is a lens that sells the camera all by itself, for certain types of photography (wedding and anything like it).

While the about $2999 Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L is costly indeed, the bright f/2 aperture means that most shooters can dispense with prime lenses in that range—which is a big win in multiple ways including simplicity, avoiding the need to change lenses, lighter total travel load, the convenience of a zoom (fewer missed shots!), etc.

Not only is the lens bright, being f/2, but the new Canon mirrorless design ought to deliver total illumination over the frame that is effectively 1/3 to 1/2 stop brighter in the outer zones than the f/2 aperture suggests (versus an equivalent DSLR design at f/2).

The MTF chart for the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L shows outstanding contrast for coarse and fine structures wide-open. It’s so good wide open at f/2 that it is fair to say that it is in Zeiss Otus territory. That’s incredible, and at f/2.8 and f/4 it ought to get even better. At any aperture, it ought to be be an entirely new experience for Canon shooters.

Meanwhile, Nikon has apparently decided against f/2 in a midrange zoom, because the Nikon Z lens line roadmap shows no such offering even into year 2021. Nikon’s Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S offers a wider zoom range (a big plus) and surely a much smaller and lighter form factor, but the “hit” is being f/2.8, a full stop less bright as well as having reduced subject isolation chops. Methinks that Canon wins big with the 28-70/2 strategy in certain segments, at least for now.

* A halo product is one which draws attention to the entire product line offering by virtue of something exceptional, e.g. the Apple iPhone X.

Canon-supplied computed MTF for Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L at 10, 30 lp/mm
Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L

Expectations for Performance of the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L: One of Many New Lenses in a Golden Age of Optics

See my Nikon Z wish list and Canon EOS R wishlist.
PLEASE use my links to pre-order—bookmark this page. Pre-ordering starts on September 12.

I’ll be reviewing the about $2299 Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L in detail, hopefully in October, as the system ships.

Never before has there been so much promise for superb optical designs. Both Nikon and Canon are pulling out all the stops to deliver a number of ultra high performance lenses made possible by the design flexibility of their respective mirrorless lens mounts.

Canon RF 50m f/1.2L

Canon and Nikon know well that Sony is the company to beat, Sony having gobbled up market share far and wide from many segments of the photographic community. What to do in such a competitive situation? Build cameras that are better ergonomically and build truly outstanding lenses. That latter point is the only way out IMO—camera bodies come and go, but the very best lenses can be a compelling reason to switch, and a longer term investment.

Even if the performance of new mirrorless designs is similar to the corresponding DSLR sibling lens (e.g., the Canon RF 24-105mm f/1.4 IS), the mirrorless lens will be smaller and lighter at least from wide angles through medium telephotos—still a substantial win.

Lenses are easier to design with the short flange focal distance as per the Canon white paper (ditto for Nikon’s statements), then we can expect extremely high performance along with modern lens design on a fresh slate.

The Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L

The MTF chart for the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L shows outstanding contrast for coarse and fine structures wide-open. It’s already in Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon territory. How it compares exactly is difficult to say, because Canon’s MTF charts are computed (not measured), the spectral balance is unspecified, and Canon provides MTF only at 30 lp/mm, not the 40 lp/mm that Zeiss uses.

Still, I expect unprecedented performance from a Canon 50mm lens rivalling the very best normal lenses (including the Otus). The ultra-high performance coupled with shooting at f/1.2 should yield a stunningly 3-dimensional rendering. Performance stopped down should be world class. At least that is my expectation.

What about the Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct S? At a half stop faster I expect the Noct to be world class also, and possibly it could be a bit better than the Canon RF 50/1.2L, but building an f/0.95 lens presents challenges considerably more difficult than f/1.2. I also expect the Noct to 2X to 3X the price for that extra half stop. Still, Nikon clearly has bragging rights and I would not be surprised to see an f/0.8 lens at some point.

Below, the other Canon 50mm designs have always been marginal, but by comparison to the new Canon RF 50m f/1.2L they can be seen in context as not very good at all. The previous Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L is hugely inferior to the new RF version, plus it had problematic focus shift.

Canon-supplied computed MTF for Canon RF 50m f/1.2L at 10, 30 lp/mm
Canon RF 50m f/1.2L
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Terrific B&H Photo Trade-In Deals on Panasonic: Traded in Olympus OM-D E-M1 for a Panasonic Lumix DC-G9

Get Panasonic Lumix G9 at B&H Photo.

I’ve been wanting a modern Micro Four Thirds camera for at least a year now, but budget held me back. But B&H now has a Panasonic promotion which involves a $400 trade-in bonus plus the value of the trade in. Along with the $200 discount on the Panasonic DC-G9, this makes it viable for me:

Panasonic G9: $1497.99 after $200 instant savings
-$275 trade-in value for my Olympus E-M1
-$400 trade-in bonus
= $822.99 net cost for Panasonic G9.

I’d toyed with the idea of going with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II, but I did not want to spend $1700.

The Panasonic DC-9 caught my eye as a very capable video and stills camera (80-megapixel pixel shift images also) along with a high-res EVF similar to the Nikon Z7 and a very strong feature set.

So I boxed up the Olympus E-M1 and sent it in.

Lenses:

Most all of the Panasonic lenses are very nice and all of the higher-grade Olympus ones also.

Panasonic Lumix G9: $200 instant rebate + $400 trade-in bonus + $275 trade-in credit for Olympus E-M1 Mark II

MTF Services Unveils the First Lens Adapters for Nikon Z-Mount

Get Nikon Z at B&H Photo. See also:

The fact that these mounts are announced and shipping concurrently with the release of the Nikon Z system suggests to me that a deluge of all sorts of lens adapters will follow—wonderful news.

MTF Services Unveils 4 WORLD FIRST Nikon Z-Mount Adapters for IBC 2018 with More to Follow

MTF Services is proud to announce the arrival of a complete range of 4 world-first lens adapters for Nikon’s new full-frame mirrorless camera system, the Z-Series, with further adapters following shortly after for maximum versatility.

6 World First Nikon Z-Mount Adapters from MTF - Including:
- PL to Z Mount
- Panavision to Z Mount
- B4 to Z Mount
- ARRI Bayonet to Z mount

Mike Tapa, Managing Director at MTF Services said: “Since the recent announcement of the exciting new Z-Series camera system, mount and initial lens products from Nikon, we have been working tirelessly to produce a range of adapters to open up the potential for filmmakers. We believe that Nikon has delivered a really interesting proposition with this new system and have designed the products with filmmaking in mind.

As customers spanning over a decade of manufacture would expect from MTF lens adapters, every aspect from design, to production and finishing of the brand’s products; the new Z Series lens adapters carry the exact-same level of British craftsmanship and build quality, ensuring years of sturdy and reliable shooting with each and every adapter.

The new range of Z Series lens adapters from MTF will be available to view during IBC 2018, which takes place between the 13 – 18th September at the RAI in Amsterdam and will be available to order at the end of September 2018. MTF will be found in hall 12, on Stand F72.

Shipping will coincide with availability of initial products from Nikon’s Z Series full-frame mirrorless system.

Mike continued: “Nikon has launched a ‘real’ competition series to Sony’s full-frame mirrorless system. We believe that coupled with the superior design and manufacture of our new range of lens adapters to broaden the shooting options for those with collections of rival glass, the new Z Series can quickly become a system of choice for many videographers and filmmaking applications.”

DIGLLOYD: the opening salvo and interesting position on the Nikon Z series.

LensBaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

See my Sony wish list.

The about $200 LensBaby Sol 45mm f/3.5 offers an unusual twist (literally!) on lenses: it has minimal optical correction along with any-way tilt and two bokeh blades.

  • Sony E-Mount Lens (and other cameras)
  • Metal Body with Tilt from 0-8.5°
  • Fixed f/3.5 Aperture
  • Manual Focus
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 14"
  • Filter Diameter: 46mm
  • 2-Blade, Adjustable Diaphragm
LensBaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

Create unique-looking photos with the selective-focus SOL 45mm f/3.5 Lens from Lensbaby for Sony E-mount cameras. With 8.5° of tilt, this lens lets you easily isolate a subject within the frame and surround it in blur and smooth bokeh. The lens also features a center-locking feature that will lock the lens into place for dead-center focus. Furthering its creative potential are two adjustable bokeh blades that can add slight lines or textures to bokeh. This manual-focus lens also has an all-metal construction and accepts 46mm filters.

I shot the LensBaby Sol 45mm f/3.5 up in the mountains recently. It takes some getting used to for focusing—fairly challenging, particularly with tilt in play.

Don’t look for high sharpness with the LensBaby Sol, even if you do nail the focus—its goal is the overall bokeh effect and total visual effects that minimal lens correction together with arbitrary tilt can offer.

I would liken the LensBaby Sol 45mm f/3.5 in a way to a fisheye lens: both are great tools, but with limited usage and risk of a similar look each time, because both impose their own unusual rendering on the image so strongly that it becomes understood at a glance. It is both a strength and a limiting factor. Neither good nor bad, it’s a tool and if the tool fits, it’s great to have around.

f3.5 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-08-18 13:40:39
Sony A7R III + Lensbaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

[low-res image for bot]
LensBaby Sol 45mm f/3.5
f3.5 @ 1/320 sec, ISO 100; 2018-08-18 13:40:03
Sony A7R III + Lensbaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

[low-res image for bot]
f3.5 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-08-18 12:35:59
Sony A7R III + Lensbaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

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f3.5 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-08-18 12:37:48
Sony A7R III + Lensbaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

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f3.5 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-08-18 12:48:43
Sony A7R III + Lensbaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

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f3.5 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 100; 2018-08-18 13:41:10
Sony A7R III + Lensbaby Sol 45mm f/3.5

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Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Implications of Flange Focal Distance for Adapting Sony Mirrorless Lenses for the Canon Mirrorless RF-Mount and Nikon Mirrorless Z-Mount

See my Nikon Z wish list and Canon EOS R wishlist. (if not yet live, use this link to Canon EOS R system). PLEASE pre-order on September 12 using my links—thanks!

The flange focal distance (FFD aka backfocal distance) is the key factor in whether a lens design can be adapted to another camera mount. I mean “adapted” in a general sense, either inserting an actual lens adapter, or taking the same optical design and lengthening or shortening the lens barrel accordingly.

The shorter the flange focal distance on the target camera, the better, in terms of adapting lenses. Hence the Nikon Z-mount is by far the best possible mirrorless camera mount yet.

Since I shoot Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses exclusively on my Sony A7R III (when not testing), the most interesting question to me is this: which mount makes adapting Sony mirrorless lens designs easier? Of course there are many other 3rd-party lenses out there (Voigtlander, Venus Optics, Rokinon, Samyang, etc), so the question applies equally.

Flange focal distance for various camera mounts

   Nikon Z: 16mm <== most amenable to adapting lenses; greatest working room
   Canon R: 20mm <== Sony mirrorless designs would shortening by 2mm at the rear
Fujifilm X: 17.7mm
    Sony E: 18mm
   Leica L: 19mm
     M 4/3: 19.25mm
Hasselblad XCD: 20mm
   Leica M: 27.8mm
  Canon EF: 44.0mms
   Nikon F: 46.5mm

How to think about the flange focal distance vs adapting a lens

Consider a Sony mirrorless lens with backfocal of 18.00mm. Its infinity focus lands 18.00mm from the flange, by definition.

Assume that lens can be glommed as-is onto the Nikon Z-mount. The backfocal distance of that mount is 16.0mm. But the lens focuses to infinity at 18mm—2mm behind the sensor. To rectify that, 2mm of distance must be added, e.g., by lengthening the lens barrel by 2mm.

Accounting for the difference

For the Nikon Z-mount system, the simplest fix is to insert a lens adapter. It would have to be 2.0mm thick which is quite thin and probably suitable only for small and light lenses, e.g., Zeiss Loxia. The 2.0mm thickness might not be feasible, though 2.5mm-thick lens adapters for Nikon F to Canon EF work very well.

For a lens manufacturer to deploy its optical designs on Nikon Z-mount (and assuming patents do not preclude that), the lens barrel would need to be lengthened appropriately, e.g., by 2.0mm for optical designs for Sony mirrorless. This is relatively easy to do. In fact Zeiss already does this with the Zeiss Touit line, which is available for both Fujifilm X and Sony E-mount—those mounts differ by 0.3mm.

For Canon RF-mount, a lens designed for the 18mm flange focal distance of Sony mirrorless would need to shorten the lens barrel by 2mm—often much harder in some cases since it can expose the rear lens element or other parts.

Compared to the Canon RF-mount, the Nikon Z-mount is far more friendly to adapting lenses designed for Sony mirrorless.

There may be lens designs in which shortening the barrel by 2mm at the rear is easy or with few mechanical issues (e.g., exposing the rear element). It might also be possible to recess the lens by 2mm into the throat of the Canon EOS R. But it’s just not as clean as adding 2mm of length. Pretty much a messy affair by comparison.

On the flip side, in theory if someone could build a 4mm-thick electronic lens adapter, then a Nikon Z7 lens could mount on the Canon EOS R. That might actually be possible since the lens adapters that I used for years to mount Nikon F lenses on Canon EF DSLRs was only 2.5mm thick.

Since I have all of the Zeiss Loxia lenses, I am hoping to see a simple mechanical lens adapter released that would allow mounting Zeiss Loxia on the Nikon Z7. It might lose EXIF info, but I can live with that. The only issue I see is that the adapter would need to be a somewhat awkward 46.1mm flange for the lens which expands to 55mm to mount on the Nikon Z7.

I don’t expect Zeiss to offer Zeiss Loxia or Zeiss Batis lens designs in native mount Canon RF or Nikon Z any time soon, and I don’t want to re-buy another set of lenses—large expense.

Meanwhile, I have no desire to shoot a 30 megapixel camera (Canon EOS R) when I can shoot 45 megapixels (Nikon Z7). So the Canon flange focal distance and the limited resolution that Canon offers make the Canon mirrorless system unappealing to me.

Canon EOS R Mirrorless System Announced

See my Canon EOS R wishlist. (if not yet live, use this link to Canon EOS R system).

PLEASE pre-order on September 12 using my links—thanks!

I’ll be reviewing the Canon mirrorless system in detail, just as with Nikon Z system. But what a jam-packed challenge—both will apparently arrive in October.

I’ll have to grit my teeth on resolution—30 megapixels is awfully disappointing compare to the 45 megapixels of the Nikon mirrorless system—it takes the same effort to compose and shoot—but I don’t think the Canon EOS R is aimed at landscape photography. Its about $2299 price point is clearly a conscious choice, with the pro model presumably to come in 2019.

When I finish analyzing the feature set of the Canon EOS R mirrorless system, I’ll have more to say, but a few quick notes: apparently the Canon EOS R has Eye AF (huge plus) and it lacks in-body image stabilization (huge minus). EVF magnification of 0.76 is not as nice as the Nikon Z7 0.83.

A huge drawback for my usage is using the touchscreen to select focus with a thumb rather than a joystick—good luck with that with gloves on, and it means that my nose will be selecting AF a lot. But maybe it’s still possible to select AF another way and turn off the focus-by-nose. IMO, requiring touchscreen for fast/fluid operation is a major design flaw. But I cannot assess that until I have the camera in hand—is there some non-touchscreen way to operate the camera.

The single SDXC slot is fine and very convenient in some ways, but I’d much rather use XQD—my SD cards are too small and some are damaged—just not robust over time.

Although the Canon EOS R is targeted at video, its video features appear to fall well short of the Nikon Z7—1.7X crop—super lame and very limiting on the wide end.

On the lens front, the Canon RF 28-70mm f/2 USM is going to be loved by some pros (wedding photographers and similar uses), for that extra stop plus the bokeh/blur possibilities, and the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L will slot in as a beautiful environmental portrait style lens. The Canon RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM is a solid all-arounder workhorse, while the Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM is an oddball but quite interesting offering.

Like Nikon, a lens adapter solves the Canon EF and Canon EF-S compatibility transition, either the Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R or the Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R.

Flange focal distance

It seems to me that Canon has unwisely chosen a relatively long flange focal distance of 20mm (versus 16mm for Nikon mirrorless) along with a mount that is 7mm narrower in diameter (55mm vs 62mm for Nikon Z). Together, this means that Canon lenses will be more constrained in optical design freedom. By “unwise”, I mean that when introducing an incompatible all-new lens mount, why make it sub-optimal?

Canon: ??mm outer diameter mount, 54mm inner diameter, 20mm flange distance
Nikon: 62mm (?) outer diameter mount, 55mm inner diameter, 16mm flange distance

Does the mount + flange distance matter much? Perhaps not. Canon’s own white paper would argue “yes” on both counts, but maybe the differences are small enough to be of no practical concern. I’ve contacted an optical expert for a view on whether this difference is signifcant.

From Canon’s EOS R System White Paper:

The reduction from a 44mm flange back distance in the EF mount system to the 20 mm of the new RF mount system opens important additional degrees of freedom in lens designs. The pivotal innovation offered by this short distance, combined with the large 54 mm diameter RF mount — is the freedom to deploy large diameter optical elements at the very rear of the lens and closer to the large image sensor. This adds new optimization capabilities to the lens-camera imaging interface.

The new RF mount makes possible greater lens design flexibilities: 1. Large diameter rear lens elements that are much closer to the full frame image sensor — enhancing overall optical performance (in particular, tighter control over optical aberrations at image extremities) 2. Lenses having the same specifications for focal length and maximum aperture as current EF mount lenses—but having significantly higher image quality — within the same size and weight 3. High optical performance, large aperture (F1.2) prime lenses for full frame cameras 4. Zoom lenses of higher brightness with constant aperture over their focal ranges — while still modest in size and weight.

...

If, however, the back focus distance could be shortened, this then opens up space to move the final lens element closer to the image sensor — and if this element is made large then an equivalent control for aberrations of the ray bundle projected on to the corner of the image sensor can be made — as shown in the lower image in Figure 10

So one has to ask: if 20mm is good, is 16mm even better? It seems so, since Canon has the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L but Nikon has gone a full half-stop further with the Nikon NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 Noct S and f/0.95 is not the limit to aperture brightness, according to Nikon. But the f/1.2 vs f/0.95 difference might be just a marketing/cost decision and nothing else.

Sensor Technology: Might Panasonic/Fujifilm Deliver an Awesome New Organic High Dynamic Range 8K Sensor That Competes with Sony?

See my Sony wish list and Nikon mirrorless wish list and Micro Four Thirds wish list.

This post is a followup from What’s Next for Mirrorless? Canon For Sure, but What About...; I’ve included two reader comments along with some information that sounds very promising.

There is a new Panasonic/Fujifilm organic sensor which among other things is claimed to have stunning dynamic range, global shutter, electronic ND filter, in-pixel capacitive noise reduction, in-pixel gain switching, and voltage-controlled sensitivity modulation. Rumor is that a Panasonic 8K 36-megapixel chip will be out next year in a real camera. This Panasonic/Fujifilm chip (if real and it seems to be) is the result of the collaboration between Panasonic and Sony announced back in 2013.

The design goals of the Panasonic/Fujifilm chip differ from traditional Sony sensors (primarily in targeting dynamic range), and in so doing appear to offer a distinct and highly attractive alternative to Sony sensors. However, the size of the sensor remains unclear, and the emphasis by Panasonic on various industrial uses makes me wonder if the chip will be capable of generic use in still-photo cameras.

Greg H writes:

Regarding the lengthy piece by Roy P [diglloyd: see further below] about Sony’s significant head start in sensor investment and development, I don’t think there is any doubt this is true. Sony’s resources, real and potential, dwarf Nikon’s and Canon’s. Just as Intel once dwarfed everyone else, or IBM, or AT&T, or Microsoft. Apple and Samsung have been bitter competitors even while sourcing technology and product from and to each other. Apple was left for dead, and now look.

The real question is whether any of these wannabe-competitors have the will and creativity to stake out a competitive vision even while relying on wary coopetition. Nikon has already demonstrated they can design a very good sensor that some believe still makes better IQ than Sony, even though Sony manufactures it.

When the Nikon Z was introduced, I was with several Sony Artisans who were quite confident about their lead over Nikon. As they probably have cause to be. But right out of the gate Nikon delivered a camera body that is already in my view slightly better than the Sony equivalent. And while I wasn’t blown away by Nikon’s offering (it could have been better), I have ordered a Z7, largely because of that big lens mount, the future roadmap and the possibility that Nikon may have a better product vision than Sony. I was just about to start moving to Sony glass, and then the Z system gave me an alternative way to lighten my pack. Hardly perfect, but adequate. Disappointing in the lack of lenses, but so was Sony at first. And I don’t see the FTZ as a real solution. I still would like to see some additions to the lens road map, and I still have yet to see Nikon demonstrate the willingness to engage and learn from its customers the way I see Sony. Still, I am willing to invest my dollars in a competitive possibility.

Most of my cameras have Sony sensors in them; two Phase One backs, a Sony bridge, and a couple of Nikons. They are all very different cameras. And I think we will continue to see that, for some time to come. Sony enjoys a huge financial and technological advantage over the rest of the industry, a position itself that is often as much its own “prison,” as it is anything else. Very lucrative, very powerful, but still not all-powerful. Just ask Intel or any of the others who once thought they could dictate the future. Keep up the great work Lloyd.

DIGLLOYD: see Roy P’s comments below, which were originally sent in response to hat’s Next for Mirrorless? Canon For Sure, but What About....

Roy P writes:

There's one important point that didn't quite get the recognition it needed, IMHO. And that is, sensor technology is the primary driver for both digital photography and videography. Until I retired at the end of 2009 from a major chip design automation software company, I was in the business of marketing lithography and DFM (design for manufacturing) software to chip companies, including the sensor guys (Sony, Samsung, Sharp). Even at that time, Sony was massively investing into image sensor technologies, far more than the others. In fact, Sony really went for broke, likely driven by Kazuo Hirai.

Today, Sony is 3+ years ahead of everyone else in the field with its backlit stacked CMOS sensors, and maybe even 5+ years when you consider some of the cutting edge work Sony is doing, like the Trichromatic and curved sensors. The field includes Canon, Panasonic and Samsung, the only other camera companies that makes their own image sensors, and a handful of independent sensor makers (CMOSIS, Jazz, a bunch of Chinese companies at the very low end). Sigma was a pioneer with the Foveon, but could not make it mainstream.

Canon makes a range of sensors from crop size to full frame, but only for their own use - they are not in the sensor business. If they were, they would not be competitive. A lot of their dynamic range and noise is fudged in firmware.

Samsung fell behind and got out of the photography business, but makes sensors for its phones and tablets (and likely sells sensors to other phone makers). APS-C was as big a size as Samsung ever got to, but AFAIK, they're now down to only phone / tablet-sized sensors.

Panasonic makes its own sensors, but is limited to the MFT size max. I don’t think they have any APS-C sensors, and they definitely don't have any full-frame. I don’t know what other companies orbit around Panasonic, other than Leica, which gets complete cameras designed by Panasonic (e.g., the D-LUX, V-LUX, etc.), not just the sensors.

Olympus got into a serious scandal a few years ago that resulted in many senior execs being fired, big time fines, legal expenses and other financial losses. They have never recovered from that, in spite of making some superb lenses for the MFT, and being a pioneer in mirrorless way back in 2010, along with Sony. They have stabilized themselves by building a close partnership with Sony that gets them a solid source for sensors, and also revenues from cross-licensing (e.g., the 5-axis image stabilization Sony uses came from Olympus).

Pretty much all other serious camera makers are Sony vassals - they get their sensors from Sony, and they are pretty deeply married to the Sony sensor technology roadmap, which pretty much puts them at the cutting edge of innovation (e.g., the new 150 MP and the 100 MP Trichromatic and Achromatic medium format sensors).

So there's a pretty impressive list of camera makers that have made deep, long-term commitments to being a part of the Sony eco-system. An image sensor is not like a commodity chip like a DRAM that you can easily switch vendors with; a camera maker has to make much deeper commitments in terms of capture firmware, noise processing, autofocusing, buffering, sensor read out to LCD display, and even lens design, which are all increasingly integrated with the sensor these days.

The Sony universe now includes everything from the ultra-high-end (Phase One, Hasselblad, Fujifilm, Pentax, all medium format), to 35mm full-frame (Nikon, Pentax, Sony), APS-C (Nikon, Sony, and probably, Fuji), 1" (Sony), 1/2.3" (Sony, possibly others), and phones (Apple). Sony doesn't have any MFT camera offerings, but it wouldn't surprise me if Sony were the supplier to Olympus.

I don't know who Ricoh got sensors from for its cameras.

Sorry for the long preamble, but with that long preamble, here's the way I look at the various camera makers:

- Sony: in the driver's seat, sets the pace. New cameras have been coming out at an amazing pace, and that is likely to continue. It's incredible that there are SEVEN versions of the RX100 all still shipping today: the original RX100, the Mark II, III, IV, V, VA and VI.

- Phase One, Hasselblad, FujiFilm, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, and potentially now Zeiss, are all value-added resellers of Sony sensors. Their value added is their camera design, proprietary CPUs used inside, other hardware included in the camera (DRAM buffers, flash, other things like GPS, vibration sensors, flash transmitters, etc.), firmware, LCD, camera functions, features and controls, and of course, lenses, flashes and other accessories to build out a system, performance/price, range of offerings, and last but not least, service. There is an awful lot of scope to add proprietary value. Nikon is showing it now with its Z cameras, even if the very first efforts might be lacking a bit.

All these companies can march at their own pace, gated only by two items: Sony's sensor wavefront and Moore's Law. The rest of it is up to their own investments into R&D, marketing, distribution and service. Not to mention vision, management competence, and operational execution. (Pentax, did you hear that?)

- Canon: Ditto as above, but gated by its own sensor technology. At some point, Canon will have to bite the bullet, decide to invest hundreds of millions / billions of dollars into image sensor technology to at least somewhat catch up with Sony. My guess is, this is happening quietly in the background. There is too much at stake. It is unlikely Canon leapfrogs Sony in two years - Sony has a decade of learning curve under its belt. But if Canon can be somewhat competitive, that should at least buy them time.

- Panasonic: Probably continue to thrive in the MFT space, with a video-centric vision. They have a solid installed base, and they can continue to do well in it, while supplying Lumix designs to Leica. But I don't expect anything beyond that (APS-C, FF, etc.)

- Ricoh: No idea. Perhaps join the Sony ecosystem? It's probably too little, too late already.

- Sigma: Doomed to be a niche player, but even so, there are some creative things they could do, instead of endlessly limping along as they have been doing for nearly a decade now. For instance, I have no idea why Sigma can't put together a simple Foveon Landscape camera bundle which does only one thing: take fantastic landscape photos on a tripod. Make a camera with a full-frame Foveon processor, a superb fixed 16-35mm f/4 lens, high res EVF and touch-sensitive LCD with superb live view, sensor and lens stabilization, and ISO frozen to a 50-400 range. It does only one thing, take landscape photos, but it does it brilliantly.

- Notably missing "L" Word, Leica. Doomed to source lower resolution sensors from second-tier sources like CMOSIS. Their low volume assures high costs for sensor technology that is years behind the leader, continuing the trend of introducing cameras that are obsolete on day one in the eyes of anyone not an ardent Leicaphile. Panasonic could become a more formidable competitor in photography by acquiring Leica, but they would need to make serious investments into proprietary sensor technology, which I suspect is what has kept them from picking up Leica.

....

When I got into mirrorless back in early 2011, I bought an NEX-5 and sold my M9. Even the APS-C NEX-5 was already such a nicer camera to use than the M9, in spite of not being able to use the M lenses to their full capability. I had a choice between the Sony and the Olympus EM-1. The guy at the local camera store was heavily pushing the Olympus, because it was a more complete system at that time, but for me it was a no brainer: go with Sony! Just based on the sensor technology and roadmap. It turned out to be the right decision.

DIGLLOYD: I was sort of aware of the sensor technology lead, but nothing like this detail. Sony does appear unbeatable at this point as technology does not forgive also-rans even a few years behind. Hopefully the Panasonic/Fujifilm sensor will shake the box in the competitive landscape.

Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Video Presentation: Configuring the 2018 MacBook Pro as as Desktop Replacement

Get Apple iMac 5K and Apple MacBook Pro at B&H Photo.

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The 2018 Apple MacBook Pro has been out about 6 weeks and already is up to $300 off—see my discussion of what to get for a student.

The Apple 2018 MacBook Pro is Apple’s most powerful laptop ever, rivalling desktop systems when properly configured. See my in-depth review of the 2018 MacBook Pro.

This video is aimed primarily at photographers and videographers who need robust computing capability. For many it is worth considering the 2018 MacBook Pro as a full replacement for a desktop-class machine, at least if travel is involved where a laptop is sometimes needed—why not have top-end laptop that is also a desktop-grade machine? For the first time ever, I deem a laptop a viable desktop replacement.

The video can be viewed here, directly, but I recommend viewing the video over at MacPerformanceGuide.com because the gear recommendations are all there right after the video.

Configuring a 2018 MacBook Pro
Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance
Durable and fast, up to 1800MB/s

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