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Sony’s Shading Compensation (Vignetting Correction) Whacks Raw Files Hard—Turn it Off When Shooting RAW

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

Ouch. I thought I had nailed down all nasty behaviors with Sony mirrorless years ago. Actually, I did note this issue way back in 2013 (and that it doesn’t even work properly at some apertures), but while I have long disabled Shading Comp, I had forgotten the details as to why.

I was re-alerted to this behavior by Samuel Chia: enabling Shading Comp whacks the raw file data—totally different raw file. But the other lens corrections do not alter the raw data. Who though that clusterf*ck up?

Fortunately, I have made it a habit for years to always turn it off. See my several pages of recommended settings and button programming for Sony mirrorless.

Samuel Chia writes:

Shading Comp actually applies to raw files. It was a big shock when I discovered it. ZZZ was very angry, it affected many of his tests and virtually every image he shot on this Sony to date. And it doesn't work well, often causing non-monotonic results, sometimes weird colour shifting and incomplete correction of falloff.

Usually this doesn't matter unless one does extreme 'stretching' as astro-imagers tend to call it. Sony and Nikon and Canon mess around with raw data too much for their mirrorless line up. They should all give us a button that lets us have unmolested raw data, regardless of how 'dirty' that data is. ZZZ joked about making T-shirts which say 'Don't molest my raw data!'

Below, RawDigger histograms overlaid show the very large change that Shading Comp makes to the raw file, whether in Compressed or Uncompressed mode. Perhaps pixel shift does not adjust at all (?), but I neglected to check that.

Histogram overlay showing Shading Compensation On and Off on Sony A7R IV, with raw files
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Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 13mm: House Under Construction

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM has a complex behavior, as do all other zooms of this kind.

This aperture series at 13mm looks at across-the-frame and near-to-far sharpness, including depth of field in central areas vs periphery and the interaction with pronounced peripheral forward focus shift, which actually looks like focus shift across the entire frame, but more on that in the analysis.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series @ 13mm: House Under Construction

Includes images from f/2.8 through f/11 at up to full camera resolution, plus many crops and detailed analysis.

f2.8 @ 1/80 sec EFC shutter pixel shift, ISO 100; 2020-10-17 08:21:20
Sony A7R IV + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 13mm
RAW: LACA corrected, -46 Highlights, +40 Whites, +15 Clarity, vignetting corrected (100)

[low-res image for bot]
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Analyzing Swing and Tilt of Sony A7R IV with Two Samples of Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM

re: Sony A7R IV in for Repair of Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Problem
re: Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Afflicts All Brands

My gratitude to B&H Photo for getting me a brand-new Sony A7R IV while mine is in for repair . The A7R IV is currently the best mirrorless deal on the market at $2998, IMO. Please give B&H Photo your business using any link or add on this site, or things like wishlists.

Sony A7R IV

I’ve had a chance to shoot two samples of the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM on the brand-new loaner Sony A7R IV from B&H. The loaner shows similar results to my camera sent in for repair for two samples of the 12-24/2.8 GM and also the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art.

If there is interest, I might publish the full f/2.8 - f/8 aperture series for both samples.

While the error in alignment is very small (at or below what is likely buildable), it is troublesome in the 12-18mm range in particular.

The root cause is surely some sensor swing, and some lens variance.

Terminology

Sample1 = Sony FE 12-24/2.8 GM used for initial work
Sample2 = Sony FE 12-24/2.8 GM received later
My A7R IV = the Sony A7R IV I purchased early late last year, whose sensor and shutter modules were replaced in late Feb 2020
Loaner A7R IV= Sony A7R IV, brand-new

Contradictory sharpness between lenses

When there is swing and/or tilt in a camera system, confounding results can be found.

My series show that Sample1 is sharper than Sample 2 both near and far*, because the system (camera + lens) is tilted slightly to favor both foreground and distance, similar to a view camera or tilt/shift lens with a mild tilt adjustment to improve foreground to background sharpness.

Similarly, the amount of swing (left/right) favors Sample1 overall.

* If the system were perfect, this would be impossible; a small unavoidable focus difference when comparing lenses should cause one lens to win-out over the other either near or far. But this is NOT seen. What it means is that the system is swung and tilted, which alters the zone of focus.

Focus Distance vs microns at sensor (imaging plane)

At 12mm, the requirements for lens mount / sensor parallelism are absurdly tight, on the order of 10 microns (1/100 mm). Cameras just cannot be built that “tightly”.

Continues below...

Thanks to Samuel Chia for anazlying annotating my image for me.
f2.8 @ 1/1600 sec, ISO 100; 2020-10-17 15:13:03
Sony A7R IV + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 13mm RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]

Samuel Chia’s analysis

Thanks to Joseph Holmes (www.josephholmes.com) and Samuel Chia (cacaoeditions.com) for background information on their knowledge about swing and tilt in cameras and lenses through years of research.

Samuel Chia has been cross-checking my analysis, and in a more rigorously numerical way too. Joseph Holmes has also been very helpful. I made my conclusions, then emailed him the images

Sample1: swung left to distance, tilted at top to distance
Sample2: swung left to distance, tilted at top to foreground
This matches my morning shoot where I saw the same lens (first sample) sharper at both top and bottom in spite of being focused further back—the tilt accounts for that.

What Samuel is saying is that a mere 6 microns of swing accounts for a focus of 15 feet on the left side versus 12.5 feet on the right side—easily visible. Although that looks bad to me at full-res, it is about as good as it gets.

Excellent setup!

Yes, I'm seeing the same too. I looked very carefully for the center plane of focus, to help quantify the amount of swing and tilt of each, relative to the camera's position, taking the x point as 10.5 feet.

1st sample, swing: 15' on left, 11.5' on right. This is 10 microns closer on the right image edge. Looking again, I may have drawn the far limit on the right edge too near. It should be about 15' on left, 12.5' on the right. This would be 6 microns worth instead.
1st sample tilt: 21.5' on the left, 15' on the right. This is 9 microns closer on the bottom image edge (when re-orientating the camera to landscape position).

2nd sample, swing: 27' on left, 13' on right. This is 18 microns closer on the right image edge.
2nd sample, tilt: 14' feet on left, 17' on right. This is 6 microns closer on the top image edge (when re-orientating the camera to landscape position).

I've layered your files and marked out the plane of focus, which shows field curvature too, as well as the near-far limits of the DoF at f/2.8 for the vertical as well as horizontal frames. You might find them to be a useful reference (~2.5GB file size for both)

Notice that the DoF is about twice as deep on the right image edge for Sample1 vs Sample2, because of the tilt of Sample2. Strangely I don't see a corresponding phenomenon for the DoF in the vertical frames. I need to look at them again. Also, my markings are not 100% precise, don't worry too much about that since the direction of the tilt and swing are in agreement with yours, and if I go over them again I would re-draw the lines slightly differently each time. More time looking will allow a more precise determination. This is part of the reason why it takes so long to get the correct judgment for shimming work. This morning I discovered that my Sigma 35mm shimming adjustment is a little off still. And a few days ago I fixed my V65 yet again. Very irritating.

If we do not consider bayonet machining differences, the LoanerA7R IV is probably a bit worse, a little more swung (~2-6 microns worth) nearer to the right image side than the A7R IV you sent in for repair. But only just. It would be more precise to say the two cameras are virtually alike in their swing positioning, assuming you used lens sample #1 on the repaired camera. [diglloyd: correct on Sample1]

The errors are actually pretty small, all things considered! It's only this noticeable in part because the DoF at the edges are so thin at f/2.8, there's rearward bending of field curvature at the edges and the GM 12-24/2.8 is so sharp, the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus is so obvious, coupled with a high resolution sensor, tiny differences are highly magnified. [diglloyd: but 24MP or 42MP would still make it pretty obvious in net effect]

I also spent this morning looking at many 40+MP full resolution samples of Leica SL 50mm and 35mm F2 APO lenses. I found serious swing and tilt issues exceeding what you are seeing here. In $5000 lenses! I also noted many people have issues with the manual focus rings of these lenses being too tight, needing factory re-adjustment, and way too often the repair doesn't fix the problem. Occasionally it does. And that the fly-by-wire feel of these SL lenses are awful (no personal experience). How did you find the by-wire focus feeling of these lenses compared to say the V50? The SL 35, when it's in focus, can be fairly sharp right to the corners, although it has big problems with keeping PSFs round wide open, affecting a wide region off-axis. I sure wish Cosina Voigtlander would make their version of this lens, an APO-Lanthar with manual focus only. It would be better than Leica's and smaller and lighter and cheaper. I hear Leica is making 28, 24 and 21mm versions too, so it seems that wide focal length lenses can also enjoy the advantages of this superior optical design in a relatively small package. Presumably, Cosina could make them too if they wanted. I dearly wish!

DIGLLOYD: the exact details don’t matter much since all estimates are subject to eyeballing how things fall out. Bottom line is that Sample1 is a solid match for the Loaner A7R IV and Sample2 is very good also.

Samuel Chia’s estimate is ~6 microns swing and 8 microns tilt. Both of these guys feel that this is impressively good for an out-of-the-box camera. Their past efforts to get within 10 microns with shimming should be context enough.

As it turns out, Joseph Holmes characterizes this situation for Sample1 as “... 7.3 microns swing. LOL—in any case this system is CLOSE to swing free.  Squeezing this much total information from a sensor so tiny is just insane”.


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Swing and Tilt: Subject Distance vs Lens Focusing Offset

Thanks to Joseph Holmes (www.josephholmes.com) and Samuel Chia (cacaoeditions.com) for background information on their knowledge about swing and tilt in cameras and lenses through years of research.

The issue of lens mount / sensor parallelism can be separated into swing and tilt:

swing = deviation left/right of image plane versus lens mount
tilt     = deviation up/down of image plane versus lens mount
1 micron = 1/1000 of a millimeter

Camera aside, a lens can also have swing and tilt relative to its lens flange (and also have optical decentering, further muddying the waters).

Distinguishing swing and tilt of the camera from that of the lens is difficult without a lens adapter that enables rotating the camera 180° relative to the lens. Ideally one would have a reference camera known to be ±5 microns or some such, but I know of no way to be so-blessed, and it’s nowhere close to realistic given manufacturing challenges.

A tilt that causes the top of the frame to focus farther away and the bottom to focus closer is advantagous for many shooting situations (camera in horizontal orientation). But a tilt that causes the top of the frame to focus closer than the bottom is a sharpness robbing disaster in with the lens working against against the photographer.

Master photographer Joseph Holmes (www.josephholmes.com) provides his perspective:

Standard view camera operation for landscape work involves the Scheimpflug principle: nearly always involved intentionally throwing the lensboard (front standard) and the film plane (rear standard) out of parallel by a small amount (e.g. 1 to 15mm sort of thing with a 4 x 5 camera) in order to cause the plane of focus to not be perpendicular to the optical axis. This capability helps to overcome the extremely low depth of field of large format cameras. This is especially effective when the subject is flat, e.g. flat ground, and it’s at widely differing distances from the camera in different parts of the scene.

The three planes, those of the focus, the front standard and the rear standard, always converge in a line (except when there is precisely zero swing or tilt i.e. the lens mount and the film or sensor are perfectly parallel. Typically this means using back tilt or sometimes front tilt to get land in front of the view camera into focus. Small adjustments of the camera cause large effects on the orientation of the plane of focus. Instead of objects nearer or further away than the plane of focus being progressively more out of focus, objects above or below a strongly-tilted plane of focus are progressively more out of focus. So you can stand on a floor with the camera on a tripod, pointing down at say a 30 degree angle from the horizontal and focus on the floor perfectly at a big aperture with a lens with very little depth of field, such as a normal lens on a 4 x 5 camera (150mm focal length). The entire floor area shown in the picture could be in focus. But anything above or below the floor will be increasingly out of focus. To focus on a ceiling you’d adjust the camera’s tilt the opposite way. To focus on a wall that’s not perpendicular to the optical axis, you would use a swing adjustment of either the front or rear standard, where one or the other moves rather like a door being opened.

With today’s miniaturized, high-resolution cameras, incredibly tiny misalignments of the lens and the sensor can have visible effects on the image. A typical sheet of office paper is 100 microns thick (1/10th of a mm), but we can sometimes see swung or tilted focus planes in an image when the camera and lens are misaligned by as little as 10 microns. If we’re working at medium or small apertures, rather than very large ones, tolerable misalignment is apt to be up to roughly 30 microns or higher, for example. None of this matters much if getting an entire scene into focus isn’t your bag. In such cases it would be unusual to find manufacturer tolerances for swing and tilt in either a camera or a lens insufficiently fine. — Joseph Holmes

The ideal scenario is a camera with zero swing and zero tilt, a near impossibility with current manufacturing techniques (meaning in terms of quality control cost). It would require not only tight machining tolerances but extremely fine tolerances for assembling everything, lest errors add up. And then some means of ensuring the sensor was mounted for no deviation from the plane of the lens mount. All of that is surely prohibitively expensive.

The camera and lens add their errors together. If a camera has a swing of +20 microns and a lens a swing of -20 microns, they net out at zero—perfect. But +20 and +20 nets out at +40—not nice at all. Thus a particular lens and camera can work well together, or 'fight' each other.

* Indeed, of the two Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM lenses I tested, Sample1 has an advantageous tilt that yield superior foreground *and* background sharpness relative to Sample2. It is not necessarily sharper, but its tilt makes it effectively sharper for many scenes that lie in a relatively constrained near-to-far planar shape.

Expected errors for swing and tilt

For production cameras, tolerances in the ±20 micron range for cameras is a reasonable guesstimate, but it could be better or worse—little data exists. Joseph Holmes and Samuel Chia state that ±10 microns is excellent (the goal of their shimming efforts) and 5 microns would be fantastic, but that is likely to require meticulous shimming with most cameras (tedious and time-consuming).

What can we expect for left/right symmetry?

Joseph Holmes (www.josephholmes.com) writes:

The three A7R II cameras that I measured were tilted and/or swung by over 45 microns in one case, and about 30 microns in the other two cases. I would say that it’s unlikely that many more than half of the Sony Alphas are accurate to better than 20 microns, but I really don’t know. One would simply have to measure a whole lot of cameras, and each one is hard to measure.

This is the most important single finding of all my work with this and I’ve yet to publish it... so as to potentially egg Sony on to figure out how to cut their typical alignment error by ⅔ or so... assuming the small sample I was able to see, three cameras, all from very different parts of the production run, plus Samuel’s A7r II, which was also off by maybe 25 to 30 micron...

For giggles, let’s stipulate an unrealistic figure of exceptionally tight build tolerances ±10 microns of swing and and ±10 microns of tilt (1/100 millimeter). The reality is probably twice that, or more.

A camera with ±10 micron lens mount / sensor parallelism should be considered outstanding, yet at 12mm even a ±10 micron deviation shows an easily-seen asymmetry. The table below makes this plain.

For example, with a 12mm lens focused at 9.8 feet, a ±10 micron swing will push focus to either ~8 feet or ~12 feet on the opposite side. At 15 feet, a ±10 micron swing will push focus to about ~11 feet or ~23 feet on the opposite side. That’s the kind of error is just what I am seeing on the Sony A7R IV loaner camera. Still, it speaks to very tight tolerances from Sony, based on the numbers—and I cannot attribute it all to the camera versus the lens.

Stopping down masks errors to some extent, but my experience says it is not a cure, especially on distance scenes with fine detail across the frame.

It is not just left/right asymmetry but also impaired depth of field on one side versus the other. Both are at work in Big Tree at Creek Bend. On top of all that are all the various optical aberrations. But by all numbers, it is as good as we might hope for.

Table based on formula supplied by Joseph Holmes. Gray areas show focus extensions varying less than ~15 microns with each 25% increase in focus distance.

Focusing distance (feet) versus relative lens extension from INFINITY focus, microns @ 12mm, 24mm, 50mm
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Looks for Mirex Adapter for Nikon F or Canon EF to Sony E-Mount

re: Sony A7R IV in for Repair of Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Problem
re: Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Afflicts All Brands

MiREX used to make a lens adapter for Sony E-mount that took a Canon EF-mount lens. Not sure if there was a Nikon F-mount adapter.

Specifically, I need a high quality adapter that allows the lens to rotate 180°, the purpose being to determine sensor swing and tilt using a known-good lens by allowing the opposite side to be compared using the exact same area of the lens (a micrometer must be also used to establish adapter thickness variations).

Failing finding MiREX one, I might have to reluctantly try the Kipon Shift Adapter for Canon EOS EF Lens to Sony E Mount, which I am reluctant to use given my past negative experience with KIPON.

Update on Sony A7R IV Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism, Lens Skew of Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, Coming Field Shooting

re: Sony A7R IV in for Repair of Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Problem
re: Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Afflicts All Brands

My gratitude to B&H Photo for getting me a brand-new Sony A7R IV (currently the best mirrorless deal on the market at $2998, see below). Please give B&H Photo your business using any link or add on this site, or things like wishlists. Curiously, the Sony A7R IV arrived with firmware v1.00, so I updated it to v1.20.

Sony A7R IV

Background

Previous testing with my A7R IV (in for repair) showed nearly identical behavior with both samples of the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM, as well as the same behavior (focus skew further in the distance) with the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8, Sigma FE 14-24mm DG DN Art, and Sony FE 12-24mm f/4G. Which is what made me suspicious of my A7R IV.

Promising results with independent confirmation

Last night I made a preliminary determination with the new A7R IV and one sample of the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM that the new camera is notably better. However, there is still a left/right focusing distance skew and what I would call a “roll” to the sharpness (left/right and something else going on which could be tilt in addition to swing). Whether this is the camera or the lens is difficult to determine, but when I get my repaired A7R IV, some insight might be easier.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM

I came to this conclusion with several series, then sent images of the best scene to two other insanely picky photographers who spent years (literally) picking apart these issues of lens mount / sensor parallelism and lens skew and optical decentering in the quest for a perfect astrophotography camera+lens. Their empirical knowledge to be as good as it gets.

These experts confirm what I’m seeing, albeit being generally happy with what is still obviously “off” somewhat, their satisfaction being based on their disappointing past experience with 9 or so Sigma 14-24/2.8A lens samples and various other lenses.

In other words, the Sony A7R IV and Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM that I have now might be about as good as you can expect without trying a very large number of samples of both. Such is the state of tolerances for both lenses and cameras. Surely there are better cameras or lenses that exist, but it’s not like I can get a cherry picked lens or camera on short notice.

Field work

I will be leaving within two days for shooting in some glorious clean air (if it stays that way*) in the White Mountains and Eastern Sierra. Sony should be able to ship me my repaired camera over there to a friend about a week from now, so I can compare cameras with the same lens(es).

UPDATE Oct 18: hazardous air quality has moved back into the Eastern Sierra (AQI of 200-350 over a long section). The White Mountains have been oscillating between super-clean and very bad daily, so that area looks sketchy also. I don’t have sufficient A/C power to run my HEPA air filter in my van if I park for more than two days without driving, so I am holding off to see if air patterns shift.

I am keen to own a 12-24mm f/2.8 zoom that can persuade me of its equality or superiority to other zooms and prime lenses in its range—even if I have to work a little harder to deal with its foibles. This is what I plan on exploring:

  • Absolute performance across the 12-24mm range of the Sony 12-24/2.8GM—what can you realistically expect from f/2.8 through f/11.
  • Relative performance versus primes (Zeiss 18mm, 21mm, 25mm) and against other zooms like the Sigma FE 14-24/2.8 DG DN Art.
  • Best practices to reliably get the best total sharpness from the Sony 12-24/2.8GM (and Sigma 14-24/2.8 which behaves similarly)—given less then perfect symmetry and pronounced focus shift, how do you place focus within the frame, at what distance, and how to focus exactly.

The gating factor for me is an oscillating energy (EBV and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) which can leave me extremely weak and unproductive. Home has been very stressful due to constant heavy construction equipment next door with noise and fumes and dust (more than a year now!), so I am hoping that the tranquility of the mountains will help me gain strength (I could not leave for ~10 weeks due to the smoke and fire issues but now I can). But the pace of my work may come in bursts due to this challenge as I may be forced to mostly rest at times.

* Still a week away, as Sony is replacing the A7R IV sensor/shutter assembly and the main circuit board before re-evaluating it.

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Nikon Z7 II Narrows the Gap with Last Year’s Cameras

Two years ago, the Nikon Z7 arrived with a few lenses. Year’s end will finally round-out the lens line.

The Nikon Z7 II has arrived, with solid improvements for video shooters, including higher quality video capture up to 4K60p (3840 X 2160), and support for live-streaming. But with the Canon EOS R5 supporting 8K video, the video resolution support is underwhelming.

B&H Photo Nikon Z6 II and Nikon Z7 II Launch Event

Nikon Z7 II

Good stuff that fixes many of the shortcomings of the Z7:

  • Connectivity and control are improved, with USB-C, smartphone connectivity, dual card slots.
  • For still and video shooters, there are autofocus improvements.
  • A frame rate of 10 fps is possible with dual processors.
  • The camera can be externally powered by certain USB-C power banks.
  • Blackout time between shots is now “minimal”.

In terms of imaging performance, things have scarcely changed from the Nikon Z7: same-resolution sensor, still no pixel shift or multi-shot high-res mode, no star-tracking feature as with Pentax. No advanced features like automated frame averaging. Dynamic range unchanged as far as I can tell.

I’m not finding a single useful improvement for general landscape photography or similar. I’d be delighted to be corrected on that point.

Price

The good news is that with the price drop, you can order the Nikon Z7 II for the same price ($2997) as the Nikon Z7 was, and get a camera with a lot of improvements. The Z7 is now selling for about $400 less.

The better news is that the Sony A7R IV is the same price ($2998). So you can choose purely on features and preferences and lens selection, and ignore the price factor.

In terms of lens selection, many of the Nikkor Z lenses offer really beautiful performance in terms of secondary color correction, bokeh and visual impact. So I encourage readers to look at the system that way. However, neither the lenses nor the camera would be my first choice for landscape, because capture sharpness (optics + camera sensor and features) appears to be well down the priority list for Nikon.

Sweating every detail?

I can’t abide hyperbole that flips-off reality. But hey, it’s election season.

Absolute Immersive Masterpiece — This is the full frame mirrorless camera for those who sweat every little detail. There’s the ultra-high resolution of 45.7 megapixels with no optical low-pass filter. The power of dual processors. 4K Ultra HD video at 60p. The next-generation 493-point autofocus system. High-speed shooting with the buffer capacity to match. Two card slots. Tons of creative features. Flexible power options. Compatibility with a vertical battery grip. Wireless connectivity with smartphones and laptops and so much more.

Great—all good stuff in general usability terms. But for those who do “sweat every detail”:

  • With many of its lenses (most?), Nikon degrades sharpness and micro contrast by mandating sharpness-robbing distortion correction to correct significant pincushion distortion or barrel distortion.
  • The Z7 II EVF remains low-res compared to the Sony A7R IV (3.69M vs 5.76M).
  • The 45MP sensor was eclipsed by the 61MP sensor of the Sony A7R IV 15 months ago and has been around for 2+ years in many cameras. And Nikon lacks both pixel shift and multi-shot high-res mode.
  • Dual processors enable higher frame rate, shorter blackout time and better autofocus, but does image quality benefit in any way?
  • Eye AF failed badly when I tested it this August on my daughter with eyeglasses—so disappointing I did not publish anything—but it is now “better than ever”.
  • 900-second exposures without needing external control is something I’ve mentioned for years, so I have to applaud that. However, Nikon has always delivered “star eater” cameras far from ideal for astrophotography. Nor was I impressed back in August with the Z7 for astrophotography. What exactly does the Z7 II bring to the party, other than easier timing of exposures?

Glenn K writes:

Nikon's new corporate slogan: “Skating to where the puck was”.

DIGLLOYD: love the visual persuasion!

Walter B writes:

Reference the Z7II, right on.  I have the Sony A7R II and Nikon Z7.  Z7 great for roaming about the streets and focus shift shooting [focus stacking].  Miss the E-mount lenses and the adapter does not work all that well.

DIGLLOYD: sounds about right.


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Canon 5Ds R Full-Frame DSLR $2400 Off

DSLRs are not exactly the bomb these days, but the Canon 5Ds and Canon 5Ds R each offer a 50-megapixels sensor at a rock bottom price compared to similar resolution mirrorless, and for users with Canon EF mount lenses, $1299 for a pro body is attractive. I still have mine; I should probably convert it to infrared or some such.

FOR SALE (by Lloyd): razor sharp Canon EF 200mm f/1.8L.

See also: Deal of the Day, Wishlist pages, Top Deals pages, Deal Finder.

Canon 5Ds
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Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Inaccuracies Afflict All Brands

See Update on Sony A7R IV Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism.

I thought I would make darn sure that my recent posts on having a “swung” sensor in my Sony A7R IV should not be construed as implicating Sony as being unique with this issue—not at all.

Terminology: “tilt” is up/down and “swing” is left/right, and they overlap/combine in any camera. Rare is the camera with a sensor perfectly parallel to the lens mount.

Just to pick two major vendors:

It’s tricky to distinguish lens mount / sensor parallelism from lens skew. It takes a ton of effort to be sure unless you already have “known good” gear (and really know that to be true).

Compounding matters, there is no perfect lens, only a continuum of poor to excellent (mostly good to pretty good), with each lens potentially having swing/tilt as well as other optical problems on top of baseline optical performance, field curvature, focus shift too. Some of these faults can make things worse or better in some areas of the frame, depending on the camera tilt/swing. The net result is often a head-scratcher.

In my experience, wide angle lenses show the issue much more prominently, at least when focused at relatively close range (up to 40 feet out). Focused farther away, it is easier to miss.

...

Thanks to Joseph Holmes (www.josephholmes.com) and Samuel Chia (cacaoeditions.com) for background information on their knowledge about swing and tilt in cameras and lenses through years of research.

Here is a good article on just how difficult it can be for demanding requirements, such as astrophotography:

Samual Chia, Cacao Editions Custom Fine-Art Digital Printing: Your Cameras and Lenses are Crooked and How to Adjust Them

... Many lenses have their plane of focus tilted by at least 50 microns or more, some even over 200 microns. That won’t be invisible in your photos. Not even expensive lenses are free of this problem. I’ve yet to find a single copy myself that has a tilt of less than 10 microns

... Recently, I acquired a Sony a7R IV and naturally, I tested it to see if the sensor is straight. It was tilted by some 10-15 microns and swung by about 30. That makes 5 out of 5 bad Sonys, if you are still counting...

My Sony CMOS sensor at the bayer CFA surface appears to be warped. I say ‘appears’ because we did not have enough time to make sufficient measurements to properly verify this. I was told by the Keyence representative that wafers and CMOS sensors he has measured have all been warped. He thinks that the warping usually doesn’t exceed 10 microns for camera sensors...

...measurements also revealed that the sensor cover glass was not perfectly parallel to the light-sensitive plane of the sensor. You can forget about making accurate contact measurement off the front side of the sensor

See also The Great Flange-to-Sensor Distance Article. Part II: Photo Cameras.

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In spite of my recent Sony A7R IV headaches, I say without reservation that the Sony A7R IV is the best mirrorless choice on the market today in multiple ways. There might be purpose-specific exceptions to that (e.g., 8K video and a few other things), but I’d not look anywhere else for most purposes.

Many thanks to B&H Photo for expediting a Sony A7R IV to me, due tomorrow (Tuesday). With it, I can verify the 5 lenses that all appear to be “swung” on my Sony A7R IV, which is in for evaluation at Sony Pro Services. Please give B&H your business using any links from this site—they really make my work possible here! Don’t forget to use the B&H Payboo card to save sales tax in states like California. See also Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Shootout @ 12mm vs Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G: Big Tree at Creek Bend.

Does this $500 discount on the Sony A7R IV mean a Sony A7R V is coming? Not that I am aware of—no rumors for it. It looks more like a smart sales move.

Bookmark these pages in your browser—updated daily:
Deal of the Day, Wishlist pages, Top Deals pages, Deal Finder.

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Is It Even POSSIBLE to get a properly aligned Sony A7R IV?

See Update on Sony A7R IV Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism.

re: Sony A7R IV in for Repair of Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Problem
re: Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Afflicts All Brands

Is it even POSSIBLE to get a properly aligned Sony A7R IV?

Or any Sony camera? Or in general, most brands perhaps every brand?

Three years ago, I had a brand-new “swung” Nikon D850; see Nikon D850: Testing for a Misaligned Sensor.

This year, I am now pretty sure that the lenses were not the issue but a swung Hasselblad X1D.l see for example Alabama Hills Formations, Late Dusk, which shows a left/right skew, and this was true for several of the lenses, which is what leads me to think it was not the lenses, but a case of lens mount / sensor parallelism.

My concern is that Sony will return a still-defective camera to me. What has been nagging at me for months is that the the repaired Sony A7R IV was never really repaired in terms of lens mount / sensor parallelism. I now suspect that some subtle issues I saw were really the camera. But the more I learn from really knowledgeable people, the more I now conclude that “defective” is the norm, meaning a fault readily seen, but one that is deemed within specifications.

Poor lens mount / sensor parallelism can be distinguished from a problem lens by examining the entire edge of the frame near to far. If sharpness is observed (somewhere) on one side but not the other side (asymmetrical performance), that is not the fault of the camera, but rather an optical misalignment issue, which I lump under the term lens skew. Since both issues can be active, it can be tricky to evaluate.

I don’t know if Sony (or any other vendor) has the means to correct lens mount / sensor parallelism issues to within a rigorous tolerance (or at all), either in production or by repair.

To emphasize: this issue is not unique to Sony. The more I learn about it, the more I learn just how difficult it is to get a camera that does not have a significant amount of swing (left/right skew) and/or tilt (up/down skew) of the sensor versus the lens mount, a siuation I call lens mount / sensor parallelism.

Regrettably, I cannot share specifics I am aware of, but here is a good article on the subject.

“Tilt” is up/down and “swing” is left/right, but neither is quite correct terminology since the non-parellelism is a 3D thing. So I prefer to say “lens mount / sensor parallelism”. In my case, the issue seems to be swing (left/right parallelism), but with a 3:2 sensor aspect ratio, lack of parallelism is much less evident on the short dimension.

Samual Chia, Cacao Editions Custom Fine-Art Digital Printing: Your Cameras and Lenses are Crooked and How to Adjust Them

... Many lenses have their plane of focus tilted by at least 50 microns or more, some even over 200 microns. That won’t be invisible in your photos. Not even expensive lenses are free of this problem. I’ve yet to find a single copy myself that has a tilt of less than 10 microns

... Recently, I acquired a Sony a7R IV and naturally, I tested it to see if the sensor is straight. It was tilted by some 10-15 microns and swung by about 30. That makes 5 out of 5 bad Sonys, if you are still counting...

My Sony CMOS sensor at the bayer CFA surface appears to be warped. I say ‘appears’ because we did not have enough time to make sufficient measurements to properly verify this. I was told by the Keyence representative that wafers and CMOS sensors he has measured have all been warped. He thinks that the warping usually doesn’t exceed 10 microns for camera sensors...

...measurements also revealed that the sensor cover glass was not perfectly parallel to the light-sensitive plane of the sensor. You can forget about making accurate contact measurement off the front side of the sensor

See also The Great Flange-to-Sensor Distance Article. Part II: Photo Cameras.

James K writes:

Years ago I was having an alignment problem with my Sinar  eMotion 75 digital back.  It had to be sent to Switzerland for repair.  The Sinar factory was the only place that had a machine capable of measuring and adjusting the sensor in the back.  Luckily it was under warranty.  The cost to the dealer was around $900.
The result was perfect.  Huge change.  Gone were the unsharp areas.  :)

DIGLLOYD: nice.

View cameras are pretty darn sloppy but at least they are easily shimmed, or the back itself.

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I consider myself far more informed than average on financial matters. For one thing I know how to lose 98% in a stock market crash. Life gives the exam first, then the lesson.

Refinancing a mortgage very recently, and getting on in years*, I learned something more important than any other financial consideration. As I am not a tax planner, this is just a pointer to what to look into. If you are married, you MUST understand this aspect of the tax code.

This single tip might be the single most important piece of financial information you ever hear. Unless of course you already know it, or it does not apply.

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* And using two of my nine lives in bike crashes that should have killed me!

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Sony A7R IV in for Repair of Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism Problem

See Update on Sony A7R IV Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism.

Many thanks to B&H Photo for expediting a Sony A7R IV to me, due October 13. With it, I can verify the 5 lenses that all appear to be “swung” on my Sony A7R IV, which is in for evaluation at Sony Pro Services. Please give B&H your business using any links from this site—they really make my work possible here! Don’t forget to use the B&H Payboo card to save sales tax in states like California. See also Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Shootout @ 12mm vs Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G: Big Tree at Creek Bend.

...

As per Big Tree at Bend in Alpine Creek, I was seeing a left/right focusing skew. I took the better part of a day with five lenses, and found that all five were focusing further away on the left than the right. Including two samples of the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM.

That’s strong evidence that the Sony A7R IV was/is the problem.

So it seems that I might have unfairly blamed Sony for a bad lens when it appears to be a lens mount / sensor parallelism issue. Well, it’s hard to be sure of such things, particularly with the jaw-dropping peripheral forward focus shift involved (confirmed across 4 lens samples now, two with me, and two from users—and the latter seem to be free of the symmetry issue I am seeing).

Accordingly, I’ve sent my Sony A7R IV in for repair via Sony Pro Support, which I highly recommend based on two prior experiences. This is the very same A7R IV that it needed an entirely new sensor module earlier this year (brand-new).

UPDATE Oct 13: Sony tells me that the entire shutter and sensor assembly and main circuit board will be replaced. I’m skeptical as to how well this will play out, Sony repair center in LA tells me that they will reassess the camera after replacement. Fortunately, B&H Photo is generously loaning me a new Sony A7R IV, so I can get going with that—please give them your business by clicking through any link or ad on this site—thanks!

BUT, is it even POSSIBLE to get a properly aligned Sony A7R IV?

I cannot share a lot of what I know (requests from those who have informed me), but here is a good article on the subject:

Your Cameras and Lenses are Crooked and How to Adjust Them

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Some California National Forests Have Reopened, Including Inyo National Forest (Yosemite, White Mountains, Eastern Sierra)

See prior post: Looks Like the Eastern Sierra Fall Color Season is Toast.

The good news: Inyo National Forest and certain others are now OPEN again. Certain national forests remain closed.

The air is now clear in much of the Eastern Sierra, but it could change on a dime. Areas like Lee Vinging and Bridgeport have acceptable but poor air.

I’d like to get out there ASAP, but multiple constraints make it difficult for me to get more than a block of 6 days, so at this point I will just defer to around Oct 13/14 and then go until Thanksgiving or so.

Lloyd on Pine Creek Trail, 2019
f8 @ 1/30 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2019-10-10 09:06:50
Sony A7R IV + Sigma FE 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art @ 14mm
ENV: Pine Creek Trail, altitude 7600 ft / 2316 m, 28°F / -2°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, push 1.3 stops, +100 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +33 Whites

[low-res image for bot]


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Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series: Big Tree at Bend in Alpine Creek (jaw-dropping focus shift and lens skew)

See Update on Sony A7R IV Lens Mount / Sensor Parallelism.

See my Sony mirrorless wishlist.

I finally got up the energy to get out and do some local shooting*, only to be hugely annoyed at the most bizarre lens performance I’ve seen in a long time, with the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM. Hazardous smoke today, and bad yesterday, so I am particularly irritated at having go do redo all my work. Who knows when the smoke will clear out, and I can’t go anywhere in California because of either smoke or national forest closures.

I don’t usually like to publish “bad sample” aperture series, but this one is so whacko that I though it would be useful perspective. This aperture series at 17mm shows one of the most severe and bizarre performances that I’ve ever seen from a lens: massive focus shift sufficient to change the image magnification along with a resoundingly different sharpness on the left side versus the right, presumably a form of lens skew.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series: Big Tree at Bend in Alpine Creek

Images at up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11.

All signs point to the Sony 12-24/2.8 GM optical design having magnificent potential performance.

UPDATE Oct 5: a second sample now suggests to me that the Sony A7R IV might be the issue, e.g., lens mount / sensor parallelism. So the A7R IV is going into Sony for a checkup. I find it puzzling because it is a brand new sensor installed by Sony a few months after purchase that performed fine for months (e.g. in March and April with the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO), and I am unaware of any trauma, even minor, to the camera. However, all samples *do* confirm the tremendous outer-zone peripheral forward focus shift. A slight misalignment combined with that severe a focus shift is really confusing, even to me!

B&H Photo has been kind enough to overnight another sample to me, which I hope will at least be serviceable with only a little lens skew. Maybe not likely, but I’m hoping.

UPDATE: Roy P sent me images from his sample of the 12-24/2.8GM that confirm the pronounced forward focus shift — so strong that even 3 stops of depth of field cannot compensate—absurdly damaging. His lens seems to be OK in terms of lens skew, though only a good near-to-far scene can say for sure.

UPDATE 2: Stephen S sent me an aperture series. He got lucky with what looks to be a symmetric lens sample (minimal lens skew). But his series confirms the same huge outer-zone peripheral forward focus shift, such that even f/8 cannot come close to compensating for—f/8 is much worse than f/2.8, so severe is the shift.

It is now a key task to hope I get a symmetric copy, and if so, to detail how those using the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM can obtain high quality (or if it is even possible for a 3D or planar scene), given what looks to be the most outrageous focus shift I have ever seen in a lens in this range.

f6.3 @ 0.8 sec EFC shutter, ISO 100; 2020-09-29 16:58:56
Sony A7R IV + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 17mm
ENV: Alpine Creek, altitude 650 ft / 198 m, 78°F / 25°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]

Mark M writes:

You wrote: "The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM optical design looks to have magnificent potential, but it sure looks to me like Sony is incapable of building it to perform anywhere near that….”.

Yet again. Canon, Nikon and Zeiss are great optical houses (each with shortcomings which you have exquisitely detailed for us in your various trenchant reviews).

The hands that touch their best glass operate within a lens manufacturing and assembling culture where QC/QA that has been honed over generations. Sony is a chip design and manufacturing powerhouse—human hands therein touch little for the tolerances be too critical.

Given the competitive pressures that Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Fuji are placing on the mirrorless segment, one must wonder if the same level of Sony sensor excellence will ever be realized in their lens production efforts. Chips are, relatively speaking, cheap for Sony. Fine glass is very much not.

I would gladly given up a stop of light and shoot the Canon EF 11-24mm f4 L adapted on the R5. It is harder than ever to secure an income from our craft these days. This level of lens under performance is an insult to this reality. I will stick with the Batis Series on my various A7R models and happily consider them them professionally sufficient even with only a 18mm wide to through over a scene.

DIGLOYD: unfortunately, it's an industry wide problem. Some brands are better than others, but on the whole it’s a mess, and zooms are rarely if ever good throughout. It’s doubly frustrating to see the potential, but then have to be thumped hard between the eyes by both lens skew and the most absurd focus shift I’ve seen in a zoom of this kind—when f/9 is worse than f/2.8 that’s a totally unusable lens.

I was going to buy a Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art after testing it last year, but two more samples both had such obvious trouble on one side of the frame that I abandoned that idea.

Canon is generally excellent BUT while the first sample of the Canon RF 28-70m f/2L was terrific while the 2nd sample had obvious symmetry issues.

Stephen S writes:

I acquired this lens yesterday, have very limited time so far with it. I’ll see if I can confirm your findings.

Any particular settings or workflow you recommend I follow to help you discern any issues with focus shift?

DIGLLOYD: my best reference guide (which needs some more examples) is How to Test a Lens in Making SHarp Images. On my to-do list for that area are a examples of problem lenses.

In brief, when testing for focus shift, you want a good near-to-far subject with good detail throughout. Focus wide open, then shoot an aperture series through f/8. Examine carefully, looking for how the centering of the zone of focus changes. In bad cases, stopping down can increase blur. Focus shift varies within the frame too, e.g. a shift in the center but not in the outer zones, or vice versa. And/or it can be in reverse directions. It’s all part of balancing optical tradeoffs.


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