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iMac Pro: Pricing and Thoughts

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

See also Wither the iMac Pro? and 4-Core CPUs do not Leave Much Grunt for Other Tasks and Will the iMac Pro Be Worth The Cost?.

See all iMac Pro configurations at B&H Photo.

See yesterday’s discussion, written before the pricing and specs were released, summarized as:

Question: is the iMac Pro faster or slower than the 2017 iMac 5K?
Answer: yes.

Question: will a 1000 horsepower Ferrari beat a 250 horsepower Toyota 4Runner on rocky potholed dirt roads?
Answer: yes, for up to 1/4 mile or so, then put on your hiking boots.

Note the idiocy of the 2nd Q/A pair: “most powerful Mac ever” blithely skips over the usage scenario relevancy, although the iMac Pro may well prove to be more reliable in the long run (no way to know as yet). Of course the iMac Pro is the “most powerful Mac ever”. But maybe not for what you or I do, and maybe only sometimes.

Quick points of note aimed at the vast majority of photographers

  • See Q/A above. The precise workload and mix of tasks you and only you do decides the question. Only those where 6+ CPUs are in full use are you likely to see any performance boost with the iMac Pro vs 2017 iMac 5K—and it’s probably parity at 6 cores, not superiority. So unless your CPU workloads routinely use 8 cores for a significant amount of time, you’re not winning by having 8/10/14/18 cores.
  • GPU intensive tasks are very task specific. The issue is how long the GPU is used; if it blips for half a second and it is 3 times faster in a 4 second operation, the effect is nil. If it is used intensively for 2/3/4/5 seconds, then a 3X faster GPU will rock, and make all the diference. But GPU usage is even more sensitive to exact workload.
  • If you are spending $5K plus, then in context it is foolish to buy any configuration with 32GB memory, since it is not upgradeable. 64GB memory is the sweet spot, and ample for my needs; 128GB is overkill for 99% of photographers including me.
  • When only 1 to 4 cores are used (common in my own Photoshop usage), the fastest clock speed wins, e.g., the 2017 iMac 5K has a base clock of 4.2 GHz and turbo boosts to 4.5 GHz, so none of the cores drop below 4.2 Ghz. The iMac Pro 8-core has a base clock of 3.2 GHz and turbo boosts to 4.2 GHz, the 10 core has a base clock of 3.0 Ghz and turbo boosts to 4.5 Ghz. But when more cores are used, the iMac Pro CPUs drop towards base clock speed—much lower than the 2017 iMac Pro. Hence there is some average clock speed for the number of cores used that determines which machine wins, and this is not likely to be the iMac Pro until 6+ cores are used.
  • Does 4.2 vs 4.5 Ghz matter? Not much. 4.5 vs 4.2 is 7%, which is barely noticeable. Nice but not very important.
  • How many cores are used for how long to make 8 or 10 cores worthwhile: I deem steady usage of 6+ cores the threshold just to signifiantly win over the 2017 iMac 5K, which has base clock of 4.2 Ghz for all 4 cores, whereas the turbo boost mode on the iMac Pro quickly drops as more cores are used. This is why my 2013 Mac Pro 8-core 3.3 Ghz is outrun or matched by the 4-core 2017 iMac 5K on many tasks and thus speeds up my work on most everything—the Xeon processors cannot maintain turbo boost for more than a core or two, so the base clock speed steadily drops as more cores are used. See the type of behavior in the Xeon chips in the 2013 Mac Pro in the charts and graphs in 2013 Mac Pro: Choosing the CPU.

Videographers

For videographers crunching 4K or similar footage: 18 CPU cores, 128GB memory, 4TB SSD, 16GB GPU or 14 CPU cores, 128GB memory, 4TB SSD, 16GB GPU.

Buying tips

Don’t spend thousands on stuff you do not need, and don’t skimp on stuff that cannot be upgraded and you might realistically benefit from over several years of usage. These points are generalized to the vast majority of users, including me.

  • 8-core CPU is ample for most users; the 10 core is better in theory, but real benefit with 10 cores will be modest except in specific application and task specific scenarios and total runtime savings in such scenarios might be quite modest. One specific scenario which I would benefit from (even 14 or 18 cores), is focus stacking. But the vast majority of the time I spend is retouching, where it won’t help much.
  • 64GB memory is the sweet spot; 32GB might prove a foolish decision, 128GB is overkill.
  • GPU with 8GB memory is way more than adequate, which is what my 2017 iMac 5K has. None of my work is going to run faster with 16GB GPU memory.
  • 2TB SSD is now my mandatory minimum. I’ve learned the hard way (running out of space), that 512GB was not enough (had to buy another), and last trip this fall 1TB was barely enough (almost forced to much slower external storage). That said, many users will be just fine with 1TB. The SSD is the key to keeping the CPUs busy whenever I/O is involved, so performance sensitive data has to fit onto a very fast SSD. 1TB is fine for that, but it might require organizational hassles that make it a headache to optimize.

I am unlikely to buy an iMac Pro (performance and cost reasons). But if I did, I would most likely buy either this this 8-core iMac Pro or this 10-core Mac Pro, pending some performance surprise I cannot determine and prove out as worthwhile until I test the iMac Pro.

Accessories

You’ll want Thunderbolt 3 peripherals, such as the Thunderbolt 3 version of the OWC Thunderbay 4. Many more options will be released in the next several months, so I see no hurry in ordering an iMac Pro as there will be some interesting stuff coming

Here are a bunch of Thunderbolt 3 periperhals. However, I recommend waiting until March 2018 or so before investing in expensive items if not needed immediately, because more and better choices will appear by then.

Recommended Apple iMac Pro configuration for vast majorityof photographers

 

MacPerformanceGuide.com

iMac Pro: Downclocked CPUs

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons and yesterday I discussed the switchover and the gear I’m using.

See also Wither the iMac Pro? and 4-Core CPUs do not Leave Much Grunt for Other Tasks and Will the iMac Pro Be Worth The Cost?.

Any photographer using a Mac is surely thinking “what about that new iMac Pro?”.

I hope that I am quite mistaken about what follows. That would be wonderful. But so far all the evidence I’ve seen suggests that assuming that the iMac Pro is the best choice is a bad idea. It comes down to specific types of work with specific tasks in specific software. In other words:

Question: is the iMac Pro faster or slower than the 2017 iMac 5K?
Answer: yes.

I will be testing the iMac Pro against the 2017 iMac 5K as soon as I can get one. But I can’t outlay $8K to buy one, so it will have to be a loaner, which means I won’t be able to do it immediately.

From a reader (and I’ve received other info too):

If you look at how the hexacore i7-8700K performs (and that's the CPU slated for the next iMac 5K refresh,) you'll see that it's faster than the 8-core iMac Pro.

In fact, the 2017 iMac 5K is faster than the 8-core iMac Pro in single-threaded performance, and is about very close in terms of multi-threaded performance.

So looks like come 2018, one will be able to choose between a $5K 8-core iMac Pro with non-user-upgradable, crazy expensive RAM, scoring about 23,500 on Geekbench, and a $3k 6-core 27" iMac, with user-upgradable RAM, scoring about 30,000.

If you configure the iMac Pro with 64GB of RAM, I'll bet it'll cost at least $5.5k, and the iMac will be about $3.5k with 64GB of OWC RAM. So you'll be getting 20% lower multi-threaded CPU performance for nearly 60% more money. Unless you really need the faster graphics, ECC memory, or more TB3 ports, choosing the iMac 5K will be a no-brainer.

MPG: based on what I’ve seen, I concur, except on price: it may well but significantly higher than stated above for the iMac Pro.

Those who use specialized applications will see superior performance with a small set of applications on a subset of tasks in those applications, by virtue of more cores and faster GPU. If these are long running tasks that use all CPU cores, then it’s a huge win and the iMac Pro offers huge value.

If brief spikes using multi-core or single threaded (as with my own work), it has nil benefit with very poor value. Most people, including me with heavy duty Photoshop work, will on average see no benefit because Photoshop uses few 1 or 2 CPU cores for most everything I do. So the iMac Pro might even slow down my work, though one task I am sure it will speed up. Is that worth $4000 more?

What Apple has done is to 'spin' form over function as top-notch engineering for heat management. By designing too small an enclosure (very poor decision for heat removal) it then became necessary to use top-notch engineering to deal with the heat problem which would not exist if a proper-sized case had been used. And that would make the iMac Pro less svelte—and form takes precedence over function. The disappointing kicker is to realize that Apple is using downclocked (slower) CPUs because the faster ones would generate too much heat because the decision was made to make a too-small enclosure for the iMac Pro and/or not to size up the venting and fans. Gorgeous engineering visually (!), but impaired performance and non-upgradeable memory.

It’s a shame to have to choose faster for tasks A/B/C but slower for tasks X/Y/Z. Compromising the fundamental purpose of a tool is not elegance, and never can be.

Gaping hole in respect for professionals who want to plan around the iMac Pro along with
impaired performance to stay within a form-over-function case design

 

 

Why I’m a Bit Delayed on Sony A7R III Coverage

I know that readers are waiting for various things on the Sony A7R III. This is why I busted my ass on the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 recently (several past midnight days)—so I could concentrate on the Sony A7R III.

But... it’s just a bad time of year—it’s health care choosing time and Dec 15 is the deadline.

So yesterday I worked from 6 AM to 11:30 PM with about 20 minutes of break in total, just to develop the data across the health plans and not screw myself financially. So I could pay just as much as last year for an inferior plan than this year. I think I am just about done today as I take a break to write this. In a few more hours, I think I will have the matter settled and done with. Doing taxes is a breeze by comparison. Be grateful if you have a group plan or similar where all you have to do is pick a plan at modest cost.

Dec 15 is the deadline and I think I’ve made the decision, and hopefully by tomorrow my stress level will drop down and I can get back to the work I enjoy.

Update: took another full day to sort through the byzantine land mines of the different plans, but I finally have figured it out.

...

Working self employed for myself, choosing a health care plan is a Byzantine mess (by design) full of "if and but or else if" stuff. And with a 23% increase this year, 22% last year, 18% the year before, etcetera ad nauseum, paying for it has been my most painful legislative assault on myself and my family in my life, lasting now for the 7 years or whatever, now twice my mortgage. Those massive increases are my share of the promised savings, and I am not trying to make a political point, only state a hard fact. Let’s just say that insuring my family the same way this year as 2017 (which has been extremely difficult) was going to cost more than the mean annual family income in the USA, and almost as much as the median income. A very sick joke on me and my family.

Key advice to help anyone reading this who needs to buy their own health care: the “cheap” exchange bronze plans are pure fraud in the financial sense of getting any coverage at all without paying for it out of pocket in addition to the premiums (exceptions are basics like annual physical and flu shot, next to useless for my family). And you have to pay co-pays and deductibles and so on with after-tax dollars that barring very huge medical expenses cannot be deducted from taxes. If you have to buy your own insurance as I do and you have not considered the pre-tax dollars / after-tax dollars thing, you had better go figure out what a horrific hit that can be, because you can inflict a huge cost on yourself by making the wrong choice of plan. All you have to do is understand that core idea, then use your perfect crystal ball to know exactly what will happen to you and your family’s health—easy peasy.

All of the preceding will be of little concern to anyone getting a huge subsidy as many people do (and still end up paying more than they can comfortably afford). I love a free lunch as much as anyone, but I loathe the idea of someone being forced to buy it for me, versus something freely offered, uncoerced.

No comments wanted on the foregoing, please. It is not a political statement, but a personal one. I just wanted to express it to get a little relief, think what you wish on your own.

Pixel Shift: What Would be the Ideal Workflow for Handling Such Files

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

Sony has chosen to store 4 files for its pixel shift mode, with no naming or subfolders, etc. Pentax makes one DNG file, which I much prefer. All that’s missing (a dumb mistake one the part of Pentax) is a splitter app that makes 4 files from one.

Sony’s approach is such a mess to sort through, including having to delete 4 files if I want to redo a shot, and scroll over 4 files to compare one shot to another—these are serious usability problems any half-wit should have seen up front .

Setting aside those messy details, I pondered ways in which pixel shift would best be supported for raw conversion. Here are a few ideas:

  • Ideally, the raw converter can figure out areas where pixel shift is causing issues, and just substitute one of the frames. Technically I doubt this could work perfectly.
  • What I would like to see Photoshop do is this: when opening a pixel shift image, convert it into a file with 5 layers: the bottom layer having the merged image, and the top 4 masked off (the 4 single exposures that created the one merged image). If there are problem areas, paint out the mask the fix the area. When sure it’s all to satisfaction, merge the layers into one final image.
  • A utility to take 4 Sony files and make one DNG file so that they can be handled as single files just like with Pentax K-1 pixel shift files.
  • Software should recognized any one of the 4 files in a pixel shift image, and present the image as ONE image, not 4, displayed in some appropriate distinguishable way.
  • Sony could fix the problems I noted above.
  • The camera should detect if motion occurs during the exposure.
  • The camera should make a noise when done. When the heck is it done? I have to stare at the screen—ridiculous.
  • Deleting a pixel shift file should delete all 3 others (user preferences of course). Image review should skip over 3 of the frames so that an A/B to one exposure to another can be made (or one focus position versus another).

These ideas are just the obvious ones.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR: Early Winter Examples in Eastern Sierra

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

Most of these examples are focus stacked. Some have to be seen on an iMac 5K to be believed—more real than real and unlike any conventional images made by simply stopping down.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Early Winter Examples in Eastern Sierra

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

Snow-free, Lundy Lake road runs along Lundy Lake, which is developing its coat of winter ice, creaking and groaning in the process when the sun has its brief sway. My Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van is my workstation and home on wheels for field work.

Sprinter van view along Lundy Lake Road
f11 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 14:44:58 [focus stack 3 frames]
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: West Walker Creek Meadow to Snowy Mountains

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

This aperture series from f/2.8 through f/11 shows the limitations of depth of field in a near-far scene. It is an excellent diagnosis of the extent of field curvature, and also discusses focus shift. It also includes a 4-frame focus stack at f/7.1 for comparison to f/11.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: West Walker Creek Meadow to Snowy Mountains

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11 plus a 4-frame focus stack at f/7.1.

If you’ve held off on focus stacking, but are interested in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX or the Hasselblad X1D or Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III—you had better get started with focus stacking yesterday, as I think the stacked image in this series makes obvious, as with the other series. See Getting Started with Focus Stacking.

West Walker Creek Meadow near military cold weather training facility
f2.8 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-06 14:46:28
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

[low-res image for bot]

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Boulder Escapee from Rockfall

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

This aperture series from f/2.8 through f/13 shows the separation powers of wider apertures along with the total inadequacy of f/13 to deliver depth of field in a near-far scene like this.

To contrast f/13 depth of field, an 8-frame focus stack at f/10 is included. Worth noting is that not all frames need be stacked; as an aesthetic choice the full depth is stacked, but it might have ended, say, at the rear of the boulder—one need not include all frames in the stack. Additional comments on focus shift round out this as a very instructive example.

It is also a good series for seeing bokeh.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Boulder Escapee from Rockfall

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/13 plus an 8-frame focus stack at f/7.1.

If you’ve held off on focus stacking, but are interested in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX or the Hasselblad X1D or Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III—you had better get started with focus stacking yesterday, as I think the stacked image in this series makes obvious, as with the other series. See Getting Started with Focus Stacking.

Boulder Escapee from Rockfall
f2.8 @ 1/100 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-06 11:58:27
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

[low-res image for bot]
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Aspen Against Mountain at Dusk

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

I was curious: could I successfully use focus stacking this wild mixture of crossing trees and branches against a distant background, and could the focus stack beat f/16, given that the subject matter is fairly distant.

The wind was near nil, and so things worked out well. It also demonstrates how selective focus (f/2.8, f/4 and so on) might be preferred over sharpness, depending on aesthetic goal.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Aspen Against Mountain at Dusk

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11 plus a 3-frame focus stack at f/11.

If you’ve held off on focus stacking, but are interested in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX or the Hasselblad X1D or Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III—you had better get started with focus stacking yesterday, as I think the stacked image in this series makes obvious, as with the other series. See Getting Started with Focus Stacking.

Aspen Against Mountain at Dusk
f11 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-09 15:34:32 [focus stack 3 frames]
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

[low-res image for bot]
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Reader Comment: Fujifilm GFX Focusing Precision and Skewed Lenses

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list.

PB writes:

Re your comments on the 45mm amd focusing problems - I now have my own GFX with the 2.0 firmware, and can confirm that the autofocus is erratic. With the camera on a tripod, focusing repeatedly on the same spot will often produce inconsistent results - as indicated by the focus scale in the viewfinder. What I did was to press the shutter halfway down, release it and press again, release and press again. For instance, focusing three times on a distant hill (trees against the sky), could indicate infinity, beyond infinity and between infinity and 10 meters. Or on a close subject - 3 meters, 4 meters and 5 meters. Other times it seems to be working properly, and will focus consistently on the same distance.

I will be using the camera exclusively on a tripod with focus stacking, so I've developed a routine where I focus manually by numbers - like infininty - 10 meters - 5 meters, and so on, as many shots as required. This seems to work OK.

At present I don't have a lens, I have returned two copies of the 32-64 because of blurry edges, mostly on the right side, and particularly at around 50mm. Fujifilm has offered to send the last copy to England for calibration, but I'm not holding my breath.

I have spent a lot of time reading reviews of this lens and looking at images, and the right side blur seems to be very common. Ironically, a couple of reviewers who were very enthusiastic about the lens, posted images with a very obvious blur on the right hand side. I guess that kind of explains how Fujifilm can get away with selling lenses that should never have left the factory.

Most likely, I'll end up with a 45 and a 63 instead of the zoom - I have tried the 63 - it was excellent, and it looks like the 45 is pretty good too. Too bad that there isn't a 30 or 35, maybe in 2019.

DIGLLOYD: these statements mirror in all ways the issues I found and documented in my extensive review of the Fujifilm GFX system. I concur that Fujifilm has not solved focusing issues with firmware version 2.00.

That said, it seems I got lucky with the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8: it is the first lens of allof them which has no obvious skew (it has a mild left/right skew, but that is all but unavoidable).

Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

First Impressions Operating the Sony A7R III

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

I’ve been working with the Fujifilm 45mm f/2.8 on the Fujifilm GFX trying to nail that down so I can concentrate exclusively on the Sony. This makes sense, because Adobe support for Sony A7R III files is not out yet (but soon I hear). I remain as impressed as ever with the quality of the GFX files, and unlike the Sony A7R III, lossless compression keeps the storage space down.

A few quick comments on negative and very bad things:

  • I am unable to operate the A7R III in the cold with gloves on. I’ve been shooting mainly in the 18°F to 35°F range. It’s hopeless; I have to remove my gloves. Fingerless do not help; I just get frozen fingers. Without gloves, my shooting time drops to maybe 15 minutes before I have to spend several minutes warming up my fingers. The Nikon D850 I can operate (in spite of the downgraded 4-way controller). The Fujifilm GFX works much better than the Sony, but less well than the D850, so I find myself having to remove gloves for the GFX at times.
  • Menu #1 item AF w/ shutter is a key setting for me; I set it to OFF so that pressing the shutter does not initiate autofocus, instead using the rear AF-ON button. There is a bug in which the A7R III ignores the AF w/ shutter option and always focuses when the shutter is pressed. I could not get it to work until I pulled and reinserted the battery. By then I had lost the carefully composed focus stack I wanted to do—light gone.
  • Video settings and JPEGs settings are a huge clutter that makes it hard for a still shooter to not get frustrated with all this totally unused cruft making everything more difficult to find.
  • The EVF is a major upgrade over the A7R II.
  • Pixel shift could beep when done so I don’t have to sit there and stare at it, damn it! Particularly for longer exposures.
  • The dials and buttons are still too small. I enjoy shooting the Nikon D850; I continually feel frustrated with the A7R III, and it’s just as slow to magnify an image at the A7R II—quite the nuisance before and it still is, since I do it dozens of times on a days shoot.
  • Pixel shift shoots 4 frames. So guess what if you want to compare 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 frames for proper overlap, magnified? It’s horribly confusing and losing track of what is what is an instant problem. Moreover, deleting a pixel shift exposure means deleting 4 separate images. That pixel shift was/is poorly thought out is just stunning. Sony’s menu system designers lack any conceptual faculty and it’s sad to see pixel shift downgraded to a pain in the rear like this.
Sony A7R III, rear view
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Indian Rock

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX

This aperture series look at moderate distance (a few meters) performance from f/2.8 through f/11 along with a 4-frame focus stack at f/11. It shows off the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 at its very best—a very impressive performance.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Indian Rock

If you’ve held off on focus stacking, but are interested in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX or the Hasselblad X1D or Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III—you had better get started with focus stacking yesterday, as I think the stacked image in this series makes obvious, as with the other series. See Getting Started with Focus Stacking.

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11 plus the 4-frame focus stack at f/11.

Below, I am almost shocked that in this day and age some loser has not defaced this work of art. Let it remain so!

Indian Rock, Painted 1970 apparently
f2.8 @ 1/60 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 15:56:40
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

[low-res image for bot]
Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series: Iced-Over Beaver Pond View to Mt Warren

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX

This aperture series look at near-to-far performance but with focus well in the distance to see how the field curvature properties of the lens can be balanced in near-far situations like this given the forward bias seen in outer zones as in View Down Shadowed Lundy Lake, Late Afternoon and West Walker River in Noon Shade, Upstream View.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Iced-Over Beaver Pond View to Mt Warren

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11.

This image required aggressive contrast control given the extreme dynamic range. I credit the quality of the GFX files delivering an outstanding image in spite of those adjustments.

Iced-Over Beaver Pond View to Mt Warren
f11 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 15:09:17
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

[low-res image for bot]
OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Across Green Icy Lake to Blue Mountainside

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX

This short aperture series look at far distance performance from f/2.8 through f/8. It shows across the frame performance, focusing behavior, one form of flare behavior, and the point spread function. It also shows that distance scenes require special care in choice of focus, due to the focus shift as seen in the focus shift discussion.

Two additional pages added also. In diglloyd Medium Format:

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/8.

Across Green Icy Lake to Blue Mountainside
f4 @ 1/125 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 14:34:38
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series: View Down Lundy Lake, Late Afternoon

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo. The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

This aperture series look at a far distance scene which some closer range material. It shows how the Fujifilm GFX combined with the lens behavior tends to bias sharpness closer to the camera and discusses what to do about it for optimal results.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: View Down Lundy Lake, Late Afternoon

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11.

View Down Lundy Lake, Late Afternoon
f5.6 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 14:42:03
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Low and Close Viewpoint, Beaver Dam Pond

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo. The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

This f/2.8 - f/16 aperture series look at classic landscape scene with a foreground right under the camera to the far distance. It serves several purposes, one of which is to show than even f/16 is woefully inadequate for depth of field for such a scene and that therefore focus stacking is a mandatory skill for the photographer’s toolbox. Accordingly, this aperture series also includes a 5-frame focus stack at f/11 which allows virtually everything to be sharp from right under the camera to the far distance.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Low and Close Viewpoint, Beaver Dam Pond

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/5.6.

Small Beaver Dam and Frozen Pond
f16 @ 0.8 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 16:23:04
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Lundy Lake, Green Ice at Dam End

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

This short aperture series look at near-to-far performance from f/2.8 through f/5.6 on a far-distance scene. It shows the Fujifilm 45mm f/2.8 at its very best.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Lundy Lake, Green Ice at Dam End

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/5.6.

Lundy Lake, Early Winter Green Ice
f5.6 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 14:17:34
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: Frozen Beaver Ponds to Forest

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

This aperture series look at class landscape scene with a foreground only a few feet from the camera to the far distance—a scene impossible to capture sharply at any aperture. Accordingly, the series from f/2.8 through f/11 also includes a 6-frame focus stack at f/9 with outstanding detail right down to the tiniest bubble in the ice.

This series shows that used well (understanding the lens behavior), the Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 can make outstanding images when used for focus stacking (or without).

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Frozen Beaver Ponds to Forest

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11 along with a 6-frame focus stack at f/9 that ought to knock your socks off and would print well 6 feet wide.

Frozen Beaver Ponds to Forest
f9 @ 1/6 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-07 16:10:44 [focus stack 6 frames]
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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Adobe Camera Raw Support for Sony A7R III

See my Sony wish list.

I am actively shooting the Sony A7R III, and there is much to like about it. The EVF alone is a massive improvement over the A7R II.

I expect Adobe Camera Raw support quite soon (though I do not expect support for pixel shift mode), so I won’t be posting images until that support arrives. Meanwhile, I am actively shooting material with the A7R III, so there will be plenty to come, and I’ll be writing up how to configure the settings and buttons.

To wit, for my publications here on this site, it is not acceptable to process with another raw converter because I have intentionally maintained consistency across all cameras and lenses I review by using Adobe Camera Raw and crafting a workflow over years designed to evaluate all cameras and lenses on a level playing field. As well, my eyes and brain are tuned to that. Better to wait and do the job right in evaluating image quality.

Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files coming soon
Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files coming soon
Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: 'Light-Colored Boulder Amid Sage and Boulder Field'

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

B&H Photo graciously loaned me the Fujifilm GFX for the 4th time this year so that I could review the 45mm f/2.8. Please support B&H generosity by buying your gear through links on this site, such as the wishlists.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping. And even though it is a brand-new release, it is still $300 off as I write this.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Overview of Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Light-Colored Boulder Amid Sage and Boulder Field

If you’ve held off on focus stacking, but are interested in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX or the Hasselblad X1D or Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III—you had better get started with focus stacking yesterday, as I think the stacked image in this series makes obvious. See Getting Started with Focus Stacking.

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11 plus the 5-frame focus stack at f/9.

Below, 6-frame focus stack which a single-frame f/11 cannot remotely approach on detail. If you’re shooting landscape, focus stacking is a mandatory skill. See Getting Started with Focus Stacking.

Light-Colored Boulder Amid Sage and Boulder Field
f11 @ 1/13 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-06 12:10:45 [focus stack 6 frames]
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual 16TB
On SALE @ only $598
12 at this price, limit 1 per customer, 12 left at this price, $688 when gone
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Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR Aperture Series with Focus Stack: 'West Walker River in Noon Shade, Upstream View'

See my Fujifilm medium format wish list and get Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR at B&H Photo.

The about $1699 Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX is now shipping.

Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR for Fujifilm GFX

I have added an editorial commentary in my overview page, which I will describe here as 'colorful', based on the behaviors I observed today with the GF 45mm f/2.8 and the GFX with the very latest firmware. I think I like my Nikon D850 and Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 more than ever.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Overview of Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR

Aperture Series With Focus Stack: Early Morning, West Walker River, Upstream View

If you’ve held off on focus stacking, but are interested in cameras like the Fujifilm GFX or the Hasselblad X1D or Nikon D850 or Sony A7R III—you had better get started with focus stacking yesterday, as I think the stacked image in this series makes obvious.

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/11 plus the 5-frame focus stack at f/9.

Early Morning , West Walker River, Upstream
f9 @ 1/30 sec, ISO 100; 2017-12-06 12:58:44 [focus stack 5 frames]
GFX 50S + GF45mmF2.8 R WR @ 36mm (45mm)

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Adobe Support for A7R III Raw Files (even without pixel shift).

See my Sony wish list.

The software that Sony offers to process A7R III files I deem unusable for any professional workflow, and lashes even a hobbyist. Just a few of the reasons are shown further below; I am not going to waste time spelling out the faults of software that has zero future value.

I would have thought that camera vendors had figured out that shipping garbage software for their cameras was a recipe for disaster, circa 2010 or so.

Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files

Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files not yet released

It seems that I’m dead in the water on the imaging side of the Sony A7R III until Adobe supports Sony A7R III raw files (just regular ones, pixel shift would be a huge bonus).

For my publications here on this site, it is not acceptable to process with another raw converter because I have intentionally maintained consistency across all cameras and lenses I review by using Adobe Camera Raw and crafting a workflow over years designed to evaluate all cameras and lenses on a level playing field. My eyes and brain are tuned to that. So besides the godawful Sony crapware, consistency matters.

Sony science fair entry: pixel shift

Pixel shift as implemented in the A7R III seems to be a science-fair-grade project in the A7R III and Sony’s editing app. It’s just bad. Go try a Pentax K-1, open the files in Adobe Camera Raw—night and day. Sony has chosen to record 4 separate files with *nothing* to group them or distinguish by name. Are you $(#$(#$($ kidding me Sony? How does one make any order or sense out of a shoot?

If Sony insists upon 4 separate files, the A7R III should create subfolders containing all four or (worse but better than nothing), modify the file naming convention for the 4 related files for that one shot. By comparison, Pentax pixel shift records one large file—easy as pie, just open it up in Photoshop. The only utility Pentax screwed up on is a drag-n-drop “splitter” app to extract one or more of the 4 exposures in the conglomerate file.

Sony’s editing app for pixel shift

So I have a large folder of A7R III images, some single frames (non pixel shift) and many pixel shift images—all intermixed. When I start Sony’s edit app, I have no idea how to begin. As I write this, I have no internet and won’t for 16 hours. But that’s besides the point: the app seemingly has no concept of pixel shift grouping, showing a strip of images at the bottom of the window lacking in any organization. After 20 minutes I cannot figure out how to make a pixel shift image out of the 4 raw files in the Sony Edit program (Mac version of the software, maybe it’s just not there at all?)

Sony color management = not a clue

Sony’s editing app is jaw-droppingly incompetent. At least on a Mac, an application should NEVER ask the user what color space to assume the display is in: the program should query the system for the display profile, and then draw the image properly based on the color management profile for the display and the color profile of the image. This How It Is Done.

Anyone who calibrates properly will NEVER have ANY of these display profiles* because the display profile will be particular to the display, particular to the brightness and white balance chosen, etc. A user might make 10 different profiles for the same display to suit 10 different targeted workflow needs. That Sony would even have such a preference dialog speaks volumes.

* A close match by luck is possible, but it is still wrong; every display varies, including non-linearities and drift over time and temperature.

Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files not yet released
Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files not yet released

Sony Edit

I can’t figure out how to do any pixel shift anything. I’ve stared at every button and menu item and right clicked on everything I can think of. And Sony Edit can’t even do basic things right.

Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files not yet released
Adobe Camera Raw support for A7R III files not yet released

Sony viewer

Are you bleeping kidding me? All the folder names are truncated and that area cannot be made wider. The selected item is unreadable.

Unreadable / unusable Sony File Viewer
Unreadable / unusable Sony File Viewer

See my Mac wish list.

Michael Erlewine writes:

Sony A7R III arrived. The menu system, as usual, is a nightmare. When you get the time, a list of how to set it up would be appreciated by your readers. I can’t figure out yet how to magnify the view so I can shoot from it.

If I had any sense, I would send the whole thing back and just use the Nikon D850.

The pixel-shift on the A7R3 is a nightmare to use, physically, but they seem to have done it right. The results are outstanding. Scary. I wish I could just send it back, but probably won’t. It is not a lot of fun.

The Sony A7R III manual, which is not even printed… is ONLINE.

Someone will make a fortune making it easy to know how to use this camera. Looking at a pixel-shift image in Sony Imagining Edge Software is upsetting. Comparing the color in an image (pixel-shift) and the image exported to PS as a TIF is troubling. The color is enough different between the two…shows the TIF colors in PS, much more balanced that the same image at the same 100% in the Imaging Edge Software. The TIF is much better color. Must be the Sony Software. Obviously not the image. But, I am getting old, not only physically, but tired of endlessly moving to new equipment with all the attendant difficulties. I just want to take photos, but I can see this is a never ending stairway and perhaps not going to heaven, either. LOL. Yet the image at first blush is pretty damn good. Not being a field-shooter like yourself, I don’t like the dinky-ness of the A7R3.

DIGLLOYD: I plan on doing for the A7R III what I did for the A7R II; see the several pages on buttons and customization for Sony A7R II. However, this is a secondary priority versus field shooting given the limited time for that.

As for user manuals, PDF is far superior when there is no internet, e.g., 90% of the time when I travel. And it can be read on a phone, and dual facing pages on a large display are far easier reading than the coarse HTML presentation I see there.

The color issues are troubling; my guess is that Sony might be not tagging with the color space properly and/or might not support color spaces properly at all. I want Adobe support for pixel shift on the A7R III.

Brian K writes:

Hope your A7RIII arrives today! Mine arrived last night.

Going through the menus, I found something that I don’t recall hearing about—there is an option to use magnified view with AF. The default is for 1x magnification, but one can set up a custom button (like C1) to display magnified view (6.2x followed by 12.4x if pressed again). Only works in single shooting drive mode. But something I’ve been wanting.

The thumb joystick seems to work reasonably well to move around the focus point while composing.

DIGLLOYD: lots to explore.

HDMI 2.1 Delivers Awesome Features, like up to 10K Displays

See my Mac wish list.

The HDMI 2.1 standard has been issued. It will take at least a year and possibly 2-3 years for computer makers like Apple to implement it. I hope to see a 34-inch iMac Pro 8K in 2018, but I give that low odds due to panel availability. But at the least, I hope that the vaporware new Mac Pro will supprt HDMI 2.1, which would make it worth waiting for and buying.

All sorts of things need to happen, not the least of which is graphics support 4 times more powerful than today’s 5K-capable computers, new cables, development of 8K and 10K panels at semi-reasonable prices, etc.

Even today, the new Apple iMac Pro remains stuck at 5K, probably because of the lack of suitable 8K panels (Apple can custom support 8K just as with the original iMac 5K).

TechConnect.com has an excellent summary of what HDMI 2.1 will usher in, in HDMI 2.1 specs and features: Everything you need to know. In a nutshell, a new wave of quality far beyond anything today—a huge leap. Hardware will take years to catchup.

 4K = 8.3 megapixels
 5K = 14.7 megapixels <== exists today in iMac 5K and is fantastic
 8K = 33 megapixels
10K = 59 megapixels <=== more than the Nikon D850, Hasselblad X1D, Fujifilm GFX!

One reason I refuse to shoot any camera less than 42/45/50 megapixels now, is that even a 36-megapixel camera won’t come close to filling a 10K screen (10240 X 5760 pixels), and just squeaks by on an 8K screen(7680 X 4320 pixels). Thus, I have zero interest in shooting 16 or 24 or 30 or 36 megapixel cameras that will fall far short of filling the screen, because within 3-5 years we will have 8K at reasonable prices. But perhaps the industry will leapfrog 8K and go directly to 10K.

For still photography, you will need to master focus stacking to not see how even a small shortcoming in depth of field results in less than full detail. Lens performance will become even more important.

From the TechConnect.com article:

Increased bandwidth is the most salient improvement HDMI 2.1 delivers. We're talking a staggering 48 gigabits per second, compared to the 18Gbps that HDMI 2.0 can handle. That bandwidth bump makes possible all of the larger numbers you'll see in the rest of this story: 8K and 10K video resolution, 4K resolution with a 240Hz refresh rate, and so on.

...

When HDMI 2.1 does arrive, it will be in high-end video cards aimed at gamers, and in medical, industrial, and scientific imaging systems. As the 2020 Olympics will be broadcast in 8K, we wouldn't be shocked to see an 8K TV appear before then.

I saw 8K earlier this year at CES (unbelievably detailed even on a huge screen). It’s just a matter of time before the economics work themselves down to reasonable pricing levels.

Meanwhile, 4K and OLED are all the rage.

 

Blazing-fast PCIe storage for Mac Pro Tower

Sony A7R III: Extra Batteries Not so Fast to Get, Have to Go Ground Shipping

See my Nikon wish list.

When I ordered the Sony A7R III from B&H Photo (due to arrive today), I neglected to order extra batteries. Problem is, at 15°F to 30°F, batteries do not last very long. So even though the battery is twice the capacity of the A7R II batteries, this has me concerned.

With the new heavy handed shipping restrictions (UPS/FedEx policy I believe), I cannot get extra Sony NP-FZ100 batteries in less than a week, because they must be shipped by ground.

I find it a little hard to believe that 3 Sony lithium batteries in mostly discharged state in original packaging present a danger to an airplane. I’m not talking about a pallet of 1000-batteries, but 3 camera batteries in their own box.

My planning error is your gain: plan ahead now if you want extra batteries, particularly given unreliable and overloaded shipping this month.

Looks like I’ll need to charge the A7R III in the field by connecting it via USB: see Anker PowerCore+ 20100 USB-C Charger Battery for iPhone/iPad/Cameras/MacBook/etc. It is awkward to have to cable the A7R III to an external battery while shooting, but if I run out of juice, it’s better than trudging back to the van prematurely.

I’ve used this Anker battery solution for the Sony A7R II, so presumably it will work for the A7R III unless there is some cabling issue.

Reader Dr S writes:

Amazon has a bunch and with Prime I will receive mine in 2 days. Perhaps they have stock at a variety of warehouses throughout the U.S. and can deliver at will.

DIGLLOYD: good tip. I normally order all my camera gear from B&H Photo, but in this case I need those batteries quickly. I think B&H can ship one (1) battery overnight, but not 3. Amazon has a lot of warehouses, so can probably ship right from Reno or some place 2000 miles closer.

Anker PowerCore+ 20100 USB-C Charger Battery for iPhone/iPad/Cameras/MacBook/etc

Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Nikon D850: Two Choices, Including One-Piece Ultralight

See my Nikon wish list and get Nikon D850 at B&H Photo.

The about $180 Really Right Stuff L-Bracket for Nikon D850 is now on the Nikon D850. Generally my cameras wear their L plates permanently. Fit and finish are superb as usual, and one benefit perhaps not readily noted is that the L bracket reduces wear and tear on the camera too.

Now available in December 2017 the about $140 BD850-L Ultralight Plate for Nikon D850 is shipping also—more info and pictures further towards the bottom of this post. RRS is churning them out as fast as they can, so they are currently backordered by a week or two.

Get D850-UL plate for Nikon D850 or D850-L set for Nikon D850 at Really Right Stuff.

Really Right Stuff L-bracket for Nikon D850

As of 20 September 2017, Really Right Stuff says:

We are in full-swing production and cranking them out as fast as we can. The first batch should be shipping out this week, depending on what time we get them in from our supplier. However, we have many back-orders for the plate and we are shipping them out in the same order that we received the preorders. If someone places a pre-order today, it could be as much as few weeks before it will be fulfilled.

Its design includes the nice touch of a built-in allen wrench in the bottom plate, so one can take it off or put it on quickly, without having to remember to carry an allen wrench.

Like all L brackets, the dovetail allows the camera to be instantly mounted into a compatible clamp in either portrait or landscape mode—no flopping the tripod head.

I like L brackets for another reason: the bottom and left side of the camera are protected from scrapes and dings. I almost never take the L bracket off my cameras. Most models allow just the base plate portion, in case the “L” is not desired for some reason, but in general I recommend the full L-bracket approach.

Really Right Stuff offers a very wide range of L brackets for just about all brands and models (I use their plates on all my cameras, as well as my favorite tripod, the TVC-24L). The RRS camera plate designs are almost always optimized/customized for each camera for a perfect fit, sturdy and robust yet with minimized weight.

Really Right Stuff L-bracket for Nikon D850
Really Right Stuff L-bracket for Nikon D850

BD850-L Ultralight Plate for Nikon D850

Below, the ultralight plate is a single piece. Since I am not a video shooter and leave the L-bracket on my cameras pretty much permanently, I’m going to switch to this ultralight plate just as soon as I get one (by mid December or so). I don’t mind saving 2.5 ounces of weight either.

Really Right Stuff BD850-L Ultralight Plate for Nikon D850
Really Right Stuff BD850-L Ultralight Plate for Nikon D850

Ed F writes on Really Right Stuff:

I have been using RRS since my Nikon D3 days. I do not hesitate to purchase their plates, tripods and accesories to use in my photography. Once purchased, their equipment has marched with me around lakes, oceans, cities, airfields and landscapes assisting in my image making. I find the equipment bullet proof to the elements and adapts to my situational needs quickly and without compromise. In a nutshell RRS gear is always dependably rugged and enables my photography by minimizing missed shots due to camera and vibration shake.

I am writing to note that after I snagged one of the first D850’s, I went to RRS for an L plate. Unfortunately they were still in design stage. I needed a temporary L bracket solution, and ordered on Sept 14th, the 3 legged thing QR11-LC universal L-Bracket. Its quality and performance is adequate but never instilled confidence in me.

As a long time reader, I read your blog updates about the RRS L bracket D850 progress. I originally ordered the RRS D850-L Set thru B&H. However, I cancelled my order on Sept. 25 when I learned of the new ultralight L bracket. I then ordered the D850-UL plate on October 26th and have just received the ultralight plate on December 1st.

The wait for this plate has been about three months since my D850 was delivered. While other third party plates have been available, nothing really compares to RRS gear. I am confident that my camera body will be protected on two sides, and my camera can be locked and loaded on my Arca-Swiss Cube and TVC-24L legs and handle any of the 4 seasons and elements that are in my future image making.

All the best and thanks for all your articles which assist us in our photography.

DIGLLOYD: I’ve also used RRS for longer than I can remember. The wait is frustrating sometimes, but when you see how their gear is made with huge machines that strip away aluminum from solid blocks, you’ll understand why backlogs occur—there is a limit to how many parts can be made each day. Perhaps RRS will acquire more machines, but they might need a 2nd facility to do so as they are very large.

LensRentals.com: Bonus Gift Cards

LensRentals.com offers an incredible selection of lenses and cameras, both still and video all the way up to very high end gear. As well as accessories—flashes, brackets, etc.

See also the very funny LensRentals.com spoof videos.

Not sure about a lens or camera? Rent it first. Highly recommended.

Now through December 31st, when you purchase a gift card you will receive an additional gift card worth 10% of your purchase. For example, if you buy a $250 gift card for someone you'll automatically receive a $25 gift card for yourself. *No code is required for this promotion, it is automatically applied.

LensRentals.com gift card bonus, no promo code needed
Upgrade Your Mac Memory
At much lower cost than Apple, with more options.
Lloyd recommends 64GB for iMac or Mac Pro for photography/videography.

New Article on Zeiss Lenspire Site: “Getting started with Focus Stacking – How to achieve more detailed images”

Published a few days ago is:

Getting started with Focus Stacking – How to achieve more detailed images

See all articles by Lloyd Chambers at Lenspire.Zeiss.com:

These articles are also available here on this site, with higher quality image presentation.

Zeiss Mirrorless Lenses for Sony
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$1869 SAVE $330 = 15.0% Zeiss 135mm f/2 Milvus ZF.2 in Lenses: DSLR
$1699 SAVE $300 = 15.0% Zeiss 135mm f/2.8 Batis in Lenses: Mirrorless
NuGard KX Case for iPhones and iPads
Outstanding protection against drops and impact!
Excellent grip for wet hands, cycling, etc!

Sony A7R III: UPS Has Found the Package, Due Tomorrow Dec 5

See my Nikon wish list.

UPS had no idea where the Sony A7R III package was/is until about 13:00 today—it was supposed to have been delivered Friday Dec 1 (3 days ago).

Storing 42/45/50/100 megapixel raw files

You’ll need a high capacity camera card like the Sony 256 XQD for the Nikon D850, or a high-capacity SDXC card for the Fujifilm GFX or Sony A7R III. Using pixel shift on the Sony quadruples storage requirements.

I bought two 12TB drives and two of the empty OWC Mercury Elite Pro enclosures for travel use; I want to be able to take all my images with me on the road now as well as have more backups of work I cannot replace or backup better until I am home.

Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 IN STOCK!
Lloyd thinks this is the best-ever Zeiss wide angle.
IN STOCK
ends in 5 days

Focus Stacking and Stitching: Ralf Graebner and his 'Change' series using found-on-the-street NYC quarter-dollar coins

See my Nikon wish list.

I thought this a very interesting combination of stitching and stacking.

Ralf Graebner writes:

Snce you mention the technique of focus stacking more and more in your blog, I thought I’d introduce to you a photo series that I’ve been working on for 3 years now which wouldn’t be possible without focus stacking.

Over the years I picked up used/beaten up quarters from the streets of New York City. What fascinated me was the range of colors and textures these quarters had taken on being exposed to harsh environments over time, but also the thought that they had all started off looking identical at the time they were minted. I ended up calling this photo series “Change”.

My vision was to create very large, extremely detailed prints. After a lot of testing and creating versions of prints I now have a setup and workflow that gives me more than enough detail to create these 72“ x 72“ prints. Essentially I create a three-dimensionally stitched panorama of each of these coins. The lens I use is a microscopic objective with 6.5x magnification, so I photograph small sections of the surface of these quarters, 10 rows and 10 columns to capture the whole coin (with overlap for the stitching process).

But the true challenge is capturing the surface without loss of detail caused by diffraction. The microscopic objective I use has a working aperture of about 11 (at 6.5x magnification) but the resulting DOF is only about 1/100 mm, much less than the depth of the relief of the quarter. So, if I wanted to capture just 1 mm of DOF I’d have to create a focus stack of 100 shots for each of the 100 sections. But since you need overlap for the focus stacking process also, I move the camera in increments of 8/1000 mm. In case of the red 1984 quarter (which I am proud to say Alec Baldwin bought from me) each section ended up being a focus stack of 170 shots, or 14.500 exposures to capture the whole quarter.

I’ve tested both Zerene Stacker and Helicon Focus, and I do prefer Helicon Focus. But only an older version, 6.1, since newer versions have become dramatically slower, by a factor of 4! (Though, maybe that was a bug that has been fixed in the meantime) This may not have much of an impact with small stacks, but it does make a significant difference if I have to wait 5 minutes for a stack to be created, or 20 minutes.

I studied photography in Bielefeld, Germany, but I can say that your expertise and in-depth reporting also honed my knowledge about the technical side of photography considerably, so thank you for that Lloyd! Now that the Sony A7R III is out I will subscribe to your blog again very soon!

All the best!

DIGLLOYD: very cool project! See ralfgraebner.com for more.

Ralf Graebner and his 'Change' series using found-on-the-street NYC quarter-dollar coins
Crop
from Ralf Graebner and his 'Change' series using found-on-the-street NYC quarter-dollar coins

Mounting Cineo Matchbox Lights Magnetically using Really Right Stuff BH-25 Mini Ballhead, eg in Mercedes Sprinter Van

Get Cineo Matchbox LED at B&H Photo. See shootout versus Dracast.

Get Really Right Stuff BH-25 at ReallyRightStuff.com.

Really Right Stuff
BH-25 Mini Ballhead
(screw knob clamp version)

About two weeks ago I discussed mounting Cineo Matchbox lights inside my Mercedes Sprinter adventure van using Really Right Stuff BH-25 ballheads.

I’ve updated that post with pictures of the lights as mounted.

To mount the Cineo Matchbox, a magnet with a countersunk hole is bolted onto the bottom of the Really Right Stuff BH-25 ballhead, which then allows magnetic attachment to anything. The ballhead then provides for aiming the light where desired.

Cineo Matchbox specifications

The light quality from the about $318 Cineo Matchbox is second to none: 160° spread and none of that harsh LED bulb problem because the Matchbox uses remote phosphor technology. Plus the color rendering index is 98 (at 3200°K).

  • Remote Phosphor Technology
  • CRI: 98 at 3200K / 94 at 5600K
  • TLCI: 99 at 3200K / 97 at 5600K
  • 315 lux / 30.5 fc at 3' and 3200K 362 lux / 37.5 fc at 3' and 5600K
  • Beam Angle: 160° Local and DMX Dimming from 0-100%
  • Weather-Resistant Construction
  • 3.25 x 5.25 x 1.5" Panel, 1/4"-20 Thread on Base for Mounting
Cineo Matchbox LED remote phosphor lighting
Really Right Stuff BH-25 attaching Cineo Matchbox to Sprinter van interior, magnetically
f1.8 @ 1/15 sec, ISO 80; 2017-12-03 17:03:43
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

 

Will Adobe have Pixel Shift Support for the Sony A7R III? Plus Sony’s Image Edge Viewer Installer

See my Sony wish list.

What I’m hearing is that Adobe support for the pixel shift feature of the Sony A7R III is “maybe” with no definite date. That’s really disppointing. As I’ve said in past blog posts, a big vendor like Sony should just pay Adobe to get it done.

I don’t know how well I’ll be be able to evaluate pixel shift using Sony’s software, and it certainly makes any focus stacking using pixel shift a major PITA.

...

My trepidation in using Sony Imaging Edge software was there before I downloaded it, but now a big red flag is waving the its hella no fun to deal with untested software. I’m leery of using it at all.

Toggle between the 4 screen shots to see the lovely completely BLANK privacy policy, including a printed blank sheet. This is rather unbelievable—does Sony even test their installer, which behaves differently from other installers, adding more FUD to the mix?

See also screen #1—hell no I don’t trust Sony and would rather cancel the install, but what choice is there what with Adobe support nowhere in sight.

* FUD = Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

Installer screen shots from Sony Imaging Edge installer (macOS)
Thunderbolt 3 Dock
Must-have expansion for 2017 iMac/ MacBook Pro
Thunderbolt 3 • USB 3 • Gigabit Ethernet • 4K Support • Firewire 800 • Sound Ports

FOR SALE: 2013 Mac Pro 3.3 GHz 8-Core + NEC PA322UHD 4K Display

See my mac wish list.

This system has been 'bulletproof'. Bought around March 2014.

  • 2013 Mac Pro with 8-core 3.3 GHz CPU (custom upgrade 3.5 year ago, nothing faster for most all work).
  • 1TB internal Apple SSD
  • D700 GPUs
  • 64GB memory
  • NEC PA322UHD 4K professional display (see review)
  • Dual OWC Mercury Accelsior PCIe SSSs in external Thunderbolt 2 Helios 2 enclosure. As a stripe these are about as fast as the Mac Pro internal SSD.

$4500 or best offer. Local pickup preferred. Contact Lloyd.

Willing to sell the NEC display separately.

4TB Internal SSD
for 2013 Mac Pro
Free how-to videos and tools included, 3-year warranty

Sony A7R III: B&H has Shipped, but UPS Seems to Have Lost Mine and Many Others

See my Nikon wish list.

Snow is a particularly challenging subject for a Bayer matrix sensor, so I have a keen interest in seeing how well Sony’s pixel shift works (and hoping like heck that Adobe supports it soon so that I do not have to deal with Sony software).

Pixel shift with my best lenses for Sony (Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis) ought to be stunning, particular applying both pixel shift and focus stacking.

UPS screwups

UPDATE @ 4 Dec 13:52: UPS found the package. Duto arrive tomorrow Dec 5 by 15:00 PST.

...

I😎 expected the Sony A7R III to arrive last Friday. The next morning, I had planned to head to the mountains for some cold weather shooting near snowline., along with the Fujifilm GFX and Nikon D850.

But UPS has lost my A7R III and those of many other buyers. Here it is Sunday Dec 3 at 10 AM PST, and UPS still claims it does not have the package yet—it should have been delivered 2 days ago on Friday.

A friend sees the same issue—we should both have had the A7R III last Friday. I've also received emails emails from otheres. Moreover this is the 3rd UPS screwup for me in 2 months, like losing my Nikon D850, plus users at dpreview are seeing similar issues.

All that said, I do hold B&H Photo responsible for poor customer service: they should be working overtime to figure out the issue and notify affected customers.

Sony A7R II shipped yesterday acccording to B&H Photo, but UPS doesn’t have the package yet
Sony A7R II shipping Nov 30

This is the 3rd time that UPS has screwed up deliveries in two months losing my Nikon D850 for days back in October for example. But maybe it is a B&H screwup this time. Both mine and my friend’s camera were overnight delivery and users at dpreview are seeing similar delays. I called UPS and their system says that a label has been generated, but that they do not have the package. Which means at the earliest they could ship it Monday, for Tuesday arrival. Why does America operate on an anachronistic 5 day work schedule?

Nick C writes:

UPS in the NYC area is a mess at the moment. I have 2 packages, shipped overnight by another vendor on Wednesday, will only get one delivered on monday instead of Thursday, while the other is still not even showing as picked up by UPS even though it was picked up. I’m sure B&H is innocent in this matter.

Reader Tom S writes:

On November 29 B&H said they were shipping the camera via UPS and provided a shipping label. I am experiencing the same issue as you described - although my tracking number doesn’t indicate an arrival date or a current location. B&H says it is a UPS problem.

I have the Fujifilm GFX + new 45mm f/2.8 in hand as well, and the fixed (hopefully) Nikon D850 as well.

Storing 42/45/50/100 megapixel raw files

You’ll need a high capacity camera card like the Sony 256 XQD for the Nikon D850, or a high-capacity SDXC card for the Fujifilm GFX or Sony A7R III. Using pixel shift on the Sony quadruples storage requirements.

I bought two 12TB drives and two of the empty OWC Mercury Elite Pro enclosures for travel use; I want to be able to take all my images with me on the road now as well as have more backups of work I cannot replace or backup better until I am home.

Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Switched to 2017 iMac 5K as Primary Machine: Details on Gear I’m Using

UPDATE Dec 1: I’ve added more details plus a blog post on cabling up the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van.

...

Recently I bought a 2017 iMac 5K for solid reasons.

I have now switched to it as my primary workhorse machine. The 2013 Mac Pro with upgraded 3.3 GHz 8 core is for sale, along with the NEC PA322W 4K display and one OWC Thunderbay 4 (5TB drives optional).

More....

OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock port layout

I use or will soon use all these forms of storage for home and on the road in my Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van.

I use the NEC PA302W as my primary display for its wide gamut and many other excellent features. The iMac 5K is a viewing display not well suited for evaluating images for detail or color (can’t even control the brightness properly, for starters, plus pixel density).

Rigorously lab tested and OWC certified.

Cleaning your filters: Warm Water with Amphoteric Surfactants

Optisoap by Sereine

Reader Jeff C wrote with this note, so I thought I would republish the post below.

I want to thank you for your recommendation from years ago. I have been using Optisoap for years now on my camera lenses and eye glasses, and I am very happy with the product.

This November, I called the Denver office using the Optikem International phone number on your website and ordered a quart bottle of Optisoap. What amazed me was this:

  • The price has not changed from years back --- It's still $18.50
  • They shipped it without me pre-paying for the product. I just gave them my name and address.
  • The USPS shipping price on the box was $13.75, but they don't charge for shipping!!
  • The $18.50 invoice in the box came with a self-addressed envelope.

I don't know how they can afford to do this in this world of scams where we always have to have our guard up. I find it refreshing to know there is a company out there that still believes in a handshake-type agreement and it is because of this, I am a one of their loyal customers. Thanks you for recommending them.

DIGLLOYD: indeed, it is refreshing to see that companies with policies like this still exist. See Dan M’s comment further below.

Cleaning filters — keep 'em spotless or gain flare and lose contrast

I use filters for protecting the lens so when I need them, they get dirty—situations involving sand/dust, salt spray, rain and or other hazards, like children with fingers. Or with my polarizers, I tend to fingerprint them eventually all on my own.

When I do use filters, I like them to be pristine, because they can affect image quality even when spotless; see Filters: Loss of Image Contrast With a Polarizer (Zeiss 35/1.4 Distagon) in Making Sharp Images.

When home, I use a special soap to clean filters under warm water: Optisoap from OptiKem. It’s designed for contact lens wearers and leaves zero residue. Using a tiny dab on a filter with warm water and gentle fingers removes all particulate matter as well as grease and oil, with zero risk of scratching. However, NOT recommended for polarizers, since they are not necessarily sealed (use only with regular glass filters).

You’ve got to love those amphoteric surfactants. Optisoap is hard to find online, but local optometrists often have it.

You can order Optisoap directly from Optikem International in Denver, CO at (800) 525-1752 / (303) 936-1137. It’s $18.50 for a 1 quart bottle, which lasts a long time and is vastly less expensive than the tiny bottles you might buy elsewhere. See also SereineSolutions.com.

Get filters at B&H Photo. At present my preferred filter brand is Zeiss, and I also like Heliopan. I’ve had terrible luck with B+W polarizers—very stiff rotation and binding.

Zeiss UV and polarizer filter lineup

Dan M writes:

My wife and I use it to clean our eyeglasses.

1. Wash hands thoroughly with non abrasive soap and rinse them well. Thoroughly flush glasses, both sides, with cool water. Finish by getting a good amount of water standing on the inside of the lenses.

2. Mix in Optisoap by putting a few drops on a fingertip, then putting in in the water resting on the inside of one lens. Just keep dipping your finger back into that water/Optisoap on that one lens surface to get what you need for the other three surfaces.

3. Wipe softly around all surfaces, both sides. And edges. 4. Rinse thoroughly with cool to slightly warm water.

5. Firmly grasping ear bars, shake off excess water

6. Blow off remaining drops with compressed air, being careful, of course, to clear the propellant first. Blow horizontally, not down, from 4-6 inches away.

End result is a much better cleaning job than you can ever get with any kind of spray, tissue or wipe combination. The key is that (1) all possible fine material is removed before you touch the glasses and (2) Optisoap introduces nothing that will scratch the glasses or effect their coatings. At least it never has harmed mine. Seems tedious, but the results are perfect and you can get to where it only takes a minute or two.

After 3-4 years we have used 2/3 of the bottle.

After cataract surgery my near vision only glasses are very delicate and ride close to my eyes. They get sweat, grit on them. And yes, fingerprints. This method guarantees you aren’t accidentally wiping fine particles into the lenses. I’ve been using Optisoap almost daily for eyeglasses for 3-4 years. My wife was very skeptical. Now she insists on finding the Optisoap when her glasses are dirty. Be careful not to tighten the cap of the bottle too tightly or it will break. (experience)

I’ve never found anything close to what the Optisoap method does. Thing is, even the best Zeiss wipe or spray and non abrasive cloth will catch grit and sweat grease, all that other crud, and spread it around the surface. The edge of the wipe catches something from the lens frame, spreads it into the area you’re trying to clean. Half the time I ended up causing a problem I didn’t have to start with.

DIGLLOYD: good tip and what I also do with my Revo sunglasses when I’m home and have running water. The lack of odor or smell is another huge plus.

Too bad I can’t clean the front of my lenses with it... well, wait a minute: Zeiss Milvus lenses are supposed to be weather sealed—I’ll ask Zeiss.

OWC Thunderbolt 2 Dock
Review of Thunderbolt 2 Dock
SSD upgrade that takes full advantage of APFS

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