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The Reality of Zoom Lens Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional features:

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

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

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


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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use coupon promo code 56945676233893538 for $200 off the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art. The promo code can be entered part way through the checkout process. Be sure to sign up for the Payboo card so that B&H pays the sales tax, which is a steep 9.25% where I live.

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

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

2019 iMac 5K or iMac Pro?

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Backup, RAID, optimizing performance, workflow.

2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display

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

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

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

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"

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

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

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

Which model to buy

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

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

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

$100 off base models

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


Nasty Surprise with Apple Software Update: NEC PA302W will no longer Work (UPDATE: maybe power outages fried port?)

Back at home from a 7-week photo trip.

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

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

.... original post below...

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEC PA302W 30-inch wide-gamut display
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Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details Continues to Frustrate: Stripes Over Entire Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

More about Enhance Details...

enlarged crop with/without using Adobe Camera Raw Enhance Details
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Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art Examples: Eastern Sierra, Yosemite and Twenty Lakes Basin

Various examples from the Eastern Sierra:

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

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

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

[low-res image for bot]

Fujifilm Medium Format Rebates on Lenses and Cameras are Back

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

See also Fujifilm X rebates.

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CLICK TO VIEW: Fujifilm Medium Format

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Which Camera System 📷 is Best?
Which Lenses to Choose?🌈


Avoid costly mistakes and get the ideal system for your needs: diglloyd photographic consulting.

Weather in Eastern Sierra is Exceptional, Idyllic

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

[low-res image for bot]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[low-res image for bot]

Herding Cats

I’ve been overworked lately, and with all these characters to manage, it has been tough.

And the cost for clothing and shoes are rough, especially on granite.

...

Seriously, I have a ton of things coming for the Sony A7R IV and lenses and image making from this trip, but it is difficult to find enough time to both shoot and publish.

If focus stacking sees like too much trouble (or seems so), it's not all that hard, with some up-front learning followed by high productivity. Making this series was not difficult. The main challenge was the flakiness of the Sony remote release (terrible flakiness issues), and the limited range of Bluetooth.

Lloyd at Work
f8 @ 1/100 sec electronic shutter focus stack 9 frames, ISO 100; 2019-11-02 16:56:47
Sony A7R IV + Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art + polarizer Breakthrough Photography X4
ENV: granite dome near Tuolumne Meadows, altitude 9070 ft / 2765 m, 45°F / 7°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, push 1.0 stops

[low-res image for bot]

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Reader Comment: Image Quality of 2019 Cameras

Jason W writes:

Looking back at your Hasselblad H6D-100C images posted just one year ago, I'm kind of thrown by how has happened since then. At the time, short of the 150 megapixel back, it was the very best image quality available and it really towered above the rest. It was the best image quality you'd posted up until that point, and it was so by a good margin.

But yet, in just one year, the Fujifilm GFX100 and Sony A7R IV have matched or toppled it for a fraction of the cost.

Additionally, with the Nikon 850 Monochrome and frame averaging techniques, you've again posted the highest quality field images I've seen to date. You have to wonder what will be available this time next year that will make the current options seem sedate.

DIGLLOYD: golden age of photography!

Jason W writes again:

I completely agree with James K about the GFX100 je ne sais quoi and these are your best images. I'll offer my theory, which is subjective, but this is a subjective point.

1) You personally shoot more compelling compositions with the 4:3 aspect ratio than 3:2. I believe I told you this before when you posted your early impressions of the GFX50S. The only time I think you're as good on 3:2 is shooting 25mm. I feel like that's true with Batis or Milvus variants.

2) Native 100 megapixels is more natural than anything produced by Gigapixel+A7RIV. Good as it is, I see artifacts in Gigapixel on tight rock formation lines and especially oceans that remind me of the "wormy" artifacts you pointed out on X-Trans sensors. Not as bad and results vary but native is native.

3) Fujifilm GF lens draw. Unfortunately impossible to put these on the A7RIV to compare but they don't look like Zeiss, Voigtlander or Sigma and you can put most of those lenses on the GFX. I see all variety of lenses adapted on the GFX and you can still tell when what's mounted isn't the native glass.

DIGLLOYD: I do like 4:3, this is true. I have made some very fine images this trip on the A7R IV (many yet unpublished), so I’m at a loss to validate this idea.

100 megapixels is a plus on the oversampling front for sure, but if the pixels are less sharp or there is less depth of field (or more diffraction trying to get it) or more field curvature (definitely on the GF lenses), then there is a narrowing difference between 60 and 100 megapixels, which is a 1.3X linear resolving power difference (if the aspect ratio matches).

I never considered the GF lenses to be exceptional in rendering style, but I do think they are pleasing and very good. At any rate, I cannot afford a Fujifilm GFX100, not even close. So if the camera makes the photographer, I’m out of luck!

James K writes:

I still think that the images you made with the Fujifilm GFX 100 were excellent- your best. The GFX has the secret sauce for you the others don’t. Hopefully Fuji will fix the problems you noted and deliver a better shooting experience.

Greenstone Lake 2019-08-04 20:16:27
White Mountains 2019-08-10 5:49:15
Conness Lake 2019-08-04 20:11:33
Self Portrait seated close could not find the image.

The “feel” of the images is unique.

[diglloyd: I cannot easily locate images by keyword and date (the above ones), but with some effort I found the images above. URLs to the page are what I need, please. I guess I should write some more server search code for such stuff.]

DIGLLOYD:

I have published so far only a tiny fraction of the images made with the Sony A7 IV. But the images below I think fairly portray the camera quality, and I don’t think it plays second fiddle to the Fujifilm GFX100.

There may be a je ne sai quoi factor at work in favor of the GFX100, but I'm not seeing it in an obvious way. Possibly the aspect ratio and focal length are involved, or possibly it is about subject matter. Or it may be color rendition—I’d bet on that for starters—Sony has never put the work into improving color rendition IMO. The GFX100 might also handle highlights better. But proving this... hard.

Note that just two (2) frames with frame averaging reduces Sony A7R IV noise levels below that of the Fujifilm GFX100 medium format camera. Indeed, per-pixel noise levels are essentially identical for the two cameras (in a single frame). So at that point it boils down to pixel count. But...

Even megapixels (100 vs 60) can be dubious in terms of results over a variety of images—superior lenses deliver a big boost to achievable image quality—nothing in its range on GFX100 can even approach the Voigtlander 65mm f/2 on Sony A7R IV or the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art (the GF 23/4 can be good, but it’s one lens!) or the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art, which in spite of the latter two be less than optimal samples, impress mightily. If you capture at 60MP with an impeccable lens, then this narrows the gap to 100MP considerably.

CLICK TO VIEW: Lloyd’s “go to” outstanding lens kit for Sony A7R IV

Colorful Plants Approaching Alpine Pond
f8 @ 6.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 3 frames, ISO 100; 2019-09-26 19:09:52
Sony A7R IV + Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art @ 14mm
ENV: Twenty Lakes Basin, altitude 10300 ft / 3139 m, 53°F / 11°C
RAW: LACA corrected, +100 Shadows, -73 Highlights, +57 Whites

[low-res image for bot]
Pine Lake at Dusk before Moonrise
f5.6 @ 30.0 sec electronic shutter frame averaging 4, ISO 100; 2019-10-12 18:50:29
Sony A7R IV + Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art @ 14mm
ENV: Pine Lake, altitude 9950 ft / 3033 m, 30°F / -1°C
RAW: LACA corrected, USM {8,50,0}

[low-res image for bot]

Frame Averaging: Your first Quick Start Effort How-To

Want to get started with frame averaging? This page guides you through it step by step, both shooting and post processing.

Even this simple minimalist 2-frame approach has substantial image quality benefits. “Substantial” means that a full-frame camera can easily outperform a medium format camera in terms of noise—quite a jump given the huge cost difference!

Making Sharp Images: Frame Averaging: Quick Start How-To

This how-to applies to any kind of digital camera of any brand.

Simple 2-frame average in Photoshop
√ B&H Photo PAYS THE SALES TAX FOR YOU More info...

Frame Averaging Case Study: Granite Dome After Sunset

This case study shows the benefits of frame averaging, comparing a single frame to 2 frames and 9 frames in an extreme dynamic range situation in which a maximum shadow boost and other contrast control measures were needed.

For this image, I wished to preserve all the detail in the sunset sky and have excellent detail in the black shadow areas.

Making Sharp Images: Frame Averaging Case Study: Granite Dome After Sunset

This study applies to any kind of digital camera of any brand. Includes images up to 60 megapixels, plus crops and histograms.

Given the almost pure black of this image, the result that emerges is very impressive! It could have been even better, but for design ineptitude in the Sony A7R IV.

Image as shot
f8 @ 1/5 sec electronic shutter frame averaging 9, ISO 100; 2019-10-28 18:24:21
Sony A7R IV + Voigtlander FE Macro APO-Lanthar 65mm f/2 Aspherical
ENV: altitude 9800 ft / 2987 m, 28°F / -2°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, push 2.65 stops, +100 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +50 Whites, Luminance NR {10,50,0}, Chroma NR {20,50,0}, USM {12,50,0}, SmartSharpen{60,0.7,0,0}

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Sometimes, Grossly Misleading Errors in Sony RGB Histogram

It is about time cameras included a true raw histogram instead of half-assed JPEG-oriented histograms. And eliminate the the JPEG crapware when shooting raw too.

I feel infuriated at the ineptitude of Sony engineers, who for raw files shooters present a histogram as blown-out, when there can be as much as a 2.5 stop underexposure, as per the RawDigger analysis below.

This design ineptitude cheats me of a means to determine optimal exposure, and therefore, an optimal image. Sony claims 15-bit dynamic range in the A7R IV, but (WTF?) fails to design in the essential tools to get anywhere close to that claim.

By comparison, it has been a joy to shoot the Nikon D850 monochrome, because I am nailing the exposure to within 1/3 stop virtually every time. Yet that is not praise for Nikon because it is a special case for monochrome—an unmodified color Nikon D850 misleads also. Virtually every camera vendor is incompetent when it comes to presenting actual exposure for raw files, instead delivering a baked-cake-for-JPEG histogram, which is usually pretty close, but sometimes way off.

As if everyone buys a $3500 camera to shoot JPEG with gross underexposure. Well, maybe I’m the fool, and that’s the market reality—dilettantes unwilling or unable to improve their competence mean that Sony need not bother. Such shitty camera design is surely one incentive to say “f' it”, and just go with an iPhone.

Grossly misleading Sony histogram

While shooting this scene, when I added just 1/3 stop more exposure, the A7R IV went nuts with blinkies, claiming I was blowing-out the exposure, when I could have added. 2.5 stops more as per RawDigger, below. In other words I could have shot just 2 frames with more exposure than the 9 frames I shot for frame averaging. All due to moronic camera design.

I don’t yet know how to work around such a grossly misleading histogram. Moreoever, the image is 100% in gamut in Adobe RGB, and I had long ago configured the A7R IV for the Adobe RGB color space. I will have to look into whether a Picture Profile can mitigate this severe anti-functional behavior, but trying it, the camera malfunctions so I am not hopeful.

Below, I wished to maintain full color detail in the sunset, and so I adjusted exposure until the camera histogram showed (falsely) that there were no blown-out details in the red channel. By all objective measures, this is an optimal ETTR exposure. But it’s not, as per RawDigger, below.

Histogram on Sony A7R IV showing erroneous maxed-out histogram

Below, the exposure reality is far different; RawDigger shows 2.5 stops underexposure. That is, maximum ETTR exposure should approach value 16000 for 14-bit files, as this one is.

Histogram on Sony A7R IV showing erroneous maxed-out histogram

RawDigger info shows 0% over exposure, and 80% underexposure. All due to the grossly misleading Sony histogram.

The scene for the above histograms

Voigtlander 65mm f/2 APO Macro-Lanthar Aperture Series: View to Mt Conness Past Granite Dome, Late Dusk

This series from f/2 through f/8 evaluates the Voigtlander 65mm f/2 Macro APO-Lanthar on an finely detailed subject at medium-far range. A black and white rendition at f/8 is shown for context vs the Nikon D850 monochrome.

Voigtlander 65mm f/2 APO Macro-Lanthar Aperture Series: View to Mt Conness, Late Dusk (Sony A7R IV)

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

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

The stray boulders on top of the nearby dome are an elegant testimony to glaciers a mile thick 10000 years ago, dropped in place as the ice melted. How could early geologists think of any other theory? It’s worth a laugh to see the stray mess sitting on top of this massive granite dome—a cosmic joke.

View to Mt Conness past granite dome, late dusk
f5.6 @ 1.0 sec, ISO 100; 2019-10-28 18:19:56
Sony A7R IV + Voigtlander FE Macro APO-Lanthar 65mm f/2 Aspherical

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Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Surviving Aspen (Nikon D850 monochrome)

The Nikon D850 monochrome is a Nikon D850 with its color filter array (CFA) removed by maxmax.com. The NEF files are converted to monochrome DNG via LibRaw Monochrome2DNG and “Method B”, then processed using Adobe Camera Raw. Doing so avoids any demosaicing and thus retains full spatial resolution.

This aperture series shows the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon from f/1.4 through f/11 on the Nikon D850 monochrome using a B+W Dark Red 091 filter.

In diglloyd Zeiss DSLR Lenses:

Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon Aperture Series: Surviving Aspen (Nikon D850 monochrome)

Images at up to full camera resolution.

f2.8 @ 1/50 sec electronic shutter, ISO 31; 2019-10-29 13:54:35
NIKON D850 monochrome + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon + polarizer Zeiss + filter B+W Dark Red 091
ENV: Lundy Canyon, altitude 8300 ft / 2530 m, 40°F / 4°C
RAW: pull 0.75 stops, -100 Shadows, +40 Whites

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