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Good Morning from Alabama Hills

Awesome place, awesome morning. Visiting the Alabama Hills is ideal in December. Camping is free and everywhere and the roads are good enough for any vehicle (well, most of the roads).

I shot a bunch of other stuff including panoramas—they should be very nice, but this pre-sunrise glow often is so fleeting (a cloud moves and poof it's gone) so that it’s very hard to capture in a panorama. So this is a single frame.

The full 151MP version of this image may be viewed in diglloyd Medium Format in:

Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5 Examples: Alabama Hills and Mt Whitney Area

WOWincredible detail, color, tonality, super low noise, I’ve never seen anything like it before. The entire frame is just stunning at actual pixels (151 megapixels!)

Maybe I can paint in the moon from another frame; I shot some other frames 5 or 6 stops darker with that idea; the dynamic range required for reasonable noise is probably around 20 stops.

f7.1 @ 10.0 sec electronic shutter, ISO 50; 2019-12-13 06:26:08
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 38°F / 3°C
RAW: LACA corrected, pull 0.82 stops, +12 Shadows, USM {8,50,0}, SmartSharpen{60,0.7,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]
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Schneider Kreuznach LS 240mm f/4.5 Example: Alpenglow On Mt Whitney (Phase One IQ4)

I have a ton of images shot the past two days, an I have only glanced at a few of them. I don’t know if this is the best morning shot from yesterday, but it shows what alpenglow looks like as the sun hits the Mt Whitney Spires from the Alabama Hills.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Schneider Kreuznach LS 240mm f/4.5 Examples: Alabama Hills and Mt Whitney Area (Phase One IQ4)

Includes images up to full 151MP camera resolution (14204 X 10652) from f/2.8 through f/11. Includes both a color version and a black and white rendition.

I have many more examples, but little time to organize, assess and process because I am focusing all my attention on making images, what with only 3 days remaining before the IQ4 has to go back. It feels disappointing, because I have finally figured out how to work around the oddities and bugs of the IQ4, and it is just so exciting to see the images that it delivers.

Mt Whitney is seen near far right in the far distance.

f9 @ 0.4 sec electronic shutter, ISO 50; 2019-12-11 06:53:16
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 240mm f/4.5 IF + polarizer Zeiss
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 35°F / 1°C
RAW: LACA corrected, pull 0.69 stops, +12 Shadows, USM {10,50,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening, SmartSharpen{150,1.5,0}

[low-res image for bot]
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Good Morning from Alabama Hills

Awesome place, awesome morning.

Visiting the Alabama Hills is ideal in December. Camping is free and everywhere and the roads are good enough for any vehicle (well, most of the roads).

I wanted to shoot this pano with the Phase One IQ4, but it started corrupting every file I shot (not the first time nor the first day). By the time I had it behaving again, the light was gone.

Mt Whitney is seen near far right in the far distance.

f1.8 @ 1/1000 sec panorama, ISO 40; 2019-12-12 07:31:58
iPhone 11 Pro Max + iPhone 11 Pro Max 4.2 mm f/1.8
ENV: Alabama Hills, altitude 4661 ft / 1421 m, 35°F / 1°C

[low-res image for bot]
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Consult with Lloyd for the best possible Mac for your Computing Needs (or general PC configuration)

The 2019 Apple Mac Pro is due out for ordering on December 10th, as is the Apple Pro Display XDR. I (Lloyd) will be testing the Mac Pro in depth as soon as I can ahold of one.

Update: I saved one client about $4000 today, and he’ll have a faster machine too!

Realistically a non-token configuration Mac Pro is going to run $7000 at a bare minimum (no one in their right mind should buy it with less than 64GB!).

But what will really help your specific workflow in terms of CPU cores, GPU, memory, SSD?

Whether you use Capture One, Lightroom, Photoshop, video software, etc, there are options that move the ball forward, and options that just burn money.

That’s where I come in... I have decades (nearly 30 years) of experience as a professional software engineer along with testing performance of Macs at MPG for a decade. Even without testing I am certain that I can save you needless expense and more important: help you avoid losing performance by making non-optimal choices, some of which are unfixable without buying a new machine. And here in California, my consulting fee is about 1/3 of the tax on basic Mac Pro!

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro for your needs.

I have a cell signal and flexible hours most days (on the road as I write this).

Basic recommendations, minimum: 2TB SSD, 48GB memory, 12 core CPU.

MONEY SAVING TIP: order your Mac Pro with 32GB memory, then upgrade with OWC memory for Mac Pro. In the past, you could get TWICE the memory for about the same price.


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Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: View to White Mountains from Summit of Eureka Dunes (Phase One IQ4)

This aperture series look at performance of the Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 on a landscape scene at very far distance. The $65K question given the Phase One IQ4 system is what aperture to use to make use of the fabulous 150MP sensor.

I had wished for beautiful warm light at dusk, but the reality is that this 'blue' scene with a “blue line” lens is a severe challenge for any camera, and is thus a win in seeing what camera and lens can do under difficult conditions—blue light of low contrast.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: View to White Mountains from Summit of Eureka Dunes

Includes images up to full 151MP camera resolution (14204 X 10652) from f/2.8 through f/11.

Below, standing water from recent storms... will there be a superbloom this year?

f8 @ 3.0 sec electronic shutter, ISO 50; 2019-12-08 16:49:08
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 + polarizer Zeiss
ENV: Eureka Dunes, altitude 3500 ft / 1067 m, 40°F / 4°C
RAW: LACA corrected, +43 Shadows, +10 Contrast, Chroma NR {5}, SmartSharpen{60,0.8,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]

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Reader Comment: Phase One IQ4

Louise SMD writes:

I am surprised that you are struck by the quality of the image produced from the Phase One camera system. At that price I would be surprised and shocked if this one trick pony didn’t deliver the best image quality available, as that’s what is designed to do at a price that only top end commercial pros could afford or people with too much money to care.

At the end of the day surely it is the emotional and intellectual content of the image that makes it a great image not an over obsessing with image quality that will be indiscernible at even large scale unless pointed out.

It is disappointing that you are over obsessing with this line of enquiry that many of the great photographers and image makers wouldn’t get worked up about.

What about haptics, weight, portability, usability, its ability to allow you to be in the moment, the place, the readiness to capture a fleeting glimpse of something special , its ability to inspire the photographer / artist to capture / create. something magical, unique. I don't think any of this is contradictory.

DIGLLOYD: I did not and do not take it as a given that the per pixel quality of the same generation Sony sensor technology with identical size pixels is necessarily any better on the Phase One IQ4, but indeed it is. And I do not agree that it is only about degree of enlargement!

The “too much money to care” comment speaks to a psychological disposition that does not fit into my world view, that view being an admiration for apex products produced by keen minds are wonderful. So while I cannot begin to afford an IQ4, I am glad that such things are created and available in this world.

What should I be assessing with the IQ4, if not image quality? The IQ4 user interface is far more difficult than a Fujifilm GFX100 or Sony A7R IV... not even a contest in favor of those two cameras in terms of ease of use. Actually, I can’t stand the user interface—it has cost me shots, it takes far too much effort for simple things... uggh.. But the image quality is so enjoyable that it makes it worth the effort.

It is my business to maintain perspective on what is possible. I am filling in my own knowledge base as well as speaking to some high-end readers to whom it does matter (professionals).

As for “emotional and intellectual content of the image”, true enough in its proper context—but relating to whom by what standard? Judged by whom? An image has no validity for documentary or historical or scientific or other purposes? Or... just enjoying the sheer quality approaching the original closer than any other camera? Many images I make please me especially for their realism, which engages both emotional and intellectual aspects for me—and the IQ4 does that better than any camera I have ever used. So I’d say the view expressed above is self-contradictory.

For myself, I have less than zero interest in hanging a Cartier Bresson or Ansel Adams image on my wall because the experiences I relate to the most are... mine and my family’s (ditto for all of you and your interests—it’s personal). Who is to tell me or you what we should value in our images? I respond to some aspects of an image that others do not—and that makes my enjoyment no more worthy or less worthy than anyone’s. As a friend once said to me (paraphrasing): “I know my picture is not as good as Ansel’s, but it’s my picture”.

Louise SMD writes (continues):

What about haptics, weight, portability, usability, its ability to allow you to be in the moment, the place, the readiness to capture a fleeting glimpse of something special , its ability to inspire the photographer / artist to capture / create. something magical, unique. I don't think any of this is contradictory.

... and a bit later...

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my reflections and I appreciate your insights into the IQ4 which are as always a level above. I used to enjoy the results delivered by the little Sigma DP Merrill which also had there own unique character and handling peculiarities which persuaded the user to act in a certain routine fashion but 'mostly' rewarded in spades with the end results. Many thanks for all the work you do on our behalf.

150MP Phase One IQ4

DIGLLOYD: I cannot shoot and publish all in a week, and I’ve hardly had a chance to publish much at all images or otherwise. Working conditions have been difficult, to say the least, with cold at times, dull gray crummy light some days, etc—I have to prioritize capture.

While I have started to cover some of the usability issues in my discussion of the focus stacking feature, there is a lot more to say, but not as a priority as I have only a few days left to shoot before I must return the system.

But in a nutshell: haptics, weight, portability, usability, intuitive and fast operation are all frustratingly klunky and slow and extremely modal compared to any other camera, requiring enormous amounts of chimping on the touchscreen. Hard-coded controls have screwed me repeatedly: I have taken 100 pictures with my nose, and changed the ISO by accident—no way to turn off or reprogram the problem controls. The ability to capture a fleeting shot... well, put an appointment in your calendar for when the camera boots up.

However, bottom line is that the image quality is a huge incentive to overlook those things, knowing that it will thrill and never disappoint. Photographers who plan one or two shots for the day—perhaps having planned the shot for weeks and pre-scounted a location waiting only for conditions to be right—those folks will have no qualms about such a system.

John G writes:

I know you and I often disagree. Sometimes vehemently. But, for what it’s worth, I think your recent Phase One evaluations represent some of your best work to date.

I have used the Phase One system (on rental) many times. I have also owned various Hasselblad H systems over the years. I can speak intelligently to the ergonomic and user-interface hurdles even the most experienced and dedicated photographers must leap to use these cameras properly. Put simply; both systems are large and extremely heavy pains in the ass to use well. Schlepping them into the high mountains and low deserts is not for the faint of heart. For your part, the Phase One review has also necessitated taking the time to become familiar and adept with another processing program—Capture One. Which, I know from our email exchanges, has been challenging and frustrating for you. And yet you’ve done all this, and have produced some first-rate images along the way. (And I know you are still at the beginning stages of the review, so I’m sure we’ll see many more…)

If a photographer is interested in emotional reactions to equipment, there are plenty of blogs from which to choose. The internet is copiously populated with photo writers who react to products rather than meticulously test them. Reading these sites can be fun—it’s one of my guilty pleasures. But ultimately, most of them are not particularly useful for my purchasing decisions. In the end, and despite the popularity of these sites, it’s foolish to pretend these “emotional" reviews offer the same kind of technical and image quality insights your exhaustive reports consistently provide. In this regard, Ming Thein notwithstanding, you are singularly unique.

I have good friends and photo colleagues who shoot their most critical work with Phase One systems. (Interestingly, most of these same colleagues also use Fujifilm's GFX systems, too.) I continue to consider Phase One for my professional work and critical personal stuff. I’d almost certainly purchase certified pre-owned products from Phase. Like most of your readers, buying a Phase One system would represent an almost insurmountable financial investment for me. On the certified preowned front, Phase One’s upgrade path and dedication to customer service are unparalleled. Once shooters buy into the system, they rarely leave it for other brands because Phase One provides a reasonable and attainable non-obsolescence path.

So… Kudos, Lloyd, for taking the time and engaging in the hard work to provide this in-depth look at this important product category. Keep up the great work.

DIGLLOYD: yes, many more images coming but I need to concentrate on capture (not processing/publishing), with only 4 days left before I must return the Phase One IQ4. And I really need to be doing that on a dual display system with my NEC PA302W, as the iMac 5K sucks for evaluating color and contrast and detail.

I will miss the image quality of the IQ4—kind of like enjoying a bottle of the world’s finest wine (or tequila) and then having to go back to two-buck-Chuck. If Phase One could put the sensor size and image quality into a Fujifilm GFX100 (or Hasselblad X1D II) style body—I bet they would quadruple sales.

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Apple Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display XDR Now Available for Pre-Order at B&H Photo

See Why Consult with Lloyd for your own Workflow Needs.

The Apple 2019 Mac Pro is a serious workhorse machine costing up to US$50000. I am sure Apple will sell plenty of that model to Hollywood studios and similar.

MONEY SAVING TIP: order your Mac Pro with 32GB memory, then upgrade with OWC memory for Mac Pro. In the past, you could get TWICE the memory for about the same price.

But for most of us, here are some minimal recommendations. for buying (thank you for buying through my links to B&H Photo).

  • minimum 12 core CPU (if all you need is 8 cores ,consider the 2019 iMac 5K unless there are other features in a Mac Pro that make only 8 CPU cores worthwhile).
  • minimum 96GB memory but order with 32B, then add OWC memory for 2019 Mac Pro.
  • minimum 2TB SSD

View all Mac Pro SKUs at B&H Photo


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Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 Example: Last Change Wash (depth of field is nil on a 53.4 X 40 mm sensor!)

I haven’t published a lot just yet from the Phase One IQ4 because when nightfall hits, there are only so many hours, and 1 AM has worn me down for a week now. Focus stacking takes 1-2 hours per image.

This 14-frame focus stack took over 6 minutes, with exposure time of 20 seconds per frame. The Phase One IQ4 made it longer than necessary by doing dark frames at random intervals for some of the images of the sequence, good for a tiny improvement in image quality, but bad when the light is failing.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 Examples: Death Valley / Eureka Dunes Area

Includes images up to full 151MP camera resolution.

Lest there be any doubt as to the mandatory use of focus stacking for a huge 53.4 X 40.0mm sensor at f9 (f/11 would add only marginally more DoF), compare the single frame to the focus stacked image on the page above. It is impossible to make an image like this without focus stacking, the exception being the exceptionally rare scene amenable to a tilt lens, of which there is only one in the Phase One lineup which means it is impractical in general and still inadequate in most all cases.

f11 @ 20.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 14 frames, ISO 50; 2019-12-09 17:00:23
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 80mm f/2.8 + polarizer Zeiss
ENV: canyon SE of Eureka Dunes, altitude 4100 ft / 1250 m, 55°F / 12°C
RAW: LACA corrected, push 1.6 stops, USM {8,50,0}, SmartSharpen{60,0.8,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]

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Eureka Dunes in December

Twas a promising approach to Eureka Dunes today, just gorgeous.

But... after scarfing lunch, half way up to the summit the clouds had other ideas.

Still, I made some “blue” images with the Phase One IQ4, I just cannot stay up past midnight yet another night processing raw files... Capture One 20 is all well and good, but it is so slow to work with compared to Adobe Camera Raw, and it has bugs that are slowing me down too. But see the Moonrise shot further below.

If you like such stuff, conditions now and impending look fanastic. Except for the heavily tracked dunes—with little wind and high water content, tracks have been accumulating.

A major deluge hit this area a few days ago, and I’m guessing that might mean a super-bloom come late February or so. So much water that there is road damage for miles (cuts through the road as seen below), and standing water in places. And the sand of the dunes is heavy with moisture.

I’m stunned by how bad the image quality of the iPhone 11 Pro Max is—most of the panos I took have severely mutilated pixels, with heavy noise with heavy-handed compression, posterization and pixellation. Raw files are better, but can also suffer from extreme noise if the dynamic range is high. Of the images I’ve taken with it, 90% are total crap in image quality terms.

f2 @ 1/1900 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2019-12-08 13:27:00
iPhone 11 Pro Max + iPhone 11 Pro Max 6.0 mm f/2
ENV: Eureka Dunes, altitude 2881 ft / 878 m, 55°F / 12°C

[low-res image for bot]
f2 @ 1/1150 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2019-12-08 15:11:00
iPhone 11 Pro Max + iPhone 11 Pro Max 6.0 mm f/2
ENV: Eureka Dunes, altitude 3499 ft / 1066 m, 45°F / 7°C

[low-res image for bot]
f6.3 @ 1/100 sec electronic shutter, ISO 50; 2019-12-08 16:03:42
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 240mm f/4.5 IF + polarizer Zeiss
ENV: Eureka Dunes, altitude 3500 ft / 1067 m, 50°F / 10°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected

[low-res image for bot]
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Apple Mac Pro and Apple Pro Display XDR to be Available for Ordering December 10 — Consult with Lloyd for your own Workflow Needs

The 2019 Apple Mac Pro is due out for ordering on December 10th, as is the Apple Pro Display XDR. I (Lloyd) will be testing the Mac Pro in depth as soon as I can ahold of one.

Realistically a non-token configuration Mac Pro is going to run $7000 at a bare minimum (no one in their right mind should buy it with less than 64GB!).

But what will really help your specific workflow in terms of CPU cores, GPU, memory, SSD?

Whether you use Capture One, Lightroom, Photoshop, video software, etc, there are options that move the ball forward, and options that just burn money.

That’s where I come in... I have decades (nearly 30 years) of experience as a professional software engineer along with testing performance of Macs at MPG for a decade. Even without testing I am certain that I can save you needless expense and more important: help you avoid losing performance by making non-optimal choices, some of which are unfixable without buying a new machine. And here in California, my consulting fee is about 1/3 of the tax on basic Mac Pro!

Consult with Lloyd on the best Mac Pro for your needs.

I have a cell signal and flexible hours, so I can talk to you most days (on the road as I write this).

Basic recommendations, minimum: 2TB SSD, 48GB memory, 12 core CPU.

MONEY SAVING TIP: order your Mac Pro with 32GB memory, then upgrade with OWC memory for Mac Pro. In the past, you could get TWICE the memory for about the same price.

 

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Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5 Examples: Northern Death Valley Area

I am struck by how the Phase One IQ4 consistently delivers image better than any camera I have used before.

These examples in the Death Valley area. These images use focus stacking, assembled using Zerene Stacker.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5 Examples: Northern Death Valley Area

Includes images up to full 151MP camera resolution (14204 X 10652).

Separately, I show why the 35mm f/3.5 should be strongly preferred over the Schneider Kreuznach LS 40-80mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom:

Schneider Kreuznach LS 40-80mm f/4.5-5.6: Performance at 40mm for Landscape Imagery (Death Valley Area, Phase One IQ4)

Fog and Snow, High Desert Peaks
f11 @ 210.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 3 frames, ISO 64; 2019-12-07 17:17:21
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5
ENV: NE of Eureka Dunes, altitude 5600 ft / 1707 m, 42°F / 5°C
RAW: LACA corrected, push 2.3 stops, -100 Highlights, +5 Contrast, USM {8,50,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]
High Desert Dusk
f9 @ 15.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 5 frames, ISO 64; 2019-12-07 17:02:29
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5
ENV: NE of Eureka Dunes, altitude 5600 ft / 1707 m, 42°F / 5°C
RAW: LACA corrected, push 1.4 stops, +8 Shadows, -50 Highlights, USM {10,50,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening, SmartSharpen{70,0.8,0}

[low-res image for bot]
View Towards Eureka Dunes
f9 @ 6.0 sec electronic shutter focus stack 5 frames, ISO 64; 2019-12-07 16:53:16
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5
ENV: NE of Eureka Dunes, altitude 5600 ft / 1707 m, 42°F / 5°C
RAW: LACA corrected, push 0.66 stops, +5 Contrast, USM {10,50,0}, SmartSharpen{60,0.8,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]
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Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 150mm f/2.8 Aperture Series: MemChu

I was curious whether the Phase One IQ4 frame averaging feature could be used outdoors in order to achieve exceptional dynamic range.

In particular, I wanted to capture an intense glare off an icy lake while also retaining outstanding detail in the deeply-shadowed mountainside, a challenge that in my experience over decades no camera has ever met before to my satisfaction.

Well, this example shows why pros who want the best shoot Phase One.

In diglloyd Medium Format:

Phase One IQ4 Image Quality: Extreme Dynamic Range in the Field (Lundy Lake)

Includes images up to full 150MP camera resolution in both color and black and white.

NOTE: my output script developed a bug (a change I made), and this image is too dark because a key adjustment layer was omitted. I need to fix that bug and redo the image.

f11 @ 1/1000 sec electronic shutter frame averaging 5.655 seconds, ISO 50; 2019-12-06 13:37:51
Phase One IQ4 + Schneider Kreuznach LS 35mm f/3.5
ENV: Lundy Lake, altitude 7600 ft / 2316 m, 35°F / 1°C
RAW: LACA corrected, USM {10,50,0}, SmartSharpen{40,0.7,0}

[low-res image for bot]

Upgrade the memory of your 2018 Mac mini up to 64GB

B&H Photo Has the Top-End 16-inch 2019 MacBook Pro in Stock — this is the one you want as the single travel/desktop machine

For how to use a laptop as a desktop computer, see:

2019 Apple MacBook Pro with 16" Display: the Single Computer Solution At Last

Thoughts on Choosing Between the Apple 2019 Mac Pro vs 2019 MacBook Pro 16-Inch and Expected 2020 iMac Pro

2019 Apple MacBook Pro 16"

This machine below is the cat’s meow for anyone who wants high performance (not the highest possible, very high) and a single computer for desktop usage and travel—none of the extra expense and hassle of syncing two systems.

I strongly recommend at least a 4TB SSD but the 8TB SSD (more than twice as much usable space) is the smart move if used heavily and for some years to come. You cannot buy any external SSD that is as fast or convenient as the internal one, and an additional $1100 for an other 4TB of ultra-fast SSD storage is a steal—.

As much as the OWC Thunderblade is the best-ever external SSD (that I use every day and is critical to me), a big internal SSD is even faster and more convenient—unless one needs to high performance storage moved between machines, so it is apropos for that purpose.

Below, the 8TB SSD model just went back in-stock as I write this.

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

Sony Invests in AI for Gaming, Imaging, Gastronomy

Reader John W writes:

Sony just made it plain that they’re not just investing in sensor dominance. See this press release on the founding of “Sony AI”:

https://www.sony.net/SonyInfo/News/Press/201911/19-118E/

It’s not only hard / expensive to build world-class imaging sensors. Cutting-edge software capabilities can also be very hard to bootstrap. Sony’s moat appears to be growing.

DIGLLOYD: Panasonic just quit the sensor business, which Sony dominates. There are not mamy players.

A company that does not invest in AI is a goner, whatever the industry. Though I’m still waiting for RI (rudimentary intelligence) in so many products.

Sony Announces the Establishment of Sony AI with the mission to unleash human creativity

... Sony AI will combine world class fundamental research and development with Sony's unique technical assets, especially in Imaging & Sensing Solutions, Robotics and Entertainment (Games, Music and Movies), driving transformation across all existing business domains and contributing to the creation of new business domains.

In addition, one of Sony AI's long-term goals is to contribute to the resolution of shared global issues extending beyond Sony's business domains. Sony AI will drive the research and development of AI in both physical and virtual space through multiple world-class flagship projects as well as other explorative research projects, including AI ethics.

Initially, Sony AI will launch three flagship projects in the areas of gaming, imaging & sensing, and gastronomy. The adoption of new AI technologies developed through these flagship projects will be critical to further enhancing the value of Sony's gaming and sensor businesses in coming years. This research will be pursued in close collaboration with the relevant Sony Group business units.

...

Attention all Camera Makers: 23.5 Things To Please Your Customers

Why should it even be a consideration when choosing a camera as to whether it has Eye AF or frame averaging support or focus stacking support or AF-ON separate from the shutter or... <insert_your_own_favorite>. Most such features should be taken for granted now, just like autofocus and exposure.

Further below, I list the things that could make cameras better for everyone, at no downside in other aspects of operation.

I hope that Nikon, Canon, Leica, Panasonic, Sony, Phase One, Fujifilm all read this page and formulate a plan to improve/add.

In many if not most of these cases, there is no credible rationale for not getting it done. The key shortcomings can be lumped into several categories:

  • Features that improves sharpness.
  • Features that improve image quality, including dynamic range.
  • Design that simplifies the user experience e.g., eliminating all JPEG-centric stuff for those of us that shoot raw. Real customization, not just a My Menu.
  • Features that raise the hit rate (e.g., Eye AF that really does focus on the iris of the eye)
  • Addressing anything that reduces the chance of missing the shot or getting a sub-optimal picture in any technical way, e.g., auto-ETTR, deadly accurate autofocus.
  • Features that automate challenges that need not be challenges (exposure, focus stacking, etc).
  • Features that make it easy for the photographer determine that optimal image quality has been captured (exposure, dynamic range, sharpness, depth of field, etc), turning that into a guarantee in some cases (no verification needed).
  • Computational photography of various kinds, which will surely kill off any camera maker that does not embrace it (Sony has publicly stated that it Sony is investing in AI for photography).

I have a deep well of ideas in my noggin, as many other photographers do. Why do camera makers apparently design without serious input? Not-invented-here syndrome? No one at any of the camera companies has ever contacted me for input. Ditto for other photographers I know—this is not about me but about listening to skilled photographers out there, and there are many. Why camera companies ignore such a rich resource is puzzling, because asking and listening are one inexpensive way to prioritize R&D—all it would take is tasking one person at the company to make it their mission.

Addressing these issues would make cameras more competitive and useful—much more in some cases yet without adding any complexity for those that don’t use the features (at least if designed right). Still, I (sadly) expect this list to be ignored by most or all camera makers.

Going forward, any camera make that makes no effort to address these issues in new cameras and firmware is going to get called out by me here on a regular basis with some kind of Clown Award, at least if the easy stuff is left unaddressed. There is no defensible reason for not getting much of this stuff right.

After all these years, anyone who understands programming and computers* or just usability alone can only throw up hands in frustration at the scattershot approach camera makers take to their feature set. It makes no sense either technically or for marketing, given how trivial some of these things are to add or fix.

* I majored in mathematics and computational science at Stanford and have a long and varied professional software engineering history in the professional world.

Camera Functionality Deficits

You don’t have to be an engineer to scratch your head at the lack of some of this stuff in many or most cameras. Most of it is not hard.

All brands refer to mirrorless offerings, as DSLRs are dinosaurs and preclude some features.

Ratings subject to change (going from memory for first pass). Rating of 0 means not supported, low numbers means problems/bugs/dumb stuff, 10 means perfect, anything less means room for improvement. Please contact me if I have made an error for any brand.

I’ll see if I can come up with a better layout for poor table presentation. Partial list to be continued...

Feature / Behavior Difficulty Sony Nikon Fujifilm Canon Leica
Self timer:
– option to remain enabled for power on/off and between shots
- at least supports 1/2/3/5/10/15/20/30/60 seconds
- supports user selectable time
- supports multiple frames at specified interval
trivial 5
- too few choices
- no flexibility
5
- too few choices
- no flexibility
5
- too few choices
- no flexibility
5
- too few choices
- no flexibility
1
- 2/12 seconds only
             
Long exposure:
- must not require remote release
- must support one press to start, stop
- supports dialing in any time in minutes/seconds
- must support arbitrary timed exposure min:sec
- counts time remaining for exposure, dark frame too
trivial 0
- cannot shoot longer than 30 seconds
- does not display time remaining
- cannot enter duration
6
- does not display time remaining
- cannot enter long duration
TBD TBD 3
- - does not display time remaining
- cannot enter long duration
             
Lossless compressed raw format
- well established technology
trivial 0 10 10 10 0
             
Save/restore settings
- save/restore settings to camera card
- simple text file for easy editing
- must also save My Menu
trivial 5 5 TBD 5 0
             
AF-ON support:
- supports release without refocusing
- support AF-ON independent of shutter
trivial 10 10 10 10 LeicaQ2: 0
Leica SL: TBD
             
True raw histogram
- histogram of actual raw data for each color channel (no RGB processing)
easy 0 0 0 0 0
             
Frame averaging

- option to keep all
- option to store 2/4/8/N-frame averages
- option to
- full electronic shutter
- FAST
easy          
             
pixel shift
- FAST so checkerboarding declines as an issue
moderate 2
- generally unusable in the field
0 0 0 0
             
Aperture and focus, Live View including magnified:
- stop down option
- wide open option
- choosable aperture option
- toggle aperture while focusing
- avoids unpredictable aperture choice
- must support AF across frame
- allow focus anywhere in frame
- must have deadly-accurate mode
easy 5 7 5 TBD
- no control
3
- no control
             
Focus stacking support:
- AF single-focus to INF
- AF focus near point to far point
- control over step size
- accounts field curvature for INF
_ must support focusing to frame edge
- must operate FAST
- analyze image and don’t do stupid stuff like 10 badly blurred frames past INF
- option to preconfigure near-to-far setups eg 1m to INF, 3.5m to INF, etc
- auto detect near/far blur boundaries and narrow step size locally
moderate (basic)

challenging (advanced)
0 6
- does not understand INF
- does not offer far point, keeps taking images way past INF
- relatively slow
4
- serious bugs with tele lenses
- difficulty focusing in outer zones
0 0
             
Auto detect camera movement in capture
- audible warning
- blur rating
- option to take up to N images keeping least motion M of N
moderate 0 0 0 0 0
             
Auto detect subject motion in capture
- audible warning
- blur rating with mask
- option to take up to N images keeping least motion M of N
moderate 0 0 0 0 0
             
Auto-ETTR exposure mode
- best possible ETTR exposure
- adds EXIF flag for pull adjustment relative to 18% gray
- specular highlight support; allows 0.DD% blowout
- bias control for shadows or highlights when both cannot work
- electronic shutter
- retakes automagically if calculation wrong
- gets it right to 1/10 stop
- just works!
moderate 0 0 0 0 0
             
16-bit dynamic range
- high speed electronic shutter melds exposure brackets
- produce single raw file
0 0 0 0 0 0
             
AF accounts for focus shift:
- option to focus wide open but compensate
- option to focus stopped down
- option to focus at fixed aperture
moderate 5
cannot focus wide open and compensate for shooting aperture, no behavioral control
5
cannot focus wide open and compensate for shooting aperture, no behavioral control
5
cannot focus wide open and compensate for shooting aperture, no behavioral control
TBD
no behavioral control
TBD
no behavioral control
             
Auto select best sharpness of N exposures
- option to keep all
- mark/flag best exposures with ranking
- option to keep best M of N
- mode that show mask of what has high micro contrast in taken image
challenging due to CPU speed 0 0 0 0 0
           
Electronic panorama mode
- electronic shutter for quiet/fast
- works like iPhone
challenging due to CPU speed 1
no ES
0 0 0 0
             
multi-shot high-res mode a la Panasonic
- intelligent motion detection, mitigation
challenging 0 0 0 0 0
             

Robin D writes:

Your editorial... just rammed it home to me how Sony, now with an utterly dominant position in the market, is now leading the industry backwards. You may not know of it but believe it or not Sony had a rough (and I mean it was a toy, a joke) focus bracket app in "PlayMemories" . The least said the better on that score, but it proved to me that Sony is brain dead when it comes to software.

They have great engineers I am sure, but they could do with some photographers and have the two groups talk to each on occasion, because as your list makes clear they are the worst of all your listed camera makers at including features that make the Photographers job easier, more professional, and more fun. Good grief it took them until a year ago to add an intervelometer on the A&something I had in my D300 in 2010 I love the output from the A7R3 but I can't and don't love the camera.

DIGLLOYD: let’s not forget ergonomics and haptics—while the Sony A7R IV is another improvement, it just doesn’t rise to the feel of the Nikon Z7.

I’m not sure Sony is leading things the wrong way so much as omitting things and what they do implement not done well (e.g. pixel shift). I wonder what Sony’s investment in AI will yield but hopefully not PlayBadMemories.

Mark A writes:

This is a great and well thought-out list and I hope this sparks mainstream manufacturers to improve engagement. I can't imagine how being a hardware or software engineer at these places is deeply pleasing if some of the most obvious things are either not occurring to them (pathetic) or being suppressed by management (sad).

In any case, quick comment is this: Hasselblad tried to do this with Ming Thein and I had expected more, as I'm sure he did, too. It may be worth at least recognizing that attempts have been made and maybe Ming Thein or other people can help figure out why such seem like "tissue rejections." I suppose https://www.red.com/ could be an example of a company that does it right? Corporate America (and Japan?) is pretty much the same with suppressed entrepreneurial spirit, no real meritocracy, HR-driven organizations and cultures, management with economically perverse incentives, etc.

One other thing just occurred to me as I'm writing this. If a camera's hardware is sufficient, perhaps community-driven software is an answer ala https://magiclantern.fm/ Great leadership is required to make that work really well but perhaps medium well would suffice to get people what they need?

DIGLLOYD: agreed, it’s quite possible that engineers are not allowed to follow sensible priorities. OTOH, it’s also possible that many otherwise talented engineers have nil talent or interest in rethinking approaches to long established assumptions. I observed that firsthand for 25 years in the professional world.

As for Ming Thein and Hasselblad... brilliant minds are a poor fit for just about any corporate culture unless it comes from the top (think Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos). Most of the time, corporations create a stultifying quagmire for the those capable of original thinking.

Things like MagicLantern are not a solution IMO, any more than Linux is a substitute for macOS. And in a world of hackers, cameras are already getting hacked.

Phase One Releases Capture One 20 (formerly Capture One Pro)

The “20” is for the year 2020 (prior C1Pro is v12), Phase One apparently moving to an Adobe style system, ironic but makes sense too.

Naming convention is now simply “Capture One 20”, not “Capture One Pro 20”.

One readers suggests that C1 Pro 20 solves some bugs I’ve been seeing, so I’ve downloaded it and will be using v20 going forward.

See what’s new in Capture On 20.

Thomas Fitzgerald video has a good change summary with a video.

Some surprises I ran into:

  • Shortcuts for Fit to Window and Actual pixels are no longer cmd-0 and cmd-option-0—kind of a crazy discrepancy if you use Photoshop heavily as I do. Fortunately keyboard shortcuts can be fixed/reassigned.
  • I wasted 10 minutes getting nowwhere until I realized that C1 disables everything if the files are on a camera card—and doesn’t indicate what's wrong. It’s also very annoying if I want to do a quick check—files must be copied over first.
  • My floating palette was wiped out and my palette setup was mangled. Not exactly a seamless transition.
  • Export performance is exceptionally inefficient (as algorithmically sorry as it gets)—C1 serially processes files, so I see about one CPU core being used. This is a major performance loss on my 8 core iMac 5K.
  • GPU usage is negligible for most operations. But that is also true of Photoshop.
Capture One 20

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