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Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Aperture Series: Orange Poppies (Nikon D850)

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

This pair of aperture series near MOD (Minimum Object Distance) evaluates sharpness and bokeh and secondary color.

Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Aperture Series: Orange Poppies (Nikon D850)

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/4 and f/1.4 through f/6.3.

Orange Poppies
f1.4 @ 1/200 sec, ISO 100; 2019-03-18 17:55:23
[altitude 500 ft / 152 m, 58°F / 14°C, Enhance Details, LACA corrected]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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Orange Poppies
f1.4 @ 1/125 sec, ISO 100; 2019-03-18 18:02:22
[altitude 500 ft / 152 m, 58°F / 14°C, Enhance Details, LACA corrected]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Aperture Series: Road Grader, Alabama Hills (Nikon D850)

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

This close-medium range series evaluates lens performance from f/1.4 through f/13, including sharpness, color correction, focus shift, bokeh.

Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Aperture Series: Road Grader (Nikon D850)

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/13.

Grader, Alabama Hills
f1.4 @ 1/3200 sec, ISO 31; 2019-03-04 12:38:01
[location “Alabama Hills”, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 55°F / 12°C, LACA corrected, Enhance Details]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM Examples: Night Shooting (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

These examples shot in the White Mountains of California, Laws Railroad Museum, and also near Reno, NV.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Examples: Night Shooting

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

f8 @ 8.0 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-27 17:10:44
[location “Laws Railroad Museum”, altitude 4000 ft / 1219 m, 45°F / 7°C, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM Examples: White Mountains (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

These examples shot in the White Mountains of California late in the day to night. Some examples use pixel shift and some do not. Includes some astrophotography and dusk shots as well as daylight.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Examples: White Mountains

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

Pixel shift mode on the Pentax K-1 Mark II can be a godsend for images like the one below, which required considerable contrast control. While it often has issues from subject motion and is thus inapplicable, when it works, it halves the noise level, which makes for ultra low noise even with aggressive contrast control where deep shadows are opened up. The noise is far superior to the Nikon D850 or Nikon Z7, including a freedom from hot pixels.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine just after sunset
f9 @ 3.0 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-25 16:54:38
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 10600 ft / 3231 m, 35°F / 1°C, USM{8,50,0}, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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It can be a challenge to capture the rising earth shadow due to contrast. Here, the use of pixel shift provided the ultimate in detail along with ultra noise.

Earth shadow rising, view down Wyman Canyon
f6.3 @ 0.5 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-25 16:46:48
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 10300 ft / 3139 m, 30°F / -1°C, LACA corrected, USM{8,50,0}, "Earth shadow rising, view down Wyman Canyon"]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Orange sunset light on ancient bristlecone pine stump
f13 @ 1/40 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-25 16:12:24
[location “Whit Mountain Road”, altitude 10650 ft / 3246 m, 38°F / 3°C, diffraction mitigating sharpening, LACA corrected, USM{8,50,0}]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Extreme blue after sunset, looking south along the White Mountains
f2 @ 1/80 sec handheld, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 16:34:47
[location “White Mountains”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 25°F / -3°C, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Donald S writes:

I know that you are very busy and I value your blog for all of it’s first rate information!!! I hope that you have just a moment for a compliment. I now live in Indianapolis but grew up in SoCal and made many trips to Mammoth for skiing, fishing, etc.. Your excellent pictures bring back many memories of those trips. I especially like your recent one titled: “View from White Mountain Road to Deep Springs after fresh snowfall”. I’ve always been on the other side looking at the White Mountains, and they don’t look quite like that!

I hope you can continue your work. Many items are a little expensive for me now, but I like to know what is possible.

DIGLLOYD: the image is unusual in that I think hardly anyone would shoot it, and yet it captures two places closely related at once under wildly different conditions and ecosystems and with a rare quilt of snow covering it just right. The White Mountains look barren from a distance, but there is a lot there to see. Pity not more water though.

View from White Mountain Road to Deep Springs after fresh snowfall
f1.4 @ 1/5000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 14:05:36
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, Enhance Details]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: View to Silver Peak from White Mountain Road (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

This demanding scene at far distance is a challenge for any lens. It is an excellent demonstration of the optical performance of the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW, which is really good on this scene but with a slight symmetry problem, which was also seen in View South Over Fresh Snow to Deep Springs.

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/11. Shot with pixel shift for maximum detail, which is indeed maximal.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: View to Silver Peak from White Mountain Road

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

View to Silver Peak communications towers from White Mountain Road
f1.4 @ 1/2000 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-25 15:59:07
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 10500 ft / 3200 m, 32°F / 0°C, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Pentax K-1 Mark II: Using Pixel Shift with Focus Stacking

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Pentax K-1 Mark II, I’ve added a focus stacking example in both color and black and white with the frames using pixel shift. When there is no motion, pixel shift is just tremendous: no detectable noise along with incredible per-pixel detail free of aliasing and moiré.

Pentax K-1 Mark II: Overview/Comparison of Resolving Power with Pixel Shift

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

One of the most selective colleges in the country lies in the valley yonder—Deep Springs College.

Old bed springs
f11 @ 15.0 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-26 15:22:44
[location “Cottonwood Canyon, old ranching cabin”, altitude 8500 ft / 2591 m, 35°F / 1°C, diffraction mitigating sharpening, USM{12,50,0}, focus stack 5 frames, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: View South Over Fresh Snow on White Mountains to Deep Springs (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

This demanding scene at far distance is a challenge for any lens. It is an excellent demonstration of the optical performance of the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: View South Over Fresh Snow on White Mountains to Deep Springs

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/9.

One of the most selective colleges in the country lies in the valley yonder—Deep Springs College.

View from White Mountain Road to Deep Springs after fresh snowfalls
f1.4 @ 1/5000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 14:05:36
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, Enhance Details]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: Backlit Bristlecone at Sunset (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

This aperture series shows from f/1.4 through f/13 puts the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW into a tough shooting situation, taxing its flare control and contrast, and color correction. Observations are made on why a really highly corrected lens is preferred versus just “good” correction as in the Pentax 50/1.4.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: Backlit Bristlecone at Sunset

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/13.

Backlit bristlecone at sunset, White Mountain Road
f4.5 @ 1/160 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-25 16:35:22
[location “White Mountain Road, big hump”, altitude 10600 ft / 3231 m, 35°F / 1°C, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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I now use the internal SSD plus the 8TB OWC Thunderblade SSD while I work, not having to listen to any fan noise or spinning hard drives. A nice bonus is that I save power (electricity) as well. More units can be daisy-chained for more capacity.

I still use hard drives extensively but they are now relegated to overflow storage for years-old work, and backups. See my discussion of tiered storage in Banishing the Drone of Spinning Hard Drives: and Fans: Moving to 8TB OWC Thunderblade SSD.

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Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 29mm: Backlit Sprinter on White Mountain Road (Pentax K-1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo. Deep discounts are seen on Pentax K-1 Mark II and lenses today.

This medium range aperture series at 29mm shows why it is important to account for the field curvature at 24mm and at 40mm, namely, that the usual assumptions about focus placement need to be substantially modified to obtain full sharpness. A discussion is included of how to to do and thus reliably obtain higher total sharpness for any obliquely-shot scene like this.

Pentax HD DFA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 29mm: Backlit Sprinter on White Mountain Road

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/9.

f2.8 @ 1/4000 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 12:29:42
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 7500 ft / 2286 m, 35°F / 1°C, Enhance Details, LACA corrected, USM{20,50,0}]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mm F2.8ED SDM WR @ 29mm

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Examples: Late Day and Night, White Mountains (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

I’ve added some examples for the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW, shot in the White Mountains of California.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Examples: White Mountains

Includes images up to full camera resolution.

f2 @ 1/80 sec handheld, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 16:34:47
[location “White Mountains”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 25°F / -3°C, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 24mm: Sunset over Snowy Landscape, White Mountains View to Sierra Nevada (Pentax K-1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo. Deep discounts are seen on Pentax K-1 Mark II and lenses today.

This medium to far distance aperture series shows the performance range of the Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED WR at 24mm from f/2.8 through f/13 on the Pentax K-1 II.

The issues here are field curvature and peripheral forward focus shift. Guidance is given on how to use the lens to its best given those behaviors.

Pentax HD DFA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 24mm: Sunset over Snowy Landscape, White Mountains View to Sierra Nevada

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/13.

f9 @ 1/400 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 15:48:06
[location “White Mountains”, altitude 8800 ft / 2682 m, 25°F / -3°C, LACA corrected, Enhance Details]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mm F2.8ED SDM WR @ 24mm

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Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 40mm: Snowy Landscape at Dusk, View Towards Big Pine (Pentax K-1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo. Deep discounts are seen on Pentax K-1 Mark II and lenses today.

This medium to far distance aperture series shows the performance range of the Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED WR at 40mm from f/2.8 through f/11 on the Pentax K-1 II. A pixel shift series was shot but not used due to too many checkerboarding issues.

The issues here are field curvature and peripheral forward focus shift.

Pentax HD DFA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 40mm: Snowy Landscape at Dusk, View Towards Big Pine

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

f9 @ 1/8 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 16:24:41
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8000 ft / 2438 m, 25°F / -3°C, diffraction mitigating sharpening, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mm F2.8ED SDM WR @ 40mm

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Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 63mm: Snowy Landscape at Dusk, White Mountain Road (Pentax K-1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo. Deep discounts are seen on Pentax K-1 Mark II and lenses today.

This far distance aperture series shows the full performance range of the Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED WR at 63mm from f/2.8 through f/11 using pixel shift on the Pentax K-1 II. Detail rendition is just stunning with a little stopping down.

A scene like this is extremely demanding for any lens revealing the slightest weakness or asymmetry. When a lens delivers under these conditions, it’s a keeper.

Pentax HD DFA 24-70mm f/2.8 SDM ED Aperture Series @ 63mm: Snowy Landscape at Dusk, White Mountain Road

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

At about $997 after $300 rebate, the Pentax HD D FA 24-70mm f/2.8ED SDM WR is steal. Ditto for the Pentax K-1 Mark II which delivers incredible detail with ultra low noise when using pixel shift.

f2.8 @ 1/125 sec PixelShift, ISO 100; 2018-11-29 16:19:52
[location “White Mountain Road”, altitude 8300 ft / 2530 m, 25°F / -3°C, LACA corrected]
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mm F2.8ED SDM WR @ 63mm

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Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: Moots Mooto X YBB MTB (Pentax K1 II)

See my Pentax K wishlist at B&H Photo.

This close range aperture series shows the full performance range of the Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW from f/1.4 through f/16 using pixel shift. In spite of the exceptionally flat lighting, textural rendition is stunningly good.

This series is also an outstanding demonstration of the dulling effects of diffraction: dulling starts subtly at f/8 and the dulling accelerates from the.

Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW Aperture Series: Moots Mooto X YBB MTB

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 through f/16.

f5.6 @ 1/20 sec, ISO 100; 2018-11-26 16:05:27
PENTAX K-1 Mark II + Pentax HD FA 50mm f/1.4 SDM AW

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Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG HSM Sports Panorama: Clouds at Sunrise, Alabama Hills and Mt Whitney Range

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

I’ve added twp 240 megapixel 9/10-frame stitched panoramas to the examples posted about 10 days ago in Mt Whitney and Alabama Hills, Pre-Dawn to Early Sun.

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG HSM Sports Examples: Mt Whitney and Alabama Hills, Pre-Dawn to Early Sun

These panoramas are spectactular, but really need an 8K display at the minimum or a 15 X 5 foot print where it would still be 153 dpi. At the least, view it on an Apple iMac 5K. I have no space for such an image as a print, but it would be awfully nice to see it at that size. Check out the climbing anchors on top of the spike at center in the full-res version!

My thoughts with such results is that there is no need for medium format; dynamic range of the Nikon D850 is just about as good, and it’s faster and asier to operate a 70-200 on 35mm than on medium format.

Clouds and light on the Alabama Hills and Mt Whitney range north
f9 @ 1/25 sec, ISO 64; 2019-03-08 06:24:59
[location “Alabama Hills”, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 40°F / 4°C, USM{10,50,0}, LACA corrected, "looking northwest", diffraction mitigating sharpening, panorama 9 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports @ 200mm

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First light on Mt Whitney Range from Alabama Hills
f8 @ 8.0 sec, ISO 64; 2019-03-08 05:49:47
[location “Alabama Hills”, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 40°F / 4°C, LACA corrected, panorama 10 frames]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports @ 135mm

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Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series @ 24mm: Alabama Hills Rainstorm Creek (Nikon D850)

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

This aperture series at distance shows the performance the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art at 70mm from f2.8 through f/11.

This series is shown reluctantly, mainly for confirmation of the very poor performance seen at the other focal lengths: badly blurred edges. Here at 70mm it is at its worst.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series @ 70mm: Alabama Hills Alabama Hills View to Snow-Covered White Mountains

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

Companies that allow seriously out of whack lenses to ship to customers deserve scorn as it does serious damage to a photographer’s work: my reward for all the hours spent in non-repeatable rare conditions is crap-grade images. There is no recovery from that. I cannot go back and repeat a once-a-year storm conditions, the snow way down the mountains slopes, water in the dry creekbed, etc. All of the material I shot is damaged by this poor performance. Shame on Sigma for letting a sample like this ship to customers.

This image is not my favorite at all, but it shows the poor performance well.

Alabama Hills view to Snow-Covered White Mountains
f8 @ 1/80 sec, ISO 64; 2019-03-06 13:06:20
NIKON D850 + Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art @ 70mm

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James K writes:

Your Sigma 24-70mm shot is not even iPhone quality. What a piece of junk. What a waste of your valuable time. I just returned 3 copies of their 16mm f/1.4 MFT lenses because they couldn’t auto focus accurately. One of the copies was sent to me directly from Sigma and that lens had such poor quality at f/1.4 and f/2 that I could’t believe my eyes. Pure crap, worse than your 24-70mm by a mile.

Sigma quality control is terrible. I will not buy any of their products again.

DIGLLOYD: well, I won’t go that far (“iPhone quality”). But shooting raw on the iPhone delivers hugely better results than the garbage that Apple’s JPEGs provide.

I wonder what is going on with Sigma quality control. I had not had such troubles with many Sigma DG HSM Art lenses. James K has had a lot of trouble recently.

Jason W writes:

So the 24-70 2.8 DG HSM sample here is clearly atrocious, but how would you characterize Sigma's general quality control versus Nikon, Canon or Fuji?

With the Fujifilm GFX, you had a 110mm sample that was even worse than what we're seeing here and I rarely hear complaints about their lenses. I worry some might throw the baby out with the bathwater, as Sigma has loads of word class glass.

DIGLLOYD: I’ve had very good luck with Sigma DG HSM Art lenses to date. I actually went and shot some test series with the Zeiss Milvus 25mm f/1.4 to rule out some kind of Nikon D850 camera sensor alignment issue, because the Sigma 28m f/1.4 DG HSM Art was also off a bit and the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG HSM Sports needs a lot of stopping down. I could find no issue at all with the Milvus 25/1.4, which establishes the camera as OK. I don’t know what to think at this point.


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A few notes:

  • The upcoming Panasonic S1R and Panasonic S1 are being promoted with a battery and battery grip included free (claimed $435 value).
  • 31% off a 2017 MacBook Pro is about a deep a discount as I’ve ever seen on a Mac. The 2018 MacBook Pro is a notably better machine, so if you need the best, stick with the 2018 model.
  • I tried the Sony Digital Paper System and the screen is great. If you want a big highly readable tablet for this sort of stuff, it’s excellent.

Looking for more deals? Bookmark my Top Deals pages, so you can scan quickly by brand name for top deals for that brand.

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Reader Comments: Just How Does the 2018 Mac mini Pan Out When Deploying for Professional Use?

See my Mac wishlist.

Consult with Lloyd on computing performance issues or choice of Mac and its setup, backup strategy and more!

My post Moving from a 2010 Mac Pro to Newer Mac such as 2018 Mac mini generated additional reader comments, all positive.

Peter A writes:

How do the older Mac Pro's compare to the 2018 Mac Mini in tests like this? I've been using the following 2 machines. 2010 cMP 3.46GHz 6-core, 64GB ram, 1TB SSBUX SSD (1000MB/s from MacBook Pro) 2013 nMP 3.5GHz 6-core, 64GB ram, 1TB internal SSD

I mainly have huge photoshop files, 6GB-30GB 8bit with hundreds of layers. Converting the document to 16bit is my biggest headache as I have to do this every time I save a flat. Working in 16bit is just too slow. I need to add another machine and was wondering if a 2018 Mac Mini would be up to the task.

DIGLLOYD: how do... not well. For starters, the Mac mini SSD is about 3X (or at least 2X) faster than the SSD in the 2013 Mac Pro (depends on build version).

Peter A says “I read this on your blog when you first posted it several years ago. Unfortunately my file ended up 270GB!”.

Why 64GB Memory Matters, and Why It Might Not Be Enough

For files that greatly exceed what 64GB can handle, any machine that can take 128GB memory will easily outpace any machine that can take only 64GB. The iMac Pro is the right choice for that need as of March 2019.

It amazes me that Photoshop users still cripple performance via the wrong settings, but I blame Adobe for poorly executed interface, as it is not at all obvious, and not even offered as an option in the Save As dialog:

Optimization for Photoshop Users: Speed up Save/Open by up to 20X

Below, for 64GB memory, you can save about $200 by using slighty slower 2400 MHz DDR4 SO-DIMM PC4-19200 memory instead of 2666MHZ DDR4 SO-DIMM PC4-21300. It’s not likely to make more than a 5% speed difference, and usually much less.

Marco R writes:

Hi, I’m a freelance consultant and in my work I usually try to suggest the most powerful configuration my customers can afford considering workloads and budget limitations. I have many clients that in the near future will have to transition from old fashion Mac Pros to something new but sooner than the next Mac Pro will materialize. I rarely consider the iMac Pro because of the hefty price tag and also tend to offer iMacs (always rigorously maxed out) only where color precision is not mandatory. That means that I mostly work with 2013 Mac Pros with OWC enhancements and EIZO monitors.

Well, this scenario changed when Apple finally released the new 2018 Mac mini. As soon as you wrote your assessment of the new 2018 Mac mini I knew I had a valid alternative for the situations where 64 Gb RAM is enough and an Apple monitor is no good. When MacWorld UK published their review I decided to give the new machine a try and suggested an advertising agency to change 4 of their battered cheese graters with 4 maxed out Mac minis.

I’m talking of a workgroup that I had in the years continuously kept in shape with additions of RAM, SSDs and RAID HD configurations (following your advice…) In the end they all had 32 Gb RAM and Accelsior boot SSDs, but always more complex Adobe CC and Microsoft Powerpoint files started to reduce efficiency, plus video cards kept on failing and a complete replacement was in order.

With a bit of apprehension I personally migrated the accounts of the 4 old Mac pros to the brand new minis, the configuration I sold was i7 6 core, 64 Gb RAM and 2 TB SSD and comparing to 4 new 2013 Mac Pros with 6-core Xeon, 64 Gb RAM and 2 Tb OWC SSD allowed to save about 1,000 euros per each machine (ca 3,500 euros each Mac mini vs ca 4,500 each 2013 Mac pro).

I only had some doubts about performance in comparison with the substituted machines and a very small fear for excessive heat, but the first disappeared when I heard the first words from the senior illustrator: “Wow, this Mac rocks !!!”.

And for the heat concern, as of this moment nobody called me from that agency and those 4 minis have been running 8 hours five days a week since January. Of course that might change as climate [diglloyd: weather] gets warmer in the months ahead, but we’ll see and for the moment my client is so happy with their new 4 Mac minis that they have just ordered 5 new MacBook Air to replace 5 Windows laptops and upgrade from PowerPoint to Keynote.

I will monitor closely the situation in that agency, as I want to be sure the new Mac minis are capable of substituting both old and 2013 model Mac pros in all cases where 64 GB RAM and a 2 TB SSD are enough, plus I have great expectations for eGPUs and Thunderbolt 3 peripherals in the price tier below the iMac Pro.

DIGLLOYD: the 2018 Mac mini is a mature and seemingly robust product resulting from years of half-assed versions—after a decade Apple seems to have nailed it. It now measures up to most all usage scenarios that area reasonable versus its core capabilities.

Ron K writes:

The new 2018 Mac mini arrived, and it is an awesome machine. I love the small footprint! My 2010 Mac Pro sold quickly, and the 2012 Mini auction ends tonight.

I also received the pair of OWC 32GB memory chips, though OWC sent the wrong TORX (T-6) wrench kit. I called to let them know, and they sent out the replacement kit immediately, with postage paid and a full refund for the wrong kit, which I’ve returned via their RMA. As an aside, the 2018 Mini screws have security fittings that require a TR-6 wrench (apparently it has a small indentation in the driver tip that matches a small bump in the center of the screws’ head, causing the T-6 to not engage the screw). Live and learn! OWC now has a kit specifically for the 2018 mini. What a great company; excellent customer service!

The dual display port adapter is also working perfectly for my pair of NEC MultiSync monitors, though the NEC 24” didn’t have a mini display port connection (my fault for not checking), so it’s temporarily hooked in via HDMI.

I’m curious to know how you would connect my pair of Elite Pro Dual enclosures, running standard 7200 3.5” HDs. Both enclosures have USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, which I believe will be faster than either Firewire 800 or eSATA, and I'll likely connect both to the Mini with a Sabrent USB 3.0 hub. Following your workflow, I’ll import into LR and complete my initial processing on the partitioned SSD master, then move the RAW files and prepared prints to the HD’s. One last question: after moving files to the HD, would you clone your backups (HD to HD)or use a simple RAID mirror. I’ve a pair of 4TB drives for the RAW files, and 2TB drives for finished work, and that should hold up for a while longer. Thanks again for your great advice.

DIGLLOYD: as to the OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual enclosures, Iam not a fan of using USB through a hub, but it will probably work fine. Just remember that the bandwidth is rather limited, so if 4 drives are going at once through the hub and/or other stuff also needs that bandwidth, it’s going to hit bandwidth limitations. A better solution is the OWC Thunderbay 4, but it’s more costly. Or put each enclosure on its own USB bus, which means another form of expansion, like the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock.

As to backup, it is better (at least with a limited number of backups), to clone to drives individually and not use a RAID-1 mirror. A mirror protects against drive failure, but other types of issues (e.g., files corrupted or deleted by accident) it faithfully replicates. Better to have two independent backups, preferably not in the same enclosure. For this reason, I recommend single-drive backups such as the OWC Mercury Elite Pro, as shown below. I currently use 14TB hard drives for both primary storage and backups, some in OWC Mercury Elite Pro enclosures (easily portable) and some in the OWC Thunderbay 4.


Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series @ 24mm: Alabama Hills Rainstorm Creek (Nikon D850)

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

This near-to-far aperture series evaluates lens performance from f2.8 through f/11. It assesses lens symmetry and field curvature.

Sigma claims to MTF test its lenses as I understand it. How can a lens so obviously 'off' be shipped to customers?

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art Aperture Series @ 40mm: Alabama Hills Creek Canyon

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

This creekbed is dry nearly every day of the year, but it had rained heavily all night long (an “atmospheric river” storm), a relatively rare event here. There was enough rain to cause road damage, indeed to cut hunks out in places and to turn some sections into creekbeds. The creek had no running water a day later.

Alabama Hills creekbed canyon after heavy rains all night
f8 @ 1/25 sec, ISO 31; 2019-03-06 13:34:02
[location “Alabama Hills”, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 50°F / 10°C, LACA corrected]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art @ 40mm

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Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Even Dogs Love a Good View

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist and Zeiss DLSR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

This fellow broke out running towards me as I came by on my Moots Vamoots RSL; I had stopped briefly. I was a bit afraid at first, but I quickly saw a wagging tail and friendly demeanor and highly intelligent dog face. The race was on, what fun (dog thoughts)!

Apparently he loves to run with cyclists, because for the next 45 minutes and 1000 vertical feet, he led the way easily outpacing me. I suspect it was the highlight of his day—not much passes by up there (the road is closed but I made my way by bike including threading my way through piles of debris in places).

Even Dogs Love a Good View
f1.8 @ 1/1500 sec, ISO 20; 2019-03-07 14:30:45
[location “Tuttle Creek Road above Lone Pine”, altitude 6388 ft / 1947 m, 40°F / 4°C, "loves to run"]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

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Even Dogs Love a Good View
f1.8 @ 1/4400 sec, ISO 20; 2019-03-07 15:25:10
[location “Tuttle Creek Road above Lone Pine”, altitude 6935 ft / 2114 m, 40°F / 4°C, panorama]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

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Cyclist and happenstance companion
f1.8 @ 1/2900 sec, ISO 20; 2019-03-07 14:28:03 [altitude 6392 ft / 1948 m]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

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My face has healed up from my Dec 30 bike crash pretty well. The braces will be needed a few more months, and possible a root canal, and definitely some repair work on the teeth.

Cyclist and happenstance companion
f1.8 @ 1/2200 sec, ISO 20; 2019-03-07 14:30:10 [altitude 6387 ft / 1947 m]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

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Tuttle Creek Road looking towards Alabama Hills
f1.8 @ 1/5000 sec, ISO 20; 2019-03-07 14:44:49
[location “Tuttle Creek Road looking towards Alabama Hills”, altitude 4894 ft / 1492 m, "te..."]
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8

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Shootout: Zeiss Otus 28/1.4 vs Sigma 28/1.4A: Alabama Hills Creek to White Mountains (Nikon D850)

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist and Zeiss DLSR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

This shootout on the 45-megapixel Nikon D850 pits the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 against the Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.

This comparison turns out to be far more informative than lab tests. Real-world depth of field, field curvature and focus shift all come to bear and in that regard the two lenses differ markedly. Both are very fine lenses, but differ in behavior.

In diglloyd Zeiss DSLR Lenses:

Shootout: Zeiss Otus 28/1.4 vs Sigma 28/1.4A: Alabama Hills Creek to White Mountains (Nikon D850)

Includes images from f/1.4 through f/13 at up to full camera resolution, along with extensive commentary and conclusion.

Alabama Hills creekbed after heavy rains all night
f1.4 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 64; 2019-03-06 11:11:53
[location “Alabama Hills”, altitude 4700 ft / 1433 m, 56°F / 13°C, polarizer=Zeiss, Enhance Details]
NIKON D850 + Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

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Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM: Substantial Difference in White Balance / Tint for f/1.4 vs Stopped-Down (Nikon D850)

See my Sigma SLR lenses wishlist at B&H Photo.

The behavior shown here occurs in various fast lenses, not jusy Sigma lenses. It appears to be related to the Nikon D850 sensor design. See also Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art: Color Shift with Stopping Down, SpyderCHECKR Card.

This series uses the Datacolor SpyderCHECKER card to demonstrate that white balance (mostly tint) with the Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art at f/1.4 is substantially different versus stopped down.

The photographer using the Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art on the Nikon D850 (and presumably other cameras like the Nikon Z7) absolutely must take this large tint difference into account when processing files at f/1.4 versus stopped-down apertures.

Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM: Substantial Difference in White Balance / Tint for f/1.4 vs Stopped-Down (Nikon D850)

Includes SpyderCHECKR card shots from f/1.4 through f/4 with and without neutralizing the color for the aperture, plus an outdoor scene aperture series.

Values for achieving neutrality in Adobe camera RAW are shown for f/1.4, f/2, and other apertures.

f1.4 @ 1/8000 sec, ISO 31; 2019-03-07 10:33:38
[location “Alabama Hills”, altitude 4600 ft / 1402 m, 50°F / 10°C, LACA corrected, Enhance Details]
NIKON D850 + Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

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Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Leica Q2 Announced, a Few Comments

See my Zeiss DSLR lenses wishlist and Zeiss lens top deals at B&H Photo.

Leica has announced the successor to the Leica Q, the about $4999 Leica Q2 (availability TBD).

The Leica Q2 appears to be pretty much the same camera, but with a 47MP sensor, 4K video. The processor, lens, EVF, and low-res rear LCD all look to be the same, and the price goes up by $1000.

  • 47.3MP Full-Frame CMOS
  • Sensor Maestro II Image Processor
  • Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens
  • 3.68MP OLED Electronic Viewfinder 3.0"
  • 1.04m-Dot TouchscreenLCD [diglloyd: about as low-res as it gets these days]
  • DCI 4K24p, UHD 4K30p, Full HD 120p Video
  • ISO 50-50000, up to 10-fps Shooting
  • 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm Crop Modes
  • Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi
  • Weather-Sealed Construction
Leica Q2

There’s no denying that the Leica Q2 is a desirable camera, but $5000? Don’t forget the extra $1000 or so for stuff that ought to be included (thumb grip, extra battery, filter, case, etc).

With the Zeiss ZX1 coming and the Sony RX1R II already there and due for an update, diehard Leica fans will buy immediately, but for everyone else, waiting a few months to see what happens in this fixed-lens camera space might be wise.

Leica Q2 Summilux 28mm f/1.7

As shown in Leica Q: Extreme Barrel Distortion Degrades Sharpness, Reduces True Resolution, Decreases Field of View, the unbelievably strong barrel distortion along with the required distortion correction means that in effect, only 93% of the sensor area is used.

Because of this distortion correction, the outer zones can never be fully sharp even on a 24MP sensor; there is no way to stretch one pixel into 1.2 pixels (or whatever it is) without degrading sharpness and micro contrast. A 47MP sensor only makes that issue more acute. Of course, this reality has been and remains invisible to Leica fans.

Thus Leica’s claims of optical excellence are no doubt true in an overall sense, but in terms of imaging sharpness, not at all impressive.

Leica Q Summilux 28mm f/1.7 barrel distortion

Sensor

The Leica Q2 47MP sensor should greatly reduce aliasing and moiré issues while providing a lot more detail but its on-sensor focusing might bring other issues too (like pattern noise).

The actual increase in recorded detail will be less than implied as discussed above. Improvements will be most noticeable in more central areas, less so in outer zones.

For fun

One breakthrough feature you can see in the promotional picture: even without the lens hood, the entire camera can get covered in water droplets, but the Leica Lens Force Field keeps the front lens element spotless. That will be very handy out in the field. Every other lens I’ve ever used gets spotted with water droplets when exposed to spray.

If Leica Q2 not shown below, buy the about $4999 Leica Q2.

Leica Q2 description

Redeveloped while retaining impressive imaging and optical attributes, the Leica Q2 is an advanced compact camera characterized by its updated sensor design and intuitive operation. Revolving around a revised full-frame 47.3MP CMOS sensor and Maestro II image processor, high-resolution stills shooting is possible along with both DCI and UHD 4K video recording. The image processor also contributes to a broad ISO 50-50000 sensitivity range along with quick 10-fps full-resolution continuous shooting. The added resolution also affords a series of unique Crop Modes, which simulate working with longer focal length lenses, including 35mm, 50mm, and 75mm fields of view.

Speaking of the lens, the Q2 features the same impressive wide-angle prime Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH fixed lens which has been matched to the sensor design for exceptional resolution and clarity. The lens's design incorporates three aspherical elements and its bright f/1.7 maximum aperture suits working in low-light conditions. Additionally, a macro setting permits working with subjects as close as 6.7" away.

Complementing the imaging and optical assets, the Q2 remains an especially compact and intuitive camera, well-suited for street and travel photography. Its sleek magnesium alloy body is weather-sealed for working in trying environments and it has adopted the same battery featured in the flagship SL mirrorless camera for longer battery life. A high-resolution 3.68MP OLED electronic viewfinder is featured for fluid and clear eye-level monitoring and a rear 3.0" 1.04m-dot touchscreen LCD also affords straightforward playback and settings control. Built-in Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi permit wireless sharing and remote camera control from a linked mobile device via the Leica FOTOS app.

47.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor and Maestro II Processor

Featuring a redeveloped imaging system, the Q2 incorporates a high-resolution 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor along with an updated Maestro II image processor, which lends more flexible image creation along with smooth color and tonal rendering, a broad 13-stop dynamic range, low noise, and a wide sensitivity range from ISO 50-50000. Processing capabilities also afford fast shooting performance, up to 10 fps at full-resolution with a mechanical shutter, along with an especially quick 49-area autofocus system. Stills can be recorded as 14-bit DNG files and JPEGs. The added resolution also enables unique digital zoom capabilities to simulate working with different focal length lenses: 30MP images can be created using a 35mm field of view, 15MP images with a 50mm field of view, and 7MP with a 75mm field of view.

In addition to stills, the Q2 features improved video recording with the ability to shoot both DCI 4K24p and UHD 4K30p video, along with high-speed Full HD recording at up to 120p.

Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH Lens

Key to the popularity of the Q-series is the incorporation of a fixed Summilux 28mm f/1.7 wide-angle prime lens. Blending Leica's optical know-how with a design perfectly matched to the image sensor, this lens incorporates three aspherical elements to control distortion and spherical aberrations for sharp and accurate rendering. Its fast f/1.7 maximum aperture also excels in low-light conditions and offers improved control over depth of field. Extending its versatility, a dedicated macro focusing position can also be used for working with subjects as close as 6.7" away. Additionally, optical image stabilization helps to compensate for the effects of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting.

Body Design

  • High-resolution 3.68MP (1280 x 960) OLED electronic viewfinder provides a clear and realistic means for eye-level viewing. Its high refresh rate virtually eliminates lag and an updated eye sensor provides faster automatic switching between the EVF and the rear LCD.
  • Rear 3.0" 1.04m-dot LCD features a touchscreen design for intuitive navigation and playback, as well as the ability to touch to focus.
  • Lightweight magnesium alloy body is dust and moisture sealed (IP52-rated) for use in harsh environmental conditions.
  • Adoption of the BP-SCL4 battery, as used with the SL (Typ 601) mirrorless camera, affords an improved 370 shots per charge and the battery's physical design incorporates a rubber gasket to further reinforce the overall weather sealing.
  • Enhanced haptics, following suit of the M10 and CL-series cameras, emphasize a simpler interface, including a single-stage On/Off button, a three-button rear control set, a programmable button within the thumb-wheel dial, a push-button diopter adjustment, and a distinctive thumb grip.
  • Mechanical shutter affords flash sync speeds up to 1/500 sec.
  • Lens features a 49mm filter thread diameter for attaching optional filters.
  • Accepts one SD-type memory card and supports the UHS II protocol.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, when used in conjunction with the Leica FOTOS app for iOS and Android, permits sharing imagery directly to a linked mobile device and also enables remote control over the Q2 and remote shooting via a live view image. Additionally, Bluetooth LE helps to maintain a permanent connection between the mobile device and the camera, enabling remote waking of the camera and automatic connection anytime within range.
Leica Q2

Steven K writes:

While the Leica Q2 and Q are no doubt interesting cameras for many people, I agree with you about the limitations of its lens for corner resolution. I am actually amazed they could design a camera with such a physically big fixed lens and not do a better job with corner coverage.

To me the Q2 sensor is more interesting, particularly if it presages a Leica M camera with a sister sensor of the same resolution. I’ve been frustrated that the company because they did not increase resolution from the M typ 240 series to the M10 series, and are thus years behind more professionally oriented companies like Canon and Nikon, or even Sony. The fact that it’s not a high-res camera has kept me from buying an M10-P.

Not that resolution is everything in picture making, not that people don’t make fine pictures at 24 MP, but 47 MP would lead to visible image quality gains with the best of the Leica M, Zeiss ZM and Voigtländer lenses.

I suppose the SL2 may come out with 47 MP sensor too, not that I care about that system having no lenses in L mount, but others will have bought some. Maybe in the fall? Anyway, it’s a guess on my part. But Leica would probably be foolish to keep this tech out of their other FX format cameras, especially with the Lumix S1R coming out very soon.

DIGLLOYD: I suspect that since the sensor is now developed, it will indeed find its way into Leica M and Leica SL cameras, not that a rangefinder makes much sense whatsoever on a 47MP sensor.


Up to 1527MB/s sustained performance

Reader Question: Zeiss DSLR Lenses, Particularly the Classic Designs

See my Zeiss DSLR lenses wishlist and Zeiss lens top deals at B&H Photo.

Reader David P writes:

You were very helpful with regard to questions I had regarding the Zeiss 25 ZEs; thank you again. I don't want to be intrusive but I was hoping you would help me with one last question.

I am retiring soon and I am hoping the I will be able to spend more time with photography. I have rewarded myself by picking up a number of the Zeiss Classics ZEs. I have purchased them for their character rather then technical concerns. I also admit that they appeal to me for their classicism in design.

Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

My question: I have a preference for buying lenses new. I have found a new Classic 21, 18, and 15. I know that the 15 and 21 have been replaced by the Milvus and that the Milvus 18 is an all-new lens. Are these lens worth buying in the context of sensor development?

I don't care about that when it comes to the 50 1.4. You shoot that classic because you like the rendering not because it's a state-of-the-art 50. The wides though are more about landscape perfection.

Maybe a dumb question but do you think they will hold up over time or are they somehow already outdated? I adapt these lenses to a Sony A7R3 with a Metabones 4. I know the Zeiss Loxia lenses are very good lenses but I like the idea that I can shoot the ZEs on both systems.

DIGLLOYD: the Zeiss ZE 15mm f/2.8 Distagon and Zeiss ZE 21mm f/2.8 Distagon in Milvus garb have improved lens coatings that help with arc-type flare when the sun is in the picture and certain violet ghosting flares under extreme lighting (see image below). And weather sealing.

The original Zeiss design is better in one way: better grip; the lens barrel is too smooth for good grip with the new/current Milvus line. I’m pretty sure I will drop an Otus at some point just because of that (Otus and Milvus are both too slick-surfaced IMO).

My take is that 3 lenses that closely spaced is just too many to carry, the 18/2.8 is the best of the 3, and that you're better off just taking the 18/2.8 Milvus given the fairly tight spacing. However, 15mm is certainly wider than 18mm and has its uses. Still, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L is amazingly useful when going wider than 18mm, so I’d trend to that myself just out of sheer flexibility and usefulness.

As for being outdated, they are already high performers and that doesn’t change on mirrorless. However, we are entering the golden age of lenses and new offerings from Sigma in particular have been stunning in some cases, such as all of the fast Sigma DG HSM Art lenses released in the past two years. Mirrorless cameras reduce design constraints and so new native designs for mirrorless have been stunning e.g., the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L.

Consulting: I respond to all emails, giving preference to subscribers in terms of details and guidance—my time is limited and I must earn my living. For a thorough one-on-one such as choosing a camera system or a lens lineup, I ask that readers engage me in consulting, where (on the phone) I can ask questions and drill down on what really matters. This has more than once saved someone from buying a camera system that wasn’t the best choice for their particular needs; ditto for lenses. Brands concern me not, the most appropriate solution for the shooting concerns is what I focus on.

Beaver Pond, Lundy Canyon
f11 @ 1/320 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-03 15:46:52
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss ZF.2 15mm f/2.8 Distagon

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