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Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series: Colorful Autumn Forest, Tenaya Canyon Streamside (Sony A1)

I continue to be very pleased with the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM. One lens to cover 12-24mm... can it deliver imaging performance that both impresses and rivals that of a prime lens?

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Aperture Series: Colorful Autumn Forest, Tenaya Canyon Streamside

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

Colorful Autumn Forest, Tenaya Canyon Streamside
f5.6 @ 1/50 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-28 15:47:03
Sony A1 + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 24mm
ENV: Tenaya Canyon, altitude 7600 ft / 2316 m, 70°F / 21°C
RAW: LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]
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NEW Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II Available for Pre-Order Oct 14

The Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM II is an all-new design with an impressive reduction in the element count (now 17, down from 23), which results in a 29% reduction in weight from 1480g ==> 1045g! That’s a difference which is easily felt, and it makes the new design much more portable and practical as an all-around shooter.

Whether it raises the performance game to state of the art is unclear. While the element count is way down from 23 to 17, the same number of XA and aspherical and special-glass elements remains the same. But clearly something has changed in a major way that allows 5 lens elements to be eliminated.

As a practical matter and especially with ultra-high speed cameras like the Sony A1, focusing speed and accuracy are critical for a lens of this type, and for that Sony has included 4 high-performance XD linear AF motors. This should leave the old design feeling super clunky by comparison and deliver state of the art performance as good or better than anything else on the market.

Four high-thrust XD Linear Motors and advanced control technology deliver up to 4x faster AF than the SEL70200GM. Focus tracking capability while zooming is improved by approximately 30% compared to the SEL70200GM.

Also of practical note for video usage that is also excellent for stills, “the latest lens design technology reduces focus breathing, focus shift when zooming, and axis shift when zooming”

Available for pre-order October 14 at 10 AM Pacific Time. As always, it helps me if you order using the links on this page and/or from my Sony wishlist, so I get credit at B&H—thank you!

Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS II
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Portable SSDs for Travel Storage and Especially Backup

As a photographer, I travel 4-5 months of the year in my Sprinter van for photography. My travel machine is the 2019 iMac 5K*, safely stowd in the Gator Cases Creative Pro 27" iMac Carry Tote when driving, and powered by a 10kW battery lithium iron phosphate battery pack off a 2000W DC/AC inverter. The 2019 iMac 5K is astonishingly power efficient given its included display and I can run for 3-4 days on the power packs without recharging.

Anyway, a key thing I do after every day’s shoot is to download my images and make several backups. Ditto after working in the van some days, after I have organized and published stuff.

* Laptops are a very poor and hopelessly inefficient solution for the work I need to do—very small screens, terrible ergonomics to ruin your posture and nag your neck, godawful keyboard and a mouse is essential too.

Best SSDs for travel and backup

Over the past few years I’ve worked with 4 or 5 different SSDs while traveling. There are multiple considerations:

  • SSD speed is important, though only to a point. Still, if it’s a big shoot and it was an all day hike and I want to get to sleep, backup speed can be an irritatant if not fast enough.
  • I like to take one SSD with me on hikes as a precaution against break-in/theft. A larger/heavier SSD is a nuisance and poorly suited for my hikes.
  • Durability—over time things can fail.
  • Compatibility: it is very helpful to be able to plug a drive into my laptop (older one), which requires USB-C. A Thunderbolt SSD is incompatible with my older Thunderbolt-2 lapto.

Samsung T5 I have used for several years (not a fan of the "dog" Samsung T7) . One of my four T5’s a bad connector now, but still works. I like them for their compact size and light weight, but they are half the speed of the slowest of the OWC offerings. OTOH, they offer hardware encryption, which has its uses if theft while traveling is a concern.

OWC Envoy Pro Elektron (240GB to 2TB capacities) is my all-around favorite for travel: extremely solid built, twice the speed of the Samsung T5, and still very compact. Up to 2TB capacities make it hard to beat.

OWC Envoy Pro SX and OWC Envoy Pro FX are both superb—the very best performance. These are the drives to get for speed. But being solidly-built enough for a truck to run over them, they feel like solid hunks of metal and they do not fit into a pants pocket, unlike the OWC Envoy Pro Elektron.

Four portable SSDs, USB-C and Thunderbolt.
Car keys to show size/scale
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Site Outage Monday Oct 11, Should Now be Resolved

Gorgeous fall day, if windy and cold (extremely hazardous fire potential).

Lloyd inside Sunnyvale data center not enjoying the weather...

Memory Fails in Web Server, with Sporadic Problems Making the Cause Mysterious, Until Today

diglloydTools MemoryTester Finds Bad Memory in Server Today

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 A1 Examples: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana

This page looks at Sony A1 image quality as used for landscape photography on a hike up Mt Dana’s Glacier Canyon on as clear an autumn day as I’ve ever seen—a feast for the eyes with the relatively gentle sunlight of early October. Indeed, the conditions were perhaps the best I’d ever had the luck of having (hyper-clear air, minimal wind), though two days later things disappeared in smoke.

Sony A1 Examples: a Hike up Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana

Includes images up to full camera resolution, mostly from the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM.

Dana Creek, Glacier Canyon
f9 @ 1/160 sec handheld IBIS=on electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 10:23:55
Sony A1 + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 12mm
ENV: Glacier Canyon, altitude 11000 ft / 3353 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, +20 Whites, +10 Clarity, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]
Dana Lake #4, view to Mt Dana
f11 @ 1/80 sec handheld IBIS=on electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 11:46:30
Sony A1 + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 12mm
ENV: Glacier Canyon, altitude 11500 ft / 3505 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, +20 Whites, +10 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]

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Rebuying the Fujifilm GFX100S as It Becomes Feasible

Readers might recall that I sold my Fujifilm GFX100S to a friend back in June, thinking I could rebuy it a few months later. But I did not anticipate that supply and demand would remain so tightly constrained even here in October, 4 months later. But so it is.

My take on it for my type of landscape work is to go with the Fujifilm GF 50mm f/3.5 as the #1 lens, and the Fujifilm GF 23mm f/4 as the #2 lens. The 50mm in particular is so darn useful for so many things. And the 23mm is IMO essential for canyons and such.

Anway, I am trying to finagle one, and since I cannot obtain a suitable Canon EOS R5 system either, I am pondering what to look at next.

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Review Status for Canon EOS R5 and Canon RF Lenses

I discussed wishing to review the Canon EOS R5 and various Canon RF Lenses back in August.

Unfortunately, the situation has not changed and if anything is worse: it remains nearly impossible to get camera and lenses together in a mix suitable for a trip/review. Bummer.

Sony FE 24-120mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Examples: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana

Readers know that in general I am loathe to test entry-level lenses, though at about $1048, the Sony FE 24-120mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS strains the definition of entry-level.

Still, occassionally it is a good idea to check one’s premises and give a fair shot to a dubious offering. The findings leave no doubt that my inclinations are in tune with reality.

Sony FE 24-120mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Examples: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana

Sony FE 24-120mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Aperture Series: Backlit Trail, Glacier Canyon

Sony FE 24-120mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Examples: Dana Lake, Mt Dana

Includes images over the 24-240mm zoom range at up to full camera resolution.

Split Waterfall
f11 @ 0.3 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 08:43:20
Sony A1 + Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS @ 24mm
ENV: Dana Creek, altitude 10400 ft / 3170 m, 35°F / 1°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected

[low-res image for bot]
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Hiking Glacier Canyon (Mt Dana) — Working on Examples

See my previous post on my recent hike but the smoke that forced me to leave two days later.

I’ve been distracted by catch-up stuff at home (backups, a macOS crash on my Mac Pro, some server maintenance), but I intend to show some examples from hiking soon.

I never did get to evaluate the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM for general purpose hiking use last year (due to my infirmity), but I can now say that the 12-24/2.8 GM is a fabulously useful lens for hiking, offering not only a super-wide end at 12-14mm (beating out every other mirrorless), but rivals or outperforms all prime lenses in its range that I have tested.

Dana Lake #3
f11 @ 1/80 sec handheld IS=on electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 12:39:06
Sony A1 + Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM @ 12mm
ENV: Dana Lake, altitude 11500 ft / 3505 m, 70°F / 21°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, +20 Whites, +10 Clarity, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]
Mt Dana summit, Dana Glacier
f5.6 @ 1/100 sec electronic shutter pixel shift, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 16:43:27
Sony A1 + Voigtlander FE APO-Lanthar 35mm f/2 Aspherical
ENV: Glacier Canyon,Mt Dana, altitude 11600 ft / 3536 m, 55°F / 12°C
RAW: vignetting corrected, push 0.3 stops, +72 Shadows, -59 Highlights, +20 Whites, +20 Dehaze, +15 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]

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Eastern Sierra Air Quality September 28/29/30: Stunningly Clear, but Oct 1 brings the Nasty Stuff

After enduring nearly a week in the western Nevada desert waiting-out the unhealthy thick smoky haze in the Eastern Sierra, a cold front blew it all away for other states to inhale, setting the stage for three days of stunningly clear air and perfect hiking temperatures. And I had both Tenaya Canyon and Glacier Canyon entirely to myself too, just the way I like it. Worth the wait!

But on Oct 1, a miles-high white pall loomed from the south by 11 AM, resulting in smoke so thick in Tuolumne Meadows that smoke was visible only 50 ft away—hazardously bad*, probably AQI 300 or so for 10 miles or so. I donned a P100 particulate respirator, closed my windows, put the A/C on recirculate and drove out of Yosemite into crummy but far better air, all the way home.

Below, I would have liked to have compared a good sample of the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL on the Leica SL2 to the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO-Lanthar on the Sony A1. But the brand-new 50/2 APO-SL is/was badly swung, and it was out of the question (weight) to carry two systems. I opted for prudence and carried the lighter and more compact Sony A1, which also offers a far more enjoyable shooting experience, IMO.

As a huge bonus, I had regained enough strength for such hikes every other day (I sensed a change starting early September). Though carrying an extra 25 pounds of body fat plus camera gear is little different than a full backpacking load by comparison to my 2019 condition. But I am thrilled that after 18 months of major impairment, I seem to be on track to working myself back to full health and fitness, albeit with still high sleep demands some days (10+ hours). Paying close attention to avoid a recovery/relapse cycle this time, so I expect it will take another year to get back to 2019 condition, as I fear to try too much too soon.

* Sad to see the highway repair crew completely lacking in lung-protective gear. It should be an OSHA violation to subject workers to such unhealthy air conditions.

Glacier Canyon, abutting Mt Dana
Mt Conness is seen near top right
f4.5 @ 1/250 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 14:13:36
Sony A1 + Voigtlander FE APO-Lanthar 50mm f/2 Aspherical + polarizer Breakthrough Photography X4
ENV: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana, altitude 11600 ft / 3536 m, 52°F / 11°C
RAW: LACA corrected

[low-res image for bot]

Bellow, Dana Glacier (really just an ice field now). The very large gray moraine is seen below it, parted in the middle by some remaining bedrock; a human figure on it would just barely be visible. The picture was taken standing on a smaller but still quite large moraine that creates this large upper lake. Great ice skating for a few weeks in November if the snows do not cover it. The summit of Mt Dana is up and to the right, clipped off.

Dana Lake #1, Dana Glacier and its first moraine
Mt Conness is seen near top right
f5.6 @ 1/100 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-30 13:56:55
Sony A1 + Voigtlander FE APO-Lanthar 35mm f/2 Aspherical
ENV: Glacier Canyon, Mt Dana, altitude 11600 ft / 3536 m, 52°F / 11°C
RAW: vignetting corrected

[low-res image for bot]

Time to leave.

Tioga Pass entrance station with approaching heavy smoke, only a few miles from the images above
f2.8 @ 1/1500 sec, ISO 20; 2021-10-01 14:05:37
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8 @ 57mm equiv (6.6mm)
ENV: Tioga Pass, altitude 9945 ft / 3031 m, 60°F / 15°C

[low-res image for bot]
Road construction in Tuolumne Meadows, heavy smoke
f2.8 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 20; 2021-10-01 14:19:28
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8 @ 57mm equiv (6.6mm)
ENV: Tuolumne Meadows, altitude 8584 ft / 2616 m, 65°F / 18°C

[low-res image for bot]

 

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Leica SL2 Firmware Update 3.0 —  Major Bug Introduced: Cannot Use Fn Button to Toggle information display

I wondered whether Leica might screw me with the Leica SL2 firmware 3.0 update, full of useless (for me) additions catering to niche situations, and failing to fix a single SL2 bug or single SL2 operational headache.

Update 3: I found the problem. Error on my part, not understanding the Leica design. As part of the uwanted erasure of camera settings as part of the firmware update, when I reconfigured the camera I had turned off the Info Profiles 2/3/4, thinking they had been off before.

See Menu 5 => Camera Settings => Capture Assistants => Info Profile 1/2/3/4. The Info Profiles are each a group of redundant settings, and it is each Info Profile setings group as w a whole that is toggled , NOT the individual settings within a profile. I find this confusing. This design forces you to configure the whole list of 4X redundant settings for each profile, and then make sure all the profiles are on so you can toggle each group with a press of the Fn button. I recognize that this offers flexibility, so I give Leica some credit on that account.

OTOH, there is no other mirrorless cameras with such a design, and the Leica design doesn’t actually offer important customization! A key thing I’d like to configure are those intrusively bright and distracting top and bottom info bars cluttered with useless crapware indicators most of which do not even apply to RAW shooting. Compare to the Sony A1 and the Leica SL2 offers no facility whatsoever for a non-intrusive showing of the most important shooting info (aperture, shutter speed, ISO). If you are going to design a camera for customization, don’t stop at 1/3 of the distance.

BTW, I switched to the Sony A1 on the last 2 days of my trip. I found it so much faster and easier and more responsive... the SL2 feels so tedious and unresponsive by comparison, and making key tasks slower and harder (such as image review, forgetting menu positions, etc), and omitting critical features, like an RGB histogram and stopped-down focusing. With the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM and a couple of Voigtlander APO lenses (35mm, 50mm, each about 1/3 the size of Leica SL lenses), the whole experience felt much more fluid and rewarding.

Cannot Use Fn Button to Toggle information display

UPDATE Oct 1: at least two readers say “no such problems”. I will reinstall the firmware and reset the camera and see what happens. The camera shot images just fine, I could just never get the Fn button to ever again toggle the info pages (and yes, I turned several of them on)—it was all on, all the item, and no toggle, unlike firmware 2.0.

Update Oct 2: it is impossible to reinstall the firmare: “Update file is same version as current firmware”. Well, I guess that’s superior to “reinstall Windoze”.

With firmware 2.0, the Fn button could programmed to toggle between the various informational displays as Toggle Info Levels. It would cycle between the various displays. I use this all the time on the SL2 (v2.0) and similar functionality on every digital camera I’ve ever used.

Firmware 3.0 has broken this critical core functionality and no longer toggles—you get one and only one information display in both shooting and Play mode. Pressing the Fn button does nothing.

After half an hour of trying, I am stumped. Either these geniuses think this is a feature, or their software quality control stinks. But this would be no suprise: my Leica M240 was an unstable piece of crap for the first 24 months of its life.

Leica SL2

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Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Pool at Base of Dry Waterfall (Leica SL2)

This aperture series from f/2 through f/11 shows off impressive sharpness of the Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH on an extremely finely-detailed scene.

Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Pool at Base of Dry Waterfall

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2 through f/11, plus crops.

Pool at Base of Dry Waterfall, Tenaya Creek
f2 @ 1/2500 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-19 15:02:29
LEICA SL2 + Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH
ENV: Tenaya Canyon, altitude 7800 ft / 2377 m, 65°F / 18°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, pull 0.66 stops, +10 Whites, +10 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]

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

Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Stagnant Tenaya Creek in Forest (Leica SL2)

This aperture series from f/2 through f/11 shows off stunning performance of the Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH on a wide dynamic range scene with brilliance of detail from near to far.

Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Stagnant Tenaya Creek in Forest

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2 through f/11, plus crops.

I surveyed the entire length of upper Tenaya Creek almost to Pywiack Falls. There is 99.99% fish kill, with no adult trout left alive in this rich lower section except in one darker/deeper pool (there were some in the rocky section exiting the forest area). This section normally supports spawning brook trout in shallow but still-flowing water, but here in 2021 it was a series of stagnant areas with no flow between the pools as has been the case for decades even in the driest year. No sightings and no trout spooked as I walked the stream bank—extermination almost everywhere.

Stagnant Tenaya Creek in Forest
f5.6 @ 1/30 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-19 17:30:25
LEICA SL2 + Leica 28mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH
ENV: Tenaya Canyon, altitude 7700 ft / 2347 m, 65°F / 18°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, pull 0.8 stops, +50 Shadows, +20 Whites, +10 Clarity, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]

Eastern Sierra Air Quality September 27: Still Lousy from Forest Fires, but hope for a short reprieve tomorrow

re: Eastern Sierra Air Quality, September 25

A Sprinter van makes a great mobile workstations so I’ve published a fair amount of stuff last 4-5 days while hanging out in the western Nevada desert, waiting out the bad smoky air. But I was feeling burned-out yesterday (pun intended)—that’s as good as it goes and I’m tired of it.

Perfect air quality after storm front
2021-09-28 06:43

UPDATE, September 28: the front has pushed all the smoke away as seen at right.
UPDATE , October 1: after 3 gorgeous crystal clear days including the best conditions I have ever seen near Mt Dana in Glacier Canyon on September 30, the smoke pushed in to obnoxious levels by noon on Oct 1, and I drove home.

I need either clean air by tomorrow, or I’m heading home to crystal-clear ai. Yesterday’s AQI of 180 or so gave me light headaches and left me feeling tired—the the worst yet and unhealthy—but there was no escape short of a 300 mile drive.

Nothing to prove that other than the body has evolved to need nutrient to fend off disease and toxins, but, my feeling is that Vitamin C and Vitamin E as antioxidants along with magnesium supplementation and other nutritional support should help the body fight off ill effects of the nasty smoke.

I feel like I bought a used car: one repair turns into another repair and soon you wish you had just dumped it at the start of the fiasco! After 5 days of hoping for clean air, I wish I had just driven home 5 days ago.

As shown below, yesterday’s air was awful, with an AQI of 180 or so from the Yosemite/Lee Vining area all the way to Hawthorne NV, with me in the middle. But the air improved last night and is better today (2nd picture).

A mild NW-wind weather front tomorrow might clear all the smoke out of the Yosemite area. If it does I’ll attempt the hikes I’ve been wanting to do, and if not, I’m homeward-bound. As for hikes, the one long hike I did was encouraging: while I was very tired, it was a “good tired”—a feeling I’ve rarely had for 18 months now—hoping I can work my fitness back up and overweightness down—it’s like carrying a backpack being 20 pounds too body-fat-heavy.

Sunset in AQI 180 smoke conditions, Nevada desert east of Mono Lake
f1.8 @ 1/1900 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2021-09-26 17:57:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/2.8 @ 4mm
ENV: NV desert east of Mono Lake, altitude 7419 ft / 2261 m, 72°F / 22°C

[low-res image for bot]
Nevada desert east of Mono Lake, view SW to West towards Mono Lake
f2.8 @ 1/1000 sec panorama, ISO 32; 2021-09-27 08:51:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8 @ 6.6mm
ENV: NV desert east of Mono Lake, altitude 7437 ft / 2267 m, 65°F / 18°C

[low-res image for bot]
East of Mono Lake, view SW to West towards Mono Lake
f1.8 @ 1/1500 sec panorama, ISO 20; 2021-09-28 07:43:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/2.8 @ 4mm
ENV: east of Mono Lake, altitude 6481 ft / 1975 m, 45°F / 7°C

[low-res image for bot]

 


Deals Updated Daily at B&H Photo

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: View Through Trees towards Cloud’s Rest

This aperture series evaluates the distance performance of the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH on a near/far landscape scene with focus at medium distance

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: View Through Trees towards Cloud’s Rest

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2 through f/11, plus crops.

View Through Trees towards Cloud’s Rest
f8 @ 1/25 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-19 16:52:35
LEICA SL2 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH
ENV: Tenaya Canyon, altitude 7600 ft / 2316 m, 65°F / 18°C
RAW: pull 0.3 stops, +100 Shadows, -100 Highlights, +20 Whites, +30 Dehaze, +10 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]

Sigma SL 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Aperture Series, Leica SL2 vs Panasonic S1R Sharpness: Desert Sagebrush

Even though both the Panasonic S1R and the Leica SL2 are L-Mount cameras, they differ in their sensor cover glass thickness, which because of ray angle interactions, damages performance for M-Mount lenses and damages performance for Leica SL lenses.

The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for L-Mount cannot be optimized for two different sensor cover glass thicknesses, so on which camera does it perform better?

Aperture Series, Leica SL2 vs Panasonic S1R Sharpness: Desert Sagebrush

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/1.4 to f/5.6, plus crops.

Desert sagebrush east of Mono Lake
f1.4 @ 1/3200 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-25 17:38:06
Panasonic S1R + 28mm F1.4 DG HSM Art 019
ENV: east of Mono Lake, altitude 7380 ft / 2249 m, 75°F / 23°C
RAW: LACA corrected, distortion corrected, +10 Whites, +10 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]

 


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Eastern Sierra Air Quality September 25: Still Lousy from Forest Fires

re: Eastern Sierra Air Quality, September 27

I’ve had to hang out in the Nevada desert while I watch the smoke situation over in the Eastern Sierra from afar. Yesterday was viable for the Sierra , but the drab haze was not appealing for enjoyment or photography and still a modest health hazard, so I’ve just been processing and publishing the stuff I’ve already shot.

Smoke is surrounding me on almost all sides this morning, and I wonder where the heck I’ll go if it gets bad—pondering a “f*ck it” and head home if this persists. The Eastern Sierra is blotted-out or nearly so by the thick haze, and the mountains towards Lee Vining are now invisible to me.

It’s a damn shame, because the weather has been as beautiful as anyone could ask for.

PurpleAir.com air quality maps for PM2.5 and PM10 are as good as far as they go—not very far over here—they can be highly misleading at times due to stratification of the air layers, which can leave the air good in the valley, even as the smoke is much worse higher up. But eyes don’t lie when it comes to haze/smoke. There are few or no air quality sensors at altitude along most of the Eastern Sierra for PurpleAir.com, excepting one at Virginia Lakes (north of Mono Lake), which is not very helpful.

View from NE to SE of Eastern Sierra
Lee Vining CA roughly where distant power poles are, June Lake and Mammoth Lakes area towards left
f2.8 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 20; 2021-09-25 09:34:00
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 6.6 mm f/2.8 @ 6.6mm ENV: altitude 7376 ft / 2248 m

[low-res image for bot]

 

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Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Backlit Pines among Glacial Erratics fronting Granite Cliff

This aperture series evaluates the distance performance of the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH on a near/far landscape scene with focus at medium distance.

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Backlit Pines among Glacial Erratics fronting Granite Cliff

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2 through f/11, plus crops.

Backlit Pines among Glacial Erratics fronting Granite Cliff, Tenaya Canyon
f2 @ 1/1000 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-19 16:15:48
LEICA SL2 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH
ENV: Tenaya Canyon, altitude 7650 ft / 2332 m, 65°F / 18°C
RAW: pull 0.6 stops, +10 Whites, +10 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]

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Total Failure of Piñon Pine Nuts in Inyo Mountains

I’ve had to hang out in the Nevada desert while I watch the smoke situation over in the Eastern Sierra from afar. Yesterday and today were usable, but the drab haze was not appealing for enjoyment or photography, so I’ve just been processing and publishing the stuff I’ve already shot. A cold front (15°F drop) is supposed to move in by Monday, with the air clearing starting tomorrow, I hope! Correction: I misread the weather report (did not see the stale date). I am currently in NV with smoke surrounding me on almost all sides, and the Eastern Sierra blotted out by the thick haze—invisible to me now. PurpleAir.com is as good as far as it goes—but highly misleading at times due to stratification of the air, which can leave the air good in the valley, even as the smoke is much worse higher up. There are few non sensors at altitude along most of the Eastern Sierra for PurpleAir.com, excepting one at Virginia Lakes, which is not very helpful.

Piñon Pine crop failure

East of Mono Lake at about 7600 feet elevation (Inyo mountain range, east of Eastern Sierra), I examined a number of Piñon Pine trees and their cones. I was unable to find a single edible/viable pine nut anywhere. The vast majority of the cones with shrunken/shriveled and the full-size cones that had matured yielded nuts that were of full size, but were either empty, maggot-holed, or held shriveled kernels 1/20 the volume of a proper pine nut.

Each pinyon cone produces 10 to 30 seeds and a productive stand of pinyon trees in a good year can produce 250 pounds (110 kg) on 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land. An average worker can collect about 22 pounds (10.0 kg) of unshelled pinyon seed in a day's work. Production per worker of 22 pounds of unshelled pinyon seeds—more than one-half that in shelled seeds—amounts to nearly 30,000 calories of nutrition. That is a high yield for the effort expended by hunter-gatherers. Moreover, the pinyon seeds are high in fat, often in short supply for hunter-gatherers.[16]

...The pinyon jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) takes its name from the tree, and pinyon nuts form an important part of its diet. It is very important for regeneration of pinyon woods, as it stores large numbers of the seeds in the ground for later use, and excess seeds not used are in an ideal position to grow into new trees. The Mexican jay is also important for the dispersal of some pinyon species, as, less often, is the Clark's nutcracker. Many other species of animal also eat pinyon nuts, without dispersing them.

Drought stress

Piñon Pine trees are very drought hardy, but a few are dying, and all are showing signs of severe stress. The nil crop of pine nuts surely results from that stress. There have been years where I could make it rain delicious pine nuts by whacking the branches with a tent pole.

While I can go buy some at the supermarket, they are invariably another species from China (no thanks), and don’t taste nearly as good as the fresh fall crop over here.

Another year of drought, and I expect we will see massive die-off of both Piñon Pines and even Juniper tress. The soil is powder-dry and virtually no new vegetation grew this year in the arid areas of the Inyo Mountains.

Below, with the right lighting and exposure, my aging iPhone 7 Plus in RAW can do pretty well.

Piñon Pine cone, shriveled and devoid of pine nuts
f1.8 @ 1/125 sec, ISO 20; 2021-09-23 14:28:33
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)
ENV: west of Mono Lake, altitude 7628 ft / 2325 m, 80°F / 26°C

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Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Smoky Sunset, Piper Mountain Wilderness

This aperture series from f/2 through f/5.6 evaluates the distance performance of the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH on a landscape scene with low contrast.

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: Smoky Sunset, Piper Mountain Wilderness

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2 through f/5.6, plus crops.

Smoky Sunset, Piper Mountain Wilderness
f5.6 @ 1/250 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-18 18:07:09
LEICA SL2 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH
ENV: Piper Mountain Wilderness, altitude 5450 ft / 1661 m, 75°F / 23°C
RAW: push 0.17 stops, -50 Highlights, +20 Whites, +20 Clarity

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Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: View North to Mt Conness from Puppy Dome

This aperture series from f/2 through f/16 evaluates the near-to-far performance of the Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH on a landscape scene.

Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL Aperture Series: View North to Mt Conness from Puppy Dome

Includes images up to full camera resolution from f/2 through f/16, plus crops.

View North to Mt Conness from Puppy Dome, Tuolumne Meadows
f2.8 @ 1/250 sec electronic shutter, ISO 100; 2021-09-20 18:20:10
LEICA SL2 + Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-SL ASPH + polarizer Breakthrough Photography X4
ENV: Puppy Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, altitude 8650 ft / 2637 m, 65°F / 18°C
RAW: pull 0.5 stops, +20 Whites, +10 Clarity

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