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Followup: Fujifilm GFX and 120mm f/4 Focus Shift Problems

As per yesterday’s post, the Fujifilm GFX + 120mm f/4 has some kind of unstable focus problem, which I believe is an electronic glitch (my working theory). It appears to be “safe” to shoot the 120/4 for the initial (single) shot, after that all my aperture series show damage from this glitch. Definitely unsafe to shoot more than one frame in succession (without refocusing) with the 120/4. That is with a 2nd brand-new 120/4 and brand-new GFX; this is no “bad sample” problem but a serious bug.

Fujifilm GF 32-64mm f/4

Accordingly, I am taking the GFX on my trip to the Eastern Sierra along with the 32-64mm f/4 zoom, the 63mm f/2.8, and the 120mm f/4. I am going to be careful in that I will refocus for each frames so that I can obtain full image quality (which of course makes stitching all but a non-starter, but oh well).

That is to say: my working theory is that focusing before every shot will bypass the glitch. I don’t yet know if the glitch affects the other two lenses, but I don’t want to come back with many gigabytes of garbaged aperture series.

Review of Fujifilm GFX system

It’s terribly difficult in the field to shoot a system that is unstable when I don’t know the root cause, but I the GFX sensor is surely worthy, and I think I can make things work out to show the best the system has to offer from each of these lenses, even if I cannot reliably do my usual aperture series approach. So I’ll just refocus each shot and I should be able to get optimal results for each individual shot.

I think I’ll do a fair amount of work at Cerro Gordo, which has lots of interesting stuff for all these lenses (the road is open and free of snow as of today). If by chance a reader wants to meet me for a photo tour, I will be available on April 2/3/4/5 or thereabouts for Cerro Gordo and the Eastern Sierra, White Mountains, and northern Death Valley. One day or more. We can do whatever you prefer: photography in general, stitching, panos, 'post, whatever.

Below, one of the old mining building at Cerro Gordo (NOT a Fujifilm GFX shot)

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New Deals on MacBook Pro, Mac Mini

See my review of the late 2016 MacBook Pro Retina.

See also OWC deals on used Macs.

B&H Photo has just posted a batch of steeper discounts on MacBook Pro models from 2015 and 2016 as well as Mac Mini.

Special deal $800 off 2015 MacBook Air 2.2 GHz / 8GB / 512GB. Ends March 30.

These discounts are greater than have generally been available so far. Discounts not shown on some items—click through to see savings.

 

Our trusted photo rental store

Followup: Fujifilm GFX and 120mm f/4 Focus Shift Problems

As per my findings of the damaging focus shift problems with the Fujifilm 120mm f/4, I have a brand-new Fujifilm GFX and brand-new 120mm f/4 that just showed up today.

Review of Fujifilm GF 120mm f/4

I have reproduced the focus shift problems with the 120/4 with a brand new 120mm f/4 and a brand new GFX. This disproves any “bad sample” theory. I suspect an electronic glitch bug between camera and lens, though it is difficult to be sure of the cause.

I cannot yet say if this is only an issue with the 120mm, or a general one, though based on some other unexplained behaviors, I suspect that it is a general one that may manifest more subtly with other lenses (e.g., shorter focal lengths might be less obvious). And/or not manifest when used in single-shot point and shoot mode, that is, refocusing each shot, shooting a frame, repeating that.

The GFX + 120/4 behavior as it stands is unacceptable to me (unusable for the way I like to work), and rules out the GFX as a system I would consider. Consequently I cannot possibly recommend it. However, others might use the camera differently and not encounter this issue (e.g. different lenses and/or single-shot point and shoot usage).

I am still waiting for a Fujifilm followup call from weeks ago when I contacted technical support. Fujifilm can choose to ignore the issue as is their sole choice, but I will say this: the value of any camera system hinges on its commitment to customer service and quality. When a well known reviewer calls in with a camera issue, it might make sense to follow up and engage. But alas, I’ve seen this movie before.

While the X1D has its issues, many are fixable in firmware and it is far more elegant in conception, and a brilliant mind is going to move Hasselblad forward. And its focus is stable. I’d say bet on a winning horse, not a donkey.

I had planned on taking the GFX plus 120/4, 63/2.8 and 32-64/4 zoom with me on my trip to the Eastern Sierra, shooting after I ride the Southern Inyo Double Century. I may still do so, but I fear that if the 32-64mm and 63mm lenses suffer the same type of glitch, that I could return home with degraded results or total garbage in some cases.

It’s terribly difficult in the field to shoot a system that is unstable when I don’t know the root cause, or if I can work around it. I’ll probably have to refocus each frame, hoping for the best, and check images each night (hard to do on a retina display). I feel obligated to at least make some solid example images, even if the camera is unsuited for aperture series. But I do not look forward to using the GFX after using the elegant Hasselblad X1D with its clean conceptual approach*.

* If Fujifilm’s operating principle is to shovel flawed consumer-oriented Fujifilm X firmware into a GFX, it isn’t working operationally or conceptually for me. The GFX was clearly conceived as just one more X camera, one with a bigger sensor. This is true right down deep into its firmware and menus and feature set. It just doesn’t come together for me like the Hasselblad X1D does.

Below, it is hard to get a cat to be still for 2.3 seconds, but here it is (crop). The 120/4 is razor sharp wide open.

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Slumming

With full apologies to Fujifilm (it’s not fair I suppose and will light up the Fujifilm message boards), but this made me laugh, I do not disagree, and I think it hits a nail on the head that cannot be unhit:

The GFX is a bit of a retro nightmare for me in comparison. Basically the GFX is a continuation of the D810 (in my mind, with all of the past problems, etc.) but more slumming, like going from a Porsche Cayenne to a Nissan Pathfinder. The GFX is, for my work, not an improvement on the D810, but a come-down.

Choosing a camera is personal in some ways, and so the above comment is relevant or irrelevant on a personal basis. I find it highly relevant.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

Hasselblad Appoints Ming Thein as Chief of Strategy

See my review of the Hasselblad X1D system in Medium Format.

I consider Ming Thein a personal friend and I am pleased to see this announcement.

For me at least, it brings additional comfort with the Hasselblad X1D system in particular, and what it might become over time.

Ming Thein

2017-03-28 Hasselblad, the leader in high-quality professional medium format cameras, today announced that Hasselblad ambassador Ming Thein has been appointed as Chief of Strategy.

During his former role as a Hasselblad ambassador, Ming Thein serviced industrial and corporate documentary clients across Asia and further afield. Based out of Kuala Lumpur, Ming specialises in representing the lifecycle of a company – from the people behind the creation to abstract beauty of the finished product – be it massive civil engineering projects, interiors or precision timepieces.

Location work is his forte, with clients including some of the largest developers and construction firms in Asia. Ming also holds an MA in Physics from The University of Oxford, and served as a director at various finance and private equity firms in Asia before quitting to pursue a lifelong dream of something visual, creative and specifically involving photography.

In his new role as Chief of Strategy at Hasselblad, Ming will use his customer experience insights to influence the future product roadmap, while helping to strengthen Hasselblad’s market position and meet the needs of semi-professional and professional photographers.

Speaking about his new role as Chief of Strategy at Hasselblad, Ming Thein said:

“I’m very excited to enter the next chapter of my relationship with Hasselblad; it is an honour to work with a brand that has such a strong history and such great people. I look forward to helping shape the company’s future product strategy to ensure Hasselblad continues to be a leader in photography, image quality and supporter of the arts.”

Paul Bram, Hasselblad CEO, said:

“We are delighted to welcome Ming Thein on board as our new Chief of Strategy. The combination of his skills as an accomplished photographer and a Hasselblad ambassador mean that Ming has expert insights into our target consumers. We look forward to working with Ming to help shape the future.”

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Followup: Fujifilm GFX and 120mm f/4 Focus Shift Problems

As per my findings of the damaging focus shift problems with the Fujifilm 120mm f/4, I have a new Fujifilm GFX and new 120mm f/4 showing up tomorrow.

I may have just enough time to confirm (or not) my findings with the first camera and lens as documented extensively in my review. Or I may have to do so in the field. Either way, I will have an answer relatively soon as to whether the atrocious behavior occurs with an all-new GFX+120/4.

Review of Fujifilm GF 120mm f/4

UPDATE 28 March: I have reproduced the horrific focus stability problems with a brand new 120mm f/4 and a brand new GFX. This disproves any “bad sample” theory. I suspect an electronic glitch bug between camera and lens, though its impossible to say.

I will be taking the GFX plus 120/4, 63/2.8 and 32-64/4 zoom with me on my trip to the Eastern Sierra, shooting after I ride the Southern Inyo Double Century.

 

Hasselblad X1D: Unacceptable Autofocus Errors with XCD 90mm f/3.2 (Update)

See yesterday’s post for details and discussion, including independent confirmation with the 30mm, 45mm, 90mm lenses by a reader.

Now updated with five additional examples:

Hasselblad X1D Autofocus Accuracy, Examples

I am working with Hasselblad and expect to have an alternate X1D and 90/3.2 in 2 weeks or so to also test, but Howard’s comments seem to rule out a single-camera or single-lens issue and support my original findings in every way.

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Hasselblad X1D Highlight Discrimination and Nuanced Detail Example: Mission Mural

In the Hasselblad X1D Imaging Quality section in my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format I present a deceptively simple example:

Hasselblad X1D: Distinguishing Nuanced Detail (Mission Painting)

Includes images up to full resolution.

This example shows a total sum quality that is remarkable, and worth studying at full resolution for all sorts of nuanced image quality aspects. Not a technical analysis at all—just an image that really impresses me, as have field images. I may have to go to a safe space, being so triggered by the results here and with some other images—oh yeah—the X1D loaner has to go back now so I can relax, sort of: I have just about reached the tipping point of lusting after an X1D, in spite of the autofocus issue. More images to come that support that idea.

What particularly impresses me about the X1D is the highlight discrimination, the subtle nuances of detail in high-key areas, a quality that I sense is lacking in nearly all 35mm format cameras, the sole possible exception being the Nikon D810 (and I am not sure on that count!).

This image really has to be seen at full resolution on an iMac 5K to be fully appreciated.

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John G writes:

In your March 25 post, you’ve expressed expertly what I’m seeing in the Hasselblad files: Observable detail, nuance, and an expanded tonality in the high-key areas. I would add that these type of observations require a degree of open-minded empiricism—for which you should be applauded. I would also say, and I’m sure you’d agree, that the causes behind the phenomenon are not beyond technical analysis. We just need a way to do it, to measure it—a testing protocol that would explicate an aspect of IQ that is clearly—and repeatedly—observable in the images produced by the Hasselblads.

DIGLLOYD: I am pretty sure that the mapping over the dynamic range or the sensor (see notes in Shootout vs Nikon D810, Flowers) and the 16-bit gradation are involved.

World of Sigma and especially Sigma ART Lenses

Hasselblad X1D: Unacceptable Autofocus Errors with XCD 90mm f/3.2

I really enjoyed shooting the X1D in the field (Carrizo Plain). I could easily see it being my field camera of choice (assuming that 22mm happens along), even if I had to use manual focus 100% of the time. It works well even on a small tripod and rig.

Update 1: the X1D has/had the latest firmware. The 90mm f/3.2 had firmware 0.5.1, which I have now updated to the latest, version 0.5.3. I have no word as yet from Hasselblad as to whether 0.5.3 vs 0.5.1 could be responsible. I would also emphasize that bugs are bugs, and that most of the time the 90/3.2 focuses properly and that I have seen many a camera have focus errors. However, I deem "most" a non-starter from what I experienced. If a bug as I posit, then any claim by others (no matter how skilled) of “works for me” doesn’t work for me.

Update 2: with lens firmware 0.5.3, I have reproduced the problem and will add a few more examples. Also, I am working with Hasselblad and expect to have an alternate X1D and 90/3.2 in 2 weeks or so to re-test.

Accordingly I’m very disappointed to have to report and document this appalling behavior, but it is totally consistent and matches the front-focus errors I saw back in December 2016 in images from a pre-production camera.

In my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format:

Hasselblad X1D Autofocus Accuracy, Examples

Includes full-resolution examples and crops which can be toggled between razor-sharp manual focus and the disappointment of autofocus.

Hasselblad X1D

These failures render autofocus unusable in this sense: if the X1D can fail this badly under brightly-lit high-contrast conditions, then the working assumption must be that autofocus accuracy is suspect at all times, thus requiring manual confirmation of focus via magnified Live View every time, thus making the X1D a manual focus camera, at least with the 90/3.2.

I also experienced various short-term lockup problems requiring popping out the battery.

While I have more material to present from the X1D (already shot), the loaner X1D and the lenses must now go back. My intent is to add more coverage of the X1D when new lenses arrive and/or some other opportunity presents itself.

Howard C writes:

I updated the firmware for my XCD lenses this afternoon to 0.5.3 and went out to test the AF performance of the 30mm, 45mm, and 90mm lenses. Well, you were absolutely right. The AF performance of the lenses is significantly off compared to the MF in magnified live view. Not always, but in many cases.

Interestingly, I had tested the performance of the XCD lenses against the GFX zoom at 32mm and 45mm against the XCD primes last week. Sometimes the XCD primes were clearly superior, and yet there were a few other tests side by side where I could not figure out why the performance of the XCD lenses seemed relatively weak. Now I think I know.

I completely agree that the AF cannot be trusted. I need to manually focus in magnified live view. This was an invaluable observation by you. Hopefully, this can be corrected in a firmware update…soon.

DIGLLOYD: I try very hard when evaluating gear to save people time and money on what to buy (what is best for each person) and to save them the trauma of damaged images caused by camera errors. Let me state strongly that in no way am I singling out Hasselblad here; for exampes, the Leica SL had (and still has AFAIK) terrible issues, Nikon had a bad focus fiasco once and has problematic AF with many f/1.4 lenses to this day, the Fujifilm GFX has issues, and so on. The point is to be aware of the issues, and to incorporate the awareness into a decision to buy and/or how to use the gear once purchased.

With lens firmware 0.5.3, I have reproduced the problem several more times (easily, without particular effort), and I have added a few more examples. I concur exactly with Howard that it is “not always, but in many cases”. This is what I saw before, and saw again tonight with updated firmware. I would say that 1 time in 5 the AF will mis-focus (a very, very rough estimate)—at least with some subject matter—and I’m NOT talking about tricky 3D or ambiguous stuff, just stuff that the Sony A7R II would nail every time.

While I have not verified the issue with the 30/3.5 and 45/3.5, I have certain images that I am all but certain were degraded by mis-focus. But lacking MF/AF pairs shot wide open, I can only say that at f/8, a slightly soft image makes no sense at all near where focused—f/8 masks the error enough to fool most users.

I am working with Hasselblad and expect to have an alternate X1D and 90/3.2 in 2 weeks or so to also test, but Howard’s comments seem to rule out a single-camera or single-lens issue and support my original findings in every way.

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Really Right Stuff Panorama and Gimbal Heads, Plus New “Shorty” Tripod

See also Really Right Stuff posts of all kinds.

I had a chance to visit the Really Right Stuff headquarters in San Luis Obispo last week where I got a most excellent tour including the huge automated machining systems which turn solid blocks of aluminum feedstock into gorgeous parts ready for anodization. It was informative and I had a good talk with the folks there about their gear, and what I’d like to see as well.

While my trip to Carrizo Plain was cut short by car failure and 3 days were spent fishing instead of shooting while waiting for car repair over a long weekend, some Really Right Stuff gear is shown below, in field use. I will put it to more use in the future.

I’m amazed at how sub-mediocre the iPhone 7 image quality can be, including these shots—smearing and noise in mid-day light—so disappointing. And yet sometimes the photos can be much better—a puzzler as to the variable quality. I may have to go back to shooting iPhone raw.

Really Right Stuff PG-02 LLR Pano-Gimbal Head

This is the cat’s meow for making panos. Determine the entrance pupil (“nodal point”) for your camera + lens combo, note the offset on the laser-engraved markings (for future instant setup), and then quickly pan for making multi-shot panos free of parallax. The PG-02 is a heavy duty rig that is rock solid and a joy to use for this type of work (though not something I want to lug on a 10 mile hike!).

Not shown here but critical for entrance pupil positioning front/back (for stitched images) is the Really Right Stuff MPR-CL: MPR with integral clamp and/or the Really Right Stuff MPR CL II.

Because the base pans and is level, but the camera can be angled any way one wishes, both single-row and multi-row stitched images of any desired aspect ratios are easily done. There are a number of variants of this rig.

Shown below, Really Right Stuff PG-02 LLR Pano-Gimbal Head with B2-LLR-II clamp, with the Hasselblad X1D clamped in place via an L-plate, the Really Right Stuff BX1D-L. I used it in conjunction with the Really Right Stuff Leveling Base TA-3 (essential in order to level the head easily) on the Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod.

See also all Really Right Stuff pano-gimbal gear.

Really Right Stuff PG-02 LLR Pano-Gimbal Head w/ B2-LLR-II clamp,
Hasselblad X1D clamped in place with Really Right Stuff BX1D-L
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Really Right Stuff
PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head

Really Right Stuff PG-01 LLR Pano-Gimbal Head

Really Right Stuff
MPR CL

While the PG-02 is heavy duty, the Really Right Stuff PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head is plenty sturdy for the Hasselblad X1D and certainly any Sony or Fujifilm mirrorless camera as well.

Like its PG-02 sibling, determine the entrance pupil (“nodal point”) for your camera + lens combo, note the offsets on the laser-engraved markings (for future instant setup), and then quickly pan for making multi-shot panos free of parallax.

Not shown here but critical for entrance pupil positioning front/back (for stitched images) is the Really Right Stuff MMPR-CL: MPR with integral clamp.

Here, the PG-01 is mounted on a new specialty 3-section tripod (not yet available), one that is ideally suited for making low and close images; see the next shot. The new offering is every bit as involved as the larger models, so cost will be similar to its larger siblings, but I really enjoyed the smaller form factor.

Shown below with the Hasselblad X1D clamped in place via the Really Right Stuff BX1D-L.

Really Right Stuff PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head,
Hasselblad X1D clamped in place with Really Right Stuff BX1D-L
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Really Right Stuff PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head,
Hasselblad X1D clamped in place with Really Right Stuff BX1D-L
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New shorty tripod

The new shorty tripod should be called the TFC-13S.

While the Really Right Stuff TFA-01 ULTRA Pocket Pod is superb for ultra-low shots, this new short tripod (model number TBD) is ideal for shots from about 8 inches to 2.5 feet off the ground.

The picture below shows why the new Really Right Stuff “shorty” model is so appealing for some kinds of work. The new shorty tripod is much faster and easier to get into the proper height and position versus a full-size tripod, particularly with the PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head. I just loved the time savings and ease of use! The 3 sections afford a working-height range that seems ideal for many types of shooting at close range, but it could also serve well set up on a table or rock, etc (for additional height). An optional integrated hand strap for carrying in the field was super handy also (and which I’d like to have on my larger tripods).

Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod with Arca Swiss Cube vs new shorty TFC-13S model with PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head,
Hasselblad X1D clamped in place with Really Right Stuff BX1D-L
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Carrizo Plain Flower Status, 2017

I had a Saturday morning double century lined up on Saturday March 18. As Murphy’s Law would have it, on Friday morning March 17 the ignition switch on my SUV failed (102K miles), rendering it unstartable, which took me out all of Friday getting it to the dealer and stuffing all my gear into a Nissan Versa rental (uggghhh).

I completed the double century a hour slower than I ought to have but having felt lousy for some weeks I consider it a roaring success. And included in that time, I did stop and wait for the women’s winner (former cat 1 rider) to fix a flat, who I 'pulled' for 150 miles (she drafted me). As is my wont, I took no draft. It took my body two hours to get into the groove, but then I settled into a decent pace thereafter... maybe seasonal allergies had been pulling me down and hormones when riding start to counteract any allergy lethargies.

Anyway, the double century done, and dealers shut for the weekend, ignition switch diagnosis and part ordered on Tuesday and fixed and back in my SUV late Wednesday.

Carrizo Plain Flower Status, 2017

I lost 4 shooting days and had to do a rush job at Carrizo Plain National Monument. Here’s a quick status using iPhone 7 photos. The Santa Barbara area and Carrizo Plain area did not get good rain until mid-February. Also, conditions were very cold (frost last night!), so the season looks delayed by a week or so. Whether recent substantial rains will encourage additional blooming I do not know.

  • Good bloom but modest compared to superbloom years, but a paucity and near absence of reds/pinks/oranges (isolated patches in only a few places).
  • Large patches of yellow, and some good blue/violet large fields in a few places; looks like more to come.
  • Poppies just starting to emerge at lower elevations, such as Crocker Springs Rd just past oil pumping fields east of the Plain.
  • A few small patches of brilliant orange something off Elkhorn Road near north end.
  • South end of Elkhorn Rd should hit its peak in a few days (the part up the grade to miles-long meadow).

With only a few isolated patches of orange and red and pink in a few places, the colors this year are strongly dominated by two types of yellow flowering plants, the one variety favoring slopes shown here, which I much prefer over the very small dark yellow weedy type which dominates many of the flat areas. The hills visible along Elkhorn Road and the hills east and west of the main road show this type of pattern.

Elkhorn Road grade, just east of Carrizo Plain National Monument
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Just off the main road, about 5 miles south of Soda Lake, Carrizo Plain National Monument
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Main road through Carrizo Plain National Monument, about 8 miles south of Soda Lake
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My SUV has about the best traction system available (real 4WD, independent on each wheel). I know from experience in Death Valley that it can out-perform even modified jeeps in mud/snow/sand (excluding the oversize tire variants of course). But with winter snow tires, this sticky clay goo (bentonite?) just coats tires with a half-inch thick slurry that has the car sliding sideways and all sorts of directions. Extreme caution advised in the clayish areas when wet.

The main road through Carrizo Plain was fine, but Elkhorn Rd in a few places was still very gooey on Thursday, much improved on Friday, but more rain was headed in for Saturday. For those with SUVs and good 4WD and tires, the entire Elkhorn Rd can be very nice, with some excellent side canyons particularly approaching the northern end.

I had not yet switched from my snow tires to my all-terrain A/T tires; the A/T tires shed mud and bite into this sort of stuff much better. All that said, it was much warmer on 24 March by mid-day, with things drying out very quickly. Still, crossing Panorama Drive was a deceivingly risky bet, with water just below the seemingly dry surface—attempt at your own peril and only with excellent tires and 4WD until the goo dries. I went in 100 meters or so and decided to back out, which was a rolicking back-and-forth slip-n-slide show. A few days should dry it out and while I probably could have made it across with the the 4WD system cranking at it hard and a lot of slipping and sliding, it was just not worth it and that lowest wettest middle section held unknown muddy 'fun' which might be loads of fun sinking into it. And more rain was on the way by mid-afternoon, and I was out of food, so I headed home, already 3 days delayed.

Extreme Caution Advised in Clay Soil Areas
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By 14:00 Friday March 24, clouds were massing rapidly, portending rain, which I encountered as I headed north to home.

Soda Lake appears to have much more water in it than 2016, and considerably more than the salt-pan conditions of 2015.

Soda Lake, Carrizo Plain National Monument
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Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens

The about $1499 Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is not far off, and I’ll be reviewing it, along with something else nice for Sony soon.

With its apodization element, the brightness might be more like T/5.6 —should be interesting to see not only its highly unusual bokeh, but general performance characteristics.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to 20 | T5.6 to 22
  • Apodization Element for Smooth Bokeh
  • One Aspherical Element, One ED Element
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Direct Drive SSM Focus System
  • Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Ring-Switch to Change Focus Setting
  • Rounded 11-Blade Diaphragm
Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS Lens
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Thoughts on What Constitutes Being Worth a Switch to Medium Format vis a vis Hasselblad X1D, Fujifilm GFX

An essay in my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format:

Hasselblad X1D vs Fujifilm GFX vs Standing Pat: Buying Advice

Sometimes things are clear-cut and sometimes they are not. A lot depends on usage, likes and dislikes, timeline and money. My essay looks at how the whole medium format thing has shaped up so far, and my general and specific thoughts on switch/upgrade.

Early Season Trout at Cachuma Lake

Once in a while I just take a day off, something relatively new to me (what does “weekend” mean for a self-employed person?). Something I’m still getting used to, sporadically.

I was down near Cachuma Lake Reservoir (Solvang, California) for the Solvang Spring Double Century on March 18, and so I decided to rent a boat and go trout fishing—overworked and needed some downtime just to enjoy sun and water and fresh air, as I did (plus a sunburn, gotta get one of these once a year).

It went well: 15.5", 18", 18.5", 19", 19.5" rainbow trout weighing in (real weight!) from about 1.8 pounds to 3.5 pounds. Tasty dinners, including last night. Good fighters all. The Big One got away due to knot failure—which is incredibly bad luck since my knots almost never fail. So if anyone out there catches a really large 'bow with a red/gold Thomas Buoyant hanging off its jaw, that’s the one. Maybe the line had a nick I did not spot. I had the most fun with a Thomas Buoyant lure, but nightcrawlers were about half the hookups. These are triploid (sterile) trout, and from what I understood, one is not allowed to catch and release—taking them is mandatory.

The next morning did not go so well: car would not start due to some security interlock problem requiring a flatbed tow. So here I sit inside a car dealer writing this blog entry, wondering about both my double century bike ride and about my plan to shoot wildflowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument with the Hasselblad X1D starting on Sunday 19 March.

See also 2016: The Year in Trout.

Get yourself a Benchmade knife for gutting trout in the field. Benchmade 943 as shown has a better shape and thickness to the blade that works ideally for gutting a fish. Benchmade 940 is also excellent for all-around use, but the blade shape is not quite as good for fish gutting. As shown, I put bright green gaffer’s tape on dark objects just in case I misplace or drop them in dim/dark conditions.

Rainbow Trout, Cachuma Lake
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See Cooking Fresh-Caught Fish on a Portable Yakitori Grill.

Rainbow Trout Dinner
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MacPerformanceGuide.com

Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Available for Pre-Order as of 17 March

See Sigma DG HSM Art lens reviews in diglloyd Advanced DSLR.

It appears that the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art will be available for preorder as 17 March.

Get Sigma DG HSM Art and Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art B&H Photo.

I discussed the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art back in February as well as the intriguing Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art and the bread-and-butter Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art.

Sigma is on a roll with its high performance Sigma DG HSM Art line for full frame cameras. I’ll be testing the new 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art and the new 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art.

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Optimal Exposure via ETTR Can Deliver More Noise Benefit than Medium Format vs 35mm

Image quality with any digital camera can be maximized by paying attention to metered (auto) exposure versus what is optimal for the subject matter, which means getting the maximum light to the sensor that it can handle, without blowing out details. AKA “Expose to the Right” or ETTR.

With most cameras, including the Hasselblad X1D, optimal exposure is often a full stop greater than metered exposure, and frequently as much as 1.5 stops.

In the Optimal Images from Hasselblad X1D section in my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format I step through the camera histograms and relate those to RawDigger histograms, then show the actual images that result.

Hasselblad X1D: Increase Image Quality by Optimal Exposure (ETTR, Dolls)

Includes full-size images from both Adobe Camera Raw and Hasselblad Phocus at five exposure each, RawDigger histograms, Hasselblad X1D histograms, plus crops in color and black and white showing the noise behavior versus exposure.

For anyone looking for the best possible image quality and not having understood and mastered ETTR, this single in-depth article by itself is worth the entire price of admission. I mean that literally and many times over: you can spend many thousands of dollars on better gear when the gear you already have when used optimally can step up a full pay grade. This article is applicable for any brand camera.

Histogram from as-metered image, Hasselblad X1D

Irix Lenses for Canon, Nikon, Pentax K

New wide angle lenses from Irix might be particularly interesting for Pentax and Nikon users.

While Canon offers the about $2699 Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L (highly recommended,see my review), Nikon users have not had a high quality 11mm option. Pentax K1 users have a dearth of high-quality optics in general. So these new offerings fill in some blank spots.

I do not yet know if the optical performance is there, but as f/4 designs there is a lot of promise and they are on my to-do list for review. Available in “Blackstone” (high-grade build) and “Firefly” options.

Hasselblad X1D: Better to Use Camera ISO or Push Base ISO 100 to Equivalent Higher ISO?

NOTE: the Hasselblad X1D went into stock at B&H Photo today. As I write this at 15:25 PST, the 45mm and 90mm lenses are IN STOCK. See my Hasselblad X1D wish list.

....

Shooting at base ISO 100 with ideal ETTR exposure is always preferred, but shooting at higher ISO can be necessary, e.g., handheld shooting and/or keeping exposure times from becoming too lengthy (even on a tripod).

Is it better to raise the ISO in camera versus shooting at base ISO 100 with a push during raw conversion? Which approach delivers the best image quality?

In-camera processing for high-ISO presumably should bring to bear all the smarts the camera designer has to offer, including (potentially) characteristics of a particular sample of the sensor. But it is not a given. So I take a look to prove-out whether the assumptions hold:

Hasselblad X1D: Shooting at ISO 400/800/1600 vs ISO 100 Pushed (Dolls)

There is more to it than just the above. For example, an image at base ISO 100 might need a big shadow boost and/or push, such as with any outdoors high dynamic range scene. This series also addresses that question.

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