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Off to the Mountains

I’m heading to the Eastern Sierra for some shooting, with several projects, two that will be under wraps for a time, but of course the Sony 70-200/2.8 GM and the A9, some more work with Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 and other 135mm lenses like the Sigma 135/1.8 DG HSM Art also.

Anyone in the area next week: I’m available for a one-on-one photo tour, one day or more.

It’s an extreme snow year (an all-time record in recorded history!), so I’m taking gaiters and micro spikes but even so I doubt I’ll get far—what I really need is some skis if I’m to get around but I don’t have any and postholing through soft spring snow is both dangerous and extremely fatiguing. I guess I’ll just bicycle 200 miles instead on one of the days so I can claim I didn’t wimp out. I’ll be working the relatively low elevations and probably some more Cerro Gordo time too and it is possible to get to the ancient bristlecone pines near Schulman Grove by driving (road is open to that point).

Many years I can get into the high country by early June (area below near Tenaya Lake is only at 8000' elevation or so), but not a chance this year since the management schmoos at NPS see fit to block the entire road from Crane Flat, even if most of the distance is free and clear (or 100% free and clear, falsehoods suffice for public consumption). The waterfalls are thundering and that will go on for at least 8 weeks more—go see them in Yosemite Valley if nothing else. The remaining beaver dams in Lundy Canyon will surely be wiped out this year, what a shame since that will erase the last of the brookie habitat.

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Sony A9: Pattern/Banding Noise at ISO 100 (plus reader comments)

Get the about $4499 Sony a9 and about $2499 Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS at B&H Photo.

Obvious noise at ISO 100 on a 24 megapixel sensor is unexpected and very disappointing, but that’s exactly what I found with the Sony A9 without even having to go looking—one of the first few one-off shots I made.

I noticed some unexpected streaking in an image with a good exposure at ISO 100. The red channel is overlaid with horizontal lines/streaks in 12-pixel-high bands. Pattern noise is disturbing in any case, but to have it at ISO 100 with a good exposure is a huge negative for any camera, high speed shooter or not.

Sony A9: Pattern/Banding Noise at ISO 100

Includes images up to full resolution including the red channel from the ProPhotoRGB and sRGB color images, RawDigger histogram and Adobe Camera Raw conversion settings.

I’ve not seen noise this egregiously bad for years now. I find it unacceptable except perhaps at some super-bonkers high ISO, but this is ISO 100. Possible diagnosis: the high-speed readout of the A9 sensor does not read out groups of rows evenly; there is some difference in gain between the rows. The pattern noise repeats in row groups that are 12 pixels high.

Red-channel noise in Sony A9 ISO 100 image

The image below is in color and greatly reduced in size, so the red-channel noise will not be visible here.

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Roy P writes:

Looks ugly. It might not be a factor for a lot of images, but it could be a bad problem for some. Any chance it could be fixed with a firmware upgrade, or do you think it’s a hardware problem? When this happens, could applying some NR mitigate it, without affecting overall sharpness?

DIGLLOYD: I think it relates directly to the high-speed readout of the sensor: the regular spacing seems directly related to the high-speed readout (groups of 12 rows being read out in this case at 1/800, though the group size might very with shutter speed).   It seems doubtful to me that there would be a workaround given the core design is aimed at very high frame rate capture.

Mark H writes:

I am finding some commentary on the Sony A9 a little bit silly, especially in relation to the work you do.

I pre-ordered an A9 at 10:01 AM the day B&H offered it for sale (through your link). I did NOT do so because I thought it would give better image quality than any previous A series camera (it will not). I bought it because $4500 is a small price to pay for penalty free, 100% silent, black out free, THEATER photography. Finally, no muzzle, sweaty blanket over the head, angry glares, or insecurity about possibly disturbing other patrons in a dark quiet theater. This is the camera of my dreams for DISCRETION. And that really, really matters for many subjects. Now I can photograph performances, completely invisible, rather than being limited to dress rehearsals because of unacceptable mirror slap or shutter noise. Or more recently, struggle with the sluggishness of an A7sii with its black out just for its silent e-shutter capability. I’ve gone from D3s, to Df, to A7sii and now to A9.

However, this camera is not currently relevant to your site or your work any more than a Nikon D3s is. The value in your work, even to people like me who do not invest in mega pixels or 12 vs 14 bit this or that, is to know where sensor technology is now and is going. I do care to know what the outer limit is, and I find it interesting to know where the A9 fits in that. But I would not be offended if you never even reviewed it. I read your work to be informed of the ultimate attainable image quality, even if I have no intention to hike that system into a mountain range and use it.

I bought an A9 not knowing or caring if the quality at 200% on a 5K screen would be as good as the a7sii. On paper, I already knew it would help me photograph dancers and be invisible. Anyone reading your articles to make a decision about the Sony A9 is missing both the point of this camera and your work as a resource. I suspect the most confused commenters may not even be subscribers. Spending too much time on this camera would be like refreshing your review of the D3x after the D820 is released.

Please keep informing us about the highest IQ available in digital imaging, and feel free to leave these “single purpose, one step backward” cameras to others to argue about.

Thank you again for your great work.

DIGLLOYD: I suspect that the noise will be less of an issue than it seems for things like theatre work (overlit subjects, shadowed backgrounds). Also, using higher ISO adds noise of its own that might mask the pattern noise. In any case, high contrast outdoor and indoor/outdoor work makes similar demands in terms of dynamic range, and so I think a bit of non-theatre outdoor work or something like this with the Leica SL is a reasonable proxy for theater work.

The bottom line for me is as Mark H alludes to: the Sony A9 is not my cup of tea, but on the other hand I need to be aware of the range of sensor performance as it provides valuable context to my work over time. Accordingly, the A9 is not a camera I want to completely ignore. I will take it as far as it goes in terms of understanding the technology, since we might see Sony go down this path even on a high-res camera (A7R III or whatever it might be)—but while I like blackout-free operation, I want any high-res camera to make image quality the #1 priority. So I could give up blackout-free and 5 fps would be just fine if that were required for the best image quality.

Which Camera System / Lenses Should I Get?
✓ Get the best system for your needs the first time: diglloyd photographic consulting.

First Shots with the Sony A9

Get the about $4499 Sony a9 and about $2499 Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS at B&H Photo.

In my review of the Sony A9 I’ve now added some first images, along with commentary on autofocus accuracy, image stabilization effectiveness and general camera behavior using ad-hoc handheld examples.

If not a bread and butter camera (for those with a wheat intolerance like me), perhaps pear and cheese?

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B&H Deal ZoneDeals by Brand/Category/Savings
Deals expire in 14 hours unless noted. Certain deals may last longer.
$2699 SAVE $300 = 10.0% Canon 11-24mm f/4 EF L USM in Lenses: DSLR
$3299 SAVE $200 = 5.0% Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$1497 SAVE $500 = 25.0% Nikon D750 DSLR in Cameras: DSLR
$2497 SAVE $500 = 16.0% Nikon D810 DSLR in Cameras: DSLR

Sony A9 First Impressions

Get the about $4499 Sony a9 and about $2499 Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS at B&H Photo.

The Sony A9 is here.

In my review of the Sony A9 I’ve started a first impressions page, to which I’ll be adding as I use the camera:

I already admire the A9 as a huge step forward over the A7R II. The “visual haptics” (what my eye sees) are not just a huge step forward over the A7R II, I would rate the A9 as the best camera on the market today in the way it feels to my eye while shooting via at the EVF for two reasons: the 3.7 megapixel OLED EVF and the blackout-free operation. The 4-way controller hugely enhances the camera usability also. This A9 is the most important step up in usability that I have seen from Sony, by far.

...

Blackout-free exposure is a whole-new ballgame that completely changes operational feel— Sony has hit a HOME RUN here! Already I greatly desire this behavior with my A7R II. I would say it is the most unobtrusive way of shooting a camera ever—better than any DSLR, better than any mirrorless camera I’ve ever shot. It makes the experience feel real time. While sports shooters surely will adore the feature, as a still shooter I now lust over having blackout-free exposure on all my cameras. Every other camera will feel sucky when shooting now, alas.

Those who talk about haptics of a camera are well justified in saying that haptics take high priority. But it is a sum total and my feeling is that the “extended haptics” that include the most important thing of all—the eye interface when shooting—this Sony has nailed and it makes all other haptic considerations secondary, for the shooting experience with the eye to the Finder comes first.

Of some background and timeline interest, given the incredible A9 feature set:

Sony Alpha α9 aka ILCE-9

Sony A9 Arriving

Get the about $4499 Sony a9 and about $2499 Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS at B&H Photo.

See Sony’s New α9 Camera Appears to Target the High-End Sport Shooter Market.

The Sony A9 arrives tomorrow, and I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to test—so many sports shooters out there and I’m not one of them. It’s just not a camera solving an issue I have.

On the other hand, I am keen to see its new zero-blackout EVF and general usability since I expect most of the goodies in the A9 will go into an A7R II successor. And overall whether Sony has matured its thinking to really make the A9 the harbinger of the real death knell for the entire DSLR category—sports and wildlife as well as all-around shooting and high-res.

The about $2598 Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS is also coming, so at the least I can get a feel for a bread-and-butter zoom lens on the A9, although I am more interested in seeing if it can deliver high quality on the 42-megapixel sensor of the Sony A7R II.

Sony Alpha α9 aka ILCE-9

Reader comments follow further below.

Reader comments

What I’m concluding so far is that the A9 is what it is: a specialized camera whose key feature is blackout-free 20 fps operation (sports, photojournalism, wildlife, etc).

No one is asking to use the A9 like an A7R II for general purpose work, to replace an A7R II for landscape or whatever because it doesn’t make sense unless somehow image quality were a lot higher (very doubtful, but I will check).

What I think will generate far more excitement is an A7R II successor for $1000 less, with many of the A9 goodies. So I think I”m better off commenting on general performance and usability aspects along with some aspects of image quality.

Matt K writes:

1. Put it to freezer and see how long the new battery lasts in the cold. I would consider this essential information for anyone shooting out there during the winter. How long from 100% to "Battery depleted" message. Just live view enabled on the back screen and lens attached.

2. Make lots of long exposures to see if the star eater -problem (spatial filtering) plagues a pro body such as A9. This will be an issue with A9r if it is present in A9 "base" model.

3. Try out whether the 14 to 12-bit reduction still happens with certain shooting modes (bulb, continuous). Not perhaps relevant to A9 users but r-model is really another case as above.

4. Put electronic shutter to harsh tests where it may reduce image quality (if it happens) like warm temperature and lots of continuous shooting. Compare IQ when in freezer and @ 30C ambient.

5. Test buffer clearing and how badly the 2nd slot slows the whole system down when duplicating images to multiple cards (essentially rendering the primary slot speed increase useless when data integrity is essential for a shooting job)

6. CaNikon 1-series owners will be interested to see how well (if at all) the AF system works in dusk/dawn conditions with low contrast subjects. Like brown animal against a dark forest scene.

7. Compare A9 image quality to A7 II to see whether the increased price holds any value in IQ over the cheaper models.

DIGLLOYD: good tests, for sure. What I have to evaluate first is time and effort required vs ROI: do I get new subscribers for the work I put in? If I put in 40 hours and get 3 new subscribers vs 30 for one kind of effort versus another, that's a critical judgment call that I must not get wrong. Equally of concern is the value of what I test over time: camera reviews go stale very quickly as the camera becomes known and new models replace it.

#1 One would have to get a thermometer, wait a proscribed time for cooling (an hour perhaps) and document the temperature while testing several other cameras to have useful info and then what... who would subscribe for that bit of data, it being just a few numbers? What if the batteries in one camera are a year old, but the Sony is brand-new? Would anyone really leave Live View on for a DSLR? (no). This kind of test to be done fairly versus how one would actually shoot. Even Ming and I came up with radically different battery life ideas about the Sony A7R II because we shoot very differently. Relevance to working style seems most important to me, and that differs among shooters.

#2 I don’t recall even for the Sony A7R II if this is an issue. But with no built-in way to go beyond 30 seconds, it’s an instant 'fail' for casual night use for me.

#3 I don’t think anyone concerned with shooting at 20 fps cares about 12 vs 14 bit. And the cases where lower bits are used are mostly clear already, though not in all cases.

Long Exposure Noise Reduction On/Off at ISO 100, with Push, Chroma Noise Reduction (Egg-Shaped Boulder)
Sony A7R II RAW (ARW) Files: Format, 12 Bit Degradation

#4 Electronic shutter: why would the electronic shutter be affected in any way by temperature? Sensor noise is affected, but the electronic shutter is a scanning algorithm, so I’m not following how temperature could have any effect on the shutter per se.

#5 Buffer clearing: this is a "bit" of data that once determined just floats onto the web. It is useful only in the context of at least one other high performance camera IMO. A simple test makes sense; more requires comparative info with the best from CaNikon—and it’s a sport shooters issue and will carry no review value over time; sports shooters figure it out and it’s just general knowledge fairly quickly. Sports shooters can decide the in real world work, which is allt that matters—and it’s not my world.

#6 AF performance, I already consider Sony A7R II the best in my field work for accuracy and precision.

#7 I don't see the point of comparing a $4500 camera to a $1400 camera just because they both have 24MP. IMO, the relevant comparison is *not* the number of megapixels, but the achievable image quality (thing Sigma vs Bayer sensor as the keenest example). That sort of thing I did for the Sony models so far vs the A7R II, so that makes sense to me again as in A9 vs A7R II, sampled appropriately.

I think I’ll stick at what I’m good at and where I can add real insight and value that is more than just a few numbers: image quality and usability and camera issues relevant to making an informed gear choice. No one is going to buy the A9 unless its key high-speed features are a priority.

David C writes:

For sports shooters:  does it do the anti-flicker trick that canon (at least) does, i.e. no blacked out arena shots and no bringing your own lights?  maybe with 20fps you don’t care (I’m not much for sports shooting except little kid softball)?

Birders and sports guys might prefer APS-C or other cropped format to cut down on the back (and wallet) pain with super long lenses. the 100-400 is about half a pound lighter than canon’s 100-400, but on APS-C the 100-400 becomes about 160-640, no contest there for football/baseball/soccer.

At any rate if the Sony A9 doesn’t scare CaNikon probably nothing can…competition is a great thing as long as it happens to someone else ;).

DIGLLOYD: I don’t see that I can bring much value to the table on the first two points. Flicker... I don’t have any suitable situations and doing it right might take many types of lighting to evaluate... to what end? Birders and sports guys will decide what they need to decide, what could I say here other than this is already known by APS-C DSLR shooters for the same reasons—if you need it you do it.


Update to High ISO Highlight Destruction with Hasselblad X1D Raw Files (Adobe Camera Raw 9.10.1 bug fix)

See my Hasselblad X1D wish list.

This page shows how Adobe Camera Raw 9.9.0 destroyed perfectly-exposed high-key detail at ISO 3200 until the bug fix in Adobe Camera Raw 9.10.1. I published these findings page back in March.

Now I’ve added ISO 3200/6400/12800/25600 frames with ACR 9.10.1 using the same original raw files and thus showing that the issue is fixed.

ISO 3200 Highlight Destruction in ACR vs Iridient Developer and Hasselblad Phocus (Dolls)

Includes images up to full resolution.

Severe loss of highlight color and detail with Adobe Camera Raw
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Adobe Camera Raw Updated to 9.10.1, Fixed Hasselblad X1D High ISO Highlight Loss and Fujifilm GFX Exposure Issue

See my Hasselblad X1D wish list.

Back in March in Hasselblad X1D: ISO 3200 Highlight Destruction in ACR vs Iridient Developer and Hasselblad Phocus (Dolls) I reported on the detruction of highlight detail by a bug in Adobe Camera Raw. I supplied raw files to Adobe and requested a fix. This bug has been fixed in Adobe Camera Raw 9.10.1 (I have confirmed).

Also fixed (and also reported by me in my review) is the Fujifilm GFX overexposure at high ISO bug.

New Camera Support in Camera Raw 9.10.1 

  • Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70 (DC-TZ90,DC-TZ91, DC-TZ92, DC-T93)
  • Sony A9 (ILCE-9)

New Lens Profile Support in Camera Raw 9.10.1

Sony FE: Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8

Customer reported issues resolved 

  • Fixed issue causing color cast on images from some Fujifilm X series cameras shot in CH/CL modes.
  • Fixed issue where images taken on the Fujifilm GFX 50s with top 3 extended ISOs appear over exposed.
  • Fixed issue where some images converted to DNG from the Hasselblad H6 contained a color cast.
  • Fixed issue with Hasselblad X1D images losing highlight details at high ISOs.

Too-High Pixel Density on 5K and 8K Displays Impedes Image Assessment

See my Mac wish list.

See also Which Display for Image Editing and Viewing?.

[This is a rerun article, the question keeps coming up so I thought I’d repost]

In my my mention of the LG 5K display, I wrote that “the pixel density is way too high for that type of detail work”, which generated at least two reader emails, below.

 
LG 5K display for 2016 MacBook pro

But first, the flip side: being able to see 14.2 megapixels (5K) or 33.2 megapixels (8K) is a huge boon in image assessment—overall assessment. But high pixel density is not good for assessing fine detail, and that’s a problem for anyone shooting a burst of frames (focus may be subtly better on one frame of several), comparing lens performance, determining whether an f/9 or f/11 shot is better (competing interests of DoF vs diffraction dulling), assessing how much to sharpen, etc.

Preface

What I did not make clear in that statement is the conditions under which it is true, and it could be false for someone 25 or 30 or 35 years old with perfect 20/20 vision. I have no way of knowing that directly. By “true” I mean that by direct experience, I know what works and what does not work for me, that is, what leads to errors in evaluation and what does not.

I’m not young any more—my sixth decade, which means that presbyopia has become an annoying issue (one reason that lack of an EVF option is going to drive me away from DSLRs entirely within a few years).

My eyes need +10 diopters correction, so eyeglasses are marginal solution (introducing chromatic errors of their own and other issues). I wear contact lenses and when my eyes are not tired or irritated correction is excellent at 20/20, with a slight astigmatism, which is why I focus cameras left-eye only. I also have limitations on close-focus range with contact lenses. So I CANNOT peer a little closer at a computer display.

My sense is that many of my readers are not spring chickens either, and may have similar or worse vision limitations. That said, I am not claiming “proof” of anything here as a general principle, only that Retina displays of 220 dpi or more make it extremely difficult for me to evaluate images for critical sharpness.

The bottom line here is “try it yourself”. I think most users are fooling themselves about image sharpness if all they do is view at 100% pixels on an iMac 5K (or LG 5K or Retina display). Those “sharp” images often are not quite sharp.

Stefan D writes:

"Pixel density way too high" for assessing sharpness? Could you please elaborate on this in your article a little bit more. I would think more density = easier to assess sharpness. Thank You!

DIGLLOYD: an iMac 5K (or LG 5K) has pixel density of about 220 dpi = ~4.3 line pairs/mm. Without peering closely at the display, the pixels disappear. If the eye cannot resolve these pixels, how can one be sure of sharpness differences? Many an image that is not quite sharp still looks great at 220 dpi, and yet the same image at 101 DPI on my NEC PA302W is obviously less than fully sharp. I’ve seen that over and over, so I’m on my guard if an image looks sharp on my MacBook Pro Retina and I cannot tell f/2 from f/5.6 without going to 200%.

Consider a 6 X 4" print from a slightly blurred image that looks really sharp at that size (because it is 300 or even 600 dpi), but when printed at 13 X 19" it is obviously less than fully sharp.

How can I tell if my image is fully sharp, or sharper than another similar frame?

At pixel densities over 200 dpi, it becomes difficult to reliably distinguish critically sharp from almost sharp.

Digital displays were nominally 72 DPI (dots per inch) to start with, more or less. As larger screens emerged, the dpi rose to as high as 110 DPI or so. With the advent of Retina and HiDPI display, DPI becomes very high.

It is far easier to assess image sharpness at 101 dpi than at 220 dpi (320 dpi makes it impossible). Zooming to 200% is a possibility, but problematic for reasons discussed further below. Note that I am not talking about thin clean lines from vector graphics, but complex image details.

My closest comfortable focusing distance under relatively dim indoor lighting is 18 inches. That means I should be able to resolve at best about 3.5 lp/mm (a rough estimate based on Norman Koren’s analysis), assuming my eyes are working perfectly (often not the case!). So right off the bat, most human eyes cannot resolve the 4.3 lp/mm of the iMac 5K display without peering closely, say 12" away—which is absurdly close for a 27" display (not really usable) and a serious ergonomic problem to boot. And of course there are all sorts of human perceptual issues involved that make it much more complex than that, and I’m not evaluating black and white line pairs here, but real images with complex detail and color.

For my work, I have to evaluate sharpness correctly all the time for my readers, so a Retina or HiDPI display is problematic. It is one of several reasons that I evaluate images on the NEC PA302W (2560 X 1600, 30" display = 101 dpi), and while I am reluctant to do lens assessments while in the field with my MacBook Pro Retina. It’s hard enough to compare/shoot lenses fairly while also having pixel density hide subtle differences.

There are other reasons too: when doing fine detail work, assessing the amount of sharpening to apply, etc, the high pixel density makes it difficult to assess any nuances. This forces working at 200%, where each image pixel is now a 2 X 2 block of screen pixels, and this raises yet more issues, more on that below.

Ed A writes:

I was interested to read your review of the LG 5k monitor and the hint about the upcoming 8k from Dell.
I've been using HiDPI displays for several years now, starting with the old IBM T221 and now with Dell 5k screens.

But I was surprised that you said the higher resolution display was not recommended for evaluating image sharpness.
Why not? Surely if you need to view individual pixels you can just view the image at 200% magnification and effectively have about 100 chunky pixels to the inch. Or even 400% magnification, where each pixel on the image becomes a block of sixteen on screen. Then you can check the raw image sharpness without having to squint.

However, I can guess one possible reason. Often when viewing an image at 200% magnification it is scaled up with some kind of 'smart' resizing which, rather than simply mapping one pixel to a block of four, applies some kind of blurring. When looking at a whole photograph this does give a more pleasing result than pixel-doubling. But it is infuriating for pixel-level work like you mentioned. A similar defect applies to monitors themselves: typically a 4k monitor run at plain old HD resolution won't just display blocks of four, but will blur the image too. Great for video games, not so great for still images and text.

Back in simpler times, image viewing software would just scale up naively to a block of pixels, and monitors would too (the T221 does it right). It is frustrating that things have gotten worse, at least for some software.

Does your favourite viewer or application for pixel-level work allow you to zoom in to 2x, 3x, or 4x scaling and cleanly distinguish the individual pixels? If not, then really the fault is with the software rather than the HiDPI monitor. On the other hand, if the software can do it right, surely a 27 inch 5k display is very nearly as good as your preferred 32 inch PA302W?

DIGLLOYD: it was no review, just a mention from the show.

I use Adobe Photoshop CC 2017. Using 200% is problematic for my purposes and 300% or 400% serves no useful purpose at any DPI, particularly given the false detail present from Bayer matrix demosaicing. Even 200% is problematic that way.

Hugely enlarging an image is looking at twigs on trees, not the forest. I am not a “pixel peeper”, and I consider it a pejorative. So the last thing I want to do is use 200%. For a good example of the wanton foolishness of MTF charts or other pixel peeper favorites vs real world behavior, see Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art: Two Aspen.

  • Perception matters, acutance in particular. A blurry image at 200% loses acutance, and acutance is a key feature of the very best lenses. So 200% actually makes it worse for comparing to another lens, or another frame, by degrading both and thus reducing the apparent differences.
  • Sharpness is not about some pinpoint spot; I need to see sufficient context for proper evaluation. It is a mistake in methodology to zero in on a small area for checking sharpness. Zooming to 200% shows an area 1/4 as large as at 100%, reducing the context greatly while showing a blown-up version lacking the original acutance.
  • At 200%, one image pixel becomes a 2X2 block of screen pixels. Acutance is lost; the image looks soft and blurry. It is visually annoying and frustrating to work that way (and time wasting to zoom in/out constantly). I do this in the field when I must, but it is tedious. Scaling always has do something: harsh edges with no smoothing, or some kind of smoothing. The best solution if one is going to scale is to resample and sharpen with algorithms that one has determined to work well for assessing sharpness differences—but there is no option to force the GPU to do that. So... maybe a solution is possible that has fewer negatives.
  • GPUs often scale pixels in undesirable ways that do not preserve acutance and/or smooth things, etc. See Photoshop and GPU: Blurry Image Scaling Damages Image Assessment Workflow, which shows that simply changing a setting can affect image display dramatically, but the behavior can change as the image size changes! This might not be a problem for 200%, but it shows that scaling problems do exist.
  • “cleanly distinguish the individual pixels” is a mistaken idea. Any interpolation will introduce its own problems, which is seen directly by using various resampling algorithms, all producing different results. Once the original image is resampled (200% or whatever), it not the original any more.

Similar issues apply for workflow, such as how much to sharpen. This generally sorts itself out; a skilled operator can make tweaks to an established scaling and sharpening regimen known to be ideal for a particular printer, image size, etc. But in general, a too-fine pixel density hides errors, such as excessive sharpening.

MacPerformanceGuide.com

FOR SALE, cheap: three (3) Canon PIXMA PRO-100 Wireless Professional Inkjet Photo Printer

The Canon PIXMA PRO-100 Wireless Professional Inkjet Photo Printer is a very fine printer, which I discussed a few years back. It is a $379 printer still in production that after a $250 mail-in rebate is about $130.

UPDATE: one printer (unused brand-new) left but no ink. Come and get it for $20 or a bottle of wine or something.

I have three of the Canon PIXMA PRO-100 printers in my garage: one has seen very light use, and the other two are brand-new in box. A total of 17 ink sealed cartridges across the 3 printers as one full set and two partials (can’t vouch for ink usability as it is some years old).

I hardly ever print, I want the space back, and I also have a PIXMA Pro-10. I am eager to clear them out of my garage, so I will let them go very cheaply, provided that you come and pick them up near Palo Alto, CA (too large and heavy to ship cost effectively).

Make me an offer.

New Article on Zeiss Lenspire Site: “Zoom or Prime Lens? A series by Lloyd Chambers”

I’ve published a number of articles over the past year on the Zeiss Lenspire site.

Published yesterday is #2 Zoom Lens or Prime? Moderate Wide Angles (25mm, 28mm, 35mm).

Other articles at lenspire.zeiss.com:

These articles are also available here on this site, with higher quality image presentation.

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

Stitched Panoramas with Fujifilm GFX and GF 120/4: View to Mt Whitney From Alabama Hills

Really Right Stuff PG-02 LLR Pano-Gimbal Head in use

Shot vertically, the Fujifilm GFX makes an excellent platform for panoramas. The main issue is focusing instability with all the lenses (as documented in detail), particularly with the GF 120/4. This series I was lucky—the lens varied only a little, so nothing was thrown off focus by the GFX in any significant way.

This panorama was shot using the Really Right Stuff PG-02 pano gimbal head. At the time, I had not determined the entrance pupil position for the GF 120/4, but most of the scene is at enough distance that the resulting stitch is free of parallax.

Fujifilm GFX + GR 120/4 Stitched Panorama @ 120mm: View of Mt Whitney Peaks From Alabama Hills

Presented at image sizes up to 85 megapixels.

My feeling is that such images take on more and more appeal as retina-grade 8K displays come to market. While the image is great fun to scroll around in on an 14-.7 megapixel iMac 5K, an 8K display shows nearly 32 megapixels at a time—I look forward to such displays as I have long enjoyed 5K better than any print.

The next major batch of work for my review of the Fujifilm GFX will be when the GF 23mm f/4 and GF 110mm f/2 arrive, which should be June by the looks of it.

As shown below, 14505' = 4421m Mt Whitney is seen just right of center and above the road-cut of Whitney Portal Road. The peak about 1/3 from left is 12944' = 3945m Lone Pine Peak. Because it is closer, it looks higher than Mt Whitney, which is the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Still, White Mountain Peak at 14252' = 4344m is nearly as high and rideable to the summit on a mountain bike.

View of High Peaks Including Mt Whitney
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Fujifilm GFX Focusing Precision and Aperture Series with GF 120/4: View to Mt Whitney From Alabama Hills

Fujifilm GF 63mm f/2.8

In Fujifilm GFX Focusing Precision and Aperture Series with 63/2.8: View to Mt Whitney From Alabama Hills, I showed the erratic focusing issues of the Fujifilm GFX with the GF 63/2.8.

This series shows the severe focusing errors that are commonplace with the GFX + GF 120/4. And this was the second brand-new GFX with the second brand-new 120/4. The first pairing had terrible problems also.

The variability shown here was observed over and over in the field, a great source of aggravation because it becomes hit-and-miss to obtain optimal results. The greatest errors occur at distance where focusing precision is at its worst, and where tiny changes in focus can make a big difference.

Fujifilm GF 120mm f/4 Aperture Series: View to Mt Whitney From Alabama Hills (Focus Variability)

Image sizes up to full resolution from f/4 through f/8, along with crops.

See also Autofocus and Manual Focus in the Field.

I still have not heard a peep from Fujifilm. I never believed the original GFX problem diagnosis, now disproven as a theory given the same misbehaviors proven with a 2nd brand-new GFX and 120/4. How this level of junk focus ever made it out of the testing lab is chocking.

As shown below, Mt Whitney is just out of sight on the right side of the frame, visible in a similar shot with the GF 63/2.8. The peak about 1/3 from left is 12944' = 3945m Lone Pine Peak. Because it is closer, it looks higher than 14505' = 4221m Mt Whitney which is the highest peak in the lower 48 states. Still, White Mountain Peak at 14252' = 4344m is nearly as high and rideable to the summit on a mountain bike.

View from Alabama Hills towards Mt Whitney area
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Canon Best of Breed Lenses
$2699 SAVE $300 = 10.0% Canon 11-24mm f/4 EF L USM in Lenses: DSLR
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FastRawViewer Updated to v4.2

Fast Raw Viewer has been upated to version 4.2. Changes:

  • New Sort & Filter facility, to allow change sort order on the fly and filter current folder based on XMP Ratings/Labels and EXIF Timestamp (shot date).
  • (Windows only) Touchscreen/tablets support: toolbars and limited gesture support.
  • Folder tree editing (add/create/rename) within FRV.
  • Drag and drop from FRV.
  • Drag and drop within FRV (to Folders/Favorite folders).
  • Over/Underexposure improved: camera dynamic range may be set based on ISO and camera reported 'Linearity limit'.
  • Lots of minor improvements and several bugfixes.

LibRaw says:

Celebrating this release, we're on sale: 25% off for FastRawViewer, RawDigger and all bundles until June 20, 2017.

SSD Upgrade for MacBook Pro Retina
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Converting a Really Right Stuff Center Column TQC-14 to a TFC-14

   
Really Right Stuff TFC-14

I have tripods of every size, so when I go for lightweight, my priorities are just that, since I can carry a larger more versatile tripod if that is the priority: series 1, 2, 3 or 4, ranging from small and light to burly.

As well, I like fixed platforms without anything that can possibly come loose—a preference born of many a long hike and years of field usage. While Really Right Stuff helped me over the phone to tighten up my loose Really Right Stuff TQC-14 tripod base, it had flummoxed me.

I had converted my TQC-14 with center column to a short stub center column a few years back using the TA-1-HK Versa Series 1 Hook (at least that’s what I think it is/was).

HOwever, I like the lighter weight and simplicity of a fixed base, as in the Really Right Stuff TFC-14 (Tripod-Fixed-Carbon Fiber). So this week I converted my TQC-14 to a TFC-14 with a fixed base plate—no center column at all, and some additional weight savings and a bit less bulk. I like this robust simple setup a lot; it’s what I use on all my tripods (the TA-3 leveling base qualifies in this sense). As another bonus the TFC Conversion Kit includes the carry strap, which lets me anchor it to my pack and/or carry it slung around my wrist.

   
Really Right Stuff TFC-14, base plate area

Below, the Really Right Stuff TQC-14 as sold with the rapid-rise center column. Lots of people like this for the extra height, but it adds some bulk and weight. The center column can be stubbed out, but I prefer the Really Right Stuff TFC-14 approach as shown above.

Really Right Stuff TQC-14 with rapid column (for extra height)

Big Discounts on Mac Pro and iMac 5K

Here are some great savings on used and factory-refurb Macs and storage too.

 

Really Right Stuff LCF-11 Replacement Tripod Foot for Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

I’m delighted with the Really Right Stuff LCF-11 Replacement Tripod Foot for Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR. The Nikon-supplied foot is partly dead weight, because it has no dovetail—a plate has to be attached to it for tripod use, which adds weight and height and decreases stability.

The LCF-11 can be removed or attached in seconds without tools thanks to the generous knob. Its built-in dovetail slots into any Really Right Stuff clamp or similar compatible clamp, just like the BD810-L bracket on my Nikon D810.

Some collared, telephoto lenses have a foot than can be removed. If your lens has this option, choose one of our foot replacements instead of a lens plate. A replacement foot with built-in-dovetail mounting will be lighter, lower in profile, and provide the best possible stability for your lens. Really Right Stuff foot replacements are precision machined from solid blocks of 6061-T6 aluminum and are fully compatible with any Arca-Swiss quick-release system. This foot replaces the Nikon lens collar foot on AF-S Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR (2016) lens. 

1. To remove the Nikon foot, unscrew the lock knob, depress the spring-loaded tab, and slide the foot forward. 
2. To install the LCF-11, slide it on from front to back until you feel it snap into place, then tighten the lock knob.

Compatible with AF-S Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, or a Really Right Stuff LC-A10, LC-A11, LC-A12, LC-A13, and LC-A14 replacement collar.

Really Right Stuff LCF-11 Replacement Tripod Foot for Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR
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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series:Mosaic at 70mm, 130mm, 170mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

See my previous comments about the outstanding properites of the about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR, these series are as demanding as it gets for any lens, mercilessly revealing any optical weakness or asymmetry on this planar target.

Images presented at up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/8.

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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series: 'The Claw' Fountain at Night

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

See my previous comments about the outstanding properites of the about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR, this series looks at a backlit subject at night and diffraction star pattern through a tree and general imaging performance.

Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series @ 135mm: 'The Claw' Fountain at Night

Images presented at up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/9.

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Deals on Hard Drives

Right now, there are some excellent hard drive deals at MacSales.com.

Hard drives slow down as they fill up, so even if capacity needs might fit into 6TB, an 8TB drive is a better long term investment. Ditto for 6TB vs 4TB, etc.

The MacSales 90-day replacement guarantee is something to consider when buying a new hard drive: waiting weeks for a hard drive manufacturer to send a refurb is an unpleasant plight.

OWC is proud to offer an extended replacement window of 90 days on new internal hard disk drives* (unless otherwise noted in the product description) and Pioneer DVR devices. Once a return authorization number has been issued and we receive the problematic drive back, you will get a brand new replacement drive, rather than a factory refurbished drive.

MPG also recommends buying drives with the OWC Thunderbay 4, to benefit from not only the full burn-in process but the excellent warranty.

Each ThunderBay undergoes OWC's multi-hour drive "burn-in" performance certification procedure prior to shipping. This ensures your ThunderBay arrives operating properly and ready for demanding use.

Back in late 2015 I invested in two OWC Thunderbay 4 units incorporating eight 8TB HGST 8TB Ultrastar He8 enterprise-grade hard drives, which cost a pretty penny. Those drives are still serving me well except for one failure, which was replaced by MacSales.

Deals on Hard Drives
 
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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series: Yellow Bike at Night, White Truck at Night

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

See my previous comments about the outstanding properites of the about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR, this series looks at sharpness and color aberrations under artificial light at night including silver metal and out of focus specular reflections and other metallic and neutrals. The f/2.8 exposure is already six seconds

Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series @ 120mm: Yellow Bike at Night

Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series @ 135mm: White Truck at Night

Images presented at up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/6.3 and/or f/9.

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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series: Penetrating Power at Night, Tower

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

See my previous comments about the outstanding properites of the about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR, this series looks at penetrating power in dim conditions into dark nooks and crannies as well as the rendering of very fine details.

Nikon  70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series @ 160mm: Penetrating Power at Night, Tower

Images presented at up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/6.3.

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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series: Bikes at Night, Rodin Burghers of Calais

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

The about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR now seems to me to be the finest zoom of its kind ever produced, by a wide margin. The use of fluorite and HRI elements and six ELD elements and surely helps explain its performance—the price reflects the unprecedented effort by Nikon to make a truly world-class zoom. Now Nikon needs to get cracking on an 11-24mm, a 16-35mm and a 24-70mm with similar quality.

The 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR surely competes with and beats many a prime lens, so I’ll just put it this way: if it’s a lens whose range is useful for you, it’s worth buying it even if that means also buying a killer deal Nikon D810 to receive its images. If you have a prior version, have no hesitation in upgrading.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon  70-200/2.8E FL ED VR.

The bike series looks at sharpness and color correction on subject matter that with most lenses would generate violet halos on the metallic specular areas and/or secondary color blurs that would pollute the color. It does so under whacky artificial night lighting.

Nikon  70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series: Bikes at Night

The Burghers series looks at sharpness and color correction on subject matter with specular highlights of varying hues from both the lingering blue of late dusk and the garish warmth of night lighting:

Nikon  70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Aperture Series: Rodin Burghers of Calais

Images presented at up to full camera resolution from f/2.8 through f/9.

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Reader Comment: Hasselblad X1D Buy/Sell Decision Process

Get Hasselblad X1D at B&H Photo.

See my review of the Hasselblad X1D in Medium Format.

Choosing a new camera system is fraught with all sorts of unexpected perils (of a sort). It is also a large investment should it be a high end system.

See Michael’s comments on the X1D from April 25 3 weeks earlier as well as the One Reader’s X1D Month-long Buy/Use/Sell Decision and reader comments on the Fujifilm GFX.

Michael Erlewine writes:

Michael has en extensive collection of lenses and does beautiful flower shots, see An Expert at Focus Stacking Comments on the Pentax K1 and Its Image Quality. He has a number of APO lenses including Zeiss Otus for Nikon D810, so there is a high bar to surmount.

SELLING MY X1D

Hasselblad X1D

After shooting some 1100 or so shots with the Hasselblad X1D system, I have decided that it is not what I need for my work.

I’m sure, many will point out that I don’t get it, but I am only trying to “get it” for my own work. It’s embarrassing to admit this, after all my praise, but at my age, who cares? I have put my X1D system, including the 45mm and 90mm lenses, plus the lovely RSS L-Bracket and 5 batteries for sale on Ebay under my nickname ALLMUSIC

Although there are a number of druthers and small reasons for giving up the camera, the two main reasons are: 

(1) The lack of lenses I need now for the camera. I have waited months for the 30mm and, of course, probably would have waited for the announced 120mm Macro, as well. This is summer, and now is the time I need those lenses. As a close-up photographer, neither the 45mm or 90mm can get me close enough, especially since there are no extensions available.

(2) And second, having very carefully done hundreds of test shots for overall sharpness, I am, despite what others say, disappointed with the degree and kind of sharpness I can attain with the X1D system and their lenses. Please don’t ask me to prove this. It’s just my opinion.

No one is more sorry than I am, and perhaps selling this system is a stupid thing to do. I lose a bunch of money. Or, is it that I’m hooked on the Nikon system and how the D810 works? I am not arguing that the D810 IQ is better than the X1D, but only that what I am able to get from the X1D is not worth what I have to put up with to get it. And, of course, there are all the great lenses I have that will never work on the X1D, but that is a minor thing. 

And finally, for me and the work I do, the X1D is just not ready with what I need. I should have waited for perhaps the second edition. And, I can always get another copy, should an X2D comes out. Meanwhile, I will wait for the rumored 46 megapixels D820 and have to be happy with that. I have TRIED to love this system, but I can’t get there from here.

I will say that the X1D haptics are extraordinary and that, if I wanted to afford what for me would basically be a $20k system, I would keep it. The system is easy to use and I love the touch-screen of the LiveView. 

So, there you have it. I report this because I owe it to those who have read any of my other comments on this system. C'est la vie.

I am also (equipment-wise) totally exhausted from purchasing and vetting the Pentax K3 and Pentax K1, the Fujifilm GFX, the Sony A7R2 (for the second time), and the Hasselblad X1D, including all the trimmings for each system. All of this in an attempt to reach beyond my current Nikon D810, since Nikon has not ponied up. So... here I am with my D810, which for my work is better than any of the above. My GAS is finally satisfied. Enough. 

DIGLLOYD: the Nikon D810 is a seminal camera, a classic that IMO will go down as the best of its genre of its time period. And it’s a steal right now at only about $2497 with a bunch of free stuff too.

I like both the Hasselblad X1D and the Fujifilm GFX for reasons specific to each, but the main thing is that I deem the time unripe for buying either (as of May/June 2017) so as to see how the systems develop, whether bugs and usability warts are fixed, and whether the lens selections arrive and pan out.

And if the rumored Nikon D820 arrives with, say, 15-bit dynamic range (up from 14+ bits) and superior image quality to the D810 but at 42 instead of 36 megapixels and another goody or two, it will be a no-brainer win for me.

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Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G

The Canon 11-24mm f/4L is a unique lens that I’ve long desired to own, with the 11-15mm range simply awesome for some shooting.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G

But now that Sony has announced the about about $1698 12-24mm f/4 G, I think I’d rather take a hard look at Sony’s offering, since I expect a new Sony high-res camera late this year and I’d rather have such a lens on Sony anyway. At an amazingly lightweight 565 grams and exceptionally compact, this looks to be THE lens to have for hiking for extreme wide angle work on Sony. Assuming it performs. Those looking for a more moderate range are now well served by the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM.

The question is, is it as good as Canon’s offering? If it’s as good, it may be the first Sony G lens I actually buy and keep, assuming it doesn’t have the dreaded symmetry issues of so many G and GM lenses.

The use of 9 special elements, a modest aperture of f/4, and and all-new design for mirrorless holds out great promise for performance, even if the price is $1000 less than even the discounted price of the Canon 11-24mm f/4L.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2 to f/22
  • 4 Aspherical Elements
  • 1 Super ED and 3 ED Elements
  • Nano AR Coating
  • Direct Drive Super Sonic Wave Motor
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Seven-Bladed Rounded Diaphragm

The 7-blade diaphragm is a curious choice and perhaps non-rounded would have been more interesting (I like sunstars on the sun and lights at night, and rounded blades tend to kill the effect).

No filter threads are available. While I don’t see filters as very useful for such a lens—there are exceptions such as sand and salt spray, so it is a distinct downside for harsh conditions. But the same is true for Canon and Nikon and Sigma offerings in its range.

As per Sony, the lens ticks off all the key boxes, and more:

  • High resolution at ultra-wide angles —Covering the widest range available in any full-frame E-mount lens, the FE 12-24mm F4 G zoom offers unprecedented expressive potential for landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, and other expansive subjects. Refined ultra-wide-angle optics capture sweeping scenes with dynamic perspectives plus outstanding resolution and clarity.
  • Excellent corner-to-corner resolution — Four aspherical elements in an innovative optical design effectively suppress optical aberrations that can be problematic in wide-angle lenses. This remarkable lens achieves excellent resolution that is fully consistent with the G Lens concept throughout its zoom range.
  • Super ED glass improves resolution and contrast — One Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element and three ED glass elements are strategically deployed to minimize chromatic aberration. Effective reduction of chromatic aberration contributes to improved sharpness and clarity throughout the image area.
  • Fast, quiet AF for stills and movies — While autofocus speed and precision are essential to quickly capture and reliably track the subject, quiet operation is a must for movie recording. This lens features an advanced inner-focus mechanism driven by Sony's Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) system for fast, accurate AF lock-on as well as smooth, quiet operation.
  • Clarity and contrast in any light — Sony's original Nano AR Coating suppresses spurious reflections that can cause flare and ghosting in backlit and other challenging lighting situations, for consistently high contrast and clarity. Freedom from flare over a wide range of incident light angles provides greater framing and composing flexibility. (1. Nano AR Coating / 2. Glass / 3. Transmitted light).
  • Compact, lightweight and mobile — A refined optical design significantly reduces the overall length of the lens barrel as well as the diameter of the front element size while maintaining the highest possible optical performance at all focal lengths and aperture settings. Compact dimensions and low 20-ounce (565-gram) weight make this lens ideal wherever portability and mobility are required.
  • Smooth, versatile operation — A customizable focus hold button that can be assigned other functions adds an extra margin fingertip control, and an AF/MF switch sets the lens's operating mode to suit the situation. Manual mode focusing is fast and responsive with almost unnoticeable lag.
  • Advantages for movie recording — With a constant F4 maximum aperture throughout the zoom range this lens makes it possible to achieve consistent exposure. Advanced AF with outstanding speed and precision contributes to reliable subject tracking at wide angles for impressive movie perspectives.
  • High reliability in harsh conditions — The overall design of this lens is dust and moisture resistant2for extra protection and reliable operation in challenging environments. Shoot with confidence in light rain or windy conditions.
  • Integrated lens hood — A built-in lens hood effectively blocks incident light that might cause flare and ghosting, maintaining optimum clarity and contrast even at the lens's widest angles. The supplied lens cap slips right over the built-in hood.
Optical design of Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G

A 1-year limited warranty is limited, and seems inappropriate for this level of lens. When will Sony step up to the plate with a credible warranty, like Nikon (1 year + 4 year extension upon registration = 5 years)? It is one missing piece of the pro puzzle.

Specifications for Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G
Focal length: 12-24mm
Aperture range: f/4 - f/22
Focusing range: 11.02 in / 28 cm
Angle of view: 122° - 84°
Number of elements/groups: 17 elements in 13 groups
1 SuperED, 3 ED, 4 aspherical
nano anti-reflection coating
Diaphragm: 7, rounded circular aperture
Magnification: 0.14X = 1:7.1
Filter thread: NONE
Weight, nominal: 1.24 lb / 565g
Weight (as weighed): TBD
Dimensions: Approx. 3.5 x 4.6 in / 88.90 x 116.84 mm
Street price: about $1698
Supplied with: Front Lens Cap ALC-R1EM
Rear Lens Cap Lens Case
Limited 1-Year Warranty

Description

Note clear is whether the integrated lens hood (“built-in lens hood”) is removable or integral to the lens and thus non-removable.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G

Ultra wide and versatile, the FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens from Sony is a flexible zoom lens for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, characterized by its constant f/4 maximum aperture.

Benefitting the wide field of view is a sophisticated optical design that incorporates aspherical and low dispersion glass elements to control both spherical and chromatic aberrations for improved sharpness and clarity. A Nano AR Coating has also been applied to individual elements to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for greater contrast and color fidelity when working in bright, backlit situations.

In addition to the optical attributes, this lens is also distinguished by a Direct Drive SSM autofocus system, which benefits both stills and video application with its quick, quiet, and precise performance. The lens also sports a dust- and moisture-sealed design to support shooting in inclement conditions and a dedicated focus hold button and AF/MF switch.

  • Ultra wide-angle zoom designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, this lens is also compatible with APS-C models where it provides an 18-36mm equivalent focal length range.
  • Constant f/4 maximum aperture offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range.
  • Four aspherical elements are featured in the optical design to control spherical aberrations in order to produce a high degree of sharpness while also limiting distortion.
  • One Super ED and three ED elements are used to suppress chromatic aberrations and color fringing for improved clarity and color accuracy.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • A Direct Drive SSM system and internal focus mechanism provides quick, quiet, and precise autofocus performance and also contributes to more natural, intuitive manual focus control.
  • A dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures.
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Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

Sony’s long-rumored announcement of the the about about $2198 16-35mm f/2.8 GM fills out a hole in the Sony lens line that is important to many pros.

Along with the FE 12-24mm f/4 G and the FE 24-70/2.8 GM and FE 85/1.4 GM and 100/2.8 STF GM and other GM and ZA lenses, I would now say that the Sony lens line is now more attractive than Canon or Nikon for the vast majority of photographers.

Sony has now dealt the last in a series of competitive blows to Canon and Nikon with the completed lens line. The new Sony A9 and a presumed Sony A7R II successor will nail the coffin shut for so many users—there is now little point for considering a DSLR given the Sony camera features and lens line. The long end and specialized niches like tilt/shift means little in this context; the super tele and sports world is a niche market and largely irrelevant to market share and the ability to remain viable and cover R&D expenses—that takes volume and market share, and declining market share is going to make it very tough on CaNikon.

The use of 7 special elements, a fast aperture of f/2.8, and and all-new design for mirrorless holds out great promise for performance.

  • E-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 to f/22
  • 2 Extra-Low Dispersion Elements
  • 3 Aspherical and 2 XA Elements
  • Nano AR and Fluorine Coatings
  • Two Direct Drive SSM AF Groups
  • Focus Hold Button, AF/MF Switch
  • Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
  • Eleven-Blade Circular Diaphragm

As per Sony, the lens ticks off all the key boxes, and more:

  • High corner-to-corner resolution — Uncompromised optical design achieves extremely high corner-to-corner resolution and contrast for landscape, architecture, and other expansive subjects.
  • Resolution and bokeh raised to new heights — This lens features two Sony XA (extreme aspherical) elements with 0.01 micron surface precision. Distortion that tends to occur in wide-angle zoom lenses is meticulously controlled, as are astigmatism and field curvature. Unattractive onion-ring bokeh is effectively suppressed by XA (extreme aspherical) elements so that smooth, beautiful bokeh is achieved in out-of-focus areas.
  • Optimum resolution at any focal length — Consistently high resolution is achieved from infinity to the closest focusing distance. This lens employs a floating focus mechanism with two independently driven lens groups. This system helps to reduce all types of aberration to minimum levels and thereby maintain sharp, high-resolution rendering from infinity focus for landscapes, for example, all the way down to close focus for portraits and similar subjects.
  • A perfect balance of resolution and bokeh — An advanced optical design that includes two Sony XA (extreme aspherical) elements achieves outstanding resolution, low distortion, and smooth, beautiful bokeh.
  • Gorgeous background bokeh — Shoot close at F2.8 to capture sharp subjects with dynamic, painterly backgrounds consisting of delightfully smooth bokeh.
  • 11 blades enhance bokeh beauty — Sony's original 11-blade circular aperture contributes to even greater bokeh quality. Design and materials have been revised to maintain a round shape, and strict circularity standards are applied to ensure that the full beauty of the lens's bokeh is achieved without compromise.
  • Light and compact for high mobility — Class-leading size and weight reductions make this 680-gram lens an ideal match for compact E-mount bodies, providing an eminently portable, easily manageable system.
  • Fast, precise autofocus — Two DDSSM (Direct Drive SSM) systems employing original Sony piezoelectric motors directly drive two focus groups in a floating focus configuration. The focus groups are positioned with high precision for the highest possible focus accuracy. DDSSM is quiet too, making it ideal for shooting movies as well as stills.
  • Smooth, versatile operation — A focus hold button, manual focus ring, AF/MF switch, and other controls provide versatile fingertip operation. The focus hold button can be customized via a body menu that allows a variety of functions to be assigned to the button to match the user's needs.
  • Fluorine coated front element — The lens's front element features a fluorine coating that helps to prevent fingerprints on the lens and stop dirt from sticking, and makes it easier to wipe away any dirt and fingerprints that do appear on the lens surface.
  • High reliability in harsh conditions — The overall design of this lens is dust and moisture resistant for extra protection and reliable operation in challenging environments. Shoot with confidence in light rain or windy conditions.
Optical design of Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

A 1-year limited is limited, and seems inappropriate for this level of lens. When will Sony step up to the plate with a credible warranty, like Nikon (1 year + 4 year extension upon registration = 5 years)? It is one missing piece of the pro puzzle.

Specifications for Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM 
Focal length: 16-35mm
Aperture range: f/2.8 - f/22
Focusing range: 11.02 in / 28 cm
Angle of view: 107° - 63°
Number of elements/groups: 16 elements in 13 groups
2 ELD Elements, 3 aspherical, 2 XA
Nano AR and Fluorine Coatings
Diaphragm: 11, rounded circular aperture
Magnification: 0.62X = 1:1.6
Filter thread: 82mm
Weight, nominal: 1.5 lb / 680g
Weight (as weighed): TBD
Dimensions: 3.48 x 4.79 in 88.5 x 121.6 mm
Street price: about $2198
Supplied with: ALC-F82S 82mm Front Lens Cap
ALC-R1EM Rear Lens Cap ALC-SH149 Lens Hood
Case
Limited 1-Year Warranty

Description

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM

A fast and flexible wide-angle zoom, the FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens from Sony is a wide-angle zoom designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. Distinguished by its constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, this lens offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range and benefits working in low-light conditions.

The optical design incorporates two extra-low dispersion elements to reduce chromatic aberrations along with two XA elements and three aspherical elements, which significantly controls spherical aberrations for a high degree of image sharpness and clarity. Additionally, a Nano AR coating has been applied to limit ghosting and lens flare for increased contrast and color fidelity when working in strong lighting conditions.

Complementing the optical assets, this lens is also notable for its inclusion of an 11-blade circular diaphragm to produce smooth, soft-edged bokeh with selective focus imagery. For controlling focus, two Direct Drive SSM AF groups are employed that are quick and quiet, and also lend more responsive control for manual focus operation. The lens also sports a dust- and moisture-sealed design to support shooting in inclement conditions and a dedicated focus hold button and AF/MF switch.

  • As part of Sony's esteemed G Master series, this lens is designed to achieve notably high resolution and sharpness through the correction of a wide variety of spherical and chromatic aberrations. Additionally, these lenses feature robust and intuitive-to-handle physical designs to benefit both photography and cine applications.
  • Wide-angle zoom designed for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, this lens is also compatible with APS-C models where it provides a 24-52.5mm equivalent focal length range.
  • Constant f/2.8 maximum aperture offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range for working in difficult lighting conditions.
  • Two XA (extreme aspherical) elements and three aspherical elements are incorporated into the optical design, which feature superior surface precision for effective control over astigmatism, field curvature, coma, and other spherical aberrations.
  • Two extra-low dispersion elements are featured in the lens design and help to reduce chromatic aberrations and color fringing for improved clarity and color neutrality.
  • A Nano AR Coating has been applied to reduce surface reflections, flare, and ghosting for increased contrast and color rendering in strong lighting conditions.
  • Rounded 11-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality when employing selective focus techniques.
  • Two Direct Drive SSM (DDSSM) autofocus groups offer quick, quiet, and precise focusing performance that is ideal for both stills and video applications.
  • Dust- and moisture-sealed design better permits working in inclement conditions and rubberized control rings benefit handling in colder temperatures. Additionally, the front element has a fluorine coating to guard against fingerprints and dust from adhering to it.

Nikon Appears to be Doing Focus Shift Compensation, at Least with the Nikon D810 and 70-200/2.8E

Thanks to reader David C for bringing this feature to my attention—compensation for focus shift is rare among cameras and a Very Good Thing, so long as the behavior is understood (it can work against you in some cases).

Apparently Nikon silently slipped in this upgrade a few years ago and made no mention of it. And yet it is a critical behavior that one must understand if focusing manually.

Nikon D810 Autofocus Compensation for Focus Shift

This test with the Nikon D810 suggests that it actively compensates for focus shift by modifying the point of focus to compensate, based on shooting aperture. That is, when conventional AF is used.

I’ll have to confirm this behavior with other lenses; at this point it’s unclear which cameras and lenses support focus shift compensation. Nikon is hiding their light under a bushel for some reason, which is very strange from a marketing standpoint.

Focus shift compensation is a super nice feature when applicable, but there are situations where it can degrade performance, nor not apply—any situation in which the AF system is used to prefocus at one aperture, but the image is exposed at another aperture. It could mean, for example, needing to focus at f/2.8 because of dim light but then shooting stopped down. Or pre-focusing at f/5.6 but then deciding to shoot at f/2.8. And so on. Presumably these are a small minority of cases. For myself, it means that shooting an aperture series is problematic because AF is prone to precision errors, focus shift compensation or not. And focusing in dim light is not feasible stopped down and DoF adds ambiguity as well.

Also, focus shift is not a simplistic behavior: it can be rearwar in the center and forward in the outer zones. Presumably the limited coverage of the focusing sensors in Nikon full-frame DSLRs cover too little of the frame for that to be an issue. Still, such differential behaviors mean that a full understanding of the behavior is essential for optimal results. For massive focus shift, see the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 Aperture Series @ 14mm: Two Aspen. I don’t know if such a lens takes advantage of focus shift compensation.

Finally, focusing in magnified Live View has long compensated for focus shift in this sense: the lens is stopped down to the shooting aperture by default. However, that often leads to serious errors in my own experience.

So I would say this: for conventional shooters (focus and shoot), focus shift compensation is a wonderful feature. For other usage scenarios, one still needs to understand what is happening. In particular, it’s problematic to shoot aperture series my usual way (by focusing wide open) and yet the AF system doesn’t always have enough precision for reliable results. This is the severe headache I ran into with the Fujifilm GFX. A lens without focus shift is always far, far preferable.

Markus H writes:

According to Marianne Oelund, focus shift correction has been added to bodies released in 2014 onwards. This includes for sure the D810, the D500 and the D5. Most likely also the D750 (released in 2014 but after the D810) and the D4s (released in 2014 but before the D810) as well as the 2015 D7200 and 2017 D7500. 

If you don’t know Marianne Oelund, she is an engineer by trade and photographer by passion and when she says something, you’ll know it’s true because she has actually tested it herself. 

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/58331791https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/58262673
https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/58097228

Note that when a new lens gets released, bodies that can correct for focus shift need a firmware update to get the focus shift parameters for that lens to properly correct the focus shift.

DIGLLOYD: how non-Nikon AF lenses with severe focus shift behave is unclear to me.

I used the latest firmware on the D810 in my testing.

Firmware on the Nikon D810 + 70-200/2.8E reads:
C = 1.12
L = 2.015

David C writes:

I have just tested D500 for focus shift compensation with 70-200 2.8 FL. Bad news. It does not seem to compensate for focus shift.

DIGLLOYD: contradicts the claim above vs the D500. I can only speak directly to what I have personally tested and verified: the D810 compensates for focus shift. I should also do more extensive testing with the D810, but this will take time. Also, at dusk I found the AF system unable to cope with dim light, forcing use of f/2.8 in Live View, so there is no compensation viable under those conditions. I would not trust the AF system for critical work that I do in any case, moreover focus shift at distance looks to be not an issue with the 70-200/2.8E.

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Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR: Focus Shift at Close Range @ 70mm, 130mm, 200mm

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR

The about $2700 Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR looks to be a very fine lens but clearly it has an optical formula that is balanced in a way with some drawbacks, including focus shift.

This page shows focus shift of the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR at 200mm at a reproduction ratio of roughly 1:7 (for 200mm). The ratio of 1:7 was chosen because this is a tight head shot distance, thus making that reproduction ratio highly relevant to real world shooting. Sharp eyes are critical in a portrait, hence focus shift is a key performance attribute.

Update: also shows 70mm and 130mm at about a 1:12 reproduction ratio.

Presented in Advanced DSLR in my review of the Nikon  70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR:

Includes crops presented several ways for ease of viewing, from f/2.8 through f/8.

There is a major contextual consideration as to whether the focus shift matters or not: evidence suggests that some cameras such as the Nikon D810 with the latest firmware in fact modify the autofocus system to compensate for focus shift (when conventional AF is used). I confirmed this myself today that there is a very significant behavioral change that depends on shooting aperture. More on this idea in the link above, and it is a behavior I intend to investigate and document. Thanks to reader David C for bringing this feature to my attention—it is rare among cameras and a Very Good Thing, so long as the behavior is understood (it can work against you in some cases). Apparently Nikon slipped in this upgrade a few years ago and made no mention of it. And yet it is a critical behavior that one must understand if focusing manually.

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Vulta Volcano Flashlight: From Extremely bright to Firefly Mode, with Red or Blue Also

The about $79.95 Vulta Volcano Multi-Spectrum LED Flashlight (White, Red, Blue) takes 4 AA batteries and runs quite a long time on a set of four. While I tend to use Lupine cycling lights with rechargeable LiIon cells, the Vulta Volcano can get going fresh again with a set of four AA batteries.

  • 1 / 60 / 200 / 500 / 880 Lumen Outputs
  • One Primary White CREE XM-L2 LED Emitter
  • Six Red and Six Blue Secondary LEDs
  • Emergency SOS and Signal Beacon Modes
  • Red/Blue and Red/Blue/White Strobe Modes
  • Dual Body Switches with Last-Mode Memory
  • Type III Hard Anodized Aluminum Housing
  • Submersible and Impact Resistant
  • Reverse-Polarity Protection Circuitry
  • Active and Passive Overheat Protection

The Vulta Volcano flashlight is smart in that it won’t fry the LEDs as some lights will, which greatly shortens LED lifespan: if used on its Turbo Mode (extremely bad-ass bright), it will drop down to High mode after a few minutes. Its twist-on diffuser cap is useful for a broad area of light without the harsh glare of straight-on illumination.

The Vulta Volcano is best for its flexibility. For example, its “firefly mode” is not enough to walk by, but can illuminate a map or back of a camera, etc. As well, the red LED mode saves night vision and could be used as a taillight for a bicycle assuming it could be aimed appropriately. As for blue mode, it’s something I would not generally use (blue is the worst color for night vision), and red/blue flashing mode presumably is for law enforcement, but might be useful to pretend to be, say if in a skanky area where one feels at risk.

The SOS and strobe modes might be a good idea for those in trouble, assuming one has the flashlight along: it’s fairly heavy at 277 grams (including 4 AA batteries and lanyard). And that is the reason I might not take it at times; it is fairly large and heavy. When I hike up in the mountains, I’d prefer something lighter, like the Fenix RC09 and/or Fenix RC11. However, those lights have no red LED mode and they require rechargeable batteries—and they have run themselves down due to poor design of the lockout switch.

All in all I like the Vulta Volcano and I tend to take it with me in trips in the car. The diffuser makes a nice light for night use and/or for inserting contact lenses into my eyes in the dark.

Vulta Volcano Multi-Spectrum LED Flashlight (White, Red, Blue)

Reader Question: Really Right Stuff Tripod Choice

See also Really Right Stuff posts of all kinds.

Dan B writes:

From your blog postings and subscription articles it seems that in the recent past you gravitated towards the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L as your go-to tripod for out in the field.

However most recently it seems you are using the Really Right Stuff TVC-34L. Is that because the 34L is better for the heavy pano rig, or perhaps you might prefer the 34L over the 24L when not doing panos but when it is windy?

In your blog article of May 15 you have two tripods in the field - the 34L and the prototype shorty. So, how do you get both tripods into the field - one on each arm? If you were hiking a fair distance with your camera equipment and two tripods did you eat a can of spinach before starting out - Popeye the Hiker Man ? :-)

DIGLLOYD: generally, I eat a can of sardines before or during.

I always carry the tripod in my hand, rarely in my pack (unless it’s a class 4 climb). That’s because I need the space and pockets in the pack for food, water, clothing and camera and lenses, and sometimes other things, like fishing lures. Since it can snow even in August and camera packs have load capability for water or food or clothing, rarely do I have any free pack space, so this is why I hand carry my tripod.

Two tripods is a “car shoot” meaning that I am not far from the car. The “shorty” is small enough by itself that I could probably stow it in the pack or strap it on somehow. But together with its nifty tripod head, it becomes bulky enough to not really be compatible with also carrying a full-size tripod like the TVC-24L on long hikes. Which is a pity. I'll have more experience this summer to prove out what might work because the shorty is tremendously useful for low-to-the-ground work.

For long hikes, it is always the TVC-24L and only that tripod— two tripods and heads on daylong hikes is a chore and there is just no space to do so. The TVC-24L is just under the threshold of what I can comfortably carry with the Arca Swiss Cube mounted. Anything heavier fatigues my hand and arm.

For shorter hikes near the car, I prefer the TVC-34L or the super beefy TVC-44L, the later being just lovely in use if I don’t have to carry it far. So I love working with the TVC-44L, but it’s heavy and half a mile would be my outer limit for carrying it along. The TVC-34L I will carry if there is a compelling reason for its extra mass—rare, but super teles qualify as does using the PG-02 Pano-Gimbal head, which itself is quite beefy. It’s not a question of supporting weight (all sizes do that just fine), it’s more about mass and stability to avoid a top-heavy rig.

Wind affects them all about equally, wind means resonance in the legs and for long lenses it’s a teeter-totter for the lens tripod foot (virtually all of them suck that way), and larger doesn’t generally help for resonance, necessarily, though RRS tends to be slightly better (Gitzo had some reversals when I researched this in detail, e.g., larger was worse).

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
__METADATA__
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