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11/27/15 Recent problems with US Nikon Repair Center

Normally with Nikon repairs, either under warranty or outside of warranty I have not had any problems.  The process is simple, you log on, get a ticket for your lens or camera and send it in for repair.  The process has always been straight forward.  But the last two repairs I have needed, my D810 and brand new 200-500 lens, have been anything be straight forward.  Lets start with the 200-500 lens.

This is of course a brand new lens from Nikon, so new that it’s not even in stock as of this date 11/27/15 at B&H Photo.  I was able to get a pre-order in at Bedford photo, my local camera store in Little Rock, AR.  The lens arrived in great shape and I was able to use it during the last few weeks of October.  However on the last trip out, the rubber ring around lens mount pulled out.  This surprised me as in 35 years of using NIkon and Canon lenses, I have never had this type of failure.  The rubber gasket had partially separated from it’s mount.  This made mounting or removing a lens difficult as the rubber piece tended to get twisted up against the camera’s mounting plate.

I took the lens back to Bedford, and they returned it to Nikon for a warranty repair.  I was a bit concerned that parts might be in short supply since this lens is in short supply.  However that turned out to be the least of my issues.  I sent the lens in on 11/04/15, it’s now the 27th of November.  I had Bedford check on the repair on the 25th.  The response that Bedford got from Nikon was that the lens had been dropped!! and that Nikon wanted a credit card to cover the cost of the repair.  OK, lets just say I was a bit surprised.  No I did not drop the lens, period.  Optically the lens was working fine when I sent it in, and Bedford also checked the lens out before they sent it off to Nikon for repair.  What bothers me about this is that:

  1. Nikon did not contact Bedford Photo, who is one of Nikon largest regional dealers in the mid-south when the lens was received to verify if it had been dropped.
  2. If I had not had Bedford call Nikon about the status, nothing would be happened, the lens would have been just sitting there.

To me this is not the way this should have been handled period.  Either the lens was damaged in shipping, or Nikon dropped it at the repair center, either way it left Bedforod Photo in good condition.

I have yet to here anything new from Bedford in regards to a resolution on this issue, but will update this post when I do.  Net, the lens had a warranty failure with the rubber seal on the rear of lens mount.  I am not sure how extensive the actual repair would have to be, but that particular gasket probably cost a few pennies.  I have to say, possible poor construction on the 200-500 F 5.6 also.

The second issue with Nikon repair was with my D810.  This was a problem I started as I dropped the camera while putting in the soft case.  At the time, I had my 24-120 on the camera and the impact damaged the lens mount.  Simple process, logged on to Nikon repairs, and received both a ticket and an estimate for the repair.  I sent in the camera body and Nikon received it into repair.  Here is where things broke down a bit.  I waited 2 weeks to see if anything had updated to my repair ticket  Not seeing anything I called Nikon’s repair center and the tech I spoke to claimed the camera had been repaired and shipped back to me.  They were going to update the ticket with the tracking information later in the day.  Checking back the next day, I found no tracking information, so I called Nikon back.  The tech I spoke with this time told me the camera was still in for repair and there was estimate on the time for the repair.  This I found a bit surprising so I asked to speak with a manager.

After hold of 35 minutes, a manager came on the phone, and I started all over with the issue.  She told me that she would personally look into the problem, and find out where the camera was in the repair cycle and update the ticket/email me.  This did not happen, so the next day, I called in again, 3rd time for the same issue.  Again asking for a manager, again waiting over 30 minutes, again having to explain everything.  This person seemed a bit more focused and put me on hold and made some calls.  Net, the camera was still on the repair bench. The repair had been made, but Nikon needed to make some adjustments to the AF.  The manager told me that it would ready in 2 days and ship out.  This time I did receive an email from the manager and within 24 hours tracking information.

The last surprise, when the camera arrived back at my business, it was packed in a box that was just a bit larger than the camera itself. The camera was wrapped in a bag, I guess to prevent water damage during shipping, but only wrapped in a single layer of bubble wrap.  There were about 10 foam peanuts also in the box.  Compared to the box I had sent the camera off in, this was not what I expected.  Luckily the camera seemed fine, and has worked OK since.  But looking back on my 200-500 lens, where Nikon has been sitting on it for almost 3 weeks claiming it had been dropped, it surprises me they would return a camera in such a poorly packed box.

Nikon gear works great, but it seems if you have problems, either within or out of warranty, you may experience some disappointments.  I guess if you are lucky enough to have NPS status, then things might be different, but as we all know getting into NPS takes an act of congress.

11/19/15 Red Sky at Night Sailors Delight!!, Wonderful evening shot from the upper Piney Creek Wilderness Arkansas

Piney Creek Arkansas

Sunset from a bluff in the Piney Creeks Wilderness

This is a shot that I like to think, puts all things back into perspective.  For 2015, the Autumn in Arkansas the colors were just terrible.  We also had a lot of rain late in October, which was too late for the streams.  All the streams are running now, but of course they look like they do in winter, just bare trees.  I like to work some of the smaller creeks in Arkansas during fall as the combination of fall colors and running water can be additive.  Arkansas has so many streams, one could never work all of them in a lifetime.  But what we found this year, were mainly cloudy skies, and dry creek beds.  The spring and summer had been so promising.  We had record amounts of rainfall and cool conditions.  But then July, and August.  Basically Arkansas recorded almost no rainfall during these months and it was hot.  Basically what happens, the trees start to go dormant and into protect mode.  If this continues for a long period of time, it will have a negative effect on the fall colors. 

What we basically saw in the fall in most of the spots, were trees turning a dull brown, even in early October.  But even worse, some trees, were staying green much longer so there was no balance in the colors.  I have seen shots from all over Arkansas, and in most of them you are still able to see quite a bit of green trees and most of the trees that have turned are just brown, or dull red.  Gone from the woods this year were the bright yellows, and reds, mainly from the Black Gums, Maples, Black Gums, Hickories and Golden browns from the Oaks. 

I had found a great new spot in the upper Piney Creeks wilderness thanks to Chris Kennedy.  Chris had found this place a week before during the opening of Arkansas Deer season.  I had been here a lot during my kayaking days in Arkansas, but had never taken some time to go look for fall color.  This is a great spots as you are looking due south on one side of Parker Ridge Road and if you cross over and take a short hike, you are looking north.  Either view gives an expansive view of the valley of Big Piney Creek.  If we had been here just one week earlier, the possiblites were endless as it was apparent that the trees in this part of the state did not go into as much stress.

Chris and I drove back to this spot a week later, and most of the color was gone, at least in the trees.  We had a mixed sky with only partial clear patches, but Chris felt it was worth staying around until about 20 minutes after the sun had set.  He had been here before and felt we might get a great play on the afterglow.  He was right, as you can see in this shot, the sun’s angle was just at the right position to really pop the clouds and just painted the sky red.  Chris took this shot with his phone, and it’s a good one even from a phone.  You can see both cameras setup and a good bit of the view from the place were were setup. 

In the spring, this might be another great place to setup, and I hope to come back here for both a milky way shoot and star trails shoot.  It’s not far from the road so working at night will not be a big danger to the photographer. 

But back to my opening, yes this shot did put things back into perspective for me.  I had been chasing color on and off for 30 days and just had not found anything to feature for this year.  In fact this will the first year I have basically no photograph from the fall in Arkansas.  Maybe I am just tired of it, and don’t have the energy anymore as the market I am shooting in has changed dramatically in the past 3 years.  But it was nice to sit on this bluff edge, and think back over the years that I have enjoyed in Arkansas’s outdoors.  We have a beautiful state in many ways. 

11/15/15 New Filter information from Lee and HiTech

I have been trying to get a simple filter solution for both a 28mm HR Rodenstock and the 32mm HR-W Rodenstock.  Also, now that Phase One is shipping their new wide lenses, the Schneider 35LS and 40-80LS which have 105mm filter threads.  The 105mm size is large for sure, but these lenses all use coarse threading which makes things more difficult.  Most of your traditional filter companies are not using coarse threads, but instead medium threads.  Medium threads are used on most DSLR lenses, and so coarse threading is not required near as often.

The Center Filter for the 28mm Rodenstock is outside threaded to 95mm, and these are coarse threads, as are the 105mm threads on the CF for the 32mm Rodenstock.

I have used the following CL-PL filters on both of these CF’s,

Lee 105mm (new filter, a bit warm, but excellent glass and very very thin)
Heliopan 105mm, Huge filter by far the thickest piece of glass/frame I have ever seen
B+W 105mm is in between the Lee and Heliopan

All of these 105mm CL-PL filters will fit with ease on the Coarse threads of the Rodenstock 95mm and 105mm openings on their Center filters. I believe it’s safe to assume that the outer threads on the 35mm LS and 40-80mm LS Schneiders are coarse threaded. So any of the filters I listed should work without binding. Note, I used the Heliopan 95mm to 105mm step up ring on the CF for the 28MM HR to get to the 105mm opening. Still no issues.

Currently I know of no ND filters in the 105mm size that are SHIPPING and are of a good quality glass. HiTech has listed their Firecrest in 105mm for over a year and I have had 2 on order that long. Last I heard they will ship sometime in late 2015 or Jan 2016. I am not holding my breath. However I will assume these filters will come with coarse threading. BTw, the firecrest glass is AMAZING. No tints at all and they do have an IR coating. By far the best ND I have used in 25 years of usage. The Hitech is shipping these filters in the the large SW-150 size for Lee and the 100 x 100 also that fit the Lee holders.

Lastly, by far the best news, Lee is going to make a 86mm, 95mm and 105mm Ring to allow you to use the SW-150 holder on lenses with these larger openings!!!!!!!!!!!!. This was officially announced at the NY Photoexpo show by LEE. Now when they will start to ship anyone’s guess. However I am assuming that they will be some form of a wide angle design. The SW-150 mounts totally differently than how the 100 x 100 Lee holder mounts, as the inside has a smooth round opening, which the ring fits into. You then screw down a pinch screw that holds the adapter into place. Lee also is using a much improved Light shield on the SW-150, and this will retro fit to the older SW-150’s if you have one. I have all three of these rings on order from the filterconnection, www.2filter.com but still have not heard when they will ship.

Note, due to the weight of the massive front element of the 32mm Rodie, adding a 2 filter SW-150 might not be a great idea, but in theory if Hitech gets off their A** and finally starts to ship the 105mm Firecrest, you have that option. The Lee SW-150 should be a perfect fit for a 35mm LS or 40-80LS as you ain’t going to hurt those massive pieces of glass with a SW-150. I believe that the 28mm HR with a CF (a must for that lens) will work great with the SW-150 and 2 filters. But you can also just take the 95mm to 105mm Helipan step rings and use the HiTech firecrest if they ever ship.

Just wanted to pass this on.

Paul C

11/12/15 Adobe Lightroom still has no support for the Phase One IQ150–my method of fixing this

When Phase One first announced their flagship CMOS digital back, the IQ250 over 2 years ago, many photographers felt that the price point of $39,995 was way too much for a 50MP 1:3 cropped sensor back.  This issue became even more inflamed when Hasselblad came out with the 50c later that year with a price tag in the $15,995 range, more than half the price of the IQ250.  However both cameras shared the same sensor, the Sony 50MP CMOS chip for medium format cameras.  Later on Pentax announced the 645z, and a third camera hit the market with the same Sony chip and it’s price was 8.4K.  With the Pentax announcement and pressure from Hasselblad, Phase One made the decision to sell a “cheaper” version of the IQ250, and announced the IQ150 @ $34,995.  For 5K less you did not get a 5 year value add warranty or wifi support.  Also 1 year past, with the announcement of the Phase One XF camera body, IQ1 cameras did not receive the full support for all the new features the XF would offer.  But Phase One did allow for Capture One support for the IQ150.

I first tried out the IQ150 in April of 2015.  I was very tempted to purchase it with a trade it of my IQ260.  However after giving it a lot of thought, I held on to the IQ260.  The IQ150 would be a great fit for a XF or DF+ (both Phase One camera bodies).  With the CMOS chip, you now have an excellent implementation of Live View so manual focus was much easier using the excellent IQ LCD.  Use with a tech camera was not so positive as there was considerable color shifting past 10mm or so of shift.  So I felt that using the IQ150 would allow for a easier route for software conversion, as now I could pick from Lightroom (LR) or Capture One (C1).  However when I tried to open the IQ150 raw files IN LR, I received this screen.

Screen shot of LR import for IQ150 files before exif change to IQ250

Screen shot of LR import for IQ150 files before exif change to IQ250

Basically, LR can’t see the files since they have a exif header of IQ150.  LR had long ago picked up support for the IQ250, but back in April 2015 when I was testing the IQ150, I could only use Capture One.  Sure Capture One should be the best software as it’s made by Phase One and the IQ150 is also.  However there are times, more often than not, that LR due to it’s newer panorama and HDR tools may be a better fit.  Both of these tools work better on raw files rather than imported tiffs.  I naturally assumed that Adobe would pick up IQ150 support later on in a update to LR, however as of November 2015, you still can’t import the IQ150 raw files.

I have seen this issue before when new cameras first roll out as it takes sometime for the raw converters to catch up.  However when I tried the IQ150 in April of 2015 it had already been announced for over 6 months so I was surprised then that LR did not support it.  Now finding 6 months even further out, there is still no support I guess it’s safe to say, “Adobe plans not to support the IQ150″.  I am not sure what that is all about as it’s a very simple change on their side.

The good news is that you can easily make one change to the exif information on the IQ150 file and LR will work fine and allow you to import the images.  Just change the head from IQ150 to IQ250.  It’s as simple as that.  As the IQ150 and IQ250 share the exact same chip and CFA screen from Phase One, any profile from Adobe for the IQ250 will work fine with the IQ150, THEY ARE THE SAME CHIP 100%.  So what is the best way to do this? You will need an exif editor software.  These come in many types, some are command line other have a GUI interface.  As I am not a programmer, I prefer GUI.  So I found a neat little freeware program call ‘EXIFTOOL”.  You can find it here:

When you go to the site search for the GUI part of the program.  You have to have the base code loaded to your PC first then the GUI runs on top.  Works great and will take care of stupid oversights like this one where Adobe overlooked the IQ150, or they don’t care about it.

The GUI will look like this when you open it:  click on the image to view it larger.

Part One using ExifTool

Part One using ExifTool

Notice you have the standard windows folder interface on the far left, and when you click on a folder the files in that folder will open up in the middle part of your screen.  When you click on an individual file, the far right panel will open, will all the exif details for that particular file. Notice in the far right panel, that the “model” line lists this file as from an IQ150.

All you have to do is click on that line, the model line which then selects that item to be worked with.  When you click on the model, it will load into the box at the bottom of the screen in the right hand panel.

2nd Screen shot from ExifTool

2nd Screen shot from ExifTool

Now just click on the IQ150, and change it to IQ250 and hit enter.

3rd Screen shot of ExifTool

3rd Screen shot of ExifTool

Once you do this, notice “model” line has now changed to IQ250.  All you have to do now is hit save and you are done.  Exiftool will do the rest.

That’s all it takes, you don’t have to do anything else to the file.  If you are good with command line coding, then you can drop a large number of IQ150 raw files into a folder and then run ExifTool on that folder.  It will change just the model type for each image, if you can figure out the correct command line code structure.  The only drawback to the Gui is that you can only select one image at a time.  So if you have an IQ150 and are wishing to use it a lot with LR, then you might want to press Adobe to fix this issue with a update later on in both camera raw and LR.

Here is a screen shot from LR CC on the import screen.  You can see that LR now has no problems reading the images.  All it took was a SIMPLE HEADER CHANGE.  Not sure what either Phase One would not want Adobe to make this change as there will always be someone out there that is not going to use Capture One.  Since the issue has not been resolved now for over 1 year, I have to wonder what the acceptance rate of the IQ150 is inside the United States.  It can’t be that large or there would have been a fix for this by now, as it’s not that big a deal to fix in the first place.

LR import dialog after the IQ250 header change

LR import dialog after the IQ250 header change

 

Maybe this will be fixed sometime in the future, but for now this will get you the support you need in LR.  Also, don’t worry about this change for Capture One support.  Capture One will just use the profile for the IQ250 on the IQ150 files and all is fine as they are the same exact chip.  But more importantly they share the same CFA algorithm so all color profiles will work between the two with no problems.  NOTE, this is not as true with the Credo 50.  Here the CFA was developed by Leaf and there are some subtle differences in color profiles.

 

 

11/10/15 Springtime at Haw Creek Falls–A great place to spend a day in Arkansas

Haw Creek Falls, waterfalls in Arkansas

Springtime View of Haw Creek Falls in the Arkansas Ozarks

Taken with a Phase One IQ260 and Arca rm3di tech camera/40mm Rodenstock lens

This is a typical day at Haw Creek falls, and I was again lucky to be there without anyone else to stand around and get in the way during the shoot.  Haw Creek is a lovely smallish creek that runs in the Big Piney Creek, not far from these falls.  The falls are impressive since there is a large ledge that runs all the way across the creek and in higher water conditions the water will start to consume the entire ledge.  I like to catch water about like this, just enough to keep most of the ledge in play but not too much to flood out the rocks below the falls.  To get this shot, I used my Arca rm3di camera which allows movements like a large format camera with my digital camera back.  The shot is actually a composite of 3 images, Left, Center and Right.  The Left and Right segments represent 16mm of shift in those respective directions.  This allows you to create a very high resolution panorama without any of the issues like parallax.  The lens I used was as 40mm Rodenstock HR-W which allows for an excellent field of view when shifted.

You have to be careful when working Haw Creek as there tends to be a lot of wind blowing down the creek.  In most cases, I prefer to take a 1 to 4 second exposure of the water which in most cases will have a lot of wind blur in the trees.  So you have make sure to cover the tree movement with a second series of exposures around 1/125 to 1/250 to stop the wind movement.  It’s a simple process to combine the files later since I am using a tech camera and the movements are very precise.  To allow the longer exposures I used both a Circular Polarizer and a Neutral Density filter.    The polarizer will help with glare on the water and rocks and adds about 1.5 stops of exposure to the shot.  As this was a bright day, I had to use a 1.2x ND filter.  When I was taking the faster exposures for the trees, I left the polarizer on, but took the ND filter off as I no longer needed the extra exposure compensation.

As I already mentioned, Haw Creek Falls, tends to be overrun with people during the peak times of the year.  The best day to go is a Monday as there will not be as many people at the campground and thus less traffic around the falls.  There are some great swimming spots above the falls in the large pool that is created by the ledge.  It’s a great place to head to when you know you have some water running in the creek.  Also the Ozark Highlands Trail runs right by Haw Creek falls, so if you are planning a hike on this part of the trail make sure to stop and take a look.

The falls run year round, but the best times to photograph them are in the early Spring and winter when water levels are more consistent.  In the summer and fall you can sometimes get lucky after a locally heavy rainstorm and catch the falls running.  The fall display here is wonderful if you can catch it at the right time.

11/05/15 New testing results from the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art lens at lenstip.com

Sigma 20mm F 1.4 Art lens

Sigma 20mm F 1.4 Art Lens

As of this afternoon, the first full review of the new Sigma 20mm 1.4 has been published over on www.lenstip.com  You can read the full review here: Lenstip 20mm 1.4 Sigma review

From a quick read I have determined the following:

  1. The resolution of this lens can be expected to be superior to pretty much all other 20mm fast lenses out there, including the recent Nikon 20mm 1.8.  It seems that the center resolution even at F1.4 is excellent and by F3.5 to F4.0 the corners are very sharp also.
  2. There might be some issues with Chromatic aberrations, but hopefully the LR lens profile when available will correct for this. The build quality is as expected, excellent as with all the Sigma Art glass
  3. Coma, sadly it seems that this lens falls a bit short with coma corrections.  Per the testing at Lenstip, there are pretty harsh coma issues from F1.4 till F 2.0.  From their examples, it appears to me that these coma issues are as bad as with the 24mm 1.4 Sigma Art lens.  However the example shown at F2.0 looks pretty good to me as there     are butterfly wings showing, but nothing like what the Nikon 20mm F 1.8 shows at F 2.0 or even F 2.5.  I had hoped that this new lens, which Sigma states “is specifically designed to remove coma” would fare a bit better.  In daylight work, the coma aberrations may not show up, but anyone wanting to use this lens at night for astro-photography will be a bit disappointed as the quest has always been to get a wide that will work at F 1.4 without coma.
  4. Build quality appears to be as with all the Art line of lenses, excellent.

 

Sigma top view of 20mm F 1.4 Art lens

Sigma top view of 20mm F 1.4 Art lens

My main need for a fast wide, is night photography, where the difference between F 2.8 and F 1.4 is huge and can allow for a vastly different quality image as you can shoot short exposures of the Milky Way and other starscapes without having to be at a grossly high iso setting like ISO 12800.  There was no mention of the bokeh wide open, and again I am hoping to see something better than Sigma was able to provide for the 24mm F 1.4 which to my eyes has a very disruptive bokeh on landscapes, not as much on macro work.

The new Sigma Art 20mm 1.4 already has one strike against it with the fact that it has a fixed hood, and curved outer element which eliminates the ability to use standard filters.  Hopefully Lee or another company will come out with an adapter for this lens to use the SW-150 filter setup or something similar.

I have one of the new 20mm 1.4’s on order, hopefully it will ship sometime mid November, but I am not expecting it until December.

Sigma 20mm F1.4 Art Lens dual Views

Sigma 20mm F1.4 Art Lens dual Views