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12/04/17 GFX 100MP news, looks like another good year for Phase One!!

Update on follow-on camera to GFX50S

Update on follow-on camera to GFX50S (from Fujirumors.com)

 

I follow the Fujirumors site, and noticed the other day that it seems that the latest GFX 100s date is now 2019!  That totally surprised me as I had assumed up till now that the GFX 100s would easily make it out to users in 2018; at least by mid year.  Instead Fuji is going to wait one whole year which is a long wait for the follow on to the GFX 50s.  Here is a link to the Fujirumors post: Fujirumors-FujiGFX100S

This means I guess that the follow-0n chip from Sony, the 100MP 44:33 scale Medium Format chip must be delayed or no where as near along in production as many people have been led to believe.  Sony has several medium format chip coming in 2018 per their latest road map, and the 100MP 44:33 sized chip is on that list for 2018.  The current chip is 50MP and used by several camera companies, Phase One (IQ150,250 & 350), Hasselblad (X1D) and Fujifilm (GFX50s) and Pentax (645z)  This chip is much older, being first brought to the market in around 2014 with the Phase One IQ250 quickly followed by the Pentax 645z.  It’s a prove performer for sure with great dynamic range and resolution.  Here is copy of the Sony roadmap showing the next generation in “full frame” MF chips and “cropped sensor” MF chips.

Sony sensor roadmap for 2018 and beyond.

Sony sensor roadmap for 2018 and beyond.

Fuji and Hasselblad both have taken and given the best from this chip as they both have EVF technology and electronic shutters, something Phase One never figured out or cared to figure out (the technology is there in the chip as Fuji and Hasselblad’s offerings camera 2.5 years later from the Phase One IQ250).  But the chip does not have phase detect AF and that is a feature that most mirrorless camera have now.  Phase detect allows the AF point to be placed on the chip and in theory are more accurate than the contrast detect that DSLR cameras like the Nikon D850 use.  Personally I am not much of a believer that phase detect is more accurate, but for sure you get a lot for AF points over the entire sensor.

What does the 2019 date on the GFX100s mean?  Well for Fuji, I guess it means that they will sell a lot more the 50s cameras especially since there has been pent up demand from photographers who were waiting to see when the 100s will announce and ship.  Not sure how many of them will be willing to wait 14 or so months for the 100s.  The rumored price is for the 100s is around 9K, which is considerably higher than the 6.4K the 50s sells for currently and more thank likely the 5K the 50s will start to sell for mid 2018 as Fuji starts to clear out existing inventory.

  1. The biggest winner here in the Medium Format world is Phase One.  WHY? Well lets look for a second at the current Phase One offering.
  2. Their MF body is the XF, which is huge, heavy and not mirrorless
  3. Their best lenses are the Blue Ring” Schneiders all of which are both expensive and heavy, none of which would work well on a mirrorless camera system due to the mass and weight.
  4. Phase One currently offers 100MP in the IQ3100 and tricolormatic backs (there is also the B&W back),  so if Phase gets the new 150MP chips show in the chart above in 2018 and brings them to market by mid 2018 or 3rd quarter 2018, they will have a chance to gain Market share
  5. Since both Fuji and Hasselblad are mirrorless in design, but won’t have a new camera until 1 quarter 2019, Phase One has a lot more room to attempt to get out a mirrorless offering of their own.  (this is overdue in my opinion)

This will also help the 35mm Digital camera market, of Sony (A7 family) Nikon (D850) and Canon (when and if they offer an improved 5Dr).  All of these companies already have 45MP to 50MP cameras in the 35mm format with a huge offering of lenses, vastly larger than either Phase One or Fuji currently have.  So possibly more photographers will now move towards the 35mm cameras with larger  sensors then wait 1 full year to get the 100s or X2D (whatever Hasselblad wants to call it).  There are always the rumors that Sony will sometime soon enter the MF market also, with either a fixed lens camera or a entire system like Fuji’s.  So many more options are possible.  The fact that Fuji now seems to feel that 2019 is the soonest for the 100s also makes me wonder if Sony is working on a camera for 2018 which will use the 100Mp 44:33 sensor? Why not, they make great cameras for sure.

Anyway, my thoughts were all wrong for 2018.  I had figured that 2018 would be the year that MF digital starts to really take over the higher end market since at least 2 companies would have 100MP solutions in the 8K to 14K price range.  Without anything new to help push the pricing down, there is no reason for Phase One to lower their price point.  They have never been in a “gain more market share, buy the business” type of model.  Currently, the IQ350 would cost out in the 25K to 30K range new with an XF body and 80mm lens.  You can get into the IQ150 (the IQ250 is no longer being manufactered) for around 14K to 17K depending on what you are looking for.  And Phase One has been more aggressive recently in the lower end 50MP camera line since Hasselblad has their 50c out.  But none of these cameras are mirrorless, and  they rely on the older style H6D or XF camera bodies.

Fuji has always stated that all of their lenses are designed around the resolution needs of a 100MP sensor in the 44:33 size.  I am now sure how they determine that without a sensor/camera to test, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt.  So far their lens offering have all be excellent for the GFX system.  Now for 2018, we can only expect to see something from Phase One, in the 150MP space and that again will only work for about 2% of all the photographers in the world, not a big market for sure.  I am still shocked that Fuji will not be able to bring the 100s out in 2018, as a year long wait in the digital camera world is huge and many products can and will be brought to market that may challenge even 100MP.

Written for “paulcaldwellphotography” on 12/04/17 by Paul Caldwell

Information and pictures for the FujiFilm 100s were obtained from Fujirumors.com, however I have not directly copied anything from their site, beside the one picture of which I have given full credit to Fujirumors.com.

 

 

 

 

 

10/16/17 Nikon still has a long way to go with the D850–B&H still has not fulfilled all the orders placed 1 hour after open order window.

The mysterious Nikon D850 does it really exist for the rest of the world or just NPS members.

The mysterious Nikon D850 does it really exist for the rest of the world or just NPS members.

 

My high hopes for a 2017 arrival of the D850 were dashed today after my call with B&H.  My first day order was placed at 7:00 am on 08/24/17.  B&H opened the window at 3:00am.  I had tried at 1:00am, but the window was not open.  However I guess the real go getters just stayed top and kept trying and kudos to them.  I got my order in at 6:00am Central 7:00 to B&H.  B&H customer service told me that now after 3 separate shipments from Nikon, they have not yet even filled the orders that were placed in the 1st hour.  NET, it’s going to be a very very long time before B&H gets to my order close to 4 hours later.

 

I had some hopes for the Nikon D850 and from what I have read from the few either lucky owners, or NPS shooters (who did not dump the camera on eBay) it will be a significant improvement over the D810.  Resolution differences between the 36mp of the D810 and 46/47mp of the D850 are not that much.  However some of the other features like:

  1. Full Electronic shutter
  2. Tilting LCD
  3. 2x resolution on LCD
  4. Vastly improved AF and Low light AF
  5. Focus stacking built in (similar to the Phase One approach)
  6. Slightly improved high ISO (but this appears not to be a full stop as expected)
  7. 7 to 9 fps depending on use of grip (but you have to use the D5 battery, battery not expensive, charge is @ $500.00)
  8. Touchscreen for image preview and live view
  9. Improved color rendering over the D810, especially blues and greens

Just having a tilting LCD makes the upgrade worth it for me, and the full ES also.

The fact that Nikon is having financial trouble is very clear to me now.  It’s been almost 2 months since Nikon announced the D850 and lets be totally honest the camera had been talked about for over a year, and everyone knew it was coming in 2017.  Nikon started to ship in the U.S on 09/07/17, to mainly NPS orders (don’t get me started on NPS) and a few others.  Then there has been two other official releases.  It’s also apparent that B&H expected a lot more cameras than they received in the 2nd round as I had been told to expect mine D850 by the end of September.  There was a release which covered that time frame but nowhere near enough cameras.

With B&H only covering the 1st hour, it’s going to be a long time before Nikon gets the camera in ready stock, more than likely 1st quarter 2018.   I fully understand it’s a new product, but really so what.  Nikon is manufacturing company which apparently has no clue on how to forecast supply and demand.  Folks there wasn’t an earthquake this time or tsunami to stop Nikon, just poor planning.  It’s too bad as they do make great cameras and it appears that the D850 is no exception.

Written on 10/15/17 for www.paulcaldwellphotography.com and copy write protected

Paul Caldwell

 

09/07/17–Nikon Still has not learned how to ship a new camera the D850

As anyone who is a Nikon photographer knows, the highly anticipated D850 finally started to ship today worldwide.  But instead of a flood of new cameras hitting the stores, it appears that Nikon was barely able to ship enough cameras to even cover the NPS orders.  So the common folk like myself are left holding the bag once again, just like with the D800.  To add insult to injury, I received this email from Nikon this afternoon.

Nikon D850

Stupid Nikon Ad

Lets see, the wait is over? Really? What a Joke!!, when actually the wait has just begun.

It’s really amazing that a company such as Nikon can’t figure out how to cover a first day shipment of a new camera.  They had the same issue with the D800 and D800e when they were announced.  At first the D800 was hard to get, and the D800e next to impossible but after about 4 months the supply started to free up.

Lets move forward 2 years, Nikon announces the D810, possible the best DSLR they have ever made, but again there were supply issues and quality issues.  So those like myself who paid in advance, received a camera and had to turn it right around to Nikon to have the white dot issue fixed.

Now Nikon can’t even ship enough cameras to cover the NPS orders.  NPS, (Nikon Professional Services) is next to impossible to get into now as you have to have 2 other professional photographers sponsor you.  Ever try to get your competition to sponsor you?  Leaving NPS alone, it’s amazing to me that Nikon was not able to ship enough cameras to cover 1/3 to 1/2 of the first day orders.

Did Nikon just announce this camera, NO, it’s been in the works now for over 3 years.  Nikon has toyed with users for the past 6 months maybe longer talking this new camera up.  They pre-announced the announcement and received a ton of good press.  NOTE TO NIKON, when you start to see a lot of good talk on the photography forums, you might WANT TO START making some cameras.  NOT wait until the 24th of August of 2017 to start making cameras to cover all the orders you have received.

This is not a revolutionary camera, like the D800 was or the D810.  It’s just a upgrade to an already great platform with some nice updates to AF, LiveView, High ISO, and LCD (there are more for sure).  But either way, Nikon should have been more in touch with what they needed to manufacture.

There has not be an earthquake or a tsunami or any other type of catestrophic event that Nikon had to work around.  I have to wonder who is in charge over there.  It’s well known that Nikon is not doing the best financially, so this issue doesn’t make things look very good for them.  Surely someone in such a large company understands what forecasting is about?  Don’t they? Maybe not.

But of course cameras are showing up in places like Best Buy (really go figure) or Amazon (NPS cancellations), etc.  This happens every time, but just makes this process all the harder to understand.

I guess the best policy is to just keep the order out there with B&H, and hope that something frees up sooner than later.

Written by Paul Caldwell for paulcaldwellphotography.com 09/07/17

 

08/03/17 Goodbye to the Fuji-GFX Facebook group–after amazing responses to copyright issues

I joined the Fuji GFX facebook group before I even had a Fuji GFX to work with. Initially I found it to be very good group as for once there was world wide membership.  It was refreshing to hear from other photographers outside of the U.S.  I did find that it seemed that the mix was a good one, between professional and amateur photographers.  I have never had any problems with a non-professional’s opinion and in fact I have learned a lot from these type of forums over the years.  However I am a professional photograph, net I earn 100% of my living from attempting to sell my work.  As I am landscape photographer and printer not a studio shooter the jobs I get can be few and far between.  However the time and work I spend finding, capturing and then developing a shot is considerable.  So when I find that my work has been taken without my permission, I do get a bit upset.

My website, www.photosofarknasas.com has always had a listed copyright.  However it was still possible to print screen images from the site as I did not use a visual copyright on my galleries.  For years I have been able to market my work to large corporations looking at needs for new offices or hospitals in my state of Arkansas.  The listed copyright seemed to take care of any issues and thus the need for a visual copyright on each image was not necessary.  This was until late May of 2017, when I found that a Candlewood Suites chain hotel was using my work, and a lot of it without my permission.  The total number of printed images is between 100 and 260, and I am betting on the later as I know for sure that 2 rooms each have 2 of my images, the hotel has 130 rooms, simple math folks, 260.

That issue both stunned me and disappointed me as I quickly found out that as a single owner of a small business, there is really no recourse, i.e. I can’t sue the company as even if I win the cost of the law suit will far out weigh any gains I get.  So I went back to my site and went ahead with the visual watermarking that I have so long attempted to avoid.

Sunset and moonrise in the Alabama Hills.

Sunset and moonrise in the Alabama Hills.

This image is an example of what I had to do.  I fully agree the use of such watermarking is distracting, however when you consider the fact that someone could easily take the shot and then use it for their own means without paying for it, I choose the visual method.

What was interesting was I submitted this image to the FujiGFX Facebook group and was immediately slammed by critics.

Comments like:

1.  It’s raining watermarks

2.  I would be complimented if I found out that someone used my work for free, (REALLY)

3.  I can’t see the image due to the watermarks.  (Total Bull IMO)

Well it was an interesting lesson.  I decided to drop out of the Fuji GFX Facebook group.  I have no time for those type of comments.  Comments made by people who really must not care about attempting to make a living with photography, and just throw their work out to the web.  I guess they are the ones that prefer jpgs and the Fuji Film simulations since they “save so much time”.  For me, not the case.  Lets consider the image in question.

This shot was taken hand held with a Fuji GFX and 32-64 lens.  I was working against a quickly fading evening sky, and my tripod was still in the car, over 5 minutes both ways.  I knew that the moon would soon be blocked by the clouds, but more importantly I had get the light right then.  The scene was one that really required a bracketing series, but I still don’t like using the GFX this way unless on tripod.  So I pushed up the ISO to around 800 and then shot 3 vertical shots several times.  The images were converted to dngs and then worked up in Capture One, then moved to Lightroom to create the pano.  I then used some Topaz Clarity on the clouds.  At least a half day of work was one on this shot so I did feel that I was not going to just give it away to some opportunist.

The FujiGFX Facebook group could have handled the issue differently, at least in my eyes.  I have stopped using the full visual water marking on Flickr and 500px, just putting my single line copyright.  On my website, however I still use the full visual style.  To see how one group of seemingly professional folks handled this subject was to say the least eye opening for me.  I don’t have time to waste on such worthless and wasted opinions.  The fact that people consider such internet theft OK, still amazes me and shows me that they are not working as professional photographers.  That an amateur  photographer would feel this is OK, is not good either.  It shows that many or most people feel that this type of theft is OK.  Back to my loss that I started with, I figure to me the total loss was between 6K and 10K.  If you feel it’s OK to have such a loss, then I guess we can just agree to disagree.  It’s hard enough now with iPhone and other simple devices totally changing the way photography is viewed to make a living without having your work stolen and not even getting credit for it.

I should also note that at the same time I submitted this image to the FujiGFX facebook group, I also placed it on several professional imaging forums that I been a member of for years. I also placed the image on my flickr and 500px accounts and it was interesting to see that all of the feedback I receieve albeit not all positive, all of those “photographers” were able to see around the visual watermarks and view the image.  Interesting fact and enlightening fact.

 

 

Written by Paul Caldwell for www.paulcaldwellphotography.com

 

08/02/17 Learning how to make a 5 part stitch panorama from a Fuji X-T2

cw Close up no2 of Mt Whitney X-T2 4 part pano

I have written a new Article on how to create a hand held panorama using a Fuji X-T2 and 100-400mm lens, hand held.  This article will show you what raw converter (Capture One) and why I choose it over other raw converters on the market.  You can quickly see how to take 5 vertical images, work them up in Capture One, export them to Lightroom, create a panorama with a much large overall megapixel count and then do the final color work.

The Fuji X-T2 with 24 megapixels is an excellent platform to work with for panorama stitching.

You can find the full article here:  Creating a 5 part panorama with a Fuji X-T2 Camera.

As always, thanks for reading.

Paul Caldwell

 

04/13/17 A few misconceptions on the Fuji GFX that continue to swirl around the web

I have continued to be impressed with the Fuji GFX.  I finally found a solution to my needs for a longer lens with the older Mamiya 200mm F 2.8 APO lens.  I will be sharing more on that in the future.

What has been a bit disappointing is how some reviewers continue to spread “mis-information”about the GFX.  This seems to have started with some early comments made in regards to the “inability” to not measure a Fuji GF lens for focus shift and now has moved into areas like magnified live view, and manual focus capabilities of the GFX.  It also seems that many of the problems  appear to be from users who have not taken the time to work with the Fuji menu system, which is very similar to the X series cameras from Fuji like the X-T2.

There have been a lot of comments on lack of quality of the Fuji Glass:

My comments are that the optics are excellent, and yes they are light weight but I am happy to have 1/4 the weight of a P1 Schneider LS lens if I can see the same optical quality, which I do with all three of the lenses I have. They are overall excellent to my findings. The 32-64 has a bit of rectinier distortion @ 32mm and on the far left side mine is a bit softer. So I can’t give that lens a 100% great overall review. But so far I have found it to interfere with any photography. The 120mm is amazing and so is the 63mm. The fact that Fuji did not use a LM on the 63mm is a BIG disappointment to me as it’s AF speed is much slower and it will hunt much more often.  The AF in low light could use improvement as it will tend to hunt.

There have been a lot of comments on the issue of baked in sharpening on the Fuji Raw:

If you use non supported raw converters on the Fuji Files, which would have no way of reading anything baked in, the files appear fine and sharpen up just they do in LR. I personally don’t believe it’s possible to bake in a sharpening setting to any file but I will leave it at that. Yes, Fuji bakes in the optical corrections to the files that has always been the case with all Fuji cameras, and yes LR will see these and apply them, there do not include sharpening.  Note to test this open any Fuji GFX raw which has been converted to a dng in Capture One.  Even if the RAF to dng conversion by Adobe keeps the “baked”in sharpening for a raw file, Capture One would not use it period.  Capture One DOES NOT support the GFX thus any form of raw sharpening would be dropped.  To use a converted Fuji dng in C1 you have to totally drop both the company name and camera name so C1 will open the files with it’s information for a Phase IQ250, not a Fuji GFX.

There have been several comments on the fact that Fuji bakes in diffraction corrections to the raw:

If you use any Fuji camera and turn on “lens Optimization” yes, Fuji will bake in diffractions corrections to the jpg files.   These corrections are not supported by raw converters like LR or ACR or even C1 (on the supported x-trans cameras). This has been published many times as these raw converter developers did not want to take the time to figure the algorithm that Fuji used. I have no reason to believe that for some reason, this now works on the RAW for the GFX. I have contacted Fuji US and they have told me the “Lens Optimization” only applies to jpg and “in camera raw” conversions where the Fuji optimization data can be read.

There have been many comments on the lack of ability to use Magnified Live View to manually focus:

Again, it’s possibly that users don’t have a good understanding of Fuji cameras. With Fuji you have two options for the EVF to display the file. As it is with exposure taken into account. And a more wide open max lighted view (display preview off). This 2nd option will give a fully lit view for live view display but you can easily over expose the image since you may forget to read the exposure meter on the far left. With the preview effect off, even in very low natural lighting I have no problems with manual focus in Live View.

There have been many comments on the lack of sharpness in magnified Live View:

Yes, if you zoom in all the way the details will be hard to see. Please understand if you are zoomed in all the way, you have zoomed way past a 100% view, more like 150%. This is similar to attempting to view an image on a D810 in live view with the magnification zoomed all the way in. Net you really can’t tell much. You have 3 zooming options for the Magnified live View, and I tend to use the one in the middle. If you are attempting this without peaking enabled, I believe you will have a lot more trouble determining good focus.

Also, please understand that in preview mode, if you hit the zoom button one time, the camera’s default zoom is WAYYY past a 100% view, and you can’t determine accurate focus. I no of no way currently to dial that one touch zoom down like you can with Nikon. But you can pinch the screen like with an iPhone to shrink the maxed out view back down. In my experience you need to zoom out close to 1/3 of the default view.

I can’t compare to the X1D as Hasselblad is still shipping these in a very limited amount.  I also refuse to place a camera on order and then wait up to 8 months to receive it.  That basically freezes a capital expenditure for my business that I can put to good use elsewhere.  No doubt Hasselblad has totally failed on their ability to deliver this camera in any worthwhile amount.   It’s my opinion that this will possibly have an effect on repairs also as if Hasselblad can’t even make enough cameras to cover orders from as far back as June of 2016, how can you expect to have them repair one.  Also what is the current Hasselblad repair process on the X1D?  Fuji has clearly stated their process of using the current US repair center and has trained current staff on the GFX system.

I just have issues with the fact that it appears that some reviews don’t understand anything about Fuji’s design, and dive in, and then start making claims that the camera is defective, when it’s clear they don’t have a full understanding of Fuji’s focus by wire setup. It’s not perfect but it works.  I made a mistake on the Fuji focus by wire setup on the GFX as I assumed it worked the same as with the other X-series cameras, which is not true.  With any X-series Fuji, if you are in S mode and switch to M for manual focus, you will receive the message “focus check” as many times the movement from S to M, will move the existing focus point throwing your image slightly out of focus.  It is also true with an X-series camera, if you turn off the camera even with the camera in M mode, you will again be asked to “focus check” as the process of powering up the camera will cause you to lose the existing focus point.  With the GFX, I have found that neither of these issues exist.  You can switch from S to M and or turn off the camera and the current focus point is not lost.  I have checked this out a multiple number of times.

If there is a fault for sure the way Fuji designed the neck strap lugs is a bit stupid? They make the use of any other type of strap hard to do and the lug will flip around and get in the way of the memory card door. I prefer to use the Peak Design straps.

03/27/17 Review of one of my shots from Calico Rock with the Fuji GFX–Great dynamic range

This is a repost from Photos of Arkansas, however I wanted to add it to my blog.  This shot is from my 03/10/17 trip to Calico Rock, and the details of how I took shot are below.

 

 

Sunset and moon rise at Calico Rock on the White River

Sunset and moon rise at Calico Rock on the White River

Taken with a FujiFilm GFX 50s and 32-64 lens, ISO 200 hand held 5 part horizontal panorama. 

Calico Rock has to be one of the best places in Arkansas to go and grab a panorama and feature both wonderful scenery and the White River.   Just down stream on the White River you will find the town of Calico Rock and in this photograph the town is visible just off in the distance.  You can spend the whole day here and the scene is always changing.  On this day, I was there around 5:00 p.m. and there were no clouds in the sky at all.  Many times I have been there and just had a huge blue sky with no clouds.  For such a shot, clouds to me make it much more interesting, period.  However on this day just as sun was starting to go down, a line of clouds rolled in and the moon rose over them.  I could not have asked for a better scene.

On this evening I was shooting the Fujifilm GFX 50S, which is Fuji’s new entry into the Medium Format range of cameras.  Fuji is using the same 50Mp sensor from Sony that has been used by Phase One, Pentax and Hasselblad.  But this is the first large format camera from Fuji ever, as before all of their cameras have been APS-C.  More about the camera in later reviews, but I have to say I am totally impressed with what can be done with this camera.  I knew that the sensor had a lot of range since I used the Phase One versions, but never hand held.  The Fuji GFX is both considerably lighter than the Phase One XF and the 120mm lens has image stabilization something that no Phase One lens has.  Normally I have taken this in 15 exposures, 3 for each segment but with the GFX, I just took an exposure for the middle of the exposure range and pushed up the shadows and pulled down the highlights.  Neither of the extremes were blown out.  In fact the shadow recovery rivals the Nikon D810 and in fact may be just 1/2 a stop better.  But the real amazing facet was just how sharp the 120mm lens was, outstanding optic.

This image has shadow push in several areas, the entire lower half of the left and right sides were pushed at least 2 stops and the middle of the image which was not in the sun was push at least 1 stop.  The sky on the far left was pulled down 1 1/2 stops and the sky on the far right was pulled down 1 stop.

I took these Fuji Raw files straight to a panorama in Lightroom first, and then worked on the image in both Lightroom and Photoshop with several Topaz tools.

Overall the color and clarity is excellent throughout, and I have attached a couple of full sized crops below to show this.  The first is the lower right side featuring the bluff and the trees along the river.  This part of the image was pushed as much as 2 stops and I still have a nice green color in the trees that are just starting to leaf out.  The other crop is from the center of the image where the sun was shinning and again you can see that the amount of fine details is very impressive.

Lower right side crop of Panorama

Lower right side crop of Panorama

Center crop showing details in the fine tree limbs

Center crop showing details in the fine tree limbs

03/23/17 Fuji Sales Managers in the UK are talking up the GFX–A few thoughts

I noticed this post in Fuji-Rumors today: Fuji Rumors and Fuji UK Sales Manager comments 

On reading this post, I had to ask myself, is this the same person who told a group of UK photographers 1 week before the 02/28/17 release of the GFX that Capture One would support the GFX? A similar story was told to a group of photographers in Dubai also about 1 week before the UK Sales Manager made his comments. I had to write about this, as I feel that the situation between Fuji and Phase One (who makes Capture One) was very poorly handled.

I have to believe that Fuji was having conversations with Phase One on getting Phase to add support for the GFX in a future release of Capture One (C1). My assumptions are based on the following:

  1. As soon as images of the GFX started to show up on the web, there were many shots of photographers using a GFX while tethered to a computer running C1.
  2. Many of the photographers that had the GFX while under a non-discloser agreement (NDA) made comments on their various blogs that C1 “would” support the GFX.
  3. At least 3 Fuji officials made public comments in early sales roll out meetings that Capture One would support the GFX, several of these comments were captured on video.
  4. Fuji currently doesn’t have a very good tethering solution, and C1 and Phase One are considered state of the art for tethering.
  5. Since the GFX sensor was not designed with Fuji’s x-trans filter array, it would have been easier for Phase One to add support for the GFX since Phase One already uses the same 50MP Sony sensor in several of their own digital backs.

In the past Fuji has given users a scaled back version of Silkypix which is a very limited piece of software and no ability to upgrade to the full license of Silkypix for a discounted price.  Now with the release of the Fuji GFX, it’s a clear fact that Phase One will not be supporting it with C1. In the past Phase has made a point of not supporting other medium format cameras as they see them as competition. However Phase currently has no mirrorless platform and their IQ150 (which is the lowest priced back using  the 50MP Sony chip), is still close to two times  the price point of the Fuji GFX. Long term this will effect sales for P1 but not immediately. Phase did agree to work with Sony to make a special pro version of C1 which supports the various Sony mirrorless 35mm cameras and provides a great tethering solution.

From reading various notes, blogs, and on-line reviews, I have no doubt that Fuji was having some conversations with Phase One in regards to getting support for the Fuji GFX. Fuji executives have mentioned that the conversations broke down and they did not see anything coming soon. I have to feel that all of the Fuji Sales Managers in the field who felt it was OK to state that the support would a done deal was a huge mistake and a poor example of how to handle a possible future deal. Once the fact that Fuji and Phase One were talking, local U.S. Phase One dealers became very adamant that NO THIS WOULD NOT HAPPEN, PHASE ONE WILL NEVER SUPPORT THE GFX. The fact that Fuji corporate executives and Phase executives may have been trying to work out a deal was not something that local U.S. dealers would possibly not been aware of.  However after word leaked about possible Phase One support for the GFX U.S. dealers may have added pressure to Phase One to see that no deal between Phase One and Fuji could happen.

For Phase One, this is not a big deal.  They will continue to sell their high end and very expensive digital backs to the photographers that can afford them.  But for Fuji I see it as a huge loss.  Fuji currently has a few software solutions for raw conversion; Iridient Developer, Lightroom/ACR, and Silkypix.  None of these have a very good tethering solution and studio photographer want this.  As a landscape photographer there are times prefer to work tethered also.  Each of the raw converters I have references all have some issues.

Lightroom/ACR

Adobe tends to make one pass on a raw conversions and they either get it right the first time or you get a less than perfect conversion.  Currently the Lightroom conversion has problems with high ISO images from the GFX.  As you get past ISO 1600, you will start to see more noise, a red cast to the files and color/detail smearing.  It’s possible that Adobe will never re-visit this conversion for years.

Iridient Developer 

While Iridient has an excellent raw conversion, I did not find that their dng conversion was that good for the GFX files, unlike their similar conversion for the Fuji X-T2 which is excellent.  Iridient’s conversion while good still is limited by the lack of image adjustment tools that both Lightroom and Capture One have.  Both of which allow you to work on your image as a raw file not a tif.  I doubt that Iridient will ever be able to approach the tools that Lightroom or Capture One offer.

Silkypix

Where do I start?, Silkypix is made in Japan, the English translation in the interface is less that stellar and their help is about the same.  Silkypix is lightyears behind Lightroom or Capture One in how image adjustments can be used.  Even with Silkypix Vr 8 the software leaves a lot on the table.  The version of Silkypix that ships with the GFX is not even the full version of the software, and is dialed back, disabled version.  Basically it will convert a raw file to a tif, and that is it.  This has been the way the Fuji has handled raw conversion as long as I can remember.

With Lightroom Fuji has a start on a good process, but there is no reason to believe that Adobe will continue to improve the raw conversion demoacsic, which is the real key.  If Fuji had been able to work out a deal with Capture One they would have had a wonderfully powerful solution and a huge competitive edge over Hasselblad and the X1D.  For now Capture One has a vastly superior raw conversion of the Fuji GFX files especially if they are taken at ISO ranges past 1600.  I still have to believe that some of the Fuji Worldwide Sales Manager should have kept quiet about the possibility of Fuji and Phase working out a deal. 

Paul Caldwell Photography

03/22/17 Dpreview takes a 180 degree opinion on the GFX–my thoughts

It’s interesting to see the opinion of the GFX at Dpreview take such a 180 degree turnaround from their first posting. But if you take their points to task, there is not too much to complain about.

1. Low Light Performance, here Dpreview compares with the Sony
A7RII, which in their own side by side tests, does not hold up
well at ISO’s above 1600. The touted BSI design, did not really
do that much from my testing. I was not impressed with the
A7RII past 800 and in fact was surprised to see that many
times the D810 seemingly outperformed it up to ISO 3200. Also
the A7RII is pretty worthless for any long exposure work unless
you turn on LEN, as it has some of the worst noise I have ever
seen. If you use LEN, then you can’t stack without gapping.
AGAIN, I am sure that Dpreview is using Adobe for their raw
conversion, (I hope that they are testing raw not jpg) and not
using C1. YES, LR/ACR do not favor the GFX currently on high
ISO conversions, considerably more noise.

2. Base ISO Dynamic Range, comparing with the D810 @ ISO 64.
Sure the D810 has a lower range, but from shooting the both
cameras side by side, the shadow push on the GFX is amazing
at ISO 100 and 200. I would say equal to at 64 compared to 100
and the GFX will still perform better at ISO 200 over the D810 @
ISO 200.

3. Shallow DOF, this one surprised me. Not too many MF
photographers on Dpreview? MF has a shallower DOF out the
gate over 35mm, so you don’t need a F 1.2 lens, a F2 lens
should be acceptable. Only time will tell as Fuji has not given
an idea as to when the 110mm will ship. I have shot MF for
years and have spent thousands on tech cameras to allow for
tilt to counter act the inherently shallow DOF of MF film and
sensors.

4. Resolution Canon 5DS-R compared to the GFX. Totally
surprised me, based on my use of the Canon and especially
Dpreview’s own reviews of the 5DS-R. Even at it’s lowest ISO
range, I can’t see the Canon holding the same or better
resolution than the GFX, and past base ISO the noise and
banding will defeat the image quality.

Fuji has some warts with the GFX however.

1. No C1 support, they should have figured out a way to get
C1/P1 to write a Pro version for this camera. Current tethering
support is not that good and as I mentioned LR raw conversion
is not that good for higher ISO images, (could be better).
Fuji continues to push a scaled version of Silkypix. If you want
to make it in the pro world (where this camera will be the
most appreciated since the iPhone and similar devices have
now placated the masses, you have to come out with a better
software interface for your raw (NOT JPG) files.

2. Fuji totally missed the mark by not having all 6 lenses available
at first release. Why? Were they no 100% sure the camera
would be successful? Fuji needs to get the 23mm and 45mm
out now. As to the comments by Dpreview there is no way
Fuji will ever catch up the number of lenses available for 35mm
cameras, period. Moot point. However the lenses that have
shipped optically are stellar, and that can’t be said for many
35mm lenses.

3. MF Clutch on the lenses. Due to the focus by wire design
of Fuji, you really NEED to have a MF clutch on the lens.
Fuji incorporated this on many of their X series primes but so
far none of the GF lenses have this. Since you lose your focus
point (even in MF mode) when you either turn off the camera or
switch to playback mode, it would be nice to have a clutch that
over-rides this just like the X series primes.

Paul Caldwell03/22/17

03/15/17 Fujifilm GFX 50S–An example of excellent Dynamic Range

The FujiFilm GFX 50S uses the same 50MP chip that has been used by several camera companies over the years.  Phase One uses this chip in the IQ150,250 and 350, and Pentax used it in their 645Z.  Recently Hasselblad used the chip in the 50c Medium Format back and the new X1D mirrorless camera.

In tests I had made with the Phase One IQ250 and IQ150, I saw that the Phase One implementation provided some excellent dynamic range in the ISO 100 to 800 range, but still seemed to be a bit noisy past this.  Especially when shadows were pushed.  I was hoping to see the same amount of push with the Fuji implementation in the GFX.  I was able to test this on a recent shoot at Calico Rock.  I worked as series of 5 part panos all hand held.  My goal was to only shoot 1 shot for each segment and not have to bracket the exposures since I was hand holding the camera.  The last segment on the far right was a classic shot where half of the image was in shadow and the other half in full shade.  I was metering more to protect my highlights, so the shadows were exposed very dark.  This can be seen in the side by side shot below.

Fuji GFX testing Calico rock

In this side by side view you can see the original shot on the left and where I have pushed up the shadows on the right side.  From this view it’s a bit hard to really tell just how much room there is in the file taken at ISO 200.  So I have taken a few crops at a 100% view.  In this view notice the amount of details that are present in the rock bluff and trees along the bluff.  Also note how well the light green leaves show up.

Fujifilm GFX 50S dynamic range

Shadow push from the Fujifilm GFX 50S

 

In this shot, by far the most impressive, look at how much color and detail were still available.  Look for the green pine needles and the brown fall leaves on the oak.  Also you can see again a lot of finer branch details that were not visible before I pushed the image.  The key here is the image before is basically black, so the amount of push is close to 3 stops total, between exposure push and shadow adjustment.

Comparison for Fujifilm GFX 50s on shadow push.

Comparison for Fujifilm GFX 50s on shadow push.

Not bad!! In fact excellent for ISO 200.

This type of push would easily hold up in a large print.  So what I have learned so far:

  1. The Fujifilm GFX allows easy hand held work with the 120mm lens and 32-64mm lens
  2. There is a huge amount of room in the shadows for push from the base ISO of 100 up to around ISO 800
  3. You can get easily 1 to 1.5 stops of push up to ISO 1600
  4. The files hold up very well with no loss in color saturation, no smearing or excessive noise
  5. By far the best raw converter is Capture One on files where you are attempting to push shadows

 

03/11/17 Feedback on Fuji GFX 50s–A great start for Fuji with Medium Format

After a lot of waiting and wanting, Fuji has delivered the GFX to worldwide use. I am extremely grateful to have one as it’s readily apparent after the first round of shipments, that the April 2016 earthquake affected the Sony Chip plant a lot more than many in the U.S. understand. Fuji is still backordered on the X-T2 almost now 1 year since it’s announcement. And now the GFX 50s is slowly filtering into the photographic world. Most of the information I have seen and comments are from photographers in the far east or Europe. Very little U.S. reaction, but I am aware that there is a huge back order on the GFX. I am very grateful to B&H Photo for getting me at leas the GFX 50s and 32-64 lens. I had to move to Amazon to find the 120mm, but it arrived in one piece even though the shipped just dropped the Fuji box in another box with no padding, Amazing. Fuji can’t even ship the lenses in any volume.

I ordered my GFX on the 19th of Jan, with the the 32-64 lens, then on the 24th added the 120mm (even though I feel it’s grossly overpriced for what you get), then 1 week later ordered the 63mm. I held off on the 63mm, as it’s equivalent to 50mm on a 35mm camera and I just don’t use that focal length much. I also had the sense to order a spare battery, as they are also in very short supply. For a all day shoot, you will need more than 1 battery. Possibly 3, and they don’t charge up very fast, taking around 1 hour to 90 minutes to fully charge a battery with the Fuji Supplied charger.

There are a lot of comments out there about the GFX being ‘ugly”, or “huge”, or “DSLR” like etc. Most of this seems to be coming from photographers who purchased the Hasselblad X1D. No doubt the X1D is smaller, lighter, and a more striking camera, but for me in my work the GFX fits just fine. I prefer to have a tiling LCD, always. I like Fuji’s placement of the Shutter speed and ISO settings on the outside with separate dials. The remote’s I that work with the X-T2, worked fine with the GFX including the intervalometer, excellent. The grip is large enough to hold but I wish they not put the Q button on the grip, as I hit it all the time.

For my work, the GFX fits in very nicely. I was able to hand hold the camera for multiple pano shots very well. As a landscape shoot only, I feel that Fuji missed the mark on a few of areas.

1. No manual MF clutch on the lenses. If you are working a critical scene, and need to check your focus by going into play mode, the GFX drops the previous focus point just like the X series cameras. You can hit focus check and attempt to get it back, but since the camera is focus by wire, you will never really hit the exact same spot twice. If the lens had a MF clutch like many of the primes in the X line do it would be possible to switch the lens to MF via the clutch then manually focus, check your focus in play mode then continue to shot knowing that focus point did not change. Making such high end glass without a MF clutch to me is a bit oversight. NOTE, just switching the camera to M from S will not fix this issue. Each time you go to play to check focus you will lose previous focus point.

2. I have an issue with the fact that on play back the default zoom is way past 100%, more like 150%. I don’t understand why Fuji allowed the one push zoom to go past 100%. I you want to enable zoom past 100% fine, but let the default be 100%. Without this, each time you check your focus you are forced to pinch the screen down to zoom out as using the wheel doesn’t allow as precise a control. You cannot determine good focus with a 150% zoom, just like you can’t on a Nikon D810 which also zoom way past 100%.

3. The GFX continues as the X series cameras do to blur 1 of 3 bracketed shots. This happens as you drop your shutter speed down into the 1/15 to 1/4 of sec range during the bracketing. Of course I am using a tripod for these slower shutter speeds but the camera managed to blur many of the slower shots. I did no have the electronic first curtain enabled or electronic shutter, and I guess I should have tried them.

4. I would have greatly preferred to have the drive mode controlled with a switch around the ISO dial just like on the X-T2. Sure you need to setup the bracket in the camera menu just like you do on the X-T2, but to engage it I prefer a manual switch. The “drive” button is not in a great location on the GFX, being on the front top of the camera.

5. Fuji made the base of this camera huge. So it’s going to be very costly to make a L bracket for it. I understand the need for the bulge for the battery and LCD, but couldn’t have there been a slight extension added to the base to give it a more narrow appearance. Just me I guess.

6. AF performance in good light is excellent, in fact I feel it’s better than my X-T2 or X-Pro2. However in low light, often times the camera gets a AF lock, but it’s not accurate. This fooled me quite often on my first outing. With subjects way off in the distance, you will need to check your focus via playback to make sure you captured the best focus.

7. The current Lightroom/ACR conversions for higher ISO files is terrible. I have compared them to in camera jpgs and conversions by Capture One and the Lightroom conversions have way to much noise, and color smearing around areas of light and dark transition. Thank goodness it’s a simple thing to make the raw files open in Capture One, or I would more than likely returned the camera. The software that Fuji includes is worthless, a cheapened low end version of Silkypix. Fuji should have worked closer with Phase One to attempt to get P1 to break policy not supporting any non P1 Medium Format cameras.

Overall the camera is a wonderful addition to my toolset and I will use it often. The files are amazingly clean and the lenses deliver excellent clarity and sharpness. Hand holding the camera is very possible and I sure hope that the soon to be released 23mm and 45mm share this same high end quality.

Paul Caldwell

Written on 03/11/17 for paulcaldwellphotography.com

08/20/16 Trouble at F-Stop? Maybe, Maybe Not

F-stop main page no1

F-stop main page no1

 

There has been a lot of negative press about F-stop recently.  It seems that there are many claims about long wait times, orders never shipping and extremely long back order times.  I had noticed earlier this year when I tried to order a Shinn backpack, that F-stop was showing them 4 to 6 weeks from being in stock.  I was not really in much of a hurry to get the pack in January, so I waited.  F-stop has come out with a new Orange color, that I really wanted as I hike during hunting season in Arkansas and bright orange is help against getting shot.  I finally got around to ordering and found that the Shinn was still sitting in the same status, 4 to 6 weeks, etc.  About this time some negative posting starting to appear and also some negative web based articles on the company.

It seems that some claim that they had paid for packs months ago, and still had not received anything, but they had paid at the time of the order.  Also several articles were concerned about the Kickstarter campain that F-stop had for a new pack.  I personally am surprised that F-stop went this route as that is not what I would do with a large company i.e try to gain funding via a Kickstarter.  However the owners are young and they are working a different business model.  The Kickstarter was supposedly cancelled and then issues came up about money again, since it seems that none of the money paid into the Kickstarter will be paid back?  Not sure on that but it started a big wave that F-stop was gone, going under, no longer in business etc.  Many folks reported that they were down to just 1 person in Customer relations, etc.  Not sure about that either, but here is my story, and it’s a lot more positive.

I called them, (yes I actually picked up the damn phone and called them). On the first try, I got a person at the other end of the line named Mick.  I mentioned to Mick I wanted a Shinn and XL-Pro ICU, in the orange color.  I also told Mick that I was starting to hear some really negative things about F-stop and I did not want to order a pack for $500.00 and then wait 6 weeks, never get anything, and then have to worry about getting a credit.  To my total surprise, Mick said just order it, and email the company (with their attached form on the website) and that he felt that he could get a orange Shinn shipped to me within a week!  He also told me that the only hold up was the extra wide ICU for the Shinn, that these were taking longer to be delivered to the US.  I was really not wanting the extra wide ICU, just an XL Pro ICU.  The issue is that the Shinn is about 3 inches wider and thus the XL Pro ICU will not fit tightly.  After talking to Mick for a while, I realized that the Sukha was the pack I wanted.  He gave me the same information, order a orange Sukha, and XL-Pro ICU and he felt I would have it ship in about a week.  Facts are F-stop shipped the pack and ICU in 3 days to me and I had it 4 days.  Free shipping!  To be honest, I sure that more folks will at least call F-stop as it seems they can manually get some things done.

BTW the Sukha is a great pack, and I will write more about it in a while.

I have now seen that one of the top company officials has written a formal note on the F-stop blog, mainly to talk to the delays in getting the product from China.  Hopefully F-stop will get this issue fixed and soon as with the modern web, it’s hard to recover from really negative press.  Again I stress, if you want an F-stop pack, give them a call and see what they can do for you.

Photographer’s Notes:

Everyone knows that about 3 years ago F-Stop packs came on the photo scene and they pretty much revolutionized the market.  The most important aspects of their new design were:

  1. Integrated ICU inner containers that would hold the camera gear and were 100% removable from the pack.
  2. The main opening for the pack was moved to the back instead of the front, which as far as I know had never been done before.

F-Stop came out with several packs of varying size and weight, but the ICU’s were all interchangeable.  The packs were made in China, and then shipped back to the US.  Really nothing new there.  And as their name grew across the photographic world, F-stop continued to come out with new packs, and new materials.  I have never figured out the percentage of the market that F-stop has over Lowe, but I have to feel based on all the forum posts I read, F-stop did very well in those first few years.  My first pack from F-stop was the Satori, which was a moderate to large pack and it served me very well.  I have used this pack extensively over the past 3 years, and have never had any problems with it.

The Satori was the first pack I purchased from F-stop and as I am 6′ 2″ tall, this pack always fit me a bit low.  However the pack itself was excellent in construction.  You have to get used to the opening up against your back, but that doesn’t talk long.  ONE note, if you are with another person who doesn’t understand the F-stop design, don’t ask them to move your pack unless you know that the back is zipped up.

With the Sukha, F-stop came out with a pack mainly for carrying long telephoto lenses, but I also figured that this pack would be a better fit for me and I was correct.  F-stop is now also using water-resistant fabric and they have a new material on the bottom of the backs as can be seen in the couple of side by sides I have posted.  This is much heavier black nylon than my Satori has.  There are also some changes to the ICU’s as the new style allow you to removed the top foam padding which is a nice feature.  The Sukha has a huge carrying capacity, as it will hold the XL Pro ICU and with that installed in the pack you still have 1/4 of the pack left for other items.

Hopefully F-stop will continue to produce these excellent backpacks and bags well into the future.

 

02/18/16 Drones and comparisons to modern DSLR or Medium Format cameras

Modern Drone for Video photography

Modern Drone for Video photography

I held off on this as I have always tried to look at the positives and post the same way, but I feel that this post has too many negative implications, especially when attempting to compare the 12MP output from any current drone to a still from a Medium format back or modern DSLR.

There was a recent post on Luminous Landscape, where a photographer was bemoaning the fact that his son’s 12MP drone camera would allow for a better image from a 4K still than a IQ180 80MP raw file.

First and foremost, I was personally shocked to see a photographer compare the results from “ANY” current drone to the results from any Phase One back, be it a P25 to IQ180. If you are happy with the 12Mp shot from a drone camera then there seems to me to be a total lack of need for an IQ180, perspective abilities taken into account or not. The vast majority of cameras in use today are gopro and I know that they can take 4K, the OP implied the shot was not from a gopro. Still I would like to see two shots, a still from the 4K drone and a still from the 80MP 180. No to mention the drone is only going to shoot a jpg more than likely and the Phase file will a raw with a ton of room in it for work in post. I work worked with several very highly rated (rated in both flight and photography) drone shooters and I have seen the stills, no more needs to be said. Sure you can now mount a 100MP Phase Back on a drone, and shoot stills. I hope you have great amount of insurance as it’s not a matter if it will crash, but when.

But what concerned me more is the thought that any 12MP image taken at 4K, would be the same quality as 80MP still from a IQ180, if the files look that close there is something wrong with the IQ180. The 12mp sensor on the drone more than likely is not even the size of a micro 4/3’s sensor. Even if it is the quality at 4K still should not be close to the details the 80MP sensor captured.

No doubt also, Drones are here to stay, they are used in every video production team in the world as yes they do offer a great ability to have a different perspective, i.e. from the sky. You see drone work on Discovery Channel, History Channel, Natural Geo Channel, Espn, you can list it out forever. And the footage taken is excellent. In fact to me it’s getting a bit old school. But I can bet that the stills are still 12MP or less and the quality of these cameras is not any better than what’s in a iPhone. In fact it might be less. The sensor is tiny. Look at any of the videos that feature drones, most times if not all, they are pans, moving, and moving fast also. Try to and stop them and look at the trees, or finer details, folks, they are not there, and won’t be for a long time. The tech is not there with the vast majority of Drone cameras yet. (unless you strap on a DSLR or digital back). But even when they hover the stills are not that good for a critical print, sure they are fine for the web.

Sadly, in the US, drones have taken on a bad name. I was into drones long before they became “in”, and was flying with first person view before that was common also. It’s great, and the features it offers are excellent. But instead of using this technology in the correct format, no someone has to be the first person to loop Delicate Arch, or fly down to the base of the Grand Canyon, or film the local college football game or fly over the White house, or use the drone around the local airport. All stupid, that stupid it what sticks. All it takes is one serious crash and then all bets are off unless it’s being flown in a closed environment. Drones are loud, and the larger they get the louder they get. Using one in pubic where other people are near by should be taken with full regard to how the other people want to hear the constant high pitch sound of a 6 or 4 engine drone hovering overhead. Most times, this is not done. Where as I don’t know of any still camera that makes enough noise, even a MF XF that you would be bothering someone who is standing 10 feet or even 5 feet away.

I am sorry if I sound critical, but this post just bothers me, as I can think of plenty of photographers that would give an arm or limb to use the IQ180, and to feel that such technology is dated or not able to achieve the results from a 12MP drone, I just will have to say I don’t agree with that. Sure they are not going to get it up to the sky and take a perspective that the drone achieved, but for sure a still from the IQ180 will make a vastly large final print than the output from a 4K still. It is just not that good, at least from all the examples I have seen. If so please post a 360ppi example from your IQ180 and an uprezed image from the 4K drone at 360ppi, or pick 300ppi. Those are the most common required outputs. I really don’t think that the 4K still will hold up. If all that is required is posting on the web, sure the 4K still will work all day long, but the IQ180 was not designed with web sized output as the main focus.

Please don’t attempt to compare output from a device mainly designed for moving photography (video) to that of a device designed around high quality still photography (Phase One IQ180).  I have worked with every software tool there is and it’s not like it works on CSI TV, you just can’t make a 12MP image especially if captured as a 72MP jpg, in the sRGB color space in 8 bit.  You will not get a good print medium or large from 12MP output.  That same drone is not even shooting raw.  12MP native is around a 11 x 14 sized print at 300ppi and to get to 24 x 36 at 300ppi, you are going to need to interpolate up over 300 times.  The loss in details is going to defeat the image and you image will look terrible when printed.  Will it look OK on the web, sure, the web is a totally different animal and no matter what some say, it’s still mainly designed to run at 640 x 480 at 72dpi, even with the modern Apple Retina screens approaching 2560 x 1440dpi.  But the web is a great equalizer, and by the time you down res the 80Mp image to the size of the 12MP, it really will not have any advantage.  So sure if all you are going to do is post stuff on Facebook, or Instagram or god forbit Twitter, then use 12MP and go for it.  But please don’t begin to tell folks that you can get the same quality print from 12MP and 80MP, for you can’t.

 

 

12/12/15 News about Lee 105mm adapter rings SW-150 and Nisi filters polarizer and Neutral Density

I have put up a new video, which covers the new large format filter rings from Lee filters.  These are in the 86mm, 95mm and 105mm size and will work very well with the Lee SW-150 filter holder.

 

 

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.

11/15/15 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

11/05/15 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

10/27/15 Fuji X-Trans Raw Conversions–Which is best Lightroom or Capture One

In 2015, Arkansas did not present a good color display really anywhere throughout the state.  Since July Arkansas has been short on rainfall and the month of September and first half of October no measurable rain fell in the state.   Most of the trees just turned brown.  There were some spots that held OK color, but they were the exception.  Since 2014 was such a great year on the Buffalo National River for fall colors, I have been going back over some of my shots.  Many times I was using my Fuji X-T1.  I realized once again that there is still no perfect raw conversion software for Fuji files however it does seem to me that Lightroom CC has made some improvements.

Since the announcement of the Fuji X-Trans cameras, which now max out at 16MP in an APS-C format, there has been a lot written about which raw conversion software provides the best output.  At present there are three main solutions:

  1. Iridient Developer
  2. Lightroom CC 2015
  3. Capture One by Phase One

I have worked with all three and since Iridient chooses to only work on the MAC platform, I rarely use it.  I prefer to do the majority of my work in either Lightroom (LR) or Capture One (C1).  One of the single largest issues that comes up with Fuji raw files is how to get the most detail out of the files.  Due to the different layout on the CMOS chip, the Fuji raw file needs a different domosaicing algorithm than most Bayer pattern CMOS sensors.  You can easily find out about the differences by a quick web search and since so much has been written already I am going to move on to the actual raw conversions.

With the Fuji files, I personally don’t think you can make definite all or nothing statements, as C1 gets around the issues by applying too much blur in the demosaicing alogrithim, and LR seems to pull out the edges a bit more than necessary, neither of the tools seem able to get all the surface details that are there, (when you use Iridient developer for example). To me C1 has some positives, but so does LR and in no way do I see C1 as the end all to Fuji conversions.

But to my eyes, many times the LR conversion looks better and holds up for sure in a interpolation scheme for making a larger print. Color out the gate C1 wins more times than not, but I can get there in LR. Overall I feel the C1 images converted loose too much details and get a bloated look where as the LR files can start to take on a overdone look which is some cases can start to look painterly.

But for sure I can’t say C1 is better than LR or vise versa and I have been working on Fuji X-trans files now since early 2013. LR has gotten better in that it no longer has the issue with haloing around green/blue transitions, which was such an issue before.

Here is a side by side comparison of a Fuji X-T1 raw taken in the fall of 2014.  Note that what I am writing holds true for the X-E1, Xe2 and XT1 as they all share the same sensor.  Click on the image at anytime to view it larger. I used the 18-55 on the X-T1 and as I recall the file was taken at 200 iso.

Fuji X-T1 raw file conversion

A side by side conversion, Fuji X-T1 file in C1 and LR

In this example, I have taken a typical photo from one of my Arkansas landscape studies.  This image is the middle of a 3 part panorama series I took.  In this case I was not looking for a true 1:3 ratio pano, but instead I planned to stitch the 3 files into 1 normal 3:2 landscape shot which would allow me to have more resolution for printing.  I do this often in my work.  Out the gate, I feel that the C1 image has a bit better representation of the color that was displayed, however the LR file is not far off.  This type of shot is a hard one to work since I had to expose for the sky and still have enough room in my foreground to pull up the shadows without losing too much details to noise.  Both C1 and LR were able to give me the strong yellows and reds that were available and also provide for a nice tone to the blue sky.  But now lets look at a few crops from each of these files.  To capture these crops, I opened both images in Adobe CC 2014 and then selected view at 100%.  I feel that the only way to really tell how well a image file will hold up in printing is to view at 100%, not view at print size.

With each file I used the default sharpening of the raw converter, in fact I added a bit more to the C1 conversion as I felt the default left too many details on the table.

Fuji X-Trans raw conversion comparison

Example No1 Fuji X-Trans C1 and LR comparing file details

The LR conversion is on the right, click on the image to view it as large as possible.  You can start to see that the C1 conversion appears a bit soft and begins to take on a interpolated look to the finer details.  Areas that stand out to my eyes, are the green trees on the distance hillside and the bare tree trunks.  When I look at those parts of the files, the LR conversion just looks better, whereas the C1 image is quite soft.  Also look into the yellows on the gum tree in the foreground.  The LR image may yet be just a bit soft but you can still see more details in the leaves.  If you were to attempt to interpolate this file to print it larger, the C1 image is going to give way to a much softer look.  On the Fuji image I would want to run one round of “Focus Magic” to add just a bit more detail to the yellows and greens.

Fuji X-Trans files

Example 2 , C1 and LR a comparison in raw conversion software.

A close up on the lower left of the shot. Rocks can pose problems and usually I have given C1 the edge here, however with the latest round of ACR in LR, it’s improved and I have to give LR just a slight edge.   The LR conversion has a bit more even look to it, but the overall amount of details seems about the same to me.  The details left out of C1 could easily be picked up again with any third party sharpening solution such as “Focus Magic” or “Topaz In-Focus” both of which use deconvolution algorithms.

Fuji X-Trans raw file conversions

Example no 4, a comparison of C1 and LR on Fuji raw files

NOTE again the greens on the LR image appear overdone. Looking closely at the greens you can see some of the issues that LR has. LR picks up the outer edges a bit too much and when you have a lot of greens then you can start to get a painterly effect if you are not careful with the sharpening settings. I still prefer the LR conversion as overall it appears sharper to me. Also look for the finer details in the shadows as the LR file has more there also. Top left of the crop look for the finer branches in the gun tree, they stand out much better in LR.  Here I found that C1 pulled a more pleasing look to the large rocks in the foreground than LR and LR also has a bit of red showing in the large gum tree trunk.  Both of these issues could be fixed with a slight color balance tweak and a bit of shadow recovery.  The water in the immediate foreground looks pretty much the same.  But again make sure to click on the image to view it larger.  Then compare the green branches on the left side right above the rocks.  There just is more definition on the LR file.  Also look into the yellows just above the already mentioned greens and see if you don’t agree that there is more detail present in the LR image.

Fuji X-Trans raw conversions

Example No 5, a comparison of C1 and LR raw conversions on Fuji X-Trans files

This last crop shows how well LR has improved on pulling out finer details against a blue sky. There is just more there and the areas in shadow right above the bluff look better in the LR conversion. But the strongest example is the yellow gun tree, again this is a view taken at 100% view, there is just more detail in the yellow tree and it’s going to allow for a larger print in follow on.

Let me say, there is not a right answer here. Sometimes I go with LR, others with C1. However I often do hand held panos with the X-T1 and now that LR allows the ability to create a pano in LR and save it as a dng I tend to start in LR first. The ability to work on a pano as a dng to me is invaluable as before you had to try to get all the segments close then export and use a stitching software to combine. Now you can work on the dng as one large image before you export. So far I have been very impressed with what LR can do with a pano on the Fuji Files in outdoor landscape situations.

You can get sharp conversions from LR on Fuji files, and to me the end results look better. But you do have to really control the details and sharpening sliders in LR to get the best look. Is it perfect, no, and I had hoped that LR/Adobe would have a newer process available now since back in June there was such a bit announcement by Adobe about working closer with Fuji on the raw conversion. So far only the fix for haloing on finer details seems to have been done.

Is there a better raw converter for Fuji? Yes I feel that Iridient Developer by far gives the best look to the files especially one like my example, but:

Iridient is MAC only, has a very limited toolset, all adjustments effect 100% of the image (no adjustment brushes or masks at least last time I checked), and Iridient will not export as a DNG, which to me would be a great solution. You can download Iridient for a trial and run conversion tests. The difference is pretty impressive most of the time unless you are working a Macro type of shot.

Just more food for thought.

Paul C

07/02/14 New lens in the Phase One-Schneider LS lineup the 40-80 zoom

About 2 weeks ago, Phase One made a new lens announcement, the LS 40-80 F4 to F5.6 zoom.  This is an all new design, not a reworked Mamiya lens as some of the other LS lenses appear to be (28mm LS, 75-150mmLS, and 80mmLS to name a few). 
You can find some examples of photography taken with this lens at F11 on the Digital Transitions blog.

Schneider LS 40-80 zoom lens

Schneider LS 40-80 zoom lens

In this picture you can get several different views of the lens, it’s not small or light weight.  The outer lens shade is close to the size of the built in shade on the 28mm LS ultra wide angle.  So what do you gain here? I have looked over some early shots taken from this lens at F11 and they look good, corner to corner, however the real test to me would be more wide open or close to it say F5.6. Most of the other wides from Phase One/Schneider (28mm, 35mm, 45mm) are not good performers wide open or even close to wide open.  The 35mm (which is not an LS but sold in the newer D digital name) doesn’t really get very sharp in the corners until F11 either.

Looking at the features besides picking up a short zoom range, that can be covered pretty well by a 45mm D and 55D or the 55mm LS with much less weight and or bulk, I am not sure what the net gain is.  Sure there is the LS (leaf) shutter but unless you are looking for a really fast flash sync, this is not a big advantage, especially in landscape work.  Also, remember that Phase One’s DF and DF+ camera bodes both still fire their internal focal plane shutters when the leaf shutter in the the lens is fired.

Phase One zoom lens

Phase One 40-80mm Zoom lens side view

From this view, you can tell that it’s a well thought out design.  The manual focus ring has the built in clutch, where you can pull the ring down over the “auto focus” wording, and enabling Manual focus.  The lettering and hyperfocal scale is very easy to read, with the usual white letters on black background.  The large hood is detachable and the filter threading is 105mm, yes 105mm it’s big.  You can read all the detailed featured/specifications here: Phase One 40-80mm Zoom.

As a landscape photographer this lens seems to be similar to the older Mamiya 55-110mm zoom a real tried and true lens, in that it has a very limited focal range and is big and heavy.  It weighs 4 lbs!!.  Looking at the lens and knowing what I like to shoot I have a few more detailed thoughts.

  1. Weight, if you attempt to carry this in the field, you will be paying a high price for a very limited zoom range.  This lens at 4.1 pounds weigh just a little less than my entire Arca rm3di, IQ260 and 40mm Rodenstock lens.
  2. Price, well this should be number 1, folks at 9K this lens is very much a specialty unit.  Not sure what the thought process is here from Phase One.  There must be a market but consider that that NEW Rodenstock 40mm lens from Arca, Cambo or Arca will cost about 1/2 of this lens price.  Sure you have to have a tech camera but if you are working with landscape in medium format and want the best wides, a tech camera is pretty much a given.
  3. No tilt or swing.  This is very important to me as I don’t want a shallow DOF for my work.  Phase One even points out that this lens features a “great shallow DOF” (DOF = depth of field).  The advantage of having tilt alone to change my DOF with a tech camera is priceless
  4. Huge outer filter threading of 105mm.  This means very expensive filters as a circular polarizer in the 105mm range will be at least $250.00 (but when you purchase a 9K lens I guess this an additional drop in the bucket)
  5. The 105mm filters are thicker by design and more than likely you will not be able to stack a Neutral density and CL-PL without getting some vignetting at 40mm
  6. Pretty limited aperture range for a 9K lens, at F4 and moving to F5.6 at 80mm
  7. Extremely limited zoom range for 9K only 40mm
  8. No Image stabilization which would be a nice feature for a lens that tops the scales at over 4 pounds
  9. More than likely soft corners at 40mm until you get to around F11 (but to be fair to Phase One, I would need to have the lens and test it)

I would say that this is very specialized purchase and I am overall disappointed to see Phase One continue to price their lens in the upper stratosphere. But this lens has to take the award for most expensive medium format zoom ever made.

Lets take a look at just how much some of these lenses really cost with a similar zoom, the excellent Mamiya 75-150 F4-5.6.  This is zoom which has been on the market for over 4 years or so, first under the Mamiya brand, has always been an expensive lens listing for around 4.6K U.S.  I first looked at this lens about 3 years ago but found the price point just too much, however on ebay there were several examples (new) being sold for $2,500.00, close to half price.  These lenses were being shipped from Japan, but they still had the full Mamiya warranty.  Plus on a lens like this if it works from day one, odds are the lens will continue to work unless you drop it.  So my point is that the 40-80 at 9K, costs much less than this and the price has been totally over inflated for some reason, as if to limit sales.  Trust me not too many photographers are going to line up to purchase this lens for this price.  For 9K, you getting into the cost point of a Nikon or Canon 600 F4 lens.  Yes I understand these are not medium format lenses, but they seem to warrant the price point more to me than this limited range zoom.  Why Phase One choose to price this lens at 2x of the original Mamiya 45-90 AF zoom is pretty disappointing, and is yet another reason I am glad I shed this type of gear over 2 years ago when I moved to a technical camera.

One thing is certain, this is not a re-worked Mamiya lens as some of the other Phase One LS lenses are.  NO, this is all new and a totally different optical design.  Users of Mamiya medium format cameras may be able to remember back about 4 years ago, when the 45-90AF lens was announced. The aperture was a fixed F4.5 and the zoom from 45 to 90 gave it a bit more reach and it  filled a big hole in the Mamiya modern digital zoom range.  The only lens close was the much older designed 55-110 lens.  Optically it was great for film backs, but past 33 megapixels, the optical quality of the lens really started to show.  I owned one and used it for several years, but rarely carried on long hikes, due to the limited zoom range and the weight.

Mamiya zooms 45-90

Older Mamiya 45-90 zoom–NOTICE THE WEIGHT 2LBS

For a while this lens showed up on B&H photo and other camera reseller website, but it never shipped, possibly may never have really existed.  Sure mockups like the image above were made but I never read any reviews from anyone that was able to test and shoot with this lens.  No it did not have a LS shutter but it was still very expensive listing at around 4.5K, but since it fit into such a great spot in the Mamiya zoom line up I was excited about it.  Now you could work in the field with only 3 lenses, the 35mm F3.5, the 45-90 F4.5 zoom and the 75-150mm.  The 35mm suffered on the corners and really wasn’t that great a lens, but the hopes were that the 45mm focal range on the new 45-90 would be good.  This lens quietly just went away, and Dr Frankphase has brought it back as the new 40-80 zoom, at 9K.  wow, that’s all I can say.

As a Phase One user, sadly I find their directions seem to be moving away from mine.  It doesn’t seem to be an attempt at enabling growth just as their upgrade price from a IQ260 to IQ250 was financially unrealistic .  Realistically, sure there are photographers that will buy this lens, but WHY?  Do you just have to have the LS shutter?  And for 9K.  For 9K, it should be darn sharp corner to corner at F5.6.

Before purchasing this lens, I strongly recommend that the photographer with the budget for it (and the physical stamina to carry it all day) demo it on their existing equipment.  You can find demo’s with Phase One authorized dealers like Digital Transitions based out of New York.  They have recently added some new images taken from this lens to their blog.

 

 

02/14/14 Why I didn’t purchase a Sony A7r–Thoughts from a Nikon shooter

Sony A7r 36MP sensor view

Sony A7r viewed from the front showing full sized sensor

When Sony Announced the A7r I was very impressed.  In the past Sony has produced some very impressive camera solutions and I was almost moved enough by the A99 DSLR to purchase one.  However my local dealer, Bedford Photo in Little Rock Arkansas, pointed me toward the fact that Sony was working on a full frame Nex style camera.  A camera that was going to revolutionize the market.  It was enough to make me wait a bit.  

It’s now been about 4 months since the initial roll out of the A7 family of cameras.  Sony ended up producing the A7r without a low pass filter at 36MP and the A7 with a low pass filter at 24MP.  Both cameras are mirrorless and were put into a very compact mostly all metal body.  I was in line at Bedford’s when they had their Sony day in late December 2013 and was able to work with an A7r.  My reaction was different as I did not purchase one.  Instead I backed off to evaluate the entire A7r solution and after giving it some consideration, I found for me it did not make much sense.  Here are the main reasons:

  1. Sony FE lens support current and future
  2. Concerns of current Sony Alpha (A) lens support for the A7r
  3. Nikon lens support issues on the A7r
  4. No on Chip image stabilization on the A7r
  5. Concerns with non-Sony lens adapters
  6. Sony history of 1 and done firmware updates
  7. Weight of body with larger lenses
  8. Lack of intelligent remote or intervalometer

Let me give a bit more detail behind each of these.

Sony FE lens support current and future: 

With the new Nex A7r, Sony also announced a new line of Full Frame lenses, the FE lineup.  Currently there are 4 lenses announced with more to come. 

  1. Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-F5.6
  2. Sony FE 35mm F2.8 (Zeiss optics)
  3. Sony FE 24-70 F2.8 (Zeiss optics)
  4. Sony FE 55 F1.8 (Zeiss optics)

This is a start but only one of these four lenses has OSS (image stabilization).  With a 36MP sensor in such a slim body, there are going to be situations where vibration may cause some overall sharpness issues.  I used the Sony Nex-7 for over 2 years with many of the older E lenses before moving to the Fuji X cameras.  The E mount lenses are mainly plastic bodies and on the Nex-7 they were not the best solution.  Fine for video work, but detailed sharp landscape images, I was not impressed.  It seems that Sony is moving up in overall quality with their newer FE glass, but however these lenses will only work in full mode on a Sony A7 family camera body.  They won’t work on a Alpha body even though they are full frame.  I also don’t see much movement in the ultra wide solution for this camera.  In the field for my work, I most often lead off with a 14mm lens and so far I have not seen anything from Sony showing a platform with a 14mm in the native FE mount.

Concerns of current Sony Alpha (A) lens support for the A7r

With my Sony Nex-7 I used the Sony LA-EA2 adapter which allowed me to have the ability to mount standard Sony Alpha lenses.  This adapter had the translucent mirror technology that Sony uses in the A99.  Of course Sony puts OSS on the sensor on their DSLR bodies which is a great idea.  So all of the Alpha lenses I used would not have any OSS (image stabilization).  The AF with the Sony LA-EA2 adapter was good, a bit slow but most times accurate.  The adapter added a lot of mass to the Nex-7 but with the Alpha 16-80mm lenses it was a good solution.  When I demoed the A7r I used this same adapter and the Sony Alpha 16-80mm lens.  I found that with AF on, almost all of the shots were just a bit out of focus, but when I switched to manual focus and peaking I was able to produce some very sharp images.   AF is important in my work and many times I would prefer to lead with AF instead of a manual focusing option.  My medium format solution is a Arca rm3di which is always manual focus so I when I work with cameras like the Sony A7r, I want a rock solid AF solution. 

Sony also announced a new Alpha lens adapter when they brought the A7r to market, the LAE4.  I was not able to try this adapter to see if it produced more consistent results with AF. 

Nikon lens support issues on the A7r

I should have listed this closer to the top.  With Nikon lenses, there is no current adapter that allows for AF or VR.  This is a huge deal for me since most Nikon lenses really aren’t designed with precision manual focus in mind.  This is especially true with the new G lenses.  It’s possible the the manual focus rings are just not that well calibrated and just a tiny amount of movement can make a major change.  Since Sony did not put any stabilization on the A7 cameras sensor,  you will need to rely on the stabilization in the lens.  Several of Sony’s new FE lenses will have OSS (Sony lens stabilization), however all the Nikon lenses I have with VR, the VR and AF will not work.  This is only true with Nikon lenses, as Metabones makes an adapter for Canon that allows the use of both IS and AF on the Canon lenses.  If I was still heavily invested in Canon lenses, the Sony A7r would make perfect sense especially since Canon has yet to announce any new full frame DSLR with any more than 21MP. 

A view of the Sony A7r showing the tiltable LCD screen

A view of the Sony A7r showing the tiltable LCD screen

No on Chip image stabilization on the A7r

Many users of the A7r are reports issues with vibration from the focal plane shutter on the A7r.  It appears that the A7 has a different shutter design that does not cause this problem.  However depending on the lens and selected shutter speed, the A7r can impart a slight blurring that may or may be able to be recovered in post.  This oversight should have been expected with such a high megapixel count sensor in such a lightweight body.  Some photographers are bothered by this worse than others, depending on the equipment they are using and shutter speed ranges selected.  It’s a bit of a disappointment since Sony has such a good implementation of the sensor based image stabilization on their pro DSLR bodies, like the A99.  I don’t see this being fixed via a firmware update.

Concerns with non-Sony lens adapters

Currently there any many different brands of adapters on the market to allow the use of non-Sony lenses on the A7 family of cameras.  These range from exotic Lecia lenses to more common Canon and Nikon.  The problem with many of these adapters is that they don’t seem to maintain the correct tolerances so that within a brand two of the same adapters may not reach the same degree of focus accuracy.  Also it seems that some of the adapters can create either reflection issues or contrast issues when shift lenses are used.  These issues may be worked out over time, but currently it poses just another problem that may or may not be correctable in post processing.   For example the Metabones adapter for Canon lenses has shown definite problems contrast shifts when any of the Canon TS-E lenses are used, especially the excellent 17mm and 24mm TS-E2 lenses.  Some people are fixing this by gluing a non reflective material inside the adapters, which is not an easy task due to the interior layout of the Metabones adapter. 

Sony history of 1 and done firmware updates

Sony has a history of not releasing any major firmware updates to a camera once it ships, similar to how Nikon operates.  This implies to me a pretty closed system and is unlike Fuji, Canon or Phase One.  An example of this is the Sony Nex-7 which was shipped in early 2012.  This camera had a huge issue for most shooter, myself included, where the video button was just too easy to engage while shooting stills.  It took Sony at least 9 months to release a firmware to allow the user to change the button from always on.  Sony seems not to release firmware updates that have any effect on image quality.  The Nex-7 was a great camera in the ISO range of 100 to 400, however after than the amount of noise that developed became destructive to the image and by ISO 1600, the files were so noisy to make them only equivalent to 16MP images.  I had hoped that Sony would add some firmware enhancements that would allow for some improvements on the higher ISO ranges for the Nex-7, but it never happened.  Canon and Fuji both have had several major firmware enhancements to several of their camera lines that allowed for major improvements in image quality.  I like to see a company continue to develop a camera’s capabilities after the initial announcement, and this is not a practice of Sony.

Weight of body with larger lenses

The body of the Sony A7r is so light that most modern 35mm lenses seem to unbalance it.  If you are only using a older prime lens this might not pose much of a problem, but try placing the Nikon 14-24 on the A7r!.  The weight of the lens totally outweighs the camera’s small mass and it makes it pretty much impossible to just shoot by holding the camera.  So both hands are occupied in holding the lens/camera and you really don’t have a free hand to switch a setting once you are lined up for a shot.  If you are using the camera/lens combination on a tripod, then most definitively the lens will need a tripod mount (which none of the current FE lenses do) or the lens adapter (like a Metabones or Novoflex) will also need a tripod foot.  The lens mount flange on the Sony A7r cannot handle the sheer mass of many of the lenses you might want to use and long term you will either bend the flange or pull it out of alignment.  Either way the fix will be out of warranty and depending on how the mount flange is installed may or may not require an entirely new A7r body.

Lack of intelligent intervalometer for A7r

As with all Sony DSLR’s and Nex cameras, there is no intervalometer for this camera.  Sony once again is depending on a app called Timelaspe that will run on the iOS or Android OS.  This tool limits you to the power left on your phone and since it requires the phone to be on for an extended period of time, it will drain the phone’s battery.  The timelaspe app is designed to give the user the ability to create the actual video on the camera so for the night photographic use I would need it’s not a tool I could use.  I much would prefer to use a cabled intervalometer that will let me set the time of the necessary exposure and the interval needed, removing all of this from the camera.  I have also not found any built in timelaspe tool that will let you take a shot longer than 30 seconds since they all are dependent on the camera’s built in set shutter speed of 30 seconds.  This is the longest shutter speed that most cameras will allow.  Sony once again has used their proprietary port for a wired remote so that none of the third party intervalometers will work.  This limits tremendously the use of the camera in night photographic applications and even limits it in the more traditional timelaspe applications.  Personally I don’t want to be tied to my iPhone for any type of intervalometer use.  The amount of heat that may build up in the Sony A7r may preclude it from night photographic operations anyway.

The Sony A7r is a great concept and for many photographers, it’s a great way to reach the 36MP threshold, especially a Canon shooter.  In my situation, I already have the Nikon D800 and find it’s mass/weight are a benefit in keeping everything in sharp focus.  I love the idea of a EVF that allows 100% magnification at the viewfinder level like Sony has along with the excellent focus peaking that Sony has had for several generations of DSLRs and Nex series cameras.  However the inability to use my current lineup of Nikon lenses (with AF and VR) is a huge issue for me.   This is a first round release for Sony and no doubt they will follow up with a more refined product either later this year or early 2015.  I can also hope that Nikon improved their Nikon1 lineup of mirror-less camera to include either the Sony 24MP or 36MP sensors as then I should be able to use all of my excellent Nikkor lenses to their best capabilities.