22 July, 2016

"Nice camera you got there, Buddy."

I have two topics: The first is about the, "Nice camera you got there, Buddy," view; and, the second, is about the belief that judgements about lenses (or cameras) can be made from the images displayed on the web. (Reviews with high-res examples or 1:1 crops excepted.)

None of this is about a lack of good will. Everyone has been very kind to me, and we are all just trying to make sense of what we find on the web. I'm grateful for all the comments that fellow forum users have made over the years. I've learnt a lot.

I've used both of the images shown in this post on the blog before — the Bahá'í Temple from the post that precedes this one, and the Bookseller from a post in April of last year.

Bahá'í Temple (Loxia 50mm, ISO 100, at f/4.0, 1/1600) [Click image to enlarge.]

I put the The Bahá'í Temple picture on a forum, and I had a very kind comment about the image with a remark that it was a "very sharp lens!" I was surprised at the mention of sharpness because the web image is only about 1 megapixel (783 x 1280 pixels).
There is no way of judging the sharpness of a modern lens by a 1 megapixel image.

There isn't enough space (or interest, I'm guessing) for an in-depth discussion of acutance. But in the case of the temple, because there is so much contrasty scroll work, the viewer's eye immediately recognises that detail, making it appear sharper than it really is.

I wasn't thinking about how "sharp" that scroll work would appear when I took the shot, but I did know what it meant when I went to do input sharpening in Lightroom. And, when I downsampled it to an sRGB jpeg at 1280 pixels vertically, I knew it would be a good screen match.

The Bookseller (Loxia 50mm, ISO 250, at f/2.8, 1/60) [Click image to enlarge.]

Another commenter felt that the Bookseller image demonstrated Zeiss "pop." The Loxia does exhibit a bit of its own "pop;" but the photo has "pop" because the subject was surrounded by white plastic that brought in soft light for his face (it had begun to rain at the market) contrasted by the muted colours of his sweater, jacket and hat, and the plane of focus caught his glasses, his pupils and his beard.

Both photos were made using the Loxia and a Sony A7II. Both were shot in good light (see the settings), and neither was heavily cropped.

I love the Loxia and I know what it can do, but I believe that I could have taken either picture with similar web-display results with my loved, 10.1mp (but now long gone) Panasonic LX3 from 2008. Neither image, on the other hand, could be printed effectively without the qualities that I expect from the Loxia and the A7II.

Most displays are very low resolution and are working hard to address the whole of the sRGB color space. And, in any case, most images on blogs, websites, and in on-line galleries (including my own) are low resolution. (We keep them low-res to avoid having them stolen.) And, those images will not be made higher resolution by being viewed on a higher resolution display (such as an Apple Retina). And, most images on the web are in the sRGB color space. Their color gamuts will not be expanded by being viewed on a wide-gamut display.

Of course, the simple answer to the comment, "Nice camera you got there, Buddy," is, "Yup."

17 July, 2016

Is the frame half full or half empty?

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Bahá'í Temple [Click image to enlarge.]

The Bahá'í Temple in Wilmette, Illinois can be extraordinary bright as the cement used in its construction is embedded with clear and white quartz. On this day (above) the temple was significantly brighter on the other side; and, in any case, my 50mm was not going to capture the whole building. (And I didn't want to stitch frames in post.)

I think the half-building image is more interesting in any case.

16 July, 2016

New Gallery

My new Gallery's landing page looks like this.

It's taken a while, but I finally reorganised my gallery. I still have some tinkering to do, and I'm sure I'll find some errors; but this is the final format.

I've broken it down into a number of categories. This isn't because I think there are devotees of photos in those categories, but because they will serve as aids to finding (or, it's to be hoped, re-finding) images.

When in the gallery, you only need to click on an image to resize it to your browser page.

To get to the gallery, just click on the "Gallery" tab at the top of this blog. To return to the blog, just click on the "My Blog" link at the left of the gallery pages.

Before any new image goes to the gallery, it will first appear here, on the blog.

08 July, 2016

Epson Legacy Papers - Australia

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Santa Monica Pier [Click image to enlarge]

At the end of last year I wrote about the (seemingly) impending introduction of Epson's new line of Legacy Papers. Epson has now officially announced the papers in the US with a press release last month. That US release, however, wasn't mirrored on either Epson's international site or their Australian. And, I think it's telling that the Australian market is entirely lacking the preview information that has been all over the US wide-format printer paper market.

There are, of course, ways to get the new papers through overseas delivery. While B&H won't ship the Legacy papers to Australia, Adorama will (25 sheets of A3+) for US$145.00. The only hitch is that the shipping is $92.60. That's brings the cost to US9.50/sheet. Regardless of price, I'm not interested in sourcing paper through overseas deliveries.

The short version is that I'm not going to be testing the Legacy papers in the near future. I'm only going to test what I might be using myself and that means papers available through the regular channels here in Australia.

I suspect that the Legacy Baryta and Legacy Platine are made by Canson in any case, and I'm quite happy with those papers under the Canson banner. Since the Epson versions seem to be more expensive, they probably have their own formulae and those might have some useful improvements.

The Legacy Paper that most intrigues me, however, is Epson Legacy Fibre, which appears to be a matte paper with enough holdout to be able to accomodate photo black ink. That I'd like to try — seemingly, not for a while.

07 July, 2016

Sigma 24mm with the MC-11 - low light on the street

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 "Art" w/MC-11 adaptor - Election Campaign - Brisbane [Click to enlarge]

I was out the other night using the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 with the MC-11 adaptor (see above). The important bit of this report is that I didn't have to think of it as an adapted lens at all. It functioned seamlessly as an E-Mount lens.

The 24mm is my only Sigma lens, so I keep the MC-11 on it all the time. That's important for me because when I change lenses, the rear cap from the lens going on goes onto the lens coming off. With the MC-11 always on, the Sigma 24mm is just another E-Mount.

It was reasonably low light, so the focusing speed wasn't what I would expect in normal daylight. I haven't done any side-by-side testing, but in low light I think the Sigma is about as fast as the Zeiss 85mm (Batis).

03 July, 2016

The Greens Campaign in Ryan 2016

As I've mentioned before, the Australian Greens in the Federal seat of Ryan in Queensland have been kind enough to allow me to photograph their volunteer campaign work.

Over the many weeks of the recent election campaign here in Australia, I've seen door knocking, meeting organising, placard waving, phone calling, roadside sits, bicycle tows, polling-place banner raising, and the handing out of "how to vote" cards — and I didn't see all of it, or even a large part.

What I learned is that for the Greens it's not just a campaign, it's a cause. It's not just about votes, it's about ideas.

My thanks, again, to the Greens workers that let me follow their efforts, and to the candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, and her campaign coordinator, Don Sinnamon.

28 June, 2016

Zeiss Loxia 50mm — Still my favourite

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Low Tide on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]
Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Late afternoon on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]
Zeiss Loxia 50mm - View from the Ferry Jetty on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]

The Loxia 50mm f/2.0 continues to be one of my all-time favourite lenses. I have to admit, however, that when things are moving a bit quicker, then the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is the better choice.

Work carried me out to North Stradbroke Island for the day, but I only had a few minutes to grab a few personal shots. All of these are from the bay side of the Island. The other side is the open ocean side. It has gorgeous beaches and features the transit of the whales when they move to and from their Arctic waters.

It was a little cooler than it looks. It's winter on this side of the world, but Brisbane is semi-tropical, so a jacket was enough.

18 June, 2016

Door Knock 2016

The Australian Greens in the Federal seat of Ryan in Queensland have been kind enough to allow me to photograph their volunteer campaign work. 

Every weekend, volunteers take to the footpaths to talk to their fellow citizens about the issues that matter most. It's a huge undertaking. (So, of course, I could only photograph a small part of it.)

The door knock is only one of the many efforts of the volunteers; so my task of documenting their work is far from done. At this point, however, I do have enough photos that I'm happy to share, in this short slideshow.

Thank you to all of you who tolerated my shadowing you. And my thanks to the Greens candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, and to the campaign coordinator for Ryan, Don Sinnamon.

16 June, 2016

Sigma 24mm with the MC-11

Sigma 24mm "Art" w/MC-11 at f/1.4 - Bardon Queensland [Click on image to enlarge.]

The Sigma MC-11 mount converter does give the Sigma 24mm the feel of a native Sony FE-Mount lens. The focusing is quick and accurate and all the expected information is reported in the Exif data.

Lightroom is able to apply Adobe's Sigma-lens profile with no problems. But even though I have a user preset to apply lens profiles on import, it's not automatic for the 24mm. That may be because the 24mm is a Canon mount.

There is a bit of focus noise, but I don't know if that arises from using the converter, or whether it's inherent in the lens. It doesn't bother me, however, as I think only the photographer can hear it. But then, I'm not a videographer.

The mount connection between the lens and the MC-11 has confidence-building tightness — no wobble. And it's a match aesthetically.

13 June, 2016

Bright sunshine

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Santa Monica Beach [Click image to enlarge.]

Bright sunshine. Sometimes you just have to go with it.

Happily, the camera automatically underexposes this kind of scene, thinking that it can't really be this bright. That, of course, saves the bit of colour and the shadow.

11 June, 2016

Out of Sight, out of mind.

I'm an immigrant.

I came to Australia in 1989 and became a citizen in 1992. I'm grateful to have been accepted here, and proud to be an Australian.

I am disappointed, however, by Australia's current policy regarding our fellow human beings seeking asylum — those men, women and children often called, "boat people."

We have closed our doors to the "boat people" who came seeking our protection.

We have incarcerated men, women and children guilty of no crimes, save to escape persecution. And we have stripped them of all hope — seemingly as an example to others who might seek our shelter.

We have used the law to prevent the doctors, nurses and other professionals who have toiled in our camps from speaking out about what they have witnessed.

We have forced genuine asylum seekers (who will die or be persecuted if they return to their "home" countries) onto even more perilous paths.

We say that by 'stopping the boats,' we've stopped the deaths at sea; we've only stopped the deaths on our sea.

There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, that in testing early language translation programs, the designers experimented with colloquial phrases. One of the phases was, "Out of sight, out of mind." As the story goes, it was translated from English into Russian, and then back again. It was returned as, "Blind and insane."

—Bill Danby

08 June, 2016

Sigma MC-11 opportunities

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - My friend, John [Click image to enlarge.]

[This is not a discussion for those who shoot Canon or Sigma bodies and also shoot Sony. It's a no-brainer to want to be able to use Sigma's Canon (or Sigma) mount glass on both your bodies.]

The Sigma MC-11 gives Sony E-Mount users access to a range of Sigma lenses. But the first question has to be: What are the practical opportunities?

Sigma has been very clear that its MC-11 Mount Converter is only for still photography; that it only works with a selection of Sigma lenses; and, that it doesn't support autofocus-continuous (more about that later). After hearing that, videographers, sport and action photographers would be thinking (correctly, I believe) that the MC-11 option isn't for them.

It's also important to note that the Sigmas are not weather sealed. A wedding photographer, for example, might find that a deal breaker. On the other hand, the Zeiss Batis lenses are weather resistant and the Zeiss Loxias have mount gaskets to improve their weather resistance. The Sony/Zeiss full-frames are also weather resistant. Samyangs, however, are not sealed.

Today I'm only going to talk about the Sigma "Art" primes. A "zoom" discussion may be for another day.

The Sigma full-frame "Art" primes (20, 24, 35 and 50mm) have shown the world that Sigma is at the top of the full-frame DSLR lens game. As modern, high quality lenses, the Sigmas may be relatively inexpensive, but they are not cheap. And, high-end glass is a long-term investment, so some price disparity can't be a dominant factor.

In the various reviews, the Sigmas are usually, and favourably, compared to Canon or Nikon lenses. And with these comparisons, functionality is not an issue — but in using Sigmas with the MC-11, it is.

With the MC-11, the Sigmas all return distance and full exif data to the Sony bodies. That means that stabilised Sony A7 series bodies will afford the 5-axis stabilisation that they do for Sony and Sony/Zeiss lenses. In my limited experience with the 24mm on the A7RII, the stabilisation works well, and the focusing is both quick and accurate, even in lower light.

For me, however, I don't see an advantage for the Sigma 50 or 35mm lenses over their Sony/Zeiss counterparts. The Sony/Zeiss 55mm, f/1.8 and the 35mm, f/2.8 are outstanding lenses. And, if I really needed a 35mm, f/1.4, it would be the Sony/Zeiss, despite its higher price.

The Sigma 24mm is a stop faster than its Zeiss 25mm cousin, and it's substantially less expensive. (In Australia the Sigma 24mm is less than half the price of the Zeiss 25mm. In the US the Zeiss is about half again the price of the Sigma. But don't forget the cost of the MC-11.)

In 24/25mm, there are still opportunities to use depth-of-field for subject isolation — one of the reason why I like 24mm. So, I don't think that a stop of difference should be ignored.

The Sigma 24 and the Zeiss 25 rate about equally in DXO marks, And, while Sigma says that "autofocus continuous" isn't available on the 24mm using the MC-11 — it is on the A7RII, and with eye focus.

If autofocus is less important to you, you might consider the Samyang 24mm, f/1.4 (manual focus, and manual aperture), but with a native E-Mount (that does not report distance or other Exif data). The Samyang 24mm is fast, very sharp and a bit less expensive. Samyang also offers its 24mm in an E-Mount cine (clickless aperture) version.

I like the 24mm focal length over 35 more generally. And I'll have more to say about the Sigma 24mm with the MC-11, in the future.

The Sigma 20mm has two (sort of) counterparts: The Zeiss Loxia 21mm, f/2.8 (manual focus and manual de-clickable aperture), and the wider, but autofocus, Zeiss Batis 18mm, f/2.8. Both of these Zeiss lenses are two stops slower. And, while both are more expensive, the disparity is substantial, but not huge; and, both are, of course, native E-Mount. (To avoid confusion, there's also a Sony 20mm, f/2.8 A-Mount and a Sony 20mm, f/2.8 for the APS-C "NEX" E-Mount.)

Zeiss lenses are known for their high build quality, their contrast, 3D pop, and colour rendition. I'm dodging those discussions, as those issues are addressed in specific lens reviews elsewhere.

I would like to have seen Sigma shift from native, Sony A-Mount support to native Sony E-Mount. But Sigma has to know that they are in an increasingly crowded field of native E-Mounts, with the Sony, Sony/Zeiss, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Samyang, Lensbaby, Mitakon, and Tamron offerings. The MC-11 also means that both Canon and Sigma body owners, can use a Sony body to make their Sigma lens investments more versatile.

And, hey Sigma, How about a 135mm, f/1.8?