Creating a Look in Lightroom

When I previously published images which I had shot with Olympus' new M.Zuiko 40-150mm PRO zoom, there was a question if I could show how I process my images. This is the first of two blogs on this issue.

To start with, I must first stress that this is not meant to be a Lightroom tutorial. For me shooting with my camera in the way I shoot and post-processing in a certain way in Lightroom (plus Photoshop) is one process. You can´t separate those two. Actually there is more than just one workflow because I have various aims with various subject matter. This one is the most basic one - and the most used for me

Exposing in Camera

When I set my exposure in camera, I use my version of a method called "exposing to the right", ETTR. I have a couple of blogs about it and you can find those if you go to Search&Tags. The cameras mentioned there are Olympus PEN E-P3 and OM-D EM-5, but what I write is applicable to any PEN or OM-D camera at least since E-P3.

Opening in Lightroom

My version of ETTR is aimed to give a certain starting point for adjustments when images open in Lightroom Development module.

This is a typical situation when a contrasty image is opened in LIghtroom 5 with all adjustments at default settings. This view was exposed in camera so that orange (exposure warning) color lit up (in the extent I chose) on the brightest area of the view, which is right side of the cloud just above the roof. In Lightroom the brightest spot is at 98,5% and in this sRGB screenshot it says now 251,251,251. I could have exposed even brighter but this exposure gives the fastest and easiest workflow in Lightroom.

Normally the first thing to visualize in Lightroom is the general luminance of the image. It is set as needed with Exposure slider. Always check it first. With my exposure method, average subjects like this are either okay or lighter than I want, in which case Exposure slider is moved to the left. In this case there is no need to touch Exposure slider. (Click on images to see them bigger.)

The Look

My reader who asked for this blog used the term "magazine look" when writing about my images. Maybe it could also be called with other names, like "super natural". I have sort of a philosophy for this kind of "album style" images. They belong to a tradition which started in 1970's in color (art) photography. Without going deeper there, I just give here the basis for the look of my this sort of images:

I hate tricks. Even so, Contrast +50, Highlights -50, Shadows +50 is a trick unless you learn to know what happens with each slider. Please take time moving those sliders one by one in every possible order to get the idea. Also number 50 contains no magic. Depending on image it can vary and each slider may end up at different strength. Do not go over 50 in Highlights and/or Shadows unless there is an urgent need for it. Beyond 50 highlight and shadow tones start to compress more and more and you may end up with dirty tones and a pseudo-HDR look.

Anyway, what this "trick" does is a contrastier and more vivid look with the image actually having a slightly lower total contrast. It comes with the price of compression in some tones. That's what happens always when you re-map tones.

The beauty of Micro Four-Thirds photography is automatic lens corrections in Lightroom. I only always check "Remove Chromatic Aberration" in Lens Corrections window. I have level indicator on in camera to save me from unnecessary cropping of images.

Various considerations

One more way to add micro contrast is to add some Clarity. Here I set it at +20. Very few images show any need to go higher, actually few Olympus EM-1 images tolerate much higher settings. They are so sharp to start with. Naturally the quality of the lens is seen in images and a lesser lens needs more clarity and/or sharpening than a premium lens. Sharpening and noise reduction should always be considered together with clarity. You can´t separate those three because they affect each other. Sharpening is here at Lightroom's default settings. I will show how it actually works and write about it in my next blog.

Sliders Whites and Blacks are for the last touches when setting image tonality. You can keep Alt/Option pressed when moving them to see what happens in whitest and darkest tones. Most of the time I check what happens inside triangles in the upper corners of histogram. Here Whites +20 is the highest value which does not brighten any tonal area of this image to pure white. Specular highlights can and must go white. I have a habit of setting Blacks so that at least one channel goes to zero somewhere, here it is blue channel. Many times images need pure black. Actually Whites +20 is here too much visually even if it is not too much technically. One reminder though: You must have a calibrated monitor to see what really goes on in images, especially in shadows and highlights.

Next step is to pay attention to colors. Here sky had too little contrast which is helped by setting Blue Luminance darker, -20, in HSL window. Also green was too salad green which is helped by lowering Green Saturation slightly. Many times lowering yellow helps also but here I wanted to preserve that yellow in the field behind.

Simple as that

These simple steps show how the look for my "album style" images is achieved - and this image would now be ready for final sharpening. Also, many times I feel that images need some local adjustments. Just to get the balance right. Here maybe some darkening of right lower corner and perhaps some more contrast to the sky in left upper corner... Like said, I will write about sharpening next time. If there are any images in my galleries which would be nice to see "opened up", I could show post-processing steps for some of those also...

-p-

 

Shooting with Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 DG Summilux

Another Panasonic lens I tried past summer is again a Leica designed lens, manufactured by Panasonic to Leica standards. Also this lens has been widely tested and reviewed all over the internet. That's why I will again pass any detailed descriptions and concentrate just on how I felt like using it and how my prints look like.

DG Summilux @ f/5.6; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/800s. (Click on image to see it larger)

As there was so much written about the lens I was not afraid to try it while working on my Finland project. My style for these images is very straightforward and I shoot mostly at apertures f/2.8 - f/5.6. The sweet spot of every good MFT lens falls into this range. This happens also here. The 15mm lens has its highest optical performance at f/4 and the best range is just what I needed: f/2.8 - f/5.6.

To see the behavior of this lens in the corners and edges of image I did some good old "brick wall" testing. Image center is very good already wide open. Corners are also good enough for me at f/2.8. While the resolution in the corners is not bad wide open, there is another problem. (Click on arrows left/right on image above to see). Everything which is out of focus and close to camera is difficult to process. I did not try other converters but at least in Lightroom any sharpening in out of focus areas looks bad. It makes things difficult as in-focus and out of focus areas may be overlapping in the depth of image like above. The only solution would be manual work and it is time consuming to create believable transitions from soft to sharp when there are various lengths of transitions.

DG Summilux @ f/5.6; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/400s. (Click on image to see it larger)

Most of my images are based on depth and details, so in general I avoid anyway shooting at wider apertures than f/2.8.

DG Summilux @ f/2.2; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/13s. (Click on image to see it larger)

There were exceptions where selective sharpening is easy. Only then I opened up with Summilux, like here to f/2.2, in order to keep ISO at 200.

DG Summilux @ f/4.5; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/1000s. (Click on image to see it larger)

DG Summilux @ f/5.6; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/800s. (Click on image to see it larger)

Tests have shown this lens to have some distortion. Because of automatic correction there is no need to worry about it. EVF is shows what I get in the end and I can crop exactly how I want it already in the camera. Also other aberrations (like chromatic aberration or vignetting) in images were easy to correct in Lightroom. No problems there either.

DG Summilux @ f/5.6; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/800s. (Click on image to see it larger)

A small lens is the more preferable the closer you are to people. This lens is fast and unobtrusive to use. As it now is, Summilux does not give me any actual light gathering (with high quality) or general quality advantages over my most used lens, the M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO zoom. At aperture range f/2.8 - f/5.6 they are hard to tell apart in prints. The only advantage of Summilux is its smaller size.

DG Summilux @ f/5.0; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/640s. (Click on image to see it larger)

I tend to shoot most of the time with sun behind me. Sometimes I shoot against the sun and then I again liked the very good lens hood of Summilux. At 15mm focal length the lens hood of M.Zuiko 12-40mm is as good as useless for shading the front lens from oblique light.

DG Summilux @ f/5.0; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/400s. (Click on image to see it larger)

The last two lenses I have written about,  Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and Panasonic Leica 42,5mm f/1.2 DG Nocticron, are absolutely great lenses. They belong to the top class of all lenses from all manufacturers. Sadly 15mm Summilux is not alike. Those two lenses can be used wide open without any worries about quality. It is always there. Summilux is good wide open if your subject matter or shooting style needs no great corners. Closed down to previously mentioned aperture range I would not hesitate using it, only it is not better than what I already have in a zoom lens. I did not bother doing any direct comparison with M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 but I would expect Summilux to be slightly better when shooting a test target. Only I have never seen the same odd behavior in out of focus corners in images from the 17mm lens. That is with images processed in Lightroom, in my way, remember!

DG Summilux @ f/5.6; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/50s. This image does not belong to the same body of work as others above. (Click on image to see it larger)

What Micro Four thirds is missing is a truly great "35mm lens". While I liked the angle of view of Summilux, I really don't mind if that truly great lens would be 15 or 16 or 17mm. I also don´t mind if it is f/2 or whatever faster than that. By now I even wouldn't mind if it would have a similar price tag as Nocticron. The wait has been long enough. Just somebody, make it! Panasonic, Olympus, Sigma, Zeiss, Tamron... who ever. I don´t care.

 

 

Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 DG Nocticron

I can as well start this blog with what every blogger and tester before me has written as their conclusion: Panasonic's Leica designed short tele is one of the finest lenses in MFT camera system. Some have even said it is the best - technically or if MFT50 result is the yardstick. Should I found some other result? Just to be different, maybe? I have postponed writing about this lens because I have felt like following other people's footsteps. There is very little which has not been said.

Image from Panasonic

Image from Panasonic

I wrote a year ago about Voigtländer's fine Nokton 42,5mm f/0,95 lens. It's here. These lenses are alike in having a barrel construction of metal and they are big and heavy by MFT standard. Nocticron has AF and other modern automatic features while Nokton is a purely manual old school lens. Nocticron has also optical image stabilisation. Its aperture ring works only with Panasonic bodies and is purely cosmetics for Olympus users.

When looking at images the main difference is the cleaner look with Nocticron. Wide open it is sharper and there is no highlight glow like Nokton has, even if stopped down almost a stop to f/1.2. I am a fan of Nokton because of how it renders those highlights with glow and enough sharpness. On the other hand it also is on the side of specialty lenses because of the same feature. Nocticron is different and there is no "built-in effect" in its images.

DG Nocticron @ f/1.4; Olympus E-M1, ISO 100, 1/4000s. (Click on image to see it larger)

The other contender in the same focal length range, but more than a stop "dimmer", is Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens. It is very different by size, having only half the length of Nocticron and weighting less than third. While M.Zuiko is a good performer also wide open it misses the magical combination of sharpness and creamy bokeh which Nocticron has. It has a more contrasty style in its rendering.

Thinking about usage I would say M.Zuiko is for the bread and butter. If you shoot at apertures smaller than f/2.8, the other lenses give no practical benefit. There might be some differences in resolution or microcontrast or one behaves a bit better here and the other there but the main difference is elsewhere: The other two are far bigger, heavier and more expensive. Any of these is able to give you excellent images. On the other hand, if you want to stay at larger apertures, M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 images have no such character like the other two have - and of course it can´t produce as shallow depth of field as the others.

I did not check prices of the day but Nokton has been roughly twice M.Zuiko and Nocticron is some 50% more than Nokton.

DG Nocticron @ f/1.4; Olympus E-M1, ISO 100, 1/5000s. (Click on image to see it larger)

Because of its size and weight Nocticron needs a body with a reasonable grip to be comfortable in use. With E-M1, I found it a joy to use. Part of size comes from Nocticron being "oversized" for MFT format. Its image circle is bigger, which is seen in quite nice light distribution and even performance over the frame also at wider apertures. Build quality is high, it is at the highest level seen in MFT lenses.

DG Nocticron @ f/1.2; Olympus E-M1, ISO 100, 1/6400s. (Click on image to see it larger)

My images here are again shot as RAW and processed in Lightroom. They are not "straight out of camera" as I have set colors, contrast, sharpening etc. to the level I prefer. But there is nothing added nor taken away, in that sense everything you see is produced by the lens.

The quality wide open is excellent over the frame. Maybe image quality is technically at the best level at f/4, but this lens can be and is to be used for the desired depth of field. There is longitudinal chromatic aberration at large apertures, but I have still to see a fast short tele which has not. It is something one just needs to live with these lenses. In these and other images I processed it was correctable with Lightroom Defringe tool with no need to do local manual work.

DG Nocticron @ f/2.8; Olympus E-M1, ISO 100, 1/1250s. (Click on image to see it larger)

Nocticron is not weathersealed... Wave height was here some 15cm which forced me to stay a bit higher than wanted. With a lens like M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 I would not have been afraid to let the camera dip slightly into water, not now, not with this lens ever. Also its closest focusing distance is 50cm (as seen here) which makes it a lesser "flower" lens for me compared to Nokton. This can of course be helped with a set of extension tubes.

Supplied with Nocticron is an excellent, long metallic lens hood which helps to keep both harder than water objects and extra light from hitting the front lens.

DG Nocticron @ f/1,2; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/40s. (Click on image to see it larger)

People is a natural subject for a short tele like Nocticron. E-M1 has automatic focusing for closest eye, which makes portraits easy even with such a short depth of field. Focusing is fast and quiet. Out-of-focus areas are creamy and quiet in Nocticron images, this lens has beautiful bokeh.

DG Nocticron @ f/1,2; Olympus E-M1, ISO 200, 1/80s. (Click on image to see it larger)

100% crop from image above.

100% crop from image above.

Conclusion

Yes, I have no reason to think otherwise. Nocticron is a great lens. It may be expensive and big, but it also has lots of quality, both physically and in images. It is easy to use because it has no vices, no nasty surprises. You do not need tricks to lure this quality out, it just pops out all the time.

It was early October when I had to return my loaner lens back to Panasonic. Afterwards I was too busy to think more of Nocticron, but now... Didn´t Kenko just announce a set of automatic extension tubes for MFT?

I think focus is on the eye...

Upgrading my computer

Finally it became the time to get a new, more efficient computer to replace my MacPro (2008). Six years is a long time for a computer... I don´t think I have used any computer this long.

While my trusty MacPro had been okay for Lightroom everything else had become slow and I am going to start doing some more power hungry stuff like video shortly. Why I did not upgrade earlier was partly because there were no problems at all with any of my hardware, and my 32TB Promise RAID with IBM tape back up storage were tethered to my computer with a dedicated card and optical cable. This tied things together as there was no new MacPro which could give big enough boost of power to make upgrading worthwhile.

Näyttökuva 2014-10-13 kello 15.38.34.jpg

Finally this new MacPro came. Even then I waited to be sure that all possible teething problems are over.

There are several things to consider when upgrading a computer for processing images or editing video. Actually that´s the reason why I am writing this blog. This is how I configured my new MacPro at Apple store:

Basics: 3.7GHz quad-core with 10MB of L3 cache

I chose quad-core because neither Lightroom nor Photoshop use multiple cores effectively. Clock speed is more important for them.  

Memory: 64GB (4 x 16GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC

Maximizing memory makes Photoshop run faster with big files. Lightroom does not need much memory but it needs it´s share. Now I do not need to keep quitting other software just because of Photoshop.

Hard drive: 1TB PCIe-based flash storage

I chose the biggest available flash drive to get space for Photoshop scratch disk and Lightroom cache. Both are now set at 200MB. These two should be big enough and on the fastest drive you have. The other option would have been to have separate flash drives for these but I wanted to minimize external drives.

Video card: Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each

This is a total overkill for Photoshop and Lightroom but makes video editing faster and takes back what I lost in cores. Every video software loves cores. Earlier I used to do 3D. That's one thing I want to spend time on again. Spending time means here doing actively, not waiting while computer is busy rendering.

Above is my new setup. Actually the only new piece is the little silent MacPro hiding behind monitor. The monitor is a 27" Eizo ColorEdge CG275W, and my Wacom Intuos 3 in front is even older than the old MacPro was.

While software is installed on internal flash drive, all images and other data are on external drives. There is now a 10TB LaCie 5big Thunderbolt RAID drive for active data. It has five 2TB hard drives and it is configured as RAID 0. With five disks and RAID 0, every file is split into five pieces when writing. With Thunderbolt connection this gives extremely fast access to data. The other side of RAID 0 is that ALL data is lost if one hard drive breaks. The RAID drive is secured on USB3 drives.

I had over 20TB of data on my old computer. Most of it was of course on the 32TB RAID. Now the files are stored on 4TB USB3 drives with back ups. Copying all of this data took naturally some time. While doing so I decided to do some cleaning up - which eventually led into lots of cleaning up. Nearly 200.000 files had to go - and still I did not lose anything. Well, there were files from older software and digital backs. To be able to open them I should have kept my even older Mac OS 9 running MacPro still available. I checked that I have TIFF or PSD versions of all those jobs and deleted the rest. Goodbye OS 9!

Anyway, I spent a lot of time doing something little, maybe worth of a few hundred euros in disk space... Installing software and such to the new computer took very little time. Creative Cloud, Mac App Shop, iCloud etc. are really convenient here.

For external drives, card readers and such I have a cabinet below the table. There I have a Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock which again, as the name says, has Thunderbolt connection with MacPro. This dock has Thunderbolt, Firewire 800, USB3 and Ethernet ports which makes all my old hard drives compatible with the new MacPro.

Other peripherals connected to MacPro are Epson V750 Pro scanner and Epson 9900 and 3800 printers.

Everything works as should and big multi-layer PSD files just fly through Photoshop. The slowest part of the equation is the one writing this text, and the next one from the slow end is the stupidly ineffective way how Lightroom uses the capabilities of my new system. Hopefully Lightroom 6 brings something new in this area!

Hands On Preview: M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO zoom

I have had a chance to use Olympus´ new PRO zoom lens a couple of times before final announcement at Photokina 2014 Press Day. This lens has turned out to be a real treat. Although the lens I had was a prototype/pre-production sample, it was a stellar perfomer.

Images

Yes, lets start with images: I made two galleries for the images I have shot with M.Zuiko 50-150 f/2.8 prototype/pre-prod lens:

The first has various images from Finland. The other has aircraft images from Air14 Payerne airshow.

I have shot roughly 10.000 frames with this lens and have not had time to really go through all of it. Those images in galleries are surely examples of the best I got but there may be more which I have not noticed.

Because the lens was a prototype/pre-production sample, Olympus has set restrictions on the size of images I can publish. Even those galleries are actually breaking the limit.

It all started with me contacting Olympus half a year ago asking if there happened to be any prototype lenses available if I happened to go to Kuhmo (bear images) during the summer. There was no answer, until a couple weeks before the lens actually arrived I got an email that there would be a 40-150mm PRO lens available, and even then the exact day of lens arriving was still unsure. I had already forgotten the whole thing and had other plans. And 150mm focal length would be on the short side for wild bears. Anyway, I made hasty arrangements and surprisingly the lens arrived a day before my flight. As a nice surprise there was included a teleconverter which was totally news for me. So, there I was with a strange new lens with my E-M1 body having no firmware support for the lens. Even better, after I got the lens I started to get new emails: while there, we need also bird in flight and landscapes and close-ups and... What the...? My leisurely "if I happened to" was turning out to become a full-fledged assignment, and a very hasty one. I had three nights in a hide and three other shooting days to do it all. But yes, that´s how those images from Finland and the gallery was made. And as I am how I am, when I had to send the lens back to Olympus Europe, I asked: By the way, I´m going to see this airshow in Switzerland, I kinda have started to like this lens, if it happens to be available...

Image Quality

As said, I really started to like the lens. My only expectation and hope beforehand was that it was on the same level as M.Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. It was. It is even better.

At first I was cautious to use teleconverter at all and was inclined to accept the old wisdom to stop down when using it. Gradually I realised I can go wide open with the lens alone and also with MC-14 attached. I can go wide open all the time or use any aperture as long as I don´t go beyond f/8. Diffraction, you know.

Optically, I really would say this lens is outstanding. There should be nothing to be worried about when production models start shipping. I did not run into any negative issues with the lens alone. With teleconverter attached I noticed that the combination is more sensitive to extremely bright object inside image than with the lens alone at same focal length when shooting wide open. On the other hand, even with MC-14 attached there was a situation where I got perfectly usable images while my friend, who is professional wildlife photographer, could not shoot at all. We were shooting the same subject beside each other against setting sun and he got just flare all over the frame with professional Nikon FF body and expensive Nikon 600mm f/4 lens.

Somebody asked me that as I have Zuiko D. 150mm f/2.0 prime lens, can this zoom lens really replace it?

I have not had time to do side by side comparison shots. M.Zuiko 40-150 PRO is small, a lot lighter and gives at f/2.8 outstandingly sharp images. It has more vignetting at 150mm and f/2.8, it is a stop slower and probably there are some situations where either lens would behave optically better. I don´t know yet. The look of their images is bit different with 40-150 PRO at 150mm maybe having better micro contrast while 150/2 would maybe show more lines in a test target. Maybe. With 1.4X teleconverters 40-150 PRO is snappier wide open. Maybe I need to explain here my word "sharp". It is about visual sharpness which is a combination of (micro) contrast and resolution. There are lenses which have lots of resolution at low contrast. That´s good for some test shooting but not necessarily for actual images. There must also be this ability to bring little nuances actually visible. 40-150 PRO has this ability, while 150/2 should have no less resolution, it gives a softer look to images to start with.

Again we must remember that the zoom I have used is a prototype/pre-prod lens, not actual production model. Anyway I am so impressed that I will buy the new lens and my 150/2 (with its teleconverter) will probably see very little use afterwards.

This is something I´m not supposed to do, but I do it anyway. Above is an image from my airshow material. It did not get into gallery. When you click on it you can see 100% crop. It is from the center of image and the light is bright etc, and still, it is shot over the hot airfield at longest focal length with MC-14 teleconverter attached and wide open. 210mm, f/4

Close-up

As seen in test gallery you can go quite close to the subject with M.Zuiko 40-150mm PRO. It focuses down to 70cm (sensor to subject) distance. At that distance even a 8 by 6 cm subject fills the frame at longest focal length. Again here you can use teleconverter to shoot close-up images without any noticeable degradation in image quality.

Size and weight

I have seen some people complain that this lens is too big and against the idea of mFT. I don´t think so. There still are and will be new small bodies and lenses. This lens only shows how the system matures to cover all photographic needs.

I have used 70-200mm f/2.8 tele zooms from Canon and Nikon, Canon´s 100-400mm zoom and many many others. And of course I have used Olympus consumer grade 40-150mm and 75-300mm zooms. For me this lens feels as very nice from every point of view. It is not big nor heavy but has speed and quality. I have used it hand held (no monopod) for two 9 hour days in airshow and carried it around in the wild without feeling any fatique at all. The lens and E-M1 body with hood collapsed fit easily into a compact backpack.

The lens is 16 cm long, has 72 mm filter thread and weights 880 g with supplied tripod adapter. Without tripod adapter it is 760g. Also supplied with the lens is a collapsible lens hood.

The hood is excellently long and protects the front lens efficiently against oblique light. Because of its collapsible construction it makes the lens fatter but does not add much to weight. I have some concerns with hood staying on the lens when extended. Like said my sample was quite early one, I hope Olympus makes a firmer fitting for hood bayonet in production lenses. On the other hand, it did not drop off even once in my use.

Build quality feels to be at the level it should be for a professional lens. The lens is also dust, splash and freeze proof. In the airshow crowd somebody spilled accidentally his beer over the zoom´s lens barrel. I wiped it off and never noticed anything after that.

The matching M.Zuiko 1.4x teleconverter MC‑14 does not make the lens much longer as half of it protrudes inside the lens. This construction makes MC-14 also incompatible with other mFT lenses. I have not checked if there are some lenses which would be compatible, but that´s not the point here. The point is that M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter is optically matched to the 40-150mm PRO lens. With converter you have a 56-210mm f/4 zoom lens which seems to have practically the same optical quality as the basic lens alone. As I am a bit lazy, after noticing this I stopped taking MC-14 off the lens unless I needed more speed or wider angle. This teleconverter will be compatible with the upcoming M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 PRO lens.

Autofocus

M.Zuiko 40-150mm PRO zoom has dual linear voice coil motors for focusing. Focusing is fast and silent. Here is again one uncertainty: my E-M1 had the standard firmware without any support for the new lens. I don´t know how fast and accurate it is with the just released 2.0 firmware which supports 40-150 PRO. I was generally happy with the results I got with flying birds or airplanes. Only sometimes there was some "pumping": sharp, sharp, sharp, unsharp, sharp, sharp, unsharp, sharp... The lens/camera AF combination did not lose the subject, it only missed sharpness for a frame or two every now and then and then locked it back. Not really fatal but annoying. I have to wait for being able to use a production lens with E-M1 having 2.0 firmware to be able to tell more.

(Note: I have not done any formal testing with a test target. All my comments on image quality are based on real life subjects shot with a prototype/pre-prod lens.)

  • Images of bears, eagles and swamp landscapes were shot in Kuhmo, Finland. You can read more of the place here.
  • Images of ospreys were shot in Kangasala, Finland. More here.

 

 

 

Panasonic Lumix G X VARIO 35-100mm f/2.8

Image from Panasonic.

Image from Panasonic.

This zoom lens gives you the same "reach" as a 70-200mm zoom lens in a 35mm size DSLR camera. By reach I mean here angle of view. It has the same f/2.8 maximum aperture as the best of competition. What is strikingly different is size and weight. This lens is seriously small compared to those DSLR lenses I am used to shoot with. I have had both Canon and Nikon f/2.8 lenses of this focal length area and they simply start to feel a burden after an hour of shooting and lugging them around. This one doesn´t.

Performance in tests

I did not do any formal test shooting as there are comparative tests done by others. As usual, let´s see what Photozone.de has found out with their Imatest system. Their general description of the lens is in the same lines I would also say. Thinking about resolution, Imatest MTF50 results show you can get excellent performance over the height of image for up to 40 cm high landscape images with Panasonic GX1. Excellent meaning that even the best printers can´t resolve beyond that. Images from any camera having this resolution or higher would show same amout of details in print. At full A1 size you have potential to very good performance over the height of image. I shot with Olympus E-M1 which has the same amount of pixels but no AA filter. With E-M1 one can get even more details.

From optical point of view I did not find any distracting vices. This lens is a solid performer without real weaknesses. I am using words like "distracting" and "real" in the sense that there is nothing to worry about, but on the other hand there really is no other lens to compare with. I actually don´t know yet where to set the limit. Cheaper lenses like Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f/4-5.6 zoom are not in the same class and really can´t be used for any meaningfull comparison.

I only used Olympus E-M1 in-body stabilization and did no comparisons with Panasonic optical stabilization.

One more thing to mention is the excellent lens hood. It keeps the lens covered from oblique light hitting the front lens very well. This is extremely important for keeping micro contrast up.

Shooting aeroplanes

I shot many kinds of subjects with this lens, which is quite surprising as I thought I would not find use for it. I´ll show here some aviation images which should give an idea of the usable reach for this lens. Click on images to see them bigger.

-p-

A thirties vintage Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II fighter-trainer taking off at Kymi Airfield Open Day. 100mm focal length, cropped (to 73%); 1/400s, f/5.6, ISO 200

Man and machine, Gauntlet´s pilot Jyrki Laukkanen was a test pilot at Finnish Air Force. This aircraft is the only one left of some 250 made. The main user was Royal Air Force. 100mm focal length, uncropped; 1/1600s, f/4.0, ISO 200

DC-3 landing (actually a WW II vintage C-47 Dakota). 68mm focal length, slightly cropped; 1/800s, f/5.6, ISO 200

Fifties vintage Dornier Do-27 taking off. It has a special wing for short take off and landind (STOL). 100mm focal length, uncropped; 1/1250s, f/4.0, ISO 200

The same DC-3 as above but later at Helsinki-Malmi Airport. 49mm focal length, uncropped 1/1600s, f/4.0, ISO 200

Hawker Hurricane Mk.II just after landing at sunset at Helsinki-Malmi Airport. More about this plane and shown national insignia can be read at Latest Notes (August 09, 2014). 100mm focal length, cropped (to 80%); 1/400s, f/2.8, ISO 800

Hurricane against the sun. 35mm focal length, cropped (to 90%); 1/500s, f/4.0, ISO 400

The biggest minus for this lens in this kind of usage is too short longest focal length. Even though I was very close to the runway, this Texan doing a perfect three pointer is too small in the frame. 100mm focal length, uncropped 1/3200s, f/2.8, ISO 800

This crop is more like what I would like to have. A zoom with 200 mm longest focal length would be nice... One thing to notice here is how well the contrast keeps up even though this image is shot straight into setting sun. 100mm focal length, cropped to 58%; 1/3200s, f/2.8, ISO 8001/3200s, f/2.8, ISO 800

WW II vintage North American Texan trainer. Actually this US Navy SNJ-5 painting is fake for this particular aircraft. It has never been owned by US Navy, and a British Harvard painting would be more real although less spectacular. 38mm focal length, uncropped; 1/400s, f/4.0, ISO 400

Note: Blue swastika in white roundel was used as national insignia by Finnish Air Force already since 1918. It has no historic or ideological connection with black swastika (rotated 45 degrees, i.e. standing on its corner) used by nazi Germany during thirties and WW II. This insignia was born when Finnish Air Force´s first ever plane was donated by count von Rosen from Sweden. He painted his good luck symbol on the wings of that plane, and Finns had no reason to change it but went on using it on all their airplanes. After WW II Finnish armed forces has used white-blue-white roundel as national insignia because of what swastika had become to represent for.

Wishing for Sony Alpha 7R - once more

Half a year ago I tried Sony Alpha 7R for the first time. My interest in this camera stem from its 36 megapixel sensor and a compact body for a 35mm sensor size. What I thought about it then can be read in my blog from last November. At that time body and lens were still preproduction samples. Some weeks ago I took another look at A7R with production samples and this time I had it for two weeks. Another reason for this second test was the availability of Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* labeled Sony FE 35mm F2.8 ZA lens. This lens is designed and manufactured by Sony with Zeiss set quality parameters.

Alpha 7R and FE 35mm F2.8 lens makes a great combination by size and weight. This lens has also a very clever lens hood. This is something every lens maker should copy!

Alpha 7R and FE 35mm F2.8 lens makes a great combination by size and weight. This lens has also a very clever lens hood. This is something every lens maker should copy!

About

My wish for A7R is to have a camera which would give me the best hand held resolution in big exhibition prints. If I was looking for a camera to be used on tripod I would go for something else, like a small view camera or Alpa with the best digital back. I am comparing here to Olympus E-M1 simply because I really wanted to know where A7R would be of advantage.

Both the body and the 35mm lens have by now been reviewed at many sites across the web. E.g. Dpreview.com has tested both body and lens, Photozone.de has tested the lens on this body and DxOMark.com has again tested both body and lens. Because of this I won´t go into every detail and specification and omit here everything I was not interested in.

A7R has provoked also some issues which have been discussed at internet forums: Shutter shock, light leakage and Sony´s compressed (11-bit) RAW file. Maybe there are more but at least these have been discussed. As I was shooting with 35mm lens hand held, I did not run into the area of shocking shutter mentioned in these discussions: short tele on tripod. I did not notice shutter shock issues. I did not shoot in conditions where light leakage is said to be seen: long exposures. I did not notice it. A compressed and lossy RAW file is something I would not like to have. While I can bring those issues up at contrasty edges with heavy tweaking, they were not visible in normally processed (LR 5.4) prints (Epson 9900). So, I did not go digging for problems, I just shot pictures.

 

Touch and feel

Like said in my previous blog on A7R,  I liked shooting with it. Only now not as much as I remembered from half a year ago. The main reason for this is Olympus E-M1, which I have used a lot by now. E-M1 is so much more responsive in everything giving A7R a sluggish feel after it. It all starts with turning the camera on. While E-M1 is ready practically instantly, A7R takes its time. This is the most notable difference but the same trend goes through everything I did with either camera. From previous preproduction body, the shutter releasing has now been vastly improved. It is a lot smoother and more predictive. Where I had problems was raising shutter button back halfway up without letting focusing or exposure change. It is easy and a lot used with E-M1 but turned out to be almost impossible for me with A7R.

EVF in E-M1 is better both in bright sunshine and dark interiors. The first is because of E-M1´s automatic adaptation to ambient light. A7R´s EVF can be set quite bright but not like E-M1, and then it is too bright in lesser light. Secondly it has more noise when there is less light. E-M1 has again shorter viewfinder lag.

With A7R one has to work more patiently and not try to be faster than the camera processor allows.

 

Zebra

During my previous time with A7R I did not realise that zebra is usable also with still photography. Zebra is adjustable in A7R and it makes Sony the second camera maker to my knowledge which has an excellent light metering system shown in EVF. Compared to Olympus orange/blue colors, zebra shows single channel saturation better. On the other hand it is more difficult to judge smaller areas with zebra, because zebra, like the name says, is shown as moving stripes. And then, of course, Olympus has nothing compared to zebra for video shooting. All in all my exposures with A7R were spot on when RAW files were opened in Lightroom, thanks to zebra.

 

FE 35mm F2.8

This 35mm lens felt to be a perfect compromize in use. Slower speed makes it smaller than most lenses of same focal length for 35mm cameras. It really makes great a combination with A7R by size and the total feel in use.

Even with moderate speed such a small lens design leads into vignetting as examples below show. Vignetting is strongest at largest aperture and it is always seen unless subject matter fades it. (These images are shot at camera´s automatic exposure setting and there were no other tweaks in Lightroom)

Distortion is not of regular ball shape and it is luckily corrected quite well with Lightroom lens profile. For landscape work there is no need to have distortion correction on most of the time. With buildings the lens profile makes life easy.

Bokeh is average and out of focus highlights show the shape of seven bladed diaphragm already at f/4.

Resolution from this lens - body combination is excellent for prints up to A1 size at every aperture up to f/11 over the whole frame. Only corners at f/2.8 may show how big the difference between center and corners actually is. Center of image is outstandingly sharp.

 

A Lightroom or Sony RAW Problem?

When you click on the image below, you can see how Lightroom shows jaggies with some of the fence lines. The crop is 200%. Out-of-camera JPEG doesn´t have this problem. The problem does not exist against neutral, blue or green background, only against reds, oranges and yellows. Those jaggies can be seen in A1 prints and they actually are irritating for a perfectionist like me. I can´t help seeing them... People who did not know to look for them did not notice them at all. At print sizes A2 and below jaggies are too small to be seen. Also in the detail of image above you can see some jaggies. They can´t be seen in A1 print with naked eye. 

 

Prints and details

A1 prints piling up. Bike image is here in two parts as it was the first try to see the look of two different materials: Canson´s Infinity Baryta Photographique and Infinity Platine Fibre Rag. Both are semiglossy papers and the smoother surface of Baryta Photographique brings out  beautifully A7R´s detailed images. Normally, if the aim is not to do pixel peeping on paper, I like the character of Platine better. (Image shot with iPad)

I printed quite a few images at sizes up to A1 and compared them to E-M1 prints. Side by side A7R shows more details if the image has lots of very small details, especially in central area. Still, the difference over the frame is surprisingly small and people whom I asked just "what´s the difference" never told A7R and E-M1 prints being different because of details. It was always something else based on various personal preferences. With many subjects there is nothing to show any difference at all.

Theoretically, on sensor level, A7R has a 50% linear resolution advantage over E-M1. For camera/lens combination, Photozone.de figures show it (with this 35mm lens) having at best an 20% advantage over the height of landscape image compared to Panasonic GX1 with Olympus 12-40mm PRO Zoom lens at 17mm focal length. And GX1 has an AA filter while E-M1 has none. With E-M1 we really are ending up with a very small difference, especially if we look over the width of a landscape image, not just image center. Note: Comparing MTF numbers of two camera-lens combinations is actually not this simple. There are many factors which affect MTF results. Also Imatest MTF50 tells only about the ability to shoot a flat paper target. Real subjects have so many other and diverse qualities.

Beyond small details (and above mentioned jaggies) there really is no other factors I could say giving A7R or E-M1 prints any advantage above each other.

In my earlier comparison with Nikon D800E and Olympus E-M5 I gave some studio examples to be printed. Try them out, they are the harshest differencies in favor of megapixels you can think of. With real subjects many other things affect a lot.


Am I shaky or what?

In my previous test with A7R I was schocked to realize how long exposure times I had to use to get really sharp (pixel level sharp) images with A7R and 50mm lens. Now with 35mm lens and the new smoother feeling shutter actuation my sharpness procent at 1/30 seconds is merely 22%. Roughly one in five! By sharp I mean here sharp at pixel level, no shakiness at 100% level. With E-M1, IBIS and 17mm focal length I can do better at 1/3 seconds. That´s over 3EV steps. Naturally I can´t blame A7R here, it´s me and the camera. Worse still, the difference in favor of E-M1 grows when my shooting position is compromised in any way.

The only way to beat this difference in shutter speed abilities would be rising ISO in A7R. Sadly the limit to rise without getting more noise is here just one 1EV, as can be seen also in above linked dpreview.com comparison chart.

 

Making a compromize

I have been looking for more hand held megapixels in the meaning of details from Nikon D800E and Sony A7R. With both I can have more megapixels, but more actual details only under limited circumstances for various reasons. With Sony one of those reasons is also their limited set of lenses. My reference of quality is prints at size A1 and I have found that small gains in details against bigger losses in usability and usable circumstances (subject, light level) are not worth having another set of cameras and lenses. There are so many things one can wish for, sadly one may run into more problems when a wish comes true... Shooting with view cameras has been my bread and butter, benefits and problems of this kind of work are so well known for me, maybe I should not look anywhere else if I really want to go for big landscapes?

-p-

 

 

 

 

How Clean is a Camera Pixel?

This fourth and last part of my little series on pixel. In the first part (How Big is a Pixel) I said that most of the time we don´t know if the color of pixel is right just by looking at this single pixel. It is possible only if this pixel is inside area of known subject color. Normally we need a bunch of pixels to find good and bad ones.

A reference target like this SpyderCheckr helps in determining how accurate colors a camera produces, because all these colors have known values. This would make camera profiling possible. An ICC profile corrects camera´s color rendering into a very accurate level. Color management is extremely important if right colors are manadatory in your photography. Again remember: Color is the only property any pixel in any image has (together with its known place in image grid). Everything in an image comes from these color values.

A reference target like this SpyderCheckr helps in determining how accurate colors a camera produces, because all these colors have known values. This would make camera profiling possible. An ICC profile corrects camera´s color rendering into a very accurate level. Color management is extremely important if right colors are manadatory in your photography. Again remember: Color is the only property any pixel in any image has (together with its known place in image grid). Everything in an image comes from these color values.

What is the color of her lipstick? Our images are not about solid colors but colors are changing all the time because shapes are curved and light has direction. That´s why every pixel has most of the time an unique color which is at least slightly different from neigbouring pixels. This makes determining right color quite difficult many times, even if we knew what the color of this lipstick should be. With a correctly made profile one´s camera would make lipstick color seem visually correct on the whole even if none of image pixels had the exactly correct value. Basically this gradual change in pixel colors comes from shape and light but there is always one more factor influencing single camera pixels. This is noise.

What is the color of her lipstick? Our images are not about solid colors but colors are changing all the time because shapes are curved and light has direction. That´s why every pixel has most of the time an unique color which is at least slightly different from neigbouring pixels. This makes determining right color quite difficult many times, even if we knew what the color of this lipstick should be. With a correctly made profile one´s camera would make lipstick color seem visually correct on the whole even if none of image pixels had the exactly correct value. Basically this gradual change in pixel colors comes from shape and light but there is always one more factor influencing single camera pixels. This is noise.

Noise

In previous blog we saw how noise limits dynamic range. Nikon D4 had a lesser dynamic range than Nikon D800 at ISO 100, even if it has deeper (bigger) camera pixels. The sensor in D4 has lots of read noise compared to D800´s sensor at ISO 100. With increasing ISO speed D4´s deeper pixels take command and D800´s pixels can´t compete because they receive less fotons and less fotons means less accurate measurement. This loss of accuracy is also one type of noise, which comes from electronic circuitry. Actually there are several types of noise which all come from light´s particle behaviour (photons) and the nature of camera pixels as photodiodes. A photodiode is a semiconductor which converts light into electric current. In most cameras today semiconductor type in use is CMOS. Cameras have CMOS sensors. To summarize this all very simply is to note that every single photodiode (camera pixel) is a tiny voltage meter. That´s all it does. And it is not perfect as a meter because of those imperfections which cause inaccuracy - noise.

Two crops from larger images. Both were shot with the same camera. In left side image exposure was set to fill lightest camera pixels up and the one on the right got less exposure, less light, as determined by camera´s automatic exposure system. Both images were brought to same brightness in Lightroom. The one which received less light has more noise, and noise destroys wispy clouds in the sky. On pixel level neither sky is noise free. In this case it is impossible to know which pixel is correct. The fact to know is that less light gives those tiny voltage meters less photons. If the difference in exposures is one f-stop, the difference in photons is double / half. One stop less exposure gives our voltage meter half the number of photons to calculate and turn into electricity, and naturally it can´t be as accurate with half the information. 

Two crops from larger images. Both were shot with the same camera. In left side image exposure was set to fill lightest camera pixels up and the one on the right got less exposure, less light, as determined by camera´s automatic exposure system. Both images were brought to same brightness in Lightroom. The one which received less light has more noise, and noise destroys wispy clouds in the sky. On pixel level neither sky is noise free. In this case it is impossible to know which pixel is correct. The fact to know is that less light gives those tiny voltage meters less photons. If the difference in exposures is one f-stop, the difference in photons is double / half. One stop less exposure gives our voltage meter half the number of photons to calculate and turn into electricity, and naturally it can´t be as accurate with half the information. 

Do you know which source of noise is the most important one lowering image quality in your images? Sadly it is you! Unless you know how to expose right and fill camera pixels up (but not over) every time. Only after learning to expose up, the sensor becomes dominating source of noise. What we also noticed earlier was that you should always keep ISO as low as possible for the purpose of shooting. Naturally it is always a compromise and it is better to take sharp but slightly noisy images rather than so smooth but hopelessly blurry ones.

Counting Photons

Lets take one more look at  those photon numbers. Sensorgen.info has those numbers and because of my own interest I chose Olympus OM-D E-M5 from there. Its full well capacity or Saturation (e-) is 25041 photons which each ideally kicks one electron moving in circuitry. As ISO is increased, every doubling of ISO drops saturation point or well capacity into half. This happens in every camera and sensor: doubling ISO or exposing one f-stop less leads into half the accuracy.  There is slight variations from sensor to sensor so that ISO doubling might lead into slightly less or slightly more than half, but the principle stays. As you can see at Sensorgen.info, for E-M5 the amount of electrons (countable photons) at ISO 25600 drops to mere 176. From 25000 to 176... Counting every single little photon and inducing exactly one electron each time becomes suddenly extremely important.  And this 176 is for the very brightest point of your scene - thus leaving those camera pixels which are counting photons from shadow areas quite helpless: One may get a few while neighbour has none... No wonder any E-M5 image at ISO 25600 has more noise than real color information.

While here, one more thing. Actually we discussed this already, but let us note once more how dynamic range does not get halved while Saturation (e-) is halved. At first that is. Read noise is largest at lowest ISOs but drops fast. That´s why dynamic range can´t be so high at lowest ISO and that´s why dynamic range does not drop immediately stop by stop. Only when read noise levels out, dynamic range starts to drop by a stop with every halving of photons. That´s how read noise is seen undirectly.

An Example on Pixel Cleanliness vs. Other Factors

This example comes from Dpreview.com. I didn´t find a way to link into the spot I wanted show, so I took also this screen capture below. Looking into link you can check other spots and also see how noise affects various colors differently with each of these cameras.

This example shows noise levels in shadows. These are at same print size, which is a fair comparison because sharp noise scales up or down linearly enough.  At these ISO differencies these four cameras have roughly equal amounts of shadow noise. This is also directly in line with dynamic range graphs we had in previous blog. As a side note Nikon D800 has less shadow noise than Sony A7R at ISO 3200 even if they (should) have same base sensors.

This example shows noise levels in shadows. These are at same print size, which is a fair comparison because sharp noise scales up or down linearly enough.  At these ISO differencies these four cameras have roughly equal amounts of shadow noise. This is also directly in line with dynamic range graphs we had in previous blog. As a side note Nikon D800 has less shadow noise than Sony A7R at ISO 3200 even if they (should) have same base sensors.

Here we see again how this kind of noise blocks details in shadows and limits the other end of dynamic range compared to read noise. It prevents any meaningful color information to exist in these darker areas of image files. Too few photons make our little voltage meters go crazy. Every one of them must try to figure things out alone without any help from their neighbours. As a matter of fact, for this kind of craziness there is a medication, noise reduction, which is sort of averaging the mistakes. It can be given at various points of process and it is not too harmfull in small doses but I really would recommend anyone again to try and help little guys stay sane and give them real, clean information instead.

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How Deep is a Camera Pixel?

Deep? Well, I didn´t want to write big...  How ever, the fact is that pixels in camera´s sensor have size while pixels in image file don´t.

A single "pixel" from a camera sensor looks like this on idea level. The image says CCD but the idea is the same for CMOS sensors. Pixel´s light sensitive area is shown as Dye Layer and as you can see it is far from the area taken by the whole electronic device, which a "pixel" actually is. Microlenses are used to gather more light, which hits the pixel area, into light sensitive Dye Layer. Image source Olympus.

A single "pixel" from a camera sensor looks like this on idea level. The image says CCD but the idea is the same for CMOS sensors. Pixel´s light sensitive area is shown as Dye Layer and as you can see it is far from the area taken by the whole electronic device, which a "pixel" actually is. Microlenses are used to gather more light, which hits the pixel area, into light sensitive Dye Layer. Image source Olympus.

Pixel pitch is used many times as a measure of pixel size. Pixel pitch is simply the distance between centers of two adjacent pixels.

Image source Olympus.

Image source Olympus.

This image of a slice of sensor shows clearly how pixel pitch is actually a very bad indicator of pixel size. The distance from one pixel center to another does not define the light sensitive area at all. In practice it is true that we see light sensitive area growing with increasing pixel pitch when we compare sensors at same technical level. Theoretically it should even grow faster than pixel pitch because electronics takes procentually less space from a larger than smaller pixel. But really, we don´t know.

Fill factor is used to describe how well light is gathered from the whole pixel area into light sensitive Dye Layer. The maximum theoretical value for fill factor is 100% or 1, which is not achieved in reality. Microlenses are vital for high fill factors. All microlenses are not equal. Also it becomes more difficult to make high quality microlenses when pixel pitch gets very small.

Sadly, even with the knowledge of pixel pitch and fill factor, we don´t know how big the light sensitive area is. We could have a sensor with smaller light sensitive area and better microlenses or vice versa. That´s why I would like to describe camera pixels with another denominator than just "size" in the meaning of area.

Image source Olympus. (Again this is CCD but the idea is the same for CMOS)

Image source Olympus. (Again this is CCD but the idea is the same for CMOS)

We need to look into the cross section of a pixel. Pixels can be thought as tiny buckets which collect photons and create electrons. Again ideally one emitted electron corresponds to each captured photon. This ability to collect photons is the best measure for the size of pixel: it can be thought as the depth of photon well. More exactly we speak about maximum saturation capacity of a pixel. When a pixel is saturated it can not take any more photons. The extra photons must be removed somehow, in the image above this is marked as Drain. I leave this to engineers, for the scope of this text the important thing is to understand that with a saturated pixel the well is filled up, in the image it is pure white.

Maximum Saturation Capacity

Website Sensorgen.info lists saturation capacities for several cameras. (Hopefully they keep updating...) Their numbers are calculated from the data measured by DxOMark.com. Read more about physics and mathematics at these two sites, I skip the details here an try to concentrate on the essential outcome. For this purpose, let´s then pick up three cameras from Sensorgen as an example: Olympus OM-D E-M5, Nikon D4 and Nikon D800. I chose these three because the first two have same number of pixels but different sensor sizes and the last two have same sensor sizes but different amounts of pixels.

This graph shows maximum saturation capacities (electrons) for these three cameras at various ISO settings. (ISO settings as defined by camera makers, DxOMark measured values based on different standard.) Click on image to see it bigger.

Here we see quite dramatically the depth of photon wells in Nikon D4 sensor. Its pixel pitch is 7.2 microns (micrometers) while D800 has 4.7 microns and E-M5 3.7 microns. The other thing which is as dramatic is the drop in saturation capacity when ISO is increased. At ISO 25600 every pixel can take just a few hundred photons before it is blocked.

Dynamic Range

Dynamic range in f-stops at various ISOs. Every f-stop change means doubling or halving in light intensity scale. Click on image to see it bigger.

When looking at the end result, the photograph, we don´t always see the effect of photon well depth as such because noise may, and always will, obstruct (some of) it. Dynamic range tells about the actual ability to handle differencies in luminosities from deep shadows to bright highlights.  Comparing to previous graph, this graph looks partly as expected and partly surprising. At ISO 100 one might have expected D4 to be better than D800, but D4 has lots of read noise compared to the very smooth D800, and this clips D4´s dynamic range. Note how noise properties of sensor versus saturation capacity are here calculated differently from DxOMark´s basic scores. Beyond ISO 400 D800 starts to drop a stop per full ISO increase while D800 does the same only after ISO 1600. E-M5 has the same situation after ISO 800. These could also be seen as the limits of native sensities in these sensors. D4: ISO 100 - 1600, D800: ISO 100 and secondly ISO 200 - 400, E-M5: ISO 200 - 800. This shows also how different sensors are tuned to different purposes. D800 shines at ISO 100. D4 does the same beyond ISO 800. And E-M5 shows how a smaller sensor has been designed and tuned to be quite equal at ISO 200 to ISO 400 and gives same dynamic range as D800 beyond this.

About dynamic range: It is excellent if it has more than 12 stops. For a good print you need 8 stops. At the limit 8 is enough but then there is no headroom left for major tweaks. A slide film used to have (and still has) 7.5 stops of DR. One should never use a higher ISO setting than needed.

Conclusion

A CMOS sensor is a programmable device. You can expect something from looking at pixel pitch, but don´t be fooled to think that there is nothing beyond it. Careful design and programming of sensor can give results which are right for you, if you know what you are looking for. What you need is deep but clean pixels. Next time we take another look into cleanliness of pixels. One more thing, though...

EU!

No, I don´t mean European Union but Expose Up. I have written previously about exposing to the right, ETTR. The problem with the concept of ETTR is that it comes from the idea of histogram. If you think about what I have written here and take a look at saturation capacity graph, it should be quite obvious that you should aim to expose as UP as possible without saturating sensor. That´s the way to take advantage of all the depth your camera pixels have!

-p-

How Sharp is a Camera Pixel?

In my previous blog I wrote about pixels in image file. I recommend reading it before this one, it´s right below: How big is a pixel?

LIke said there, the only property of a pixel in an image file is its color. Very seldom it can be said for a single pixel if its color is right or wrong. We need a bunch of pixels to know their quality. This quality comes always from camera. It is not possible to add more, un-captured, information to a file afterwards. You can only enchance what already is there. Losing information in post process, on the other hand, is quite easy. Actually you lose always information even if you do just a small change (like increase of brightness) to the whole image. You lose bits. Post processing would be another story, lets see now where quality comes to any bunch of camera pixels. Resolution, dynamic range and noise are perhaps the most common attributes of quality in camera centered discussions. This blog looks at resolution.

Resolution

To get an idea of the things which determine resolution I checked various camera systems. Photozone.de has reviewed lots of lenses. I chose a bunch of different sensor sizes and megapixel amounts and looked for the BEST MTF50 resolution Photozone has measured for each. The lenses I was interested in were prime lenses with standard or longer focal length for each system. These lens tests are good here because they are always relative to a certain camera body, which leads us to pixels in sensor.

Cameras are arranged here by increasing sensor size. While sensor size is obvious, MP is the number of megapixels, PH is the height of sensor (Picture Height) in pixels (landscape or shorter edge), MTF50 is Photozone measured resolution expressed in Line Widths per Picture Height and, finally, Lines/pixel is MTF50 divided by PH. Read about MTF50. Each of MTF50 values is achieved at the best aperture for the best Photozone tested native lens on the border of image (not center, not corner).

Cameras are arranged here by increasing sensor size. While sensor size is obvious, MP is the number of megapixels, PH is the height of sensor (Picture Height) in pixels (landscape or shorter edge), MTF50 is Photozone measured resolution expressed in Line Widths per Picture Height and, finally, Lines/pixel is MTF50 divided by PH. Read about MTF50. Each of MTF50 values is achieved at the best aperture for the best Photozone tested native lens on the border of image (not center, not corner).


NOTE: This is not a camera comparison.

My aim was just to see which parameters are directly related to MTF50 resolutions and quality per pixel. I could have chosen to mark cameras as Brand A, B, C etc but I trust the reader not to draw wrong conclusions. These bodies just happen to be the ones Photozone has used for each brand or system. Remember, this would be a VERY flawed camera or lens comparison because of several reasons:

- Some cameras have an AA filter some don´t. An AA filter lowers lenses´  MTF values.

- They have used various RAW-converters during years. Converter affects MTF values.

- There were several tested native lenses to choose from for some cameras and some had maybe just one. The most unfair situation is for Sony A7R. The only tested prime so far is a wide angle, Sony/Zeiss 35mm/2.8, which on the other hand is better than any of tested Sony zoom lenses.  A7R is not included to show how bad Sony is, but to help to see how things depend on so many things.

- These numbers are for the best lens for each system or camera because I was interested in what is possible. They do not show how good any system is on average.


Resolution with Increasing Megapixels

Values from table above, arranged by increasing megapixels. Click on image to see it bigger. Red lines, Excellent and Very Good, refer to 50cm or 20 inch high landscape print. Even the best printers have difficulties in showing differencies in sharpness beyond MTF50 (LW/PH) 3000 at this or smaller print size. For bigger prints the limit would be higher and for smaller ones lower, of course. If you want to print big, you need a right combination of megapixels and lens quality.

As seen, more megapixels tends to lead into more resolution, more details. Nothing new there. If lenses were equal in relation to each megapixel amount, the relation would be linear for non-AA sensors. As they are not equal, lenses make a huge difference, not sensor size. Sensor size has its effect, though. It gets harder to achieve mechanical accuracy for an intechangeable lens camera when sensor size is very small. Like said earlier, Sony´s 36MP A7R is handicapped relatively because Photozone has not tested enough of their lenses yet and now a wide angle lens has to compete against the best standard or short tele lenses. It can´t compete even with lots of more pixels to start with, but later Sony´s bar will obviously rise with new lenses tested. In absolute terms Sony/Zeiss 35mm/2.8 breaks the line of excellency easily at best apertures.

What I think is commonly forgotten is the importance of lens. Megapixels get too much attention.

Resolution per PIxel with Increasing Sensor Size

Click on image to see it bigger. This graph shows the values of Lines per pixel (from table above) against increasing sensor size.

Here we see how good the pixels are. Value 1 would mean perfect resolution for every pixel. Reality is not perfect, but Nikons 85mm 1.4 G lens is nothing short of amazing. Other than that, I wouldn´t see a bigger sensor size having any advantage in per pixel quality. FF (24x36) DSLR is the most established system format with more tested lenses than all the others together. Remember again, there are too many variables to draw any (other) hasty conclusions.

My take

Nothing can beat megapixels if you are after the absolute fineness of details. But then you must also have the best lenses, which comes after lots of money. The best lenses don´t come cheap. Adding more megapixels is easier than making better lenses and desiging the best optical solution for high density sensors. As I see it, the most common mistake people make is to forget the lens.

However I look into this matter, and I have done it many times, nothing can beat the line of Excellency as a reference of details. It is not on or off, though. The closer you get the better. And one more thing: you must be able to achieve it by yourself time and time again when you take a picture. It doesn´t fly into any body and lens from a test lab and get attached into your images automatically.

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How Big Is a Pixel?

On several forums, I have seen discussions where people claim that an image from a camera with bigger sensor size has always more resolution or details than another image from a camera with smaller sensor size even if they have same amount of pixels.

I have wondered where does this claim come from? If the amount of pixels is the same, how can the other pixels have more information?

RGB File

Lets take a look at RGB image file. In practise all image files from digital cameras are RGB files when they are in actual use. Some may be encoded differently when in storage on a memory card or computer disk, but when we see them they are usually RGB fimages. There are exceptions of course, like CMYK, but we can forget those here.

This is a 3000 percent enlargement of an image detail. I guess this is what commonly is meant with pixels, it is "pixelated"...

This is a 3000 percent enlargement of an image detail. I guess this is what commonly is meant with pixels, it is "pixelated"...

Only, these squares are actually not pixels, they are squares consisting of 30x30 alike pixels. This enlargement was made in Photoshop using Nearest Neighbour (hard edges) interpolation, which gives us this popular illusion of pixels.

Only, these squares are actually not pixels, they are squares consisting of 30x30 alike pixels. This enlargement was made in Photoshop using Nearest Neighbour (hard edges) interpolation, which gives us this popular illusion of pixels.

What is true is that each of these squares has the same RGB value for each of its "sub-pixels", which are clones of the original pixel. This is all we know about a pixel, its color and its place in this pixel grid. There is no details inside a pixel.

What is true is that each of these squares has the same RGB value for each of its "sub-pixels", which are clones of the original pixel. This is all we know about a pixel, its color and its place in this pixel grid. There is no details inside a pixel.

This is another 3000 percent interpolation of the same image detail. This time the algorithm used was Bilinear. What it does is to calculate lots of new pixels based on the original pixels. There are no blocks but smooth transitions to fill the gaps with color values between original color values. Again, there is no structure or information inside pixels, just colors and lots of invented new "information".

This is another 3000 percent interpolation of the same image detail. This time the algorithm used was Bilinear. What it does is to calculate lots of new pixels based on the original pixels. There are no blocks but smooth transitions to fill the gaps with color values between original color values. Again, there is no structure or information inside pixels, just colors and lots of invented new "information".

A pixel has no size

So, in an image file there is no size for a pixel. A pixel is just an item consisting of three RGB values. Like white is (255,255,255) or black is (0,0,0) and medium gray is (127,127,127). Pure red is (255,0,0), the opposite color cyan is (0,255,255) and we have this reddish color (241,156,151) in the image above. This is how color is formed from light. None of these RGB values have any need for size. Any number of pixels gets an illusion of size only when the image is looked at (be it large or small) and even then the illusion can be very varied as examples above show.

Because there is no size for a pixel, a smaller sensor is not enlarged any more than a bigger sensor (if they have the same amount of pixels) if you look at an image on screen or make a print. They have the same amount of information to start from to fill the same area. Simple as that.

With film, the smaller film size needed to be enlarged more than a bigger film size (same film type) to make similar size prints. This is because of this is how it physically happened. Both had same amount of information per unit of area, and the bigger actual image size had naturally more information. The one which was enlarged more had less information in the final print. With film you had to use a finer grain film (better information density) for the smaller format to overcome this problem.

A pixel has no home

Usually digital image files have EXIF information. It tells us when the image was shot, what was the camera´s name, which lens was used, how many pixels it has... We can also throw this EXIF information away. What is left is basically just those RGB values. (There is also other information but it is included only to tell software how to open and show the image on screen.) After stripping EXIF off, the image file does not know when it was shot, what was the camera or lens. It only knows how many pixels it has and each pixel has its RGB value. It has totally forgotten where it came from, how big was the sensor, was the shooter happy or sad... This is where it all ends up.

Are pixels good or bad? 

Then, if you have two image files without EXIF information, one from a smart phone´s camera and the other from a DSLR, both having, say, 12 million pixels, can you tell which is which? Both are shot at the same time in very good light at same field of view, same depth of field, Most of the time you can´t. Unless...

Unless there was a big difference in the qualities of lenses used. Then you can see which lens was softer or subpar in some other way. Also, if we shoot this comparison in less than optimal light for the smart phone, then we can tell the images apart. Only neither of these situations is related to the number of pixels in an image file. It is related to the quality of information saved in camera. And in neither case we don´t know anything based on one pixel. One pixel is not good nor bad. We need lots of pixels to notice a difference, quality or lack of it. What we need is a relationship between pixels.

Two kinds of pixels

I am writing more about quality of information which comes from neighboring pixels. Before that we must remember this: there are two very different things which are usually referred to as pixels. The other is a pixel in an image file, which was discussed here, and the other is a pixel in camera´s sensor. The latter pixel has physical properties, like size or actually depth.

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Live Composite - Another Hidden Gem

There seems to be a peculiar pattern emerging with Olympus.

As an example, they have the best exposure metering system in industry, but they don´t tell at all about it to photographers. It is not mentioned anywhere in Olympus manuals or advertising. They also have a very clever HDR function, which lacks just two technically minor things to be really useful for actual photography. It seems like Olympus is very good at inventing brilliant features, but then it also looks like they have no clue about how to implement them properly or how to use those features to create superb images.

Now, in Olympus OM-D E-M10, they introduced another potentially superb feature which belongs to the same category. It is called Live Composite. It has two fatal flaws which come right from not thinking how photographers could use this feature. Technically there is no reason for these flaws to exist - and no reason to not correct at least the other one of them in a firmware update. It should be so simple and obvious, Olympus. And then again, in the good Olympus traditition, Live Composite is not really mentioned in E-M10 User´s Manual at all... Perfect! (UPDATE: This was correct for the early downloaded User´s Manual but now Live Composite is included in User´s Manual).

Creating movement in digital photography

Creating movement in pictures can be created basically in two ways: 1) One long exposure or 2) several short exposures in series. The latter method needs post processing, of course. You need to stack those exposures as layers in Photoshop (or other like software) and use suitable layer blending mode to make all layers show through. The first method is usable when it is dark enough or (eventually) you need dark ND filters. The second method is usable always in any light and it can be used also without a tripod.

This image is a composite of some 30 consecutive shots. I shot those free hand (without a tripod or other support) @ 1/500s, f/5.6; Olympus E-M5, continuos shooting w. Lumix 20mm f/1.7 lens. Separate pictures were stacked as layers in Photoshop and aligned with Photoshop Auto Align function. Layer see through was set as percentiles so that every picture gave same effect to the final image. Three gulls is actually one gull flying through. I picked and masked it in from three suitable frames. Good masking technique comes handy here because you can select afterwards which area or objects show movement and which stay still.

The difference in images from these methods is in continuity of movement. The first method brings total continuity while the latter one tends to show "steps" like in image above. This steppiness can be diminished, even smoothed, with adding more shots and using slower shutter speed. Dark ND filters, especially those of variable type, are not good if you are after the best image sharpness and color rendition. Like said long exposures have their natural limit with the image becoming brighter all the time. This may make finding the balance between exposure and movement difficult. Consecutive shorter exposures do not have this limitation. So, there are pluses and minuses with both methods.

Live Composite

For long exposures, several Olympus bodies have a specific mode called Live Time. It is a version of Bulb mode where you can set the camera to start a long exposure and while exposure is going on you can follow how it develops in camera monitor or smart phone or iPad/Tab. When the image looks ready, you can stop the exposure. It is very simple and very convenient way to do long exposures. Because of built-in smart phone connection (the camera creates WiFi network) you can even sit inside while operating the camera.

With E-M10 Olympus introduced a new feature which combines short exposures into a long one in-camera, without any need for post-processing. It is called Live Composite. This means you can easily choose which way of making a long exposure is the best in each situation. The blending mode chosen for blending exposures is Lighten. So, in any new exposure there must be something lighter than before to make any change. If you start the exposure and there is no change in subject or light, the composite image stays the same, nothing happens in the composite image. Same goes also for the situation if light diminishes, the composite image stays as it was when the light was at its brightest.

All this means, of course, that you have to create images where adding something lighter is beneficial. Olympus brochures tell about star trails. Fireworks against darker sky is one more example and light painting another.

Product shots with Live Composite

Below I have a video example about creating a product shot using E-M10 Live Composite and one led panel plus a white reflector card. It starts with just the led panel and and I build the composite image gradually by adding lighter reflections to the subject. Live Composite is found by first going into manual exposure mode and then going past 60 seconds in exposure times. When there, pressing Menu button you get a sub menu where you can choose the suitable exposure time between 1/2 s and 60 s. You can use any ISO speed (up to ISO 1600)

and aperture but naturally the combination must be suitable for the hoped for exposure. Setting those and pressing shutter button, you get into a ready-state where the next pressing of shutter button starts Live Composite. (E-M10 in video is a demo camera from Olympus Finland and its menus were set for Finnish language. I only realised this when preparing this blog and the camera was already gone back to Olympus. Sorry about that!)

 

Live Composite is saved both as a RAW file (.ORF) and JPEG if you set so. Below we have the final image.

This Live Composite image was converted from RAW in Lightroom 5.4 with my standard preset plus a slight darkening and adjustment in white balance.

Instead of white reflector card I could have started with a darker starting point and added light with another led or any other source of light. I could even have taken my single led panel off stand and moved it around to lighten the camera up instead of reflector card. The possibilities are unlimited here. For product shots I recommend starting from one light and one reflector. Wild light painting fantasies are a totally another genre.

Light trails

Like Olympus suggests, shooting light trails (be they stars or fireworks or lightning or whatever) is the obvious realm for Live Composite. Here I started with a darkish base exposure, let Live Composite go on and waited for some cars to come and let their lights make some trails. It doesnt´t matter how long you wait because the base exposure doesn´t change, unless it is getting lighter. The only limit in exposure time is camera´s battery. Sadly Live Composite is only available in E-M10 which doesn´t have power grip...

Subject movement

Another obvious way to implement Live Composite is to shoot water in motion. Here we stumble into the glaring and easy to correct flaw: the shortest available exposure time is 0.5 seconds. It makes shooting impossible where sun shines. In these creek images below, I had to wait for clouds to obstruct sun or find details where trees helped me, and even then I had to use aperture f/22 and ISO Low (100). With so small aperture and E-M10 you can´t get a sharp image because of diffraction! There is no reason not to be able to use any shutter speed with Live Composite. With a faster shutter speed you will eventually get what you want because there is no worry about over exposure.

Light on dark and dark on light

The other flaw comes from the blending mode Lighten. You only get what is lighter than where you started from or where you were at some point. There will never be anything darker. Think about shooting against a medium grey wall and waiting for people to walk by. There comes a fair skinned person with black shirt and white jeans. Depending on shutter speed you get streaks of head and white jeans. No upper torso ever passed. Or maybe the person is black having white t-shirt and black jeans. Great, your image shows a white t-shirt passing by. Think about shooting tree leaves against slightly lighter sky. With a nice wind the end result will show no leaves, just the lighter sky...

Come on Olympus! If you can make Lighten mode work, you can as well make Averaging mode work! You have a winner here, why not make it actually usable. A whole new feature for star trails... Shees!

Smaller hickups

On monitor/EVF you do not see your actual starting exposure before you press shutter button, but what you see is the image as it would look like with automatic exposure. Shutter speed, aperture and exposure deviation are shown numerically. Olympus thinks you should be able to visualize how the image looks like with the shown exposure deviation. Some can of course, but this camera is not actually a professional camera for professional photographers. If Olympus thinks about this camera as an entry level OM-D camera they should not expect users to be wizards of pre-visualizing exposures. So, that´s also stupid. There is a detour though. You can go back to your normal manual shutter speeds and try first what combination works best.

The algorithms for blending exposures are not always as they should. Harsh transitions could be better handled. They can be corrected in post-production easily though.

Embarrasing

As you can read between the lines and even somewhere else, to that matter, I would love Live Composite with a couple of improvements. Now it is a stroke of genius haphazardly implemented. Of course Olympus is not alone here. Many other manufacturers are just as eager to add various so-so things just to make spec lists more impressive.  It only is no excuse for all the frustration this, another un-productized, feature will create.

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Getting to grips with Olympus E-P5

When I first saw Olympus PEN E-P5 it was love at first sight and immediate disappointment after I had it in hand. The "grip" it has is simply awfull. There is very little support and the edge of plastic grip is sharp against finger tips. E-P5 simply is not any good to be carried around with wrist strap.

My almost first comment was to ask for an accessory grip. After all E-P3 had nice changeable grips. Olympus sees E-P5 to be about style and mister Terada from Olympus was not at all interested in destroying design lines with any such utility accessories. Also the market segment for an E-P5 style camera and accessory grips don´t interlap enough. One more reason against extra grips was WiFi antenna being inside E-P5´s plastic grip.

Still I liked what E-P5 with VF-4 viewfinder offered and purchased one with the intention of making my own grip. It took some time for me to finally do it, but now I have used my grippier E-P5 for several months.

This grip is made of Sugru. This material is self-setting rubber which you can shape into any form you like. It dries slowly and fixes to most surfaces you can think of. It can also be removed from hard surfaces. More at their web site.

When dried Sugru surface is hard and shiny, but I did some shaping afterwards with sand paper, which lead to a matte surface. You can also use sharp tools to shape dried Sugru if needed. While doing it I also flattened the sharp inner edge of Olympus plastic.

Like said I have used my E-P5 with this grip for several months now and there is no signs of the grip getting loose. I am not sure if I would like a matte or shiny surface better, but as I got the position and shape of grip just right the first time, I have had no need to remove this grip and make a new one.

At least this much of Sugru over WiFi antenna doesn´t seem to affect WiFi in any practical way. However, I have not made any  comparisons with or without Sugru.

To get an idea of how much material and where I needed, I first made a (very) rough "prototype"  of Blu Tack.

To get an idea of how much material and where I needed, I first made a (very) rough "prototype"  of Blu Tack.

The Leica T Experience

 

Leica in Finland held this week a meeting where they showed the new Leica T camera system and gave a chance to try the camera briefly. Every new Leica leads inevitably into heated arguments across photography forums. This happened again when Leica T was introduced a week ago.

 

Much of this fuss comes from miss-understanding what Leica is. Leica is not (just) a camera maker, it wants to be seen as much as a luxury goods maker. If we want to analyze a Leica camera, we must stop behaving like photographers and think also about how successful it is as a luxury good.

There are two terms in economics which I think describe at least some of Leica: Veblen effect and positionality.

Veblen good in wikipedia: ”Some types of luxury goods, such as high-end wines, jewelry, designer handbags, and luxury cars, are Veblen goods, in that decreasing their prices decreases people's preference for buying them because they are no longer perceived as exclusive or high-status products. Similarly, a price increase may increase that high status and perception of exclusivity, thereby making the good even more preferable.”

Positional good in wikipedia: ”In economics, a positional good is a product or service whose value is at least in part (if not exclusively) a function of its ranking in desirability by others, in comparison to substitutes. The extent to which a good's value depends on such a ranking is referred to as its positionality.”

Material component

Leica want´s people to know that Leica T chassis is carved out of a monolith, well sort of: out of a solid 1.2 kg aluminum brick. I have been shooting in an aluminum factory several times and seen how they make aluminum profiles. Several meters long, red hot aluminum bar is pushed through a small, shaped (profile cross section) slit in a steel plate with brute force. For some reason aluminum profile is sold everywhere without making any noise about this quite spectacular achievement. Now, Leica T chassis comes to Leica after being carved out of that aluminum block by a CNC machine. It weights 94 grams. (Hopefully the rest 1106 grams can be re-used for another brick). It takes 45 minutes for every chassis to be polished by hand and to drill all necessary holes for screws.

Where the electronics and other body components come from, what is outsourced, what is designed by Leica or bought as OEM components, they don´t tell. A good guess for the sensor is Sony and looking into EVF gives you a Sony feeling,  which is different from e.g. Olympus or Fuji. Anyway, Leica T is finished in Germany and the finish quality says Leica.

Lenses are made in Japan. By Sony many would guess. But again, they are made to Leica standards. Actually many of the most coveted Leica R lenses were designed by Minolta and made at Minolta-Leica factory in Canada. So it is not who makes but who sets the standards and controls them.

Positionality here doesn´t really come from the material component, it comes from these ideas of carving from an aluminum brick and 45 minutes of polishing by hand. It comes from design and finish. Reading camera sites shows that Leica T seems to have everything to raise it to be the centerpiece of discussion. It is already loved and hated before the first camera is in the hands of the first buyer.

Leica T body is wider and slightly taller than my Olympus PEN E-P5. Actually it´s size is very close to Leica M size. Leica T has way better grip than regular E-P5, but I have pimped mine to even better standard. Sadly the only Visoflex EVF was not available when taking this picture.

Prices and value

With Leica, prices are not something that can be thrown to be mentioned or forgotten at the end of any blog. They too are in the center of discussion always when Leica is mentioned. Leica T body costs about 1500 €. From my perspective a real camera must have a viewfinder. Leica´s EVF for Leica T is called Visoflex. Price is at 450 €. Visoflex used to mean a reflex viewfinder for Leica M series. Now here, of course, there is no mirror. No aluminum either, Visoflex is black plastic - and the price is quite close to Sony´s EVF for Sony RX-1.

At start there are two dedicated lenses available: Leica Summicron-T 23/2 Asph. and Leica Vario-Elmar T 18-56/3.5-5.6 Asph. Lens prices are at 1600 € and 1450 € respectively. Summicron-T is claimed by Leica to be as good as 50mm Apo-Summicron-M, which costs 6000 €. Ooooh, VERY high positioning… Vario-Elmar T has been sneered at because of lacking speed. What if it beats most primes? Let´s see. Value is always relative to quality, usability - and buyer.

Then there is also Leica M-Adapter-T at 300 € which allows all Leica M lenses to be used with Leica T. Information is retained through 6-bit coding. Because of the short back-focus distance there will soon be a myriad of adapters from various suppliers to enable a myriad of lenses to be used with Leica T.

So, what we have here is a camera which leaves the shop ready to shoot at 3000 € or preferably with EVF at 3400 €. And with both lenses and EVF it is 5000 €. For an APS-C sensor camera with quite ordinary specifications. What´s the point?

Leica T design is very form und funktion. Both dials are on the back side. There is a separate video button. Shutter button has ON/OFF/FlashUp swith around it. Thats all, everything else is set via LCD touch screen. EVF is attached to the hot shoe. E-P5 looks very busy compared to Leica T but it is the more adjustable camera on eye. Without EVF Leica T´s icon based menu feels nicer.

Specifications and usability

Yes, Leica T is a very common modern APS-C size mirrorless camera by reading it´s specifications. A Louis Vuitton bag is no roomier than other bags, one can argue. I don´t know about the technical specifications of Jimmy Choo shoes. I have never asked but I guess also my wife has never thought about their specs at shoe stores.

Photography discussion today is way too much centered on specifications. Cameras are weighted by their lists of specifications (maybe divided by price). This is plain stupid.

For me a camera is a very utilitarian tool which is weighted purely by its suitability for my aims in photography. I am not interested about specs beyond my needs. I am not interested in gaining Veblen effect or positionality regarding cameras. (But I notice those in me regarding cars or watches which have very little utilitarian value for me). I am not interested in the resale value of my cameras. I only am interested in images they make possible for me.

Specifications weighted by needs leads to recognizing usability. And usability is something which can´t really be read from specifications. Much of usability can not be listed in any way at all because it is a combination of many areas.

Regarding Leica T, I like it´s pure, simple design and how it feels in hand. It is not too small or big nor too light or heavy for serious use. It has two dials as a proper camera should, but then it misses a locking button to separate autofocus and exposure. Also there is no in-body stabilization and none of present or announced future lenses are stabilized. Further missing is an as precise way to set exposure as with my present gear.

Leica T has a very nice icon based menu system. You can select your own menu items and keep the rest unseen in store. Sadly this system only works on 3.7” touch screen, and not in EVF. This again limits the usability of Leica T because you need to take it off eye to make most usual adjustments.

Of lenses the 23mm Summicron-T would be extremely interesting to test against Leica claims and the very best 35mm equivalent lenses. Leica T has the same amount of pixels as my OM-D E-M1. At base ISOs the better lens would give the sharper image. With lesser light, IS wins the game for me. Leica speaks about Leica look in Leica T images. This is again about positionality. I want to create my own look, good or bad.

Because of aluminum surface Leica T will be too cold to handle without gloves for most of the year here up North. An accessory leather protector or a snap-on skin is a must then.

A big bayonet you have... How about growing to be a big boy some day, my dear Leica T? Suddenly Leica M bodies seem to be gaining age... Retirement coming maybe?

Not my cup of tea

Now I only tried Leica T briefly, no test images, just the first feel. For me it was a very nice camera lacking usability the way I prefer. Many people have written about it having too little specifications for the price. It depends purely on the lenses if I am going to agree or not. I have gut feeling I will not, on a non-personal level that is. Like said, Leica T does not either fill any of my positional needs nor does raise any money spending urges as a Veblen good, but who am I say anything about it to anyone else...

Speaking of lenses Leica T will take any Leica M lens with 6-bit coded adapter. Here Summilux-M 35/1.4 Asph. which of course is clipped because of APS-C sensor. I would guess what you get in image quality leaves nothing to wish because of non-AA sensor. Of wider than 35mm M lenses I will guess nothing before seeing test results.

More here

Leica has their Leica-T site with accessory skins here. Dpreview has their first impressions and list of specs etc. here. Old Leica hand Michael Reichmann calls it the Sexiest Camera in the World here. And if you enjoy watching a German craftsman at work, you can do it here.

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In Decline

CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association, Japan) published their latest statistics yesterday. It goes to show how ever deeper the decline of Japanese camera industry is. One person asked me why I care, we can go on shooting as usual? Sure, our cameras keep on working, both of us are not really affected.

Still there are consequences. The first is of course inside camera industry. Smaller and diminishing market cuts R&D. Product development slows down, life span of cameras grow longer. We are heading back to old days when 10 years was not much for a camera. Smaller market makes it less interesting and some companies will leave. Most Japanese camera brands come from minor divisions inside bigger companies or concerns. Nikon is an exception, 98% of it´s profit (per end of 2013) comes from their camera division. The other two divisions are small and the other one of them is almost as much negative as the other is positive. Nikon has so far been succesfull at cutting costs with lesser sales. Nikon also is a wealthy company after several good years, it will not be the one to fall first. But some will when the big boss says that enough is enough, losing money in camera business is over now.

Next in chain is price. Camera prices will go up because smart phones have eaten the market for cheap ones. It is better to make less with higher profit. This has already started as both the average price and positioning of new cameras climb higher.

Then there are camera magazines and camera stores. There will be less readers, less buyers. The days when every high school girl had a Canon EOS DSLR are over. There will be far less newcomers. Photography is on it´s way back to be a specialist hobby. All the others just go happily snapping with their smart phones. There will also be less advertising. I would say the days of printed camera magazines are over very soon. Specialty stores in bigger cities will live on, others not.

The 12 year boom of photography is over! The good thing might be that from now on people discuss more about photographs than cameras. Actually that will not happen, there will always be more camera enthusiasts than hobby photographers, but maybe the craziest hype finally settles down.

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This graph shows CIPA camera shipments to the whole World and Europe for January-February compared to same period a year ago (red line). Total contains all digital cameras. Graph for Finland is my estimate based on discussions, and it shows shipments to dealers during the same period when compared to last year.

This graph shows CIPA camera shipments to the whole World and Europe for January-February compared to same period a year ago (red line). Total contains all digital cameras. Graph for Finland is my estimate based on discussions, and it shows shipments to dealers during the same period when compared to last year.