Tag Archives: Canon

Yongnuo 85/1.8 with better bokeh, less CA and noisier AF than Canon

12 Feb

For full details, see the video by Christopher Frost, below:


The breakfastographer’s opinion based on the samples shown is that the bokeh is nicer and the CA much lower in the Yongnuo. Corner sharpness is worse, though, and the autofocus has various issues described in the video. No statement was made about focus throw, but it seems to be okay, so manually focusing is an option. At a price of half the Canon, it’s cheaper than a Samyang/Rokinon/Bower/etc., which would also provide only manual focus.

In spite of the corner softness, it’s sold as a full frame lens, and its value proposition as a portrait lens is hard to beat on that format. If you do want to go cheaper, there are 50/1.8 options for APS-C cameras for just over a 100 eurodollars, but bokeh will be better with the 85/full frame combination – or really 85 on any format!

Sigma brings back the moiré

3 Feb

I believe I’ve written on this subject before. DPReview just exclusively announced the results of DxOMark testing of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 “Art” lens, announcing it to have achieved a perfect 36 “perceptual megapixels” on the Nikon D810’s 36 megapixel sensor. It therefore sort-of-ties with the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, which achieved 42 perceptual megapixels on a 42 megapixel sensor.

Discussion immediately broke out on whether the Zeiss Otus 85/1.4 or Nikon 105/1.4 provided nicer bokeh and whether this was, in fact, more important than sharpness. The Zeiss, in particular, is almost tied with the Sigma for sharpness, and like it excels in many other technically measurable characteristics. The Nikon may be half a step behind, and in fact has a focal length of 94.8mm vs. the Sigma’s 79.9mm, so is more comparable than it sounds at first.

But back to my original point, which is the following:


Excerpt from DPReview sample image no. 30, of the Sigma 85mm samples.

That’s right, moiré. It is a physical certainty that if the sensor has no anti-aliasing filter on it, and the lens outresolves the sensor, you will see moiré on certain subjects (you can find technical details of moiré and aliasing on the Wikipedia pages, moiré pattern and Nyquist frequency). Many manufacturers have dropped the anti-aliasing filter to squeeze more resolution out of their images and as a small cost-saving, or installed a second filter that cancels the first (slight cost increase). Wisely, Canon added the 5Ds without the R to their line-up, which cuts back on moiré much better than the 5Ds R.

In Nikonland, it seems the highest resolving lenses and highest resolving sensors do not make a good pair. That being so, should we buy high resolution cameras at all, and what other choices do we have? Both the Nikon D600 and D610 have weak AA filters (link in Polish) – a bad idea for a lower-resovling camera as the range of lenses that outresolve it will be greater.

Pentax now releases its cameras with an AA filter that works up to shutter speeds of 1/1000s – presumably adequate for most portrait work, and hopeful that anything you’ll want to shoot above that shutter speed will be moving so fast that aliasing is not likely.

In spite of this, Pentax remains, as of this writing, a stalwart of compact lenses that value bokeh over resolution – partly, perhaps, owing to the fact that some of its lenses have been available for quite some time.

It’s well known that Tamron and Pentax have been sitting in a tree lately, and so it is fitting that Tamron somewhat recently launched a line of f/1.8 primes – more compact than the competition’s f/1.4 standard. DxOMark allows comparing Tamron’s 85mm lens with Zeiss’ Otus and Milvus, for instance, and there’s hardly a hair between them. Most surprising perhaps is the performance of the Milvus at less than half the price of the Otus.

Incidentally, while the three aforementioned lenses max out the D800E’s sensor at 36 perceptual megapixels, Sony’s new Gold Master 85mm lens reaches no more than the same value – 36 P-Mpix on an AA-filterless 42 megapixel sensor.

It’s worth asking therefore whether the trend for the second half of this decade is going to continue with lenses increasing in size, resolving power, and price, as exemplified by the Art and Otus, or a reconsideration of traditional values.* If the former, I hope consumers will be asking for strong anti-aliasing filters, and that camera makers, in spite of mobile phone cameras nipping at their heels, will grant that gift.

*An opportunity, perhaps, for Chinese lens makers trying to push into the market.

Update 7 February 2017: For differences between the Art and Otus, check out Roger Cicala’s blog post.

Ink efficiency – class action lawsuit or storm in a teacup?

16 Sep

Over the past week, a couple of articles and videos have gone around the web, essentially alleging that Epson printers waste between 10 and 25% of their ink, depending on the printer model. A few comments are in order.

Innards of an inkjet printer. The evil ink cartridges are at number 3.

Innards of an inkjet printer. The evil ink cartridges are at number 3.

In tests I’ve read, Epson printers have consistently won for print quality and longevity. Epson apparently sells quality pigment inks that resist fading for a hundred years or more, under normal exposure conditions.

In the same tests, cartridge efficiency is often considered. Nothing special is done in the test, the cartridge is used as normal and any wastage that would normally occur, also occurs in the tests. Epson does not, based on such tests, have a reputation for being much more expensive to print with than other companies – be they Canon, HP or Lexmark.

Essentially, when you buy an Epson photo printer (and I don’t mean the small ones, I mean A3+ or bigger), it’s because print quality is your prime consideration. You want to use the best pigment and are willing to put up with the occasional maintenance that these divas require. It’s a considerable investment, and you SHOULD be an informed customer. This is not the kind of item you pick up out of boredom while waiting at the supermarket check-out.

Natural ultramarine pigment. It makes things blue.

Natural ultramarine pigment. It was used by Renaissance painters to make things blue.

Now, there is nothing written in law or anywhere that gives you an entitlement to being able to use 100% of what’s in the cartridge. Most people would realise that there will be some residue. Alleging a conspiracy by Epson to not use the cartridge fully is just taking this way too far.

Yes, in a theoretical world where 100% of your cartridge could be used, your prints would get a little cheaper, so by all means let’s put some pressure on Epson and other companies to improve the ink efficiency, not least for general environmental reasons (although obviously the overall impact from photographic printing is negligible, given it’s such a niche activity), but let’s also hold back on calls for heads to roll, because that’s just silly.

One project at a time – Ricoh’s apparent strategy for 2015

3 Aug

Watching Ricoh’s take-over of Pentax for the past few years, and especially this past year, has made one thing obvious: the company is extremely good at focusing business activity where it’s needed. As I’ve written before, Ricoh has gone on the record as the company who helped Pentax complete much-needed products like the long prime lens, the 1.4x autofocusing teleconverter, and an entry-level DSLR with a fully articulated display.

The selfie-proof K-S2 with its fully articulating display. (Yes, weather-sealed!)

The selfie-proof K-S2 with its fully articulating display. (Yes, weather-sealed!)

Having – in the shape of the K-S2 and K-3 II – delivered two major new DSLRs in the first half of 2015, it seems the imaging division is now working 100% on getting the full frame camera and lenses delivered. Two kit lenses are expected to be launched alongside the camera and already announced 70-200/2.8 and 150-450mm tele zooms. The only other camera to have recently had any refresh in the Pentax/Ricoh line-up is the Ricoh GR, and it was a rather minor update.

An apparent ever-green: the Ricoh GR, now in its second iteration.

An apparent evergreen: the Ricoh GR, now in its second iteration.

What you should read between the lines is that the company has dropped almost the entire former Optio segment of compact cameras. The most recent entrant was the premium compact Pentax MX-1, which is still available new in a few places, but at 150% of its original launch price. Used copies have appreciated about 10% beyond the original launch price – a rare example of a non-antique photography investment that works out profitable without much user input.

Ricoh has also held on to the X (superzoom) and WG (weather-proof) lines, adding to the latter a true action-cam, the WG-M1. Everything else was clearly unprofitable and is gone.

Making a splash: Ricoh's action hero cam, the WG-M1.

Making a splash: Ricoh’s entrance into the action cam market, the WG-M1.

Out of the many camera companies still vying for a spot in the shrinking market, Ricoh is the one to have most clearly made a decision to only be associated with premium products. Pentax DSLR bodies for years have been known for being a great package for the money, and Ricoh is continuing to push for that sky. Ricoh has been wise to keep the Pentax 645D in the line-up, and to recently lower the price of that medium format camera to just under 4k, meaning it can now eat away at the Canon 5DS and 5DS R as well as similarly priced Nikon and Sony offerings.

The very professional Pentax 645D medium format camera

The very professional Pentax 645D medium format camera

The Pentax Q series hasn’t had, or needed, a substantial upgrade in years, and Ricoh is wise not to pursue one at this time, instead apparently pouring those resources into development of what at this point is almost certain to be one of the top five cameras of the year.

A camera universally described as "fun": the tiny Pentax Q10.

A camera universally described as “fun”: the tiny Pentax Q10.

There have been no new lens releases for any system other than the full frame camera in 2015 (although those same lenses will work on all APS-C DSLR bodies as well), and yet customers are happy because the lens line-up is finally very nearly complete again, with no obvious, serious gaps, and those same customers, whether actually looking to buy into full frame at this point or not, will be happy yet again when the full frame camera is finally released. In hindsight, some of Pentax’ previous mis-steps are obvious, and Ricoh’s mission was easy: Listen to customer feedback and provide the products customers are asking for. So far, sales of new products seem to be progressing well in spite of their cost (Pentax’ 150-450mm was launched at 2-2.5x the price of comparable entry level Sigma and Tamron products, but may be superior in image quality terms), and the overall impression is that attachment rate (a measure of whether a business can be run on the razorblade model) is high for Pentax.

The MX-1, a premium compact that now retails at 150% of its original list price.

The MX-1, a premium compact that now retails at 150% of its original list price.

The Ricoh take-over has also allowed the new division to abandon any notion of consistent product styling. In the new Ricoh line-up, each camera is targeted in its design to its specific purpose and clearly does not need to adhere to design guidelines. This has cemented Pentax’ reputation as an engineering-driven company, and allowed the Ricoh Theta, K-S2 and WG-M1 to happen, at the small cost of the occasional less successful camera such as the K-S1. It is this increase of variance in commercial success, the ability to produce – and Ricoh have used this exact word – some truly innovative new cameras that go on to become surprise hits, at the cost of a few duds, that will allow some camera companies to survive in today’s markets over those producing minor iterations of existing, only moderately successful models.

Not made in California: the Ricoh Theta.

Not made in California: the Ricoh Theta.

What Ricoh apparently brought to Pentax beyond a willingness to put money into customers’ wishlists is a new management focus and, I suspect, the ability to rejuvenate relationships with third party manufacturers who play an undeniable role in the growth of the Pentax ecosystems – none more so, historically, than the K-mount! It will be interesting to see if other camera manufacturers can be similarly successful in realigning their strategy to these rapidly changing conditions, and continue to supply an array of choices to the customer.

All images used are promotional images courtesy of Ricoh Imaging.

Nikon vs. Canon, pt. 1: the bodies

21 Feb

The Nikon D5300 and Canon EOS 70D are the two highest resolving APS-C cameras from the two makers that have been thoroughly tested by DxOMark, and it gets quite interesting when you look at the data. Sampling 33 lenses that are shared between the two systems (13 Sigmas, 7 Tamrons, 5 Zeiss, 4 Tokinas and 4 Samyangs)

Even on APS-C, none of the tested lenses yielded less than 8 “perceptual megapixels” – when used on full frame, the effective resolution is expected to be greater.

Results for sharpness and aberration give the following picture:


The fact that the Nikon offers more resolution is to be expected, given its 24 vs 22 megapixel advantage and omission of an anti aliasing filter. On top of that, the 1.6 crop factor of the 70D amplifies any flaws in the lens by about 7%, including chromatic aberration. There is also a difference in flange distance, but at 44mm (Canon) vs. 46.5mm (Nikon), this might actually favour the Nikon, and in any case is not sufficient to explain the difference. Even though on account of the crop factor, one would expect the Nikon to have an advantage w.r.t chromatic aberration as well, the difference is statistically not as significant as the difference in resolving power, but I thought it worth mentioning in passing.

Overall, it is clear that the Nikon is able, in theory, to give a significantly more detailed image, but let’s wait for part 2 to see if this holds up to further analysis.

16mm is the new 18mm

1 Feb

Over the course of 2014, the kit lens landscape has changed significantly, with Samsung announcing not one but two new standard zooms, the 16-50mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 and its weightier sibling, the f/2 to f/2.8 with the same focal length range, both stabilised. Fujifilm also followed up its 16-50mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 from mid-2013 with a new f/2.8 variant at the same focal range just recently. Also during 2014, Tamron announced a 16-300mm superzoom lens for APS-C, at f/3.5 to f/6.3. Pentax has had a 16-50mm standard zoom at f/2.8 for many years, and in 2014 announced a new 16-85mm f/3.5 to f/5.6.

Man and Camel, Morrocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm. Promotional image by Tamron.

Man and Camel, Morocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm.

The most active on the 16mm front is probably Sony – they’ve carried a 16-80mm f/3.5 to f/4.5 since 2006, 16-105mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 from 2007 and 16-35mm f/2.8 from 2009 as well as the 2014-introduced 16-35mm f/4 in collaboration with Zeiss – all in A mount. In E mount, there’s the 16-50mm f/3.5 to f/5.6, and again in A mount the much weightier and stabilised 16-50mm f/2.8. But with four major manufacturers fully embracing 16mm as the new wide angle limit standard, 18mm zooms may become a hard sell.

Woman pauses near vendor display. Fes, Morocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm. Promotional image by Tamron.

Woman pauses near vendor display. Fes, Morocco. Taken with Tamron 16-300mm at 16mm.

Meanwhile, Nikon’s 16-35mm and 16-85mm are a few years old now, and while Canon released a 16-35mm f/4 in 2014 (and has an f/2.8 variant from 2007), it feels like Nikon is not really on top of this story (seemingly betting most of its money on growth in full frame cameras), and Canon does not see going wider as a priority – perhaps sensible given its 7% narrower field of view in the APS-C segment (Canon’s APS-C crop factor, due to a smaller sensor size, is 1.6 vs. most other cameras’ 1.5).

One wonders whether 2013’s star new lens, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, feels a bit left out – undoubtedly a compromise in design the lens to achieve the f/1.8 constant aperture, but a similar compromise will now have to be made by the buyer where wide angle shots are concerned. Ultimately, you’ll never escape the desire, in some situations, to zoom with your feet.

Will Canon eliminate viewfinder black-out?

13 Aug

Viewfinder blackout is one of the most upsetting limitations of current camera technology. So far, it affects all cameras that produce a viewfinder image through the same lens that is subsequently used for image capture.

Canon now has a patent on switching from the traditional phase-detect autofocus (PDAF) sensor to its dual pixel on-sensor PDAF. Like many patents, this is in itself so obvious that it doesn’t, in my opinion, justify a patent. However, Imaging Resource has mused whether this means that there is a sister patent that will explain how a viewfinder image will continue to be generated during such capture. Obviously, this would point at some kind of hybrid viewfinder, but Canon might, in the process, succeed in eliminating black-out. Ironically, one way to implement such a viewfinder would be through another additional pellicle or reflex mirror.

It certainly is bloody time that somebody eliminated black-out. Aptina’s sensors can be read out at 60 Hertz to record a full resolution image. In spite of Nikon’s 1 series supporting such a framerate, something is clearly wrong with the electronics design since even those cameras still have black-out.

One has to wonder whether Canon will eventually bowl itself out of the game with its apparently steam-punk approach to this problem. At the same time, one wishes that Nikon electronics and software engineers would get their hands out of their ***** and produce a better processing pipeline. I have no doubt the Germans could do it if they put their minds to it. Hey Leica, are you listening?

Source: Egami (Google Translate Link Warning: LINK)