Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC 2018 tips

Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC 2018 tips – part 1

So, you’ve either upgraded to Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop CC 2018, or you are thinking doing so.

Well, here are a couple of things I’ve found – I’ve called this part1, because I’m sure there will be other problems/irritations!

Lightroom Classic CC GPU Acceleration problem

If you are having problems with shadow areas appearing too dark and somewhat ‘chocked’ in the develop module – but things look fine in the Library module – then just follow the simple steps in the video above and TURN OFF GPU Acceleration in the Lightroom preferences panel under the performance tab.

Screen Shot 2017 10 19 at 12.06.49 1 900x506 Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC 2018 tips

Turn OFF GPU Acceleration

In the new Photoshop CC 2018 there is an irritation/annoyance with the brush tool, and something called the ‘brush leash’.

Now why on earth you need your brush on a leash God ONLY KNOWS!

But the brush leash manifests itself as a purple/magenta line that follows your brush tool everywhere.

You have a smoothness slider for your brush – it’s default setting is 10%.  If we increase that value then the leash line gets even longer, and even more bloody irritating.

And why we would need an indicator (which is what the leash is) of smoothness amount and direction for our brush strokes is a bit beyond me – because we can see it anyway.

So, if you want to change the leash length, use the smoothing slider.

If you want to change the leash colour just go to Photoshop>Preferences>Cursors

Screen Shot 2017 10 19 at 12.23.50 900x704 Adobe Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC 2018 tips

Here, you can change the colour, or better still, get rid of it completely by unticking the “show brush leash while smoothing” option.

So there are a couple of tips from my first 24 hours with the latest 2018 ransom ware versions from Adobe!

But I’m sure there will be more, so stay tuned, and consider heading over to my YouTube channel and hitting the subscribe button, and hit the ‘notifications bell’ while you’re at it!

 

 

Irix Edge Filters

Irix Edge Filters

A few weeks ago, Irix dropped me a set of their Edge 95mm screw-in filters to try on their fabulous 15mm Blackstone lens.

Irix Edge CPL ND UV logo white 900x506 Irix Edge Filters

Now before we go any further, I have to say, that filters for landscape photography can represent something of a bottomless pit of expenditure in your photography gear.

I see folk with vast numbers of filters; NDs, grad NDs, tint and temp grads, fogs and soft focus filters and all sorts of exotic bits of glass and acrylic to stick on the front of their superb (and sometimes not so superb) landscape lenses.

Some of those same folk then look inside my bag in horror when they see that I only carry 3 filters – a 10 stop ND, 6 stop ND and polarizer.

I gave up using ND grads years ago, simply because they are time-consuming, and because if your horizon is not perfectly flat they will always effect the exposure of your middle to far foreground in some way or other.

For me, I find it far faster to shoot a bracketed sequence.

When your are shooting under very transient light conditions, such as sunset and twilight, time spent choosing and lining up a grad ND is time lost.

Followers of this blog will know that I have Lee SW150 and Lee 100 systems, both with 10 stop and 6 stop NDs and a polariser – the SW150 a circular, and the 100 system is a linear.  I’d have linear for the 150 system if they made one, simply on the grounds that they are normally cheaper – and I’m a tight-ass cheapskate!

When Irix sent the 15mm Blackstone for review, I purchased the Lee SW150 adapter ring for 95mm thread lenses – it works well and I can’t fault it.

But, I had the insanely expensive SW150 system holder and glass filters ALREADY, because I used them on the 14-24mm f2.8 Nikkor, and sometimes on my beloved Zeiss 21mm.

When I originally reviewed the 15mm Irix Blackstone there was really no other option for filtration.

But this new range of 95mm Irix Edge Filters now means that landscape photographers can have the necessary filtration without having to go with any form of 150mm filter system.

The 95mm Irix Edge Filters range.

Irix Edge CPL ND UV box 1 900x768 Irix Edge Filters

The packaging is robust and keeps the filters safe.  The card outer sleeve tells you what filter is inside,  though if you remove/loose it then you have to open the case and examine the edge of the filter to see the same information – it’s the only niggle I have, and it’s a minor one and certainly not a deal-breaker.

Though our Richard might argue that point after sprinting along the side of Howden reservoir after one that blew away in the wind yesterday!

But it would be nice of Irix to put the information inside the case so you could see it without faffing around – it all saves time, and time can be of the essence!

The filter range consists of:

A UV/Lens Protect – you all know my attitude to these by now!

Circular Polariser – this is mounted in a low profile 5mm frame with knurled edges, and has a double-sided anti-reflective nano coating.  AND – it is front-threaded to allow for a certain amount of stacking with other filters in the range – more on that shortly.

ND 8, 32, 128 & 1000 Neutral Density – these ND filters are all built in a 3.5mm metal frame, so are super low-profile.  They are all front-threaded and have the Irix double-sided anti reflective coatings.

ND filter terminology:

This seems to confuse a lot of people, which I suppose is understandable because different manufacturers persist in using different, and in the case of Lee for instance, MIXED terminologies.

So let’s try and break this down for you.

A one stop drop in exposure results in HALF the amount of light reaching the sensor/film plane.

A half is represented by the fraction ‘1/2’.

Irix, and others, take the denominator (bottom number of the fraction), stick the letters N & D in front of the said denominator, and now we have the filter value of ND2.

So, an ND2 neutral density filter is a ONE STOPPER – to use one particular Lee parlance!

If we reduce our exposure by 3 stops (that’s half of a half of a half, in other words 1/8th) then an ND8 filter is a THREE STOPPER!

An ND32 is a FIVE STOPPER, and ND128 is a SEVEN STOPPER.

And finally, an ND1000 (which is actually an ND1024!) is a TEN STOPPER – of Lee Big Stopper fame.

However, an ND1000 (ND1024) can also be classed in the ‘X.Y’ system as ND3.0 – oh dear!

The ‘X.Y’ (x point y) system is most commonly encountered with ND Grads – for example the Lee Soft-edged ND Grad set featuring 0.3, 0.6 & 0.9 ND Grads.

A 0.3 ND is the same as an ND2 – a ONE STOPPER, a 0.6ND is a two stop or ND4 and a 0.9ND is a 3 stop or ND8 – don’t you just love it!!

So hopefully we’ve cleared any confusion over ND stop values, so let’s get back to the Irix Edge Filters and my thoughts on how they perform.

If you click this link HERE you will be taken to page where, if you scroll to the bottom, you can watch a video of me doing a couple of shots at Salford Quays the other day.  I didn’t have my glasses on for the ‘talk to the camera bit’ and so made a slight screw up when talking about the focus scales – watch it and you’ll see!  And I’ve been told that I must apologise for inferring that Salford Quays is in Manchester!

Anyway, here are the two shots we did in the video:

D8E3501 Edit 600x900 Irix Edge Filters

Media City Footbridge, Salford Quays.

D8E3515 Edit 900x506 Irix Edge Filters

Salford Quays, NOT in Manchester! Irix Edge Polariser stacked with the Irix Edge ND1000

The first image (Media City Footbridge) is shot with just the 95mm Irix Edge Filters circular polariser.

Conditions were vile with sun and rain in rapid succession and the shot will never win any prizes, but it does help show that the filter does not effect sharpness in the image, and is a lot more colour-neutral than a lot of CPLs out there on the market.

The second shot is with the ND1000 stacked on top of the CPL – and again there is no noticeable lack of sharpness.

When you stack the filters there IS a SMALL amount of vignetting as seen in the uncropped/unedited raw file below:

D8E3514 900x601 Irix Edge FiltersBut that’s easily taken care with a little bit of content aware fill in Photoshop, so you don’t HAVE to crop it out:

D8E3514 Edit 900x601 Irix Edge Filters

And just for reference, here’s the unfiltered scene:

D8E3516 900x601 Irix Edge Filters

God – how boring!

As a final testament to the stacked CPL + ND1000 Irix Edge Filters combo, here’s a shot from Howden Reservoir in the Peak District, taken yesterday directly into the teeth of ex-hurricane Ophelia:

D8E3562 Edit Edit Edit 601x900 Irix Edge Filters

Howden Reservoir during Ophelia.

If you look at the larger image, considering the fact that this is a 15 second exposure and that everything not nailed down is moving, then this image is plenty sharp enough – check out the fence lines on the hill, and the left tower of the dam in the distance.

Do NOT forget, this is a 15mm lens, not a more conventional 21mm to 24mm lens.

I could not pull this shot off with a Zeiss 15mm – no filters and bad edge performance.  And I couldn’t pull it off as easily with the Nikon 14-24mm because the filters would have been unshaded from the sunlight off to my front right.

I was asked a couple of weeks ago ‘how neutral are the Irix Edge Filters Andy’?

It turns out the person who asked me had just read about some U.S branded CPL and ND filters that are supposed to be the most color-neutral filters on the market.  This is also the same guy who still uses a Mark 1 Lee Big Stopper with its phenomenal blue/green cast.

“Do you ever change the colour balance, hue, saturation or luminance of any of your 8 colour channels in Lightroom, and the Basics Panel vibrance and saturation sliders?” I asked.

“Of course I do” came the reply.

“So why are you asking about filter neutrality then?” asks I.  This was followed by a long silence, then the penny dropped…!

Yes, we all want some degree of filter neutrality because it shortens our workflow; but please remember that we are not shooting archive.  We shoot creative imagery.  We make shots of ice bergs have a blue tint to emphasize the cold atmospheric of the image, and we invariably warm up and saturate certain areas of every sunset image we ever take.

So to a large degree, full neutrality of of our landscape filters is not required, as long as they are neutral enough NOT to exclude certain wavelengths/colours of light from our recorded raw files.

And yes, on the neutrality front, these Irix filters are very good.  The ND1000 is a little brown/warmish, but about 20% less so than the B&W screw in 10 stop I used to use – and no one ever complained about that filter.

I did a very ‘Heath Robinson’ test on the Irix 95mm CPL and got a colour shift of 2,7,5 RGB, but I’m just waiting for Paul Atkins to get back of his holiday so I can use his small colourimeter to check it more accurately – so PLEASE don’t go quoting that value or treating it as hard fact.

I’ll do an colour shift evaluation test on a range of filters at some date in the future, but for now all I can say is that I find the 95mm range of Irix Edge Filters exceptionally easy to work with both in terms of colour rendition and image sharpness.

So much so that I’m going to try and ‘bum’ an 82mm and 77mm step-down rings so I can use them on my Zeiss and Nikon lenses – apart from the 14-24 that is, which is now banished from my landscape and astro gear line-up for ever.

In the meantime, guess what? Irix have asked me to do a talk at Camera World Live on Saturday 28th October!

I’ll be doing my brief talk at 3pm – see here – and I’ll be on the Irix stand all day, so if you are there, just pop along for a chat or any advise you want.

Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report – September 2017

DSC 0627 900x632 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

Class of 2017, left to right – Steve Kaluski, Malcolm Stott, Mohamed Al Ashkar, some Bearded Fat Git, Phil Piper and the best Dovre guide in the business Sigbjorn Frengen.

And the most important member of the team – “Brew Dog”

IMG 2487 900x534 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

The most important team member on a long hike on Dovrefjel – ‘Tell’ the GWP that looks like a GSP, otherwise known as “Brew Dog”.
pic by Steve Kaluski.

KLM  screwed up Malcolms arrival in Trondheim by a few hours, and managed to separate him from his hold luggage for an astonishing 72 hours, but other than that, the trip was hitch-free.

Other than my good pal Mohamed, none of the guys on this trip had really spent much “up close and personal” time with Musk Ox or White-tailed Eagles before – they were in for a few surprises on those two scores. And ‘shock & awe’ at just how much ‘stuff’ Mohamed buys from the Spa shop in Lauvsnes to take home to Cairo!

We had spotted a lone bull Muskie on the way up on the Friday evening.  He was only perhaps 300m from the main E6, but there’s a big cold river and a railway line between the road and the bull, so getting to him would be somewhat indirect.

Sig arrived early on the Saturday morning and said that the bull was pretty much in the same place – great!  But we couldn’t approach him from the shorter, eastern access point because that would have meant approaching him from upwind – not really a good idea all things considered.

So we were left with a much longer hike into what bit of breeze there was:

Screen Shot 2017 09 27 at 13.02.00 749x900 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

The military road heading north east on the aerial shot above has been torn out as part of the re-wilding of the fell – it looks like some freakish giant mole has been though the place, and it’s horrible to walk on.  Thank God there were no midges around; they’d have made the long hike murder!

But wow, was it worth it!

We spent pretty much the whole day in the company of this stunning animal – and being in such an amazing place made the whole experience feel like a real privilege.  Cheers Sig, you did it again…

The underlying theme of the week was getting to grips with the Canon 1DX2 autofocus system, and the different setting requirements for big, semi-static subjects like Musk Ox, and the somewhat closer, fast-moving eagles.  As I frequently demonstrate to folk on training days, one setup will NOT cover both categories of subject efficiently.

11I7244 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

Canon 1DX MkII & 200-400+tc for 506mm.
1/1000th @ f6.3
MA +5

Now if we take a close look at an unprocessed raw file we can see the surprising amount of depth of field we get even at f6.3 – that’s just 1/3rd of a stop down from wide open with the internal teleconverter engaged.

Without the MA +5 value, with the TC engaged, the camera side of the Muskies head would be at the rear DoF limit – like the unripe berries on the juniper are in this full resolution unprocessed crop below:

11I7238 900x900 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

Click to view at full resolution.
Note the DoF distribution at f6.3

11I7285 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I7629 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I7674 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I7789 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I7963 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

On the Sunday we drove up into the mountains near Oppdal, close to the Sæterfjellet breeding station, to a location where Arctic Fox had been reported.  Sadly it was full of photographers and the foxes were having none of it, they stayed firmly out of sight.

I found a small quarry and decided to test out the new Irix 11mm:

D8E3372 Edit Edit 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

And so we began the lengthy drive to Lauvsnes and the awesome eagles….it’s the pedal on the right Ole!

The weather was a bit grey and flat on Monday, but it got the guys used to the manic action that comes with eagle photography from the boat around the Lauvsnes coastline, without the added difficulty of the boat pitching and rolling.

Plus it gave Phil Piper a chance to try some drag shutter Eagle shots:

BF7U9590 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

“Arty-Farty Eagle” as Ole would say. Photo by Phil Piper

But once we got into Tuesday the wind began to build, and Wednesday/Thursday saw plenty of long swell and the boat heaving a few feet – usually upwards as an eagle is coming down!  The workload was now up to it’s normal degree of severity, and I have to say that all the guys coped with it admirably.

11I4829 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

11I4830 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

Super-imposing the two shots above and lining the bait and swell up, clearly shows the distance traveled by the eagle between two successive frames at 10 frames per second. You can think of a mature White-tail as being around 1 metre from end to end, so the speed is around 10 metres per second.

11I4829 Edit 900x689 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

A 1 meter change at 60 or 70 meters is something of a minor change, but at sub 25 meters like these then that same distance change becomes something major than minor.

Tracking Sensitivity and Accel/decel tracking control the system resistance/sensitivity to major and minor changes, but in truth these settings will fall short when a fast subject gets close – that point where minor changes become major ones.

The result will invariably be back-focused images.

But we can help the system be making it focus closer to the camera than it thinks it should do, and we can do this very easily with negative AF MA values – in these cases -3.

Here is a quick sequence of O.J. aka “The Terminator” – big, permanently angry, fearless of close proximity to the boat, ignorer of wind direction, and fast.

11I3261 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I3262 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

11I3263 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I3264 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I3265 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I3267 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report 11I3269 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

Every shot tack sharp, and the sequence covers just shy of 1 second because, according to Lightroom, they were all taken at the same second!

Yup, told you he was fast!  Not quite as psychotic as the late lamented Brutus, but not far off.

So all in all, a good trip, with happy clients – I couldn’t ask for more!

Let’s finish with a couple of sunset eagles.

11I4275 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

11I4321 Edit 900x600 Eagle & Musk Ox Trip Report

FX vs DX

FX versus DX

It amazes me that people still don’t understand the relationship between FX and DX format sensors.

Millions of people across the planet think still that when they put a DX body on an FX lens and turn the camera on, something magic happens and the lens somehow becomes a different beast.

NO…it doesn’t!

There is so much crap out there on the web, resulting in the blind being led by the stupid – and that is a hardcore fact.  Some of the ‘stuff’ I get sent links to on the likes of ‘diaper review’ (to coin Ken W.’s name for it) and others, leaves me totally aghast at the number of fallacies that are being promoted and perpetuated within the content of these high-traffic websites.

FFS – this has GOT to STOP.

Fallacy 1.  Using a DX crop sensor gives me more magnification.

Oh no it doesn’t!

If we arm an FX and a DX body with identical lenses, let’s say 500mm f4’s, and go and take the same picture, at the same time and from the same subject distance with both setups, we get the following images:

D5A9517 2 900x600 FX vs DX

FX versus DX: FX + 500m f4 image – 36mm x 24mm frame area FoV

D5A9517 900x600 FX vs DX

FX versus DX: DX + 500mm f4 image – 24mm x 16mm frame area FoV

FXvDX 900x411 FX vs DX

FX versus DX: With both cameras at the same distance from the subject, the Field of View of the DX body+500mm f4 combo is SMALLER – but the subject is EXACTLY the SAME SIZE.

Let’s overlay the two images:

FXvDX2 900x600 FX vs DX

FX versus DX: The DX field of view (FoV) is indicated by the black line. HOWEVER, this line only denotes the FoV area. It should NOT be taken as indicative of pixel dimensions.

The subject APPEARS larger in the DX frame because the frame FoV is SMALLER than that of the FX frame.

FXvDX3 900x496 FX vs DX

But I will say it again – the subject is THE SAME DAMN SIZE.  Any FX lens projects an image onto the focal plane that is THE SAME SIZE irrespective of whether the sensor is FX or DX – end of story.

Note: If such a thing existed, a 333mm prime on a DX crop body would give us the same COMPOSITION, at the same subject distance, as our 500mm prime on the FX body.  But at the same aperture and distance, this fictitious 333mm lens would give us MORE DoF due to it being a shorter focal length.

Fallacy 2.  Using a DX crop sensor gives me more Depth of Field for any given aperture.

The other common variant of this fallacy is:

Using a DX crop sensor gives me less Depth of Field for any given aperture.

Oh no it doesn’t – not in either case!

Understand this people – depth of field is, as we all know, governed by the aperture diaphragm – in other words the f number.  Now everyone understands this, surely to God.

But here’s the thing – where’s the damn aperture diaphragm?  Inside the LENS – not the camera!

Depth of field is REAL or TRUE focal length, aperture and subject distance dependent, so our two identical 500mm f4 lenses at say 30 meters subject distance and f8 are going to yield the same DoF.  That’s irrespective of the physical dimensions of the sensor – be they 36mm x 24mm, or 24mm x 16mm.

But, in order for the FX setup to obtain the same COMPOSITION as that of the DX, the FX setup will need to be CLOSER to the subject – and so using the same f number/aperture value will yield an image with LESS DoF than that of the DX, because DoF decreases with decreased distance, for any given f number.

To obtain the same COMPOSITION with the DX as that of the FX, then said DX camera would need to move further away from the subject.  Therefore the same aperture value would yield MORE DoF, because DoF increases with increased distance, for any given f number.

The DX format does NOT change DoF, it’s the pixel pitch/CoC that alters the total DoF in the final image.  In other words it’s total megapixels the alters DoF, and that applies evenly across FX and DX.

Fallacy 3.  An FX format sensor sees more light, or lets more light in, giving me more exposure because it’s a bigger ‘eye’ on the scene.

Oh no it doesn’t!

Now this crap really annoys the hell out of me.

Exposure has nothing to do with sensor size WHAT SO EVER.  The intensity of light falling onto the focal plane is THE SAME, irrespective of sensor size.  Exposure is a function of Intensity x Time, and so for the same intensity (aperture) and time (shutter speed) the resulting exposure will be the SAME.  Total exposure is per unit area, NOT volume.

It’s the buckets full of rain water again:

sensor size exposure 900x297 FX vs DX

The level of water in each bucket is the same, and represents total exposure.  There is no difference in exposure between sensor sizes.

There is a huge difference in volume, but your sensor does not work on total volume – it works per unit area.  Each and every square millimeter, or square micron, of the focal plane sees the same exposure from the image projected into it by the lens, irrespective of the dimensions of the sensor.

The smallest unit area of the sensor is a photosite. And each photosite recieves the same said exposure value, no matter how big the sensor they are embedded in is.

HOWEVER, it is how those individual photosites COPE with that exposure that makes the difference. And that leads us neatly on to the next fallacy.

Fallacy 4.  FX format sensors have better image quality because they are bigger.

Oh no they don’t – well, not because they are just bigger !

It’s all to do with pixel pitch, and pixel pitch governs VOLUME.

pixelpitch 900x302 FX vs DX

FX format sensors usually give a better image because their photosites have a larger diameter, or pitch. You should read HERE  and HERE for more detail.

Larger photosites don’t really ‘see’ more light during an exposure than small ones, but because they are larger, each one has a better potential signal to noise ratio.  This can, turn, allow for greater subtle variation in recorded light values amongst other things, such as low light response.  Think of a photosite as an eyeball, then think of all the animals that mess around in the dark – they all have big eyes!

That’s not the most technological statement I’ve ever made, but it’s fact, and makes for a good analogy at this point.

Everyone wants a camera sensor that sees in the dark, generates zero noise at ISO 1 Million, has zero diffraction at f22, and has twice the resolution of £35Ks worth medium format back.

Well kids, I hate to break it to you, but such a beast does not exist, and nor will it for many a year to come.

The whole FX versus DX format  ‘thing’ is really a meaningless argument, and the DX format has no advantage over the FX format apart from less weight and lower price (perhaps).

Yes, if we shoot a DX format camera using an FX lens we get the ‘illusion’ of a magnified subject – but that’s all it is – an illusion.

Yes, if we shoot the same shot on a 20Mp FX and crop it to look like the shot from a 20Mp DX, then the subject will have twice as many pixels in it, because of the higher translational density – but at what cost.

Cramming more mega pixels into either a 36mm x 24mm or 24mm x 16mm area results in one thing only – smaller photosites.  Smaller photosites come with one single benefit – greater detail resolution.  Every other attribute that comes with smaller photosites is a negative one:

  • Greater susceptibility to subject motion blur – the bane of landscape and astro photographers.
  • Greater susceptibility to diffraction due to lower CoC.
  • Lower CoC also reduces DoF.
  • Lower signal to noise ratio and poorer high ISO performance.

Note: Quite timely this! With the new leaked info about the D850, we see it’s supposed to have a BSI sensor.  This makes it impossible to make a comparison between it and the D500, even though the photosites are nearly pretty much the same size/pitch.  Any comparison is made even more impossible with the different micro-lens tech sported by the D850.  Also, the functionality of the ADC/SNR firmware is bound to be different from the D500 too.

Variations in: AA filter type/properties and micro lens design, wiring substrate thickness, AF system algorithms and performance, ADC/SNR and other things, all go towards making FX versus DX comparisons difficult, because we use our final output images to draw our conclusions; and they are effected by all of the above.

But facts are facts – DX does not generate either greater magnification or greater/less depth of field than FX when used with identical FX lenses at the same distance and aperture.

Sensor format effects nothing other than FoV,  everything else is purely down to pixel pitch.

 

 

 

 

More Nikon D850 leaks

More leaked specs on the Nikon D850 – and it could be something of an imaging revolution for Nikon users after all.

D850 395x900 More Nikon D850 leaks

Screen grab of the Nikon Italy page that was live for about 5 hours yesterday, click to view full size.

According to the leaked specifications, the camera will be fitted with a back lit sensor and gapless micro lens technology.

If this is true, then all the scathing I gave the Nikon D850 specs last week may need to be ‘dialled down’ a bit – the one thing this camera will NOT BE (again,if the tech leak is true) is a pumped up FX version of the D500.

What is a back lit sensor?

You can regard all Bayer pattern CMOS sensors in your dslr and mirrorless cameras as front lit.

Light leaves the rear element of your lens and strikes the sensor, passing through the micro lenses first, then a wiring/connectivity layer, and finally it strikes the photo diodes/photosites.

sony backlit cmos sensor cross section 02 More Nikon D850 leaks

Front lit (left) and Back lit (right) sensor layout.

Light can scatter within that wiring layer, and the distance between the micro lenses and the photo diodes effectively narrows their viewing angle.

Having the photo diodes directly behind the micro lenses removes the scattering potential, and increases the diode viewing angle – a bit like putting your eye closer to a key hole – you see more.

A back lit tech sensor may well have a 50% or larger diode/photosite ‘view angle’ than its front lit counter part with the same mega pixel count.  Couple that with new micro lens technology to remove the interstitial gaps, and there is a lot of potential for increased performance in terms of:

  • Native gain/light gathering during the exposure
  • Increased Dynamic Range over the Nikon D810
  • Increased Dynamic Range over the Nikon D500
  • Increased high ISO performance over both the D500 and D810
  • Dare I say it, lower diffraction values?  Surely the Circle of Confusion has got to increase in size – I don’t know for certain but it would definitely be interesting to find out.

Back lit/backside illuminated/BSI CMOS sensor tech is out there already – the Sony A7R2 springs to mind.

At the begining of this post I said the D850 could be something of an imaging revolution for Nikon users – and I meant it.

It’ll be the first Nikon FX DSLR (as far as I’m aware!) to be fitted with BSI tech, but if they screw up the ADC/SNR side of things like they did with the D5, then it’ll amount to NOT A LOT.

If however, Nikon do a good job of converting the analogue output of this sensor to a digital file, then we could say that no Nikon FX digital camera has ever been capable of delivering the potential benefits of the D850.

But we are still waiting for the official release of the specs so who knows…!

 

 

 

August News – Nikon D850 Thoughts

 Nikon D850 – Initial Thoughts.

2 900x506 August News   Nikon D850 Thoughts

Before we get into my initial thoughts about the D850 “leaked specs”, Roger Styles read my D5 post from the other week and asks:

“Very interesting…and I wonder if you would care to suggest how the D500 with a 300mm f4 lens would have performed? Similar? Worse? or heaven forbid better?”

Well Roger, all I can say is that I’m not really in a position to comment on how the MultiCam 20K system worked out on the D500/300mmPF combo (I didn’t use it) but I do have  D4S, D5 and D500 7200ISO shots so you can compare the image quality with regard to noise etc:

D501122 900x600 August News   Nikon D850 Thoughts

Nikon D500, 300mm f4 PF, 1/2500th @ f8, ISO 7200. Click to view full size

D5A8309 900x600 August News   Nikon D850 Thoughts

Nikon D5, 500mm 1/2000th @ f8, ISO 7200. Click to view full size

4SB0435 900x599 August News   Nikon D850 Thoughts

Nikon D4S, 400mm f2.8 1/2500th @ f8, ISO 7200. Click to view full size

Bare in mind I’m only illustrating IQ here – so look at the out-of-focus areas and darker tones to see the differences.

Roger – I can’t offer you any real comparisons between the D5 and D500 AF performance,  but from other tests I’ve done with the D500/300PF combo I’d say it performs the same or slightly better than the D5.  But only because you are using a shorter focal length lens with theoretically greater depth of field for any given aperture and distance – therefore more AF errors are masked by DoF.

Why does the D500 image look so crappy?

The answer is simple – too many mega pixels and not enough light!

The more megapixels you squeeze into a fixed area, the smaller each one of those photosites has to be.

There are two main problems with making photosites smaller:

  1. Reduced Dynamic Range
  2. Increased Diffraction

Overall, the sensor becomes more light-hungry.

Let’s put these three sensors on an even playing field with regard to crop factor:

D4/D4S = 16MpFX = 8Mp x1.5 crop

D5 = 20.8MpFX = 10.4Mp x1.5 crop

D500 = 20.9Mp x1.5 crop = 41.8MpFX

The IQ implications of these figures are illustrated in the images above!

And this brings me nicely around to the new Nikon D850.

maxresdefault 900x506 August News   Nikon D850 Thoughts

I got rather excited about the idea of this camera when it was first thought to have a hybrid OVF/EVF – the implications for using the plethora of super-sharp older manual lenses with modern focus-peaking in an EVF made me go all swoony!

But alas, this was not to be, and instead, all we have is a pumped up FX D500 – if the leaked specifications are to be believed.

The D850 is NOT a replacement for the D810 – anyone who thinks that is an idiot.

Let’s look at these leaked specifications:

  • 45.75MP FX full frame CMOS sensor – clipped Dynamic Range then, nice one Nikon
  • 180,000 RGB sensor that’s same as the D5, with better face detection and enhanced scene recognition – really?
  • Native ISO range of 64-25600 (expandable to 32-108400) – meaningless at the top end, and I doubt the base ISO will actually be 64ISO
  • 153-point AF system with 30% more frame coverage than the D5 – a higher resolution sack of angry weasels!
  • Center AF point -4EV, and all others -3EV – same as the D5
  • 8K timelapse shooting – Who in their right mind shoots time lapse and allows the camera to process and assemble it? Oh yeah, that’s right – dickheads!
  • 4K UHD video recording in FX with no crop – pass
  • 51-photo buffer when shooting in 14-bit uncompressed RAW – GOOD. That’s really a data-pushing miracle, to be honest
  • 3.2″, 2.36-million-dot tilting LCD touchscreen with improved gesture control – tilty screens are useful but straight away are a weak point.  But what use is gesture control when you’ve got gloves on ‘cos it’s -30 below?
  • 7fps continuous shooting standard, 6fps with autofocus, 9fps when using a battery grip – here’s where the price tag will go over £4000, because the grip will be £400 plus if I know Nikon!
  • 30fps at 8MP using the electronic shutter – 8Mp raws from a 48Mp sensor – what a spiffingly top notch idea.  And is that 30fps available silently?
  • RAW can be small, medium, and large resolutions – For F***s SAKE WHY would you buy a huge capacity camera and then shoot small files with it?  Has the world gone bloody mad?
  • 0.75x magnification viewfinder, the first for a full-frame DSLR – GREAT, but you can buy an adaptor to do the same thing to the majority of existing Nikons.
  • Focus stacking. The camera can shoot up to 300 photos with 10 levels of bracketed focus from nearest to infinity for software to stack afterwards – I have every confidence that this will turn out to be crap!  It’s a gimmick to get the unskilled to part with their money.  Aimed at macro and landscape photographers who can’t be bothered to tweak their focus manually.
  • Natural Light AWB achieves better white balancing in natural light – stupid gimmick
  • Completely silent electronic shutter while shooting in live view. – could be useful for sports if it works with fast shutter speeds
  • There’s no low-pass filter – GOOD – why couldn’t they do that on the D5?
  • SD + XQD card slots – Jesus Christ – Nikon need to grow up and stop mixing media

So as I’m sure you can tell, the Nikon D850 is not setting my world on fire.

What could Nikon have given us?

A hybrid OVF/EVF with an RGBW sensor and keep the capacity down to 36Mp or a tad less would have made a good impression with me for starters.

You have to have been asleep for months to not have heard something about the Fuji GFX medium format.  That’s running at 51.4Mp on a 1441mm2 sensor, which is roughly 1.67x the area of an FX 35mm camera.

Simple maths tells us that if we trimmed the GFX sensor to fit in a 35mm DSLR then it would be – that’s right, 30Mp.  The world of photography is populated by frigging idiots who just keep clamouring for more megs – and the camera manufacturers give them what they ask for simply because the idiots spend money like it’s going out of fashion.

Listen, if you want 50 megapixels or more, then go and buy a medium format camera and get 50 megs worth of good dynamic range with nominal diffraction.

Do not buy a Nikon D850 then stick a wide angle lens on and stop down to f22 – the image will be unusable at full resolution – and I don’t need to see a raw file to know that; it’s simple physics.

How this camera will stack up on the sports/action/wildlife front remains to be seen, but I don’t see how it can even be as good as a D5 – and that’s not brilliant.

To get the full potential out of the D850 for sports/action/wildlife then you will need the vertical grip AND an ENEL18A battery or two, and a charger, because I don’t think the D850 has USB charging.

An ENEL18A battery at Park Cameras is £169.00 and a genuine MH-26a charger is crazy money anywhere!

So you will be looking at more than £4000 – and I can think of far more sensible ways to spend that lump of cash.

Nikon promised us something really special to celebrate their 100th aniversary – this ain’t special Nikon!  It’s nothing more than the DSLR equivalent of a click-bait video.

But then again, I’m going on “leaked specifications” – and they could all be lies, smoke and mirrors.  We will have to wait and see what the real specs are when Nikon officially announce the D850.

 

Irix 15mm Blackstone f2.4 – First Night Test

 Irix 15mm Blackstone f2.4 – First Night Test

As I said way back in my in-depth review of this awesome bit of kit, I was originally interested in the Astro photography potential of the Irix 15mm Blackstone/Firefly lens.

Monday night – 24th July – saw myself and Rik heading for Snowdonia in North Wales, and in particular the small wooden foot bridge over Afon Idwal, just a ways up the old miners track behind Ogwen Cottage.

The weather forecast was for clear skies, and Google Earth in conjunction with Stellarium and TPE told me that around 11 pm the Milky Way would be over said small wooden bridge.  So we packed a few things and off we toddled.

D4D6145 3 2 2 2b 589x900 Irix 15mm Blackstone f2.4   First Night Test

IMPORTANT: THERE IS NO SHARPENING ON THIS IMAGE. All 33 image frames (32 light frames plus the long exposure frame) had ZERO sharpening applied during processing. The Milky Way towers high in the night sky over the mountains of Snowdonia in North Wales. A small wooden footbridge over the rushing waters of the River Idwal forms the focal point.

The place was rammed with people coming down off the mountains – and a pile going up as well – as it transpires, they were having an all-night party on the shores of Llyn Idwal higher up the track – nutters!

The Welsh midges were out in force and doing their best impression of man-eating tigers and guess who forgot to bring the mozy repellent!

The composition I was after entailed me setting up on the path and shooting straight along the bridge,  so I set the camera up with the Irix 15mm Blackstone set on the infinity click stop and the focus locked with the locking ring.  I knew from all the testing I’d done that this would give my tack sharp stars even with the aperture wide open and that stopping down to f6.3 or narrower would render a sharp foreground to around 1.5 metres.

The ‘plan’ was to shoot a foreground image at low ISO during twilight in order to save having to shoot a long exposure with LENR under total darkness – and that’s exactly what I did, then it all went a bit ‘Pete Tong’!

What caused the confusion was my Photpills app on my iPhone telling me that the Milky Way was already where I needed it to be in about another hour and a half, so the whole shot was not going to work – bear in mind the sky is still too bright to see any stars.

So like an idiot I believed it and moved the camera, looking for another composition that would work – as it transpired a fatal mistake.

A lesson for the future – if a mobile app does not match up with Stellarium, the Photographers Ephemeris and Google Earth try restarting the phone and re-calibrating the compass!!

After 45 minutes of struggling to find another composition using the new projected position of the Milky Way in the growing darkness, I looked up and saw the Summer Triangle – in exactly the position that my original plan had calculated.

After a short bout of self-directed expletives based around men’s dangly-bits and the act of procreation, I got the camera back in something approximating its original position, but of course, the original framing would be ‘off’ so my initial low ISO foreground shot was useless.

Starting over, I set the camera to shoot 32 frames in continuous low and used a locking cable release to shoot  rapid sequences of 32 frames – an easy way to do the job that does not always work too well with a big zoom like the Nikon 14-24, or Canon 16-35 – occasionally you can get ‘mirror vibration’ effects on your images.  But with a short-barreled prime like the Irix 15mm, this is not a problem I ever see.

By around 11.30pm I’m happy with the sky shots I have in the can, but now comes the long exposure foreground shot.

I’m actually dreading this shot as it’s going to take a long time to produce and I’m anticipating some of those aforementioned party goers to come wandering back down the track with head-torches waving around all over the place.

I opted for a 10-minute exposure with long exposure noise reduction enabled in the camera – so the shot is going to take 20 minutes to produce.

Twenty minutes later, the shot on the back of the camera indicated that in reality, it needed around another stop and a half-ish of exposure time.  I’d got away with no torches wandering through this shot, but if I did another, longer one I was certain it would get ruined.

So I shot 32 dark frames and another couple of 32 frame sequences, then we packed the gear away and headed for home.

Screen Shot 2017 07 25 at 16.58.11 900x506 Irix 15mm Blackstone f2.4   First Night Test

The total number of frames for this shot with the Irix 15mm was 85 and comprise of:

  • 32 light frames 6secs @f4 6400 ISO
  • 32 dark frames 6secs @f4 6400 ISO
  • 1x 600sec @f6.3 400 ISO – (no need for re-focus so no focus breathing problems).
  • 20 frames to make the master flat file

(If you to learn why we shoot so many frames and what to do with them all then buy my latest Astro photography training video HERE).

stars100percent 900x858 Irix 15mm Blackstone f2.4   First Night Test

Made from 32 images with 32 dark frames and a flat-field frame by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.4.0. Click to view full size.

As you can see from the image above, stars are tack sharp (even with no sharpening added in post), and coma is minimal.  And most importantly there is plenty of colour in those fainter stars – something that is a little harder to achieve with the ubiquitous Zeiss glass.

I could improve the image quality even further by correct that minimal coma in Photoshop with a custom brush and the clone tool, and make a star mask and reduce the noise even more (see my training videos if you want to know more!).

And of course, if I hadn’t had the wobble over composition then perhaps I would have ended up with something like this:

D4D5907 2 600x900 Irix 15mm Blackstone f2.4   First Night Test

Or something in between the two!

But either way, the session proved to equal or exceed my expectations of this Irix 15mm lens capabilities.

So, am I impressed by how this lens performs under Astro photography conditions?  You bet I am!

I’ll never use my trusty Nikon 14-24 for Astro photography ever again as far as I can see – why would I…

Sharp focus with the Irix 15mm is so easy to achieve, and there is now no reason to re-focus on closer foreground objects – all I need to do is stop down the aperture a bit.  So that’s all those focus-breathing errors out the window for starters.

Then, there is less coma, less chromatic aberration and a lot less barrel distortion.

When fumbling around in the dark, personally I think it would be good if Irix could increase the diameter of the focus locking ring, but that’s such a minor point it’s only just barely worth a mention.

What’s next?

Irix have just sent me a set of their new Edge 95mm screw-in filters, including 10x and 7x ND filters and the circular polarizer – so some daytime landscapes seem to be in order over the next couple of weeks.

I just wish I’d had the 11mm for the shot of the Milky Way!

Nikon D5 Extended Test

Nikon D5 Extended Test

The last week in June saw me in Norway doing something a bit different from the norm – photographing eagles all week with a 500mm prime – real hard work!

But I thought the task would be made slightly easier with the Nikon D5 running with generation 2 firmware; that is v1.10

And after a solid week of shooting my verdict is – WOEFUL!

The auto focus is still as predictable and user-friendly as a sack full of weasels, but what I found truly appalling is the image quality at lower ISO values – and by lower I mean sub-3200 ISO!

D5A0836 900x600 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Click image to view full size

D5A0836crop 900x808 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Click image to view full size

Shooting in Manual Exposure/Auto ISO is the most efficient way of shooting any action, especially with long glass,  but allowing the Nikon D5 to choose its ISO speed just highlights its single massive drawback – poor low ISO performance.

The shot above is at ISO 250, 1/2000th sec and f8.  The crop shows the simple adjustments done to the shot inside the Lightroom Basic panel, and as you can see there is nothing untoward there.

But just look at that appalling level of noise in the underside of the wings – as I said before – WOEFUL.

In this next image, we see the same eagle shot at the same time with the D5 (left) and a D4S (fitted with a 400 f2.8, right). Both cameras are in d25 AF mode, 1/2000th sec, f8 and ISO 1100:

D5A7655 900x564 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Click image to view full size

Both images have had a ‘zeroed’ process applied to them in Lightroom followed by a process version swap to kill the excess contrast added by Lightroom in the background.

Again there is excess noise under the wing together with detail degradation in the D5 shot on the left.

As a final comparison, here is the same moment in time caught on the D5, D4S and 1DXMk2. All 3 images have a flat, neutralised process in Lightroom with no added output sharpening:

D5A7649 900x600 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Nikon D5, 500mm 1/2000th, f8, ISO 1600
Click to view full size.

4SB0284 900x599 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Nikon D4S, 400mm, 1/2000th, f8, ISO 1250
Click to view full size.

B39I9903 900x600 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Canon IDXMk2, 400mm, 1/200th, f6.3, ISO 640
Click to view full size.

You do really have to view these images at their full size.

On the whole, I have to say that the 1DXMk2 is the worst image in terms of IQ – both Nikons have it beaten to death – which I must admit surprises me considering the ideal lighting conditions.

But as for the two Nikon shots the D4S still produced the slightly better IQ, lens differences aside, there is still slightly more noise in the D5 shot.

The other error in the D5 shot is due to the sack of angry weasels – the auto focus – the shot is not sharp.  But funnily enough the previous frame was:

D5A7648 900x600 Nikon D5 Extended Test

Click to view full size.

As ever, the Nikon AF tends to bounce around a little bit. Even though the D5 has the new Multicam 20K system there is still the same problem of subtle focus bounce that I personally try and negate by shooting at f8 – hoping that the extended DoF will mitigate its visual effect.

But it doesn’t always work, and the D5 will still sometimes drop focus completely on the ‘pick shot’ when the eagle hits the water.

Over the course of the week, I tried pretty much every conceivable permutation of Blocked Shot Response/Subject Motion/AF Mode settings that made any sense – and a few that didn’t – and to be honest they were all as bad as each other.  In the end, I settled on BSR/SM settings at default ‘out the box’, and Group AF mode – but that was way less than perfect.

Ole Martins eagles do represent possibly the most testing scenario for any camera auto focus system, but overall I have to say that for this particular job the D5 AF is an epic fail and a retrograde step – the D4/D4S faired much better.

And both Nikon systems get kicked into touch by the Canon system,  but the IQ of the 1DXMk2 lets it down somewhat, especially in comparison to the Nikon D4/D4S.

I’m certain that better IQ can be had from the Canon system if only Canon would give its users a firmware update to record uncompressed raw; something I’ve been banging on about for years.

But this post is about the Nikon D5 image quality at lower ISOs – and in all honesty, it’s CRAP.

Further Nikon D5 AF thoughts:

Typically of Nikon, they bring out another firmware update just after I use the damn thing for a week.  I’ve not tried the new firmware yet but the ‘added AF modes’ of a single row and single column closest point have a certain smack of desperation in my eyes.

I know that OEM AF calibration is done in both the horizontal and vertical planes.  So to give a camera the ability to use its horizontal calculations and to ignore its vertical ones, and vice versa says to me that there is an imbalance between its x and y axis ‘workings out’.  Couple this with forcing the AF to pick the closest point on the subject under that row or column is basically a case of ‘hedging your bets’ even further.

Nikon should have done exactly what Canon did, and simply refine their existing AF system instead of adding a shed-load of these tracking sensors – there are just TOO MANY points resulting in too much information, and any errors between vertical and horizontal are just being amplified.

I cannot find any visual representation of the two new modes, called group-area AF (VL) with 5 points, and group-area AF (HL) with 11 points.  But if they are as described then they will be ignoring the fixed tracking points. If that is indeed the case, and these modes actually give a marked improvement, then the whole system is a waste of time and effort because it is the plethora of fixed tracking points that form the main distinction between the Multicam 3500 FX and 20K systems.

But hey, that’s just my opinion and I’m not really in possession of all the facts yet.

 

Irix 15mm Firefly Offer

Irix 15mm Firefly Offer for UK customers.

15mm firefly Irix 15mm Firefly Offer

Just had this info in from the Irix UK sales team:

IRIX 15mm f2.4 Firefly
**LENS SPECIAL**
Limited period offer – FREE Delivery in the UK
FREE Gelatin Filter Kit – contains 15 x Neutral Density Filters
List €475.00 Offer Price €451.25 (£395.00 approx.)
www.irixlens.com
register and enter this code to purchase: 5W1YJ62C

  • IRIX 15mm Firefly lens
    Full Frame Rectilinear lens
    Focus Locking Ring
    Hyperfocal Markings
    Infinity Click & Calibration
    Neutrino Coating
    3 Weather Seals
    95mm Filter & Gelatin Slot
    Removable Lens Shade
    Lightweight Polycarbonate
    Minimum distortion
    Canon, Nikon and Pentax fit
    2 Year Warranty
    Same optics as the Blackstone version

I have not seen a Firefly, let alone used one – and I’m a miserable old goat who can’t see the point in a light weight version of something so small as the Blackstone.  But I can definitely see the point of the money saving properties of a Firefly purchase!

Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4 – update.

Lens Review – Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4 update.

Some bad weather made us lose a day and a half in Norway last week and so the landscape opportunities didn’t arise as they were expected to do – eagle action takes precedence, and we certainly managed a lot of that.

But I had to grab a real world test shot sequence on a real scene.

Even though this lens had impressed the hell out of me up to this point, I wasn’t quite prepared for the spectacular performance it gave me.

Important: None of the images below have had ANY vignette or profile corrections added to them.

D4D3002 599x900 Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4   update.

Perfect exposure for the highlights, the setting sun is creating an 18 point star as you would expect from a 9 blade aperture – and where’s the flare some reviewers are talking about?
Full resolution jpg from the original raw file with no post processing.
Click to view full size in new window.

Now let’s not mess about, let’s go 2 stops over:

D4D3004 599x900 Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4   update.

Vestigial 18 point star due to the 9 blade aperture diaphragm and zero flare anywhere.
Zero enhancements and no added sharpening.
Full resolution jpeg, f16 and focused using the infinity click stop – it’s simpler than shelling peas.
Click to view full size in new window.

Now let’s turn the camera over and go the full 15mm AoV in the horizontal – this was the real eye-opener for me:

D4D3008 900x599 Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4   update.

Check out the vertical lines of the planking on the shack, no flare around the cable stay, and the boat masts on the right edge of the frame.
It can’t get any better with a 15mm focal length.
Just a tiny amount of Lightroom adjustment brush in the deepest foreground shadows and nothing else.
Click to view full size in new window.

Just check out the perfect verticals on the boat masts at the right edge of the frame, and still those planks on the shack are vertical – it seriously doesn’t get any better than this with a super-wide.

We had a 300km road trip in a staggering 35 degree heat up to Stekenjokk in Sweden – Long-tailed Skuas and great landscapes says Ole.

So we get there – no skua, they’ve all mysteriously vanished a few days before, so it was decided we’d force Ole to drive all the way back again to get a boat trip for eagles in the early morning – he wasn’t happy doing 600kms with an hours break but it serves him right!

But there’s a real gem of a shot to be had under a road bridge across the Gaavesjohke river:

D4D3834 2 2 599x900 Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4   update.

Heading back south on the 824 road there’s a turn on the right and a bridge over the Gaavesjohke River. This is taken from rocks underneath said bridge.

Taken at 11.30pm 29th June, it’s not the best processing but it still serves to prove my point about the Irix Blackstone 15mm f2.4 lens:

  • 1/8th sec @ f16 and ISO 100.
  • Infinity click-stop focus.
  • Compose in Live View.
  • Close the viewfinder blind.
  • Turn off Live View.
  • Engage Mirror Up shooting and hit the remote release once, wait 5 seconds and hit it again.

Seriously, it’s like operating a point-and-shoot!

There’s no messing about doing differential focus, just turn the focus ring until you feel the ‘click’ and take the shot – simple.

I’m just waiting for some Irix filters to turn up and I’ll be off to North Wales for the day.  With a bit of luck we’ll shot a demo video or two so I can talk you through how easy this lens is to use.

Message to IRIX: please send filters ASAP!