Michael Erlewine

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Michael Erlewine last won the day on 22 October 2016

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About Michael Erlewine

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    Michael Erlewine
  • Birthday 18/07/41

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  • Location
    Big Rapids, MI USA
  • Interests
    Lenses, Focus Stacking, APO, Medium Format
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    Ask Me
  • Fav. Camera
    Nikon, Sony, Blackmagic
  • Fav. Lens
    Zeiss Otus Series
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  1. I find it funny that I can entertain myself, year after year, trying to find a happy medium between stacking and sing-shot photography, between shallow depth-of-field and lots of depth-of-field laced with diffraction, between a couple stacked layers and many, between FF cameras and medium-format, between the devil and the deep-blue sea. And I have traced this rabbit through well over 100 hundred lenses, ending up with the most refined, sharp, fast, and highly-corrected lenses that I can afford and some I probably can’t afford. Am I better off than when I began? That’s hard to say; I am wiser, but have I solved the riddle? My guess would be no. So where do I stand in the spring of 2017? There is no doubt that the traditional single-shot photo has less artifacts. Period. End of story. Yet if I have to push the aperture fairly high to get enough depth-of-field and before I am happy, diffraction rears its ugly head. And with high apertures, we lose any lovely bokeh that might be available, and that is not particularly attractive. So, what can work and does fairly often is to make what I call a short stack, a stacked photo with 3-5 layers, with each layer zeroed in on a particular part of the photo I want to be sharp in the ultimate photos. Even these take some touching up, but usually not much retouching. If I want to make a long stack, the lens had better be very sharp and very well corrected. I have to fine-step it or even put it on a focus rail. And many good lenses have too short a focus throw for stacking. They have to go on a rail. The Coastal Optics 60mm was one of those. For example, The Nikon Noct Nikkor is useful for one-shot photos and if done carefully for what I call a short-stack, meaning, as mentioned, a few shot layers, each one of which is focused on a primary part of the subject. However, I find that doing a long stack with the Noct Nikkor is useless because a coherent image without a lot of “unfixable” artifacts does not seem to result. In other words, take a one-off photo or a short stack with the Noct. It is possible to mount the Noct Nikkor on a focus rail and micro-step it to produce a better result, but it is clear to me that this kind of process is not natural to the Noct. It is a remarkable lens, but not very useful for stacking. For a long stack, a lens like the El Nikkor 105mm APO (note the APO, because the non-APO 105mm is not exceptional IMO) does very well, but we are probably stacking upward of 30 layers or so. And with large stacks, artifact retouching has to be included in the equation. And since I almost always push the envelope, I have a great number of failures. Another consideration is that most of the really great well-corrected lenses are not close-up or macro lenses, and this has led me to see if any extension can work on those lenses (to get me closer) and I find that even the smallest extension (K1 Ring 5.8 mm) messes with the lens IQ.; No doubt about it. Sometimes I hazard it anyway, but if I am being honest with myself there is always a tradeoff and I know it. It shows. So, the bottom line is that each lens is perfect just as it is and my monkeying with it never can improve it. It is easier (and wiser) to adapt my photography to the lens than vice-versa, which I am learning to do. These days I divide my time between lenses mounted directly on the D810 (like the Otus series) and various more exotic lenses mounted on the Cambo Actus technical camera. I am settling down into this pattern, so it seems. I tried to get into the new mirrorless medium-format world, but the Fuji lenses were not good enough and, for some reason, the IQ was not useful with lens adapters and non-Fuji lenses. I don’t need that. I like the Hasselblad X1D, but for it would just be a walk-around camera and I don’t just walk around that much. I tend to go to an area and spend time. And I don’t do snapshots. So, that’s roughly where I am.
  2. Alan: Very interesting article. Thanks.
  3. Alas, I was not happy with the performance of non-Fuji lenses on the GFX, like the various Zeiss, including the Otus series. It was not better or even equal to my use of these same lenses on the Nikon D810, where they are natural. No sure why, but my eyes can see the difference, so not worth the money and trouble. Returned the GFX and am back on the waiting list... for I don't know what, perhaps the D820 or the new Sony 72mm camera, if it exists.
  4. Well, with the Fuji GFX out of the picture for me, what else can I wait for? After all, I have been waiting for Nikon to update the D810 for a long time already, so I can continue doing that. And, of course, I can wait for Sony to come out with a more-megapixel version of the A7Rii series. That waiting alone should keep me busy. Meanwhile, perhaps folks missed my remark that the GFX would make an excellent digital back for the various technical cameras, since we are not talking about trying to adapt Nikon-mount lenses to the GFX, but rather using large-format and the various exotic industrial lenses as they were meant to be used. So, I am busy working on that. I have too many bellows systems floating around here, so I have sold off at least one, and am working on selling another. I guess I am tired of the 15-20 lb. technical cameras, even for studio use. However, I am very much enamored with the Cambo Actus, which (if you have not had a chance to get your hands on one) is built with the same finish and perfection (IMO) as the stuff we get from Really Right Stuff. And, I know, the Cambo Actus does not do everything its big brother and sister technical cameras do, but it does enough for what I usually need and it can go anywhere... easily. I had bugged Cambo to provide a rear-camera plate for the Pentax K1 for their Actus and was in line to get the first copy, when my experiments with the remarkable Pentax pixel-shift technology bottomed-out and proved (for my work) nice, but not useful enough. Close, but no cigar. And I have been clamoring for a Fuji GFX mount for the Cambo Actus, and was in line to receive that for the Actus, when I determined, as mentioned, that mounting Nikon F-Mount lenses on the GFX was not producing the quality I was looking for. However, in supporting the Fuji GFX, Cambo redesigned their Actus camera and fixed what was for me my main complaint, that the rear-standard required you physically to unscrew (with teeny screws) the camera mount to replace it with another. This is not something I would do in the field. I can hardly see the screws. So, they have addressed this rear-standard camera mount-exchange problem by reworking the rear standard so that we can now change camera mounts in seconds. In the process, they have also added a new geared option to control the rear-standard shift, and added a little height to the whole rig. Aside from doing excellent work, Cambo is also very responsive. In addition to the new Cambo upgrade, I have ordered and will soon receive a long rail of 300mm, along with a matching bellows. I originally ordered their 450mm bellows/rail but was told that unless you use it vertically (or was it vice-versa) the bellows could sag, which would not be helpful. So, for now, a 300mm rail/bellows on the Cambo Actus will allow me to play with a variety of exotic industrial lenses, ones that shine with a long bellows. I already have a good handful of easily removable lens plates for the front standard of the Actus, including Nikon F-Mount, Copal #1, Copal #1, M39, and so on, so I should be all set for some time. Now, if spring would just come around the corner. Here is a photo that Steve Hendrix of Capture Integration sent me that shows how the Cambo Actus is being modified, for those interested. You can see where the camera plates now easily attach/detach, plus the new geared knob for controlling shift on the rear standard (the front already has one). And, I see they have added bubble-levels, which my copy does not have. And levels are mandatory, but I usually use the ones on my Arca-Swiss C1 Cube tripod head for that. Anyway, that is what I am working with while I wait for some camera (that I like) with just a few more megapixels.
  5. My main reason for the GFX was using alternative lenses. The only adapter I could find was the Fotodiox Nikon "G," which also does F-Mount, but not so nicely. I have dozens of great lenses for F-Mount, the Zeiss Otus set, and many more. What I found out is that while the GFX did allow me to mount these fine lenses, they did (IMO) look as great on the GFX (much less better) than they did on my Nikon D810. That was very disappointing. I could be wrong, better adapters might do better, there may be adjustments coming in firmware... who knows? So, I returned the GFX and will go with the D810 until it is either updated or perhaps the rumored new Sony 72 Mpx camera arrrives.
  6. webco: I can't speak for Lloyd Chambers, but I can for me. I very carefully worked with the Pentax K1...always for my own kind of work, and tested the pixel-shift very carefully, and its ability to support alternate lenses. So your diagnosis of my work and flow is just off. I have no brand loyalty, but I do have a list of things a camera has to meet. Saying that had I stuck with it, I would love it is true of most anything we have to live with. If the K1 works for you, I say wonderful. Explaining to me why it did not work for me is an exercise in futility. Just accept that I found it not what I needed, which is the truth as I know it. I liked the K1 very much, just not enough to keep it. I like the D810 enough to keep it and perhaps even buy a second copy. Telling of our experience with a camera (and returning it) is not a condemnation, but just the way it was for us. Please, tell us about your experience, not about ours. Also, I'm not new to MF. I have a Mamiya RZ67 system with 11 lenses.
  7. Right! My money will live to fight another day.
  8. As it Turns Out, No GFX for Me I am sorry to report that after examining the Fuji GFX 50s system in some detail, for my work mind you, it is not quite ready for prime time. I am sure many will be happy to have it, but for the particular type of close-up work I do, it just does not quite make it. I can mention a few things, but keep in mind most of these are probably particular to me. Although it was not that important to me, the GFX is boxy and unattractive physically. I could not have cared less, as long as it was a workhorse for the particular kind of photo work I do. Sadly, I remain unimpressed by the GFX as a workhorse, and this after putting it through its paces as to what most concerns me. The two lenses that I purchased with it (63mm and 120mm) did not cut the mustard. The 63mm lens simply is not what I was led to expect in Fuji lenses. There was nothing I could find to recommend it, and I would have returned it if I had kept the system. The 120mm Macro is a different story. It actually is sharp and generally OK. However it is big as all get-out and extends so far out (with its hood) from the body of the GFX that in magnified mode I picked up vibrations of the tiniest floor movement in the studio. That and the fact that its widest aperture is f/4 made it not something I would actually find myself using. And the results did not compare to many of the lenses I have for FF, like the Zeiss Otus series, and others. I had hoped it would sweep me off my feet, but here I stand. After that, I told myself that the GFX is the least expensive 50 Mpx digital back on the market, and I have dozens of lenses (non-Fuji) that I am waiting to use on the camera. And so I did. I found out, for instance that all of the Zeiss Otus APO lenses (plus the 135mm APO Zeiss) all work well on the GFX. No vignetting, aside from the Otus 28mm, which has a slight corner darkening, but still (for my interests) very usable. That was all good, but there was bad news after that. While your use may vary, I soon found out that mounting these non-Fuji lenses on the Fotodiox Nikon adapter (which does both “G” and older F-mount lenses) worked, but a price was paid for doing so in terms of IQ. Wanting to keep the GFX, I did my best to give the GFX the benefit of the doubt with these alternative lenses, but common sense overtook me and instead I began to doubt the benefit of doing all this. And hanging heavy glass off the end of the GFX led me to go looking around the studio for some rails I have to support the larger lenses. And lastly, and perhaps most important for me was that (at least I found) in post-processing the raw files (using ACR) did not have the bandwidth I am used to in the Nikon D810. In particular the blacks, which on the Nikon D810 seem to stretch out forever, on the GFX were there and blown in a flash. What is this? It is almost like their files are not true raw. Perhaps they are some pre-processed form of raw, and I will await the techsperts to tell me what is happening there. As for me, I REALLY didn’t like it. If there is one thing that sealed the deal for returning the system, that was it. I need raw files with at least as much bandwidth as the Nikon raw files. I had no trouble using the menus, and while the EVF (and LiveView) screens were not totally as nice as I had imagined, they were nicer than the ones on my Nikon D810. Still, when they get dark and grainy, they get dark and grainy. After waiting seven months for the X1D and since January for the GFX, I was loathe not to have a MF mirrorless camera, but as it turns out, I don’t have one. Again, don’t mind me. I have a very narrow range of what I appear to need to be happy with photo gear. I wouldn’t even bother to post this report, except that I made so much noise about the advent of the GFX, that I feel I owe a report to someone, if only to myself. So, there we have it. I will wait for the MF scene to continue to develop and perhaps Nikon might actually come across with a 50 Mpx D820 and I would be happy with that. Certainly the Nikon D810 is the finest (all around) camera I have ever used and I will continue to use it. I might even purchase a second copy!
  9. The camera, etc. did arrive, but like most of these new ventures, there is a learning curve. So this has bogged me down, mostly with a struggle about how to mount non-Fuji lenses on a Fotodiox adapter to the GFX. This involved two calls to Fuji technical support and one call to Fotodiox technical support. As most often happens, we figured out what the snafu was, which is how to use a Fotodiox adapter on a non-"G" Nikon lens, in this case the Zeiss Otus 55mm APO. That took up a lot of time, Fortunately. I can say that the Zeiss Otus 55mm APO works on the Fuji GFX with no discernible vignetting. And, while the Fuji looks like the airplane we used to call the "A-10 Warthog,' it also works like the A-10, really well. The IQ is superb+ I should have more to report tomorrow, but the light is gone, night is upon us, and I hate getting new equipment, at least the part where nothing seems to work. So, tomorrow.
  10. https://helpx.adobe.com/camera-raw/kb/camera-raw-plug-in-installer.html#9_9
  11. My strategy may be shifting as regards the new Fuji GFX. This is an idea that is slowly occurring to me, one not too welcome. It is not meant as negative, but just about practicality... for the work I do. From the reports I am getting from some (IMO qualified) photographers who already have the GFX is that the 63mm lens is not really usable for high-quality work (especially close-up) and the 120mm Macro, while quite high in quality, has a pronounced focus-shift. Because of the “reasonable” price of the GFX lenses, I had wondered all along if they could in fact (at that price) afford to highly correct them. It does not look good, but may be fine for ordinary use. Apparently, the Hasselblad X1D lenses are quite good, but I gave up my place in line for that camera and, with spring coming, am not about to wait another seven months for a copy. I already did that. And, since the X1D won’t take other lenses, that is a non-starter for me right there. My view is that if the IQ on the GFX is very good and the base color is neutral (and can be tweaked), then for me the Fuji GFX may essentially become an inexpensive digital back for many of the fine non-Fuji lenses I have, like the Zeiss Otus series, the El Nikkor 105mm APO, and so on. My GFX is supposed to show up today, so we will soon see. I would like to hear from others with the 63mm and the 120mm Fuji, as to their “corrected-ness.” And I still await Nikon to do something, and they may yet show up with a 50 Mpx camera that will do the job.
  12. I get it, but the problem I have with looking at photos is they are so darned poorly produced that I can't see much. What does work for me is to actually buy the equipment and see for myself and then send it back if it does not meet my needs. I did this with the recent Nikon 19mm lens, which is nice enough, but not nice enough for my work, etc.
  13. Well, if Chambers had a bad day, fair enough. I have had plenty of them. I am not going to bother to point it out or do anything other than ignore that and focus on what things he does report that are useful to me, and having read his MF section on the GFX, there are a lot of them that I need to be aware of. I will (as soon as I get the camera) check all of this out for myself, based on my needs, and see whether I can get the GFX to work for me. I would bet I can, since I am not asking for all that much. Nikon has disappointed me by not updating the D810 or even hinting that it is coming. So I have no choice but to cast about for an update and the GFX looks like it could fill the bill. As for my report, I doubt it will be useful here because my style and work is so very narrow, and I don't care about walk-around or even Fuji lenses. I have many great lenses that I have already vetted and want to place on the GFX, plus I am mostly close-up, short stacks (or long), and all of that. I appreciate someone like Chambers who checks just about everything out for all of us. In my experience Chambers does not BS, but marches right through all kinds of tests I don't do, know how to do, or want to do, and I am happy about that. What other reviewers about equipment do you read, aside from the lot of us, some of which are fanboys, some knowledgeable, and some not.
  14. Well, I understand Dallas, but in the case of spending a lot of money for equipment, I wand the good, bad, and the ugly reported to me. Otherwise, I am just being shined on. It sounds to me like Chambers got a lemon, which itself is important to know. Did that blow his schedule? Sure, but I can understand his disappointment and I just discount the upset factor. What I need are all the details I can get, pro, con, and lukewarm. I have tested much of the equipment that Chambers tests myself, but I benefit from his more thorough workup. MIng Thein used to cover equipment, and very well, but he has kind of settled in to the Hasselblad system, which either I don't want right now or can't afford. Thom Hogan used to do a lot of equipment, but now mostly monitors the business end of it all. Ken Rockwell... well. Other forums look at some brands, but not others. And very, very few are not fanboys of one brand or another. When, I mentioned in a post that these mirrorless MF cameras (IMO) may mark the end of the FF DSLR market for me, I was totally attacked (and personally) by one forum. Yet, that seems to be happening, at least for me.
  15. Larry, I hear you. This kind of disparaging of those who try to make a living providing us information happens a lot, and not just at this forum. It happens to other folks like Chambers. The way I read it is that he had a bad day under the pressure of having to deliver to folks like us the details we need to either keep or cancel our order. As it turns out, tomorrow I will be able to decide for myself, but I waited seven months for the X1D and finally gave up, due to non-delivery and a mounting series of specific reasons why the X1D might not be technical enough for what I need, like using alternate lenses, etc. I am not mad at anyone, but just expressing my own view just like others do. I, for one, am thankful that folks like Chambers exist and there are damn few of them left anymore that are worth their salt.