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Michael Erlewine

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Michael Erlewine last won the day on 16 December 2019

Michael Erlewine had the most liked content!

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About Michael Erlewine

  • Rank
    Michael Erlewine
  • Birthday 18/07/1941

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Big Rapids, MI USA
  • Photographic Interests
    Lenses, Focus Stacking, APO, Medium Format
  • Edit my pics?
    Ask Me
  • Fav. Camera
    Nikon D810, Hasselblad X1D
  • Fav. Lens
    Zeiss Otus Series
  • Fav. Editor
    Adobe Photoshop
  1. Spending 8K on a lens is not something I do every day or ever have done. However, I made up my mind to somehow get the lens the moment I read through the specs. If it lived up to the specs, it could well be the one lens I have always yearned for but never had. I have spent years fiddling with various exotic lenses, trying to find the right kind of bokeh and at the same time good sharpness and something approaching apochromatic correction, or some combination of all three. It has been expensive and frustrating because, as those of you who know these exotic lenses, the range of coverage can be very small, while at the same time (since many are older), they often lack modern lens coatings, are very expensive, and on and on. I have experimented with the Repro Nikkor, the APO El Nikkor, the Nikkor “O” (CRT), many Printing Nikkors, and other exotics, including many large-format lenses, as well. Of these, the Nikkor “O,” often called the CRT-Nikkor has been one of the most successful of the bunch. I have not had the time to compare all these exotics to the new NOCT Nikkor 0.95, but I know these other lenses well already. So, I wanted to compare a shot from the CRT Nikkor to the new NOCT95, just to see how the two come out. What I find is that the bokeh from the CRT Nikkor is in the same (general) ballpark as the new NOCT95, but the range of the CRT Nikkor is so limited, even on the new Nikon Z7 (without the FTZ adapter) using special extensions that I am very limited, as I well know. What all this adds up to, IMO, is that the very expensive NOCT95 is like a Swiss Army Knife in that it can do the job of many of the exotic lenses as well and usually better. Not that I will, but I probably could sell off a dozen lenses, except that you know I won’t. 😊 Also, many of the exotic lenses require special mounts, focus rails, and special treatment on top of that. The long and the short of it is that the NOCT95 is the better lens for my work in every respect, aside from considerations of weight and the fact it is not a macro lens. I do find the NOCT95 heavy and awkward to use, but I keep reaching for it almost every time and, when I don’t, the results from other fine lenses show me that I should have used the new NOCT anyway. I know. I could have figured this out from the specs alone, but I am old-fashioned enough to want to actually test the lenses, which is why I have purchased so many lenses over the years, just to be sure. Here are a couple of photos, a little sloppy, but to give you and idea. Side Note: The newish Voigtlander 65mm APO-Lanthar is IMO a must-have lens, much like its predecessor the 125mm CV APO Lanthar was and is.
  2. I have a lot of fine lenses that are well corrected. Of late, I am checking out the new Nikkor NOCT f/95 in itself and how it compares to lenses like the Zeiss Otus series, in particular the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 lens. I am not much of a “lens tester,” aside from how a lens affects my own work. Here is what I find comparing these two lenses. The bokeh of the NOCT95 is worlds better than the OTUS55, plain and simple. The OTUS55 is slightly better corrected compared to the NOCT95. I do find a little CA in the NOCT95 (easily removed) compared to the OTUS55, which is better corrected. The NOCT95, of course, is very much heavier compared to the OTUS55, which I used to think was heavy. LOL. The lens barrel on the OTUS55 is velvety-smooth, while the lens barrel on the NOCT95 is stiff and difficult to turn, although it might be loosening up a little. I have put a focus-puller cogged band around the barrel of the NOCT95 and that helps. You can be sure that I checked out the NOCT95 thoroughly, because if it is flawed (for my work) I could have returned it and had a lot of money to spend on other gear. That being said, the NOCT95 (for my work) is a keeper, especially thanks to the speed of the lens and the resulting bokeh. I can’t get that effect with any of the Otus lenses. The closest I can come is the Nikkor “O” CRT lens, which is fast, but has a somewhat restricted focus range and other quirks. And so, I very much like the Nikon NOCT 58mm f/.095 lens. Here is a shot from each of the lenses, the first shot, two flowers, is with the NOCT95 and the second shot, with three flowers, is the Otus55. https://www.flickr.com/photos/185423603@N06/?
  3. I know. Kind of disgusting and beautiful at the same time. I have dug all the lens boxes and a few others out and am deciding what to do with them. This is a ten-foot table. The worse part is these are not even all of them, I have about half that amount in rails, tripods, heads, and all manner of support equipment. I’ve showed you mine, what do you do with all of your boxes? When we go to sell an item, a box counts. Problem is, I have not ever sold many. However, I recently decided I am NOT a lens museum and plan to sell a score or so lenses and keep the rest, those I actually use often and those I am looking for the time to use. I thought this would be a fun photo for those who can appreciate it. 😊
  4. Here is a single frame with the NOCT95 wide-open, for your study.
  5. This lens is not for everyone. Let me know if you are tired of these. Here is another image of a rupa from Nepal, this one of the Mahasiddha Naropa. From the NOCT95 wide open, stacked.https://www.flickr.com/photos/185423603@N06/49054889652/in/dateposted-public/
  6. Here is another test, this time with a three-dimensional statue, in the case the great Mahasiddha Tilopa of the Mahamudra lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. This is a stacked image, but only of a few layers, highlighting specific parts of the statue, leaving the rest to be bokeh of one kind of another..
  7. As for the NOCT95, there is not a lot of reason to use this lens for high-aperture images. The moment I lose the bokeh, there is still the sharpness, but I have many sharp lenses for high-aperture shooting. I am sure different photographers will have different ways of using this lens. IMO, wide-open is the only way (or most usual) way I will use the NOCT95. The ability to separate a subject from a background bokeh is what this lens is made for, as far as my work goes (portraits of flowers). It would be ideal for product photography, where a more subtle tone needs to be established. In-the-studio work (products) is made for a lens like this and a certain style of portrait photography would also make sense. Since I specialize in close-up nature photography (with very little macro), I will use this lens to provide context because of the 58mm focal length. And I will use it wide open for the bokeh, and then paint focus on foreground subjects by stacking focus. This lens seems ideal for that recipe. Here is an image with just three stacked shots, using f/5.6, just to see how that goes. It is OK, but without the incredible bokeh wide-open, many other lenses would suffice.
  8. The Nikon NOCT S f/0.95 Lens Some more comments on the NOCT95. This is a heavy lens (4.4 lb./2000g) with a 4” wide barrel. The tripod foot that is built into the lens is just secure enough to avoid shake, but not quite as secure and stable as I wish. It’s OK. The stiffness of the helicoid is my only complaint (so far) with this lens and I am going to install one of my focus-pulling gears on it with a lever and see it that helps. I have my doubts. The problem is with stacking 100 images and turning that helicoid which disturbs the camera a tiny bit with each shot, after which it returns (hopefully) to where it was before. LOL. Perhaps it will loosen up with use. The build is all I could hope for and more. Optically, the colors seem fine and although some reviewers say it is not as highly corrected (APO) as we might prefer, so far, its APO quality is good enough for my work. It’s aperture collar (and whatever) works but I see no use for it so far. As for all the buttons, digital-windows, etc. on the lens, they don’t bother me, but neither do I find them helpful for my kind of work. IMO, you will need a solid tripod for this lens, at least for focus stacking. I will use an RRS tripod, with either the Arca C1 Cube or the Burzynski “Protec” ball head on it. The unremovable tripod foot on the NOCT lens, as mentioned, is OK, not as sturdy as it could be. I mounted an Arca quick release plate on the foot and the stability of the foot is not quite as unmoving as I would like for stacking images. It is just inside of the limit that I would complain about, so I am not quite complaining. The hood allows for a clear filter to be mounted within it but, because the lens moves, it will not allow external filter holders to be mounted except in a very limited range of motion. This will be a serious problem for some photographers. The bokeh is probably the best I have ever used, with its 11 blades and very fast aperture, smooth and subtle. As someone who stacks focus, this is a perfect lens because it allows me to shoot wide open and have a lovely out-of-focus background. Then, using the very narrow slice of focus at f/0.95, I can paint focus on objects in the foreground, stacking layers of focus to create whatever I want to be in perfect focus. Since it is 58mm, this additional wideness allows for subjects with considerable context surrounding them. I wish it were a macro lens since it is already quite flat, but we can’t have everything. I am glad it can do what it does. This lens does NOT take extensions well at all, although I don’t have an extension available to me that is ultra-thin. If you know of one, let me know, but even then, it would be like painting graffiti on a Ferrari. In summary, the lens is for me a keeper. I will use it for much of my in-studio work and when spring arrives, slap on a clear lens, and take it outside, but not too far because of its weight. I would like to hear from other users with their experience of this lens. https://www.flickr.com/photos/185423603@N06/?
  9. Exactly. I have nothing on my phone that is secret.
  10. I don't have time for FR or fingerprint or even a code. I chose to NOT do this on setup and it works fine for what I want, which is to be able to quickly take photos.
  11. I chose NOT to use the Face Recognition or any key to unlock the phone. I have looked into the AirDrop feature and will continue.
  12. After being laughed at for taking the new iPhone 11 Pro Max seriously as a camera I can use, along with all of the more accepted cameras we all know and love, I have persevered and with great interest. For one, the iPhone is light enough to slip into my pocket, which I do. That’s enough for starters, but of course I gravitate toward doing the kind of camera work I always have done and that involves some accessories, so let’s start there. As mentioned, I am involved with vetting the gear I find useful for using the Apple iPhone 11 Pro with its three onboard cameras. Of course, I can (and do) carry around the iPhone and take photos. However, my own jitteriness makes it too unstable for excellent still-life shots. LOL. Next, I mistakenly assumed that a monopod would help to stabilize the camera-work I like to do. However, the good monopods are still heavy to carry around, so I searched around to find the lightest carbon-fiber monopod as I could. I found one that is under one pound, about ¾ of a pound. However, when I tried about five different monopods that I have (heavy or not), what I find is that monopods, although they help, still are prone to wiggle and shakiness, more than I can allow, so I was back to square one. My next step was to look for small, lightweight tripods that could fill the bill. I looked at everything from those ultra-thin tube-tripods that have elastic cord inside them so that you kind of shake out the legs, and then very small tripods, those with just very narrow tubes, and on and on. What I found out from all of that is that these very thin tube tripods themselves are not really that steady and have problems of the their own. This led me to looking at tripods in the range of strength I am more used to, and I already have a bunch. But of course I had to buy one more. LOL. However, if they are 3-4 lbs., even that is a lot to haul around for use with a smart phone. And so, to bite the bullet, I have found a small Gitzo carbon-fiber tripod that weighs a little over two pounds. That seems doable, and I tried it out during a typical outing. The small tripod, which weighs 2.5 lbs., is the Gitzo GT-1545-T (Traveler). And I have a ball-head from another small tripod, the AOKA KB-20, which has an Arca-Swiss clamp. All told, that weight is very manageable. In addition, I have a very tiny video head that allows me to move the iPhone smoothly. I also have a DJI 3-gimbal hand-held device (DJI Osmo Mobile 3) that I can use for video (or stills), but the tripod is my first choice. As for tripod heads for the iPhones themselves, the story is similar. There are a lot of little tripod mounts for iPhone out there, often very inexpensive. However, they seem to be made out of cheap plastic and, worse, are cobbled together so that parts are “clunky” and the haptics of them are, well, terrible. I hate to be stuck using such junk, even if it is inexpensive. And many of these cheap tripod heads have spring-loaded clamps for the iPhone. Sounds like a nice thing thought I yet having to pry open and then close the clamps when doing or holding other things, became a pain after using them for a time or two. It is not surprising that after a short while, I yearned for a simple clamp that we tighten with a knob like I am used to. I now have an expensive head for iPhones from Really Right Stuff. It is totally well-made as most RRS products are. I seem to never learn. Buy good equipment right off and stop trying to save a buck. Now I have a good RRS head and a handful of ones that are not good, but still cost me money. They sit on the shelf. RAW IMAGES Moving on to raw images with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, they are available. However, you have to (at this point) use one of several apps. And while Adobe LR Mobile is said to be the best, at this point Adobe LR does not support all three cameras in the iPhone 11 Pro. However, ProCamera, an app for the iPhone that costs about $8 does support them and can store them as TIF files or DNG. I find ProCamera very useful and easy to use. And most of all, I find raw images absolutely wonderful to have on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. EXPORTING VIDEO AND STILLs I did have a lot of trouble getting large videos (like 11 GB) off my new iPhone and it took almost three days for me to sort it out. I tried to export to DropBox, but that did not work for large files. Finally, I had to use iCloud. I exported to iCloud and then downloaded these large files to my computer, after which I could place them on DropBox or wherever I wanted. All of the above begs the question of what the final image quality will look like. Now, that I have sorted out most of the accessories and process, I am ready to dig into that. It is important to know that the low ISO on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is something like 21 ISO and a higher ISO range of 3072 ISO (wide-angle lens), which is much lower than any other camera I own. The front-facing lens is 24mm and f/2.2. The image output size is 4032 x 3024, with cameras apertures of f/2.4 for the 13mm super-wide-angle lens, f/2/8 for the wide-angle lens, and f/2.0 for the 51mm telephoto. Perhaps there are others serious users of the iPhone 11 Pro Max out there and we can discuss this very interesting (to me) portable camera!
  13. The Laowa/Venus 100mm F/2.8 2x APO for Close-Up This lens caught my eye primarily for several reasons. It was a macro lens that went to 2x magnification. That I liked. Secondarily, it claimed to be apochromatic (APO), that is: highly corrected. And third (and last in importance), it was inexpensive at around $500. And the Sony E-Mount version has 13 aperture blades, which also seems a plus. The lens took its time to be released, but finally arrived. However, it would not accept any of the chipped adapters for Sony-E lenses to the Nikon Z7 mirrorless cameras. So, I found and ordered a Kipon “dumb” adapter, which had to come from China so it also took a while. It works fine. Now I could see if the lens does the job for the kind of work I do, which is close-up focus stacking. Right off the bat, the length of the Laowa 100mm APO was quite long, 8.5 inches (not collapsible), so it really hangs off the adapter on the Nikon Z7. And it weighs 1.4 lb (638 g). A little too long, IMO. And to get to the promised 2x magnification, you have to almost touch the subject with the end of the lens AND make sure you have enough light, since the lens itself can cast a shadow or overshadow the subject. That I don’t like much, either. Something I like even less was the severely short focus throw for doing stacked images. The focus throw for the lens is about 150-degrees, but almost half of that throw (46%) is for the range from 40 cm to infinity. That does not leave much room for close work, which this lens is designed for, especially for 2x magnification where even a tiny adjustment of the helicoid makes a large difference. It is the smallest focus throw of any macro lens I have ever used, and that is a not-fixable problem. Perhaps, for single-shot images there is no problem, but even then, we still have to turn the helicoid to get the focus sharp. But for stacking images, where many layers need to be spaced very close together, it’s not very acceptable. I found myself having to mount the Laowa 100 APO on a focus rail and let the rail control the “focus throw.” Still, I wanted to see how “APO” the “APO” for the lens was. So, I compared the Laowa 100mm APO to a few lenses that can get up really close and magnify to that degree, the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5, the Macro Nikkor 65mm, and the APO El Nikor 105mm f/5.6. And that’s what we are going to look at here. Yet, as mentioned, for my work stacking focus, the Laowa 100mm APO already has several strikes against it, IMO. That being said, when I looked at the results of actually photographing with the Laowa 100mm APO and a classic like the Multiphot Macro Nikkor 65mm f/4.5 and the others, the Laowa 100mm did very well, but there is a caveat. Stacking the Laowa 100mm APO using the lens’s helicoid showed that the focus throw was too small, as mentioned above. You can easily see smears where the turning of the helicoid (even a tiny bit) was too much for the focus stacking software to bridge the gap. However, if the same shot was done with the Laowa 100mm placed on the camera and then both camera and lense are mounted on a focus rail, it looks very good, certainly good enough. Conclusion My takeaway is that the Laowa 100mm APO is apochromatic enough for my stacking work, provided it is used on a focus rail. The focus throw without a rail, is pitifully short, a very thoughtless design parameter for any close work. The same goes for its use without a focus rail, since focusing for a single-shot photo may also require exact focusing and that is way too difficult IMO. The length of the lens with hood is too long and heavy, IMO, and results in almost physically touching the 2x subject and also weighs heavy on the dumb adapter needed to hang it from the Nikon Z7. So, I may hold my nose and keep the lens or I may not. The results from other APO lenses, like the Schneider MacroVaron, Macro Nikor 65mm, and Nikon APO El Nikkor, which are MUCH more expensive are as good and IMO better than the Laowa 100 APO lens. I offer two examples of the Laowa 100 APO, one stacked image using the helicoid of the lens and the other with the lens mounted on the Nikon Z7 and the camera/lens then mounted on a focus rail. If you look at the two of them, it is easy to see the artifacts introduced by the helicoid due to the inability to make tiny steps with the helicoid. The gaps appear as smears. With the focus-rail version, there are no (or very little) artifacts. What this means is that the focus rail should be used for stacking, although the focus-rail method is not as ideal for any stacking-software as using a helicoid with a proper focus throw. I see no particular value (for me) in using the Laowa 100 APO beyond close-up work (like for landscape or infinity work) compared to many other suitable lenses that most of us have. It would be convenient for me to just say the Laowa 100 APO is lousy and reject the lens, but that’s not true. It is a lens that is pretty well corrected. All of its other detriments, however, make it a pain to use, IMO. And I’m not done testing it, but I have seen enough to determine that it is not useful for my work. I will return it.
  14. I wanted to compare a group of high-quality APO lenses as used on the Nikon Z7 Camera with the new Voigtlander 65mm and Voigtlander 110mm APO lenses. I shot both single shot photos at f/8 and stacked images as well, but am only showing here the single-shot images at f/8 since stacked images involve too much color changes, etc. to put folks here through. The stacked images also look good too, but take special color handling. The lenses are: Voigtlander 65mm APO-Lanthar f/2.0 Voigtlander 110mm APO-Lanthar f/2.5 And on the FTZ or Cambo Actus Mini: Nikkor “O” CRT f/1.2 Printing Nikkor 95mm APO f/2.8 Lecia 100mm Elmarit-R f/2.8 Voigtlander 125mm APO-Lanthar f/2.5 Schneider Macro-Varon 85mm f/4.5 El Nikkor APO 105mm f/5.6 The Coneflower was photographed in similar natural light. No sharpening, color crunching, or retouching was done on the images. These are just as they came out of the Nikon Z7, with enough Levels to make them all about equal in light distribution. What have I learned from this: I have learned that all of these lenses, including the new Voigtlanders look pretty good. I did note that perhaps the early bellows lenses (APO El Nikor 105 and the Schneider Macro-Varon APO 85mm) are not as up-to-date as to color as some of the other lenses. You be the judge and tell me. This may or may not be useful. It was helpful to me.
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