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Michael Erlewine

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Michael Erlewine last won the day on 7 November

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About Michael Erlewine

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    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. 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..
  2. 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.
  3. 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/?
  4. Exactly. I have nothing on my phone that is secret.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. The Voigtlander 110mm APO is said to be an updated version of the CV-125 lens.
  11. I have two of these on order, each from a different vendor. One is Tech-Art itself. From what early testing of the actual adapter seem to show is that this adapter works well. There is some question if the adapter "locks" into place with a click. That will drive me crazy, but we will just have to see. Since I don't care about auto-focus, it should work fine for my work. I have the two Voigtlander Macros in Sony mounts (65mm and 110mm) sitting here on the shelf waiting. Meanwhile, I continue to test the Leica-m39 to Z adapter and it works perfectly. Here is a shot with that adapter and the Nikon "O" CRT lens.
  12. Pushing the envelope with the Nikkor "O" CRT lens on the Nikon Z& using Leica/M39 extension tubes offers some pretty nice options.
  13. A dream of mine for many years has been to give the Nikon “O” CRT lens just a little more focusing-range room. On the Nikon D850, on a focus rail, it is very limited, but wonderful for what it can do. No doubt this is one of my favorite lenses. I have been angling for extension rings and other mounts for the Z7 and thanks to the extensive knowledge of Erik Lund who turned me on to the Novoflex Adapter Set for Visoflex II/III to Leica M mount plus the Kipon M39-to-Z7 mounts for the Z7, I had everything I needed to find out if my dream can come true. And absolutely, it can and did. It not only gives me more focus-room, but since the Novoflex has various extensions, I can get close (but farther back than with the F-Mount or with two extension rings back far enough to take in an entire flower. This is perfect, and while I am just checking it out, here are a couple initial photos showing the new results of the new extensions. The Kipon works perfectly and the Novoflex flawlessly, with the results that this opens the door to a much wider range of photography for the Nikon “O CRT.” I am using a single extension ring (farther back) and two extension rings (closer). This speaks volumes to me about the future of this new mount on the Nikon Z cameras. The problem for me with the Nikon “O” CRT lens is it was too limited in focus range. No more, and there are many other classic lenses that will benefit from the same treatment.
  14. I get philosophical about photography and taking photos. It is deeply wedded to my meditation practices and has very much become a practice in itself. Quite a bit of the photography I do involves what is called “Focus stacking,” which consists of taking many layers of a flower or a subject, each with a sharp focus at a slightly different distance and combing them into a single image. The result is an image that appears to have more depth of field (everything is in focus) than traditional photography. Focus stacking is often said to appear to give us more depth-of-field (DOF), which can be true if we always move from front to back of the image when we are stacking. That’s something beginners latch on to. However, it is so much more than just putting everything more in focus. By stacking focus, we can also have areas of the image in sharp focus, even if they are in the front, back, or middle of the image. And what I find most useful is that by stacking focus I can use very fast lenses (well-corrected) that are also sharp wide open to paint blocks or whole areas of an image in focus. In general and traditionally, fast-focus lenses are used when we want a razor-thin depth of field with one slice in sharp focus and the rest in bokeh of one sort or another. However, by using fast, well-corrected, and sharp lenses we can (as mentioned) paint focus where we want and leave the rest to go to bokeh, which fast lenses are famous for. By breaking away (taking a break) from the traditional one-point/one-plane of focus, the eye of the beholder is not automatically prompted or drawn to a pinpoint or plane in the image. Instead, the eye is free to roam around and assume whatever view pleases. It is kind of a new experience! This is what I find so liberating about stacking focus, the freedom of the eye to direct itself. It is also, IMO, why stacked images have been said to be a little psychedelic. We are used to having our eye being led by the focus plane and its points in the image and not used to having our eyes point things out for themselves. It can be an adventure. And there are lots of ways to stack. There are long 25-30 and very long (160) and “scientific” (hundreds) of layers, but there are also what I call short stacks. A short stack might be from 3 to 7 or so layers and photos are not taken in serial sequence from front to back. Instead, you can just make a stack out of points of interest. For example, you have a subject with five flowers. You might take a shot of each flower focusing at the very center of each and stack those. You end up with a photo with five very sharp flowers and the rest just blends in. It is very easy to do. Or, you might take a shot of the whole scene with the lens wide open and get a field of bokeh. Then take a few shots of individual flowers at an aperture with more depth of field and stack the bunch. This type of collage-stack may require more retouching to bring the different layers together. Stacking, like DVDs and CDS, is a digital sampling technique, where by definition some data is lost while the data you want to keep is highlighted. There are many methods, but each has a specific result. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, I don’t like most HDR photos, but I do like a well punctuated stack. So, if we think of focus stacking as just having everything in focus, I (jokingly say) “Why not just take a picture.” I look at stacking more as if each photo is an impression of what I see or the world as I would like to see it (or sometimes do). Ming Thein is my favorite photographer, but my work is nothing like his (not that I could do what he does!). I kind of paint with light and like images where parts of the image are stacked and in sharp focus or micro-contrast, while other parts are bokeh or extreme dreamy bokeh. Examples of what I like can be found here that speak louder than words. https://MichaelErlewine.smugmug.com At one time or another I have bought all the major software that stacks focus and tried the free-ware too. For my purposes, Zerene Stacker is my software of choice. It offers two major approaches to stacking, that if combined can produce images that I like. They are called PMax and DMap. Briefly, DMap protects color and PMax protects detail. I always use Dmap first because to me “Color is King,” and then I fill-in by retouching with PMax. I find the retouching features of Zerene Stacker to be more profoundly useful than other brands, IMO. Retouching is an art as I see it. So, I don’t avoid retouching, but work to become skilled in it. I also have tried focus-rail auto-stacking, but don’t use it often, not to mention every of kind of focus rail. A lot depends on how you stack. The very best way to stack images for modern stacking software to handle (and avoid artifacts) is on the view camera by moving the rear standard. The second best method is by turning a helicoid on the lens or a lens barrel, and the worst (relatively speaking) way is to use a focus rail. I pay attention to that. I also experiment constantly. In fact, I consider all my photography as experiments, rather than finished pieces. I have shot many hundreds of thousands of images and have yet to print out a single one. And never have I put a printed image on the walls of my home. To me, photography is not a vocation, but a passion. Although I am getting decent results these days, the process of photography has always been more important to me than the results. Perfecting the process perfects the results, IMO. In other words, the place we are going is how we travel. That idea. [Photo taken by me.] Main Browsing Site: http://SpiritGrooves.net Organized Article Archive: http://MichaelErlewine.com/ YouTube Videos https://wwwyoutubecom/user/merlewine My Nature Photos https://MichaelErlewine.smugmug.com
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