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Michael Erlewine

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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
  • Interests
    Lenses, Focus Stacking, APO, Medium Format
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    Ask Me
  • Fav. Camera
    Nikon D810, Hasselblad X1D
  • Fav. Lens
    Zeiss Otus Series
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    Adobe Photoshop

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  1. Michael Erlewine

    The Mirrorless Nikon D850

  2. Michael Erlewine

    The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator

    As a focus stacker, I especially like the tilt in tilt/shift lenses and the reason is that by using tilt I can compress the area that needs to be stacked enormously and thus get more in focus using less layers. I had all three of the main Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) early on, but lost interest in them because the quality of the lens was not corrected enough for my taste and they were physically too limiting at times. I liked the 45mm PC the best. I even have one of those small macro-tilt adapters for nikon that provides 8-degrees of tilt only, but rotates 360-degrees. It actually works and is the least expensive way to get tilt on a Nikon that I know of. But mostly my interest in tilt has been in view cameras. I have had a number of view cameras, ranging from big 14 pounders to little miniature view cameras that still had all the movements, but were too frail for real work with a DSLR. And I still have the Novoflex BALPRO system, which is poorly designed IMO, but offers some movements. And of course there is the view camera system I use the most, the Cambo Actus Mini, of which I have a streamlined version. What a great system for my work! And I have taken a number of these view cameras into the field, but have found them pretty awkward, yet have done it just the same. However, I have not done it THAT often because they can be a pain. What if I told you there was a robust, small, view camera that I would not hesitate to take outside and into the field. You might ask: why do that when the wind (in the flat-state I live in -- Michigan) is almost always present and this would prevent any large focus stacks. I hear you, but that’s not the point here. With a small view camera, if it was really small and compact, I could us the tilt feature to compress what needs to be stacked in a single shot. Or, I could create what I call “short stacks,” taking a few close-focus images at key points in the image and stacking just those, perhaps three or four layers. But there is something more useful than that, which is the reason I am writing this piece. When the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS came along, I could see that at heart this lens is a tiny view camera all wrapped in a lens and one with a very small vertical component (no more than just mounting a lens), making it relatively easy to carry around and still have some of the main movements that I like in view cameras plus some unique features of its own. Perhaps the Hartblei Macro 120mm is not purposely designed for stacking in the field, but why not? I don’t find that this discourages me. What it does offer is the ability (through Tilt and Shift) to add depth-of-field to a shot, if need be, in a one-off photo. I may not have time (or the wind prevents) to make large stacks, but I can independently rotate to tilt and/or shift the lens to maximize the depth-of-field in a single shot or a short-stack in just a few seconds. The result is I get more depth-of-field by the tilt and shift than I otherwise would. In my work, every little angle counts. And it is this capability that makes this rather complex lens system worthwhile in the field as well as the studio. It shines in the studio! It is a heavy lens, but not as heavy and cumbersome as any of the view-camera systems I have otherwise used with equal features. The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator uses a sturdy collar that mounts directly to the tripod via an Arca-Swiss plate so that the Nikon D850 hangs off the back of the collar mount and the heavy lens hangs from the collar and does not hang on the camera flange. This is very important for a 2 lb. lens. The lens kit also comes with a side-focus wheel which provides 2:1 fine-focusing, much like the focus-pullers I am familiar with in video work. And the lens is called a “superrotator” has three rotations: (1) Rotation Collar (horizontal/vertical) (2) 360-degree Rotation Shift Movements (3) 360-degree Rotation Tilt Movements These rotations are each 360-degrees by increments (all the way around) and the shift and tilt rings can be used independently of one another in any combination. This feature, which is very desirable, is unlike any lens I have ever gotten my hands on and it is no kludge, but very well made and it works smoothly. As for the lens itself, this is the same 120mm Zeiss macro lens that Hasselblad has successfully used for many years, the “Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFI/CFE” of the Hasselblad last build. It has been thoroughly vetted and reviewed, so it is a known entity. And the lens itself has two separate focusing helicoids, a ring to get from infinity to 1.2m (170-degrees focus throw) and a second ring for close focus 1.2m to 75cm (160-degrees focus throw). In addition, there is a side focus which allows 2:1 fine-focusing. As a focus stacker, this is right up my alley. And I am told that this Zeiss lens has the best coating on the market; the blue channel is about 15-20% denser than other lenses. However, it’s true that the Zeiss lens used in the Hartblei implementation is not as well corrected as some of my exotic APO lenses, but most of those APO lenses have no infinity, are VERY restricted in their range, have very old coatings, odd-ball mounts, and so on. The Hartblei 120mm looks to be an all-around general purpose lens and not just a specialized lens, although it is special indeed. This particular Zeiss 120mm Macro Lens is well known and has been a feature of the Hasselblad system for many years, so we know what it is and isn’t. And while the optics may be slightly old fashioned, it is certainly fine enough, especially as Hartblei has configured it. Given its very low vertical profile, the sturdy tripod collar, and the refinement of the side-focus wheel, what you have here is a miniature view camera built into a lens, ready and able to work well in the field where I find it can be difficult to cart a larger view-camera system. This lens may have to be used stopped down more than I would like, but it’s portable and for stacking some photos, I can also take a shot wide open to get whatever bokeh I can and feather that in with the main stacked image shot at higher f-stops, if needs be. What is at least a psycho-social barrier is the price of the lens, which is over $5k. Ouch! For me, I am kind of used to high prices and I just have to sell a few more of the lenses I don’t use much. LOL. The Zeiss Otus lenses cost a lot and many of the lenses I most use do also, I guess that’s the price of admission. With the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm, what you do get is a lens of known quality (the famous Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFi/CFe), a strong tripod color, a very helpful side focus system, plus the (and let’s use their word) three “Superrotators.” As mentioned earlier, I have had all three Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) and their physical restrictions and too much chromatic aberration make them pretty-much unusable for my work. There is a learning curve with the Superrotator 120mm lens. There is a lot of functionality packed into a small package, in particular getting used to the three rotations. It’s a lot like the old test of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. And the little release buttons for the rotations are not totally easy to hold down and do the rotation at the same time. For my work, I probably will use the same (or a similar) setup each time, so this may not be a big problem. Also, I have to learn to recognize where the tilt is, since unlike most PC lenses, where the lens tilts, in the 120mm Superrotator it is the camera body that tilts. After all, the lens packs almost a complete view camera, with all of the main movements that I need, into a tiny (albeit a somewhat heavy) package. And while I may not use this lens all that much in the studio because I have so many temperamental exotic APO lenses on hand, I will take the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm f/4 lens into the field where it is just a single lens, albeit a heavy one, and get many of the movements I like and find in the standard view camera. I would like to hear from other owners of this particular lens. Here are a couple of photos, one with the camera setup and a first image with the Nikon D850 with the Hartblei Superrotator. This shot focuses on the leaves and the flower is not stacked.
  3. Michael Erlewine

    The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator

    Not really, IMO. The point of it is to compress the image along the plane of focus so that VERY much fewer shots need to be taken to get the subject in focus.
  4. Michael Erlewine

    The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator

    As a focus stacker, I especially like the tilt in tilt/shift lenses and the reason is that by using tilt I can compress the area that needs to be stacked enormously and thus get more in focus using less layers. I had all three of the main Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) early on, but lost interest in them because the quality of the lens was not corrected enough for my taste and they were physically too limiting at times. I liked the 45mm PC the best. I even have one of those small macro-tilt adapters for nikon that provides 8-degrees of tilt only, but rotates 360-degrees. It actually works and is the least expensive way to get tilt on a Nikon that I know of. But mostly my interest in tilt has been in view cameras. I have had a number of view cameras, ranging from big 14 pounders to little miniature view cameras that still had all the movements, but were too frail for real work with a DSLR. And I still have the Novoflex BALPRO system, which is poorly designed IMO, but offers some movements. And of course there is the view camera system I use the most, the Cambo Actus Mini, of which I have a streamlined version. What a great system for my work! And I have taken a number of these view cameras into the field, but have found them pretty awkward, yet have done it just the same. However, I have not done it THAT often because they can be a pain. What if I told you there was a robust, small, view camera that I would not hesitate to take outside and into the field. You might ask: why do that when the wind (in the flat-state I live in -- Michigan) is almost always present and this would prevent any large focus stacks. I hear you, but that’s not the point here. With a small view camera, if it was really small and compact, I could us the tilt feature to compress what needs to be stacked in a single shot. Or, I could create what I call “short stacks,” taking a few close-focus images at key points in the image and stacking just those, perhaps three or four layers. But there is something more useful than that, which is the reason I am writing this piece. When the Hartblei Superrotator Macro 120mm F4 TS came along, I could see that at heart this lens is a tiny view camera all wrapped in a lens and one with a very small vertical component (no more than just mounting a lens), making it relatively easy to carry around and still have some of the main movements that I like in view cameras plus some unique features of its own. Perhaps the Hartblei Macro 120mm is not purposely designed for stacking in the field, but why not? I don’t find that this discourages me. What it does offer is the ability (through Tilt and Shift) to add depth-of-field to a shot, if need be, in a one-off photo. I may not have time (or the wind prevents) to make large stacks, but I can independently rotate to tilt and/or shift the lens to maximize the depth-of-field in a single shot or a short-stack in just a few seconds. The result is I get more depth-of-field by the tilt and shift than I otherwise would. In my work, every little angle counts. And it is this capability that makes this rather complex lens system worthwhile in the field as well as the studio. It shines in the studio! It is a heavy lens, but not as heavy and cumbersome as any of the view-camera systems I have otherwise used with equal features. The Hartblei 120mm Superrotator uses a sturdy collar that mounts directly to the tripod via an Arca-Swiss plate so that the Nikon D850 hangs off the back of the collar mount and the heavy lens hangs from the collar and does not hang on the camera flange. This is very important for a 2 lb. lens. The lens kit also comes with a side-focus wheel which provides 2:1 fine-focusing, much like the focus-pullers I am familiar with in video work. And the lens is called a “superrotator” has three rotations: (1) Rotation Collar (horizontal/vertical) (2) 360-degree Rotation Shift Movements (3) 360-degree Rotation Tilt Movements These rotations are each 360-degrees by increments (all the way around) and the shift and tilt rings can be used independently of one another in any combination. This feature, which is very desirable, is unlike any lens I have ever gotten my hands on and it is no kludge, but very well made and it works smoothly. As for the lens itself, this is the same 120mm Zeiss macro lens that Hasselblad has successfully used for many years, the “Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFI/CFE” of the Hasselblad last build. It has been thoroughly vetted and reviewed, so it is a known entity. And the lens itself has two separate focusing helicoids, a ring to get from infinity to 1.2m (170-degrees focus throw) and a second ring for close focus 1.2m to 75cm (160-degrees focus throw). In addition, there is a side focus which allows 2:1 fine-focusing. As a focus stacker, this is right up my alley. And I am told that this Zeiss lens has the best coating on the market; the blue channel is about 15-20% denser than other lenses. However, it’s true that the Zeiss lens used in the Hartblei implementation is not as well corrected as some of my exotic APO lenses, but most of those APO lenses have no infinity, are VERY restricted in their range, have very old coatings, odd-ball mounts, and so on. The Hartblei 120mm looks to be an all-around general purpose lens and not just a specialized lens, although it is special indeed. This particular Zeiss 120mm Macro Lens is well known and has been a feature of the Hasselblad system for many years, so we know what it is and isn’t. And while the optics may be slightly old fashioned, it is certainly fine enough, especially as Hartblei has configured it. Given its very low vertical profile, the sturdy tripod collar, and the refinement of the side-focus wheel, what you have here is a miniature view camera built into a lens, ready and able to work well in the field where I find it can be difficult to cart a larger view-camera system. This lens may have to be used stopped down more than I would like, but it’s portable and for stacking some photos, I can also take a shot wide open to get whatever bokeh I can and feather that in with the main stacked image shot at higher f-stops, if needs be. What is at least a psycho-social barrier is the price of the lens, which is over $5k. Ouch! For me, I am kind of used to high prices and I just have to sell a few more of the lenses I don’t use much. LOL. The Zeiss Otus lenses cost a lot and many of the lenses I most use do also, I guess that’s the price of admission. With the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm, what you do get is a lens of known quality (the famous Zeiss Macro Planar 120mm CFi/CFe), a strong tripod color, a very helpful side focus system, plus the (and let’s use their word) three “Superrotators.” As mentioned earlier, I have had all three Nikon PC lenses (24mm, 45mm, 85mm) and their physical restrictions and too much chromatic aberration make them pretty-much unusable for my work. There is a learning curve with the Superrotator 120mm lens. There is a lot of functionality packed into a small package, in particular getting used to the three rotations. It’s a lot like the old test of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. And the little release buttons for the rotations are not totally easy to hold down and do the rotation at the same time. For my work, I probably will use the same (or a similar) setup each time, so this may not be a big problem. Also, I have to learn to recognize where the tilt is, since unlike most PC lenses, where the lens tilts, in the 120mm Superrotator it is the camera body that tilts. After all, the lens packs almost a complete view camera, with all of the main movements that I need, into a tiny (albeit a somewhat heavy) package. And while I may not use this lens all that much in the studio because I have so many temperamental exotic APO lenses on hand, I will take the Hartblei Superrotator 120mm f/4 lens into the field where it is just a single lens, albeit a heavy one, and get many of the movements I like and find in the standard view camera. I would like to hear from other owners of this particular lens. Here are a couple of photos, one with the camera setup and a first image with the Nikon D850 with the Hartblei Superrotator. This shot focuses on the leaves and the flower is not stacked. View full article
  5. Michael Erlewine

    Burst of Fire

    Nikon D850, Zeiss 135mm f/2 Sonnar
  6. Michael Erlewine

    Enhancing Sharpness by Auto-Stacking

    Since I’m always on the lookout for sharp and well-corrected lenses, APO if possible, over time I have kind of run out of lenses for the Nikon mount to find. I am sure there are some out there, but I don’t know where they are or can’t (or won’t) afford them. LOL. Another approach is to find ways to enhance the APO lenses that I already have. Let’s take my old standby the Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO Lanthar, still the best all-around macro lens that I know of. Other lenses best it in this or that feature, but when you add up all the features, the CV-125 still comes out on top every time. One of the areas where the CV-125 didn’t quite match up to some of the best APO lenses is sharpness, whether you consider sharpness as acuity and resolution or, as I do, add to that how well corrected is the lens is for the various aberrations, etc. Yet, lately I did find another way to better compensate for some areas that the CV-125 fell ever so slightly short. And that is by using the lens on an automatic focus rail. I use StackShot, but there are also others out there. If I mount the CV-125 on the Nikon D850 on the StackShot auto-rail and set the step increment on the finer (shorter increment) side, the CV-125 very much benefits from regular short increment steps and focus stacking. The net result is to bring out or compensate for the very slight lack of sharpness I see when I stack the CV-125 by hand by turning the focus ring of the lens directly. My point is that using precise auto stacking brings out the sense of sharpness with this lens and I would imagine with any other lens. Here is a photo taken with the Nikon D850 with the CV-125 lens mounted on the StackShot auto-rail. To my eyes, the degree of refined sharpness is a little better than what I can do by hand. This image is reasonably sharp. So, for we focus stackers out there, using auto-rails may be a way to get better “sharpness” without having to spend a fortune for better lenses. Of course, how would I know because I have spent way too much on buying really well-corrected lenses. LOL.
  7. The Nikkor “O,” commonly referred to as the “CRT Nikkor” is a bit of an orphan. The “O” stands for the Greek number “octo” (8), due to their being eight optical elements in its construction. It is also reference to as an oscilloscope lens, because it was designed to monitor computer CRTs. It was not designed for daylight use and if use there produces all kinds of interesting effects. It is not an APO lens either, just the opposite. Yet, in its own way, it’s one of the sharpest lenses out there. Because of its anomalies, this is a limited-use lens. It does not reach infinity. It has no focus ring. It has an unusual mount and it is only really sharp wide open. And wide-open is stated as f/1.2 and that is fast in my book. In other words, wide-open the CRT Nikkor is so fast that its depth-of-field is razor thin, good for very little to most photographers. It has, by design, strong curvature to adapt to the curved screens of early computer monitors. Oh yes, and before I forget it, at about $1000 a pop, the lens can be expensive. And yet, it is one of my most used lenses and has produced what some folks tell me are the most lovely photos I have taken. I have to agree. So, what gives? Why does this oddball lens command so much of my attention? Aside from the results of this lens having a bit of a random factor, a throw of the dice, so to speak, most users that I have talked with like the quality of the bokeh. A lens that fast has some powerful bokeh, which photographers love. I know that I do. It has 12 aperture blades. Other problems are its rather narrow reproduction range and the fact that if it is to be used for something more than an atmospheric one-off shot, it has to be mounted on a focus rail and stacked. While many users of the Nikkor CRT use if for, as mentioned, single-shot somewhat blurry one-shot photos, there is another group of us who use the lens to stack focus because like a painter with a brush, we can paint in focus anywhere on the image, leaving everything else as a very lovely bokeh. As for me, I combine very nice bokeh with very sharp areas in high focus. I find the combination the focus and blurry background to be attractive. The only problem I personally have run into is that the very fine focusing required to paint focus well (using a focus rail) often takes a great many layers, which is tiresome, even for someone like myself who was brought up on tedium. As an archivist of popular culture, I created (along with a team) the largest collection of recorded music on the planet. And we did the same for one of the two largest movie and film databases. This included many millions of pieces of information, so I am very familiar with tedious procedures. To repeat, my one complaint about the Nikkor CRT lens is how almost painfully long it took to stack enough focus fine enough to produce the effect that I liked about the lens. Recently, with the acquisition of an automated focus rail (StackShot), I found that it could easily stack focus with the CRT Nikkor at the fineness I require and quite effortlessly. Although the Nikkor CRT lens has an aperture ring, what is most unique about this lens can be found mostly by using it wide open. As the aperture is increased, the lens accordingly becomes more and more normal and the bokeh effect, of course, is lost. I always use it wide open. So, my love of the lens came from taking that very, very fast lens (f/1.2) with its razor-thin depth of field and carefully painting it as you would a color, only here we are painting focus. The result is that we have a sea of bokeh with more than one point or area of the image in focus. In other words, one area might be right up front in the image, and others could be here or there in the distance. This is unlike a traditional photo, where there is a single plane and only the points (usually a single point) on the plane are in focus. Our eyes are directed to that point in the plane most in focus. However, in focus stacking the eye is free to roam and find its own point of focus. If there are many points of focus in stacked photo, we can decide which ones interest us. That is one of the features of focus stacking, this freedom to focus, whether we realize it or not. In my experience, the CRT Nikkor is not the easiest lens to use, but well worth learning to get what you want out of it, if you like the effects it produces. It took me a while to find how I want to use it. I first learned about the CRT Nikkor from the great lensman Bjørn Rørslett, who pointed it out to me and then I saw it exampled for me in an atmospheric shot by Akira, a member of NikonGear. I liked what I saw and could see the possibilities for my kind of work. I soon found myself stacking with it and liking it more and more. There are basically two versions of the Nikkor “O” and I have them both. One has some red lettering on the barrel. I can’t see any real difference between the two. So, if you can put up with a specialty lens and the time it takes to learn to use it, I very much recommend the CRT Nikkor. And I repeat, what did seem like a very limited lens to me, when used with the StackShot, is IMO a very much more flexible lens. Some examples are shown here.
  8. I have been stacking focus for many years now, so I’m no stranger to this technique. And the track of my learning curve (more like a spiral) has been fueled by my using better and better corrected lenses (APO) to enhance the stacking. In other words, the more finely corrected the lenses, the more careful I have to be in stacking, and on around. It’s like a Catch-22. I get lots of emails and messages about my photos. And not infrequently (at least from photographers) is the question as to whether I have tried one of the automated focus rails. In the past, I have taken a certain amount of pride in pointing out to these folks that I can stack quite well manually, thank you very much. I had no intention of varying my technique. Yet, as I pointed out above, the circular spiral of finer lenses and precise stacking led to more and better apochromatic lenses, like the Zeiss Otus series, the APO-El Nikkor 105, the Leica Elmarit-R APO 100mm macro, and so on. I pretty-much took these fine lenses in stride, hopefully learning to use them more and more skillfully. Then comes the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm industrial lens. I had kind of heard about this lens on and off for some time, but never had seen one come up used on Ebay and even trying to get availability and a firm price from the manufacturer and distributors was difficult. It was almost as if they did not want to sell to me because I was not a company that required industrial lens for line-scanning. I wrote them. I called them on the phone. A more detailed story about the Macro Varon would require a separate article. Suffice it to say that a good friend of mine, another photographer, sent me a FB message telling me that a Macro Varon just came up of Ebay and at an attractive price at that. It took all of perhaps one minute and I had bought it. It was not an impulse buy, because I had decided to get one quite a while ago, just not pay the retail price of about $4500. Ouch! The Makro Varon is a very highly corrected lens, certainly worthy of the name APO. However, perhaps most remarkable was that this was a lens built for a wide range of magnifications, which is unusual for industrial lenses, which usually have a very limited magnification range at which they are at optimum sharpness. The Macro Varon even has a separate ring to compensate for whichever reproduction-ratio is used, actually moving the inner lens elements around to accommodate that reproduction range. And, interestingly enough, its specs showed me that it could easily outperform the sensor of my fairly new Nikon D850. “Hmmmm, I mused. I’d like to see that.” And see it I did and pretty quickly too. But such a revelation soon led me to rethinking my bias against automated focus rails. It was not that I could not stack well, but I continue to get older and I am old enough as it is, and the little bumps, jars, and vibrations caused by me began to be more visible; they got in the way. Anyway, back to this blog. So, there I was, reading about the StackShot, when before I knew it my finger was hitting the return-key to order a copy. And to my surprise, the company (Cognisys) was right here in Michigan, only just up the road from where I live, in Traverse City. So, it was only a day or so before the automated-rail turned up at my door. However, learning to use StackShot was a bit of puzzle. It actually is very simple, but the manual is SO complete that finding the simple in it is hard. At least that’s how it struck me. I just wanted to get going right away and stack something, but although eventually that was easy, at first it was not so. And also, this device is meant for many kinds (or ways) of stacking. It took me a while to figure out what the name for what I wanted to do was. I finally did (Automatic Distance) and, as mentioned, it could not be simpler. Well, it could be explained more simply. LOL. As a software developer myself since the early 1970s, I recognized the kind of manual that indeed was precise, but is no beginner’s guide. I told them so. The problem was, IMO, how do I find what increment or step makes sense for the kind of close-up focus-stacking that I do. I don’t need the kind of detail one needs for stacking a bee’s knees, but I do need enough overlap of images to make the rendering of the stack smooth with no banding. Of course, I called the support line at Cognisys and spoke with a very nice person, only too willing to help. The problem was that at each question, each point where I was stuck, he pointed out that this or that particular choice was variable, very variable. So after fifteen minutes or so, I was right back where I started from, having to figure it out for myself. What’s new? Story of my life! LOL. And it took a while for me to run many stacks at different step-sizes to find a step-size that gave me what I was looking for and not one that took all day by over-stacking what probably couldn’t be seen. I wasn’t stacking a microscope image, but just a flower or two. I messaged Rik Littlefield, creator of Zerene Stacker, the stacking software I use, and asked him about over sampling. His response was that it won’t harm anything to make too many images, but it might add a wee bit of extra noise. After a few happy days with StackShot, here is where I am at. So far, it looks like the more detail you can get with the smaller increments with Stackshot, the better the result, within reason. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions thereof, your choice. I found myself working with MLS, thousandths of an inch, a setting of 20 Mls seems pretty good. 10 MLS is slightly better, but perhaps not worth the extra time, etc. A lot depends on keeping natural light even, which is hard with variable cloudiness. My thoughts on using the StackShot automatic-rail are positive. I have stacked for many years, always barely touching the focus barrel or whatever mechanism as required. I got pretty good at it, but also made little accidental bumps and knocks, which have never helped at all. And, as I drill down on these ultra-sharp industrial lenses that can challenge the sensor of even the Nikon D850, there is less room for user-caused error and a greater demand for regular precise increments. After many years of focus stacking, my most valuable learned skills are in setting up and composing the shot, although I have always done my best to move carefully through all the steps that focus-stacking requires. However, having tried out StackShot, I am convinced it has a lot to offer me in stability and consistency, leaving me more time to consider what shot I want to take. I am enjoying that. I have a fair amount of testing the Stackshot yet to do, but I am already getting a handle on it. By testing various step-sizes, I am already converging on what seems to work for me. I’m not doing photo-micography, but rather just simple close-up and macro photography. Of the many options that StackShot offers, the one I seem to be gravitating to is Automatic-Distance, which allows me to choose the granularity, the step-size, that works best for my work. In other words, I have one main step size that will be applied no matter what scope or distance I want to cover. Should that not be fine enough, I can easily make if finer, etc. The only caveat might be with spherical objects, where following the curve demands finer steps, IMO. So, the step sizes I have settled on should work. Physically, the StackShot is very well made, meaning it is robust, as strong or stronger than any other focus rail I have and I have ten or so. Its vertical profile for my camera is low, about as low as it could be and I have fitted it with my favorite RRS Arca quick-release clamp, the one with a larger knob. I can see no way that this is not better than what I have been doing myself by hand. And the program allows me to introduce all kinds of latency time, which I have done, so that at each movement of the auto rail, I take a second or so to let any vibrations created by the mechanism movement subside. The only problem, which has nothing to do with StackShot, is that since I use natural light, on a variably-cloudy day the lighting changes from moment to moment and affects the stack. To counter this, I would have to be standing there, slightly modifying the shutter moment-by-moment to keep the light stable. That kind of takes the auto out of automatic, but that’s the price we pay for natural light. It varies. So, my initial impression of the StackShot is not only good, but very good, almost something like “where-have-you-been-all-my-life?” good. I like it. As for taking the time I am used to spending stacking focus at the camera away from me, which I traditionally associate with meditative absorption on my part, it does not seem a problem. My hard-won skills are seeing the shot and setting up for it. With StackShot, I do the creative work and let an expert step through the mechanics while I do other stuff. Makes sense and seems fine. StackShot is easily rough enough to take into the field, provided you realize that it is heavy and if you don’t have any wind. Here in Michigan, I wait to see each day if there is no wind at first light. Rare, but it happens. A Hidden Surprise Surprise, surprise! There is almost always a surprise with new equipment. Using stackshot made one thing very clear. By standardizing the process of focus stacking (the mechanical part) all lenses were treated equally. It’s true that I always did my best to incrementally stack focus as carefully as I could. But, I cannot pretend that on any given day, I may have stacked looser or tighter, even or less even. I can only guess at the variation. But one thing is clear so far from using the StackShot and that is that the regularity of increments (the step size) reveals more clearly than I have ever seen the true or actual difference between any of these highly corrected lenses. It is clear that some of these lens differences were veiled by the more organic (sloppy) process of stacking by hand and not by auto-stacking. However, by regulating the stacking process, it creates a much more level playing field. And I found it very easy to see the differences between lenses, many of which I could never before be certain about. And so, whatever else auto-rail stacking provides (and there is a lot) a wonderful bonus in allowing me to see more clearly than ever how lenses differ, something I have always strained to see (regardless of all the graphs) for myself. By stacking in a more regulated manner removes (at least for me) a veil that has been obscuring these difference all of this time. Below are a couple of tables that might be useful. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions there of. 1 Millimeter = 39.3701 Thousandth of an Inch 1 thousandth of an inch in is equal to 25.40 μm Thousandths-inch TO MILLIMETER 10-mils = 0.254 Millimeters 15-mils = 0.381 Millimeters 20-mils = 0.508 Millimeters 25-mils = 0.635 Millimeters 30-mils = 0.762 Millimeters 35-mils = 0.889 Millimeters 39-mils = 0.9906 Millimeters 39.37 mils = 1 Millimeter MILLIMETER to Thousandths-inch .25 MM = 9.84 Mils .333 MM = 13.11 Mils .5 MM = 19.685 Mils .666 MM = 26.22 .75 MM =29.5276 Mils 1 MM = 39.37 Mils 1.25 MM = 49.2126 Mils 1.5 MM = 59.055 Mils 2 MM = 78.7 Mils 2.5 MM = 98.42 Mils 3 MM = 118.11 Mils 3.5 = 137.8 Mils 4 = 157.5 Mils 4.5 = 177.2 Mils 5 = 197 Mils Here are three example images, both done with StackShot, one with the Schneider Macro Varon f/4.5 and another with the APO-El Nikkor 105mm f/5.6. A third one is with the Nikkor “O” CRT lens. Also, a poor-quality shot (shot at night in bad lighting) of the StackShot controller (Vecro-ed to a post) and the basic StackShot setup. Not the RRS Quick-Releas Clamp with the large knob.
  9. I have been stacking focus for many years now, so I’m no stranger to this technique. And the track of my learning curve (more like a spiral) has been fueled by my using better and better corrected lenses (APO) to enhance the stacking. In other words, the more finely corrected the lenses, the more careful I have to be in stacking, and on around. It’s like a Catch-22. I get lots of emails and messages about my photos. And not infrequently (at least from photographers) is the question as to whether I have tried one of the automated focus rails. In the past, I have taken a certain amount of pride in pointing out to these folks that I can stack quite well manually, thank you very much. I had no intention of varying my technique. Yet, as I pointed out above, the circular spiral of finer lenses and precise stacking led to more and better apochromatic lenses, like the Zeiss Otus series, the APO-El Nikkor 105, the Leica Elmarit-R APO 100mm macro, and so on. I pretty-much took these fine lenses in stride, hopefully learning to use them more and more skillfully. Then comes the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm industrial lens. I had kind of heard about this lens on and off for some time, but never had seen one come up used on Ebay and even trying to get availability and a firm price from the manufacturer and distributors was difficult. It was almost as if they did not want to sell to me because I was not a company that required industrial lens for line-scanning. I wrote them. I called them on the phone. A more detailed story about the Macro Varon would require a separate article. Suffice it to say that a good friend of mine, another photographer, sent me a FB message telling me that a Macro Varon just came up of Ebay and at an attractive price at that. It took all of perhaps one minute and I had bought it. It was not an impulse buy, because I had decided to get one quite a while ago, just not pay the retail price of about $4500. Ouch! The Makro Varon is a very highly corrected lens, certainly worthy of the name APO. However, perhaps most remarkable was that this was a lens built for a wide range of magnifications, which is unusual for industrial lenses, which usually have a very limited magnification range at which they are at optimum sharpness. The Macro Varon even has a separate ring to compensate for whichever reproduction-ratio is used, actually moving the inner lens elements around to accommodate that reproduction range. And, interestingly enough, its specs showed me that it could easily outperform the sensor of my fairly new Nikon D850. “Hmmmm, I mused. I’d like to see that.” And see it I did and pretty quickly too. But such a revelation soon led me to rethinking my bias against automated focus rails. It was not that I could not stack well, but I continue to get older and I am old enough as it is, and the little bumps, jars, and vibrations caused by me began to be more visible; they got in the way. Anyway, back to this blog. So, there I was, reading about the StackShot, when before I knew it my finger was hitting the return-key to order a copy. And to my surprise, the company (Cognisys) was right here in Michigan, only just up the road from where I live, in Traverse City. So, it was only a day or so before the automated-rail turned up at my door. However, learning to use StackShot was a bit of puzzle. It actually is very simple, but the manual is SO complete that finding the simple in it is hard. At least that’s how it struck me. I just wanted to get going right away and stack something, but although eventually that was easy, at first it was not so. And also, this device is meant for many kinds (or ways) of stacking. It took me a while to figure out what the name for what I wanted to do was. I finally did (Automatic Distance) and, as mentioned, it could not be simpler. Well, it could be explained more simply. LOL. As a software developer myself since the early 1970s, I recognized the kind of manual that indeed was precise, but is no beginner’s guide. I told them so. The problem was, IMO, how do I find what increment or step makes sense for the kind of close-up focus-stacking that I do. I don’t need the kind of detail one needs for stacking a bee’s knees, but I do need enough overlap of images to make the rendering of the stack smooth with no banding. Of course, I called the support line at Cognisys and spoke with a very nice person, only too willing to help. The problem was that at each question, each point where I was stuck, he pointed out that this or that particular choice was variable, very variable. So after fifteen minutes or so, I was right back where I started from, having to figure it out for myself. What’s new? Story of my life! LOL. And it took a while for me to run many stacks at different step-sizes to find a step-size that gave me what I was looking for and not one that took all day by over-stacking what probably couldn’t be seen. I wasn’t stacking a microscope image, but just a flower or two. I messaged Rik Littlefield, creator of Zerene Stacker, the stacking software I use, and asked him about over sampling. His response was that it won’t harm anything to make too many images, but it might add a wee bit of extra noise. After a few happy days with StackShot, here is where I am at. So far, it looks like the more detail you can get with the smaller increments with Stackshot, the better the result, within reason. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions thereof, your choice. I found myself working with MLS, thousandths of an inch, a setting of 20 Mls seems pretty good. 10 MLS is slightly better, but perhaps not worth the extra time, etc. A lot depends on keeping natural light even, which is hard with variable cloudiness. My thoughts on using the StackShot automatic-rail are positive. I have stacked for many years, always barely touching the focus barrel or whatever mechanism as required. I got pretty good at it, but also made little accidental bumps and knocks, which have never helped at all. And, as I drill down on these ultra-sharp industrial lenses that can challenge the sensor of even the Nikon D850, there is less room for user-caused error and a greater demand for regular precise increments. After many years of focus stacking, my most valuable learned skills are in setting up and composing the shot, although I have always done my best to move carefully through all the steps that focus-stacking requires. However, having tried out StackShot, I am convinced it has a lot to offer me in stability and consistency, leaving me more time to consider what shot I want to take. I am enjoying that. I have a fair amount of testing the Stackshot yet to do, but I am already getting a handle on it. By testing various step-sizes, I am already converging on what seems to work for me. I’m not doing photo-micography, but rather just simple close-up and macro photography. Of the many options that StackShot offers, the one I seem to be gravitating to is Automatic-Distance, which allows me to choose the granularity, the step-size, that works best for my work. In other words, I have one main step size that will be applied no matter what scope or distance I want to cover. Should that not be fine enough, I can easily make if finer, etc. The only caveat might be with spherical objects, where following the curve demands finer steps, IMO. So, the step sizes I have settled on should work. Physically, the StackShot is very well made, meaning it is robust, as strong or stronger than any other focus rail I have and I have ten or so. Its vertical profile for my camera is low, about as low as it could be and I have fitted it with my favorite RRS Arca quick-release clamp, the one with a larger knob. I can see no way that this is not better than what I have been doing myself by hand. And the program allows me to introduce all kinds of latency time, which I have done, so that at each movement of the auto rail, I take a second or so to let any vibrations created by the mechanism movement subside. The only problem, which has nothing to do with StackShot, is that since I use natural light, on a variably-cloudy day the lighting changes from moment to moment and affects the stack. To counter this, I would have to be standing there, slightly modifying the shutter moment-by-moment to keep the light stable. That kind of takes the auto out of automatic, but that’s the price we pay for natural light. It varies. So, my initial impression of the StackShot is not only good, but very good, almost something like “where-have-you-been-all-my-life?” good. I like it. As for taking the time I am used to spending stacking focus at the camera away from me, which I traditionally associate with meditative absorption on my part, it does not seem a problem. My hard-won skills are seeing the shot and setting up for it. With StackShot, I do the creative work and let an expert step through the mechanics while I do other stuff. Makes sense and seems fine. StackShot is easily rough enough to take into the field, provided you realize that it is heavy and if you don’t have any wind. Here in Michigan, I wait to see each day if there is no wind at first light. Rare, but it happens. A Hidden Surprise Surprise, surprise! There is almost always a surprise with new equipment. Using stackshot made one thing very clear. By standardizing the process of focus stacking (the mechanical part) all lenses were treated equally. It’s true that I always did my best to incrementally stack focus as carefully as I could. But, I cannot pretend that on any given day, I may have stacked looser or tighter, even or less even. I can only guess at the variation. But one thing is clear so far from using the StackShot and that is that the regularity of increments (the step size) reveals more clearly than I have ever seen the true or actual difference between any of these highly corrected lenses. It is clear that some of these lens differences were veiled by the more organic (sloppy) process of stacking by hand and not by auto-stacking. However, by regulating the stacking process, it creates a much more level playing field. And I found it very easy to see the differences between lenses, many of which I could never before be certain about. And so, whatever else auto-rail stacking provides (and there is a lot) a wonderful bonus in allowing me to see more clearly than ever how lenses differ, something I have always strained to see (regardless of all the graphs) for myself. By stacking in a more regulated manner removes (at least for me) a veil that has been obscuring these difference all of this time. Below are a couple of tables that might be useful. StackShot likes to work in thousandths-of-an-inch or in millimeters or fractions there of. 1 Millimeter = 39.3701 Thousandth of an Inch 1 thousandth of an inch in is equal to 25.40 μm Thousandths-inch TO MILLIMETER 10-mils = 0.254 Millimeters 15-mils = 0.381 Millimeters 20-mils = 0.508 Millimeters 25-mils = 0.635 Millimeters 30-mils = 0.762 Millimeters 35-mils = 0.889 Millimeters 39-mils = 0.9906 Millimeters 39.37 mils = 1 Millimeter MILLIMETER to Thousandths-inch .25 MM = 9.84 Mils .333 MM = 13.11 Mils .5 MM = 19.685 Mils .666 MM = 26.22 .75 MM =29.5276 Mils 1 MM = 39.37 Mils 1.25 MM = 49.2126 Mils 1.5 MM = 59.055 Mils 2 MM = 78.7 Mils 2.5 MM = 98.42 Mils 3 MM = 118.11 Mils 3.5 = 137.8 Mils 4 = 157.5 Mils 4.5 = 177.2 Mils 5 = 197 Mils Here are three example images, both done with StackShot, one with the Schneider Macro Varon f/4.5 and another with the APO-El Nikkor 105mm f/5.6. A third one is with the Nikkor “O” CRT lens. Also, a poor-quality shot (shot at night in bad lighting) of the StackShot controller (Vecro-ed to a post) and the basic StackShot setup. Note the RRS Quick-Release Clamp with the large knob.
  10. Michael Erlewine

    MUSINGS: SHIFTING GEAR

    Dallas: Maybe I will do a post on the poster photography
  11. Michael Erlewine

    MUSINGS: SHIFTING GEAR

    I like to tell myself that my photography gear is convection based, constantly turning over like the topsoil of a garden. While there are a few lone gear survivors, everything else has its day and heads for Ebay or, if I am too lazy, into the storeroom. My most volatile category is the lenses. One thing that all lenses share is that they take photos. Aside from that, there are a wide variety of lens types and quality, not to mention there being a myriad lenses out there. For my work, there are not that many “great” lenses. I seem to gravitate toward highly-corrected lenses and never seem to have enough of them. I have been getting rid of those that I seldom use, with a few exceptions. I decided some time ago that I can’t afford to be a lens museum and am moving away from that. And I imagine that any photographer out there with more than a few lenses drifts toward collecting those lenses that make up his or her particular photography niche. I know I do. I’m usually bundled in with the macro photographers, but in reality I am a close-up photographer. I don’t enjoy the confines of a limited view like 1:1. It makes me feel claustrophobic. I like to breathe in a somewhat larger context. On the other hand, although I do some landscape photography, it is more context than I need. I am into little dioramas, micro-environments, what I call “small worlds.” I have even sold many legendary macro lenses that I had just because I did not use them or “like” them that much. Examples would be the Nikkor 200mm Macro, the Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar, and others. Nice, but I found I always preferred other lenses, so why keep them? Just to say I HAVE them is no longer interesting to me. I don’t have them, but I had them. That says it all. Then, there are lenses that have great qualities, but are IMO otherwise flawed. For example, the legendary Coastal Optics 60mm Macro f/4 lens is very well corrected, even at the forensic level, except for a giant hot spot right in the macro range! However, the lens is poorly designed in other areas like focus throw (there is so little that I have to put the camera/lens on a focus rail!), plus no hood, cheap housing, etc. I still used that lens, but I finally protested the design flaws enough that I sold mine, shipping it out to somewhere in China. I sometimes miss it, but not often. Which leaves me in the company of those types of lenses that I do use and dote on. These are not so much macro lenses as they do a variety of lenses that I can make work for me in close-up nature photography. And they are a rag-tag crew. Aside from the lordly Zeiss Otus series, I have a mess of industrial lenses, mostly from scanners, plus enlarger and large-format lenses. I love the little devils and use them on view cameras, which brings me to another point. I had several view cameras, one of them very large and very heavy, but I sold them too. Who needs a beast like that? I am down to the Cambo Actus Mini View Camera and the Novoflex BALPRO bellows system. That’s enough, although I very much like tilt and sometimes some shift. I also must have ten or twelve focus rails, most of which I am too lazy to sell, having settled on the Novoflex Castel-Q along with their Fine Adjustment Handle. That’s what I use these days. I won’t even mention the scores of adapters, helicoids, step-up and step-down rings, and etc. that I have around here. In my case it seems that when it comes to photo equipment, more-than-enough is just enough. LOL. And I am always finding something I don’t have! I also have a trail of tripods that I still have or have given away, mostly old Gitzos, having settled on a couple of Really Right Stuff tripods for my regular use. And tripod heads? Don’t even ask. I have lots of them, small, medium, and large, but all I tend to use are the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube, of which I have a couple. I keep looking for the energy to sell off hundreds of photo items I don’t need, but the amount of work to put them on Ebay and then box them up for shipment is just too much. I will wait until I need the money and then I will do the work. Anyway, I like to rummage through them all trying to adapt this or that lens for this or that purpose. For some reason I am real fussy about quick-release clamps. I gave up on Manfrotto clamps years ago after they failed a couple of times! I have a drawer full of quick-release clamps, all of them Arca-Swiss. And I REALLY dislike lever-release clamps. What I love are the RRS screw-knob Arca clamps with the big fat knobs. I like to be certain my camera is firmly attached and that does it. I even installed them on my two Arca Cubes because the ones that come with the Cube suck. They are too tiny and weak. As for cameras, I love Nikon and I have had pretty much all of their DSLRs, but have sold them off over the years. I still have my first DSLR, the Nikon D1x, which cost $5K and is worth today maybe $100. It was all of 5.3 Mpx. Aside from nature, I took 33,000 photos of rare concert rock-n’-roll posters with the D1x using a vacuum table I built myself. So, those are some of my equipment biases. I feel like a spinning coin on the table that has finally come to rest with the Nikon D850. It does what I need and always wanted. The rest is up to me. Am I the Lone Ranger or do others have similar experiences? [Photo with the Nikon D850 and the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm lens.]
  12. Michael Erlewine

    PAINTING WITH LIGHT

    The value of highly corrected (apochromatic or APO) lenses is gradually being understood by photographers outside of a small group. Sharpness is not just a matter of acutance and resolution. All of the purple and greenish fringing chromatic aberration) caused by colors not focusing properly on the camera sensor totally affects what we call sharpness. IMO, proper color focus (APO) is what puts the “sharp” in the tip-of-the-top of photographic sharpness – the finishing touch. The problem of juggling a group of lenses inside a lens barrel so that the colors are properly aligned and focused at the sensor is not trivial. It costs real money to get a pristine example of an apochromatic lens. And it’s not surprising that the APO lenses we do have didn’t originally come from satisfying mainstream photographers, but rather from industrial needs where they simply had to perform. For example, the now classic Printing Nikkor lenses were designed for film scanners, mostly to make crystal-clear copies of our favorite movies back in the celluloid days. These lenses are said to have cost $12,000 a pop. They turn up regularly on Ebay now for a couple or a few thousand dollars as the industry goes digital. Even then, these specialized lenses are just that, specialized. They typically don’t go to infinity, but are geared to perform at their optimum quality in a very narrow magnification range. Not only that, but most are best used wide open (at full aperture), which is very unusual for your typical photography lens, where optimum sharpness more usually is reached at something like f/5.6 or so. So, those of us who collect and play around with these industrial lenses end up with a rag-tag crew of lenses, each with its own idiosyncrasies. No two are the same. And even more unorthodox are the mounts! These lenses are not made to be mounted on a camera flange, but instead on one kind or another industrial machine. It’s no wonder that people like me have boxes and boxes of adapters, screw mounts, microscope mounts, and what-not. I still have lenses sitting around that I have been unable to find a mount for! The “Why bother?” is because many of these lenses are so highly corrected that the photos they produce, even in their restricted reproduction-range, are often better than anything we can produce using the general quality of lenses on the market. This is (finally!) changing as in the last few years there has been a turn toward higher quality lenses for general use. One company who has led the charge is Zeiss with the remarkable Otus series of lenses and Sigma is now producing a series of what they call their “Art” lenses that also have higher quality. And, as mentioned, these industrial lenses are much more difficult to use. They require special mounts and many only work well on a bellows system and, even then, only within a highly restricted magnification range. Not everyone wants to go through all that. You don’t just slap these industrial lenses on your camera for a number of reasons. For one, they have no focusing helicoid on them. They don’t reach infinity. They don’t tend to work, as mentioned, except in a very restricted working range, sometimes just inches! Yet, as mentioned, if you can manage them, these industrial lenses are capable of producing some very fine images, which is why photographers like myself find ourselves using them. And, even then, the average photographer is not going to find much use for a lens that needs to be used wide-open. The depth of field for many of these lenses is razor thin, so unless you want to feature the pink nose of gnat, who would use it? Well, the answer to that question is that those of us who stack focus would use them. By stacking many layers of thin focus, one on the other, we can create an image in high focus and with as large an area as we are willing to stack. With stacking focus, these oddball industrial lenses become magic wands that literally paint focus on a canvas of bokeh, those areas of an image that are attractively out-of-focus. Overlaid on a gentle bokeh is a crystal-clear image in perfect focus. In other words, by painting focus, the photographer decides where the eye goes rather than, as with a traditional photo, our eye goes to the plane and point of focus dictated by the focused lens. Here is a photo taken with an industrial lens (Nikkor “O” CRT) that was designed for examining the curved surface of a computer CRT monitor. The lens is wicked fast wide open and what it does not focus on it easily renders out-of-focus as a gentle bokeh. As you can see in this photo, that drop of nectar at the tip of the Calla Lily is placed in high focus, leaving the rest nicely out-of-focus. This is what these industrial lenses can do, at least in the hands of those of us who stack focus. Where do we go from here? I can’t see the qualities of these somewhat rare (and certainly expensive) industrial lenses making their way into the popular photography market. They will continue appealing to a niche market as long as scanners, copy machines, and projectors need lenses. There are some signs that the qualities of these scanning lenses are beginning to appear as industry lenses with a wider gamut. The Schneider Macro Varon APO f/4.5 lens is an example of an industry-able lens that has high quality over much wider magnification range. Perhaps lenses like the Macro Varon will begin to seep into close-up and macro photography or some company may choose to make such a lens just for general photography as opposed to just industrial applications. There is a sea change going on as regards the color excellence of lenses, trending toward better quality and more highly corrected lenses being available. It’s about time! However, I’m still waiting for high tide. [Photo by me using the Nikkor “O” CRT lens.]
  13. This release is, to me, big news. It reminds me of color grading which video enthusiasts are already familiar with, but for stills. This update is for Lightroom, Photoshop and, of course, Camera Raw. It includes a new Adobe Color to replace the standard we have had for ten years or so, plus ones for Monochrome, Landscape, Neutral (maybe like S-Log in video), Protrait, and Vivid. These are for raw files. In addition there are some 40 or so creative profiles that can be applied to any type of file, JPG, TIFF, etc. Plus there are all show as imaged on the main screen of Camera Raw, for instance. This is a very important change and looks to save me LOTS of time. Check it out: https://theblog.adobe.com/april-lightroom-adobe-camera-raw-releases-new-profiles
  14. Michael Erlewine

    The Mirrorless Nikon D850

    That’s how I use the Nikon D850, with no mirror (or mirror-slap) and only LiveView. I never was infatuated by the mirrorless concept just because it was a smaller camera. I like the size of the D800E, D810, and D850. If anything I liked about the concept of a mirrorless camear was the “idea” of using alternative lenses, getting perhaps a greater field of view out of some really fine lenses. I was disappointed with the Pentax K3 and K1 (which I owned) and how little they lent themselves to alternative lenses. Same goes for the Hasselblad X1D (which I bought); although they have some nice lenses of their own, they did not care about all my lenses. As for the Fuji GFX (which I also bought), I held out hope for it accommodating the many great lenses I have, and they did do a so-so job, IMO; they kind of came half-way, but certainly not like I had hoped or imagined. I sent all the above cameras back or sold them and was left with my Nikon D810, which did work for me and which I appreciated. But my thirst for what I imagined mirrorless might bring was still there. Then along came the Nikon D850. It was everything I could hope for in a mirrorless camera other than it was heavier (which I did not care) and it had a mirror (which I never have used, other than to test it). The Live View LCD on the D850 was just enough better to be fully usable by me and those few extra pixels (45.7 Mpx, which don’t seem like much, are just enough to quench my thirst for a larger sensor. Then it dawned on me that most of my search for a medium-format mirrorless was about the EVF and not about the presence or absence of a mirror, a larger sensor (or so I thought), being smaller, or anything else. Give me a workable LiveView screen, an electronic front-curtain shutter, silence, and turn the mirror-up off and I am a happy camper. I am. So, the bottom line for me is that I am interested in what Nikon will come up with in their potentially forthcoming mirrorless camera, but I don’t need it. Yes, if it is 100 Mpx I would turn my head and if it had an even better EVF that might interest me too. But I doubt we will see in it THAT large a sensor and actually I don’t really need it. My very fast computer is already chugging on the D850 files. For me, the Nikon D850, as I use it, IS the mirrorless camera I always imagined AND it has all the other goodies that I have learned to love in a Nikon DSLR. If I had to guess, I’ll bet that the forthcoming Nikon mirrorless will NOT add up to what I have right now in the Nikon D850. Your thoughts, other than that I may be crazy. LOL. Shot with the Nikon D850 and the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5
  15. Michael Erlewine

    LENS VIBRATIONS: STIR, BUT DON'T SHAKE

    A lens with extensions and in magnified view shows perfectly any vibrations, however minute. I am going to monitor the situation and see what I find out..
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