“Current camera sensor technology is completely backwards.” Dr. Eno Lirpa
Everyone knows that in order to generate color, a digital camera’s sensor is overlaid with a Bayer filter. The filter makes each pixel sensitive to either red, blue, or green light.
Standard Bayer filter, courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Software than interpolates this red, green and blue image into the final color image we see.
Representation of an scene (above) and the raw Bayer data captured by a digital camera (below). courtesy Wikipedia Commons
In effect, our 24-megapixel color camera doesn’t resolve any better than a 14 or 15 megapixel black-and-white camera would.
There have been several attempts to improve on the Bayer-array method of detecting color. The Foveon sensor, which stacks red, green and blue pixels at different depths at each pixel (sensor site), certainly provides higher resolution than a standard Bayer sensor, although the Foveon sensor has it’s own limitations.
Foveon X3 sensor stack, courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Fuji has altered the array in their sensors, creating a more random pattern. This gives (arguably) some improvement over the standard Bayer array but still uses the same basic principle with inevitable loss of resolution.
Fuji X-trans array, courtesy fujifilmusa
At WPPI, I had the chance to spend time with the team from Baceolus Imaging, a small Italian imaging technology company with a growing patent portfolio and plans to make a big splash.
First and foremost, let’s be very clear: I am not a rangefinder shooter and certainly not a rangefinder reviewer. But I’m more excited than most people about the new Leica M (Typ 240) camera for one simple reason. It has live view and focus peaking so at long last I can, if I want, actually focus a Leica camera. (I have a vision problem that prevents me from focusing a rangefinder accurately.)
But like a lot of people I viewed Leica’s move to a CMOS sensor, rather than the CCD used in the Leica M9 and Leica M-E cameras, with a bit of trepidation. That 18-megapixel CCD had more resolution than one would expect from an 18-megapixel camera. Despite the sensors many limitations, I was concerned that a ‘modern’ 24-megapixel CMOS sensor might actually be a step backward on the resolution front. Continue reading →
Nikon’s new Coolpix A camera has some impressive specifications, what with its 16 megapixel APS-C sensor, 18.5mm f/2.8 lens, and $1,100 price tag.
Nowhere in those specifications, though, is a claim for Vibration Reduction that I can find. But the packaging department apparently didn’t get the memo: the box sure claims it has VR.
Well, at least it has Target Finding Autofocus, where the camera picks out an autofocus point automatically. Wait a minute, every camera I’ve ever had has that feature — they all focus on what they want to, not where I put the focus selector.
Increasing vision is increasingly expensive. – R. A. Janek (actually Michael Crichton)
For the last year or so, it seems like almost every new lens release has been accompanied by sticker shock. The manufacturers are businessmen and they know when we’ve been salivating at the promise of a new wonder lens. They know we”ll be willing to (at least some of us) pay a ridiculous amount to put that slightly better lens in front of our camera.
Somewhat lost in the hundreds of Internet threads about whether this-or-that awesome lens is worth its ridiculous price, though, there are some good bargains to be had. In fact, right now there may be more excellent lens bargains available than at any time I can recall. But let’s define real bargains for a minute.
A bargain is NOT finding a $2,500 lens for $1,500. That is a scam and doesn’t happen in the real world. A bargain is finding a lens that does nearly as well as the best possible lens, or does some things every bit as well as the best possible lens, at a fraction of the cost.
In some cases, you can get a good bargain even if you limit yourself to the three-zooms-to-cover-every-boring-possible-focal-length kit. For others, getting a great bargain means leaving your comfort zone a bit; perhaps changing lenses more frequently, or correcting some distortion in post-processing. Doing this, though, especially if you are taking the first timid steps away from the ”three zooms” approach, may be the best thing that can happen to your photography. Continue reading →
Well, for the first time I’ve totally caved to popular demand and done a test I had little interest in doing. But after I did a Quick-Take post on the new Nikon 80-400 AF-S VR lens I received about two-dozen emails and comments asking if the 70-200 f/2.8 AF-S VR II lens with a Nikon 2X III teleconverter was as good as, or better than, the new 800-400 AF-S VR.
My first impulse was to do Standard Internet Response #1 — give an absolute answer, such as ‘obviously not’, despite having no facts to back that answer up. Then I considered Standard Internet Response #3 — give a useless, but factual, answer like, ‘well, if you have a 70-200 and teleconverter already, that’s certainly adequate’. (I never use Standard Internet Response #2 – the ‘if you’re a good enough photographer it doesn’t matter which you use’ response, nor S.I.R. #4 — ‘Google is your friend’.)
But, since it really is a reasonable question and a lot of people seemed interested, we set up to Imatest the 70-200 f/2.8 VR II / 2X III combination. Please be aware that our longest testing distance is 40 feet, which isn’t ideal for testing 400mm lenses, but it’s the longest we have. (I’m pretty comfortable it’s a longer testing distance than anyone else has, too, except maybe DxO and they aren’t really sharing information about their testing set up). Results may be quite different at 300 feet. I’m not sure which way they’d be different. The 70-200 seems sharper at this distance than it does at infinity, at least that’s what most people say. On the other hand, teleconverters are generally tuned for long distance shooting. So I just don’t know. (BTW – “I don’t know” is not a listed S. I. R.)
We used an identical setup to the tests we ran last week on the 80-400 AF-S and 80-400 AF lenses to test the 70-200 f/2.8 with 2X combination. The MTF50 results are shown in the table below. The bottom line, from a resolution standpoint, the new 80-400 is clearly better. The previous 80-400 is better than the 70-200 with 2X right in the center, but outside the center the 70-200 with TC is very close.
Avg. Corner MTF50
Nikon 80-400 AF-S
Nikon 80-400 AF
Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 with 2X
What does it mean? Mostly it means if you’re shooting at 40 feet distance the 70-200 VR II and 2x teleconverter will get you a nice usable image, but not as good as you would get with the 80-400 VR II.
The old 80-400 AF lens is better in the center than the 70-200 VR II combination, although that’s just right at the center. Less than 1/3 of the distance away from the center, the two are even.
I can’t say the results would be the same if the shooting distance was near infinity, and I’m not sure how they’d change. The 70-200 alone is reputed to be a bit less sharp at infinity, though. On the other hand, the teleconverter might well have less of an effect at the longer shooting distance.
You have to hand it to Nikon. We may wait a long time for the lens improvement we want, but once Nikon announces it, they get it in our hands pretty quickly. Unlike, say, the Canon 200-400 f/4 Unicorn Bigfoot lens. I’ve been screaming for some time that this was the lens in the Nikon lineup most in need of a makeover. When I got back from vacation checking out the new Nikon 80-400mm AF-S VR was my first order of business. Continue reading →
A constant wish amongst our customers is cheaper shipping. Today, we’re happy to announce our new subscription shipping program. This program will allow our customers to rent whatever they want, whenever they want, without having to worry about high shipping prices.
What is LensRentals HD?
LensRentals HD is a shipping discount program. By signing up, you’ll get free Standard Shipping on all the orders you place for one year, and you’ll even save 50% on all FedEx Overnight shipping.
No items are excluded from the program: if we carry it, we’ll ship it free. Need a jib in Los Angeles? It’s free. Need 10 tripods in Miami? Totally free.
Who is LensRentals HD For?
Everyone that wants cheaper shipping to the contiguous US. (Sorry HI & AK!)
At only $79 a year, LensRentals HD makes sense for everyone. Only rent a few small orders per year? You’ll still save money with LensRentals HD. You only expect to place a single large order this year? You’ll still save. You rent all the time? You’ll save even more.
Frequently Asked Questions
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Because we present our work to other people it is important to understand some basic aspects about how we perceive detail.
Human vision works quite differently than our cameras:
We all know that our eyes adapt to scenes. If it is darker our pupils open and if it gets brighter they close. This process often takes quite a while and is not instant.
Detail we see is based on contrast (brightness differences)
All detail we can see is not based on absolute tonal values but based on contrast. The eye is extremely sensitive to very small brightness changes. This makes the concept of contrast so important.
Global contrast measures the brightness difference between the darkest and brightest element in the entire image. Tools like Curves and Levels only change global contrast as they treat all pixels with the same brightness levels identical.
Or. . . How I Learned to Appreciate Small Aperture Photography
If you read my blog much, you know I’m a resolution fanatic. I test every new lens for resolution. For personal use, I’ll choose the lens with higher resolution over the one with creamy bokeh every time. When choosing a camera, I have a (yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true) strong tendency to want the most megapixels. I’m a resoholic.
Being a resoholic, I’ve always been somewhat fanatical about apertures. Whenever possible I shoot with the lens stopped down at least one stop to wring the maximum sharpness out of my lens. But I’m always careful not to stop down too far because I was taught, soon after I picked up a camera, that if you stopped down too far the dreaded diffraction softening would kick in.
With today’s high-pixel density cameras, that meant f/8 was as far as I would ever stop down. My mental map of aperture sharpness was like the ancient maps of the world – past f/8 there was nothing but the notation Here Thar Be Monsters. Or the equivalent label in Latin or Olde English, just because that makes it seem much cooler.
Detail from The Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus (1490-1557).
Go to f/11 and the diffraction monster would come and eat the resolution right out of your photographs. The diffraction monster loves to snack on some tasty resolution. When testing I really never checked past f/5.6 or f/8. That’s where the maximum resolution would be. Any further, and, well, you get it by now.
My view of lenses is often colored by measurements, numbers, taking them apart, and other geeky things. I also take photographs with them. One of the things I’m always interested in is comparing my measurements with actual photographs.
When Uwe Steinmueller from The Digital Outback suggested we compare the same lens from both perspectives it sounded like a great idea to me. Uwe would write his assessment of the lens from a photography standpoint, I would write a bit about its testing and measurements.
He suggested we start with the Nikon 24-120 f/4 VR. It’s a lens he really likes for obvious reasons: it’s relatively small, covers a very useful range, and has superb vibration reduction. For him it provides a superb one-lens solution.
I’ve considered it an “OK” lens. I understand the attractions but was less than excited about its distortion, chromatic aberration, and borderline corner resolution. It’s not a bad lens by any means, but not one that made me ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’.