Each year in Cologne, Germany, over 150,000 people travel from all over the world to attend Photokina – the world’s largest photography trade show. This is also where various photography brands work to announce their newest flagship products, which will be used by millions for years to come. With Photokina coming to a close this weekend, we decided we should look through all of the new product announcements, and highlight our favorite announcements from this year’s giant trade show.
Perhaps the largest announcement for price conscious videographers came with the Panasonic GH5. The GH series has been respected in the videographer industry for a number of years, bringing pro-level features to a small, and budget friendly system. Panasonic decided to continue their GH series and announced the development of the GH5 at Photokina this year. With 4K/60fps, the GH5 looks to be a promising new system, and the most interesting feature comes in its 6K Photo mode, allowing you to pull ~18MP images from video footage. The downside? No release date was set (aside from early 2017), nor was any price mentioned in the press announcement.
Olympus E-M1 II
Olympus also showed up and announced a continuation to their beloved E-M1, with the Olympus E-M1 Mark II. In short, the E-M1 II has speed in mind, pulling 60 frames per second (in jpeg) and an incredible 18fps with 20.4MP RAW files. It also has High Res mode, allowing for 50MP photos, as well as 4K video functionality at 30fps, and Image Stabilization built into the body. No price point or release date set, though it’s planned to hit shelves within the next 6 months.
To use with that new Olympus E-M1 II announced above is a new lens for their Micro Four Thirds systems, with the Olympus 25mm f/1.2 Pro Lens. At f/1.2, this lens is incredibly fast, and at a 50mm equivalent focal range with a 35mm sensor. Weather-sealed, and packed with high-quality glass, the 25mm f/1.2 is expected to give exceptional image quality to those who are shooting with Olympus systems. The Olympus 25mm f/1.2 Pro series is expected to arrive sometime in the next month.
Sony also showed the loyalists to the Sony A-mount system a bit of respect, with the Sony A99 Mark II. In short, the A99II has a 42.4 full frame CMOS sensor, 4K at 30fps, 12fps shooting, 5-axis image stabilization, and wifi and NFC built in. In short, it’s essentially a Sony a7R Mark II in an a99 body. So if you’re sticking to the A-mount systems and were hoping for a refresh to the camera line Sony has been seemingly neglecting, your new flagship system is here.
Panasonic Lumix G85
Panasonic wasn’t done with their announcement of the GH5 this year either, they also offered up their Lumix G85 system. With 4K at 30fps/24fps, and weather sealing packed into a micro four thirds mirrorless system, the G85 looks to be an excellent system for those who are wanted all the features found in the high-end systems but want a smaller form factor along with a smaller price tag to boot.
From the moment that Sigma unveiled their Art series lenses back in 2012, with the much beloved Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, everyone has been asking Sigma the same question – when is the 85mm Art series coming? Those who have been eagerly waiting for this announcement can finally get some rest, as the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art series is finally here. Available soon for Canon, Nikon, and Sigma systems, the 85 Art is expected to wow critics everywhere, and I know Roger and Aaron are eagerly waiting to get one to take apart. We’re expected to have these in stock in October.
Sigma also announced an ultra-wide angle zoom hoping to compete with the well-respected Canon 11-24mm f/4 and the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. Available in October for Canon, Nikon, and Sigma mounts, the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 is expected to be a monster for those landscape photographers who need something wide.
Sigma 500mm f/4 Sports Series Lens
Sigma also announced a monster of a telephoto lens, with their Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports Lens. With the build quality you’ve seen from Sigma over the last few years, the 500mm f/4 Sports is a weather sealed telephoto with built-in Optical Stabilization. However, unlike Sigma’s usual pricing at $800-1600, the Sigma 500mm f/4 Sports is expected to arrive for Canon, Nikon and Sigma in late October for $6,000.
With seemingly millions of other sports action cameras coming out over the last few years, GoPro has sort of shifted from the spotlight. But they’re hoping to regain some of their old momentum with the announced of the Hero5 Black edition. Ditching the clear plastic casing found on previous models, the Hero5 is sleek and comes with a plethora of new features. For one, Voice Control and a built-in Touch Screen are now standard, along with built-in image stabilization and ofcourse waterproofing. And with 4K at 30fps, the new GoPro Hero5 looks to be a promising upgrade to GoPro’s system, and will be available Oct 2nd.
Profoto also came guns blazing, and showed off the new Profoto D2 studio strobe. With incredible speed, the Profoto D2 has a flash duration as low as 1/63,000th of a second and allows up to 20 flashes per second at lower power. And with 10 full stops of power, the D2 is a nice upgrade to their previous monolights, the Profoto D1. The Profoto D2s are available now.
Profoto TTL-S Trigger System
Also announced by Profoto this year was the newest trigger allowing for HSS and TTL with the Profoto B1, Profoto B2 and Profoto D2 lights on Sony systems. The TTL-S is much like the Canon TTL-C and Nikon TTL-N that came before it, but for the Sony alpha series of cameras. Allowing for complete control and pairing of Profoto lights on Sony systems, this is exciting, as Sony is finally getting some attention from third party product manufacturers.
It wouldn’t be a Photokina without a groundbreaking announcement and surprise, and Fuji were the big winners with their announcement of the Fuji GFX 50S. In short, the GFX is a monster, packing a 51.4mp Medium Format sensor into a (fairly) small mirrorless system. Using a Bayer Array sensor, the Fuji GFX is hoping to steal some of the attention away from Phase One and Hasselblad in the medium format race, showing that exceptional digital medium format image quality can be found for under $10K. The new system uses the new G Mount from Fuji, with 6 lenses to be used with the system – 63mm f/2.8 (50mm Equiv in 35mm terms), 32-64mm f/4 (25-51mm Equiv), 120mm f/4 (95mm Equiv), 110mm f/2 (87mm Equiv), 23mm f/4 (18mm Equiv), and 45mm f/2.8 (35mm Equiv). Sadly, though, no release date has been set, aside from 2017.
While it wasn’t officially announced at Photokina, for all purposes, the Canon 5d Mark IV was an announcement for Photokina. The latest in Canon’s most popular line of cameras packs a 30mp full frame sensor into the system, capable of shooting at 7fps and 4K at 30fps (yeah yeah, we know it’s crop sensor for 4K video…we’ll have that information soon). It also includes a 3’2″ touch screen, and dual pixel RAW – allowing you to apply micro focus adjustments after the photo is taken. With GPS and Wifi, the Canon 5d Mark IV appears to be a nice little upgrade to the 5d Mark III.
Is there something that you’re excited about that we missed? Feel free to mentioned them, along with your favorite announcements in the comments below.
Great sports photography is not about recording moments that happen on the field of play, rather great sports photography is a medium that connects the viewer with the athlete and sport in an intimate way not possible in any other way. Most viewers of sports watch the game or an athlete on TV or in person were all the moments are fleeting. With sports photography, the action is slowed down and moments are frozen and presented to the viewer in 1/1000 of a second in such a way where they can study and process it in a unique way. With this, the audience is allowed to digest an image as long as it’s presented by the photographer in a compelling way.
SANTA CLARA, CA – JUNE 17: Michael Phelps warms up in the practice pool during day 2 of the Santa Clara International Grand Prix at George F. Haines International Swim Center on June 17, 2011 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn)
To capture great sports photography you have to follow five basic rules that can apply to any form of photography but are especially important for sports photography. They are 1) Composition 2) Light 3) Background 4) Subject/Content 5) Practice.
Proper composition is essential to great sports photography. It can be challenging in today’s marketplace when a lot of images are displayed on social media, and thus you are at the mercy of whatever the viewer is digesting the material on, and that’s usually a small phone. Furthermore, you’re subject to the constraints of whatever platform you’re publishing on, be it Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and you should be conscious of the composition with each platform in mind. However, with that in mind, you should stay true to proper composition despite these constraints.
Lolo Jones prepares to run in the 100m hurdles during track and field at the Olympic Stadium during day 11 of the London Olympic Games in London, England, United Kingdom on August 7, 2012. (Jed Jacobsohn/for The New York Times)
Great light is key to an extraordinary photograph. When in comes to sports photography, finding different angles and knowing what the light may do in a particular situation can be very helpful. It is essential to do your homework and research before going to a particular venue or assignment. For example, if you know that the sunset will happen at 6 PM and there is a great view from the top of a stadium it might be great to scout beforehand to see where you can capture both the environment and the action on the field. Or perhaps there will be shadows of athletes from above that can make for nice graphic elements. Knowing what the light is going to do can help with this point.
NEW YORK – AUGUST 30: the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees on August 30, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn for Nike)
Another aspect of great light can also be created with artificial lighting as well. Having a knowledge of the proper use of a strobe or continuous artificial lighting is also key to have in your arsenal as a complete sports photographer and often relevant when working with athletes, especially in portrait situations.
Having a clean background or a background that doesn’t distract the viewer from the subject of the photograph is especially challenging and important in sports photography. We’re often at the mercy of the photo positions available to us, so it’s especially important to choose wisely on where you place yourself when possible. Again, proper research and planning can help with this point. For example, if you know that shooting on the south side of a stadium at 4 pm into the sun will produce a backlit image and this produce a black background that this is something to look for and choose a position to shoot from accordingly. Another technical aspect of cleaning up the backgrounds can be achieved by shooting with the fastest possible lenses with the largest aperture possible. Shooting action with messy backgrounds it’s essential to be shooting at least at f2.8 to blow out the backgrounds. One of my favorite lenses for portraits is the Canon 50mm 1.2L because you can us it in almost any situation and make the background blow out.
The USA vs Japan during the Women’s World Cup final on July 5, 2015, in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/The Players Tribune)
But shooting lenses at f/1.2-f/1.8 isn’t the only thing that comes into play when working to get a clean background. Background compression comes into play when using longer lenses, and because of that, focal ranges will provide different effects to depth of field. So many sports photographers love the use of longer lenses, Like the 400mm f/2.8 because not only does it allow them to get great close ups while staying out of the action, it also will give them a nice depth of field, bringing the attention to the subject.
During the Rio Olympic Games in Rio on August 18, 2016. (Copyright Jed Jacobsohn/Players’ Tribune)
But the background isn’t the only thing that can come into play when choosing the lens for your subject, minimum focus distance can also have some effects as well. For example, say you’re shooting your son’s little league game, and you have a fence separating you and the players playing. By using something like the 70-200mm f/2.8, you’re able to take advantage of the ~3.9ft focusing distance, and photograph the game with the fence between you, without the fence becoming a distraction in the photos or through focusing issues.
Having a compelling subject matter is important to grab the attention of the viewer. In this day an age where imagery is everywhere, it is especially important to offer your audience something they are interested in. Along these same lines, it is important to know your audience or client and cater to them. Always provide the images that are expected of you, and then give more.
Hunter Pence of the San Francisco Giants, on February 3, 2015, in San Francisco. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/The Players Tribune)
Paul Pierce of the Washington Wizards, on August 29, 2014, in Los Angeles, Ca. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/The Players Tribune)
One doesn’t need to photograph a famous athlete to accomplish this. Great sports stories are everywhere if we take the time to find them. If you can find the last point and apply the first three rules to it, then you are destined to great sports photography.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer is the most obvious among photography. In order to become a better sports photographer, you need to practice. However, practice doesn’t need to involve going to your local sports arena to photograph the LA Lakers each week from the stands. Practice can happen at your niece’s soccer game, our son’s basketball tournament and even tracking can be practice by throwing a tennis ball around a park with your dog chasing it back and forth. Becoming a sports photographer for a major publication takes thousands of hours of experience, and years of knowledge – and great sports photography can be captured at all levels – from professional to amateur.
As a staff photographer with the Players’ Tribune, all these elements of sports photography come into play with my job. One day I may be asked to cover the Olympics or the Super Bowl and another day I would spend a couple of days with an athlete for training and portraits, so it’s important to be well rounded.
In the repair department, there are things we hate. Salt water for cameras and lenses, salt water and sand for tripods and lenses. Sand in legs of the zoom mechanism of lenses ruins threads, they’ll never be smooth again.
Right behind those two is dust. Dust doesn’t always destroy equipment, but dust in equipment ruins pictures and can ruin circuit boards. So we hate Burning Man. The fine alkali dust that gets in everything at Burning Man isn’t as bad as sand and salt water – but it’s up there. Every year we tell people to take cheap or disposable equipment to Burning Man. It’s probably going to be ruined, and you aren’t going to like the charges. And every year people say, “It’s just dust.”
Side note for future renters. If you don’t want to take your own equipment into an area where you know it will be ruined, don’t rent our equipment and assume the Lenscap policy will cover you. It does not cover gross negligence, reckless, or intentional damage. Lenscap is designed as coverage for any accidents you may encounter, not as a way to avoid having to take common sense precautions when using our equipment in inhospitable conditions.
Since we’ve been doing a lot of Burning Man cleanup, we thought we’d share what a typical item goes through. Maybe some of you will pick up some cleaning pointers. Others may get some logical respect for dust. And some others will enjoy a peak inside the Nikon D810 that is the subject of this little post. I’ll warn you on the front end: this isn’t a teardown with great pictures. These are quick captures while we were working so there may be some motion blur and bad lighting.
So here’s a couple of views of our weary traveler as we received it.
The viewfinder cups are removed. There was a lot of dust under them and while you can’t tell here, inside the viewfinder. Lensrentals.com, 2016
This is a poor shot, but the flash is open here, showing how much dust got into the flash tray. Lensrentals.com, 2016
Before we did anything else, particularly opening the port covers, we spent 15 minutes blowing and brushing the easily removed dust off. Pardon the blur, but it gives you a general idea of what’s left.
It’s not looking great yet; that’s for sure. But we felt like we could open the ports and look at the connections. There’s still lots of caked on dust, but it’s not loose enough to fall into things. We could have used some wet cloths and things at this point and gotten off some more dust, but we didn’t want to add moisture to the equation yet.
I’m not saying that’s not an entirely acceptable option, but our primary goal at this point will be getting dust out of the inside and for that we wanted things as dry as possible.
The battery compartment, memory card slots, and the area around all the I/O ports had plenty of dust inside, so we knew further disassembly would be required.
We have kind of a love-hate relationship with disassembling Nikon cameras. The good part is they are very logically laid out and assembled, with each panel coming off by itself which makes disassembly a joy. The bad part is Nikon has a policy of using as many different sized screws as is humanly possible, making it necessary to keep incredibly organized.
For example, there are nine screws of 5 different sizes holding on the bottom plate. This may be because they’ve carefully engineered the best possible screw at each location to provide the most strength. It may just be because they hate us. I’ll never know.
As each panel was removed, we saw the same thing; the rubber weather resistant seals stopped the majority of the dust. In most of the pictures below you can see beige areas along the rubber seals that are caked dust. Beyond the seals, inside the camera, there are loose dust particles that got through, but the vast majority was kept out.
Overall, I’m impressed with how much dust did NOT get inside the camera. But there was still way more inside than was acceptable. One thing I should note is around every port and opening there was more dust close, and less dust further away from the opening. If there had been relatively even distribution, we might consider that it all came in through the mirror box or viewfinder or something. But I’m comfortable some dust got in from every possible access.
It doesn’t show well in pictures of this size, but while there was a little dust on the PCBs underneath all those covers, it wasn’t an enormous amount. We blew it off, of course, but it wasn’t bad. Each of the plates and seals that we removed were cleaned inside and out after removal.
Here are a couple of crops from the main PCB and internal back cover to give you an idea of what I describe as ‘light dust’ inside. It’s more than acceptable but probably wouldn’t cause any damage.
I haven’t mentioned it, but all of the rubber grip material was removed, too. There was no way to try to clean it well in place. At this point were pretty happy with what we’d seen. There was a lot of dust in the viewfinder assembly, but not too much had gotten into the rest of the camera. We were expecting worse, though. When you see this kind of dust under the lens cap…
…and in the mirror box, you figure the front of the camera is going to be worse than the back.
That makes sense since it’s the most exposed. It’s also the bigger problem since it’s in the optical path. On to the quick picture, just to thank Nikon for the ease with which the front and top cover assemblies come off in their cameras.
The front assembly itself and the lower (base plate side) of the front of the camera weren’t horribly dusty, although worse than the back.
But the area above the lens mount and under the flash was badly caked with dust. This isn’t surprising since this area is open to the viewfinder, the lens mount, and the flash assembly, so there’re lots of ways for the dust to get in.
This is especially a problem because there are lots of mechanicals in here that don’t like dust: springs, mirror, and shutter motor gears, etc.
When we took the top off, the same thing was apparent. Lots of dust got in the top center area and seemed thickest in the parts we didn’t want it in: motors, gears, the optical prism, and electro-mechanical dials and switches.
One thing we did notice at the top; there wasn’t a lot of dust right around the rubber seals, and the distribution was more even, which makes me think most of this came in from the front panel and around the viewfinder assembly rather than directly through the top seals.
Well, I won’t bore you with 762 eight-by-ten color glossies of what we did there at the Group B bench. But there was much Rocket blowing, many Q-tips were sacrificed, the sensor, AF sensor, and mirror box were wet-and-dry-and-wet-and-dry cleaned. Toothpicks cleaned gears and springs. And much time (about 2 hours) passed. After which everything inside looked shiny clean and new.
Here’s the camera reassembled, but still missing the rubber grips which are more difficult to clean than the insides.
To give you an idea of how difficult, here’re two pieces as they sit currently. Both have been washed with soap and water. The larger part has also had a vinegar-water wash (that works with alkali dust) and toothbrush scrubbing. We’ll try one a few more things but at this point, I think we may lose this part of the battle and have to replace the rubber. But the camera itself is working fine.
Because someone will ask what we do know, the camera will go into service as a testing camera here for at least a few weeks (probably 8,000 shots) to let any remaining dust work its way into the mirror box and/or viewfinder and get cleaned again.
So now you see part of the reason why I’m so cynical when people tell me their camera was caked with dust and dirt but they cleaned it off, and it’s fine. The outside of this camera could have been cleaned (well, maybe not the rubber grips). But it wouldn’t have for all that long – those dust encased springs, gears, and switches would have started misfunctioning sooner rather than later.
Protect your gear, my friends. Plastic bags, rubber bands, and tape are your friends. Dust, water, and sand are your enemies.
“But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17.
I have enjoyed, for some years now, the process of learning about lenses and optics. This blog shares a lot of what I’m in the process of learning. A lot of you like reading about what we’re doing and finding out what we’re finding out about what is. A lot of others don’t like it because it upsets their preconceived notions of what should be.
This post is going to be more polarizing than most. I’m going to talk about the very real phenomenon that people are describing on the internet; that they’re seeing more lenses with optical problems. If you aren’t interested in that, or are comfortable just saying they’re all bad photographers, this will be a long, boring article you want to skip.
One of the more common responses on various internet forums seems to be “this manufacturer or that needs to up their quality control.” There’s a bit of truth to that. A slightly less common response has been “your manufacturer, but not mine, can’t make their lenses without a lot of variation.” There’s a bit of truth there sometimes, but not very much. The broader truth is we’re observing an industry-wide issue. It’s not happening because lenses are worse. Lenses are actually better than they’ve ever been overall. There are some exceptions, of course.
For those of who don’t want to read further, here’s the summary:
The optics of new lenses are designed to take advantage of high resolution sensors. They are sharper than they were a decade ago.
An optically misaligned lens is just as soft in the bad area no matter how good the design. But the difference between the good and bad areas may be greater.
Opto-mechanical design and sample variation isn’t really much different than it was when the best cameras were 16 megapixels. (Some manufacturers have made improvements, but not most.)
Cameras resolve far more than they did a few years ago. They can demonstrate lens flaws you might not have seen with your last camera.
Metrology (optical testing and measurement of lenses) is the same as it was decades ago (There are some exceptions, particularly Sigma). In many cases you may see defects in your pictures that the service center can’t see with their testing.
In a nutshell, you can now take a picture with a high-resolution camera and see defects in the lens that might not have been apparent on your last camera. The manufacturer or service center often still use crude optical tests that don’t show the defect.
Why Higher Resolution Makes a Difference
Yes, I know this is obvious, sort of. But still, it’s worth discussing.
First, let me say that optical physics guys can do all kinds of math and show that, particularly if you involve vague terms like ‘depth of field’ and ‘resolution’ any statement about resolution is either right or wrong. I’m going to stay out of that and try to limit this discussion to words, pictures, and common sense. We’ll start with a simple, common-sense analogy. Things are way more complex than this, but it gives an idea of the overall picture.
Looking at Points
We all understand that a lens resolves a point in the world around you into a point on the sensor. If we look at a 5 micron point projected through a good lens mounted on our Olaf Bench, the point looks like a point, at least in the center of the image.
5 micron point source seen through the center of a really good lens.
Out towards the edges, where aberrations are warping the light rays around, that point of light looks somewhat different.
The same point source, seen near the edge through an excellent lens.
Now remember, that’s a magnified view of that point source I’m showing you; we’re basically looking at the image the lens makes magnified by a microscope. Let’s pretend that the white box in the image below represents a 6.25 micron pixel from a Canon 5D Mk III (22.3 megapixel full-frame sensor). Despite the fact that the dots look different on the microscope of my optical bench, they may look like perfect dots to your camera . . . . or nearly perfect. (And again, I’m leaving out details about AA filters, Bayer arrays, etc. but the analogy holds if we made this a 4 or 16 pixel array instead of a single pixel.)
This little analogy should explain why I often say, “Yes, there’s a difference in the optical bench tests, but I doubt you’ll see it on your camera.” Those dots are clearly different and the MTF taken at those two points will be different. But basically either one was going to fill up 1 pixel on my camera, with maybe just a tiny bit of bleed over from that lateral point on the right. The optical bench might see the difference, but your camera sensor probably wouldn’t.
But now many of us have a 40- or 50-megapixel cameras. Which means our pixel pitch is now 4 microns instead of 6.25. What the lens rendered as a 1 pixel dot now is bigger than a pixel. Still, even that edge pixel looks pretty good, with just a little spill into adjacent pixels (or array of pixels, whatever your pleasure).
But that was a really great edge pixel from a $5,000 prime lens. What about one from a more standard looking lens? Well, this edge pixel from this zoom lens is smearier and has a more noticeable chromatic aberration. And you should get the idea that it might be more apparent on a camera with smaller pixel pitch, as represented on the left below.
My analogy might be a little clearer if I average each of my pretend pixels from above, since my allegorical camera would only be reporting one value for each pixel. (Yes, I’ve invented color sensing pixels and eliminated the Bayer filter for this allegory, but if you prefer, consider each box to be a 4-pixel array complete with Bayer filter). But the point is simple: higher resolution means you’re going to get better detail about how smeary that dot is. In this case, either camera would show you this lens has lateral chromatic aberration, but the higher density pixels (on the left) also show the complex coma-type aberrations a bit more too.
Yes, I have mad Photoshop skills
Depth of Field
Depth of Field is one of those interesting phenomenon that’s both very scientific and very arbitrary. It’s determined by a complex mathematical formula, so it’s seems uber scientific. The key definition in determining depth of field (and some other concepts) is the Circle of Confusion (CoC). The definition of the circle of confusion (in words) is the width where the point blurs enough that it is larger than some maximum allowable diameter.
Depending upon your purpose, ‘maximum allowable diameter’ can have different definitions, and therefore depth of field calculations that come out of the formula can be very different. For an SQF calculation you might want to make it larger than some point size on a final print of a certain size. When we’re working with camera sensors, reasonable definitions might be the width of a pixel, or a 4 pixel square, or a 16 pixel square. Whatever formula you want to use, though, a smaller pixel means a smaller circle of confusion, which means a narrower depth of field.
Now, you may ask, why does that matter? Well, one thing people are seeing more frequently is a tilt in their lens. (In forums people call every lens defect “decentering”, but optical decentering often isn’t involved. Tilt and spacing errors are at least as common as optical decentering.)
Let me show you the effect of depth of field in two field-curvature graphs of the same lens, which has a small tilt. With a larger depth of field (on the right) there’s no way you’d notice it on any type of test chart testing; focus on the center and the left and right sides are going to be equally sharp. With a narrower depth of field (on the left), you might start to notice one edge is softer than the other if you were testing on a chart, brick wall, or other flat surface.
For this purpose, imagine the black line is your test chart, carefully focused in the center of your lens. The colors (and numbers) show the actual MTF measurement you would see at all focus points even if you had focused past or in front of the actual chart.
The drawing is a bit exaggerated since I basically doubled the depth of field by stopping the lens down (which is why the MTF is higher on the left). With the wider depth of field, though, the left edge MTF is 0.82 and the right 0.77. Those numbers aren’t very different and most of us would agree that was normal. With the narrowed depth of field, however, the MTF on the left edge is about 0.84 but on the right edge it’s 0.57. If I give you those numbers for your lens you’ll understandably scream that it’s awful and decentered. (Of course, it’s actually tilted, but people on the forums always scream ‘decentered’. It’s like playing Lens Bingo.)
This was probably pretty obvious without the illustrations, but the bottom line is if you move from 20-ish megapixels to 40- or 50-ish megapixels, you’re more likely to see flaws in your lens if you look for them. This has happened to some excellent photographers I know. They have noticed a lens here or there that was fine on their 5D Mk III or A7 that has a weak side or corner on their 5Dsr or A7rII.
So Why Doesn’t the Service Center See This?
This section is not going to name names. I’m under nondisclosure agreements with any company we help with testing so I’m ethically and legally unable to share names. You can take it on faith that I’m sharing facts or feel free to think I made it all up. I would point out, though, that for 10 years I’ve only made stuff up on April 1 and this is September.
The summary is almost all of you greatly overestimate the type and amount of optical testing that lenses get, whether it’s at the factory after assembly or in the repair center when it has a problem.
A lot of repair locations literally do resolution testing on an 8 X 11 or 13 X 19 ink jet printed chart. One used pictures of a bookshelf across the office to do optical adjustments on very expensive lenses (I know because they left their memory card in the camera they insisted we send in with the lens). AF 1951 charts are still commonly used (and remember, the ‘1951’ is the year the chart was developed, which means it was designed for film). Some use large, high-resolution ISO 12233 charts, but not many.
Factory Service Centers and Factory Authorized repair facilities generally use a factory-specified graph, again often printed at ink-jet resolution. It’s shot with a camera hooked up to adjustment software that gives pass-fail readings. This isn’t necessarily bad, although it’s not great. And depending on the factory, that chart may actually not be as good as an AF1951 or ISO12233 chart.
Some service centers use Lens Test Projectors and a center-only collimator to do testing and adjustments. If you ask a manufacturer’s engineer what the gold standard of testing is, with few exceptions that’s what they’ll say: a center-only collimator and a lens test projector. (Trust me on this one, I’ve had several say just that until we showed them why it wasn’t). If you ask them how long has that been the standard, though, they’ll tell you since the 1960s. That means since film.
Cooke Lens Test Projector, courtesy Cook Optics
Don’t get me wrong, a lens test projector and centering collimator is really good testing; generally better than test charts. We’ve used them in the past. They’re still the gold standard for Cine lenses everywhere. But Cine lenses are resolving 4K (just under 9 megapixels) or perhaps 6k (about 19 megapixels), not the 40- or 50-megapixels of a high resolution SLR. (BTW — I’ve got a couple of lens test projectors and centering collimators sitting on shelves in the back gathering dust if anybody wants to buy one.)
Things may actually be a little worse than what I’ve described so far. Remember, the ‘spec’ of ‘in spec’ is whatever the manufacturer says it is. A wide-angle lenses has a field of view of over 50 degrees to each side, for example, but I know of two manufacturers that don’t test wider than 30 degrees. They feel that anything significant will show up by that angle. That’s not my experience, but that’s what they say. Another does all of their testing at f/4 because that’s the standard for their automated testing software. And yes, a whole lot of problems that show up at f/1.4 disappear at f/4.
For example, scroll back up and look at the introductory picture, the crop from the center of a test chart. That lens was sent back from a factory service center twice, the last time with a note that said it met manufacturer’s specifications, no they couldn’t share those specifications, and there was nothing else they could do. It’s fixed now, but not by them.
My point here is not to get you all gathered together with pitchforks and torches to go storm the castle. This wasn’t a plot, in my opinion, it’s simply a lot of inertia. Metrology isn’t sexy and doesn’t make money. Until recently complaints about lenses weren’t any more frequent than they were back in 1990, so there was no real motivation for change. And I do want to repeat, the reason I know some of this stuff is because a number of manufacturers and service centers are suddenly and rapidly trying to improve their testing because they realize it now is a problem.
Better Metrology is the Answer, Right?
Well, yes, of course, but there’s another problem with better metrology: it’s too much better. I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit and show you things you don’t want to see. For years now, you’ve been seeing my summary MTFs, the average of 10 lenses, each tested at 4 rotations. So the MTF you see shows either the average or the range of 40 measurements at each point. It’s sometimes more accurate than the computer generated MTFs you see listed with a lot of lenses, but it’s still a summary.
Olaf Optical Testing, 2016
We do 10 or more copies and come out with an ‘expected range’ for a given lens. Then we can plot a particular lens (the lines in the graph below) against that range and find out if it’s acceptable. The one below, for example, shows as about average or maybe a little better.
Olaf Optical Testing, 2016
That’s good, but remember, even the line above is the average of the 4 rotations and two sides of the tested lens lumped together. What I don’t show you very often is what a single lens looks like at 4 rotations because you’ll get upset.
Let’s look at the raw measurements for that went into making the lines for the lens above: this is the full MTF at each of 4 rotations; “0 degrees” is side-to-side as mounted on a camera, “90 degrees” is top-to-bottom, and the other two are diagonals.
That’s not quite as smooth and beautiful, is it? That’s reality, my friends, for basically ever lens we test (and while I’m not identifying the lens, this is a really good prime lens). I expect you’re now wondering, after looking at the 90 and 135 degree rotations above if one corner of the lens is significantly softer than the rest. Obviously it is on the MTF bench. But will you see it on your camera?
Just to give you an idea below are 4 more copies of that lens, hand selected to be among the best from 20 copies or so. Even with these hand-selected best copies of prime lenses there is, if you look, always one corner that’s a little softer or more astigmatic than the others. But none are quite as weak as the one above. But most of the 20 looked about like the one above?
Unlike chart testing or even lens test projectors, optical bench testing shows us MORE resolution than your camera can see. At this degree of examination, no lens we’ve ever tested is perfectly identical in all 4 rotations. That’s many thousands of lenses tested. And none that were perfect. Ever. The fact is, those 4 lenses in the graph above are as close to perfect as we ever see.
This is why, when people suggest I cherry pick them a perfect copy, I tell them I’ve never seen one. With better lenses, mainly primes, we expect ‘so good that it looks perfect on your camera’. For most lenses we are looking for ‘within the expected range we see for this lens after eliminating bad copies’.
Let’s go back to the examples above. That lens on top, you may have noticed, is indeed a bit worse than the 4 ‘best possible’ copies out of 20 I picked out for the second image. The worst copy, the one on top, was an ‘average’ copy of this lens. Was it acceptable? Actually it was. It rented 20 times and no one ever had the slightest complaints about it. After every rental it was tested on a high-resolution, oversized chart and it looked fine.
Even when we made a point of looking for the weakest area on test charts or in photos, it looked fine on a 5D III. If we put it on a 5Dsr, though, we did agree we could see a little weakness on test charts. We thought.
My point here is that when we have a ‘too good’ test, so within that test we have to decide ‘where is the cutoff.’ In other words, we still have to decide ‘what is in spec.’
I’ll pause now for 476 of you to say “well, for that kind of money they should all be perfect.” Because I know you want to. Even those of you who know it’s not possible. And then I’ll say like I always do, “that was just a $1,5oo prime.” Because you can’t get perfect with $15,000 primes. The goal is not perfect. The goal is close enough so you can’t see any different in the picture you take.
So What’s the Bottom Line?
It’s pretty simple, actually. New cameras are showing defects in lenses that manufacturer’s weren’t quite ready to deal with. They (and we) are regrouping to put more adequate testing in place. We had a bit of a head start because we have been doing higher level testing for a while. We’re still, for example, the only place on the planet (as best I know) that can test electromagnetic focus lenses on an optical bench, for example, although at least one manufacturer will be doing it in a few months.
But we still don’t know exactly where the cut-off should be. We test lenses that go into satellites and stuff. Those aren’t perfect either, but in those cases the engineers who designed the cameras know exactly what resolution the camera can resolve and tell us so we can say a given lens is OK or not OK. The manufacturers, if they want to, can do that same thing. And at least in some cases they are starting to. But we’re all going to have to live through a transition period while those changes are made.
And I want to make it clear that we’re struggling with this, too. Months ago I tested a lens for Fred Miranda. I correspond with Fred regularly and I know he is an exceptionally careful photographer and will notice any (and I do mean any) flaw in a lens. I sent him a lens that passed with flying colors. Sure it had a slight abberation in one corner, but it was well within ‘my spec’. Fred sent it back after one day’s shooting for a soft corner — and absolutely identified that same corner I had passed as ‘good enough, you’ll never notice it on a camera’. My ‘in spec’ standard for that lens was developed when a 5D III was high resolution. He had put the lens on a much higher resolution camera and was noticing something that wouldn’t be noticeable on a lesser camera. (To be honest, it probably wouldn’t be noticed by most photographers, either. But Fred has bionic MTF eyes, I think.)
When high-resolution SLRs came out all of us, myself included, were wondering which lenses would let us maximize all that resolution. Few of us; not me, not you, and not the manufacturer, worried that that high resolution would let us see the weaknesses in a lens. Crowd-sourced complaints, legitimate complaints, have gotten their attention (and mine).
Things will get better in a couple of years, because changes are being made, but it’s not better right now. I know you want instantaneous changes, but they aren’t possible. For example, we took the decision a few months ago to improve our standard testing – the optical bench is excellent, but it takes 10 or 15 minutes to test a lens. We can’t run 800 lenses a day through it. But even our custom-made, high-definition test charts are barely adequate for testing the best lenses on the best cameras. We’re having to develop, in conjunction with a metrology company, new equipment that can be as accurate as an MTF bench but fast. That equipment isn’t cheap (think small house or maybe a Bentley) but more importantly you can’t just order one from Amazon. They’re built to order and it will be months before it’s up and running.
And remember, we’re a small company that responds to change quickly. Big companies have 12 layers of management approval and budgets made out a year or two in advance. The testing department is managed by an optical engineer who is human, and humans are often a bit resistant to change. There’s accountants who are going to want to know why everything is costing so much, especially because this wasn’t in next years budget. The companies are aware of the problem, they’re addressing it, but it’s going to take them some time to make changes.
And, as best I know, everyone is still figuring out the best ways to test lenses to make sure we catch every defect that might be visible on a photograph without all the ‘noise’, if you will, of false-positive results. Remember, we’ve never seen a perfect MTF curve on any lens, but we’ve seen lots of lenses that are photographically perfect on the best cameras. Some experimenting is needed to figure out exactly which things are significant and which aren’t. (If you’ve read this far and still think ‘they should all be perfect’, I don’t know what else to say except reality sucks, doesn’t it?)
For example, we’ve just started doing field-of-focus testing on lenses. It may well be that this is going to correlate better with the defects you can see in a photograph than actual MTF tests do. We’re still deciding what frequency of MTF test is most appropriate for newer cameras. Historically, 20 line pairs / mm correlated most closely to what you see when you take a picture. In higher pixel-density cameras we know 30 lp/mm is better and we’ve moved to that. But we aren’t sure if 40- or 50 lp/mm might be necessary. Those have a lot more false positive results, though, which makes things more difficult.
In the meantime, those of you out there who have been saying, “just go take some pictures and see if they’re OK.” Well, right at the moment, you have the correct answer, at least for people shooting the highest resolution cameras for a photo. A lot of photos of different subjects looked at carefully are probably going to identify things we’d be arguing about in the lab.
And this is coming from a guy who spends all day, every day, testing things optically in a lab. Right at the moment, ‘take more pictures’ is correct and I am, well, less right. But give me a few months to experiment and few hundred thousand dollars worth of new testing equipment and I’ll be righter.
Today the Canon 5D Mk IV cameras are out and I’m sure by this afternoon there will be unboxing videos all over YouTube. Aaron and I decided to do an unboxing post, too. By unboxing, of course, we mean taking it apart. If you want to make comparisons, you can look at our old (2012) 5D Mk III teardown or the fairly recent 5Ds teardown.
The lawyers would like me to mention that even though we (often) make this look incredibly easy and fun, you should not do this yourself. If you leave a small leak during reassembly, then when you put the battery back in the smoke leaks out of the camera. It’s important to keep the smoke inside the camera. Trust us on this, for we have experience. Every time we’ve let the smoke get out of a camera, it never works again. And your warranty will be null and void.
To be blunt, we didn’t expect a lot of surprises inside the Canon 5D Mark IV. From the outside, it looks just like the Canon 5Ds and Canon 5Dsr, which look a lot like the Canon 5D III. We expected to find some new chips inside, because, well, the camera does some new stuff that should need some new chips. And, of course, as with every camera ever made throughout history, this one has ‘improved weather sealing’. It’s not improved enough for the warranty to cover water damage, of course, but still, that’s worth a look. If nothing else, we usually enjoy opening up Canon cameras because the engineering is always nicely laid out and usually pretty. And we’re the kind of guys that value inner beauty.
So lets take some screws out!!!
Getting the Case Off
This was the first surprise we had and it goes on through the whole disassembly. Until now Canon cameras have all been pretty straightforward in their disassembly: you take out screws, that part of the case comes off, repeat for another part of the case. This time, we did the usual first step, removing the cover of the I/O ports.
But it didn’t slide out. Next, out come the bottom plate screws.
It loosened, but it wouldn’t come out either. Peeled back the grips and went to work on the front plate. No joy again. The various plates all loosened but wouldn’t come off. And when you’re disassembling a camera for the first time, you don’t pull on stuck things because you don’t know what they may be stuck to inside.
Finally, we did take off the one thing that came off in the usual fashion; the back cover assembly. Canon techs are reading this and laughing their butts off by now, I’m sure.
After we looked around a bit we realized that basically to take off any part of the shell, other than the back assembly, you had to take off most of the shell because Canon has added lots of plastic pegs and latches to the various parts of the shell, making it much more interlocking than in previous cameras.
Pegs under the I/O cover plate. Lensrentals.com, 2016
Interlocking latches around the bottom plate. Lensrentals.com, 2016
What does this do? Well, it certainly would strengthen the shell, making it more resistant to bangs and drops. It might, (I can’t say for certain), make the seals between the various parts tighter and more water resistant. From my point of view, (but not any of yours), it’s going to make it more difficult and time-consuming to work on this camera, but not hugely so.
Speaking of water resistance we did see, like we did with the Canon 7DII and Canon 5Ds, lots of foamed seals along doors and joints.
Even the inside of buttons has very thick rubber gaskets everywhere you might look.
This next part might be useful to you, though. There was only one area where we didn’t see any seal except plastic-on-plastic. This was in the top right corner where the back plate and top plate come together. Between the two red lines, there’s just a plastic to plastic seal with no gaskets. This may be completely watertight because of pressure between the two shell plates. But I might put a bit of tape over it if I was going out in the rain. (OK, as you all know I don’t take cameras out in the rain without plastic covers. Because we write off ‘weather resistant’ cameras for water damage every week. But I know you young people live life in the fast lane and like to take risks.)
OK, Let’s Look at the Insides
I mentioned earlier that we had the back cover off. Inside it looks very much like other Canon back covers. There are aluminum shields over the button panel and LCD. The flexes running to and fro over the LCD are more complex than other Canons because of the extra processing for the touch screen.
We took the back assembly apart a bit and you can see the button panel is similar to other 5 Series cameras, with the addition of the new focus select button added. It’s one of the two small, round, copper plates below (to the right in the picture) the tilt button.
Once all the connecting flexes have been removed we could slide off the large, stiff, main LCD flex, which really is a circuit board almost.
And now we see the LCD. Well mostly the aluminum shield/brace over the LCD with a little window with tape showing the LCD. Again we saw nice rubber seals all around the LCD panel. We didn’t remove it because we don’t yet have replacement double sided tape to make sure it stuck down properly, but other than the extra connections of the touch-screen, it was similar to what we’d seen before.
Turning back to the rest of the camera, we see a couple of interesting things on the back of the camera. First, there are more flexes connecting to the main PCB than most other models. Second, we were very pleased to see a thick, stiff, sheet of rubber covering the back of the PCB (it’s actually very shiny black; the lights give it that gray and blue appearance). Underneath it, you can see the aluminum shielding and protecting panel that covers chips on the grip side of the PCB.
You can get a better idea of how much nicer this is than the old foamed-tape flimsy thing that we dealt with in the Canon 5DIII in the picture below.
With the back, bottom, and front plates loose, we could now take the I/O cover panel off at this point and you can see the various ports.
Here was our first real disappointment. Skipping ahead for clarity, the USB and HDMI ports are soldered to the main PCB. Only the flash sync and audio ports are on a separate board. This means (as often happens) when a USB or HDMI cable gets jerked hard the port can get pulled off it’s solders to the board. The repair, in this case, is a complete main board replacement. We’d much rather see these ports on a sub-board, but understand this is a lot cheaper to manufacture this way. Almost every SLR made does this, but I sure wish they’d brace the ports or something.
The CF card door came off next. Usually, this just requires removing the screws and the door slides off, you just have to be careful not to mess up the door position sensor. In this camera, though, there’s a flex right under the door that wanted to stick as we removed it. No harm was done, just another case of this camera being a bit tougher to disassemble than most.
We next took the front cover off. This was a lot more complex than it would seem because Canon runs some connecting cables from the front cover, around the side of the camera, to the back PCB. This is one of those ‘why you don’t do it yourself’ moments. One good tug and some important parts would never work again.
The flex that Aaron is removing tape from, and the small white wire at the bottom, run from the front cover, across the I/O ports, to the PCB in the rear. Lensrentals.com, 2016
But once those were unhooked, the front slide right off.
And now we have a nice look at the front of the camera.
That’s the mirror motor over there under the EOS on the left side. Here’s a closer look.
Finally we were able to remove the top assembly. From underneath, it looks pretty much like every other top assembly, and we’ve learned from long, painful experience not to take these apart unless we absolutely need to. In general, if something is wrong with the top assembly, you just replace the top assembly.
With the top off we have a nice view looking down onto the pentaprism. Again, we don’t disassemble these and further. There’s a lot of alignment and calibrating that needs to be done if you do. And no, I have no idea what the writing or initials are for.
OK, let’s get back to the main part of the camera. After taking out some screws we can pull up the aluminum and rubber sheet shields in one piece, exposing the PCB.
There are a lot, a whole lot, of flexes connected to the board from every direction. They are thicker and more complex than previous cameras and a lot end up in thick ‘press in’ connectors instead of simple flex cables.
Basically, there was a lot of unhooking of connections and a few screws to remove before we could take the main PCB out. There was also a very large connector mounting from under the board that you can see here, just above the SD card. The SD card reader, as is usually the case, is soldered to the board. There wasn’t anything else very interesting on the underside of the board.
Underneath where the PCB was we now see the circuit board of the image sensor, and to the right of that the CF card assembly. You can see reflections from the clear plastic shield over the sensor circuit board.
If you look closer at the sensor assembly you see three special screws, one on either side of the viewfinder, one at the bottom. These are the adjustment screws used to level the sensor so that it’s in exactly the same plane as the lens mount.
You can see from this not-so-great side view that it’s a simple screw-over-spring tension adjustment.
The next thing we wanted to do was remove the CF card assembly. Bent CF pins happen with some frequency and this is a common repair. We’d already seen that just disassembling the camera enough to expose them was going to be a chore. Removing the CF assembly actually ended up being more of a chore. Usually at this point removing the CF assembly is just taking out a couple of screws and unhooking a flex (the CF card door was removed earlier). In this case, we had to remove the battery door lock plate first.
And then could remove the CF assembly. Once it was out we saw why we had to remove the door lock: the CF assembly also contains the battery-door-closed sensor (in front of Aaron’s thumb). Not a big deal, just different, and well, we do replace CF assemblies a fair amount.
The last piece we took off was the bottom plate, just because we wanted to see how strong it looked. I should note even the tripod ring has a nice rubber seal around it.
And when the plate comes off it’s quite thick and sturdy as you can see. A lot of cameras have really thin metal plates here.
Now looking under the camera we can see the DC boards and other power boards, but not a lot more of interest. We really saw no reason to disassemble the mirror box and take off the battery compartment so we decided to quit while we were ahead.
So What All Did We Learn Today?
Well, let’s see. The weather sealing on the Canon 5d Mark IV appears pretty robust, although you know my opinion on weather sealing in general. The shell of the camera has an interlocking construction with lots of pins and clips and more screws than previous Canon cameras. This makes it kind of a pain to get into, but I’m sure it adds to the shell’s overall strength. It might make it more weather resistant if the parts are held together more tightly, but I couldn’t say for certain.
There are more chips, and more and heavier connectors moving electrons from board to board than even the Canon 5Ds cameras have. This kind of makes sense because there’s lots of new stuff in here: a touch screen LCD, dual-pixel technology, WiFi, GPS, the list goes on. One thing that didn’t really come across in the pictures, though, is there’s more air inside this camera than we’re used to seeing. There are some empty spaces that aren’t packed full of electronics. In other words, this camera probably could have been a bit smaller but Canon wanted to keep the form factor the same.
Construction is at least as robust as the recent 5 series releases and better than the Canon 5DIII, which is as it should be. There’s a little more complexity with cables running hither and yon more than in previous Canon cameras, but that isn’t going to affect operations at all. It may make repairs a bit more difficult. And I’m, as I always am, disappointed to see HDMI and USB ports soldered onto the main PCB. They get torn off a fair amount on every camera that’s made this way (which is most cameras that aren’t dedicated for video). On the other hand, the main PCB replacement may not be much more expensive than a sub-board replacement.
So overall, it was an interesting disassembly with a fair amount of new quirks and tweaks, rather than the rather straightforward upgrade I was expecting.
Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz
Because people still insist on asking or speculating: Yes the camera is reassembled. Yes, it’s working just fine. No, it won’t go out on rental this week, we’re having some of the guys here shoot with it while they do their own write-ups about actually using it. But it will be rented after that.