5.05.2015

We're wrapping up a complicated annual report job and I have some observations to make.

First of all, when you are trying to do a particular look, the right tools really do make a difference

I'm not saying you can't go out with XYZ camera and, with a lot of work and elbow grease, get a great image with enormous detail but if you want a great image with enormous detail and a wide enough dynamic range to help you tame direct sun you could do a hell of a lot worse than selecting a Nikon D810 for your project. While there might (might) be better cameras to be had in the medium format catalogs or in some secret lab, I've never used a better all around corporate image making machine than this one. 

It sneaks up on you. It does all the typical camera stuff while you are out shooting. It has the same screen on the back as other cameras so there's nothing to cue you to the differences. It goes "click" like every camera I've owned. It takes the same lenses as the previous generation of Nikons I've used but the difference is easy to see when you bring the camera home from the field, drop the files into the latest rev of Lightroom CC, and then sit down and start editing.

This thing held on to detail in shiny skin like nothing I've ever used before across film or digital product lines. If you are hell bent on never burning out a highlight again you can set this camera to ISO 64, underexpose by over a full stop and then bring the files back up to a normal exposure setting while protecting your highlights without taking any hit in quality whatsoever. Nothing. No grain, no color shifts. A lot of the current annual report project we are wrapping up was done in direct sun or with direct sun playing over the backgrounds. I worried but I didn't need to (the story of my life...) because nothing I shot was in anyway technically unusable. But the thing that got to me over and over again was the ability to take a full length, standing portrait, zoom in and fill the screen with a face and still not see noise or a lack of sharp detail. 

And do I even need to mention how cool it is to have ISO 64 as your base sensitivity? That means you can go to 1/4,000th at f2.0 if you really need to get that skinny depth of field everyone talks about. You even have a stop's worth of shutter speed in reserve. Just like a camera should be. 

Look at the lens on the front of the D810. It's a cheap, cheap, cheap Rokinon 14mm f2.8. It vignettes a bit and has wickedly bad "mustache" geometric distortion that makes simple distortion corrections in PhotoShop or Lightroom almost impossible. But the fun thing about this lens is that at f2.8 the center third of the frame is really sharp. Probably sharper than anything else in the focal length. Stop it down to f8.0 and the whole frame is very, very sharp. If you use the lens and the software as it is then you basically are trading straight lines and nice corners for a sharp middle section and that probably convinces most people to stop using the lens after the novelty of its wide angle of view wears off. 

I loved the idea of the lens but it was hard to justify using it and giving files to clients if the files had visible and awkward distortion built-in. Clients seem more sensitive to distortion than lower sharpness. But I discovered a custom lens profile made by a guy named, Sven Stork, that can be added to the Adobe lens profile library and basically turns your $300 wide angle novelty lens into a priceless and high performance keeper. And with the D810 you've got more than enough pixels to be able to throw some away during the correction process. 

I just finished post processing some abstract images we did in a big electrical substation and one of them has already been earmarked by the art director as a cover shot for their printed annual report. The details are amazing and the color and contrast of the image, after some post processing, is as good as anything I have ever done. The lens is a damn advertisement in my camera bag that constantly "suggests" to me that I load up on Rokinon's other cine lenses. Hello 24mm f1.4? 

I used the D810 for almost everything in the entire AR project. I used the 14mm for both of the double-truck spreads that will appear. But that's not the only combination I used. 

The Nikon 25-50mm lens got its due in the VSL blog a few days ago and I'm still impressed by just how well the lens makers did their craft in the age before autofocus and plastic barreled lenses became the norm. We've reviewed our older Nikon 80-200mm f2.8 push pull zoom before but an entire section of the AR, mostly shot against the sun also made me appreciate enduring craftsmanship. 

The king of the camera bag this week, though, has been the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens. Every time I see how sharp and how three dimensional it can be in its renderings the  more unwilling I am to remove it from the camera. But I'm not going to write about that lens now. I need more time with it to see just how good it can really be. 

The longest tenure of a flash in my whole studio.... the Elinchrom Ranger RX system.

Sometimes I find myself a bit mystified at just how long a battery powered system can last. I know that my flash system was designed and built by the Swiss (who make watches that run for decades or centuries) but I continue to be amazed at the life of the sealed lead acid batteries the system uses. I've had the rig since 2008 and it just continues to pump out flash after flash under all sorts of conditions. Freezing cold, light rain, tremendous heat. It even refuses to shut down when I'm shooting boring dreck. It's right there with me.

I can't believe I was trying to sell this system a few years ago. In the time since I've made tens of thousands of dollars shooting with this machine and it's still one of a very small fraternity that can belt out precise 1100 watt portions of flash about 250 times in a row from one battery. We haul around a second battery when we are out shooting in the middle of a barren field or in the oil patch but it's rare that we've ever pulled out the spare and pressed it into service. The last time we did was when we were taking photos of swimmers for Ben's old Summer swim club. We photographed about 250 kids, five or six shots a piece, along with twenty or thirty different group shots (well over 800 images) before the first battery yelled, "I surrender!"

This is the flash system we hauled out to a park for the beginning of a day of shooting with the company's CEO. Our first shot was of him standing in a large field with big trucks in the background and the sun over his right shoulder. We put up a big softbox and matched the sun, lumen for lumen, as we coaxed just the right expression across the executive's face. Again and again and again. No shut downs, no hiccups and no interruptions.

Our Elinchrom systems has two heads and sometimes we supplement the system with three cheap flashes. We have one brand new Cactus flash that the company sent me to try our and I have two Yongnuo flashes that I picked up to use as slaves. They have slave triggers built in and so far ( a year down the road) both them work flawlessly. That was the bulk of our lighting package on this adventure but I would be remiss if I didn't mention our most valuable modifier for shooting in the sun. That would have been our 4x4 foot Chimera aluminum panel with a one stop diffusion silk stretched out across it. The first thing we did on almost every shot over the course of the week was to put that scrim up on  sturdy C-Stand (with sand bags) between the sun and our subjects. It turned hard light into soft fill. The big softbox did the rest.

While we're talking about necessary tools of the trade....

Doesn't matter if you live in Texas or Norway, if you stand out in the sun for a couple of hours you're going to get burned. Your skin will turn red and you'll be uncomfortable in the short term. It might kill you (cumulatively) over the long run. I generally always wear a cap with a bill when I am out and around for a while but that kind of hat does nothing to keep overhead sun off the tops of your ears and off the back of your neck. The older, black cotton one I have had for years doesn't do much to cool you off either. If you are going to spend a week outside in Texas you need your Texan Wear. And in most cases that might include a stray cowboy hat from Stetson. The weave around the top is great for cooling ventilation and, as you can see, the wide brim does a good job protecting tender skin. You might have to tilt yours back while shooting but really, isn't most annual report photography ( or any photography for that matter) really a lot more standing around figuring things out and talking people through the process than actually working with the camera stuck on your face? 

If the action gets thick you can always get your assistant to hold your hat for that part of the program. But really, it's nice to have when you are walking around a big electrical substation looking for just the right shot. Keeps light off the viewfinder too. 

So, those are the pieces of gear that are new to me for this annual report. I'm happy. The client is happy. The assistant is happy (and wonderful) and everything is right with the world. Now I'm just resigned to the long process of retouching and bending the finished images to the mercurial wishes of the client.... But that's part of the job.

Here's my happy face at being done with all the shooting and the first round of post-production on our current annual report project. The balls are now in the hand of the client and my retoucher until I get back from New York. Hope y'all are doing well. Happy trails.






5.04.2015

An Interesting and Compulsive Approach to a Photo Assignment.

NASA Exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Nikon D610+Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens.

I think that when most people conjure up an image of a working professional photographer they imagine a guy in a khaki vest of many pockets, several large cameras hanging around his neck with a long zoom lens on one and short zoom lens with an intricate hood on the other. Over his shoulder they anticipate seeing a large, black camera bag the size of an ice chest, filled with flashes and a Whitman Sampler of different lenses and ancillary gadgets.  He would be trailed by at least one assistant who would also be toting a case or a bag; perhaps filled with lights.

They would not be far from the mark in most cases.

After spending the entire week hauling a Think Tank roller case filled with cameras and lenses around to various locations in central Texas, as well as cases of heavy lights and their attendant light stands, umbrellas, panels etc. I came into Sunday wanting nothing more than to return to my "amateur" roots of one camera and one body. 

To round out my already full dance card for the week I had a job booked at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum from noon till 6:00 pm. I would be looking for interesting people and making their photographs, both candidly and with their knowledge, for use on the Museum's award winning website. The museum forbids the use of flash (policy now changed to allow flash as of this week) and definitely forbids the use of tripods when the facility is open to guests.

While the exhibits are well lit the surrounding areas (where my potential subjects stand) are, by contrast, very dark and hard to make photographs in. I knew from previous experiences that there would be many times that I'd want a fast lens and a low noise camera body and I decided to plunge in with only one of each; the Nikon D610 and the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 "Art" lens. I brought along a small shoulder bag but it was not filled with the usual photo paraphernalia. It held five pens and a clipboard with lots and lots of model release forms for the museum. The need to get model releases from adults and parents of kids was also a good reason to go light on gear. How much can you really juggle?

Having just one focal length to grapple with I quickly fell into the groove of composing in that frame. What might be perceived as a limitation was actually freeing because it eliminated one variable in the collage of choice we make each time we pick up the camera bag.

The combination of the D610 and the Sigma 50mm was pretty cool in that I felt confident I would get sharp images at all apertures and especially sharp images at f2.8 and smaller apertures. I could also  shoot without worry at ISO 3200 and still manage noise in a very satisfactory way in Lightroom CC.

There are some combinations of tools that really make you want to shoot with them and them only. The 50mm Sigma and the D610 are like that. While the D810 camera has more detailed files I think that by the time you factor in the lower noise of the D610 and the more manageable raw file sizes the 24 megapixel sensor makes much for sense for tricky available light shoots in darker interiors.

I have a long history of preferring the 50mm (or format equivalent) angle of view. I can move in and make a nice, tight portrait or I can step back and put a person or several people into context. The focal length is very much a chameleon.

When I got back to the studio I noticed two other things: First, the lens and camera combo is heavy and my left arm was a bit sore after hand holding the rig for the better part of a day. Second, the files, even at f2.0 and f2.5 were very sharp and detailed and the lens has a very good look to it. The sharpness is more consistent over more of the frame than I'm used to with many other 50mm lenses.

I was able to get about 400+ good images to add to the Museum's marketing content reservoir. I mostly shot at ISO 1600 but did go up to 3200 for about a third of the shots and 6400 for another ten percent. All were very usable with the ISO 6400 images requiring a bit more noise reduction in post.

One of the things I like about the new generation of Sony sensors in the Nikon full frame cameras is that ability to pull up detail in the shadows. At lower ISOs like 400 and 800 you can pull up nearly a stop and a half of shadow detail without really effecting the overall quality of the image. It's a nice buffer when shooting in contrasty light.

A note: I will be in Saratoga Springs, NY on Weds., Thurs. and Fri. of this week and don't plan to take a laptop. I won't attempt to write a column on my iPhone but hope to be back in the writing mix on Saturday. I'll try to make tomorrow's blog good enough to last you for a few days. In the meantime, if all the other photo blogs on the web bore you to tears you can always buy a copy of "The Lisbon Portfolio" at Amazon.com and get a nice dose of my long-winded writing.... And you'll be supporting my blog. You might also enjoy the story of a working photographer caught in a web of corporate and national security intrigue...





5.02.2015

An Image I made today of Russell Harvard for Zach Theatre. Almost the end to a long week of shooting....

Russell Harvard will be starring in the Zach Theatre production of "Tribes." 

We've had an exciting and busy week here at the VSL H.Q. We spent three days working on an annual report shoot for a central Texas utility company which necessitated early mornings and the fun filled stress of managing a CEO, a group of marketing and advertising people, four large trucks, eight linemen and assorted additional crew, all on exterior locations. This all followed days of pre-planning meetings, conversations with drone experts assistant booking and lots of packing and re-packing. But we aren't done yet. 

One of the things that jumped out at me from my calendar (and the white board next to my desk) was that we had also booked a marketing shoot for Zach Theatre's season brochure for today. We needed a  bunch of shots to promote our version of Mary Poppins and also a play called, Tribes. After I put all the batteries back on chargers yesterday evening I started packing for today. I would be using completely different lighting gear than I had been using for the A.R.

I packed my standard white background kit because we would be doing a series of set-ups that the art director at Zach Theatre would use in the campaign. She will be dropping images into different colored backgrounds and, in some cases, into composite scenes. What we'd be looking for is nice, clean lines to cut against. We are no longer in the search for perfect white backgrounds right out of camera. And that was good in this situation because our shoot was relegated to a small space that didn't give me the front to back depth to do our traditional white background set up. 

In this case all the lights are in front of our actors and I'm counting on the inverse square law and smart placement of lights to carry the day. I packed our four Elinchrom mono-lights with umbrella reflectors, five light stands, our background set up with a white seamless paper background. All four lights had 42 inch umbrellas mounted on them and I used various ratios between the lights to get the look to the overall light that I wanted. 

I triggered the lights with Cactus V6 transceiver triggers. 

My camera and lens of choice for today was the Nikon D810 with one lens; the 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 G Nikon zoom. It's a step up from a kit lens and I often see them for ridiculously low prices in my favorite camera store. It must have been part of a Nikon bundle at one point. All I know is that while the lens has some linear distortion it's very sharp and very well behaved. It's perfect for work like this where we need to be able to go from full body to close head shots from one frame to the next. 

I packed everything but the cameras into the car last night. Our call at the theater was set for 11:00 a.m. and as today is Saturday (my most holy day of swimming) I was determined to be ready to go on time but without missing the wonderful (and difficult) Kristen Turner masters workout and the post swim coffee klatch at Starbucks. I figure if you are a freelancer you need to get your socializing where you can, right? 

We logged some serious wet miles and we drank coffee. I stayed right up until 10:50 am and then said my goodbyes and headed to the theater to set up. I used the Marshall Electronics monitor we made such good use of earlier in the week because I wanted to be able to share the images we were taking with a room full of make-up artists, costumers, an artistic director, art director and marketing director. God, I was outnumbered.....

The Mary Poppins portion of the shoot went well and we moved on to making images of Russell Harvard for the play, Tribes. Here's copy from the Zach website that explains the play:

As the only deaf member of his sharp-tongued British family, sweet-natured Billy has spent 
much of his life feeling out of place. But when he meets a young woman on the brink of 
deafness, he finds out what it means to belong for the first time. This provocative and 
touching play is as much about the tyranny of language, as it is about the challenge of 
not being able to hear it. ZACH's production will be staged on our Kleberg Stage 
starring deaf, Austin actor Russell Harvard, who won a 2012 Theatre World 
Award for Outstanding Debut Performance, and garnered Drama League, 
Outer Critics Circle, and Lucille Lortell Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor.

Same image cropped in to nearly 100%.

Russell was great to work with and we ended up with a couple hundred really good shots with which to promote the play. I was struck with how well the 24/85mm lens worked with the D810. It's a powerful combination and I feel like many people who immediately default to the clich├ęd 24-70mm f2.8 are missing a really good image maker at a very advantageous price. 

The images from Mary Poppins and Tribes are already color corrected and transferred to a small hard drive for delivery on Monday and you'd think that might be a good place to break for the weekend but my iCalendar had other plans. I am also booked to shoot all day tomorrow for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.  

This job will be more of a "reportage" style escapade. I'll be "wearing" two cameras; one with the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens and the other with the Nikon 24-85mm f3.5-4.5. I'll also have a small flash with a modifier and a messenger bag full of model releases. The batteries are recharged and the small camera bags are packed. All that stands between me and the project tomorrow will be our Sunday masters swim workout. That and a full day of shooting and I should have the weekend all wrapped up and I'll be ready to dive into new work on Monday morning.  Yippee. Never a dull moment around here. 

Counting down the moments till my trip to Saratoga Springs, NY gets underway. I leave Austin at 5:30am on Weds. and should be in S.S. by 1:30 or 2:00 pm. It'll be great to see friends and hang with Ben. I'm looking forward to it. After a long week of lugging around Nikons I think this trip definitely calls for the more discreet and almost silent Olympus EM5.2. 

Thanks for reading. I'll catch up with you tomorrow.

Go to Amazon and check out the two new reviews of the Novel, The Lisbon Portfolio. The economy is recovering. Now you can afford to buy a copy!


One more program note: We've spent the last year making hundreds of images for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and many of them are used on the new website. That website, the design of which was overseen by David Munns, won the Gold Award for Online Presence at the American Alliance for Museums convention in Atlanta this last week. The site beat out competitors like the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and many others.
Nice to see good work acknowledged.

Another lens review: The Nikon manual focus 25-50mm f4 ais. A classic from the film age that works well on modern cameras.

big electric insulators. Nikon 25-50mm f4.0 lens.

We often operate under the mistaken idea that anything invented or manufacturer more than a year or two ago is crap and that every newer iteration is much better than anything which came before. Where the only metric is efficiency or the only real value is the cost savings to manufacturers I tend to agree. When it comes to finely crafted tools, great lenses and well made grip equipment I'd strongly disagree.

In the past few months since I re-embraced Nikon cameras (and particularly the Nikon D810) as the primary shooting cameras for my commercial image making business I've auditioned a number of different lenses for the system. I've found that many assumptions about lenses are erroneous and little more than conjecture and the general re-spewing of advertising bullet points from the makers.

I don't use wide angle lenses very often. When I do use them it's usually on a tripod and with complete control of focus, exposure and depth of field. I use them when clients want to show expansive works of architecture or when they are looking for dramatic near/far exaggerations. What I want are lenses with simple rather than complex distortion patterns. I'd like the lenses to be sharp across the frame and I'd like them to perform very well at f8. I don't use wide angle lenses in combination with shallow depth of field very often, if at all.

Finally, since I don't rely on wide and ultra wide angle lenses for my day to day work, as an architectural photograph would, I don't want to invest a small fortune in them.  I'll distribute the bulk of my gear investments where I know they'll do the most good for me and that's in normal, slightly wide and slightly long focal length lenses that I can use to make good portraits. The idea of buying a Nikon 14-24mm lens for nearly $2,000 seems wasteful to me and the two samples I tried have lots of trouble flaring with side light and any light source in the frame. But I can make good use of an 18-35 or a 20-35 or even a 25-50 for the vast majority of all my work; including architecture and annual reports. After testing and returning a Nikon 18-35mm f3.5-4.5 G lens (way too much weird distortion and an inconsistent sharpness across the frame) I've settled into using my old 25-50mm f4 for most of the things I shoot that need to be both full frame and relatively wide angle-y.

When I need to go wider I put the 14mm Rokinon f2.8 Cine lens on the D810 and use a very nicely done custom profile in Lightroom to correct frame geometry. The lens is very, very sharp wide open in the middle and the sides and corners come into high sharpness by f5.6. By f8.0 it's perfect. If I need a longer focal length but one that fall under the 25-50mm or the 24-85mm G f3.5-4.5 I'll just shoot carefully with the 14mm Rokinon and depend on cropping to get me exactly what I want in the frame. With the huge amount of resolution provided by the D810 it just makes sense.

But for my All Around best buddy wide angle shooting lens I'm beginning to think that nothing beats the old, manual focus 25-50mm f4 ais.

Why?

Many of the newer lenses I've tested make a bad trade-off. The makers juggle distortion, sharpness and cost in interesting ways. While I understand the mania for ultra-fast lenses in medium telephotos and especially in long telephotos I am mystified about the usefulness of f2.8 lenses for ultra wide zooms. According to Leica engineers making a lens one stop faster requires about 8 times better manufacturing tolerances to make the lens equally as good (meaning sharp and consistent). In almost every focal length being able to go one or two stops slower in the design of a lens increases the manufacturing consistency when grinding lens elements. Since most people are using their ultra wides to shoot architecture and landscape the f2.8 becomes irrelevant and most knowledgeable shooters would gladly go to a lens that only opened to f4 or (God forbid!!!) f5.6 is they could be assured that the slower lenses would have much better resolution AND micro contrast.

To my mind the previous generations of optical engineers made the compromises I like for the 25/50. It's an f4.0 lens so no false heroics in design were attempted for the sake of marketing. It's a very short but very useful range of focal lengths that takes one from wide angle to normal and maintains a consistent aperture setting across the range. The lens design reflects an old school aesthetic wherein the first two stops are "good enough" but two stops down and three stops down are the sweet spot for the lens where the sides match the center for sharpness and they do so without introducing a mustache distortion signature that seems to be the hallmark of more modern zooms.

The 25/50 does have distortion at its widest focal length of 25mm. The distortion continues to about 30mm but the important thing to me is that the distortion is a simple "barrel" pattern in which the side bow outward on a consistent and simple curve rather than having several waving curves across the long axis of the frame. This kind of simple barrel distortion requires only the sliding of the distortion slider in the lens correction panel in Lightroom. The opposite design approach is that which is found in the Rokinon 14mm lens which requires a more complex, custom profile to correct the wave-y distortion and the plunging distortion at the corners.

I like the rendering of the 25/50mm lens. The colors seem rich and not brittle. The sweep across the frame (when photographing blue skies for instance) is consistent in color and value when the lens is stopped down to f5.6 or f8.0. The lens has very good resolution but a lower amount of apparent contrast. The lens is by no means "flat" but when compared to more modern optics it's a bit lackluster. Of course the remedy is simple and is, again, just the matter of moving the contrast slider or clarity slider in Lightroom to taste. It's much easier to add contrast to a file (if it's already rich in resolution) than it is to remove the effects of too much contrast in an image.

I used the 25-50mm lens a great deal last week while we were shooting photos for an annual report. Almost all of the uses were outside in available sunlight (where the lower contrast had the effect of enhancing apparent dynamic range) and in available light augmented by flash from umbrellas and soft boxes. I am certain that people who have had less stellar results than me with this lens stumbled in achieving good focus. A wide angle, manual focus lens with a slow maximum aperture is very difficult to accurately focus on the focusing screens of modern DSLRs. Their screens are optimized for brightness but at the expense of accutance which kills focusing accuracy. I find it impossible to accurately eyeball at the wide end. But when I use the lens on the D810 (in controlled situations) I am using a loupe and putting the camera into live view mode to focus a magnified image and then, once focused I revert to shooting with the viewfinder.

If I'm shooting in bright sunlight I generally use the lens at either f11 or f8.0 and then zone focus using the very legible and detailed focusing scale on the lens. This method has also been foolproof so far. While this lens was made over 20 years ago there are six or seven different images that are ready contenders for wrap around cover shots on the annual report. And they bow to none of the other images we took during the week regardless of the price or pedigree of the lenses used.

Not a bad investment for a couple of hundred dollars. 

5.01.2015

I had the opportunity to use the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art Lens in the Nikon Mount this morning and this afternoon and I am buying it. It's really good.



One of my friends is an avowed Canon shooter. Dyed in the wool. Full contingent of Canon T/S lenses at the ready. Fifty-four megapixel cameras pre-ordered, etc. He also frequently uses a Leica medium format digital camera in his day to day work as one of the country's best architectural photographers. For some strange reason he became enamored with the supposed mythology surrounding Sigma's very well reviewed 50mm f1.4 Art lens and when he saw one used, in a Nikon mount but at a very incredibly good price, he bought it immediately. Then, realizing that all of his camera bodies were of the Canon variety, he also bought a Nikon D610 to go with it

Since then he's come to realize that going too far across cameras systems is probably counter-productive and costly and that the learning of new menus takes time and can ultimately cause confusion under the pressure of shoots for money. (Yes, I know there is at least one of you out there that can compartmentalize information with ease and float across all menus without stumbling or hesitation but the rest of we mortals think you might be full of B.S.).  He decided to get rid of the Nikon and pick up the Canon version instead. But he's as mercurial as I am when it comes to gear and it won't surprise me at all when he chooses the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Otus lens instead. But that's another story altogether.

He handed me the lens earlier in the week and I put it in my Think Tank rolling case and intended to use it liberally.  I used it on one of the exterior, environmental portraits we did yesterday but really, what can you tell about a prime at f5.6 that isn't just about the same story with every decent prime? They're all really good at f5.6, or they should be...

Yesterday's portrait images were well behaved, convincingly sharp with no intervention from Lightroom and the color was neutral and impressively complex. But again, it was all shot at f5.6 so I expected most of what I was observing in post production.

Today was another matter. We are on day three of an annual report project and I got to shoot the lens nearly wide open and in a few situations I tried it wide open just to see. I was shooting the Sigma 50mm on two different bodies just to see how different they might look. I used a D610 and a D810; both at their lowest rated ISOs. I used double the shutter speed I would normally use with this focal length and faster. Once I got back to the studio I opened the files up and went right to full on pixel peeping. 100%. Blow Up.

The files were not exciting in the sense that they were unreal in color or that the resolution or sense of sharpness called attention to themselves. It was more like looking at an actual scene instead of looking at the representation on the monitor. The lens is really, really good. I've just started playing with it but I am already very impressed with its quality and look. I need to spend at least a month to get used to it and I intend to do just that. Once I've amassed a collection of representative images I'll circle back and share more complete thoughts about it.

There are two downsides to this lens. 1. It's very big and heavy. And, 2. It's expensive for a 50mm lens. But I guess that's really relative when the Otus lens from Zeiss is over 4 times the price and the Leica M 50mm Summilux 1.4 Aspheric is three and  one half times the price. Based on the performance I saw today, and the advantageous price I got for buying used I think I'll count this one to be an absolute bargain.

Thanks for reading.