Rush Hour in Downtown Austin.

Leica SL + Sigma 45mm f2.8

Landscapes from four or five different cameras and at least as many lenses. It's all good.


OT: Swimming, Supplements, Weather, Ephemerata. 50mm lens avalanche.


Corporations have white boards. Our coaches have white boards. 
Sometimes the board reflects a fun workout but other times its 
contents can strike fear into the hearts of those of waffling commitment.

It's been a glorious week for swimming. The temperature today will reach up into the mid-80s, the sky was clear this morning and the vibe on the pool deck was energetic and happy. The pool didn't suffer much at all from the recent ice storm and the water has been clear, clean and welcoming. We are blessed with 16 workout times for Masters Swimming in a given week. All are coached by USMS certified coaches. We try to get in between 3,000 and 3,500 yards in an hour long time slot. If we're working on specific stroke technique we might get fewer yards. If it's someone's "mile post" birthday we go longer and harder. 

This week it was diet expert and whole plant enthusiast, Rip Esselstyn's 60th birthday. To celebrate he and his teammates did a set of 60 x 100 yards (6,000 yards total) at a brisk pace to celebrate. A brisk pace being (depending on one's level) repeats on 1:30 or 1:40. 

Today's 8 a.m. workout was all about race pacing in hundred yard races. We had four sets of four x one hundred yard swims on an interval. We'd swim the first 75 yards (three lengths) alternating a fast 25 through each 75. That looked like swimming the first 25 of the 75 fast, then the second 25 of the next one fast and so on. After each 75 with a moving fast length we sprinted the last 25 yards of the 100 yards as an all out sprint. The idea is to teach swimmers how to alternate pace during a race for best performance. 

An interesting twist to our warm up today was the use of foot long PVC "sticks" which we used to do what's called a "catch up" drill. You swim freestyle and hand off your stick from one hand to the other at the front end of your stroke; at your full extension. This exercise evens out the stroke cadence and also reminds one not to cross hands over the fictive center line of one's body on the recovery and hand entry phase of the swim. 

Our coach this morning is one of the ones who is quite interactive. By that I mean she's constantly calling out "go" times and "encouraging" us not to be slothful. Some of us are more compliant than others... 

Two constants. The lane line at the bottom of the pool and the flow thru 
lane lines that separate the lanes. Lane one is the slowest lane. They have 
longer intervals. Lane eight is the fastest lane. They have insane intervals. 
The rest of us slot in somewhere in the middle. All swim the same basic workout.
Some finish sooner. But the yardage is the yardage. 

The cool thing about an interest in physical fitness is that we each have a ready subject on which to experiment. I'm interested in the concept of vasodilation. Keeping your arteries flexible and able to dilate in order to move blood and therefore oxygen more efficiently. And also to prevent vessel spasm. To that end, and under the supervision of my doctor, I'm supplementing with Niacin in the form of Nicotinic Acid. 
It's also supposed to be a good method of keeping LDL cholesterol low, triglycerides low, and HDL high. All of which are good things. It's hard to tell at only 60 days into the trial but I seem to be recovering quicker and swimming with less aerobic effort. The placebo effect is always suspected but if you think something is working then that's half the battle. 

I'm consistently a "lane five" swimmer in our 8:00 practices and my overriding goal is to maintain speed and endurance at my current level. 

The one additional thing that all coaches and faster swimmers have been recommending is lifting weights on a regular basis. Surprisingly, my health insurance policy covers gym memberships so I've been auditioning local gyms. We have three or four within a five minute drive. My plan is to work less but to add three days a week of moderate weight lifting this year. Sarcopenia is a shitty thing and can be slowed down. Let's see if I have enough discipline to follow through...

Lifeguard stand. How safe is Masters Swimming? Hmmmm. I've been active in 
this program at my club pool for over 20 years and we haven't lost anyone, during a workout, in 
the Masters Program in all that time. We've had a few (one or two) heart attacks (no cardiac arrest) but we've got well trained staff and two AEDs in the guard offices. 
Our coaches are also well trained for emergencies. 

Added to that several of our swimmers in practice today are medical doctors. We're also one minute away from the closest fire station.... About the worst most of us do is to miss our flip turn distances and slap a heel onto the hard edge of the pool. You learn quickly not to do that...

As far as other supplements go... there's multi-vitamin at night and the vitamin D3 and K2 M7. That's about it. At 67 I know a number of people on four or more prescription meds. I'm trying to steer clear of the hard stuff. Everything has a side effect. Sometimes it seems that those effects can be worse than the cure. 

Technique is like rust. Across most disciplines. The decline or entropy of stroke technique never sleeps. One must constantly revisit good technique to stay efficient and to have a good swim. Like most other eye/hand/body activities it requires conscious intention to do correctly. To build muscle memory. 

Someone who is not a swimmer announced the other day that swimming laps is "boring." I suggested that it was a meditative practice. She asked me what I thought about while swimming. I answered that I start each segment thinking about body position, technique and how I'm feeling on a given day. Once that all gets shuttled to "auto-pilot" my thoughts turn to visualizing photographs. I nearly always exit the pool thinking of new ways to make photographs. Lately, I've been taking a camera to the pool to photograph stuff as soon as I'm showered and dressed after the swim. Like today...

We keep one starting block on the deck even after the summer swim season.
People who have active competitions coming up like to practice their starts
using the same type of equipment they'll find at swim meets. 

Photo Ephemerata. 

We seem to be heading into a period of time in which a number of suppliers/camera makers have decided to bless photographers with more 50mm lenses. Let's do the dive....

Leica makes a 50mm Summicron APO lens for the SL system that is apochromatically corrected and built to the highest standards. Even though it's an f2.0 maximum aperture lens size-wise it's a beast. Big and heavy. Reading the experts on this kind of stuff (Sean Reid, etc.) informs us that putting together an optical formula aimed at the highest performance takes many lens elements and a lot of space. The Leica 50mm APO checks those boxes. It's also over $5,000. 

I'm presuming that Leica gets a lot of feedback from buyers of SL2 and SL2-S cameras that are along the lines of..."the 50mm APO is too big, too heavy and far too expensive!!! Help." Leica is finally answering their customers by introducing a 50mm Summicron that is NOT APO. The lens does use aspheric elements and high refraction elements but it's not corrected to the same extent that a true APO would be. This lens will be referred to as the Summicron 50mm f2.0 Aspheric and is being positioned price-wise at just under $2,000. Less than half the price of its larger sibling. 

Looking at the overall design I conjecture  that Leica are using the same lens design as Panasonic's 50mm f1.8 but with a few added tweaks such as a metal body, Aqua-Dura hydrophobic lens coatings and perhaps a higher level of QC. Whether that's worth the price difference between the Leica lens and the Panasonic lens is up to the individual consumer. But be advised that one can pick up a Lumix 50mm f1.8 for about $350 these days....new in a box. Just saying. 

Rumors are swirling that Sigma will be launching their own 50mm f2.0 in the Contemporary, i-Series family. I don't have a lot of info about it yet but if it's anything like the other Sigma i-Series primes it will feature a nice aperture ring, all metal construction and really good performance. It would be my leading candidate for the moment but we'll see if these are just rumors or well leaked "place holders." 

Sigma has also already announced their revision of the 50mm f1.4 Art lens. This one is supposed to be a "no holds barred" fast 50mm but one that is smaller and lighter than the one it replaces. Available for most of the popular mounts out there and already getting reviewed by the usual suspects. According to B&H it gets released on the 24th/feb. Given the incredible performance of the first model I'm certain hordes of photographers are standing by with red hot credit cards in hand for the Feb. 24th release. Very interested!!!

Sony has also announced a reworked 50mm f1.4 G master that is supposed to have much better chromatic aberration correction than the previous model and is also purported to be sharper wide open. It will compete with the Sigma 50mm DG DN f1.4 and its own Sony stablemate, the 50mm f1.2 G Master lens. Fun  times for Sony shooters. Lots to choose from. Should take a little sting out of those ponderous menus...

If all of these sell well I predict they'll be followed by an avalanche of new 50mm models from manufacturers in China. And beyond. Some will be quite good. Others will be quite cheap. And a smaller fraction will fit into that little wedge of the Venn diagram where cheap and good meet up. 

And of course, we're all waiting with bated breath for the announcement from Pentax of a new 50mm lens for their flagship camera. Smaller? Lighter? Faster? Better? We'll have to wait and see. And wait, and wait and wait. 

I'm looking into a number of VoigtlĂ„nder 50mm lenses. I've heard, read, etc. that the 50mm f2.0 APO Lanthar Ultron in the M mount is supposed to be a keen competitor for the Leica APOs but at a fraction of the price. While I feel a bit burned that my 40mm f1.4 Voigtlander was delivered entirely uncalibrated for distance I may be willing to take a chance with the 50 Ultron if it passes muster. 

And then there is the 58mm f1.4 Nokton which, I think, is only available in the Nikon F mount. It's supposed to be both good and imbued with "character" (which means it falls down on some metric of quality somewhere). I have a friend with a minty used one and I also have a Nikon F to L mount adapter so you can see where this might be going. 

At the end of the day none of this 50mm hysteria really matters to most photographers. Especially if they don't need needle-like sharpness at maximum aperture. All of the truly modern 50mm lenses with  more than 7 lens elements are uniformly better than are the skills of most of the photographers who carry them. The older ones with fewer elements (mostly designs from the film age) sharpen up nicely and do quite well by f5.6. We profess to need the speed but in reality I'd conjecture that most work happens a couple stops down from wide open. 

Swim goggles? Right now I'm using Speedo Vanquisher II goggles with gold mirrored front lenses. About $30 and no LOCA that I can see.....