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The Leica Summaron 28mm F5.6 is old-fashioned fun

26 Mar

The Leica Summaron-M 28mm F5.6 is a curious thing – a ‘new’ M-mount version of a pancake lens originally introduced in the mid 1950s. Manufactured in limited numbers between 1955-1963, the original Summaron would have been most commonly paired with Leica’s screw-mount and (via adapters) M3 and M2 film rangefinders of the day. 

So is the Summaron a collectors item best left inside its presentation box, or is this something you might actually want to shoot with?

Leica Summaron-M 28mm F5.6: Key specifications

  • Optical construction: 6 elements in 4 groups
  • Aperture range: F5.6-22 (full-stop detents)
  • Minimum focus: 3.3 feet (1m)
  • Filter thread: 34mm
  • Hood included
  • 6-bit coded
  • Eight aperture blades
  • Weight: 165 g (0.36 lb)

The answer to that question is a bit complicated, and I must admit that I changed my mind a couple of times during the course of shooting for this article.

Initially, I must say I was rather skeptical. Leica lent me the Summaron ahead of a trip to Japan at the end of February, and I opted not to take it, borrowing a more practical 28mm F2.8 Elmarit instead. I enjoy vignetting as much as the next person, but I didn’t like the idea of being limited to F5.6. The fact that the Summaron arrived in a satin-lined presentation box scared me a little, too. I’m painstakingly protective of loaner gear, but accidents do happen, and the thought of accidentally losing or scratching the tiny jewel-like lens worried me. So I took the Elmarit, and I don’t regret it.

Back home though, with a few days left on the M10 loan agreement and a strong desire to get away from rain-drenched Seattle, I headed to the coast to see what the little Summaron could do. 


There’s not much I can say about the Summaron’s handling, because there’s precious little lens to actually handle. As you can hopefully tell from the photographs in this article, it’s very small indeed, which means that focus and aperture rings are small, too. The focus ring features a traditional infinity lock, by way of a sprung peg that must be depressed to move the lens from its ? position.

Whether or not you get on with this depends partly on what you’re used to. Personally I find the infinity lock a bit annoying, more so on this lens than others I’ve used with a similar design, mostly because the whole thing is so tiny. With the hood attached and the camera to my eye, there is very little tactile differentiation between the infinity release peg and the hood tightening peg. A bigger issue is that when rotating the focus ring, the one tends to get in the way of the other.

The Summaron’s aperture ring is unusual by modern standards in that it has detents only at every full stop setting, not 1/2 or 1/3. You can of course live dangerously and set intermediate positions if you want to. The M10, at least, will recognize 1/2 steps in aperture-priority mode, but be warned – in its 1/2 stop positions, the 8-bladed aperture is far from rounded – in fact it’s literally star-shaped.

Like the focus ring, the aperture ring is slim, and a little hard to find by touch when the hood is attached.

Given that the hood also occludes a decent portion of the M10’s 0.72X viewfinder, I stopped using it pretty quickly, except when it was very obviously going to be necessary. Flare isn’t enough of a risk to require it most of the time, and ditching the hood makes the Summaron’s aperture and focus rings easier to manipulate. 

Of course this is mitigated somewhat by the fact that when the lens is used at a small aperture and its corresponding hyperfocal focusing distance, there is very little need to actually adjust anything.

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Documenting a spontaneous cold-weather surfing trip to Maine

25 Mar

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It only took one message on a group chat to convince Ryan Struck, a New York-based photographer and keen surfer, to make a last-minute trip to Maine. Snow and waves were in the forecast, a combination that Struck couldn’t ignore.

Struck got the surfing and the photos he was looking for, but in a piece on Resource Travel he mentions another reason why the last minute trip was a no-brainer: community.

‘But, as much as I relish the visual trophies that I bring home from these spontaneous road trips, it’s the experiences and the friendships that come from these surf adventures that I will look back on and cherish forever. I am a surfer. I am a photographer. I am a surf photographer. And I am proud to be a part of this community.’

Head to Resource Travel for the full story and more photos. Are you spending some part of your weekend with your photography community? Let us know in the comments.

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Flying drones over the internet isn’t the future we wanted, but it’s the one we’ve got

25 Mar
You’re flying… kind of! Cape lets registered users fly drones in remote locations. Takeoff and landing are handled automatically by the drone.

We were promised jetpacks, but as many-a-scholar has noted, here we are knocking on 2020’s door and we are still jetpackless. We have, however, managed to put countless drones into the sky. While jetpacks are scarce, a drone can be had for as little as $ 15 and as much as, well a hell of a lot more than that. Anyone can fly a cheapo drone into their living room wall, but if you want to fly a bigger drone somewhere cool there are costs, logistics and federal guidelines to contend with. What’s an apartment-dweller with big drone flying ambitions to do?

Enter Cape: a service that lets you fly real drones in real outdoor locations, without leaving the comfort of your home or your web browser. No license, no learning curve, no expensive crashes. Flight locations are exclusively located in California at this point, and the service is in beta so its developers expect to work out some bugs and improve latency before launch. Deep into a stretch of grey Seattle weather, flying a drone around a sunny California desert sounded fantastic to me.

Just sitting at my desk in Seattle, flying over the Sacramento River. You know, no big deal.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the drone

Cape’s locations include desert and coastal sites including San Francisco Bay, the Salton Sea and Sacramento River. Each has its own hours and days of availability, but most are available weekdays until 5pm Pacific Time. Provided your internet connection is robust, all you need to do is select a site that’s available and hop to the controls of your very own DJI Inspire 1.

Your flight begins with a diagram of your keyboard control shortcuts overlaying the camera’s live feed. Getting started just requires pressing ‘enter’ to initiate autopilot take-off. And there you are – soaring above the California desert with the press of a button.

When your session starts, you’re met with this handy controls diagram.

Cape’s drones are as dummy-proof as you’d hope they would be. A map in the corner of the screen indicates where your aircraft is in the geo-fenced zone. You can’t go beyond the zone’s boundaries, can’t crash your drone into another drone, and can’t stray outside of minimum and maximum altitudes – autopilot will kick in and prevent you from doing any of these things.

You quite literally learn the controls on the fly, but they’re easy to master. There’s some lag, but it was honestly less than I expected. In no time, I was zooming across a little patch of California desert at a reasonable speed and legal altitude. There wasn’t much to see, since that’s how deserts are, aside from some distant brush and pixelated mountains on the horizon.

And on that topic: considering you’re flying a drone that could very well be a world away, the live feed resolution isn’t bad. At best it looks like a Google Street View image, but most of the time it’s a bit more pixelated than that as it catches up with your movements. This translates to a slightly less awe-inspiring experience than, say, actually being there to gaze on some distant desert mountains.

I’m trying to drown this drone and it’s having none of it.

It’s a small world after all

The zones feel small once you’ve flown from one edge to the other, and by necessity the controls are pared down to a minimum. If it’s a truly realistic piloting experience you’re hankering, I’m not sure it’ll scratch that itch. Playing tennis on a Nintendo Wii is convenient and fun in its own way, but it’s not the same experience as playing on a real court with a racquet in your hand. You don’t come away with the same satisfaction when so much is done for you.

So if it doesn’t quite provide the same excitement as flying a drone in person, is it escapism that Cape can provide? Sure, getting a peek at the sun for the first time in days, even virtually, felt pretty nice. I can attest to how strong the desire is around Seattle to be somewhere sunny right now. I got a little bit of that escapism from Cape, but not so much that I’ll be racing back to fly somewhere else tomorrow.

But really, when you think about what Cape allows you to do, it’s kind of incredible. You’re controlling an aircraft hundreds, maybe thousands of miles away, in real time. Finding visually rich places where those drones can be operated safely and legally seems like a tricky balance. Cape’s website says the company is working on ‘unlocking new locations,’ and if one of those locations is in say, Norway or Iceland, then you’d definitely have my attention.

It’s not jetpacks, but maybe we’re getting closer.

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Lexar JumpDrive Tough is an ultra-rugged USB flash drive

25 Mar

Lexar has launched its new JumpDrive Tough, an ultra-durable version of its USB 3.1 flash drive product lineup. This model is designed to ‘withstand life’s challenges,’ according to Lexar, and to likewise protect data stored on the dongle via included EncryptStick security software with 256-bit AES encryption.

The Lexar JumpDrive Tough is resistant to temperatures ranging from -13°F to 300°F / -25°C to 149°C, water down to depths of 98 ft, and pressure/impacts up to 750psi. This durability is complemented with read speeds up to 150MB/s and write speeds up to 60MB/s. With those speeds, a 3GB video can be transferred in less than 1 minute. JumpDrive Tough is compatible with both Mac and PC, and is backward compatible with USB 2.0 and 3.0.

The new flash drive is available to purchase from Lexar now in three capacities: 32GB ($ 19.99), 64GB ($ 34.99), and 128GB ($ 59.99).

Via: GlobalNewswire

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Cactus announces flash transceiver firmware upgrade to support wireless cross-brand TTL

25 Mar

Cactus has announced a series of brand-specific firmware updates for its V6 II and V6 IIs triggers that will add TTL functions alongside their cross-brand HSS support.

The triggers are already capable of high speed sync across systems, as well as remote control over flash power and zoom. The upcoming firmware updates will add the ability to support automatic TTL exposure across brands as well. The first firmware releases will support Sigma, Fujifilm and Sony, with support for Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax following one-by-one.

For more information on the Cactus V6 II triggers and compatible flashes check out the company’s website, and for more information on the upcoming firmware releases, see the press release below.

Press Release:

X-TTL TTL without Boundaries! Cactus launches FREE firmware upgrades on the V6 II and V6 IIs to support wireless cross-brand TTL.

Hong Kong, March 24, 24, 2017 – Just nine months since the release of the Cactus V6 II and Cactus V6 IIs, Cactus is now launching a series of brand-specific firmware upgrades to transform the cross-brand HSS flash triggers to one that also supports crosscross-brand wireless TTL. The new X-TTL firmware versions, apart from supporting cross-brand high-speed sync (HSS/FP), remote power and zoom control of Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Sigma flashes all at the same time1, NOW support automatic TTL exposure in the same cross-brand environment, both on-camera and off-camera.2

The first wave of firmware releases will be for Sigma Sony and Fujifilm. Other camera systems, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax, will follow one by one as we complete system integration on the V6 II. All these X-TTL firmware versions are free of charge for V6 II / V6 IIs users. The new firmware is system-specific so users simply choose the corresponding system when updating with the Cactus Firmware Updater. Once installed, the V6 II / V6 IIs is transformed into a cross-brand wireless TTL flash trigger.

This unique function gives photographers an unprecedented flexibility. The need for matching flashes with the same camera system for on and off-camera TTL flash photography is over – TTL without boundaries.

Cross-brand TTL

The X-TTL firmware allows users to have wireless TTL automatic exposure with camera and flash that runs on the same system, such as a Canon camera triggering a Canon flash, and one that runs on different systems, such as a Sigma camera triggering a Nikon system flash.

Similar to the cross-brand HSS firmware on the V6 II, the supported flash systems for wireless cross-brand TTL include Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and flash that runs on the same camera system.

Two unique Exposure Locks

Cactus is unveiling a brand new approach in using TTL metering. Over the past, professionals who love the convenience from TTL metering often have to suffer inconsistency in lighting outputs, making post processing a pain. In view of this Cactus devised two types of Exposure Locks.

1. Flash Compensate: Store a desired flash exposure that will automatically adjust according to changes in camera settings. Gone is the ever-changing flash exposures between each TTL metering.

2. Flash Power Lock: Lock flash power output after a desired TTL exposure is achieved. Perfect for consistency in repeat shooting. Wireless TTL functions

The X-TTL firmware will also support advanced TTL functions on the Cactus V6 II and V6 IIs, such as first and second (rear) curtain sync, on-camera TTL, group TTL metering and TTL lighting ratios3.

New support for Sigma

We are delighted to offer firmware support for Sigma cameras and flashes. This includes remote power control, remote zoom control, wireless High-speed Sync, and wireless TTL with Sigma’s SA-TTL flashes. The same cross-brand support is also available on the Sigma X-TTL firmware. Cactus expresses appreciation to SIGMA CORPORATION for their immense support in our development for Sigma system firmware.

Fujifilm TTL and HSS

With the introduction of Fujifilm new flash system launched on the EF-X500, Highspeed Sync (HSS/FP) is finally available. Besides adopting the new HSS platform, the upcoming Fujifilm X-TTL firmware also extends support for wireless TTL to Fujifilm flashes as well as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Panasonic flashes. Fujifilm X-TTL Firmware release date will be announced on our website.

V6 IIs with Sony TTL

Existing Sony V6 IIs users already has a system-specific transceiver unit, and the upcoming Sony X-TTL firmware adds wireless TTL support for Sony flashes and other system flashes when paired with the Cactus V6 II. Sony X-TTL Firmware release date will be announced on our website.

Features at a glance

1. Cross-brand wireless manual power and zoom control with HSS/FP support of Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony flashes;2

2. Cross-brand wireless TTL of Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Sigma and Sony flashes;2

3. Cross-brand group TTL metering is extended to use in a cross-brand setup;3

4. TTL Ratios output adjustments can be done directly on the V6 II (TX);3

5. Two Exposure Locks offer consistency with the convenience of wireless TTL.

6. Works seamlessly with Cactus RF60X to support HSS, TTL, remote power and zoom control.

Price and Availability

System-specific X-TTL firmware versions are free of charge. Download the Cactus Firmware Updater4 and select the corresponding system firmware to install the X-TTL firmware on the Cactus V6 II and V6 IIs.

After launching the initial three systems, i.e., Sigma, Fujifilm and Sony, Cactus will continue to launch X-TTL firmware for the remaining camera systems. Stay up to date for the latest releases on X-TTL’s microsite:

1 With the exception of Pentax and Sony system flashes due to special timing requirements so they must be paired with a Pentax and Sony camera respectively in order to support HSS.

2 Only Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic system flashes support cross-brand TTL.

3 This function may not be supported on all the camera systems.

4 Cactus Firmware Updater version 3.01 or later will better facilitate firmware selection. To be released soon!

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Federal judge dismisses case against Kentucky ‘Drone Hunter’

25 Mar

A federal judge in Kentucky has dismissed a lawsuit against William Meredith, a self-proclaimed ‘Drone Hunter,’ who shot down a $ 1500 drone that was flying over his property.

The pilot, David Boggs, sued Meredith last year claiming that his drone was flying in legal airspace as determined by the FAA and therefore was not trespassing. A 1946 Supreme Court decision asserted that a property owner’s rights extend up to 83 feet in the air.

US District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that federal court is not the proper venue for the lawsuit, noting that the FAA has not enforced any regulations regarding aerial trespassing, nor was the agency a party in the suit. Instead, the Judge said that the lawsuit should be litigated in Kentucky State Court under existing trespassing laws.

Boggs’ attorneys have not said whether he will appeal to a higher court – in this case, the 6th US Circuit. In the meantime, drone pilots should probably steer clear of Meredith’s property.

Via: Ars Technica

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Mount your EOS lenses on the Fujifilm GFX with Cambo’s new adapters

25 Mar

Dutch accessory manufacturer Cambo has announced it is to produce an adapter to allow full-frame Canon EF lenses to work with the new Fujifilm GFX 50s medium-format camera. The CA-GFX sits between the camera body and the EOS lens and offers its own control dial for adjusting apertures. A small LCD displays the selected aperture but no EXIF data will be recorded by the camera.

Cambo says the adapter has been designed with the Canon T-SE tilt and shift lenses in mind as they have particularly wide covering circles which will fill the 43.8×32.9mm sensor of the GFX 50s. It isn’t clear whether other Canon lenses will cover the sensor to the same extent, but with some cropping of the edges of the frame most vignetting can be removed – with the loss of a certain number of pixels.

Earlier this month Cambo released a new ACTUS unit designed for the Fujifilm camera. The ACTUS-GFX is a bellows-and-non-rail unit that allows tilt, shift and swing movements in the front standards, as well as 27mm of vertical and 40mm of horizontal movement at the rear. The bellows unit accepts a range of medium and large format lenses via adapters. The ACTUS-GFX costs €2250 plus tax in Europe and $ 2795 in the US. No price has been released for the CA-GFX yet.

For more information see the Cambo website.

Press release

Cambo Lens Adapter for Fuji GFX50s

Cambo announces a new lens adapter to fit Canon lenses to the Fujifilm GFX50s.

The CA-GFX will be the third Canon lens adapter that Cambo have manufactured and marketed for camera movement. Having successfully adapted Canon lenses to the Cambo ACTUS (ACB-CA) and more recently the WIDE series camera (WRES-CA.) It was a natural transition to manufacture the adapter as it gives many photographers the option of using their existing lenses with the latest mirrorless, large sensor, Fujifilm GFX50s (CA-GFX.

Cambo CA-GFX Adapter
The CA-GFX adapter fits directly to the bayonet of the GFX camera body and the lens aperture is controlled electronically when dialling in the required f-stop. As there is no direct connection between lens and body, there is no data received; aperture, auto-focus or EXIF, from the lens.

Why make this lens adapter?
The Fujifilm GFX50s sensor measures 33x44mm and Canon lenses such as the 17mm T-SE and 24mm T-SE have very large image circles, they will cover the sensor size and will enable the photographer to apply movement.

Cambo CA-GFX Adapter
The CA-GFX (Product code: 99070301) is available from your local dealer.

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Re-make/Re-model: Leica Summaron 28mm F5.6 Samples

24 Mar

Leica’s new Summaron 28mm F5.6 is an incredibly slim pancake lens, originally sold in the 1950s, and recently re-released in M-mount. Does it make sense in 2017?

Check out our gallery of sample images, and watch this space for a shooting report, coming in the next few days.

View our gallery of sample images

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Opinion: Thinking about buying medium format? Read this first

24 Mar

The recent announcements of Fujifilm’s GFX 50S and Hasselblad’s X1D have turned a lot of heads, and for good reason. To take the GFX 50S specifically (since it’s more likely to represent an affordable option for DSLR shooters), we love Fujifilm cameras. It’s hard not to – they offer excellent ergonomics with a level of direct control that photographers itch for, and Fujifilm’s color science renders images that harken back to the days of film, while retaining all the advantages of digital. Meanwhile, the X-Trans color filter array (CFA) offers a number of advantages compared to traditional Bayer CFAs, showing decreased false color and a slight noise advantage due to a (relatively) greater proportion of green pixels.

Ultimately, though, the image quality of Fujifilm’s best cameras was limited by their APS-C sized sensors, which simply cannot capture as much light as similar silicon in larger sizes. And if you’ve kept up with our recent technical articles, you’ll know that the amount of total light you’ve captured is arguably the largest determinant of image quality.

‘Fujifilm skipped the arguably saturated full-frame market and went straight to medium format.’

That left many of us wondering when Fujifilm would step up to full-frame (35mm). But Fujifilm went one better – they skipped the arguably saturated full-frame market and went straight to medium format. In a rather compact, lightweight mirrorless form-factor at that. That made a lot of sense especially when you consider Fujifilm’s heritage in medium format film cameras, and its experience making medium-format lenses for other brands.

So, finally, here comes the GFX 50S: Fujifilm ergonomics and colors, but with all the advantages offered by larger sensors. But while heads turn, eyes widen, and colleagues fight over who gets to take the camera out for a shoot, personally I’m in need of a little convincing. And think you should be too, if you’re thinking about plopping down a fat wad of cash for this seemingly drool-worthy system.

But what’s not to like, you ask? Bear with me…

Theoretical advantages of larger sensors

The potential advantages of larger sensors can broadly be split into four areas: noise in low light, dynamic range, subject isolation (shallow depth-of-field), and resolution. But zoom into the following 36MP at 100% – are any of those lacking?

ISO 64 on a Nikon D810 gets me medium format-esque signal:noise ratio (image cleanliness), along with subject isolation I can’t get on medium format just yet, not at this focal length anyway (which would require a non-existent 44mm F2.5 MF lens). The incredible sharpness of this lens means I get good use out of those 36MP even wide open at F2. Photo: Rishi Sanyal (Nikon D810 | Sigma 24-35mm @ 35mm F2)

The question is: does the GFX 50S currently deliver on all, or any, of these advantages over what the best of full-frame has to offer? Let’s look at each separately.

Low light (noise) performance

For the same f-number and shutter speed (or ‘focal plane exposure’), a larger sensor is exposed to more total light. The same light per unit area is projected by the lens, but the larger sensor has more area available capturing it. An image made with more light has less relative photon shot noise (the noise that results from the fact that light arrives randomly at the imaging plane). The more light you capture, the more you ‘average’ out these fluctuations, leading to a cleaner image (that’s the laymen’s description of it anyway; read about it more in-depth here).

That’s why a full-frame camera generally gives you cleaner images than your smartphone.* So if more light means better images, that’s a clear win for the GFX 50S, right?

Not so fast…

No, literally, not so fast. The lenses available for the GFX format simply aren’t as fast as those offered by full-frame competitors. The fastest lens on Fujifilm’s GFX roadmap is F2, which in full-frame equivalent terms is F1.56** (the concept of equivalence is out of scope for this article, but you can read about it in-depth here; for now, just remember the GFX has a reverse crop factor, relative to full-frame, of 0.79x). And most of the current MF lenses hover around F2.8 and F4, or F2.2 and F3.2 equivalent, respectively. That means that if they had the exact same underlying silicon technology (or sensor performance), a full-frame camera with an F2.2 (or F3.2) lens should do just as well as the GFX 50S with its F2.8 (or F4) lens. Even if were were to think ahead to the MF 100MP sensor Sony provides in the Phase One cameras, its 0.64x crop factor at best yields an F1.3 full-frame equivalent lenses from the one F2 lens announced, still not beating out the Canon 85/1.2, and barely beating out the plethora of available F1.4 full-frame lenses. So even if the newly announced G-mount lenses cover the wider medium format image circle (which I’d sure hope they would), things still aren’t so exciting.

But full-frame can do better than that: F1.4 and F1.8 lenses are routinely available for full-frame cameras, typically for less money too. An F1.4 lens projects twice as much light per unit area than an F2 lens, and 4x as much as an F2.8 lens, amply making up for the 1.7x smaller sensor surface area of full-frame.

That means full-frame cameras can capture as much, or more, light as the GFX 50S simply by offering faster lenses. But wait, it there’s more…

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Companies like Sony have poured a lot of R&D into their full-frame (and smaller) sensors, and the a7R II uses a backside-illuminated design that makes it more efficient than the sensor used in the 50S. It also offers a dual-gain architecture that flips the camera into a high gain mode at ISO 640, allowing it to effectively overcome any noise introduced by the camera’s own electronics. In other words, the a7R II’s sensor is better able to use the light projected onto it, relative to the MF sensor – ironically a sensor made by Sony itself – in the G50S (or Pentax 645Z, or Hasselblad X1D). This allows it to match the low light noise performance of the larger sensor in the GFX (and Pentax 645Z and Hasselblad X1D) even at the same shutter speed and f-number. See our studio scene comparison widget above.

‘The Sony a7R II’s sensor is better able to use the light projected onto it, relative to the MF sensor’

So if we start with parity, guess what happens when you open up that aperture on the a7R II to an f-number simply unavailable to any current medium format system? You guessed it: you get better low light performance on full-frame. Whoa.

Dynamic Range

Although the same f-number and shutter speed give a larger sensor more total light, they receive the same amount of light per unit area. Most sensors of a similar generation have broadly similar tolerance for light per unit area (technically: similar full well capacity per unit area). But a larger sensor devotes more sensor area to any scene element, so can tolerate more total light per scene element before clipping. That means that for the same focal plane exposure, despite clipping highlights at a similar point, a larger sensor will render shadows (whose noise levels define the other limit of dynamic range) from more total light. And the same logic that applies to low light noise applies here as well: more total light = less relative shot noise and less impact of any noise from camera electronics. That means cleaner shadows, and more dynamic range.

So another clear win for the larger sensor GFX, no? Well, no. Because someone poured a lot of R&D into the Nikon D810 sensor (noticing a trend here?), giving it higher full-well capacity per unit area than any other sensor we’ve measured to date: its ISO 64 mode. Each pixel can hold more total charge before clipping, relative to equally-sized pixels on any other sensor in a consumer camera. That means it can tolerate a longer exposure at ISO 64, longer enough (at least 2/3 EV, or 60% more light) to capture as much total light as the 68% larger sensor in the GFX 50S exposed at its base ISO (100). Don’t believe us? Check out our real-world dynamic range comparison of the Nikon D810 vs the Pentax 645Z, which ostensibly shares the same sensor as the GFX 50S:

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In this shoot-out, we exposed each camera to the right as far as possible before clipping a significant chunk of pixels in the brightest portion of the Raw (in the orange sky just above the mountains). The D810, in this case, was able to tolerate a full stop longer exposure***, which allows its (pushed) shadows to remain as clean as the 645Z. That’s the (scientific, not baloney) reason we claimed the Nikon D810 to have medium format-like image quality. Because its dynamic range and overall signal:noise performance at ISO 64 rivals many current medium format cameras their base ISOs (though not the huge new 100MP MF Sony sensor in the new Phase One). Just look at its massive SNR advantage (read: image cleanliness) for all tones at ISO 64 over the Canon 5DS R at ISO 100 – we intend to plot the Fujifilm GFX 50S on the same graph, and don’t expect it to show any advantage to the D810. Because science.

Read about this all more in-depth in our D810 review here, and check out Bill Claff’s quantitative data that shows a 0.22 EV base ISO dynamic range difference between the D810 and 645Z – hardly noticeable, much less something to write home about.

‘OK but it’s not fair to compare ISO 64 to ISO 100!’

Fair enough, there’s a little more to the story. ISO 64 does require more exposure than ISO 100, either via a brighter lens, or longer exposure time. But one might argue that under circumstances where you care about dynamic range – i.e. high contrast scenes – you’re typically not light-limited to begin with, and can easily give the camera as much light as needed. Either because you’re shooting on a tripod, you’re using studio lights and can just crank them up, or because there’s so much light to begin with (it is a high contrast scene, right?) You’re working at or near base ISO anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding 2/3 EV exposure by opening up the lens or lengthening the shutter speed a bit.

‘You’re working at or near base ISO anyway, so you shouldn’t have trouble adding 2/3 EV shutter speed’

But, yes, if you’re in a light-limited situation (i.e. you’re not shooting at base ISO) and it’s high enough contrast that you care about dynamic range (have to expose for highlights then push shadows), then the GFX 50S will have the upper hand here. But dare I say, that’s quite the niche use case: keep in mind that most situations demanding higher ISOs tend to be in lower light, where you care more about general noise performance, not dynamic range (since low light scenes tend to have lower contrast). And if that’s what you care about, there’s the a7R II which, although it may clip highlights a bit earlier, can give you as good, or better, low light noise performance… [link back to Noise section above].

But I’ll concede – if you want both the base ISO dynamic range of the D810, and the low light noise performance of an a7R II (albeit with F2 or slower lenses), then the GFX might be your ticket.

Shallow Depth-of-Field

As we calculated in our ‘Low light (noise) performance’ section above, the fastest lens on Fujifilm’s roadmap is ~F1.6 full-frame equivalent, with most current available lenses being F2.2 equivalent or slower. Since full-frame routinely has F1.4 (equivalent) lenses available, you actually get more subject isolation, and blurrier backgrounds, with full-frame than with medium format.

And, no, the ‘but larger formats have more compression because you use longer focal length lenses for the same field-of-view’ argument is false. Just say no to the compression myth. For equivalent focal lengths/apertures, there’s no extra compression. Compression is relative only to equivalent focal length and subject distance (or subject magnification), and its relative distance to the background. Not the format you’re shooting on. Don’t believe us, have a look for yourself:

46mm F2.8 on APS-C is roughly equivalent to 70mm F4.3 on full-frame – meaning the two shots above should be virtually identical. And they are, save for a tiny bit more DOF in the full-frame shot because F4.5 was the closest I could get to F4.3. Now, of course, you can get shallower DOF on full-frame, for example by shooting at F2.8. But that’s because those faster lenses are available for full-frame.

They’re not in Fujifilm’s lineup, which includes two F2.8 lenses, one F2 lens, and a few F4 lenses – which are equivalent to F2.2, F1.6, and F3.2 in full-frame terms, respectively.

Without brighter lenses, there’s just no reason to get excited about medium format for subject isolation and blurry backgrounds. If you’re a bokeh fanatic, full-frame’s arguably the sweet spot.


OK, finally, some good news. Well, theoretically anyway.

If you have two differently sized sensors with the same pixel count, the smaller one will be more demanding on its lens (it samples the lens at more lines per mm for the same scene frequency). Manufacturing larger lenses is also slightly easier, since the same relative tolerance level can be achieved, despite a larger absolute variance.

So if you’re looking for true 50MP of detail across the frame, you’re more likely to get it with the GFX 50S than with a comparable 50MP full-frame sensor, simply because of the realities of lens design and tolerances. That said, we’ve been told that some of the newer full-frame lens designs were designed with 80 to 100MP in mind, on full-frame sensors. And with the eye-popping performance of some of the newest full-frame lenses we’ve seen, from varied manufacturers, we’re not inclined to disagree. We’ve seen some 50MP files from the 5DS R paired with truly stellar lenses where we simply can’t imagine anything better, resolution-wise. In fact, at ~F5.6-6.2 equivalent, I’m not seeing a major resolution advantage of the medium format cameras over the full-frame cameras in our studio scene comparison tool, and the 50MP full-frame image below isn’t exactly starved for resolution, is it?

50MP Canon 5DS R image, shot with a Sigma 24-35mm F2 lens at F2. At F2 full-frame equiv., this image would have been impossible to shoot on the Fujifilm GFX 50S without a 44mm F2.5 lens, which doesn’t exist, nor is on Fujifilm’s roadmap. And despite the 5DS R’s smaller pixels for the same total pixel count sensor, this image isn’t exactly starving for resolution and sharpness at 1:1 viewing, thanks to modern lens design. Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Put another way: if you’re seeing eye-popping resolution at F2 above and here and here (and even at F1.4 on some new lenses) when viewing a Canon 5DS R 50MP full-frame file at 100% (do click on the above image and view at 100%), do you want or need a truer 50MP? Or do you want even more than 50MP, particularly if it’ll come at the cost of more depth-of-field, since there are hardly any F2 equivalent lenses that’ll give you the subject isolation and background bokeh you see in the full-frame shot above?

Only you can answer that question, but it is true that physics being physics, larger sensors will always tend to out-resolve smaller sensors with equivalent glass. And so this is the area where we most expect to see an advantage to the Fujifilm system, especially over time as we approach 100MP, and beyond. It’s probably easier for an F1.8 prime paired with the GFX 50S to out-resolve an F1.4 prime on a 5DS R when both systems are shot wide open, but whether that will be the case (or if Fujifilm will even make an F1.8 or brighter prime for the system) remains to be seen. I certainly don’t think it would be a cheap combination.

Thanks, DPR, for saving me money / killing my hopes and dreams

Still excited about the Fujifilm GFX 50S and Hasselblad X1D? Perhaps you still should be. You get Fujifilm ergonomics and color science in a body capable of far better image quality than Fujifilm’s APS-C offerings. But remember you can emulate much of that color science in Raw converters with proper profiles (we’re looking into a separate article on this). More importantly, remember that equivalence tells us that an F1.8 medium format prime is what the GFX 50S actually needs to at least match the performance from modern full-frames paired with F1.4 lenses, from the perspective of noise and shallow depth-of-field. And that’s before you consider the advanced silicon technologies we’ve seen in different full-frame (and smaller) sensors that we haven’t yet seen in any medium format sensor. These advances have, for example, allowed a Nikon D810 to catch up to the dynamic range of the Pentax 645Z at base ISO, and the BSI, dual-gain a7R II sensor to catch up to the GFX 50S in low light noise performance.

Still, as I’ve said, physics is physics. For equivalent apertures and final output resolutions, we do expect medium format to yield a slight resolution advantage, thanks to its lower demands on resolving power of lenses. But the extent of this advantage, especially given some of the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent lens designs, remains to be seen: I’m not starving for eye-popping detail at 1:1 viewing of 50 and 42MP files when pairing a 5DS R or a7R II with stellar modern prime lenses.

‘as medium format evolves, the same gains we see in full-frame over smaller sensors might find their ways into the format.’

Of course, as medium format evolves, the same gains we see in full-frame over smaller sensors might find their ways into the format. But this will require both the silicon to keep up, and for the development of faster lenses. At least as fast as the fastest lenses full-frame offers. One thing does make us hopeful – recent conversations with some forum members alerted us to the fact that certain full-frame lenses, like the Zeiss Otus primes, actually project an image circle large enough for at least a square crop on Fujifilm’s new MF format. That would essentially get you high quality F1.1 equivalent glass on the GFX 50S. Cool, if you can focus it, anyway… (the GFX focus even with native lenses is anything but fast or intelligent, by the way). But if we see more and more fast full-frame lenses able to cover the image circle of the GFX G50S, then we’re more likely to actually experience the benefits of the larger sensor format, though native fast lenses (that aren’t slow unit focus, please) are really what we need.

Else, the potential advantages may be outweighed by the disadvantages: the extra weight, heft, price and severely lacking autofocus. And the GFX 50S has given up some of the noise and false color advantages their X-Trans cameras show…

For now, we hope that looking at the problem through the lens of equivalence at least gives you an idea of how big (or small) you can reasonably expect the differences to be. Maybe it even saves you a dime or two. Or makes you want to yell at us for bringing up equivalence, again.

But at the end of the day, equivalence has left me rather equivocal about medium format digital. What about you? Let us know in the comments below.

Editorial note: The headline of this opinion article has been updated to make it clearer that the points expressed are not intended to be taken as being specific to a single product, but represent discussion of the pros and cons of the emerging enthusiast medium-format camera class as a whole. 


* It’s also why ‘multi-shot’ modes yield cleaner images than single shots: these modes essentially capture more total light, averaging out shot noise. It’s also why brighter scenes generally look cleaner than low light scenes: more light = more photons captured = less relative shot noise = higher signal:noise ratio (SNR, or ‘cleanliness’ in laymen terms).

** The GFX 50S’ 44x33mm sensor has an effective 0.78x crop factor, so you can multiply the MF lens’ f-number by 0.78 to get the equivalent full-frame f-number.

*** We don’t control for T-stop, which could partially explain the drastic exposure difference. This doesn’t affect our experiment though, as we applied well-vetted ‘Expose to the Right’ (ETTR) principles for a fair comparison

**** Blind test: our ISO 12,800 studio scene shots of the GFX 50S and the a7R II have both been resized to 42MP, and a 576px wide 1:1 crop has been taken. Can you tell which is which?

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Atomos introduces Ninja Inferno off-camera recorder

24 Mar

Atomos has launched the Ninja Inferno, the latest in its line of off-camera recorders for video shooters. The Ninja Inferno has almost the exact same feature set as the company’s top of the line Shogun Inferno, including 4K/60p recording, a 1500 nit display with 10-bit color, and the ability to record direct to ProRes or DNxHR formats. It also includes the company’s Atom HDR technology, which matches the Log curves from major camera manufacturers to the Ninja’s display in order to show the full Log signal on the HDR screen, meaning that cinematographers can see vibrant, true to life colors while recording in Log.

The major difference between the Ninja Inferno and its big brother, the Shogun Inferno, is that Atomos has removed a few features that, while important to shooters using high end video equipment, often go unused by DSLR or mirrorless filmmakers. These include SDI plugs, Genlock and Raw recording capability. The result is that Atomos is able to make the Ninja Inferno available at a very aggressive price point of $ 995, compared to $ 1995 for the Shogun version.

The Atomos Ninja Inferno mounted on the new Panasonic GH5. Together, these make a compelling combination for a budget filmmaker.

Of particular interest, Atomos is promoting the Ninja Inferno as the ‘ultimate accessory’ for the new Panasonic GH5, and there’s a reasonable case to be made for this. It’s a good match for the GH5’s 10-bit signal and Log video, but more importantly it supports 4K/60p 4:2:2 recording, one of the GH5’s more prominent features. Also, since the GH5 doesn’t include SDI ports or shoot Raw video, users are unlikely to miss those features on the Ninja Inferno, while benefiting from the much lower price.

We’ve had a pre-production copy of the Ninja Inferno for a few days and have been giving it a workout, so stay tuned for our hands-on report.

Press Release:

HDR 4Kp60 Ninja Inferno Shipping now in conjunction with GH5 for $ 995

Prices slashed across the 4K HDR line up

Melbourne, Australia – 23rd March 2017: Today, Atomos brings the power of 4Kp60 10-bit ProRes recording and HDR monitoring to the GH5 for an amazingly low price of just $ 995.

“Our message to video Pro’s is to Go HDR 4Kp60 Today showcased by the GH5 and Ninja Inferno combo”, said Jeromy Young CEO and co-founder of Atomos. “For less than $ 3k it’s an unbeatable total package especially when considering having 4K HDR content ready for clients, Netflix and YouTube is a must”.

Atomos has always led the way advancing the quality, affordability and simplicity of filmmaking by adding professional features to popular Japanese cameras. Atomos are again first to launch a portable HDR 4Kp60 10-bit 422 monitor recorder. Timed with the release of the powerful Panasonic GH5 and a $ 995 price point Ninja Inferno empowers the masses.

Just as the original Atomos Ninja broke open DSLR filmmaking by giving the Canon 5DMKIII professional Apple ProRes recording & the original Atomos Shogun pioneered 4K with the Sony a7s and Panasonic GH4, the Ninja Inferno now arms the Panasonic GH5, the hottest camera of 2017, with HDR Apple Pro-Res 10-bit 4:2:2 4Kp60 over HDMI 2.0 – a feat not possible internally on the GH5. This marks another incredible Atomos breakthrough – professional 10-bit color resolution, 4:2:2 color accuracy, high frame rate 4K 60p video resolution & all with the incredible brightness range that HDR delivers in PQ or HLG.

Apart from being an obvious companion for the new GH5, the Ninja Inferno is the world’s first HDMI monitor-recorder to accept 4K DCI signals from cameras like the Panasonic GH4 / DVX200 / HCX1000 / UX180 / HCX1, Sony FS7 / Z100 and the JVC LS300. Support for the 4096 DCI standard unlocks cinema recording from these 4K video & mirrorless DSLRs.

For the Ninja Inferno, like its flagship sibling the Shogun Inferno, we have created the ultimate monitor through end-to-end custom engineering of all components. It starts with a 1920×1200 resolution LCD panel and add 10-bit processing in highlights and equivalent 10+ bit resolution in blacks. This is achieved through the patented AtomHDR engine which when combined with our custom Atomos-built backlight allows the power of 1500nits to be utilized for High Bright Rec709 or HDR PQ/HLG at 10+ stops. The full-size HDMI 2.0 connection bypasses the camera’s internal limitations by recording to 4Kp60 4:2:2 10-bit pristine video in grading-friendly Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHR. The Ninja Inferno upgrades mirrorless and DSLR camera audio by including balanced XLR input and 48V Phantom Power, negating the need to purchase separate audio recorders. For on set review, the wide angle 7” calibrated screen, playback controls, playlist and XML tagging make the Ninja Inferno the perfect client or director’s monitor, with playout to the latest HDR PQ/HLG or SDR TV’s. The Ninja Inferno is equally adept in the editing suite as it is in the field with the recorded files dropping directly onto the timeline of all the major NLE editing and grading software with the HDMI input capable of accepting HDR signals to make the Ninja Inferno an unbelievably affordable HDR reference monitor for portable or in studio color grading.

The Ninja Inferno, which is shipping now for MSRP $ 995, is the ultimate camera accessory for the GH5, the popular Sony FS7 or cameras with 4K DCI output & other 4Kp60 / 4Kp30 / HDp60 cameras looking for a future proof monitor-recorder.

HDR now comes free across the Atomos 4K Line-up

Timed with the release of the Ninja Inferno, Atomos have driven down the price of the existing line-up, passing on the volume savings they receive due to the popularity of the entire HDR range. The Shogun Flame and Ninja Flame are now $ 995 and $ 795 respectively (both models ship with mains power supply, recording caddy & travel case. The Shogun Flame also ships with an XLR breakout cable). To complement all models in the line-up, Atomos have developed a tailored Accessory Kit and Power Kit that arm users with everything needed to power, control, dock, charge and safely carry the units at an amazing price. The flagship Shogun Inferno continues to ship as is today.

Product New Price (MSRP ex tax)
Shogun Flame $ 995 ($ 1695 saving of $ 700)
Ninja Inferno $ 995
Ninja Flame $ 795 ($ 1295 saving of $ 500)
Accessory Kit $ 295
Power Kit $ 149

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